Showing posts with label Cooperstown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cooperstown. Show all posts

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Has Harold Baines knocked down the doors to the Hall of Fame? | Voting Results and Commentary

In 2019 Harold Baines will have his plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame, right alongside immortals such as Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Roberto Clemente. For many baseball fans, his induction will be a tough pill to swallow, as he only garnered 6.1% of the vote when he was eligible with the BBWAA writers.

Well, what changed since Baines fell off the writer's ballot after a 4.8% showing in 2011? Nothing much really, as he certainly didn't add to his 2,866 career hits or his 384 home runs; however, what did turn in his favor was the Hall of Fame's recently established Eras Committee.

Harold Baines / Keith Allison - Flickr
The Baseball Hall of Fame announced in 2016 that there would be a greater emphasis on the modern eras for consideration. Last year's Modern Era committee elected Jack Morris and Alan Trammell. In December 2018, the Today's Game Era committee selected both Lee Smith and Baines for enshrinement. While Smith's selection was of little surprise to baseball fans, many were dumbfounded when they chose Baines.

As soon as Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson announced Baines' name on the MLB Network, many fans and writers immediately took to social media not to celebrate his selection, but to denounce it. Some went as far as to allege that his selection was due to cronyism, with four of the voting members having direct ties to Baines when he was an active player.

Right or wrong, Baines will be a Hall of Famer when he steps on stage during the Cooperstown induction ceremonies in 2019. While many can waste their energies hating on his selection, I think the what baseball fans should ask themselves regarding next year's Eras Committee vote is, "Who's next?"

2019 Modern Era Committee Voting Results

Monday, January 30, 2017

Baseball Happenings Podcast: Kevin L. Mitchell - Author of Last Train to Cooperstown

Kevin L. Mitchell, author of Last Train to Cooperstown: The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era, is the guest for this episode of the Baseball Happenings Podcast. In this episode, Mitchell discusses how his love for the history of Negro League Baseball motivated him to capture the careers of this most recent group of Negro Leaguers to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Mitchell profiles the 17 inductees who might likely be the last members of the Negro Leagues to ride the train to Cooperstown.

Last Train to Cooperstown / Black Rose Writing

Sunday, July 27, 2014

How Mike Morgan and Greg Maddux share deep Las Vegas baseball roots

Mike Morgan knew him when he was just a fan in the stands. Morgan was the star pitcher at Las Vegas’ Valley High School in 1978, striking out 111 batters in 72 innings, while positing a miniscule 0.68 ERA. This magical performance led to the Oakland Athletics drafting Morgan fourth overall in that summer’s draft. Watching him from the crowd when he was building his legend was Greg Maddux.

“I knew him at 11 years old when he watched me pitch when he was in grade school,” Morgan said in an interview on Friday.

It is now Morgan’s turn to watch when Maddux gets inducted into Cooperstown this Sunday.

“I wish I could be out there in Cooperstown … in the audience with Dave and Linda, his mom and dad, his sister Terri, Mike [his brother], and all of the Vegas folks because I am proud of him.”

Only a few years after Morgan’s phenomenal season at Valley, Maddux followed in his footsteps to become a second round selection of the Chicago Cubs in the 1984 draft. Both owe a great deal of credit to not only their high school coach Rodger Fairless, but also Ralph Meder, an area scout who organized Sunday workouts for all of the local players.

“Ralph Meder, I am sure he will bring him up,” Morgan said. “[He was] our mentor. A Cincinnati Reds man, he passed away of a heart attack going to a Valley baseball game 31 years ago (1983).”

Meder taught Maddux to value how his pitches moved more than how fast they traveled, an element of his pitching style that became the trademark of his career.

“He told me that movement was more important than velocity,” Maddux said to the Associated Press in 2001. “He was the first one to teach me that. When you’re 14 or 15 years old, all you want to do is throw hard.”

Both pitchers were the beneficiaries of Meder’s tutelage, amassing almost a combined 500 career major league victories in careers that spanned over 20 years a piece in the major leagues. In 1992, they were finally able to connect their lineage when Morgan was signed as a free agent by the Cubs. They formed a fearsome 1-2 punch, piling up 36 victories for Chicago that year, en route to Maddux’s first Cy Young award. Spending a season playing with Maddux allowed Morgan a full perspective of his abilities.

“To be on the bench with him, to play with him, to stand up there and hit off of him, realizing that when the ball leaves his hand, he made the ball look like a ball, but when it got to the plate, it was a strike,” Morgan said.

“He did that incredibly, [getting] guys swinging at his change-up bouncing on the plate. He made them look like balls when they left his hand, but when they got to the plate, they were strikes. That’s hard to do. It was a gift, but he worked at it.” 

When Maddux signed with the Atlanta Braves the following season, the two friends matched up for a memorable Opening Day game in Wrigley Field.

“A year later in 1993, when he left to go to Atlanta, opening day in Wrigley Field, [it was] Greg Maddux against Mo-Man, Mike Morgan,” he said. “I gave up a run in the first, a ground ball to short with one out from Ronnie Gant. 1-0. (Ed. Note – Gant scored on a single from Dave Justice.) I cruised through [seven] and I lost. He beat me 1-0.”

What incensed Morgan more that day than the 1-0 loss, was Maddux’s seventh inning single, his first and only hit off of Morgan his entire career (1-14 lifetime). It was something that Morgan (0-14 lifetime) unfortunately couldn’t match.

“I can tell you what, I went 0-fer in my career off of him,” Morgan said. “He got a base hit off of me and it was the only thing that pisses me off, that he got one off of me and I didn’t get one off of him!”

The two pitches squared off in another classic in 1995, in what Greg Maddux called the best game of his career. They met in St. Louis on August 20, 1995, taking only one hour and 50 minutes to finish a 1-0 game. 

“[We threw] ten pitches an inning,” Morgan said. “We would get strike three on an 0-2 or a 1-2 pitch. We didn’t go from 0-2 to 3-2 at all that night.”

Yet after the cleats were brushed off and the gloves were packed away, the two rivals on the field were close friends away from it.

“We would come up and hit off of each other and then after the game we’d go to dinner and do our thing,” Morgan said. “I lived out in the same country club as he did in Vegas, and in the winter we’d play golf. We were both competitive. We respected each other.”

After his 25 years in the game, Morgan is able to look back at his own lengthy career and further respect Maddux's achievements.

“To be on that side and to realize how hard it was to do what he did … 355 wins in 20 something years, 15-plus wins a year for 20 years, it’s mind boggling to see that he’s going to be out there in the Hall of Fame in this Sunday.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

From Rapper to Baseball Collector, the Wild Tale of Peter Nash (aka Pete Nice of 3rd Bass)

Benjamin Wallace of Sports Illustrated wrote an excellent piece on the fluctuations of 1/2 of the 1990's hip hop duo 3rd Bass, "From Rapper To Baseball Collector, The Wild Tale of Peter Nash."

As a tremendous hip hop aficionado, the article on Peter Nash (aka Pete Nice) sparked my interest. I knew he he had a memorabilia museum and shop in Cooperstown, but I did not anticipate the twist in his story.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mike Schmidt - Autograph Craze Is Out of Whack

Mike Schmidt Signing Autographs Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt weighs in on his take on autographs after the recent Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown. How far over the line have autograph seekers gone in their quest to obtain signatures? This is from Sports Illustrated's online website.

For The Associated Press

It was 1970, at the College World Series, where I signed my first autograph. I'll never forget it: Our Ohio University team had just beaten No. 1-ranked USC in game one, and I was asked to sign a ball on the way to our bus.

What a high. Not the victory, but the elevation to celebrity status. Of course, that was back when an autograph was just that - a signature of a person obtained in remembrance of a moment, a place, an exchange that could be cherished for some personal reason. No commercial value was tied to it. No sneaking around security, no stalking, and no fake story or act was involved.

In the early 1960s, my grandparents shared space on a flight to Dayton, Ohio, with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. My grandmom brought me, then in my early teens, all three signatures on business cards. I still have them in a frame. One says "Best Wishes Mike,'' the other "Mike, Best of Luck'' and the other "Mike, Best Wishes Always,'' followed by their names. That's where I got my often-used autograph salutations.

Coincidentally, several months back I did an appearance with Jack Nicklaus and showed him the 45-year-old signatures. He not only agreed they were authentic, but was enamored at the very fact that I had them. He said they must have been obtained on a plane when they were headed to play Firestone in Akron. I won't go into the value he put on them in today's market. The point is, I was an excited kid, the one getting the autograph.

Then at some point back in the late 1970s to early '80s, the sports memorabilia industry came to life and the autograph, as we once knew it, was history. Unfortunate, yes. No longer would young Mikes have a chance to appreciate three business cards signed by three famous golfers in the same way ever again.

Fortunate, yes. Old Mike has made a couple million he never counted on. Companies like Upper Deck sprang up and paid celebrity athletes megabucks for exclusive rights to signatures on products. Dreams Inc. specializes in creating unique sports- and Hollywood-related items designed specifically for signatures of famous people to be mass marketed. There are scads more. None of the product has value without the authentic celebrity signature. I ask, isn't the provider of the value, the signature, entitled to a piece of the profit?

I just returned from Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. It happens every July in the quaint little town in upstate New York. What once was a gathering of baseball fans for a once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the Hall museum and the enshrinement festivities is still that for some.

But for many, it is memorabilia heaven, a chance for vendors to stock up on product, for collectors to expand their collections. And somewhere, lost in the crowd must be little Mike who just wants a memory. That is the sad part of it. Hall of Famers, including me, packed into a house, sitting behind tables selling autographs. Sad. That little guy who, along with his father, had a chance to meet and get an autograph remembrance of the moment spent with his hero, is gone. He'll most likely never again get that experience without paying for it.

The autograph might be the most sought after commodity in today's society. Even the targets want them. Yogi Berra, Gaylord Perry, Bob Feller, me, even Sandy Koufax getting signatures from friends to auction for a charity back at home. When will it end? Never, as long as there are famous people and a demand for the John Hancock.

I'll be perfectly honest, I hate playing the cat-and-mouse game with collectors on the street. It was one of the reasons I retired early. Being targeted and stalked everywhere by people seeking a chicken-scratched slash on an inventory item is not fun. I'm not saying I'm a victim of paparazzi, but when airline luggage handlers wait for you in airports, your right to privacy is gone. When someone jumps out from behind a pillar in a parking lot as you're getting a rental car, you're being stalked. This isn't little Mike and his dad. These guys play games, they dress in costume, they hire little kids with sad faces and pretty girls in skimpy outfits, they make up stories, they lie, they even act polite, anything to get you to sign.

I even had some young adversaries who I came to know by name because we would laugh about the games they play on the streets. It was a friendly contest of who could fool whom. I'd figure out ways to beat them at their own game, by wearing a disguise or taking a secret route to the park.

Sure, there are some who say "I'll never sell this'' and maybe they are serious. But understand one thing - with my signature, sell it or not, that item increased in value from $10 to $100. Someday by someone it will be sold. No more throwing out the old baseball cards found in the attic like my Mom did.

So here's my quandary: I feel sorry for little Mike, he's been squashed in this mess, I can't tell which one he is in the crowd of collectors who all claim to be him. On the other hand, I like that my signature has value, and that I'm paid well just to sign my name. I can't decide whether to sign freely on the street and hope that little Mike is in the crowd, or refuse because most of them are collectors or working for dealers and sign only in a controlled environment, where both sides understand the industry parameters.

Honestly, what has happened is ugly. Our society has become so callous, rude, and motivated by money that even something as American and simple as shaking hands and signing a baseball for a young person can seldom occur today. Who would have thought that back in Omaha in 1970 my excitement over autograph No. 1 would have led to this?