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Baseball 2000
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The Orlando Cepeda Story
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Cooperstown Confidential
by Bruce Markusen
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Hall Of Fame And History

One of the nicer outgrowths of Hall of Fame Weekend is the opportunity to meet writers and broadcasters who exude a passion for the history and lore of the game. Brian Kenny of ESPN and Marty Lurie, a broadcaster in the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Area, are two such men. Kenny, who works both SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight, spent the weekend in Cooperstown as host of ESPN’s coverage of both the Induction Ceremony and a roundtable on the 1975 World Series. On the eve of the ceremony, Kenny asked our staff several questions about the history of the ceremonies, so we invited him to come into the Hall of Fame Library to help with his research efforts. Traveling with two of his young sons, Kenny accepted the invite and spent a solid pair of hours pouring through Hall of Fame Yearbooks, induction speech transcripts, and files on the history of the ceremony and its various locations over the years. Most impressively, he did the research with such a natural enthusiasm, the same kind of energy that pervades his Baseball Tonight broadcasts… Kenny would like to incorporate more of the game’s history into Baseball Tonight. We’d love to see that happen, too… Lurie, although lesser known than Kenny, has a similar appreciation and regard for the game’s history. Throughout the season, Lurie hosts a pre-game show on the A’s radio network. Although the A’s weren’t in town to play the annual Hall of Fame Game (where the Diamondbacks and the Indians were the featured participant), Lurie nonetheless decided to make the trip to Cooperstown to interview players and writers for his extensive oral history series on the A’s franchise. By taping three to four-minute interview segments and putting them on to CDs, Lurie is hoping to cover as many aspects of A’s history, including the franchise’s tenures in Kansas City and Philadelphia. Lurie doesn’t sell the tapes, but does make them available to those who request them and generously donated copies of all of his CDs to the Hall of Fame Library. There’s loads of great material here, including recollections of Catfish Hunter’s perfect game in 1968, previously unpublished stories about Charlie Finley, and thoughtful remembrances from some of Connie Mack’s descendants. This is what baseball history, the nuts and bolts of it without the excessive romance, is all about.

Canseco And Random Chatter

For all of the hand-wringing going on in New York over the Yankees’ seemingly superfluous addition of Jose Canseco, let’s consider the following question. If you’re the Yankees, who would you rather have coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of a playoff game, Canseco or Clay Bellinger? Like Darryl Strawberry, Canseco has the intimidating ability to make opposing managers think twice about making a pitching change that could encourage his entrance into the game. And for all of his physical problems this season, Canseco still has an on-base percentage near .380… With the addition of Canseco and Luis Sojo, the Yankees’ bench continues a transformation that has been brilliantly engineered by general manager Brian Cashman. On any given day, the Yankees can turn to Canseco or Glenallen Hill for pinch-hitting power, Luis Polonia as a left-handed pinch-hitter and pinch-runner, and either Sojo or Jose Vizcaino as a late-inning defensive caddy for Chuck Knoblauch (assuming he gets healthy)… Speaking of Glenallen Hill, is there any hitter more fun to watch, with that short, quick, karate-like swing? As Jim Kaat has observed on Yankee telecasts, Hill is terrific in the way he uses his bottom hand to generate additional power. When Hill makes contact, no one hits the ball any harder… Those defensive rankings being flaunted at another baseball website strain credibility when they fail to include Omar Vizquel among the top 10 shortstops in the major leagues and list someone like Tony Womack ahead of "Omar the Outmaker." They become even more preposterous when they disparage Derek Jeter, listing him as the worst defensive shortstop among all starters. I’ll go into greater detail about Jeter’s fielding abilities in a future column, but for now, let’s just say there’s something wrong with rankings that put Jeter last and don’t even include Desi Relaford and his 24 errors among the bottom five… Here are a few observations based on some fervent watching of games over the summer. Brian Giles of the Pirates looks an awful lot like Lenny Dykstra (at least after Dykstra hit the weights) and Cleveland’s home run-hitting machine Russell Branyan is the spitting image of FOX’s Steve Lyons…Other than Mike Hargrove, we’ve never seen a hitter go through as many machinations and movements as Nomar Garciaparra does before and during his at-bats. From the pitcher’s side, no one matches John Rocker for the intensity and frequency of his nervous tics… Speaking of Rocker, does anyone really believe that his bumping of that cameraman over the weekend was an accident? Those stadium hallways are narrow, but not quite that narrow.

The Ultimate Journeymen

It’s not exactly the kind of record that will generate headlines the way that Mark McGwire did two years ago in his successful pursuit of Roger Maris, but it’s intriguing nonetheless. Over the weekend, journeyman outfielder Dave Martinez joined yet another team this season when the Blue Jays acquired him for a player to be named later. Having previously suited up for the Devil Rays, Cubs, and Rangers, Martinez tied a record by playing for his fourth team in one season. If Martinez can somehow manage to play for one more team this season—do I hear the Yankees calling?—he will have the record all to himself… Although player movement has seemingly increased over the last 20 years, no player in the eighties or nineties played for as many as four teams in a single season. In fact, prior to Martinez, only one player had accomplished the feat (if we want to call it a feat) in the era since free agency began. In 1977, Dave Kingman started out the season with the Mets, who grew tired of his .209 batting average and frequent defensive lapses and traded him to the Padres for an obscure pitcher named Paul Siebert and future manager Bobby Valentine. Kingman hit 11 home runs in 56 games for the Padres, who nonetheless decided to unload him on September 6 in a cash deal with the Angels. Yet, Kingman wasn’t done traveling just yet. Nine days later, the Angels sold him to the Yankees, marking the second time that "King Kong" had been sent packing after the September 1 deadline. In only 24 at-bats with New York, Kingman hit four home runs, helping the Yankees win the American League East by two and a half games over the Orioles. Still, Kingman couldn’t participate in New York’s post-season march to the World Championship because he had joined the Yankees a full 15 days after the deadline for freezing playoff rosters… The last pitcher to toil for four teams in one season was vagabond left-hander Mike Kilkenny, who completed the rectangular circuit in 1972. Kilkenny started the season with the Tigers, who dispatched him to the A’s after only one appearance. Kilkenny lasted just about the same amount of time in Oakland—one game—before being dealt with Curt Blefary to the Padres in a package for strong-armed outfielder Downtown Ollie Brown. Compared to the A’s and the Tigers, the Padres gave Kilkenny a thorough tryout (five games and four innings) before trading him to the Indians for utility infielder Fred "Chicken" Stanley. Amazingly, Kilkenny finished out the season in Cleveland… Still, the travels of Kingman and Kilkenny actually pale in comparison to that of another player of 1970s vintage. In 1971, journeyman catcher Broadway Frank Fernandez also played for four big league teams in a season—well, sort of. Fernandez opened the ‘71 campaign with the A’s but soon headed east to the Washington Senators as part of a five-player deal that put Don Mincher and Paul Lindblad in the Capitol City and Mike Epstein and Darold Knowles in Oakland’s Green and Gold. Broadway Frank then rejoined the A’s in a mid-season trade, but when Dave Duncan returned from a stint in the Marine Reserves, he found himself traded again—this time to the Cubs, where he finished out the season. Technically, Fernandez played for only three different major league teams that summer, but did have tenures in four different stops (once in Washington, once in Chicago, and twice in Oakland). But wait, there’s more. We haven’t yet counted a pair of pitstops in Iowa, the A’s top affiliate in the American Association at the time. If we include those two minor league visitations, here’s what Fernandez’ complete 1971 itinerary looked like:

Oakland to Washington… Washington to Iowa… Iowa to Oakland… Oakland to Iowa… Iowa to Chicago…

So when you hear today’s players complain about the inconvenience of being traded and exchanging one team for another, just keep in mind that they haven’t come close to matching the bizarre travels of Broadway Frank Fernandez some 29 years ago.

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