Frankie Frisch’s Vets Committee selections defined and damaged the Hall

January 4th, 2017

Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, and Cy Young are in everyone’s Hall of Fame. Marginal players like the ones selected on Frankie Frisch’s watch on the Veterans Committee have helped define and damage the Hall of Fame.

His five most glaring selections — George Kelly, Jesse Haines, Dave Bancroft, Ross Youngs, and Chick Hafey have ignited many arguments. Here’s a big reason why: Imagine if your favorite player is Keith Hernandez and you think he should be in Cooperstown. He’s flat out a better first baseman than George Kelly. Hernandez was in fact a better player than any of the five Frisch selections. There are likely hundreds of players better than the Frisch Five.

Read More >

Trade of Ferguson Jenkins was one of the worst in Phillies franchise history

January 3rd, 2017

Imagine trading a 23-year old pitcher to your rival only to see him post six straight seasons of at least 20 wins. That’s just what the Philadelphia Phillies did when the shipped Fergie Jenkins to the Chicago Cubs in 1966. By the time his career was over, the 1971 Cy Young Award winner won 284 games and struck out 3,192 batters. In 1991 Jenkins became the first Canadian-born player to reach baseball immortality via induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In the CooperstownExpert.com collection is the document from the commissioner’s office that made official what many consider the worst trade in Phillies’ franchise history. This video tells the story of the fateful move made on April 21, 1966.

Read More >

Former Yankee Captain Don Mattingly reflects on Derek Jeter

July 30th, 2016

Miami manager Don Mattingly spent his first 23 years in professional baseball in the New York Yankee organization, first as a player, then as a coach. In 1995, his final year as a player, the team called up a 20-year old shortstop named Derek Jeter. Jeter went on to become the Yankee’s all-time hit king, the first in franchise history to eclipse the 3,000-hit mark. When Jeter went 5-for-5 on July 9th, 2011 to enter the exclusive club, Mattingly sent him a text to congratulate his former teammate. “I feel that special connection with him after watching come out of high school and seeing him progress,” Mattingly said. The Marlins skipper was asked if he could predict greatness for Jeter when the shortstop first came up. “Honestly, it was impossible to see when he broke in,” Mattingly admitted. “I did see a quick progression. It seemed like a short period of time, but it was like 2 ½ years and you’re like, ‘Wow, he’s made some big jumps!’.” Big jumps indeed. After his initial cup of coffee in the big leagues, Jeter began 1996 as New York’s regular shortstop, hitting .314 and winning the Rookie of the Year Award. From there, his career took off. Over […]

Read More >

MLB’s best record wasn’t enough to keep a selfish Barry Bonds happy

July 30th, 2016

Imagine the salary a free agent could demand coming off of an All-Star year in which he led the league in walks and on-base percentage while slugging 28 homers. Teams would line up for his services, hoping to add that rare combination of offense to their lineup. There was one such a free agent available in the off-season of 2008, but nobody signed him that winter. In fact he never played another inning in the major leagues. Such is the life when you’re Barry Bonds. Stories abound about of his black lounge chair and extra locker in his corner of the clubhouse at Pac Bell Park. His trial for obstruction and lying to a grand jury started last week with an admission of taking steroids and a far-fetched defense of never knowingly doing so. With his prickly personality, and prima donna attitude, Bonds can be a tough guy to like. He was no fan of the media. And as it turns out, he wasn’t always a fan of official scorers either. During his playing days, Bonds pulled the ball with such consistency that teams employed a defensive shift. The Dodgers adjusted by placing their second baseman in short right field, a position sometimes […]

Read More >

HoFer Bert Blyleven gave Don Mattingly an earful in ’84!

August 5th, 2015

After fourteen years on the ballot, Bert Blyleven got elected in 2011, his final year on the Writers’ ballot. The first Dutch-born inductee, Blyleven was a practical joker off the field, and a competitor on it. Renowned for having one of the game’s best curveballs, Blyleven could also bring the heat. Just ask former Yankee Don Mattingly. The first time the two squared off was in August of 1984 at Cleveland’s Lakefront Stadium. Blyleven was in the midst of one of his finest seasons. The Dutchman went 19-7 with a 2.87 ERA that year and finished fourth in the American League in strikeouts. Mattingly was near the apex of his career, finishing the year as the A.L. batting champ, leading the league with 207 hits, and 44 doubles. “The first at bat, I hit a seed, a one-hopper right at the first basemen,” Mattingly said. Feeling confident Mattingly came up for his second at bat ready to do some damage. “I was like all right, I’m going to hit him hard again,” Mattingly recalled. Did the confidence pay off? “The first was right at my chin and knocked me down on my ass,” said a smiling Mattingly. After dusting himself off, the slugger dug in […]

Read More >

MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year but no Hall of Fame?

August 4th, 2015

Don Newcombe’s baseball resume reads like a history lesson, spanning from the pre-integration era of the 1940s to the present day. The only player to win Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Most Valuable Player awards, “Newk” won 20 games and hit .359 in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ only championship season. Despite his accomplishments, Newcombe never received more than 15.3% of the writers’ vote in elections for Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Though Cooperstown has yet to beckon, Newcombe may very well be in a more prestigious Hall of Fame — one that requires presidential approval for admission. To understand the accomplishments that warrant inclusion into such a Hall of Fame, one must peer into Newcombe’s groundbreaking baseball experiences. Two seasons after beginning his professional baseball career with the Negro Leagues’ Newark Eagles, Newcombe played for the Nashua Dodgers, America’s first racially integrated baseball team since the color line was drawn in 1888. By 1949, Newcombe, with teammates Jackie Robinson, and Roy Campanella, and Cleveland outfielder Larry Doby was among the first African-Americans to be named to a Major League All-Star team. Apparently aware of Newcombe’s role in breaking baseball’s color line, it was President Obama himself who included Newcombe in the White House Hall […]

Read More >

Dodger press box can be a lonely place — just ask Don Hartack

August 1st, 2015

Many boys dream of making it to the major leagues, hitting balls over the fence and into a crowd of wildly cheering fans.  They picture toeing the pitching rubber with the crowd hushed in anticipation of the pitch.  The big league dream is strong for many, but elusive for all but the special few. Don Hartack, a former high school shortstop, realized early his ability to cleanly field grounders and stay back on a curve ball would not carry him to  baseball’s zenith. It’s Hartack’s other skills that would take him all the way to The Show. You’re watching a baseball game and a hard hit one hopper glances off of the infielder’s glove.  Quick — is it a hit or an error?  The pitch that made its way to the backstop.  What do you think, is it a wild pitch or a passed ball? There’s only one person whose opinion matters. With his precise knowledge of the rule book and keen decision-making skills, Hartack got to the majors as Major League Baseball’s official scorer at Dodger Stadium. The uniformed men play and umpire the game, but it’s Hartack who interprets the plays and decides how they will be statistically recorded.  When he’s […]

Read More >

Eric Smith PA Announcer: The man with the voice from above

July 15th, 2015

When Eric Smith talks, people listen. As public address announcer for theDodgers, Smith’s commanding voice is a sound as familiar to fans attending Dodger games as the organ music of Take Me Out to the Ball Game. For the last ten years, Smith has been the voice from above, announcing the players to the fans who come through the turnstiles each season – all three million of them. “That’s an intimidating number when you think about it,” Smith says. “There’s certainly responsibility that comes with that.” Perhaps Smith’s biggest responsibility is announcing players into the game. When a player is on deck as a pinch hitter, he becomes a part of the game when Smith announces him. Before that happens, the manager tells the umpire he’s making the change. The umpire then gestures to the press box in Eric’s direction to alert him to announce the player. In a preseason game in Smith’s first year, he learned this procedure in dramatic fashion. Jim Tracy, the Dodger manager at the time, instructed a player swing a bat in the on-deck circle. Tracy had no intention of actually having the player pinch-hit. “He was hoping the other manager would see the on-deck hitter and change […]

Read More >

Orel Hershiser’s Cy Young Soundtrack

June 26th, 2015

Music has a way of making memories come to life. All it takes for a return to childhood is to hear the lullabies mom sang, or the songs of our youth on the radio. Baseball has its own soundtrack. Take Me Out to the Ball Game brings smiles to the faces of baseball fans no matter where it’s heard. For Dodger faithful, there’s a song that evokes images of Cy Young Award winner Orel Hershiser and the team’s last championship in 1988. Master of the House, a song from the musical Les Miserables, was played each time Hershiser warmed up before home games. Fans at the stadium soon associated the song with Hershiser’s goosebumps-producing performances that featured a Major League record 59 consecutive scoreless innings, and a World Series championship. So how did the tune become Hershiser’s own private song? Turning back the clock to ‘88, we find Nancy Bea Hefley, then in her first year as organist at Dodger Stadium. A poised, classy figure, Hefley fondly recalls watching Les Mis at the Shubert Theater, hearing Master of the House for the first time early in the 1988 season. “Even though it was a rowdy number, I thought it was catchy,” Hefley said. But it wasn’t Hershiser she had in mind when she decided […]

Read More >

"Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball…"

~Jacques Barzun, 1954