Sep 30, 2012

Former Italian / American Player: Dom Dallessandro (1937 / 1940-1947)

Nicholas Dominic Dallessandro was born on October 3, 1913 at Reading, Pennsylvania. The short 5’ 6’ outfielder had tiny feet & one sports writer joked it took him 20 jumps to get out of the dugout. He earned the nickname “Dim Dom” making his debut with Boston in 1937 batting .231 in 68 games.

He went to the Pacific Coast League playing with San Diego until the Cubs bought his contract in 1939. He played in 107 games for the 1940 Cubs, batting .268 with a HR & 36 RBIs. The next season would be his career best batting .272 with 6 HRs, 85 RBIs (10th in the league) 36 doubles (4TH in the league) & the second best fielding percentage in the outfield at .987. He posted a .362 on base percentage drawing 68 walks as well. The next two years he played under 100 games both seasons batting a best .261 in 1942.

In 1944 he rebounded to play in 117 games batting .304 in 381 at bats, posting a .400 on base percentage (7th in the league) hitting 8 Hrs with 19 doubles with 61 walks & 74 RBIs. He had 9 assists & 2 double plays from the outfield posting a .980 fielding percentage.

In 1945 he went off to World War II returning to play his last two seasons as a Chicago Cubs reserve outfielder. He spent the rest of his career in the Pacific Coast League until 1952. In an eight-season career, Dallessandro was a .267 hitter with 520 hits 22 HRs, 110 doubles, 23 triples & 303 RBIs in 746 games. He was a disciplined hitter posting a career .369 on-base percentage.

Passing: Dom passed away in 1988 at Indianapolis at age 75.

Sep 29, 2012

Former Italian / American Player of the Day: Bill Consolo (1953-1962)

William Angelo Consolo was born August 18, 1934 in Ohio. His family moved to the West Coast, settling in Los Angeles where his father was a barber at the Statler Hilton Hotel in downtown L.A. He grew up in Los Angeles a long time friend of Sparky Anderson. Consolo was named Los Angeles High School Player of the Year in 1951-1952.

He along with Sparky Anderson & Bill Lacheman played on the American Legion Nation Champion team in 1951. The game was played at Tiger (Briggs) Stadium. The shortstop was signed by the Red Sox as a bonus baby in 1953 right out of high school. The Red Sox supposedly enhanced their offer by arranging to purchase the barber shop confectionery at the Los Angeles Hilton on behalf of his father.

He would play for the Red Sox for as their Opening Day second baseman the following year, Consolo played in a career high 91 games but only hit .227. He would become mostly a utility infielder in his MLB career batting a career high .270 in 68 games in 1957. He told a story on how he hit an inside the park HR at Fenway Park but was called out for not touching second base. He stormed out of the dugout & told the umpire he was wrong, he touched second but missed third base.

He was traded to the Senators in 1959, and then moved on to Minnesota, Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Angels, & the Kansas City A’s before hanging them up in 1962. In a 10 year career he played in 603 games batting .221 with 9 HRs 83 RBIs.

Retirement: After his playing days, he became a barber just like his dad at the Statler Hilton Hotel in L.A. in the sixties. The hotel is now The Wilshire Grand Hotel. He returned to baseball coaching the Detroit Tigers under his old friend Sparky Anderson. He coached in Detroit from 1979 -1992 & again in 1995. Consolo passed away in 2008 at West Lake Village, California at the age of 74.

Mid Sixties Mets Pitcher: Bill Hepler (1966)

William Lewis Helper was born September 25, 1945 in Covington, Virginia. Helper was a six foot lefty originally signed by the Washington Senators in 1960. He was a promising young pitcher whose career was cut short due to arm troubles. He was 11-0 averaging 19 strikeouts a game in American Legion ball, then was a New York Penn League All Star leading the league in wins & strikeouts. He was scooped up by the New York Mets at the 1965 Winter Meetings and immediately made the team at the young age of 20.

Hepler debuted on April 23rd 1966 against the Braves in Atlanta where he gave up two walks & a hit in one inning pitched. He made twelve other relief appearances in May & June before he got his first MLB win two months later. The win came against the Braves in Atlanta when Ted Abernathy botched a pick off attempt allowing Billy Murphy to score the tying run. Then Ken Boyer’s sac fly drove in what was the winning run. The Mets Jack Hamilton saved it for Hepler as he earned the win.

Overall he appeared in 37 games for the ’66 Mets, mostly in relief, starting three games. His longest & best outing came in a start in July at Shea Stadium vs. the Houston Astros, although he got no decision. Hepler went seven innings, allowing only one run on four hits, walking five. On the season Helper made 37 appearances going 3-3 with a 3.52 ERA, 25 strike outs, 51 walks in 69 innings pitched.

The next season he was in the minors pitching at both the A & AA levels. He won two games in the Carolina Championship Series for the Durham Bulls that season as they won the title. He went 4-4 for the Bulls during their regular season with a 4.25 ERA. Hepler was 9-6 at AA Memphis in 1968, tied for second on the team with Jerry Hinsley behind Rich Folkers (13 wins).

Arm trouble set him back and after the 1969 season he was traded to the Kansas City Royals. He was forced to retired, never recovering to top form or making the majors again.

Sep 27, 2012

Mets Relief Pitcher: John Rauch (2012)

Jon Erich Rauch was born September 27th in Louisville, Kentucky. The big six foot eleven Rauch attended Morehead State University, the same school the great Football New York Giant Quarterback Phil Simms attended. 

Rauch was originally signed by the Chicago White Sox in the third round of the 1999 draft. In 2000 he pitched for the US Olympic Team at Sydney Australia. That same year he was voted the Sporting News Minor League Player of the year.

In 2002 he made the White Sox out of Spring Training getting his MLB debut against the Seattle Mariners pitching the 7th inning in relief. On April 21st he was roughed up by the Detroit Tigers allowing eight runs in just four innings of work. He was sent down to the minors but returned in September. In eight games he allowed seven HRs that season. He spent all of 2003 at AAA Charlotte, as well as most of 2004. That year he went 7-1 striking out 94 batters getting him back to the big leagues.

He was traded to the Montreal Expos for Carl Everett and went 3-0 there with a 1.54 ERA. He moved with the franchise to Washington D.C. in 2004 and would get credit for the teams first win at Nationals Park in D.C. hE be a solid reliever in the Nationals bullpen for the next four seasons. In 2007 he led the NL in games finished with 88, going 8-8 with a 3.61 ERA striking out 71 batters in 87 innings.

In 2008 he was given the Nats closing job after Chad Codero went down with injury, saving 17 games while going 4-2 with a 2.98 ERA in 48 games. On August 28th he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Emilio Bonifacio. In Arizona he was terrible going 0-6 with a 6.56 ERA for the second place D-backs.

In 2009 he was traded to the Minnesota Twins where he reached his first post season. He went 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA in just 17 games for the Twins. He made three appearances in that post season pitching 1.1 innings of relief work.

In 2010 the Twins won another AL Central title, Rauch was the teams closer, after the departure of Joe Nathan. He saved 21 games, until Matt Capps arrived to take over the role. Rauch went 3-1 finishing up 41 games in 59 appearances. In January he signed on with the Toronto Blue Jays and went 5-4 with 11 saves in the 2011 season. In 2012 he signed a deal with the New York Mets.

The big tattooed guy debuted as a Met on Opening Day earning a hold in the Mets 1-0 win. After getting another hold, he earned his first win on April 9th against his old Washington team mates. In that game Daniel Murphy singled home the game winning run in the 9th inning. In the final week of the month he earned two more wins & found himself at 3-0 with two holds posting a 0.00 ERA on April 25th.

Things went sour in May as he blew two leads & took four losses on the month, seeing his ERA climb over four. In June he allowed three runs including a walk off game loser to Russel Martin in the subway series sweep across town on that Sunday night June 10th.

Later in the month the Mets blew a three run lead in the subway series at Citi Field, then in the 7th inning Rauch served up an Eric Chavez HR, in what turned out to be the game winning run. After a good first half the Mets floundered in the second half of the season. Rauch was credited with three hold in July as well as two more in August when he had to bail out Frank Francisco both times. He also got credit for two saves that month as well.

In his ten year career he his 42-38 with 61 saves & a 3.74 ERA in 531 games through mid september 2012.

Trivia: Keith Hernandez referred to Rauch as "The Wookiee" during SNY broadcasts in 2006. After having been informed by colleagues Ron Darling and Gary Cohen that he'd shaved off his somewhat unkempt hair, Hernandez began referring to him as "The Shaven Wookiee."

Sep 16, 2012

Concert Review: Nightwish at The Beacon Theater (New York City)

I am a huge fan of European female fronted hard rock/metal music. It's a genre that is huge across all parts of the world except in this country. The music is has taken heavy metal to a much more sophisticated level. Keyboards, choirs, symphonic orchestration & mezzo soprano operatic female singers. In my opinion it is more advanced & blows away anything that is popular in America. The US music industry is lame with corporate made rock, American idol molded singers, teeny bopper pop & hip hop garbage. Rock & Roll needs to be saved & this music is the answer. Finally it seems there may be some hope, as some of the European music has begun to break through.


Last night one of the biggest bands in the world (outside the U.S.) came to New York and put on one hell of a show at the Beacon Theater. They are Nightwish, one of the best bands in the entire world coming out of Finland.

All their lyrics are in English and they speak the language fluently if you were wondering. Nightwish can be labeled as symphonic metal, but have roots in everything from rock, metal, goth, classical, jazz, folk, Celtic, Broadway & film scores.

An very enthusiastic crowd came to the Beacon Theater on Saturday night for the Nightwish show. It was certainly a mixed crowd, younger people, older people, New Yorkers, out of towners & folks from other countries. Long time rock fans like myself were visble all around, some folks even brought thier kids. Bobby "Blitz" from the metal band Overkill was there & took a picture with centerfieldmaz. As I mentioned this crowd was very into it. They knew the music well, they were on their feet the entire show singing, jumping around & waving their arms with joy.

The band is led by Tuomas Holopainen, the main song writer, keyboardist & band leader. The 35 year old Tuomas has studied classical & jazz styles but has a passion for film music. He plays intense keyboards while handling all the symphonic orchestration arrangements during the concert. It all begins with him & rolls off into the other members of the band.

Guitarist Emppu Vuorinen is also a founding member of the band, being the first to get recruited by Holopainen. He handles all the guitar work playing a more melodic style of lead guitar than most hard rock players. A great musician moving freely around the stage with a smile on his face most of the time.

Marco Hietala is the bands outstanding bass player & male lead singer. The 46 year old veteran rocker joined the band in 2002. He sports long blonde hair with a signature curled two parted beard that hangs down to his chest. As if his bass playing & on stage presence doent demand enough attention, his powerful voice really rocks the house. He adds a menacing vocal contrast to Annette Olzon's female vocals.

Drummer Jukka Nevalainen is a fantastic drummer, keeping a heavy yet melodic rhythm section going on top of Marco Hietala's thundering bass playing.

The lead singer Annette Olzon took over on lead vocals, after the the great Tarja Turunen was dismissed in 2006. The dismissal was a huge transition for the band & a very risky since Tarja was so popular. As Tarja was a lyric soprano with triple octave range, Olsson is a mezzo soprano vocalist. She is a great rock singer & was absolutely incredible live.

Her vocals erupted to incredible levels of power, surprising me of how good she actually is in person. Olzon a former brunette who had gone blonde in the past, was a blonde again at the Beacon concert last night. Her outfit was simple, sporting black stockings with black shorts a large belt & laced top body suit.

To sum up a review; the show was outstanding, fantastic & just out right great. Nightwish are incredible live, bringing their music to life perfectly without a blemish. All you do is want more, you don't want this show to end. The band is tight musically with a great stage presence. The vocals are superior, the way the male & female voices work off each other is absolutely great theater.

The band was backed on stage by a large backdrop of their Imaginaerum album cover. There was good sound & great lighting effects as well.

The set list consisted of six new songs from their latest album Imaginaerium, four other Annette Olzon era songs & five songs from the Tarja era. The biggest surprise for me was "Escapist" , an incredible live version of the first song released when Olzon took over as lead singer. It is possibly my favorite Nightwish song of all and it the first time it was played on this year's tour as far as I know. There was a cleverly arranged acoustic version of one of the bands biggest hits "Nemo" which was another major highlight.

Olzon apologized for slowing things down early on in the set, as the band did a great rendition of "Slow Love slow" a smoky slow jazz number from the new album. The band was joined on stage by instrumentalist Troy Donockley who plays uillean pipes, tin whistle & adds backing vocals.

There was no intermission & no encores. The band just rolled on through 16 songs with a climax of high powered tunes Over the Hills & Far Away, Song of Myself & Last Ride of the Day a perfect way to end a great concert. This band is incredible, if you like rock & roll check them out you don't know what your missing.

Nightwish Set List: Beacon Theater, New York City

I Wish I Had an Angel
Planet Hell
The Siren
Slow Love Slow
I Want My Tears Back
The Islander
Nemo (Acoustic)
Last of the Wilds
Ghost River
Higher Than Hope
Over the Hills and Far Away
Song of Myself
Last Ride of the Day
Imaginaerum musical playout

**Look for the Nightwish Imaginaerum Movie in October 2012. Here is a the Storytime video link:

Sep 6, 2012

Remembering John Lennon Live at Madison Square Garden - The "One to One" Benefit Concert 40 Years Later

In 1972 John Lennon & Yoko Ono were two highly publicized figures. The ex- Beatle was constantly in the news, on the front lines of the peace movement or helping support other activist causes. Some good, others not so much. Lennon was very accessible in those days, living in a small apartment on Bank Street in the West Village.

John wanted to make New York his home, but the U.S. government was trying to deport him. The Nixon administration were afraid that Lennon's popularity would destroy any chance for re-election. They came up with a plan, saying he was ineligible for admission to the U.S. due to a cannabis possession misdemeanor, he had received in London in 1968. The FBI tapped the Lennon's phones and followed him & anyone associated with him on every move. Many public figures (including New York's Mayor John Lindsay, Bob Dylan, Fred Aistare & Jack Lemmon to name a few) all supported him, as did the fans with letters & petitions. John went through deportation hearings for three years, but by then Tricky Dick, resigned was after his Watergate crisis. In the American bicentennial year of 1976, Lennon was given his green card.

In the midst of all this in 1972, there were the Beatles legal battles, John's latest single had been banned & his new album Sometime In New York City wasn't selling. The double album was filled with current political issues & lots of Yoko songs which the fans weren't too thrilled with. The album never cracked the top forty.

At the time, a young New York reporter named Geraldo Rivera was following the Lennon deportation hearings very closely on the local news. He would get interviews when Lennon left court & they soon became friends. Rivera did a news story on the horrible conditions & abuse to the patients at a Staten Island Facility, called Willowbrook, which was a home for the mentally challenged. The Project became known as "One to One". 

The Lennon's saw the story & wanted to help. Yoko Ono contacted Rivera, saying John offered to headline a benefit concert to raise money for the project. This was just one year after George Harrison's benefit Bangla Desh concert, certainly an inspiration.

The concert was to be held at Madison Square Garden on August 30th 1972. Lennon would be backed by a Greenwich Village band called The Elephant's Memory. It was the first full concert for Lennon in the United States, since the Beatles played Candlestick Park, San Francisco in 1966. As fate would have it, it would be the only full concerts of his solo career.

Originally it was thought that these shows would be a warm up for a Lennon Plastic Ono / Elephants Memory Band World Tour. But John wanted the Deportation issues settled first & then some mixed reviews of the concert may have also molded his decision. The fans lined up for tickets to see the ex-Beatle, tickets sold out very quickly. Lennon responded by adding a second show, a matinee afternoon performance. Also on the bill, were Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack & Sha Na Na.

John, Yoko & the Elephant's Memory Band rehearsed for just three days within a week before the show. My research showed that Paul McCartney was invited to perform as well, but due to the Beatles legal battles & the presence of layer Allen Klein, he declined. Ticket prices were $5 - $7.50 & $10. Lennon himself bought $59,000 worth of tickets & gave them away to fans. Overall $1.5 million dollars was raised for the cause.

At show time, Lennon was a bit nervous and flubbed a few lines, especially during the colder, less lively first show. He even told the audience "Welcome to the rehearsal". The band pushed John to do some Beatles material & although he did not want to go back in time, he settled on Come Together. In his words "We'll go back in the past, once". The rest of the set list was mainly from his post Beatles albums to date, Plastic Ono Band, Imagine & his current album of that summer: Sometime In New York City.

He surprised everyone in the band when he began playing one of his personal favorites- Elvis' Houndog, especially since they had never rehearsed it. The show ended with a funky (or as Lennon kept saying- "reggae baby") version of Give Peace A Chance.

Concert highlights included a fantastic version of Imagine, a rocking version of New York City & Instant Karma, as well as a haunting version of Mother. After the concert, all the performers had a party in Central Park at Tavern On The Green.

A video recording of the concert was filmed & first aired on ABC television later that year. It featured the better performance, the evenings show. In 1986, John Lennon-Live In New York City, CD & video were released by Ono. The Elephants Memory band members criticized her for releasing the weaker, matinee performance. As of 2012 a DVD has not yet been issued but some of the evening performance songs were included on the 1998 Lennon Anthology Box set.

1972 John Lennon One To One Concert Set List

Power to the People
New York City
It's So Hard
Move On Fast (Yoko)
Woman Is The Niger of the World
Sisters O' Sisters (Yoko)
Well Well Well
Born In A Prison (Yoko)
Instant Karma
We're All Water (Yoko)
Come Together
Open Your Box (Yoko)
Cold Turkey
Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummys only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow) Hound Dog

Evening Performance:
Power to the People
New York City
It's So Hard
Woman Is The Niger of the World
Sisters O' Sisters (Yoko)
Well Well Well
Instant Karma
We're All Water (Yoko)
Come Together
Cold Turkey
Hound Dog
Give Peace A Chance

Sep 5, 2012

Gil Hodges Backup First Baseman- Italian / American: Wayne Belardi (1950-1956)

Carroll Wayne Belardi was born on September 5, 1930 in St. Helena, California. The six foot left hand hitting first baseman, went to Santa Clara University getting signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949.

He hit .292 with 19 HRs in his first year in the minor leagues. He went to play in the New England League but was pulled out of there before the league folded due to financial problems.

In 1950 he would hit over 22 HRs at AA Mobile. In 1951 he followed with a .302 batting average, 20 HRs & 33 doubles at AAA Fort Worth. He made two brief September appearances with the Brooklyn Dodgers those years, making the big league roster by 1953.

Belardi would be Gil Hodges back up first baseman in 1953 and part of the 1954 seasons. The big minor league slugger showed power at the major league level as well, hitting 11 HRs in 163 at bats in 1953. He batted .239 drawing 16 walks (.311 on base %) driving in 43 runs & striking out 40 times. He got two pinch hit at bats in the 1953 World Series going hitless both times.

After playing in just 11 games in 1954 he was traded to the Detroit Tigers in early June. He hit 11 HRs there as the back up to Walt Dropo for the rest of the season. In Detroit he batted .232 driving in 24 runs with seven doubles. He was back in the minors in 1955 between the Pacific Coast League & AAA Buffalo where he combined to hit another 23 HRs with 72 RBIs.

In 1956 he was back up to the majors, backing up Earl Torgenson in Detroit. That season he hit a career best .279, with 6 HRs & 15 RBIs, although it turned out to be his last year in the majors.

At the end of the season he was sent to the Kansas City Athletics along with Ned Garver, Gene Host, Virgil Trucks and $20,000 for Jack Crimian, Jim Finigan, Bill Harrington and Eddie Robinson. He was soon sent to the AL New York club in 1957 in an eventual 12 player deal.

He finished his six season MLB career at age 26 with 143 hits 28 HRs 74 RBIs & a .242 batting average in 263 games.

Belardi passed away in Santa Cruz California in 1993 at the age of 63.

Sep 2, 2012

Former Italian / American Ball Player & Barber At The L.A. Hilton: Bill Consolo (1954-1962)

William Angelo Consolo was born August 18, 1934 in Celevland,Ohio. His family moved to the West Coast, settling in the Los Angeles area.

His father was a barber & worked at the Statler Hilton Hotel in downtown L.A. While growing up he became a good friend of future MLB player & Big Red Machine manager Sparky Anderson. Consolo was named Los Angeles High School Player of the Year in 1951-1952.

He along with Anderson & future MLB player Bill Lacheman, played on the American Legion National Champion team in 1951. The game was played in Detroit at Tiger (Briggs) Stadium. Sparky Anderson would also go to manage the Detroit Tigers & win a World Series there in 1984.

The five foot eleven shortstop was signed right out of high school, by the Red Sox as a bonus baby in 1953. The Red Sox supposedly enhanced their offer by arranging to purchase the barber shop confectionery store at the Los Angeles Hilton on behalf of his father. He would play for the Red Sox for as their Opening Day second baseman the following year in 1954.

Consolo played in a career high 91 games that season, playing at short stop (50 games) third base (18 games) & second (12 games) hitting just .227. He would become mostly a utility infielder in his MLB career batting a career high .270 in 68 games in 1957.

He once told a story on how he hit an inside the park HR at Fenway Park but was called out for not touching second base. He stormed out of the dugout & told the umpire he was wrong, he touched second but missed third base.

He played in Boston for seven years of the fifties, getting traded to the Washington Senators in 1959. He then moved on to the Minnesota Twins in 1961 when the franchise relocated.

In 1962 he went to the Philadelphia Phillies for 13 games, then the Los Angeles Angels (28 games) & finished the year with the Kansas City A’s (54 games) all as a reserve player. He retired that season after a ten year career playing in 603 games batting .221 with 260 hits 9 HRs 31 doubles 11 triples & 83 RBIs.

Retirement: After his playing days, he became a barber just like his dad, working at the Statler Hilton Hotel in L.A. during the sixties. The hotel is now named The Wilshire Grand Hotel.

He returned to baseball coaching the Detroit Tigers under his old friend Sparky Anderson in the 1980's. He coached in Detroit from 1979 -1992 & again in 1995. Consolo passed away in 2008 at West Lake Village, California at the age of 74.