Apr 27, 2011

Former Met of the Day: Orber Moreno (2003-2004)

Orber (Aquiles) Moreno was born on April 27, 1977 in Caracas, Venezuela. The tall slender right hander was signed at the age of sixteen by the Kansas City Royals. He would spend six years in the minors as a starter, reliever even a closer at times before debuting with the Royals in 1990. He appeared in seven games posting a 5.63 ERA with six strikeouts in eight innings of work. In 2003 he was signed by Jim Duquette & the New York Mets during Spring Training.

He went 5-1 posting a strong 1.90 ERA in 38 games at AAA Norfolk, getting a September call up to Shea Stadium. He debuted on September 3rd in a game against the Braves & was greeted with a two run HR by Javier Lopez, but he got no decision in the 9-3 loss. He had another rough outing in Florida as the Marlins tagged him for four runs & in seven games he posted a 7.88 ERA on the season.

In 2004 he made the club after a good Spring Training, and in the second game of the season was greeted with a two run double from Atlanta’s Andruw Jones in the wild 18-10 Braves win. Moreno earned his first save two days later in Montreal. AT the end of Mat he got his first career win, pitching two innings of scoreless relief in Philadelphia.

On July 4th he came into a subway series game at Shea Stadium, ahead 5-4 in the 8th inning. But he blew the lead allowing two hits & the tying run to score. He was saved by Ty Wiggington who hit a dramatic 8th inning HR, giving Moreno credit for the Met victory. He would earn one more win before getting demoted at the end of the month.

He went 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 33 appearances that season but never pitched in the major leagues again. He finished his MLB career at 3-1 in 47 games with a 4.44 ERA. He pitched in the minors through 2008, then in the Mexican League in 2009 & the Independent League in 2010.

Apr 26, 2011

The First Mets Batting Instructor: Rogers Hornsby (1962)

Rogers Hornsby was born on April 22, 1896 in Winters, Texas growing up in the Fort Worth area. The great Hornsby, nicknamed “the Rajah” was hired by George Weiss, the Mets first General Manager in 1961. He was to serve as a scout of the other NL teams, then became a coach for 1962 Mets in their inaugural season.

Hornsby was more of a batting instructor that gave out hitting tips, rather than a hitting coach by today’s standards. There really was no such official title as a hitting coach until the mid seventies.

Hornsby’s theory was to hit the ball straight up the middle. Manager Casey Stengel would say, Hornsby could hit up the middle because he had enough power to hit it over the center field fence. Stengel believed in hitting down the lines, because that’s where the worst fielders played.

Hornsby was always tough critic on players and very outspoken. The best compliment he could come up with on his scouting reports were “the guy looks like a major leaguer”. Ed Kranepool who was only an 18 year old rookie at the time said, the only thing Hornsby ever said to him was “they don’t make them like they use to & swing at a strike”.

While coaching for the 1962 Mets, he was asked how good he thought he could hit against the pitchers of today, if he was still playing. In a classic response he said: "I guess I'd hit about .280 or .290". When asked why he'd hit for such a low average, Hornsby replied "Well, I'm 66 years old, what do you expect?". He only lasted one season as a Met coach, and in January 1963 after going for eye surgery, he died of a heart attack at age 66 in Chicago.

Before his coaching with the Mets he had been a player manager (1925-1937), then a full time manager spanning (1953-1954). He had trouble relating to his players, and they didn’t like him. He was a harsh critic, very obnoxious and outspoken of how he felt.

Winning was everything to him, at any expense. He was said to be as mean and hateful as Ty Cobb under his fake smile. He never drank or smoked, but was a big gambler, betting on horse races. 


Playing Days: During his playing days, Hornsby was one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game. He was a man obsessed with playing baseball. His .359 average is second best all time to Ty Cobb and the best ever in the NL.

He won seven batting titles, including six in a row (1920-1925). He hit over .400 three times (1922, 1924, 1925), and fell short by three points another season. He is the only player to win the Triple Crown Award twice; he also won two MVP awards as well. He led the league in runs scored five times, RBIs, hits & doubles four times each, walks three times, HRs & triples twice each.

He also has led the league in slugging percentage eight times, more than any other player. In his career he had 2930 hits (34th all time) 541 doubles (27th all time) 1584 RBIs (36th all time) 169 triples (25th all time) 1579 runs scored (49th all time) .577 slugging % (11th all time) 1038 walks (98th all time) 301 HRs (127th all time) & 2259 games played (116th all time).

He refused to go to the movies or read anything, during the season, in fear of ruining his eye sight. On the field he also considered one of the best second baseman, in baseball history. He posted a lifetime .965 fielding %, with 5166 assists (20th all time) & 3206 put outs (49th all time). He won a World Series with the 1926 Cardinals, had his name honored with them (there were no numbers to retire back then) and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1942.

"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." - Rogers Hornsby

Apr 23, 2011

Former Italian / American Manager: Frank Lucchesi

Frank Joseph Lucchesi was born on April 24, 1927 in San Francisco, California. The Italian American Lucchesi played minor league ball as an outfielder from 1945-1957 never making the bigs. He began a managerial career in the minors in 1951, going through 1969.

In 1970 he was hired as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies and won 73 games against 88 losses finishing 5th. The next two years were worse, the Phil’s finished last in 1971, and after going 26-50 in 1972 he was fired.

In 1975 he replaced Billy Martin in Texas leading a good Rangers team to a third place finish. In 1976 they finished 4th going 76-86 but showed promise for 1977. The Problem was Lucchesi was let go after going 31-31, although the Rangers finished second after his departure under Billy Hunter.

Drama & The Lenny Randle Ordeal: Earlier that spring, he & the team announced that Rookie Bump Wills (Maury Will’s son) was going to replace Lenny Randle at second base, even though Lucchesi praised Randle as the hardest working player in camp. Randle was furious that an unproven rookie was replacing him & announced he was leaving the team.

The two bashed each other in the media, "I wish they'd have let him go," said Lucchesi. "If he thinks I'm going to beg him to stay on this team, he's wrong. I'm sick of punks making $80,000 a year moaning and groaning about their situation." Randle approached Lucchesi to talk three days later, and after what started as a calm conversation, all hell broke loose.

Randle punched Lucchesi in the face knocking him down and then continued to hit him as he was down. Teammates rushed to stop Randle but damage was done, Lucchesi suffered three fractures to his cheekbone, a concussion, two broken ribs, and an injured back. The Rangers suspended Randle for a month without pay & he was traded to the Mets by the end of April. Lucchesi required plastic surgery & sued Randle.

He never accepted Randle’s apology, even 16 years later, Randle attempted to make up with Lucchesi in a Rangers alumni game, trying to kiss him on while on the field. Lucchesi raised his hand in disgust and refused to acknowledge him. The whole thing was unusual because Randle had never had any trouble before or after the incident in his career.

The whole mess led to Lucchesi soon being fired and never getting another chance to manage at the big league level. In the 1980’s he was back managing in the minors, had a brief stint as interim manager with the Cubs and coached third base for Texas again.

In his MLB career he was 316–399 as a manager. In the minors he was more successful, posting a 1,605-1,436 record in 23 seasons.

Apr 22, 2011

Pitcher: Steve Simpson (1974)

Steven Edward Simpson was born on August 30, 1948 in St. Joseph Missouri. The big six foot three, two hundred pound right hander was drafted out of Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.

He was chosen in the 4th round of the 1970 draft by the San Diego Padres. He won eight games in both 1970 & 1971 at the ball level , then became primarily a reliever by the time he got to AAA. In 1972 he had his brief cup of coffee going 0-2 for the San Diego Padres.

Just five days before Christmas 1973 he was traded to the New York Mets for pitcher Jim McAndrew. He was issued the same uniform number (43) as McAndrew had worn but was sent down to AA Victoria. There he was 10-7 with 4.78 ERA pitching on the same staff as future Mets Nino Espinosa, Rick Baldwin & Dwight Bernard. Other teammates included classic yearbook prospects Rich Puig, Brock Pemberton & Greg Harts.

By Spring Training of 1975 Simpson retired from baseball. Sadly he passed away from a heart attack in November of 1989 in Omaha Nebraska, at the young age of 41.

Apr 7, 2011

Concert Review: Rod Stewart / Stevie Nicks "Heart & Soul Tour" Madison Square Garden 4/6/11

It was a nightmare ride to get into the Queens Midtown tunnel, the a complete stand still on 34th St. to go one block to my usual garage. It took over an hour to go 7 ½ miles and our pre show dinner had to be canceled. By the time we shleped the rain to get to the Garden the lights went down &.........

Rod Stewart himself, came out to introduce Stevie Nicks at 7:30 sharp. This was a Rod Stewart crowd so being a diehard Stevie Nicks fan it was tough to adjust to the luke warm love the crowd was giving Stevie. Usually her shows are filled with fans who adore her. Although with that said by the end of her set she was getting a standing ovation & had the crowd up.

She took the stage & opened with her classic, Stand Back, dressed in her high black boots & long black dress complete with a beige shawl. She is still beautiful as always, with her gorgeous long blonde hair flowing & her lips puckered up as she sings. Her vocals are still amazing, with that distinct lovely voice sounding as good as ever.

Her band consisted of the usual members, headed by long time musical director Waddy Wachtel donning a John Lennon New York City t-shirt. They were as always tight, polished & powerful. Stevie’s backup singers; the lovely Sharon Celani (who’s been with her for thirty years) & sister in law Lori Nicks, once again did a fantastic job of accompanying Stevie’s songs.

The set list was shorter than I wished for but as an opening act it was quite long, no deep tracks just the usual popular songs. Although she did debut her new single & pulled out Love Is from the Trouble in Shangri la album.

Stevie also came out during Rod Stewarts set & sand together with him on Young Turks & then Leather & Lace which he did a fine job on the Don Henley parts. As Stevie left the stage, she graciously thanked the crowd for their support as she always does. She also said “the world is in chaos, pray for the world”.

Set List: Stand Back
Secret Love
If Anyone Falls
Dreams
Sorcerer
Gold Dust Woman
Fall From Grace
Rhiannon
Landslide
Edge of Seventeen
Encores: Love Is
Rock & Roll


As the Rod Stewart multi colored soul train curtain rose, it unveiled his huge stage set up. It was a sixties style decor with three video screens, including a tremendous high def one in the center. He was backed by a full 13 piece band (2 guitarist, bass player, keyboardist & two drummers) all dressed in early Beatles style jackets & ties. There were three female back up dancer/ singers, along with one of Rod’s long time sax men.

Then there were, the lovely lady musicians; the long legged blondes, the German Katja Rieckermann on sax & Zoltana Karen on trumpet. The beautiful J'Anna Jacoby who is a fantastic musician, played the violin & mandolin. All the ladies were decked out in short red frilly miniskirts & spiked high heels. It was a very impressive stage show to say the least, something out of a Las Vegas extravaganza.

Rod Stewart was full of life, dancing around, kicking his legs, & shaking his little butt across the stage. He hammed it up as the women in the crowd went wild for him. He has an incredible following, and myself being more of a casual fan, was amazed at the support he received. Remember this was the second sell out (or close to a sell out) show the two put on in the last two weeks at the Garden. In these economic times, that’s pretty impressive.

The crowd took over the vocals on many of the big hits, as Rod led the Garden crowd in giant sing alongs. Rod Stewart’s singing voice is incredible; the classic raspy voice sounds almost the same as ever. At one point I went to the rest room & could have sworn I was hearing one of his album’s playing, his voice was that good.
The show had a soul theme around it, which if you look back, is where his roots began just as much as his rock & blues did. He did a lot of the slower love songs, as well as a bunch of cover songs.

He seemed to get away a bit from the older blues rock stuff from his Jeff Beck, Ron Wood, Faces days. That’s the Rod Stewart I like best, but don’t get me wrong he has had an incredible career with a lot of good songs throughout it. That’s why he has sold over 100 million records & is one of the most successful artists of all time. I must say though, I can’t understand why a man with such a huge personal library of good stuff does so many cover songs???

His hair was looking as perfectly Rod as ever, & his flashy wardrobe consisted of a everything from a gold jacket to a shiny blue jacket & tight black pants. The topper was a purple suit during the final set of songs. At one point his young son came up on stage & mumbled a few words, his wife Penny Lancaster-Stewart was present as well. By the way, Rod is also the proud parent of a newborn and flashed his picture on the screen as well.

He dedicated a song to all the serviceman fighting in the world, pointing out how America & Britain are allies once again. He also dedicated You’re In My Heart to all the people he met at Dempsey’s bar earlier in the day watching his Celtic United football team play. (Imagine what that scene was like!) And yes, he still kicks soccer balls out into the crowd, at least a dozen were booted out.

It was quite a night a great double bill, that was worth the price of admission. In case your wondering, we had great seats Section 61 left side of stage, just a few rows up.



set list: Love Train
Tonight’s the Night
Having A Party
Duet with Stevie Nicks: Young Turks/ Leather & Lace
First Cut Is the Deepest
Forever Young
Some Guys Have All the Luck
Twisting the Night Away
Downtown Train
Reason to Believe
You’re In My Heart (The Final Acclaim)
Sweet Little Rock& Roller
Rhythm of My Heart
Knock on Wood (female singer took lead)
Have I Told You Lately That I Love You
Hot Legs
Maggie Mae
Encore: Do Ya Think I’m Sexy