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Sports Then and Now



2022 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductions: Better Late Than Never 1

Posted on July 24, 2022 by Dean Hybl

The 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame induction class is quite interesting as it includes a recent star with a questionable history and then several greats from past eras who waited far too long for Hall of Fame induction.

Minnie Minoso is among the seven inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame for 2022.

Based on career numbers and post season success, there seems little doubt that David Ortiz has the credentials to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, given that many other greats from recent eras with similar association with the steroid era have been shunned by the Hall of Fame electorate, it seems a bit odd (and perhaps hypocritical) that Ortiz is being inducted in his first year of eligibility.

It seems clear that the reason Ortiz is being inducted in the same year that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens roll off the ballot after a decade of receiving below the voter threshold is related almost totally to likeability. Even before they became the poster boys for the steroid era, Clemens and Bonds were seen as surly and self-absorbed. They were unquestionably among the top talents of their era, but that was not enough for either of them. When their bodies started the natural breakdown associated with baseball players in their 30s, they fought back with banned substances and ultimately posted otherworld numbers into their 40s.

The career of Ortiz is quite different. He was an inconsistent power-hitter in six seasons with the Minnesota Twins. In 2002 he posted career-high numbers in home runs (20), RBI (75), Slugging Percentage (.500) and OPS (.839), but still struggled against left-handed pitchers (.203 average, .637 OPS) and was released following the season in a cost-cutting measure.

As they say, “the rest is history”. Ortiz signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent in December 2002 and quickly became a key component of the most successful era of Boston Red Sox baseball in 100 years. He helped the Red Sox break the Curse of the Bambino by winning the 2004 World Series and ultimately won three World Series rings with the Red Sox.

Ortiz was one of the most consistent sluggers in baseball from 2003 until his retirement in 2016. He averaged 34.5 home runs and 109 RBI in 14 seasons with the Red Sox.

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Former MLB Stars Who Deserve Their Day in Cooperstown 18

Posted on July 27, 2013 by Dean Hybl

With 398 home runs and two MVP Awards, would Dale Murphy had made the Hall of Fame if it hadn't been for the Steroid era?

With 398 home runs and two MVP Awards, would Dale Murphy had made the Hall of Fame if it hadn’t been for the Steroid era?

In a year in which baseball’s all-time leader in home runs, a member of the prestigious 3,000 hit club and the winner of 354 games on the mound are all eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time, not a single modern-era player will receive baseball’s greatest honor during the annual induction ceremony on Sunday.

To honor this auspicious occasion, Sports Then and Now is recognizing five baseball players that we believe have legitimate claims to being in the Hall of Fame and who very likely might have received the “call to the Hall” years ago had not a generation of players totally changed the perception of offensive production.

Dale Murphy
398 HR, 1,266 RBI, .265 Batting Average, 161 stolen bases, 1,197 runs, 350 doubles

When Dale Murphy retired from baseball in 1993 the PED era in baseball was just getting started. By the time he became eligible for the HOF ballot in 1999, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had made a mockery of the single season home run record and Murphy’s career total of 398 home runs and top season of 44 dingers were no longer particularly impressive.

As a result, Murphy was included on 19.3% of the ballots in his first year and 23.2% the next year, but as the home run totals of current players escalated, his vote totals steadily declined. He was included on only 8.5% of ballots by 2004 and never legitimately had a chance for induction. His run through the HOF gauntlet mercifully ended earlier this year as he received 18.1% of the votes (75% needed for induction) in his final year on the ballot. Read the rest of this entry →

Don Larsen’s Perfect Game: My Uncle’s Tall Tale 3

Posted on October 08, 2010 by Andrew Jeromski

On October 8, 1956, New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen arrived in the clubhouse, and much to his alleged surprise, found a baseball tucked into one of his shined cleats. Placed there by pitching coach Jim Turner, the ball was the signal that Larsen would be the starting pitcher that afternoon–game five of the World Series.

Halladay pitched the second no-hitter in postseason history

What happened next was one of those magical moments in sports when the near-impossible, the utterly implausible is dragged into reality through little more than sheer force of will. Larsen set down 27 Brooklyn Dodgers in a row, and recorded the first perfect game and the first no-hitter in postseason history. His was the only such feat ever accomplished until 53 years and 363 days later, when Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy “Doc” Halladay no-hit the Cincinnati Reds in game one of the National League Divisional Series with an epic one-walk performance during a 4-0 win.

In the spirit of remembrance, I thought I would share with you a piece of family lore that concerns Larsen’s perfecto; but first, a little more background.

Charlie Manuel played for Billy Martin

Interestingly enough, when Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel was a player, the only two managers he ever played for were Billy Martin (Min 69-72) and Walter Alston (LAD 74, 75), both of whom were present for Larsen’s perfect game. Alston, of course, as the Brooklyn Dodgers manager, and Martin as the Yankees starting second baseman that afternoon.

Larsen maintains to this day that he had no idea he was to start game five. The claim is a bit dubious simply because he was listed as the starter in most national newspapers that day, but former Yankee teammates like Bill “Moose” Skowron have backed his assertion.

“I still can’t believe the look he had on his face when he saw the ball,” said Skowron, “… shock or something.”

Larsen had performed poorly in game 2, lasting less than two innings and surrendering four runs on four walks, but his control didn’t desert him that way in game five. Larsen needed just 97 pitches to complete his perfect game, a supremely economical performance.

“I had great control,” recalls Larsen, “I never had that kind of control in my life.”

“His stuff was good, good, good,” agreed hall of fame catcher Yogi Berra. “Anything I put down he put over.”

There were several close plays in the contest, and Larsen surely benefitted from luck to some extent, as must any pitcher who throws a perfect game.

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Why Isn’t Gil Hodges In The Baseball Hall of Fame? 11

Posted on July 24, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Few players are more deserving of Hall of Fame selection than Gil Hodges.

With a new class set for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend, it provides another opportunity to ask the question of why baseball legend Gil Hodges does not have a plaque in Cooperstown.

It is very likely that many longtime baseball fans (and perhaps even some Hall of Fame voters) just assume that Hodges took his rightful place in Cooperstown decades ago. Because he passed away in 1972, Hodges’ omission does not receive the same annual publicity as that of other deserving candidates who are still living.

One of the famed “Boys of Summer” that led the Brooklyn Dodgers to six World Series appearances between 1947 and 1956, Hodges was the starting first baseman in an infield that included Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson at second base and Pee Wee Reese at shortstop.

Along with Duke Snider, Hodges served as a steady power threat and run producer for the Dodgers. Hodges drove in more than 100 runs for seven straight years between 1949 and 1955, including a career-high 130 RBIs in 1954. His 1,001 RBIs in the 1950s were the most in the National League during the decade.

Hodges eclipsed the 30 home run mark six times, including blasting 40 home runs in 1951 and 42 in 1954. He also scored more than 100 runs three times and had a season batting average above .300 twice.

A member of seven World Series teams during his entire tenure with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1947 (he did make a brief appearance for the Dodgers in 1943, but because of military service didn’t return to the majors until 1947) through 1961, Hodges often saved his best for the postseason. Read the rest of this entry →

New York Mets: Anatomy of a Franchise – Part 3, 1969 “Amazin” 2

Posted on October 15, 2009 by Richard Marsh

The 1969 New York Mets captivated a city and a nation.

The 1969 New York Mets captivated a city and a nation.

What the New York Mets achieved in 1969 was truly amazing and the world witnessed not only man’s first steps on the moon but equally remarkable, the first World Championship by a National League team in New York in 14 years.

I had just turned 24 that April and I was unable to attend opening day on April 8th where the Mets lost to the newly created Montreal Expos expansion team 11-10 in front of 44,541 fans.

What had become a tradition of sorts was to try to go to the game on April 11th, my birthday, where the St. Louis Cardinals were coming to town and the proposed match-up was going to be Steve Carlton vs. Jerry Koosman. I was stoked, only in those days no one ever said the word stoked.

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Hall of Famer Tony Oliva
      July 17, 2022 | 2:15 pm
      Tony Oliva

      After waiting for 45 years after his retirement, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is finally taking his rightful place as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

      Discovered on the baseball fields of Cuba by a Minnesota Twin scout, Oliva came to the United States in 1961 and within three years the American League Rookie of the Year. There have been many great MLB players from Cuba, including a new generation of stars today, but it is hard to argue that there has been a better player from the island in MLB than Oliva.

      Read more »

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