Apr 23, 2014

Late Seventies Mets All Star Pitcher: Pat Zachry (1977-198

Patrick Paul Zachry was born on April 24, 1952 in Richmond, Texas. He was drafted out of Richfield high school in Waco, Texas by the Cincinnati Reds in 1970 in the 19th round.

The tall lanky six foot five, right hander looked more like a fisherman than a ball player with his long bearded face. He pitched as both a starter & reliever in the minor leagues, putting up identical 10-7 records at AAA Indianapolis in 1974 & 1975.

Zachry made the Reds staff as a reliever during the height of the Big Red Machines dominance, in 1976. He began the season in the bullpen, but was moved into the rotation by mid May. He won his first four starts throwing a complete game in San Diego & a complete game shutout against the Dodgers. Zachry was pitching so well he was 11-3 with a 2.63 ERA in mid August as the Reds were rolling through the National League.

He wound up winning the Rookie of the Year Award (sharing honors with San Diego’s Butch Metzger) going 14-7 with a 2.74 ERA (5th in the league), striking out 143 batters in 205 innings pitched. He averaged 6.3 strike outs per nine innings, which was 6th best among NL pitchers.

Post Season: Zachry was the winning pitcher of the NLCS Game #2 against the Phillies, allowing two runs over five innings or work. In the 1976 World Series, he won Game #3 in the Bronx, allowing two runs, on six hits in 6.2 innings pitched, helping the Big Red Machine sweep the Series.

In 1977 he struggled at the start of the year, going 2-2 in April, & then was 0-4 in May as his ERA rose to near six. He was 3-7 with a 5.04 ERA through mid June when he became the main chip in the Tom Seaver trade. He came to the New York Mets on June 15th, 1977 “The Midnight Massacre” along with Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, & Dan Norman. He had no chance following in Seaver’s footsteps no matter how well he would ever do.

Two days after the trade he made his Mets debut at Shea Stadium, losing to the Houston Astros, allowing four runs over six innings. He quickly found out he didn't have the same offensive run support he had in Cincinnati.

In his next start he pitched well, allowing just one run in seven innings of work but got no decision. Almost a month after the trade he earned his first Mets win on July 10th, against the Montreal Expos.

In mid August he began his best streak, winning three straight decisions through early September. He threw a complete game in St. Louis & then pitched a five hit shutout against the Braves at Shea. He did well the rest of the year, going 7-6 overall since joining the club with a 3.76 ERA. He only had 63 strike outs in 119 innings pitching in 19 games.

In 1978 he started out winning the third game of the season by beating the Montreal Expos pitching six innings of one run ball at Shea Stadium. On April 19th he pitched a two hit shutout in St. Louis, striking out five Cardinals batters. Bruce Boisclair drove in both runs of the 2-0 Mets win. Zachry himself scored a run after drawing a walk & then circled the bases.

He finished out the month of April going 3-0, and then went on another four game win streak from May to July. On May 29th he pitched another complete games, allowing just two runs on three hits to the Cardinals at Shea in the first game of a double header. Zachry already had ten wins (10-3) by the fourth of July. He was the only Met chosen for the All Star Game that year, although he didn’t pitch in the game held at San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium.

On July 24th 1978, Shea Stadium was packed, hoping Zachry could shut down Pete Rose during his N.L. record setting hit streak. Unfortunately, Rose singled off him in the 7th inning; tying the 37 game NL hit streak record. The Reds then started a rally rallied knocking Zachry out of the game, four batters later. On his way into the dugout he angrily kicked a helmet, but missed it & kicked the dugout step. The result was a fracture to his left foot. He was done for the rest of the year, finishing 10-6 with a 3.33 ERA, 78 strike outs & 60 walks in 138 innings. He also threw two shut outs & five complete games.

He started out 1979 by beating the Cubs at Wrigley Field in the second game of the season. He then returned to Shea Stadium to pitch a complete game victory against Philadelphia. Although he gave up 12 hits he only allowed two runs beating the Phillies 3-2.

He missed a month of action but returned very strong in May winning three straight starts going into June. He was 5-0 before taking his first loss on June 8th against the Houston Astros. He was 5-1 until more injuries finished off his season early once again, shutting him down in June. In seven games he was 5-1 with an .833 winning % posting a 3.59 ERA in 42 innings pitched.

In 1980 he wasn’t ready pitch until May, then lost his first two starts going winless until the end of the month when he beat the Pittsburgh Pirates. Zachry was 2-5 by the end of June with a 3.26 ERA. He had a fantastic July going 4-0 while throwing four complete games. He threw a three hit shutout at Shea against the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates on July 10th and tossed two more shut outs before the month was out.

On July 25th when the Reds came to town he threw a six hit shutout against his old team & then in his next start, threw a four hit shut out to beat the Atlanta Braves. In that 3-0 win the Mets had RBI singles from Doug Flynn & Mike Jorgensen.

The Mets were a bad team, winning just 67 games while finishing in last place. Zachary would not get another win for the rest of the season. He never allowed more than three runs in his last five straight losses but the team lacked run support. He finished up at 6-10 leading the team with a 3.01 ERA and two shut outs.

In the 1981 strike shortened season he began the year winning his first three starts, but then lost his next five. He struggled and led the league in both losses (14) & HRs allowed (13). He went 7-14 but somehow still led the team in victories. He also led the team in strike outs (71) starts (24) complete games (3) & hits (151) posting a 4.14 ERA. He allowed 64 earned runs while walking 56 batters in 139 innings pitched.

In 1982 he started out the season taking a no hitter into the 8th inning, on April 10th at Wrigley Field. But Cubs pinch hitter Bob Molinaro broke it up, Zachary ended up with the win but allowed two runs on five hits in that inning.

Overall he was off to a good start going 4-1 pitching another complete game victory against his old Reds team mates. His ERA was up near five at 4.89 at the end of May & he was placed in the bull pen to pitch in relief. He was back in the rotation by August & pitched a complete game win over the Pirates although he allowed eleven hits.

He finished up the year at 6-9, with a 4.08 ERA. He struck out 69 batters, walking 57 in 137 innings pitched in 36 games (16 starts). After the season he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Jorge Orta. Orta would get traded just over a month later in February. In his six year Mets career Pat Zachry was 41-46 with 3.63 ERA, 391 strike outs in 742 innings pitched in 145 games.

Trivia: One of my favorite Zachry stories comes after a Kiners Korner episode in the late seventies. Zachry was a guest on one of Ralph Kiner’s post game shows & received Getty Gas gift vouchers for his appearance. When he tried to use them at a Roosevelt Ave. gas station, the attendant came after him with a hammer. Quite a gift there Ralph!!

Zachry pitched two years in relief for the Dodgers, going 6-1 in 1983 with a 2.49 ERA. He appeared in two games of the 1983 NLCS against the Houston Astros without a decision. Zachry's career ended after ten games with the 1985 Philadelphia Phillies.

In a ten year career he was 69-67, with three saves posting a 3.52 ERA. He threw seven shutouts, with 27 complete games, 669 strikeouts & 495 walks in 1117 innings pitched.

Retirement: In 1989 he pitched in the Senior Professional League & was profiled in a book on the league. Pat still attends Mets fantasy camps and is an elementary school teacher in Waco, Texas.

1954 World Champion New York Giants Pitcher: Jim Hearn (1950-1956)

Jim Tolbert Hearn was born on April 11, 1921 in Atlanta, Georgia. The big six foot, five inch right handed pitcher, was known as “Jumbo Jim” because of his size.

He attended Georgia Tech University and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1942. Hearn then served three years in military service during World War II. He returned to pitch in the minor leagues by 1946, & making it to the Cardinal staff in 1947.

He had a solid rookie year pitching in 37 games going 12-7 with a 3.22 ERA. In 1948 he was 8-6, as his ERA rose to 4.22. He then struggled due to a lack of confidence over the next two seasons. getting placed on waivers in mid 1950.

The New York Giants picked him up and their pitching coach, Frank Shellenback, taught him to throw a sinker ball. Hearn improved to become one of the league’s top pitchers the rest of the season.

He went 11-4 and led the league in ERA (2.49) & shut outs (5). He struck out 58 batters , his highest season total so far, pitching in 134 innings allowing 44 walks.

In the Giants 1951 Pennant season, he won 17 games (ninth in the league) as the number three man in a sensational rotation, behind twenty game winners Sal Maglie & Larry Jansen. His .654 winning % & 34 starts were both sixth best in the league.

From July through the end of the season he was 11-4 throwing four complete games lowering his ERA by over a run. In that stretch he pitched six complete games & beat the rival Brooklyn Dodgers three times against two losses. Hearn helped the Giants in their remarkable comeback from 13½-games behind Brooklyn to catch the Dodgers & force a three game playoff.

According to Hearn: ''The only pressure was on the pitching staff, we were just plain worn out; our arms were hanging dead. In those last four games of the season we gave up a total of four runs, pitching with two days' rest. That, to me, is the Miracle of Coogan's Bluff.''

Post Season: Hearn was the starting pitcher of Game #1 of the 1951 playoffs, played at Ebbetts Field, Hearn had a ligament strain in his side. After each inning, the team trainer would apply hot ointment to ease the pain.

In that first game Hearn beat Ralph Branca & the Dodgers 3-1. He pitched a five hit complete game, allowing just one run, which was a solo HR to Andy Pafko. In the final game he was warming up in the bullpen as Bobby Thompson hit his dramatic game winning pennant clinching HR.

Hearn remembers: ''I saw Duke Snider on his knees in center, pounding his glove on the grass. That's when I took off for home plate. It was just the greatest thrill of my life.''

In the 1951 World Series, Hearn was the winner in Game #3 at the Polo Grounds. Although he walked eight batters in 7.2 innings of work, he only allowed one run. He pitched in two Series games allowing only the one earned run in 8.2 innings of work, good enough for a 1.04 ERA.

In 1952 Hearn came back to win 14 games going 14-7, while coming in the league's top ten in wins again. He posted a 3.78 ERA although he gave up a lot of hits (208) walks (97) & runs (113) among the most in the league.

He was also the league’s top fielding pitcher with a perfect .1000 fielding %. He pitched in 223 innings (tenth in the league) & made his first All Star appearance. As the Giants fell to fifth place in 1953 Hearn posted a 9-12 losing record.

In the 1954 Championship season, Hearn pitched both as a starter & reliever going 8-8 with two shut outs & a save. He did not pitch in the World Series sweep of the Cleveland Indians.

In 1955 Hearn came back to win 14 games (5th in the league) but lost 16 (2nd most in the league). He pitched a career high 226 innings, posting a 3.73 ERA while striking 86 batters.

That season he hit two HRs at the plate, one was an inside the parker. Interestingly since 1955 only eight pitchers have hit inside the park HRs, Hearn himself hit two in his career.

After falling to 5-11 in 1956 he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies where he pitched for three seasons as a reliever. In his seven seasons in New York he went 78-56 with a 3.81 ERA getting to two World Series. In three seasons with the Phillies he was 10-4 with three saves.

On May 10th, 1959 while pitching in a relief in a game that would be suspended he he tore a back ligament. At age 38 he was given his release & forced to retire. That suspended game resumed two weeks later & Hearn became the pitcher of record even though he was no longer active.

Overall in his 13 season career, Hearn went 109- 89 with eight saves. He posted a 3.81 ERA, striking out 669 batters while walking 665 in 1703 innings pitching in 396 games.

Retirement: Hearn was an excellent golfer, and after his baseball career opened a golf school in Atlanta, Georgia. After retiring to Florida, he passed away in 1998 at age 77 in Boca Grande, Florida.

Former Italian / American Player: Mickey Morandini (1990-2000)

Michael Robert Morandini was born on April 22nd 1966 in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. The five foot eleven second baseman, threw right but batted left handed.

After attending Indiana University at Bloomington, Minnesota he was a one of the top players in the 1987 International Cup Tournament. He was also a member of Team USA's champion Olympic Team in 1988. He was selected as a fifth round draft pick for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1988.

He got to the big leagues as a reserve infielder for the 1990 & 1991 seasons. In 1992 he became the Phillies main second baseman for the next six years.  On September 20th, 1992 he turned an unassisted triple play in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with Jeff King as the batter. In the Phillies 1993 NL pennant season, he batted .247 with 9 triples (third in the NL) 3 HRs 13 stolen bases & 33 RBIs.

Post Season: In the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, he hit a two run triple in the final 6-3 Phillies clincher game at Veterans Stadium. In the World Series loss to The Toronto Blue Jays, he had just one start in favor of Mariano Duncan.

Morandini was not known for his hitting, but he did have some good seasons, batting over .290 twice. He was in the leagues top ten in triples four times, doubles & singles two times each. In 1995 he made the NL All Star team as well.

He was a solid second baseman, known as "the Dandy Glove Man", coming second in the league in fielding % four times & leading the league in that category in 1998, while with Chicago Cubs (.993%).

After eight seasons in Philadelphia he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1998 for Doug Glanville. Morandini only hit 32 career HRs in 4558 at bats, hitting a career best eight, while playing at Wrigley Field in 1988.

On July 1st 1999, he had a rare two HR game, in a wild 19-12 Cubs win over the Brewers at Wrigley Field.

After two seasons in Chicago, he closed out his career in 2000 playing for the Toronto Blue Jays & back with the Phils. In eleven seasons he hit .268 with 1222 hits 54 triples 32 HRs 209 doubles 597 runs scored & 351 RBIs. In 1245 games at second base he posted a .989 fielding % (12th all time best)  turning 669 double plays (91st all time).

Retirement: Morandini began coaching high school ball after his playing days. In 2011 he was manager of the A ball Williamsport Crosscutters in the Phillies organization. He then moved up to the Lakewood Blue Claws (2012-2013).

In 2014 he was named to the AAA Lehigh Valley coaching staff.

Apr 22, 2014

The Winningest Left Handed Pitcher of All Time- One Time New York Met: Warren Spahn (1965)

Warren Edward Spahn was born on April 23, 1921 in Buffalo New York, being named after President Warren Harden. The tall six foot lefty, was known as "the Invincible one" and became the winningest left handed pitcher of all time.

He came up with Boston Braves in 1942 briefly before serving military time in the Military during World War II. In the war his heroic efforts won him a Purple Heart & a Bronze Star. He returned back to pitching by 1946 at the age of 26 going 8-5 with a 2.94 ERA.

Quotes: "People say that my absence from the big leagues may have cost me a chance to win 400 games. But I don't know about that. I matured a lot in three years, and I think I was better equipped to handle major league hitters at 25 than I was at 22. Also, I pitched until I was 44. Maybe I wouldn't have been able to do that otherwise."

In Boston he along with the number two man on the staff Johnny Sain, were so much better than the rest of the staff they inspired a famous poem. The saying from the Braves fans in no legebdary: “Spahn & Sain & then pray for rain”.

In 1948 during the heat of the pennant race, Spahn & Sain had gone 8-0 over an incredible twelve day span. The lefty had an unusual high leg kick which helped him check runners on first base & also deceive them in whether he was throwing over or delivering the pitch. The delivery also confused hitters making it even more difficult to hit Spahn.

In 1948 he was 15-12 following his first twenty win seaon where he also won his first ERA title in 1947. In 1948 the Braves got to the World Series, losing to the mighty Cleveland Indians in six games. Spahn took a Game #2 loss to Bob Lemon 4-1 at Milwaukee County Stadium. Then in Game #5 in front of 86,000 fans at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Spahn got the win pitching 5.2 innings of relief sending the Series back to Boston. In Game #6 he came back in relief but took no decision as Bob Lemon beat Boston's Bill Voiselle.

Spahn went on to play in 14 All Star games, the most of any pitcher in the entire 20th century. He would win one Cy Young Award & be runner up two other times. He won the Cy Young Award in the Braves 1957 Championship season, going 21-11 with a 2.69 ERA. He struck out 111 batters in 271 innings pitched, throwing four shut outs & a league leading 18 complete games.

Post Season: In Game #1 of the 1957 World Series, Spahn pitched a complete games but lost to New York’s Whitey Ford 3-1. He came back to throw another complete game in Game #4, this time at home earning the win although he allowed five runs on 11 hits. The Braves would go on to win the Series in seven games.

In 1958 he won a league leading 22 games going an identical 22-11 with the league's best winning % (.667%). Spahn also led the NL in complete games (23) & innings (290) & struck out 150 batters as the Braves won their second straight pennant. Spahn was named the Sporting News Pitcher of the Year for the second straight year & the third time overall.

Post Season: In the World Series he beat Whitey Ford twice with complete game victories in Games one & four. He made his third start & took a 4-3 lead into the 10th inning of Game #6, but gave up a HR to Gil McDougald as well as another run.

Hank Aaron brought the Braves to within one run in the bottom of the inning but they fell short losing 3-2 in what was Spahn's last World Series appearance. Overall he was 4-3 with a 3.05 ERA in eight World Series games, posting 32 strikeouts in 56 innings pitched & 47 hits allowed.

Spahn would win twenty or more games thirteen times including a stretch of six straight seasons (1956-1961). He led the league in wins eight times, including five straight years (1957-1961). He led the league in strikeouts four straight years (1949-1952) & ERA three times. He won one ERA Title once in each decade of the forties, fifties, & sixties.

He led the league in innings pitched four times as well , pitching over 250 innings sixteen times in his incredible career. He led the league in complete games nine times, including seven straight years from (1957-1963). He also went on to lead the league in shutouts four times, starts twice, & winning percentage once.

Spahn’s longevity was incredible as well, he threw his first no hitter at age 39 in 1960 & then another the next year. After age 40 he would win another 80 career games, winning twenty or more twice in a season.

After age 40 he won another ERA title & led the league in complete games three times while pitching over 250 innings three times. In a classic 1963 pitchers duel with San Francisco’s Juan Marichal, Spahn pitched 16 innings before Willie Mays hit a walk off HR off him. During the game 25 year old Marichal told his manager “see that man over there he is 42 years old, there is no way anyone is taking me out of this game”. Way back in 1951 it was Spahn who allowed Willie Mays first career hit also a HR.

At the plate he was one of baseballs best hitting pitchers, hitting at least one HR in 17 straight seasons, finishing with an NL leading 35 career HRs. He finished his career with just as many hits as wins, 363 and a .194 batting average, with 57 doubles & six triples.

In 1965 Spahn's final season, his contract was sold to the New York Mets after 24 years with the Braves. New York Mets coach Yogi Berra came out of retirement briefly to catch four games with the Mets, although none of them was with Spahn pitching. Yogi told reporters "I don't think we're the oldest battery, but we're certainly the ugliest." Spahn had a dual role as both pitcher & Mets pitching coach that season.

He debuted as a Met pitching the second game of the 1965 season, against the Houston Colt 45's. Spahn went eight strong innings, allowing three runs on seven hits but getting no decision. His next start was in Los Angeles and he got his first Mets win beating Claude Osteen & the Dodgers, allowing one earned run & one walk in a complete game win. Next it was off to San Francisco to throw a another complete game victory over the other former New York team. In that game he allowed three runs on seven hits & walked no one.

Spahn would lose his next three decisions going into mid May. Then he won two more games over the month including another complete game, this time a win at Philadelphia. But by June the old man, now 44 years of age, was out of gas. He went to lose eight straight games as a Met seeing his record fall to 4-12 with a 4.36 ERA.

The Mets put him on waivers by mid July & he was picked by the San Francisco Giants finishing his career there at the end of the season.

In his 21 year career he is 363-245 (sixth all time in wins/ 12th all time in losses) with a 3.09 ERA (193rd all time), a .597 winning % (127th all time). He has 665 starts (14th all time) with 382 complete games (21st all time), 63 shut outs (6th all time), 2583 strike outs (25th all time) 1434 walks (15th all time) 29 saves & 434 HRs allowed (7th most all time) in 5243 innings (8th all time) pitched over 750 games (61st all time).

Retirement: After his playing days he coached with the Cleveland Indians & in the minors for the California Angels.

He was a successful manger with AAA Tulsa winning the 1968 Pacific Coast League championship. He also coached briefly in Mexico & Japan baseball.

He was at Turner Field in Atlanta, the newest home of his old Braves club, for the unveiling of his statue with the high leg kick in the 1990's. Spahn passed away in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma in 2003 at the age 82.

Honors: He was elected to Baseballs Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1973. He is also a member of the Braves Hall of Fame & the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. He has a street named after him in Buffalo, New York near his old high school.

Former Italian / American Mets Player: Vinny Rottino (2012)

Vincent Antonio Rottino was born April 7, 1980 in Racine, Wisconsin. After attending the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, Wisconsin he was signed by the hometown Milwaukee Brewers in 2003.

The six foot one right hand hitter, is a versatile fielder who  plays outfield, third base, first base & catcher. Rottino was called up in September 2006, debuting as a pinch hitter on September 1st against the Florida Marlins. and only played in 25 games over three seasons (5-25 with a .208 average).

In 2007 he helped the Milwaukee Brewers clinch their first winning season in 15 years.Even though he appeared in only eight regular season games that season, he had a key pinch hit  on the next to last day of the season. 

Rottino came in to pitch hit against the San Diego Padres; Joe Thatcher, in the bottom of the 12th inning with two men on. He singled with a weak grounder through the left side of the infield and drove in the winning run, helping the Bwers clinch a playoff berth.

In 2009 Rottino was the starting catcher for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.

In July of 2009 he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers organization then to the Florida Marlins. In 2010 he played in the Pacific Coast League & hit .307 for the Marlins AAA team. He saw action in eight games for the Marlins that season as well.

In November 2011 he signed as a free agent with the New York Mets. He debuted as a Met on May 4th & went hitless as a pinch hitter in a 5-4 loss to Arizona. On May 26th, at age 32, he hit his first career HR in a 9-0 Mets win over the San Diego Padres. In his next game two days later he homered again, this time off the Phillies Cole Hamels.

Rottino's career in New York was short, he gathered up two more hits with RBIs in June, including a June 10th RBI single in the subway series loss across town in the Bronx.

At the end of June he was placed on waivers after 18 games, batting .182 with two HRs one double, five RBIs & a .308 on base %. In late 2012 he was picked by the Cleveland Indians &hit .107 in 18 games.

Rottino retired at the end of the season. In ten minor league seasons he was a .294 hitter with 82 HRs 598 & RBIs in 1140 games. In his five year MLB career he batted .165 with 16 hits three HRs & 11 RBIs.

Former Mets Relief Pitcher: Sean Green (2009-2010)

Sean William Green was born on April 20, 1979 in Louisville, Kentucky. The tall six foot six righty was originally drafted as the Toronto Blue Jays in the 32nd round in 1997. Instead of signing he chose to attend the University of Louisville, eventually getting drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 12th round in 2000.

Green was strictly a middle relief pitcher in the minor leagues, pitching for the Rockies organization for five seasons. In 2004 he was traded to the Seattle Mariners organization & the in 2005 led the Texas League with 14 saves while posting a 2.96 ERA at AA San Antonio. He pitched well for the Mariners at Spring Training 2006 & then went 4-0 at AAA Tacoma getting him an early call up. He debuted in Minnesota pitching part of an inning against the Twins in a 5-1 Mariner loss.

In his first season he made 24 appearances posting no record with a 4.50 ERA. In 2007 he was 5-1 with a 3.84 ERA having the best year of his career to date. He pitched three seasons as a mid reliever for Seattle, going 9-7 with an ERA of four. Prior to the 2009 season he was sent to the New York Mets along with JJ Putz & Jeremy Reed, in a big three team trade that sent Joe Smith to the Cleveland Indians, as well as Endy Chavez & Aaron Heilman to the Seattle Mariners.

In 2009 Green debuted on Opening Day in Cincinnati pitching 1.1 innings of relief work in the Mets 2-1 loss to the Reds. Overall he made 79 appearances (4th most in the league) out of the Mets bullpen, pitching in 69 innings striking out 54 batters. He was 1-4 giving up five HRs, walking 36 batters & hitting another nine (8th most in the NL) while posting a 4.52 ERA.

His one win came in Washington D.C. on June 5th, pitching one scoreless inning against the Nationals. At the end of July he earned his lone save at Houston in an 8-3 Mets victory over the Astros. Green was sent back down to AAA but had a good Spring in 2010 & made the final bull pen spot. He made eleven appearances posting a 3.86 ERA but it was discovered he had a broken rib which ended his season. He returned to A ball St. Lucie to rehab & then was promoted to AAA Buffalo making 17 appearances. He was granted free agency & signed with the Milwaukee Brewers in December 2010.

In 14 games he was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA for the NL Central Champion Brewers. In his six year career he is 10-12 with two saves & a 4.41 ERA in 264 appearances.

"The Rifleman"- Chuck Connors: His Baseball & Acting Career

Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors was born on April 10th, 1921 in Brooklyn, New York. He never liked his birth name, and settled on Chuck, after he would yell out to the pitcher "chuck it to me" while playing baseball. Connors was an altar boy at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

He became a local Dodger fan, even though the Dodgers teams of the thirties weren't much good. He attended Adelphi Academy also in Brooklyn where he was a star athlete. He earned a scholarship to Seton Hall University, in New Jersey but left after two years, joining the military.

He served as a tank warfare instructor during World War II. Connors was an incredible athlete, who would play pro baseball as well as pro basket ball. He is only just one of few players to have that distinction.

He began to play pro basketball with the Rochester Royals, leading them to a 1946 NBL Championship. In 1946 he joined the newly formed Boston Celtics of the Basketball Association of America. He is credited as the first player to ever shatter a backboard in the history of the game. This event occurred in November 1946 during a pregame warm up.

He eventually left basketball to fulfill his dream & play baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He began his playing career back in 1940 but only played in four games & then broke his finger. He played in the A.L. New York teams chain in 1942 before going off to war.

 By 1946 he was back with the Brooklyn Dodgers, playing four years in their minor leagues. The first baseman hit over .300 twice in the minors & also hit .290 in 1949 when he made his MLB debut. On May 1st, 1949 he came into a game against the Philadelphia Phillies, as a pinch hitter going 0-1 in a 4-2 Dodger loss. It was his only game of the year, as the Dodgers went on to win the NL Pennant & go to the World Series.

Connors was back in the minor leagues, playing 1951 & 1952 in Los Angeles with the Pacific Coast League's Angels. There he was first discovered by Hollywood & got the first of many future acting roles. In 1952 Connors played with the Chicago Cubs, he hit .239 with two HRs & 18 RBIs in 66 games for the 8th place Cubs. He soon suffered two shoulder injuries & retired from the game.

Acting: Helping the decision was the fact that Hollywood was giving him more opportunities. Connors was first spotted by an MGM casting director getting a role in the Spencer Tracy Audrey Hepburn, Pat & Mike. Next he was cast in the Burt Lancaster film South Sea Woman.

But it was in 1957 when his acting career took off after getting cast in the film Old Yeller. That led to his lead role in the classic television show; The Rifleman.

Connors played Lucas McCain, a Union Army Civil War veteran rancher, raising his son in the New Mexico Territory of the 1880's. This was a time period where America was still in love with Westerns. The show was one of the first to deal with a single parent who was widowed. The show ran for six years, peaking at number four in its first season run as the one of the top shows on the tube.

The show also featured over 500 special guests, including everyone from Lon Chaney Jr., to Agnes Moorehead, Dennis Hoppe, Robert Vaughn, Sammy Davis Jr. & Dodger great Don Drysdale.

In 1966 when Drysdale & Sandy Koufax were in the midst of their famous hold out during contract negotiations, it was Connors who served as an unofficial mediator between the club & the two star pitchers. He can be seen in the photos when the contracts were being signed.

Connors child co-star Johnny Crawford, who played his son, also a big baseball fan, remained friends with Connors until his death. The Rifleman is still seen today in syndication on a few different channels. 

The show was one of the few to be allowed to be shown in Russia, as it was a favorite of Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. Connors & Brezhnev met in 1973 at a political party. In his career, Chuck Connors would appear in tons of television shows as a character through the years, until his death in 1992.

Connors was married four times, & has four sons. He has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Passing: Connors passed away from pneumonia & lung cancer at the age of 71.

Apr 20, 2014

1986 World Champion Mets Relief Pitcher: Jesse Orosco (1979-1987)

Jesse Russell Orosco was born on April 21st 1957 in Santa Barbara, California. The six foot two lefty attended the local high school & City College at Santa Barbara. He turned into a local star pitcher as well, getting drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the second round of the 1978 amateur draft.

In December of 1978, Shea Stadium was a already a sad place. Then one of the last pieces of the 1969 Championship team; Jerry Koosman was traded away to his home state of Minnesota. Koosman went to the Twins & a young Jesse Orosco came to the Mets. Little did anyone know that the player sent over in exchange for Koos would help be another piece to a future Championship.

In 1979 Orosco made the team out of Spring Training. He made his debut on Opening Day 1979 pitching to one batter at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Orosco relieved Dwight Bernard in the 9th inning, closing out Craig Swans 10-6 Mets victory. He earned the first victory of his career on April 22nd at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, pitching one inning of relief. But after taking a loss & seeing his ERA rise to 4.89, Orosco was sent to AAA Tidewater in early June . There he went 4-4 as a starter & was demoted to AA Jackson the next season. He converted into a relief pitcher that season under manager Bob Wellman.

In 1981 he started back at Tidewater, but improved to 9-5 with eight saves making 47 appearances as both starter & reliever. He got another brief call up, pitching in eight games that September. On the 18th of that month he pitched three innings & earned his first career save, it came against the Cardinals.

In 1982 Orosco was up for good, making 54 appearances going 4-10 with four saves while posting an ERA of 2.72 on the sixth place club.

In 1983 Orosco was a most pleasant surprise for the Mets, as he turned into one of the best pitchers in the NL. He racked up three early wins & was 3-0, with three saves, and an ERA under one (0.92) by the end of May. Later in summer, over a span of nine games, from July 31st until mid August he went 5-0 with four more saves . He won both the Pitcher of the Week & Pitcher of the Month Awards FOR that August.

Overall for the ’83 season, he was the best pitcher on the staff, leading everyone including veteran Tom Seaver who had returned to New York. Orosco led the team in wins (13) going 13-7, winning % (.650%) saves (17) & topped the staff in ERA (1.47) which would also be a career best for him.

He made 62 appearances (second to Doug Sisk) pitching in 110 innings while striking out 84 batters & allowing just 13 earned runs. He made the All Star team, & finished third in the Cy Young voting.

In 1984 he started out the season strong, not allowing an earned run until May 5th. By that time he had five saves & was 2-0. The Mets had become contenders again in 1984 & Orosco was their main weapon out of the bullpen. By the All Star break he was 7-2 with 18 saves and had an ERA under two (1.89) as he made his second straight All Star team. He had another strong August closing out six games with six straight saves a personal season best. On the year he went 10-6, with 31 saves (3rd best in the NL) posting a 2.59 ERA in 60 appearances.

In 1985, he began sharing the closing duties with right-hander Roger McDowell. Davey Johnson who loved righty lefty matchups now had an awesome combo to close games. That year Orosco made 54 appearances going 8-6, tying McDowell for the team lead of 17 saves (9th in the NL) while posting a 2.73 ERA. He struckout 68 batters in 79 innings while allowing just six HRs with 34 walks. In the final two months he had six saves went 5-2 but also blew three wins & took two losses.

In the 1986 Championship season, Jesse earned his first save in the second game of the year. Although he allowed three walks in his next outing & blew the save no runs were charged to him. He went until May 16th before allowing an earned run & earned his 10th save on June 9th in Pittsburgh.

Through the final two months he was 3-1 with eight saves, & allowed six earned runs in 32 innings. All those runs came in just three outings, as he shut out the opponent in 19 other appearances. He finished the year with 21 saves (9th in the league) posting a strong 2.33 ERA. He made 58 appearances allowing just 21 earned runs in 81 innings with 62 strikeouts.

Post Season: Orosco's clutch relief pitching in the 1986 postseason was one of the key reasons the Mets were world champions. He was on the mound for the final pitch of the final game of both the 1986 NLCS against the Houston Astros, and the 1986 World Series against the Boston Red Sox.

Orosco ended both series by striking out the final batters. In the NLCS he made baseball history becoming the first and only relief pitcher to get three wins in one playoff series.

He got his first victory in Game #3 at Shea Stadium when Lenny Dykstra hit his famous walk off HR in the bottom of the 9th inning. He earned another win in Game #5, when Gary Carters base hit won the game in extra innings at Shea as well. Finally he was the winning pitcher in the epic Game #6 at the Houston Astrodome.

It didn’t come easy, as he allowed three runs in three innings pitched, but did strikeout five hitters including Kevin Bass for the final out. Houston had scored two runs to come within one run of tying the game, Manager Davey Johnson came to the mound & told Orosco he was sticking with him the rest of the way. That confidence meant everything to Jesse.

In the final at bat, Orosco was struggling a bit on Bass. Keith Hernandez came in from first base & said to Jesse “I don't care what Gary calls, If you throw a fastball I'm gonna kill you”. Orosco then struck out Bass swinging, clinching the pennant. 

Overall Jesse was 3-0 in the NLCS, appearing in four games allowing three runs in 8 innings pitched with ten strikeouts.

In the World Series Orosco would save two games, allow no runs on just two hits in 5.2 innings pitched. The image of Jesse flinging his glove in the air and kneeling down on the mound in victory is now one of the most classic scenes in Mets history. He earned his first save in Game #4 at Fenway Park pitching 1 .2 innings of solid relief, as Ron Darling got the win. 

He came back in the classic Game #6, getting the final out of the 8th inning, Bill Buckner was the only batter he faced. In Game #7 he came in relief of Roger McDowell in the 8th inning with two on & nobody out. He reared back & retired catcher; Rich Gedman, Dave Henderson & pinch hitter Don Baylor to bring the Shea crowd to a near frenzy as the Mets were only three outs away from the Championship.

In the 9th he retired the side in order & struck out Marty Barrett to close out the 1986 World Series. Jesse threw his glove in the air & was mobbed by his team mates in a ecstatic Shea Stadium, on a historical night that centerfieldmaz can proudly say he was there.

In that game he also came to bat got a base hit & drove in a run in hs only post season at bat.

In 1987 he tailed off a bit going 3-9 with a 4.44 ERA, although he still saved 16 games (9th in the league). That winter he was traded away by the Mets in a huge three team, seven player deal that brought Kevin Tapani & Wally Whitehurst to the Mets.

Mets History: Orosco is third all time in Mets history in saves (107) &fifth all time in in appearances (372).

Jesse Orosco landed near his home town of Santa Barbra in Southern California with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1988 he was no longer the main closer, pitching behind closers Jay Howell & Alejandro Pena at Dodger Stadium. In 55 appearances, he posted a 2.72 ERA & went 3-2 with nine saves. He went to the post season as his Dodgers surprised the Mets in the NLCS & then went on to shock the Oakland A’s by winning the World Series.

In 1989 he signed with the Cleveland Indians and stayed there for three years. By now in his later years he became a journey man middle reliever, going to the Milwaukee Brewers for three years, saving eight games in 1993.

He went to the Baltimore Orioles in 1995, under his former Mets manager Davey Johnson. He pitched there for five more years, making it to two more post seasons (1996 / 1997), appearing in four games with 12 innings pitched. He was the AL top fielding pitcher in 1994 & 1998.

In 1995 he led the league in appearances (65) at age 38. At age forty the ageless Orosco posted a 2.32 ERA, among the best of all AL relievers.

In 1999 he was actually traded back to the Mets but never pitched for them as he was soon traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Super Joe McEwing. From 1999 through the next six seasons he would be baseballs oldest player.

As the years went on he became strictly a left handed specialist which kept him pitching a few more years. Orosco went back to the Los Angeles Dodgers (2001-2002) San Diego Padres (2003) AL New York club (2003) & Minnesota Twins (2003)before finally retiring at age 46 in 2003. He also led the league in fielding two more times, posting perfect fielding %.

Honors: Orosco was one of the best middle relievers of his time, and had one of the game’s best sliders as his main pitch. In his long 24 year career he holds the all time MLB record for pitching appearances with 1252.

Life time he was 87 –80 with 144 saves (81st all time) with 501 games finished (38th all time). He posted a 3.36 ERA  with 1179 strike outs & 581 walks in 1295 innings pitched. Orosco only committed four errors in 1,295 career innings pitched for a .985 fielding percentage.

He has been on hand to throw out ceremonial first pitches at Shea Stadium on various occasions. He attended the 20th anniversary of the 1986 team & the final ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2009.

There Is a strong argument & many supporters for his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.