Jul 29, 2012

Original 1962 Mets Player: Felix Mantilla (1962)

Felix (Lamela) Mantilla was born on July 29, 1934 in Isabella, Puerto Rico. Mantilla was one of the first Puerto Rican players to be signed. He was signed one year after Roberto Clemente in 1952.

In 1954 he hit 16 HRs at AA Toledo, & then batted over .270 the next two seasons. In 1956 he came up as a reserve infielder with the Milwaukee Braves and was Hank Aaron's roommate during his time there.

Mantilla spent six years with the Braves mostly as an all around utility man, winning a World Series in 1957 & a pennant in 1958. He played in five World Series games going hitless in ten at bats. Mantilla played all infield & outfield positions and hit better in his later years. In 1959 Mantilla came into a game late as a pinch runner against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He came to bat in the 13th inning and broke up Harvey Haddix’s perfect game while reaching on an error. He eventually scored the winning run when Joe Adcock hit a three run HR. Adcock was only credited with an RBI single because Hank Aaron failed to run out the bases.

Mantilla was then drafted by the New York Mets as the 12th pick in the 1961 expansion draft, becoming an original 1962 Met. He seems to be a forgotten Met through time, possibly because he only spent one season in New York. He was primarily the Mets main third baseman in their inaugural season, playing 95 of his 141 games at the hot corner. He started at third base and batted in the second position in the first Mets game ever at St. Louis Sportsman’s Park in April 1962. After grounding out in the first inning, he walked in the third inning & scored the second run in Mets history on Frank Thomas’ sac fly.

Mantilla started out the year well, hitting safely in 21 of 25 games and was batting .329 in mid May. On May 20th in Milwaukee, the Mets came into the 7th inning tied 3-3 with the Braves. Charlie Neal led off the inning with a HR, then Jim Hickman singled & Elio Chacon walked. Next up, Mantilla hit a three run HR, keading New York to a 9-6 victory.

He also had four different four hit games throughout the year and a dozen multiple RBI games as well. One of his best days was a four hit, four RBI day against the Dodgers in Los Angeles in late May, during a 17-8 loss.

Mantilla was second on the’62 Mets team in batting average (.275) & led the team in sac flies with seven (5th most in the NL). He hit 11 HRs with 17 doubles 4 triples 59 RBIs, scored 59 runs & posted a .330 on base %.

At third base he posted a .948 fielding % making a career high 14 errors. He also played in 25 games at short stop & 14 games at second base. At the end of the season, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Tracy Stallard, Pumpsie Green & Al Moran.

Mantilla had his best years in Boston hitting at Fenway Park. In his first year 1963, he hit a career high .315 with a .384 on base % playing in 66 games. In 1964 he had a career year, hitting 30 HRs (9th in the league) batting .289, with 20 doubles, scoring 69 runs & driving in 64 runs.

In 1965 he made the All Star team, while driving in a career high 92 runs (4th most in the AL) hitting 18 HRs with 79 walks (3rd in the AL) 147 hits & a .374 on base %.

In April 1966 he was traded to the Houston Astros for Andy Kasco, and finished the year batting .219 in 77 games. He was sent to the Chicago Cubs but was soon released.

In his 11 year career batting .261 with 707 hits, 89 HRs, 97 doubles, 360 runs scored 330 RBIs & 256 walks.

Jul 28, 2012

Former Mets Broadcaster: Gary Thorne (1985-1988 / 1994-2002)

Gary Thorne was born on June 9, 1948 in Bangor, Maine. He attended the University of Maine graduating in 1970. He then attended the Maine School of Law & Georgetown Law School, paying his tuitions by being a disc jockey & broadcaster. He worked for the Bangor Maine, district Attorney’s office &was a member of the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court. He eventually got bored with law & court rooms. He found he had talents in the broadcasting field & would soon switch careers around.

He began calling play-by-play for the Augusta Maine hockey team in the late seventies & then the University of Maine's hockey games where he became popular in Bangor Maine. In 1985 he landed a job with the New York Mets as a radio broadcaster working alongside the legendary Bob Murphy.

The two worked well together & did some of the best baseball radio New York had ever known. Murphy & Thorne also developed a special friendship that would last for the remainder of Murphy’s life. In 2003 it was Thorne who would deliver Murphy’s eulogy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral after his passing.

Thorne worked in the booth with Murphy for the 1986 World Series & was alongside Murphy as he made the famous call in Game Six as Mookie Wilson grounder got by Bill Buckner at first. Thorne was one of the first people to criticize the Red Sox for leaving ill-fated Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner out in the 10th inning over Dave Stapleton.

Thorne continued to do Maine hockey during the winter months, but he was so good the NHL took notice. In 1987 he landed a job with the New Jersey Devil hockey team & would hold that position through 1993. In 1988 he missed action on Mets broadcasts when the Devils got into the hockey playoffs, he was replaced by Gary Cohen. He eventually stepped away from the Mets & did one season with the Chicago White Sox before moving to Hockey full time.

In 1989 he was named as a backup announcer to Al Michael’s on ABC’s Thursday Night Baseball working alongside Joe Morgan. He also served as a field reporter for the World Series and covered the World Series Trophy presentation for ABC. In 1989 Thorne was at San Francisco's Candlestick Park when the infamous World Series earthquake hit on October 17, 1989.

Thorne went on to work alongside analyst Bill Clemment for the ESPN network, becoming one of NHL hockeys greatest all time broadcasters. He has called some of the most memorable games in recent Stanley Cup Playoff history, and his voice is one of the most recognizable to hockey fans in the United States. NBC also enlisted Thorne to call the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

In 1994 Gary was back with the Mets doing television broadcast on WOR TV Channel 9 for the next seven years. He worked strictly on the local non cable broadcast which were mostly Sunday games & with a few others mixed in throughout the season. By this time he was been teamed up with the likes of Ralph Kiner, Tim McCarver, Tom Seaver & Keith Hernandez over that period.

In September 2002, Thorne reportedly talked of dissension in the Mets clubhouse between manager Bobby Valentine and the team's players. "There are a lot of guys down there (in the dugout) who don't like him," a New York Daily News columnist quotes Thorne as having said. "They don't like playing for him. And if there has ever been a Teflon manager, he's it, nothing seems to stick & he's never responsible for anything." The situation never attracted national media attention.

From 1997 until 2003, Gary Thorne served as the play-by-play man for the World Series on Armed Forces Radio. In 2005 he began doing play-by-play for ESPN baseball games as well as the Little League World Series & college football.

During a 2007 broadcast Thorne claimed Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli admitted that the “bloody sock” Curt Schilling wore during the 2004 World Series was a hoax. Soon after a media explosion, he admitted he misunderstood Mirabelli. Thorne said. "Having talked with him today, there's no doubt in my mind that's not what he said, that's not what he meant. He explained that it was in the context of the sarcasm and the jabbing that goes on in the clubhouse.

In 2007, he began doing the play-by-play for the Baltimore Orioles games working alongside Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. He is known for his signature calls of "Goodbye! Home run!" and "Mercy!"

Jul 27, 2012

Former New York Giants Pitcher (1925-1936) Coach (1949-1955): Freddie Fitzsimmons

Frederick Landis Fitzsimmons was born on July 28, 1901 in Mishawaka, Indiana. The right hander was known as a tough competitor, and famous for his knuckle curve ball. Although he wasn’t a strike out pitcher was one of the games better pitchers for the next two decades.

He came to the Giants staff in 1925 pitching in ten games going 6-3. The following year he was 14-10 (10th most wins in the NL) with a 2.88 ERA (6TH in the league). In 1927 Carl Hubbell arrived on the Giants staff & the two made an awesome lefty righty combo on the Giants staff. Fitzsimmons won 17 games going 17-10 paving the way for his best season in 1928. That year he went 20-9 (5th in the NL in wins) second on the staff to Larry Benton, with a 6.90 win % (4th in the NL) posting a 3.68 ERA, pitching 261 innings.

In 1930 Fitsimmons led the league in winning % (.731%) going 19-7 (third in the NL in wins) with a 4.25 ERA. That year Hubbel & Bill Walker both had 17 wins. Fitzsimmons would win 17 or more games five times, posting double figures in wins twelve different times. In his nineteen year career he posted winning record fourteen times & had one .500 season. He twice led the league in shut outs, & one time each in starts, shut outs & earned runs.

In 1934 he led the league in put outs for the fourth time setting the major league mark which was eventually broken by Cleveland’s Bob Lemon in 1954. He pitched for the Giants thirteen seasons, before being traded to the cross town rival Brooklyn Dodgers for Tom Baker in 1937. Pitching in Brooklyn firey team mate Leo Durocher said, “"I wish we had nine guys like Fitz. We'd never lose."

In 1939 he broke Burleigh Grimes record of 74 double plays on the mound. Warren Spahn would break this record in 1964. He pitched there for seven seasons; having a fantastic 1940 where he was 16-2 with a 2.81 four shut outs, eleven complete games & a league leading .889 win %. In his time pitching in the NL he was the third most winningest pitcher in the league behind only Burleigh Grimes & Paul Derringer.

Defensively he led the league in put outs four times, fielding % three times & assists once time.

Post Season: Fitzsimmons got to three World Series winning his first one in 1933 while being on the losing end the other two times. In the 1933 Series he took the Giants only loss in Game #4 to the Washington Senators.

In the 1936 Series he took two more losses going 0-2 in that Fall Classic, allowing seven runs in thirteen innings pitched. In the 1941 Series with Brooklyn, he pitched seven scoreless innings matching zeros with Marius Russo but earned no decision in his only series appearance. In 1943 he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies where he was named the teams manager right away, ending his playing days.

In his nineteen year career he was 217-146 (80th most wins all time) with a .598 win % (125th all time) 3.54 ERA pitching in 3223 innings (98th all time) with 30 shut outs (130th all time), 186 complete games (161st all time)& 13 saves over 513 games, with 425 starts (95th all time). His 237 put outs are 47th all time, his 940 assists are 30th all time & his .977 fielding % is 33rd all time.

Retirement: He managed the Phils through 1945, going 105-181 (.367%). In 1943 & 1944 he served as a Genral Manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers football team in the All America Football Conference. In 1948 he coached the Boston Braves, returning to the New York Giants as a coach from 1949-1955.

He won two pennants & a World Series with the Giants serving as former team mate Leo Durocher’s pitching coach in that time. After his time as the Giants coach he went to the Chicago Cubs & Kansas City Athletics.

Fitzsimmons passed away at age 78 of a heart attack in Yucca Valley, California. Fitzsimmons was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Short Time Late Sixties Mets Pitcher: Billy Wynne (1967)

Billy Vernon Wynne was born on July 31, 1943 in Williamston, South Carolina. He was signed by the New York Mets in 1965 going 6-1 in the minors in 1966. The next season he was 7-6 at AAA Jacksonville allowing more hits (124) than innings pitched (134).

Thee six foot three, right hander made his debut at Shea Stadium in early August 1967 as a reliever and would pitch in only six games in his Mets career. He had no decisions & posted a 3.12 ERA in over eight innings pitched. His biggest claim to fame in Mets history was getting traded to the White Sox along with Tommy Davis & Jack Fisher for 1969 Mets heroes, Tommie Agee & Al Weis.

In 1969 he went 7-7 on a fifth place White Sox team and was the only pitcher on the staff with a .500 record. He went 1-4 the next year and was traded to the California Angels with Ken Berry and Syd O'Brien for Tom Bradley, Tom Egan and Jay Johnstone. He played his last season in 1971, finishing his career 8-11 with a 4.33 ERA.

Jul 25, 2012

Former 2006 NL Eastern Champion Mets Reserve Player: Michael Tucker (2006)

Michael Anthony Tucker was born on June 25, 1971 in South Boston, Virginia. The six foot two, left handed hitter attended Longwood University, making the first class of their Hall of Fame.

Tucker also played for Team USA in the 1992 Olympic Games at Barcelona. That year he was selected as a first round draft pick (the tenth pick overall) for the Kansas City Royals. He came up in 1995 playing in 60 games, hitting .260. He played just two seasons in Kansas City, getting traded to the Atlanta Braves with Jermaine Dye, Keith Lockhart and Jamie Walker.

He became the Braves main right fielder for two season and had one of his best overall seasons in his first year there in 1997. He hit .283 with 14 HRs, 25 doubles, 56 RBIs & 12 stolen bases. He has the honor of being the first player to HR at Turner Field as well as getting the last hit in the old Milwaukee County Stadium. He made his first post season that year, hitting a HR against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.

The next year he was once again on the losing side of the NLCS falling to the San Diego Padres. In 1998 he led all right fielders in fielding (.995%) making just one error all year.

In 1999 he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds along with Denny Negale for Bret Boone & Mike Remlinger. There had career highs in HRs (15) on base percentage (381%) in 2000. In the middle of his third season in Cincinnati, he was sent to the Chicago Cubs in July 2001. 

He will forever be remembered in Wrigley Field lore, for hitting a sleeping fan in the head with a HR ball in the bleachers. Tucker finished out the season in Chicago hitting 5 HRs & batting .263. Next he signed as a free agent back in Kansas City, spending two more years with the Royals.

In 2002 he stole 23 bases (sixth in the AL) while hitting six triples (also sixth in the AL). He matched a career high in doubles (27) & hit just .248 in 144 games. The journeyman Tucker went to the San Francisco Giants (2004) Philadelphia Phillies (2005) & Washington Nationals before getting released in Spring Training 2006. That April he was given a chance, by the New York Mets.

Tucker began the year at AAA Norfolk batting .265 with ten stolen bases, six HRs & .381 on base % in 83 games for the Tides. He was called up to the Mets in early August and got the start in left field on August 10th at Shea Stadium, in a game against the San Diego Padres. That night Tucker got a double and drove in a run in the Mets 7-3 win. He then got another hit in his second game the next night. Three days later he hit his only Mets career HR, it came at Washington against the Nationals.

Tucker hit safely in 9 of his first 11 Mets games. He saw playing time in the outfield that month and although he was only batting .212 going into September, he had a .400 on base %. The rest of the season he was used primarily as a pinch hitter, finishing the regular season batting .196 with one HR six RBIs 16 walks & a .378 on base % in 35 games.

He made the post season roster and was used as a pinch hitter in eight different post season games. Overall he had six at bats with one hit, a walk & a stolen base. He was granted free agency at the end of the year and signed with the Boston Red Sox but didn’t make the big league squad.

In 2009 he played for the Maryland Blue Crabs & the Newark Bears.

In his 12 season career he hit .256 with 1047 hits 125 HRs 528 RBIs 208 doubles 114 stolen bases a .339 on base % & 49 triples. He was a very good outfielder, posting a .985 lifetime fielding % and is in the 125 all time in put outs (2048).

Jul 21, 2012

Former Sixties Mets Pitcher: Gordon Richardson (1965-1966)

Gordon Clark Richardson was born on July 19, 1938 in Colquitt, Georgia. The tall lefty was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1957, and won double figure in the minor leagues from 1961-1963.

He made his debut with the 1964 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals pitching the only complete game shut out of his career beating the Philadelphia Phillies who were in first place at the time. He pitched as both starter & reliever in 19 games that season, going 4-2 with a save and a 2.30 ERA. He made two brief appearances in the World Series but got roughed up for three runs in 2/3 of an inning putting his official World Series ERA at 40.50. In the off season he was traded along with Johnny Lewis to the New York Mets for Elio Chacon and Tracy Stallard.

Richardson debuted on July 9th 1965 at Shea Stadium pitching in relief against the Houston Astros. He earned his first save on July 31st in Philadelphia. would pitch in 35 games out of the Meta bullpen going 2-2 with two saves and a 3.78 ERA. His second win was a 6.2 inning performance in relief of Jack Fisher against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In 1966 he was 0-2 allowing 14 earned runs in his last four outings covering just two full innings pitched. His ERA skyrocketed to 9.16 in June he was shipped back down to the minors, never seeing MLB action again.

He finished up his three year career at 6-6 with four saves, 86 strike outs in 118 innings pitched & a lifetime 4.04 ERA.

Jul 20, 2012

The First Italian American Baseball Pioneer: Lewis Pessano

Lewis Pessano  known as "Buttercup Dickerson" is a pioneer for Italian Americans. He is credited as being the first Italian American professional baseball player, paving the way for many greats to come after him.

Due to the prejudice against Italians & Americans of European descent back in those early days, many people change their names to make them sound more American. (Very unlike today where people want to sound non American and get everything handed to them beacuse of it.) Pessano changed his to Dickerson, and was known by the nick name Buttercup. The origins of that name come from a character in the Gilbert & Sullivan play H.F.S. Pinafore.

Lewis Pessano was born on October 11, 1858 near Baltimore Maryland. He began his playing career back in 1878 as an outfielder with the Cincinnati Red Legs. He led the league in triples (14) in 1879 while hitting .294 the following season. He was mostly a part time player, also playing for the Troy Trojans & Worcester Ruby Legs batting .316 in 1881. After that season he was put on the National League's blacklist (probably because of his ethnicity) but did get reinstated the next year.

In 1883 he went to play for the Pittsburgh Allegheny’s, who were known as one of the hardest drinking teams of all time. He went to play briefly with franchises in St. Louis, Buffalo, Baltimore & Louisville. Pessano played in 408 career games with 500 hits and a .284 batting average.

Pessano passed away in July of 1920 in Baltimore, Maryland at age 61. He was inducted into the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1979 as one of its first members.

Jul 3, 2012

Concert Review: Stevie Nicks- Beacon Theater New York City

Stevie Nicks is on a continuation of her "In Your Dreams" solo Tour which has been on & off since last summer. This brief two week set of shows, is stopping at many venues around the New York area &a few others in the North East. At the end of the month she will complete the last leg of the Heart & Soul Tour with Rod Stewart.
The songstress continues to tour on a constatnt basis and plainly is the best in the buisness. As you can see by the many reviews I have done on this site, I am a die hard life long fan of Stevie Nicks. At this point I am on a streak, having seen every tour of the last 12 years.

Last night was another fantastic show at the Beacon Theater. I had spectacular 14th row, asisle seats in the midst of a very enthusiastic crowd. They were loud, they cheered often, they stood up & danced on all the big songs. Even Stevie said she loved the New York crowd. Even though she was born in Phoenix & is a California Girl at heart, she always felt like she belonged in New York. She also made note of her tremendous fan base in the New York area.

Just to give you an idea of her following here, in a  two week span she is at the Beacon Theater, Jones Beach, PNC Arts Center, Moheicgan Sun & Atlantic City.

I dont feel there is any other artist that brings a feeling of closesness to themselves & their fans as Stevie does. Beyond the music which of course speaks for itself in recordings, at a live setting she manages to build a personal relationship with each one of her fans in the auidenece. She narrates the stories & life expierences around her songs throughut the night. Almost like a story teller setting in a living rooom. She cares enough for us to know about those parts of her life in what she writes & sings about. Then She proudly displays personal family pictures during an emotional rendition of Land Slide. This shows how much she is like the rest of us, a son or daughter, brother or sister in a family getting through life.

All I can say is that she is still the phenominal. She looks fantastic & sounds even better. I feel she may be sounding better than she ever has as crazy as that sounds. To me she seems to be hitting higher & longer notes, even holding them for a longer time,  almost without any effort. Her legendary vocals are on the top of her game in a live concert, no doubt.

The beautifal rock goddess,  continues to don her classic warbrobe of a long black dresses & hanging shawls. When she holds out her arms she seems to embrace the audience into her. And when she spins & twirls in her high heeled boots she takes us into her trance. This is what it has been all about for 35 years. My favorite wardrobe prop of the night, was her long arm length, black leather opera gloves with the long dangling jewelry hanging off them, very hot.

Stevie Nicks has always don alot for soldiers dating back to the first War In Iraq. She tells an icredible story of two of her visits to soldiers hospitals where she witnessed an incoming of wounded veterans. The encounter touched her life & inspired her to wroite Soldiers Angel. Proceedes from the Tour & its merchandise go to the Wounded Warrior project.


The band consisting of long tome Stevie Nicks Tour veterans were led by musical director, the great guitarist Waddy Wachtel. Also on hand guitarist Carlos Rios, drummer Jimmy Paxson, bassist Al Ortiz and rick Peterson & Darrell Smith keboards/pianos. The beautifal Sharon Celani who has been backing Stevie on vocals on both studio recordings & concert tours, since 1978 was on hand once again sounding & looking as good as ever. She was joined by longtime back up singer/ Stevies sister in law Lori Nicks. So much must be said of the backing vocals that make up the Stevie Nicks sound, great jon again ladies.

Set List 7/2/12

Rock and Roll
Moonlight (A Vampires Dream)
Gold Dust Woman
Soldiers Angel
Stand Back
For What Its Worth
Leather & Lace
Annabel Lee
Ghosts Are Gone
Edge of Seventeen

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