Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Archbishop Molloy grad Baxter could realize boyhood dream of playing for the New York Mets

Mike Baxter, who played under the legendary Jack Curran at Archbishop Molloy in Queens, is poised to replace Carlos Beltran on the Mets roster once he is traded. The 2002 Molloy grad was claimed off of waivers from the San Diego Padres last week after recovering from a spring training injury where he damaged ligaments in his left thumb after diving for a fly ball.

Since his signing, Baxter, the outfielder-first baseman was quickly promoted to Class AAA Buffalo from Class A Port St. Lucie after batting .438 in four games. Baxter didn't disappoint the Buffalo fans, swatting a home run in his first at-bat off of Scranton pitcher D.J. Mitchell.

The Whitestone native was excited about the possibility of playing with his hometown team. “I loved being with San Diego and I was disappointed at first, but then I was thrilled to learn I was claimed by the team I grew up rooting for. That was just fantastic."

Baxter made his major league debut as a September call-up in 2010, going 1-for-8, mostly as a pinch hitter. He was placed on the 40-man roster after his signing and could be first on the list to be recalled with Fernando Martinez and Kirk Nieuwenhuis on the disabled list.

More Info -
Baxter basking in big league call-up - New York Post
Meet Mike Baxter - Mets minor league blog
Queens native Baxter a hit with Triple-A PortlandDylan Butler

Mike Bielecki waxes poetic about his rookie card

Rookie cards in baseball cement a snapshot of hope, potential, and excitement in a player's career. Fans can clearly remember the hype surrounding a player's debut and where and how they acquired that special card. Looking back at the fresh faces drums up memories of a more innocent time when they all had the opportunity to become impact players for their respective teams.

1985 Donruss Mike Bielecki

Players also have sharp memories of their first look at their initial and sometimes only appearance on a major league card. Having their own card signals they have made it, their official status immortalized on cardboard as a professional ballplayer. Giving a player their rookie card to sign often presents an interesting exchange about their recollections of when they were first asked to sign it.

Mike Bielecki, a veteran of 14 major league seasons, was named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year in 1984 after going 19-3 for the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League. He was a September call-up at the end of the season, pitching 4.1 scoreless innings of relief, long enough to earn him a spot as a “Rated Rookie” in Donruss' 1985 set.

When handed his 1985 Donruss issue at a charity event last week, Bielecki starkly recalled not knowing the card was out when he was first asked to sign it.

“I was at a ceremony in the winter [of 1984] being honored as the Minor League Player of the Year and some little kid hands me the card to sign at the end of the evening. I go, 'What is this?', I didn't even know the card was out,” said a surprised Bielecki who was not given the card in advance by the manufacturer. “I offered the kid money for the card, but he wouldn't take it; he wanted the signature.”

Friday, July 15, 2011

New York Mets alumni assist Habitat for Humanity

The New York Mets Alumni Association presented by Citi teamed up with Habitat for Humanity in Brooklyn earlier Friday for their “100 homes in Brooklyn” project. Representing the New York Mets at the Brownsville site were 1986 World Championship members and current SNY broadcasters Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez. Also present was Executive Vice President of the Mets, Dave Howard.

Click here to see more photos and continue reading about the Mets alumni's efforts with Habitat for Humanity.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mets Alumni Association Presented by Citi teams up with Habitat-NYC

New York, N.Y., July 14, 2011 – Citi and the New York Mets Alumni Association Presented by Citi announced that they will team up once again with Habitat for Humanity - New York City (Habitat-NYC) tomorrow to build affordable housing for New York City families. The project is part of the Mets and Citi’s “Teammates in the Community” initiative, reflecting their ongoing commitment to be active participants in the community.

Mets greats and SNY broadcasters Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling will join 18 Citi volunteers to help build Habitat-NYC’s four-story affordable condominiums in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Once completed in 2012, they will house 12 families. This marks the third straight year Mets alumni and Citi will be working with Habitat-NYC to build affordable housing.

“Working with an organization like Habitat for Humanity and serving New Yorkers is just one of the many ways in which Citi makes an impact in the community,” said James Cava, Executive Vice President, Citi Realty Services. “Partnering with members of the New York Mets Alumni Association Presented by Citi to build affordable housing for families in need is another great example of how we are enriching our business and community programs through our relationship with the Mets.”

“We’re excited that Keith and Ron are the latest Mets legends to participate in such a vital community initiative," said Dave Howard, Executive Vice President, Business Operations, Mets. “We’re grateful to our partners at Citi and Habitat-NYC for the opportunity to lend a hand on this important project that will have a lasting impact on so many lives.”

“We are proud to celebrate another ‘home run’ in our long-time partnership with Citi, the Mets, and superstars Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez. These dedicated team players will help build 12 affordable homes, working alongside families who will own them,” said Josh Lockwood, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity - New York City. “These homes are among our new ‘100 Homes in Brooklyn’ initiative to create affordable homes and help strengthen Ocean Hill-Brownsville and Bedford-Stuyvesant, two communities hit hard by the recession. This is truly an ‘Amazin’ day for our neighborhoods and families.”

Later tomorrow, other members of the Mets Alumni Association Presented by Citi – Dwight Gooden, Jesse Orosco, Rafael Santana, Rusty Staub and Darryl Strawberry – will be at Citi Field for Pyrotechnics Night as the Mets host the Philadelphia Phillies at 7:10 p.m. Additionally, Mets and Citi executives will present Habitat-NYC volunteers Tom Pace and Martin Friedman with the “Teammates in the Community” award during a special on-field pre-game ceremony. They will be honored for their exemplary commitment and dedication to serving and helping others for more than three years as volunteers with Habitat-NYC. The award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary ways to give back to the community.

Pace and Friedman, who developed a friendship through their work at Grace Church in Brooklyn, both retired from their jobs several years ago, but the word “leisure” is not in their vocabulary, so the pair volunteered with Habitat for Humanity building homes in the Gulf Coast. That experience led them to volunteering with Habitat-NYC. Almost every Friday since 2008, they have worked at a Habitat-NYC construction site – installing studs and drywall, laying flooring and tile, painting walls and ceilings – giving their time selflessly to build affordable homes for and with New York City families.

Led by Citi Community Development (CCD), Citi’s relationship with Habitat-NYC includes much more than funding. The New York State CCD team provides leadership and guidance to develop opportunities for expanding Habitat-NYC’s impact, and Citi employees are enthusiastic volunteers at Habitat-NYC builds. Through this partnership, Citi has participated in more than 12 home-building events in New York, with an average of 15 volunteers per build.

The Ocean Hill-Brownsville homes are part of an overall project to build four multi-family buildings, each four stories, with a mix of two- and three-bedroom condominiums, which will eventually house 12 families when completed in 2012. Built to Energy Star standards and incorporating green materials and building techniques, these Habitat-NYC homes will help protect the health – and pocketbooks – of their future inhabitants.

Citi is a long-time supporter and partner of Habitat for Humanity. Since 2000, Citi and Habitat employees have built and helped create approximately 370 safe, affordable and energy-efficient homes across the United States for families in need.

Citi

Citi, the leading global financial services company, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management. Additional information may be found at www.citigroup.com.

Habitat for Humanity-New York City

Habitat for Humanity - New York City transforms lives and our city by building quality homes for families in need and by uniting all New Yorkers around the cause of affordable housing. With the help of thousands of volunteers every year, Habitat-NYC has built more than 220 affordable homes in the five boroughs of New York City. Learn more at www.habitatnyc.org.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Robinson Cano gets an assist from his father during the Home Run Derby

Last night's Home Run Derby champion, New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano didn't have to go far for family support, it was 60 feet away. His father Jose was throwing perfect pitches down the pipe all night long. It shouldn't be a surprise though; the elder Cano was a pitcher for the Houston Astros in 1989.

Click here to read more about Jose Cano's career and his relationship with his All-Star son.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Seven decades of World Series highlights signed by 12 baseball immortals

To celebrate the 2011 All-Star weekend, A&E Home Entertainment is providing a sale on a truly impressive 21 DVD collection of seven decades of World Series highlights presented in a stunning 58-page commemorative book. There will be a 30% sale on everything baseball when you enter the code PLAYBALL from July 11-13, 2011 from shop.history.com

Only 100 of these editions have been hand signed by 12 Hall of Famers, which is described below. Those ordering the autographed edition will also receive a custom case to display their wares. You can order the autographed edition by clicking here.

For those that cannot afford the price tag on the limited edition set, the sale also applies to the standard 21 disc version which still comes in the beautiful commemorative book. We at Baseball Happenings have been given a screening copy of the set and it is truly a treasure for any baseball fan. This edition of the World Series Film Collection can be ordered by clicking here.


A&E HOME ENTERTAINMENT AND MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PRODUCTIONS UNVEIL A SPECTACULAR, LIMITED-EDITION, AUTOGRAPH-ENHANCED VERSION OF THE OFFICIAL WORLD SERIES FILM COLLECTION



The quintessential blend of baseball history and history-makers comes together in an unprecedented intersection of a luxurious Major League Baseball DVD collectible with authentic Hall of Fame signatures with SIGNATURE LINE: THE OFFICIAL WORLD SERIES FILM COLLECTION.  Available exclusively on Shop.History.com and Shop.MLB.com, the DVD set, which elegantly displays the iconic moments and legendary heroes across seven decades of World Series Films, will only be offered to sports fans around the globe in a limited-edition run of 100 for $2299.




The Signature Line edition will be embellished with the signatures of 12 World Series legends and Hall of Famers -- who helped pen World Series history and created many of the defining moments of Major League Baseball.  Authenticated by Mounted Memories, an MLB licensee and leader in the sports collectibles field, the set will also be officially licensed and authenticated by Major League Baseball, with each unit individually numbered and marked with a sequentially coded hologram to ensure authenticity.

SIGNATURE LINE: THE OFFICIAL WORLD SERIES FILM COLLECTION will be gilded by the golden signatures of:

  • Yogi Berra: Most World Series Championships, most hits, most doubles, singles, putouts, and guided Don Larsen to the only Perfect Game in World Series history.
  • Bob Gibson: Two-time World Series MVP, most strikeouts in a World Series game (17) and totaled 92 Ks in 81 innings pitched.
  • Reggie Jackson: “Mr. October” blasted 10 Fall Classic Home runs including three in a row on three pitches in 1977.
  • Johnny Bench: Driver of the Big Red Machine and defensive titan, he won the 1976 World Series MVP after batting .533 with two home runs.
  • Whitey Ford: The “Chairman of the Board” holds numerous World Series pitching records including: most strikeouts (94), most wins (10), innings (146), WS games (22).

Rounding out the star-studded roster of Fall Classic icons are:

  • Gary Carter
  • Bob Feller
  • Rollie Fingers
  • Carlton Fisk
  • Brooks Robinson
  • Mike Schmidt
  • Bruce Sutter

About THE OFFICIAL WORLD SERIES FILM COLLECTION

The drama and unforgettable images of baseball are the World Series moments celebrated from generation to generation.  Now, for the very first time, these dynamic events have been preserved and commemorated in a timeless treasure certain to become the centerpiece of any baseball fan’s home entertainment library.  Elegantly displaying the complete set of official filmed World Series highlights across six decades of World Series Films (1943-2008), this encyclopedic set is divided into 14 eras and features 50 hours of unforgettable baseball action across 20 remastered DVDs.

With a foreward by 19-time Emmy winner Bob Costas of MLB Network and framed with 58-pages of editorial, remarkable archival images, and rare Hall of Fame artifacts, the dramatic package creates a timeline of World Series lore since 1903. The 65 official World Series Films feature more than 50 hours of restored, digitized, and glorious history as it happened.

The list of baseball’s greatest moments is dominated by the iconic events of the World Series and they live in this significant DVD trophy. These instantly recalled plays and players are showcased within this one-of-a-kind compendium including “The Catch” by Willie Mays, Don Larsen’s Perfect Game, Bill Mazeroski’s series-winning walk-off home run, Bob Gibson’s record setting 17-strikeouts, Carlton Fisk’s dramatic home run, Reggie Jackson’s three consecutive home runs, Kurt Gibson’s improbably Hollywood game winner and Jack Morris’ dominating 1-0 Game 7 masterpiece.

This collection celebrates the images, plays, and heroes that make the World Series a cherished and significant event. As history unfolds technology evolves changing the annual documentary’s style. From the black and white editions, produced and narrated by Lew Fonseca (AL batting champ 1929, Cleveland Indians) thru the narration by legendary broadcasters including Mel Allen, Bob Prince, Harry Caray, Vin Scully, to the current Official World Series Film versions featuring multiple camera angles, players and coaches wired for sound, and play-by-play from TV and radio broadcasters, each annual film is a time capsule of its era.  Records and seasons change with time, but the legends and lore of the World Series on DVD will last forever.

THE OFFICIAL MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL® WORLD SERIES FILM COLLECTION includes these 20 DVDs:

  • Disc 1 -- 1943 Yankees, 1944 Cardinals, 1945 Tigers, 1946 Cardinals, 1947 Yankees, 1948 Indians (approx 182 min)
  • Disc 2 -- 1949-53 Yankees (approx 167 min)
  • Disc 3 -- 1954 Giants, 1955 Dodgers, 1956 Yankees (approx 115 min)
  • Disc 4 -- 1957 Braves, 1958 Yankees, 1959 Dodgers, 1960 Pirates, 1961 Yankees (approx 182 min)
  • Disc 5 -- 1962 Yankees, 1963 Dodgers, 1964 Cardinals (approx 100 min)
  • Disc 6 -- 1965 Dodgers, 1966 Orioles, 1967 Cardinals, 1968 Tigers (approx 152 min)
  • Disc 7 -- 1969 Mets, 1970 Orioles, 1971 Pirates (approx 116 min)
  • Disc 8 -- 1972-74 A’s, 1975-76 Reds (approx 170 min)
  • Disc 9 -- 1977-78 Yankees, 1979 Pirates, 1980 Phillies, 1981 Dodgers (approx 166 min)
  • Disc 10 -- 1982 Cardinals, 1983 Orioles, 1984 Tigers (approx 107 min)
  • Disc 11 -- 1985 Royals, 1986 Mets, 1987 Twins (approx 119 min)
  • Disc 12 -- 1988 Dodgers, 1989 A’s, 1990 Reds (approx 177 min)
  • Disc 13 -- 1991 Twins, 1992 Blue Jays (approx 139 min)
  • Disc 14 -- 1993 Blue Jays, 1995 Braves (approx 132 min)
  • Disc 15 -- 1996 Yankees, 1997 Marlins (approx 143 min)
  • Disc 16 -- 1998-2000 Yankees (approx 186 min)
  • Disc 17 -- 2001 Diamondbacks, 2002 Angels (approx 145 min)
  • Disc 18 -- 2003 Marlins, 2004 Red Sox (approx 142 min)
  • Disc 19 -- 2005 White Sox, 2006 Cardinals (approx 152 min)
  • Disc 20 -- 2007 Red Sox, 2008 Phillies (approx 163 min)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wes Covington, 79, 1957 World Series hero

Wes Covington, the upstart who helped spark the Milwaukee Braves to victory in the 1957 World Series, died of cancer in Edmonton, Alberta, on Monday. He was 79.

Wes Covington
Born March 27, 1932 in Laurinburg, N.C., John Wesley Covington was signed by the Boston Braves in 1952. He was sent to their farm club in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he roomed with a skinny 18-year-old from Alabama, Hank Aaron.

Covington led the team in home runs that season and according to Aaron in his autobiography, I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story, Covington was thought to be the bigger power threat.

"If people had known that one of our players would someday be the all-time, major-league home run leader, everybody would have assumed that Covington would be the guy," Aaron said.

Early on, Covington did show his prowess at the plate, hitting 21 and 24 homers respectively in 1957 and 1958, but his subsequent lack of defensive abilities kept him from being a full-time player. In 11 seasons, Covington belted 131 homers while playing for six different teams.

Al Spangler, who played 13 seasons in the majors, was a teammate of Covington's in 1955 with Jacksonville and then again with the Braves from 1959-1961. Spangler noted Covington's strengths tipping towards his work at the plate.

"Overall, he was a great player," Spangler said via a phone interview from his Texas home. "He didn't like to play defense, but he was a great hitter. When we played together in 1960, he played left field and I would go in the later innings and replace him for defensive purposes."

Surprisingly, Covington is famous for plays he made on defense during the 1957 World Series. His two stellar catches in left field helped to preserve victories for the Braves. In Game 2, he made a nearly impossible grab off of a drive from Bobby Shantz’s bat and in Game 5, he robbed Gil McDougald of a homer after crashing into the fence to make the catch. To his former teammates though, Covington will be best remembered for his kindness. Earl Hersh, who played with Covington in the majors with Milwaukee and the minors with Wichita, had nothing but superlatives for the fallen outfielder.

"He was to me, a first class guy," said the 79-year-old Hersh from his Pennsylvania residence. "Everything was good that I knew about him. He was a nice person and a good ballplayer. I found him fun to be around; just a good time guy."

Bobby Malkmus, who also played with Covington in Jacksonville before teaming up on the Braves, said in a phone interview from his New Jersey home that Covington remained a loyal teammate despite the racial barriers which existed during the time.

"He was a tremendous guy, easy to get along with," Malkmus said. "We got along really well. He was a good ballplayer and a good friend. [There was] no black and white situation with him; he was just a good teammate, kind of a jolly person."

Covington, like many black players during the 1950s faced the challenges of Jim Crow segregation while traveling. Spangler recalled some of the difficulties that Covington and the other black players faced on the Jacksonville team in 1955.

“We had Wes and another African-American, Horace Garner," Spangler recalled. "They couldn't even get off the bus to go in and have lunch when we were traveling. When we arrived at a town, we never saw them again until game time.”

Malkmus, who played with Spangler and Covington in 1955, was saddened by the hardships faced by his recently deceased teammate.

“They had to stay with black families on the road," Malkmus said. "They didn't eat with us on the road. If we stopped to get something to eat, they either had to eat in the kitchen or we had to bring them food out to the bus. It was terrible.”

Malkmus was raised in the diverse city of Newark, New Jersey, which made sympathetic to the plight of his African-American teammates like Covington. He recalled the difficulties they faced in Southern cities. 

“I was born and raised in Newark amongst the blacks and got along with them really well," he said. "My experience with the South was brutal as far as blacks and whites were concerned. They didn't treat the blacks well. We used to shower and play with them, but we couldn't live with them.”

Upon finishing his baseball career with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1966, Covington moved to Western Canada and operated a sporting goods business. He worked for the Edmonton Sun newspaper for 20 years as an advertising manager and then the Edmonton Trappers baseball club in a front office position. Covington rarely appeared in the States after moving to Canada except for the occasional Braves reunion or card show.

In 2003, Covington returned to Milwaukee after an almost 40-year absence. When asked why he had removed himself so far from the town where he built his baseball legend, Covington revealed motives outside of the sport.

“It's nothing against the city or the great fans," Covington said. "I just had other things I wanted to do with my life. I didn't want to be a baseball bum, living in the past."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Derek Jeter's All-Star selection less than deserving

Keith Allison / Flickr
As Derek Jeter inches closer to the 3000 hit plateau, further cementing his legendary status, critics have questioned his recent selection as the starting shortstop for the 2011 All-Star team. Entering today’s game sporting a .257 batting average with only 13 extra base hits; the Wall Street Journal said the shortstop’s selection was unwarranted. “Jeter has never been less deserving of the award,” wrote Daniel Barbarisi. Barbarisi cited Jeter’s OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) was the lowest for a starting American League All-Star shortstop since the diminutive Freddie Patek in 1978.