Tagged: Dennis Eckersley

Mark Maguire, Steroids, The Hall of Fame, and Joe Morgan Way

Mark McGwire Highway:  There is a section of Interstate 70 in St. Louis that is called Mark McGwire Highway, so designated by the Missouri Legislature one year after Mark hit his then-record 70 home runs. 

Mark Maguire Highway.jpg
That may not be true much longer.  On March 1st, the Missouri Senate voted unanimously to rename that section of highway to Mark Twin Highway.  Several other highway sections were also renamed in the bill for other noted Missourians. The legislation now goes to the Missouri House for a vote, and is expected to pass.  The change to Mark Twain highway is apparently in response to Mark’s recent admission that he did indeed use performance enhancing drugs (PED’s).

Senator Kurt Schaefer of Columbia, MO. was asked if the others getting similar honors were alive or dead.  He replied that it might be wise to name roads only for the deceased, because they can’t do something worth changing the name over one day, clearly referring to McGwire.

The move is a slap in the face to McGwire, as he is currently the hitting coach of the St.Louis Cardinals. 
I suspect this is not the last of the fallout from Mark’s steroids admission. 

Should McGwire be voted into the Hall of Fame?  There is no disagreement that it was obvious that he was juicing, even before he admitted it.  Here are before and after pict

Before (in 1990):

Mark Maguire in 1990.jpg
After (at the height of his steroid use):

McGwire at his Roidiest.jpg
No doubt about it, he used PED’s.  So does his recent admission spell doom for his making into the Hall of Fame?  Opinions are mixed on this, especially in the media. 

MLB Network’s renowned sportswriter, Peter Gammons said after Mark’s announcment, “It’s very clear that he cares more about being back in uniform than being in the Hall of Fame.” … “The fact is that it’s cheating.  The question is, in my mind, “Can you reward somebody with the highest honor in baseball, being in the Hall of Fame, if he indeed did cheat?’  As I sit here tonight, I say no.” 

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated says, “…McGwire waited too long [to come clean], and his relationship with steroids dates back too far–20 years to be exact.  His statement reveals a career not simply enhanced by drugs, but built on them.”

Others say you can’t keep McGwire out if others, such as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, get in (ESPN’s Rob Neyer), and many say you can’t ban a whole era from the HOF or put an asterisk next to the name of anyone who played during the Steroid Era. 

Some would ban only those who have owned up to PED use.  The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan:  “Right or wrong, the Age of Discovery follows the Steroid Era.”  but he goes on to say,  “There are many other steroid users who will appear on Hall of Fame Ballots who will choose to stay out of the public eye–long enough, they hope, to avoid questions that might endanger their chances for the Hall.”  So some steroid users may or will be elected to the Hall.

So You Tell Me:  What’s your take on steroids and the Hall of Fame?  Leave me a comment on the blog to let me know whether McGwire or others (Bonds, A-Rod, Clemens, Palmeiro, Giambi, etc.) should go into the Hall of Fame.  Why or why not?

At The Other End of the Spectrum:  My friend Eric Edward mentioned that new signs went up recently on South Coliseum Way, renaming it to Joe Morgan Way.

Joe Morgan Way - Old South Coliseum Way smallest.jpg
Note the Coliseum in the background to the right.

Now I think the world of Joe Morgan, and I don’t think he would have considered using steroids.  In 1990, I was on the same flight with his parents who were on their way to Joe’s Hall of Fame Induction.  A Lovely couple with a very nice son.  Joe was a Hall of Famer who was born in Oakland, and perhaps it is fitting to give him honors.

However, he played only 1 season in Oakland, his last in 1984.  The prior 21 summers he played in the National League.  In his one season as an Athletic, he hit .244, 89 hits, 43 RBI’s in 116 games.  It was clear he was winding down, given his much higher stats during most of his career.

So I wonder why they (the A’s? the City?) would rename the street for Joe.  There are so many former A’s that deserve it more, in my opinion:  Dennis Eckersley (born in Oakland, played the best of his career for the A’s), Rickey Henderson (lived most of his life in Oakland, played for the A’s 4 times), Catfish Hunter (Played most of his career for the A’s–KC and Oakland), to name a few.  And why now, right after Rickey Henderson was inducted into the Hall?

What’s your opinion?

Rickey’s Number 24 Retired August 1st, 2009

Two Saturdays ago, Rickey Henderson’s number 24 was retired by the Oakland A’s, who are now coming alive but still in the cellar in the American League West.  There was a sellout crowd on hand to witness the event, and a dozen or so of Rickey’s former teammates were on hand to wish him well.  These former players were announced and driven onto the field in vintage cars that stopped in front of the A’s dugout so they could walk out onto the infield and gather near 2nd base. 
 They all looked expectantly down the red carpet that stretched from there to the centerfield gate. 

When the gate opened, there stood Rickey, hands raised in salute to the cheering fans.  He slowly walked down the red carpet, through what surely must have been the current baseball team from Oakland Tech High School, his alma mater, and, surrounded by annoying print and TV camera men,
Rickey surrounded by photographers on red carpet.jpgmade his way slowly to his former teammates. He picked up a gold ceremonial second base and held it aloft as he did when he broke Lou Brock’s stolen base record. He hugged his old friends in turn, DSCF3646.jpgand gradually made his way to his seat near the pitcher’s mound and the evening’s emcee, former A’s catcher and current broadcaster, Ray Fosse.

Ray Fosse and assembled players.jpgRay gave a great tribute to Rickey, and announce that the City of Oakland has proclaimed the month of August 2009 Rickey Henderson Month.  Ray was followed by Oakland Tribune sportwriter, Dave Newhouse, who remembered at great length his and Rickey’s times in Bay Area baseball.  The most moving words came from Rickey’s longtime friend and fellow A’s pitching great, Dave Steward, who was propelled to the podium by the fans chanting “Stew, Stew.”  He talked about his good friend, growing up near Rickey in Oakland, and playing together for the A’s.  It was clear there was a lot of love between these two great players.

Rickey was then introduced and gave another wonderful speech.  This time he gave the Rickeyism fans a few morsels to chew on.  He said many of the same things he said in Cooperstown, but mostly he thanked the fans over and over again.  For him, it was all about us.  For those of us in the stands, it was a Rickey love fest.    

Rickey said he was proud to have his number retired, and again he finished with the word “humble.”  His mother gave him flowers and his 3 lovely daughters unveiled his jersey now affixed to the left field fence at the Coliseum.
I wish the photographers would not be so in the way!
Rickey's daughters unveiling his jersey on left field fence.jpg
Eventually, his number will go up on the tarp covering the top deck seats, along with those of  Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter, the only other players in the Athletics 106-year history to have their numbers retired.

All of us realized that we were in the presence of someone who did what no one will ever do again.  The game of baseball has changed since Rickey’s day, and not just because of steroids.  Pitchers are coddled, rarely staying in the game more than 7 innings and position players are regularly given days off.  Stealing bases is considered a low-risk proposition in the Moneyball era, although the A’s stole the most bases of any team in the majors in July, perhaps a fitting tribute to Rickey.
Rickey riding in car with gold base - cropped.jpg 

Rickey’s records are likely to stand the test of time and he will be forever honored in the Hall of Fame and in the hearts of those of us who were lucky enough to see him play. Rickey, I wish you and your wife, Pam, and your three lovely daughters the happy lives you all deserve, and know that you will never be forgotten, certainly not by this A’s fan. 

Induction Day

Induction Day:  As we arrived at the Clark Sports Center
 about a mile south of Cooperstown proper, two things struck us:  it was raining lightly and there was a tent set up over the stage where the induction was obviously going to take place.  We found where the tour company had set up our chairs and, after changing seats a couple of times to get a better view of the unlighted stage, we settled in to wait the hour before the festivities were set to begin. That’s me on the right in the picture below.
DSCF3568.jpgTo set the scene, if I were standing on the stage at the podium, I would be looking out at gently rolling fields of grass ending perhaps a quarter of a mile away in thick forest.  In front of the stage a rickety dark green picket fence cordoned off an area, which we rightly assumed were for the families of those who would be on stage and other former ballplayers and dignitaries and their retinue. You can see part of the green fence in the picture above.   We found out later that we could have paid $200 extra to sit in the VIP area.  I would gladly have paid it to sit closer, had we been given the option.  But I digress. 

Back to me pretending to stand on the stage looking out:  to my right was a large TV screen which wasn’t anywhere near big enough to enable those who were near the aforementioned forest to see, but it would help those of us who were in the middle of the pack. 
DSCF3578.jpgTo the left along the road were vendors selling food and souvenirs, as well as a long row of portapotties lined up like fat blue soldiers.  Shuttle busses arrived every few minutes behind the portapotties delivering more people and paraphernalia.

New arrivals came out to the field and set up their chairs higgledy piggledy on either side and behind the fenced in area.  There were aisles whitewashed into the grass, but they were observed more in their breach than anything else.  Over the next hour, those assembled were alternately getting wet when the heavens drizzled and hot when the sun came out, steaming them in their rain gear.  The whole thing looked like a cross between an active bee hive and a homeless encampment.  See slide show at: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/photogallery/year_2009/month_07/day_26/cf6074528.html.

Induction Ceremony begins Amid Sprinkles:  Finally, the festivities began and we were welcomed by the President of the Hall of Fame, Jeff Idelson, who proceeded to introduce the 51 Hall of Famers (of the 65 still living) seated on chairs on the stage. 
Those in attendance included such greats as:  Dennis Eckersley, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Henry Aaron, Brooks Robinson, Lou Brock, Johnny Bench, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Senator Jim Bunning, Orlando Cepeda Carl Yastrzemski and Ozzie Smith, who rose as their names were called to standing ovations.

 A slight woman with shoulder-length salt-and-pepper curly hair was introduced as Judy Gordon, the daughter of the Veterans’ Committee’s 2009  inductee, the late Joe Gordon who played second base for the Yankees and Cleveland from 1938-1950.
Judy Gordon.jpgJudy gave a heartfelt speech about her father and what baseball meant to him and his family, declaring with tears flowing that her father refused to have any kind of funeral when he died in 1978, but “We consider Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame as his final resting place, a place he will be honored forever.”  By now the sun had come out so it wasn’t rain that adorned the cheeks of many people in the audience.

Power-hitting leftfielder Jim Rice was next introduced to cheers from the many Red Sox fans in attendance. 
Jim Rice at the HOF Induction.jpg
He talked about his rise in the Red Sox organization where he played his entire career, poked a jab or two at the media with whom he had a testy relationship, and thanked the Baseball Writers Association for voting him in during his last year of eligibility. 

Tomorrow:  Rickey Steals the Show