Mar 16, 2012

The Mets First Ever Draft Pick: Hobie Landrith (1962)

Hobert Neal Landrith was born on March 16, 1930 in Decatur, Illinois. His family moved to the Detroit area where he & his six brothers took turns holding the catching position at their local high school. While still in high school he got the opportunity to go to Briggs Stadium (aka. Tiger Stadium) and warm up Tiger starting pitchers. He also helped Bronx born Tiger player, Hank Greenberg get back into shape after returning from military service.
Hobie went on to attend Michigan State University, playing as a star catcher for the Spartan’s baseball team. At the age of 19 he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds. At Spring Training he became a highly touted prospect, but rumors came about that he wanted to play for only his hometown Tigers. The Tigers & Reds both made offers to him but he still remained with the Reds.

He debuted briefly in 1960 & then spent six seasons in Cincinnati as a backup catcher, behind Andy Semenick & Smokey Burgess. In 1953 he got the Opening Day start against the Brooklyn Dodgers & although he drove in two runs, he allowed a passed ball in the 9th inning which won Brooklyn the ball game. That year the All Star Game was held in Cincinnati & the NL manager, Brooklyn’s Charlie Dressen, chose Landrith to catch batting practice.

In 1956 Landrith moved to the Chicago Cubs, playing as the teams main catcher batting .221 with three HRs & a career high 32 RBIs. Behind the plate he led the league throwing out 23 bases runners attempting to steal, a 38% average overall. He allowed ten passed balls & made 14 errors which was the most of all NL backstops.

In December 1956 he was traded with Sam Jones, Jim Davis, and Eddie Miksis to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ray Katt, Jackie Collum, and Tom Poholsky. He played in St. Louis for two seasons behind main catcher Hal Smith. From there he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Marv Grissom & Ernie Broglio. He played with the Giants from 1959-1961), playing as a regular there in 1959 hitting .251 with 3 HRs 14 doubles & 29 RBIs. That year he posted the league's second best fielding % for catchers (.992%) & caught 51% of the runners trying to steal on him (4th best in the NL).

In 1961 Landrith made New York Mets history as the first pick in the teams’ 1961 expansion draft. Manager Casey Stengel said of the pick; " you have to have catchers or you're going to have a lot of passed balls". Landrith was behind the plate & hit in the number eight position in the first Mets game ever played on April 11, 1962 in St. Louis. He signaled to Roger Craig for the first pitch in the bottom of the 1st inning & later went 0-4 at the plate during the game. 

He had an early six game hit streak putting him over the .400 mark ten games into his season. On May 12th 1962, Landrith had his shining moment as a Mets player in the first game of a double header at the Polo Grounds. He hit an exciting 9th inning pinch hit, walk off HR off Milwaukee’s Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. That gave him a stretch of driving in runs in three straight games he had played in. In the second game of that same double header, Gil Hodges hit a walk off game winner making it a very exciting day for the ’62 Mets fans.

Landrith had a two hit game in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, then saw his average fall under .300 in the first week of June. He would only play 23 games with the Mets, hitting .289 (13-45) with three doubles, one HR, seven RBIs & a .389 on base %. Defensivley he played in 21 games, throwing out 3 of 15 base runners trying to steal, posting a .968 fielding %. He made three errors in 93 chances. On June 7th he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Marvelous Marv Throneberry, who was to become the Mets first folk hero type player.

Landrith’s likeable personality and abilities as a quality backup catcher kept him in the majors for 14 seasons. He finished his career in 1963 with the Washington Senators. He appeared in 677 games behind the plate, posting a .983 fielding %, making 59 errors in 3459 chances. He threw out 40% of would be base stealers (137 out of 339 attempts). He hit .233 with 450 hits 34 HRs 69 doubles 253 walks 203 RBIs & a .320 on base % playing in 772 overall games.

Retirement: After his playing days, he coached with the Washington Senators for one season then left baseball. He became a car salesman in Northern California, eventually becoming the director of sales for over forty Volkswagen dealerships.

Mar 12, 2012

centerfieldmaz Remembers Harry Wendelstedt & Don Mincher On Their Passing

Harry Hunter Wendelstedt Jr. was born July 27th 1938 in Baltimore Maryland. He began umpiring in the major leagues in 1966 for the National League. Wendelstat was famous for having a wide strike zone, he would shout & use the now famous so called "chain saw move" on a called third strike. If it was a swinging strike he would raise his right arm straight up in the air signaling the out.
In 1968 he made a controversial call in favor of Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale which helped him continue his scoreless innings streak to his record 58 2/3 innings. San Francisco Giants batter Dick Dietz was hit in the elbow with a pitch & if he had gotten to first base a run would have scored. But Wendelstedt ruled Dietz made no attempt to get out of the way, Drysdale's streak continued on.

On April 22, 1970 Wendelstedt was behind the plate at Shea Stadium when Tom Seaver struck out 19 San Diego Padres tying a major league single game strike out record. In that game Seaver struck out the last ten batters he face setting another record.

Wendelstedt worked his first World Series in 1973, between the New York Mets & the Oakland A's. He was the home plate umpire in Game #6 at the Oakland Coliseum in a game where Catfish Hunter beat Tom Seaver 3-1 to even the series at three games each.

The next time the Mets were in the World Series, 1986 Wendelstedt was once again on the umpiring staff. He worked the plate in Game #6 at Fenway Park in the Mets 7-1 victory over the Red Sox. In that game Lenny Dykstra led off the game with a HR, Gary Carter drove in three runs & the Mets first designated hitter Danny Heep drove in two runs. In that game Bob Ojeda beat Oil Can Boyd.

Two years later Wendelstedt was on the umpiring staff of the NLCS in which the Dodgers beat the Mets in seven games. He was behind the plate in Game #1 where Dwight Gooden went up against Orel Hershiser, neither pitcher fgured in the decision as the Mets won it in the 9th inning on Daryl Strawberry & Gary Carters doubles.

Overall he worked in seven NLCS series & five World Series serving as crew chief in 1980 & 1995. He also worked a record tying five no hitters & four All Star games.

In 1977 he took over the Al Somers Umpire School & renamed it the Harry Wendelstedt Umpiring School serving as the chief instructor there for 17 years. His son Harry Hunter Wendlestat goes by the name Hunter & wears the uniform #21 just like his dad in his honor. The two became the first father & son umpire team to work a game together in 1988. Wendelstedt Sr. was diagnosed with a brain tumor ten years ago & passed away this week at Ormond Beach Florida at the age of 73.


Donald Ray Mincher was born on June 24th 1938 in Huntsville, Alabama. The six foot three first baseman was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1956. In 1960 he was traded along with Earl Battey to the Washington Senators for Roy Sievers. After one season the franchise moved to Minnesota & became the Twins. He played six seasons with the Twins having his best seasons in the mid sixties. In 1965 Mincher hit 22 HRs with 17 doubles 65 RBIs batting .251 with a .344 on base % helping the Twins get to the World Series .

That year he led the AL in intentional walks (15) and was one of the hitting stars of a Twins team that featured six time HR champion Harmon Killebrew, three time batting champ Tony Oliva, & that years MVP Zolio Versalles. In the first game of the 1965 World Series Mincher hit a HR off Don Drysdale in the Twins 8-2 win. The Dodgers would win the Series in seven games coming from behind down two games to none.

In 1966 he was part of a record setting inning in which five Twins players hit HRs, the game was on June 9th against the Kansas City A's. Mincher would move on to play for the California Angels (1967-1968) then the Seattle Pilots in their only season of existence 1969.

That year he was the teams power hitter with 25 HRs & 78 RBIs. As the franchise moved to Milwaukee Mincher was sent to the Oakland A's where he played in 1970-1971 & then returned to close out his career there at the end of the 1972 season. In between his stints with the A's he played in Washington & then in Texas when the team moved there in 1972. Mincher appeared in three games of the 1972 World Series driving in a run in his only at bat. He went out a winner as his A's beat the Cincinnati Reds in seven games.

In his 13 year career Mincher hit .249 with 1003 hits 200 HRs 176 doubles 643 RBIs & a .348 on base %. He played in two All Star games (1967 & 1969) & was among the leagues top four first baseman in fielding four times. After his playing days he was general manager of the Huntsville Stars a AA affiliate of the A's & Milwaukee Brewers. He also served as President of the minor leagues Southern League from 2000-2010. He passed away on March 4, 2012 after a long illness.

Mar 8, 2012

Former Italian /American Mets Pitcher Turned Pitching Coach: Galen Cisco (1962-1965)

Galen Bernard Cisco was born on March 7, 1936 in St. Mary’s Ohio. Cisco attended Ohio State University and was the full back for the 1957 Buckeye’s National Championship team. He was also a star pitcher going 12-2 at the school getting inducted into their Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.

The five foot eleven right-hander chose a baseball career, signing with the Boston Red Sox in 1958. He won 17 games climbing through the ranks of the minors in 1959, gradually became a relief pitcher over the next two seasons.

He made his MLB debut in 1961 going 2-4 earning his first win at Fenway Park against the Washington Senators in his second career start. He was 4-7 in 1962 when the Red Sox placed him on waivers where he was picked up by the New York Mets in September.

He immediately went to work, pitching four innings against the Houston Colt 45's on September 9th. In his next appearance he blew a save when Vada Pinson tripled home a run in the 8th inning. The Mets still ended up winning the game on a Choo Choo Coleman walk off game winning HR. Cisco pitched a complete game four hitter against the Chicago Cubs next time out, finishing his Mets month at 1-1 in four appearances.

In May he lost three straight before going 4-2 in earky part of the summer. Cisco was used as both a starter & reliever during the season, having his best outing on August 2nd against the Milwaukee Braves. He had a ten inning outing allowing just one unearned run on the evening. After that game he bested his record to 7-9, but from there lost four straight starts & blew two save, not winning another game all year.

He went on to lose 15 games that year (ninth most in the league) but it certainly wasn't worst on his own team. Three pitchers on the Mets staff lost more games than he did- Roger Craig 22 losses, Al Jackson & Tracy Stallard 17 losses each. Cisco's record was 7-15 with a 4.34 ERA. He struck out 81 batters pitching 155 innings allowing 165 hits & 15 HRs. His ten wild pitches & seven hits batsmen were both tenth most in the league.

The 1964 season started out with two April relief appearances, & then he was placed back in a starting role. He quickly lost two games & a busy May saw him finish the month at 2-5 while posting a low 2.45 ERA. On a classic Memorial Day double header at Shea Stadium, he pitched nine innings of relief in the second game of a 23 inning legendary game. Cisco held the Giants to just two hits for eight innings, but in the top of the 23rd he gave up RBI hits to Del Crandall & Jesus Alou. He ended up being the losing pitcher in the 8-6 Giants win. On this day the Mets & Giants played a record 32 innings of baseball, the concessions ran out of hot dog, Roy McMillan turned a triple play & Gaylord Perry later admitted he began toying with a spit ball for the first time.

After a complete game four hit shutout against the Los Angeles Dodgers in early June he had lowered his ERA to 2.09. The weak Mets offense wasn't scoring any run & Cisco only had a 3-5 record. Soon he lost seven of his next eight starts and finished the year losing six of seven decisions. He ended up with 19 losses that year, second most losses in the league behind team mate Roger Craig. Overall he was 6-19 with a 3.62 ERA, two shut outs, five complete games & 78 strikeouts in 191 innings pitched.

In 1965 Cisco found himself at 1-6 by mid July, but had a much better ending to his season. On July 29th he pitched a four hit shutout at Wrigley field against the Cubs, earning his second straight victory. He finished out the year going 4-8 appearing in 35 games posting a 4.49 ERA. At the plate he hit well, batting a career high .259 (7-27) driving in four runs. Cisco had driven in three runs in 1963 & four runs in 1964.

In 1966 he began the year at AAA Jacksonville going 11-6 but was released by the Mets in June. He was picked up by the Boston Red Sox, making just 11 appearances the following season. He finished his seven year career at Kansas City in 1969 with the Royals in their first season. In 1970 he played in the minor leagues ending his playing career at AA Omaha. Overall in his seven season career, he was 25-56 with nine complete games, three shutouts, two saves, posting a 4.56 ERA in 192 appearances. In four seasons as a New York Met he was 18-43 with a 4.04 ERA in 126 games.

Retirement: Following his playing career, Cisco became a respected pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals (1971-1979) there his staff won three AL West titles, Montreal Expos (1980-1984) getting a 1981 post season appearance, San Diego Padres (1985-1987), Philadelphia Phillies (1997-2000) & most successfully with the Toronto Blue Jays (1990-1995).

In six seasons with the Blue Jays his staff won three consecutive AL East titles and two World Series Championships (1992-93).He is currently retired in St. Mary’s Ohio, where a Rotary club Award was named after him, honoring hometown youths in baseball.

Mar 2, 2012

Concert Review: Van Halen @ Madison Square Garden (Different Kind of Truth Tour 2012)

Van Halen kept the Madison Square Garden crowd on their feet the entire night. It was an incredible performance by the band last night on the second of their two sold out New York shows.

Eddie Van Halen is the master on the guitar, he alone is worth the price of the ticket. During the show goes at some point you realize: there is only one guitarist on that stage, playing all that music. Eddie dressed in jeans, along with a blue & white striped shirt, does it all. The most amazing part of his brilliance is the guitar solo toward the end of the show. He incorporates the classic Eruption, along with the effects from 1984 and performs some of the best guitar work ever see. I of course was in awe of Eddie's playing, but as I looked around I saw people with their jaws open, others staring just smiling & others just shaking their heads in amazement.

I just wished the solo was longer & their were more of them. Eddie looked happy all night as he just smiled sand backing vocals & played his guitar all night. He looked a bit bloated in the face, as if possibly his meds or his old drinking issues have had some effect on him.

I was very impressed at the backing vocals, I thought Eddie & Wolfgang did a fantastic job of it. That is a major part of the Van Halen sound behind that great music & although Michael Anthony is gone his backing vocal parts were covered well.

Alex Van Halen behind his dark sunglasses & huge silver drum kit, is an incredible rock drummer doing a fantastic job as usual. His drum solo was a great performance, as also added a latin percussion touch to it. It's amazing to see how musically talented the Van Halen family is. Edie's son (Alex's nephew) Wolfgang Van Halen, did a great job of bass playing & background singing himself. The kid is getting better & impressed.

Then at the front of it all is David Lee Roth. Roth is still all about himself, all about theatrics & having a good old time. He's what rock & roll front men are meant to be all about. Roth in his snake skin pants, velvet scarves, boots & beige hat is in incredible shape. He struts & dances all over the stage nonstop while telling stories & making jokes like a TV game show host. His high leg kicks are signature, as is his incredible twisted leg bending down thing he kept repeating the whole show. His voice is great he sounded fantastic.

Only problem I had with him was at times he seemed to change up the flow of some of the songs & change some of the words. At one point he forgot the words to the new Chinatown, as he confessed to the crowd. Another point he stopped the show & told the crew at MSG to shut down the blowers because it was ruining his vocals, as the air made his voice hoarse. Before the show I saw a wood board on the stage & the crew mopping some stuff on top of the wood. Turns out it was all for Roth to slide & dance across during the show.

The new songs were great live, it's a great new album no doubt, the first with Roth since 1984. I did think the sound could have been a bit better, maybe it was where I was sitting (section 107- Row 20). I also thought the set list could have been a bit better, although it was still great stuff. Tonight's show actually had a few different songs from what I saw on other nights & few songs were also switched around. Most notably the opener was switched to Unchained as opposed to You Really Got Me.

Madison Square Garden Set List 3/1/12

Runnin' With The Devil
She's The Woman
The Full Bug
Everybody Wants Some
Somebody Get Me A Doctor
China Town
Hear ABout It Later
Oh, Pretty Woman
Alex Van Halen Drum Solo
You Really Got Me
The Trouble With Never
Dance the Night Away
I'll Wait
Hot For Teacher
Women In Love
Outta Love Again
Beautiful Girls
Ice Cream Man
Eddie Van Halen Guitar Solo
Ain't Talkin' Bout Love

Mar 1, 2012

Remembering The Monkees Davy Jones (1945-2012)

Today we lost a great actor/ singer / personality, the Monkees Davy Jones. I was a huge fan of the MONKEES, first as a kid watching the TV show reruns, after school & Saturday mornings. Then later I became a huge fan of their music. I have both seasons of the TV DVD box sets, Monkees cards & all their music as well as the mvie HEAD. They brought me alot of laughter & music in my life. I was very saddened to hear of Jones' passing today, I thank all of my friends & family who contacted me with the info all afternoon. may you daydream in peace forever davy...........

David Thomas Jones was born in Manchester, England on December 30th, 1945. Jones began acting on British Television by the time he was 11 years old. By his early teens, after his mothers passing he became a trained jockey riding horses. His trainer had a friend who worked in the Theater & when castings for the play Oliver began, they knew Jones was the guy. Davy played the Artful Dodger in Oliver at London & then on Broadway in New York, earning Tony Award nomination. On February 9th, 1964 his Oliver cast appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show the same night the Beatles were on making their American debut, changing the world forever. Davy later said that night as he stood on the side of the stage watching the girls go wild, he knew he wanted to do that.

Jones then signed a deal with screen Gems and had small parts on shows like Ben Casey & the Farmers Daughter. When the casting began for the Monkees TV show, Jones auditioned & got the part. He was perfect, as the short good looking English kid with the Beatle mop top & the good singing voice. He was funny, likeable, & the girls loved him. Jones became a teen idol, a sixties female heartthrob sensation.

The Monkees TV show was a huge success although it only had two year run at first, but then lived on for the next decade in reruns & Saturday Morning programming. The Monkees were the first of the sixties younger generation to make it into prime time breaking the barrier into the establishment. The wild zany rock band was a cross between the Beatles A Hard Days Night & the Marx brothers. Most of the rock bands of the day & the young people loved them, even if at first they didn’t play their own instruments. They broke through were funny, so they were hip. The Beatles themselves loved them; members of the Monkees were at Abbey Road studios during the Sgt. Pepper recordings, most famously the A Day In The Life session.

Eventually the Monkees took more control of their music, played the instruments & went on successful tours. They had some of the best writers of the day writing songs for them as well, Goffin & Carole King, Neil diamond, David Gates, & Boyce &Hart to name a few. And even more famously the Monkees would have a song play & the band would either be running around in a comedy skit or act out performing it live. The scenes were called romps & were the early versions of what eventually became music videos.

No matter what people say about The Monkees they were (& are) a very successful act. They were the first music artist to win two Emmy awards. In 1967 I’m A Believer was the #1 record of the year with Davys Daydream Believer the #3 record of the year. Their album More of the Monkees spent 70 weeks on the charts becoming the 12th biggest selling album of all time. In their hey day they had four number one albums in a two year span. They held the #1 spot on the album charts for 31 straight weeks (37 weeks overall). After their TV days, they experimented with the psychedelic cult movie classic, Head. The name was inspired with the thought of a sequel & the motto “from the people who gave you Head…..”

Davy Jones sand lead on Monkees classics; like Daydream Believer, Valeri, Laugh, I Wanna Be Free, She Hangs Out & Cuddly Toy. On the TV show every week, Jones would fall in love with a new sixties hot chick leading to some kind of zany comedy. After the Monkees Davy appeared on TV shows such as Love American style 7 the classic Brady Bunch episode where he takes Marcia to the prom. Jones appeared live as a solo tour & recorded as well. He & Mickey Dolenz & Peter Tork reunited the Monkees in 1986 with a new greatest hits album 7 a successful concert tour. The group got back for a few tours more recently last year on a fantastic reunion tour.

Davy Jones was married three times, his most recent wife Jessica many years his junior. He left behind four daughters &three grand children. He suffered an apparent heart attack on February 29th, leap year 2012 in Indiantown Florida. He was 66 years old. My most recent funny lasting memory of Jones happened last year on the Monkees Tour. When the group came out on stage, Davy said in all classic Monkee humor “Good evening I’m Davy Jones' father Davy will be out shortly. Shine until tomorrow Davy, thanks for bringing laughter & music to my life.