HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK, Arkansas — Interactions with baseball legends Al Hrabosky, Steve Carlton and Ted Simmons, panel discussions of Hot Springs’ role as the Birthplace of Spring Training and guided tours of significant landmarks in that historic role will highlight the Second Annual Hot Springs Baseball Weekend October 11 and 12.
All the events will be free and open to the public.
“Hot Springs’ role as an important landmark in the history of baseball in America has grown over the years with the increasing awareness that this place is where The Boys of Spring came to get ready for the regular season,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs. “Our first Baseball Weekend was widely acclaimed, and this year’s weekend will be even better.”
The weekend will begin at 4:30 p.m. Friday, October 11, when Hrabosky hosts “Afternoon With Al,” in which he will meet with youth baseball players in the Hot Springs Convention Center’s Horner Hall for discussions of the game.
Hrabosky played from 1970–1982 for the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves. He currently the color commentator on Cardinals’ regular season broadcasts on FSN Midwest. Hrabosky's nickname is The Mad Hungarian because of his unusual last name and colorful character.
Saturday’s full day of activities will begin at 10 a.m. with the meeting of the Arkansas Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) in Room 103 of the Convention Center.
At 10:30 a.m. local and regional baseball historians will conduct a guided tour of two of Hot Springs’ most famous ballparks from spring training: Whittington Park and Fogel Field. Those who take the tour will meet in front of the Historic Baseball Mural at the intersection of Malvern Avenue and Convention Boulevard for a briefing, then will depart for Whittington Park, located at the upper end of Whittington Avenue. Participants will need to furnish their own transportation to the ballparks.
More baseball was played at Whittington Park than anywhere else in Hot Springs. Built in 1894 and used until 1942, Whittington Park, which was later named Ban Johnson Field, was the epicenter of baseball in Hot Springs. A partial list of those who played classic games here includes: Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Buck Freeman, Sam Crawford, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, and Babe Ruth.
The tour then will walk across the street to Fogel Field.
Also known as Fordyce Field, Fogel Field was constructed in 1912 by the Hot Springs Park Company to meet the demand of over 250 major leaguers training in Hot Springs. The Philadelphia Phillies’ owner, Horace Fogel, leased the field for his team. The Phillies’ roster included pitching legend Grover Cleveland Alexander and nameging outfielders Gavvy Cravath and Sherwood Magee. The training ground was also later used by the Pittsburg Pirates.
At 1 p.m. at the Convention Center’s Horner Hall the first panel — “Legends in Hot Springs: Stories of Spring Training” — will convene to discuss the great stories of Hot Springs training that have never been told.
“You always hear about the great players and teams, but this will give you a glimpse of what they actually did and experienced while in Hot Springs,” Arrison said. This panel will feature baseball historian Tim Reid from Boca Raton, Fla., historian and author Don Duren from Plano, Texas, historian Mark Blaeuer from Hot Springs, and historian Mike Dugan from Hot Springs.
At 2:30 p.m. in Horner Hall, there will be “We Made It,” a second panel of ex-major league players who hailed from the state of Arkansas. Some played for many years, some only for a short time, but they all have memorable stories of their experiences in the majors. Confirmed players are :
• Former Arkansas Tech pitcher Alan McDill, who played from 1997 - 2001 with the Royals, Tigers, and Red Sox.
•Rich Thompson, a Hot Springs resident, who pitched from 2007 - 2012 for the Angels and the Oakland Athletics.
• Henderson State University product Reggie Ritter, who played two seasons, 1986 and 1987, for the Cleveland Indians.
There will be an autograph session after the discussion. The panel will be moderated by Rex Nelson.
At 4 p.m. will be the main event, “Lefty and Simba: Carlton and Simmons — A Look Back,” is scheduled in Horner Hall. It will feature a panel discussion with Carlton and Simmons moderated by Hrabosky. That will be followed by an autograph session. For the autograph session, only two items per person will be allowed due to time constraints.
Ted Simmons was the greatest offensive catcher in Cardinals history, playing for St. Louis from 1968-1980. He was named to six All-Star Games, caught two no-hitters and set a National League record with 182 home runs as a switch-hitter.
Simmons is considered one of the best hitting catchers in Major League Baseball history. He was renowned as a volatile competitor with an intense desire to win.
At the time of his retirement, Simmons led all catchers in career hits and doubles and ranked second in RBIs behind Yogi Berra and second in total bases behind Carlton Fisk. He also retired with the National League record for home runs by a switch-hitter despite playing several years in the American League. Simmons hit .300 seven different times, hit 20 home runs six times, and caught 122 shutouts, eighth-most all-time.
Steve Carlton, nicknamed “Lefty,” used martial arts and weightlifting as part of his conditioning program and got himself to a fitness level that allowed him to throw for 24 seasons in the big leagues. A focused competitor, Carlton used his biting slider and a great fastball to achieve excellence on the mound.
“Lefty was a craftsman, an artist,” said Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn. “He was a perfectionist. He painted a ballgame. Stroke, stroke, stroke, and when he got through it was a masterpiece.”
Born on Dec. 22, 1944, in Miami, Carlton signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1963. He made the big league club in 1965. He appeared in both World Series appearances for the Cardinals in 1967 and 1968, earning a ring in 1967. In 1971, he had his first 20-win season and requested a contract of $60,000 for the following year.
"Auggie Busch traded me to the last-place Phillies over a salary dispute,” said Carlton. “I was mentally committed to winning 25 games with the Cardinals and now I had to rethink my goals. I decided to stay with the 25-win goal and won 27 of the Phillies 59 victories. I consider that season my finest individual achievement."
His first season in Philadelphia, Carlton led the league in wins, ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts. It earned him his first Cy Young Award.
In 14-plus seasons with the Phillies, Carlton led the league in wins four times, winning 20 or more games four times. The 10-time All-Star would go on to win three more Cy Young Awards and a Gold Glove in 1981. On Sept. 24, 1983, he became just the 16th pitcher to win 300 games.
“Lefty has a hard time being human as a pitcher, so he became superhuman, and did things that were superhuman,” said his long-time Philadelphia battery-mate Tim McCarver.
He signed with the San Francisco Giants in 1986 and finished out his career with the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins. He finished his career with 329 wins – second to only Warren Spahn among lefties – and 4,136 strikeouts.
He broke a record with 19 strikeouts in a game in 1969 and was the first pitcher to win four Cy Young Awards. Carlton was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.
Al Hrabosky was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 11th round of the 1967 amateur draft, but did not sign with the club. Two years later the Cardinals made him their first-round choice. Within a year, at the age of 20, he made his Major League debut, pitching a scoreless inning against the San Diego Padres.
During his time with the Cardinals, Hrabosky became a fan favorite for his antics on the mound. Between each pitch he would turn his back to the batter, walk toward second base, vigorously rub the ball between his palms several times, take a deep breath and pound the ball into his mitt. He would then storm back to the mound, staring down the batter. Although the crowd would roar in delight, most batters were not fond of the pitcher's routine.
Hrabosky's best year was 1975 when he led the National League in saves with 22 (a career best) en route to winning the Sporting News "NL Fireman of the Year" award.
After eight seasons in St. Louis the Cardinals traded Hrabosky to the Kansas City Royals. Following just two years with the Royals, he was released and signed with the Atlanta Braves.
Early in his career with the Cardinals, Hrabosky enhanced his menacing appearance with long hair and a horseshoe mustache. However, when Vern Rapp became the Cardinals manager in 1977, Hrabosky had to cut his hair and shave the mustache.
Perhaps Hrabosky's most memorable performance came during an ABC Monday Night Baseball game on May 9, 1977, against the Cincinnati Reds. In the top of the ninth with the game tied at 5-5, Hrabosky allowed the first three hitters (all left-handed), Ken Griffey, Joe Morgan and Dan Driessen, to reach base and load the bases. As the Redbirds home crowd roared, Hrabosky went into his "Mad Hungarian" routine and proceeded to strike out right-handed power hitters George Foster, Johnny Bench and Bob Bailey. The Cardinals went on to win 6-5 on a Ted Simmons home run in the 10th inning.
For more information call Steve Arrison at 501-321-2027.