COOPERSTOWN 4 PHOTOGRAPHY
Fourth Legends Lineup Promises to Leave Fans Breathless
Friday, November 17, 2006
McFarlane Toys salutes six legendary ballplayers in the fourth edition of our Sports Picks Cooperstown Collection. The upcoming series honors a pair of pinstriped legends, the leader of the Big Red Machine, perhaps the most dominant left-handed pitcher ever, one of the all-time best fielders and the greatest hitter who ever lived. As always, enjoy the photography. Cameraman, zoom it!
"I'd like to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee." -- Joe DiMaggio
The torch of Yankee stardom passed from Babe Ruth to Lou Gehrig to JOE DIMAGGIO. DiMaggio arrived in New York in 1936 as a 21-year-old center fielder. The Yankees won the World Series in his first five seasons in pinstripes, but that was just the beginning of a storied career for "The Yankee Clipper." DiMaggio played in 13 All-Star Games and won the American League MVP three times. In 1941, "Joltin' Joe" took American minds off the growing European conflict by setting an all-time record with base hits in 56 consecutive games. The always-smooth DiMaggio took it all in stride, mentioning that he'd had a 61-game hit streak in the Minor Leagues a few years prior. A silky fielder and a ferocious hitter, DiMaggio became and remains one of them most popular players in baseball history. He was voted into Cooperstown in 1955.
"I don't want to embarrass any other catcher by comparing him with Johnny Bench." -- Former Reds and Tigers manager Sparky Anderson
JOHNNY BENCH was the backbone of the Cincinnati Reds for 17 dynamic seasons, filling his trophy case with 14 all-Star selections, 10 consecutive Gold Gloves, the 1968 National League Rookie of the year award, two National League MVPs and one World Series MVP. Despite bringing immense physical skills to the game (Bench can hold seven baseballs in one hand) he also re-invented the catcher position, settling into a one-armed stance now the standard for backstops league-wide, while wearing a hinged glove and a protective helmet behind the plate.
"A man has to have goals - for a day, for a lifetime - and that was mine, to have people say, 'There goes Ted Willliams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.'" -- Ted Williams
TED WILLIAMS was a 17-time All-Star, two-time American League MVP, and won a pair of Triple Crowns during his 19 seasons with the Boston Red Sox. In 1941 (only his third season in the big leagues) he entered the last day of the season with a batting average of .3996. This would have been rounded up to .400, making him the first man to hit .400 since Bill Terry in 1930. His manager left the decision whether to play up to him. Williams opted to play in both games of the day's doubleheader and risk losing his record. He got 6 hits in 8 at bats, raising his season average to .406. Williams chose to put his baseball career on hold and opt for service with the United States Marine Corps twice -- serving as a fighter pilot during both World War II and in the Korean War. Williams was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966, and during his Cooperstown speech he campaigned for the inclusion of great players from the Negro Leagues in the Hall of Fame. Five years later, the Hall of Fame welcomed Satchel Paige -- the first Negro Leagues player to be enshrined in Cooperstown. Ted Williams was called "The Kid," "The Splendid Splinter," "Teddy Ballgame," and "The Thumper." Williams never sought acknowledgement from the fans or the press, but in the end he got it anyway -- after all, he was the greatest hitter who ever lived.
"I don't want to be Babe Ruth. He was a great ballplayer. I'm not trying to replace him. The record is there and damn right I want to break it, but that isn't replacing Babe Ruth." -- Roger Maris
ROGER MARIS arrived in New York after stints with Cleveland and Kansas City, and his debut season with the Yankees was a tremendous success -- he drilled 39 home runs and drove in 112 runs while being named to the American League All-Star team, earning a Gold Glove award, and being voted the American League's MVP. Maris still delivered an unbelievable encore. During the summer of 1962, Maris and teammate Mickey Mantle waged a two-man assault on Babe Ruth's single-season home run mark of 60. The New York media and fans favored Mantle, the homegrown talent and favorite son, but a leg injury ended Mantle's season and left Maris with the only shot at eclipsing Ruth's record. Baseball commissioner Ford Frick had stated that unless Ruth's record was broken in the first 154 games of the season, the new record would be shown in the record books as having been set in 162 games while the previous record set in 154 games would also be shown. Despite the adversity, Maris persevered, cracking his 61st home run in the very last game of the season.
"When I played for other teams against Steve Carlton I could hear the right handed hitters saying, 'He may have gotten me out but at least he didn't throw me the slider.'" -- Former Cardinals and Phillies catcher and teammate Tim McCarver
STEVE CARLTON won 74 games in his first five full seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, but a salary dispute forced a trade, and "Lefty" became the newest member of the Phillies. Philadelphia was a last-place club and their prospects in Carlton's first season didn't look much brighter. Still, Carlton had set his sights on winning 25 games in 1972, and his trade to Philadelphia didn't alter his agenda. He put together one of the most impressive seasons in baseball history -- winning 27 games for a wretched Philadelphia team that only won 59 games overall! Carlton won four Cy Young awards in Philadelphia, while accumulating 10 All-Star game appearances and a pair of championships during his career. Carlton entered the Hall of Fame in 1994 with more strikeouts (4,136) than any left-handed pitcher in history and more wins (329) than any lefty except Warren Spahn.
"Smith corks one into right, down the line! It may go! Go crazy folks, go crazy! It's a home run, and the Cardinals have won the game, by the score of 3 to 2, on a home run by the Wizard! Go Crazy!" -- Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck
OZZIE "The Wizard of Oz" SMITH began his career with the San Diego Padres, but a lopsided trade sent him to St. Louis, where he made his mark as a Cardinal. Smith dazzled fans with his defensive brilliance, clutch hitting and customary backflip that saluted the hometown fans. Ozzie won 13 Gold Gloves and played in 15 All-Star games, won a championship in 1982 and was named the NLCS MVP in 1985, when his first-ever left-handed home run gave St. Louis a walkoff victory in Game Five. Ozzie was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility back in 2002. Following his career, Ozzie worked as the voice of "This Week In Baseball" and is currently the national spokesman for baseball's prostate cancer detection campaign.
The Cooperstown Collection: Series Four is scheduled to arrive on shelves everywhere in February 2007.
>> COOPERSTOWN COLLECTION SERIES 4