Working at The Hall — A Baseball Fan’s Dream

Show me a baseball fan who wouldn’t want to work at the Hall of Fame?

When I was seven, my father took me to my first game at Yankee Stadium and promised a trip to the Hall of Fame. We made it upstate to Cooperstown a few years later, and that visit hooked me on baseball…for life.

I saw six eventual Hall of Famers play in that first game in 1958 — Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Enos Slaughter for the Yankees, and Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio for the White Sox.

Throughout the years, I’ve watched Williams and Musial, Mantle and Mays, Aaron and Bonds, Marichal and Ryan. Was there to see Williams, Mantle and Maris homer in the same game. Cheered as Willie Mays hit a grand slam at Candlestick Park.

And I’ve been lucky enough to see many monumental baseball moments, some of them historic moments, Hall of Fame moments.

I’ve witnessed home runs by Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone that doomed the Red Sox. I’ve seen two World Series wins by the Yankees, a perfect game by David Wells, Roger Clemens 300th win and Barry Bonds 500th stolen base and record-breaking 756th home run. I’ve  been to Yankee Stadium old and new, Fenway, Wrigley, even the old Polo Grounds, where I saw Jim Hickman hit for the natural cycle.

With more than 30 years experience in writing and editing — as a sportswriter and later in high-tech corporate PR — my qualifications are impeccable. More importantly, if the Hall of Fame is looking for someone with a passion for the national pastime, well I’m on the Cooperstown shuttle right now.

That’s why they call me the SportsLifer. And here are some of blogs I’ve posted on baseball and the Hall.

Hall of Fame Blogs: A Sampler

Former Yankee Owner Jacob Ruppert Belongs in The Hall

Nine for Cooperstown: These Active Players Headed for Hall

The Ins and Outs of Baseball’s Hall of Fame

The Rock Should Be A Lock for Baseball’s Hall of Fame

Guidry Vs. Koufax: A Hall of A Compare

Did The Joba Rules Ruin Joba Chamberlain?

That Joba bravado has been replaced by inconsistent relief pitching.

It’s clear the Yankees constant juggling of roles, responsibilities and pitch counts have messed with Joba Chamberlain’s head.

Today’s Joba isn’t the same Joba, who at the age of 21 made his MLB debut in 2007 throwing fire out of the Yankee bullpen. Joba set the American League on its ear that year with a 2-0 record and a 0.38 ERA in 19 appearances, and if not for a swarm of midges in Cleveland would have been a playoff hero as well.

The Yankees instituted the ill-famed Joba Rules that year and made Chamberlain a starter in 2008. And his career has gone in reverse ever since.

Chamberlain failed to win a starting spot in spring training this year, and was moved back to the bullpen, presumably to re-inherit his dominant eighth-inning set-up role of 2007.

More than halfway through the season, it hasn’t happened.

This season began well enough for Joba, who had a 1-1 record and a 2.16 ERA as late as May 14. That night he struck out the side and earned his only win of the season. against Minnesota.

Joba’s Blow-Ups
Since then, he’s been highly unreliable, to be kind. Here’s a litany of Joba’s recent blow-ups.

  • May 16: Gives up three runs to the Twins and takes the loss
  • May 18: Surrenders four runs, Yanks blow lead and lose to the Red Sox 7-6
  • May 29: Pitches a third of an inning against the Indians, gives up four runs and suffers his third loss
  • June 17: Fails to retire a batter, gives up three runs to the Phillies in 7-1 loss
  • July 10: In a disastrous eighth inning in Seattle, gives up three hits, including a grand slam, and falls to 1-4 as Mariners win 4-1

“I have to limit the damage,” Joba said. “It’s either been really good, or given up three or four runs. (In the second half of the season) I want to limit the damage and continue to get better to do things that are going to help this team win.”

Chamberlain’s ERA is now 5.77. In fact, his ERA has gone up every year since 2007, 2.60 in 2008 and 4.75 in 2009. That’s a striking indicator of Joba’s decline.

And as if they haven’t messed with Joba’s head enough these past three seasons, the Yankees have now put him on notice.

“I’m, not saying on a daily basis we’re going to change our eighth inning guy, but you have to earn your rules here,” Yankee manager Joe Girardi said recently. “And we evaluate on a regular basis.”

Translation: Start pitching better in the second half Joba, or you’ll slip down in the bullpen pecking order. The bridge to closer Mariano Rivera needs to better than you’ve given us so far.

MLB players don’t think Joba is all that good either. In a recent anonymous poll in Sports Illustrated, 12 percent of all players said Joba was the most overrated player in the game.

Won for The Boss

The Yankees do it right

Flowers at home plate

Bob Sheppard’s silent mike


And finally, a walk-off win.

A George Tale

My old friend Chuck sent me this e-mail the other day. Wanted to share it with you.

“Met George at Lauderdale by the sea in florida in 2002- He saw my tattered yankee cap -sat down at the bar and ordered a coke and a cheeseburger.I spent almost an hour talkin nothin but yankee baseball- and like you- I was filled with old and new stats and rattled off like a 2 year old on x-mas. What was amazing was this guy was just as into it as … was- talking with his mouth full and ketchup everywhere.In the end- he said come to the game opener and he will give me a new hat. Sure enough- 2 months later – at the stadium- there was my hat- with a note-“Chuck- thanks for the passion- its what drives us on – G.S.” I still got the hat and note- and the experience!”

Must be more George Steinbrenner stories out there. Send me yours.

By George, Yanks for the Memories

Never got to meet George Steinbrenner, never got to shake his hand. But like so many other Yankee fans, I wish I had the opportunity to thank The Boss before he passed on. Thank him for making baseball important once more in New York, and for making the Yankees a winner again.

George Steinbrenner saved the New York Yankees. When a group of businessmen led by Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees on January 3, 1973, for a net price of $8.7 million, the once-proud franchise was floundering. Attendance was down, Yankee Stadium was falling apart, and the team hadn’t won a World Series since 1962.

The Yankees were a bottom feeder in the American League East in those days, a baseball laughingstock. Think Horace Clarke and Dooley Womack.

At first George said he would be a silent owner, that in his words he would not “be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all.” That lasted for a New York minute. Before long, Steinbrenner promised he would bring the Yankees back to prominence.

Steinbrenner brought in a number of heralded players at the dawn of free agency, most notably Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson. He refurbished Yankee Stadium. And within four years, the Yankees were back on top, winning the World Series in 1977 and repeating in 1978.

Moose Skowron, a Yankee first baseman in the 50s and early 60s, perhaps summed it up best: “This man wants to win, and I respect him for that. Who the hell wants to be a loser.”

Serious Business
Some owners were hobbyists, but for George Steinbrenner ownership was serious baseball business.

Sometimes too serious. George wanted to win, but for a time in the 80s and early 90s his competitive instincts got the best of him. The Yankees endured an 18-year championship drought following the 1978 World Series, and failed to make a single playoff appearance between 1981 and 1995.

Then came 1996 and a surprising World Series triumph over the Atlanta Braves, followed by three straight World Championships from 1998-2000. That 1998 team with manager Joe Torre, Derek Jeter and the rest of the Core Four won 125 games and ranks amongst the greatest in baseball history.

And of course last year the Yankees opened their beautiful new Stadium — the Home Office — and capped the season with their 27th Championship, most of any North American pro sports franchise.

Two Personalities
In retrospect, it’s almost like two George Steinbrenners owned the Yankees, two  different personalities. The first was the tyrannical despot who ranted and raved, belittled Dave Winfield and other members of the organization, phoned the Yankee dugout and hired and fired Billy Martin five times.

George seemed to mellow in his later years as he built the Yankee brand. A softer side of George emerged, a kinder, gentler George, a benevolent George who not only treated his players and managers with respect, but also honored the military and police officers and helped charities, schools and individuals in need.

And in the end, the Yankees won 11 pennants and seven World Championships in the Steinbrenner regime, and had the best record in baseball during that 37-year span.

“I care about New York dearly,” George told Sports Illustrated several years ago. “I like every cab driver, every guy that stops the car and honks, every truck driver. I feed on that.”

The Boss bought the Yankees for $8.7 million in 1973 — the team is now worth more than a $1.6 billion according to a recent report in Forbes magazine. Not a bad investment, by George.

Sadly, George Steinbrenner was not selected for the Hall of Fame before his passing. Perhaps the Hall can do him right now, and open its doors for George Steinbrenner.

Related Blog: Former Yankee Owner Jacob Ruppert Belongs in The Hall

World Cup Runneth Over for Spain

Well, Spain lived up to the favorite’s role and won its first World Cup, beating The Netherlands 1-0 in extra time.

The Spanish had reached five Cup quarterfinals — in 1934, 50, 86, 94 and 2002 — but never advanced beyond that….until this year.

Meanwhile, The Netherlands are now the Brooklyn Dodgers of World Cup soccer. The Dutch made the finals for the third time, but came up empty once again. Previous losses were to West Germany in 1974 and Argentina in 1978.

Three random thoughts on the World Cup:

No Shootout

1. Thankfully somebody scored in the extra time, thus avoiding a penalty kick shootout for the championship. the way Brazil beat Italy in 1994 and Italy defeated France for the 2006 Cup..

IMHO, elimination games — and especially championship matches — should be not be decided by artificial shootouts. Go to sudden death overtime.

And if there’s a concern that the games might last too long, play the OT with less players and open up the field.

Yes Replay

2. Go to the replay to confirm questionable goals. Hey, I’m not an instant replay freak — it’s overdone in the NFL, for instance. But it’s foolish not to use the technology that’s available today to ensure the right call is made.

Not advocating replay for offsides calls, penalties, etc. Just goals.

Vuvezela Music

3. At first, we wondered what was that sound. The vuvuzalas sounded like a swarm of bees, and they were obnoxious in the beginning. But as the World Cup rolled on, they became the defining sound of the 2010 World Cup.

When in South Africa, do as the South Africans do.

LeGone’s Move to South Beach No Guarantee

There’s plenty of work to be done before LeBron James and the Miami Heat can claim an NBA Championship ring.

What more can be said about LeBron James (now known as LeGone) that hasn’t already been written, aired, tweeted, barked and otherwise discussed by basketball fans and casual onlookers across America.

For some strange reason, the LeGone signing reminded me of the time Jason Giambi, like LeGone a former MVP,  signed with the Yankees in 2002. At the press conference at Yankee Stadium heralding his arrival, Giambi mentioned that he was happy to be a Yankee, and that now it was time to start collecting his rings, as if it was as easy as getting the ring finger measured as a high school senior.

Only it never happened for Giambi. In his seven years in pinstripes, Giambi’s Yankees failed to win a single World Series.

You see, there are no guarantees in sports. Just because a team has the most superstars, or the most money, or loudest fans, doesn’t mean victory is automatic. Just ask the Giambi.

Sure the Miami Heat are now loaded with LeGone and D-Wade and Chris Bosch. They’ll be favored to win the NBA Championship next year.

But there are plenty of other good teams and superstars out there, who will have a say in this. The heat will be on the Heat, the pressure to win it all.

In the short time since the LeGone signing, the Heat have managed to paint a big, bright target on their collective backs. Hate and Heat are anagrams, and “Hate the Heat” has already become a catchphrase.

LeGone indicated the main reason he chose Miami over Cleveland and the other suitors was simple — the Heat gave him his best chance to win a long-coveted championship.

“I think the major factor, the major reason, in my decision was the best opportunity to win, and to win now and to win into the future also,” the King turned Prince told ESPN viewers as he revealed his decision to head south.

Only time will tell.

In The Headlines

LeGone’s decision spurred all kinds of intriguing headlines in the newspapers of the cities towns LeGone passed over.

New York: Son of a Beach

Cleveland: Gone

Chicago: That’s Bull

One wag referred to LeGone as LeBronedict Arnold. A New York headline cried “Knixed” mourning New York’s failed effort to get LeGone.

Another Bronx Tale: 4th of July, Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig making his famous “Luckiest Man” address to a packed house in Yankee Stadium, 71 years ago this Fourth of July.

George Steinbrenner, a Yankee Doodle Dandy, was born on The Fourth of July. The Yankee owner turned 80 this year.

Three years before George was born, the famed 1927 Yankees entertained the second place Washington Senators before 74,000 fans in a holiday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.

Any notions the Nats entertained for staying in the race were quickly shattered that afternoon. The Yankees swept Washington, 12-1 and 21-1, opened up an 11 1/2 game lead in the American League, and never looked back in winning their second World Championship.

In the opener the Yankees collected 18 hits, including four by third baseman Joe Dugan (a Holy Cross man), and home runs by Lou Gehrig and catcher Pat Collins. George Pipgras pitched a complete game for the win.

Fourth of July Fireworks
But the Yankees were just warming up.  In the nightcap, they pounded out 19 hits in  support of Wilcy Moore. Tony Lazzeri had four hits, including a pair of doubles, and drive in five runs. Babe Ruth tripled and was 3-3. And Gehrig hit the third of his record 23 grand slams and finished with five RBIs.

When action concluded that Fourth of July, Gehrig was hitting .396, with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs — in just 74 games, less than half a season.

Later that year, Ruth passed him for the home run title and eventually hit 60, while Detroit’s Harry Heilmann led the AL in batting at .398. All Gehrig did in 1927, was hit .373 with 47 homers and a league-leading 175 RBIs.

Twelve years later, on July 4, 1939, the Yankees hosted the Senators in another holiday doubleheader. The teams split, Washington winning the opener 3-2 and the Yankees taking the second game, 11-1. George “Twinkletoes” Selkirk homered in each game, but that’s not what fans and baseball historians remember about that Independence Day.

Gehrig’s Farewell Speech
Because that’s the day when a dying Lou Gehrig delivered his famous farewell speech between games of the doubleheader. Gehrig’s tearful remarks are often referred to as baseball’s “Gettysburg Address.”

After Gehrig spoke, the huge crowd stood and applauded for almost two minutes. Gehrig was visibly shaken as he stepped away from the microphone, and wiped the tears away from his face with his handkerchief.

Babe Ruth came over and hugged him. Later that year, the Baseball Writers Association elected Gehrig to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, waiving the mandatory five-year waiting period.

And less than two years later Lou Gehrig passed away, a victim of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disease that now bears his name. The Yankee captain, the Iron Horse, was just 37 years old.

Holiday at The Stadium
Years later, my son, brother-in-law and nephew and I went to a Fourth of July game at Yankee Stadium, this one in 2003.. No holiday doubleheader that day, but the Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians 7-1 behind Mike Mussina, with home runs by Raul Mondesi and Jason Giambi.

Before the game, as we were parking in my favorite spot in The Bronx — free and easy access to the Major Deegan northbound — an elderly gentleman climbed out of the his car next to us. He was wearing a blue Lou Gehrig #4 jersey. We remarked on his taste in Yankee ware.

The man then told us that he had gone to his first major league game 64 years ago to the day, July 4, 1939. Lou Gehrig Day at Yankee Stadium. He said he had seen hundreds of games since that one, but Gehrig’s farewell remained his greatest thrill.

Sometimes baseball and history come together nicely….just like that.

Related Story: Nice piece by Ray Robinson of The New York Times on Gehrig’s farewell address.

Dodgers-Cubs Was Nearly Perfect Back in 1965

Sandy Koufax pitched four no-hitters, including a perfect game in 1965. But his mound opponent that night, little-known Bob Hendley, was almost perfect too.

On a cool September night in Los Angeles almost 45 years ago, the Dodgers and the Cubs played a nearly perfect game, closer to perfect than any other game in major league history.

Sandy Koufax got the headlines that September 9 as he fashioned a perfect game, striking out 14 Cubs in the fourth and final no-hitter of his legendary Dodgers’ career.

But Koufax’s opponent, Bob Hendley, a journeyman left-hander, picked that night to pitch the game of his life, nearly matching the great Koufax. The 26-year-old Hendley allowed just one hit and a single walk, yet lost 1-0.

The game, played in 103 minutes, set several records, among them the fewest hits for both teams (1) and fewest total baserunners (2); the next lowest total is four.  Both pitchers had no-hitters intact until the seventh inning. The only run the Dodgers scored was unearned.

The Dodgers managed to score that run in the fifth inning when outfielder Lou Johnson walked, was sacrificed to second, stole third and continued home on a throwing error by Cubs catcher Chris Krug. Johnson had the only hit of the game, a bloop double over the head of Cubs first baseman Ernie Banks with two out in the seventh.

Koufax Breaks Feller’s Record
Koufax was magnificent that night, becoming just the sixth pitcher in the modern era to throw a perfect game. It was Koufax’s fourth no-hitter, breaking Bob Feller’s record of three (later broken by Nolan Ryan, in 1981, who finished with seven). Koufax’s 14 K’s are the most ever in a perfect game.

Koufax struck out the final six batters he faced to finish off the perfect game with panache. He fanned pinch hitter Harvey Kuenn on a 2-2 pitch for the final out of the game. The ninth inning call of that game by Dodger announcer Vin Scully is considered to be one a classic example of play-by-play broadcasting. Click here to listen for yourself.

Kuenn, a former American League batting champion who hit .303 lifetime with more than 2,000 hits, also made the last out of Koufax’ second career no-hitter, against Juan Marichal, Willie Mays and the San Francisco Giants on May 11, 1963. Kuenn bounced out Koufax to first for the final out of that game.

Hendley’s career was not exactly Koufaxian. Over seven years with the Braves, Giants, Cubs and Mets, Hendley never won more than 11 games in a season, finishing with a 48 wins in 100 career decisions. Earlier in the 1965 season, he was traded from the Giants to the Cubs with Ed Bailey and Harvey Kuenn for Dick Bertell and Len Gabrielson.  Hendley wound up 4-4 that year with a 5.96 ERA.

Five days after the perfect game, a Koufax-Hendley rematch took place at Wrigley Field. This time, Hendley defeated Koufax, 2-1 with a complete game four-hitter. Koufax allowed five hits in six innings, including a two-run homer to Billy Williams in the sixth.

To date, Koufax’s perfect game is the last no-hitter to be pitched against the Cubs. They have gone the longest of all MLB teams since a no-hitter was last pitched against them

Knick of Time: LeBron Made for New York

Best of The SportsLifer: This blog was originally posted nearly a year and a half ago, in January of 2009. Some of the particulars may have changed, but the words still ring true.  LeBron James was made for New York.

This is my 300th post since The SportsLifer was created in 2008. Just passed the 100,000 mark in page views – thanks to my loyal readers.

LeBron James would be a perfect fit with the New York Knicks.

Dear LeBron,

You don’t know me, but you should read what I have to say. Or better yet, what New York basketball fans have to say.

Please come to New York. Come to the Knicks.

Oh, you could be comfortable and stick with Cleveland, a nice team in a rust belt town. You could see if the Lakers or Celtics could get under the cap, perhaps try to continue the winning tradition in San Antonio or Detroit, somewhere like that..

But if you want to live up to the nickname King James, if you really want to be the King, you’ll come to New York.

LeBron, New York is the place to be. To quote Sinatra, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

You’ll have more business opportunities than you can imagine. Your profile will be elevated to another level.

There’s plenty of money here in Manhattan. Salary cap. What salary cap? Isiah Thomas complained about it for years, Donnie Walsh took care of the problem in 15 minutes on a Friday afternoon last November.

Plenty of Room

The Knicks have already made room for you, two years ahead of time.

And if you win a championship in New York, you will be set for life in the most important city in the world.

Lead the Knicks to the promised land, and you’ll never have to buy another meal or a drink in this city.

But don’t ask me, ask the guys that have been there, done that.

Make sure to speak to Walt “Clyde” Frazier, the Captain Willis Reed and Senator Bill Bradley about what it’s like to win an NBA championship in New York.

Ask them to tell you about May 8, 1970, when Willis walked on the court to a deafening ovation and Clyde played the game of his life to help the Knicks beat the Lakers for their first championship.

Those Knicks, and the Knicks that won a second title three years later, are still revered in New York sports lore, still remembered 36 years after those championship runs.

Yeah, talk to those Knicks and their fans who’ve experienced that Garden electricity and the buzz that envelops Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena, during a big game.

New York Loves a Winner

Ask guys like Joe Namath or Mark Messier, who guaranteed victory for their New York teams and then delivered.

Ask Eli Manning, whose Giants won over this city in February with an improbable Super Bowl victory and turned jeers to cheers.

You’re a Yankee fan LeBron. Ask Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera what it was like to wear the pinstripes in the late 90s, when the Yankees owned the world…and more importantly, owned New York.

New York is a sports town, and basketball is the city game. It’s a perfect match.

So LeBron, come to the Knicks and you can have all that. Come here and win a championship and you will be king for life.

King of the biggest, most important city in the world, the center of the universe.

King of New York.

It’s there for the taking, LeBron.

All the best,

The SportsLifer