Jul 29, 2014

The First Mets Manager: Hall of Famer- Casey Stengel (1962-1965)

Charles Dillon Stengel was born on July 30th 1890 in Kansas City Missouri to Irish, German immigrants.

He was a five foot eleven all around left hander who started out a pitcher with a Kansas City minor league team.

He attended Dental school to have a back up career if baseball didn't work out. The dental school background also helped him negotiate a contract in baseball. He could run fast, hit well but not pitch all that great, so he was switched to being an outfielder. He was a hardnosed player who always hustled on the field. He was a brawler who liked his liquor & nights out on the town.

Casey Stengel Brooklyn Superbas
In 1912 he made it to the big leagues with the Brooklyn Superbas, who later became the Dodgers. In his first game he had four straight base hits , walked & had an RBI.

Trivia: While playing in a poker game during a rain delay, another player commented "you finally won a hand there Kansas City". The moniker stuck, this led to people shortening it to KC, which soon became Casey.

He also first earned the nickname "Professor" when he went to rehab a shoulder injury with his old high school coach, who was now with the University of Mississippi.

He held out for a bigger contract before the 1913 season, but was sent a contract by Charles Ebbetts before the season began. History remembers him as the first Brooklyn player to come to bat in the new Ebbetts Field & the first to also hit a HR. In 17 games his first season he hit .316. He would spend six years in Brooklyn, leading the league in on base percentage in 1914 while batting .316 with 19 stolen bases.

In 1916 he helped Brooklyn win a pennant, hitting 27 doubles & driving in 53 runs & scoring 66. He was one of the leagues best right fielders as well, leading the league in assists & double plays turned.

He hit .364 in the World Series loss to the Boston Red Sox. The next year he led all right fielders in fielding, double plays, assists & games played. Casey eventually went to play in Pittsburg with the Pirates (1918-1919) but was not happy there.

In a famous game back at Brooklyn, the fans were really letting him have it on a bad day. He put a small swallow, under his cap & when he got onto the field getting booed, he tipped his cap & the swallow flew away. He had given the crowd the bird, even the umpire had to laugh. That move didn't amuse management & he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for parts of the next two seasons.

In July of 1921 he was traded to the New York Giants along with Johnny Rawlings in exchange for Lee King, Goldie Rapp & Lance Richboug. 

He was more of a part time player & pinch hitter by this time, playing for Manager John McGraw. But in 1922 an injury had him see more playing time as a regular & Casey batted .368 in 84 games.

He helped the Giants get to two World Series, winning the Championship in 1922 in the second ever NY Subway World Series. The Giants won both of those first two match ups. Stengel injured his led in the '22 Series & went 2-5 in two games before getting side lined.

Stengel 1923 World Series: NY Giants
Post Season: In the 1923 Series he was the Giants best all around hitter, batting.417 (5-16)with two HRs & four RBIs, in the six game Series loss.

In Game #1 in the Bronx ballpark, he hit a game winning top of the 9th inning, inside the park HR, putting the Giants up 5-4.

In Game #3 he hit a HR over the right field porch, scoring the only run of the game, as Art Nehf out dueled Sad Sam Jones 1-0. As he rounded the bases, he blew kisses to the fans & snubbed his nose to the AL New York's team bench.

This didn't go over well, as he was fined by the Commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis who was at the game.

Owner Jacob Ruppert wanted him suspended but Landis replied: "Casey Stengel just can't help being Casey Stengel."

Stengel also drove in runs in the next two games, which the Giants lost. In his time under John McGraw Stengel studied the legendary manager, learning all he could. With his memory he filed the information & used it later on during his managerial career.

In November of 1923 Stengel was traded to the Boston Bees where he played out the rest of his playing career. In 14 seasons he hit .284 with 1219 hits 60 HRs 182 doubles 89 triples 131 stolen bases 575 runs scored & a .356 on base % in 1277 games.

In the outfield he had 147 assists with a .964 fielding% in 1183 games.

In 1931, he joined his old team mate & friend Max Carey, as coach who was now manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Stengel began his managerial career in 1934, taking over for Carey, with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Casey & Edna Stengel at the Polo Grounds
He had a "prodigious memory" which had him recall every detail of specific events. He began modestly as a manager but became baseballs winningest managers.

His was never considered to be the best manager, as a lot of credit to his team's success went to his All Star players. He would coach the third base box, entertain the fans & the media with his stories.

He irked his old Giants team, when he beat them in the last two games of the 1934 season, making them loose the pennant to the St. Louis Cards Gas House Gang. Giants manager has Bill Terry had said a few weeks earlier "Is Brooklyn still in the league?" which irked Stengel.

While in Brooklyn he invested in an oil field & a new drug called penicillin, both were successful & made him a lot of money.

He stayed at the helm in Brooklyn for three seasons finishing under .500 each time, never higher than fifth place. In 1938 he began a six year stay as manager of the Boston Bees who became the Boston Braves in 1941.

Four straight seventh place finishes had him fired during the 1943 season. In these years he managed in the minor leagues, winning a championship with Toledo in 1927.

During this time, Stengel moved with his wife Edna, to Glendale California & would live there until the time of his death. While in California he managed the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League.

It was there the Oaks had their legendary Championship season with the so called "Nine Old Men" behind Stengel on the field. This run got Casey inducted into the Pacific Coast League's Hall of Fame.

In 1943 on one of he & his wife's Edna's trips to New York, he was struck by a taxi cab hurting his leg. In the hospital he suffered a staph infection & would always walk with a limp from there on in.

Stengel & "his man" Yogi Berra as Mets
In 1949 he got the call as manager of the A.L. New York team. There in an ever changing revolving door of high priced players, Casey had his core All Stars for many years & went on to win five straight World Series.

He won seven championships & ten pennants in twelve seasons. He has managed the most World Series games (64) & had the most Series wins (34) of any manager in history.

In 1954 his club won the most games of his run with them, but they lost the pennant that year to the mighty Cleveland Indians. His main player in New York was the catcher he called his man, he said he never played a big game without "his man" , who was catcher Yogi Berra.

Quotes: Casey once said of Berra "He'd fall in a sewer & come up with a gold watch".

ome of the other All Stars like Mickey Mantle were drinking too much & not taking care of them selves, with not enough focus on the game like Stengel had wanted.

After missing the 1959 Series & then losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960 he was let go after his successful run as manager. It was first thought that he would resign, but instead he shocked the press when he announced he was being let go due to the new youth movement. He told the press "I'll never make the mistake of being 70, again".

He went off to California & worked as V.P to a bank in Glendale owned by his wife's family. Eventually he was persuaded by his old friend & G.M. George Weiss who was now working for the expansion New York Mets.

He convinced Stengel to return to baseball & be the Mets first ever Manager.

He began with his already famous Stengelese talking, during the expansion draft when the Mets first pick was an unknown catcher named Hobie Landrith.

He said "You have to have a catcher or you'll have a lot of passed balls". At the first press conference he said "it's an honor to be joining the Knickerbockers".

He was presented with a key to the city as New York City held a parade for it's newest National League team. There was a lot of excitement around the Mets, fans were hungry for NL baseball since the Dodgers & Giants had left for the West Coast.

Stengel would now have the rare privilege to have on field affiliations with all four New York baseball teams.

In Spring Training, the Mets took over St. Petersburg when the AL club had left to go to Ft. Lauderdale. He entertained the press with his fast talking & promoting of his young players.

Stengelese at its best. It was said that while he was talking about one subject his mind would be thinking of the next topic and he'd start talking about that one, then jump back & forth to both topics without missing a beat. This would confuse listeners, but whether done purposely or not, many believe Casey always knew what he was saying.

Being such a successful manager in New York gave him credibility, while even at 72 years old, he was still sharp & wise. He would talk to anyone who would listen, and could go on for hours at a time.

Stengel would be out early in the morning in each city to talk to a reporter, but it even wore him down. Once when Press Secretary Lou Niss came calling Casey said "tell them I'm being embalmed". 

On his three catchers in Spring Training he said: "I got one that can throw but can't catch, one that can catch but can't throw, and one who can hit but can't do either."

That season the Mets lost a record 120 games; finishing in last place. The team would find a new way to lose every day, but through it all they became loveable losers, New York's underdog, darlings.

The fan base grew even though the team wasn't winning. A lot had to do with Stengel's promotion of the team & it's players. He was the best public relations man a team could want; it was he who gave the club the name "the amazing Mets".

He said when people teach their children to talk, their first words are not mamma & dadda but "Metsie, Metsie".

During the season, Stengel made some legendary quotes like; "Cant anybody here play this game?" & "Been in this game one-hundred years, but I see new ways to lose 'em I never knew existed before." He told the press after one horrible loss "Don't cut my throat, I may do that later myself". 

When slugger Frank Thomas kept trying to pull the ball, where there was sign on the right field fence that said hit it here win a boat, Stengel said "If you want to own a boat, join the navy".

If things were not confusing enough, the '62 Mets had two pitchers named Bob Miller. Stengel couldn't tell the two apart & just called one of them Nelson to make it simple. 

One of the Mets first folk heroes, Marvelous Marv Throneberry, once hit a triple but was called out for not touching second base. When Stengel went to argue, coach Cookie Lavagetto told him " don't argue too much, I think he missed first base too".

In 1963 the Mets started out the same way with an Opening Day loss, after the game Stengel said "we're frauds, & we can't fool the New York fans". That year the Mets won eleven more games, going 51-111 finishing up in tenth place, but their attendance went up by one million.

In 1964 the Mets opened up the new Shea Stadium, at the time it was one of the biggest & most beautiful Stadiums. Located right across from the World's Fair, Shea's first year of attendance was 1.7 million, second in the National League to only the L.A. Dodgers. finished tenth again, going 53-109, Stengel said: "President Lyndon Johnson wanted to see poverty so he came to see my team."

In 1965 He compared his two new rookies Ed Kranepool and Greg Goossen to reporters saying: "See that fellow over there? He's 20 years old. In 10 years he has a chance to be a star. Now, that fellow over there, he's 20, too.

 In ten  years he has a chance to be 30." During an exhibition game at West Point, he fell on a wet pavement breaking his wrist. He carried on without missing a game.

When young slugger Ron Swoboda first came up, he was hitting HRs but couldn't field all at that well. Stengel said "Amazing strength, amazing power - he can grind the dust out of the bat. He will be great, super even wonderful. Now, if he can only learn to catch a fly ball."

During a rare four game win streak he said " If this keeps up, I'm about to manage until I'm one hundred". The Mets went 31-64 under Stengel, until July 24th.

It was on that day the Mets lost their tenth straight game, after an Old Timers Day in which Casey's upcoming 75th birthday was honored.

After the game there was a party at Toots Shor's restaurant in Manhattan, but it was there he slipped in the bathroom & broke his hip. His wife convinced him it was time to retire, the Mets kept him on the payroll as a West Coast scout.

That year he became the first Mets player to have his number retired, as #37 will never be worn by another Mets player.

Mets #37 Retired: 1966
Not everyone was amused by Stengel's managerial ways, some critics felt he was far too old to get through to the young Mets players, some fifty years his junior.

It seemed some of the press were divided into agreeing with Casey or opposing him. Strangely the younger reporters were the ones who sided with Stengel, like Maury Allen.

A young broadcaster at the time Howard Cosell, who did Mets pregame shows with former Dodger Ralph Branca, was very critical of Stengel. He & Jackie Robinson brought it to the public's attention that Stengel was falling asleep in the dugout.

Cosell also commented on how he was not helping to develop the young Mets talented players.

Cosell stated that Casey's losing ways was making the New York kids fall in love with futility, as opposed to the mid western kids who had Vince Lombardi's winning ways. He was seen falling asleep in the dugout at times during the games.

In 1969 as the Mets were enjoying their Amazing World Championship season, Stengel was always around Shea promoting his ball club. Now the Amazing Mets were actually Amazing for their winning ways.

Stengel threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the first World Series Game held at Shea Stadium. He was interviewed on television telling everyone how "amazing, amazing, amazing" the Mets were .

At the game he sat next to his old player when he managed, Joe DiMaggio & the Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. The Mets presented him with a World Series ring after the season, he wore it proudly the rest of his life.

That summer he was also honored as the greatest living Manager, at baseball's All Star Game, celebrating its 100th season. Stengel would keep making appearances around Shea Stadium at Old Timers Day games & special occasions.

He also spoke at banquets, & made appearances at the World Series, continuing to amuse with his stories. His legacy became larger than life with his colorful personality & love of the game.

Honors: He threw out the first pitch of Game #3 of the 1973 World Series at Shea Stadium, between the Mets & Oakland A's. He had to leave during the game due to ill health. Casey Stengel was

In 1973 his wife Edna, suffered a stroke & had to be moved to an assisted living facility. He stayed in the house at Glendale, assisted by a woman who served as nurse & secretary.

In 1975 he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer & passed away on September 29th at age 85. He is laid to rest with Edna, in Forest Lawn Cemetery alongside many celebrity personalities at Glendale California.
Honors: In 1966 Casey Stengel was inducted in the baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstwon.

In 1981 he was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.

In his honor Casey Stengel Plaza, outside of Shea Stadium's Gate E was named after him, as is the New York City Transit's Casey Stengel Depot across the street from Citi Field. There is also a Stengel entrance at Citi Field.

Former Mets Manager: George Bamberger (1982-1983)

George Irvin Bamberger was born August 1, 1925 in Staten Island, New York. The six foot right handed pitcher was signed by the New York Giants in 1946. His dream came true as he made the 1951 home town New York Giants pitching staff. He only pitched in two games allowing four runs in two innings of work. Needless to say he didn’t make the World Series roster.

In 1952 he appeared briefly in five games, allowing four runs in four innings. He spent the next six years in the minors and fifteen years overall, mostly in the Pacific Coast League winning 216 games there overall. He had one last hurrah in the majors, pitching three games with the Baltimore Orioles in 1959. He stayed in their organization at various levels and then became one of the best pitching coaches in the game during the late sixties/ early seventies.

In 1968 he was first named pitching coach for a mighty Orioles team under manager Earl Weaver. He was a firm believer in the four man pitching rotation, feeling the more a pitcher used his arm without abusing it, the stronger it became. He would hold the position for the next decade, getting to three World Series, producing 18 twenty game winners, including a record of four on the same 1971 staff . That historic season Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, & Pat Dopson all won twenty games for Bamberger.

In his time as pitching coach he also had the privilege of coaching four Cy Young winners; two during his tenure- Mike Cuellar (1969) & Jim Palmer (1973 / 1975-1976) Then after his departure Mike Flanagan (1979) & Steve Stone (1980). Bamberger's pitching staff were first in the American League in ERA every season from 1968 through 1973. His staff was first in wins five times as well.

In 1969 he sat in the dugout at Shea Stadium during the Worland watched the young New York Mets staff out pitch his own mighty heavily favored Orioles staff. Little did he or anyone else, know he would be in the dugout managing the Mets 13 years later.

In 1978 he was hired as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers and got them to over 90 wins for the first time in their ten year history. He won the A.L. Manager of the Year Award, with his team finishing in third place at 93-69. It was a tough division and the Brew Crew improved to finished second to his old Baltimore team in 1979, winning 95 games. In 1980 he suffered a heart attack during Spring Training, and was sidelined for a the first few months of the season. After 92 games the Brewers were only at .500, and he resigned as their manager.

Meanwhile, in New York a new ownership took over the Mets ball club and Joe Torre was fired as manager after five losing seasons. The new General Manager for the Mets was Frank Cashen, who had been the GM in Baltimore during Bamberger's years when he was the Pitching Coach. Cashen went right out and hired his old pal Bambi, as the Mets manager for the 1982 season.

Bamberger told The New York Times: ''My whole idea is to throw the ball over the plate. The most important pitch is a strike. But the trick is to change speeds. Trying to pinpoint a pitch is crazy. Throw the ball down the middle, but don't throw the same pitch twice. Change the speed.''

In 1982 the Mets started out a little better than the previous years. In June they were still at .500 and more fans were coming to the ballpark. There really wasn’t much pitching there for Bamberger to work with, the staff was led by Craig Swan who would win 11 games. Charlie Puleo (9-9) Pete Falcone (8-10) a young Mike Scott (7-13) & a veteran Randy Jones (7-10) made up the starting rotation. As Pat Zachary (6-9) & Ed Lynch (4-8) also saw some starts.

To Bamberger's credit, Jesse Orosco said Bambi helped him develop his slider while he was in his rookie season. As for the lineup Dave Kingman’s bat wasn’t enough to carry the team, although he hit 37 HRs & drove in 99 Runs he only batted .204. George Foster (13 HRs & 70 RBIs) & Ellis Valentine (8 HRs & 48 RBIs) both came to New York with expectations, but they neither proved too change the team around.

The few bright spots were youngsters Mookie Wilson & reliever Neil Allen. At the end of the year the Mets didn’t finish much better than the previous season, going 65-97 in last place 27 games back of the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. 

In 1983 after a 16-30 last place start to the season, Bamberger resigned. He said “I probably suffered enough , I'm going fishing”, feeling all the stress of losing in New York was going to give him another heart attack. He was replaced by big Frank Howard for the rest of the 1983 season. In 1984 Davey Johnson would take over and enjoy a successful run throughout the 1980's.

Bamberger went back to Milwaukee & did two more years as the Brewers manager (1985-1986). His team finished last both seasons winning an identical 71 games each year. In 1986 he retired for good, moving to North Redington Beach, Florida with his wife of 53 years. In 2004 he passed away at age 80.

Jul 28, 2014

Remembering Mets History: (2006) Carlos Beltran Hits His Third Grand Slam Of the Month

Sunday July 30th 2006: The first place Mets were rolling along on a four game win streak and a comfortable 13 ½ game lead over the second place Philadelphia Phillies. That season they also enjoyed beating up on the Atlanta Braves and this night came up with a 10-6 win over their rivals at Turner Field.

Carlos Beltran hit two HRs on the night, the first came in the 2nd inning, with the Mets already up 3-0, after a Carlos Delgado two run HR. In the 2nd, Mets pitcher Tom Glavine & Jose Reyes both singled. Paul LoDuca then walked, bringing up Beltran with the bases loaded. He then blasted a grand slam off pitcher; Chris Shiell. It was Beltrans third grand slam of the month tying an MLB record. 

The Mets as a team belted out six grand slams in the month of July which also set a record. Later that night, Beltran hit his 32nd HR of the year, setting a Met centerfielder season mark. Beltran would earn the NL Player of the Month Award, hitting ten HRs, three grand slams, driving in twenty runs. 

The previous night Beltran had hit two HRs, with five RBIs as the Mets pounded the Braves 11-3

Sunday, July 16th 2006: This was a wild game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, where the Mets enjoyed their best inning of the season. In the top of the 6th inning the Mets were trailing the Cubs 5-2. With one out Carlos Beltran reached on an error, Carlos Delgado & David Wright followed with singles. Cliff Floyd then launched a grand slam HR off Sea Marshall putting the Mets ahead. 

Xavier Nady walked & Ramon Castro reached on an error. Endy Chavez brought in Nady making it 7-5. Jose Valentin & Chris Woodward both reached safely, loading the bases for Beltran. He connected with his first grand slam of the month, his 26th HR of the year coming off Roberto Novoa. The Mets weren't finished as Carlos Delgado doubled & David Wright connected for his 21st HR of the year, capping off the eleven run inning. The Mets went on to a 13-7 win.

Tuesday, July 18th 2006: The Mets road trip moved to the Great American Ballpark at Cincinnati Ohio. Willie Randolph's Mets (56-37) took on Jerry Narron's second place Reds (49-45). In the top of the 7th the Mets had a 3-2 lead when they broke it open.

Xavier Nady singled & Jose Valentin bunted also reaching safely. With two outs Paul LoDuca walked bringing up the hot hitting Beltran facing Eric Milton. Carlos blasted his second grand slam in two games, his second of the month giving the Mets a 7-2 lead. 

In the top of the 9th he would double in Jose Reyes with his fifth RBI of the night, sealing the Mets 8-3 win.

Beltran ended the 2006 season with 41 HRs 116 RBIs, 38 doubles and batted .275.

Early Eighties Mets Outfielder: Ellis Valentine (1981-1982)

Ellis Clarence Valentine was born on July 30, 1954 in Helena, Arizona. The six foot four, right handed hitting outfielder went to high school in Los Angeles getting drafted by the Montreal Expos in the second round in 1972.

Within three years he flew through the minors & was batting .306 at AAA Memphis with 13 HRs when he got a call up. Valentine made his MLB debut on September 3rd, 1975 in Philadelphia going hitless in three at bats. He played in 12 games at the end of the 1975 season batting an impressive .364.

In the bicentennial year he played in the outfield alongside Gary Carter & Bombo Rivera but he was batting just .238 in June & was sent down to tune up at AAA Denver. He returned to put in a good enough year batting .279

Ron Leflore, Ellis Valentine & Gary Carter
It didn't take the league long to see that Valentine had a rocket launcher for an arm.

His manager Dick Williams boasted, he had the best arm in the NL & compared it to Roberto Clemente’s. That season he finished fourth in the NL with 12 assists.

In 1977 the Expos failed to lure Reggie Jackson to Canada through free agency, and decided to go with their home grown talented young outfield, Andre Dawson, Warren Cromarte & Ellis Valentine. On April 15th he hit the first HR ever hit in the brand new Olympic Stadium.

Over the next three seasons Valentine would hit over 20 HRs, drive in 75 runs or more, get over 150 hits, 28 doubles & steal at least 13 bases. His defense in the outfield was one of the best in baseball. Valentine was originally a center fielder but then switched to right field in 1977. He made the All Star team that year, going 0-1 with a walk in the National Leagues 7-5 win in New York.

In 1978 & 1979 he won the Gold Glove Award, while leading the league with 24 assists in '78. The Expos became true contenders winning 90 games in 1979 & 1980, finishing up in second place both years under skipper Dick Williams.

In 1980 Valentine was having a great start until he was hit in the cheekbone with a pitch and missed 40 games. That injury may have cost the Epos their playoff hopes, in 86 games he hit .315 with 13 HRs & 67 RBIs.

In the strike shortened 1981 season, they made their first post season. That year Valentine started off slow batting just .211 in 22 games & rumors about him using drugs began to swirl. After the first part of the year he was traded to the New York Mets for Jeff Reardon & Dan Norman. The Expos beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS &lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers on the NLCS. It was their only post season appearance in franchise history.

Ellis Valentine debuted as a Met on June 7th at the Houston Astrodome, batting 5th & playing left field. In his first game at Shea Stadium he had two hits & drove in a run in a 8-4 loss against the Cincinnati Reds. After that Series the baseball strike happened for the next two months. Upon returning he hit safely in eight of the next ten games.

Valentine & Mets Manager Joe Torre
On August 19th he homered off the Atlanta Braves Tommy Boggs and hit another ten days later. They were the only two HRs he hit that month.

One of his biggest days as a Met came at Wrigley field on September 24th. He hit two HRs that day driving in five runs, in the Mets 10-9 loss to the Cubs. In 48 games that season he only batted .207 with 5 HRs 8 doubles 21 RBIs & a poor .227 on base %.

In 1982 he was penciled in as the Mets everyday right fielder, alongside a young Mookie Wilson & veteran George Foster. It looked good on paper but Foster & Valentine disappointed as the Mets finished a disappointing sixth. Valentine was limited to 111 games, batting .288 but his power never came back, he did not hit his first HR until May 24th.

That week he hit three HRs, all in Mets victories closing out the month with three straight two RBI games.

On June 14th he hit a two run HR scoring both Mets runs helping Pete Falcone beat Pittsburgh's Don Robinson. On August 22nd he drove in four runs in Atlanta although the Mets still fell short 10-9.

Overall he hit just 8 HRs with 14 doubles & 48 RBIs posting a .294 on base %. He played a quality defense throwing out 12 base runners with his strong arm & posted a .983 fielding %. The Mets chose not to resign Valentine after the 1982 season, and he signed with the California Angels.

Valentines career had fallen apart by this time, he became a reserve outfielder batting only .240. He was out of baseball in 1984 except for four minor league games, then returned for one season with the Texas Rangers playing in just 11 games batting .211.

He finished a once promising career with a 278 batting average, 881 hits 123 HRs 169 doubles 474 RBIs & a .315 on base %. In 856 games he posted a .972 on base % with 85 outfield assists.

Retirement: After baseball he struggled with his substance abuse problems & was working in a car rental place, making just $4.50 an hour.

He eventually straightened out his life and began working with youngsters in the A.V. Light Foundation. Today he is a counselor for a Church located in Grand Prarie Texas.

Former Italian American Player: Johnny Rizzo (1938-1942)

John Costa Rizzo was born on July 30, 1912 in Houston, Texas . The six foot right handed outfielder was originally signed by St. Louis in 1930. He seven years in the minor leagues before having a fantastic 1937.

That year he had over 200 hits, with 21 HRs & batted .358 at AA Columbus. He got traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates as a hot prospect in a multi player deal.

Rizzo made his MLB debut in 1938, and had there been a Rookie of the Year Award at the time, he would have probably won it. He came in sixth overall in the MVP voting, setting a Pirate rookie record with 23 HRs that stood until Ralph Kiner came along.

Rizzo hit .301, drove in 111 runs (3rd in the league) and would be in the NL’s Top Ten in hits (167) runs scored (97) slugging (.514) hit by pitches (5) & strikeouts (61). The outfielder also hit 31 doubles & nine triples making a big impression in the major leagues.

Unfortunately for Rizzo, he would never match those numbers again. He began 1939 by setting a Pirates record, driving in nine runs in a game. He also hit two HRs that day as well. He fell off the rest of the year batting only.261, playing in 94 games with 6 HRs & 55 RBIs.

He was becoming unpopular with both team mates & fans for his temper tantrums. In 1940 he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Vince DiMaggio. Once he got to Cincinnati, he jumped into the stands to beat up a fan who was heckling him. After just 31 games, that act got him traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. Overall on the season, he improved to 24 HRs (3rd in the league) 72 RBIs & a .282 average. Most of his best hitting came while in a Phillies uniform. Rizzo dropped to .217 the next year then was sent to the Brooklyn Dodgers where he finished  out his career.

In 1941 he joined the United States Marines, serving in World War II for three years. He returned to play & manage minor league ball for a four more seasons.

He ended up hitting .322 with 127 HRs lifetime in eleven minor league seasons. He finished his five year MLB career batting .270 with 497 hits 61 HRs 90 doubles 289 RBIs & a .345 on base % playing in 577 games.

Retirement: After baseball he sold sporting equipment & used cars in the Houston area. He passed away at age 65 in 1977.

Jul 27, 2014

Remebering Mets History: (1962) "Marvelous" Marv Throneberry's Walk Off HR

Saturday, July 7th 1962: Casey Stengel's Mets (23-57) hosted Johnny Keane's fourth place St. Louis Cardinals (45-38) in the Polo Grounds. In the battle of pitchers named Jackson; the Mets sent Al Jackson to the mound against Larry Jackson. 

In the top of the 3rd, Larry Jackson singled & Curt Flood reached on an infield error. Both runners advanced on a Julian Javier fly out. They then scored on Ken Boyer's base hit making it 2-0 St. Louis. In the 6th, the Cards got another run on Jimmy Schaffer's RBI base hit. Larry Jackson was pitching a shutout until the bottom of the 6th, when the Mets Sammy Taylor hit a solo HR making it a 2-1 game. 

In the home 7th, the Mets rallied, as Gil Hodges started it off with a one out single. Elio Chacon then alked & pinch hitter Frank Thomas singled bringing in Hodges. The Cards brought in Lindy McDaniel to pitch, facing Richie Ashburn. Ashburn hit a fly ball to left field, Chacon tagged & scored tying up the game. 

In the 9th inning, Curt Flood led off with a solo HR off new Mets pitcher; Ray Daviault. With the Cards leading 4-3, pitcher Curt Simmons gave up a lead off infield single to Joe Christopher. The Cards brought in Ernie Broglio to close out the game. He got Gil Hodges to fly out to left field for the first out. The next batter was Cahcon but Casey Stengel sent in Marv Throneberry to pinch hit. 

The legend of Marv Throneberry grew even bigger today, as Marvelous Marv came through with a walk off HR, winning the game for the Mets 5-4. There were not many wins for the '62 Mets, especially in walk off style. 

Marv Throneberry was one of the first folk heroes for the New York Mets. The fans loved him, starting the Marvelous Marv fan club which reportedly had over 5000 members. They would wear shirts that read VRAM, which was Marv spelled backwards. The Polo Grounds stands would soon see banners that the fans had made hanging from the rafters or being walked around held between innings. Mets manager Casey Stengel would call the homemade banners; placards, and some of the famous placards were for Throneberry himself; Cranberry Strawberry - We Love Throneberry. 

In 1962 Throneberry hit 16 HRs, second to Frank Thomas on the Mets team. He would bat .244 with 49 RBIs playing in 116 games. After just 14 games in 1963 he was sent to the minors & eventually retired. In the early eighties he resurfaced as one of the stars in the classic Miller Lite commercials. 


Former New York Giants N.L. Victory Leader: Larry Jansen (1947-1954)

Lawrence Joseph Jansen was born July 16, 1920 in Verboort, Oregon. The right hander was the last AAA pitcher to win 30 games, while pitching for the San Francisco Seals. In 1946 he led the Pacific Coast league in wins (30), earned run average (1.57) and winning percentage (.833)

He was brought up to the New York Giants in 1947 & in his rookie season he led the league in winning percentage (8.08%) and tied for second in victories going 21-9. He completed 20 of 30 starts, pitched 248 innings and posted a 3.16 ERA. If it weren’t for Jackie Robinson he would have won the Rookie of the Year Award, as Jansen came in second.

He was a great control pitcher and had the fewest walks per nine innings allowed (2.02). He would come in second place in that category in the league three more times. Jansen became one of the top pitchers in the league in the late 1940’s & early 1950’s. He was in the top four in victories four times from 1947-1951, leading the league with 23 wins in 1951.

Through those years he was also among the leaders in shutouts, complete games, innings & strikeouts as well. In 1950 he won 19 games (19-13) with a 3.08 ERA & led the NL in shutouts (5) making his first All Star appearance.

In the 1950 All-Star Game, he pitched five innings, striking out six batters, allowing only one hit and no runs before finally being replaced in the 12th inning. Since then No pitcher has pitched more than four innings in an All-Star Game.

The 1951 Giants are famous for one of the best regular season comebacks in baseball history. That season Jansen and team mate Sal Maglie both led the NL with 23 wins. Jansen pitched a career high 278 innings with three shutouts, and a 3.01 ERA, allowing 1.8 walks per nine innings (2nd in the NL). Jansen had six wins in the final month of the season & won his last five decisions. He was the winning pitcher on the last day of regular season against the Boston Braves clinching at least a tie. Because of that start he didn’t get any starts in the Giant/ Dodger playoff Series.

Post Season: In the final playoff game Jansen began warming up in the first inning, but did not relieve Sal Maglie until the 9th inning. Jansen recalls “Well, we were behind 4-1 at the time, so I just did my best to get three guys out. The Dodger players were hollering out at me from the dugout, "You can go home tomorrow," that kind of stuff. They let me have it pretty good.”

When Bobby Thomson hit his famous HR; “the Shot Heard 'Round the World” in the bottom of the ninth to win the game & the pennant, Jansen was the winning pitcher. His World Series wasn’t that impressive as he went 0-2 allowing seven earned runs over two games pitching in ten innings.

In his career Jansen allowed 191 HRs (226th most all time), leading the league in long balls twice. He battled back problems & then arm troubles over the next couple years. He won 11 games in 1952 going 11-11 with a 4.09 ERA. In 1953 he lost 16 games (11-16) with a 4.14 ERA & then arm issues put him at 2-2 with no post season during the Giants 1954 Championship season. He did help out by serving as a coach during that season.

His missed all of 1955 then went to the Cincinnati Reds going 2-3 in eight games before retiring in 1956. Lifetime Jansen was 123-89 (.578 win %) with a 3.58 ERA, walking only 410 batters in 1,766 innings pitched.

Retirement: Interestingly, with the low salaries of his day, he had to work in a pharmacy in Jackson Heights, Queens during the off season for extra pay.

After his playing days he first managed & coached in the Pacific Coast League. He became the San Francisco Giants pitching coach in 1961 under former team mate Alvin Dark. He remained there for 11 years (1961-1971), coaching Hall-of-Famers Gaylord Perry and Juan Marichal along the way & getting to two post seasona.

In 1972 he went to the Chicago Cubs as pitching coach under his old manager, Leo Durocher. After Durocher was fired he coached for another former Giants teammate, Whitey Lockman in 1973. He retired to his home town in Oregeon and lived peacefully until his passing at the age of 89 in 2009.