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)
Baseball today mourns the passing of Yogi Berra. Yogi was an American icon, a World War II veteran who was part of the D-Day invasion and a Hall of Fame catcher with the Yankees whose record of 10 World Championships will never be equaled. But above all that, Yogi was a great husband, a loving father, and a wonderful man, whose kindness, humility and sincerity touched all who knew him.
Yogi Berra played in the first baseball game I ever saw, in the summer of 1958 at Yankee Stadium. Yogi batted fifth and played right field and was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a walk. And although the Yankees lost to the White Sox that day, I was hooked on baseball for life.
Yogi was a walking Bartlett’s who said everything from “It ain’t over till it’s over” to “It gets late early out there” to “Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.”
On a personal note, I played competitive softball until I turned 60. In the later years I became a catcher, and proudly wore #8 in honor of Yogi.
Yogi’s passing hits home for me. My father was born in 1925, the same year as Yogi. My dad passed on his love of baseball to me. No doubt, he’ll be watching the Yankee game tonight.
We used to argue about who was the best catcher in Yankee history, Bill Dickey or Yogi Berra. My father, who saw Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play, would say Dickey. Sorry pops, it was Yogi.
RIP Lawrence Peter Berra.
When Major League Baseball announced its Franchise Four results recently, if left a ton of talent on the other side of Mount Rushmore. Although it’s difficult to argue with many of the selections, leaving Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens off the 8-man lists of the teams they played for is unfathomable. If you want to argue steroids, then tell me how Barry Bonds made the Franchise Four for the Giants.
MLB also pulled together a Greatest Pioneer list, consisting of Walter Johnson, Nap Lajoie, Christy Mathewson and Cy Young. Perhaps that’s a CYA list, since these immortals weren’t voted in by fans of their respective teams. The Negro League quartet of Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Buck O’Neil and Satchel Paige sounds about right. Only old Satch ever made it to the majors.
There are also issues with the Greatest Living Player foursome. Henry Aaron and Willie Mays are no-brainers, and Sandy Koufax gets a pass, despite a brief but brilliant career. But choosing Johnny Bench over Yogi Berra is wrong. Berra has a higher lifetime batting average (.285 to .267), more rings (10 to 2), more RBIs and nearly as many home runs as Bench. Yogi also managed two teams, the Yankees and the Mets, to the seventh game of the World Series. Berra is an icon, Bench is merely a catcher. Since the results were announced during the All-Star Game festivities in Cincinnati, perhaps MLB wanted to put Bench on the list. Just sayin’.
There, now that we have that out of the way, here’s my list by position of top ballplayers on the other side of Mount Rushmore, legends who struck out on the Franchise Four’ Starters are listed first, followed by reserves ranked in order of selection
C – Yogi Berra, Yankees
Bill Dickey, Yankees
Carlton Fisk, Red Sox
Roy Campanella, Dodgers
1B – Albert Pujols, Cardinals
George Sisler, Browns
Bill Terry, Giants
Eddie Murray, Orioles
2B – Eddie Collins, A’s/White Sox
Charlie Gehringer, Tigers
Nap Lajoie, Naps (now Indians)
Tony Lazzeri, Yankees
SS – Derek Jeter, Yankees
Ozzie Smith, Cardinals
Dave Concepcion, Reds
Luis Aparicio, White Sox
3B – Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
Pie Traynor, Pirates
Eddie Matthews, Braves
Wade Boggs, Red Sox/Yankees
OF – Joe Jackson, Indians/White Sox
OF – Al Simmons, A’s
OF – Mel Ott, Giants
Harry Heilmann, Tigers
Jim Rice, Red Sox
Zack Wheat, Dodgers
Larry Doby, Indians
Chuck Klein, Phillies
Paul Waner, Pirates
Ralph Kiner, Pirates
Sam Crawford, Tigers
Goose Goslin, Senators
SP – Cy Young, Red Sox
SP – Walter Johnson, Senators
SP – Christy Mathewson, Giants
SP – Carl Hubbell, Giants
SP – Roger Clemens, Red Sox
Grover Alexander, Phillies/Cub/Cardinals
Juan Marichal, Giants
Whitey Ford, Yankees
Dizzy Dean, Cardinals
Ferguson Jenkins, Cubs
John Smoltz, Braves
Tommy Glavine, Braves
Ted Lyons, White Sox
Catfish Hunter, A’s/Yankees
Gaylord Perry, Giants/Indians
Red Ruffing, Red Sox/Yankees
John Clarkson, Braves (formerly Beaneaters)
Eddie Plank, A’s
Dazzy Vance, Dodgers
Addie Joss, Naps (formerly Indians)
RP – Mariano Rivera, Yankees
Goose Gossage, Yankees/White Sox
Bruce Sutter, Cardinals/Cubs
Hoyt Wilhelm, Giants/A’s
Joe Namath and the SportsLifer going over the game plan prior to Super Bowl XXV in Tampa. Here’s 10 observations while wading through the interminable hype and waiting for the kickoff.
1. Giant break: The Patriots are just happy they’re not facing the Giants. Admit it, New England fans.
2. Who let the air out? Here’s my theory on Deflategate. The Patriots have been doing this for years, they finally got caught. Somebody, probably from the Colts, tipped off the league and they measured the balls. The ball boy will take a fall, but if a high-level individual like Belichick or Brady can’t be fingered, the team will pay a price. To paraphrase a recent Yogi Berra tweet, if you’re gonna cheat, you better not get caught.
3. Crusader investigator: Ted Wells, who is leading the Deflategate investigation, attended the College of the Holy Cross and graduated a year ahead of me. We’re hearing his name an awful lot these days.
4. If the Seahawks win, they will be first two to repeat since the Patriots in 2004-05. It’s happened eight times. The Steelers have done it twice (1975-76 and 1979-80), and the Packers (1967-68) in the first two Super Bowls, Dolphins (1973-74), 49ers (1989-90), Cowboys (1993-94) and the Broncos (1998-99). There has never been a Super Bowl three-peat.
5. If the Patriots win, they will join the Packers and Giants with four Super Bowl rings. Only the Steelers with six and the Cowboys and 49ers with five have more. This is New England’s eighth appearance in the Super Bowl, matching the Steelers and Cowboys.
6. What happened to the old highlights? Not big on the avalanche of pre-game hype. Years ago. someone aired those classic half-hour highlights of each Super Bowl, game by game. May have been ESPN Classic, but can’t find anything out there now. If anyone knows, let me know.
7. Broadway Joe: Pete Hamill once wrote: “Joe Namath legitimized his team and his league, the old AFL, and more than any other player, he transformed the Super Bowl into a national event instead of a post-season payday.” Now that sounds about right.
8. Silent treatment: Does anybody really care what Marshawn Lynch has to say? He’s getting my silent treatment. And there’s no fine.
9. Attitude: Roger Goodell once more shows his arrogant side responding to a question from CNN reporter Rachel Nichols.
10. Rick’s pick: Going with my pool numbers, picking Seattle 21-19 in a low-scoring. New England scores late, but is denied on a two-point conversion.
A piece of this kid’s childhood and a link to the glorious Yankee teams of the 50s and early 60s died today with the passing of former first baseman Bill “Moose” Skowron.
More than 50 years ago, my father took me to my first baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Although the White Sox won the game, the Moose homered for the only Yankee run. Instantly, I became a Bill Skowron fan.
Soon I began imitating Skowron’s batting stance. I got a Bill Skowron first baseman’s mitt for my birthday. My uncle, the late Allan Melvin of Sam the Butcher fame, started called me the Moose Skowron of White Plains.
Skowron joined the Yankees in 1954 and hit .300 in each of his first four seasons. Moose won four championships with the Yankees, and hit a huge three-run homer in the seventh game of the 1958 World Series to cinch a win over the Milwaukee Braves.
Following the 1962 season, the Yankees sent Skowron to the Dodgers for pitcher Stan Williams. It was a devastating trade, not only for the Moose but also for an 11-year-old kid living in the New York suburbs.
Skowron’s Dodgers defeated the Yankees in the 1963 World Series, when Moose slugged a home run and batted .385. Always a clutch batter, he hit. .293 in eight World Series with eight home runs, seventh all time. Skowron and Yogi Berra are the only players to hit three Game 7 home runs in the World Series.
Moose played out his 14-year career with the Senators, White Sox and Angels. He had a .282 lifetime batting average with 211 home runs.
Skowron was plagued by injuries throughout his career, which was ironic considering a conversation he once had (and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News recounted) with another Yankee first baseman, Wally Pipp.
“I met Pipp at an Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium,” Skowron recalled, “and he told me: ‘Don’t ever get a headache or catch a cold. I got a headache once and took a day off and never played again. A guy named Lou Gehrig took my place.’ I made sure from that day on to do everything I could to remain healthy.”
“There weren’t many better guys than Moose,” Berra told the Associated Press. “He was a dear friend and a great team man. A darn good ballplayer, too.”
They say history repeats itself. Well it does sometimes, and it did today.
The Yankees comeback from a 9-0 deficit raised the echoes from a Yankee-Red Sox game, just over 62 years ago.
It was April 18, 1950, Opening Day at Fenway Park. Yankees vs. Red Sox.
Boston pounded Yankee starter Allie Reynolds and, like today, led 9-0 entering the sixth inning following Billy Goodman’s two-run homer.
New York rallied, but still trailed 10-4 going into the top of the eighth. Then the Yankees struck for nine runs. Billy Martin, right, making his major league debut, doubled and singled in the eighth inning and knocked in three runs.
The Yankees added to the carnage in the ninth on an RBI double by Joe DiMaggio and a run-scoring single by Yogi Berra to win 15-10.
Sounds familiar, huh.
And again: The Yankees also rebounded from a 9-0 deficit to beat the Red Sox on June 26, 1987, at Yankee Stadium. The Yanks knocked out reigning Cy Young and MVP winner Roger Clemens with an 11-run third inning. They then won the game 12.11 on a base hit by Wayne Tolleson in the 10th inning that scored Mike Pagliarulo.