Oct 30, 2012

Italian / American Player: Mike Napoli (2006-2012)

Michael Anthony Napoli was born on October 31st, 1981 in Hollywood Florida. The Italian American catcher / first baseman was drafted out of high school in Pembroke Pines, Florida by the Anaheim Angels. In 2004 at A Ball he hit 29 HRs with 118 RBIs getting promoted to AA in 1995 where he hit 31 HRs with 99 RBIs.

By 2006 he was on the Angels roster as their main catcher over Jose Molina. Napoli entered the major leagues with a HR in his first career at bat, coming against the Detroit Tigers. Overall in his rookie year he hit 16 HRs with 13 doubles in 94 games, although he only batted .228. By 2008 he brought his average up to .273 and would hit over 20 HRs in each of the next three seasons.

He competed for the catching job with Jeff Mathis, although Napoli was a far better hitter than Mathis, manager Mike Scioscia prefers a better defensive catcher. Mathis threw out 25% of base runners to Napoli’s 15%, & the Angels staff had better ERA of almost one run when Mathis was behind the plate. Scioscia had a closed door meeting with Napoli about his catching during the summer of ’09. Napoli led all catchers with eight errors in 2009 & his seven passed balls were fifth most in the league. But his power was needed in the Angels line up, he saw more time at DH as well as first base.

In 2010 he had his best Angels season playing in 140 games, with 108 hits, 26 HRs, 68 RBIs, 24 doubles & 60 runs scored. His batting average did fall to .238 & he struck out 137 times (7th in the league). In Anaheim he played in three post seasons, hitting a pair of HRs with four RBIs in the 2007 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox.

In January 2011 he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays along with Juan Rivera for Vernon Wells. Four days later he was sent to the Texas Rangers for Frank Francisco. Napoli would share time during the regular season behind the plate (61 games) with veteran Yorvit Torrealba (98 games).

 Napoli would play at first base as well as designated hitter and have an incredible year at the plate. He hit .320 although his 369 at bats did not qualify him in the batting leaders, hit 30 HRs (10th in the league) with 25 doubles & 75 RBIs playing in 116 games over all. He saw more playing time behind the plate in September & by the post season he was the Rangers main backstop.

Post Season: In the 7th inning of Game #3 of the 2011 ALDS he hit a two run HR off Tampa’s Dave Price putting the Rangers ahead 2-1, in a game they would win 4-3. In the Series he batted .357 (4-15). He had a good ALCS against the Detroit Tigers as well, batting .292 with an RBI & six runs scored.

In the World Series he became a household name & a Texas baseball legend as the fans in the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex chanted Napoli -Napoli!! In Game #1 he hit a two run HR off Chris Carpenter to tie the game at two, although Texas went onto lose 3-2.

In Game #4 he greeted new pitched Mitchell Boggs with a tremendous three run HR in the 6th inning sealing the Rangers 4-0 win, tying the series at two games each. In Game #5 he came to the plate in the bottom of the 8th inning with the bases loaded & the score tied 2-2. Napoli lined a double to centerfield scoring two runs, leading the Rangers to a three games to two series lead.

In the classic Game #6 he broke a 4th inning 2-2 tie with an RBI single, overall in the series he lead all teams with 10 RBIs. He batted .350 (second for Texas behind Ian Kinsler) with seven hits & two HRs.

In 2012 Napoli returned with a one year deal to avoid arbitration. He  played in 108 games, slugging 24 HRs but his average fell to .227 with 56 RBIs. Texas lost their hold on first place in the final days of the season & lost the first round of the new one game wild card playoff.

Oct 29, 2012

Early Sixties Mets Pitcher: Grover Powell (1963)

Grover David Powell was born October 10th 1940 in Sayre, Pennsylvania. The five foot ten left handed pitcher attended the University of Pennsylvania getting signed by the New York Mets in 1962. Powell went 2-6 in the New York Penn League in 1962 getting pushed up to AAA Syracuse right away. There he also went 2-6 with a 5.9 ERA. In 1963 he started out in the Carolina League at A Ball Raleigh getting near .500 at 5-6 with a solid 3.07 ERA.

It was all the Mets needed to see, giving him a chance on a bad ball club with a poor staff. Powell debuted on July 13th pitching one inning of relief in a 11-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Polo Grounds. He would make nine relief appearances & pitch well enough to earn a start. On August 20th he started the first game of a double header in Philadelphia and surprised everyone with an incredible four hit shutout, striking out six.

He was given another start on August 27th in Pittsburgh, pitching five shutout innings matching frames with the Pirates Bob Friend. He was relieved by Galen Cisco who took the heartbreaking 2-1 loss. On September 5th Powell was knocked out of the game in the 3rd inning as the Cardinals scored four runs on him, he was credited with a 9-0 loss. Powell made twenty appearances on the year going 1-1 with a 2.72 ERA striking out 39 batters in 49 innings pitched.

He had the pleasure of wearing the uniform number 41, four years before Tom Seaver ended anyone else's chance of ever using it. He is forever imortalized on a 1964 Topps baseball card with the Mets.

Powell suffered through injuries and pitched sparingly over the next three years in the minor leagues. He pitched in the minors through 1970 going 30-47 in 172 games.

Retirement: In 1966 he returned to Penn. University & got a degree in economics. At the young of age just 44 he passed away after a battle with leukemia in 1985 at Raleigh North Carolina.

Oct 27, 2012

1936 N.L. Champion New York Giants Player: Wally Berger (1936-1937)

Walter Anton Berger was born October 10, 1905 in Chicago, Illinois. Berger grew up in San Francisco, California & was a high school team mate of future Hall of Famer Joe Cronin. Beregr played in the PacificCoast Leage with the AA Los Angeles Angels were he was a slugging star. In 1929 he bashed 40 HRs while batting .335, his third straight year of batting over .325. He was signed & brought up to the Boston Braves in 1930 and had a record setting year.

He set a rookie record by hitting 38 HRs, a record stood for 58 years until Mark McGwire broke it in 1988. Berger drove in 119 runs, also a rookie record until broken by Albert Pujols in 2001. Berger also hit 27 doubles with 14 triples while batting .310 overall. It was quite a debut but hard to follow up. He hit over .300 over the next three seasons &.290 or better over next five seasons. Berger made thAll Star team for four straight years from 1933-136, gaining votes for the MVP award each year as well.

In 1934 he hit 34 HRs with 121 RBIs both third best in the league, as he hit .295 posting a355 on base %. The following season (1935) he led the league in both HRs (34) & RBIs (130) with 39 doubles a .295 batting average & a .355 on base percentage. He would hit over 30 HRs three times at the big league level & drive in over 100 runs four times. Babe Ruth called him the best centerfielder in the league in 1933. He set Braves all time HR marks in those tears that were broken by future Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews.

In 1933 his 27 HRs were more than half the teams total combined. Throughout the thirties he was on top in the leader boards in HRs, Slugging %, on base %, doubles, total bases, extra base hits, RBIs & strike outs, He twice had the best at bat per HR ratio in the league. Berger was also a top centerfielder & left fielder. He led the league in games played three times, fielding & put outs one time each, while being among the league leaders many times. During the 1936 season he suffered a shoulder injury that took a huge toll on his career.

He was traded to the New York Giants mid season, and his first Giants HR was the 200th of his career. He played as fourth outfielder behind the great Mel Ott, Jo-Jo Moore & Jimmy Ripple. Berger arrived at the Polo Grounds on June 15th & would play in 59 games with the Giants. He hit .291 with 12 HRs & 43 RBIs the rest of the season for New York, as the Giants won the pennant under manager Bill Terry. He only made three pinch hit appearances in the 1937 World Series going hitless.

He spent the first part of the 1938 season in New York hitting .188 & was traded to the Cincinnati Reds after 18 games. He finished the year with 16 HRs & hit 14 more the next year before winding down by 1940 in Philadelphia.

In his 11 season career he hit an even .300 with 1550 hits 242 HRs 299 doubles 59 triples 809 runs scored 898 RBIs & a .359 on base % in 1350 games played.

Retirement: After baseball he was a scout for the Giants & became minor league manager. Berger passed away of a stroke at Redondo Beach, California in 1988 at age 83.

Oct 24, 2012

1951 New York Giants Hero Who Hit the Most Famous HR In Baseball History: Bobby Thomson (1946-1953 / 1957)

Robert Brown Thomson was Born October 25, 1923 in Glasgow, Scotland. His father came to America working as a cabinet maker, and moved the family to Staten Island, New York shortly after. Bobby grew up in a large family of five brothers & sisters.

He eventually earned the nick name the “The Staten Island Scot” while attending Curtis High School. there he was a top athlete playing soccer & baseball. His father was a Brooklyn Dodger fan, taking little Bobby to his first MLB game at Brooklyn's Ebbetts Field. His older brother bought him a baseball glove & taught him to play the game. The tall six foot two right hand hitter tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers but they hesitated on signing him. In 1942 he was signed by the New York Giants. Sadly his father passed away shortly after and never saw him play at the big league level.

He played in 34 games in the low minors in 1942 before joining the military, serving three years in the Air Force during World War II. He came back to play for the AAA Jersey City Giant,, batting .280 with 26 HRs & 90 RBIs playing in the outfield as well as at first base.

He made a September call up in 1946, debuting on September 9th 1949. In his first game he got a pair of hits & drove in two runs. On September 18th he hit his first career HR, it came against the Chicago Cubs. He batted .315 (17-54) hitting his first two career HRs.

In 1947 he became Giants regular outfielder, coming in third for the Rookie of the Year Award. He would hit 29 HRs (5th in the N.L.) with 85 RBIs, 60 extra base hits, 105 runs scored (6th in the N.L.) 26 doubles, 5 triples, & 154 hits. He learned to play outfield under the leadership of Giants Hall of Famer Mel Ott, who was now his manager in the early years.

Thomson said: "After a while, I felt center field was the ultimate place to play in the outfield. That was the guy that could do everything. So I went to Mel Ott, and said, 'Why can't I play center? I can run as well as Lockman.' Mel Ott said he didn't realize I felt that way. By 1949 I was the regular in center, and Lockman played left.” Thomson would be the Giants center fielder until Willie Mays arrived in 1951.

In 1948 Thomson made his first All Star game although his numbers fell off a bit from his rookie year; 16 HRs 20 doubles 63 RBIs & a .248 average. In 1949 he had one of his best seasons, batting a career high .309 (6th in the league) with 27 HRs, 35 doubles, 9 triples, 109 RBIs (6th in the league) scoring 99 runs, & making another All Star team. He led all outfielders in games played (157) was second in put outs (330) fourth in assists (9).

In 1950 the Giants finished third, he led the team in HRs (25) & was second to Hank Thompson in RBIs (91). Thomson would have five straight twenty plus HR seasons, driving in over 100 runs four of five years in that period.

Quotes: On the Dodger, Giants rivalry Thomson said, "It was a pretty fierce rivalry. I'm just speaking for myself, but I think it was general through the clubs. We didn't like them, and they didn't like us."

At Ebbets Field our locker rooms were right next to each other, and we had a common runway between the respective locker rooms and dugouts, so we had a chance to walk back and forth and pass each other. "I can remember one day when I was walking back to the locker room, and I passed Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, and I think 'Pee Wee' Reese was there. Hell, they never even looked at me, except Snider. I looked at Snider, and he looked at me, and all we did was half a nod that was it. We had nothing to do with each other."

In 1951 Bobby began the year with two RBIs on Opening Day in the Giants win at Boston over the Braves. He hit his first HR on April 22nd off Carl Erskine against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Overall Thomson struggled as did the Giants during the first part of the season. He was only hitting .220 at the start of July. He began the month with a bang, hitting HRs in the first four games of the month. He helped the Giants beat the Philadelphia Phillies on July 2nd in a 4-3 win.

On July 3rd he had two hits, with a HR & drove in three runs in the 9-8 win. Midway through July, manager Leo Durocher moved him to third base, to make room for rookie centerfielder Willie Mays. Thomson would hit 11 HRs in the month, with 30 RBIs. On July 24th he drove in two runs leading to a 4-3 win. At the end of the month he hit HRs in the last two games, driving in all four runs in a 4-3 win at Wrigley Field. The Giants found themselves 13 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers in mid August and it seemed like the Giants were going nowhere. Thomson & his team would make one of the most miraculous comebacks in baseball history, going 37-7 from mid August on.

On August 12th, the Giants began their incredible 16 game winning streak. In the second game of a double header that day, Thomson drove in both runs of a 2-1 win. On August 19th he hit a two run HR in the 8th inning, tying up a game against the Phillies leading New York to a 5-4 win. Overall he drove in runs in four one run games during the win streak & six games overall. In September he began the month with a HR off Brooklyn's Ralph Branca in an 8-1 win at the Polo Grounds. The next day he hit another HR and drove in five runs in the first three games.

In mid September he drove in runs in five games, homering in three straight during a six game win streak. In the last game of the season the Giants needed a win to end up with at least a tie with Brooklyn. They faced off against the Boston Braves, Thomson hit a second inning HR tying up the game. The Giants went on to a 3-2 win. The Dodgers won as well & a three game playoff was set to see would win the National League pennant. The Giants had an incredible month overall, going 21-6 in September, ending the season with a 96-58 record.

As for Thomson, he ended the month with a 15 game hit streak, hitting 11 HRs with 24 RBIs . On the year he hit a career high 32 HRs (4th in the league) with 27 doubles 8 triples (7th in the NL) & 101 RBIs (7th in the NL) while batting .293 (10th in the league).

Post Season: In the first game of the Playoffs at Ebbets Field, Thomson hit a two run HR in the 4th inning off Ralph Branca. The Giants went on to a 3-1 victory, taking a one nothing series lead. Brooklyn won the next game 10-0 & Thomson had one of six Giants hits off Clem Labine. On October 3rd, 1951 all New York came to a halt as the two hated rivals met for the pennant. The stage was set for a classic at New York’s Polo Grounds, with Sal Maglie facing off against Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe.

Before the game Thomson left his home on Staten Island & took the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan. He then took the subway to the Polo Grounds. He met Gil Hodges & his wife outside the park, they wished each other luck. Thomson said one of us is going to leave here very happy today. The game was one of the first to be viewed by a national TV audience, as baseball was just starting to enjoy success on television.

In the top of the 1st inning, the Dodgers took a 1-0 lead on Jackie Robinson's base hit. In the bottom of the 7th inning, Bobby Thomson tied the game with a sac fly, scoring Monte Irvin. Maglie & Newcombe pitched a great pitcher's duel keeping the score tied at 1-1 into the 8th. In the top of the 8th the Dodgers Captain Pee Wee Reese singled, advanced on a Duke Snider hit & scored on a wild pitch.

Andy Pafko hit a shot to third, that Thomson booted allowing Snider to score. It was ruled a single. The Dodgers headed to the bottom of the ninth with a 4-1 lead, feeling like the season was finally over. In the Giants 9th Alvin Dark singled to lead off the inning. After a visit to the mound, Newcombe told Jackie Robinson he was tired. Robinson threw the ball into Nukes glove, looked him in the eye & said “you keep pitching until your arm falls off”.

Strangely, Dodger manager Charlie Dressen told first base man Gil Hodges to hold the runner at 1st base. It was odd because that first run meant nothing with a three run lead. The Giants Don Mueller (nicknamed "Mandrake the magician" because he always found a hole), singled in that open gap at first base.

Whitey Lockman then doubled down the left-field line, scoring Dark and advancing Mueller to third. Mueller didn’t slide correctly, twisted his ankle and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. During the delay, Dressen, phoned the Brooklyn bullpen, Coach Clyde Sukeforth said Carl Erskine's was bouncing his curve ball. Dressen chose to bring in Ralph Branca.

As Thomson was walking to the plate, Giants manager Leo Durocher, who was coaching third base, called him over and said “If you ever hit one, hit one now. Thomson thought he was crazy. Thomson was still upset at the error he had made on the field and told himself- “Just give yourself a chance you SOB, do a good job.” Branca's first pitch was a fastball, right down the middle for a strike. Thomson thought to himself "I won't see that one again". The second pitch was a fastball up and in. At 3:51 PM, Thomson pulled it down the left-field line about 320 ft. Brooklyn left fielder Andy Pafko, ran to the wall, looked up and the ball disappeared over the 17 ft. high wall. The HR won the game, won the pennant & became the most famous HR in baseball history.

Thomson ran the bases, as he watched the ball fly over the wall. The Giants went wild crowding around home plate as Thomson jumped in the air landing onto home plate. Russ Hodges made his famous radio call “The Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant” The stunned Dodgers walked off the field, Jackie Robinson, the true competitor was the last to leave, making sure Thomson, touched every base. The HR became known as "The shot heard round the world" or “the miracle at Coogan’s Bluff” and has been voted the most famous HR in baseballs history.

That evening Thomson was asked to appear on the Perry Como Show. At first he said no wanting to just go home & celebrate with his family quietly. But when the show offered him $500, he said yes. Brooklyn fans never forgave Branca, he would get phone calls & death threats for years to come. His family members would also get heckled in public. Eventually Branca learned to live with it, but not until he seeked help from a Priest friend of the family. He told him "God gave you this cross because he knew you could handle it".

A short time later, the two appeared on television together singing the song “Because of You” in a comedic parody. Branca said if it was anyone else other than Thomson who hit the HR, he may have felt differently. Thomson was always humble about the game winning hit. The two would go on together doing functions & lectures together for over 50 years.

Trivia: Brooklyn catcher Roy Campanella was not behind the plate due to injury. Future Met pitching coach Rube Walker was the catcher who called the pitch. Waiting on deck was the 20 year old rookie, Willie Mays.

Years later it was revealed the Giants were stealing signs, with coach Herman Franks using a telescope to see the opposing catchers signal. A buzzer would ring in the bullpen where reserve catcher Sal Yvars would toss a ball in the air to alert the batter of the pitch. Thomson claimed he never used the signal while batting. The batter would also need to react very quickly to this process & no matter what, he still had to hit the ball.

The 1951 World Series would be Thomson's only World Series appearance. In Game #1 the Giants took a quick 2-0 lead in the 1st inning. Monte Irvin stole home with Thomson at bat. In Game #4 he drove in a run in the 9th inning of the Giants 6-2 loss. In Game #6 with the Giants backs against the wall down 4-1, Thomson drove in a run on sac fly. The Series ended with the Giants finally running out of gas four games to two. Overall Thomson went 5 for 21, (.238) with five walks, a .385 on base % & two RBIs playing in all six games.

After the miracle at Coogan's bluff, Bobby returned in 1952 to lead the league in triples (14) hitting 24 HRs (6th in the NL in HRs) with 29 doubles & 108 RBIs (second in the NL) batting .270. He finished 16th in the MVP voting, making the All Star team. That year the Giants finished second behind the Dodgers by four and a half games. In 1953 the Giants finished fifth, Thomson hit .288 with 26 HRs 22 doubles & 106 RBIs (10th in the NL).

During the winter of 1954 the Giants made a very unpopular trade sending the 1951 World Series hero,Thomson to the Milwaukee Braves for Johnny Antonelli, Don Liddle, Billy Klaus, and $50,000. Thomson was stunned at the trade. He was devastated that the Giants had cut ties with him, him after all the years together. Many of the Giant fans were outraged, missing their hero. Johnny Antonelli went on to win 20 games while leading the Giants to a World Series Championship in 1954, eventually winning over the fans.

As for Thomson, he broke his ankle in spring training & would only play in 43 games that year batting .232. The injury opened a slot in left field for a rookie named Henry Aaron, who went on to the Hall of Fame. After another disappointing year in 1955 (.257 with 12 HRs), Bobby rebounded in 1956. He hit 20 HRs with 74 RBIs but only hit .235. In June 1957 after 41 games with Milwaukee he was dealt back to the New York Giants for Red Schoendienst. That year he missed out on a championship in Milwaukee, as the Braves won the 1957 World Series. They then went on to win a pennant in 1958.

Thomson made a hero’s return to the Polo Grounds, in the Giants last year in New York. Unfortunately his best days were behind him, as he hit.242 in 81 games with 8 HRs & 38 RBIs. He was in the lineup for the last game at the Polo Grounds on September 29th, 1957 getting a single in the 2nd inning (going 1-3). As the Giants moved to the West Coast Bobby was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Bob Speake. He had a comeback season for the Cubs with 21 HRs 27 doubles, 82 RBIs while batting .283.

He went on to the Boston Red Sox & Baltimore Orioles in 1960 retiring at the end of the season, retiring at age 36.

Quotes: "I had lost the feeling, the enthusiasm for the game. I loved baseball and I loved the feeling of playing the game. But now it was over and I knew it."

In a 15 year career, Thomson hit .270 with 1705 hits 264 HRs, eight grand slams, 267 doubles 74 triples 1026 RBIs & a .332 on base %, in 1779 games. He played 14 years in the outfield (1506 games) making 111 assists posting a .980 fielding %. At third base he played 184 games in six seasons posting a .937 fielding %.

Retirement: After his playing days, Thomson settled in Watchung, New Jersey with his wife Elaine “Winky” and their three children. He worked as a paper products salesman for many years. He appeared at numerous baseball card shows & charity events through the years with his friend Ralph Branca.

In his later years he moved to Savannah, Georgia, where he passed away in 2010 at age 86. He is missed but remembered forever, not only for being a great baseball player but a kind man & a professional gentleman.

Family: Bobby has two daughters, and a son whom he tragically lost from a virus that snaked through his heart at the age of 38.

Honors: In 1969, Thomson was named to the Giants' all-time outfield along with Mel Ott and Willie Mays. Bobby’s home run in the 1951 playoff game is considered the most famous home run in baseball history. His bat he used to hit the famous home run is enshrined at Cooperstown, in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 2004, he was inducted into The Scottish Sports Hall Of Fame in recognition of his accomplishments.

Oct 20, 2012

1999 NL Wild Card Mets Pitcher: Billy Taylor (1999)

William Howell Taylor was born October 16, 1961 in Monticello, Florida. The towering six foot eight right hander was originally signed as a hard throwing right hander by the Texas Rangers in the second round of the 1980 draft. He spent all of the 1980’s in the Rangers minor leagues as both a starter & reliever. A decade later he was sent to the Atlanta Braves organization & toiled there in the minors as well due to their pitching rich talent of the early nineties.

In that time he became one of the best closers at the AA level. In 1993, at the age of 31, he was an AAA All-Star, saved 26 games with a 1.98 ERA, winning the league's reliever of the year award. In October of 1993 he signed as a free agent with the Oakland A’s & made his big league debut the next season at age 32, after fourteen seasons in the minors. Taylor pitched the 7th inning on an Opening Day loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. He remained on the club until July going 1-3 in 41 appearances before being sent down again. He spent all of 1995 in the minors & got another break in 1996 getting to the A’s staff going 6-3 taking over as the teams closer.

He would save 25 games that season, then move on to posting 25 or more saves over the next three years. He came in the AL’s top ten twice in saves in those years, as well as in games finished. In 1999 he had 26 saves but his record dropped to 1-5 with a 3.98 with Oakland. On July 31st he was sent to the New York Mets in exchange for Jason Isringhausen & Greg McMichael. Izzy went on to make a remarkable comeback saving 33 games in Oakland the next season.

By the time Taylor had arrived in New York he was 38 years old & was losing his fastball. He made his Mets debut on August 1st at Wrigley Field in Chicago, pitching the 10th inning while getting credit for a hold. It was his only official stat in his Mets career, besides a blown save where he took the loss on August 7th to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In 18 appearances he posted an 8.10 ERA, allowing 12 earned runs with two HRs, in 13 innings pitched, while striking out 15. At the end of the season he was granted free agency & did not make the post season roster.

He signed with the Colorado Rockies, the pitched briefly with the Tampa Rays & Pittsburgh Pirates ending his seven season career in 2001.

In a seven year career Taylor was 16-28 with 100 career saves (125th all time). He posted a 4.21 ERA striking out 307 batters walking 133 in 324 innings over 317 appearances.

Early Nineties Mets Pitcher: Julio Valera (1990)

Julio Enrique Valera was born on October 13th 1968 in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The six foot two right hander was signed out of San Sebastian high school in 1986. He spent tow years at A ball winning 15 games at Columbia in 1988. He won ten games (10-6) at AA Jackson the next year making it to AAA Tidewater by the end of the season. He went 10-10 with the '90 Tides second to Manny Hernandez in victories and posting one of the clubs top ERA's.

Valera got called up to the Mets squad in September 1990 debuting at Shea Stadium in a start against the San Francisco Giants. He went six innings earning a 6-5 win & keeping Bud Harrelson's Mets in first place by one game. In his next start the Pirates had taken over first place & they beat up Valera for five runs in the first two innings, he exited with the loss. In three appearances he was 1-1 with a 6.92 ERA.

In 1991 he went an identical 10-10 at AAA Tidewater, making two relief appearances on the Mets club in June. At the start of the 1992 season he was sent to the California Angels for Dick Schofield. He made the Angels starting staff in 1992 going 8-11 with a 3.73 ERA at the bottom of a rotation that features Mark Langston (13-14) & veteran Bert Blyleven in his final season.

Valera pitched in 19 games the next season (3-6) then spent two years in the minors before getting signed by the Kansas City Royals in 1996. He went 3-2 pitching his final MLB season that year.

In a five year career, Valera was 15-20 with a 6.46 ERA, striking out 179 batters while walking 117 in 85 games (38 starts). Valera pitched in the minor leagues through 2001, for a total of 13 seasons overall. He was 77-91 with a 3.82 at that level.

Oct 15, 2012

Brief Mid Sixties Met: Lou Klimchock (1966)

Louis Stephen Klimchock was born on October 15, 1939 in Hostettler, Pennsylvania. The left hand hitting infielder would get signed out of high school as an amatuer free agent in 1957 by the Kansas City A’s.

At eighteen he made his debut playing in two games as the youngest player in the league. He spent four seasons in Kansas City with a couple of team mates who went on to be great managers, Dick Williams & Whitey Herzog. Klimchock was a career reserve player who saw action at third base, second base, outfield & one game at catcher. He won two batting titles hitting over .330 twice in the minor leagues. He also hit 19 HRs three different seasons in the minor but never carried that power over into the majors.

He moved on to the Milwaukee Braves for four seasons, spending a brief time in Washington with the Senators in 1963 as well. He spent the first part of the 1965 season with the Braves but was sent to the New York Mets in September as the player to be named later in the Billy Cowan deal. Klimchock got a chance with the 1966 Mets in April, seeing action in just five games going 0-5 with three strike outs as a pinch hitter. He played 120 games for the 1966 AAA Jacksonville Suns with future Mets Tom Seaver, Tug McGraw, Bud Harrelson & Ken Boswell. He hit 11 HRs with 20 doubles & 52 RBIs but only batted .230.

In October he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Floyd Weaver who would never play for the Mets at the big league level. Klimchock played three seasons in Cleveland having his best year in 1969 batting .287 with career highs in at bats (258) games (90) hits (74) HRs (6) doubles (13) & RBIs (26). After the 1970 season he finished his career at AAA Denver in 1971.

In a 12 season career he batted .232 with 155 hits 13 HRs 21 doubles 3 triples & 69 RBIs. He would also struggle defensively at the major league level, making 15 errors in 159 chances at third base (.906 %).

Retirement: Klimchock is currently the president for the Arizona Major League Alumni. The group promotes the game to kids with former major leaguers through community activities.

Oct 14, 2012

Former Italian / American Player of the Day: Bill Serena (1949-1954)

William Robert Serena was Born October 2, 1924 in Alameda, California. He was the son of an Italian immigrant carpenter who came to USA after World War I. Serena served in World War II returning in 1945 getting signed to a baseball contract to play in the West Texas-New Mexico Class C league. He tore up the league, hitting 57 HRs with 190 RBIs in the little ballparks where pitching was no match for him. He hit 28 HRs at AAA Dallas in 1949 and his contract purchased by the Chicago Cubs.

He made his MLB debut in 1949 hitting his first career HR playing in 12 games going 8-37, half his hits were extra base hits.

In 1950 he was the Cubs main third baseman, playing a fine defense coming in the league’s top five in put outs, assists & fielding percentage (.945). At the plate he hit 17 HRs with 20 doubles & 61 RBIs, giving him enough votes to finish fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting. In a strange event at the Polo Grounds on May 1st, he & 11 of his team mates were ejected from a game for taunting Umpire Frank Dascoli. They harassed him & called him rabbit ears, which was the final straw.

The next year Serena was batting .333 in May when he fractured his wrist sliding into second base. He stayed in the game to get two hits & drive in a pair of runs but the injury would end his season.

In 1952 he returned to bat .274 with 15 HRs 21 doubles & 61 RBIs, playing in 122 games. In June he hit a game tying HR in the 9th inning off Milwaukee Braves pitcher Warren Spahn during a record setting 18 strikeout performance.

In 1953 Serena became a reserve infielder playing third & second base, as Randy Jackson (19 HRs 66 RBIs .285 Ave) put up better numbes & became the regular third baseman.

He sat in a dugout with three other Italian America player; the future celebrity broad caster Joe Garagiola, former batting champion & first Mets batting coach Phil Cavaretta & infielder Bob Ramozzotti.

Serena only played one more season and was batting .159 when the Cubs sold his contract to the cross town White Sox. He ended his brief six year career batting .251 with 48 HRs 57 doubles & 198 RBIs.

He returned to the Pacific Coast League playing with the San Francisco Seals & Oakland Oaks before retiring at age 32. Next he became a long time base ball scout for 38 years, spending 25 years with the Braves organization alone. He retired from baseball at age 70, in 1994. In 1996 he passed away from lung cancer in Hayward, California.

Oct 11, 2012

The First Italian / American Ball Player: Lewis Pessano (aka- Buttercup Dickerson)

Lewis Pessano (Dickerson) is a pioneer for Italian American ball players. 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 chose to change their names to make them sound more Americanized.

Pessano was no different & changed his last name to Dickerson. He became known by the nick name of Buttercup, after a character in the popular Gilbert & Sullivan play of the times, H.F.S. Pinafore. The play had opened in London in May 1878 and ran for 571 performances, which was the second-longest run of any musical theatre piece up to that time.

Lewis Pessano was born on October 11, 1858 outside Baltimore, Maryland. He began his playing career as a right handed hitting outfielder way 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 Leagues blacklist, probably because of his ethnicity, although he was eventually reinstated. In 1883 he went to play in the American Association 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 (United Association), Buffalo, Baltimore & Louisville (all of the American Association) .

In his pro career he played in 408 games with 500 hits 84 doubles 34 triples 4 HRs 127 RBIs 48 walks and a .284 batting average. He 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.

Former Bronx Born New York Giants Prospect Turned Manager: Charlie Fox (1942)

Charlie Francis Fox was born on October 7th, 1921 in the Bronx, New York. Fox earned the nickname Irish and as a boy sold newspapers in the shadows of the Polo Grounds. He later attended high school at James Monroe High School in the Bronx. This was the same high scholl long time Met Ed Kranepool would also attend.

As a young ball player he dreamed of playing for the team he rooted for the New York Giants. Fox got his chance, getting signed by the New York Giants in 1942 & making it right to the big league club. He got to play in three career games going 3-7 giving him a lifetime .429 batting average. From there he went off to serve in the Navy in World War II for the next three years, where he was involved in some very dangerous assignments.

Fox returned to baseball but would never play in the big leagues again. He spent 12 seasons in the minor leagues, mostly playing catcher & batting a career high .271. In those years he coached & managed in the Giants minor leagues. As the Giants moved to the West Coast, Fox became a scout for them from 1957 through 1963. He then managed & coached again in the Giants minor leagues through 1970.

In May of 1970 Fox took over as manager of the Giants big league club, replacing Clyde King. That season the Giants finished third behind the NL Champion Reds & the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1971 he won the Manager of the Year Award, in what became known in San Francisco as "The Year of the Fox".

That season he led the Giants to a first place finish & a 90 win season. That year the Giants were loaded with four future Hall of Famers; Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry & Juan Marichal.

In the NLCS they lost to the eventual world champion Pittsburgh Pirates. Fox would manage the Giants into 1974 when he was replaced by Wes Westrum. Overall he would be associated with the Giants for over thirty years. Fox would move on to the Montreal Expos organization where he would serve as a manager briefly in 1976.

He then was named the team's General Manager through 1978, getting credit for selecting players like Bill Gullickson, Charlie Lea, Scott Sanderson & Tim Raines. He also maneuvered trades that brough Tony Perez, Will McEnaney, Chris Spier & Stan Bahnsen to Montreal.

Fox would again get a chance to mange, briefly in 1983 with the Chicago Cubs. In his final years in baseball he served as a scout with the Houston Astros until 1993.

Passing: Fox died of pneumonia at age 82 in Stanford, California in 2004.

Led Zeppelin-Nightwish & the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour

Led Zeppelin reunited for a press conference this week to announce the release of a film of their 2007 reunion show in honor of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. The film Celebration Day will be released in theaters & on DVD this month. Zeppelin said "NO" to any chances of their being any kind of Zeppelin reunion tour or anything of the like. They seemed to be annoyed or even aggravated at any mention of a reunion.
Understandably the press can be annoying, especially with people asking questions who don't know what Zeppelin was or meant to a generation. But as far as the way Zeppelin (mainly Plant) seems to handle this kind of excitement over a reunion, is getting kind of old. I think it's better that they don't try to reunite becacuse I don't think they would be able to pull it off, especially with Robert Plant's voice. I thing the main reason they don't do it is because they know there is no way Plant could pull of any of his old singing.

His solo career has been successful in its own way, but he has never gotten back to anything like he was in Zeppelin. If he wasn't Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin I would totally dismiss anything he did solo. I am not sure if Jimmy Page can still play like he use to either & can Jason Bonham really be his dad on tour? I am a big Led Zeppelin fan grom back in those old days, don't get me wrong. And I admire them for not carrying on after the death of John Bonham, after all there was only one Bonzo. But as a music fan & one who frequents concerts I think they owe to the fans to go out & tour.
The Who have done it without Keith Moon, without  John Entwistle and have been sucessful. Yes there is something missing but if certain band members destroy their lives why should others as well as the fans be denied. If the Who stopped in 1978 would they still be as popular & as legendary today?
Same goes for the likes of Aerosmith. They have carried on & still do today, no their upcoming album in November may not be as good as what they put out in the late seventies but it will keep the Aerosmith legend going. I for one paid a ridiculous amount of money for great seats at their upcoming Madison Square Garden show. I just saw Heart last week, they are as strong as they ever were. I am going to see Crosby Stills & Nash next week. & the Who in December.
If Led Zeppelin reunited I would pay a lot (and I mean a lot) to be at the show, in a good seat. So would many of the old fans.

These groups keep coming & giving us fans the music. They may not be as young as they & they may have to make adjustments to do what they have to. But if Led Zeppelin does not want to commit to this, I think it hurts their legend. I find myself listening to less Zeppelin than I use to. The fact that they have an attitude when asked about a reunion, just turns me off.

Nightwish: After my review of Nightwish at the Beacon Theater a few weeks ago, I was devastated to find out that singer Annette Olzen is no longer in the band. In the midst of their United States tour Annette is out of the band & replaced by singer Floor Jansen. All I can say is I am so glad I got to see Nightwish with Annette at the helm.
I think Nightwish are one of the best bands in the world right now but the fact that they lost their to lead singers in the past six years is something that stands out. Whats the story?? No matter how great a band is, their lead singers are not only the voice of the band but the image as well. Nightwish cannot expect to just refilling this role. I am very upset about the departure of Annette Olzen.

Beatles: Beatles have officially re-released their 1967 Magical Mystery Tour movie on DVD / Blue Ray & in select movie theaters this week on John Lennon's 72nd birthday. Not to sound negative on everything posted today but Magical Mystery Tour was certainly not the greatest movie the Beatles made nor was it the greatest thing they did during that period. The new packaging doesn't give too much new stuff that we haven't heard or seen. Like Paul McCartney said where else can you see a video for I Am the Walrus, beyond that the movie doesn't offer too much.
Besides diehard fans like myself already have the movie on video, DVD and anything else that been availabe over the years. Where is Let it Be on film with hours upon hours of unreleased material??? Again die hard like myself have the movie on visdeo/ DVd but would love more on an official release. How about the Beatles at Shea stadium??? when????

By the way Ringo goes out on tour all the time, and he was a Beatle. The fans (myself included) will keep going to see him. Paul McCartney frequently goes out as well to keep the music alive & the Beatles music will never die no matter what. Hey Zep, get the idea?

looking forward to the new Aerosmith album, sounds good from the tiny bits I heard...............

Oct 9, 2012

Former Mets Outfielder: Jason Pridie (2011)

Jason Orville Pridie was born October 9th, 1983 in Phoenix Arizona. The six foot one left hand hitting outfielder was drafted out of high school by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the second round in 2002. He spent six years in the minors, getting drafted away by the Minesota Twins but was then sent back to Tampa.

In November 2007 he was Traded by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays along with Brendan Harris and Delmon Young to the Minnesota Twins for Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza. That season he hit .303 with 17 HRs in the minors between AA & AAA. He got a September call up playing in ten games going hitless in four at bats.

In 2009 he spent the year at AAA Rochester hitting 13 HRs batting .270 getting a chance to play in one game at the major league level. He was placed on waivers & picked up by The New York Mets in February 2010. Pridie got a chance to play for the Mets when centerfielder Angel Pagan went down with injury in 2011.

Pridie debuted on Aprill22nd going 0-3 in a 4-1 Mets win over Arizona. The next day he got his first Mets hit & then on April 24th he hit a three run HR leading the Mets to an 8-4 win. On May 6th with the Mets down 3-2 to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field, Pridie hit a three run HR off Hiroki Kuroda leading the Mets to a 6-3 win.

He managed to squeeze himself into 101 games for Terry Collins Mets batting .231 with 48 hits 4 HRs 11 doubles 3 triples 20 RBIs & a .309 on base %.

In the outfield he played 75 games making two assists posting a .984 fielding %. He was opted to AAA Buffalo at the end of the season but chose free agency & signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.

During Spring Training 2012 he was found guilty of violating MLB's Joint Drug Prevention Treatment Program, getting suspended for 50 games. He saw action in nine games with the Phillies in July batting .300 (3-10). He hit a three run HR on July 8th in a game against the Atlanta Braves although the Phillies lost 4-3.

He was sent back down to AAA when many of the teams injured players returned.

Family: Pridie is married to former Arizona State professional softball player Bianca Cruz. Since her playing days she has become a successful model.