Apr 30, 2009

Today in Mets History: 1984- Teenager Dwight Gooden Ks 10 Cubs

May 1, 1984: In just his third start, rookie Dwight Gooden is starting to get some attention. Tonight at Shea Stadium he becomes the 1st teenager since Bert Blyleven in 1970 to strike out 10 batters. Gooden K's 10 Cubs through 7 innings pitched while only giving up one run on 4 hits in the Mets 8-1 romp over Chicago. Gooden bests his record to 2-1 with a 2.64 ERA. Keith Hernandez & Hubie Brooks lead the charge with 2 hits & 2 RBIs apiece. Hernandez also hit his second HR of the season. Daryl Strawberry drove in a run and got 3 hits. Rusty Staub boosts his pinch hitting average up to .455 with an RBI single. The win puts the Mets in first place a full game over the Cubs & Phillies with a 13-8 record. The Mets who have been down the past few years are becoming a force to contend with in the NL East in 1984. The Magic is back.

Apr 29, 2009

Today in Mets History: 1969- Kranepool HRs Twice Behind Koos & Ryans Shutout

April 29, 1969: Imagine having the luxury of a pitching staff like this! Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan combine to pitch a six hit shut out against the expansion Expos at a cold Parc Jarry in Montreal, to a tiny crowd of 8,577. Koosman started the game against veteran Mud Cat Grant (former ace of the AL Champion Twins of 1965). The Mets weren't amazing yet, 6 1/2 games back of the Chicago Cubs in third place. Koosman was rolling along on a two hitter into the 5th inning and then his arm felt sore. (A big concern at the time, but all would be ok.) Nolan Ryan got the quick call to get ready in the bullpen. Ryan came out and showed greatness, he allowed only 4 scattered hits the rest of the way, striking out seven Expos, including 2 in the 9th inning and not walking any body.

As for the Mets offense, in the second inning Ed Kranepool blasted a home run off Grant for the 1st run. Then in the top of the sixth inning after Cleon Jones got thrown out stealing, Kranepool hits another home run to give the Mets all the runs they needed for the 2-0 shutout. It was Krane's 1st & 2nd home runs of the year, he would hit 11. Ron Swoboda & Bud Harrelson also had 2 hits each on the day.

Sheffield Joins Staub & Cobb; As Only Three Players To HR As Teens & Over 40

Last week Gary Sheffield became the 25th player in baseball history to hit his 500th home run. In the age of steroids, small ball parks & lots of home runs that number isn't as rare as it use to be. It's still a milestone that only a select few have reached, and makes us respect more, those players pre nineteen eighties who accomplished the feat.

Scheffield also became only the third player to ever hit home runs as a teen ager & past the age of forty. The first was Ty Cobb; in 1905 at age 19 he hit his first and only HR of the season, it was also the only season he didn't bat over .300. Then 21 years later while still with Detroit he hit one at age 40 in 1926. While playing his last season with the Philadelphia Athletics, Cobb hit his only HR of that season and the last of his career at age 42. Cobb played in an era where HRs were not a big part of the game, he still hit 117 in his career and batted .366 lifetime, best of all time.

The second player to do it was Rusty Staub. On June 3, 1963 a 19 year old Rusty Staub hit his 1st MLB HR off Don Drysdale of the Dodgers. The event occurred at Colts Stadium, while Staub was playing for the Houston Colt 45's who would become the Houston Astros. Rustys HR was the difference in the game as Houston beat L.A. 2-1.

Then in 1984, at the age of 40 Rusty was in his second stint with the Mets and was one of baseballs best pinch hitters. In the bottom of the 9th inning on September 25, 1984 Rusty came to bat with a runner on base and the score tied 4-4. Facing Larry Anderson of the Phillies, "Le Grande Orange" hit a walk off game winning HR, to the delight of the Shea fans & his team mates. The HR gave Ed Lynch the victory in relief of Ron Darling. It would be the only HR for Staub that season and he would hit one more in 1985 giving him 292 in his 22 year career.

Gary Sheffield hit his 1st MLB HR as a member of the 1988 Milwaukee Brewers, then in the American League. Back then he was known as the teen aged, nephew of Dwight Gooden. 500 HRs later he becomes the 3rd player to HR as a teen & over 40 while wearing his Uncle's old teams uniform, the Mets. On Friday April 17, 2009 at Citi Field, Shef hit #500 of Mitch Setter of the team he started out with; Milwaukee. He has played for eight teams, the Brewers, Padres, Dodgers, Braves, some other NY team, Marlins, Tigers & Mets.

Apr 28, 2009

Today In Mets History: John Franco Earns 300th Save

On April 29, 1996 Mets reliever John Franco became the first left handed reliever to record 300 saves. Franco saved the game (his 5th of the year) for the games winning pitcher Pete Harnish, as the Mets beat the Expos 3-2 at Shea Stadium. Lance Johnson led the offensive attack with 2 hits and 2 RBIs, and Jeff Kent drove in the third run.

Franco gave up a hit in the 9th inning, and struck out two Expos en route to the historic save.
The Brooklyn born Franco would pitch in 51 games in 1996, going 4-3 with 28 saves and a solid 1.83 ERA. He would become the All Time Mets leader in saves with 276, and retire 3rd on the All Time list with 424 saves. He is still first among left handed relievers. He is also 3rd on the All Time list for games pitched with 1119, and first on the NL list.

Apr 27, 2009

Today In Mets History: Five Home Runs At the Polo Grounds & A Gondola at the Astrodome

April 28, 1962 At the Polo Grounds, Jay Hook got knocked out of the game in the 1st inning, giving up four runs. It looked like another bad day for the ’62 Mets. But on this day the Met bats would enjoy one of their best games of 1962. In the 6th inning Frank Thomas, Charlie Neal & Gil Hodges would hit back to back to back home runs, as the Mets came back to beat the Phillies 8-6. Charlie Neal hit two HRs that day & Jim Hickman added another, as Roger Craig earned the victory. It was only the Mets 2nd victory of the season against 12 losses. __________________________________________________________________

April 28,1965 – On the Mets first visit to the new Houston Astrodome, Mets broadcaster Lindsey Nelson came up with a bold idea. He would deliver part of the games play-by-play from a hanging gondola, located 208 feet above second base. He was equipped with a walkie talkie as to keep contact with fellow announcers Bob Murphy & Ralph Kiner. Before the game ground rules were set that the gondola was in play if any batted balls hit it. Luckily none did. Nelson broadcast the 7th & 8th innings from the gondola. The Mets lost the game Lindsey Nelson was a Met broadcaster for 16 years, known for his loud colorful sports jackets. He is a member of the Hall of Fame.

Apr 25, 2009

Today in Mets History: 1988 Mex Drives In Seven Runs

April 26, 1988 : Although the Braves scored a run in the bottom of the 1st inning, the Mets would go on to rout the Braves at Fulton County Stadium 13-4. Dwight Gooden would go to 5-0 as he pitched the complete game. First baseman Keith Hernandez hit 2 HRs and drove in seven runs, including a career milestone 1,000th RBI.

Gary Carter hit his 7th HR of the season, a solo shot, in addition to Keith's pair of round trippers. Kevin Elster doubled and drove in two runs, Mookie Wilson doubled, drove in a run & scored 3 runs as well. Howard Johnson & Tim Teufel also had RBIs.

The Braves starter that day was a young Tom Glavine, he would be roughed up for 4 runs, 5 hits & 3 walks in 2 innings. The Braves used six pitchers that day including former Met Charlie Puleo.

Apr 21, 2009

Today In Mets History: 1970- "The Franchise" Tom Seaver Strikes Out 19 Padres

On April 22, 1970 Tom Seaver received his 1969 Cy young Award in a pre game ceremony at Shea Stadium. It was Toms 1st Cy Young of the three he would earn in his career.

He took the mound against the San Diego Padres that afternoon day to Shea crowd of just under 15,000. Many were school kids on class trips, it was also the 1st Earth Day to be recognized.

Seaver would be historic on this outing as he would tie the single game strikeout record by fanning 19 Padres. On top of that he set a record that still stands today, by striking out 10 consecutive batters who were also the last 10 batters of the game. Four of them struck out looking, just to show you how good Seaver's stuff was that day.

In addition to the last 10 batters striking out, he had retired the last 16 batters of the game as well. Seaver threw 136 pitches in the game, 81 fastballs, 34 sliders, 19 curve balls, & only 2 change ups. The win was his 13th regualr season win in a row, dating back through the 1969 season, he was 3-0 at that point for 1970. Interestingly, Seaver's 19 strikeout performance broke Nolan Ryan's record of 15 which he had been set five days earlier against the Phillie's at Shea Stadium.

Tom Terrific only gave up two Padre hits that game, one was a HR by Al Ferrara. In the ninth with two outs, Ferrara was up again and Seaver was on the brink of history. Seaver threw two sliders and two fastballs past him to tie Steve Carlton's record.

Quotes: TOM SEAVER: "I was still worried I'd make a mistake and Ferrara might hit it out," Seaver said. "But when I got two strikes on him, I thought I might never get this close again so I might as well go for it."

"Everybody congratulated me when I got No. 16 in the eighth inning," Seaver said. "I just told them, 'Let's get some more runs.' All I could think of was that Carlton had struck out 19 of us and still lost."

The Mets won the game 2-1, in the 1st inning Bud Harrelson singled then scored on a Ken Boswell double. In the 3rd inning Tommie Agee singled and Bud Harrelson tripled to right field scoring Agee. It was already Harrelsons third triple & 5th RBI in the young season.

Apr 14, 2009

Opening Day at Citi Field - the centerfield maz Citi Field Guide & Ball Park Review

At last there is a new Ballpark for my team and a place I can call home for 21 games of my season ticket plan partnership. Having been to 24 ballparks in my travels, I have seen some of the best that baseball has to offer. On the historic Opening Day at Citi Field for the NY Mets & the City of New York, I am proud to say that this is one of the best stadiums in baseball. Citi Field is beautiful from the outside to the entrance ways, to the seats, landings, clubs and great food. This is a first class Stadium, and was a long time coming.
EXTERIOR: The brown brickwork that makes up the outside of the Stadium is magnificent. A fantastic piece of architecture like something out of the past with all the modernism's of the future. It looks even better at night under its lights. The arches around the front resemble the old Ebbets Field and the Roman Coliseum. The main front entrance is surrounded by beautiful flower arrangements and a long wide concourse here"the Fan Walk" is located. This is where bricks are assembled with the fans personal inscriptions laid out in 18 different sections. It's kind of like Grumman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, except with a personal touch. The fans all search their bricks then take pictures of themselves, sitting or laying down next to their bricks. Mine is located in Section 8 but I gave up looking for it after the game, a job for the next game. There are alot of bricks there folks.

Outside the ballpark walls on the third base side, there are a bunch of large banners honoring old Mets along the Stadiums arched exterior. This was something I haven't heard anyone mention, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it.

The outfield entrances have silhouettes on gates lettering depicting 3 classic outfield catches in Mets history. Right field has an image of Ron Swoboda from Game #4 of the 1969 World Series, left Field has Endy Chavez's catch from 2006 NLCS, and center field has an ode to Tommie Agee's spectacular catches in Game #3 of the 1969 World Series.
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I entered through the Bull Pen Gate and instantly saw the old Shea Home Run Apple. Not a favorite of mine but everyone was posing taking pictures of in front of it, so it seems to be a big hit in it's new home. Looking up I saw an arched bridge walkway which takes fans across the outfield area. I also got to look into the two bullpens which are right along side each other and right below the fans in the right center field seats.

The concourses are pretty wide, and there's alot of room to walk a
s you pass all the food concession lines and team store lines. There are plenty of clean restrooms and no long lines like the old Shea nightmare.

There are also plenty of elevators with pretty girls operating them taking you to each level. If you care to walk, there are cement stair cases, with plenty of signage on each level to let you know where you are. Like in most new ballparks, you can now walk around the whole stadium and take in its spectacular views from all angles. The ushers don't yell at you to move, as long as your not trying to go to the wrong seats, and aren't interfering with people in their seats. _______________________________________________________________


SEATING: On Opening Day I was in the Ceasars Club which were an mid priced ticket. Expensive yes, but what form of entertainment isn't these days? There was a covering from the top deck which was a little to low for my liking but all in all a good seat. From all the places we strolled that night, you do feel like your right on top of the action. Much different than Shea. Alot of people are complaining, about obstructed views, and that they are unhappy with their seats. Part of this, is people have to complain and part of it is did they do their home work. I searched high & low through all those computer generated seat views upon finding my seats with my ticket plan. I saw them in person on Opening Night and can't wait to sit in them Better than the higher priced seats, I could have had at a lower lever, with obstructed views & 30 rows up. There is nothing to complain about in this ball park, even if you dont like your seast. You can always go to a club, bar or porch section to view the game.

The seats have alot more leg room, something Shea didn't and they are alot wider. They all have cup holders too!! Finally!! There is also alot of designated areas for handicap seating.


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Theres plenty of porches and standing room areas to view the field.The Bridge Terrace (as I mentioned earlier) features an arched bridge walkway which takes fans across the outfield area. The bridge is reminiscent of the Hell Gate Bridge which is a freight train & Amtrak rail road bridge connecting Astoria with the Bronx. I love this little bridge, very cool idea. There are tables here and its not far from the "Taste of the City" Food Court. It's another great spot to stand up, hang out & peek at the game. Standing room was tight but we stood here and saw David Wright hit the 1st Mets home run at Citi Field. It was followed by plenty of high fives from all our new friends.

THE PEPSI PORCH: This has already become a popular spot in right field. It hangs over the playing field by a few feet and a long fly ball can end up being a home run. I am tired of people comparing it to Tiger Stadium, this is reminiscent of the 1st Mets home & NY Giants home the Polo Grounds. Although right field was much closer to the plate, there was an overhang there that many fly balls ended up being home runs. By the way the Wilpons have said the green seats are also a homage to the old Polo Grounds. Now if we van just get some honor to Willie Mays here, we may all feel a little better. There is also some great standing room up here overlooking the whole stadium, with concessions, tables and of course beer. Out here you feel like the scoreboards are right on top of you. Of course there's the big red neon Pepsi Cola sign which (for you real New Yorkers) is a replica of the Queens landmark, Pepsi Cola sign on the East River facing the Manhattan. The site of the old Pepsi plant, the original sign dates back to 1936 has been moved a few hundred feet from its original spot.

There's another great spot in the lower section of left field just off from the Danny Meyer Food group concessions, a wide area with rest rooms and some tables. Here is where I caught the 1st 7th inning stretch at Citi Field, singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game' And yes it was followed by "Lazy Mary" to the delight of a few fans who cheered upon hearing its made its way to Citi Field.

THE ROTUNDA: We walked around 3rd base to the area behind home plate, which is where you get off the escalator coming up from Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Strangely I think this is the worst part of the Stadium. The concourse seems smaller here and the fire systems sprinkler pipes are visible over head on the low ceiling. (Maybe this is to remind us of Shea?)As for the famous Jackie Robinson Rotunda. You can over look the Rotunda at each level and watch the fans enter the arched gates. From the lower level you can either come up the long escalator or the stairwells. It is a great view and no matter what your opinion, it's different than any other park, making it unique. The Rotunda displays inscriptions & pictures of Jackie along the walls & floors. Robinson’s nine values: Courage, Excellence, Persistence, Justice, Teamwork, Commitment, Citizenship, Determination and Integrity. Robinson’s famous quote: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,” is engraved into the upper ring.A large TV screen shows a constant running video, and there's a large #42 statue. Fred Wilpon owns the team and can do what he wants. I think its great to honor New York's National League past, but they should spread the wealth with some New York Giants history as well. More Mets history needs to be honored. Is there a Mets Museum in the works? Maybe an ode to Willie Mays who actually played for the Mets? (another topic for another article)




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SCOREBOARDS: The new scoreboard is huge at 150 feet high in ceterfield. Then Not one, but two high-definition LED displays. The main center field screen, 50 feet high by 70 feet wide, is used to display player information and replays throughout the game. The 40-foot by 90-foot HD board in right-center is used to for more player info, a running line score, lineups and defensive alignments.

The out of town scoreboard is located on the left field roof, high above under the arched light towers. The lighting by the way is much more brighter than Shea was.

The Mets also installed one of the longest ribbon boards in baseball, stretching 850 feet around the Promenade Level of seating. That board displays scoring info, & captioning of the PA system.
Balls & strike boards are located high above the field beyond the bases, there is also a red dot board for strikes & white dot board for balls on the sides of the field. One of the only things I missed from Shea were those old classic big black Strike/Balls/Outs boards.

PRESS BOX: The press boxes are located behind home plate on the second level. They are housed inside beautiful light brown bricks, and enclosed if needed. All the broadcasters are easily visible as well.

The new outfield dimensions should make it a pitchers park, but there should also be alot of doubles & triples. 335 down the lines, 408 dead center with a deep center field gap toward right at 412. Going to 383 in right center & 379 left center. The wall changes height 7 times which should be fun, left field is 12 ft rising to 15 ft, its highest point if right center at 18 ft under the porch, right field is its lowest at 8 ft. The foul poles are orange, ode to the Mets, with a NY Giants & center field maz feel to it as well!_________________________________________________________________
GOOD EATS!! I love all the great food at Citi Field, and its probably the best fare I have seen at any Stadium in the country. Baseball isn't just hot dogs & peanuts anymore.Though there are plenty of hot dogs and those great Sausage & Pepper heroes cooking on grills located through out the Stadium. One of my favorite places already is behind the huge score board in centerfield. 1st off there's a tremendous TV screen on the back of the scoreboard where you can watch the game. There were a few high tables to eat on, a beer garden with beers from around the world, and then the food. This is where the Danny Meyer Food group has it location.

A Taste of the City: This is already One of my favorite places, located behind the huge score board in centerfield. 1st off there's a tremendous TV screen on the back of the scoreboard where you can watch the game. There are a few high tables to eat on, a beer garden with beers from around the world, and then the food. This is where the Danny Meyer Food group has it location. 1st there's NY's famous Shake Shack for those great burgers, shakes, and fries. Then Blue Smoke BBQ which has great Kansas City style Ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, and wings.

El Verano Taqueria has what people are sayin are "the best tacos they ever had", some great Mexican foods and Box Frites which serves nothing but fancy french fries.
How about some sea food? Catch of the Day has flounder sandwiches with their own home made tartar sacue. Shrimp and those lobster rolls evryones talking about.
Over the arched bridge and into right field's "Worlds Fair Market" you have Italian heroes from Mammas of Corona, love those Canolli's with orange & blue sprinkles. Theres a classic Nathans Famous, a Brooklyn Burgers, and Daruma of Tokyo. All places are cafateria style, where you pay on the way out.
CITI FIELD RESTAURANTS & CLUBS : The Delta Sky360 Club is the most exclusive place at Citi Field & only Delta Club and Sterling Suite holders can enter. It is located directly behind home plate, on the Sterling Level, high-end dining and two full-sized bars.
Ebbets Club - 1st and 3rd Base at Field Level (Ebbets Club & Delta Club seat holders only)as has high-end concessions & full bars with TV's.
Caesars Club located on the Excelsior Level (Delta, Ebbets and Caesars Club seat holders) We went into this unbelievable place and it was great. It is located directly on top of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, with incredible views through the giant arched windows of the New York Skyline, Queens, and the outside of Citi Field. This modern space features a large circular bar, concessions serving Pizza, slads, burgers, and sanwhiches on ciabatta breads. TVs all over the place, leather chairs, couches, high tables and a believe it or not a DJ playing music.

Acela Club is on the Excelsior Level (Delta, Ebbets & Ceasars Club, Metropolitan & Field Box ticket holders) is a fine dining restaurant with full views of the field, the New York City skyline, and the World's Fair Marina, by the Myriad Group of Tribeca Grill fame.
\Promenade Club is on the Promenade Level (Delta, Ebbets, Caesars and Promenade Club seat holders) is an intimate club offering casual bistro dining and cocktails. There's a full kitchen & bar with high top tables.
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METS TEAM STORES: There is certainly on shortage of Mets shops to buy stuff in. The Mets Team Store (Adjacent to Jackie Robinson Rotunda) is the largest at Citi Field and will be open all year round.

The Mets Team Store by Majestic is at Field level, the Nike Dugout Shop (left field at Field level), The '47 Shop (right field at Field level), Mets Team Store by New Era (Promanade level), The Players Clubhouse (left field- Excelsior level), A collectible type shop in the left field Promenade level called Heroes & Heritage Collectibles. For the ladies; a Touch by Alyssa Milano, Ladies Boutique (Excelsior Level - Right Field) and for the kiddies; Mr. Met's Dugout Shop (Field Level - Center Field) located adjacent to Mr. Met's Kiddie Field.

The 2K kids Fan Fest area is located in centerfield and features Mr. Mets Kiddie Field; a scaled down version of Citi Field where kids could hit wiffle balls of a tee and run the bases. Then they can play the field as others hit. A DJ plays music, Mr. Met makes the rounds, and there are video game tents set up complete with those old leather Met seats from Shea. ________________________________________________________________________
There seems to be plenty of parking available, since all that remains of Shea is pile of dirt near the Rosevelt Av. side of what was right field. Still plenty of us who prefer the old Northern Blvd. lower parking level under the Highway. As for all those auto repair shops along 126th St., they must go. They should be gone already, relocate them some place unless they want to make their storefronts look like Citi Field. The Stadium is to beautiful to have an eye sore like that across the street.
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As for the game Tom Seaver & Mike Piazza the two greatest Mets of All Time threw out & caught the ceromonial first pitch. Always a touching moment when Seaver is on the mound, this was a perfect way to begin the new era.

Unfortunatley the Mets lost due to a Pedro Feliciano balk, Mike Pelfrey fell off the mound, a cat ran onto the field ala 'the black cat game" 1969, a Padre hit the 1st HR at Citi Field, 2 former Mets who werent worth a dime out of our pn shut us down in the 8th & 9th, and Shef made his home field debut. On the Mets bright side; David Wright again proves how good he is by getting the 1st NY Met hit at Citi Field, the 1st NY Met Home Run. Brian Schnieder was the 1st Met to cross the plate and Luis Castillo got the 1st Met RBI. I had my 1st beer, my 1st turkey sandwich & KC style ribs, and booed my 1st player- Duaner Sanchez, now a Padre, my 1st cheers went to Seaver & Piazza.

"This Bird Has Flown"- Remembering Mark Fidrych (1954-2009)

In 1976 as a kid who lived, slept & ate baseball you had to love Mark Fidrych. He burst onto the scene with his long curly hair, talking to himself & the baseball, crouching down on the mound to rake the dirt with his hands, aiming the ball like dart before he threw it, and throwing other balls back to the umpire to have them removed because he felt they had hits in them. He was only 19 years old and was nicknamed “The Bird” because he looked like Sesame Street’s Big Bird character. Besides the antics he was the best pitcher in the American League that year as well. He went 19-9 leading the league with a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games, in 250 innings pitched with 4 shut outs. He won the AL Rookie of the Year Award and started the 1976 Bicentennial All Star game in Philadelphia.

Fidrych was a non roster invitee to Spring Training in 1976, and got called up to fill a spot on the staff in May. He won his 1st outing 2-1, pitching 7 no hit innings against Cleveland, then went on to win seven of his first eight starts. By June he became a celebrity by pitching on a Monday Night Baseball game and shutting down New York. In the days before MLB Extra Innings & ESPN it was the first time he was viewed the country outside of Detroit. The ratings soared to their highest ever for a Monday Night baseball game. Soon he became the 1st athlete to ever appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, would make the cover of Sports Illustrated twice, and star in an Aqua Velva commercial. The chicks loved him; he drove a compact green car, lived in a Detroit apartment and only made the league minimum salary. Tiger Stadium would sell out when “The Bird” pitched; in his 18 starts he almost equaled the whole season’s attendance.

In Spring Training 1977 he tore a cartilage in his knee and went on the DL. He would only pitch in 11 games that season going 6-4 with a 2.89 ERA. Unfortunately he felt what he said was “his arm go dead” that summer and never could recover. He made a couple of comeback attempts, including one with the Red Sox that never worked out. In wasn’t until 1985 that he was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff.

He lived outside of Boston in Northborough Mass, got married in 1986 and had a daughter. He worked as a contractor hauling gravel & asphalt in a 10 wheel dump truck and helped out his in laws at their diner. Sadly he was found dead under his truck Monday Night April 13th at the age of 54.

I was shocked to find out about his death just before the National Anthem at the first game ever at Citifield. Hats off to you “Bird” you were a great part of my baseball youth, even if was only 1 summer. I can still remember the excitement of getting a 1977 Mark Fidrych AL All star baseball card the next year. I kept it with all my other ‘good cars” that year.

from centerfield: In a Mets tie in; On May 31, 1976 Fidrych got the win at Tiger Stadium pitching 11 innings striking out 8 Milwaukee Brewers. In the bottom of the 11th inning future Mets manager Jerry Manuel got a pinch hit single, stole second base and would score the winning run on a Tom Veryzer single.

Apr 10, 2009

New York Mets First Opening Day 1962

On April 11, 1962 the New York Mets played their 1st game in their history at Sportsman Park in St. Louis, losing to the Cards 11-4. Their manager was “the old professor” Casey Stengel. Stengel was 72 years old in 1962 and had been a successful player & manager.

A lifetime .284 hitter who went on to win seven World Series titles as a manager. He was one of select few to have played and or managed all four NY baseball teams.
He played & managed the Brooklyn Dodgers, played for the NY Giants, and managed both the Mets & the other NY team. Stengel was a walking Mets public relations machine, giving them the moniker “The Amazing Mets”. As Stengel once said “when a baby Mets fan is born his first words aren’t mommy or daddy its Metsie”. Stengel is a member of the baseball Hall of Fame & his #37 is retired by the Mets.

Ritchie Ashburn came to bat in the top of the 1st inning as the 1st batter in Mets history. Former Cincinnati Red Gus Bell got the first Mets hit in the 2nd inning, a single off St. Louis pitcher Larry Jackson. Future Mets manager Gil Hodges hit the 1st HR in Mets history in the 4th inning; (also off Jackson), later second baseman Charlie Neal hit the second one.

Neal had the best day of all the Mets hitters going 3-4 with a HR, and 2 RBIs. Neal would also make the first error in Mets history when he booted a grounder in the sixth inning, helping the Cards score four runs in the inning.

The Mets Opening day starter in 1962 was Roger Craig. In that 1st Mets game, Craig would be done by the 4th inning, giving up 5 runs on 8 hits. He recorded the 1st Mets K by striking out Cards catcher Gene Oliver. The 1st Mets reliever to come out of the bull pen was Bob Moorehead.

The Cards Julian Javier got the 1st hit and scored the 1st run against Mets pitching and none other than Stan the Man Musial drew the 1st walk. The Mets would lose their first nine games before winning on April 23, at home in the Polo Grounds. The 1962 Mets went on to lose a record 120 games while winning only 40.

The 1962 coaching staff consisted of Rogers Hornsby, Cookie Lavagetto, Red Ruffing, Solly Hemus, & Red Kress.

Mets lineup for that historic day in 1962:
1. Richie Ashburn, CF
2. FĂ©lix Mantilla, SS
3. Charlie Neal, 2B
4. Frank Thomas, LF
5. Gus Bell, RF
6. Gil Hodges, 1B
7. Don Zimmer, 3B
8. Hobie Landrith, C
9. Roger Craig, SP



Ritchie Ashburn: Ashburn was a longtime Phillies legend playing his last season in 1962. A life time .308 hitter, and winner of two NL batting titles. A five time All Star who made the Hall of Fame in 1995. Ashburn was a longtime Phillies broadcaster (1963-1997), his #1 is retired by the team and Ashburn Alley is named in his honor at Citizen Banks Park. In 1997 he died of a heart attack in New York after broadcasting a Mets Phillies game at Shea Stadium.
Felix Mantilla: Mantilla was Hank Aaron roommate with the Milwaukee Braves & was a member of their 1957 World Championship team. With the 1962 Mets he had 11 HRs 59 RBIs and hit .275. He was sent to Boston the next season where he had some good years including a 30 HR 1964 season, & a 92 RBI 1965 season. Mantilla is 74 & resides in Puerto Rico.

Charlie Neal: Was a member of the Brooklyn/ Los Angeles Dodgers who had his best season in 1959. He made the All Star team, won a gold glove, batted .287, scored over 100 runs & led the league in triples. He hit .260 for the 1962 Mets with 11 HRs & 9 triples playing a solid defense, he would be traded to the Reds the following season. Neal passed away in 1995 at age 64.

Frank Thomas: Thomas would hit 34 HRs in 1962, a Met record until Dave Kingman hit 37 in 1975. Thomas was a journey man outfielder who hit 266 career HRs, including 12 straight years in double figures. He was 2nd in the NL with 35 HRs in 1958 & appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Thomas who had studied to be a priest before baseball was on the top 40 HR list when he retired. He was on hand for the closing ceremonies at Shea in 2008. He will turn 80 this June.

Gus Bell: Bell was a four time All Star who had hit over .290 six times in his 12 previous seasons. Bell was a power hitter who hit over 20 HRs 4 times & had four 100 RBI seasons as well. A team mate of Ralph Kiner with the Pirates & then a hero in his hometown Cincinnati area. Gus only hit .149 in 30 games with the 1962 Mets and was traded to the Milwaukee Braves. Gus is the father of a rare three generation baseball family, his son Buddy Bell was a long time player & manager, and his grand children David & Mike were also MLB players. Gus passed away in 1995 at age 67.

Don Zimmer: Zimmer went on to a successful baseball career as a manager, coach, & player. He was a member of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodger championship team & the 1959 LA champions, playing utility infield. Never a good hitter Zimmer batted .235 lifetime and only hit .077 in 14 games with the 1962 Mets, before being traded to the Reds. Zimmer is currently a coach with the Tampa Rays st 78 years old.

Hobie Landrith: Landrith was the Mets 1st pick in the 1961 draft, manager Casey Stengel justified the choice saying "You gotta have a catcher or you're gonna have a lot of passed balls. A career backup catcher who bounced around with seven different teams batting .233 lifetime. In 45 games with the 1962 Mets he hit .289 before going to Baltimore in a trade for Marv Throneberry. Hobie turned 79 in March 2009.

Roger Craig: Craig was a former Brooklyn/L.A. Dodger who was a member of the 1955 & 1959 Championship teams. In the ’59 season he went 11-5 with a 2.06 ERA. He would spend two seasons with the Mets losing 20 games both years. He would have success years later as manager of the Padres & San Francisco Giants taking them to the 1989 Earthquake World Series. Craig recently turned 78 years old.

Bob Moorehead: Moorehead would spend two years with the Mets as well, never winning a game going 0-3. In 1962 he went 0-2 giving up 118 hits in 108 innings.

Of course Gil Hodges had a spectacular career as a Brooklyn Dodger & then a sucessful magerial career with the Washington Senators & New York Mets. See centerfield maz article Hodges: http://www.centerfieldmaz.com/2009/04/former-met-of-day-manager-gil-hodges-14.html