Absent from Cooperstown, former Cy Young and MVP Don Newcombe made a US President’s Hall of Fame

August 4th, 2015

By Jim Smiley Don Newcombe’s baseball resume reads like a history lesson, spanning from the pre-integration era of the 1940s to the present day. The first 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 […]

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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 […]

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

~Jacques Barzun, 1954