Phillies eye Hall of Fame trip for farmhands

Posted: April 22, 2011

SOMEDAY SOON, maybe not this year but certainly by next summer, a busload of Phillies minor leaguers will take a field trip. Destination: Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

When they arrive, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and Reading Phillies will be given a personalized guided tour of one of baseball's special places. And this will be about more than taking a break from the daily grind. The Phillies, as an organization, realize the value of having their young players connect to the history of their sport.

"As baseball men, we always talk about our players not knowing enough about the history of the game, not being exposed to it as much as maybe we were in the past generation or two," said Chuck LaMar, assistant general manager, scouting and player development.

The idea was hatched in March after Brad Horn, the Hall of Fame's senior director, communications and education, came to Clearwater and spoke to the organization's minor leaguers at the Carpenter Complex.

Since major league teams no longer play an annual exhibition game at Doubleday Field, he's been searching for ways to make sure that players understand and appreciate their mission. As a result, he contacted several teams and asked if he could have a half-hour to make a presentation. The Phillies jumped at the offer and made attendance mandatory.

"First and foremost, it's a place for fans to enjoy," he said. "But in order for that to happen, there has to be generosity from the player at the onset. Our ability to document the game's history is dependent upon the player who's willing to donate an artifact. So Cole Hamels, for instance, donated his MVP jersey from the World Series in '08. Joe Blanton donated the bat from his home run. Jimmy Rollins has made a number of donations over the years."

At one point during his talk, Horn noted that there are only 67 living Hall of Famers and that two of them were in that room, Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg and senior adviser Pat Gillick, who will be inducted on July 24.

"I said, 'Gentlemen, you have the great pleasure of being around two Hall of Fame minds every day. They're both in this room. Treasure them. Treasure their contributions to the game.' "

LaMar said the players were "riveted" by the session. "I don't know if the logistics are going to work out this year, but the Hall of Fame did just a fabulous job," he said. "With our minor league alignment, it would be great. The philosophy [of making the trip] is great, if not this year then next."

Horn showed slides featuring quotes from Sandberg about respecting the game, others to help them fully grasp the accomplishments of players like Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt and Robin Roberts.

"I wanted them to understand that the Hall of Fame is living and breathing and we're going to be there to document the history, no matter what. To see that they're going to have a great day at the ballpark that might get them to the show, a great year that might get them to the show. And once they get to the show, all it takes is a great day for them to be remembered," he said.

"So when that call comes, when [director of team travel and clubhouse services] Frank Coppenbarger comes to them in the clubhouse and says, 'The Hall of Fame called and they want your jersey,' that's your responsibility as a player to make that gift to the Hall of Fame. Not so much so that you can have that moment, so that fans from every generation can share in that moment knowing that it's here and preserved forever."

AROUND THE BASES

* Well put: Here's how Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke described Bud Selig's decision to have Major League Baseball wrest control of one of baseball's flagship franchises from embattled owner Frank McCourt: "The baseball commissioner [took] over the Dodgers . . . like an angry and exhausted landlord sweeping out a destructive tenant."

* Up next?: Given Selig's decisive move in Chavez Ravine, would anybody be surprised if he next turned his attention to the Mets, where the Bernie Madoff scandal has sent the Wilpons scrambling to find investors willing to pump $200 million into the club?

* The great depression: Righthander Justin Duchscherer, a two-time All-Star with Oakland, is now on the disabled list with Baltimore. In the May issue of Men's Journal, he had some candid comments about his battle with depression.

"People think if you're rich you must be happy," he said in the article. "They can't understand why you're not. I feel guilty making so much money playing a game. If I pitch a shutout, it doesn't make me happy. I think of the guys I struck out, how they're going home depressed, to their families."

* Point-counterpoint: Royals manager Ned Yost, on being told that designated hitter Billy Butler would rather play first base: "Sure, I [know], but I'd like to be an astronaut and for some reason they won't let me . . . We've got better options."

* By the numbers:

5: Lefthanded relievers currently being carried by the Athletics: Brian Fuentes, Jerry Blevins, Craig Breslow, Bobby Cramer and David Purcey.

7: Straight Brewers batters who came to the plate in the 12th inning Monday against the Phillies without recording an official at-bat: walk, sacrifice, sacrifice fly, hit by pitch, intentional walk, sacrifice fly, intentional walk.

36: Pitches needed by Cubs pitcher Matt Garza in the sixth inning Wednesday against San Diego. Which doesn't sound like that big a deal except that he did it in a scoreless inning.

* Up and down: The Tampa Bay Rays have already had a five-game winning streak and a six-game losing streak this season.

* Finally: Here's what Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey had to say about the team's worst-in-the-majors start: "I think we have to find some kind of way to be honest about what kind of team we are. We can't just keep telling ourselves, 'We're a better team than this.' We may not be."

Well, honesty is supposed to be the best policy.

PHAIR AND PHOUL

* Pitching, pitching, pitching: Going into last night's game at San Diego, the Phillies had gone nine straight games without scoring more than four runs. They were outscored by 33-27 in that span. And yet they went 5-4.

The Orioles recently went eight straight games and scored more than four runs just once. They were outscored by 54-20 and went 0-8.

Just another example of why pitching is so crucial.

* Oops: The Phillies were charged with four errors in their first 13 games. They had made five in their last four games before last night.

* Book club: White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone has a new book out, "Said in Stone: Your Game, My Way," from Triumph. It's a position-by-position breakdown of baseball that also contains humorous anecdotes, including several about iconic former Phillies first baseman Dick Allen, who Stone thinks is one of the best he ever played with.

Here's one story from when they were White Sox teammates and facing Orioles 20-game winner Mike Cuellar:

"[Allen] was talking to me before the game. He said, 'Every time I face Cuellar he starts me off with a slow hook. I usually don't like to hit breaking balls on the first pitch, but . . . if he throws me a slow hook on the first pitch I'm going to hit it over the roof.'

"At that time, there had been only 10 balls in the history of Comiskey that hit on or sailed over that roof. That was a pretty big statement . . . So I was watching Dick as he got into the batter's box, and sure enough, Cuellar threw him that first-ball biting curveball.

"Dick promptly hit it over the roof."

* Add Stone: The author/broadcaster tells another story about a game in which Allen made an error that cost him two runs in the seventh inning of a game at County Stadium in Milwaukee. In the eighth, Allen went to the plate with a runner on and two outs on a frigid night with the wind howling straight in from right.

According to Stone, before he went to the plate he promised, "I'll get them back for you," then hit a line drive that sliced through the wind for a game-tying home run. Then he came back to the bench and winked at Stone.

"It was about at that point that I believed that this guy could literally do anything he wanted to do on the baseball field," Stone writes.

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