Monday, December 31, 2012

Video of Roberto Clemente batting one month before his death discovered

Roberto Clemente - 1972 Topps
Today marks the 40th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's fatal plane crash on December 31st, 1972 in San Juan, Puerto Rico in his attempts to ensure that relief supplies were being delivered to the necessary recipients in Nicaragua. While Clemente was coaching in Leon, he was encouraged by fans to step up to the plate and take some batting practice. Sporting his familiar 21, Clemente obliged much to the delight of the fans and the opposing players. Hans Norbert Jaeger, a member of the German team that competed in the Amateur World Series in Leon, discovered footage of Clemente during that batting practice session.

Click here to view this rare video of Clemente. 

This video, which is linked above, is the last known video of Clemente batting. As we celebrate Clemente heroic efforts, watch closely at one last glimpse of Clemente's effortless swings interspersed between his classic gyrations to loosen himself up to hit.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A look back at the Mets 50th anniversary season

The 2012 season marked the 50th anniversary of the New York Mets franchise. While the Mets season commenced with the trade of Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays in December, the past 12 months provided many opportunities to catch up with former Mets as they talked about their experiences in Flushing in celebration of the team's 50 years in baseball. Below are links to exclusive interviews with players, some more familiar than others that might have went under your radar in 2012.

For Choo Choo Coleman, It's a Homecoming Long Delayed - Jan 21, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

6th Annual Lou DeMartino Baseball Clinic to be held at John Jay College December 27th

The Greater New York Sandlot Youth Athletic Alliance will hold their 6th annual Lou DeMartino Christmas Baseball Clinic at John Jay College on Thursday December 27th, 2012, with limited free on-site registration starting at 8am. The clinic, for players ages 10-19, will feature instruction from New York area minor leaguers, George Carroll (Toronto Blue Jays), James Jones (Seattle Mariners), and Matt Rizzotti (Oakland Athletics), as well as well as longtime Chicago Cubs scouts Billy Blitzer and John Ceprini, the latter who represented the Cubs at the 2012 MLB Draft with Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins.

Click here for more detailed information on the event and how to register.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Boyd Bartley, former Brooklyn Dodgers shorstop passes away at 92

Boyd Bartley
The roster of the living former Brooklyn Dodgers is now one player lighter. Boyd Bartley, former shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers passed away Friday evening in Richland Hills, Texas. He was 92.

Click here to read more about the University of Illinois standout and World War II veteran, who after his playing career, became a long-time scout for the Brooklyn Dodgers, whose most prized signing was Orel Hershiser.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Yankee hurler Fritz Peterson explains 'The Art of De-Conditioning'

The Art of De-Conditioning - Lightside Books
Former New York Yankees hurler Frtiz Peterson has a simple, yet effective message with his new book, acceptance. Weary of the rat race to stay in playing shape during his professional baseball career, Peterson found peace within himself once he was able to accept his own eating habits and no longer worry about his weight affecting him on the field.

Peterson’s quick and witty, “The Art of De-Conditioning: Eating Your Way to Heaven,” is an adventure into his journey of extreme de-conditioning. After finishing his 11-year major league career in 1977 that included time with the Yankees, Cleveland Indians, and the Texas Rangers, Peterson vowed he not only wanted to weigh 300 lbs., but that he would never again run another wind sprint, lift another weight, or go on a diet.

Click here to read the entire review of Peterson's journey away from baseball and into the land of  bulging bellies.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rare color footage of Satchel Paige pitching emerges

Rare footage of the legendary Satchel Paige pitching in 1948 has emerged due to a discovery in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences archives. The video below is of Paige pitching on November 7, 1948 at a winter league game in California. Paige pitched in the game for Chet Brewer's Kansas City Royals against fellow Indians teammate Gene Bearden's Major League All-Stars. Bearden can be seen around the :23 mark in the video. Also playing in the game was future Hall of Famer James "Cool Papa" Bell, as well as Sam Hairston, grandfather of New York Mets outfielder Scott Hairston, and Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Jerry Hairston Jr.




Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rogelio 'Borrego' Alvarez, 74, Cuban baseball star and Cincinnati Reds first baseman

Rogelio Alvarez
Rogelio "Borrego" Alvarez, former first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds and Cuban Winter League star, died Friday evening in Hialeah, Fla., due to complications from kidney failure according to a former teammate who wished to remain anonymous. He was 74.

Alvarez was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1956 out of his hometown of Pinar del Rio, Cuba. I interviewed Alvarez at his home in February 2011, and he vividly recalled his tough transition from Cuba to the United States.

Click here to read the interview with Alvarez, where he discusses how he had to battle segregation while not speaking English en route to the major leagues.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gail Harris - A 'Giant' gentleman until the end

Autographed photo of Gail Harris
Last week, I was presented with the unfortunate news of the passing of Boyd "Gail" Harris, one of the dwindling number of the remaining New York Giants. He just celebrated his 81st birthday a month prior.

Harris was a first baseman with the Giants from 1955-57, and holds the distinction of being the last player for Giants to hit a home run before their move to San Francisco. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers at the end of the 1957 season, and led the Tigers in home runs, hitting 20 in 1958.He played with the Tigers until 1960, but could not capture the success he had during his first year in Detroit.

I wrote to Harris in September and asked if I could interview him about his experiences playing in New York with the Giants. Two weeks later, I received a reply from Harris. To my surprise, Harris, on his own dime sent me an envelope filled with signed photos, copies of team photos, photocopied stories about his time with the Giants, and a short note offering to contact him via e-mail or phone to talk.

After delaying for a few weeks due to other projects, I e-mailed Harris at the end of October. After no reply for a few days, I called him at the number listed and left him a voice mail. Sadly, we never connected. Early last week, I received the notice of Harris' passing. Judging by Mr. Harris' generosity, I am sure that he was too ill to respond once I contacted him.

One of the letters he included shared his memories of actor Jeff Chandler, who was a tremendous baseball fan, working out with the Giants when they trained in Arizona. Harris formed a kinship with Chandler, as Harris was part Cherokee Indian, and was given the nickname of "Cochise," the name of the character Chandler played in Broken Arrow. Harris' letter recalling Chandler that he sent is pictured below, as well as a slideshow of all of the correspondence he sent.

While Harris was never the star that many of his Hall of Fame teammates grew to be, the generosity he displayed so late in his life, is another testament to the Hall of Fame character that so many men of his era shared. I have a feeling that if we would have been able to talk about his time uptown in the Polo Grounds, that it would have further confirmed the caliber of Gail Harris. Rest in peace.








Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chuck Diering, former outfielder for the Cardinals, Giants and Orioles, dies at 89

Chuck Diering, who spent nine seasons in the major leagues as an outfielder with the Baltimore Orioles, New York Giants, and St. Louis Cardinals, passed away Friday after taking a fall at his home in Spanish Lake, Mo. He was 89.

Diering, a brilliant center fielder, spoke vividly in a 2011 interview about his brief stop with the New York Giants, and his thoughts on the current state of the game.

Chuck Diering - 1951 Bowman - Wikimedia Commons
His expert outfield patrol was chronicled in Jason Aronoff's 2009 book, "Going, Going ... Caught!" which chronicles many of the flyhawks of baseball's Golden Era that were not captured on film, including a section devoted to Diering's marvelous catches.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

1962 Chicago Cub Tony Balsamo shares the gentlemanly spirit of Buck O'Neil 50 years later

Buck O'Neil - Wikimedia Commons
In 1962, Tony Balsamo was a 25-year-old rookie pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. One of his mentors that season was Buck O'Neil, a long time player and coach in the Negro Leagues who was a rookie of his own sorts, breaking the color barrier as a coach in the Major Leagues.

Last week, Balsamo, speaking at a charity dinner in Long Island, N.Y., reflected upon his experiences with O'Neil, whom he described as, "a true gentleman."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Former Yankee Frank Tepedino leads off First Annual Firefighters Charitable Foundation Dinner

Frank Tepedino
Part of the valor of being a firefighter is accepting the responsibility that one might perish in the course of saving others. That same unselfish spirit was on display Thursday evening at the Chateau Briand in Carle Place, N.Y., for the First Annual Firefighters Charitable Foundation Dinner. The foundation, which serves to assist victims of fires and disasters, brought some much needed support to a region that was greatly impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Over 200 dinner guests came together under the guidance of FFCF's president Frank Tepedino, a veteran of eight major league seasons with the Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers and New York Yankees.

Click here to see photos and read more about the wonderful affair which had close to a dozen former major league baseball players supporting the cause. 

 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Joe Ginsberg, original New York Met dies at 86

Joe Ginsberg - Baseball-Almanac.com

Myron “Joe” Ginsberg, a veteran catcher of 13 major league seasons and an original 1962 New York Met, passed away Friday November 2nd, at Sunrise Retirement Living in West Bloomfield, Mich. He was 86.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pascual Perez ex-Yankee fatally stabbed in home invasion

Pascual Perez signed card - Baseball Almanac
Pascual Perez, former pitcher for the New York Yankees, was found dead at his home on Thursday in the Dominican Republic. His death was the result of an apparent home invasion, where he was fatally stabbed in the neck. He was 55.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Joe Hicks' mighty swing toppled the Giants at the Polo Grounds in 1963

Joe Hicks never fancied himself as a home run hitter, yet for one magical day in 1963 as a member of the New York Mets, Hicks supplied the necessary power to slay the defending National League champs, the San Francisco Giants. The 80-year-old Hicks, speaking from his home in Virginia, vividly recalled a shining moment from his career that put the bat in his hands with a chance to win the game against one of the elite teams in baseball.

Click here to read Hicks' description of how the events of the game unfolded that placed him at the plate with a chance to win the game in extra innings.

Joe Hicks


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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Les Mueller, 93, played with Detroit Tigers in 1945 World Series

Les Mueller
Les Mueller, one of the last remaining players from the Detroit Tigers 1945 World Series championship team, died Thursday in Belleville, Ill. He was 93.

Mueller signed with the Tigers in 1937, and made his major league debut in 1941, pitching in four games before enlisting in the Army midway through the 1942 season. He went to the Jefferson Barracks Reception Center in St. Louis where his baseball skills kept him stateside.

“I was 23 years old when I went into the service" Mueller said in a 2008 interview via telephone from his home. "I was in St. Louis and I stayed there. I was very fortunate. The first year I played quite a bit. We had several major leaguers and played about 70 games that summer."

Muller continued to keep his skills sharp during his service, playing semi-pro ball during his breaks. Just as he was preparing to go overseas in 1944, doctors found a hernia during a physical and gave him a medical discharge.

He joined the Tigers in 1945 eager to prove himself to the Detroit brass. He took whatever role the club needed, winning six games as both a starter and reliever, with two shutouts and a save. During that season, he set a major league record by pitching 19 2/3 innings against the Philadelphia Athletics on July 21st. Amazingly, he received a no-decision when the game ended in a tie after being called after 24 innings due to darkness.

"I always kept hoping we'd get a run, and I'd get a win, but it didn't work out that way," he said to SABR member Jim Sargent.

The Tigers won the American League pennant in 1945 to advance to the World Series. They faced the Chicago Cubs in an epic seven-game battle of the Great Lakes. Mueller was provided an immediate opportunity to contribute when was summoned in the eighth inning of the first game of the series by manager Steve O'Neill to stop the onslaught of the Chicago lineup.

"It was the first game of the series that Hal Newhouser started," Mueller recalled. "He really got clobbered that day by the Cubs. I remember one or two other pitchers got in that game. I was the only pitcher that day that shut them out. I pitched the 8th and 9th innings. I walked a man and had a strikeout, but I didn't give up any hits; I felt pretty good about that."

Mueller's clean slate in Game 1 was his only appearance during the series. The experience of being on the mound in that atmosphere is something he held close over 60 years later.

"It was an experience I will never forget," he said. "It was a boyhood dream come true, getting to pitch in the World Series and getting a ring."

Riding high off of his performance in the World Series, Mueller was confident that he would return with the Tigers in 1946. Right before the season opener, he pitched four innings of shutout ball in an exhibition game against the Boston Braves. Feeling good about his showing, he went north with the team to Detroit, eager to suit up for the season opener; however, in a cruel twist of fate, Mueller was called into the manager's office prior to the start of the National Anthem. He was completely unaware about the devastating news he was about to receive.

"I go up there and George Trautman, who was the general manager at the time, said, 'We're going to send you to Buffalo.' … It was a shocker," he recalled.

After a few days of contemplating his decision, he went to Buffalo where he developed a sore arm. Despite receiving expert medical care for his arm, his career was finished by 1948. He returned to Belleville and took over the family business Mueller Furniture from his dad, managing it until his retirement in 1984.

Despite his relatively quick exit from baseball after his World War II service, Mueller never lost his love for the game.

"I've been a continued fan," he said. "I've had season tickets to the St. Louis Cardinals since 1968."

As someone who started his professional career over 70 years earlier, Mueller had his musings on the major changes he's seen in the sport. 

"The hitters dig in a lot more, and if they almost get hit, everybody blows up and the umpire runs outs and warns the clubs," Mueller lamented. "That's been kind of exaggerated and takes something away from the pitchers. The biggest thing that has made the home run so prevalent is the thin handle bat. Hank Greenberg's and Rudy York's bats were like wagon tongues. Now they get more bat speed with these bats. I picked up some of the bats the guys they used in our days, [and they] were heavy and big. I don't think a lot of guys who hit home runs now could swing those bats."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Catching up with former New York Met Steve Springer

Steve Springer - Checkoutmycards.com
For Steve Springer, baseball has always been an issue of quality over quantity. Springer tried to make the most of his 17 major league at-bats with the Cleveland Indians and the New York Mets, and is now working with young players helping them to do the same. “If you know my story, I didn’t start in high school, I got three at-bats as a freshman in high school, and three my freshman year in college. I go around the country inspiring kids not to quit,” said Springer via telephone from his home in California.

Click here to read more about Springer's time with the Mets, and his transformation into a hitting specialist whose disciples include superstars such as Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Darryl Strawberry's restaurant in Douglaston to close

Darryl Strawberry interviewed at the opening of his restaurant
In Douglaston, N.Y., the straw will no longer stir the drink. Strawberry's Sports Grill, which bears the name of the former Mets and Yankees slugger Darryl Strawberry, will unexpectedly shut down this Sunday evening.

Click here for a complete report on the closure of Strawberry's restaurant, including many photos and videos that attracted a wide variety of baseball players and celebrities to the Northern Queens establishment. 
 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

1986 World Series hero Howard Johnson brings excitement to the 2012 Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Golf Classic

Howard Johnson (c.) led a group of ex-MLB players at the Harrison Apar Golf Classic
Howard Johnson’s sweet swing was on display once again Monday afternoon, but it was not the one that often filled outfield seats at Shea Stadium, but a smooth touch that lit up Mohansic Golf Course at the 2012 Harrison Apar Columbus Day Golf Classic. Johnson was part of a handful of retired major leaguers that also included New York Yankees All-Star pitcher Tommy John, George Alusik, Dave Lemanczyk, Don DeMola, Matt Merullo, and Rick Surhoff, all who played in support of the Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation.

Click here to see a video interview with Johnson about his feelings about participating in the event, his return to playing baseball last year, and his thoughts about the current state of the New York Mets.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt once again speaks out about autographs

Mike Schmidt signed card - Baseball Almanac
Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt is back again, complaining about autographs, this time about the awful scrawl of modern athletes. In 2010, we spotlighted a Sports Illustrated article by Schmidt entitled, "The autograph craze is out of whack," where Schmidt takes to task all of those who try to get his autograph in public for free by covert methods.

Schmidt has followed that up with, "Perfect penmanship becoming a thing of the past with autographs," where he calls out modern players for having illegible autographs, and again takes the time to go after collectors who try to get players outside team hotels and other places they frequent. This is coming from someone who purposely signs in a much sloppier fashion the rare times he signs for free in public, to make sure he protects the value of his autograph. One can understand that as a Hall of  Famer, a big asset is your signature, but when you are getting paid tens of thousands of dollars per public appearance, do you really care if a few people somewhere down the line make a few bucks from your signature because they couldn't afford the $75 the promoter is asking at a show?

The quality of modern autographs have seriously deteriorated, as players try to meet the increased demand at games, spring training, etc., but yet a few great examples remain, such as those of Michael Cuddyer, Huston Street, and Pat Neshek. If Schmidt is so concerned about the quality of current signatures, he should take a few players under his wing, just as the late Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew did with Cuddyer, and fellow Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda did with Street. A word from this Hall of Famer might just carry enough weight to make a difference.

Former Yankee All-Stars come together to help 'kick' cancer

Graig Nettles (far left), Darryl Strawberry (c.) and Mickey Rivers (r.) with the volunteer staff.
New York baseball legends Dwight Gooden, Graig Nettles, Mickey Rivers, and Darryl Strawberry were all on hand this Saturday to help benefit the Jason Krause Kick Cancer Scholarship Fund at Kennelly’s Grille House in Congers, N.Y. The benefit, which is now in its third year, had a record turnout this weekend, due in part to the generosity of the aforementioned superstars.

Click here to read more about the event which helps to raise money for brain cancer research, as well as provide a scholarship annually to a Clarkstown North High School soccer player. Photos including all of the baseball greats are included.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Frank Saucier's promising career derailed by more than Veeck's midget intervention

Frank Saucier once batted an astonishing .446 in 1949 while playing with the Wichita Falls team of the Big State League; a total that to this day stands as one of the highest ever for a single professional season. Yet over 60 years later, Saucier’s claim to fame is not his towering feats at the plate, rather it is the distinction of being the only player in Major League Baseball’s history to be replaced by a midget.

On August 19, 1951, Saucier returned from right field to the bench of the St. Louis Browns at the bottom of the first inning after helping to hold the Detroit Tigers to a scoreless first frame. The events that transpired after Saucier went to grab a bat from the rack to face Tigers’ hurler Bob Cain permanently engrained Saucier’s name in the depths of baseball’s annals.

Before revealing the details of Saucier’s historical moment, let’s go back a few months to the beginning of the 1951 season. He began the season on the suspended list when he held out for a bonus and refused to sign his contract. Saucier turned his attention to managing oil fields in Okmulgee, Okla., content with the money he was making away from baseball. With the season marching along and no attempt from management to make amends on his contract demands, Saucier donning a major league uniform in 1951 seemed almost as absurd as a midget taking the field. The thought of either happening at the time might have been a foregone conclusion, unless your name was Bill Veeck.

Veeck led a group of investors that bought the Browns midway through the 1951 season, and one of the first moves he made was to personally visit Saucier to persuade him to join the club. After an hour of discussions, Saucier penned his name on a major league contract worth $10,000. Veeck hoped that the popular Saucier would energize the fan base and get the turnstiles moving. Slightly over two weeks after he was signed, Saucier made his major league debut on July 22, 1951. Rusty after taking a three month break from playing, Saucier developed bloody blisters on his hands that made it hard for him to swing a bat, and acute bursitis that made it hard for him to throw. The World War II veteran soldiered on for the rest of the season, with most of his appearances coming as a pinch runner. So why was Saucier in the lineup on July 19th?

A week prior to the game, Veeck alerted the newspapers in Saucier's hometown of Washington, Mo., that he would be playing. The news of his appearance brought a few extra thousand people to the game, something the Browns desperately needed. Saucier hoped Cain didn’t have his best stuff that day because he was in no shape to take a hack.

"I go over to the bat rack and pick up my Louisville Slugger, model K44, and I step up to the plate. And I hope (Tigers pitcher) Bob Cain walks me because I sure can't swing the bat," Saucier said to ESPN.com.

He didn’t even get the opportunity to dig his cleats in the batter’s box when his at-bat was interrupted by a stark announcement that boomed across the stadium.

"When the announcer called Eddie, I was thinking this is both the greatest act of show business I've ever seen, plus it's the easiest money I've ever made," Saucier said.

Three-foot-seven-inch midget Eddie Gaedel waddled up to the plate, and true to Saucier’s hopes, Cain couldn’t find the plate. Thoroughly distracted by Gaedel’s miniscule strike zone, he walked him on four pitches. After a few waves to the crowd, Gaedel eventually made it to first base and was replaced by Jim Delsing. Gaedel walked off the field, never to be heard from again by his baseball teammates. He died at 36 in 1961 after suffering a heart attack.

As for Saucier, he finished the season with a .073 average (1-14); limited by the nagging injuries that plagued him all season. He was recalled to active duty by the United States Navy in April, 1952 to serve in the Korean War. Four years after starting his baseball career, it was over. He spent two years in the service, receiving his release from active duty in April, 1954. He returned to the oil business, and then became a financial consultant in Amarillo, Texas before his retirement. The baseball fields at his alma mater, Westminster College are named in his honor. At the age of 86, Saucier is living in Amarillo, the last living player from the St. Louis Browns that participated in the July 19th affair. Saucier has embraced his role in baseball history, generously sending out numerous articles about his career after recent correspondence with him via mail (pictured below).

A tip of the cap goes to Bob Lemke's article, Frank Saucier's brief but memorable career now commemorated, which provided valuable background information for this piece.



Monday, September 24, 2012

Tom Umphlett, former outfielder for the Boston Red Sox and Washington Senators passes away at 81

Tom Umphlett, former outfielder for the Boston Red Sox and Washington Senators died Friday, September 21st, in Norfolk, Va. He was 81.

Umphlett played three seasons in the major leagues from 1953-55, finishing second in the 1953 American League Rookie of the Year voting to Harvey Kuenn. He was part of a youth movement by the Red Sox in the early 1950’s to fill the voids left by Ted Williams’ military service and Dom DiMaggio’s retirement. “[Lou] Boudreau, the manager, was going for the young talent even in spring training. You had Ted Lepcio at third base, Milt Bolling at short, Goodman at second, and Dick Gernert at first base. I played center field and Jimmy Piersall played right,” he said during a 2008 interview from his home in Ahoskie, N.C.

Click here to read more about Umphlett's career including his memories of playing with the greatest hitter that ever lived.

 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dwight Gooden to appear at Greenwich Citibank on Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dwight Gooden / N. Diunte
Dwight “Doc” Gooden, a 2010 inductee into the New York Mets Hall of Fame and member of the of the New York Mets Alumni Association Presented by Citi, will be greeting fans and signing autographs from 12:00-1:30 pm on Tuesday, September 25th at the Citibank branch at 16-18 Railroad Avenue in Greenwich, Ct., in support of Citi Tuesdays.

Gooden was the 1984 National League Rookie of the Year, the 1985 National League Cy Young Award winner, and part of the Mets 1986 World Series championship team. He is ranks in the top 3 on the Mets all-time list in various pitching categories, including games won, strikeouts, inning pitched, won-loss percentage, and complete games.

Citi Tuesdays is a program designed to provide added value to Citi customers and Mets fans. For more information and details on all Citi Tuesday offers, please log on to www.Mets.com/CitiTuesdays or visit the Citi Tuesday information booth located by the Shea Bridge at Citi Field on every Citi Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mookie Wilson strongly endeared to Shea Stadium

Mookie Wilson at Citi Tuesdays - N. Diunte
For Mookie Wilson, he will always find comfort in the confines of Shea Stadium. For 10 years, Wilson was a fixture in center field, tracking down balls far and wide to the delight of the New York Mets faithful. It is no surprise that despite spending time as a coach for the Mets in their new digs at Citi Field, he remains loyal to its predecessor. “It’s interesting that you use the word home because that’s what Shea was. To me, Shea was home. Don’t get me wrong, Citi Field is a beautiful ballpark; I think that it is fan friendly. I would have loved played at Citi Field, but you can’t replace Shea. That was home for us,” said Wilson while making an appearance Tuesday afternoon as part of the Mets Citi Tuesdays promotion at Citibank in Lower Manhattan. “It was old, [and] yes it needed repairs, but it was home and we loved and enjoyed playing there. I don’t think you can compare the two. Shea has its history and Citi Field is in the process of making its own history and it’s going to take time.”

Click here to read more about and watch video of Wilson's thoughts about playing for the Mets, his trade to Toronto, and his desire to return to coaching. 

 

Tom Saffell, former MLB outfielder and WWII veteran dies at 91

Tom Saffell, an outfielder who played parts of four big league seasons from 1949-1955 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Athletics, passed away last week. He was 91.

Saffell was the president of the Gulf Coast Rookie League for 30 years from 1979-2009, working until he was 89 years old. That capped a career in baseball that started almost 70 years prior in 1941 in the Class D Newport Canners of the Appalachian League.

Click here to read more about Saffell's career which features excerpts from a 2008 interview and his SABR bio. 

 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Johnny Antonelli opens up the doors to his baseball life with 'A Baseball Memoir'

Johnny Antonelli has been out of baseball for 50 years, yet with the release of his new autobiography, "Johnny Antonelli: A Baseball Memoir," Antonelli finds himself back on the mound once again. “It feels pretty good. I’m not one that ever flaunted myself to be recognized. This has given me something that I probably missed since 1962 when I left. It’s something that kind of brings back memories,” said Antonelli during an August telephone interview. The southpaw collaborated with award winning journalist Scott Pitoniak to chronicle his story, one that he was initially reluctant to engage. “He was asking me for a few years about doing a book and it wasn’t really my cup of tea, so I kind of put him off for a while. Finally I agreed to do it,” said Antonelli.

Click here to read the rest of the exclusive interview with the 82-year-old Antonelli discussing not only his new book, but his playing career and his life after baseball. 
 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Negro Leaguer Bill Greason returns to Oklahoma City 60 years after barrier breaking debut

Bill Greason throwing out the first pitch in Oklahoma - Facebook
Rev. Bill Greason, former pitcher for the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues, (where he mentored a 16-year old Willie Mays) and later the St. Louis Cardinals, spoke during a tribute in his honor in Oklahoma City with NewsOK.com about becoming the first black player for the Oklahoma City Indians of the Texas League in 1952.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Greason in 2008 about his historical 1952 season in Oklahoma City. He was sold directly from the Black Barons to Oklahoma City shortly after returning from his service in the Korean War. He spoke frankly about the hardships he faced and how he handled them.

"They gave you a hard time, even from the stands. A couple of places especially. When you know who you are and you have talent, you don’t worry about what people say. Sometimes it encourages you to do better and work harder. ... When people call you names, and you know who you are, you don’t worry about what they say. It gives you more determination to succeed."

The 87-year-old Greason was honored on August 30th by the Oklahoma City Redhawks, commemorating the 60th anniversary of his debut. Berry Tramel of NewsOK.com provides an excellent video interview with Greason about his barrier breaking entry into baseball, his military service, and career in the ministry.

His appearance was heavily covered by local media outlets, spearheaded by Tramel's coverage.
Celebrating a Deserving Pioneer in OKC - Jenni Carlson
The Reverend Returns - Brendan Hoover
Oklahoma City's Jackie Robinson returns - Berry Tramel 
Bill Greason: Owner Jimmie Humphries paved the way - Berry Tramel
Reverend Bill Greason: A memorable night at the ballpark - Berry Tramel

 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bob DiPietro, former Boston Red Sox outfielder, dies at 85

Bob DiPietro, a former outfielder for the Boston Red Sox who earned the nickname The Rigatoni Rifle because of his tremendous throwing arm, died two days after his 85th birthday in Yakima, Wash., on September 3, 2012.

A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview DiPietro for his SABR biography. Even though DiPietro only made it to the plate 12 times (all in 1951) during his major league career, it was one that included brushes with Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. In addition to being linked to some of the biggest stars that baseball has ever known, he proudly served the country in World War II, and went on to run a successful advertising business in Yakima.

He is survived by his wife Bertie, sons Bob and Mark and their wives Sheryl and Marcy, grandchildren Kiley, Joe, Lexi and Paul.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Potter tracking down the legend of Drungo Hazewood

A rare signed Drungo Hazewood 1991 Crown Orioles Card
Drungo Hazewood’s major league baseball career lasted five plate appearances, and if you weren't scouring box scores in 1980, chances are slim that you've ever heard of him. Yet when it comes to serious fans and collectors of Baltimore Orioles memorabilia, Hazewood has remained famous for more than his unique moniker. Just like the curve balls that baffled the highly touted outfielder, he has thrown some of his own to those seeking his signature, placing his name atop the want lists of collectors across the country.

In his travels connecting retired major leaguers with aficionados looking to further their autograph collections, Chris Potter met with the elusive Hazewood to discuss the prospects of facilitating a signing to add his penmanship to their prized paraphernalia. “I brought it up to him, I said, ‘You’ve been a pretty tough autograph for people that want it,’” said Potter. “He goes, ‘I just don’t understand why they want it.’ – He just doesn’t understand why people want his autograph from the career that he had. He didn’t have a long career. He’s kind of taken back by the fact that people want his autograph. He’s more than happy to do the signing with me; he was excited about it when I mentioned it to him. He wants to see what people are going to send in to be signed.”

Hazewood is one of 50 former major leaguers that Potter will visit during his next run of signings beginning September 30th that include a wide range of talents from Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, perennial All-Stars Del Crandall, Reggie Smith, and Don Kessinger, to such curiosities as Frank Baker, Rich Coggins, Johnny Jeter, and Ron Woods. The one-time Orioles prospect is not the first player to wonder why people still want their autograph long after their cup of coffee has been emptied. “I’ve run across that a few times where players are like, ‘Who remembers me and why do people want my autograph?’” said Potter. “The people who are really seeking their autograph know who they are, but it’s really hard to find someone who knows about the players I go and see unless you are a baseball enthusiast, historian or collector. We focus more on those guys.”

For many of the players Potter visits, they enjoy the convenience of being able to do the signing in a comfortable setting while obliging the fans. “Everybody I’ve worked with really enjoys this. If you look at it, they don’t have to go anywhere and guys their age, they don’t like to travel. Not only are we providing a service to the collectors, we are providing a service to the players as well. That’s what is appealing to a lot of these guys. They want to accommodate the fans and they want to go to these shows, but some are physically unable to do so. With the service we provide, they’re able to accommodate the fans and they’re happy to do so with what we provide,” said Potter.

As he continues with traversing the routes and highways of the United States, he finds the players revel in the uniqueness of the items they’re presented with. “We get it all the time. They’re taken a back from some of these items and by people who track this stuff down, are passionate enough to get it signed, and want their autograph on it. Some of the guys are really emotional about the things we bring them to be signed.” For more information on Potter’s next round of signings, check out his website – www.chrispottersports.com

Friday, August 31, 2012

New York Mets family loses two pitchers, Myrick and Parker

A sad week for New York Mets fans, as the deaths of former pitchers Bob Myrick and Harry Parker were announced this week.

Parker was a right-handed pitcher for the New York Mets from 1973-75, pitching in three games in the 1973 World Series against the Oakland Athletics. Parker was the hard luck loser in Game 3, when catcher Jerry Grote dropped the third strike on Angel Mangual, allowing Mangual to reach base and advancing Ted Kubiak into scoring position. Kubiak scored during the next at-bat when Bert Campaneris singled him home for the winning run. Parker passed away on May 29th, 2012, but reports of his death only surfaced this week.

Myrick was a promising left-handed reliever out of Mississippi State University who pitched from 1976-78 with the Mets. Myrick was a favorite of Mets manager Joe Frazier, who brought the lefty to the big leagues after pitching for him in Tidewater the previous season. Myrick passed away August 23rd in Hattiesburg, Miss., after suffering a heart attack.



Monday, August 27, 2012

Dwight Gooden's first career home run

Dwight 'Doc' Gooden's amazing talent as a pitcher with the New York Mets have been well heralded throughout the years; however, Gooden took tremendous pride in his prowess at the plate. He belted eight home runs during his career while finishing just below the Mendoza Line with a .196 batting average. The video below shows the first home run of Gooden's career, which came on September 21st, 1985 at Shea Stadium off of Rick Rhoden.

Courtesy of CourtsideTweets on Youtube -


Monday, August 13, 2012

Frank Evans, 90, played in the Negro Leagues and coached in the Cardinals organization

Frank Evans 1985 Louisville Redbirds Card
Frank Evans stayed with the game he loved until the day he died. The former Negro League player, long time scout and coach for the Louisville Redbirds of the St. Louis Cardinals organization passed away August 3rd in Opelika, Ala., at the age of 90.

Evans began his playing career as a teenager in 1937 and stayed active well into his 40’s, playing as an outfielder, first baseman and catcher with such legendary Negro League mainstays as the Birmingham Black Barons, Cleveland Buckeyes, and the Kansas City Monarchs.

Click here to read more about Evans' career, including words from his former players and a story about how he offered to improve my hitting.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

R.A. Dickey teaches the tricks of the knuckleball at Citi Field Kids event

New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey has been prolific in spreading the word about his knuckleball this season, publishing his best-selling book, Wherever I Wind Up, and appearing in the Knuckleball documentary, which was a smash at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Wednesday afternoon, Dickey took a more local approach, conducting a clinic for over 100 kids at the Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House in Long Island City. The event, which was hosted by SNY anchor Michelle Yu, was part of the Citi Field Kids program, an initiative formed by the Mets, Citi and the Jackie Robinson Foundation

Click here to see read more about Dickey's participation in the clinic as well a video interview with Dickey about the the impact of his book and his thoughts on being able to participate in the clinic.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Franco continues to represent as an ambassador for the New York Mets

John Franco is the epitome of New York baseball. Born and raised in Brooklyn, the Lafayette High School graduate went on to play at St. Johns University in Queens before being drafted by the Dodgers in 1981. Little did he ever imagine that he would play 15 years in the major leagues with the New York Mets and earn a spot in their Hall of Fame. Earlier this year, Franco was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in a wonderful ceremony at Citi Field. A few months later, he’s still amazed at the honor.

Click here to read Franco's thoughts on his induction into the Mets Hall of Fame, as well as that of his former teammate Barry Larkin into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ed Stevens, 87, Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman told the other side of the Jackie Robinson story

Ed Stevens
Ed Stevens was the starting first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946, finishing second on the team in home runs and was looking forward to cementing his feet in the first base position for years to come. Leaving spring training in Havana in 1947, Leo Durocher had penciled him in as their opening day starter, beating out five other first baseman in the process. Left with little time to glow in the fruits of his hard work, Stevens’ jubilee would quickly turn sour as the day before the season opener, Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey announced that Jackie Robinson, not Stevens would be their opening day first baseman. Not only was Stevens about to witness Robinson break baseball’s color line, he also saw his position wither away right in front of his eyes. “I would like to say that I realized the magnitude of the situation and happily stepped aside, accepting my role as the sacrifice in this incredibly significant moment in history. But the truth is, I was a competitor, and I was agitated. The fact remained coming out of spring training the starting first base job was mine, and the rug had been ripped out from under me,” said Stevens in his 2009 autobiography, “Big” Ed Stevens - The Other Side of the Jackie Robinson Story.

Stevens, who passed away last week at the age of 87 in Galveston, Texas, was more than a mere footnote in baseball’s most significant event. Click here to read more about the career of Stevens, who spent almost 50 years in baseball as a player, scout and coach.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Red Sox manager Morgan receives royal treatment at Irish American Baseball HOF ceremonies

With the Boston Red Sox in town to face the New York Yankees, fans put aside their rivalries for the afternoon and honored former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan on Friday at the induction ceremonies for the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame at Foley’s Pub and Restaurant in New York City. The 81-year-old Morgan was the center of attention at the event, which also featured the inductions of former Yankees Gene Michael, Jeff Nelson, Wee Willie Keeler as well as legendary New York sportswriter Jimmy Breslin.

“It’s really terrific because I never thought there would be one,” Morgan said. “ I’ve known Shaun [Clancy] for so long and all of a sudden he calls me up and gives me the good news. Next thing you know, here I am, and I’ve enjoyed it a ton.”
Joe Morgan accepts his plaque from the Irish American Baseball HOF

The Walpole, Mass., native had his start in baseball at Boston College, where he was signed by his hometown club. Only this time, it wasn’t the Red Sox, it was their National League counterpart, the Braves.

“I was in Boston College and I was one of the first guys that left school [early],” he said. “I left at the end of my junior year because I got a bonus and that was 1952.” 

Morgan played two years for their minor league clubs before Uncle Sam called. He spent the next two years in the military, which Morgan said was to the benefit of his baseball career.

“It really helped me,” he said. “ I was lucky, I played a lot of baseball at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, and I tried things I never would have tried. I knew I was a lot better hitter [than what I showed]. I hit .228 and .249 the first two years [before I went into the military]. When I came out, I hit .301, and .316 and I was on my way.”

Morgan made his debut with the Braves in 1959, making the club out of spring training. He played sparingly during the first two months of the season and was traded to the Kansas City Athletics. The Braves finished tied for the National League pennant with the Los Angeles Dodgers and lost a best-of-three game playoff to go to the World Series. Even though Morgan was long gone, the Braves still remembered his contributions to the team at the end of the season.

“I was with the Braves during that year in ‘59 when they lost the playoffs to the Dodgers,” he said. “I was with them for five weeks and they were good enough to give me a quarter share [of the playoff bonus]. That was something! I was rooting for them big that time. I was the lowest guy on the totem pole and they took care of me.”

Morgan was then shuttled between the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies for the next few seasons before landing with the St. Louis Cardinals for a brief appearance in 1964 at the end of their World Series run. The Cardinals wanted Morgan on the postseason roster to replace an injured Julian Javier, but the Yankees wouldn’t budge.

“Now there’s a story there,” he said. “I came up September 10th. Julian Javier got hurt; he pulled a rib cage muscle and he could not play in the World Series, so the Cardinals said, ‘We want to put Joe Morgan on as the 25th player.’ The Yankees said, ‘No way, because he didn’t come up by September 1st.’ That was the rule. They went with 24 players (Javier made only one appearance as a pinch runner) and kicked the s—t out of the Yankees.”

He started his managerial career in 1966 as a player-manager in Raleigh, N.C., with the Pirates and spent the next 26 seasons as a scout, coach and manager, taking the reins of the big league club from John McNamara from 1988-1991. He led the Red Sox to two first place finishes in the American League East during his time as manager. Morgan was ready for the task; the only difference he saw was scale.

“The biggest difference managing in the majors was that they gave me a hell of a lot of money, [something] which I never saw in 30 years in the minor leagues. … I knew the writers and how they operated. I was ready for all of that.”

Morgan, who was a two-sport star in both hockey and baseball, is an institution in his hometown and stays active visiting local high school games. Even though he is easily recognized in the town of Walpole, he still receives fan mail that is intended for the “other” Joe Morgan.

“It’s nice to be remembered,” he said. “I get mail every day. I also get a lot of mail for [Hall of Famer] Joe Morgan, so I write out; try 3239 Danville Blvd, Alamo, CA 94507 - from Joe Morgan manager Boston Red Sox.”