Results tagged ‘ Honus Wagner ’

Scoring decision changes historic hits

Most fans may not realize that on a nightly basis there are gripes galore about official scorers’ decisions. The compromise reached in the recent collective bargaining agreement that allows players (and/or their agents) to call for review of questionable calls rather than the clubs alone is proving to be a major headache and could be under review during the next CBA talks.

Routinely, calls come before executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre for review, which I am sure have become a major nuisance. The latest example was the infield single Derek Jeter got in the first inning Aug. 8 against the Indians at Yankee Stadium that we all thought was the hit that tied him with Hall of Famer Honus Wagner for sixth place on the career list. It turns out that the play was reversed with an error charged to Cleveland’s shortstop, Jose Ramirez.

Jeter did not get all that bent out of shape about the whole thing. After all, he has long since passed Wagner and appears to be in position to be sixth on the all-time list for quite a long time. Jeter has the ball that he thought tied Wagner and the ball that did tie Wagner, plus the ball that passed Wagner. It is all ancient history as far as DJ is concerned.

But how chintzy was Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer to take issue with what was a borderline call on an historic play. Granted, the ruling change meant that only two of the runs he gave up in that game were earned instead of all five (in 3 1/3 innings yet; let’s face it, it was not his day).

Complaining about official scorers’ calls is as old as the game. I know of coaches who habitually berated official scorers during and after games. Perhaps the most famous example was the father of a shortstop who was charged with only three errors in 161 games of the 1990 season and was a coach on his son’s team (you will not need more than one guess).

Occasionally an official scorer would review his decision and make a correction. He or she may have been coerced, but it was not to the level it has become under current conditions. Now every agent in the big leagues can pick up a phone and talk his client into lodging a protest over a questionable decision. While I am all in favor of an appellate court to sort out such disputes, the volume under the new system has proved troublesome.

Even the Major League Players Association, which pushed for this system, is starting to have second thoughts, largely because the beefs often pit teammates against each other. For every pitcher protective of his earned run average is a fielder protective of his reputation as a defender. In most cases, one player is appeased while two are miffed. In this case, Bauer is happy, but Jeter and Ramirez are not.

How can that be a good thing?

Jeter passes Wagner for most hits by a shortstop

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

It was just a dribbler that the Cleveland third baseman, Lonnie Chisenhall, attempted without success to field bare-handed in the sixth inning Saturday as Derek Jeter crossed first base with his 3,431st career hit.

That single moved Jeter into sixth place on the all-time hit parade ahead of the major leagues’ first great shortstop, Honus Wagner. This was a very big deal.

DJ has passed quite a few legends on the hit list this year, Hall of Famers such as Eddie Collins, Paul Molitor and Carl Yastrzemski. But Honus Wagner? Now you are talking actual royalty.

Wagner, who was known as “The Flying Dutchman,” goes back to the game’s early days. He broke into the National League in 1897 with the old Louisville Colonels, a club that was absorbed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1900, and played in the very first World Series, in 1903. Wagner was a great star of the dead-ball era, an athletic master at shortstop and one of the game’s best hitters. He won eight batting titles and finished with a career .328 average.

Wagner was a charter member of the Hall of Fame. He was elected in the original class of 1936 with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. Wagner accepted his position as a role model to youth and famously demanded a trading card sponsored by a tobacco company be removed from circulation so adamantly opposed was he to tobacco usage. The few cards from that 1909 set remain the most precious pieces of memorabilia among collectors.

Years after his retirement as a player Wagner was a coach for the Pirates. Players did not wear numbers on their uniforms when he played but did by the time he coached. His No. 33 has long been retired by the Pirates.

By passing the old Dutchman, Jeter now has more hits than anyone who ever played shortstop. The only players ahead of him on the career hit list are mostly outfielders — Pete Rose (who also played first, second and third base but not shortstop), Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial (also a first baseman) and Tris Speaker.

This was not lost on the Captain, who knows his baseball history and did not have to be told who Wagner was anymore than any of the other greats he has passed.

“He’s the last one on the list that ever played shortstop, so this one really hit home,” Jeter said. “To have the most hits of any player at one position is pretty special.”

Jeter is 83 hits behind Speaker and probably does not have enough time left (46 games) to make a run for fifth place. But being No. 6 on this list is an enormous accomplishment, not to mention appropriate. After all, 6 is the official scorers’ designation for a shortstop.

Crowd bemoans off day for Jeter

Thursday was one of those days when manager Joe Girardi is not the most popular guy at Yankee Stadium. An afternoon crowd on a postcard day watched the Yankees take the field without Derek Jeter.

In the Captain’s last major-league season, many fans come to the Stadium hoping to see Jeter in person one more time before his retirement. It might be the only home game they attend all year.

Jeter, who at 3,429 hits is one behind Hall of Famer Honus Wagner for sixth place on the career list, has been incredibly versatile in his final season with 101 games played of the Yankees’ 113 entering Thursday, but he cannot play every day. At 40, he needs an occasional day off, and it Girardi who has to play bad guy to the fans by keeping him on the bench once in a while.

The rare non-start allowed Stephen Drew to return to his more familiar position at shortstop with utility-man Brendan Ryan at second base. Since Drew is being counted on this season to play second base, I was surprised by the alignment. One would think the more Drew plays second base the more comfortable he would become. Girardi’s reasoning was that at this point in their careers Ryan, an excellent defensive shortstop as well, has played more often than Drew at second base. Naturally, it might also be a peak into next season if the Yankees are considering re-signing Drew, who can become a free agent at season’s end, to be Jeter’s successor at shortstop.

First baseman Mark Teixeira, who required three stitches to heal a wound to his left pinky injured in a slide at the plate in Wednesday night’s 5-1 victory over the Tigers, was also out of the lineup. Chase Headley, who has proved a valuable addition since coming over in a trade from the Padres, played first base in Tex’s absence with another relative newcomer, Martin Prado, coming in from the outfield to play third base. That opened up a start for Ichiro Suzuki in right field.

Babe’s earliest Yanks jersey on display at Hall of Fame

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum placed on display Friday the earliest-known uniform top worn by Babe Ruth, a circa-1920 Yankees road jersey that was recently purchased via auction this past May. The Hall received the shirt on loan from its purchaser, a passionate baseball fan whose wished to remain anonymous.

The road gray jersey features “NEW YORK” across the chest in blue lettering, with Ruth’s name and initials written inside the collar in faded pink script – Ruth, G.H. – for George Herman Ruth. Though Ruth last played in the major leagues in 1935, interest in his career remains larger than life, and this loan provides yet another reason for fans to visit Cooperstown.

“We are thrilled to have this valuable piece of baseball history on display in Cooperstown, so fans everywhere can enjoy another relic from The Bambino’s career,” Hall president Jeff Idelson said. “The jersey’s new owner wants to share this piece of history with fans and historians alike. We’re equally excited to provide a home to display this vintage item for fans around the globe.”

The Ruth jersey went on display Friday in Ruth’s locker in the BabeRuthGallery. The jersey is expected to remain on display through Hall of Fame Weekend 2013 but will be off display from July 24 through Aug. 9 this year.

Ruth was sold by the Red Sox to the Yankees during the winter before the 1920 season. In his first year with the Yankees, Ruth hit 54 home runs, more than every team in the major leagues except the Phillies. Ruth was elected to the Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class in 1936 with Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.

A “Bustin’ Babes” jersey that Ruth wore in 1927 and ‘28 when barnstorming against teammate Lou Gehrig’s “Larrupin’ Lous” is the earliest Ruth jersey in the Hall’s collection. There are numerous artifacts on exhibit in Cooperstown related to Ruth’s storied career, including a silver crown presented to him after his 59-home run season of 1921, the bat from his record-setting 60th home run in 1927 and the ball from his final career home run (May 25, 1935).

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is open seven days a week year round, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Days. The Museum observes summer hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Memorial Day Weekend until the day before Labor Day. From Labor Day until Memorial Day Weekend, the Museum observes daily regular hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ticket prices are $19.50 for adults (13 and older), $12 for seniors (65 and older) and for those holding current memberships in the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion and AMVets organizations, and $7 for juniors (ages 7-12).

Post-season atmopshere for Jeter’s chase

There was a big of post-game buzz at Yankee Stadium Thursday night as Derek Jeter came home to continue his push to 3,000 career hits. DJ held a pre-game press conference and was tailed by a HBO documentary crew that is filming his quest, which I don’t think was done for Cap Anson or Honus Wagner?

Now you know why Yankees manager Joe Girardi isn’t resting Jeter. The Captain will play every day until he gets to 3,000 and then the season can continue with the distraction behind the Yankees.

Make no mistake; this is a happy distraction, not like some of the others that beset teams during the course of a season. After all, the Yankees have never had one of their players get 3,000 hits while in their uniform. That fact in itself makes Jeter’s situation unique. And, remember, he has had all of hits with the Yankees while playing one of the most demanding positions on the field.

And when Jeter led off the first inning with a double to left-center, the sound from the stands was akin to what is heard in the opening game of a World Series.

So, yes, it is a big deal. I read a piece the other day about what it was like the day that Roberto Clemente got his 3,000th hit on the next to last day of the 1972 season. There were a little over 13,000 people in the stands at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh when he reached the milestone with a double off Mets lefthander Jon Matlack. Clemente tipped his cap, and the game continued.

Put that image in your head, hold it there and compare it to what will happen at the Stadium when Jeter gets to 3,000. Celebrations of major achievements take on a life of their own these days as the game falls into the background. Don’t expect gyrations from Jeter, the king of cool, but everyone around him will be ready to party.

Can someone get a pie in the face while standing on a base during a game?

Bob Feller, American legend

There is a great void in baseball now that Bob Feller has left us. He was a Hall of Famer more than half of his life, a distinction for which he took great pride. Somehow, Induction Weekend in Cooperstown will never be the same.

Feller, fallen by leukemia at the age of 92, represented the epitome of the American Dream, the Iowa farm boy who made it to the big leagues before he graduated from high school and became one of the icons of an era depicted so memorably in Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation.”

Of all his accomplishments – and there were many – Feller was most proud of the four years he served in the United States Navy as a gunner on the U.S. Alabama during World War II. It cost him four precious seasons at the height of his pitching career, but he never regretted a single day he devoted to his country.

I remember his appearance at the 1986 New York Baseball Writers Dinner when he did me a huge favor. That year, Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly and Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden were co-winners of our Sid Mercer Award for the player of the year. The original plan was to have Stan Musial present the award to Mattingly and Feller to Gooden.

The day of the dinner, Musial’s plane was re-routed to Albany due to fog in New York that forced the three metro airports to close for several hours. I offered Stan a private car to come down to Manhattan, but he declined. “I don’t know how old you are, Jack, but I’m 65, and three hours in a car is not something I’m comfortable with anymore,” The Man said.

I thanked him and told him he should just go back home. Less than an hour later, I found out that Gooden couldn’t come, either. Just a couple of hours before the dinner, I had lost two marquee attractions. Mattingly and Feller had come to New York the night before, so I knew we still had them. The idea now was to ask “Rapid Robert” to present the award to “Donnie Baseball.”

Prompt as usual, Feller was the first to arrive in the dais room an hour before the dinner. I explained my dilemma and asked him if he would give the award to Mattingly.

“I’d be honored to,” he said. “Just do me two favors. One, write down some of Donnie’s statistics; I know he had a helluva year, but I don’t know the exact numbers. Two, make sure in your introduction of me that you mention my four years’ service in the Navy in World War II. Nothing I have done in my life is more important than that.”

My father and uncle were at a table up front with Anne, Feller’s wife, and got pretty friendly during the dinner. The last award presentation was Mattingly’s, and I introduced Bob with emphasis on his war record. At that point, Anne leaned over to my father and uncle and said, “He made that poor boy say that.”

Several years later, I did a piece in the Hartford Courant on Feller in connection with the Hall of Fame honoring World War II veterans. He had just come home from a tour of Okinawa where he had served in the war. I figured he was suffering from jet lag and suggested we do the interview when he was more rested.

“Come on, O’Connell, let’s do it now; I’ll have plenty of time to rest when my eyes close for good,” he said and spent the next 90 minutes detailing every step of his tour of duty in the Pacific.

Feller was proudest of the fact that he was the first major league player to enter the armed services after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese fleet. Another Hall of Famer, Hank Greenberg, also lay claim to being the first, but Feller said, “I checked it out; I beat Hank by about half an hour.”

Here’s the rub. At the time of Bob’s enlistment, his father had terminal cancer. As the sole support of his family, Bob Feller could have been excused from serving in the war, but he felt it was his duty. Think for a minute what his career statistics would have looked like had Feller not joined the Navy and played in those four seasons from 1942 through ’45.

Considering the shape of many of the war-depleted lineups in the early 1940s, Feller might have had seasons of 30-plus victories. Heck, he might have even challenged Jack Chesbro’s 1904 record of 41 victories. Since Feller had pitched in 44 games in 1941, it is conceivable that a 41-win season might not be out of the question. I have a feeling, however, that Feller would have never been able to live with the asterisk that might have been attached to all those victories against hollow lineups.

He had a tremendous career anyway with three no-hitters, including the only Opening Day no-no in 1940, and 12 one-hitters and a ring from the 1948 World Series, still the most recent championship by the Indians. He remains the greatest player in the history of that franchise, which was a charter member of the American League in 1901.

When he and Jackie Robinson were elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962, they were the first to do so in their first year on the ballot since the original class of 1936: Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.

No one wore his Hall of Fame stature more gallantly. Here are some thoughts on Feller from his Hall teammates:

Bobby Doerr: “Bob was just a regular, solid person. He was the same guy, all the time. He gave his opinions and he said what he thought. He didn’t hedge around anything. He was one of the top pitchers I saw in my time. He was timed at 100 miles per hour, and he had a real good curve ball. You had to always be alert with him. He was a real competitor.”

Gaylord Perry: “I really enjoyed Bob’s company, and hearing his stories about history – from baseball to war and everything else, from out of the cornfields to the major leagues. He did so much for baseball and had so many great stories, particularly about barnstorming and his memories of players like Cool Papa Bell and Satchel Paige. I was very fond of Bob. I traveled to his Museum in Van Meter to support his Museum. I consider Bob a great American.”

Cal Ripken Jr.: “The passing of Bob Feller is a great loss for the game of baseball. Clearly Bob was one of the greatest pitchers in history, and anyone who knew him understood that he was one of the game’s great personalities as well. That said, baseball didn’t define Bob. His service to our country is something that he was very proud of and something we are all grateful for. Bob lived an incredible life, and he will be missed.”

Nolan Ryan: “I am deeply sorry to hear of the passing of Bob Feller. He was baseball’s top power pitcher of the 1940s and 1950s and was a source of inspiration for all Americans for his service during World War II. He was a true Hall of Famer.”

Dennis Eckersley: “Bob was truly a great American and a great ambassador for the game of baseball.”

Hall of Fame board chairman Jane Forbes Clark: “We are all saddened to hear of the passing of Bob Feller. He represented the National Baseball Hall of Fame longer than any individual in history, as 2011 would have been his 50th year as a Hall of Fame member. No one loved coming back to Cooperstown more than Bob, which he and Anne did often. Bob was a wonderful ambassador for the Hall of Fame, always willing to help the Museum. Watching him pitch just shy of his 91st birthday at the Hall of Fame Classic in Cooperstown will be a memory that we will always treasure. He will always be missed.”

Hall president Jeff Idelson: “The Baseball Hall of Fame has lost an American original – there will never be anyone quite like Bob Feller ever again. He was truly larger than life – baseball’s John Wayne – coming out of the Iowa cornfields to the major leagues at age 17 and then dominating for two decades. Bob loved being a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, but he was most proud of his service as a highly decorated soldier in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II. He reached the pinnacle of individual achievement in 1962, earning enshrinement in Cooperstown, spending more than half his life as a Hall of Fame member.&nbs
p; He probably flew more miles, signed more autographs, met more people and visited more places than anyone, a testament to his ceaseless zest for life, baseball and country. Cooperstown will never be the same without Rapid Robert.”

That’s for sure.

Why Joe D. had to wait

I need to take issue with a discussion on YES between Michael Kay and Ken Singleton on Sunday’s telecast of the Yankees-White Sox game. It is not a criticism but rather an explanation or, better put, an attempt at one.

Former White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas, a two-time American League Most Valuable Player, was honored Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field and had his uniform No. 35 retired. In reviewing Thomas’ career, Kay and Singleton fittingly talked about his credentials as a candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There was even a text-message question to viewers on the topic.

Thomas retired after the 2008 season and will be eligible for consideration by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on the 2014 ballot. I have no dispute here about Thomas’ legitimacy as a candidate for first-ballot election. Interestingly, the result of the text poll was 71 percent yes and 29 percent no, which means that according to texters the “Big Hurt” is not first-ballot worthy, since 75 percent of ballots cast is required for election.

But in the discussion about the writers’ vote, Kay and Singleton save some examples of first-ballot electees and questioned why Joe DiMaggio isn’t among them. At one point, Singleton said, “What were the writers thinking?”

Well, here goes. First off, the rules were different when DiMaggio, an obvious choice for the Hall of Fame if there ever was one, first went on the ballot, which was 1953. He had retired after the 1951 season when he was only 37 years old (the 1952 ballot had already been formed by the time of the announcement, which is why he was not on it).

Unlike today, there was no five-year waiting period before a player become eligible for the ballot. DiMaggio went on the ballot one year after he retired. Remember, no one had been elected on the first ballot up to that time since the original class of 1936 (Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson). Lou Gehrig was elected by acclamation by the BBWAA in 1939.

According to veteran writers I talked to over the years, it was not uncommon for voters at that time to dismiss first-year candidates out of the thinking that the player might un-retire. There was no five-percent rule at the time, either, which came about in the mid 1980s requiring candidates to get at least five percent of the vote to stay on the ballot.

There was apparently some feeling at the time that DiMaggio, still in his 30s, might get himself back in shape and return to the Yankees. This was a period not too far removed from World War II when former players, most notably Jimmie Foxx, did precisely that.

In fact, that is one of the reasons the five-year rule came into being in 1954, which was DiMaggio’s second year on the ballot. Joe D. was actually the first test case. The writers allowed anyone who had received more than 100 votes on a previous ballot to be grand-fathered onto the ballot without having to wait five years. The only player to which that applied was DiMaggio, who came close to being elected in 1954 (69.4 percent) before making it in 1955 (88.8).

Another rule of thought in voting in those years was that players had to “wait their turn.” One writer once told me that he could not vote for DiMaggio while Joe Cronin and Hank Greenberg, who preceded Joe D. to the majors by quite a few years (10 for Cronin, six for Greenberg) were not yet in. They were elected in 1956, the year after the “Yankee Clipper.”

I am by no means saying that I agree with the thinking of that time, only that it was different. I am fairly confident that if DiMaggio did not go on the ballot until 1957 in satisfying the five-year waiting period he would have been elected on the first ballot. As it was, he got into the Hall two years earlier than that.

Long stay at shortstop

Derek Jeter turned 36 Saturday. That may not be an age that is considered a milestone, but I have always thought it was. After all, once you’re 36 for the first time in your life you’re closer to 50 than 20. You may not be starting the back nine of your life, but the halfway house is clearly in view.

As for a professional athlete, 36 is definitely on the back nine, unless you know anyone playing in the pros in his or her 70s, excluding Minnie Minoso, of course. Yet in this day and age of dedication to conditioning and nutrition, the pro athlete can endure far long than his antecedents, and there are few in baseball in better shape than Derek Jeter.

It is hard to think of him as getting old. Other than natural maturity, I have not seen any great change in his approach or demeanor from the 21-year-old kid who came to the Yankees’ spring training camp at Tampa, Fla., in 1996 ready to assume the role of shortstop.

The plan was for regular Tony Fernandez to move to second base and be ready to switch back if Jeter did not handle the job. Fernandez got hurt and was out for the year while Jeter went on to win Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year honors and help the Yankees win their first World Series championship in 18 years.

Long ago and far away, sure, but all these years later Jeter is still a main cog on the Yankees at one of the sport’s most demanding positions. And he is in no mood to think about playing someplace else, not in a different city and not at a different position.

Yet Jeter has reached that age which historically players at his position often move to another position. No better example exists than Cal Ripken Jr., a player Jeter admires and emulates, who was shifted to third base in 1997, the year he turned 36. He played only three games at shortstop after turning 36, not counting the 2001 All-Star Game.

Two other Hall of Famers, Ernie Banks and Robin Yount, were moved from shortstop in their early 30s due to arm injuries that hampered their effectiveness in the middle infield. Banks went to first base, and Yount to center field.

A couple of years ago, I sat down with Jeter and talked to him about the Yount move. This was a time when Bernie Williams’ career was winding down, and I queried whether he had given any thought to playing center field in the future.

Not a word, just a blank stare from those piercing green eyes. “I just thought maybe we’d talk about it,” I said.

He grinned and said, “Then I guess you’ll have to find someone else to talk to about that.”

Needless to say, I never brought the subject up again, and I am not going to do so here, either. I have been of the opinion since that day that shortstop is where Derek Jeter belongs for as long as he wants to play it. If he was not coming off shortstop for Alex Rodriguez, he wasn’t coming off shortstop for Jack O’Connell.

And why should he? It is not as if he is Phil Rizzuto, who hit .195 at age 36 and was a part-time player the next year and a half. Or Pee Wee Reese, who won a World Series with the Dodgers at that age in 1955 but was moved to third base two years later. Or Joe Cronin, who played very little shortstop after the age of 35. Or such Hall of Famers as Joe Tinker, Travis Jackson, Arky Vaughan and Lou Boudreau, who were retired as players before they turned 36.

Further research shows plenty of evidence that moving off shortstop is not all that warranted. Hall of Famers Honus Wagner and Luke Appling played more than 130 games at shortstop when each was 41. Rabbit Maranville, another Hall of Famer, finished 10th in the National League MVP race when he was 36 in 1928. Dave Concepcion was the Reds’ regular shortstop until he was 38, and as late as the age of 40 Omar Vizquel played 143 games at shortstop.

There are two shortstops that really stick out to me and with whom I hope Jeter will keep company – Hall of Famers Luis Aparicio and Ozzie Smith. They share an amazing distinction. Shortstop was the only position they played in their entire careers – 2,518 games for Little Looie and 2,511 games for the Wizard of Oz. Each made the All-Star team playing shortstop at age 36, which Jeter will do next month.

Aparicio’s last year was 1973, the first year of the designated hitter but he was never used in that spot, and Smith spent his whole career in the DH-less National League. Jeter has been a DH in 17 games, but the only position he has played in the field is shortstop. He celebrated his 36th birthday with game No. 2,193 – and counting.

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