Sep 20, 2014

Remembering Mets History: (1965) Casey Stengel Retires From Managing

 August 30th 1965: Casey Stengel was to turn 75 years old on July 30th, 1965. The Mets were having a ceremony for him between games of a double header on July 25th.

The previous night, Stengel was getting out of a friend’s car after a party; he fell & broke his hip. Two days later he needed surgery & had a metal ball inserted in the hip to reduce the fracture.

Due to his health issues & his age the long baseball career of Casey Stengel on the field, came to an end on July 30th 1965. In a press conference at Shea Stadium, Stengel announced his retirement, stepping down as Mets manager. He was to be named vice president of Mets West Coast operations. More a title than anything else, so he could be near his home in Glendale, California.

The Mets new manager was to be Wes Westrum. Westrum who had been a Mets coach, had taken over when Stengel broke his hip. He would now assume the role of full time manager, the second skipper in team history. On September 2nd, 1965 the Mets retired Stengel’s uniform #37, the first Mets number to be retired.

Mets Relief Pitcher: Scott Rice (2013-2014)

Scott Adam Rice was born on September 21st, 1981 in Simi Valley California.

The tall six foot six left hinder was signed after high school by the Baltimore Orioles as a 14th round pick in 1999. Rice spent 14 seasons in the minor leagues before getting his big league call up.

He pitched in the Rookie League his first three seasons as a starting pitcher. He then went to A ball through 2003, where he was converted to a reliever. Prior to that he had a horrid seasons going 1-13 overall in 2002.

He spent eight years in the Orioles organization before signing with the Texas Rangers in 2006. He spent four years there seeing limited action due to injuries on his flexor tendon.

He then pitched as a middle reliever in the New York area in the Independent League, with the Long Island Ducks (2008) & Newark Bears (2009).

He then got signed by the Colorado Rockies in 2010 but was granted free agency at the end of the seasons. In November 2010 he signed with the Chicago Cubs but was released at Spring Training. He was given a quick look by the L.A. Dodgers in Spring Training of 2011 but that didn't work out either.

In November of 2012 he was signed by the New York Mets & was invited to Spring Training '13. Rice had a solid Spring & after 14 seasons & 480 minor league appearances he made his first big league roster spot. The 31 year old Rice was thrilled, he never gave up & his dream finally came through.

He debuted on Opening Day finishing up the 11-2 win over the San Diego Padres, notching two strike outs. He saved the game ball & in the locker room, said he was giving it to his dad, who was in attendance that day.

Also on hand were; his wife, sister, bother in law & a long time friend. He told the Daily News: " “They usually come out a couple of times a year. I think this year they’ll probably come out a few more times just because we’ll be going to better cities than Albuquerque and Des Moines, Iowa."

 On April 7th he earned his first career win, as a Marlon Byrd walk off single gave the Mets a 4-3 win Over the Miami Marlins. He began to see more & more action as Terry Collins used him as his late inning go to guy.

In May he suffered back to back losses, allowing late inning winning runs, in games against the Pittsburg Pirates (at home) & the St. Louis Cardinals (at Busch Stadium). On May 19th he pitched two scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs which earned him his second win.

He earned his third win of the year in the subway series on May 28th, after pitching a scoreless 9th in relief of Matt Harvey & behind 1-0.

The Mets notched three straight hits off Mariano Rivera including RBI singles by David Wright & a walk off by Lucas Duda. The next day he pitched a 0.2 scoreless 8th inning & was credited with his fifth hold of the year.

In the Fourth of July 15 inning game at Citi Field, Rice was the losing pitcher, giving up three straight singles to the Arizona Diamondbacks. But five days later on the same road trip he earned a win at San Francisco, as the Mets swept three from the Giants.

By the All Star break he already had made 49 appearances & was on pace to appear in over 100 games. Mets broadcaster said of his frequent appearances call him "Scott every Minute Rice".

In August he earned six more holds, adding another in early September, giving him 17 on the year to go along with his 4-5 record & 3.71 ERA.

In early September he was leading the league in appearances with 73. He had 41 strike outs & 27 walks in 51 innings of work.

His season came to an abrupt end, when he needed hernia surgery, making his last appearance on September 3rd.

Rice began 2014 with Mets, on Opening Day he blew a 4-2 Mets 7th inning lead walking in the tying run. In his next outing he gave up two more runs, ballooning his ERA to 54.00 & he was not able to get it down all season. 

He was credited with four holds the rest of the month but then took a loss as well as a blown save (his second). 

On June 3rd, he gave up a walk off single to Nate Schierholtz of the Cubs, at Wrigley Field, taking his second loss of the year. He had struggled most of the year, his ERA was at 5.93 & he was sent down to AAA Las Vegas.

In his two year career, he is 5-7 with a 4.18 ERA, 54 strike outs & 39 walks in 64.2 innings in 105 appearances.

Former NFL Running Back & Mets Outfielder: D.J. Dozier (1992)

William Henry Dozier was born on September 21th, 1965 at Norfolk, Virginia. The six foot right hand batter was originally signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1983 but chose not to sign, instead going off to college.

He attended Penn State University and became a star running back leading the Nitanny Lions in rushing four straight seasons. He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in both November 1985 and again in 1987.

That year he scored the winning touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl in the National championship game win over the Miami Hurricanes. Dozier would be the Minnesota Vikings first round pick in 1987 (14th pick overall) debuting the following season.

In Minnesota he spent most of his time on the bench because the Vikings had Herschel Walker as their main back. He was traded to the Detroit Lions, only to sit behind another star running back; Barry Sanders. Dozier battled for his free agency, taking it all the way to court. After five NFL seasons no one signed him and he signed as an amateur free agent with the New York Mets.

In his NFL career he rushed the ball 172 times for 691 yards (4.0 average). In his final season he average 5.3 yards a rush. He threw one pass in his career, and he completed it. He caught 33 career passes, averaging 9.1 yards a catch. He also fumbled the ball 4 times & as a kick returner, he averaged 19.4 yards a return.

He spent two seasons in the Mets farm system, stealing 33 bases with 13 HRs in 93 games at A ball St. Lucie in 1990. Overall he batted .303 in A ball then AA ball. In 1991 he stole 33 bases, with 18 doubles, 11 triples, 9 HRs & 52 RBIs at both the AA & AAA levels.

The Mets called him up in May of 1992 and he made his MLB debut on May 5th in Cincinatti as a pinch hitter going 0-1 in a game against the Cincinnati Reds. Two days later he stayed in the game after coming in as a pinch runner & got his first MLB hit at Shea Stadium.

At the end of May he was sent back down to the minors but returned as a September call up, playing out the year. He only batted .191 (9-47) with four stolen bases, two RBIs & two doubles, playing in left field. In October he was sent to the San Diego Padres along with pitcher Wally Whitehurst for Tony Fernandez.

He spent the next season in the minors & then walked away from baseball as well as football in 1994 at the age of 29. He coached briefly at Virginia Beach’s Rocky Acadamey, and then joined a ministry in Orlando Florida.

Retirement: Since his sports days, Dozier has gone round the world serving in different Christian ministries. He has also worked as a financial planner & investment banker.

Father & Son Italian/ American MLB Players: Ed Spiezio (1964-1972) & Scott Spiezio (1996-2007)

Edward Wayne Spiezio was born on Halloween October 31st, 1941 in Joliet, Illinois. The five foot eleven infielder was signed out of college in 1963 by the St. Louis Cardinals. 

He made the team the next year during their 1964 Championship season playing in 12 brief games batting .333. Spezio played five seasons in St. Louis, mostly as a backup third baseman to Mike Shannon getting to three World Series. He hit .210 with three HRs & ten RBIs playing in 55 games in the Cards 1967 Championship season.

Post Season: He went 0-1 in the 1967 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. In the 1968 Fall Classic against the Detroit Tigers he got a hit in Game #5 off Mickey Lolich in the 5-3 Tiger win. In the off season he was traded to the expansion San Diego Padres with three other players for pitcher Dave Giusti.

Trivia: On April 8th 1969, Spezio made Padres history, getting the teams first hit & hitting the franchise’s first ever HR off pitcher Houston Astros pitcher Don Wilson.

He was the teams main third baseman their first two seasons, having his best year in 1970 batting .285 with 12 HRs & 42 RBIs. In 1971 he posted the second best fielding percentage of all NL third baseman (.962) although he saw less playing time (97 games). In 1972 he ended his playing career with the Chicago White Sox batting .238 in 74 games behind slugger Bill Melton.

In a nine year career he hit .238 with 367 hits 39 HRs 56 doubles 174 RBIs & a .303 on base %. 

Trivia: When his son Scott became a member of the St. Louis Cards in 2006, they were the third father & son combo to play for the St. Louis franchise. Both father & son Spezio have been on two World Series winning teams.

Scott Edward Spiezio was born September 21, 1972 in Joliet, Illinois. He was drafted in the 6th round in 1993 by the Oakland Athletics. He came up with the A’s in 1996 and was their main second baseman for 1997 & 1998. 

He was a fine defensive player leading the league in fielding percentage at second base with Oakland in 1997 (.990). He hit 14 HRs with 65 RBIs but only batted .243 in 1997. The versatile Spezio also played DH, first base, & third base.

For the 2000 season he signed on with the Anaheim Angels, and enjoyed the most success of his career. He hit a career high 17 HRs his first season, and became the clubs main first baseman for the next three seasons.

In the Angels 2002 Championship season he led all AL first baseman in fielding percentage for the first of two straight seasons. He also hit a career high .285 with 12 HRs 34 doubles & 82 RBIs.

Post Season: He had a big post season, starting out batting .400 with a HR & 6 RBIs in the NLDS. In the ALCS he hit a HR with 3 hits & three RBIs in Game #5 as the Angels rolled to a 13-5 victory on their way to their first World Series. Overall he batted .353 in the ALCS with a HR & 5 RBIs.

In the World Series he drove in 8 runs, having a big Game #3 with 2 hits & 3 RBIs. In Game #6 with the Angels trailing the Giants 5-0 down three games to two in the Series, Spezio blasted a three run HR off Felix Rodriguez bringing his team back in the game. The Angels rallied & went on to win the Series in seven games.

Spezio had a good 2003 season, hitting 16 HRs with career highs in doubles (36) & RBIs (83). The next year he signed on with the Mariners as a free agent but had the worst years of his career in Seattle. He only hit .215 in 2004 then .064 playing in only 29 games the next year before getting released.

In 2006 the Cardinals gave him a chance with a minor league deal a chance and he had a good spring making the team. He played as a reserve player getting into 119 games at third base, first base outfield, pinch hitting batting .272 with 13 HRs & 52 RBIs.

Post Season: In the NLCS he killed the Mets getting a two run triple off Guillermo Mota in the 7th inning of Game #2 tying the game, the Cards went on to win. Overall he drove in five runs in the Series and went on to win another World Series. 

 Spezio famously dyed the facial hair under his lip, Cardinal red during the series getting national attention on TV.

In 2007 he played his 7th position as a player when he took to the mound & pitched an inning against his old Oakland team mates.

In August he had a physical breakdown in a game against the San Diego Padres. He was sweating, irritable & had an elevated heart rate. Instead of getting medical treatment he left the ballpark, and a few days later entered treatment for substance abuse.

Drama: Six months later a warrant was issued for his arrest in Orange County California for for driving under influence, hit and run, aggravated assault and battery. 

He pleaded guilty to drunk driving & hit & run and was sentenced to 80 hours of community service. He went to AA & a three month alcohol treatment program.

Retirement: Since then he has played in two different Independent Leagues, spending 2010 with the Newark Bears. In his 12 year MLB career he batted .255 with 119 HRs 225 doubles & 549 RBIs. In two post seasons he hit .284 in 26 games, with 3 HRs 25 RBIs & World Championships.

Spezio is the front man for the heavy metal group Sand Frog. He plays guitar, sings & growls in California based Metal band.

Sep 19, 2014

Remembering Mets History: (1973) The Ball On The Wall Game & The Mets Take Over First Place

The 1973 New York Mets had entered the month of September in fifth place but were just 5 1/2 games. An incredible September had them go 20-7 winning the Division. 

There may have been no series bigger than this weeks against the first place Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Mets had just left Three Rivers Stadium, and split a series and were now just 2 1/2 games out of first place. The two teams moved to New York to play a three game series.

Wednesday September 19th 1973: In the first game 29,240 came to Shea Stadium, as George Stone & Tug McGraw beat the Pirates with good run support 7-3. Stone allowed a lead off HR to Pittsburgh's Rennie Stennett. But in the 3rd inning, the Mets Cleon Jones answered with a two run HR, putting the Mets ahead 2-1. In the 3rd, Stennett tripled & Dave Cash brought him in with a base hit to tie it. 

In the home 3rd, George Stone singled & was moved over to second. Felix Millan then singled putting New York ahead, as Stone scored. Stone grounded out but brought home a run in the 6th inning making it 4-2. Willie Stargell hit his league leading 41st HR in the 6th for the final Pitaes run.

In the 8th inning, the hottest hitter on the planet; Cleon Jones, connected for a three run HR sealing the 7-3 Mets win. Tug McGraw came on in the 7th, and completed the three inning save, his 22nd of the year.

Jerry Koosman
Thursday, September 20th 1973:  Yogi Berra's Mets were now just  one & 1/2 games out of first place in the tight NL East. Tonight's game between the Mets & Danny Murtaugh's Pittsburgh Pirates was certainly one of the most important games of the 1973 season & one of the most remembered games in Mets history. 24,855 fans filled Shea Stadium that night to see Jerry Koosman (12-15) go up against the Pirates Jim Rooker (9-5).

In the 4th inning the Pirates scored the first run, Koos walked Willie Stargell & Many Sanguillen singled. Then sloppy play led to a run, when Bud Harrelson threw wildly to first base on a Dal Maxvill groundball, the error scored Willie Stargell.

Rooker rolled along to the 6th inning, when he walked Jerry Koosman to start the inning. Koos was forced at second by Wayne Garrett's grounder, then Felix Millan continued his hot hitting & got a base hit. With two outs, one of the hottest months of September; Cleon Jones came through with a single to left field scoring Garrett. The game was tied 1-1 & as Bob Murphy would say was "getting to be a real nail bitter".

In the 7th Richie Hebner took a Koosman curve ball over the fence for a 2-1 lead. Rooker kept the Mets down until the 8th, pinch hitter Jim Beauchamp came through for manager Yogi Berra once again, with a base hit. Teddy Martinez came in to pinch run & Wayne Garrett laid down a successful sacrifice bunt. Once again it was Felix Millan coming through with a base hit to tie the game. Rooker got out of the inning with two men on getting John Milner to pop out to short.

In the 9th Harry Parker came in to pitch for the Mets. Parker had been a solid reliever throughout the year out of the bull pen. In the top of the 9th tonight, he walked Bob Robertson to lead off the inning. Pinch runner Dave Augustine was brought in to run. Dal Maxvill sacrificed him over to second. Harry Parker then fanned rookie slugger Dave Parker for the second out. With Hebner up again, after homering earlier, Berra wasn't taking any chances, he was given an intentional pass. But Dave Cash. an All Star himself, then doubled past Cleon Jones in left field bringing in Augustine with the go ahead run 3-2.

The return of "the Stork"
George Theodore
In the bottom of the 9th inning, the Pirates made three defensive changes & brought in Bob Johnson to pitch. Yogi Berra sent another one of his top pinch hitters in the '73 season up, veteran of the 1969 Amazing Mets; Kenny Boswell. Boswell delivered with a base hit to right field. Dohn Hahn then laid down a beauty of a bunt, advancing Boswell.

The Shea Faithful were now on their feet chanting "Lets Go Mets". As Ed Kranepool was announced as a pinch hitter, Pirates Manager Danny Murtaugh changed his pitcher, bringing in Ramon Hernandez.

George the Stork Theodore was brought in to pinch hit, it was The Stork's first appearance since early July, after going on the DL after his outfield collision with Don Hahn. Stork was still not at his best & went down swinging.

The Shea crowd still cheered Theodore for his bravery of coming back. He would remain a folk hero in Mets history forever & was honored in the Last Game at Shea in 2009.

Duffy Dyer
Now with two outs & the tying run on second base, Berra put up Duffy Dyer to pinch hit for the pitcher Parker. Dyer doubled to left field scoring Boswell, as the Mets dug out went wild, the Shea fans went wild & Yogi Berra once again made another right move.

Into the 10th inning & it was a whole new ball game. Ken Boswell stayed in the game & took over third base, as Wayne Garrett moved to short replacing Harrelson. 

The new catcher brought in was rookie Ron Hodges & what a key figure he would turn out to be in this classic game.

Pinch Hitter Ken Boswell
Ray Sadecki was brought in to pitch for New York & Jim McKee for the Pirates. Sadecki was fired up & struck out the side in the top of the 11th. He would pitch four innings, through the 13th, strike out six, allow no runs & two hits. In the bottom half of the 11th, the Mets threatened, John Milner walked & Boswell sacrificed him over to second.

Luke Walker was brought in to pitch & gave Don Hahn an intentional walk. But Walker got catcher Ron Hodges & Sadecki to both ground out.

In the op of the 13th inning, Richie Zisk singled with one out. Catcher Manny Sanguillen flew out to right field for the second out. Then, with the next play, the Mets fans really started to "believe" in Tug McGraw's mantra "You Gotta Believe".

Dave Augustine drilled a fly ball over the head of Cleon Jones in deep left field, the ball was headed to be a HR. But miraculously, it bounced off the top of the wall into Cleon Jones' glove. Jones played it perfectly, he then turned & fired to short stop Wayne Garrett.

From the moment the ball was hit, Pirates runner Richie Zisk took off from first & was rounding the bases. Wayne Garrett took the relay & made a perfect throw to home plate to catcher Ron Hodges. 

Hodges took the throw, blocked the plate held his ground & tagged out Zisk who was trying to score on the play. "Out at home plate". This play became known as "the Ball off the Wall Play".

The fans still amazed at the great play they witnessed were on their feet shouting "Lets Go Mets". 

Pirates pitcher; Luke Walker walked John Milner to lead off the inning. Next Ken Boswell walked as well, sending Danny Murtaugh to the mound to replace Walker with Dave Giusti. Giusti got Don Hahn to pop out for out number one.

Then Ron Hodges came through with a base hit to left field, scoring Milner with the walk off Mets win in dramatic fashion.

The win brought the Mets to within a half of game of first place of the Pirates. The Pirates fell to .500 which was the best record in the NL East. The Mets were now 76-77 & had one more game against the Pirates tomorrow night.

Friday September 21st, 1973: On this night the Mets were going for first place & 51,381 came out to Shea to watch that years Cy Young Award winner; Tom Sever (17-10) go against Steve Blass (3-8). 
It was all Mets tonight as the offense provided Seaver with ten runs. Seaver pitched the complete game allowing two runs on six hits while striking out eight.

The Mets showed they meant business right away. Wayne Garrett & Rusty Staub both singled & Cleon Jones doubled bringing in both runners. Jerry Grote followed with a base hit bringing in Cleon, 3-0 Mets. 

In the 3rd John Milner "the hammer" hit his 23rd HR of the year off a young Pat Zachary. Cleon Jones, Grote & Bud Harrelson all singled making it 6-2 Mets.

Wayne Garrett & Rusty Staub both hit HRs later in the game & Felix Millan added an RBI single to cap off the 10-2 win. The Mets were now in first place. They would hold on to their lead & win the Eastern Division on the last day of the season.

Mid Sixties Mets Slugger: Charley Smith (1964-1965)

Charles William Smith was born on September 15, 1937 in Charleston, South Carolina.

The six foot one, right hand hitting Smith was a third baseman / shortstop who was one of the last players to get signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. At AA Victoria in 1959, Smith batted .308 moving up to AAA Spokane in 1960 where he then hit an impressive .322.

He made his debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1960, playing as a September call up batting .167 in the month. The next season he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies where he played for manager Gene Mauch as the team’s main third baseman, batting .248 with 9 HRs in 112 games. His stay there was brief as he was soon sent to the Chicago White Sox, for Roy Sievers.

He played there for two seasons a reserve infielder (1962-1963) behind Hall of Famers Luis Aparacio & Nellie Fox, as well as Hal Smith. In April of 1964 he was traded to the New York Mets for infielder Chico Fernandez.

In New York he quickly became the team’s main third baseman holding the job for the rest of the 1964 season. Smith would also be used at short (36 games) & in the outfield (13 games).

He became the Mets main slugger on a bad ’64 team that lost 109 ball games. Charley Smith led the club in HRs (20) was second in RBIs (58) & third in slugging % (.402). He batted .239 with 106 hits & 12 doubles playing in 127 games overall. On the field he struggled committing 23 errors at third base (4th most in the NL).

He began his Mets career slow, going 0-25 as his average fell off to below .100. On May 4th he hit his first Met HR, it came in Milwaukee in a 2-1 loss against the Braves. On Tuesday May 26th he hit two HRs & drove in five runs in the Mets 19-1 romp over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. From June 5th –June 10th he hit four HRs gathering six hits & six RBIs in the week. His June 10th HR, was a three run shot off the Cubs Sterling Slaughter helping the Mets to an 8-3 win, just their 18th win on the year.

In mid July he had another hot power streak, hitting three HRs with six hits & seven RBIs over four days. On August 2nd he hit a HR off Houston's Don Larsen while driving in two runs on the day, leading the Mets to a 4-2 win.

On August 23rd he singled in the bottom of the 9th inning in the second game of a double header giving the Mets a walk off win over the Chicago Cubs. Smith closed out the season hitting safely in 12 of 15 games. He then hit a HR in each of the last two games in the final series of the year at St. Louis.

Smith returned as the clubs main third baseman in 1965 but started out slow batting just under the .200 mark until mid May.

During a four game set at Shea Stadium against the Cincinnati Reds, Smith hit HRs in three of the games, including two in a rare Mets double header sweep. In the final week of May he drove in nine runs & For the month he hit five HRs with 16 RBIs.

In June he hit safely in 13 of 18 games raising his average to .275. After the All Star break he hit HRs in back to back games at St. Louis against the eventual season's World Champions. On July 31st he hit a first inning three HR in Philadelphia, leading Gary Kroll & the Mets to a 4-3 victory.

The next day he drove in both Mets runs with another two run HR. On August 8th he hit HRs in both ends of a double header at Shea against the Chicago Cubs. In the night cap he drove in four runs although the Mets lost 14-10. He slumped without hitting a HR in the final month of the season.

In 1965 he the team in RBIs (62) & was second to a young Ron Swoboda in HRs (16) & doubles (20). Smith was third on the club in slugging (.393). He played in 135 games, batting .244 with a career high in hits (122). He struck out over 100 times in both seasons in New York, coming in the top ten among all NL batters in that category both seasons.

He improved at third base posting the leagues 4th best fielding percentage (.957). After  the end of the 1965 season, he was traded along with Al Jackson to the St. Louis Cardinals for the aging All star Ken Boyer. Boyer would hit 14 HRs with 61 RBIs & bat .266 for the 1966 Mets but be gone mid way through the 1967 season.

Charley Smith raised his average to .266 in St. Louis, matching a career high four triples playing in the new Busch Stadium. But his power numbers fell off to 10 HRs with 13 doubles & 43 RBIs.

At the end of the season, he was traded to the A.L. New York team, even up for outfielder Roger Maris. The Cards went on to win the ’67 World Series & the 1968 NL Pennant, as the A.L. New York team fell into the ninth place.

He was the teams main third baseman in 1967 batting just .224 with 9 HRs. Smith only played in 46 games in 1968 & then was traded to the San Francisco Giants. His contract was purchased by the Chicago Cubs in 1969.

He retired after the season, finishing a ten year career playing in 771 games, batting .239 with 594 hits 69 HRs 83 doubles 281 RBIs & 18 triples.

At his main position at third base he made 105 errors in 1912 chances for a .945 fielding %.

Retirement: He eventually retired to Reno, Nevada and in 1994 passed away after complications from a knee operation; he was only 57 years old.

Early Nineties New Jersey Born Mets Outfielder: Dave Gallagher (1992-1993)

David Thomas Gallagher was born September 20, 1960 in Trenton, New Jersey. The South Jersey outfielder was a first round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians in 1980 (the 8th pick overall).

He spent seven years in the minor leagues, batting over .300 three times. In 1983 he hit .338 at AA Buffalo in 1983, getting promoted to AAA Maine where he spent another three seasons. Gallagher was not a HR hitter not known for his power, since he never hit double figures in HRs in his ten year minor league career.

In 1987 he made the Indians club out of Spring Training, but after batting just .111 he was sent back down to the minors .At AAA Buffalo he went on to hit .329 in 75 games the rest of the year. Gallagher was traded to the Seattle Mariners for Mark Huismann, but then got released in September 1987. In December he was signed by the Chicago White Sox & found a home on the south side of Chicago. Gallagher became an fine defensive outfielder for the White Sox over the next two seasons.

In 1988 he hit .303 with 5 HRs 15 doubles & 31 RBIs playing in 101 games. In 95 games in the outfield he posted a perfect fielding % (.1000%) & made five assists. The next season he played in every White Sox game and posted the best fielding percentage of all A.L. center fielders (.(993%) while making eight assists. His average dropped to .266 with 22 doubles & Gallagher who very rarely displayed power, hit just one HR. Midway through 1990 he was placed on waivers after Lance Johnson took over as the Sox main centerfielder. Gallagher was picked up by the Baltimore Orioles where he hit just .216 in 23 games.

In December 1990 he was traded to the California Angels where he would play behind Dave Winfield, Luis Polonia & Junior Felis on a last place Angels team. He hit .293 with 17 doubles & 30 RBIs playing in 90 games (270 at bats). In December of 1991 he was traded to the New York Mets for Hubbie Brooks after his second go round in New York.

Gallagher found himself as a reserve outfielder on the ’92 Mets behind Howard Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, Daryl Boston & Vince Coleman. Gallagher debuted on Opening Day as a pinch runner in the Mets 4-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. In his first month as a Met he had a five game stretch where he drove in at least one run from April 14th through April 19th. In two of those games he was successful with pinch hits.

On June 21st he hit a rare HR in a 6-2 Mets win. On August 28th in the second game of a doubleheader against the Reds he had a three hit day driving in three runs in the Mets 12-1 win as they swept the twin bill. Gallagher played in 98 games batting .240 with one HR 11 doubles 7 sac flies (8th in the NL) & 21 RBIs on the so called "worst team, money could buy". He posted a .982 fielding % making two errors in 111 chances with four assists.

In 1993 he would have seven pinch hits for the Mets raising his batting average 34 points on the year to .274. On May 26th at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium Gallagher hit a second inning HR off Danny Jackson & then had a big 8th inning. With the bases loaded he hit a line drive single scoring two runs leading the Mets & John Franco to a 5-4 win. In a wacky July 18th game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Gallagher hit his only career grand slam in the 9th inning off Giants pitcher Michael Jackson.

By the end of July he was still batting over the .300 mark & was a useful weapon off the bench. In September he had one final game leading the Mets to victory, as he had a two hit three RBI day in the Mets 4-3 win at Pittsburgh. On the season he hit a career high 6 HRs with 12 doubles, while driving in 29 runs in 201 at bats.

In the outfield he played in 72 games without making an error (.1000%) & made six assists. Around Thanksgiving of 1993 he was sent to the Atlanta Braves for Pete Smith.

Gallagher played one season in Atlanta batting .224 & was then granted free agency. In 1995 he signed with Philadelphia hitting .306 in 62 games but was traded to the California Angels for the rest of the season.

It was his last MLB season finishing up his nine year career, batting .271 lifetime, with 564 hits 17 HRs 100 doubles 10 triples & 190 RBIs in 794 games. In the outfield he posted a fantastic .993 fielding %, playing in 699 games, making 38 assists.

Retirement: Gallagher now runs a baseball academy at Frog Bridge summer camp in Mills township, New Jersey.

Former New York Giants Pitcher: Hooks Wiltse (1904-1915)

George Leroy Wiltse was born on September 7, 1879 in New York City. Wiltse earned the nick name Hooks, due to his hooking curveball, he was one of the few pitchers of the dead Ball Era to use a curve more effectively than his fast ball. 

He began his career, pitching in the New York State league for two seasons with the Troy Trojans winning twenty games. In 1904 he joined the major leagues and pitched for John McGraw’s New York Giants. He set a record that stood for 73 years by winning the first 12 decisions of his career. He would go 13-3 with a .813 winning percentage, and posting a 2.84 ERA. 

Hooks went on to two consecutive 15 win seasons from there, with the best strikeout per nine inning ratio in the league. The Giants won the World Series in 1905, but Hooks did not pitch, due to the fact Christy Mathewson had thrown three shutouts & the other three starts were made by Joe McGinnity & Red Ames. 

On the Fourth of July in 1908 he had a perfect game going until he hit the last batter in the 9th inning with a pitch. He ended up pitching a ten inning no hitter instead winning it 1-0. For the season Wiltse pitched in 330 innings posting a 2.24 ERA with 118 strike outs.

He was 23-14 second on a staff with 37 game winner Christy Mathewson. He & Mathewson combined for 60 of the Giants 98 wins on the season. Together the righty lefty duo, combined for 435 Giants wins over an 11 year period. Together they would win four pennants & one World Series title. 

He followed that up with another 20 win season (20-11) posting a career low of 2.00 ERA.

Over his first six seasons his ERA gradually had gotten lower. He also made relief appearances, and although his number of what we today call saves, were very low, he was still atop the league’s best each season. He saved a career best six games in 1906, and would total 33 in his career. He would put in two more winning seasons with the Giants (1911-1912), completing an 11 year career in New York.

In 1911 he pitched two games of relief in the World Series but allowed seven earned runs in just three innings. Over the next few seasons he was used as a relief pitcher & in 1915 went on to pitch in the Federal League going 3-5. He finished his career at 139-90 with 965 strike outs posting a 2.47 ERA pitching in 357 games & 2112 innings pitched.

Retirement: After his playing days he was a player manager in the minor leagues. Wiltse lived until 80 years old, passing away in Long Beach, New York in 1959.

Sep 18, 2014

Remembering Mets History: (1963) Mets Play Last Regular Season Baseball Game In the Polo Grounds

Wednesday September 18th, 1963: For 74 years the Polo Grounds stood at 155th St & 8th Ave below an area of elevation known as Coogan's Bluff. The original site was at 110th St & 5th Ave but as the City of New York extended its street grid, the Polo Grounds had to find a new home.

 In 1889 the New York Giants began playing there. The Stadium went through some changes, most notably after a fire destroyed the wooden horse shoe shape grandstand in 1911. It dimensions were legendary, 483 feet to dead center field, 450 feet in the left & right center field gaps, 279 down the left field line & 258 feet down the right field line.

The ballpark was home to the New York Baseball Giants from 1883 to 1957, hosting 16 Giants World Series & two All Star Games (1934 / 1942). It was home for the most famopus catch in baseball history, as Willie Mays made "the catch' in the 1954 World Series in dead center field. It also was home to the most famous HR in MLB history, when Bobby Thompson hit "the shot heard round the world" as the Giants won the 1951 pennant, walk off style.

The New York Football Giants played there for 50 years from 1925-1955. The cross town, A.L. New York club played there (1913-1922) as did the New York Football Titans who became the Jets (1960-1963).

The New York Mets played at the Polo Grounds in the clubs first two seasons as they awaited Shea Stadium to be built in Queens, New York. On September 18th 1963 the last major league game was played there.

Casey Stengel's last place Mets (49-104) hosted Gene Mauch's fourth place Philadelphia Phillies (81-72) in front of a tiny crowd of 1,752. There was not much fan fare & not many people took notice that the Polo Grounds was hosting it's last game.

The starting pitchers were Craig Anderson for New York & Chris Short for Philadelphia. Anderson had led the 1962 Mets in appearances but was at AAA Buffalo most of 1963 & this was his first start of the season.

Quotes: Craig Anderson "Nobody said anything to me. It’s funny, but I don’t remember any fanfare of it being the last game at the Polo Grounds."

The Mets took a 5-1 loss that day, with Jim Hickman providing the only Mets run. It was a solo HR & the last to be hit in the Polo Grounds. In the bottom of the 9th inning, the Mets Tim Harkness flied out to center field for the first out. 

Next, Rod Kanehl singled & Chico Fernandez singled as well for the last hit in the old Polo Grounds. Next, Chris Short pitched the ball park's final batter; Brooklyn born, Ted Schreiber. He grounded into a double play for the final out in the old ball park at 4:21 PM.

Quotes: Ted Schreiber said in 2011- "Sure I remember the game, because I made the last two outs, I thought I had a hit because I hit it up the middle, but Cookie Rojas made a great play on it. That’s why I’m in the Hall of Fame; they put the ball there because the stadium was closed after that. I knew that was the last game; I didn’t realize I made the last out until later.”

Another Mets player that day, Frank Thomas had been the first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates back in 1957 when the New York Giants played their final game at the Polo Grounds. Thomas caught a throw from second baseman Dick Groat & made the last put out at first base on that historic day.

After the Mets final home game of 1963, Casey Stengel waved his cap in the air to the few fans left & they cheered as the Public address system played "Auld Lang Syne".

Trivia: The Jets would play the last football game at the Polo Grounds in December losing to the Buffalo Bills 19-10. In October the actual final game was a an exhibition game, a Latin American All Star game that included many major leaguer's.