Monday, July 29, 2013

Frank Castillo, 44, former Chicago Cubs pitcher dies in swimming accident

Frank Castillo / Baseball-Almanac.com
Frank Castillo, a 13-year pitcher in the major leagues, primarily with the Chicago Cubs tragically passed away Sunday July 28, 2013 in a swimming accident. He was 44.

While boating with a friend, Castillo decided to go swimming near his Arizona home. His friend that accompanied him on the boat ride frantically called for police when Castillo did not resurface.

His major league career started with his 1991 debut with the Cubs, for whom he pitched seven seasons before being traded to the Colorado Rockies during the 1997 season. He gained notoriety for while pitching in Chicago for coming one out short of pitching a no-hitter on September, 25, 1995 against the St. Louis Cardinals, when Bernard Gilkey broke up the bid with two outs in the 9th inning on a 2-2 count.

He also pitched for the Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays, and Florida Marlins, last seeing action in the majors in 2005. He continued to pitch in the minor leagues and independent ball until 2008. After his playing career ended, he was a coach for the Cubs in their minor league system.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Charlie Silvera, a gentleman of the Yankees dynasty

Charlie Silvera is a gentleman for any era. Last week, after 18 months, I received this nice note and signed baseball card from the former New York Yankees catcher apologizing for the delay in responding to my letter. At the time of writing to him, I enclosed an article I wrote about the passing of his former teammate Duane Pillette.


The 88-year-old Silvera won five straight World Series rings as a member of the Yankees from 1949-1953. Serving as a backup to Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, he only had one season when he had more than 100 at-bats. His teammates nicknamed him the "Payroll Bandit," because they jokingly felt he was stealing money from the club.

After his playing career finished, Silvera followed his good friend Billy Martin as a coach while he was with the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers. He remained involved in the game as a scout with the Chicago Cubs as recently as 2011.

Silvera told some more inside Yankee stories about Berra, Martin and Joe DiMaggio to Ed Attanasio of This Great Game.

Below is a 15-minute 2012 interview from the Inside China Basin podcast where Silvera discusses his role in the Yankee dynasty and the San Francisco pipeline that fed the New York Yankees from DiMaggio through the championship teams of the 1950's.



Video of Charlie Silvera at the 2008 Yankees Old Timers Day

Sunday, July 21, 2013

New York Mets pitcher Hefner doing all that he can for Moore, Oklahoma

Jeremy Hefner Signing For Charity / @ExamineBaseball
Jeremy Hefner may not be considered a superstar in baseball circles, but to the residents of his hometown of Moore, Okla., he is a hero. The small town of 2,500 was devastated by a May 20, 2013 tornado that left 23 people dead and caused $2 billion in damages.

Saturday evening, the New York Mets starting pitcher used his celebrity to raise money at Foley’s Pub and Restaurant in Manhattan for the victims of the tragedy.




Thursday, July 18, 2013

Video - Mariano Rivera entering the 2013 All-Star Game to Enter Sandman

Mariano Rivera / @ExamineBaseball - Twitter
Watch video of Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer ever in baseball, entering the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field to a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd. Rivera, 43, pitched a scoreless 8th inning, in his 13th and final All-Star Game.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Yankees limp to All-Star break after dismal first half

The Yankees are not used to being second best. They don’t like it – and they don’t particularly play the role well. So their current home just above the American League East cellar has to be disappointing to both players and management.

Going into the All-Star break, the Yankees are barely treading water (six games out of first place) and dealing with a parade of injuries. Both Alex Rodriguez and Captain Derek Jeter, their two biggest names, haven’t contributed to the team at all in recent months.

Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Francisco Cervelli are also out with significant injuries. There just aren’t enough standouts on the roster to fill their cleats adequately and keep this team in contention for a playoff berth. 

Jeter’s much-heralded return to the lineup came Thursday after rehabbing his broken left ankle through the first 91 games of the season. Unfortunately, he had to be pulled late in the game due to quad tightness. He was expected to undergo an MRI on Friday to determine if he can continue his comeback.

Jeter can be a potent weapon if he stays in good health. He blasted a single Thursday on the first pitch he faced this season and later scored a run. He also notched his first RBI this season on a ground out. Even going 1-4 on the day, he helped his team stop a three-game losing streak with an 8-4 win over the Royals Thursday.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez, who is six games into a 20-day rehab assignment with the Tampa Yankees minor league team, could be destined for a potential 100-game suspension related to his involvement with a Florida clinic tied to a major PED investigation.

A-Rod is trying to come back from hip surgery, and his outrageous salary structure has been a bone of contention for team management. Though GM Brian Cashman has yet to openly admit the signing was a huge mistake, Yankees brass (and a growing number of fans who buy New York Yankees tickets) seem to regret locking up the aging slugger for so long.

The Yankees will have a tough time catching the Red Sox for the divisional crown – or even lock down a wild card playoff spot – without a major miracle. That could come in the form of some blockbuster trades, but even a few bold moves might not be enough. It might take a complete collapse by the teams above them, and maybe a few key injuries hitting their competitors as the Yanks finally get healthy.

Tampa Bay and Baltimore are playing excellent baseball this year and could gain even more separation from the Yankees in the second half if nothing changes.

Unlike the surging, offensively stacked Red Sox, the Yankees’ main strength is their pitching corps. But even that crew only breaks the top 10 in ERA (3.79).

On the flip side, they rank 23rd in quality starts. Closer Mariano Rivera is doing well in his final year before retirement with 29 saves, and the team’s starters are doing the best they can without the biggest bats on the team available to provide some decent run support. C.C. Sabathia has 9 wins and 112 strikeouts to his credit, while Hiroki Kuroda leads the team in ERA (2.77) – despite a lackluster 7-6 record on 18 starts so far.

The main issue with this year’s squad is the anemic offense. Their highest ranking category is runs, where they are 19th in the league. Robinson Cano is simply carrying the team with a .299 batting average, 21 home runs, 62 RBIs, and 53 runs scored. 

The Yankees always seem to be in the trade deadline mix every year, but this time they will have to produce some serious magic. They’ll have to find a way to shore up their pitching and their batting with some players who can become immediate contributors.

There may not be enough high-caliber bats and arms available to give them what they need, though. Yankees fans might just have to get used to watching their team struggle to stay out of last place for the remainder of the season.

- Rich Bergeron

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Darren Daulton's legacy lives on through his many stories

Darren Daulton, the longtime catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies has been diagnosed glioblastoma, the same aggressive brain cancer that took the life of fellow major league catcher and Hall of Famer, Gary Carter.

Darren Daulton Autograph / Baseball-Almanac.com

He also earned the reputation as one of baseball's best storytellers, as evident by this video where he tells an entertaining behind the scenes tale from the 1993 Phillies including teammates John Kruk and Jim Eisenreich.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

A literary tribute to Satchel Paige

In celebration of what would reportedly be Satchel Paige's 107th birthday (he was born July 7, 1906), I offer a literary journey into the life of Satchel Paige. An eccentric character on and off the field, chronicling his career has spawned many books including two that he co-wrote.

Below are some of the best books that showcase the life and times of Paige.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Milwaukee Brave Denis Menke recalls the greatest game ever pitched 50 years later

On July 2nd, 1963, a 42-year-old Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves squared off against the 25-year-old Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants in a duel for the ages. Sixteen innings later, the game ended with one of the future Hall of Famers on the mound watching the flight of a home run by another legend carry off into exile. What transpired in between those 16 innings makes this matchup one that many experts argue is the greatest game ever pitched.

Denis Menke, just a few weeks shy of his 23rd birthday, was a promising infielder for the Braves learning under the tutelage of veterans such as Frank Bolling, Roy McMillan, and Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews. Menke started that game on the bench, but was unexpectedly tapped by manager Bobby Bragan to enter the game in the fourth inning.
Denis Menke - 1963 Topps
 
"Eddie [Mathews] got hurt, that's the only reason he came out of that game," the 72-year-old Menke said Tuesday evening from his home in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Menke spent the remaining 12 innings of the game at third base, cementing his place in the legendary contest.

"It was just amazing, the people that were involved in that game, it was really something," he said. "You think about it now all of the Hall of Famers that were in that game." (There were seven future Hall of Famers that participated in that game, and an eighth in Gaylord Perry in the bullpen for the Giants.)

He managed two hits off of the stingy Marichal, who struck out ten Braves hitters that day. Despite the Dominican pitcher's dominance, Menke felt comfortable in the box.

"I didn't mind facing Marichal because I knew he was always going to be around the plate," he said. "He was going to give you a pitch to hit, what you did with it was up to you. He could throw a strike from any position, sidearm, overhand, three-quarters ... any pitch! That was what was amazing about him."

Maybe even more impressive than Marichal's efforts was the performance of Spahn at that stage in his career. At 42, he was a year older than the Giants manager Alvin Dark and still excelling at his craft.

"With Spahnie, I don't think he ever thought his age came into play," Menke said. "He was such a competitor and he just enjoyed the competition. I think that's one reason why he just kept on going. He had one of those great arms that could keep on throwing. His motion was so good. It was just one of those things you had to marvel at."

As each team put up zeroes, it became an increasing battle of wits between the two mounds men. Neither man wanted to leave the game. Pitch counts be damned, their pride was a bigger issue.

"You look at Marichal on the other end that was 25-years-old. He wasn't going to let a 42-year-old man to show him up. He wasn't going to come out of that game," Menke said.

The Braves had a scare in the 9th inning when Willie McCovey hit a towering fly ball down the left field line. Menke, who was playing third base, took a long look at it and couldn't tell whether the ball was fair or foul.

"McCovey in the 9th inning hit one just foul," Menke said. "Nobody knows if it was really foul. In Candlestick, they way the wind blew, McCovey hit 'em so high, it was hard to tell if it was fair or foul. I was on the third base side and they asked me if I could tell and I said, 'Nope.' For our sake, the umpire made the right call."

Both teams barely reached base in the extra frames until the 14th inning when an error by Menke loaded the bases for the Giants. Spahn extinguished that fire by getting catcher Ed Bailey to hit a pop-up to center field, but when Willie Mays stepped to the plate in the 16th, it was 1951 all over again. Mays garnered his first major league hit, a home run off of Spahn in 1951.

The Giants center fielder wasted no time this at-bat, and hit Spahn's first offering over the left-field fence for a home run. Spahn said it was a screwball that, "didn't break worth a damn." Finally after four hours, the game was over.

Spahn finished the year 23-7, tying his 1953 for his best season ever. It would also be his last effective run in the majors. He would pitch two more years in the major leagues, posting marks of well under .500 for the Braves, New York Mets and ironically the Giants. Marichal ended 1963 with a 25-8 record, starting a string of four consecutive 20-win seasons. The two would combine for 606 career victories, earning them both enshrinement in Cooperstown.

A half-century later, this particular contest left an indelible mark on Menke, an incredible feat for someone who spent 40 years as a player, coach, and minor league manager.

"I give those two pitchers a lot of credit because I don't think we'll ever see a game like that again."