Whiten’s two home runs lead Team Feller past Team Killebrew at Hall of Fame Classic
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Mark Whiten etched his name into baseball history – and the Hall of Fame archive – with a four-homer performance for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1993.
On Sunday, Whiten became part of Doubleday Field lore with a legendary afternoon at the 2010 Hall of Fame Classic.
Whiten, a power-hitting outfielder for eight teams from 1990-2000, went 3-for-3 with two home runs three RBIs and threw out two runners on the bases to lead Team Feller past Team Killebrew 9-0. Whiten, who also won the pregame hitting contest, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player and drew a warm ovation from the crowd of 7,006 in Cooperstown.
“Any time you get a hit you have fun. It’s just the luck of the swing, that’s all,” Whiten said. “That’s what it’s all about, having a good time at the ballpark.”
On Sept. 7, 1993, Whiten tied big league records with four homers and 12 RBI for the St. Louis Cardinals against the Cincinnati Reds. His batting helmet from that game is preserved forever in the archive at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The second annual Hall of Fame Classic Weekend was presented by Ford Motor Company, and the game featured Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Bob Feller, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Harmon Killebrew, Phil Niekro and Ozzie Smith along with 22 former major leaguers. The former big leaguers included Kevin Bass, Paul Blair, Brian Boehringer, Fred Cambria, Bert Campaneris, Frank DiPino, John Doherty, Dave Fleming, Steve Grilli, Jim Hannan, Jeff Kent, Tim Leary, Bill Madlock, Tim McIntosh, Dickie Noles, Mike Pagliarulo, Dennis Rasmussen, Desi Relaford, Tony Saunders, Rich Surhoff, Jon Warden and Whiten.
Whiten got the afternoon off to a rousing start by winning the hitting contest, launching several home runs into the Doubleday Field bleachers to defeat last year’s hitting contest winner – Jeff Kent – in the finals.
In the top of the first inning, Whiten, playing center field, recorded an 8-4 putout at second base, then threw out Bert Campaneris at third base to end the inning. In the bottom of the frame, Whiten’s two-run homer scored Bill Madlock and gave Team Feller a lead it would not relinquish.
Robby Hisert of the Military All-Stars hit a two-run home run in the third inning to put Team Feller up 4-0, and Whiten followed with his second home run to make the score 5-0. Former pitcher Dennis Rasmussen added a two-run single later in the third, and Hisert and Whiten scored runs in the fifth inning to account for the rest of the scoring in the second-annual seven-inning legends game in Cooperstown.
The play of the day, however, was turned in by Team Feller second baseman Tim McIntosh in the sixth inning. Team Killebrew’s Jeff Kent flared a ball toward right field, but McIntosh tossed his glove in the air – knocking the ball right into his bare hands for the out.
Kent, however, was too busy having fun to be upset.
“I had so much fun last year,” said Kent, who played in the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic in 2009. “This year, I got to play second base with Ozzie and see a play at second base that I never really saw before.
“It’s fun to be here and to dive into history in this hallowed town. It’s an experience you can’t really trade.”
McIntosh, meanwhile, savored his time in the sun.
“The last time I did that was in eighth grade, and at that time my coach said it was illegal,” said McIntosh, who played five years for the Brewers, Expos and Yankees. “If anything, I thought it would just be funny. So what are the chances? But it’s something they’ll remember me by.”
Hall of Famer Phil Niekro picked up the win on the mound after pitching one scoreless frame to start the game, and Hall of Famer Goose Gossage closed the contest out in the top of the seventh with the game's only strikeout to preserve the victory.
“They had me a on a 10-pitch count, but I could have gone out for the next inning,” joked Niekro, who playfully tried to bribe home plate umpire Jim Johnson at the start of the game.
Gossage, meanwhile, dealt his customary heat that resulted in his Hall of Fame election in 2008.
“I had a pretty good lead,” Gossage said. “But I told them seven runs wasn’t going to hold up.”
Feller, who threw out the first pitch on Sunday after facing three batters in the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic in 2009, drew the loudest ovation of the day when he was introduced before the game. The longest tenured Hall of Famer – having been elected in 1962 – thanked the fans and paid homage to baseball’s home.
“Cooperstown,” Feller said, “is the greatest place on earth.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum