Alan Newman balked in a run before throwing his first big league pitch


CooperstownExpert.com

By Jim Smiley Every big leaguer counts his Major League debut among life’s most memorable moments. That first appearance is the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice. It’s the accomplishment of a dream shared by many and achieved by few. For Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher Alan Newman that moment is one he’ll always remember – and one he’d like to forget. A long and winding road to the big leagues Newman grew up less than ten miles from the Angels home park in Anaheim and attended nearby Fullerton College. In 1988 the Minnesota Twins selected Newman in the second round of the draft. The 6’6″ lefty-hander then spent more than a decade bouncing around the minor league organizations of the Twins, Reds, White Sox, Padres, and Devil Rays. Newman finally became a major leaguer with Tampa Bay on May 14th, 1999. A dream come true for the 29-year old reliever, his debut came just minutes away from his childhood home against the Angels, the team he grew up rooting for. Bobby Witt started the game for Tampa, throwing five scoreless innings before surrendering a grand slam to Mo Vaughn in the 6th. Witt came back out in […]

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Jimmie Foxx and Chuck Klein made Philadelphia the center of the baseball universe


Philadelphia sluggers Chuck Klein and Jimmie Foxx

From 1929 through 1933, Jimmie Foxx and Chuck Klein put on a show and treated Philadelphia to the greatest era its baseball fans ever knew. During the five-year run, Klein led the league in homers four times and finished second once. He wasn’t just a slugger. Starting in 1929, Klein reeled off at least 200 hits each year through 1933 to become the only player to reach the mark in each of each of his first five full big league seasons. Incredibly, he averaged 224 hits per year and hit .359. In 1932 the Phillies right fielder captured the National League Most Valuable Player Award. He followed up that season with by winning the Triple Crown in ’33. Klein’s team struggles; Foxx’s shines While Klein put up outstanding individual numbers his Phillies struggled. Under manager Burt Shotton, the Phillies finished last twice and went a combined 113 games below .500. Their only first-division finish came in 1932 when they finished in fourth place, two games above the break-even mark. Predictably, fans didn’t embrace the woeful team. From 1929-1933 the Phillies ranked last in the league in attendance four times, averaging just over a half-million fans per season. Foxx’s Athletics provided […]

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


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. Enjoy this video then click here to see Fergie’s own thoughts on the trade in a shoutout to this website.

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Joe DiMaggio’s 1939 October blast left an impression on the baseball lifer who surrendered it


1939 World Series

Pro career starts at age 17 Gene Thompson enjoyed a pro baseball career that spanned parts of eight decades. Signed by the Reds as a 17-year old in 1935, Thompson played until 1950. Two years later at age 35, he embarked on a scouting career that lasted until after his 88th birthday. The highlight of his playing career came in his first year as a Major Leaguer in 1939. Debuting as a 21-year old, Thompson excelled in his role as the Reds swingman, going 13-5 with a 2.54 ERA in 11 starts and 31 relief appearances. Thompson wasn’t the only stellar performer. The Reds got 27 wins from MVP Bucky Walters and a league-leading 128 RBI from first baseman Frank McCormick. Cincinnati won 97 games to earn the National League pennant. Thompson’s Reds face the Yankees in October In the World Series, Cincinnati squared off against Joe McCarthy’s heavily-favored Yankees. After dropping the first two games in New York, the Reds tabbed Thompson to start Game 3 in Cincinnati. A win by the home team would put the Reds back in the thick of things; a loss would put them in a 3-0 hole against the two-time defending champs. In […]

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Inducted into Cooperstown’s Honor Rolls of Baseball in 1946, Bill Carrigan managed Boston to back-to-back World Series titles


Every summer the baseball world pauses as the Hall of Fame induction weekend puts the village of Cooperstown on display. Players, managers, executives, owners, and umpires who are deemed worthy receive a plaque and along with it, baseball immortality. The election process during the Hall’s infancy bears little resemblance to today. For the first decade of induction, Cooperstown recognized only its players with the exception of pioneer Henry Chadwick. The Hall establishes the Honor Rolls of Baseball Wanting to recognize non-playing personnel, the Hall established the Honor Rolls of Baseball in 1946 as a second level of induction. That year the museum’s Permanent Committee voted to include 39 non-players into the Honor Rolls. Eleven umpires, 11 executives, 12 sportswriters, and 5 managers were inducted. Of the five skippers, four have since gained full induction with plaques in Cooperstown. The lone manager not so recognized is former Red Sox pilot Bill Carrigan. Born in Maine in 1883, Carrigan broke in with Boston in 1906 as a backup catcher. In time he became a favorite of the pitching staff, catching the likes of Cy Young, Bill Dinneen and a young Babe Ruth for the Red Sox. Soon Carrigan was one of the game’s most […]

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There was no champagne for Red Sox, Lonborg in ‘67


World Series championships are won on the field, not in the newspapers. In 1967 the press might’ve given the Cardinals extra motivation in their epic seven-game battle against the Red Sox. Boston wins the pennant on the last day Boston had to grind it out just to get to the postseason. The battle for supremacy in the American League came down to the last day of the regular season. Boston and second-place Detroit were separated by just a half-game.  The Tigers had a doubleheader at home against the Angels. The Red Sox played the Twins at Fenway Park. Boston turned to ace Jim Lonborg for the regular season finale. The 1967 Cy Young Award winner, Gentleman Jim responded with a gutty performance. On three days rest he went the distance allowing one earned run before the sellout crowd at Fenway. The October 1st contest was his 15th complete game of the season. The Tigers needed a sweep of California. Detroit won the first game 6-4 but couldn’t contain the Angels in the second, losing 8-5. With the Detroit loss, Boston earned a berth to the World Series against the National Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The World Series begins On only […]

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Al Niemiec was a hero to WWII veterans returning to baseball


CooperstownExpert.com

A fine second baseman Al Niemiec played in just 78 big league games but made his presence felt throughout the game. Niemiec sued baseball in a landmark court case, earning a win that sent ripples throughout the game.  Niemiec played in 199 minor league contests before getting a September call up to the Red Sox for nine games in 1934. He spent the next year back in the bushes before being traded to the Athletics in a package that sent Hall of Fame slugger Jimmie Foxx to Boston. Though Niemiec spent most of season with Connie Mack in Philadelphia, it would be his last as a big leaguer. By 1938 Niemiec moved to the Pacific Coast League for a five-year run that included three consecutive championships with the Seattle Rainiers. The ’41 season was a good one for Niemiec. He hit .297 while leading second basemen in fielding for the third straight season. For his efforts, he was named the PCL’s outstanding player at his position. Niemiec joins the war effort At the end of the following season Niemiec was called to serve in the US Navy.  He stayed in the military until his honorable discharge in January of 1946. When retired […]

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NL owners supported the designated hitter in 1928


CooperstownExpert.com

How times have changed. Today the National League remains one of few leagues above the high school level not to employ the designated hitter rule. The Senior Circuit continues to resist the rule that the AL has embraced for more than four decades. That wasn’t always the case. NL owners approve the “ten-man team rule” National League president John Heydler proposed the DH at the Winter Meetings on December 11, 1928. It was originally referred to as the “Ten-Man Team Rule”. Heydler’s motivations seem clear. He was looking to capture some of the excitement the homer-happy AL harnessed with the emergence of Babe Ruth. From 1920-1928 the Bambino was a one-man wrecking crew. The Babe had seven seasons with 40 or more homers, including four of 50 or more, and one with 60. During the same span Heydler’s league had only two 40-homer seasons.  Totals of 15, 21, 23, and 27 led NL in the 20’s. While the NL couldn’t match the AL in star power, Heydler felt keeping hurlers on the hill and out of the batters box might generate more offense. “Pitchers are absolutely useless as batters nowadays,” Heydler was quoted as saying in the Chicago papers. “The […]

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Lifetime passes were the brainchild of NL President Ford Frick; here’s a pictorial history


Lifetime pass

A newspaper man turned league publicist turned league president came up with a brilliant idea in 1934 — reward longtime National League players with a lifetime pass to all NL games. Senior Circuit owners approved Ford Frick’s proposal at the league meeting in December of ’34. A few months later, Frick sent out ornately decorated paper Lifetime Passes to the NL’s greatest players. He even sent one to Babe Ruth who appeared in all of 28 games for the Boston Braves in 1935. A 21-year veteran of the American League, the Babe was grateful if not surprised when he remarked, “At least the National League has a heart”. An image of the original paper pass presented to Hall of Fame outfielder Sliding Billy Hamilton can be seen below. A similar pass curiously issued to Stan Coveleski, a lifetime American Leaguer is also shown. Perhaps shamed by Ruth’s remarks, the American League joined forces in 1936 to issue a pass to all Major League contests. Players with twenty or more years of service received a solid gold pass. Seventeen men qualified for the true “golden ticket” — Ruth, Fred Clarke, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Bill Dahlen, Harry Davis, Red Faber, Walter Johnson, […]

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Jackie Robinson inspired future MLB player Ed Charles


Jackie Robinson once said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” By that measurement, Robinson’s life may be the most important the game of baseball has ever known. Though it’s easy to see the cultural impact of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier, the individual stories sometimes get lost in the bigger picture. For former Major Leaguer Ed Charles, Robinson emergence was a turning point, not only for the United States, but perhaps more importantly, for an entire segment of its population. “The emergence of Mr. Jackie Robinson as the first black to play modern day organized baseball had a monumental impact upon my life, and I’m sure, the lives of other Americans as well,” Charles wrote in a letter 1984. An eight-year big league veteran, Charles was aware of Robinson at an early age. Charles believed that Robinson’s impact was felt by the nation and its individuals. “Jackie represented to me, given the social climate of the nation at that time, hope, courage, and a new faith in a system that had been grossly neglectful of providing equal participation for its minority citizens,” Charles wrote. “His presence stirred me, as well as others, to redirect our goals […]

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

~Jacques Barzun, 1954