Feb 28, 2015

Mets Pitcher: Rafael Montero (2014)

Rafael Quezada Montero was born October 17th 1990 in Higuerito, Banica Dominican Republic. The six foot right hander was signed by the New York Mets at the age of 20, getting a late pro start.

Montero began his career in 2011, going from the Rookie League to A ball Brooklyn. In just two games with the Cyclones, he was 1-0 allowing two  runs on three hits in five innings of work.

In 2012 he was 11-5 overall between Savannah & St. Lucie. He posted a 2.36 ERA striking out 110 batters in 110 innings making 20 starts.

He was invited to the Mets Spring Training camp in 2013, impressing people with his aggressiveness against big league hitters. Mets assistant GM Paul DePodesta said; "He didn't care, he went right after them".

Quotes: Montero said of getting to face major-league hitters- “I think it helped me last year, I knew what I had to work on. I am excited to do it again.”

In 2013 he was promoted to AA Binghamton, where he impressed going; 7-3 with 72 strike outs & just ten walks in 66 innings pitched, while posting a 2.43 ERA. He was promoted to the AAA level at Las Vegas. There he was 5-4 with a 3.05 ERA, 78 strike outs & 25 walks in 88 innings pitched. His overall 2013 numbers were 12-7 with a 2.78 ERA, 150 strike outs & 35 walks in 155 innings in 27 games.

Montero had an impressive early Spring Training in 2013, gaining a lot of attention behind the most popular prospect; Noah Syndergaard. He got the start in the first Spring Training game of 2014, pitching two scoreless innings at Port St. Lucie against the Washington Nationals.

He was ranked at #68 among all minor league prospects by Baseball America. He strikes out a lot of batters without using a blazing fastball, topping off in the low nineties. Most impressive, is that he walks very few batters, so far Montero has walked just 100 batters in 434 minor league innings through 2014. 

At AAA Las Vegas he went 6-4 with a 3.60 ERA, striking out 80 batters in 80 innings pitched.

Montero made his MLB debut on May 14th, replacing an injured Dillon Gee. He got a start in a subway series game at Citi Field. He pitched six innings but took a 4-0 loss, where he gave up three earned runs & five hits. His next start was against the L.A. Dodgers & didnt go well either, as he gave up five runs in 4.1 innings.

On May 25th he got no decision in a 2-1 loss to the Arizona d-backs. In six innings he allowed just one run on two hits, striking out an impressive ten batters. After four starts he was sent back to AAA Las Vegas to tune himself up & get ready for the big leagues.

He returned in mid August & was greeted back with a loss to the Nationals at Citi Field. He then pitched another fine game which resulted in a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs, this time he went into the 8th inning, allowing one run on five hits.

On September 10th, Montero earned his first career win, he went into the sixth inning, shutting out the Colorado Rockies, allowing just three hits with seven strike outs.
On September 27th he went into the 6th inning, allowing just one run, striking out six, in a 2-1 Mets win over the Houston Astros.

In ten games he was 1-3 with a 4.06 ERA, with 42 strike outs & 23 walks in 44 innings of work. The future looks very bright for this young pitcher.

The First Mets Player To HR In Four Straight Games: Larry Elliot (1964/1966)

Lawrence Lee Elliot was born on March 5, 1938 in San Diego, California. The left handed hitting outfielder was signed out of Herbert Hoover high School by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1958. 

Elliot was a power hitter in the minors, hitting 25 HRs in the Carolina League in 1959. At the AAA level he hit over 20 HRs in both the 1962 & 1963 seasons at Columbus. He made the Pirates club starting the 1962 season, hitting an even .300 in eight games. He hit his first MLB career HR in his last game before going back to the minors at San Francisco on May 3rd. His contract was purchased by the New York Mets in December of 1963. 

 In 1964 he was primarily used as Jim Hickman’s backup centerfielder. He made his first Mets start on April 15th, 164 in the third game of the season. He batted sixth & played centerfield, going 0-4 in the 4-1 loss at Philadelphia. 

On April 17th, in the first game ever played at Shea Stadium, he came in to pinch run for Jim Hickman, in the fourth inning. He remained in the game & got an 8th inning single off Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Bob Friend.

That May Elliot hit his first Mets HR, coming in 10-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Shea Stadium. Elliot didn't get over the .200 hitting mark until July, but then had a good month as he got himself going. 

That month Elliot saw the most playing time of his season, seeing action in 23 games. He started out the month with a three hit day, including a HR in Houston, in an 8-6 Mets win over the Astros. On July 12th he drove in two runs in a 5-1 Mets win over the Reds, in the second game of a rare twin bill sweep. Then starting on June 21st, he had the best week of his career. 

He became the first Met in history to hit HRs in four straight games, it began on a road trip to Cincinnati when he hit HRs in all three games. Two of them were solo shots, in the first two games, then a two run shot off the Reds Jim Maloney, in the third game. 

 The next day when the club returned home to Shea Stadium, Elliot hit another HR against the Milwaukee Braves. Two games later, he hit a three run pinch hit HR in the bottom of the 7th inning, in a wild 15-10 loss to the Braves. Overall during that week in a seven game stretch he hit five HRs, drove in nine runs & scored nine runs while gathering up ten hits. 

On August 2nd, Elliot hitting a three run HR against the Houston Colts, & drove in another run with a sac fly, but the Mets still lost 9-7. On August 11th, he hit a HR in the 3rd inning in a game at Pittsburgh, then later hit a game winning double in the 7th inning. The game officially ended after eight innings, with New York winning 3-2.

He then missed two weeks of action, after getting injured trying to break up a double play & getting hit in the face with the ball. He returned in early September. He was mostly used as a pinch hitter, but went 2-14 in the month. For the season in 80 games, Eliot hit .228 with 9 HRs, eight doubles & 22 RBIs. He drew 28 walks which gave him a .320 on base %. 

Elliot spent the entire 1965 season playing in the AAA Pacific Coast League for San Diego, hitting .247 with 14 HRs 26 doubles & 48 RBIs. In 1966 he returned to New York batting .303 at AAA Jacksonville, getting called back up to the Mets squad that July. Upon his return he went on a nine game hit streak & at one point got his average up to .348. 

On July 7th at Philadelphia he came to bat in the top of the 9th inning with two men on base. Al Luplow had just broken a 6-6 tie with the Phillies, Elliot then doubled giving the Mets a three run lead in a game they would win 9-6. 

On July 18th he drove in four runs, with a three hit day including a solo HR in a 6-3 win over the Astros. That August he drove in runs in three straight games, during two different stretches. Over a mid month road trip to Pittsburgh & St. Louis, Elliot had three straight multiple RBI games. Overall he drove in 18 runs from the end of July to the end of August, ending the month hitting safely in ten of thirteen games. 

He tailed off in September & would finish the season batting .246 with five HRs, playing in 65 games. He had also added career highs in RBIs (32) & doubles (14). That season he played all three outfield positions and appeared eleven times as a pinch hitter. Elliot had a strong throwing arm & made ten assists in just 54 games in the outfield on the season. He did make eight errors posting a .912 fielding %. 

In May of 1967 the Mets traded him to the Kansas City A’s (with $50,000) cash for a key member of the 1969 Mets squad, veteran third baseman "The Glider" Ed Charles. Elliot would play three more seasons in the minor leagues never appearing in the majors again. 

Retirement: In a four year career, he batted .236 with 103 hits 22 doubles 2 triples 15 HRs & 56 RBIs posting a .311 on base % playing in 157 games. After his playing days he became a high school baseball coach in San Diego.

Early Sixties Mets Reserve Catcher: Sammy Taylor (1962-1963)

Samuel Douglas Taylor was born on February 27, 1933 in Woodruff South Carolina. The six foot two, left hand hitting catcher was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1956. After two seasons in their minor leagues he was traded along with Taylor Phillips, to the Chicago Cubs for Eddie Haas, Don Kaiser and Bob Rush.

 Taylor became the Cubs regular catcher in 1959, batting .269 with a career high 13 HRs, 13 doubles & 43 RBIs. In June of the 1959 he was involved in a strange play while behind the plate.

The legendary Stan Musial walked on a ball four, wild pitch that got past Taylor. He argued the call, saying Musial had foul tipped the ball as it rolled to the backstop. Musial ran to second, Alvin Dark ran to the backstop to retrieve the ball. The ball wound up in the hands of the field announcer, a new ball was taken, and thrown into the outfield.

As Musial tried for third; the old ball was retrieved then thrown to third base where Ernie Banks tagged out Musial. Behind the plate that season, he caught 109 games and committed a league leading ten errors. 

In 1960, he was a second string catcher behind Ed Tappe, batting only .207 in 74 games. The next season, Dick Bertell took over as the Cubs main catcher, with Taylor as a aback up seeing action in 89 games; batting .238. On April 26, 1962 he got traded to the expansion New York Mets for Bobby Gene Smith. Taylor arrived at the Polo Grounds where the young Mets had played just 14 games in the team's history. At that point they were 2-12 already 8 1/2 games back. 

On April 28th he appeared as a pinch hitter drawing a walk in a 8-6 loss to the Phillies. In his second game as a Met, Taylor got a hit. driving in a run, in a rare '62 Mets 8-0 win, also over the Phillies. On May 19th, he helped spark an 8th inning, four run Mets rally, as he singled in a run, off Milwaukee's Lew Burdette. Hot Rod Kanehl came in to run for him & scored the winning run on a Jim Hickman sac fly. 

Eleven of his twenty RBIs came in the month of June, when he saw the most playing time (21 games) getting 13 hits, including a four game hit streak. On July 7th, Taylor had a big day, hitting HRs in both ends of a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds, in games against the St. Louis Cardinals. In the first game he hit a sixth inning solo shot off Larry Jackson, which was the first run in the Mets 4-3 win. In the second game he hit another solo shot, this one off Ray Washburn, although the Mets lost the game 3-2. It would be the last HR of Taylor's career & he would finish with just three on the season. 

In July he went down with injury missing over a month of time, returning at the end of September. He spent the season in a revolving door of New York Mets catchers who tried out for a regular job in that position.

Included in the cast were; Chris Cannizzaro, Choo Choo Coleman, Joe Pignatano, Hobie Landrith & Harry Chiti. Overall in 68 games Taylor hit .222 but led all the weak hitting catchers with three HRs & twenty RBIs. In 56 games behind the plate he threw out 33% of base runners attempting to steal & posted a .992 fielding %. 

In 1963 he didn't get to the Mets club until late May, & would see action in 22 games through June, batting .257 with six RBIs. On July 1st he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds along with Charlie Neal, for another catcher; Jesse Gonder.

After one month there, Taylor was sent to the Cleveland Indians for Gene Green. He played just four games in Cleveland & spent the next two seasons in the minor leagues before retiring from the game. 

Taylor finished his brief six season playing in 473 lifetime game, hitting .245 with 309 hits 33 HRs 47 doubles, 147 RBIs & a .313 on base %.

Feb 27, 2015

Early Nineties Mets Speedster: Chuck Carr (1990-1991)

Charles Lee Glenn Carr was born on August 10, 1967 in San Bernardino, California. The switch hitting speedy outfielder was drafted out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds in the 9th round of the 1986 draft. Over the next two years he moved to three organizations mostly due to his bad attitude.

By 1989 he was with the New York Mets, stealing 47 bases at AA Jackson, but only hitting .241. In 1990 he made a one game appearance with the Mets in late April, filling in a quick roster spot going 0-1. Back at Jackson, he stole 48 bases in 93 games & was promoted to AAA Tidewater. In 20 games there, he hit .259 stole six more bases & was briefly brought up to the Mets big league squad again in August.

He mostly was used as a pinch runner in two games, stealing a base against the San Diego Padres in a 2-1 Bob Ojeda win on August 25th. With the Mets, Carr first donned uniform #1, this just a season after Mookie Wilson had been traded to Toronto, he then switched to uniform #27.

In 1991 he was up for two games in June, where he was used as a pinch runner stealing another base. He was sent back to AAA Tidewater but hit just .195.

He was back with the Mets from August 16th - August 28th but hit just .182 on the year in 12 games. In December 1991 he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals organization for a minor leaguer.

From there he was chosen as the 14th pick of the expansion Florida Marlins. He became one of the teams first top players, as he led the NL in stolen bases (58) as well as caught stealing (23) batting .267 with 19 doubles & 75 runs scored. He played a centerfield as well & came in fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting. That was the Year Mike Piazza won the Award. He would play outfield alongside Jeff Conine & Gary Sheffield the next two seasons, stealing 32 & 25 bases respectively.

By 1995 he fell off to a .227 average & his attitude wasn't the most positive one in the clubhouse. In November of 1995 the Marlins signed free agent Devon White & the writing is on the wall for Carr. He is soon traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for a minor leaguer.

On Opening Day 1996 he had a huge debut for the Brew Crew, hitting a HR, driving & scoring three runs in the 15-6 win at Anaheim over the Angels. His hitting fell off & he was still batting .274 at the end of May when he went down for the season with injury. While playing with the Brewers he was best remembered for popping up on a 2-0 pitch, after being given the take sign by third base coach; Chris Bando.

Carr was leading off the inning, with Milwaukee down 4-1 to the Angels. The call came from then Brewer Manager; Phil Garner. When questioned Carr said " That aint Chuckies game. Chuckie hacks on 2-0." Carr was soon released from the team, at the time he was batting just .184.

He finished the season & his playing career in Houston with the Astros that same year. In his eight year career, Carr batted .254 with 435 hits, 81 doubles, 7 triples, 13 HRs 123 RBIs, 144 stolen bases & a .316 on base %. He played in 484 games in the outfield making 28 assists with a .984 fielding %.

Retirement: By 1999 he was playing in the Independent Atlantic League for the Atlantic City Surf. In 2000 he played for Bud Harrelson, who had been his manager with the Mets, on the Long Island Ducks. Carr later became a minor league coach in the Astros organization.

The First Brooklyn Cyclone Player To Make the Mets Big League Club: Brain Bannister (2006)

Brian Patrick Bannister was born on February 28, 1981 in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is the son of former big leaguer Floyd Bannister, who pitched in the majors for 15 seasons, with the Houston Astros (1977-1978) Seattle Mariners (1979-1982), Chicago White Sox (1983-1987) & Kansas City Royals (1988-1989) going 134-143 lifetime with a 4.06 ERA. 

 Floyd had double figures in victories for seven straight seasons, including two 16 win seasons with the White Sox in the eighties. In 1982 while pitching for the Mariners, Bannister led the AL in strike outs (209) going 12-13 pitching 247 innings (8th in the AL) posting a 3.43 ERA (8th in the AL).

Bannister was a good strikeout pitcher, having the best strike out per nine inning ratio in 1983 & 1985. He was in the league's top ten in strike outs five times, finishing his career with 1723 (108th all time). He was also in the top ten in ERA three times. In his career he also allowed 291 strike outs (53rd most all time). 

Brian Bannister attended the University of Southern California and starred as both a starting pitcher as well as a closer there. The six foot two right hander, was drafted by the New York Mets in the seventh round of the 2003 draft. In 2003 he pitched for the A ball Brooklyn Cyclones, going 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA in 12 games. 

 In 2006 when he made the Mets pitching staff, he became the first Cyclones player to make it to the big league team. He was honored at Brooklyn's Keyspan Park in September 2006, having his number retired by the Cyclones on Brian Bannister bobble head night. In 2004 he went from A ball St. Lucie to AA Binghamton & was highly touted at this point in his career. In 2005 he was 9-4 at AA Binghamton getting promoted to AAA Norfolk. There he was 4-1 witha 3.18 ERA in eight games.

In 2006 he had a good spring training & made it to the Mets staff as a fifth starter. Bannister debuted at Shea Stadium in the Mets second game of the season, pitching six innings against the Washington Nationals, allowing three runs getting no decision.

In his second career start, at Washington he earned his first career win, allowing just one run in seven innings. On April 16th he got his second win, it came against the Milwaukee Brewers where he allowed just one run in five innings. After five starts he pulled a hamstring while running the bases in San Francisco & went on the DL with a 2-0 record. 

He missed four months, returning back in late August, in his first start he took a loss to the Phillies allowing four runs in six innings of work. He was sent right back to AAA Norfolk after the game, but returned to make two relief appearances in September.

On the season he would go 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA, striking out 19 batters in 38 innings while walking 22. Bannister was a good hitter as well going 4-12 with three doubles and two RBIs, good enough for a .333 average. 

Over the winter the Mets traded him to the Kansas City Royals in order to boost up their bullpen, as they acquired Ambiorix Burgess. In Kansas City, Bannister was put right into the rotation, and had a great start, winning the Pitcher of the Month Award in June. He went on to make the Topps All Star Rookie team, leading the staff in wins with 12 (12-9). He posted a 3.67 ERA pitching 216 innings making 34 starts. 

He struggled the next season on a 4th place Royals club, losing 16 games (second most losses in the league) while allowing 29 HRs, posting a 5.76 ERA. He went an identical 7-12 the next two seasons, and in 2010 his ERA climbed to a whopping 6.34. In 2011 he signed to pitch in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants, but left before the season started due to concerns with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. 

Retirement: Bannister has now retired from the game in both countries. He is also a professional photographer and had his work published in the NY Times, NY Daily News as well as other publications. 

Bannister is also the founder of Loft 19 Photography Studios in Phoenix, Arizona.

One of The Players the Mets Got In the Tom Seaver Trade: Dan Norman (1977-1981)

Daniel Edmund Norman was born on January 11, 1955 in Los Angeles, California. The six foot two switch hitting outfielder was drafted in the 15th round of the 1974 amateur draft by the Cincinnati Reds.

He played through the Reds system next to outfielder Steve Henderson s getting promoted together through the minor leagues. In 1976 he hit 17 HRs batting .273 at AA Trois-Rivieres getting promoted to AAA Indianapolis the following year.

On June 15, 1977 he was traded along with his pal, Steve Henderson as well as Doug Flynn & Pat Zachary to the Mets for Tom Seaver in the famous “Midnight Massacre” trade. According to former WFAN Radio talk show host, Jody Macdonald; he thought Norman was going to be a star player. He told his dad, Joe MacDonald who was the Mets GM at the time to make sure he got Norman in the trade.

Coming to New York Henderson got promoted right away to the Mets team while Norman was sent down to AAA Tidewater. There he batted .264 with 10 HRs & a .344 on base % in 80 games. He got a late September call up, debuting in Pittsburgh against the Pirates on September 27th as a pinch hitter. He went 4-16 with four walks on the season.

He was back at AAA Tidewater in 1978 leading the team in HRs (18) RBIs (66) & batting (.281) getting another September cup of coffee. In his second game he hit his first MLB HR at Olympic Stadium against the Montreal Expos.

Two days later he had a career day, going 2-4 with a pair of HRs and three RBIs leading the Mets to a 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Veterans Stadium. He closed out the season driving in runs in his last two games. On the year he hit .266 with 4 HRs one triple 7 runs scored& 10 RBIs.
In 1979 he was back at AAA Tidewater getting up to the Mets big league squad in July. He saw action in 44 games batting .245 with 3 HRs 11 RBIs. In 1980 he was on the club for the entire season, & manager Joe Torre used him mostly as a pinch hitter. This probably wasn't a good idea for a 25 year old kid, he played in 69 games overall, (19 in the outfield) but his average fell to.185 with just two HRs & 9 RBIs.

In May of 1981 he was playing at Tidewater when he was part of another big Mets trade. This time he was sent to the Montreal Expos along with Jeff Reardon for outfielder Ellis Valentine.

He spent 1981 in the minors & in 1982 played in only 53 games for the Expos batting .212 before his ending his MLB career. He would play in the minors through 1986 spending 12 years there playing in 1183 games. In five seasons he hit .227 with 79 hits 11 HRs 8 doubles 3 triples 29 runs scored 37 RBIs & a .287 on base %.

Retirement: After his playing days Norman became a manager in the Florida State League (1987) the Arizona League (1995/2000) & the Canadian baseball League (2003).

Former Bronx Born Italian / American Player: Frank Malzone (1955-1966)

Frank James Malzone was born on February 28, 1930 in the Bronx, New York. He went to Samuel Gompers High School on Southern Blvd. off 149th St in the 1940’s. 

The five foot ten, third baseman was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1947. He served two years of Military service, during the Korean War in the early fifties before getting to the major leagues. 

He was already 25 years old when he arrived in Boston for a 1955 cup of coffee with the Red Sox. Two years later, he was the Red Sox regular third baseman, and had a fantastic rookie season. He batted .292 (10th in the AL) while driving in a career high 103 runs (3rd in the AL). Malzone hit 15 HRs with 31 doubles five triples & posted a .323 on base % playing in 153 games. He made the All Star team, came in second to Tony Kubek in the Rookie of the Year voting & was seventh in the MVP voting as well. 

He won his first Gold Glove at third base, the first year the Award was issued. He also became the first player in modern baseball history, to lead his position in games played (153), putouts (151), assists (370), errors (25) fielding & double plays. On September 24t, 1957 h he also tied an MLB record with ten assists. 

In 1958 he followed up with another All Star season, batting .295 coming in second in the league with 185 hits. He hit 15 HRs with 30 doubles 87 RBIs while leading the league in games (154) & at bats (627). At third base he won his second Gold Glove, posting a .954 fielding %, leading the league in assists (378) games (154) & errors (27). 

 In 1959 he hit .280 having another All Star year, hitting a career high 19 HRs with 34 doubles (2nd in the AL) 169 hits (6th in the AL) & 92 RBIs (10th in the AL). Malzone won another Gold Glove in 1959, & was the last third baseman to win the award before Brooks Robinsons’ won an incredible 16 straight. 

Malzone also set another defensive record at the time for third baseman, as he led the league in double plays five straight seasons. As he entered the sixties he dropped in numbers the first two years of the decade. In 1962 had a career high 21 HRs with 95 RBIs & 20 doubles while batting .283. 

He returned to have a good 1963 season as well, batting .291 with 15 HRs & 71 RBIs. Malzone spent eleven seasons as the Red Sox third baseman, winning three Gold Gloves making six All Star teams. After the 1965 season Malzone was released, he would be replaced by future Met & another Bronx born player; Joe Foy. In his eleven seasons with the Red Sox they never finished above third place & would finish seventh or worse in his final four years.
 Malzone signed with the Los Angeles Angels in what would be his final season as a player. In 82 games he batted just .206 & retired at age 35. In his 12 year career Malzone hit .274 with 1486 hits 133 HRs, 239 doubles, 21 triples, 337 walks 728 RBIs & a .315 on base % in 1441 games. 

He posted a .955 career fielding average, making 196 errors in 4388 chances. He ranks in the top twenty in Red Sox history in hits, HRs, games played, doubles, runs, and RBIs. 

Retirement: After his playing days, Malzone was a scout for the Red Sox for 35 years, and still is a consultant for player development. He was elected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1995. Malzone lives in Needham just outside of the city of Boston. 

 "As far as my personal achievements with the game I would say when you play ten full years and make the All-Star team eight times that is quite an accomplishment for myself. The only thing that I regret is that I never got to play in the post-season."

Feb 26, 2015

Early 2000's Japanese Mets Outfielder: Tsuyoshi Shinjo (2001/2003)

Tsuyoshi Shinjo was born January 28, 1972 in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. He was one of the best defensive center fielders of the 1990's in his native Japan. Although he didn't hit for power he was a very popular player due to his antics & good natured personality.

He dyed his hair, leaped with a hop when he caught a ball, wore flashy clothes & colorful wrist bands.
He left Japan and signed with the New York Mets for $200,000 in 2001, turning down a $2 million deal in Japan.
His signing in MLB with New York was influenced by manager Bobby Valentine & surprised a lot of people. Shinjo played hard for the Mets, winning over the fans as well as his manager Bobby Valentine. He hustled & always had an positive, upbeat attitude.

He debuted getting an at bat on Opening Day in Atlanta & got his first MLB hit. In the third game of the year he got his first start & that day he drove in his first RBI. On April 9th he hit his first career HR it came off Jason Marquis & the Braves at Shea Stadium. On May 13th he had three hit day at Shea Stadium in a game against the Cincinnati Reds. A week later he singled in the bottom of the 9th inning scoring the Mets winning run against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On July 18th he had another game winning hit, this time scoring Joe McEwing to beat the Florida Marlins. From June 1st through June 7th on an East Coast road trip, he had four games where he drove in two each time. In the first game after the September 11th attacks, it was Shinjo who drew a bases loaded walk to drive in the first run on the return, it came off the Pirates Todd Ritchie in Pittsburgh in the 3rd inning.

He had a good rookie debut, as he made the Topps All Star Rookie team, batting .268 with 10 HRs 23 doubles & 56 RBIs playing in 123 games. He also made MLB ethnic history becoming the first Japanese born player to bat clean up in an MLB line up.

In the outfield he played in center field (53) games where he posted a perfect .1000 fielding % & in left (46 games) where he was fourth in the league with a eight assists. He also played right field (39 games ) posting a .985 fielding %.

Some people criticized his hot dog style of play & his flashy look. He wore big bright orange wrist bands & had fancy wraparound sun glasses. After the season, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants with Desi Relaford for pitcher Sean Estes. He struggled a bit in the Bay Area batting only .238 with 9 HRs 15 doubles & 37 RBIs in 118 games. But Shinjo made history again, that season becoming the first Japanese native to play in a World Series. He went 1-6, in three Series games for the Giants, as they lost to the Anaheim Angels in seven games.

He was released after the Series and got signed by the New York Mets once again for 2003. He saw some action in the outfield (54 games) and was used as a pinch hitter as well. He faded quickly and was done at the end of June. He was sent to AAA Norfolk where he hit .324 the rest of the season.After only 62 games he hit .193 with one HR & 7 RBIs. He ended his big league career with 202 hits, 41 doubles, 20 HRs, 100 RBIs & a .245 batting average in 303 games.

Retirement: He went back to play in Japan & had some solid seasons before retiring in 2006. He played on many losing teams in Japan, but in his final season, his Nippon Ham Fighters won the Championship. The crowd gave him a standing ovation as he took the field in the last inning, and the team carried him off the field in victory when it was over.

Overall in Japan, he won 9 gold gloves & made three Best Nine teams. Currently he is a TV celebrity in Japan, has a coffee drink named for him, runs a line of clothing & won ten million Yen on the Japan version of "Millionaire".

Late Nineties Mets Prospect & Short Time Player: Terrence Long (1999)

Terrence Deon Long was born on February 29, 1976 in Montgomery, Alabama. Long was the New York Mets first round draft pick in 1994 (20th pick overall) getting selected right out of high school. The outfielder remained in A ball for four years before making to AA Binghamton in 1998. There he hit .297 with 23 stolen bases, 16 HRs & 58 RBIs. 

Long went to Mets Spring Training in 1999 & made the team after having a good run. He would make three appearances as a pinch hitter as a New York Met, going 0-3. He was sent to AAA Norfolk, where he batted .326 with 7 HRs 20 doubles & 47 RBIs playing in 78 games.

 Then in July he was traded to The Oakland A’s for veteran pitcher Kenny Rodgers. Rodgers helped the Mets win the 1999 wild card race, going 5-1 with a shutout & two complete games. But he had a bad post season, going 0-2 & walking in the winning run of Game #6 of the NLCS in Atlanta. 

 Terrence Long went on to make his debut in Oakland the next year, as the teams main centerfielder. He batted in the leadoff spot & sparked an Oakland team to four straight post season appearances. In 2000 he batted .288 with a career high 18 HRs & 104 runs scored. He drove in 80 runs hit 34 doubles with four triples posting a .336 on base %. Long came in second in the Rookie of the Year voting to Seattle’s Kazuhiro Sasaki. Long & the A’s got to the 2000 ALDS where he only batted .158 but he did hit one HR in Game #3 off Orlando Hernandez. 

 Over the next two seasons, Long would play in every game of the regular & post seasons for the Athletics. He would hit 30 or more doubles for three straight seasons & hit 14 or more HRs for four straight years. With Oakland he would get to four straight posts seasons but lose in the first round each time. In 2001 Long would bat .283 with 12 HRs 37 doubles & a career high 85 RBIs. 

 Post Season : That year in the ALDS he hit .389 (7-18) with a pair of HRs & three RBIs. In Game #1 he hit a fourth inning, lead off HR off Roger Clemens & in the top of the 8th hit another off Sterling Hitchcock. 

The A's won the game 5-3 on the road. Long would hit safely in all five games, driving inn another run in the Game #4 loss. The A's started out the series with a two games to nothing lead, but lost the final three games. His average fell off to .240 in 2002 but he did hit 16 HRs with 32 doubles & 67 RBIs.

 In 2003 he hit just .245 & the A’s traded him along with catcher Ramon Hernandez to the San Diego Padres for Mark Kotsay. It was a big trade at the time, but neither player worked out for too long. In one season at San Diego, Long batted .295 in 136 games (just 288 at bats) but only hit three HRs with 28 RBIs. In the outfield he made twelve assists which was second most in the NL. 

After the season he was traded to the Kansas City Royals for Darrel May & Ryan Bukvich. Longs career winded down quickly, he signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 2006 but was released. He got picked up by the A.L. New York team, playing in 12 games. 

After eight seasons, Long batted .269 with 824 hits 69 HRs 166 doubles 21 triples 428 runs scored 376 RBIs & a .318 on base % in 890 games played.

Former Italian / American Hall of Fame Player: Ron Santo (1960-1974)

Ronald Edward Santo was born on February 25th, 1940 in Seattle, Washington. The six foot right hand hitting third baseman, was signed by the Chicago Cubs in 1959 as an amateur free agent.  He played two pro seasons in the minors, before making the Cubs big league club during the 1960  season.

By 1961 he was a regular, securing a spot as the Cubs third baseman for next thirteen seasons. 

In that time he made nine All Star appearances & received voted for the league MVP six times. He would hit 20 or more HRs eleven times, including four straight seasons of 30 plus (1965-1967). He finished in the leagues top ten in that category seven times.

He would drive in 90 runs or better eight straight seasons, with four 100 plus RBI seasons. He was second in the NL in RBIs three times (1964, 1968-1969) but never led the league.

Santo did lead the league in walks four times, including three straight seasons from 1966-1968. He also led the league in sac flies & times on base three times, as well as on base % & games played twice. Not known for his speed, he also led the league in triples in 1964. 

In his 15 year career, Santo was a lifetime .277 hitter, batting over .300 four times, making three top ten appearances in the leagues hitting department.

He posted 2254 hits (160th all time) with 342 HRs (92nd all time) 1331 RBIs (93rd all time) & 365 doubles (237th all time). He drew 1108 walks (75rd all time) & posted a .362 on base % in 2243 games played (125th all time).

With all that offense, his defensive number may be more impressive. Defensively he was one of the best third baseman of his era, but he was over shadowed only by the Baltimore Orioles; Brooks Robinson.

Santo won five straight Gold Glove Awards in the sixties (1964-1968) leading the league in double plays six times, assists & put outs seven times each. He also set NL records for career assists (4,532), total chances (6,777) and double plays (389) at third base (all of which were eventually broken).

His 2130 games at third base are still 9th most all time. He has 4581 assists (5th all time) & 1955 put outs (13th all time). Santo turned 395 doubles plays (9th all time). He led the league six times in that category during his playing days. He also mad 317 errors (30th all time) leading the NL three times there as well.

Trivia: In a 1966  game, the New York Mets jack Fisher hit Santo with a pitch fracturing his cheekbone, during a Cubs team record hitting streak. Santo missed two weeks of action & returned wearing an ear flap on his helmet, making him one of the first players to do so.

On May 28th 1966, Santo hit a game winning, three run walk off HR off the Braves; Ted Abernathy to beat Atlanta 8-5 at Wrigley Field. The next day he hit another walk off game winner, beating Atlanta 3-2 in the 10th inning. It would be 45 years until another player (Albert Pujols) accomplished this feat.

1969 Heel Clicking: In 1969 Ron Santo & the Cubs were riding high, in first place for 180 games going into September. Santo was part of a Cubs infield that sent every player to that years All Star Game in Washington D.C.

In a June 1969 game, the Cubs were down 6-3 to the Montreal Expos. Although Santo grounded out in the inning, the Cubs came back to win it on a Jim Hickman game winning HR. Santo was so excited about the win, he jumped up, clicking his heels as the tea, walked off the field. Cubs then Manger; the legendary Leo Durocher. liked it so much, he asked Santo to continue the heel clicking after each win.

In July the New York Mets first got a glimpse of this, after a 1-0 win beating Tom Seaver, in the first game of a big three game series at Wrigley Field.

Ron Santo did his traditional leap in the air clicking his heels as the Cubs exited the field. This a week after Seaver's 'imperfect game" where he one hit the Cubs at Shea Stadium on July 9th. This did not sit well with the young New York Mets, who were getting cocky themselves as they kept winning. They thought Santos antics were it Busch league.

The Amazing’s went on to take the next two games at Wrigley, proving they were for real, coming within four games of the first place Cubbies.

Black Cat Night At Shea: In a now famous scene of the 1969 Mets season, Santo is seen watching a black cat run by him, in deck circle, one his way over to peer into the Cubs dugout. It has become known as 'black cat night" at Shea Stadium in September 1969. The black cat dropped his bad luck to the Cubs, during the Mets two game series sweep of Chicago, moving them within a half game of first place.

In the opening game, New Jersey born Cubs pitcher; Bill Hands threw at Mets leadoff hitter Tommie Agee to send a message. Mets Jerry Koosman answered by drilling Santo in his first at bat, in the second inning. Agee later followed with a two run HR leading the Mets to a 3-2 win. In September the Mets took over first place, Santo stopped clicking his heels on September 2nd, the last day his team was in first place.

Many have put him down for his over confident antics at the time & through the years. In 1969 after the Cubs collapse, the Amazing Mets went on to win the World Series. Santo finished 1969 with 29 HRS (8th in the NL) 123 RBIs (2nd in the NL) & a .289 batting average for the second place Cubs.

Santo was still productive in the early seventies but health slowly began to creep up on him as he reached 30 years old. He hit 20 plus HRs three times from 1970-1973, with four straight 70 plus RBI seasons. He hit .300 once (1972), with three .267 seasons. In 1974 he was one of the first players to decline a trade due to the new ten & five rule negotiated by the Players Union in 1972. He declined a trade to the California Angels but soon accepted a trade across town to the Chicago White Sox.

The Sox had slugger Bill Melton at third base & Santo was mostly used as a DH. It was a role he hated, but Manager Chuck Tanner would not sit Melton, who had previously had two 30 plus HR seasons himself. Santo was tried out at second base but it did not work out. He retired at the end of that 1974 season at the age of 34.

Health: Santo was diagnosed with diabetes as a teenager but hid it from the team in fear he would have to leave the game. He judged his sugar levels by his mood swings before the technology for diabetic detection improved.

He did not make it publicly known until "Ron Santo Day" in Chicago in 1971. The disease would eventually cause him to have both legs amputated & factor in to his death in 2010.

Ron Santo Day at Wrigley Field 1971

Retirement: Santo was a Chicago Cubs radio broadcaster from 1990-2010. He worked alongside guys like Harry Carry, Thom Brennaman, Steve Stone & Bob Brenly. Santo became popular with a whole new generation of Cub fans due to his loyalty to the team.

Passing: On December 2, 2010 he passed away after complications from bladder cancer. At his funeral his casket was draped with his uniform #10, carried by former team mates Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams, Glenn Beckert & Randy Hundley. He was cremated & had his ashes scattered over Wrigley Field.

Ernie Banks, Ron Santo & Billy Williams

Honors: During his lifetime, Santo was one of the strongest candidates for the Hall of Fame who did not got in because he never won a World Series or hit some of the Hall's magic numbers. After his death, Santo did get elected in by the 2012 Veteran's Committee.

In 2003 his uniform #10 was retired by the Cubs & hangs underneath Mr. Cub’s Ernie Banks. He told Cub fans that this honor was more important on him being in the Hall of Fame. I 2012 a statue of him was erected outside Wrigley Field.