Apr 19, 2014

1999 NL Wild Card Mets Pitcher: Masato Yoshi (1998-1999)

Masato Yoshii was born April 20, 1965 in Osaka, Japan. The tall six foot two right hander was originally drafted in Japan in 1984.

He struggled with high ERA’s in his first two seasons pitching for the Kintetsu Buffaloes and earned his first career win in 1987. In 1988 he was the Pacific Leagues Relief pitcher of the Year, winning 19 games while posting 24 saves. He saved twenty more games the next year and eventually converted over to being a starter with the Yakult Swallows in 1993.

He won ten or more games the next three years, having a career year in the final year of his contract. He wanted to remain loyal to his team but his agent convinced to shoot for higher salaries with other teams Some in Japan felt he was asking more than he was worth. His friend Hideo Nomo convinced him to come over & pitch in America. He refused all offers in Japan to sign on with the New York Mets for $200,000 with incentives that would make him a million in his first year.

He made his MLB debut starting the fifth game of the 1998 season, throwing seven shutout innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, recording his first MLB win. Yoshi allowed just three hits & struck out seven in that game. In May he won three straight decisions, including a complete game performance where he allowed just one run on May 21st against the Cincinatti Reds at Shea Stadium.

He was 4-1 at the beginning of June but he would lose his next five decisions, and not earn another victory until August 19th. He would win just one more game the rest of the season, coming in his last outing of the year in a game against the Florida Marlins. In 29 games he went 6-8 with a 3.93 ERA striking out 117 batters in 177 innings pitched, giving up 22 HRs while walking only 55 batters
In 1999 he was once again on Bobby Valentines staff, & won his first outing of the season. It was the sixth game of the season, a 10-3 win over the Expos at Montreal. After a 1-3 April, he won four straight starts, including a two hit six inning shutout performance against the Diamond backs in Arizona. As the season went on h got better closing out the year with five straight winning decisions in August & September.

He got better run support than the previous year, especially down the stretch. Yoshi pitched a complete game, one run, six hitter in San Diego on August 18th against the Padres to start the win streak. He would pitch into the sixth inning or beyond in all his wins, finishing the year at 12-8 with a 4.40 ERA. In 29 games he struck out 105 batters in 170 innings, helping the Mets catch the Wild Card title & go to their first post season since 1986.

Post Season: In the NLDS he started Game #2 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, going into the 6th inning giving up four runs on six hits while earning no decision. The Mets eventually won the game 8-4. In the NLCS he got the call from Bobby Valentine to start Game #1 in Atlanta against Greg Maddox & the Braves. He took the loss giving up two runs on five hits in 4.2 innings pitched.

He returned to start the eventual classic Robin Ventura "grand slam single" Game #4, and was one of the nine Mets pitchers used in the extra inning win. In the game Yoshii allowed two runs on four hits in just three innings pitched. 

In the 1999 off season he was traded to the Colorado Rockies for the left handed Bobby Jones & some guy named Lariel Gonzales. Yoshii got hit hard in the thin Rocky Mountain air at Colorado, going 6-15 (sixth most losses in the league) as he posted a 5.86 ERA. He was released after the season and signed on with the Montreal Expos pitching there for two seasons. He went 8-16 over those seasons with an ERA averaging around 4.50. By age 38 he was out of the major leagues after pitching there for five years.

Lifetime he was 32-47 with a 4.62 ERA, 447 strike outs & 222 walks in 162 games pitched. He went back to Japan and pitched there until 2007, making his fifth All Star Team there in 2006 then retiring at the age of 42.

Mid Sixties Mets Catcher: Hawk Taylor (1964-1967)

Robert Dale Taylor was born on April 3, 1939 in Metropolis, Illinois. The six foot one, right hand hitting Taylor was signed out of high school at age 18.

He was a 1957 bonus baby for the Milwaukee Braves. Taylor originally was originally a catcher earning the nick name "Hawk" by the time he got to the big leagues.

He debuted in 1957 in order to follow MLB's rules, going hitless in seven games. In 1958 he batted .293 in the lower levels of the minor leagues getting back to Milwaukee for just four games. The next season he hit .297 with 23 doubles at AA Atlanta & then spent all of 1960 at AAA Louisville where he hit 17 HRs with 80 RBIs batting .270.

In 1961 he was up & down to the minors finishing out the year hitting his first career HR. It came in the last game of the regular season, tying up the ball game with the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the 9th inning.

He hit .255 (12-47) appearing in twenty games in 1962, the best average he had in his seasons in Milwaukee. After playing in just 16 games batting .069 in 1963, his contract was purchased by the New York Mets that December.

Hawk made his Mets debut, as the Mets 1964 Opening Day catcher at Philadelphia. In the 5th inning he singled driving in two runs in the Mets 5-3 loss. In the first game ever played at Shea Stadium, Taylor appeared as a 9th inning pinch hitter, striking out against the Pittsburgh Pirates Bob Friend. In Shea Stadiums second game, he replaced Jesse Gonder behind the plate in the 7th inning, In the 8th inning he drove in two runs with a double, although the team lost 9-5 to the Pirates.

On June 20th in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium, Hawk had a career day. He replaced Chris Cannizzaro at catcher, after he got injured early in the game. Hawk went on to have a four hit day hitting a pair of two run HRs, helping the Mets to a 7-2 victory. At the end of July he closed out the month with a three run HR against the Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Famer, Sandy Koufax.

He came back with another HR the next day against the Astros in Houston. Those were the only four HRs Hawk hit all year, playing in 92 games he batted .240 with eight doubles a .272 on base % & 23 RBIs .

Behind the plate in 45 games, he threw out 40% of would be base stealers posting a .981 fielding %. He also made just one error in 16 games as an outfielder.

In 1965 Taylor played in just five games in April. Then he hit four HRs in May playing in 13 games, including a pair off future Met Ray Sadecki on May 23rd in a 8-7 loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis. Other than that he struggled at bat hitting only .152 through June 13th. At catcher behind the plate he only threw out two of the sixteen base stealers attempting to steal on him. He was sent down to AAA Buffalo, hitting ten HRs with 32 RBIs the rest of the 1965 season there.

In 1966 he started the year at AAA Jacksonville returning to the Mets in May, he would play 53 games in New York the rest of the season. On June 13th Taylor hit a three run HR off former Mets pitcher Al Jackson, while helping the Mets to a 5-3 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. On August 17th he hit the first pinch hit grand slam HR in Mets history, coming off Pittsburgh’s Bob Veale at Shea Stadium in a Mets 8-7 win over the Pirates.

On September 16th he singled home the tying run in the bottom of the 9th inning off San Francisco Giants pitcher Jack Fisher. The Mets scored two more times that inning with the help of Bud Harrelson's triple & then a steal of home plate. The Mets went on to win the game 5-4.

Hawk finished the year with three HRs a pair of doubles & 12 RBIs while hitting just .174. In 1967 Hawk was batting .243 after 13 games when he got traded to the California Angels for Don Wallace. In 128 games at the AAA level in 1968 he hit 22 HRs driving in 61 runs. hitting 22 HRs in the minors, he spent the rest of the 1968 season in Southern California.

In 1969 he was drafted away by the expansion Kansas City Royals becoming an original Royal in their inaugural season. Hawk was mostly used as a pinch hitter in Kansas City, batting .270 with three HRs, five doubles & 21 RBIs.

He was sent to the Boston Red Sox in 1971 but never came back to the big leagues finishing out his career in the minors.

Retirement: After an eleven year career Taylor hit .218 with 158 hits 16 HRs, 25 doubles a .313 on base % & 82 RBIs in 394 games played. After his playing days he went to Murray State University & earned a Masters Degree. Taylor then became a college coach at three different schools.

Passing: Taylor passed away in Paducah Kentucky of cancer on June 9th, 2012, he was 73 years old.

Former Mets Catcher: Ronny Paulino (2011)

Ronny Leonel Paulino was born on April 21, 1981 in Santo Domingo. The six foot three catcher was originally signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1997 at age 16.

While rising through the ranks of the minor leagues, he batted .285 in 2004 at AA Altoona & then .306 overall in 2005 between AA & AAA. He was passed up as the Pirates top catching prospect by Ryan Doumit who was tearing up A ball with his hitting. That season Paulino made his debut with the Pirates appearing in two late September games.

In 2006 he had his first full season due to injuries to the Pirates catchers. Paulino batted .310 with 6 HRs 19 doubles & 55 RBIs. Behind the plate he caught a league leading 38 runners trying to steal (36%) & was second with 72 assists. He also allowed a league leading 11 errors & nine passed balls (third in the NL). The next year he fell to a .263 average but had career highs in HRs (11) RBIs (55) doubles (25) & games played (133).

In 2008 he became a back up catcher as Ryan Doumit took over the position after playing the outfield the previous year. Paulino was also sent to the minors playing in just 40 games with the Pirates.

In December 2008 he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jason Jaramillo. In March 2009 he got traded to the San Francisco Giants & the same day was shipped to the Florida Marlins for a minor leaguer. He spent two seasons in Florida, the first as a back up to John Baker.

In 2010 he was the Marlins main catcher batting . 259 with 4 HRs 18 doubles & 37 RBIs, while posting a .991 fielding % throwing out 31% of runners trying to steal. He threw out 24 runners (5th best in the NL) but committed six errors (4th most in the NL) &allowed 53 stolen bases (5th most).

His year started off well, first on April 7th in the second game of the season he singled in the winning run in the top of the 10th inning, in a game against the Mets at Citi Field. On April 10th he came in to bat as a pinch hitter in the 9th inning with the bases loaded & the Marlins down 6-4 to the Los Angele Dodgers.

Paulino doubled scoring the tying runs as Jeff Cantu later drove in the game winner with a sac fly. On April 17th he hit a three HR leading the Marlins past the Philadelphia Phillies 5-1. He hit well enough to keep his average above .300 into early June. On July 17th he drove in both Marlins runs in a 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals. His season was cut short with an injury on August 19th. In December he signed a deal with the New York Mets.

Paulino began the year at St. Lucie then at AAA Buffalo quickly making it to the Mets squad by the end of April. He would be used as a back up to Josh Tole playing in 78 games for the 2011 Mets.

In his first Mets start he played all 14 innings of a game at Philadelphia & ended up being the hero. Besides gathering five hits that night, in the top of the 14th he doubled off Kyle Kendrick driving in David Wright with the winning run. On July 3rd he came into the game as a pinch hitter, then singled off Mariano Rivera tying up a subway series game at Citi Field in the bottom of the 9th inning.

The Mets would win the game on Jason Bay's walk off base hit in the 10th inning. Paulino hit well enough through the year to stay above .300 into August. He finished the year batting .268 with 2 HRs 13 doubles a .312 on base % & 19 RBIs in 228 at bats. Behind the plate he threw out just 20% of runners trying to steal posting a .983 fielding %.

He was granted free agency & signed with the Baltimore Orioles for 2012. He appeared in just twenty games behind O's backstop Matt Wieters (144 games) & Taylor Teagarden (22 games) seeing no ALDS action. In 2013 he played in the minors for the Orioles & Detroit Tigers.

In an eight year career, Paulino hit .272 with 508 hits 33 HRs 93 doubles & 216 RBIs in 573 games. Behind the plate he caught 528 games throwing out 29% of would be base stealers.

Early Seventies Mets Pitching Prospect: John Glass (1971-1974)

John Dudley Glass was born April 7th, 1943 at Dallas, Texas. Glass was a tall six foot right handed pitcher, originally signing with the New York Mets in 1965.

He posted winning seasons in each of his first three years at the low levels of the minors, going a best 6-5 in 1968 at Raleigh Durham. He was chosen by the Montreal Expos in the 1968 expansion draft, getting pushed up to AAA very quickly, but then landed back in the Mets organization by 1971. He was the top winner in 1971 at AA Memphis, going 13-6 with 100 strike outs, playing in a ball park that would eventually become named Tim McCarver Stadium.

In 1972 he was sent up to AAA Tidewater going 7-7 on staff that was headed by 14 game winner & 1973 Mets reliever Harry Parker. In 1973 Glass had his best AAA minor league season with the Tides going 12-9 leading the International League in ERA at 2.85. He was second in the league in shut outs (4,) while striking out 87 batters allowing just three HRs in 163 innings pitched.

He came back in 1974 but went 0-5 and finished out his playing career, at age 27 never getting to the big leagues. Glass went 60-57 with a 3.22 ERA in nine minor league seasons. Pull out those early seventies classic Mets yearbooks & there will be John Glass.

Apr 18, 2014

Italian / American Long Island Born Mets Pitcher Turner Coach: Frank Viola (1989-1991)

Frank John Viola Jr. known as "Sweet Music" was born on April 19th, 1960 in East Meadow, Long Island.

The six foot four, left hander went to East Meadow high school & became a local baseball star. He then moved on to St. Johns University, where he was a team mate of another Italian American future Met; John Franco. Franco was already the teams star, another local boy from Brooklyn, & Viola was anxious to meet him when he arrived

Viola soon became a St. Johns star pitcher too, was actually drafted during his freshman year, by the Kansas City Royals but did not sign. In 1980 he pitched for Team USA in the Amateur World Series, coming in fourth place.

In 1981 he went up against Yale University & its star pitcher (future Met) Ron Darling, in a now classic pitcher’s duel. The two pitchers both tossed eleven shutout innings, before St. John’s Redmen won it in the 12th inning.

Viola would officially sign with the Minnesota Twins after being selected in the second round of the 1981 amateur draft.

Viola debuted in 1982 with Minnesota but posted losing records in his first two seasons. He was 4-10 in his rookie year & then 7-15 the next year for the fifth place Twins, while allowing the most earned runs in American league (128). But in 1984 his whole career turned around.

St. John's Pitching Star: Frank Viola 1981
Trivia: Viola would become known as “Sweet Music” in the Twin Cities, after a writer claimed it sounded like sweet at the Metro Dome, music when Viola pitched.  A fan soon hung a banner at the Dome & the name stuck. That banner is now part of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Viola would throw one of the best change ups of his era. In 1984 he won 18 games going 18- 12 (4th most in the AL) posting a 3.21 ERA (10th best in the AL) . He pitched 257 innings striking out 149 batters. He followed that up with another 18 win season (18-14) (3rd best in the AL) pitching 250 innings, striking out 135 batters posting a 4.09 ERA.

He would win 16 or more games five straight seasons, while pitching over 245 innings six straight times. In 1985, he went into the history books giving up Rod Carew’s 3000th hit.

In 1987 he led the Twins staff going 17-10 (8th most wins in the AL) posting the league’s second best ERA at 2.90. He struck out 197 batters (7th in the AL) pitching 251 innings (10th in the AL). That year Manager Jim Kelly & his Twins surprised everyone by winning the World Series.

Post Season: In the 1987 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, Viola  got the Game #1 start against Doyle Alexander. He allowed five runs over eight innings, but got no decision as the Twins eventually won the game scoring four runs in the 8th inning. He returned to get the win in Game #4 at Detroit, although he only lasted five innings giving up three runs & four walks.

But Viola earned national attention as he starred in the World Series, against the St. Louis Cardinals. He would pitch in three games going 2-1 with 3.72 ERA in 19 innings pitched.

In Game #1 in Minnesota he rolled along to a 10-1 win, striking out five allowing just five hits over eight innings. He had a rough Game #4 taking the loss, after allowing five runs in 3.1 innings at Busch Stadium.

He was the Game #7 hero, pitching 8 innings allowing only two runs on six hits, striking out seven Cardinals in the wild Metro dome. The Twins took the lead in 6th inning on a Greg Gagne RBI single & topped off the 4-2 win on a Dan Gladden double in the 8th. Viola earned the World Series MVP honors. 

He followed up his MVP World Series performance by winning the 1988 A.L. Cy Young Award. Viola led the league in wins going 24-7 with a 2.46 ERA (2nd in the AL). He struck out 193 batters (3rd in the AL)walking only 54 in 255 innings pitched (6th in the AL) in 36 starts (3rd in the AL).

He threw seven complete games, for the fourth straight season and tossed a pair of shut outs. This season he made the first of three All Star appearances. 

In 1989 he fell off to an 8-12 record by late July. On the 1989 trade deadline he came home, as he was sent to the New York Mets in a blockbuster trade.

Viola arrived in exchange for pitchers; Rick Aguilera, David West, and Kevin Tapani. His arrival at Shea Stadium came with high expectations, as he joined a star studded staff of Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, David Cone, Sid Fernandez & Bobby Ojeda.

Viola debuted with the Mets on August 2nd in St. Louis & went out to beat the Cardinals 4-3, pitching 8 innings allowing two runs on four hits. He then took a no decision at Philadelphia after allowing just one run in seven innings. His debut at Shea resulted in a loss & he then took three straight losing decisions.

On August 28th, he tossed a three hit shut out in Los Angeles, out dueling Orel Hershiser & the Dodgers 1-0, as Howard Johnson drove in the games only run. In September he went 3-2, closing out the season with a 6-2, complete game win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

The Mets fell six games short of the 1st place; Chicago Cubs and missed the playoffs once again. Viola himself went 5-5 since coming to the Mets, adjusting to the changes. No one on the Mets staff had more than 14 wins. Overall on the season Viola was 13-17 with a career high 211 strikeouts.

In 1990 he would have the season, he was brought to New York for. He started out with a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second game of the season at Shea. He started put the year, winning his first seven starts going into mid May. On May 2nd, he threw a six hit shut out against the eventual World Champion Cincinnati Reds. Two starts later, he blanked the Dodgers on a four hitter at Shea Stadium.

After taking his first two losses, he went on win another six of seven games, including a four game win streak into July. In two wins of that stretch, he threw complete games, topped off by a five hit shut out over the Houston Astros at Shea. In a three game stretch he allowed just three earned runs over 26 innings.

At the All Star break he was 13-4 with a 2.39 ERA, he was elected to All Star team but the Dodgers' Bob Welch got the start. Viola pitched a scoreless 5th inning in the NL's 2-0 shout out, in the game played at Wrigley Field in Chicago. After the break he struggled going 7-8 but on the final day of the season, he beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh for his twentieth win of the year.

Viola became the fifth Mets pitcher in team history to win twenty games, a feat that would not be accomplished again until 22 years layer in 2012, when R.A. Dickey won his twentieth.

Overall Viola had a great year leading the Mets staff in most categories, winning twenty games going 20-12 (second most wins in the league). He led the league in starts (35) as well as innings pitched (249). He came in third place for the Cy Young Award, as the Mets finished second again even though they won 91 games, four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

That season Dwight Gooden had won 19 games & David Cone won 14 games for the strong staff.

1991 started out great for everyone, the Mets were in contention early on as Viola got off to a 6-2 start by the end of May. He won eleven of his first sixteen decisions posting a 2.34 ERA. He made the last of his three All Star appearances, pitching the 5th inning of the 4-2 NL loss at Toronto's SkyDome.

After that everything fell apart, the Mets would end up in 5th place losing 91 games their worst showing in nine seasons.

Viola would only win two more games after the All Star break while losing ten more times. He allowed the most hits (259) runs (112) & HRs (25) on the staff. He ended the season at 13-15, giving up the most hits by any NL pitcher, while posting a 3.97 ERA.

He was granted free agency and left New York to sign with the Boston Red Sox. In his Mets career he went 39-32 over parts of three seasons, he posted a 3.31 ERA with 387 strikeouts in 82 games pitched.

In Boston in 1992, he won 13 games (13-11) with a 3.44 ERA. He won eleven games the next year (11-8) with a 3.14 ERA, but never regained his Cy Young form.

In Spring Training 1993 he threw a combined no hitter with Cory Bailey against the Philadelphia Phillies. He then had arm trouble which led to Tommy John surgery in 1993. He returned to have two brief stints in Cincinnati with the Reds in 1995, pitching three games at the major league level. In 1996 he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, going 1-3 in six starts before retiring at age 36 in 1996. 

Over 15 seasons he started in 420 games (103rd all time), going 176-150 (168th most wins all time) with a 3.73 ERA. He pitched 2836 innings (159th all time), with 1844 strikeouts (93rd all time). He tossed 16 shut outs with 74 complete games. In his career he did allow 2827 hits (157th all time) with 864 walks (182nd all time) & 294 HRs (54th all time).

Retirement: Viola first coached baseball in Orlando Florida & coached his daughters at schools in East Meadow, Long Island. In 2009 he worked at the Cleveland Indians Spring Training camp & did some broadcasting for the Boston Red Sox on NESN.

In 2011 he was back n the Mets organization, as pitching coach for the Brooklyn Cyclones. He spent 2012-2013 with the Mets affiliate, Savannah Sand Gnats.

Viola with Noah Syndergaard
at 2014 Mets Spring Training
In 2014 he was promoted to the AAA level as pitching coach for Las Vegas & joined the Mets at Spring Training. He has been a tutor to the Mets latest minor league prospect Noah Syndergaard.

During a medical exam a heart problem was detected that required surgery. On April 1st, Viola underwent successful hear surgery & is recovering nicely. It is unclear if he will return in 2014.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said "I did talk to Frank yesterday, He certainly wants to be back, but I think we'll let the doctors dictate exactly when he comes back. When he's ready and he's able, I'm sure he'll be out there, but we want to make sure he's fully recovered from this surgery first."

2012 Team USA Brittany Viola
Family: His daughter Brittany is a pro diver in Miami & was a member of the 2012 USA Olympic Team. His other daughter; Brittany is a volleyball coach at Winthrop University.

His son Frank III, played baseball in the Chicago White Sox organization but Tommy John surgery hurt his career. He is now working on a knuckleball with the help of R.A. Dickey & Phil Neikro to revive his career.

Former Mets Relief Pitcher: Ambirox Burgos (2007)

Ambiorix Burgos was born on April 19th, 1984 in Nagua, Dominican Republic. The six foot three, right hander was signed out of high school by the Kansas City Royals in 2000. At A ball Burlington he was used as a starter going 7-11 with a 4.38 & then was turned into a reliever.

He debuted with the Royals on Opening Day 2005 pitching one inning of relief against the Chicago White Sox. On May 11th he suffered his worst outing as the Blue Jays tagged him for four earned runs in 0.1 innings pitched blowing a winning effort. It was a tough week as he allowed three more runs in his next two outings as well. On the year he made 59 appearances going 3-5 with two saves posting a 3.98 ERA. He struck out 65 batters in 63 innings pitched. Burgos was certainly wild, as he threw eight wild pitches (tenth in the AL).

In 2006 he made a career high 68 appearances going 4-5, with eleven wild pitches (5th most in the AL) on a fifth place Royals team that lost 100 games. He continued blowing batters away with 72 strike outs in 73 innings pitched. Fellow Dominican General manager who always seemed to be trying to gather his fellow countrymen on his team, traded Brian Bannister for Burgos in December 2006.

Burgos began the year with the Mets debuting in the third game of the season in St. Louis pitching one inning against the Cardinals in the Mets 10-0 win. Two games later he allowed three earned runs to the Philadelphia Phillies in one inning of work raising his ERA over eight. He allowed earned runs in six of his seventeen appearances, striking out 19 batters while walking nine in 23 innings pitched.

On May 17th he earned a win pitching two innings against the Chicago Cubs, as the Mets rallied for five runs in the bottom of the 9th inning. At the end of May after 17 games he was sent down to the minors. He eventually needed Tommy John surgery & pitched a rehab assignment in August 2008 at St. Lucie. The Mets did not resign him & he was granted free agency.

In his three year career he is 8-10 with 156 strike outs 77 walks & a 4.60 ERA in 144 games pitched.

Early Eighties Mets Catcher: Mike Bishop (1983)

Michael David Bishop was born on November 5th 1958 in Santa Maria, California. The six foot two right hand hitting catcher, was drafted out of high school in the 12th round of the 1976 amateur draft by the California Angels.

He showed some power in the minors hitting 28 HRs or better between two leagues in both 1979 & 1980.  In 1980 he led the Texas League with 33 HRs & 104 RBIs while playing at AA El Paso. That same year he got to AAA Salt Lake City & followed with a full season there in 1981, hitting 15 HRs with 91 RBIs. In 1982 he hit .267 with 12 HRs & 49 RBIs at AAA Spokane but was granted free agency at the end of the season.

In December of 1982 he signed with the New York Mets organization. The Mets were in quick need of a catcher & brought him right up to the club. He made his MLB debut on April 16th, 1982 at Busch Stadium, catching Ed Lynch. He struck out twice in the 6-2 Mets loss to the Cardinals.

On April 20th, he got another start in the second game of a double header. Tom Seaver threw a 6-0 shut out in the first game. In the second game, Bishop got his first hit, a double off Pittsburgh's Lee Tunnell. He was at bat with the bases loaded in the 5th inning, against Pirates pitcher; Rod Scurry. Scurry threw a wild pitch with Bishop at bat & Mookie Wilson scored from third base. Bishop then walked to load them up again. The Mets won this one 7-5 at Shea. Bishop played in just one more game before getting sent back down.

Veteran Ron Hodges (96 games) would see most of the catching action that year, his last season. Junior Ortiz, Mike Fitzgerald & Ronn Reynolds all played behind him for the sixth place Mets (66-94).

He played most of the year at AA Jackson & hit .280 with 13 HRs 43 RBIs in 66 games. His HRs were second to John Gibbons & Kevin Mitchell. He was promoted to AAA Tidewater where in 27 games he batted just .203 with one HR & 11 RBIs.

Passing: It seems an injury ended his career at that point because he never played minor league or major league baseball again.

Sadly, Bishop passed away in 2005 at Bakersfield, California at age 46.

Apr 17, 2014

Italian / American Mid Ninties Met: Rico Brogna (1994-1996)

Rico Joseph Brogna was born on April 18, 1970 in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. The Italian / American Brogna grew up in Watertown, Connecticut where he was an All American star quarterback, getting offered a scholarship with Clemson University. He chose to play baseball & was the Detroit Tigers number one draft pick (the 26th pick overall) in 1988.

By 1990 he was an All Star first baseman at AA London, Ontario. He led the Eastern League in HRs (31) & was tied in RBIs (77). Although he didn’t match those same numbers again, he was brought up to the Tigers in September 1993. He appeared in just nine games going 5-26.
Three days before the 1994 season began he was traded to the New York Mets for Alan Zinter. 

He made his Mets debut replacing the injured David Segui at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium on June 22nd going 0-3. He then got his first hit coming at Shea Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates on the next home stand. At the end of June, entering July 1st, Brogna hit solo HRs in three straight games, giving him five HRs in his first 16 Mets games.

In July he became just the third Met rookie in history to have a five hit game. It came on July 25th in a five hit night, playing the Cardinals in St. Louis. On the next night he had a four RBI day in a tight game against the Cardinals in the same series. In the top of the 11th inning he hit a two run HR breaking the 8-8 tie for what turned out to be the game winning runs. In mid August the baseball strike killed the season, in only 38 games Brogna showed a lot of promise, batting .354 with 46 hits in 131 at bats. He had seven HRs with 11 doubles a .380 on base % & 20 RBIs.

For 1995 he was penciled in as the Mets regular first baseman& has the distinction of being the first player to hit a HR at Colorado’s Coors field. The HR came on Opening Day when he blasted a line drive HR off Bill Swift. In the third game his solo HR leading off the bottom of the 7th inning led to the Mets comeback win over the Cardinals. On May 6th he hit his third HR driving in two runs, giving him a total of seven RBIs through his first eight games. In the first two weeks of the season he was also batting .400. He finished up the end of May still hitting .300 while driving in 14 runs in the month.

He became popular with the Shea Faithful, as they would chant “Rico, Rico” when he came to bat. On June 15th in a game against the Florida Marlins, he helped tie the game with a bottom of the 9th inning base hit capping off a Mets three run rally. They went on to win the game in extra innings. On June 30th he hit a two run HR off the Reds Chuck McElroy to break a 5-5 tie in the home seventh inning, in another game the Mets go on to win. From July 13th to the 25th he drove in twelve runs including two separate four game RBI streaks.

Brogna hit safely in eleven of the twelve games & got just under the .300 mark, batting .297. He remained consistent in August gathering up two different seven game hit streaks keeping his average above .290. He had a productive September driving in 21 runs, while hitting six HRs & scoring twenty runs. From September 12- September 15th he hit five HRs driving in eleven runs while enjoying a powerful six game hit streak.

On September 14th he helped Dave Mlicki to a 4-2 win with a two run fifth inning HR in the 5th inning breaking the 2-2 tie. As the Phillies rolled into town for a Mets home stand, Brogna greeted them with a two run HR on September 16th helping the Mets to a 10-8 win. The next day he had a career day. hitting a pair of HRs while gathering up three hits & driving in five runs leading New York to a 8-2 win.

He finished out the year with six more RBIs in his last five games. He had a fine season, by leading the club in most offensive categories; HRs (22) RBIs (76) doubles (27) & runs scored (72). He hit .289 (third on the club) with 146 hits (2nd on the club) playing in 134 games. At first base he led all N.L. first basemen in fielding with a .998%, and was fifth in the NL in putouts with 1112. His biggest draw back on the year was striking out 111 times, fifth most in the league.

In 1996 a back injury ended his season on June 19th playing in just 55 games for the year. He hit.255 with ten doubles, seven HRs a .318 on base % & 30 RBIs. He began the ear by driving in the winning run on Opening Day with a double play sac fly capping off a four run Mets home seventh inning rally. He had another good start to the season batting .364 with six RBIs through the first nine games.

In May he had his best month including a May 11th game against the Chicago Cubs at home where he hit two HRs leading the team to a 7-6 win. On a West Coast road trip he hit a HR driving in three runs at San Francisco & then came back two days later to hit another HR while driving in four runs in a 7-1 Mets win in Los Angeles.

The injuries concerned the Mets, as he had been diagnosed with a form of spinal arthritis as far back as 1991. The disease is known as spondylitis (a disease that causes pain and discomfort in the joints) from then on he had to take medication daily for the pain. In the winter, the organization gave up on him & traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies. In exchange they received Ricardo Jordan who went 1-2 in 1997 and Toby Borland who never even saw Shea Stadium’s clubhouse.

In Philadelphia Brogna proved the Mets wrong; he went on to have three 20 plus HR seasons. He also drove in over 100 runs twice & had two thirty plus doubles seasons. In 1998 he led the N.L. with ten sac flies & then in 1999 had career highs in runs scored (90) as well as hits (172). In those years he did strike out over 115 times each year as well.

The Mets went out and got John Olerud to replace him at first base, and he although he worked out well, it didn’t make up for the bad decision to trading Brogna. His bat would have been a big help to the 1999 Mets wild card team.

Brogna would suffer from arthritis again & eventually it would finish his career by age 31. He went on to have quick stops with the Boston Red Sox (43 games in 2000) & the Atlanta Braves (72 games in 2001). That year he hit .248 with 3 HRs & 21 RBIs before retiring at the end of the season.

He ended his nine season career batting .269 with 795 hits 106 HRs 176 doubles 458 RBIs & a .320 on base %, playing in 848 games.

Retirement: After baseball he coached football as well as basketball in both Connecticut & Massachusetts. He then scouted for the Arizona Diamondbacks & in 2010 became a minor league manager in their system. In 2011 he became the full time head football coach at Notre Dame Fairfield high school in Connecticut.

Mid 2000's Mets Infielder: Jerr Keppinger (2004)

Jeffrey Scott Keppinger was born on April 21, 1980 in Miami, Florida. The six foot infielder, attended the University of Georgia where he hit .380 getting to the college World Series in 2001.

That same year he was drafted in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. His power numbers fell off in the minor leagues, but he still continued to hit well batting .325 at A ball Lynchburg.

In the summer of 2004 he came over to the New York Mets organization in the Kris Benson deal. He made brief stops at AA Binghamton & AAA Norfolk early that summer. He got a break when a roster spot opened up, making his MLB debut with the Mets, on August 20th at San Francisco. He came into the game as a pinch hitter, going 0-1.

The next day he came into the game in the 7th inning & got his first career hit in the Mets 11-7 extra inning win. On August 22nd he made his first start at second base & got two hits in the 3-1 Mets loss. At the end of August, he hit HRs in back to back games, at Shea Stadium in losses to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Keppinger saw a lot of playing time in September, & drove in seven runs from the 10th through the 18th. On the year he would bat .284 with three HRs & nine RBIs playing in 33 games at second base.

He was back at AAA Norfolk in 2005 batting .331 in 64 games and was set to replace Kazo Matsui when he went down with injury. Unfortunately Keppinger himself, fractured his knee cap & wasn’t able to play. Instead he missed out the rest of the season.

Things may have been different for him & the Mets had he been able to succeed Matsui if he had not been injured.

The following season he was batting .300 again at AAA Norfolk but got traded to the Kansas City Royals for Ruben Gotay. He played in 22 games for the Royals that year, batting .267. On September 9th, he hit a three run pinch hit HR at Boston's Fenway Park in a 10-4 Royals win, it was his first hit in two years.

He eventually got traded to the Cincinnati Reds for 2007 & would hit .333 in 67 games that season. The next year he became Dusty Baker & the Reds regular short stop where he hit .266.

In the off season he was traded to the Houston Astros where he became their regular second baseman for 2010 hitting .288 with 34 doubles 6 HRs & 59 RBIs.

Late in 2011 he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Henry Sosa & Jason Stoffel. In 2012 he signed with the Tampa Rays, where he hit .325 in 115 games (385 at bats) seeing action filling in for the injured Carlos Pena & Ben Zobrist.

He was granted free agency & was perused by the AL New York club when they knew Alex Rodriguez was going to be out most of the season. He declined their offers & signed with the Chicago White Sox for 2013.

In 2013 Keppinger was the White Sox ultimate utility man playing at second base (45 games) third base (41 games) first base (20 games) & DH (16 games). Overall he hit .253 with 4 HRs & 40 RBIs.

He hit nine HRs 15 doubles & 40 RBIs. Keppinger played at first, second, third base & designated hitter.

In his eight year career he played 701 games, batting .288 with 41 HRs 126 doubles 255 RBIs & a .337 on base %.

New York Giants Hall of Fame Outfielder: Ross Youngs (1917-1926)

Royce Middlebrook Youngs was born on April 10th, 1897 in Shiner, Texas. The five foot eight outfielder batted left but threw right handed. He went by the name Ross Youngs but was also nicknamed "Pep". He attended the Texas Military Institute getting to the minor leagues by 1914 & then signed with the New York Giants in 1917.

He was an outstanding outfielder known for his great defense. Manager John McGraw would say "Youngs was the greatest outfielder I ever saw" & he would play for Mcgraw for ten seasons winning four straight pennants. Youngs led the league in games played four times (1919-1920/ 1922-1923). He led in assists five times (1919-1920/ 1922-1924) put outs twice (1919/1924) & errors five times as well. He was among the three best right fielders three times as well. If Gold Gloves were given out in his day he may have won one every year.

By 1918 he was a regular batting .302 (6th in the NL), the first of seven straight full seasons of hitting over the .300 mark. In 1919 he led the league in doubles (31) & would hit thirty plus doubles for four straight seasons. Also in 1919 he batted .311 (3rd best in the NL) posting a .384 on base % (4th best in the NL) with 24 stolen bases (9th best in the NL).

Youngs hitting was as steady as his defense, in 1920 he batted a career best .351 coming in second in the leagues batting race to Rogers Hornsby. He was also second in hits (204) walks (75) & in on base %. (427 % ). That year he drove in 78 runs (6th in the NL) hit six HRs (tenth in the NL) hit 14 triples (6th in the NL) scored 92 runs (5th in the NL) & was first in times on base (281).

In 1921 he was part of a Giants team that won two straight World Series beating the AL New York team in the first ever subway World Series. On the regular season he hit .327 (9th in the NL) & drove in a career high 102 runs (3rd in the NL) with 16 triples (6th in the NL) 21 stolen bases (8th in the NL) 71 walks (2nd in the NL) a .411 on base % & 24 doubles.

In the World Series he drove in four runs in the Giants 13-5 Game #3 win at the Polo Grounds. In that game he had two hits, including a bases loaded clearing triple in the 7th inning. Overall he hit .280 in the series. In 1922 he had a bigger series batting .375 (6-16) driving in two runs & scoring two runs in the Giants five game Series win. In Game #3 he had three hits & in Game #4 drove in what would turn out to be the winning run with a 5th inning single scoring Heinie Groh.

Over the next two seasons he would bat over .330 with 80 plus RBIs, on base percentages over .398% & thirty plus doubles recorded both seasons. In those two years the Giants won two more pennants but were defeated by the AL New York club in 1923 & Connie Macks Philadelphia Athletics in 1924.

In the '23 Series he hit .348 (8-24) with three RBIs overall with four hits & a HR in Game #4. In the '24 series he struggled batting just .185 (5-27) with an RBI & three runs scored.

In 1925 he enjoyed his last full season although he only batted .264 while stealing 17 bases & posting a .354 on base %.

In 1926 he was diagnosed with a kidney disorder which was known as Bright's disease which cut his career short. That season was his last as he batted .306 posting a .372 on base% in 95 games. His career ended at the young age of 29 and one can only imagine how big his career stats would have been if he continued to play. Sadly Youngs passed away the following year (1927) in San Antonio Texas at age 30.

Legacy: In 1972 the veterans comitte inducted him into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Coopestown. In his ten year career he batted .322 (50th all time) with a .388 on base % (62nd all time). He had 1491 hits with 236 doubles, 93 triples, 42 HRs 592 RBIs & 153 stolen bases in 1211 games.

In right field his 174 assists are 5th all time, his 1952 put outs are 59th all time, his 1072 games are 57th all time & 105 errors 8th all time.