Apr 26, 2013

Remembering Folk Artist -Richie Havens (1941-2013)

Richard Pierce Havens was born on January 21, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest of nine children. He began singing doo-wop on the street corners of Bed- Sty. Havens left home & made his way to Greenwich Village in the early sixties, where the Folk scene was in full bloom.

At first he painted portraits of people on the streets & then began to play guitar in the Village clubs. He crossed paths with local resident Bob Dylan who remembered "One singer I crossed paths with a lot, Richie Havens, always had a nice-looking girl with him who passed the hat and I noticed that he always did well".

After two albums on a small label, Bob Dylan's manager Albert Groosman signed on with Havens. His rhythmic acoustic guitar playing & gravelly voice gave him a unique sound. Havens also had dentures & at times sung with no teeth which added to his distinct vocal sound.

In 1966 he released his classic album "Mixed Bag", which was the adopted name, legendary Bronx born DJ; Pete Fornatale used for his radio show. Havens did great work covering Dylan (Just Like A Woman, It's All Over Now Baby Blue)& Beatles (Strawberry Fields Forever, Eleanor Rigby, Here Comes the Sun) songs.

By 1969 he was a well known folk artist & was asked to play the first day of the Woodstock festival in upstate New York. The first day was to feature mostly folk artists on the bill. Richie Havens wasn't suppose to open up Woodstock, but no one of the other bands were at the venue yet & it was already three hours later than the original start time.

Havens leaving the Woodstock stage finishing "Freedom"
He took the stage with two of his musicians, because his bass player was stuck in traffic & didn't arrive until the end of the set. Havens did a remarkable three hour set that will forever be remembered. Due to the traffic problems & other situations at the site, none of the bands had arrived yet.

Organizer Michael Lang kept pushing him back on stage to buy more time. Havens had run out of material to play & adlibbed the song he would become most famous for. Freedom was made up on the spot, the words Freedom, is what best described the scene of what Woodstock was becoming on that first day. He added in the words "sometimes I feel like a motherless child" from the gospel songs he knew from his youth.

Quotes: In 1989 Havens told Rolling Stone Magazine: "I was supposed to be fifth on the bill, but the other entertainers were still at the hotel, seven miles away. I thought, "Jeez, they're gonna throw beer cans at me because the concert's late." So I did a little fast talking, a little rap, and then I did a nearly three-hour set, until some of the others finally showed up.

"When we left the festival, there wasn't another car on the thruway except ours. For seventy-five miles cars were parked five deep. That was the most surrealistic thing I've ever seen in my life."
When the Woodstock album & movie came out, it brought Havens to a worldwide audience. He would perform at many of the Woodstock reunion concerts through the years, as well as many other festivals, including the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival.

He made memorable television appearances on Ed Sullivan & Johnny Carson. He wooed them so much on Carson, the audience continued to cheer into the commercial break & Johnny asked him to come back the next night. He also did TV slogans for ABC, NBC & CBS, as well as Amtrak, Maxwell House & the Cotton Industry.

Havens with Joni Mitchell & Bob Dylan
In 1970 he released his album Alarm Clock (featuring Here Comes the Sun which carted #16 on Billboard) it was his biggest selling album, cracking the Billboard Top 30. Havens also went into acting, featured in the first stage production of the Who's Tommy in 1974. He also appeared in Othello, Greased Lightning (with Richard Pryor) & Dylan's Hearts of Fire.

He was dedicated to educating young people on ecological issues & helped co found the Northwind Undersea Institute on City Island in the Bronx. He continued to tour to wider audiences from the eighties to 2010 when his health declined.

This past week he passed away from a heart attack in Jersey City, NJ at age 72. Havens is survived by three children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren

Apr 23, 2013

Former Mets Number One Draft Pick: Jason Tyner (2000)

Jason Renyt Tyner was born on April 23, 1977 in Bedford, Texas. The six foot one, left hand hitting outfielder was named Beaumont Texas’ Student Athlete of the Year.

Tyner was not only a jock but was a member of the National Honor Society in both his junior & senior years.

He then attended Texas A&M where he set all time school records in hits &stolen bases. He finished second all time in the schools history, in batting average & at bats. Tyner set those marks in only three years of play.

In 1998 he was the New York Mets number one draft choice, the twenty first pick overall. Tyner rose quickly through the Mets minors, arriving at A ball St. Lucie in 1998 where he hit .303 in just 50 games.

In 1999 at AA Binghamton he hit .313 and stole 49 bases getting pushed up to AAA Norfolk by the end of the season. In 2000 playing in 84 games with the Tides, he batted .321 & stole 33 bases. Although he showed no power not hitting any HRs all year.

He was called up to the Mets big league team in June of 2000 & debuted in an interleague game against the Baltimore Orioles on June 5th. That day Tyner got two hits & drove in a run playing, while left field in the 4-2 Mets loss at Shea Stadium.

Tyner would drive in runs in his first three games, and had six hits in his first five MLB games. He quickly cooled off & was batting under .200 (.195) at the end of the month, getting demoted back to AAA Norfolk.

On that years trade deadline he was sent to the Tampa Devil Rays, along with Paul Wilson for Bubba Trammell & Rick White. It was a deal that turned out pretty good for New York.

In 2001 in Tampa, Tyner would steal 31 bases (8th in the league) & bat .280 with a career high 111 hits. But Tyner had absolutely no power, hitting no HRs, while gathering up just eight doubles.

He was popular in Tampa, as the team even held a Jason Tyner bobble head night, but he was sent down to the minors by the night of the event. He shuffled between the Rays & their AAA team over the next three season playing as a reserve outfielder.

In 2005 he signed with the Minnesota Twins getting to his only post season in 2006, going 0-6 against the Oakland Athletics. He got a chance to play regularly that season when Tori Hunter went down with an injury. He worked hard to fight for a job the next year & in 2007 had career highs in games (114) doubles (14) walks (16) & RBIs (22) while batting .286.

His scrappy style of small ball play fit in well in Minnesota & he became part of the Twins “Piranhas”, a term given to Tyner, Nick Punto, Jason Bartlett & Luis Castillo by rival White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

On July 28th 2007 he ended the longest HR drought in the majors when he finally homered after 1220 at bats. The HR came off the Indians Jake Westbrook in Cleveland, the longest HR drought streak after that belonged to future Met Luis Castillo.

In 2008 he signed with the Cleveland Indians & appeared in just one MLB game that season. He spent 2009 in the minor leagues, with the Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers & Detroit Tigers organizations buy was released by everyone.

In his eight year career he batted .275 with 373 hits 41 doubles 61 stolen bases 94 RBIs & just one HR.

Apr 19, 2013

Former Italian / American Umpire: Vic Voltaggio (1977-1996)

Vito Henry “Vic” Voltaggio was born on March 17, 1941 in Vineland, New Jersey. 

Voltaggio is a distant relative of the legendary song writer Steven Foster, who is  famous for penning such tunes as; "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races", "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”, &"Old Folks at Home" ("Swanee River").

Vic Voltaggio is a former U.S. Marine, that served for eighteen months in the Vietnam War before going off to umpire school. He got to the A ball level in 1973, moving up to AA in the Carolina league in 1975 & to the AAA International League by 1976.

The following year he got the call up to the American League & began a twenty year run as a successful umpire. Over the years he would call three no hitters behind the plate, including Nolan Ryan’s in Texas.

In 1986 he was the home plate umpire for Roger Clemmens’ record breaking twenty strike out game. Voltaggio is famous for pulling his right arm back & going down on one knee on a called third strike.

Voltaggio was the second base umpire for the 1987 All Star Game in Oakland California, as the NL shut out the AL 2-0.

He worked three ALCS (1981-1985 & 1990) as well as working the 1989 World Series which was interrupted by the San Francisco Bay area earthquake.

The Oakland Athletics swept the San Francisco Giants in four straight games after play resumed. 

After retiring in 1996 he has been running the successful Vic Voltaggio Umpire camps around the country.

Apr 9, 2013

Concert Reveiw: Fleetwood Mac @ Madison Square Garden, New York City 4/8/13

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It was another great night of classic Rock at Madison Square Garden as Fleetwood Mac wowed 'em in New York City in another reunion tour. As Stevie Nicks said, when your a child singing, your mother tells you one day maybe you'll play Madison Square Garden & here we are!

It is no secret that I am a diehard Stevie Nicks fan & that she is my favorite female rock singer. You can look back at many of my reviews archived on this site. In the past 16 years I have seen every concert tour Stevie has performed, solo or with Fleetwood Mac. This is an incredible woman / singer/ entertainer who has only gotten better in these years. 

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She is constantly working on her vocals to improve and it is noticeable to longtime fans. She carries notes longer & more powerful than ever, almost effortlessly.  She is in complete control on stage, looking comfortable & confidant, standing there like a rock goddess. She seems to be in great shape both physically & mentally, looking as beautiful as ever.

When she did her signature twirl dance wrapped up in her scarves & the crowd went crazy. Dressed in all black, she seemed to be wearing a higher skirt on this tour than in the past. Instead of high boots she donned a shorter high heeled style boot with what looked like black stretch pants.

In my opinion, as well as with those in my party & others seated around us at Madison Square Garden, Stevie Nicks has become the face of Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood Mac are an incredible band behind Stevie but there's no doubt she is at the forefront of his ensemble.

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Lindsay Buckingham is a fantastically talented guitarist, leading the band with his excellent guitar work. During the course of the night he put on some great wailing guitar leads, with a nice display of some incredible guitar picking added in. At times on his lead vocals he takes some of his songs in new directions, with moans or screams that seem to become a chanted mantra. To me this sometimes was bit over the top & after a Stevie Nicks song, it was a bit of a let down. Buckingham does have his share of female fans that worship him, and I'm sure disagree.

Not that it's a battle, but he has certainly become second bill to Stevie Nicks. That said, when Stevie & Lindsay sang together, they made some beautiful melodies. Their classic style of dueling vocals on songs like Silver Springs, Don't Stop & The Chain were exceptional, as these two work very well bouncing off each other. It's definitely classic rock at its best & worth the price of an expensive admission from where I was sitting. 

My fav Buckingham songs on the night were Second Hand News, It's Not That Funny, World Turning & I'm So Afraid that was outstanding. 

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There is no doubt that the backbone of Fleetwood Mac is Mick Fleetwood & John McVie. If you remember the old Creem magazines, there was an annual readers poll that had a category for Rock MVP. Mick Fleetwood gets my vote for that.

His grimacing, almost sinister facial expressions when he bangs away on his massive drum set, make him look like an evil scientist out of an old English film. He is an outstanding drummer, and fun to watch in action when he is at work pounding away. He got his drum solo on the first encore, toward the end of World Turning. Mick did a kool shout along with the crowd displaying how great a drummer & fun kinda guy he is.

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To his right nestled in the corner next to the drum set & a pile of speakers, is the quiet bass player John McVie. McVie goes about his business like he's playing in a garage, totally out of the lime light, almost expressionless while playing his bass.

No doubt, a great bassist, & he keeps the whole thing going back there, as Mr. Fleetwood pointed out during the band introductions.

Of course missing from the mix, is the other blonde woman; Christine McVie, also a great singer/songwriter. McVie has retired & chooses not to return to tour. Of course many of her classics are dropped from the set list & missed due to her absence.

Christine McVie
The only positive there, is that it gives Stevie Nicks more stage time for her songs. Besides the McVie songs the band does not play, her presence is missed on songs where she either shared a lead vocal, or sang a strong backing vocal; most notable on Don't Stop.

There was an incredible version of Sisters of the Moon from the Tusk album. A song that has not been played live since the early eighties. Stevie's performance here was absolutely fantastic & one of the highlights of the show for me. Then the classics Dreams, Landslide, Silver Springs & Stand Back (the only Stevie Nicks solo song played) are all always nothing but amazing. Of course my favorites Rhiannon & the mystical, psychedelic Gold Dust Woman still sends chills down my spine, when Stevie performs them. Music does not get better than that in a live performance!

NY Daily News photo
Also, it was great to see some of her Stevie's Mac tunes done that she does not always play live, when touring as a solo act, like the above mentioned Sisters of the Moon, Gypsy & an outstanding version of Sara that also was a major highlight for me.

The band debuted a new song; Sad Angel, which sounded classic Mac style, & according to Buckingham; will be released in a downloadable EP later this week. They also pulled out another rare oldie, that Stevie said she forgot all about but rediscovered on youtube; called Without You.

I particularly enjoyed the four song set, from the Tusk album (Not That Funny-Tusk-Sisters Of Moon-Sara). Buckinghams; It's Not That Funny was one of my favs of his on the night, a great funny little number I always loved.

The band was backed by the lovely voices of Sharon Celani & Lori Nicks, longtime backups for Stevie on her solo tours as well as the past few Mac tours. The band was also assisted by a guitarist & keyboard player behind the scenes.

There was a tremendous high def video screen behind the band, but most of the time they chose to display graphics instead of the band on stage. It wasn't until the end of the show that the band was seen on that big screen. This didn't affect me too much, since we had great seats on the left front side of the stage and with my binoculars, I was right there. But other people had to look high up to the sides of the arena where there were two much smaller video screens.

All in all it was a great show & I am looking forward to seeing another show later in the tour with a meet & greet with Mick Fleetwood!

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Set List
Second Hand News
The Chain
Sad Angel
Not That Funny
Sisters of the Moon
Big Love
Never Going Back Again
Without You
Eyes of the World
Gold Dust Woman
I'm So Afraid
Stand Back
Go Your Own Way

World Turning
Don't Stop

Encore 2:
Silver Springs
Say Goodbye

Apr 6, 2013

40th Anniversary of Opening Day at Shea in 1973

Friday April 6th 1973: The Mets opened up 1973 just four years off their Amazing Championship 1969 season. The pitching staff was their strength & along with some new faces there was optimism. The Mets had traded away fireball pitcher Nolan Ryan who would go on to Hall of Fame success in California with the Angels. The Mets received Jim Fregosi who they thought was their new slugging third baseman. It didn't turn out that way, as Fregosi was gone by summer. Opening Day 1973 brought a crowd of 27, 326 to Shea Stadium, on a Friday afternoon April 6th to see the Mets host the Philadelphia Phillies.

Two future Hall of Fame pitchers went against each other that day, as they did so many times in the early to mid seventies. The Mets sent Tom Seaver to the mound & Phil's manager Danny Ozark sent "Lefty" Steve Carlton to face the Mets.

Carlton was coming off his incredible 1972 Cy Young season where he was 27-10 with 310 strike outs & a 1.97 ERA. That year the dreadful Phillies won just 59 games.

Starting Lineups

In the bottom of the 4th inning, Felix Millan led off with a double but the next two batters were retired. Cleon Jones then hit a HR over the left field fence to put New York up 2-0. In the bottom of the 7th inning, Jones connected off Carlton for his second HR of the day, giving the Mets all they would need for the 3-0 victory.

Tom Seaver cruised along allowing just four hits into the top of the 8th inning, striking out eight batters along the way, walking just two. In the 8th he allowed a pinch hit double to Bill Robinson & then a walk to Del Unser.

Manager Yogi Berra went to the bullpen, calling on Tug McGraw. McGraw got pinch hitter Deron Johnson to fly out & then retired the Phillies in order in the 9th, to complete the shut out while earning his first save of the year.

The Mets only had five hits themselves that day, with Cleon Jones gathering up three of them. Felix Millan & Jim Fregosi got the other two hits. In contrast to today's long drawn out games, the 1973 opening day contest only took one hour & fifty six minutes to play.

Trivia: 1973 would be the final season Rheingold beer would sponsor the Mets.

1973 Phillies notes: Steve Carlton was coming off an incredible 1972 season in his first year in Philadelphia. He had just been traded there from the St. Louis Cardinals that season, for pitcher Rick Wise. "Lefty" won the '72 Cy Young Award & the Pitching Triple Crown; going 27-10 with 310 strike outs & a 1.92 ERA.

That season the Phillies were dreadful, winning just 59 games under managers Frank Lucchesi & Paul Owens. Carlton accounted for almost half the teams wins. They would finish last again in 1973 (71-91) but things began to turn around; as this was the rookie seasons for future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt & catcher Bob Boone.

Future 1986 batting coach Bill Robinson would hit 25 HRs (second to Greg Luzinski) & drive in 65 runs (tied for second behind "the Bull" Luzinski, with future Met Willie Montanez). Centerfielder Del Unser who would play for the 1975 / 1976 Mets would lead the team in batting (.288).