Results tagged ‘ Ryne Sandberg ’

Cano named captain of AL Home Run Derby squad

Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano was named American League captain for the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby July 9, the night before the All-Star Game at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. His National League counterpart is Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp.

This year’s Home Run Derby will follow the format introduced in 2011 at Chase Field in Phoenix, featuring team competition between the leagues. Last year, the AL won, 76-19. Cano and Kemp will determine the other participants on their teams and will personally extend the invitations. Each captain will select a charity of his choice for which his team will be hitting in the Derby.

In his first career Home Run Derby appearance, Cano set a final-round record with 12 home runs, topping the previous mark of 11 set by Bobby Abreu in 2005 and matched by David Ortiz in 2010 and Adrian Gonzalez earlier in last year’s final. With his father serving as his pitcher, Cano, who joined Ryne Sandberg (1990) as the only second basemen to win a Home Run Derby, hit 32 home runs during the competition, placing him 13th on the all-time list. Cano says he will bring his father back again this year.

Major League Baseball and State Farm will donate a significant amount of money for charity through the event. Donations will be made of $150,000 awarded to the winning captain’s charity, $100,000 to Boys & Girls Club of America in the name of the winning captain and $25,000 to the charity of the captain of the losing team.

The total money amount will be determined by the home runs hit during the competition. State Farm and MLB will combine to donate $18,000 for every home run hit with a gold ball during the competition. The dollar figure was selected to coincide with the number of State Farm agents throughout the United States and Canada. State Farm will also give $3,000 for every non-gold ball hit during the Derby. Cano and Kemp are supporters of Boys and Girls Club of America and have participated in public service announcements.

Andy back from ‘vacation’

A year ago, no one with the Yankees or anywhere else could have convinced Andy Pettitte to keep on pitching. He was certain following an injury-disturbed second half of the 2010 season that it was time to hang up his glove and spikes.

The Yankees were hoping against hope that Pettitte would think it over, particularly after Cliff Lee rejected their seven-year, free-agent offer and signed instead with the Phillies. This left a gaping hole in the rotation, one that the fit Pettitte would have easily filled.

But no. Family came first, an honorable position. Andy wanted to go home to Deer Park, Texas, for good and watch his children grow up. The Yankees would have to make do with aging cast-offs Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon to fill the gap in the starting unit.

There would be no turnaround for Pettitte that might have mirrored pal Roger Clemens’ famous about-face when he retired from the Yankees after the 2003 World Series only to rejoin his left-handed partner in Houston where Andy landed after filing for free agency. For their part, Garcia and Colon accomplished more than anything the Yankees expected last year, but any chance that Pettitte could change his mind remained in the Yankees’ thinking.

The decision announced Thursday by Pettitte that he would accept a minor-league deal from the Yankees for non-guaranteed money of $2.5 million came as a shock to most Yankees fans (it certainly did me), but there have been indications that the big lefty was leaning in that direction for some time.

Pettitte was essentially fighting his emotions. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman confirmed that he had discussed a contract with Pettitte last December. Still no go was Andy’s reply. But when he put that uniform on again last month as a spring-training instructor, well, he was a goner.

Back up close to the game, Pettitte’s competitive instincts were aroused. It is a big step for him but a relatively small risk for the Yankees. For them, it is completely a win-win situation. There is no doubt that Pettitte is still in outstanding physical shape. Now he needs the time to get back into pitching shape.

The timetable for a Pettitte return would likely be early May, by which time the Yankees could use a boost in the rotation. Let’s face it; every year something happens that makes a club wish it had someone of Pettitte’s caliber in reserve. Take last season, for example, when Phil Hughes’ arm went soft, and Colon helped save the first half for the Yankees.

Make no mistake; what Pettitte is attempting is not easy. Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg may be the best example of what taking a year away from the game can do. Due to personal reasons, Ryno sat out the 1995 season after 14 years with the Cubs and returned in 1996 at age 36 to bat .244 with 25 home runs and 92 RBI, surprisingly good numbers for a player who had been away from the game for a whole season. But an off year in ’97 (12 homers and 64 RBI in 447 at-bats) was a signal to him that he was no longer the same player and he retired.

It was not uncommon during World War II for players to un-retire and return to the major-league rosters decimated by the draft, the most notable of whom was Hall of Fame first baseman Jimmie Foxx, who was little more than a glorified pinch hitter for the Cubs and Phillies.

Yogi Berra tried to come back as a player with the Mets in 1965, the year after he had managed the Yankees into the World Series and was fired after they lost to the Cardinals. Yogi admitted to manager Casey Stengel that he could not catch up with the fastball anymore and retired after four games and nine at-bats to become the Mets’ full-time first base coach.

What Yankees fans remember is that the last time they saw Pettitte he was still effective at getting out batters. His problem was trying to avoid groin and back flare-ups that are part of the aging process. One of the most popular players in recent Yankees history will try to reverse that process, and it will be fun for the rest of us to see if he can do it.

15-year minor-league vet gets shot with Yanks

Freddy Garcia has worked out for the Yankees. So, too, did Bartolo Colon before he went on the disabled list. Why not Brian Gordon?


Get ready, Yankees fans, because Colon’s spot in the rotation that comes up Thursday will be taken by Gordon, 32, a veteran of 15 minor-league seasons whom the Yankees signed after he opted out of his contract with the Phillies. Gordon, a righthander from West Point, N.Y., was 5-0 with a 1.14 ERA for the Phillies’ Triple A Lehigh Valley affiliate, the team managed by Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.

Gordon’s deal with the Phillies called for his being called up to the majors at some point or else he could become a free agent, a situation the Yankees had earlier this season with Kevin Millwood, who also opted out. Gordon is a converted outfielder who had a brief stint in the majors with the Rangers in 2008.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not announce his decision about Thursday’s starter until after Wednesday night’s game. Speculation had centered on Hector Noesi, who rejoined the team this week from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, or David Phelps, a righthander from Notre Dame who is 4-4 with a 2.95 ERA for the Triple A team. That was before Gordon became available.

Yanks mourn ‘family’ loss

The Yankees lost two members of their extended family in recent days, one of whom was truly a tragic case. It was a shock to discover that the 9-year-old girl who was among those gunned down in the attack in Tucson, Ariz., was Christina Taylor Green, the granddaughter of former Yankees manager Dallas Green and daughter of John Green, who had pitched in the Yankees’ minor-league system in 1989 and ’90 and is now the Dodgers’ supervisor of East Coast amateur scouts.

Young Christina had recently been elected to the student council at her school and because of her newfound interest in politics was brought to the town meeting to get an up-close look at U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was mortally wounded by an assailant who killed six people in a shooting barrage. Her grandfather managed the Yankees for most of the 1989 season and later managed the Mets in the early 1990s. In 1980, he guided the Phillies to their first World Series championship.

Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner issued a statement saying, “The Steinbrenner family and the New York Yankees organization join the entire nation in mourning Christina and send our deepest condolences to Dallas Green and his family as they deal with this tremendous loss. This is a tragedy that is beyond words and our thoughts and prayers are with the Green family, as well as all of the affected families.”

Last Thursday, one of the Yankees’ most faithful alumni, Ryne Duren, passed away. The former relief pitcher fought a long battle with alcoholism that shortened his career, but he eventually sobered up to live a productive life that took him to age 81.

Unlike baseball’s current era in which closing relievers are revered (where would the Yankees have been the past 15 seasons without Mariano Rivera?) not to mention well paid, Duren pitched at a time when those who inhabited the bullpen did so primarily because they weren’t consistent enough to be trusted as starters. Duren’s problem was lack of control.

The righthander found a spot in the Yankees’ bullpen and became a favorite weapon of Casey Stengel. Yankees fans of a certain age surely remember the terror Duren inflicted on opposing batters with a fastball that came close to 100 miles per hour.

An imposing figure at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Duren also wore thick glasses and went looking toward the plate seemed to have trouble locating it. Not too many batters dug in hard against Duren, who on occasion would throw a warmup pitch to the backstop.

His old catcher, Yogi Berra, said the other day, “Ryne could throw the heck out of the ball. He threw fear in some hitters. I remember he had several pair of glasses, but it didn’t seem like he saw good in any of them.”

“Everyone agreed that it was a dangerous combination: a guy wearing glasses that thick and throwing a pitch that fast,” Duren wrote in his 1978 memoir, The Comeback. “But what everyone didn’t know was that there was another dimension that made me even more dangerous than they thought I was. I had a drinking problem.”

Duren had great impact on Yankees’ World Series teams of that late 1950s. The save did not become an official statistic until 1969. Had it been kept earlier, Duren’s 20 saves would have led the league in 1958 when he had 87 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings. The next year, Duren fanned 96 batters in 76 2/3 innings, and in 1960 had 67 strikeouts in 49 innings.

He was traded in 1961 to the expansion Los Angeles Angels in a deal that brought outfielder Bob Cerv back to the Bronx. Duren’s career went on a downward path as he moved on to Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Washington and finished with a career record of 27-44. His drinking became so severe that Senators manager Gil Hodges had to talk him down from a bridge in the middle of the night after a game in which Duren was pounded by the Yankees.

Several years after his 1965 retirement as a player, Duren responded positively to treatment and got off the bottle. He devoted the rest of his life to drug and alcohol counseling to athletes and was a regular visitor to Yankee Stadium on Old Timers Day.

He never made it to the Hall of Fame, of course, but his name did. Duren was one of only two players in major league history with the surname Ryne. The other is Ryne Sandberg, who was born in 1959. Sandberg’s father was a Yankees fan and named his son after Duren. Sandberg was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005 with Wade Boggs.

The Phillies executive who originally signed Sandberg to a pro contract later became the general manager of the Cubs and traded for him. That executive was Dallas Green.

Another holiday list

As each year comes to a close, baseball writers center on their annual responsibility of voting for the Hall of Fame. Ballots are mailed out to writers Dec. 1 and due back in the hands to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America by a Dec. 31 postmark.

So it is not just Santa Claus who makes a list and checks it twice come the Christmas season.

As secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, I have conducted the election since 1995, the year Mike Schmidt was elected. I will be busy with Hall of Fame business the next few days but will find time to share some thoughts with Yankees fans about the election. Results will be announced at 2 p.m. Wednesday on,, and the MLB Network.

The ballot contains 33 names this year, eight of whom spent a portion of their careers with the Yankees, including two of the most popular figures in the franchise’s history, first basemen Don Mattingly and Tino Martinez. Others on the ballot who spent time with the Yankees are pitchers Kevin Brown, Al Leiter and Lee Smith, outfielders Tim Raines and Raul Mondesi and first baseman John Olerud.

Mattingly has been on the ballot for 10 years and has never done better than 28 percent of the vote going back to his first year. To gain entry into Cooperstown, 75 percent is required. Mattingly was at 16.1 percent last year. Martinez, his successor at first base for the Yankees, is a first-time candidate this year. It is doubtful writers will find Tino’s candidacy all that compelling, any more than they did another Yankees fan favorite Paul O’Neill two years ago. Martinez’s goal should be to get five percent of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot, which players must do to stay in contention for the full 15 years of eligibility. O’Neill failed to do that and was dropped after one year.

Brown, whose time with the Yankees was filled with controversy, had a fine career, but New York fans rarely saw him at his best except when he pitched against the Yankees for the Rangers. Yankees fans know Brown for breaking his pitching hand in anger and his implosion on the mound in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship, the franchise’s worst moment.

Leiter started and ended his career with the Yankees but had his best seasons with the Blue Jays, Marlins and Mets. His 162-132 record and 3.80 ERA does not spell immortality.

Raines, on the other hand, is an interesting case. He came to the Yankees after years with the Expos and White Sox and was a key role player on the World Series title teams of 1996, ’98 and ’99. With 2,605 hits and 808 stolen bases, Raines has some Hall of Fame numbers, but after three years on the ballot he has done no better than 30 percent.

Smith, Olerud and Mondesi had limited time in pinstripes. Olerud and Mondesi are on the ballot for the first time and are not likely to get the five percent of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot. Smith, who pitched in only eight games for the Yankees in 1993, once held the major-record for saves with 478 but has yet to attract even half the vote in eight previous elections.

The favorites this time around are second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven, each of whom came close last year. Blyleven was on 74.2 percent of the ballots cast and missed by five votes. Alomar missed by eight votes at 397, or 73.7 percent.

The only player not to get elected when eligible the year after getting more than 70 percent in the vote was pitcher Jim Bunning. He was on 74 percent of the ballots in 1988 and missed by four votes. The next year, however, with a thicker ballot consisting of first-year inductees Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski and fellow pitching greats Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins, Bunning lost 34 votes and dropped 11 percent in his final year on the ballot. He was eventually elected by the Veterans Committee in 1996.
The most accomplished of the new names are first basemen Jeff Bagwell and Rafael Palmeiro and outfielders Juan Gonzalez and Larry Walker. Palmeiro and Gonzalez will have a rough time.

Despite being only the fourth player in history to get more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, Palmeiro is a long shot because of his positive test for anabolic steroids in 2005, the same year he testified before Congress that he had never taken them. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, the only other members of both the 3,000 Hit and 500 Home Run Clubs were elected in their first years of eligibility.

Gonzales, a two-time AL Most Valuable Player, showed up in the Mitchell Report as a steroids user, which could hurt his chances for a big vote. After all, Mark McGwire with his 587 home runs has been on the ballot for four years and is hovering at 23 percent.

Bagwell, who had an amazing career (.297, 449 home runs, 1,529 RBI, 1,517 runs, .408 on-base percentage, .540 slugging percentage), never failed a drug test but faced suspicions of possible performance-enhancing aid after he felt in love with the weight room in the mid-1990s. Walker, like Bagwell a National League MVP, had some very good years in Montreal and then some monster years in Colorado. Will the Coors Field effect hurt his chances?

See, this voting stuff isn’t easy. After thorough study, I finally filled out my ballot.

Checks went to Alomar, Bagwell, Blyleven, Walker, Mattingly, Raines, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff and Jack Morris.

My take on Bagwell was that he is innocent until proved guilty. Larkin is following a path not dissimilar to another NL MVP middle infielder who took a few years to get to Cooperstown, Ryne Sandberg. Ask any Yankees fan who watched the 1995 Division Series about Edgar Martinez, who was simply one of the greatest right-handed hitters I ever saw. McGriff, who came through the Yankees system but was traded away, slugged 493 homers the clean way and made a major difference on the only Atlanta Braves team to win a World Series. Morris was the ace of every staff for which he pitched, including three teams that won the World Series – the 1984 Tigers, ’91 Twins and ’92 Blue Jays.

Let the arguments begin. I’ll be back after the election.

Hughes keeps innings down

The Yankees didn’t have to worry about limiting Phil Hughes’ innings Wednesday night at Toronto. He did that to himself.

Hughes failed to get through the fourth inning in his briefest outing of the season, although he did throw a full complement of pitches with 102 in a 6-3 loss to the Blue Jays. A 30-pitch first inning set the tone for Hughes, who fell to 15-6 and had his ERA climb to 4.12.

Vernon Wells had three of the six hits off Hughes, who also walked five batters. Wells got three-quarters of the way to a cycle with a triple in the first inning, a two-run home run in the third and an infield single in the fourth for his fourth RBI of the game. In his fourth and final at-bat in the sixth, Wells flied out to the warning track in left field.

The strangest hit for Wells was the home run, his 23rd of the year. A high fastball from Hughes on a 0-2 count was well above the letters and would have been called a ball but Wells somehow got around on it and drove it into the left field seats.

Even though he had six strikeouts, Hughes didn’t seem to have finish-off stuff getting to two strikes on 18 hitters only to have 12 avoid strike three by making contact. The usual offensive support for Hughes – the best in the majors at 7.93 runs per start – was not there Tuesday night.

A two-run home run by Marcus Thames, who was 5-for-8 (.625) with a double, two home runs and four RBI in the series – was the best the Yankees could do against Blue Jays starter Brett Cecil, who pitched eight innings. The Yankees rallied with two outs in the ninth and got another run but left the bases loaded.

Other than Thames, the other positive for the Yankees was the bullpen-saving work of Javier Vazquez, who gave up only one run, on a home run by Aaron Hill, in 4 1/3 innings, and got his fastball back up into the 90s.

The loss foiled the Yankees’ opportunity to take over first place in the American League East as they remained tied with the Rays, who lost in the afternoon to the Angels. Thursday will be a welcomed day off for the Yankees, their first in three weeks.

It will give Nick Swisher more time to recover from a swollen left knee that forced him to be scratched from the lineup Wednesday night. Swish fouled a ball off the knee in the seventh inning Tuesday night.

The Yankees’ next stop will be Chicago, which is a return home for manager Joe Girardi but one that could prove uncomfortable. With the recent retirement of Lou Piniella, speculation as to his replacement as Cubs manager has focused on Girardi, an Illinois native, Northwestern University graduate and former Cubs player. Joe is in the last year of his contract as Yankees manager, fueling speculation even more.

When I was in Cooperstown late last month, I spoke with Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, another top candidate who is manager of the Cubs’ Triple A Iowa affiliate. Ryno told me that he has received no indication that he is a favorite for the position, which many people believe. Out of deference to Piniella, Sandberg did not want to elaborate, but he added that anyone who thinks he’s a lead-pipe cinch for the job is mistaken.

Girardi told reporters the other day that he will answer media queries in Chicago before Friday night’s game and leave it at that. Joe has said he is very happy with the Yankees and won’t let the Cubs talk be a distraction.

Heavenly day


While many people around the country are reading the book about George Steinbrenner, “Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball,” its author, Bill Madden, was honored Sunday with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for contributions to baseball writing as part of the induction ceremonies at the Clark Sports Center.

It wasn’t this best-seller alone that earned Madden the honor that is presented annually by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, but the bulk of his 40-year career as a baseball writer was spent covering the Yankees and their volatile owner since he joined the staff of the New York Daily News in 1978 after working for the United Press International wire service. The book is a reflection of that time when the Yankees returned to dynastic proportions as a team under an owner of quite frankly bombastic proportions.

Madden was the Yankees’ beat writer at the News from 1981 through 1988 and has maintained a close relationship with the team since becoming the paper’s national baseball columnist in 1989. He continues to break stories around the team on a regular basis and works closely with beat writer Mark Feinsand to keep Daily News readers informed of Yankees doings.

At UPI, Madden was a protg of Milton Richman, one of the most respected baseball reporters. At the Daily News, Billy was counseled by Dick Young, probably New York’s savviest reporter. Both are winners of the award Madden received Sunday and were saluted in his speech for their contributions in making him deserving of the same honor.

“For more than a century, newspapers and to a certain extent books have been the lifeblood of baseball in that they have been the primary vehicles in which the game has been handed down from generation to generation,” Madden said. “I know I speak for millions of people when I say I became a baseball fan by reading newspapers and learning about it through books. With all due respect to the famous broadcasters who became such a part of the fabric of this game, the printed word is forever. The ready reference to the game’s rich history is preserved forever in libraries and bookstores and newspaper archives.”

I have known Billy for 30 years and was delighted in my role as secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA to notify him of his election the morning of our announcement during the Winter Meetings last December in Indianapolis. The Hall’s Induction Weekend has been an annual sort of working vacation for the two of us the past 15 years. Billy’s time up here goes back even further. He noted that his first induction ceremony was in 1979.

It is akin to a pilgrimage this journey back to the game’s ancestral roots however misplaced historically. The fact is, if baseball didn’t really have its beginnings in this lovely central New York State village, it should have.

As umpire Doug Harvey, one of Sunday’s inductees, said in his speech, “In baseball, you have to touch home. This is the home of baseball. And before you die, you should come to Cooperstown to touch home, and I’ll be here to see that you do.”

Madden has done so dozens of times, but it was his own home that he touched on in his speech. Billy was spoon-fed newspapers by his father, Charlie Madden, a New Jersey businessman whose personal favorite was the New York Herald Tribune when young Billy was introduced to the work of Red Smith, Harold Rosenthal and Tommy Holmes. On his own, Billy also discovered the New York Journal American and Jimmy Cannon and the New York World Telegram and cartoonist Willard Mullin.

An irony of Billy’s career was that he made his name at the Daily News, the one paper his father would not let into the house. Charlie would allow Billy to read it in his office, a plumbing supply business. The plumbers brought the tabloid News and would leave copies there.

“My father regarded the Daily News as a scandal rag and would not allow it in our house,” Billy said. “But he did have to admit that Dick Young, who covered the Brooklyn Dodgers and later the Mets, was probably the greatest baseball reporter of them all. And so he would allow me to read Young’s stuff whenever I was in the store. Who then knew that someday I’d be working at the Daily News and have Dick Young as my mentor. I’m sorry, Dad, but the Herald Tribune was out of business when I got out of college, so the News was it.”

Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting Jon Miller, the voice of the Giants and ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, also referred to his father taking him to Giants games at Candlestick Park and that Miller found himself paying more attention to what broadcasters Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons, both former Frick Award winners, were doing in the booth through his binoculars.

“I noticed that Russ would grab a handful of French fries and devour them between pitches,” Miller said. “Then he took a cup of whatever and gulped it down before the next pitch. I thought that’s the life for me.”

Unable to attend were former Yankees coach Don Zimmer, with whom Madden collaborated on two books, and former Yankees player, coach, manager and general manager Lou Piniella, “with whom,” Billy said, “I shared the Steinbrenner experience.” Zimmer’s knees don’t allow him to travel, and Piniella is managing the Cubs, at least for the rest of this season.

Gene Michael, who wore even more hats than Piniella with the Yankees including one as chief scout, did make the ride up from New Jersey for Madden and Hall inductee Andre Dawson, who played for “Stick” when he managed the Cubs in 1987. “Hawk” was the National League Most Valuable Player that year even though the Cubs finished in last place. It is a distinction he shares with 2003 American League MVP Alex Rodriguez, then with the Rangers.

Dawson’s speech, often emotional, ranked in eloquent intensity with that of former teammate Ryne Sandberg’s 2005 address, still the finest I have ever heard. Ryno, one of the most popular players in Cubs history, may well be their next manager once Lou leaves Wrigley Field. Sandberg has toiled in the minors for four years and produced winning teams, but he told me he has been given no indication that he is the first choice. In fact, a Chicago writer told me that there is a strong sense that Illinois native and Northwestern educated Joe Girardi, a former Cubs catcher, would have a step up on Sandberg is he does not stay with the Yankees beyond this year, the last on his current contract.

Whitey Herzog’s humorous speech included further references to Casey Stengel, who befriended the young player when he was an outfielder in the Yankees system and predicted he would become a manager.

“One of the most important things Casey told me was to hire good coaches and not be afraid of their taking your job some day,” Herzog said. “Casey said that unless you own the club or you die on the job, you’re going to get fired anyway, so you might as well have the best coaches.”

Herzog said that while he was managing the Cardinals, former St. Louis outfielder Enos Slaughter, who also played for the Yankees and Stengel briefly in the 1950s, finally got into the Hall of Fame and said in his speech, “It’s about time.”

“But I don’t feel that way,” Whitey said. “I believe that any time you get into the Hall of Fame is the best time. A lot of people have asked me what it’s like to get elected to the Hall of Fame, and I’d say, ‘I don’t know. I won’t know until July 25, the day it happens.’ Well, now I can tell everybody that it’s like going to heaven before you die.”


Robin Roberts: A complete pitcher

Two days after the passing of broadcasting legend Ernie Harwell, baseball lost another of its greatest ambassadors with the death of Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts of natural causes at the age of 83. Roberts won 286 games pitching mostly with Phillies teams that except for the “Whiz Kids” year of 1950 when he pitched against the Yankees in the World Series were usually middle of the pack at best.

Roberts was also a member of the Hall’s board of directors and served last year on two Veterans Committees, the one for executives and the one for managers and umpires. I served with Robin on the latter committee and can attest that his views were thoughtful and direct. And there was never a finer dinner companion. Roberts lived in the Tampa area and occasionally accompanied Hall president Jeff Idelson and me to dinner while we were there with the Yankees during spring training.

“His legacy will be his Hall of Fame career and his important role in establishing the Players Association, but his hallmark was the class and dignity with which he led his life,” Idelson said Thursday.

Roberts, who was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 1976 along with former Indians pitcher and Yankees manager Bob Lemon, was actually with the Yankees in spring training in 1962 when his old uniform No. 36 was retired by the Phillies, the first player for that franchise so honored. The ceremony took place at the Phillies’ facility in Clearwater, Fla., on a day in March when the Yankees were in town and Robin was the starting, and eventual winning, pitcher.

The Phillies had sold Roberts’ contract to the Yankees after his abysmal 1-10 season for last-place Philadelphia in 1961, but he never got to pitch for the Bombers. They released him in May. Roberts signed on with the Orioles and was 42-36 in 3 seasons in Baltimore.

Roberts was a dominant pitcher in the National League in the 1950s. The hard-throwing righthander was a 20-game winner six times and led the league in innings pitched and complete games five times each. He once pitched 28 consecutive complete games, a feat that will never be duplicated in this era of pitch counts, and ended his career with 305 complete games in 609 starts. That’s 50.1 percent!

Roberts’ 1952 season (28-7, 2.59 ERA, 30 complete games in 37 starts, 330 innings) earned him the runner-up finish to Cubs outfielder Hank Sauer for the NL Most Valuable Player Award. Roberts’ failure to win the MVP Award that year was among the reasons commissioner Ford C. Frick pushed for the BBWAA to establish an award for pitchers, which was adopted in 1956 and called the Cy Young Award.

Robin’s most notable achievement away from the field was his part in hiring Marvin Miller as executive director of the Major League Players Association in 1966. Roberts was the chairman of the committee that also included Jim Bunning, Harvey Kuenn, Brooks Robinson and Joe Torre, and had been led to Miller through contacts he had at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

When Robin was honored with the Casey Stengel “You Can Look It Up” Award at the New York Baseball Writers’ Dinner in 2003, Miller attended the affair out of respect for Roberts.

“Robin was so proud to be a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and he served as a Hall of Fame Board member with great distinction, thoughtfulness and a fondness for the Museum’s role in preserving the game and its history,” Hall of Fame board chairman Jane Forbes Clark said.

Here are some thoughts about Robin from other Hall of Famers:

Dennis Eckersley – “Robin was my favorite Hall of Famer. I felt a genuine connection with Robin. He had an ease about him and he transcended generations. He touched many lives, mine being one. I feel blessed to know him, and I will miss him deeply.”

Ryne Sandberg – “He was very supportive of my managing at the minor league level. He often told me to get your pitchers to throw as often as they can, all year around. He also said the best pitch in baseball was a fastball at the knees. He told me he became a Hall of Fame pitcher when he started pitching to contact, allowing his teammates to make the plays. I will miss him.”

Jim Bunning – “A truly great all-time pitcher and hall of famer in baseball, but even more, truly a great human being who I will miss dearly, as will all Phillies and baseball fans across America.”
George Brett – “I first met Robin in 1999 when I was inducted.  He welcomed me with open arms and I had the chance to get to know him over the years and even manage against him in Hall of Fame Fantasy Camps. I have never met a kinder, nicer, more genuine person in my life. He had that knack of being able to embrace you and become your friend, regardless of age.”

Johnny Bench – “Robin was a Hall of Fame person. He gave so much of his time and intellect to the game and the players. He will be missed for his smile and wit. His passing hurts so much.”

Ralph Kiner – “Probably the best fastball I ever saw was Robin Roberts’. His ball would rise around six or eight inches, and with plenty on it. And he had great control, which made him very difficult to hit.”