Nov 26, 2014

Former Mets Manager, Coach & New York Giants Catcher: Wes Westrum (1964-1967)

Wesley Noreen Westrum was born on November 28, 1922 in Clear brook, Minnesota. The five foot eleven catcher was signed by the New York Giants in 1941. He then spent three years in the military serving in World War II. He returned home safely & made his MLB debut in 1947 as the Giants backup catcher for the two seasons to Walker Cooper.


Westrum was an excellent defensive catcher, with a strong accurate throwing arm. He threw out over 50% of would be base stealers six different times, leading the league in caught stealing twice (1953 & 1954) & coming in second place three other times. In 1950 he led all catchers with a .999 fielding % making only one error in 680 chances, he also was tops in games played (139) & assists (71). From 1950-1954 he was among the top four catchers in games caught, put outs assists & caught stealing every year.

In 1950 he became the Giants regular back stop hitting a career high 23 HRs with 71 RBIs & a .236 batting average. He was never a big hitter, but had a good eye & drew a lot of walks which led to decent on base percentages. In 1949 he posted a .385on base % & in 1950 he drew 92 walks posting a .371 on base %.

On June 24th 1950 he had a three HR game at the Polo Grounds and just missed a fourth HR, which would have been an inside the parker, instead he settled for a triple.

In the 1951 Giants amazing comeback pennant winning season, Westrum hit another 20 HRs with 70 RBIs & 104 walks. Although he hit only .219 he posted a .400 on base percentage. In the 1951 World Series he went 4-17, drawing five walks while playing in all six games. Katt caught over 100 games for four straight seasons, & made two All Star appearances.

In the Giants 1954 World Championship season, he was behind the plate 98 times, while sharing time with Ray Katt. That season he batted a lowly .187, only gathering twelve extra base hits. He drew 45 walks in 246 at bats, hitting 8 HRs with 27 RBIs.

Trivia: On the first Sports Illustrated magazine cover in 1954, Westrum is the catcher behind the plate as Milwaukee Braves slugger Eddie Mathews is swinging at a pitch in Milwaukee's County Stadium.

Post Season: In the World Series against the Cleveland Indians, Westrum batted .273 (3-11). In Game #3 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, he singled in the 5th inning, driving in Hank Thompson putting the Giants ahead 5-0. In Game #4 he helped the Giants sweep the Series by bringing in two runs in their 7-4 win.

He stayed with the Giants through their last season in New York in 1957 playing in 63 games batting just .165. He was the starting catcher for the last Giants game played at the Polo Grounds on September 29, of that year as a battery mate to Johnny Antonelli.

He retired as a player after an eleven year career, with a .217 batting average, 503 hits, 96 HRs 59 doubles 489 walks & a .356 on base %. Defensively Westrum posted a life time .985 % behind the plate, throwing out 49% of runners attempting to steal.

Westrum did go West with the Giants to San Francisco, being offered the spot of third string catcher or coach. At age 34he chose to coach, a position he held from 1958 through the 1963 season. Then he came back to New York as a coach for the new National League franchise; New York Mets in 1964.

He was one of the first pitching coaches in the game who was a former catcher & not a pitcher. In July 1965 he replaced player/coach Warren Spahn who spent a brief time period with the Mets. In August the aging Mets manager Casey Stengel broke his hip and had to step down from the position due to his health.

Westrum was his replacement & named the second manager in Mets history. He certainly wasn’t the most popular choice but Stengel had promised him the job and held true to his word.

Everyone else expected the job to go to the popular Mets coach; Yogi Berra, who seemed much better suited for the position. Westrum had his problems with the press, early on. He wasn’t an educated man, and they ate him up when he used his malapropisms.

Once as a coach, after a classic Casey Stengel speech, he told the press “boy they really broke the molding when they made him”. Another time after a tight game in St. Louis he said “that was a real cliff dweller". The Mets finished 19-48 under his watch the rest of the way in 1965, once again finishing in last place. In 1966 the team improved to a ninth place finish going 66-95. It was the first time in their brief five year history they did not finish last.

In 1967 Westrum’s Mets went 57-94 falling back to the National League last place spot. But there were a few bright spots, and some hope for the future.

That season the Mets brought up Tom Seaver, who went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award. Ron Swoboda had hit a few dramatic HRs early on & was being billed as a slugger. Tommy Davis hit .302 in his one season in New York, & young veterans Ed Kranepool, as well as Gary Buchek, also put in solid seasons.

Westrum was instrumental in tutoring a young Jerry Grote in his early days as a Met catcher. He helped him not only with tips in catching behind the plate, but also in how to adjust his attitude. In those days, Grote had a real chip on his shoulder, & his manager Westrum said "if he ever learns to control himself, he might become the best catcher in baseball".

Late in 1967, the word leaked out that Gil Hodges was going to replace Westrum the following year. So with just eleven games left to go, Westrum resigned as the team’s manager, rather than be fired at the end of the season. He was replaced by coach Salty Parker to finish out the year. Westrum’s career record as Mets manager was 142-237 with a .375 winning percentage.

He went back to coach for the San Francisco Giants through the late sixties & early seventies. He got another chance to manage in 1974 replacing Charlie Fox. In 1975 his Giants finished in third place one game under .500.

Westrum was replaced by is former battery mate in the Polo Grounds, Bill Rigney in his second go around as Giant manager in 1976. In his managerial career Westrum posted a .415 winning percentage.

He then became a scout for the Atlanta Braves organization. Westrum lived in Duchess County, New York when he played with the Giants. He continued to reside near his hometown of Clear brook, Minnesota where he passed away in 1992 at age 79.

Early 2000's Mets Pitcher: Pedro Astacio (2002-2003)



Pedro Julio Astacio was born November 28, 1969 in Pilar Rondon in the Dominican Republic. In 1987 the six foot two, right hander signed as a teenager with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was known as “the Mule” debuting in 1992 after an uneventful minor league career. 

In his rookie season, he went 5-5 posting an impressive 1.98 ERA. He was put into a starting role the next season, going 14-9 with a 3.57 ERA. His wins were best on the Dodgers staff that season. Astacio was third in the league in shutouts in both 1992 (4) & 1993 (2). 

Pedro would pitch five and a half seasons in Los Angeles (1992-1997) striking out over 100 batters four times in those years. He pitched in two post seasons (1995 & 1996) with the Dodgers, pitching as both a starter & reliever. He appeared in three games of the 1995 NLCS loss to the Cincinnati Reds, pitching 3.1 relief innings allowing no runs.

In August of 1997 he was traded to the Colorado Rockies for Eric Young. There he would win 12 or more games in each of the three seasons he was with the Rockies.

In 1998 he was 13-14 posting a 623 ERA leading the league in earned runs (145) HRs allowed (45) & hit by pitches (17). 

In 1999 he won 17 games (17-11) striking out a career high 210 batters (third in the NL) & posted a high ERA (504). He would allow the most HRs to NL hitters for the second straight year (39) with 130 earned runs & 75 walks allowed. 

In 2000 he went 12-9 with a 5.27 ERA getting traded to the Houston Astros on July 31st.  He left the Rockies as their all time strikeout leader with 749 Ks. Prior to the 2002 season he signed a $7 million contract with the New York Mets, although it was known he had arm issues.

In his first Mets start he beat the Braves in Atlanta, pitching 6.2 innings allowing just three runs. Next he won a 3-2 game at Wrigley Field, pitching into the 8th inning. Then in his Shea Stadium debut, he pitched a one run complete game against the Braves striking out eight batters. 


By the start of May he won his fifth game finding himself at 5-1 with 34 strikeouts & 2.54 ERA. On May 14th, he pitched a two hit shut out in Los Angeles beating his old Dodger team mates 2-0. After a quiet June, he won five straight in  July.

Astacio was 10-3 by the All Star break, among the league leaders in wins, strike outs & ERA. The Mets looked as though they had made a good pick up, when wheels fell off in August. He went 1-5 in the month allowing 28 earned runs & six HRS in the month. 

He went 1-3 in September allowing 29 earned runs, finishing up the year at 12-11, only one win shy of the team lead held by Al Leiter. Pedro struck out 152 batters in 192 innings, posting a 4.79 ERA. He 63 walks led the league in hit by pitches (16) & for the third time in his career allowed the most HRs in the league (32).

The next season he started out on the DL & would only pitch in seven games going 3-2 with a horrible 7.36 ERA. He walked 18 batters, allowing 47 hits and gave up 30 runs in 36 innings pitched. He tore his labrum and was done for the season by the end of May. He finished his Mets career at 13-15 with a 5.20 ERA.

In 2004 he briefly appeared in five games for the World Champion Boston Red Sox then went to Texas, San Diego & Washington finishing his career in 2006. In a 15 year career Astacio went 129-1224 with a 4.67 ERA, 1664 strike outs,726 walks in 392 games. He allowed 291 HRs hit 111 batters & walked 726 men in 2196 innings in 392 games.

Retirement: Pedro his wife & have three children & live on a ranch one mile away from Armando Benitez in the Dominican Republic. He is also an amateur Jai Lai player and has applied for Pakistani citizenship so he may compete in the annual National Jai Lai Championships there.

Former Mets 1980's Prospect: Randy Milligan (1987)

Randy Andre Milligan was born November 27, 1961 in San Diego California. Milligan was another highly touted prospect that never quite made it with the Mets at the big league level. Randy was the 1981 first round draft pick for the Mets. 

He didn’t develop like the Mets had hoped and didn’t make his MLB debut until September 7th, 1987 as a pinch hitter for Bobby Ojeda. 

He struck out in the Mets 8-1 loss at Busch Stadium. He appeared two more times, going hitless, with one walk. It was the only three games he played in as a Met. He was still considered a prospect and the next spring the Mets traded him to Pittsburgh for Mackey Sasser & Tim Drummond. 


He hit .220 in 40 games in Pittsburgh then went to the Baltimore Orioles where he spent four seasons. He saw alot of action in Baltimore, playing in over 100 games each season. His best year was 1990 when he hit 20 HRs20 doubles, 60 RBIs and batted .260. He followed that up with 16 HRs70 RBIs and a career high .263 average. 

He didn’t make the Orioles 1993 squad and spent some time with the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians & Montreal Expos, finishing up in 1994.

Milligan is a  .261 lifetime hitter, with 70 HRs 106 doubles 284 RBIs in 703 games. Retirement: Milligan became a scout with the Orioles after his playing days.

Nov 25, 2014

Former Mets Third Baseman: "The Grave Digger" Richie Hebner (1979)

Richard Joseph Hebner was born November 26, 1947 in Boston Massachusetts. Hebner will forever be remembered as being a grave digger in the off season, as stated on the back of his 1974 baseball card. He made $35 for each grave he dug, working at a cemetery run by his family.

In high school he was one of the best young hockey players in Massachusetts history, but he was also a star baseball player. He chose the baseball career getting picked in the first round of the 1966 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He batted .336 at AA Raleigh in 1967 after 78 games there that season. In 1968 he batted .276 at AAA Columbus with 6 HRs & 51 RBIs.  

He arrived in the big leagues at age 21 in 1969. This was at a time when the Pirates would dominate the NL East, with the exception of 1969 & 1973 when the Mets won the Eastern Divisional title. In Pittsburgh he made five post seasons appearances, winning a World Series in 1971.

He was their regular third baseman until 1977 when he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as free agent. He won two more NL East titles there, making it to seven of ten NLCS in the seventies.  

Hebner earned a reputation as a ladies’ man who liked to party, known as one of baseballs most eligible bachelors in the seventies. He sometimes lacked concentration on the field which affected his fielding at third base. He got into two famous shouting matches with his Pirate manager Bill Virdon in 1973, which got him a reputation as a trouble maker, & even made some of the Pittsburgh fans heckle him.  

Hebner was a steady solid player hitting over .290 five times, hitting 15 or more HRs seven times, having 65 plus RBI seasons four times. He was a master at getting hit by pitches, usually among the tops in the league, getting on base 74 times in his career after being plunked. He was a sacrifice hitter as well with 44 sac hits & 77 sac flies in his career.  

Post Seasons: In 1971 he batted .271 with 17 HRs & 67 RBIs on the year.In the 1971 NLCS he hit .294 with two HRs & five RBIs. In Game #3 against the San Francisco Giants he hit an 8th inning game winning HR off Juan Marichal. In the World Series he hit a HR in Game #2 at Baltimore against the Orioles in the Pirates 11-3 loss. Overall he would only get two hits in the Pirates World Series Championship.  

In 1972 he batted .300 with 19 HRs 24 doubles & 72 RBIs, posting a .372 on base %. In the NLCS he batted just .188 (3-16) with an RBI in the series loss to the Cincinnati Reds. In the 1973 season he had career highs in HRs (25) RBIs (74) doubles (28) & games played (144) but the Pirates finished second to the Mets on the final days of the season. The consistent Hebner batted .2291 with 18 HRs 21 doubles & 68 RBIs in 1974 as the Pirates won the NL East again.

In the 1974 NLCS he & Willie Stargell both hit HRs in Game #3 the only Pirate win against the Dodgers. In the series he was 3-13 with four RBIs batting .231. In the 1975 season his average fell off to a career low .246.

In the 1975 NLCS he hit .333 against the Big Red Machine as his Pirates were swept in three games. He struggled again in 1976 batting just .249 with 8 HRs & 51 RBIs in 132 games played. Hebner signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1977, replacing Dick Allen as the teams first baseman & Phil Garner replaced him in Pittsburgh. He regained his form in Philly, batting .285 with 18 HRs 17 doubles & 62 RBIs scoring 67 runs on a Phillies team that won 101 games.

He hit .357 in the 1977 NLCS against the eventual World Campion Los Angeles Dodgers (5-14) with two runs scored. In 1978 his numbers remained in the same ballpark for Hebner; 17 HRs 71 RBIs & a .283 average. In the 1978 NLCS he went 1-9 with an RBI in the Dodgers three game sweep over the Phillies. Overall Hebner hit .270 in the post season with 4 HRs 7 doubles & 16 RBIs in 30 games played.  



 

In Spring Training 1979 the Phillies signed Pete Rose & Hebner was expendable. He was traded to the New York Mets in exchange for pitcher Nino Espinosa. He was devastated going from one of the best teams to one of the worst teams. He would only spend one season in New York and he hated it. He didn’t like the city or playing for the dismal ’79 Mets losing team.  


The Mets still hadn't found a steady third baseman since Wayne Garrett had left & in 1979 Hebner got the position. He had been playing first base the past two seasons & his transition back to third base didn't go well. He made 22 errors (5th most in the league) with a .940 fielding%. Hebner struggled at the plate early on causing the Mets fans to boo him right away. With all that said, he was still one of the better players on that team, usually batting in the cleanup spot.

On Opening Day he had four hits, including two doubles, a HR & four RBIs in the Mets 10-6 win at Wrigley Field in Chicago. In mid May he drove in 13 runs with 13 hits in five straight games, raising his average above .300. On May 20th he drove in five runs in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals, incuding a three run 10th inning HR which tied up a game the Mets had fallen behind in. They would win it on Frank Taveras' walk off base hit. The next day he drove in three runs in a 4-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.  

In June he drove in runs in four straight games with a three RBI day on June 13th against the Cincinnati Reds. He kept the average above .300 but it went down from there on & he rarely had any memorable highlights. He did have a hot September having his biggest month of the year, recording an 11 game hit steak, while driving in 21 runs during the month. On September 22nd he hit two HRs driving in all three Mets runs in a 6-3 loss in the first game of a twin bill against the St. Louis Cardinals.

On September 26th he hit a two run HR, in the first inning off The Cubs Donnie Moore. He later doubled home two more runs, driving in four of the Mets eight runs in a 8-3 win. In his last six games he drove in eight runs, hitting safely in 12 of 13 games. He finished the year leading the '79 team in RBIs (79) hit by pitches (8) and sac flies (8). He hit ten HRs with 25 doubles while batting .268, the second lowest average of his career to that point. That year the Mets finished 6th 63-79. thirty five games out of first place.  

During the end of the season, Mets GM Joe McDonald told the Sporting News "Richie hates crowds & traffic, he's only been to Manhattan once since he's been here". Hebner & New York never worked out.

On Halloween 1979, one week before he was to get married & settle down from his bachelor life, the Mets traded him to the Detroit Tigers for Jerry Morales & Phil Mankowski. In 1980 at Detroit he was revived, his average rose to .290 with a career high 82 RBIs. He hit 12 HRs with 10 doubles & a .360 on base %. He was the Tigers first baseman for two seasons before going back to the Pirates in 1982 & 1983 as a back up to Bill Madlock. Hebner then went to the Chicago Cubs for his two final seasons 1983 & 1984.

He retired in 1985 after 18 seasons with 1694 hits 203 HRs 890 RBIs 203 doubles 57 triples & a .276 batting average while posting a .385 on base percentage.
   
Retirement: Hebner has been a long time minor league coach & manager, more recently with the Baltimore Orioles organization with the Norfolk Tides in 2010.

Short Time 2006 N.L. Eastern Champion Met: Eli Marrero (2006)

Elieser Marrero was born November 17, 1973 in La Habana, Cuba. He attended high school in Corals Gables Florida outside of Miami. He was drafted in the third round of the 1993 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He spent five years in the minor leagues getting to the big league club by 1997 debuting in an inter league games against the Chicago White Sox as a September call up.

He would spend seven years in St. Louis playing at catcher, first base & in the outfield. He began the 2000 season as the Cardinal catcher but lost a lot of time due to a bout with Thyroid cancer. That same season he caught a September no hitter thrown by Bud Smith. In the Cards 2000 NL Central Division Champion season he played in 53 games with 5 HRs & 17 RBIs in 102 at bats although he only hit .225.

Post Season: In the NLCS against the New York Mets he got the start at catcher going 1-3 with an RBI hit against Al Leiter in the Mets 6-5 victory.

He had his best year in 2002 playing in 131 games batting .262 with 18 HRs 19 doubles 14 stolen bases & 66 RBIs as an outfielder. Marrero got to two more post seasons with St. Louis hitting a HR in the 2002 NLCS in Game #3 against Jay Witasak & the San Francisco Giants.

In December 2003 he was Traded along with J.D. Drew to the Atlanta Braves for Jason Marquis Adam Wainwright & Ray King. As a fourth outfielder with the Braves he batted a career best .320 with a .374 on base %, 10 HRs & 40 RBIs playing in 90 games. In 2005 he would play with both the Kansas City Royals & Baltimore Orioles becoming a free agent at the end of the year. For 2006 he signed with the Colorado Rockies playing in 30 games batting .217.

On June 9th he was traded to the New York Mets in exchange for Kaz Matsui. Marrero debuted on June 11th in Arizona coming into the game as a pinch hitter. He stayed in & played centerfield doubling in two runs in his next at bat as the Mets went on to a 15-2 victory. On June 22nd he hit a pinch hit HR at Fenway Park batting for Xavier Nady. In his next game he got a start in leftfield in the subway series hitting a solo HR off Randy Johnson in the Mets 8-3 win. He would get two more hits as a Met but his average fell to just .204 by August 8th.

In 25 games as a Met he hit just .182 with two HRs & five RBIs. In 2007 he played one game at AAA Memphis before getting released ending his playing career at age 34. In ten seasons he hit .243 with a .303 on base %, with 463 hits 99 doubles 12 triples 66 HRs & 261 RBIs.

Retirement: In 2011 he was named batting coach of the Billings Mustangs a minor league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. He is the uncle of minor leaguer Chris Marrero.

Former Mets Catcher: Brian Schneider (2008-2009)

Brian Duncan Schneider was born November 26, 1976 at Jacksonville, Florida. Schneider attended high school in Pennsylvania & won two Lehigh Valley Player of the Year Awards there.

The six foot, 200 pound left handed hitting catcher was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the fifth round of the 1995 draft. He spent five seasons in the minors batting .280 with 10 HRs & 60 RBIs in 1998 in A ball. By 2000 was AAA Ottawa's top catcher, getting called up to the Expos squad. He would be the backup catcher to Michael Barrett for three seasons.

He took over the position as the organizations regular catcher for five seasons, from Montreal to the move to Washington D.C. Schneider was a solid defensive catcher ranking 5th in the league in fielding percentage in 2003 making only three errors in 709 chances. Each season from 2003-2005 Schneider led all catchers in throwing out would be base stealers and threw out a leading 44% ratio.

In 2004 he threw out half of base runners attempting to steal on him (36 of 72) and set an Expos record with a .998 fielding percentage. He was on Team USA in the 2006 World Baseball Classic going 0-6 overall at the plate. On August 7th, 2007 he was behind the plate when Barry Bonds hit HR #756 off the Nationals, Mike Bacsick.

that winter he was traded to the New York Mets along with Ryan Church for Lastings Milledge. He & his wife were excited about coming to New York, when he arrived he was penciled in as the Mets regular catcher. He played in 110 games that season & brought a rugged old time style of play, out of the Jerry Grote mold, although not as effective. He had a three hit game driving in his first Met RBI, on the second day of the ’08 season in Florida in a game against the Marlins.

He drove in two more runs the next day,and hit safely in six straight games (8 out of his first 10 games). He started out well batting over .300 into early May, driving in 15 runs in the first two months of the season. He hit two HRs against his old Nationals team on September 22nd, driving in two runs in a crucial Mets win, keeping them into contention.

He finished the year with 9 HRs 38 RBIs 10 doubles and a .250 average. Behind the plate he posted a .994 fielding %, throwing out 33% of would be base stealers (4th in the NL) playing in 109 games.  

He began 2009 he was the first Met to cross the plate, scoring the first home team run, at the new Citi Field scoring on a Luis Castillo base hit. But he soon suffered from a muscle strain in his back& spent almost two months on the DL.

With the wear & tear of being a catcher for the past decade, injuries caught up to him. From this point on it is now safe to say Shneider was becoming more of a back up catcher. With the emergence of Omir Santos to go along with his injuries, Schneider only saw playing time in 59 games. He batted a mere .218 with 3 HRs and 24 RBIs.

Although he knew his days were numbered in New York, he took the time to mentor Santos and youngster Josh Thole in catching. In his two seasons in New York, Brian was a .244 hitter, but behind the plate he made only six errors in 1142 chances with a .995 fielding percentage, throwing out 34% of would be base stealers.  

Schneider went to the Philadelphia Phillies becoming the back up catcher to Carlos Ruiz. In 46 games behind the plate in 2010 he threw out just 21% of would be base stealers, posting a .993 fielding %. He batted .240 with 4 HRs & 15 RBIs.

In 2011 he hit just .176 in 125 at bats, posting a .997 fielding %, throwing out just 3 of 20 base stealers. In 2012 he returned with the Phillies for his third season, seeing action in 34 games where he hit two HRs & batted .227 Schneider has never appeared in any post season games in his career.

In 13 seasons Brian has thrown out 36% of would be base stealers, posting a .992 fielding %, making just 39 errors in 992 games. He has batted .247 with 781 hits, 67 HRs 167 doubles & 387 RBIs with a .320 on base %.

Former Italian / American Pitcher: Larry Gura (1970-1985)

Lawrence Cyril Gura, was born November 26, 1947, in Joliet, Illinois. The six foot left handed pitcher attended Arizona State University winning two National championships (1967 & 1969) under Coach Bobby Winkles.

He pitched alongside future Mets Gary Gentry & Craig Swan. Gura was selected by the Chicago Cubs as a second round pick in 1969.


He made his MLB debut on April 30th 1970 finishing up a game against the Braves in Atlanta. He would go 1-3 on the year making twenty appearances at the major league level. He spent the majority of the next two seasons in the minors winning 11 games each season. After going 2-4 with the Cubs in 1973 he was traded to the Texas Rangers but two months later was sent to the A.L. New York club, in exchange for Duke Sims. He spent two seasons there going a best 7-8 in 1975 appearing in 26 games.

That off season he was traded to the Kansas City Royals for future Mets announcer, catcher Fran Healy. Gura would spend ten years with the Royals winning a World Series in 1985, two pennants & five AL Western Divisional titles.

In 1976 he was 4-0 with a save & a 2.30 ERA mostly pitching out of the Royals bullpen. He got the start in Game #1 of the ALCS & although he pitched into the 9th inning, he was the losing pitcher. In the 1977 ALCS he was the losing pitcher in Game #4 after surrendering three runs over the first two innings.

In 1978 Gura was third on the Royals fine pitching staff with 16 wins, going 16-4 with a .800 winning % (third best in the league). He pitched in 221 innings, posting a 2.72 ERA (6th best in the AL). In that year’s ALCS he was the winning pitcher in Game #2, beating Ed Figueroa & the A.L. New York club 10-4 at Royals Stadium.

Gura would win double figures for seven straight seasons, winning 18 games twice (1980 & 1982). In the Royals AL pennant season of 1980 he was 18-10 (8th in the league in wins) tossing four shut outs (3rd most in the AL) with a 2.95 ERA (5th in the AL) pitching 283 innings (3rd most in the AL) making 36 starts. That season he made his only All Star appearance & received votes for the CY young award.

Post Season: In the ALCS he was the winning pitcher in Game #1 beating Ron Guidry 7-2. He made two appearances in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies but earned no decisions.

Gura was a fine fielding pitcher who led the league with a perfect 1000. fielding %, four times. He was also particularly good against his old A.L. New York team mates going 11-6 in his regular season career. In 1979 & 1980 he went 3-0 against them both times.

After winning 18 games in 1982 he led the league in losses in 1983 with 18 losses (11-18). In 1984 he rebounded to go 12-9 although he posted a 5.18 ERA.

In May of 1985 he was released by the Royals & then signed briefly ending his career where it began with the Chicago Cubs.

In his 16 year career he was 126-97 with 801 strike outs, 600 walks posting a 3.76 ERA in 403 games (261 starts).

Nov 24, 2014

Former Mets Manager Who Caught Three No Hitters As A Catcher: Jeff Torborg (1992-1993)

Jeffrey Allen Torborg was born November 26, 1941 in Plainfield, New Jersey. After attending Westfield high school, he attended Rutgers University.

In 1963 he was an All American baseball player, setting a school record & NCAA record batting an incredible .537. Only two other college players have ever hit for a higher batting averages. Torborg also set Rutgers school records for slugging.

The Rutgers Knights baseball team posted a .741 winning percentage during his time there. In 1992 he became the first baseball player to have his uniform number retired by the school, as he entered into the Rutgers Olympic Sports Hall of Fame.

In 1963 he was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an amateur free agent.He spent just 64 games at AA Albuquerque in 1963 making the Los Angeles Dodgers team the next year. Throughout the rest of the sixties he would be the Dodgers backup catcher, first to Johnny Roseboro then to Tom Haller. Torborg was never the same hitter in the majors like he was in college, but he was a fine defensive catcher.

Torborg has the honor of catching three career no hitters, to some of the best pitchers of his era. On September 9th 1965 he caught Sandy Koufax’s perfect game against the Chicago Cubs, at Dodger Stadium. In that game Koufax struck out fourteen Cubs batters. Torborg was 0-3 that night. Five years later. on July 20th 1970 he was behind the plate catching Dodger pitcher Bill Singer’s no hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies. Singer struck out ten batters that night, in a 5-0 Dodger win at Dodger Stadium.



 

In Torborg's seven seasons while in Los Angeles, he threw out over 40% of would be base stealers four straight years (1966-1969). In 1967 his 51% was third best in the National League. His best year at the plate was back in 1965 when he batted .240 with three HRs & 13 RBIs in 150 at bats.

In March of 1971, the cross town California Angels purchased his contract, where Torborg would spend his three seasons playing in Orange County. In 1973 he was Angels main catcher batting .220 with one HR & 18 RBIs playing in 102 games. That season he caught his third no hitter number behind the plate, when on May 15th, Nolan Ryan tossed his first career no hitter. That night Ryan struck out twelve Kansas City Royals in Kansas City.

After the 1973 season, Torborg switched to a coaching position, finishing his ten year playing career batting .214 with 297 hits 8 HRs 42 doubles & 101 RBIs in 574 games. Behind the plate in 559 games he threw out 36% of would be base stealers, posting a .990 fielding %. After three years of coaching, Torborg got his first managerial position in 1977.

He replaced Frank Robinson as the Cleveland Indians skipper. finishing fifth that year. The Indians then fell to last place in the next two seasons. He was dismissed in late 1979 & returned ten years later as the manager of the Chicago White Sox.

In his second year at the helm (1990) he took the White Sox to a second place finish, an improvement of 25 games, which earned him the Manager of the Year Award. In 1991 he finished in second place again winning 87 games with the White Sox.

In 1992 he came closer to his home in New Jersey, as he was named the 14th manager in the history of the New York Mets. He replaced interim manager Mike Cubbage, who had replaced Bud Harrelson late in the 1991 season.

The ’92 Mets were a high paid team of over rated & over the hill free agent players that could not gel together. They finished the season in fifth place & became known as "The Worst Team Money could buy".

Torbog’s Mets posted a 70-92 record that year (.444 %) disappointing many fans. The media bashed the team & the fans booed loudly at Shea Stadium. Torborg’s Mets started out the 1993 season at 13-25 before he was fired & replaced by Dallas Green.

Torborg would get two more managerial jobs; first with the Montreal Expos in 2001 finishing fifth posting a 47-62 record. He was replaced by Frank Robinson whom he had replaced in Cleveland 24 years ago as manager.

Next, he was named the Florida Marlins manager in 2002 finishing in fourth place (79-83). In 2003 he was fired & replaced by Jack McKeon who went on to win the World Series with the team.

Torborg has also been a successful broadcaster for the FOX network, CBS radio & the Atlanta Braves on Turner South.

Family: His son is a former pro wrestler Dale Torborg, known as the Demon who donned make up in the style of Gene Simmons of Kiss. Jeff’s daughter in law is Christie Wolf, also known as Asya, also was a pro wrestler & female body builder. She & Dale were married in 2000 & have one child.

Former Mets Director of Player Development In the Sixties / Early Seventies: Whitey Herzog

Dorrel Norman Elvert "Whitey" Herzog was born November 9, 1931 in New Athens, Illinois. His pro baseball career began as a prospect for the A.L. New York team in the early 1950’s.

Although he never cracked the big league squad, he spent Spring Training with the team and was highly influenced by Casey Stengel.

Herzog went off to serve two years Military Service in the Korea War returning to baseball by 1956. By then he had been traded to the Washington Senators & played there for three seasons.

He moved to the Kansas City A’s (1958-1960) Baltimore Orioles (1961-1962) & Detroit Tigers (1963) finishing an eight year career batting .254 lifetime with 414 hits 25 HRs & 172 RBIs. He played 450 games in the outfield & 37 games at first base.

After his playing days he started out as a big league scout & then a coach for the Kansas City A’s in 1965. In 1966 he was he was hired by the New York Mets serving as third base coach for one season, before moving into the Mets front office. Herzog soon became the Director of Player Development, making the decisions for club President Johnny Murphy. Herzog's biggest problem in the organization was the team' s General Manager, M. Donald Grant.

In Herzog eyes, Grant knew nothing about baseball operations. He felt Grant would give up young talent tin exchange for a big named payer who's best days were behind him.

Herzog was instrumental in building the Mets 1969 Amazing Mets World Championship team & the 1973 NL Pennant winners. He would spend eight years developing young Mets players and trying to let go all the players he felt disposable. Herzog helped develop the young 1969 pitching staff and many of its young players within the organization in the years following.

The crop of young arms to come out of the Mets organization in the late sixties, early seventies is incredible. Tom Seaver (three Cy Young Awards / Hall of Fame ), Nolan Ryan (Seven No Hitters / All Time MLB Strike out leader / Hall of Fame).


Also Mets stars; Jerry Koosman (20 game winner) Jon Matlack (1972 Rookie of the Year) Tug McGraw (one of the 1970s best Relievers) & Craig Swan (1978 ERA leader). Add In successful pitchers; Gary Gentry, Jim McAndrew, Bob Apodaca, Buzz Capra (1974 NL ERA leader), Danny Frisella, Steve Renko, Rich Folkers & Nino Espinosa.

In 1972 when Gil Hodges tragically passed away from a fatal heart attack, Whitey Herzog was probably the best man to fill the spot.

But M. Donald Grant who always went with an old New York Player from yesteryear chose to promote Hodges Coach Yogi Berra to the position. At Hodges funeral, Whitey was instructed to stay away from Grant so the media wouldn’t think he was getting the position. It’s something Herzog never forgave the Mets for.

Then Herzog was even more furious, as in the coming years the Mets gave away some of their top young talent; Nolan Ryan, Ken Singleton, Amos Otis, & Tim Foli. He believed that the Mets would have had a dynasty type team through the seventies if they had held on to these players. He certainly has a good point. It was the trades of Ryan & those players that made Herzog have enough.

By 1973 Herzog couldn’t take Mr. Grant or the Mets anymore, he left the organization for good. But he must be remembered for all the great work he did. Whitey Herzog moved on & became a Hall of Fame manager with a fantastic career.

In 1973 he began his managerial career with the Texas Rangers, going 47--91 before getting replaced by Del Webner for one game, until Billy Martin took over. From there he coached with the California Angels under Bobby Winkles in 1974. When Winkles got fired, Herzog became the interim manager for four games, until Dick Williams took over.

From there Herzog went to the Kansas City Royals & led them to three straight AL Western Division titles. He lost each time in the ALCS & finished in second place to the Angels in 1979.

In 1980 he went to the St. Louis Cardinals & stayed there for the next decade. Herzog would win one World Series with Cardinals (1982) , two NL pennants (1985 & 1987) and six NL Eastern titles.

His style of play in St. Louis became known as Whitey Ball. He used patient hitters, with good on base percentages at the top of his lineup. Speed & aggressive base running on the base paths of the Busch Stadium artificial turf led to a lot of runs scored.

He became one of the Mets biggest enemies in the 1980’s as he was out for vengeance against his old organization. He also had a personal feud with New York's Keith Hernandez, who won an MVP Award with Herzog in St. Luis in 1979, but then traded him to the Mets just three years later.

Whitey was very outspoken about Keith in his Cardinal days, calling him lax and easy going on the field. Hernandez came to New York and vowed to prove Herzog wrong. After leaving the Cardinals in 1990 he worked in the Anaheim Angels front office through the 1990’s before retiring.

Honors: In 2010 Herzog was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.