July 25, 2012

Welcome to "Hanleywood"?

When the Miami Marlins brought in Jose Reyes to play Hanley Ramirez's position, you kinda knew the writing was on the wall for the 28-year-old infielder.

But, gosh, fellas...did it have to take you this long to trade the guy?

Dude hit the Twitters Wednesday to sum up his feelings.


The last time a Ramirez joined the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chavez Ravine was re-named "whatever-wood", it was 2008 and all Manny Ramirez did was hit .396, slug 17 home runs and knock in 53 runs in as many games.

With Hanley Ramirez in the midst of a two seasons long slump, my guess is Dodgers fans are hoping some new surroundings might yield similar results.

For the year, he was hitting .246 with just 14 homers and 48 RBI for the fish.

Naturally, Theo's Stalker is a Red Sox Fan

Last week, news broke that Chicago Cubs president (and former Boston Red Sox GM) Theo Epstein has a stalker.

And because it's been that kind of year for the Sox, when Kathleen Kearney appeared in court Monday, she was wearing, up...a Red Sox shirt.

In case you're curious, there are some new developments in the story. 

According to the Chicago Tribune, this most recent incident with Epstein and his family wasn't the first.  The 44-year-old Harvard-educated former librarian had been warned to stay away from Epstein while he was still in Boston.

Oh, and in case you're still more curious(er), Kearney was released on bond with the understanding she checks herself in to a mental hospital.

Kathleen%20Kearney%2C%20who%20is%20charged%20with%20stalking%20Cubs%20president%20Theo%20Epstein%2C%20follows%20attorney%20Michael%20O%27Donnell%20to%20the%20Cook%20County%20courthouse%20Monday%20at%20Belmont%20and%20Western%20avenues.%20She%20was%20released%20on%20bond%20and%20allowed%20to%20return%20to%20Massachusetts%20for%20mental%20health%20treatment.%20%28Jos%E9%u2026%29
***Thanks Deadspin.***

July 23, 2012

Report: Ichiro to the Bronx

According to Jack Curry, the New York Yankees aren't about to let the recent news that Brett Gardner is out for the season detour them from their ultimate goal.

And joining them in the quest for their 28th ring...Ichiro Suzuki.


The 38-year-old Ichiro is in the midst of a, now, season-and-a-half long slump.  This season, he's batting just .261...a far cry from his career batting average of .322.

And in case you were wondering how Ichiro might do in pinstripes, the former Seattle Mariner is hitting .339 in 52 career games in New York.

Your move, baseball.

July 22, 2012

Cubs Pay Tribute to Ron Santo

As Vicki Santo was standing in front of thousands in Cooperstown Sunday, her late husband Ron was being honored at the place he called home for close to five decades.

Sure, I'm not a Chicago Cubs fan, but I've gotta say...I was quite impressed when I saw that the team paid tribute to the newly minted Hall of Famer as best they could. 

By mimicking his famous 1969 heel click as they took the field.




Larkin and Santo Inducted into the Hall of Fame


In front of 44 Hall of Famers and a virtual sea of Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs fans, Barry Larkin headlined the 2012 Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

But...it almost didn't happen.

You see, when Larkin accepted a scholarship to the University of Michigan, it was football (not baseball) that he fancied.

"(Then-Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler) redshirted me my freshman year and told me that he was going to allow me just to play baseball," Larkin told the crowd at The Clark Sports Center. "Occasionally, I'd call him while I was playing in the big leagues and told him that was the best decision he made as a football coach. He didn't like that too much."

Larkin, a native of Cincinnati, played his entire career with the Reds and put together a .295 career average, 2340 hits, 1329 runs scored, 198 home runs, 960 RBI and 379 stolen bases.  In 1995, Larkin was named the National League MVP.  A year later, he became the first shortstop to join the 30-30 club with 33 home runs and 36 stolen bases.

The 12-time All-Star retired in 2004 after 19 seasons. 

Joining Larkin on the stage Sunday was Vicki Santo...widow of the newly inducted Ron Santo.

"It just feels right, a perfect ending to a remarkable journey," Vicki Santo said. "Ron left an awful hole for many of us today. This is not a sad day. This is a great day. I'm certain that Ronnie is celebrating right now."

Santo was a member of the Chicago Cubs organization for the better part of five decades as a player (1960-74) and then beloved broadcaster (1990-2010).  He was was selected by the Veterans Committee this past December...exactly one year after his death.

The former third baseman compiled a .277 batting average, 2254 hits and 1331 RBI during his 15-year big league career.

Some other news of note from Hall of Fame weekend courtesy of Bruce Markusen from The Hadball Times.
  • According to reliable sources, actor Charlie Sheen was among those attending the induction ceremony. Sheen is good friends with Barry Larkin.
  • Tom Seaver, normally a fixture at Hall of Fame Weekend, did not attend this year’s event. He has a painful hip condition that makes it difficult for him to fly.
  • As expected, Pete Rose filmed a segment on Friday for his new reality show at T.J’s Place on Main Street. A film crew taped Rose having breakfast with his fiancee, Kiana Kim, and two Cooperstown locals, restaurant owner Ted Hargrove and memorabilia dealer Andrew Vilacky.
Oh, and in case you missed it, there was another "induction" of note this past week.  On Friday, pitching legend (and medical marvel) Tommy John became the inaugural member of The Hall of Very Good™.



Bert Blyleven Responds to Reggie

As Barry Larkin preps his speech for Sunday’s Hall of Fame induction, dozens of the game’s greats have already made their way to Cooperstown.

But one guy who won’t be there…Reggie Jackson.

Reportedly, Jackson has opted to stay away from the weekend's festivities...and it's probably for the best.  You see, "Mr. October" was pretty vocal a couple of weeks ago, blasting some of his fellow Hall members.

Among those included…2011 inductee Bert Blyleven.

“No. No, no, no, no,” Jackson said when asked if the pitcher belonged in the Hall of Fame. “Blyleven wasn’t even the dominant pitcher of his era, it was Jack Morris.”

So when the 287-game winner hit Cooperstown Saturday, he swung by the museum to make sure his plaque was still there.

“I wanted to make sure Reggie didn’t take it down or anything,’’ Blyleven responded.  “God gives us many holes in our body…and [Reggie] just spoke out of the wrong one.’’

Oh, in case you were wondering (you weren’t), Blyleven got the best of Jackson on the field as well.  In 140 plate appearances, the slugger hit just .214 with six homers and 49 strikeouts.

Ouch.


July 20, 2012

What You're Saying About Tommy John

Given his body of work both on and off the field, the selection of Tommy John as the inaugural inductee of The Hall of Very Good™ was an easy one.

Getting people to talk about was him much easier.  Here’s a smattering of what they had to say.

“I didn't hit that well against Tommy.  He was a real good pitcher and he always kept the ball sinking and down.” - Major League Baseball hit king Pete Rose

“To me, ‘Tommy John surgery’ means every time TJ took the mound and dissected each hitter one by one…on his way to 288 wins!” - Seth Swirsky, author of Baseball Letters, A Fan's Correspondence With His Heroes

“Tommy and I have become good friends over the last 14 years. He and I are both avid golfers and enjoy the game about as much as we do our professions.” - Chicago Bears longsnapper (and Tommy John’s son-in-law) Patrick Mannelly

“The name ‘Tommy John’ obviously brings to mind stories of injuries, lost seasons, recovery times and surgeries.  The operation itself has become so common place that I almost expect it to become part of a minor league career prior to call up these days.” - Baseball Bloggers Alliance president Bill Ivie

“Tommy John surgery is one of the four or five most significant advances in baseball history…which is pretty good considering the actual Tommy John had a helluva career.” - Jonah Keri, lead baseball writer at Grantland.com

“I've always thought John should be in the real Hall of Fame without question, both for the wins and for the operation.” - Mark Whicker, Orange County Register sports columnist

“Congratulations to Tommy for being the inaugural member of The Hall of Very Good.  I’ve been very fortunate to both work and know Tommy.  He is a great friend and has been incredibly supportive of 'A Glove Of Their Own'.” - Bob Salomon, A Gloveof Their Own

Do you have any thoughts on Tommy John?  Feel free to share them below!


Bleacher Creatures Salute Tommy John

When I told my buddy "Bald" Vinny Milano, de facto leader of the famed "Bleacher Creatures", and told him Tommy John was going to be inducted as the inaugural member of The Hall of Very Good™, his response was overwhelming. 

Perhaps it's because the former pitcher played a chunk of his career for the New York Yankees.


Ten More Facts About Tommy John’s Tommy John Surgery

When I caught up with 2012 Hall of Very Good™ inductee Tommy John the other day, he claimed that he and Dr. Frank Jobe were heading to Dodger Stadium to “operate on some pitchers”.

Then we both laughed.  Little did I know that he was probably serious.

After a little digging, Hall contributor Lou Olsen (from the wonderful site Reviewing the Brew) found ten MORE facts about Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery that you might not have known.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery has already arranged his own funeral.  He will be bronzed, placed on a black marble base, and cemented right in front of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery doesn't believe in pickling eggs.  Cucumbers are fine…just not eggs.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery owns six different Dairy Queens in California.  He just forgot which ones.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery is a proud sponsor of the US Olympic Shotput team.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery was never married to Olivia Newton-John, contrary to popular belief.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery has been banned from competitive arm wrestling in 39 of these 50 United States.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery also goes by “Thomas Jack”.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery does not know how to swim.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery is wanted for the murder of a one, Funn E. Bone, who has been missing since 1993.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery has filled up two passports, exclusively with trips to Canada and Mexico.
Lou Olsen is the author of the widely popular "John Axford Mustache Facts". You check them out over at his site Reviewing the Brew.

Have you unearthed a fact about Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery?  If so...make it public in the comments section below!

Mark Whicker: Tommy John and Frank Jobe Revolutionized Baseball

His career is dwarfed by his incision.

"It's the ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction while using the Palmaris longus tendon," Tommy John said. "That's why they call it Tommy John surgery."

That is why teenage pitchers, with scarred elbows, should have attended Pasadena Central Library on Sunday and offered thanks.

They could have learned the operation is named after a real live pitcher, one who got 164 of his 288 career victories after exposing his left arm to a knife that never had gone exactly there before.

But it is actually the Frank Jobe surgery.

The Dodgers' orthopedist performed the first one on John in 1974. John thereupon won 20 or more games in three different seasons, and he went 6-3 with a 2.65 ERA in 14 playoff games.

The career that was supposed to end with one faulty pitch on July 17, 1974 wound up lasting 26 years, one short of the all-time record.

On Sunday, John introduced his doctor as Jobe was inducted into the Shrine of the Eternals by the Baseball Relinquary, as were pitchers Jim "Mudcat" Grant and Luis Tiant.

The Shrine recognizes baseball people whose careers were too short or controversial to make the Cooperstown class but are often more influential. Marvin Miller, Fernando Valenzuela and Bill Veeck, to name three.

Both John and Jobe deserve to enter the real Hall. There is no calculating the years, victories and money that they recovered for pitchers.

Just on Sunday, Tommy John alum Ben Sheets made his first start in two years, for the Braves. Two-time patient Chris Capuano rushed into the Dodgers' breach when Chad Billingsley's elbow acted up.

In the final game of the 2012 season, TJ veteran Chris Carpenter won the World Series for the Cardinals. Texas signed 37-year-old closer Joe Nathan, two years removed from Tommy John, last winter.

Until John, a felled pitcher just rested and hoped. Or he kept pitching, and wound up selling insurance.

Now? There are 41 pitchers on major league rosters who have had the surgery in the past 24 months.

"When you add up all the procedures in the United States and Japan, it would have to go well into the thousands," said Dr. Chris Jobe, Frank's son and an orthopedic surgeon at Loma Linda University.

"Sixteen year olds come to see you now. Their parents have the MRI results. You have to explain that Tommy John was a major league pitcher before his surgery."

Has it become routine, like filling a cavity?

Not quite, but Chris Jobe said his dad, who turns 87 today, was performing the surgery in 40 minutes at the end of his career. The first one took three hours, just because it was unplowed ground, if you will.

"But Tommy's attitude was the special thing," Frank Jobe said. "He didn't hesitate. He said, 'Let's do it.'"

Options were gone. Trainer Bill Buhler had actually taped up his elbow, as he would an ankle, to allow John to grunt the ball 60 feet, 6 inches. But John knew he couldn't get major league outs.

Vin Scully watched John run endless, wishful laps in the Astrodome before a game and wondered how John could push this boulder back to normalcy.

Yet John trusted Jobe. The doctor had opened up his elbow in 1972, to clean out bone chips after John had hurt himself sliding. "I was absolutely petrified before that surgery," John said.

Now it was down to cut or run.

Jobe told John that the new surgery "might" restore his career.

"I had been the valedictorian in my high school class," John said. "I knew might was better than never. There was no downside risk."

But Jobe also brought in Herb Stark, a hand surgeon who had performed tendon transfers, and other experts, too.

"That's because I don't know what I'm doing," Jobe said.

"I knew right then that's why I wanted him operating," John said Sunday. "He admitted to being human."

Jobe transferred the Palmaris longus, located in the wrist, and made it into a ligament, figuring it would regenerate itself.

John missed 1975. His first post-op game was a loss, five tentative innings against Atlanta. But he went seven in each of the next three outings and got an L.A. standing ovation when he beat the Pirates on April 26, 1976. "I felt like jumping over the fence," he said.

Jobe had other moments, too. In World War II, he landed in Belgium, on a glider and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He also delivered 200 babies.

"And he published seven books," John said, smiling. "I dug a little deeper and found that one of the titles was 'Fifty Shades Of Orthopedic Surgery.'"

The audience laughed, but hundreds of pitchers know that they're all shades of green.

Mark Whicker is a sports columnist for the Orange County Register.  You can follow him on Twitter at @MWhickerOCR.


Ten Facts About Tommy John’s Tommy John Surgery

When I caught up and congratulated 2012 Hall of Very Good™ inductee Tommy John the other day, we specifically chose NOT to talk about his landmark 1974 surgery.

Sure, it would have been nice to have discussed the 164 wins the man had POST Tommy John surgery…but that would have seemed cliché.

That said, after a little digging, Hall contributor Lou Olsen (from the wonderful site Reviewing the Brew) found ten facts about Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery that you might not have known.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery opened the first ever Florist/Butcher Shop in US History.  He said that he wanted to show the ladies his softer side, with the flowers, but also wanted the men to know that he could still chop a pig in half.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery has a license to carry fire arms, but chooses to leave them at home.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery wears socks with his sandals...and doesn't care what you think.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery speaks fluent hummingbird.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery can, and has, beat up your Dad.  And some of his friends.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery was the inspiration for the film, “Rookie of the Year” (this may also be a fact...hard to tell).
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery does not possess the sense of smell.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery has seen eight of the seven wonders of the world...he never speaks of the eight.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery takes his scotch on actual rocks.  No ice necessary.
  • Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery has turned down “Dancing with the Stars”, for six straight seasons.
Lou Olsen is the author of the widely popular "John Axford Mustache Facts". You check them out over at his site Reviewing the Brew.

Have you unearthed a fact about Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery?  If so...make it public in the comments section below!

Tommy John Inducted into The Hall of Very Good™

In an effort to celebrate the fifth anniversary of The Hall of Very Good™, Dr. Aaron Perlut from the esteemed American Mustache Institute and Mike Lynch from Seamheads.com kicked off “HOVG Heroes”.

Five weeks later, we’re ready to make good on a promise.

But first, it’s only appropriate to thank the individuals who helped make “HOVG Heroes” a reality.

Dr. Aaron Perlut, Andy Woolley, Bo Rosny, Bob Bleacher, Bob Salomon, Chuck Porter, Curt Hogg, Dan Epstein, David Allan, David Jordan, Dean Hybl, Derek Erdman, Gene Hutmaker, Gordon Holmes, Jeff Montgomery, Jeff Polman, John Parent, John Sharp, Josh Caray, Josh Eisenberg, Kevin Chanel, Lou Olsen, Mario Lanza, Mark Whicker, Mike Clair, Mike Lynch, Nate Aderhold, Norman Quebedeau, Pete Nash, Peter Chen, Ryan Petzar, Sam Fuld, Scott Simkus, Steve Cook, Tim Anderson, Todd Coppernoll, Tom Knuppel Vinny Milano and Will Johnson.

Now, you're in for a treat.

When the idea of a Hall of Very Good induction was conceived, a small group of us came to the consensus that it couldn’t begin without one guy in particular being part of the inaugural class.

And that guy is Tommy John.

Now...quotes!

“You look at two aspects of my career,” John said upon receiving word of his induction.  "You look at 26 years and you figure you’ve got to be doing something to be around for 26 years.  You look at the wins, the complete games, innings pitched…and you couple that with coming back from Tommy John surgery, I think that my name should be up there with anybody.”

“Tommy John surgery is one of the four or five most significant advances in baseball history," Grantland.com's lead baseball writer Jonah Keri said, "which is pretty good considering the actual Tommy John had a helluva career.”

"Tommy was a successful Major League pitcher, falling just shy of marks that would ensure him enshrinement in Baseball's hallowed halls," Baseball Bloggers Alliance president Bill Ivie said.  "He is a loving father, a humanitarian and a lover of the game.  I was ecstatic to hear that he was the inaugural inductee in The Hall of Very Good™."

Here’s what the plaque says: 

TOMMY JOHN
The Hall of Very Good
Inaugural Class of 2012

A sinkerballer with impeccable control, Tommy John's big league career spanned 26 seasons and seven United States presidents.  Both Major League records.

Mid-career, he made history by becoming the game's first "right-handed southpaw" when he had a tendon transplanted from his right forearm to his left elbow to fix a tear that threatened to drive him from baseball.

Despite missing a year-and-a-half to his arm troubles in mid-career, Tommy John won 288 games.  His last at age 46.

So, yeah…July 20, 2012 is “Tommy John Day” here at The Hall of Very Good™.  You’re going to get more Tommy John posts than any other site has ever produced in one day.

Probably.

In all seriousness, it’s with great pleasure that The Hall of Very Good™ inducts Tommy John as its inaugural member.  We’re happy.  Tommy is happy. 

And we hope you’re all happy as well.



July 19, 2012

Countdown to Cooperstown: Class of 2016

The three years prior to the 2016 induction could be, based on the "who's in" and "who's out" arguments, some of the most explosive years the Baseball Hall of Fame has ever seen.

Thankfully, the first ballot guys of the potential Class of 2016 might bring it all back down to Earth.

However it all shakes out, 2016 also looks to be the third year in a row that someone could argue a unanimous selection. And while no one will ever get 100% of the vote...it's hard to believe that anyone would not vote for Ken Griffey Jr. or Trevor Hoffman.

IN.

Ken Griffey Jr.
When Griffey finally gets into the Hall of Fame, it'll be the final step of an epic journey that started on Opening Day 1989.  But what can be said about Junior that you don't already know?  630 career home runs, 1836 RBI and 2781 hits pretty much make him a shoe-in.  And if that isn't good enough...how about ten Gold Gloves, 13 All-Star Game appearances and that 1997 American League MVP award?  Yeah...thought so.

Trevor Hoffman.
Hoffman is a tricky one.  Yes, dude is second all-time in saves, but the Hall of Fame has been unkind to some other closers (Lee Smith anyone?).  That said, I have a feeling that Hoffman and his 601 saves will make their way to Cooperstown.


OUT (in random order).

Garret Anderson.

The Angels' franchise leader in just about every offensive category, Anderson quietly put together one of the better careers of the last 20 years.  That said, there's no way dude gets into the Hall of Fame.  Simply put, while his .293 batting average, 2529 career hits and 522 doubles are the mark of a great career...there are too many others that fared much better.

Brad Ausmus, Luis Castillo, David Eckstein, Troy Glaus, Mark Grudzielanek, Jose Guillen, Christian Guzman, Mike Hampton, Bobby Howry, Jason Kendall, Mike, Lowell, Damaso Marte, Gary Matthews Jr.,  Bengie MolinaRuss Ortiz, Chan Ho Park, Russ SpringerMike Sweeney, Fernando Tatis, Jeff Weaver and Randy Winn.

ON THE BUBBLE.

Billy Wagner.
It's quite possible that after Mariano Rivera surpasses Trevor Hoffman as the all-time saves leader, the career of Wagner will begin to come into focus.  Right now, he sits fifth all-time in saves (with 422) and carries with him a 2.31 career ERA...half a run better than Hoffman. 

Jim Edmonds.
"Jimmy Baseball" is one of those players that if, in 2016, he got 50% or 5% I wouldn't be surprised.  His numbers, while pretty good, aren't great.  But then again...you can do plenty worse than his eight Gold Gloves and 393 home runs. 


Missed any of the other re-hashes from this week?  Be sure to check out 2013, 2014 and 2015 .  On Friday, your first look at 2017 hits the interwebs.


 

Kris Benson to Divorce His "Baseball Wife"

Years ago, while Kris Benson was a pitcher for the New York Mets, Anna Benson famously told Howard Stern that if her husband ever cheated on her, she would "do everybody on his whole team."
Well...I hope she still has the names and numbers from everyone on that roster.

According to reports, the former hurler served his then-wife with divorce papers in March after she said she discovered evidence he was having an affair.

“I’m very sad about this...Kris was my whole life. And he left me for someone else and he just abandoned us," Anna Benson said.  “I introduced (my friend) to Kris because she’s going through a divorce and I wanted to help her by getting someone trustworthy, who I thought would be Kris, to manage her money.”

Now retired from baseball, Kris works for New York-based Monarch Wealth & Business Management.  Anna, as you might remember, was one of the baseball wives featured on the VH1 show, aptly titled, "Baseball Wives".

The couple of thirteen years is separated and Anna is claiming that Kris is forcing her to sell the family’s 8000 square foot Georgia home.  She also says that she asked her husband to buy the family a home $300,000 to $400,000 range...reportedly less than half of their former home's asking price.

The former number one draft pick had other ideas.

“Kris said that we should move into a $56,000 house that he bought as a flip in the ghetto.  His attorneys have told my attorneys that I can just move in with my mother,” Anna added. “But this is not about me. I’ll sleep on the floor in the dirt...I don’t care. This is about my children having a roof over their heads. I have no income. I have no way to earn a living. What the hell does he expect?"

Something tells me this thing is going to be a messy one.

For old time's sake, feel free to check out The Hall's interviews with both Anna and Kris from seemingly happier times.


HOVG Heroes: Al Reach


PETER NASH on AL REACH

As a young boy, Al Reach peddled newspapers on Broadway and soon after cut his teeth as an amateur ballplayer on the sandlots of Brooklyn in the late 1850s. In the 1860s he was one of the game’s first paid professionals as a member of the Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia and by the close of the nineteenth-century he had become one of the most prominent figures ever connected with the National Pastime. However, nearly a century after his death in 1928, Reach stands in relative obscurity as one of baseball’s forgotten pioneers who Hall of Fame immortality has sadly passed by.

Not only has Al Reach been dissed by the baseball Gods, his name has only appeared recently in the news because rare photos of him were stolen from the New York Public Library’s famous A. G. Spalding Collection and have appeared for sale on eBay. Today’s BBWAA or Veterans Committee members might not know the Reach name from a hole in the wall, but FBI agents tracking his stolen photos online know him well. And not only has Reach been passed over by Cooperstown voters, the Hall of Fame has also lost a rare donated artifact that ties him to early Philadelphia baseball history. Al Reach hasn’t been able to get into the Hall, but an 1870 picture of him sure did make its way out, thanks to some sticky fingers.

This rare cabinet photo of Al Reach was stolen from the NYPL and appeared for sale on eBay, before it ended up in the hands of the FBI.

When the Hall of Fame was founded in the late 1930s a concerted effort was made to identify and honor the pioneers of the game with permanent enshrinement into the newly formed institution. Reach’s contemporaries like brothers Harry and George Wright, Albert Spalding, Henry Chadwick, Candy Cummings and even Alexander Cartwright were honored with bronze plaques in the Cooperstown shrine. It could be argued Reach’s contributions to the game equalled, and in some cases even surpassed, the accomplishments of some of these enshrined Hall of Famers.

A great case for Reach’s deserved enshrinement was made in a SABR National Pastime article, “Philadelphia Baseball’s Unappreciated Founders,” written in 2003 by early-Philly baseball authority Dr. Jerrold Casway. Casway presented a biographical sketch of Alfred J.Reach as a player, team executive and sporting goods magnate whose accomplishments were extraordinary. Born in London in 1840, Reach’s family emmigrated to America in 1841 and ended up settling in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. It was there in the late 1850s that Reach first joined the Jackson Juniors Base Ball Club as a catcher and by 1861 had moved on to the prominent Eckford Base Ball Club as an amateur infielder.

Reach was one of the key members of the 1862 Eckford team leading them to a 14 and 2 record in the NABBP and, having defeated the 1861 champion Atlantics, the Eckfords claimed the 1862 championship. Casway noted that, “Reach was known as the “Scratcher” for his ability of “digging” up hard-hit balls.” Of his prowess in the field he also wrote that “Reach set the standard for playing second base” as one of the first “to play his position mid-way between the bases.”

In 1865, Reach joined the ranks of the very first openly professional players in the game as he accepted a salary of $25 a week to commute to Philadelphia and play for Thomas Fitzgerald’s Athletic Base Ball Club. Another Philadelphia baseball historian, Tom Shiffert, said of the pioneer in his book Base Ball in Philadelphia: A History of the Early Game, “Reach got to Philadelphia for the 1865 season, and never looked back, establishing himself as the premier individual name in Philadelphia baseball for the next 60-odd years, or at least until Connie Mack started winning pennants with regularity.” During his career as an Athletic player, Reach excelled on the field offensively and defensively putting up numbers that were always near the league leaders. In 1871, Reach led the Athletics to the first National Association championship and as Shiffert also noted, was named as the best second baseman on theNew York Clipper’s All-Star team.

In 1874, he acted as the player-manager of the Athletics in England during baseball’s first European tour, but three years later in 1877 his playing career was over and he established his sporting goods business in Philadelphia.

Reach would end up becoming the founding President of the Phillies franchise of the National League and also partnered with the likes of Ben Shibe and A. G. Spalding to further revolutionize the sporting goods industry. In addition, Reach was instrumental in helping his partner Ben Shibe establish the first American League club in Philadelphia, Connie Mack’s A’s. If that wasn’t enough for his baseball resume, Casway also describes Reach’s skills as “an innovative ball park designer” who enhanced the fan experience in the city of brotherly love. Alongside Harry Wright, Reach is, no doubt, one of the most significant figures in the history of Philadelphia baseball.

In an interview last week Casway expressed his opinion that Reach was, perhaps, the most important. Said Casway, “Al Reach was a seminal ballplayer, successful manager, franchise president and sporting goods manufacturer. He was among the first professional ballplayers, and until his retirement in the mid-1870s, was considered the game’s best second baseman. He led the Athletics on the first overseas exhibition tour and became the Philadelphia Phillies first president. Reach, together with Ben Shibe changed the nature of the sporting goods industry. He and Shibe pioneered the (manufacturing of) the modern baseball.”

An argument could be made for Reach to enter the Hall singularly as either a player an executive or a pioneer. Considering his career in its totality, its hard to believe he’s been overlooked. Whatever baseball politics played a part in the Hall of Fame committee’s overlooking his accomplishments are unknown.

The 1870 Philadelphia Athletics CDV produced by Gihon is extremely rare. Here are seven of the known examples that have survived.

One of the few surviving artifacts to document Al Reach’s career as a standout player for the Philadelphia Athletics is an 1870 carte-de-visite card featuring the portraits of Reach and his teammates. Produced in 1870 by Philadelphia based photographer A. Gihon, the card is one of the earliest visual representations of Reach’s career as a ballplayer and the card is of the utmost rarity with less than ten examples known to exist.

Back in 1984, the Society for American Baseball Research conducted a photo shoot at the Baseball Hall of Fame for a publication slated as a photographic “Review of Baseball History in the Nineteenth Century. A copy of the 1870 Athletics CDV was part of the Hall’s collection and was documented in the photo shoot on a Kodak contact sheet along with many other rare images housed at the National Baseball Library. The SABR contact sheet was marked on the front and reverse as “HOF-9.”

The same CDV photographed at the Hall of Fame in 1984, with its unique scratch visible on this contact sheet image (left), appeared several years later in a book published by Mark Rucker (right).

The CDV captured on film at the Hall featured an imperfection unique to this particular card, a fine scratch on the bottom of the albumen print affixed to the cardboard mount. The same card, with the exact same imperfection, appeared in the 1988 book, Base Ball Cartes by Mark Rucker, however, it was not credited to the Hall of Fame. Like many other images featured in the book, the card was listed as part of Mark Rucker’s collection.

The same card that was originally photographed at the HOF appeared for sale in Robert Edward Auctions 1994 auction catalog.

In 1994, the same card appeared again as an offered lot in a Robert Edward Auctions sale. The auction description noted the rare card had a “single insignificant scratch in brown background.” It was One of the finest of the very few examples of this important card in existence.” The auction also noted “an extremely small abrasion” on the card’s reverse. It is likely that handwritten Hall of Fame accession numbers were defaced on the reverse of the card.

The image of the 1870 CDV is strong evidence of a Hall of Fame heist. Haulsofshame.com notified the Hall of Fame of the evidence of the 1870 Athletics photo theft last year but Hall officials refused to comment.

Since the early 1980s the Hall has fallen victim to massive thefts of rare documents and photographs from the National Baseball Library collections, but they have never vigorously pursued recovery of the donated artifacts they were entrusted to safeguard. Ex-Hall of Fame officials and employees have confirmed that recovery efforts have been thwarted to avoid what one official called a “potential PR nightmare.”

So, will the kidnapped CDV featuring the portraits of Al Reach and his fellow Athletics ever make its way back into the Hall of Fame archives? If it does make it home to Cooperstown it would be fitting if a bronze relief of “Pops” Reach was already hanging in the Gallery of Plaques.

Until that day comes, Mr. Reach will have to enjoy his extended stay in the Hall of Very Good.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Nash joined the Society of American Baseball Research at the age of 12 as an avid baseball fan and card collector. His early research intensified his interest in the pioneers of the game like Harry Wright, Albert Spalding and Henry Chadwick, and he moved from collecting bubble gum cards to rare and unusual baseball artifacts of the 19th century. By the time he graduated magna cum laude from Columbia College in 1989 he was known as the recording artist Prime Minister Pete Nice of the Def Jam Recordings group 3rd Bass. Still, even as he toured the world performing with the likes of hip-hop artists Public Enemy, De La Soul and LL Cool J, he managed to keep up with his baseball research and collecting, becoming more involved in the growing baseball memorabilia business.

But from 1989 to 1995 Nash experienced the dark side of the baseball collectibles field as he discovered, with the help of his friend and world renowned handwriting expert Charles Hamilton, that close to a quarter million dollars worth of materials he’d purchased were either bogus or stolen goods. Some of the stolen items were believed to originate from the collections of the New York Public Library and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Over the past fifteen years, Nash has conducted his own personal investigation into the hobby, which now constitutes the backdrop for his compelling exposé on the fraud-ridden industry. In particular, Nash has succeeded in unraveling some of the hobby’s greatest mysteries involving massive thefts from the historical baseball collections housed at the New York Public Library, Boston Public Library and National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Nash is the author of two baseball history books, Baseball Legends of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery (Arcadia 2003) and Boston’s Royal Rooters (Arcadia, 2005) as well as the writer and producer of the 2007 Emmy-nominated baseball documentary, Rooters: Birth of Red Sox Nation. In 2008, Nash re-opened Nuf Ced McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon at 911 Boylston St. in Boston, MA.

You can visit Nash's site online at Hauls of Shame.


July 18, 2012

Countdown to Cooperstown: Class of 2015

What's interesting about the Hall of Fame Class of 2015 is the same as the Classes of 2013 and 2014...there are some definite shoe-ins.

Truth is, I don't know if the Hall of Fame has had back-to-back-to-back years with so many quality, legitimate first ballot candidates.  To be honest, I can't wait until the Class of 2012 gets enshrined this weekend so we can start talking about the circus atmosphere that will encompass the years that follow. 

Here are the players that will be appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2015.

IN.

Randy Johnson.

With five Cy Young Awards, a no-hitter and a perfect game...Johnson is pretty much as safe a lock to end up in Cooperstown as anyone who ever toed the rubber. Add in 303 wins, 4875 strikeouts, a World Series ring and ten All-Star appearances and yeah...it'll be interesting to see what knuckleheads don't believe he is worthy of going in on the first ballot.


Pedro Martinez.
Once Martinez finally announced he was officially retired, everyone began debating...in or out?  Pedro has a  career .687 winning percentage, sub-3.00 ERA, three Cy Young Awards and is a Boston legend.  Put him in.



John Smoltz.
John Smoltz is a tricky one. At first glance, he doesn't look like he has the numbers to make it to the Hall of Fame. That said, when you look deeper...he's a pretty special player. In 2002 he became only the second pitcher (Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley is the other) to have had both a 20-win season and a 50-save season. The 1996 National League Cy Young award winner is also the only pitcher in major league history to top both 200 wins and 150 saves. Oh yeah, he also is just the 16th pitcher to surpass 3000 Ks for his career.


It is amazing to me how polarizing Gary Sheffield is. Me? I love the dude...and what's not to like? A career .292 batting average, 509 home runs and close to 2700 hits...the man is a hitting machine and performed at just about every stop during his 22-year career.


OUT (in random order).

Nomar Garciaparra.
Alright, reality check time. One of my favorite players of all-time is Nomar Garciaparra, so naturally...one would think that I would automatically pencil him in for a 2015 enshrinement. Unfortunately, his career numbers just aren't good enough. He started his career alongside Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter and, arguably, overshadowed them at first. However, injuries plagued the Whittier, California native, whereas the other two are legends.


Troy Percival.
It's pretty safe to say that I have a soft spot for closers. Just days ago, I said that John Franco is a Hall of Famer and took massive heat for it. For years, I've been trumpeting the efforts of Lee Smith. That said, I can't get behind Percival. His 358 saves (good for eighth all-time) is spectacular, but the dude never led the league and can't really hold a candle to some of his contemporaries.

Rich Aurilia, Aaron Boone, Paul Byrd, Tony Clark, Jermaine Dye, Alan Embree, Darin Erstad, Kelvim Escobar, Cliff Floyd, Brian Giles, Tom Gordon, Eddie Guardado, Mark Loretta, Doug Mientkiewicz, Kevin Millar, B.J. Ryan, Jason Schmidt, Julian Tavarez, Jarrod Washburn and David Weathers

ON THE BUBBLE.

Carlos Delgado.
Delgado attempted a comeback late 2011, but since he never made it back to bigs...here he sits as a first ballot guy in 2015.  Sitting 27 home runs shy of 500 for his career, with more than 2000 hits and 1500 RBI, Delgado is not that far from becoming the second player enshrined as a Blue Jay.

Missed any of the other re-hashes from this week?  Be sure to check out 2013 and 2014.  On Friday, your first look at 2017 hits the interwebs.