Jun 29, 2013

Former Italian / American Umpire: Larry Poncino (1985-1999 / 2002-2007)

Larry Louis Poncino was born on February 3rd 1957 in Los Angeles California. He attended San Clemente High School & then the University of Nevada-Reno. Poncino began as an umpire in the Calfornia League (1977) moving on to the Texas League (1978-1979) & the Pacific Coast League for twelve years (1980-1992).

He got to the majors as a National League umpire in 1985, working there through the 1999 season. In 1991 he was the home plate umpire working Montreal Expo Dennis Martinez perfect game at Dodger Stadium. He also worked the right field line of the 1996 All Star Game at Philadelphia, won by the National League 6-0.

In 1999 Poncino was part of the mass umpire resignation of umpires organized by its union head Ritchie Phillips. The plan backfired as all resignations were accepted by MLB & a new union was formed with. MLB picked & chose what umpires they wanted back over time but 22 were left without jobs.

Poncino was hired back in 2002 working the 2003 & 2005 NLCS. He had done his first post season series back in 1998 in that NLCS series.

Poncino suffered from a neck injury & retired officially in 2007.

Jun 24, 2013

Former New York Giants Second Baseman: "The Twig" Wayne Terwilliger (1955-1957)

Willard Wayne Terwilliger was born on June 27, 1925 in Clare, Michigan. The tall lanky second baseman earned the nickname “Twig” because of his frame & his name. He played at West Michigan University getting signed by the Chicago Cubs in 1948. He spent two season with the Cubs, playing 133 games in 1950 hitting a career high 10 HRs with 32 RBIs and a .242 average.

He was a fast infielder coming in sixth in steals that year (13) & had nine sacrifice hits (9th in the league). He spent a brief time with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951, although he hit .280 in 37 games he was placed on waivers. He was purchased by the Washington Senators, and after one season in the minors, became their regular second baseman for two seasons.

He hit a career-high .252 with 24 doubles 46 RBIs 13 sac hits (6th in the league) and 64 walks, posting a .343 on base %. Defensively at second base, he posted the leagues fourth best fielding percentage (.983) was third in assists (393) & fifth in put outs. He was also among the league’s top five in errors made for the fourth time.

He was purchased by the New York Giants after their 1954 Championship season, sharing time with Davey Williams at second base. He led all NL second baseman in fielding percentage (.985) and hit .257 with a HR, 16 doubles & 18 RBIs in 80 games playing for the ’55 Giants. In 1956 he hit only .222 in 14 games & was sent down to the minors.

He was traded just before the move to San Francisco, spending his last two playing seasons with the Kansas City A’s. He hit .with 240 lifetime in 666 games, with 22 HRs 93 doubles 162 RBIs & a .974 fielding percentage.

After his playing days he coached with the Washington Senators under Ted Williams (1969-1971) the Texas Rangers (1972/ 1981-1985), & the Minnesota Twins (1986-1994) winning two World Series. He has also managed in the minor & Independent Leagues. After retiring he came back as a first base coach in 2008 in the Cental League. After 60 years in baseball he wrote an autobiography entitled: Terwilliger Bunts One.

Jun 20, 2013

Two Mets Players Turned Agents

Italian / American Umpire: Dan Iassogna (1999- Current)

Daniel Ralph Iassogna was born on May 3rd, 1969 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He went to High school in Trumball, Connecticut, & then earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Connecticut (Uconn).

From there he began his pro umpiring career, first working in the New York Penn. League in 1992. By 1994 he was pushed up to the South Atlantic League, then the Carolina League the next season.

In 1996 he began a two year stint at AA ball in the Texas League. From there he was promoted to AAA in the International League where he remained through the 2003 season.

In August of 1999 he made his MLB debut working as a fill in, a position he held for vacationing umpires for five seasons. On August 13th 2002 at Arlington, Texas in a game between the Texas Rangers & the Chicago White Sox, Iassongna was part of a history making umpire crew.

The umpiring crew was made up of the same ethnic background, all Italian / Americans. Iassogna was on the line at third base, Tony Randazzo at second base, Larry Poncino on the line at first base & Ed Rapuano was behind the plate. Of course the event did not get the attention it deserved to receive .

In 2004 he became a permanent American League Umpire, getting to work the 2005 & 2007 ALDS.

In June 2007 he worked the third base line, as Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, had a no hitter going until two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning.

Five days later he was at third base, again when the Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander threw his first career no Hitter. In 2011 he also worked the line when Verlander tossed his second career no hitter, coming against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Iassogna currently lives in Georgia with his wife & two daughters. He works with the Chicago Fire Department in support of the "Bucks for the Burn Camp," which helps children that were burned in fires.

Jun 19, 2013

Former Italian / American International League Star: George Puccinelli (1927- 1940)

George Lawrence Puccinelli was born on June 22nd 1907, in San Francisco California. The six foot one right fielder was part of a long line of early twentieth century second generation Italians.

He began his pro career in 1927 with A ball Denver. It was just the start of a long 13 year minor league career. In 1931 he hit 20 HRs between A ball & AA ball.

In 1930 he got a chance in the major leagues, playing eleven games with the NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals, batting .563 going 9-16. He showed off his power in just his third game, hitting a three run HR against the Robins in Brooklyn. Two weeks later he hit another HR in his next game, coming in Cincinnati. On August 30th, he hit HR #3 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. He got into one World Series game going 0-1 against the Champion Philadelphia Athletics.

He returned back to the minor leagues, leading the International League in hitting, batting .391, missing out on a .400 season by nine points. He also hit 28 HRs that year while playing at AA Rochester. He was called back up to St. Louis in 1932 for 31 games, batting .278 with three more HRs & 11 RBIs. In 1934 his contract was purchased by the cross town St. Louis Brown where he played ten games.

But it was in the minor leagues where he was a legend. In 1935 he had his best season winning the IL MVP Award. Puccinelli won the Triple Crown, while hitting 53 HRs with the International League Baltimore Orioles.

The following season he was signed by the Philadelphia Athletics, playing in a career high 135 games. He hit .278 with 11 HRs 30 doubles & 78 RBIs posting a .369 on base %. He struck out 70 times (5th in the AL) & in right field made 14 errors (most in the AL). His 11 assists were third best in the AL & posted a .948 fielding % (4th best).

He went back to the minors playing in the International League & Pacific Coast League through 1940. In 1938 he hit 37 HRs & 22 more the next year. In 1939 he led the league in hits with 123. In his minor league career he hit .330 with 85 HRs, making the International League Hall of Fame.

Retirement: Nicknamed Pooch, he was also known as The Count. After baseball he worked with a television firm in San Francisco. Sadly he passed away due to heart failure in 1930 at age 48.

Jun 18, 2013

Zack Wheeler & Matt Harvey Combine For a Twin Bill Sweep

Congratulations to Zack Wheeler on his first MLB victory in an impressive debut in Atlanta. The Mets took two from the Braves as Matt Harvey won the first game for his sixth victory of the year. Mets fans are hoping this is the future of the front end of the pitching rotation for years to come.

Jun 17, 2013

Remembering The 1973 N.L. Champion Mets: George Stone Beats Padres For Mets Fifth Straight Win

This is another post remembering the 40th anniversary of the 1973 N.L. Champion Mets.

At the end of May 1973, the Mets were on a long west coast road trip, losing nine of twelve games in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego & Cincinnati. 

George Stone
June started out as a brutal month for the Mets as well, they lost six of seven games & fell to 8.5 games back of first place. Injuries had taken Cleon Jones, Bud Harrelson & catcher Jerry Grote all out of the lineup. Tug McGraw was struggling in the bull pen, although he had eight saves through May, his ERA by mid June was over five. With the Mets on a four game win streak, a Sunday afternoon June 17th, brought a crowd of 32,641 to Shea Stadium, to watch George Stone take on the Padres Bill Grief.

In the Mets 1st inning, Felix Millan & Rusty Staub singled with one man out. Then John Milner hit a double play ball to second baseman Derrel Thomas, but Thomas booted the ball allowing Millan to score with the first Mets run.

George Stone rolled along before allowing the Padres to tie the game in the 7th inning, with a pair of singles, followed by a Dave Roberts ground out. Stone would go into the 8th inning, allowing just the one run on four hits.

In the Mets 7th inning, catcher Ron Hodges hit his first (and only) HR of the year, putting the Mets ahead for good. In the home 8th, a pair of Mets singles by Staub & Ed Kranepool set up for Wayne Garrett’s RBI base hit, adding an insurance run.

Mets pitcher Phil Hennigan relieved Stone in the 7th inning, in the 9th he got into trouble as catcher Fred Kendall singled & second baseman Derrell Thomas, walked putting the tying runs on base. Manager Yogi Berra came out of the dugout & called upon Tug McGraw to put out the fire.

McGraw made things interesting, throwing a wild pitch advancing the runners into scoring position. With one out, he struck out first baseman; Ivan Murrell & got Gene Locklear to fly out to Ed Kranepool in left field to end the game, with the Mets winning 3-1.

The Mets finished the day with a 28-29 record, seven games behind the Chicago Cubs & two games behind the Montreal Expos.

This game was George Stone's third start. Stone had come over from Atlanta in the Felix Millan trade, starting the year as a mid reliever.

On May 2th he got his first win, which came in relief. With a May injury to John Matlack & a need for another starter, Stone got the role at the start of June. He went 0-2 until he beat the Padres tonight at Shea. From there he won ten of his eleven decisions s going 12-3 with a 2.80 ERA, as a pleasant surprise & a key figure in the Mets winning the NL East.

It was in the World Series that Mets fans will always wonder why Manager Yogi Berra didn't start Stone in Game #6. He had made just one relief appearance in Game #2, but Berra chose to use Tom Seaver on three days rest. Matlack was used in Game #7 on three days rest as well. If Stone had gotten the nod in Game #6, Seaver & Matlack would have been available for a Game #7 if necessary.

Nate Colbert: early seventies Padres slugger
1973 Padres notes: The 1973 San Diego Padres were just in their fourth year of existence, donning their bright yellow road uniforms. They finished last (sixth place) in their division every year from 1969-1974. In 1973 they went 60-102 under manager Dom Zimmer, who had replaced Preston Gomez 11 games into the 1972 season.

The Padres improved a bit offensively from the previous season; Johnny Grubb led the him in hitting batting .311 while coming in sixth in the Rookie of the Year voting. Nate Colbert, who had hit 38 HRs with 111 RBIs in 1972, led the club with 22 HRs 25 doubles & 80 RBIs.

Dave Roberts was second with 21 HRs & 64 RBIs, batting .286. Cito Gaston had 16 HRs with 57 RBIs batting .250. Other players of note were catcher Fred Kendall 10 HRs 22 doubles 59 RBIs & a .282 average & Jerry Morales who hit .281 with 9HRs & 34 RBIs in 122 games.

Future Met; Randy Jones was the only pitcher on the staff with a winning record; going 7-6 with a 3.16 ERA. The pitching staff consisted of Steve Arlin who won 11 games (11-14) & Bill Grief who had won ten games (10-17). Future Brewers star Mike Cauldwell led the team with ten saves (5-14).

Jun 16, 2013

Former Italian /American Pitcher: Mike Magnante (1994-2002)

Michael Anthony Magnante was born on June 17, 1965 in Glendale, California. He had a rough start in his college career, with the L.A. Times writing that people thought Magnante, was the Italian word for “It’s outa here”.

By the late eighties he became a star pitcher at U.C.L.A and was one of the top college pitchers in the country. He was drafted in the 11th round of the 1988 draft by the Kansas City Royals. His success was never equaled, but in 1991 he was 6-1 with a 3.02 ERA getting a big league call up.

In 1992 he was 4-9 with a 4.94 ERA still being used as a starting pitcher. By 1994 he was in the bullpen and would find a home as a quality middle reliever. He spent six seasons in Kansas City before signing with the Houston Astros in 1997 where he went 3-1 with a save and a 2.27 ERA.

On August 22, 1997 he struck out three Cincinnati Reds batters on just nine pitches, becoming the 29th major league pitcher to accomplish the feat. In the 1997 NLDS he appeared in two games allowing three runs in two innings pitched.

His 1998 season was a bit of a drop off going 4-7 with a 4.88 ERA and he was let go to free agency. The next year he signed on in Anaheim with the Angels going 5-2 with a 3.38 ERA in just 53 games pitched. After one season he signed on with the Oakland A’s and enjoyed success as a mid reliever there. He was part of the famed A’s Moneyball teams, winning two A.L. West titles & earning three playoff berths.

In 2001 he appeared in career high 65 games going 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA. In two post seasons in Oakland he didn’t allow any runs with four hits in four innings pitched.

According to the book Money Ball; in 2002 days before he was about to retire, he was denied retirement benefits because the A’s acquired Ricardo Rincon.

In his twelve season career, he made 484 appearances going 26-32 with three saves, 347 strike outs in 617 innings pitched & a 4.08 ERA.

Jun 11, 2013

Concert Review: Paul McCartney Rocks Brooklyn, NY at the Barclays Center 6/10/13

Originally expecting to be out of town for this event, plans changed & I needed to get McCartney tickets. After mulling over various ticket broker options, I went to ticketmaster & scored some excellent seats. Section 26 third row, right off the front left side of the stage. What a great view in a private little section of the arena. There were only three seats in our row two seats in the section next to us.

Barclays Center Review: As for the new Barclays Center, it is located in downtown Brooklyn, a busy area that is building up around the venue. It is a behemoth building that looks like it was just dropped from the sky, kind of ugly around the sides. I do like the front entrance which has an open rotunda looking up into the sky. 

Inside, it's an intimate venue if you're sitting in the lower sections of the arena. From there it looked like the second level seats were way up there, located high above the suites sections. The corridors are filled with concessions from many local Brooklyn vendors, notable Nathans, Juniors Cheesecake & Brooklyn Beer.

Unfortunately there are just a few stand up tables, so not much room to eat unless you take it back to the seats. The seats were cushioned, with folding cup holders on each one. There was one higher end restaurant the 40/40 club in which I did not eat in. The corridors were wide but I thought had a very dark cold feel to them.

I prefer Manhattan, with all it has to offer & I'll take Madison Square Garden over any place in the tri state area. One good thing is there are plenty of cabs after the show, that you can just hail right outside the arena. We actually had a Dial7 car service set up, but we cancelled when the driver called & wanted us to walk a block or two away in the rain to meet him???  Yellow cab was the way to go & much cheaper.

Concert Review: As for Paul McCartney, all I can say is the show was absolutely incredible. An almost three hour show that featured 38 classics with not one moment of down time. One of the best concerts I have ever attended, and I have been to many. It was also one of the best concerts I have ever seen Macca play & I have been to many. I still think the Citi Field shows may have been the all time best in 2009, but this was damn close.

The man still has it, although not having the voice he had way back when, it has gotten much stronger than it had been in the nineties. He handles his vocals perfectly, from his high pitched screaming vocals to his soft ballads. At times he got help with harmonies from his band especially drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. The multi talented McCartney played his Hofner bass, probably the most famous instrument in the world. He also played piano, organ, acoustic & electric guitars. I could go on forever about Paul's talents & accomplishments but I will just give a quick review of this amazing show.

All I can say is amazing, fantastic & worth every dollar paid at any price level. I usually peek ahead at set lists before shows, but this time I wanted to be surprised, and I sure was.  Talk about set list this was one of the best set lists ever!

Right off the bat we got Eight Days A Week, Juniors Farm, All My Lovin & Listen To What the Man Said. Unbelievable. Other surprises to me we're Elanore Rigby, 1985, All Together Now, Lovley Rita, Ob-La Di Ob La Da & Being For the Benifit of Mr. Kite. Although I am not too big on him covering pure Lennon songs like that one, or A Day in the Life & Strawberry Fields which he a has done on previous tours. But it does work & the crowd loves it.

He blew everyone away with the first set of songs, including a Jimi Hendrix tribute, with the Foxey Lady intro to the great Wings song; Let Me Roll It. He then went up to the piano & played a song for his new wife, Nancy Shevell; from his last album; My Valentine. Paul stayed on the piano & broke into Wings 1985 (wow, outrageous)- The Long & Winding Road (also great) & Maybe I'm Amazed which he dedicated to Linda.

John & Paul The greatest songwriting team of all time 1965

He then picked up the acoustic guitar for a set that included Beatles classics; Things We Said Today, And I love Her &Blackbird. At this point Paul took a smaller stage that elevated him high above the crowd in front of the main stage. Paul also did his touching tribute to John, by doing the emotional; Here Today written after John's death.

photo: dale eisinger
There were amazing, surprising performances of; Lady Madonna, Your Mother Should Know, All Together Now (which works so well in concert) & from Sgt. Pepper Lovely Rita!! A song he never played on tour before!

Paul then did his touching tribute to George Harrison, playing George's classic; Something. The final set rocked out with Ob La Di- Ob La Da, a great cover of Band on the Run & an electrifying Back In USSR, followed by an explosive; Live & Let Die, complete with pyro technics. Sitting on the front side of the stage the explosions & the heat were incredible.

Mixed in that set were two songs beyond classic; Let It Be & Hey Jude, complete with the Barclays Center on its feet chanting the "Na Na NA" parts. As the cameras panned the crowd during this segment, we noticed Martin Scorcese & Jerry Sienfield, just a few celebs who were in attendance.

centerfieldmaz photo
The encores certainly did not disappoint; Day Tripper had everyone dancing, Wings; Hi Hi Hi surprised the hell out of me& was outstanding. Then, a song which I think has become one of the best live Macca tunes; I Saw Her Standing There, just tore down the house.....

If that wasn't enough, encore #2 gave us Yesterday. I always say; there is not a better moment in music than seeing Paul McCartney singing Yesterday alone with an acoustic guitar. Only Paul could go from that to an explosive rocking out version of Helter Skelter, then ending with Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End.

Wings Over America 1976
Although Paul's banter between songs was the usual for many years, has does do a better job interacting with the crowd.
Macca has made parts of his show, into a remembrance's of important people in his life that are gone. His touching tributes to John, George & Linda all bring an emotion to the crowd.

Since we have been following him, while living through the music ,we understand these relationships & what they meant to him, as well as to his songs. So in this connection, the audience too feels the losses, as if they were our own. It is also a forum to celebrate their lives & happy moments, albeit for one song, during these sets.

photo: dale eisinger
Under everything, it's about the music, & Paul's music has been the soundtrack of our entire lives, probably more so than any other artist. This was for good & bad times in our lives. I think true Beatle fans understand what the Beatles music has brought to us. They have become one of our best friends, in a musical sense that no other artist can connect. At times the Beatle music has brought more inner peace in life than anyone or anything else.
During last nights concert, my own personal reflections were musically to John Lennon, (my all time favorite) & George Harrison (another top fav). But personally there were the songs like Long & Winding Road that make me reflect on my grandmother & the loss of a best friend as teenagers.
Let It Be, with Mother Mary (my mothers name as well) coming to me with word of wisdom. This is possibly my favorite McCartney ballad & the best single sentence, he ever wrote in terms of meaning to me is: "Shine until tomorrow".

Everyone held their loved one a bit tighter during: And I Love Her, Maybe Im Amazed & of course Something, "our love" song in my personal relationship.

Other songs that connect the audience -All My Lovin, (my mother's favorite Beatle song) & words I always end my greeting cards with. The reflections of our own past on Yesterday, can humble anyone. The sad story of an ex girlfriend who lived the story of Another Day, or the Eleanor Rigby type woman, we all knew at some point.

Live & Let Die
But even more so, there are the happy, positive, rocking good time songs, the good moments in life I shared with my brother & cousin as lifelong Beatles fans.

My best friend Darren who got me into the Beatles when Wings were flying high in the mid seventies. We may still be the two biggest Wings fans in the world at this point! Even though we sat separately he was in the area last night with another dear friend Eddie, who I grew a close relationship with over the past quarter century through the Beatlefests.

Paul's story of seeing Hendrix play Sgt. Pepper two days after the album was released, is now an old one but a good one.

Many female fans, still bring signs to the concerts, just like in the old Beatles film clips. Paul commented on one sign that read: "Brooklyn girls do it 8 days a week" saying something like I'm not going to find out.

the band: Paul's band who has now been with him longer than any other ensemble in his career, imagine that! First off it features the great Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums. He also does an amazing job on backing vocals helping Paul on some more difficult numbers. The animated drummer is very animated & always fun to watch.

On guitars/vocals was Rusty Anderson, who was on our side of the stage & very acknowledging to the crowd. On bass/ guitars/ vocals was Brian Ray & on keyboards was the great Paul Wix Wickens. Wix has been with Paul since the early nineties. All do an incredible job in keeping the Beatles/ Wings sound alive with perfection. 

British & NY State Flags

Paul McCartney 6/10/13- Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY Setlist: Eight Days a Week
Junior’s Farm
All My Loving
Listen to What the Man Said
Let Me Roll It / Foxy Lady
Paperback Writer
My Valentine
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
The Long and Winding Road
Maybe I’m Amazed
Things We Said Today
We Can Work It Out
Another Day
And I Love Her
Here Today
Your Mother Should Know
Lady Madonna
All Together Now
Lovely Rita
Mrs. Vanderbilt
Eleanor Rigby
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hey Jude

Encore 1:
Day Tripper
Hi, Hi, Hi
I Saw Her Standing There

Encore 2:
Helter Skelter
Golden Slumbers
Carry That Weight
The End


Jun 9, 2013

Remembering the 1973 N.L. Champion Mets: Old Timers Day 1973 & Willie Mays' Big Day Afterward

This is another post honoring the 40th Anniversary of the 1973 N.L. Champion New York Mets.

Old Timers Day @ Shea Stadium- June 9th, 1973:

A big Saturday afternoon crowd of 48,000 filled up Shea Stadium to first witness an Old Timers Day classic between former Brooklyn Dodgers & AL New York Players vs former New York Mets from the sixties.

A bunch of original 1962 Mets were on hand; Richie Ashburn, Ken MacKenzie, Jim Marshall, Rod Kanehl, Frank Thomas & Roger Craig. Other Mets on board included 1969 Amazing Mets Reliever Ron Taylor & pitcher Larry Bearnarth.

It was on this day, the Mets officially retired Gil Hodges #14, as Mets GM Bob Scheffing presented Gil's widow; Joan Hodges with his Mets uniform. Former Brooklyn Dodgers; Carl Furillo, PeeWee Reese, Ralph Branca, Carl Erskine, Sandy Amoros & Cal Abrams were all in attendance.

The Old Professor Casey Stengel was on hand along with AL New York players Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford & current 1973 Mets manager; Yogi Berra.

Old Timers Day 1973
Afterward the Mets would host the Los Angeles Dodgers who were still drawing big crowds from their former Brooklyn fans. The Dodgers had only left New York 15 years before. On this day the Mets John Matlack (2-8) would take the mound against the Dodgers AL Downing (5-2).

Trivia: Downing would serve up Hank Aarons record career HR #715 the following season. The Mets were beat up with injuries as Bud Harrelson, Jerry Grote & Cleon Jones all on the DL.

The line up that day consisted of Ted Martinez 3B/ Felix Millan 2B / Willie Mays CF / Rusty Staub RF/ Jim Fregosi SS / John Milner 1B/ George Theodore LF & Duffy Dyer behind the plate.

In the bottom of the 1st, after the Mets were down 1-0, Rusty Staub hit a two run double, scoring ted Martinez who had singled & Willie Mays who had walked.

The 42 year old Mays, who was barely older than some of the old timers in the first game, put on a show himself.

He made a classic Willie Mays circus catch in the game, saving a run & also displayed a fine day at the plate. He hit career HR #655, third on the all time list at the time, to the delight of the Shea fans. His big HR came in the bottom of the 3rd inning, to tie up the game 2-2.

Jon Matlack
Matlack & Downing pitched to the tie game into the 7th inning when Doug Rau replaced Downing. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Felix Millian got on with a base hit.

Rusty Staub then doubled down the left field line, scoring Millan with the winning run.

Matlack went the distance, allowing just one earned run on seven hit, striking out four batters. The win had the struggling Mets at 23-27 now 7.5 games behind the first place Chicago Cubs.