Results tagged ‘ Jim \”Catfish\” Hunter ’
The Lou Gehrig Award that one of his successors at first base for the Yankees, Mark Teixeira, received Thursday night at the Marriott Marquis Hotel came with a bit of a surprise. Sportscaster Bob Costas was joined during the presentation by Kim and Trason Murray, the widow and son of George Murray, an ALS sufferer who Teixeira had met in July 2009 during the Yankees’ HOPE Week.
Murray, 38, a veteran of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne who no longer had use of his arms or legs due to ALS, fulfilled his dream of going to a Yankees game with Trason and Kim. The Yankees invited the family to Yankee Stadium July 22, 2009 for batting practice and the game, and then surprised the couple on their anniversary with a suite of 30 friends and family from home as well as several players, including Teixeira and Derek Jeter. George died of the disease two weeks after the trip.
“The main reason I’m here is because of George Murray and his family,” Teixeira said at the ALS Association’s 16th annual Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Benefit. “Tra and Kim, along with George, really made a big impression on me last year at the Stadium. Tra is a year older than my son. After visiting with George and realizing he was losing the battle with ALS, I went home and looked at my son, and just thought about growing up without his father, or me not being able to see my son grow up. We’re really here for George Murray and fathers everywhere, sons everywhere, and we need to find a cure for this disease.”
ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which has commonly been known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease since it ended his playing career in 1939 and his life in 1941. Another Yankees Hall of Famer, pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, succumbed to the disease in 1999. ALS is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There is no known cure. The Gehrig Awards Dinner, which this year also honored tennis great Pam Shriver, raised $1 million toward research.
“Lou Gehrig and Catfish Hunter, those two names will live forever in the Yankees’ family,” Teixeira said. “When you become a part of that family, ALS becomes a part of you as well. For me to be here and hopefully raise a little more awareness and a few more dollars, I’m all for it. Becoming part of the Yankees’ family is understanding how important ALS research and finding a cure for ALS is.”
On the 31st anniversary of Thurman Munson’s death in a small plane crash, discussion among Yankees fans often centers on why he is not in the Hall of Fame. The answer is simple. He was not elected. The question is: Why?
Munson is one of the strangest cases in Hall of Fame voting, which is conducted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America of members with 10 or more consecutive years of coverage. On the face of it, his credentials are impressive. The hard-nosed catcher earned Rookie of the Year (1970) and Most Valuable Player (1976) honors from the BBWAA, drove in 100 or more runs three times, batted .300 five times, won three Gold Gloves, was named to seven All-Star teams and was one of the centerpieces of Yankees teams that won two World Series.
So what went wrong come election time? For one thing, his career was short. Munson played in 11 seasons and hit .292 with 113 home runs. Hall of Fame voters tend to lose for comparisons when voting. There was one obvious comparison for Munson, and that was Roy Campanella, the Brooklyn Dodgers catcher of the 1950s whose career was also shortened (to 10 years) because of a tragic auto accident that paralyzed him.
In his decade in the majors, Campy batted .276 with 242 home runs, played on five World Series teams (winning only once, in 1955), drove in more than 100 runs three times, hit .300 three times, was named to eight All-Star teams and was the National League MVP three times. The Gold Glove was not established until 1957, his last season, but he was acknowledged as one of the game’s best receivers and handlers of pitchers. The writers elected him to the Hall of Fame in 1969 in his fifth year of eligibility.
There does not seem to be much difference, does there? Well, there was one major difference between the two, and that was the matter of personality. Munson was popular with many of his teammates, from Bobby Murcer to Lou Piniella to Jim “Catfish” Hunter to Goose Gossage and beyond, but he was not as well liked by writers for the most part.
Munson had a prickly relationship with the press. He was gruff and impatient. Campanella, on the other hand, was one of the nicest human beings to grace a major-league clubhouse. Extremely popular with teammates and the press alike, Campy’s departure from the game left a definite void, and writers felt he was deserving of Hall recognition eventually.
Should how a player treats the press matter in Hall voting? No, and in most cases it doesn’t. Truth be told, Mickey Mantle wasn’t very sweet with writers during his career. Neither were Willie Mays or Hank Aaron or Warren Spahn or Frank Robinson. And BBWAA members could write encyclopedias about how nasty Eddie Murray was to them. Not everybody in baseball is Yogi Berra or Stan Musial or Ernie Banks. Yet the malicious ones were voted into the Hall by writers anyway, so it is not about that.
What did hurt Munson was that perhaps due to his standoffishness with the press he had no one or previous few championing his case other than Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, whose opinion was prejudiced to say the least. The Boss felt his players should have won every award for which they were candidates and berated voters if it didn’t happen, so his campaigning carried no weight.
Munson’s best vote total was his first year on the ballot, in 1981, when he received 62 votes for 15 percent. He never got more than 10 percent of the vote after that. Munson remained on the ballot the full 15 years, which is amazing considering that he annually gathered only 30 to 40 votes.
My own view is that Munson’s chance to make the Hall was hurt by his going on the ballot immediately. The five-year waiting rule that went into effect in the mid-1950s is waved in the case of players who die. When Roberto Clemente was killed in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve in 1972, there was a movement by writers to override the five-year wait and vote him in. A special election was held during spring training in 1973 and Clemente received 93 percent of the vote.
Clemente was a fairly obvious Hall of Fame choice, however, with 3,000 hits, an MVP Award, a World Series MVP and a dozen Gold Gloves, even though his relationship with the press was along the lines of Munson’s.
The five-year waiting period is a good rule. It allows perspective to become part of the equation in evaluating a player’s career. Campanella had to wait five years because he did not die. Munson went on the ballot too soon for his supporters’ good. Had writers been able to step back for five years and then look at his career, I feel that his chances would have been better.
Now Munson’s case falls to the Veterans Committee. As chairman of the BBWAA’s Historical Overview Committee which forms the Veterans Committee ballots, I can tell you that Munson get his day in court and just may make it one of these years.
The theme of the Yankees’ 64th Old Timers Day Saturday, July 17, at Yankee Stadium will be the 60th anniversary of their World Series championship over the Philadelphia Phillies’ “Whiz Kids.” Seven members of that Yankees team that won the second of a record five consecutive championships under Casey Stengel will be on hand for the reunion that begins at 2 p.m. with introductions, followed by the traditional Old Timers Game, all of which will be aired on YES.
The Yankees’ regularly scheduled game against American League East rival Tampa Bay will start at 4:05 p.m. on FOX.
Hall of Famers Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra will headline the event with 1950 teammates Jerry Coleman, Charlie Silvera, Don Johnson, Duane Pillette and Hank Workman. Other Yankees stars from the past, including Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage and Rickey Henderson, will be on hand, along with former first baseman Cecil Fielder, a member of the Yankees’ 1996 World Series champions, who will make his Old Timers Day debut.
It is also the first Old Timers Day appearances for Johnson, Pillette and Workman, who played on the 1950 Yankees but were not on the post-season roster. Johnson and Pillette, both pitchers, were traded to the St. Louis Browns June 15, then the trading deadline. Workman, a first baseman, played in only five games and was 1-for-5 in his only big-league season.
Ford was a rookie that year and was 9-1. He was the winning pitcher in the clinching Game 4 as the Yankees completed their only sweep in the five-year run. Berra, who hit .322 with 28 home runs and 124 RBI, drove in two runs in that final game with a first-inning single and a sixth-inning home run. Coleman, the long-time broadcaster for the Padres, was the regular second baseman and hit .287 during the season and was the RBI leader in the Series with three. Silvera was Yogi’s backup behind the plate.
Three other living members of that team – pitcher Fred Sanford, catcher Ralph Houk and third baseman Bobby Brown – were invited but are not able to attend.
Joining the 1950 veterans will be more than 30 additional former Yankees and the widows of four of the team’s legends – Arlene Howard, widow of Elston Howard; Helen Hunter, widow of Jim “Catfish” Hunter; Kay Murcer, widow of Bobby Murcer; and Diana Munson, widow of Thurman Munson.
The complete roster:
Luis Arroyo, Jesse Barfield, Yogi Berra, Ron Blomberg, Homer Bush, Rick Cerone, Chris Chambliss, Horace Clarke, Jerry Coleman, David Cone, Bucky Dent, Al Downing, Brian Doyle, Mike Easler, Dave Eiland, Cecil Fielder, Whitey Ford, Oscar Gamble, Joe Girardi, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry, Charlie Hayes, Rickey Henderson, Arlene Howard, Helen Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Don Johnson, Pat Kelly, Don Larsen, Hector Lopez, Lee Mazzilli, Gene Michael, Diana Munson, Kay Murcer, Jerry Narron, Jeff Nelson, Graig Nettles, Joe Pepitone, Duane Pillette, Mickey Rivers, Charlie Silvera, Moose Skowron, Aaron Small, Mel Stottlemyre, Ralph Terry, Mike Torrez, Bob Turley, Roy White, Hank Workman.
The ALS Association Greater New York Chapter will team with the Yankees on a text campaign Sunday to help strike out the dreaded disease that took the lives of Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig and Jim “Catfish” Hunter.
Fans attending the game against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium or watching on television or listening to the radio will be encouraged to text ALS to 50555 to make a one-time donation of $5 from their mobile phones
This initiative, which is intended to honor Gehrig on the 71st anniversary of his famous speech when he referred to himself as the “luckiest man on the face of the Earth,” will raise funds for the care of and research for ALS patients.
So if the Yankees move into first place in the American League East, which could happen if they beat the Red Sox Sunday night, they would have Dallas Braden in part to thank for it.
Talk about strange bedfellows. Braden has been making a name, not to mention a nuissance, of himself ragging Alex Rodriguez over the three-time MVP’s taking a lap across the mound April 22 at the Oakland Coliseum and vowing revenge. A-Rod has been minimal in his remarks about Braden, saying that he does not want to extend the lefthander’s 15 minutes of fame.
So Braden elongated those 15 minutes himself Sunday with a perfect game against the Rays, who have been atop the division for a fortnight but could be looking up at the Yankees before the night is over at Fenway Park.
The perfecto was only the 19th in major-league history and came one day after the 42nd anniversary of the last perfect game by an Oakland pitcher, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, who also became an important figure in the Yankees’ return to excellence in the 1970s.
There was also the poignancy of the feat coming on Mother’s Day for a young pitcher whose own mother died when he was still a teenager and was raised by his grandmother, who was in the ballpark.
Like it or not, Yankees fans, this is a time for a tip of the cap however reluctantly to someone who has pinned a target on the Bombers’ cleanup hitter. Say this for A-Rod. He took the high road Sunday in response to Braden’s perfect performance.
“I’ve learned in my career, it is much better to be recognized for all the great things you do on the field,” Rodriguez said. “Good for him, he threw a perfect game. And better yet, he beat the Rays.”
But when the Yankees and Athletics face each other July 5-7 at the Coliseum, A-Rod will be staying loose at the plate, that’s for sure.