It began in 1958, my very first baseball game, Yankees vs. White Sox at the original Yankee Stadium. The Yanks had four Hall of Famers in their starting lineup that day, including Mickey Mantle in center, Yogi Berra in right, pitcher Whitey Ford and pinch-hitter Enos Slaughter..
Chicago’s keystone combination of second baseman Nellie Fox and shortstop Luis Aparicio was also Cooperstown bound. And managers Casey Stengel of the Yankees and Al Lopez of the White Sox made it eight Hall of Famers in the house that afternoon.
That day my father even arranged for me to get an autograph from Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean, who was doing the Game of the Week for NBC.
Grand total, I’ve seen 58 Hall of Famers play in my lifetime. The list ranges from Ted Williams to Stan Musial, Willie Mays to Hank Aaron, Juan Marichal to Catfish Hunter, Carl Yastrzemski to Reggie Jackson, and Greg Maddux, Tommy Glavine and John Smoltz. Saw both of the 2016 inductees, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Mike Piazza. Saw Piazza as a Dodger hit a home run against the Rookies in Coors Fields’ inaugural season, 1996.
In 2008, I was in Cooperstown for the induction of reliever Goose Gossage. I’ve seen 14 Hall of Famers hit home runs, and five times saw two future Hall of Famers homer in the same game – Ted Williams and Mantle at Yankee Stadium in 1960, Mays and Billy Williams at Candlestick Park in 1962, Yaz and Reggie in the 1975 ALCS and again in the 1978 AL playoff game at Fenway Park, and Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson in the refurbished Yankee Stadium in 1986.
Was there when Mays hit a grand slam in 1962, and Carlton Fisk hit a bases-loaded HR at Opening Day in Fenway Park, 1973.
Witnessed wins by Jim Palmer, Ferguson Jenkins, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Randy Johnson, Watched Robin Roberts hurl a complete game shutout for the Orioles against the Yankees in 1965 Saw saves by Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage. Saw Nolan Ryan strike out 15 in a 1977 game against the Red Sox.
Saw seven Hall of Famers in a game at Candlestick Park – Willie Mays, Orlando Cepada and Juan Marichal of the Giants and Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and a young Lou Brock for the Cubs. Willie McCovey of the Giants didn’t play that day; sadly never got to see him play.
I’ve also seen 9 Hall of Fame managers, including Leo Durocher, Earl Weaver, Sparky Anderson, and Dick Williams, along with Stengel and Lopez and three recent inductees – Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa.
Once got an autograph from Phil Rizzuto in a luxury suite at Yankee Stadium. Phil offered me a cannoli, and signed my program over to my three kids.
Here’s the my complete Hall of Fame list, in order of induction:
HALL OF FAMERS I HAVE SEEN
Cal Ripken, Jr.
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Tony La Russa
58 players, 9 managers
Dizzy Dean, Phil Rizzuto
Mickey Mantle (1960)
Ted Williams (1960)
Willie Mays (1962), grand slam
Billy Williams (1962)
Harmon Killebrew (1967)
Carl Yastrzemski (1970, 1978)
Reggie Jackson (1971, 1978 (2), 1979)
Carlton Fisk (1973, 2 HRs), 1 grand slam
Jim Rice (1975, 1978)
Dave Winfield (1983, 1986)
Eddie Murray (1978)
Wade Boggs (1994)
Rickey Henderson (1986)
Mike Piazza (1996)
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
Derek Jeter, left, and Mariano Rivera are sure bets for the Hall of Fame.
From this catbird’s seat, the SportsLifer sees nine active players heading for the Hall of Fame.
Criteria for consideration includes at least a 10-year, major league resume. Players linked to steroids, who might otherwise be Cooperstown bound, are instead banished to the Mark McGwire waiting room.
The list of nine HOFers includes three infielders, three outfielders and three pitchers, two of them relievers. There are three other players on the cusp who will merit strong consideration by voters.
Of note, Pedro Martinez will qualify for this list once he takes the mound for the Phillies. He’s currently on the disabled list and hasn’t pitched yet this year.
Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki, each with nine years of service, will certainly be added to this list next year.
Lastly…and sadly…are five other players who would have made the list but for the needle and the damage done.
Hall of Famers
Ken Griffey, Jr, OF — Active leader, 5th all time with 621 HRs, 1798 RBIs, .286 BA, 184 SBs, 1997 AL MVP, played for Mariners and Reds, shown left
Vladimir Guerrero, OF — 396 HRs, 1289 RBIs, .322 lifetime BA, stole 175 bases, AL MVP with Angels in 2004
Trevor Hoffman, RP — All-time saves leader with 575, 2.76 ERA, played primarily for Padres, now with Brewers
Derek Jeter, SS — Captain of the Yankees, four-time World Champion, .316 lifetime BA, 216 HRs, 1039 RBIs, 292 stolen bases
Randy Johnson, P — The Big Unit, 303 lifetime wins, second all-time in strikeouts with 4867, five-time Cy Young award winner with Mariners and D’Backs
Chipper Jones, 3B — Played entire career with Braves, 417 HRs, 1416 RBIs, .310 BA, NL MVP in 1999, .364 NL batting champ in 2008
Mariano Rivera, RP — 505 saves, 2.29 lifetime ERA, post-season exploits with Yankees are unsurpassed, 34 saves, 0.80 ERA, 0.87 WHIP
John Smoltz, P — 211 victories, 154 saves, 3.27 lifetime ERA,, earned primarily with the Braves; 1996 NL Cy Young, record 15 post-season wins.
Jim Thome, 1B — 13th on the all-time home run list with 557 dingers, he also has 1545 RBIs for Indians, White Sox, Phillies
Pedro Martinez, P — Just signed with Phillies, three-time Cy Young Award winner with Expos and Red Sox, 214-99, 2.91 lifetime.
On the Cusp
Carlos Delgado, 1B — 473 home runs, 1512 RBIs for this slugger, who played for the Blue Jays and now Mets
Jorge Posada, C — Caught for the Yankees during their late 1990s dynasty, has 231 homers and 916 RBIs…276 BA
Johan Santana, P — 119-58 lifetime, 3.11 ERA, Cy Young winner with Twins in 2004, 2006, now pitches for Mets
Omar Vizquel, SS — Known as a slick fielder with 11 Gold Gloves, he has collected nearly 2,700 hits and 400 SBs
Nine Years And Counting
Albert Pujols, 1B — 353 HRs, 1066 RBIs, .332 BA, NL MVP 2005, 2008 with Cardinals, NL batting champion in 2003
Ichiro Suzuki, OF — 1936 hits, .332 BA, 334 steals, AL MVP in 2001 with Mariners, AL batting champ in 2001, 2004
It was the signature moment in the career of Hall of Famer Rich “Goose” Gossage.
October 2, 1978, a cool, crisp New England afternoon in Boston. Hint of autumn in the year. Yankees vs. Red Sox at Fenway Park. American League East title and a playoff berth on the line.
A game within a season, and a season within a game. Winner makes the playoffs, and the loser goes home. Does it get any better than this?
“I wanted the ball in those situations,” Gossage said in an interview with Memories and Dreams, the Hall of Fame magazine. “This was the biggest game I ever pitched in — by far. It seemed like the playoffs and World Series were anticlimactic after that.”
Goose to the Rescue
Be careful what you wish for. That afternoon, Gossage came on to relieve Ron Guidry with one out in the seventh inning. The Yankees had just taken the lead on Bucky Dent’s three-run homer.
The Goose wasn’t perfect that day. He gave up a couple of runs in the eighth and stood there on the Fenway hill in the ninth, two outs, runners on the corners, Yankees leading 5-4, Carl Yastrzemski coming to bat.
The night before, Gossage had dreamed up this exact situation. Dreams really can come true.
Gossage kicked around the mound, fussing, muttering to himself. Then it hit him.
“I starting telling myself ‘Why are you so nervous?’ Goose recalled. “This is supposed to be fun. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If you lose, you’ll be back home in Colorado tomorrow hunting elk.”
Relaxed, Gossage got Yaz to pop out to Graig Nettles at third, and the Yankees were on their way to their 22nd World Series title.
22 Years, 310 Saves
Through his 22 years in the major leagues, Goose Gossage pitched for nine different clubs, saved 310 games, won 124 and fanned 1,502 batters in 1,810 innings of work. He led the AL in saves three times and was selected to nine All-Star teams–six AL squads and three NL clubs.
It took him a long time to get there, but the Goose was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame on a hot Sunday afternoon in July, 2008. Making the trek through the Catskills to Cooperstown, I was there to cheer Gossage on, to bellow “Goose” a few more times.
Although Gossage made it back to the World Series in 1981 with the Yankees and 1984 with the Padres, 1978 was his only championship. Several of his teammates from that 1978 squad, which made up a 14-game deficit to beat the Red Sox, were there to see Goose go into the Hall. Reggie Jackson, now a fellow Hall of Famer. Jim Beattie, Mickey Rivers, Graig Nettles and Roy White.
“I’m proud to wear a Yankee cap into the Hall of Fame and be part of their tradition,” told the crowd at Cooperstown.
Some dreams do come true, Some memories do last a lifetime.
It’s not Cooperstown, but that’s where Ron Guidry belongs.
They were both left-handed pitchers who began their careers in New York. Each spent his whole career with one team.
One pitched 12 full seasons, the other pitched 12 full seasons and parts of two others. One was 170-91, the other 165-87, their won-lost records nearly identical.
Each was a three-time 20-game winner; each struck out 18 batters in a single game.
One won four World Series games, the other three.
Each earned Cy Young Award honors and was named Major League Player of the Year by the Sporting News
One is firmly ensconced in the Hall of Fame, considered by some to be the greatest pitcher ever. The other is hardly ever mentioned in Hall of Fame discussions.
Who are these men?
One is Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, the Brooklyn and later Los Angeles Dodger who finished 165-87 lifetime and 4-3 in the World Series.
The other is Ron Guidry, Louisiana Lightning of the New York Yankees, 170-91 lifetime and 3-1 in World Series play.
Koufax had a lower lifetime ERA, 2.76 to Guidry’s 3.29, though that disparity is lessened when you consider Koufax never faced a designated hitter. The league ERA was 3.62 in the era in which Koufax pitched, and 3.92 in Guidry’s era.
Koufax struck out 300 batters in a single season three times, and 2396 batters lifetime. His best season may have been his last, when he finished 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA and struck out 317.
Guidry 25-3 in 1978
Guidry’s single-season strikeout high was 248 in 1978, when he finished with a 25-3 record nine shutouts, and a 1.74 ERA, His .893 winning percentage that year remains the highest for a 20-game winner in baseball history. He wound up with 1778 career strikeouts.
Koufax was National League MVP in 1963, and won the Cy Young Award in ’63,’ 65 and ’66. He pitched four no-hitters, including a perfect game against the Cubs in 1965.
Guidry took the Cy Young in 1978, the year he finished second in MVP balloting to Jim Rice and was named Major League Player of the Year. Koufax won that honor in 1963 and’ 65.
Despite their greatness, both pitchers had fairly brief careers, supernovas that quickly blazed across the sky. Koufax arrived in Brooklyn with the Dodgers in 1955 at the age of 19, and retired following the 1966 season at age 30, the victim of an arthritic elbow.
Guidry, then 25, made his first major league appearance against the Red Sox in 1975, and came up to stay two years later. He retired following the 1988 season.
This is not meant to put Guidry, right, on par with Koufax, who for four seasons between 1963 and 1966 may have been the most dominant pitcher in baseball history.
But Guidry had his moments too, and was arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball between 1977, when he went 16-7 and helped lead the Yankees to a World Series win, and 1985, when he finished 22-6, his third and final 20-win season
Perhaps Louisiana Lightning deserves some consideration from the Hall of Fame.