Showing posts with label BAT Dinner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BAT Dinner. Show all posts

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Solly Hemus recalls his days with the 1962 New York Mets

The 21st annual BAT dinner in New York City provided me the opportunity to catch up with one of the coaches of the inaugural 1962 New York Mets. Solly Hemus, now 86 and living in Houston, was in New York to attend the dinner which supports former baseball players who are experiencing financial and medical hardships.

“I have been involved with the BAT for 20 years," Hemus said. "Joe Garagiola got me involved. They're trying to help other ballplayers who have problems. I like to see the other ballplayers that you played with. We needle each other pretty well. It's a great gathering. We get together and tell a bunch of lies. Garagiola, he's getting ready to hit .400!”
Solly Hemus as a coach with the 1962 New York Mets / Author's Collection
After playing 11 seasons in the majors with the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies, Hemus served for three seasons as the manager of the Cardinals from 1959-61. One of those seasons was in the rare role of player-manager. After being fired halfway through the 1961 season, the opportunity arose to join the start-up franchise in Queens.

“George Weiss, the General Manager, brought me on board to the Mets in 1962," he recalled. "Casey Stengel was one of the smartest managers in baseball and Weiss was an excellent GM, so I knew I couldn't lose.”

Joining the “Old Professor” might not have been a losing situation for Hemus, but he sensed the ride for the 1962 season was going to be a rough one. The Mets brought in a lot of older players that resonated with the New York faithful, but were a bit long in the tooth to recapture the form of their glory days.

“I knew we were going to have a problem [as] a lot of ballplayers we picked up were for name recognition," he said. "New York always wanted the big names: Hodges, Ashburn, Craig ... people like that. You knew they were coming to the end. Craig's fastball lost a little bit, Hodges was always a great first baseman, Ashburn had a little fire left in him, and Frank Thomas had a great year, but overall they didn't have the type of ballplayers you would like to stock a team with.”

The Mets 1962 season was filled with miscues that were typical of a new franchise. He recounted a bad luck story from his view in the third base coach's box with “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry that exemplified the team's struggles.

“It was about the eighth inning in the Polo Grounds, there were two outs, we were behind by one run and there were two men on base," Hemus recalled. "He hits the ball into one of the gaps, right center I guess. He comes all the way around to third base, makes a perfect slide and they call him safe. They then threw the ball to second base, and said Marv missed second base. Casey goes running out there, and Augie Donatelli the umpire stopped him and said, 'Casey, you better get out of here, because he missed first and second!'”

Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby was also on the coaching staff alongside Hemus during that season. As a fellow infielder, Hemus was able to work well with the gruff superstar.

“You knew he was a great ballplayer; however, his personality, you would like to see a lot added to it," he said. "I got along with him pretty well. Certain ballplayers I'd mention to him, and we'd talk about them and then try to make them better.”

After the 1963 season, Hemus was let go as a coach from Stengel's staff. He later resurfaced with the Mets organization in 1966 with AAA Jacksonville in what would be his last year in baseball. He explained how he had the choice of mentoring two future Hall of Famers on their way to the big leagues.

“I had a choice of either taking Nolan Ryan or Tom Seaver," he said. "They wouldn't let me take both of them, even though I wanted both of them. I took Seaver; I thought he was a little further advanced. I think I helped him a bit. He was intelligent, he knew how to pitch. The only time I ever got after him was when he got the ball up and someone hit it out of the park off him. I tried to get him to slow down a bit. I saw a lot of great value in him. In fact, one of my reports I sent to the Mets on him read, 'For anything, just don't trade him, don't get rid of him.' They didn't and he went on to have a great career.”

Visiting New York for the BAT dinner brought back many fond memories from both his playing and coaching days in the Big Apple. He only wished his time with the Mets could have lasted to be a part of their World Championship team.

“It's a big city; you are kind of in awe with it as a ballplayer," he said. "I really liked Brooklyn; it had a short right field fence, and as a lefty, that helped me. When coaching the Mets, I used to live at a hotel near the ballpark. Now, I like coming up here with my wife; it's the place to be. ... I would have liked to be a part of the ball club that won the World Series in 1969 because that's what I had in mind when they hired me. I thought that they would eventually win it and they did just that. It was a fine organization.”

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.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Stars Come Out at the 20th Annual BAT Dinner

Tuesday January 27, 2009 marked the 20th annual "Going to Bat for B.A.T. Dinner" which celebrated the charitable efforts of the Baseball Assistance Team and the memories of Shea and Yankee Stadiums. Over 120 former Major League players were in attendance including 10 Hall of Famers.

During the opening press conference, both Luis Gonzalez and Bret Saberhagen spoke about the importance of B.A.T. Gonzalez's initial intrigue with B.A.T. came from having, "an opportunity to help baseball players and their families in need." After seeing the positive effects of B.A.T.'s efforts, he began to recruit the younger players in the clubhouse to make contributions. He felt it was his way of, "instilling old school values into new players," by helping them give back. Gonzalez was honored with 2008 Bart Giamatti Award for his involvement with numerous community based programs including the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Phoenix Children's Hospital.

Saberhagen helped to raise $100,000 for the B.A.T. this year by winning a golf tournament with Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith, George Brett and former New York Met, Vince Coleman. He saw donating the winning purse to the B.A.T, "as a great way to give back to the baseball community." They received the 2008 Big BAT/Frank Slocum Award for their generous donation to the B.A.T. organization.

B.A.T. president Ted Sizemore said that the fundraising efforts will continue during Spring Training, visiting all 30 teams to educate players about the role of the B.A.T. The Bobby Murcer award will be given to the team that donates the most money during Spring Training.

This year's grant recipients included former Cleveland and Cincinnati farmhand pitcher Jacinto Camacho (1963-70) and Mets minor league outfielder Angel Cantres (1971-76). Both were able to have their expenses paid for acquiring prosthetic legs by the B.A.T. with the help of MLB alum Benny Ayala. Cantres gave a heartfelt speech during the dinner, thanking B.A.T. for giving him the opportunity to once again use the legs that allowed him to play baseball.

Current player representative, Randy Winn spoke about the continued need for B.A.T. awareness, "as any player regardless of circumstance can fall on hard times or have bad luck. It feels great to be in a position to provide assistance to the MLB family."

The evening proceeded with a cocktail reception hour, where many guests mingled with the many Major League alumni, scoring autographs and mingling with the many stars of baseball's past. The guests then made their way to the dinner, which was emceed by Gary Thorne. The Hall of Famers in attendance congregated on stage for photos, and many of the former Mets and Yankees gave their favorite memories of Shea and Yankee Stadium. Ed Kranepool relayed one of the more entertaining stories of the evening regarding the Mets colorful manager, Casey Stengel. "Casey was going to bring me out after a few innings of playing the second game of a double-header in 1964. I had played the first game, so I wasn't that worried; being 19 you're just happy to be out there. Of course, Casey couldn't keep his promise, as he used all of the substitutes within the first few innings and the game just happened to go 23 innings. The game ended at 11:50. If it would have gone 10 more minutes, it would have been the longest game ever, as we would have started in May and ended in June!"

For more information on the Baseball Assistance Team, please visit