Tagged: John Montefusco

The Giants’ Wall of Fame

On Monday, the San Francisco Giants announced the formation of a “Wall of Fame” that would be displayed at AT&T Field beginning with the 2009 season. The inaugural class of Wall of Famers would include over 40 members. The criteria for making the Wall are simple: a retired player becomes automatically inducted if he has played at least nine seasons with San Francisco, or has been an All-Star who has played at least five seasons with the Giants.

 

This “Wall of Fame” sounds like a good idea, a noble concept, but it’s one that has gone awry. Now there’s no problem with the top end of the wall. The Giants, who have been celebrating their 50th year in San Francisco (yes, it’s been that long since the move west from the Polo Grounds), easily have an elite group of core players to form the upper tier of the wall: Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. Then you have a second tier of really good players who have been All-Star caliber performers, including the underrated Felipe Alou, the late Rod Beck, the late Bobby Bonds, Vida Blue, Will Clark, Chili Davis, Darrell Evans, the late Tom Haller, Jim Ray Hart, Gary Lavelle, Jeff Leonard, Greg “Moon Man” Minton, Kevin Mitchell, Robb Nen, and Matt Williams. And if you want to include a group of “common card” Giants, players who have been contributing foot soldiers over the years, you have a solid group formed by the likes of John Burkett, Dick Dietz, Scotty Garrelts, Atlee Hammaker, Mike Krukow, Mike McCormick, Stu Miller, John “The Count” Montefusco, Rick Reuschel, Chris Speier, and Robby Thompson. They were all decent players, or better in some cases. Some of them, like Montefusco, were also very popular with the fans. By all means, give them their places on the Wall.

But here’s where the Giants have gone wrong. When you start including players like Johnnie LeMaster, Tito Fuentes, and Kirt Manwaring, especially in the inaugural class of the Wall of Fame, I think you’ve lost all credibility. LeMaster, in particular, makes the Giants look like they’ve miscalculated their standards. He is one of the worst players to step onto a field in the last 40 years; he couldn’t hit, couldn’t field, couldn’t steal bases. He was a bad player who was best known for putting “Boo” on his uniform in response to angry fans at Candlestick Park.

 

As for Fuentes, he was a colorful performer who was a member of the 1971 team that claimed the National League West, but at his peak was never much more than an average player. And for much of his career, he was well below average, an iffy fielder who struggled to reach base. Finally, Manwaring was a little bit better, a good defensive catcher who couldn’t hit for either average or power. On the list of standout Giants catchers of the past 40 years, Manwaring would rate well below Haller, Dietz, Bob Brenly (also scheduled for Wall induction in 2009), and current Giants receiver Bengi Molina. I just don’t see where a one-dimensional catcher like Manwaring merits inclusion on this list.

 

The problem with the Giants Wall of Fame is quite simple: the standards for induction are way too low. Nine years of play with the Giants, or five years and one All-Star appearance with San Francisco, will open the floodgates too wide for mediocre or worse players to join the Wall of Fame. Do you really want light-hitting utility infielders, middle-of-the road platoon players, and interchangeable long relievers making your team’s Wall of Fame? The Giants would be far better off tightening the standards, perhaps by calling for a minimum of 12 years with the franchise, or perhaps by making the criteria more subjective, based on a player’s performance and popularity in San Francisco.

 

By all means, let’s honor the Jim Ray Harts, Count Montefuscos, and Rick Reuschels of the Giants’ baseball world. I love it when players who were good, but something less than immortal, receive their due. But when you’ve lowered the bar so far that you have to include the Johnnie LeMasters of years gone by, it’s time to shake up the formula, give it a good stir, and start over again.

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Monday’s Bunts and Boots–Hall of Fame Aftermath

In a small village like Cooperstown, we’re not used to downtown gridlock, bumper to bumper cars on Route 28, or crowds of 75,000 people in town at one time. Well, we experienced all of those big city symptoms over the weekend, when Cooperstown became Baltimore North.

As someone who experienced crowds of 50,000 in 1999, I can safely say that the 2007 turnout made that summer’s induction seem like a private party. Hall officials have a tendency to exaggerate the sizes of induction crowds, but 75 grand seems dead solid accurate to me. The fields of the Clark Sports Center were entirely filled–something I’ve never seen–with people jammed in so tightly that there were few open aisles to speak of. Thankfully, there were no major emergencies. If there had been, I don’t know how the EMTs would have made their way through the mass of lawn chairs and people to tend to the ailing…

I’m a former employee of the Hall of Fame, so pardon me for saying I cringed a bit when Gary Thorne, the emcee for Sunday’s induction ceremony, referred to the “Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.” It was always drilled into us that the Hall has no formal or contractual affiliation with MLB (though it works closely with MLB on numerous ventures). After all, the place is called the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Though Thorne was filling in for regular emcee George Grande, he’s a veteran baseball journalist who should know better and a broadcaster whose work I generally enjoy. It hasn’t been a particularly strong year for Thorne, especially given the Doug Mirabelli/bloody sock fiasco from earlier this season. According to Thorne, Mirabelli had told him that Curt Schilling’s bloody sock was a fake. Mirabelli denied ever talking to Thorne, resulting in an apology from the Orioles’ play-by-play man…

Someone asked me what I thought about the speeches delivered by Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken. I thought they were OK, but nowhere near the top of the line of Hall of Fame speeches. Gwynn sounded sincere but unprepared, while Ripken sounded formal and stiff. Their messages were good, but their deliveries were not particularly smooth. Ripken is not a good public speaker to begin with, but his charisma and character make that a moot point in the eyes of most onlookers. Gwynn is also so likeable that his forgetting to bring his notes to the podium only made him look more human…

The VIP seating section at the Hall of Fame ceremony included John Travolta, wife Kelly Preston, Richard Gere, and Lynda Carter. That’s three A-listers and one 1970s icon who were part of the induction crowd here in Cooperstown. We’ve never seen that kind of Hollywood presence in Cooperstown previously…

One of my favorite local pastimes is keeping tabs on those non-Hall of Famers who visit Cooperstown over induction weekend. To the best of my ability, here’s a complete list of former big league players and managers who visited us during the big weekend in 2007: Joe Altobelli, Brady Anderson (ugh), Jesse Barfield, Ralph Branca, Paul Blair, Al Bumbry, Jerry Coleman, Mike Flanagan, Steve Garvey, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Mark Gubicza, Chris Gwynn, Jack McKeon, Denny McLain (double ugh), John “The Count” Montefusco, Graig Nettles, Joe Orsulak, Jeff Reboulet, Billy Ripken, Pete Rose (triple ugh), David Segui, Larry Sheets, George Shuba, Ken Singleton, Rusty Staub, and B.J. Surhoff… I had a chance to meet Montefusco on Saturday at CVS, where he was signing autographs for a local charity. The former Giant, Brave, Padre, and Yankee right-hander was scheduled to appear for only two hours, but continued to sign for an extra half-hour and didn’t turn down a single request for a personalized autograph or photograph. Having never visited Cooperstown before, Montefusco was surprised by the town, both in terms of the crowds and the sights. The Count hopes to return to baseball with the Giants, his first major league organization. Montefusco would like to work with young pitchers in San Francisco’s minor league system…

I was saddened to hear of the death of Bill Robinson on Sunday. Robinson was working as a minor league batting instructor for the Dodgers and had even been mentioned recently as a candidate to succeed the fired Eddie Murray in Los Angeles. Two things always come to mind when I think about Robinson. First, he was that rare example of a player who performed better in his thirties than he did in his twenties. After struggling to find himself as an outfielder-third baseman with both the Braves and Yankees, Robinson became a productive left fielder for the mid-1970s Phillies and the 1979 world champion Pirates. While most players reach their peak physically during their twenties, some need more time to adjust to the mental stress of playing at the highest level of professional baseball. That adjustment took several years for Robinson, who didn’t start to succeed until his age 30 season with the Phillies (1973). Second, I’ll remember Robinson being prominently mentioned as a candidate to become the first black manager of the Mets, but never receiving that opportunity. Though a highly regarded hitting coach during the Mets’ successful run in the late eighties, Robinson found himself out of work and took a job serving as an analyst for Baseball Tonight in the early 1990s. I don’t know if Robinson was the victim of racism, or whether he simply interviewed poorly, but it seems that he had the smarts and toughness to be a good major league manager. Sadly, that chance never came…

Here’s my initial reaction to the Braves-Rangers blockbuster involving Mark Teixeira: the Rangers brought in a huge haul of young talent for a guy who may have peaked two years ago. First off, I’m a big fan of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He reminds me of a young Ted Simmons, but with a much stronger defensive presence behind the plate. Switch-hitting catchers who have Saltalamacchia’s hitting and fielding portfolios are extremely hard to find. Given his ability to catch and the small size of his contract, I’d rather have Salty for the next five seasons, as opposed to possibly only a season and a half of Teixeira. With teenage shortstop Elvis Andrus and two pitching prospects added to the mix, this becomes a big winner for the rebuilding Rangers…

Let’s finish with some thoughts on potential deals. Kyle Farnsworth’s blowup with Jorge Posada on Sunday practically guarantees that the eccentric right-hander will be traded by Tuesday’s deadline. If his latest faux pas doesn’t result in him being shipped out of town, then the Yankees will never move the flaky Farnsworth… If the Yankees can acquire Eric Gagne without having to give up Melky Cabrera, they will be very happy. Gagne, who is quietly having a standout season for the Rangers, could be coming to the Yankees for a package of pitching prospects that might include Tyler Clippard and Matt DeSalvo… The Mets will make out very well if they finalize the rumored deal for veteran second baseman Luis Castillo, who has long been the object of New York’s affection. The switch-hitter’s ability to get on base will make him an ideal No. 2 hitter behind Jose Reyes. Castillo also has gobs of postseason experience, first with the Marlins and more recently with the Twins… Once the Jermaine Dye deal is completed, he will become a part of the most expensive platoon in major league history. As part of a new look right field configuration, Dye is expected to platoon with J.D. Drew, one of the few disappointments in an otherwise banner season for Boston.

All Hall of Fame All The Time

The first signs of Hall of Fame Weekend are upon us. As I write this, an ABC satellite truck is parked in Cooper Park, just to the east of the Hall of Fame and Museum. It’s the first of many satellite trucks to arrive in the village over the next several days, as we move closer to Sunday’s induction ceremony…

ESPN will have its usual presence in Cooperstown. Unfortunately, ESPN continues to do more disservice to baseball. In spite of the popularity of Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn, ESPN will not be featuring this Sunday’s induction ceremony on its main channel. ESPN won’t run the ceremony on ESPN2 either, or ESPNews for that matter. Instead, ESPN has relegated the ceremony to its fourth channel, the wasteland that is known as ESPN Classic. So for those of us in Cooperstown who cannot attend the ceremony and have only basic cable, there will be no opportunity to watch the induction on TV. And that’s an absolute travesty…

I love living in Cooperstown as much as anyone, but sometimes the village policies are confounding. The village’s biggest problem is always parking, which becomes an especially large concern with upwards of 50,000 expected to visit Cooperstown for this weekend’s induction ceremony. So how does the village react? By reducing the number of parking spaces! Cooperstown has announced that it will shut down parking on a number of side streets this weekend, including River and Church streets. So parking, already at a premium, will become even more difficult within the village limits…

On the positive side of things, there will be a number of retired players in town this weekend. In addition to about 55 Hall of Famers (including, to my surprise, Orlando Cepeda, who was recently arrested for drug possession), former pitching standouts Jim “Mudcat” Grant and John “The Count” Montefusco will be signing along Cooperstown’s Main Street. Montefusco will be signing at CVS Pharmacy beginning at 11:00 AM on Saturday… Thought I’m not a former player, I’ll be signing copies of Tales From The Mets Dugout during each of the first three days of Hall of Fame Weekend. On Friday afternoon, I’ll be appearing at Augur’s/Davidson’s on Main Street, beginning at 3:15 PM. I’ll also be signing at 11:00 AM on Saturday morning and 9:00 AM on Sunday morning. For more information, call Augur’s at 607-547-2422…

All but six Hall of Famers are expected to be in town for the weekend. Those not attending are Lee MacPhail, Stan Musial, Phil Rizzuto, Red Schoendienst, and the reclusive Nolan Ryan and Carl Yastrzemski.

Monday’s Bunts and Boots

The Yankees took their time in promoting minor league slugger Shelley Duncan from Triple-A, but the rookie DH sure paid major dividends over the weekend, clubbing three home runs and piling up seven RBIs against the subpar pitching of the Devil Rays. Duncan reminds me a lot of Dave Kingman; he’s a tall right-handed batter with a very long swing. Like “Kong” Kingman, Duncan is an overly aggressive free swinger who is susceptible to streakiness at the plate. On the plus side, he is particularly dangerous against low fastballs and has good power to all fields. Duncan is very much a mistake hitter, but with so many minor league pitchers masquerading as big leaguers these days, there should be enough mistakes to keep Duncan useful. If he can remain hot for at least a few games, he may give the Yankees the short-term boost they need in trying to catch the Red Sox or Indians for a playoff spot. With Duncan and a resurgent Andy Phillips now on the roster, the Yankees are suddenly looking more formidable against left-handed pitching, a sore point throughout the season…

If I were the Mets, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the loss of Jose Valentin, who suffered a broken leg over the weekend, sidelining him for the season. As well as Valentin had played last year, he had shown diminishing range in the field this summer because of an unrelated leg injury and was providing little pop from the bottom of the order. The Mets don’t need to panic here and make a trade; they should be able to get by with a combination of the hot-hitting Ruben Gotay, the overachieving Damion Easley (who has been on bereavement leave), and the slick-gloved Anderson Hernandez. A bigger key to Mets success will be the return of Moises Alou, whom they simply need to have for the stretch run…

The weekend death of minor league first base coach Mike Coolbaugh, who was killed on Sunday after being hit by a foul line drive, will surely escalate the push for baseline coaches to wear helmets on the field. It’s unfortunate that it may take such a horrid tragedy to create baseball legislation that is long overdue. Simply put, there is really no good reason for first and third-base coaches not to wear helmets. Retired players, whose reflexes have slowed and who are not equipped with gloves, cannot always be expected to elude line drives that are coming from fewer than 100 feet away. Let’s hope that baseball will institute a helmet rule for 2008, thereby lessening the chance that we’ll ever see such an on-field tragedy again… The 35-year-old Coolbaugh, who was an especially popular player during his long minor league career, had only recently been added to the Tulsa Drillers’ coaching staff on an interim basis. Coolbaugh had replaced Orlando Merced, who resigned as Tulsa’s batting coach on July 3…

There’s been very little public discussion of the health of Phil Rizzuto, but a reliable source tells me the Hall of Famer is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Rizzuto, who has been unable to attend the last two Old-Timer’s Day festivities at Yankee Stadium, is now residing in a nursing care facility and receives regular visits from former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. At 89 years of age, Rizzuto is the oldest living Hall of Fame member…

Cooperstown is bracing for what is expected to be a record turnout of spectators for this weekend’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony. According to some estimates, a crowd in the range of 50,000 to 60,000 will invade Cooperstown over the weekend. Anything over 50,000 will break the record set in 1999, when George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount, and Orlando Cepeda entered the Cooperstown shrine. The large throng will feature several A-list celebrities, including John Travolta, who is a friend of Cal Ripken, Jr. (One rumor had Robert DeNiro also attending, but that supposition has been shot down.) In addition to the 50-plus Hall of Famers, there will be a number of former major leaguers in town, including the colorful John “The Count” Montefusco.

The All-Halloween Team

In honor of my favorite holiday, let’s present the All-Halloween Team for 2005. This year’s team includes one current-day player (a certain star for the Anaheim Angels), one player from the 19th century, and one player who didn’t require a nickname to make the club. By the way, I’m still looking for a catcher to round out the monster squad, so if you have any suggestions, let me know.

First Base: William “Peek-A-Boo” Veach (1884-90)

Second Base: Julian “The Phantom” Javier (1960-72)

Shortstop: Leo “Spider” Cardenas (1960-75)

Third Base: Richie “The Gravedigger” Hebner (1968-85)

Left Field: Nick Goulish (1944-45)

Center Field: Jo-Jo “The Gause Ghost” Moore (1930-41)

Right Field: Vladimir “Vlad the Impaler” Guerrero (1996-current)

Starting Pitcher: Larry “The Creeper” Jaster (1965-72)

Starting Pitcher: John “The Count” Montefusco (1974-86)

Relief Pitcher: Pedro “Dracula” Borbon (1969-80)

Relief Pitcher: Dick “The Monster” Radatz (1962-69)

Happy Halloween, everyone.