Monday, April 22, 2013

Catching up with Kevin McReynolds

Kevin McReynolds / N. Diunte
Kevin McReynolds figured prominently in the New York Mets' quest for the National League pennant in 1988. The 28-year-old left fielder was in his second season with the Mets after a trade in December 1986 brought him to New York in exchange for Shawn Abner, Stan Jefferson, and Kevin Mitchell. Coming to the Mets fresh off of their World Series victory, he had lofty expectations for his time in Flushing.

McReynolds made a rare appearance in New York, signing autographs at the JP Sports Hofstra Show on Saturday. He took a few minutes prior to leaving for his flight home to discuss his time with the Mets and his role on the 1988 NL East championship team.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Bronx native Larry Miggins recalls Jackie Robinson's first day in the minor leagues

Jackie Robinson’s impact on baseball was felt immediately the moment he stepped on the field for the Montreal Royals in their season opener against the Jersey City Giants on April 18, 1946. In addition to all of the social implications behind Robinson’s debut, his 4-for-5 performance that included a home run, two bunt singles, and two runs scored by causing Jersey City’s pitchers to balk, left an indelible mark on his opposition.

Larry Miggins’ view of Robinson’s eye opening performance remains vivid some sixty-seven years later. The 20-year-old Bronx, New York native manned third base for Jersey City that day and had no trouble recalling how the day’s events unfolded.

“I remember it well,” the 87-year-old Miggins said from his home in Houston, Texas. “It was a full house, 45,000 fans. The place was packed.”

Larry Miggins
As the team went over its pre-game scouting report, information on Robinson’s tendencies were limited to what the manager had seen during batting practice. The Giants and Royals were due to meet in spring training, but the game was cancelled when officials in Jacksonville, Fla., upheld a city ordinance that did not permit mixed racial competition.

“Most of the guys were known by somebody, but when it came to Robinson nobody ever had seen him play,” Miggins said. “Our manager Bruno Betzel said he saw during batting practice that Robinson was a strong pull hitter. He said to me, ‘Miggins, you play him deep at third base.’”

Following his coach’s orders, Miggins positioned himself as instructed. During Robinson’s first two at-bats, the ball didn’t come Miggins’ way, as he grounded out to shortstop his first time up, and then hit a 335-foot home run down the left field line.

Expecting another powerful shot by Robinson, Miggins held his ground behind the third base bag as Robinson approached for his third at-bat.

“Next time up, I’m playing back, deep behind third base,” said Miggins. “He bunted and dropped one down. I could throw a ball through a brick wall in those days, so I pick it up and fire to first base and it was a real close play, safe. He could run too you know. He beat it out.”

Robinson proceeded to hit a single to right-center field during his fourth at-bat, which set the stage for Miggins to have another close encounter with the Royals second baseman. He did not think that Robinson would test him a second time with a bunt.

“Like an idiot, I’m playing him back at third base again the fifth time up. He dropped another bunt down and beat it out,” said Miggins. It was a lesson learned for the young infielder. “I gave him two hits that day and he never bunted again on me because I played him even with the bag from then on.”

Miggins went on to play parts of two seasons in the majors with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1948 and 1952, but his involvement with Robinson’s debut is one that he wears with a sense of pride and humor.

“They got him into the Hall of Fame and there he was, Rookie of the Year, MVP, and a World Series Champ, all because of the great start I gave him in baseball!” said a laughing Miggins. “I gave him two hits opening day and he never stopped from there, he just kept going. I always look back and that 4-for-5 opening day gave him a thrust for his whole career.”

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Archbishop Molloy coach Curran helped prepare New York Yankee Mike Jerzembeck to pitch in the majors

For over 50 years, Jack Curran helped to shape thousands of young men into baseball players that walked through the doors of Archbishop Molloy. During those 50-plus years, he sent countless numbers of players into professional careers other than baseball, but only two made the major leagues. One is current New York Mets outfielder Mike Baxter, the other is former New York Yankees pitcher Mike Jerzembeck.

Mike Jerzembeck
Jerzembeck, a member of the Yankees 1998 World Series Championship team, spoke with me regarding the influence of his high school coach on his development on and off the field through his teenage years.

The article recently appeared in the April 6 edition of the Times-Ledger newspapers in Queens.

"Yankee pitcher praises Coach Curran" - Nicholas Diunte - Times-Ledger Newspapers

Monday, April 1, 2013

'Bullet' Bob Turley passes away at 82

"Bullet" Bob Turley, the 1958 Cy Young award winner and World Series MVP passed away Saturday, March 30, 2013. He was 82.

Turley broke in with the St. Louis Browns in 1951 and followed the franchise to Baltimore during their inaugural season. He was later traded to the New York Yankees in a 17 player mega-deal that included Don Larsen. Turley pitched until 1963, compiling a career record of 101-85 with 1,265 strikeouts. His passing leaves only 27 players that wore the uniform of the St. Louis Browns in the major leagues.

In retirement, he remained a fan favorite, graciously obliging his fans when he returned for Yankees Old Timers Day. “I can’t understand some of these players today,” he said. “Nothing ever bothered me, signing autographs, doing interviews. You have all the privacy you want when you get out of the game.”

Click here to read excerpts from a 2009 interview with Turley where he discusses how his maturity as a pitcher allowed him to achieve his Cy Young award winning season.