Results tagged ‘ Tom Seaver ’

Big Unit, Pedro have fond memories of Stadium

The 2015 Hall of Fame election was one for the ages. For the first time in 60 years and for only the fourth time in the history of the voting that dates to 1936, as many as four players got the nod from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in this year’s election. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are a classy quartet and proved so in Wednesday’s press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Johnson and Martinez were particularly amusing discussing their time pitching at Yankee Stadium as opposing players. The “Big Unit,” of course, also wore the pinstripes for two seasons, although he readily admitted those were not the finest hours of his career. However, he conceded that he had a whale of a time.

“I won 34 games over those two seasons, but I didn’t pitch as well as people wanted,” Johnson said. “But to be able to sit down in the dugout and talk to Yogi Berra about the old days, to have Whitey Ford ask me to sign a jersey and then sit down and chat about pitching, what could have been better? To get to know Reggie Jackson really well and begin a long friendship, it was great. Reggie texted me [Tuesday] and said, ‘How did you get more votes than me?’ That’s Reggie.”

Johnson, who won five Cy Young Awards and was the co-Most Valuable Player of one of the most exciting World Series ever played (in 2001 for the Diamondbacks against the Yankees), has stronger memories of pitching against the Yankees than for them. He recalled the first time he was scheduled to pitch at the Stadium for the Mariners in 1992 he was followed into the park by Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, then a Yankees broadcaster.

“I played college ball at the University of Southern California under the legendary coach Ron Dedeaux, who always referred to a player on the team as ‘Tiger,’ probably because he couldn’t remember names,” Johnson said. “So ‘Tiger’ became a sore of alumni sign. I was coming into the Stadium that day and I heard someone shout to me, ‘Tiger, Tiger.’ I knew it had to be a USC alum, and sure enough it was Tom Seaver. He wanted to know why I was carrying my own bags on a night when I was pitching. We became good friends after that. How can you not cherish such memories?”

“You were lucky,” Martinez chimed in. “You have no idea what it was like to pitch at Yankee Stadium for the Red Sox.”

Martinez was one of those Boston players Yankees fans loved to hate. The more abuse they could heap on him the better, but the diminutive righthander was never bothered by it. He eventually made New York his baseball home as well later with the Mets but saw a major difference between the two fan bases.

“I learned a lot while coming over to New York as a visitor with the Red Sox and also coming later on and dressing in the uniform of the Mets,” Martinez said. “In Queens, fans are wild, they’re happy. They settle for what they have. The Yankees fans do not. It’s ‘Win or nothing. Win or nothing.’

“Yankees fans were really good at trying to intimate you. As the opposition, they wanted to intimidate you. But deep in their heart, they appreciate baseball. They appreciate everything that you do. They recognize greatness. And they’re gonna boo you and they’re gonna call you, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ They’re going to chant until you just go away.”

I pointed out at the press conference a footnote that Martinez is the first pitcher under six feet in height to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 41 years since Whitey went in with his teammate and pal, Mickey Mantle, in 1974. I added that today Pedro stands as tall as the 6-foot-10 Johnson.

They were equals in effectiveness. Johnson’s 4,875 career strikeouts are second only to Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 and the most by any lefthander. The Unit’s five Cy Young Awards are two shy of Roger Clemens’ record, and his four in a row with Arizona from 1999-2002 matched a similar run by Greg Maddux, who was elected to the Hall last year, from 1992-95. Martinez led his league in earned run average five times and had a career 2.93 ERA, remarkable considering the era of offensive explosiveness in which he pitched.

And was there ever a pitcher in baseball who excelled equally as a starter and a reliever more than Smoltz? As a starter, he won a Cy Young Award (1996), and as a closer he won a Rolaids Relief Award (2002). He had moved to the bullpen while recovering from elbow surgery. Talk all you want about Dennis Eckersley, but he did not have the career as a starter than Smoltz did. And after three years as the Braves’ closer Smoltz returned to the Atlanta rotation and led the National League in victories in 2006.

This was a unique pitcher, and as I told John on the phone Tuesday when I notified him of his election as the BBWAA secretary-treasurer, “Unique players go to the Hall of Fame, and they go in right away.”

He told me that he was relieved and mentioned a breakfast we had together at the Stadium one Sunday last summer with David Cone and Lee Mazzilli and the talk was about the Hall of Fame. “I had just seen what that induction weekend was all about as a broadcaster for MLB Network as I watched my old buddies [Maddux and Tom Glavine] give their speeches,” Smoltz said. “I just wanted to low-key it after that and not get too caught up in it. So it’s quite a special feeling right now.”

Smoltz was courted by the Yankees as a free agent after the 2001 season, but he chose instead to stay in Atlanta. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson took the new class of elected players to dinner Wednesday night at ‘21’ in midtown Manhattan. That is precisely the place the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would have wined and dined Smoltz to seal a deal to come to the Bronx.

Biggio grew up on Long Island and played football and basketball at Kings Park High School in Suffolk County. He was a Yankees fan whose favorite player was Thurman Munson. Yogi was a coach with the Astros during his estrangement period from the Yankees and encouraged Houston officials to move Biggio from behind the plate to second base where his career took off.

Among his 3,060 career hits were 668 doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. Think of it, more than the likes of Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Paul Molitor, now that is distinctive.

Idelson visited with Yogi in New Jersey over the past weekend, and the first words out of the legendary catcher’s mouth was, “Is my man Biggio going to make it?”

That was the day before we counted the ballots and discovered that we could tell Yogi a resounding “Yes.”

Joe wins 600th; Andy passes Whitey in Ks

Perhaps the Yankees decided to play Monday night’s game at Target Field as if it were a playoff game. After all, they beat the Twins nine times in 10 games in winning three American League Division Series against Minnesota. Monday night was like many of those playoff games with the Yankees overcoming early deficits with some late-inning lightning.

It was a tight game for seven innings before the Yankees broke through with seven runs over the last two innings against a sloppy Minnesota bullpen for a 10-4 victory, which marked the first time in 48 games that they reached double figures in runs. They had not done that since an 11-6 victory over the Royals May 10 at Kansas City.

It was also the 600th managerial victory for Joe Girardi and was a long time coming following a five-game losing streak that had pushed the Yankees into fourth place in the AL East.

Andy Pettitte overcame a 42-pitch first inning in which he turned a 1-0 lead into a 3-1 deficit to pitch into the sixth inning and along the way unseat Whitey Ford as the pitcher with the most strikeouts in franchise history. Pettitte’s punchout of Justin Morneau in the fifth, one of only two Ks in the game for the lefthander, was his 1,958th.

Of course, Andy already had more career strikeouts than Whitey. Pettitte had 428 strikeouts in his three seasons with the Astros and has a career total of 2,386, which is 41st on the all-time list, 10 behind Sandy Koufax. With his Yankees total, Pettitte ranks third among pitchers on New York teams in strikeouts behind Tom Seaver’s 2,541 with the Mets and Christy Mathewson’s 2,504 with the Giants.

It was not a strong outing by Pettitte, who allowed six hits and four walks and made a throwing error that accounted for one of the four runs against him. He was removed after giving up a home run to Chris Parmelee leading off the sixth inning that put the Twins ahead, 4-3. The late rallies by the Yankees took Pettitte off the hook, but he remains winless in four starts since June 8.

Robinson Cano, who had driven in the Yankees’ first three runs with two home runs off Twins starter Scott Diamond, ignited the eighth-inning uprising when the Yankees regained the lead for good. He opened the frame with a double to right-center. After a bunt single by Ichiro Suzuki pinch hitting for Vernon Wells, Cano scored from third on an errant pickoff by Jared Burton, who ended up the losing pitcher as his record fell to 1-6.

A one-out single by Zoilo Almonte gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead, and they were far from finished. Almonte came around to score after a walk and a wild pitch on an infield out by Chris Stewart. In the ninth, they loaded the bases with none out and pushed across four more runs on RBI singles by Travis Hafner and Almonte, a passed ball and a bases-loaded walk to Stewart.

The 14-hit attack was spearheaded by Cano, who reached base four times and scored each time. He and Almonte each had three hits, and Brett Gardner and Wells added two apiece. After going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position over the first seven innings, the Yankees went 4-for-10 in those situations in the final two innings.

For the first time since the losing streak began, the Yankees had cause to use Mariano Rivera, who in a non-save situation pitched a scoreless ninth, following a shutout inning apiece by pen pals David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain (1-0) and Shawn Kelley.

Yanks suffer a sweep in the subway

Maybe it was a good thing that the Subway Series was reduced from six games to four this year. The Yankees could do without any more games against the Mets, thank you. The annual, cross-borough matchup was all blue and orange as anyone passing the Empire State Building this week knows.

The Yankees did not need to stare at the midtown landmark to know what the Mets did to them the past four nights. Thursday night’s 3-1 loss was another example of an offensive breakdown. After Robinson Cano accounted for the Yankees’ only run with one out in the third inning, the next 20 batters were retired.

Dillon Gee looked like Tom Seaver as the Mets righthander gave up only three singles other than Cano’s 14th home run with no walks and 12 strikeouts, including the last five batters he faced, in 7 1/3 innings. Relievers Scott Rice and Bobby Parnell (ninth save) handled matters from there.

The Yankees failed to draw a walk for the third consecutive game. They had only two walks in the four games and struck out 40 times. They scored seven runs overall and only one in three of the games as their losing streak expanded to five games, their longest in two years. They wasted a decent start from rookie lefthander Vidal Nuno (6 innings 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts) and could not keep the taunts of “Let’s Go Mets” from being heard throughout the game among the Yankee Stadium crowd of 44,207.

This is definitely a low point for the Yankees, who were swept by the Mets in the Subway Series for the first time since inter-league play began in 1997. There are 11 players on the current roster that played in the Subway Series for the first time. They were looking forward to the experience going in but have little positive to say about it now.

“We have got to find a way to get out of it,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Tomorrow is as good a day to get back to our winning ways as any.”

Tomorrow (Friday) the first-place Red Sox roll into town for a three-game series. Boston has a two-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East, which means they have to sweep to get back into first place. There is a good chance that Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis will be activated for the series. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees sent a limousine to Trenton to get them to the Bronx.

“I hope they feel good and can be productive,” Girardi said.

Nuno was victimized by Marlon Byrd’s second home run of the series, a two-run shot to left in the second inning. Cano’s homer in the bottom half made the score 2-1, and it stayed that way until the eighth when Joba Chamberlain, in his first game back from the disabled list, was guilty of a costly wild pitch that set up a run when John Buck’s slow roller along the third base line hit the bag for an RBI single.

The Yankees have lost back-to-back series for the first time since going 1-2 in each of their first two series of the season, against the Red Sox April 1-4 and the Tigers April 5-7 and were swept in back-to-back series for the first time since 2009, 0-2 vs. the Red Sox May 4-5 and 0-2 vs. the Rays May 6-7.

The Yanks finished the Subway Series 0-4, which matches their most losses in a single season against the Mets (2-4 in both 2004 and ’08). The four-game losing streak against the Mets is the Yankees’ longest against them. According to the Elias Sport Bureau, the Yankees were swept in a season series of at least four games against a single team for only the second time in franchise history. They were 0-12 against the Athletics in 1990.

Cy Young holiday for Halladay

No American League club was happier to see Roy Halladay cross over into the National League this year than the Yankees. The one bad thing for the Yanks about Halladay going from the Blue Jays to the Phillies was that it triggered Philadelphia trading Cliff Lee back to the AL with the Mariners.

But it was good riddance for Halladay, who regularly thumped the Yankees to the tune of 18-7 with a 2.98 ERA, seven complete games (including three shutouts) and 195 strikeouts in 38 appearances (36 starts) covering 253 1/3 innings. Halladay did not find the new Yankee Stadium to his liking. He was 1-1 with a 6.16 ERA there in 2009 after having gone 7-4 with a 2.97 ERA in the old Stadium.

Halladay had a remarkable first season in the NL this year and was rewarded Tuesday by winning the Cy Young Award. He became the fifth pitcher to win the award in both leagues, having won in the AL with Toronto in 2003, and the 16th multiple winner.

The righthander was in Mexico on vacation when he received word of his election. I had the opportunity to tell him how popular he is in press boxes throughout North America because it is an extremely pleasurable experience to watch him pitch. He is a pro’s pro with no wasted motion and a focus that is sadly lacking among starting pitchers of this period.

“That’s very satisfying to hear,” the man called “Doc” said. “I hope the fans feel the same way.”

Halladay was the 13th unanimous choice in NL voting as he received all 32 first-place votes from two writers in each league city to score a perfect 224 points, based on a tabulation system that rewards seven points for first place, four for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America expanded the Cy Young Award ballot from three to five pitchers this year.

Halladay, 33, posted a 21-10 record with a 2.44 ERA in 33 starts and led the league in victories, innings (250 2/3), complete games (9) and shutouts (4) and was second in strikeouts (219). He pitched a perfect game May 29 at Miami in a 1-0 victory over the Marlins. Balloting takes place prior to the start of post-season play, so his no-hitter over the Reds in Game 1 of the NL Division Series was not a factor in the voting.

Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright (20-11, 2.42 ERA), who finished third in 2009, was the runner-up with 122 points based on 28 votes for second, three for third and one for fifth. Rockies righthander Ubaldo Jimenez (19-8, 2.88 ERA) was third with 90 points. Halladay, Wainwright and Jimenez were the only pitchers named on all the ballots. Righthanders Tim Hudson (17-9, 2.83 ERA) of the Braves and Josh Johnson (11-6, 2.30 ERA) of the Marlins rounded out the top five. In all, 11 pitchers received votes.

Halladay joined the company of Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Gaylord Perry as Cy Young Award winners in both leagues. Clemens won six in the AL (1986, ’87 and ’91 with the Red Sox; 1997 and ’98 with the Blue Jays; 2001 with the Yankees) and one in the NL (2004 with the Astros). Johnson won four in the NL (1999 through 2002 with the Diamondbacks) and one in the AL (1995 with the Mariners). Martinez won two in the AL (1999 and 2000 with the Red Sox) and one in the NL (1997 with the Expos). Perry won one in the AL (1972 with the Indians) and one in the NL (1978 with the Padres).

Unanimous winners in the NL were Sandy Koufax all three times he won and Greg Maddux twice among his four victories, along with Johnson, Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Rick Sutcliffe, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser and Jake Peavy. There has been a unanimous winner in the AL eight times: Clemens, Martinez and Johan Santana twice each, Denny McLain and Ron Guidry.

It marked the seventh time a Phillies pitcher won the award, including Carlton four times. The other winners from Philadelphia were John Denny and Steve Bedrosian. In addition to Koufax, Maddux, Carlton, Clemens, Martinez, Johnson, Perry, Gibson, McLain and Santana, other pitchers to have won the award more than once were Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer three times each, Bret Saberhagen, Tom Glavine and Tim Lincecum twice apiece.

Halladay is in pretty heady company and deserves to be.