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

Early 2000's Mets Back Up Catcher/ First Baseman: Jason Phillips (2001-2005)

Jason Lloyd Phillips was born on September 27th, 1976 at La Mesa, California. Phillips went to San Diego State University getting drafted by the New York Mets in the 24th round of the 1997 amateur draft. He hit 16 HRs with 71 RBIs between A ball St. Lucie & AA Binghamton in 1999 but hit just .248.

In 2000 he hit over .300 with the St. Lucie Mets & at AA Binghamton throwing out 40% of base runners attempting to steal. In 2001 he batted .293 at Binghamton getting promoted to AAA Norfolk. He was batting .303 at there after 19 games when he got the big league call up.

The strange looking fellow with the goggle glasses & goatee beard debuted on September 19th as a defensive replacement for Mike Piazza. In that 9th inning he was the battery mate for three brief September Mets; Dicky Gonzales, Tom Martin & C.J. Nitkowski. In just six games he was 1-7 during his September cup of coffee.

In 2002 he was batting .282 after 88 games at AAA Norfolk and was brought up again at the end of the season. In his first game that season he drove in a run going 1-3 in the second game of a double header against the Florida Marlins. On September 12th he hit his first career HR, it came at Olympic Stadium in Montreal in a 8-2 Mets win. Phillips showed some promise batting .368 (7-19).

By 2003 he playing more at first base (84 games) that at catcher (24 games). Vance Wilson was the main backup catcher & saw a lot of playing time due to Mike Piazza’s injuries. Phillips put in a solid year with career highs in batting (.298) hits (120) HRs (11) doubles (25) walks (39) & RBIs (58) while posting a .373 on base percentage. He threw out 33% of would be base stealers & only made one error in 155 chances, posting a .994 fielding percentage. At first base he posted a .990 fielding %.

During a May California raod trip he drove in runs in back to back games at San Francisco. In the second game he hit a three run HR helping the Mets to a5-1 win. On June 6th during an interleague game at Shea against the Seattle Mariners he broke a 1-1 tie hitting a HR off Ryan Franklin. The Mets went on to a 3-2 win. One of his biggest thrills was a game winning walk off single against Terry Adams & the Philadelphia Phillies on July 13th at Shea Stadium. 

That month he had a 12 game hit streak & had four different three hit games, coming at Philadelphia, Montreal & at home. He finished the month off batting at .322 on the season.

Phillips was one of the slowest runners in the game & that season grounded into 21 double plays (6th most in the NL).

In 2004 he saw the most time behind the plate as Mike Piazza was placed at first base to try to prolong his hitting career. Phillips played in 87 games at catcher, Vance Wilson played in 69 games & Piazza caught in 50 games.

Phillips struggled at the plate, hitting nowhere near his previous year’s numbers; he batted just .218 with 7 HRs 18 doubles & 34 RBIs in 128 games. In mid May he had a three RBI day against the Astros in Houston & then drove in runs in five of his next six games. On May 30th he hit a pair of HRs in a 8-6 loss to the Marlins in Florida. The next day he hit yet another HR in a 5-3 win at Philadelphia. 

In the off season the Mets acquired Ramon Castro & the solid defensive catcher Mike DiFelice to back up Piazza, as Wilsons days were numbered.

In Spring Training of 2005 he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Kaz Ishii. In Los Angeles he played in 128 games, becoming the Dodgers main catcher. He hit 10 HRs with 20 doubles & 55 RBIs while batting .238. He threw out only 20% of would be base stealers posting a .991 fielding percentage, also seeing some action at first base. He was granted free agency as Russell Martin took over the Dodgers catching duties for 2006. Phillips signed in Toronto with the Blue Jays and got a few breaks remaining on the club on for two seasons.

In 2006 he saw some action when main catcher Greg Zaun went down with injury. Then later in the year was brought up to replace Shea Hillenbrand’s roster spot. Phillips saw action in 25 games as a utility player batting .250. In 2007 he got a chance to play when more Bengie Molina left Toronto for free agency. He played in 55 games batting just .208 playing (158 at bats) in his last season in the majors. 

After his MLB playing days he played one season in the Australian Baseball League, then eventually in the Atlantic League with Camden. He would sign a deal with Atlanta playing at the AAA level for the Braves but was released.

In February 2009 he received an invitation to the Seattle Mariners spring camp. He didn’t make the Mariners club but was offered a job as bullpen catcher. He finished his seven year big league career batting .249 with 344 hits in 465 games played, 30 HRs 77 doubles, 168 RBIs & a .994 fielding percentage, throwing out 21 % of would be base stealers.

Retirement: During a warm up practice one day, in he made eye contact with a girl in the stands; they kept looking at each other throughout a game. Phillips tossed her a ball with his number on it & she texted messaged him and the two decided to meet. Soon they were deep in love, and got married in June 2010 at a ceremony held in the bullpen at Safeco Field. Phillips is the older brother of San Diego Padre Kyle Phillips.

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."

Italian / American New Jersey Born Pitcher: Vinny Mazzaro (2009-2012)

Vincent Michael Mazzaro was born on September 27, 1986 in Hackensack, New Jersey. He grew up in the shadow of the Meadowlands & Giants Stadium, attending East Rutherford High School where he pitched his high school to two straight championships.

In 2005 the six foot two, right handed pitcher was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the third round. After winning nine games twice at the A ball level he was promoted to AA where went 12-2 with a 1.90 ERA in 2008. He was promoted to AAA Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League going 3-3 then making the A’s big league staff in 2009.

He made his MLB debut in June and won his first start, pitching into the 7th inning in Chicago allowing no runs on three hits to the White Sox. He won his next start against Baltimore as well, this time pitching into the 8th inning allowing no runs on 5 hits, with 4 strike outs, in Oakland.

From there he struggled losing his next eight decisions, before winning at Kansas City & Baltimore in early August. He closed out his rookie year at 4-9 with a 5.32 ERA. He set a strange record that season, having four plate appearances without recording a single at bat. In each case he safely sacrificed. The old record of three PA belonged to former Mets pitcher Dwight Bernard.

In 2010 he began the year 2-0 although his ERA was near five in early June. He had a good July winning four straight decisions lowering his ERA to 3.45. But then again he suffered a rough losing streak, dropping seven of eight games. He was 6-8 with a 4.29 ERA before getting sent back down to the minors in early September. In November Mazzaro was traded to the Kansas City Royals for David Dejesus.

In his Royals debut, he earned no decision in a May 11th outing against the AL New York club. The Royals went on to win the game 4-3. On June 12th he pitched seven shut out innings against the L.A. Angels earning his first & only win of the year. By mid June he was 1-1 with an ERA over ten & was sent back down. Mazzaro was successful at AAA Omaha going 7-2 striking out 107 batters in 123 innings, returning for a September call up.

In 2012 he beagn the year with the Royals starting out at 2-0 beating good Texas & Oakland teams. He ended up at 3-3 with a 6.12 ERA & was sent back down to AAA Omaha in mid July. In november he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates along with Clint Robinson for two minor leaguers.

Mazzaro debuted with the Pirates pitching one inning or relief on April 18th, in a 6-4 loss to the Braves. On April 24th he earned his first National League win, in a Pirate 5-3 win at Philadelphia over the Phillies.

Sep 24, 2012

Former Mets Outfielder: Alex Escobar (2001)

Alexander Jose Escobar was born on September 6th, 1978 in Carabobo, Venezuela. The six foot one right hand hitting outfielder was signed out of high school by the New York Mets in 1995. In 1996 he hit .360 in the Rookie League and then stole 49 bases batting .310 with 27 HRs at A ball Capital City two years later. As the Mets won the National League pennant in 2000 Escobar was showing promise as an outfielder of the future at AA ball, getting named to the Baseball America All Star team.

By 2001 he was at AAA Norfolk, hitting 12 HRs 52 RBIs & batting .267 and got a call up in the early part of the season. Escobar debuted on May 8th playing centerfield & batting seventh at Coors Field in Colorado. In the 6th inning he singled scoring Todd Pratt with his first hit & RBI. Escobar stayed on the roster until the end of June batting .216. He returned in September playing the first game after the September 11th attacks, in Pittsburgh appearing as a pinch runner.

On October 5th he had his biggest day as a Met, he hit a pair of HRs at Shea Stadium in a game against the Montreal Expos. He homered in the 7th inning off Mike Thurman & then hit a three run shot off Guillermo Mota in the next inning. The Mets came up short in the game 8-6 with Escobar driving in five of the runs. In 18 games in New York he batted .200 with 3 HRs & 8 RBIs.

At the end of the season he was involved in the Roberto Alomar deal going to Cleveland with Matt Lawton & Jerrod Riggan. He missed all of 2002 with a torn ACL & returned as reserve player in Cleveland the next two years.

In 2005 he was injured again missing another full season. In 2006 Escobar played in 33 games for the Washington Nationals batting .356 (31-87) with a .394 on base %, 4 HRs & 18 RBIs. In his four year career he batted .258 with 13 HRs 14 doubles a .328 on base % & 52 RBIs in 125 games. Escobar played eleven seasons in the minors batting .277 with 96 HRs & 387 RBIs finishing up in 2008.

Sep 23, 2012

Former Italian / American Player of the Day: John Valentinetti (1954/ 1956-1959)

Vito John Valentinetti was born on September 16, 1928 in West New York, New Jersey. He grew up in his later years in Mount Vernon, New York just outside the Bronx. He went to Aviation high school with Whitey Ford, and got a baseball scholarship to Iona College. Vito threw the school’s first ever no hitter, while leading the Iona Gaels team to winning seasons ever year he pitched. The hard throwing right hander became the first Iona player to make it to the major leagues & is enshrined in their Hall Of Fame.

Vito was signed by the Cubs in 1950, and then went off to the Army for two years joining the Cubs staff in 1954 pitching just one game. He went back to the minors returning in 1956 going 6-4 with a 3.78 ERA. He was mostly a relief pitcher in his career but made occasional starts as well. He would pitch in the South side of Chicago as well as Cleveland, Detroit & Washington over a five year career. He posted a 13-14 Career record with 3 saves, 94 strike outs & a 4.73 ERA in 257 innings pitched in 108 games.

After his playing days he threw batting practice for the Mets home games from 1962-1982. He also tossed BP across town for the A.L. New York team, during their home stands. Pretty kool job for Mr. Valentinetti.

He was honored in a parade at Hoboken, New Jersey with other Jersey born major leaguers, celebrating 100 years of baseball in that town. The mayor, Govenuer & other celebrities were also on hand. He was also honored by the Tigers at their new ball park, with a brick engraved with his name & other old Tiger player’s names on it.

After throwing batting practice, he began a 25 year career in the New York State Department of Office Administration. In 2009 he was on hand to open up the new Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Sep 20, 2012

Early Nineties New Jersey Born Mets Outfielder: Dave Gallagher (1992-1993)

David Thomas Gallagher was born September 20, 1960 in Trenton, New Jersey. The South Jersey outfielder was a first round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians in 1980 (the 8th pick overall).

He spent seven years in the minor leagues, batting over .300 three times. In 1983 he hit .338 at AA Buffalo in 1983, getting promoted to AAA Maine where he spent another three seasons. Gallagher was not a HR hitter not known for his power, since he never hit double figures in HRs in his ten year minor league career.

In 1987 he made the Indians club out of Spring Training, but after batting just .111 he was sent back down to the minors .At AAA Buffalo he went on to hit .329 in 75 games the rest of the year. Gallagher was traded to the Seattle Mariners for Mark Huismann, but then got released in September 1987. In December he was signed by the Chicago White Sox & found a home on the south side of Chicago. Gallagher became an fine defensive outfielder for the White Sox over the next two seasons.

In 1988 he hit .303 with 5 HRs 15 doubles & 31 RBIs playing in 101 games. In 95 games in the outfield he posted a perfect fielding % (.1000%) & made five assists. The next season he played in every White Sox game and posted the best fielding percentage of all A.L. center fielders (.(993%) while making eight assists. His average dropped to .266 with 22 doubles & Gallagher who very rarely displayed power, hit just one HR. Midway through 1990 he was placed on waivers after Lance Johnson took over as the Sox main centerfielder. Gallagher was picked up by the Baltimore Orioles where he hit just .216 in 23 games.

In December 1990 he was traded to the California Angels where he would play behind Dave Winfield, Luis Polonia & Junior Felis on a last place Angels team. He hit .293 with 17 doubles & 30 RBIs playing in 90 games (270 at bats). In December of 1991 he was traded to the New York Mets for Hubbie Brooks after his second go round in New York.

Gallagher found himself as a reserve outfielder on the ’92 Mets behind Howard Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, Daryl Boston & Vince Coleman. Gallagher debuted on Opening Day as a pinch runner in the Mets 4-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. In his first month as a Met he had a five game stretch where he drove in at least one run from April 14th through April 19th. In two of those games he was successful with pinch hits.

On June 21st he hit a rare HR in a 6-2 Mets win. On August 28th in the second game of a doubleheader against the Reds he had a three hit day driving in three runs in the Mets 12-1 win as they swept the twin bill. Gallagher played in 98 games batting .240 with one HR 11 doubles 7 sac flies (8th in the NL) & 21 RBIs on the so called "worst team, money could buy". He posted a .982 fielding % making two errors in 111 chances with four assists.

In 1993 he would have seven pinch hits for the Mets raising his batting average 34 points on the year to .274. On May 26th at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium Gallagher hit a second inning HR off Danny Jackson & then had a big 8th inning. With the bases loaded he hit a line drive single scoring two runs leading the Mets & John Franco to a 5-4 win. In a wacky July 18th game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Gallagher hit his only career grand slam in the 9th inning off Giants pitcher Michael Jackson.

By the end of July he was still batting over the .300 mark & was a useful weapon off the bench. In September he had one final game leading the Mets to victory, as he had a two hit three RBI day in the Mets 4-3 win at Pittsburgh. On the season he hit a career high 6 HRs with 12 doubles, while driving in 29 runs in 201 at bats.

In the outfield he played in 72 games without making an error (.1000%) & made six assists. Around Thanksgiving of 1993 he was sent to the Atlanta Braves for Pete Smith.

Gallagher played one season in Atlanta batting .224 & was then granted free agency. In 1995 he signed with Philadelphia hitting .306 in 62 games but was traded to the California Angels for the rest of the season.

It was his last MLB season finishing up his nine year career, batting .271 lifetime, with 564 hits 17 HRs 100 doubles 10 triples & 190 RBIs in 794 games. In the outfield he posted a fantastic .993 fielding %, playing in 699 games, making 38 assists.

Retirement: Gallagher now runs a baseball academy at Frog Bridge summer camp in Mills township, New Jersey.

Sep 18, 2012

Former Mets Utility Player: Desi Relaford (2001)

Desmond Lamont Relaford was born September 16, 1973 in Valdosta, Georgia. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the fourth round, of the 1991 draft.

Relaford spent five years in the Mariners minor leagues then was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Terry Mulholland. Relaford became a utility infielder for the Phillies from 1997-2000. In 1998 he played a career high 142 games hitting .245 with 5 HRs 25 doubles 9 stolen bases & 41 RBIs.

He played in far fewer games in 1999 (65) hitting just .242. He dropped off to .221 in 2000 & after 83 games was dealt to the San Diego Padres. In San Diego he hit just .204 and got put on waivers. He was picked up by the New York Mets for the 2001 season and wound up having a career year.

He was another one of Bobby Valentines all around guys, playing at second base, third base, short stop and even got to pitch. In that outing he threw one perfect inning & had one ball reach 90 mph. Relaford had a big day on April 26th at Milwaukee gathering up four hits with a double, his first Mets HR & two RBIs. Two days later he came back to have a three hit day in St. Louis. In May 8th at Coors Field in Colorado Desi hit a pair of HRs scoring all four Mets runs in the 12-4 loss.

Relaford made the most of his opportunity to play, as he kept his batting average up around .300 through most of the season. On September 27th in a game centerfieldmaz attended in Montreal, Relaford had three hits while driving in three runs in the Mets 12-6 win. On the season he batted .302 with 8 HRs 27 doubles 36 RBIs & a 364 on base %, while leading the team with 13 stolen bases & 5 sac flies.

He played in 120 games (340 at bats). During the year he had 24 multiple hit games and a pair of four hit games as well. At second base he played 54 games, posting a .969 fielding % making six errors in 196 chances. At shortstop he played 25 games making three errors in 71 chances with a .958 fielding %. He also played 20 games at third posting a .939 fielding %.

After the season he was traded to the San Francisco Giants along with Tsuyoshi Shinjo for pitcher Shawn Estes. The next month he was sent to the Seattle Mariners for David Bell. He hit .267 in Seattle and his average gradually dropped over the next three seasons. He would play in Kansas City for two seasons batting .254 with 27 doubles 8 HRs & a career high 59 RBIs in 2003. Relaford would also play a year in Colorado, ten miss the entire 2006 season. He came back to play 14 games for the Texas Rangers in 2007 finishing up his career.

In a dozen seasons, he was a lifetime .243 hitter with 714 hits 40 HRs, 147 doubles, & 308 RBIs.

Retirement: Relaford now lives in Jacksonville Florida where he opened a baseball facility. He is also the founder of the underground Six Hole Records.

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 14, 2012

Short Time Early Sixties Mets Pitcher: Dave Hillman (1962)

Darius Dutton Hillman was born on September 14, 1927 in Dungannon, Virginia. The five foot eleven right-hander signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1950. In 1951 at Rock Hill in the Tri-state league he won twenty games, striking out 200 batters & pitched a no hitter.

The next season he rose through the ranks of the minor leagues getting to AAA Springfield. In 1954 he won 16 games posting a 3.32 ERA with 129 strike outs. In 1955 he was pitching for Los Angeles in the AAA Pacific Coast League earning a call up to the Chicago Cubs where he made 25 appearances.

In 1956 he was back at AAA Los Angeles where he won 21 games & was brought back to the Cubs where he was 0-2. Hillman would pitch five years in Chicago never having the success he had in the minors. In 1959 he was 8-11 with a 3.53 ERA, striking out 88 batters in 191 innings pitched. In May he posted his only career shutout coming against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field.

In November of 1959 he was sent along with Jim Marshall to the Boston Red Sox for Dick Gernert. The trade was groundbreaking, since it was the first inter league trade that did not include waivers up to that point due to a change in rules.

He spent two years in Boston as a middle reliever making 48 appearances going 3-5. In 1962 he began the year with the Cincinnati Reds but had his contract purchased by the expansion New York Mets on April 26th.

Hillman debuted as Met on April 28th at the Polo Grounds, pitching the 6th inning in a rare '62 Mets win. He allowed a run, a hit & a walk against the Philadelphia Phillies. In four appearances from May 16th through May 31st, Hillman allowed two or more runs three times including a horrific four run outing in one inning of work against the Los Angeles Dodgers. His best Mets moment came at Wrigley Field on June 9th when he earned his only Mets save.

Hillman would only appear in 13 games for the ’62 Mets allowing 11 runs in 15.2 innings pitched while posting a 6.32 ERA. In an eight-season career, Hillman posted a 21-37 record with three saves 296 strikeouts & a 3.87 ERA in 624 innings over 188 appearances.