Hall of Famers I have seen

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

PLAYERS

Ted Williams

Stan Musial

Yogi Berra

Whitey Ford

Mickey Mantle

Robin Roberts

Ernie Banks

Eddie Matthews

Willie Mays

Al Kaline

Duke Snider

Hank Aaron

Frank Robinson

Juan Marichal

Brooks Robinson

Luis Aparicio

Harmon Killebrew

Lou Brock

Enos Slaughter

Hoyt Wilhelm

Catfish Hunter

Billy Williams

Carl Yastrzemski

Jim Palmer

Rod Carew

Ferguson Jenkins

Gaylord Perry

Rollie Fingers

Tom Seaver

Reggie Jackson

Nellie Fox

Phil Niekro

Don Sutton

George Brett

Orlando Cepeda

Nolan Ryan

Carlton Fisk

Tony Perez

Dave Winfield

Gary Carter

Eddie Murray

Dennis Eckersley

Paul Molitor

Wade Boggs

Tony Gwynn

Cal Ripken, Jr.

Goose Gossage

Jim Rice

Roberto Alomar

Ron Santo

Tom Glavine

Greg Maddux

Frank Thomas

Randy Johnson

Pedro Martinez

John Smoltz

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Mike Piazza

MANAGERS

Casey Stengel

Al Lopez

Leo Durocher

Earl Weaver

Sparky Anderson

Dick Williams

Bobby Cox

Tony La Russa

Joe Torre

58 players, 9 managers

AUTOGRAPHS

Dizzy Dean, Phil Rizzuto

HOME RUNS

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)

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Remembering Yogi Berra, an American icon

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.


The other side of baseball’s Mount Rushmore

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


The Babe, Huff, Joe Willie, Clyde and more — 12 New York sports icons in strange threads

The winningest goalie in hockey history and a future Hall of Famer retired recently after a brief seven-game stint with the St. Louis Blues. Wrong church, wrong pew. And wrong uniform. Brodeur will always be remembered as a Devil – he registered 688 wins during a 21-year run in New Jersey which started in 1991.

Here are a dozen iconic New York sports figures, legends on Broadway and Hall of Famers all, who wound up their careers in strange threads. Presented in chronological order:

1. Babe Ruth – The Sultan of Swat started and finished his career in Boston, but made his biggest mark in New York, where he hit 659 home runs and batted .349 during his 15 years with the Yankees. He left the Bronx in 1935 to join the Boston Braves, where he played 28 games and hit .181 before retiring. In one of his last appearances, on May 25, Ruth, right, belted three titanic home runs in a game in Pittsburgh, including his final home run, #714, the longest homer ever hit at Forbes Field. The Babe began his career as a pitcher for the Red Sox and won 89 games over six seasons before he was sold to the Yankees for $100,000 before the 1920 season.

2. Sam Huff – During his eight years as a New York Giant, Sam Huff never missed a game. He played in six NFL championship games, winning a ring in 1956, his rookie year. Huff was on the cover of TIME magazine at age 24, and was the feature subject in a CBS documentary called “The Violent World of Sam Huff.” Huff was traded to the Washington Redskins for defensive tackle Andy Stynchula and running back Dick James after the Giants lost the 1963 championship game to the Bears. He retired after the 1967 season, then returned to play for Vince Lombardi, a former offensive coach with the Giants and legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, in 1969.

3. Yogi Berra – It appeared as though Yogi Berra had played his last game in 1963. Yogi went to the dugout, where he managed the Yankees to the 1964 American League pennant. In a stunning development, Berra was fired after the Yankees lost a seven-game World Series to the Cardinals. He signed with the Mets as a free agent, and became a coach. However, Yogi played in four games with the Mets, catching in two of them, and had a pair of singles in nine at bats in his strange last hurrah. In his final game against the Milwaukee Braves at Shea Stadium, Berra struck out three times and was 0-for-4.

4. Willie Mays – The Say Hey Kid started and finished his career in New York, playing with two different National League franchises. separated by a 15-season stay by the bay in San Francisco. He began as a Giant in 1951 in New York, where he was National League Rookie of the Year. Mays, left, went West when the Giants moved to San Francisco for the 1958 season, and was traded to the Mets for pitcher Charlie Williams and $50,000 in 1972. Mays finished out his career in the 1973 World Series and knocked in the winning run with a 12-inning single against Oakland A’s reliever Rollie Fingers in Game Two. That Mets team, managed by another transplant Yogi Berra, lost to the A’s in seven games.

5. Don Maynard – The great wide receiver began his career with the Giants in 1958 and saw action in the 1958 NFL Championship game against the Colts, where he returned a pair of kickoffs, including one in overtime. Maynard then sat out the game for a year before joining the New York Titans in 1960. Maynard played 13 years for the Titans/Jets, where he had 633 receptions, 88 for touchdowns. He had a two-game, one-reception stint with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973. Maynard finished his career with the Houston Texans – Shreveport Steamer of the World Football League (WFL) in 1974.

6. Eddie Giacomin – On October 29, 1975, Eddie Giacomin was placed on waivers by the New York Rangers and claimed by the Detroit Red Wings. One of the most popular players in Blueshirts history, Giacomin was an outstanding netminder in his 10 plus seasons with Rangers. Ironically, Giacomin’s first game with the Red Wings was Halloween, two days after he joined the Red Wings. Madison Square Garden partisans voiced their displeasure with the deal, and cheered on a win for Giacomin. Seeing limited duty, Eddie finished his career with Detroit two years later.

7. Tom Seaver – Tom Terrific, aka The Franchise, was the heart and soul of the New York Mets. He finished 25-7 in 1969 when he won his first Cy Young Award and led the Miracle Mets to their first World Championship. Seaver won Cy Young Awards in 1973 and 1975 as well, and in nearly 12 seasons with the Mets won 198 games, still the most in team history. Then on June 15, 1977, the Mets traded Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for four players – Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman and Pat Zachry. Seaver pitched for the Reds for nearly six seasons, returned to the Mets for one year in 1983, and wound up his career with the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox before retiring after the 1986 season.

8. Joe Namath – Broadway Joe of Beaver, Falls, PA., quarterback under coach Bear Bryant at Alabama, signed a $400,000 contract after the 1965 NFL draft to play in New York, and soon owned the town. Namath, right, played 12 years for the Jets, becoming the face of the American Football League (AFL) when he led the Jets to an upset win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Before the 1977 season, Joe Willie was waived and picked up by the Los Angeles Rams. He won two of his first three starts, then had a horrible Monday night in a loss to the Chicago Bears. He backed up Pat Haden the rest of the season, and never threw another pass.

9. Walt Frazier – Clyde was a first round pick out of Southern Illinois in the 1967 NBA draft and played 10 years with the Knicks. Frazier was a key piece of the Knicks only two NBA champions. In Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Lakers, the Willis Reed game, Frazier scored 36 points and added 19 assists in a Knicks blowout. Prior to the 1977 season, Frazier was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers as payment for free agent Jim Cleamons. Frazier played his final two seasons and three games of the 1979-80 season with Cleveland before retiring. Clyde’s 4,791 assists are still the most in Knicks’ history.

10. Bryan Trottier – He’s the all-time Islander leader in a multitude of team categories, including games, assists and points. He won a Calder, Art Ross, Hart and Conn Smythe Trophy. And he led the Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup titles beginning in 1980. Trotts signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Penguins after the 1990 season, and won two more Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. He retired after the 1994 season.

11. Patrick Ewing – The number one overall pick in the 1985 NBA draft, Ewing quickly turned things around and made the Knicks a contender. The Georgetown product is the franchise leader in just about every major category, including games, points, rebounds and blocked shots. But after 15 seasons in New York and losses in the 1994 and 1999 NBA Finals, Ewing was sent to Seattle in 2000 in a multi-team deal in which the Knicks also traded Chris Dudley to Seattle and received Glen Rice, Luc Longley, Travis Knight, Vladimir Stepania, Larazo Borrell, Vernon Maxwell and two first and two second round draft picks. Ewing played a year with the SuperSonics and a year with the Orlando Magic, then retired.

12. Brian Leetch – One of the best defensemen in NHL history, Leetch helped the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years in a seven-game series in 1994. Leetch won the Conn Symthe Trophy that year as playoff MVP, and also won two Norris Trophies as top defenseman and the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year. But late in the 2003-2004 season he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for prospects Maxim Kondratiev, Jarkko Immon, and future first and second round draft picks. Leetch played his final season with the Boston Bruins and retired in 2005.


Covering it all, from Joe Willie to Deflategate

Picture 075

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.


Remembering Moose Skowron, childhood idol

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.”


9-0. NP. History repeats for Yankees- Red Sox

 

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.