May 20, 2010

A Fans Story from 1969: Mets Clinch the NL East Title At Shea

centerfield maz fan Louie Diaz has a great Mets story from the Summer of 1969. A young Louie was there the night the Mets clinched the NL East title in 1969 and can prove it. The following week Sports Illustrated ran its coverage of the Mets 1st place victory and among the pictures they published, there is Louie storming the field front & center. As years went by his brothers ex-wife ended up with the magazine & never gave it up to him. Louie went to online & recently bought a great copy of the October 1969 Sports Illustrated with Frank Robinson on the cover. He told the story to centerfield maz & it just had to be posted!

September 25th 1969: Shea Stadium was packed with excitement as 55,000 fans were ready to witness the first stage of the miracle, the clinching of the NL East title. 1969 was the first year of divisional play, so the Eastern Title & NL Playoff Series were a whole new concept. Gil Hodges and his 1st place Mets were ahead of the Cubs by six games and tonight they took on the 4th place Cardinals, who were 13 ½ games back. The Cards sent future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton to the mound (17-10 with a 2.15 ERA) against the newest Mets Rookie star pitcher Gary Gentry. Gentry took the mound with an 11-12 record & a 3.53 ERA.

Offensively the Mets wasted no time. Bud Harrelson led off the 1st with a single & next, Tommie Agee walked. After Cleon Jones struck out, Donn Clendenon hit his 14th HR of the year to put the Mets ahead 3-0. Carlton still shaken up then walked Ron Swoboda. Next, the veteran Ed Charles “the Glider” hit a 2 run HR, his 3rd of the year, the 86th & final HR of his career putting the Mets ahead 5-0 to an ecstatic Shea Stadium. It was all they needed, as Gentry threw a gem. He went the distance pitching a four hit shutout striking out five along the way, walking only two. In the bottom of the 5th, Clendenon hit his second HR of the night off Dave Giusti, sealing the 6-0 victory.
In the 9th inning Gentry struggled a bit, allowing two singles to Vic Davillio & Lou Brock. He then dug in to strike out Vada Pinson, and up came Joe Torre. Torre grounded out to Bud Harrelson, who tossed to Al Weiss at second, who then threw over to Clendenon at first to complete the double play. The Mets had won the pennant and all hell broke loose. The fans stormed the field, and tore it to shreds. They tried to grab the player’s caps, the bases, the grass & anything else they could get their hands on that was or wasn’t nailed down.

In the middle of the madness on the field is our own Louie Diaz with the brown leather jacket on. Quite a story!

May 19, 2010

Rolling Stones Re-Release "Exile On Main Street"

Yesterday the Rolling Stones re issued their 1972 classic album; EXILE ON MAIN STREET. The album celebrating its 40th anniversary, (a bit early) has become known through the years as a masterpiece & one of the Stones finest works. This was never my personal favorite album among the Stones works, but indeed it is a classic. It is now available in a deluxe boxed set & deluxe i-tunes version which I down loaded.

The original songs, remastered sound absolutely great, much clearer & crisper than the original recordings. The new release comes with alternate versions of “All Down the Line” “Loving Cup” & “Soul Survivor” with Kieth singing the lead. There are eight new songs: PLUNDERED MY SOUL which also has two videos of footage from that era associated with it. PASS THE WINE (SOPHIA LOREN) / DANCING IN THE LIGHT / FOLLOWING THE RIVER / GOOD TIME WOMEN / I’M NOT SIGNIFYING / SO DIVINE (ALADDIN STORY) / & TITLE 5. They are all quality songs that didn’t make the original double albums cut.

The songs for EXILE were recorded form 1968-1971. The Stones had just gotten out of their LEGAL ties with Allen Klien & had to flea England because they owed more taxes than they could afford. Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman & Mick Taylor (the guitarist who replaced Brian Jones) settled in the South of France. Mick Jagger had just gotten married to Bianca, & moved to Paris. While Keith & Anita Pallenberg settled in a luxury villa called Nellcote near Nice. The album was recorded amongst chaos, with drugs, booze, freaky people, wild parties & horrible surroundings in Keith’s basement. The sound was sent to the Stones mobile truck recording studio & eventually finished off at Sunset Sound in L.A. During this period Keith was supporting a daily heroin habit & had a lot of shady people hanging around him. Keith & other Stones were always late or not showing up at all for sessions. Richards claims his classic HAPPY, was recorded one day when he was actually early & no one else was around except sax man Bobby Keys & producer Jimmy Miller. He played the riff & the song just developed on the spot. Mick got heavily involved in the final mixes in Los Angeles & helped complete the final product.

The album was released as a double LP, on May 12th 1972 in the United States. It received great reviews & went straight to the top of the album charts. ROCKS OFF, ALL DOWN THE LINE, HAPPY, &TUMBLING DICE all became FM Rock radio classics. RIP THIS JOINT still holds up as one of the greatest hard rocking songs ever. The cover featured a series of black & white photographs by Robert Frank and included a gatefold collage of pictures as well as 12 post cards.

The album featured Keith Richards on guitars, bass, piano & backing vocals. Mick Jagger on vocals, harmonica, tambourine, guitar & maracas. Charlie Watts on drums, Bill Wyman on bass, & Mick Taylor on guitars, bass & backing vocals.
Guests include Ian Stewart on piano, Bobby Keys on sax & percussion, Billy Preston on piano & organ, Nicky Hopkins on piano, Venetta Fields on backing vocals ( who has worked with Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Joe Walsh & the Doors post Jim Morrison just to name a few) Shirley Goodman also on backing vocals (later of Shame Shame Shame, fame) & other various artists.

The release was followed by the legendary Stones 1972 Tour that was wild, rowdy & highly publicized. It put rock & roll on the map with the “in crowd”. The Stones were now celebrities on the fore front of the rock movement. The was heavy drug use, addictions, lots of booze & lots of sex. Jagger was carrying a gun because Hells Angels had a price tag on his head after the whole Altamont aftermath, which still loomed over the Stones legally. Bianca & Anita were always fighting causing tension between Mick & Kieth.
The wild tour had riots, heavy police activity, wide media attention, movie stars, rock stars, groupies & lots of stragglers rolling with it along the way. Overall it was huge success setting the standards for large concerts of its day & the future. The tour ended with three wild nights at Madison Square Garden in New York.

An unreleased film titled “Co#*Su%#er Blues” was made from footage of the tour. Some of that video is being used for a movie to be releaded this June called "The Stones In Exile".

May 17, 2010

centerfieldmaz on the road: Sun Life Stadium- South Florida (Mets vs. Marlins)

Just got back from a great trip to Ft. Lauderdale Florida. The Mets just happen to be in South Florida, so I attended the first game of the Marlins vs. Mets series on Thursday night. I don't expect much from this team, so the running joke was how are they gonna lose tonight? Well they sure surprised us with the wild pitch walk off!!

I run a historical Mets blog & usually dont comment on the current team. I leave that to the Mets Police & all the other blogs. All I am going to say, is that I predicted a 85 loss season this year and am sticking by it. Don't expect to win until the core of this team is ALL gone. We are getting there. I hope Jose Reyes & David Wright are taking a good look at Ike Davis when they strike out, so they can see the new face of the franchise.

Here is a brief run down of the Marlins home: Sun Life Stadium. It was my second time there and I noticed a bit of a face lift since 2004. The outside has some colorful ramps as you drive up to the stadium. Remember, this is a football stadium first, and football is everything. The Marlins just happen to play where the NFL Dolphins & The University of Miami Hurricanes play, in the summer time.
The upper deck isn't even open & many sections on the lower level past the infield are also gated shut. The only food & drink concessions open are around home plate area. You can walk all around the stadiumon the lower concourse, where you will find different billboards honoring the history of sports in the Miami area.

As for food, there was just the usual fare. A bar with tropical drinks and an open eating area with picnic tables, were also located behind the home plate concession area. The best food I could find was a Boars Head cold cuts stand, which specializes in an Italian sandwich (salami, ham & provolone). I thought there would be more South Florida Cuban style food, like a Cuban Sandwich or Cuban steak but I couldn't find any. I got the waitress service at our "Founders Club" seats & settled for the loaded nachos & Italian hero.

As you enter the field of of play, you are
blinded by bright orange seats, most of which are empty. I splurged on $97 "Founders Club" tickets (after all I was on vacation) and had third row seats, behind home plate on the side of the Mets dug out.
There is one other closer section at field level right along side the dugouts. I was good where I was. Our seats were great with a perfect view of the field behind the batter.
The stadium is equipped with three video scoreboards high above the satdium next to the light towers. Thats where all the stats & pictures are posted. I didn't see any replays shown but you could tell during football games, this is very high tech.

The centerfield seats has a tarp covering some of the seats, serving as a backdrop for the hitters. This effect also helps out, by seeing less empty seats. They do sell tickets to bleacher seats in left & right field at cheap prices. The high left field wall, which used to be called "the Tiel Monster" is now painted mostly black with ads posted all over it. Along the left field foul pole there are two banners comemerating the Marlins two World Championships.
Along the outfield upper deck are all the Miami Dolphins retired numbers from Bob Griese to Larry Csonka to Dan Marino. As mentioned earlier, there are other billboards honoring the Dolphin history throughout the lower level walkways. Also honored are the Hurricanes, the Orange Bowl & various Super Bowls played in the Miami area.

There is an area down the rightfield line that has two hot tubs and picnic tables, opened on the weekends only. As for entertainmant in between innings, the Marlins are among the best in baseball. Thats right, the best! They are the only MLB team with cheerleaders; The Mermaids. They come out and do dance numbers about three times per game. That's something I think that we could have seen more of. There's also Billy, the Marlin mascot & a junior version of him that appeared waving a victory flag at the end of the game.

The sparse crowd are fun & livley. There was probably 50/50 Met fans & Marlin fans which led to some loud dueling cheering back & forth. It was all in fun & not as rowdy as the New York games get by any means. The home town crowd sure got the best of us that night. Thanks again team!

All in all it was a great night out & great trip. The beach was perfect as was the weather. It was not even to hot or humid yet. Fort Lauderdale is one of my favorite places, and I want to give mention to Pompano Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton & Coral Springs, all of which we spent time in.

johan santana pitches to hanley ramirez in the 1st inning
david wright at bat after the florida sun sets

May 16, 2010

The Passing of A Heavy Metal Legend- Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010)

Sadly today we lost one of the most powerful singers in Heavy Metal & in Rock & Roll. One of my favorites back in the 1980's Metal hey days, Ronnie James Dio has passed on. A great Italian American rocker who wrote so many classics that were a part of my growing up. I saw Dio in concert about five times, plus the Black Sabbath/ Heaven & Hell line up as well. My strongest memories go back to 1984 when Dio released The Last In Line album. It was the talk of all us metal heads in the Bronx, & I played that cassette non stop on my Walkman for weeks. I saw that tour twice as it rolled through the area! "
Ronald James Padavona was born to an Italian Family in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The Family soon moved to Cortland, New York where Ronnie began to play trumpet, guitar & start singing as early as 1958. He took the name Dio after famous 1950's mobster Johnny Dio in the early 1960's. By the late sixties he formed & fronted the band Elf, who opened up shows for Deep Purple. Ritchie Blackmore liked Elf, remembered them & in 1975 when he formed Rainbow, he recruited Ronnie James Dio as it's lead singer.
With Rainbow Dio recorded three albums, his classics include "Man On The Silver Mountain" "Starstruck" & "Long Live Rock & Roll" all which remained in Dio's live performances throughout his career. In 1979 Ronnie James Dio got the job to replace Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath. A new era began for all......
It was a different sound for Sabbath, but no matter what anyone says the 1980 Heaven & Hell album is one of the best Heavy Metal albums of all time. In those days the late night TV clips were all we had to see what the bands actually looked like. Who could forget how cool Dio looked with that incredibly powerful voice singing Heaven & Hell. He was the first to incorporate the "devil horns" gesture with his hands, which became a known symbol for Long Live Rock & Roll or Rock & Roll Forever. Dio said he actually got the idea from his Italian grandmother who used the gesture to ward off the evil eye. Us Italians know it as giving some one the "Malocchio" (the Evil Eye). Lets face it, we all learned that ymbol from our grandmothers first!

Dio recorded the classics "Neon Nights" (one of my teen age theme songs) "Children Of The Sea" "Lady Evil" "Heaven & Hell" & "The Mob Rules" with Black Sabbath. "The Mob Rules" came out in 1981, the "Live Evil' in 1982. A decade later they released "Dehumanizer" and in 2008 the box set "The Rules of Hell" was released with a full reunion summer tour. By this time they were going under the moniker "Heaven & Hell" & another tour followed. In 2009 they released their final album "The Devil You Know".

After his Sabbath days in 1982 Ronnie & drummer Vinnie Appice went on to form the band, DIO. By this time Ronnie had established himself as one of the most powerful voices in Metal. His lyrics were about medieval themes, battles, dragons, fire, fantasies, heaven & hell.
During the golden age of Metal in the mid 1980's Dio were one of the best. His classic albums from 1983-1987 "Holy Diver" "The Last In Line" & "Sacred Heart" produced some of the best Tours of their day. The Sets were staged with backdrops of Pyramids, Sphinx, lasers & Dragon slaying. Classis songs include "Dont Talk to Strangers" "We Rock" "Rainbow in the Dark" "Stand Up & Shout" "Holy Diver" "Last In Line" "Egypt" & so many more. Overall Dio released 11 albums, 4 live albums & at least 4 best of compilations.

Dio was married twice with one adopted son who is a meteorologist in the Binghampton, NY area. Ronnies long time wife, Wendy, (married since the 1980's) was also his manager. She announced he had stomach cancer last November but reported he was doing well over the last few months. Heaven & Hell did have a Summer tour planned but cancelled when Ronnie's health declined.

Ronnie James Dio passed away on Sunday morning May 16th 2010, he was 67 years old. "Long Live Rock & Roll"............
"The vision never dies, Life's a never ending wheel"- Holy Diver.