Oct 1, 2014

Remembering Mets History: (1973) Mets Clinch NL East TItle

Monday October 1st, 1973: Mets Clinch Eastern Division Title

The fate of the 1973 New York Mets season, all came down to the last day of the regular season.

The Mets had a scheduled double header planned at Wrigley Field to close out the season. If they could win the first game, the second game would not be necessary.

The St. Louis Cardinals & Pittsburgh Pirates both lost their final games of the season.

These were the NL East standings, on Monday Morning October 1st, 1973:


New York Mets 81-79 -
St. Louis Cardinals 81-81 (1.0 back)
Pittsburgh Pirates 80-81 (1.5 back)
Montreal Expos 79-83 (3.0 back)
Chicago Cubs 77-83 (4.0 back)
Philadelphia Phillies 71-91 (11.0 back)

Less than 2000 fans came to a cloudy / rainy & soggy, Wrigley Field to see the Cubs try to play spoilers to knock the Mets out of winning the division. The game was to begin at 1100am, but was delayed twenty minutes due to rain.

The Mets had won eight of their last ten games, nineteen of their last twenty seven in the month of September. They had gone from last place to first place since late August & were 13 games out in July. The team had suffered injuries all season, & it wasn't until the final month all the regulars were healthy.

The pitching had been spectacular as well, the starters & relievers as well. Today Manager Yogi Berra gave the ball to his ace, the 1973 Cy Young Award winner; Tom Seaver (18-10 / a league leading 2.00 ERA & 248 strike outs) going up against knuckle curve ball pitcher; Burt Hooton (14-16 / 3.55 ERA / 132 Ks).

In the top of the 2nd inning, the hot hitting Cleon Jones hit a HR to put the Mets out in front 1-0.

Mets Third Base Coach Eddie Yost
Congratulates Cleon Jones on HR
Jones had hit four HRs in his last six games & six HRs in his last ten games. Jones had driven in 17 runs in the final two weeks, over 14 games. He had also hit safely in ten of the last 14 games. Jones had missed a lot of action on the year; playing in 92 games finishing up with 11 HRs 13 doubles 48 RBIs & a .260 average.

In the top of the 4th, the Mets rallied as Rusty Staub singled to right field. Hooton then walked John Milner & Cleon Jones to load the bases.

Jerry Grote's RBI Single
The durable Mets catcher; Jerry Grote came through with a single to center bringing home Staub & Milner to make it 3-0.

Grote finished out the year hitting safely in 9 of his last 12 games with eight RBIs. Hooton was able to retire Don Hahn & Bud Harrelson on fly balls to end the threat.

In the 5th the hot Mets went to work; Wayne Garrett led off with a double & went to third on a Felix Millan bloop base hit to right field. Cubs manager; Whitey Lockman, the former New York Giants slugger, replaced Hooton with Mike Paul.

The hot Rusty Staub, who had been the Mets most reliable run producer all year, drove a base hit to right field scoring Garrett with the Mets fourth run. Staub would have a big four hit day, after coming off a three hit, three RBI day yesterday.

Staub finished the season with a 15 game hit streak, batting .279 with a .361 on base % & 15 HRs. He would lead the club in doubles (36) walks (74) & RBIs (76).

Next "the Hammer" John Milner hit a sac fly to center which brought home Millan. Milner would lead the '73 Mets in HRs (23) while driving in 72 runs & posting a .329 on base %. The Mets did not score again & left the bases jammed after Jerry Grote walked. It was 5-0 half way through.

Tom Seaver was not with his best stuff today, between the bad weather & a long September, Tom Terrific had only retired the Cubs in order in the 1st inning. In the 5th Ken Rudolph & Rick Monday both hit singles.

Tom Seaver Earns 19th Win of Season
Then Don Kessinger & Billy Williams brought them both in with base hits of their own. Seaver got Ron Santo to pop out in foul territory & struck out Jose Cardenal, to end the inning.

The score was New York 5 Chicago 2. The Mets threatened in the 6th, as Harrelson doubled & Seaver singled. But Wayne Garrett hit into a fielders choice & Felix Millan hit into an inning ending double play 6-4-3. Seaver retired the Cubs in order in the bottom of the inning.

The Mets attacked again in the 7th, Staub had his third hit of the day with a base hit. After John Milner flied out, Cleon Jones drew a walk. Jerry Grote then grounded out as Staub went to third. He scored when Ron Santo made an error on Don Hahns ground ball, it was now 6-2 Mets.

In the 7th, Dave Rosello singled to right field & then Rick Monday blasted a two run HR, bringing the game to within two runs at 6-4. It was clear Seaver was tired & done for the day. In six innings he gave up four runs on eleven hit, no walks & two strike outs.

Manager Yogi Berra came out & it was Tug McGraw time, McGraw had ten saves in September, six in the final two weeks, which was a lot in those days. He also had two wins in that time & had only allowed two earned runs the whole month in 28 innings, after this outing. McGraw retired his first three batters, ending the inning.

Tug McGraw Raises His Arms In Victory
The Mets loaded the bases in the top of the 8th but Jack Aker retired Milner & Jones to end that inning. In the home 8th, the Cubs sent in two pinch hitters but McGraw retired the side in order.

It all came down to the 9th inning. Ken Rudolph led off with a base hit, bringing up the tying run at the place. But Tug got Dave Rosello to strike out & then went to a 3-2 count on Glen Beckert. McGraw went to his screw ball & got Beckert to hit a soft line drive to John Milner at first, the Hammer caught it stepped on first & it was all over.

At 82-79 the New York Mets were the NL Eastern Champions, from last place a month ago to clinching a playoff berth on October 1st. The second game of the scheduled twin bill was not necessary. The umpires diplomatically stated the field was too wet to play on.

Tom Seaver Yogi Berra & Tug McGraw
Celebrate Winning the 1973 NL Eastern Division
Yogi Berra came into the clubhouse & yelled "the games off, get the champagne out!"

The Mets clubhouse already ecstatic, began to celebrate. Tug McGraw stood on top of an equipment trunk shouting his famous phrase "You Gotta Believe- You Gotta Believe"!!

Yogi Berra told the press from a tiny office : "Its been a long year. I was on 14 teams that won but this has to be a big thrill because we had to jump over five clubs to do it. We were 12 games back & hurt. I told the guys, here Friday I'm proud of you whether you win or lose the next four. Just give me 100%".

All the players felt the same way, it was a team effort with contributions from everyone to get here. 11 of the players were left over from the Miracle Mets of 1969 & understood what winning as a team meant.

Bud Harrelson: "In 1969 it was some sort of Miracle that happened to us. We started out just hoping to do better than we did the year before & weren't expected to win.

This year though we were so frustrated, we knew (tapping his heart) knew, that we should win. We had the talent & went everybody got down on us we knew they were wrong. To come back & win once we were able to play, I think of it as a much more mature feeling".

Tom Seaver said "Nothing will ever be like 1969, we were all so young then. Anyhow we've only taken one step of the three. We still have to win a playoff & a World Series to match 1969, but in a way it was more earned."

Wayne & Donna Garrett
Jerry Grote added "It was like 1969 because it was a team thing, everybody did something."

Wayne Garrett said: "Suddenly you look around during a game & see saw all the faces you were suppose to see on out there playing.

Harrelson, Grote, Jones, Staub,- the regulars. It made a tremendous difference. We knew we had a good team if only we could get it out on the field."

Rusty Staub said "I simply come to play, I always do. A couple of months ago we were out of it & then we really put it all together."

Willie Mays Gets Doused With Champagne
Cleon Jones said "When I was out, I couldn't contribute, I don't think what I've done in the last month can offset that. But we're in now, that's what counts.

I kept myself in shape when I was hurt & I feel strong & healthy. It's just fantastic, I can't express the way I feel."

The Mets received $5000 each player for winning the division. They flew to New York that evening arriving at 1110 PM, greeted by a reported 500 plus fans at La Guardia Airport. It was onto the playoffs with a date with the Cincinnati Reds. What a memorable season it was & what a memorable series was ahead.

Coaches Roy McMillan & Rube Walker, Manager Yogi Berra
Coaches Joe Pignatano & Eddie Yost

Short Time 1999 N.L. Wild Card Champion Mets Pitcher: Chuck McElroy (1999)

Charles Dwayne McElroy was born on October 1, 1967 in Port Arthur, Texas. Port Arthur was the birth place of Janis Joplin & by the time McElroy was born she was already a big rock/blues star.

The tall six foot left handed McElroy was originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1986 in the eighth round of the draft. He became a career middle reliever pitching two years with the Phillies (1989-1990) & then three years with the Chicago Cubs (1991-1993) going 6-2 with three saves posting a 1.95 ERA in his first year there. He had a career high six saves in 1992 also posting five saves in 1994 during his three years spent with the Cincinnati Reds.

McElroy then pitched for the California Angels (1996-1997) Chicago White Sox (1997) & Colorado Rockies (1999) before landing in New York with the Mets on July 31st, 1999.

He came over from the Rockies in a trade along with Daryl Hamilton in exchange for Brian McRae & Rico Beltran. McElroy debuted with the Mets on August 1st, 1999 at Wrigley Field pitching to two batters in the 12th inning, giving way to Pat Mahomes who would earn the win. He would pitch in 15 games for the Mets finishing all 15 of them posting a 3.38 ERA, striking out seven batters in 13.1 innings pitched.

McElroy finished the year with a perfect .1000 fielding % and even got to play part of a game in the outfield when the team was short players. He did not see any 1999 post season action.

In December he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for 1986 World Champion Met Jesse Orosco. Orosco would be traded away in Spring Training 2000. McElroy went 3-0 with Baltimore, and would soon finish his career the next year in San Diego. In a 13 year career, in 654 appearances he went 38-30 with 17 saves. In 739 inning he struck out 604 batters walking 362 posting a 3.90 ERA.

Former New Jersey Born Mets Relief Pitcher: Scott Schoeneweis (2007-2008)

Scott David Schoeneweis was born on October 2, 1973 on the Jersey Shore, at Long Branch, New Jersey. He grew up in Mt. Laurel Township lettering in baseball & basketball in High School.

Schoeneweis attended to Duke University & made all American in his freshman year, winning 12 games with the schools second best record in team history.

At age 19 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and it was found spreading to the lymph nodes. He received an aggressive chemo treatment over a three month period, lost 20 pounds but beat the cancer.

When he returned to pitch he needed Tommy John surgery, after extensive rehab he returned to pitch in his Senior year and go on to win ten games. Scott graduated from Duke University with a degree, and left as the schools all time victory leader, as well as being second all time strike outs. He played for the 1996 USA National team, then got drafted by the Anaheim Angels.

He was brought up by the Angels in 1999 going 1-1 appearing in 31 games before getting sidelined with more arm troubles. He returned in 2000 as a starter and was 7-10 with a 5.45 ERA.

In 2001 he won 10 games (10-11) posting a 5.08 ERA but was a much better pitcher against lefties. In both seasons as a starter he allowed 21 long balls each year.

In the Angels 2002 Championship season he gradually became a full time middle reliever, going 9-8 on the year & getting credit for 11 holds. He saw action in all three post season Series, appearing in two games of the World Series pitching two scoreless 8th innings against the San Francisco Giants.


The next season he was traded to the Chicago White Sox in July and in 2004 Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, put him in the starting rotation. He went 6-9 in 19 starts, posting a 5.59 ERA, and was granted free agency at the end of the year.

He went to the Toronto Blue Jays, but during a game in Oakland, he fell down on the wet grass during warm ups, injuring his knee and tearing a tendon. He would pitch with the tear for two years. Midway through 2006 he was sent to the Cincinnati Reds going 2-0 there while posting a 0.63 ERA in 16 games.


That off season the New York Mets gave him a three year $10 million dollar deal to serve mostly as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen. Schoeneweis debuted as a Met in the second game of the season, getting credit for a hold against the St. Louis Cardinals.

He had a good month of April, getting credit for five holds & posting a 1.86 ERA. He pitched well against lefties all year, holding them to a .204 batting average. He also pitched well with runners in scoring position, as hitters only batted .221 against him.

But he struggled mightily against righties when he was used in that role. He went 0-2 overall giving up 33 earned runs in 59 innings, getting credit for 11 holds.

In 2008 it only got worse for Scott, he started out by being the losing pitcher on the last Opening Day in Shea Stadium history. He was accused of receiving a steroid shipment back while with the White Sox although he denied the charges & it was never proven. On the year he allowed seven HRs, usually in key games, lost six decisions (2-6) and became a target of the Shea Stadium boo birds.

On the last day of the season, the final game ever played at Shea Stadium he was the losing pitcher after giving up an 8th inning HR to Florida’s Wes Helms. Luis Ayala came in and gave up another HR, but it’s Schoeneweis’ HR that is most remembered, since it was the games losing run. The fans really let him have it on his exit that day. He was done in New York, as in the off season he was traded to the Arizona D-backs for Connor Robertson.

Drama: In May of 2009, Scott’s wife Gabrielle was found dead from an overdose of cocaine in their Arizona home by their 14 year old daughter.

She was just 39 years old, and left behind four children, one from a previous marriage (the 14 year old). Scott left Florida where the D-backs were playing the Marlins and was given some time off to settle things best he could.

He returned the following month but couldn’t get his mind on baseball; he allowed 15 runs over just nine innings pitched. He was placed on the DL by August in order to deal with depression.

In 2010 he was a free agent & his old Mets coach Rick Peterson gave him a shot with the Milwaukee Brewers. He went to Spring Training but didn’t make the team.

He signed with the Boston Red sox and made their Opening Day staff, but after 15 games and a 7.90 ERA he was designated for assignment.

In a 12 year career he is 47-57 with nine saves, 568 strike outs 398 walks and a 5.01 ERA in 972 innings over 577 games (93 starts).

Honors: The Jewish Schoeneweis is the all time leader in games pitched for Jewish pitchers passing the great Sandy Koufax & former Oakland twenty game winner, Ken Holtzman.

Former Italian / American Player of the Day: Bill Serena (1949-1954)

William Robert Serena was Born October 2, 1924 in Alameda, California. He was the son of an Italian immigrant carpenter who came to USA after World War I. Serena served in World War II returning in 1945 getting signed to a baseball contract to play in the West Texas-New Mexico Class C league. He tore up the league, hitting 57 HRs with 190 RBIs in the little ballparks where pitching was no match for him. He hit 28 HRs at AAA Dallas in 1949 and his contract purchased by the Chicago Cubs.

He made his MLB debut in 1949 hitting his first career HR playing in 12 games going 8-37, half his hits were extra base hits.

In 1950 he was the Cubs main third baseman, playing a fine defense coming in the league’s top five in put outs, assists & fielding percentage (.945). At the plate he hit 17 HRs with 20 doubles & 61 RBIs, giving him enough votes to finish fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting. In a strange event at the Polo Grounds on May 1st, he & 11 of his team mates were ejected from a game for taunting Umpire Frank Dascoli. They harassed him & called him rabbit ears, which was the final straw.

The next year Serena was batting .333 in May when he fractured his wrist sliding into second base. He stayed in the game to get two hits & drive in a pair of runs but the injury would end his season.

In 1952 he returned to bat .274 with 15 HRs 21 doubles & 61 RBIs, playing in 122 games. In June he hit a game tying HR in the 9th inning off Milwaukee Braves pitcher Warren Spahn during a record setting 18 strikeout performance.


In 1953 Serena became a reserve infielder playing third & second base, as Randy Jackson (19 HRs 66 RBIs .285 Ave) put up better numbes & became the regular third baseman.

He sat in a dugout with three other Italian America player; the future celebrity broad caster Joe Garagiola, former batting champion & first Mets batting coach Phil Cavaretta & infielder Bob Ramozzotti.

Serena only played one more season and was batting .159 when the Cubs sold his contract to the cross town White Sox. He ended his brief six year career batting .251 with 48 HRs 57 doubles & 198 RBIs.

He returned to the Pacific Coast League playing with the San Francisco Seals & Oakland Oaks before retiring at age 32. Next he became a long time base ball scout for 38 years, spending 25 years with the Braves organization alone. He retired from baseball at age 70, in 1994. In 1996 he passed away from lung cancer in Hayward, California.
 

Sep 30, 2014

Remembering Mets History: (1973) Mets Clinch NL Eastern Divison

October 1st, 1973: The fate of the 1973 New York Mets season, all came down to the last day of the regular season. The Mets had a scheduled double header planned at Wrigley Field to close out the season. If they could win the first game, the second game would not be necessary. The St. Louis Cardinals & Pittsburgh Pirates both lost their final games of the season.


These were the NL East standings, on Monday Morning October 1st, 1973:

New York Mets 81-79 -
St. Louis Cardinals 81-81 (1.0 back)
Pittsburgh Pirates 80-81 (1.5 back)
Montreal Expos 79-83 (3.0 back)
Chicago Cubs 77-83 (4.0 back)
Philadelphia Phillies 71-91 (11.0 back)


Less than 2000 fans came to a cloudy / rainy & soggy, Wrigley Field to see the Cubs try to play spoilers to knock the Mets out of winning the division. The game was to begin at 1100 am, but was delayed twenty minutes due to rain.

The Mets had won eight of their last ten games, nineteen of their last twenty seven in the month of September. They had gone from last place to first place since late August & were 13 games out in July.

The team had suffered injuries all season, & it wasn't until the final month all the regulars were healthy. The pitching had been spectacular as well, the starters & relievers as well.

Today Manager Yogi Berra gave the ball to his ace, the 1973 Cy Young Award winner; Tom Seaver (18-10 / a league leading 2.00 ERA & 248 strike outs) going up against knuckle curve ball pitcher; Burt Hooton (14-16 / 3.55 ERA / 132 Ks).

In the top of the 2nd inning, the hot hitting Cleon Jones hit a HR to put the Mets out in front 1-0. 

Coach Eddie Yost Congradulates Cleon Jones On HR
Jones had hit four HRs in his last six games & six HRs in his last ten games. Jones had driven in 17 runs in the final two weeks, over 14 games. He had also hit safely in ten of the last 14 games. Jones had missed a lot of action on the year; playing in 92 games finishing up with 11 HRs 13 doubles 48 RBIs & a .260 average.


In the top of the 4th, the Mets rallied as Rusty Staub singled to right field. Hooton then walked John Milner & Cleon Jones to load the bases. Jerry Grote's RBI Single

Jerry Grote
The durable Mets catcher; Jerry Grote came through with a single to center bringing home Staub & Milner to make it 3-0. Grote finished out the year hitting safely in 9 of his last 12 games with eight RBIs. Hooton was able to retire Don Hahn & Bud Harrelson on fly balls to end the threat.

In the 5th the hot Mets went to work; Wayne Garrett led off with a double & went to third on a Felix Millan bloop base hit to right field. Cubs manager; Whitey Lockman, the former New York Giants slugger, replaced Hooton with Mike Paul.

The hot Rusty Staub, who had been the Mets most reliable run producer all year, drove a base hit to right field scoring Garrett with the Mets fourth run.

Staub would have a big four hit day, after coming off a three hit, three RBI day yesterday. Staub finished the season with a 15 game hit streak, batting .279 with a .361 on base % & 15 HRs. He would lead the club in doubles (36) walks (74) & RBIs (76).

Next "the Hammer" John Milner hit a sac fly to center which brought home Millan. Milner would lead the '73 Mets in HRs (23) while driving in 72 runs & posting a .329 on base %. The Mets did not score again & left the bases jammed after Jerry Grote walked. It was 5-0 half way through.

Tom Seaver was not with his best stuff today, between the bad weather & a long September, Tom Terrific had only retired the Cubs in order in the 1st inning. In the 5th Ken Rudolph & Rick Monday both hit singles.

 
Tom Seaver Delivers
Tom Seaver Earns 19th Win of Season Then Don Kessinger & Billy Williams brought them both in with base hits of their own. Seaver got Ron Santo to pop out in foul territory & struck out Jose Cardenal, to end the inning. The score was New York 5 Chicago 2.

The Mets threatened in the 6th, as Harrelson doubled & Seaver singled. But Wayne Garrett hit into a fielders choice & Felix Millan hit into an inning ending double play 6-4-3. Seaver retired the Cubs in order in the bottom of the inning.

The Mets attacked again in the 7th, Staub had his third hit of the day with a base hit. After John Milner flied out, Cleon Jones drew a walk. Jerry Grote then grounded out as Staub went to third. He scored when Ron Santo made an error on Don Hahns ground ball, it was now 6-2 Mets.

In the 7th, Dave Rosello singled to right field & then Rick Monday blasted a two run HR, bringing the game to within two runs at 6-4. It was clear Seaver was tired & done for the day. In six innings he gave up four runs on eleven hit, no walks & two strike outs.


Tug McGraw Raises His Arm In Victory
Manager Yogi Berra came out & it was Tug McGraw time, McGraw had ten saves in September, six in the final two weeks, which was a lot in those days. He also had two wins in that time & had only allowed two earned runs the whole month in 28 innings, after this outing. McGraw retired his first three batters, ending the inning.

The Mets loaded the bases in the top of the 8th but Jack Aker retired Milner & Jones to end that inning. In the home 8th, the Cubs sent in two pinch hitters but McGraw retired the side in order. It all came down to the 9th inning.

Ken Rudolph led off with a base hit, bringing up the tying run at the place. But Tug got Dave Rosello to strike out & then went to a 3-2 count on Glen Beckert. McGraw went to his screw ball & got Beckert to hit a soft line drive to John Milner at first, the Hammer caught it stepped on first & it was all over.

Tom Seaver, Yogi Berra & Tug McGraw Ham it Up
At 82-79 the New York Mets were the NL Eastern Champions, from last place a month ago to clinching a playoff berth on October 1st. The second game of the scheduled twin bill was not necessary. The umpires diplomatically stated the field was too wet to play on.

Yogi Berra came into the clubhouse & yelled "the games off, get the champagne out!" The Mets clubhouse already ecstatic, began to celebrate.

Tug McGraw stood on top of an equipment trunk shouting his famous phrase "You Gotta Believe- You Gotta Believe"!! Yogi Berra told the press from a tiny office : "Its been a long year. I was on 14 teams that won but this has to be a big thrill because we had to jump over five clubs to do it. We were 12 games back & hurt. I told the guys, here Friday I'm proud of you whether you win or lose the next four. Just give me 100%".

All the players felt the same way, it was a team effort with contributions from everyone to get here. 11 of the players were left over from the Miracle Mets of 1969 & understood what winning as a team meant.

Bud Harrelson: "In 1969 it was some sort of Miracle that happened to us. We started out just hoping to do better than we did the year before & weren't expected to win. This year though we were so frustrated, we knew (tapping his heart) knew, that we should win. We had the talent & went everybody got down on us we knew they were wrong. To come back & win once we were able to play, I think of it as a much more mature feeling".

Tom Seaver said "Nothing will ever be like 1969, we were all so young then. Anyhow we've only taken one step of the three. We still have to win a playoff & a World Series to match 1969, but in a way it was more earned."

Wayne & Donna Garrett
Jerry Grote added "It was like 1969 because it was a team thing, everybody did something."

Wayne Garrett said: "Suddenly you look around during a game & see saw all the faces you were suppose to see on out there playing. Harrelson, Grote, Jones, Staub,- the regulars. It made a tremendous difference. We knew we had a good team if only we could get it out on the field."


Rusty Staub said "I simply come to play, I always do. A couple of months ago we were out of it & then we really put it all together."
Wille Mays Gets Doused with Champagane
Cleon Jones said "When I was out, I couldn't contribute, I don't think what I've done in the last month can offset that. But we're in now, that's what counts. I kept myself in shape when I was hurt & I feel strong & healthy. It's just fantastic, I can't express the way I feel."

The Mets received $5000 each player for winning the division. They flew to New York that evening arriving at 1110 PM, greeted by a reported 500 plus fans at La Guardia Airport. It was onto the playoffs with a date with the Cincinnati Reds. What a memorable season it was & what a memorable series was ahead.
 

Short Time 2006 Mets Pitcher: Jose Lima (2006)

Jose Desiderio Rodriguez Lima was born in the Dominican Republic on September 30, 1972. He was originally signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1989, making his debut there in 1994. The colorful, animated pitcher, pitched there for three seasons, going 8-16 with three saves. He began as a started but by 1996 was put in a relief role.

In 1997 he was traded to the Houston Astros along with Brad Ausmus, Trever Miller, C.J. Nitkowski and Daryle Ward in exchange for Doug Brocail, Brian Hunter, Todd Jones, Orlando Miller and cash. In Houston Lima would have his best seasons. He had a successful 1998 season, winning 16 games (16-8) tenth most wins in the NL. He posted a .667 win loss % also tenth best in the league. He posted a 3.70 ERA pitching in 233 innings. At the plate he even hit .138 driving in four runs.

He went on to have his best season in 1999, making the All Star team, going 21-10 (2nd most wins in the NL). He lead the NL in starts, posting a 3.58 ERA (9th in the NL) striking out 187 (7th in the NL) batters pitching in 246 (3rd in the NL) innings & throwing three complete games. When he started games, the fans in Houston would call it “Lima Time”.

In the post season he lost Game #2 of the NLCS 5-1 to the Atlanta Braves & Kevin Millwood. Even in those successful seasons he allowed over 100 runs both times & gave up over 30 plus HRs.

In 2000 the roof fell in on him he lead the league in earned runs (145) & HRs (48) going 7-16 with a huge 6.65 ERA. 2001 wasn’t much better (6-10 5.54 ERA). The wacky Lima was always up to something zany. Whether it was dying his hair light blonde, or sporting braids, he was always joking & smiling on any team he was with.

On the mound he was very emotional, pumping his fist or yelling up to the sky with some kind of emotion. It seemed no one enjoyed Lima Time more than himself. Over the next few years he was a spot starter & reliever for Detroit (again) Kansas City, Los Angeles & the New York Mets never regaining his top form.

In 2003 he was with the Newark Bears in the Atlantic league but got a break when the Royals came and grabbed him. The next season in L.A. (2004) he did go 13-5 although he posted a 4.07 ERA, allowing 33 HRs & 77 earned runs in 170 innings. In 2005 he posted the highs ERA of all time for a pitcher with 30 or more starts at 6.99. In February 2006 the Mets gave him a shot, and he began the year with the AAA Norfolk Tides.

He got called up when the staff needed some help in early May, but the Lima experiment didn’t last too long. Lima debuted as a Met on May 7th, getting the start at Shea Stadum against the Atlanta Braves. He allowed five runs on seven hits in five innings of work earning the loss. In his next start the Brewers roughed him up for five runs in Milwaukee in 9-6 Mets loss. On May 18th he took the mound in St. Louis but was gone in the 5th inning as well giving up five runs (four earned) in a 6-3 loss.


He was designated for assignment by May 20th, but then got another shot on July 4th. In his final start the Marlins pounded him as pitcher Dontrell Willis even blasted a grand slam off him. He went 0-4 with a 9.87 ERA allowing 19 earned runs, & 10 walks in just 17 innings pitched. His career was finished at the end of the year, and there was no more Lima time.

In his 13 year career Lima was 89-102 with five saves & a 5.26 ERA. He had 980 strikeouts, with 393 walks in 1567 innings of work in 348 appearances. He allowed 917 earned runs, & 267 HRs in that time.

Retirement: After his MLB playing days, he played in the Independent League, Korea & Dominican winter ball. He sang the National Anthem during his time in L.A. & wanted to peruse a singing career.

On May 22, 2010 he suddenly passed away from a heart attack, he was 37 years old. Later that night in Philadelphia, friend & Red Sox slugger David Ortiz wrote R.I.P Lima on his cap during a Sox – Phillies game.

Late Seventies Mets Pitcher: Kevin Kobel (1978-1980)

Kevin Richard Kobel was born October 2, 1953 in Buffalo New York. 

In 1971 after graduating from St. Francis High at Colden, New York he was quickly drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 10th round of that year’s draft.

The six foot lefthander won 12 games at AA Shreveport in 1973 & was brought right up to the big leagues for a September cup of coffee.


Kobel was just 19 years old when he made his MLB debut on September 8th, in New York against the A.L. team. It didn’t turn out that well as he got pounded for four earned runs over two innings pitched. He made his first start on September 28th, going six innings allowing four runs earning the loss. He made just two appearances that season.

With a good Spring Training in 1974 he was given a spot in the Brewers rotation alongside Jim Slaton, Jim Colborn, Clyde Wright & Billy Champion. Kobel went 6-14 on the year, with two shut outs posting a 3.99 ERA for the 5th place Brewers team. Arm troubles set him back & he only pitched seven games in the Pacific Coast League at AAA Sacramento in 1975.

In 1976 Kobel returned to pitch 32 games at AAA Spokane going 7-12 but struggled with a 5.50 ERA. He was brought up to the Brewers in September pitching three games, two of them against the AL New York team. He took his only decision, a loss, on September 17th after blowing a save. The next year he spent the entire season at AAA Spokane, improving to 12-6 with a 4.94 ERA making two saves.

Kobel looked like he belonged on the Welcome Back Kotter television show, teaching the sweat hogs with his beard & puffy hair.

But instead the Gabe Kaplin look alike, worked hard to get back to pitching.

The New York Mets gave him a chance in 1978 as he began the year at AAA Tidewater, going 2-1 with a 2.42 ERA. He got called up to a weak Mets staff at the end of May. Kobel made his Mets debut on May 20th finishing off a 9-4 loss at Shea Stadium. In his first nine appearances the Mets lost every game, although Kobel was only the losing pitcher of record in one of them.

On July 8th he got a start against the Chicago Cubs & pitched six shutout innings to earn his first victory in four seasons. In early September he threw a complete game shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing just one run on two hits.

On October 1st, he won the last game of the year, allowing only one run through seven innings of work at Wrigley Field in Chicago. On the season he would go 5-6 with a 2.91 ERA, getting 11 starts and making 21 relief appearances.

In 1979 he began the season in late April with two relief appearances. He was then thrown into the starting rotation and pitched well. He was 2-0 that month, going into the 8th inning three times while never allowing more than two runs in any start.

Unfortunately he only got credit with one win in those games. On June 16th, Kobel threw a three hit shutout against the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium. It turned out to be his last really good outing of his career.

The rest of the way he went 3-6 for the last place Mets, finishing the year at 6-8 with a 3.54 ERA. He only struck out 67 batters while walking 46 in 162 innings pitched.

1980 proved to be the end of the line for Kobel, after 14 games he was 1-4, giving up 19 earned runs in 24 innings. He was sent back down to AAA Tidewater in mid June & never got back to the big leagues.

In his six season career he went 18-34 with 205 strikeouts in 405 innings pitched, posting a 3.88 ERA in 115 games.

Italian / American Father & Son MLB Players With New York Ties: Sal & Drew Butera

Salvatore Philip Butera was born September 25, 1952 in Richmond Hill, Queens. His parents had emigrated from Italy, settling in Brooklyn, New York at first, then moving over to Queens.

After Sal was born, the family moved to Long Island where Sal grew up playing ball in high school at Bohemia, NY. He attended Suffolk County Community College, getting signed by the Minnesota Twins in 1972.

The six foot right hand hitting catcher, would spend eight years in the Twins minors leagues. He didn’t hit for power & hit a best .278 in the minor leagues in 1977. In 1980 he made the Twins club out of Spring Training, starting out as the back up to Butch Wynegar.

In 1981 Butera saw most of the action behind the plate, appearing in 62 games for the Twin; hitting .240 with no HRs & 18 RBIs. He had a strong arm and nailed 54% of base runners attempting to steal, while posting a .970 fielding percentage. But lack of power & hitting made him Tim Launders back up the following season.

He was sent to the Detroit Tigers (1983) appearing in four games & then the Montreal Expos(1984-1985). In 1985 he became former Met catcher; Mike Fitzgerald’s back up in Montreal, seeing action in 67 games.

That season he hit his first career HR, it came at Wrigley Field off Cub pitcher Ray Fontenot. Overall he hit just .200 & struggled behind the plate throwing out just 17% of would be base stealers. That December he was Traded along with Bill Gullickson to the Cincinnati Reds for John Stuper, Jay Tibbs, Dann Bilardello & Andy McGaffigan.

He remained with the Reds until midway through 1987 when he was dealt back to Minnesota, just in time to win a World Series there. He backed up Tim Launder once again, who was struggling himself at the plate, batting .191 on the season. Butera hit .171 in 51 games with the Twins, improving his defense to throwing out almost 30% of base stealers.


Post Season: He got to catch a game in the ALCS, against the Detroit Tigers, playing in Game #3 & getting two hits.


In the World Series win over the St, Louis Cardinals, he went 0-1 as a pinch hitter. 

He attended a Twins Championship Team Anniversary years later; joining fellow Long Islander; Frank Violia & Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven among others.

Sal finished his nine year career in Toronto with the Blue Jays in 1988. Overall he played in 359 games, batting .227 with 182 hits, 8 HRs 24 doubles & 76 RBIs.

Retirement: In the early nineties he managed in the Astros organization, then returned to the Blue Jays as a bullpen coach in 1998. Since 2008 he has been a special assistant to the Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulous.


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Sal Butera's son: 
Andrew Edward Butera, known as Drew, was born on August 9, 1983 in Evansville, Illinois. He was also a catcher getting drafted by the New York Mets in the third round of the 2005 draft.

He spent the 2005 season with the Brooklyn Cyclones batting .217, getting promoted to AA Binghamton the next season.

In 2007 he was traded along with minor leaguer Dustin Martin to the his Dad's old Twins team, for Luis Castillo. He didn’t hit much for average or power, but defensively; he threw out 45% of would be base stealers in his minor league career. 

 In 2010 he was promoted to the Twins big league club as Joey Mauer's backup catcher. At the big league level he still threw out over 40% of base stealers, but hit under .200.

By 2011 he was known for keeping the Twins pitching staff calm behind the plate, while calling a good game. He became Carl Pavano's private catcher & on May 3rd caught Francisco Liriano's no hitter.

He hit just .167 in 93 games , throwing out 31% of base runners trying to steal on him. In 2012 he played in 42 games throughout the season, but still could not hit over the .200 mark, finishing up at .198.

In 2013 he played for the Italian National Team, as their catcher in the World Baseball Classic. He spent most of his season at AAA Rochester, getting to the Twins for two brief games in July. Later that month he was traded to the L.A. Dodgers for a player to be named later. Since then he had mostly played at AAA Albuquerque for their Isotopes team. 

In 2014 he was the Dodgers reserve catcher behind main back stop; AJ Ellis. Through August he was batting .196 with 3 HRs & 13 RBIs.

In a four year career he hit .182 with 5 HRs 21 doubles & 41 RBIs in 186 games. In 183 games at catcher he tossed out 33% of would be base stealers.

Trivia: The Butera’s are the first father son combo to play for the Minnesota franchise.