Results tagged ‘ Otesaga Hotel ’

No. 7 proved lucky for Hall of Fame inductee

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — One of the many distinctions Mickey Mantle had in his legendary career was that for 45 years he was the only player who wore No. 7 to have his number retired. That changed this year when the Astros retired No. 7 in honor of Craig Biggio, who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday alongside Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.

I chatted with Biggio, a native New Yorker from Smithtown, Long Island, who has made Houston his home, on the veranda of the Otesaga Hotel here about that situation. I asked him if he wore the number because of Mantle.

“No,” he said. “Actually, I sort of got the number by accident.”

Biggio recalled that in his second spring-training camp he asked for a number lower than the 67 he wore the previous year as a late-season callup.

“I had worn No. 44 when I played baseball and football in high school and hoped to get that number again,” Biggio said. “But the equipment manager said I was too thin to wear a double number. So I asked him if I could have ‘4.’ The problem was that another infielder had that number — Steve Lombardozzi, who was senior to me and had played on a World Series championship team [1987 Twins]. So they gave me No. 7, the only single digit that was available at the time.

“The irony is that Lombardozzi was cut just before we broke camp, and I made the team. I could have taken ‘4,’ but since I made the team wearing ‘7’ in camp, I figured I better keep it.”

Biggio would have made Mickey proud. He was an All-Star at three positions (catcher, second base, center field) and banged out 3,060 hits, of which 668 were doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. The only players in front of him are left-handed hitting Tris Speaker (792), Stan Musial (725) and Ty Cobb (724) and switch hitter Pete Rose (746). The active leader among right-handed batters is Angels first baseman Albert Pujols with 574. Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez has 532.

DJ gets to 3,000 and more!

Move over, Wade Boggs, and make room for an old teammate. Before Saturday, Boggs had been the only member of the 3,000 Hit Club whose milestone hit was a home run. It was ironic in that Boggs was one of the game’s greatest singles hitters.

So, too, has been Derek Jeter, who has singled for nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of his hits, including the one he got in the first inning for No. 2,999. Jeter made No. 3,000 special by driving a 3-2 curveball from Rays lefthander David Price over the left field auxiliary scoreboard and into the first section of stands at Yankee Stadium.

The best thing about a milestone hit being a home run is that there is more time to savor the moment because the player gets to round the bases while the crowd shows its appreciation. Jeter’s quest had been on hold for three weeks while he was on the disabled list nursing a right calf strain. The sense of anticipation with each at-bat was getting excruciating. Despite being banged up physically with Alex Rodriguez (left knee ligament tear) and Nick Swisher (strained left quad) out of the lineup, the Yankees had been willing to play two games Saturday following Friday night’s rainout in order for Jeter to have the best shot of getting to 3,000 at the Stadium.

What Jeter did was a first not only for the Yankees franchise but also for New York City. No one had ever gotten his 3,000th hit wearing a Yankees uniform, and no player had achieved the feat in a New York ballpark. It hadn’t happened at the previous versions of Yankee Stadium or at the old Polo Grounds across the Harlem River where the New York Giants once played or at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn that the Dodgers used to call home or at either of the Queens yards which have housed the Mets, Shea Stadium or Citi Field.

“Long before joining the 3,000 Hit Club, hit club, Derek Jeter became another one of New York’s icons,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement, “because he represents what is best in the spirit of our city: an unbreakable belief that with hard work and determination, anything can be accomplished.

“Perhaps above all else, Derek is someone who loves this city and has a long history of giving back to the place and people that helped make him the superstar he is. New York has a greater baseball tradition than any other city, but we’ve never had a player get all 3,000 hits in a New York uniform until today. Congratulations, Derek. You’ve made all of New York City proud.”

The first player to greet Jeter at the plate was his closest friend on the team, Jorge Posada, who had been waiting a long time to give the shortstop this special hug. DJ looked up to the luxury box where his parents and other relatives and friends were standing and waved to them. Then it was hugs all around from his teammates, coaches and manager Joe Girardi. Pitchers ran in from the bullpen to join the lovefest.

Even the Rays – including another former teammate, Johnny Damon – stood on the top step or just in front of the third base dugout and applauded Jeter. And somewhere in the Stadium, Don Zimmer, the former Yankees coach and current Rays adviser who was here for the series, smiled and wondered how many of those hits came after Jeter had rubbed his bald head.

Jeter’s home run was his third this season and his first at Yankee Stadium since July 22 last year, also against Tampa Bay. It was the 237th home run of his career, so Jeter is not exactly a Judy of a hitter. Boggs had 118 home runs but had singles in almost exactly three-quarters (74.9 percent) of his 3,010 hits.

I talked to Boggs a few weeks ago for Yankees Magazine’s special edition on Jeter that went on sale at the Stadium immediately after the 3,000th hit. “Don’t be surprised if he goes deep, too,” Wade told me.

The only thing different is that Jeter did not kneel down and kiss the plate the way Boggs did when he got to 3,000 Aug. 7, 1999 for Tampa Bay against Cleveland at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., just across the Howard Frankland Bridge from his home town of Tampa.

When Jeter hit a double to left in his third at-bat leading off the fifth, it created a possibility that he might be the first player to hit for the cycle in the game in which he got his 3,000th hit. All he needed to complete it was a triple, which sure would have tested that calf. But he’d have plenty of time to rest with the All-Star break coming up.

“It is a monumental achievement, and Derek has climbed the mountain,” Boggs said Saturday. “He has reached that honor, where he can stake his flag in the mountain and call it his own. I had the opportunity to play with Derek when he was a rookie in 1996, and I had no doubts that Derek would reach this milestone. He is a very consistent player and never deviated from his game.

“When you stay healthy and you are consistent and compile a lengthy career like Derek has done, you have the opportunity to reach that 3,000 hit plateau. Reaching the 3,000 hit mark is another piece of the legacy that Derek has created. It won’t be too long now before we are on the veranda in Cooperstown at the Otesaga Hotel celebrating his induction into the Hall of Fame.”

Umps burn Yanks

Back from Cooperstown where Yogi Berra’s absence was felt by everyone. Yogi and wife Carmen are among the most popular couples during Induction Weekend, the first they have missed since Yogi was managing the Yankees in 1984. A huge card was displayed in the lobby of the Otesaga Hotel and signed by all the Hall of Famers saying how much they miss Yogi.

“I don’t miss him,” Whitey Ford quipped. “I see Yogi all the time.”

I figured that Alex Rodriguez would have gotten to 600 home runs over the weekend against Kansas City pitching. The games were watched by visitors all weekend on a huge flat-screen TV behind the bar in the Hawkeye Grill.

“Let’s go watch No. 600,” was a familiar remark, although I don’t think anyone heard Hank Aaron or Willie Mays say that.

One of the inductees Sunday was Doug Harvey, the well-respected umpire who during his speech took umbrage at people referring to umpires as a necessary evil. “We are necessary but not evil,” the ump known as “God” said.

The Yankees begged to differ Monday night at Cleveland. A blown call against Rodriguez defused a rally in the fourth inning and was ruled a double play. Television replays of A-Rod’s diving liner clearly showed that the ball was trapped by left fielder Trevor Crowe, who came up throwing and threw to second where Mark Teixeira, who had walked to reach base for the 42nd consecutive game, was tagged out. So instead of having runners on first and second with one out, the Yankees were out of the inning.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, TV replays are used only on questionable home run calls. The best Yankees manager Joe Girardi could do was to get the four umpires to talk it over, but the original call was upheld.

The very next inning, another potential Yankees rally was doused by a missed ball. Second base umpire Dale Scott called Curtis Granderson out trying to stretch a single into a double. With Jorge Posada running ahead of him, Granderson had to make sure the slow-footed catcher was going to third base before turning on the jets and heading for second. Still, according to video replays, Granderson was tagged by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera after his slide.

It was an impressive play by right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, who grabbed the ball with his bare left hand on a carom off the wall and threw a dart to second base, but Granderson appeared safe. He didn’t argue the call, however. He probably figured what’s the use after what happened the previous inning dealing with the necessary evil.