Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy 90th Birthday Monte Irvin

February 25th, 2009 marked the 90th birthday of baseball icon Monte Irvin. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973, Irvin is the last living star of the Negro Leagues. Starting with the legendary Newark Eagles in 1937 as a shortstop under the name Jimmy Nelson to protect his amateur status; he went on to play in 4 East-West All Star games before being signed by the New York Giants in winter of 1948. Due to the presence of future Hall of Famer Willie Wells at shortstop, Irvin made the switch to outfield, and a legend was born. Staring with the Giants as a 30-year old "rookie", he went on to post a .293 career average, and was third in the MVP voting in 1951 en route to a World Series appearance.

Irvin is one of the classiest acts in baseball, often readily traveling to spread the word about baseball's history at dinners, signings and stadiums. He is a walking baseball encyclopedia and one of our sports greatest resources. He currently lives in a retirement community in Houston.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Manuel Names Daniel Murphy Mets Left Fielder

New York Newsday reports that Jerry Manuel has named Daniel Murphy at his starting left-fielder for the 2009 season. Murphy batted .313 in 49 games last season after his August 2nd call up. Murphy meteorically rose to the Mets last season, spending most of 2008 in AA, playing only one game in AAA before being summoned to the big show.
"I don't want him to get into a strictly platoon situation," Manuel said. "I think he's a little better player than that. Also, with Church being a lefthanded hitter, I kind of see Murphy being a better hitter right now at this time, so Tatis could go that way [in rightfield]. It all depends on how well they're doing. If they're not getting hits, they're not going to play. Development or whatever, they've got to perform."
While Murphy has shown that he can hit well, there are concerns surrounding his shaky outfield defense. The Mets even attempted to convert Murphy to second base in the Arizona Fall League to supplant Luis Castillo, but that experiment was unsuccessful. He spent the remainder of the off-season working out at his alma mater, Jacksonville University, with his brother Jonathan who is a freshman outfielder. He has also been receiving assistance from Carlos Beltran.
While Manuel's move may seem premature as the Mets have yet to play a Spring Training game, Manuel is sure about the young player's abilities. "I'm confident. The way he swings the bat, I'm confident that he can handle that. I don't have a problem with that."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Nationals Prospect Lied About His Age

Washington Nationals officials acknowledged Wednesday that top prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez was actually Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo, a 23-year-old who was four years older than the team believed. The Nationals in 2006 gave Alvarez a team-record $1.4 million signing bonus, believing him to be 16 at the time.
This is not a recent problem, as prominent Major League players have admitted lying about their age, including Rafael Furcal, Miguel Tejada and Adrian Beltre. This goes back even farther during World War II when returning rookies and Negro Leaguers would take a year or two off of their age to look more palatable to doubting owners. As the opportunity for a large signing bonus looms heavily over the heads of young talent, shaving a few years off of one's "real" age can mean the difference between prospect and suspect. In poor countries such as the Dominican Republic, the spoils of a large signing bonus can allow an entire family to move out of a multi-generational cycle of impoverished living.
In the case of Alvarez, the Nationals did three prior investigations into his background before discovering the fraud. Nationals president Stan Kasten said Wednesday, "The protocols are the baseball protocols. I think 90 percent of the time they're very effective. We've turned kids in that baseball has kicked out for fraudulent IDs. That's usually how it works, and it didn't work in this case, and that's a shame."
As the investigation continues, we will find out what the Nationals will do with Alvarez in regards to his signing bonus and standing in the organization.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Griffey Jr. Signs With Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports that Ken Griffey Jr. has signed a one year contract for approximately $2 million laden with incentive clauses based on games played, attendance and plate appearances. Griffey Jr. broke in with the Mariners as a rookie in 1989.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ken Griffey Jr. Likely To Make His Decision On Wednesday reports that current free-agent outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. "hopes to make a decision later today (Tuesday) or tomorrow morning" regarding his signing with either the Braves or Mariners. Griffey Jr. spent his first 11 MLB seasons with the Mariners, but his Orlando, Florida residence is closer to Atlanta. Both officials from the Braves and Mariners have confirmed that a decision has yet to be made. The 39 year old Griffey Jr. hit a combined .249 with 18 HR's and 71 RBI's in 143 games with the Reds and White Sox last season.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oil Can Boyd Wants a Comeback at 49

Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd is looking for another opportunity to pitch in the big leagues at age 49. Boyd likens himself to Satchel Paige, who pitched professionally into his 50s.

"Satchel being my idol and knowing he didn't come into the (majors) until he was in his early 40s, that's always been in the back of my mind," Boyd told The Boston Globe.

"Now, I've been given back the fastball I once had. I want to play."

Boyd told the Globe his fastball is in the low 90s and his offspeed pitches still bite well. Former Sox catcher Mike Stanley recently caught Oil Can during Red Sox fantasy camp, had the following remarks regarding his prowess.

"He looks no different to me now than when I caught him in Texas (with the Rangers). He still has the same passion. I don't know if he was getting to 90 because we didn't have a (radar) gun, but he still had the same stuff. The same tight slider, curve, fastball," the Globe quoted Stanley as saying.

This is not Boyd's first attempted comeback. He pitched in the Northern League from 1994-1997 and then most recently in 2005 with the Brockton Rox of the independent Can-Am League, where he posted a record of 4-5 with an era of 3.83 in 110 innings. Boyd last pitched in the majors in 1991 for the Rangers; he left the game with a 78-77 record over 10 seasons with the Red Sox, Rangers and Montreal Expos.

"I have nothing to lose, and all a major league team has to lose is 15 minutes," said Boyd to the Globe. "Give me 15 minutes and I'll show I can still pitch. That's all I want."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mets sign Livan Hernandez to a Minor League deal reports the New York Mets have signed pitcher Livan Hernandez to a Minor League contract that could earn him up to $1 million if he makes the Major League roster. Hernandez will vie for the 5th starting spot in the rotation with Freddy Garcia, Jon Niese and Tim Redding. The soon-to-be 34 year old Hernandez produced a 13-11 record with a 6.05 ERA in 31 starts with the Rockies and Twins.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

NY Daily News Reports Roberto Alomar Allegedly has AIDS

The February 10th, 2009 edition of the New York Daily News reports that former All-Star Second Baseman Roberto Alomar allegedly has full-blown AIDS after allegedly testing positive for HIV in 2006. He is being sued by his former live-in girlfriend, Ilya Dall for $15 million for potentially exposing her and her children to the virus. Further updates will come as this story develops, as Alomar was unavailable for comment and his lawyer would not give specifics on the status of his health. Look for the Mets to have a smaller version of the Spring Training media circus that their Bronx counterparts are experiencing as Alomar's father and brother are both coaches for the Mets. Alomar is eligible for election to the Hall of Fame in 2009.

Roberto Alomar tells ESPN that he is in good health, and asks that "people respect his privacy at this time."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ed Kranepool recalls the sparse teachings of Rogers Hornsby with the 1962 Mets

Ed Kranepool briefly discusses in the video below, his interactions with Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby as an 18-year-old rookie with the New York Mets in 1962. Hornsby was a coach on the Mets inaugural team, and passed away shortly after the season in January 1963.

Ed Kranepool listening to Casey Stengel in 1962

Ron Swoboda Recalls Casey, Duke and the 69 Mets

I recently caught up with former outfielder Ron Swoboda at the Thurman Munson Dinner in New York City. Swoboda best known for his acrobatic diving catch in game 4 of the 1969 World Series, spent 9 seasons in the Majors with the Mets, Yankees and Expos. Ron speaks on his experiences playing with Duke Snider, Casey Stengel, his "place" in baseball history, as well as his observations on current ballplayers from his view as a broadcaster for the New Orleans Zephyrs.

Ron Swoboda Interview

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran Honored at 29th Annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner

Tuesday evening at the Grand Hyatt New York City brought us the 29th Annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner, benefiting the AHRC. Among the honorees for their charity work were New York Yankee Outfielder, Johnny Damon and New York Met Outfielder, Carlos Beltran.

Damon received the Thurman Munson Award as a result of his involvement with the Wounded Warrior Project. Damon was glowing in his praise of Munson, describing him as a "gamer, great family guy, great competitor and a champion." As much as he tried during the press conference, he could not escape the repeated questions about Joe Torre's new book which had been released the same day. Damon took a little jab at the reporters, saying, "I'm not sure I am going to need to read the book as I am going to hear every little bit about it every single day."

Beltran was honored for his charitable donations to create sports education programs in his native Puerto Rico. When asked about what it meant to be recognized for his efforts, Beltran stated, "It's about doing things right off of the field, being able to give back to the people who really need it the most. When I give, I don't expect to receive awards, but when you do, it lets you know you are doing the right thing." Beltran also tried to sidestep the Torre questions, after a reporter found the two sentences where Beltran was mentioned in the book. "When I met with the Yankees, he wasn't there, he didn't know what we talked about. He said what he said, and that's his opinion. I don't have a comment on it. I am happy where I am."

Also honored were: 1969 Mets players Ron Swoboda, Bud Harrelson, Art Shamsky, Ed Kranepool, NY Giants Wide Receiver David Tyree, former NY Knick Allan Houston and Olympic Gold Medalist Dara Torres. On hand at the event to present awards were former Yankee Bernie Williams, and 1986 Mets pitcher and SNY analyst Ron Darling.

Johnny Damon

Johnny Damon, Ron Swoboda, Carlos Beltran

David Tyree, Diana Munson, Allan Houston, Dara Torres, Bernie Williams

Monday, February 2, 2009

Juan Marichal 'Dominican Dandy' Interview

Hall of Famer Juan Marichal was in New York recently for a few public appearances. We sat down to talk about his memories of playing in New York early in his career and what he enjoys most about attending the BAT dinner.

In this interview below, he shared  his memories of playing in the 1964 All-Star game at Shea Stadium, his current work with ESPN Deportes, his thoughts on the Dominican entry in the World Baseball Classic, and how he was signed by the legendary Horacio Martinez.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Berke Aims High With Queens Memorabilia Show

Promoter Jack Berke is looking to tap the Queens autograph and sports collectors market by bringing the big gatherings back to the home of the Mets. Berke, founder of Jack Berke Sports has been in the business of player representation and promotion for 20 years. His clients include baseball Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda, Bobby Doerr, Ralph Kiner and Juan Marichal.

During a recent interview Berke discussed the need for a return of shows to Queens, as the "location is central to Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut." His most recent show during the Super Bowl weekend at the LaGuardia Crowne Plaza contained over 100 dealer tables and appearances from, the aforementioned Marichal, Bert Blyleven, Lee Smith, former Met heroes Jon Matlack, Jack Fisher, Craig Swan and Yankee All-Star Roy White.

Berke says that people attending his shows can expect, "good prices, a friendly atmosphere and well stocked dealers. We're offering future Hall of Famer Lee Smith for free with admission during the show. How many other promoters can make that offer? I am able to offer these type of value deals because of my close relationships with the players. I want the customers to feel like they are getting something for their admission."

If you aren't able to attend Berke's shows in-person, no worry, he offers reliable mail order service for your favorite player's autograph. "I personally handle every mail order item, to ensure that it is properly taken care of and returned to my customers."

Upcoming shows include Saturday February 7th and Sunday February 8th, 2009 with Hall of Famers Goose Gossage and Monte Irvin in Albany, NY , and Saturday February 28th and Sunday March 1st, 2009 with newly minted Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, Jim Bunning, Bobby Doerr, Ralph Kiner, and Robin Yount in Teaneck, NJ. As with both shows, there will also be free autograph guests with admission. "I'm bringing new players to the metropolitan area. I will be the first promoter to have Rickey Henderson since the announcement of his induction to the Hall of Fame. I also expect Robin Yount to do well since he hasn't done a show here in some time."

For more information on upcoming shows and events from Jack Berke Sports, check out their website: