Jul 22, 2013

Former New York Giants Player Turned Legendary Umpire: Hank O'Day

Henry M. O’Day was born on July 8, 1859 in Chicago, Illinois. O’Days parents were reportedly deaf immigrants from Ireland. The family left their Chicago neighborhood, by 1871, the year of the great Chicago Fire. The O’Day family went west & Henry attended St. Marys College in California. He worked as a steam fitter before making a career in baseball.

The six foot right hander began pitching in 1884, where he went 9-28 for AA Toledo. Throughout his career he would play all nine positions at some point.

In 1886 he joined the National League for the 1880s version of the Washington Nationals. He spent three & a half seasons with the Nats, leading the league with 29 losses (16-29) posting a 3.10 ERA in 46 Games. His battery mate in Washington, was the legendary Connie Mack. Mack would mange the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years. He was known for being a gentleman who actually wore a suit in the dugout. The two were friends for their entire lives.

In 1889, after going 2-10, his contract was purchased by The New York Giants where he finished his year winning nine of ten games (9-1). In that year’s version of the World Series he won two games for the Giants, going 2-0 allowing just three runs in 23 innings. In that series the Giants beat the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, who later became the Dodgers.

In 1890 he had his best season, going 22-13 with a 4.21 ERA for the third place giants. This was the Giants team playing in the Polo Grounds at 110th St. near Central Park, before the days of John McGraw & the championships.

At 31 years old, he retired from pitching going 73-110 with a 3.74 ERA in 201 games pitched. He began working as a clerk for the City in Chicago but one day he had a career change. While sitting in the stands as a spectator he was recruited to fill in for an injured umpire.

He would be an umpire beginning in 1895, then from 1907 to 1911 & again in 1915-1927. He would umpire in ten World Series, second only to Bill Klem. He was part of a two man umpire team in his first three World Series (1903-1905-1907) then an alternating two crew two man team in his next three (1908-1910-1916). In his next four Series he was part of a four man team (1918-1920-1923-1926). He worked home plate for four no hitters as well.

O'Day sat on the board for the leagues rules committee & was known to challenge many of the new rules that were coming into the game at the time. In a 1901 game at St. Louis, his ruling on the field led to an outrage by fans, who continued to storm the field & attack him. He was rescued by players & the police department, but suffered a split lip.

In another famous game, involving his old Giants team; a brawl broke out between Iron Joe McGinnity & Pittsburgh Pirates catcher; Heinie Peitz. O'Day was fined by the NL President for not trying to break it up. O'Day was so furious at the ruling, he temporarily resigned causing the league to worry he wouldn't return. The situation cooled down & he returned to work a week later.

On September 23rd, 1908 that O'Day made a decision in one of the most controversial plays in baseball history. It was on the famous "Merkle's Boner" at the Polo Grounds.

The New York Giants & the Chicago Cubs were tied for first place with 16 games left to play during the wild season of 1908. In a classic game between the two teams at the Polo grounds in New York, Hank O'Day was the home plate umpire at a time when only two umpires were used.

NY Giants Fred Merkle
The Giants sent legendary Christy Mathewson to the mound against the Chicago Cubs Jack Pfiester. The Cubs shortstop Joe Tinker hit an inside the park HR off Mathewson in the 5th inning. The Giants tied it in the 6th, on catcher Roger Bresnahan's sac fly, after a Buck Herzog base hit & advancement on an error.

In the bottom of the 9th, the Giants Art Devlin singled with one out. Moose McCormick grounded in what looked like a double play but Devlin's hard slide prevented the out at first. Rookie Fred Merkle (who had just 47 at bats all season) drove a single down the right field line, advancing Moose to third. Al Bridwell then singled driving in Moose in what appeared to be the winning run.

The fans began to jump on the field, as in those days they exited through centerfield. But on the base paths Fred Merkle stopped running, he left the field never reaching second base. Back in the day, this was common practice, but Official rule 4.09 states that "A run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made ... by any runner being forced out".

Cubs Johnny Evers
Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers made the point to O'Day & called to outfielder Solly Hoffman for the ball. In the midst of chaos of fans on the field, a ball was thrown back to the field. Whether it was the actual ball no one knows.

As the Giants saw what was happening, pitcher Iron Joe McGinnity who was coaching at first base, claims to have gotten the ball & thrown it into the stands. Evers claimed the ball was taken by a fan, he retrieved it & touched second base.

In any event a ball was tossed to Evers & he did step on second base. Some accounts say the Cubs players, held Merkle back from getting to the base. If a fan did touch the ball then the play should have been dead as well. All sorts of stories came out & were printed in the next days papers. Remember, most fans & writers had left the game thinking the Giants had won.

But O'Day & umpire Bob Emslie met in a cinderblock room under the stands & ruled the game over on account of darkness, in a tie 1-1. O'Day wrote a letter to league President Harry Pulliman saying:

Dear sir, In the game to-day at New York between New York and the Chicago Club. In the last half of the 9th inning, the score was a tie 1–1. New York was at the Bat, with two Men out, McCormick of N. York on 3rd Base and Merkle of N. York on 1st Base; Bridwell was at the Bat and hit a clean single Base-Hit to Center Field. Merkle did not run the Ball out; he started toward 2nd Base, but on getting half way there he turned and ran down the field toward the Club House.

The Ball was fielded in to 2nd Base for a Chicago. Man to make the play, when McGinnity ran from the Coacher's Box out in the Field to 2nd Base and interfered with the Play being made. Emslie, who said he did not watch Merkle, asked me if Merkle touched 2nd Base. I said he did not. Then Emslie called Merkle out, and I would not allow McCormick's Run to score. The Game at the end of the 9th inning was 1–1. The People ran out on the Field. I did not ask to have the Field cleared, as it was too dark to continue play.

Yours respt. (signed) Henry O'Day

The game was officially ruled a tie & a make game was played at the end of the year. As fate would have it the two teams ended up tied & played a one game tie breaker. The Cubs won it & took the pennant in New York. Hank O'Day's ruling was one of the most controversial decisions of all time.

In 1912 O'Day surprised everyone in baseball by being named the manager of the Cincinnati Reds. His team won 20 of its first 25 games but finished the year at .500. He resigned after the season & moved on to manage the Chicago Cubs to a 78-76 record. He was fired & went back to umpiring for ten more seasons.

At the time he retired, he was third among umpires in games worked & although it was not known at the time was probably the oldest umpire to ever work a game at 65 years & nine months old.

Passing: O'Day was known to lead a very private life off the field. He died of bronchial pneumonia at a Chicago Hospital in 1937 at age 75.

Honors: In 2013 he is finally to be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jul 21, 2013

Former Italian / American Player- V.P. & Scout: Al LaMacchia (1943-2010)

Alfred Anthony LaMacchia was born on July 23, 1921 in St. Louis Missouri. The right hander was signed in 1940 by his hometown St. Louis Browns. He won 15 games or more in each of his first three minor league seasons & then went off to World War II.

Upon returning, he made his debut with the Browns allowing five runs over four innings, in a start at Philadelphia. He spent the next year in the mionors making the club again in April of 1945. After one appearance he was sent back to the minors for the season, returning in September. He won his first two games back up, both in relief to finish the year at 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA.

The following season he was traded to the Washington Senators & on the season went 0-1 in ten games. He went back to the minor leagues pitching through the 1954 season, in a 14 year minor league career he was 159-117 with a 3.71 ERA.

After baseball he became a Vice President & long time scout serving in those roles over a period of six decades. He joined the Toronto Blue Jays in their inaugural season (1977) & was the team’s Vice President during their 1993 & 1994 Championship seasons.

As a scout he never believed in radar guns, computers or stop, saying "I trust my eyes... Been good so far.” In his scouting career he worked for the Phillies, Braves, Blue Jays, Devil Rays and Dodgers. He signed MVPs Dale Murphy & George Bell, hundreds of other players including Dave Stieb, Larvell Sugar Blanks, Cito Gaston, Bruce Benedict, Jim Gott , David Wells & Rocco Baldelli. He was considered one of the most knowledgeable & personable men in baseball.

One of his more famous later signings, included getting Dodgers General Manager, Ned Colletti to acquire Andre Either who was originally with the Oakland A’s organization. He was featured in a 2006 L.A. Times article on a story about him & Ethier called “There’s Trust In His Eyes”.

LaMacchia was married to his wife Ann for 66 years & would often be seen with her along the way on the baseball road. He had two children, grandchildren & great grand children as well.

Passing: He passed away in September 2010 at the age of 89 & was still scouting at the time of his passing.

Jul 17, 2013

Scenes From A Mets Fans View At the 2013 All Star Game At Citi Field

All Photos are from the lens of centerfieldmaz in the upper deck of Citi Field. What a thrill to have Matt Harvey start & pitch two scoreless innings, the true MVP on the NL losing side in my book.
Also a thrill to see David Wright get a start & get a base hit, one of just three NL hits.
And to see Tom Seaver take the mound one more time to throw out the ceremonial first pitch was also a true Mets fans highlight.
centerfieldmaz with Eddie from XSession & WFUV's Darren Devivo
Honoring America & its Veterans
Hometown Mets All Star David Wright
Greets the NL Squad
The Largest Crowd Ever at Citi Field
2013 MLB All Star Game
Military Helicopters Fly Over
Tom Terrific Takes the Mound Once Again For The Mets
Tom Seaver Throws Out Ceremonial First Pitch 
NY Mets Pitcher Matt Harvey Throws
Out First Pitch of 2013 All Star Game
NL Starting Pitcher- Matt Harvey
NY Mets David Wright At Bat
God Bless America
Neil Diamond Sings "Sweet Caroline"
I was very disappointed to see the fans wearing Mets colors cheering for that certain pitcher who did not deserve the acknowledgement. Remember who your enemies are & bid them a good riddance. I and some other true Mets fans shouted "enough already, get lost" & screamed out our BOOOOOO!!!!! Do not continue to give into the Bud Selig hype machine, as he continues to ruin our game, it's a new era. Steroids & the winningest team & biggest players during that era are done.

Jul 16, 2013

Matt Harvey On Jimmy Fallon / All Star Celebrity Charity Game & the HR Derby at Citi Field

Doc Gooden & Mike Piazza
Mike Piazza led the NL All Star Celebrity team to an 8-5 win in the All Star Celebrity Softball Game held at Citi Field.

The team which featured Met greats; Dwight Gooden, Daryl Strawberry & honorary team Captain John Franco.

Other notable members were the beautiful Jenny Finch, & Alyssa Milano. Ozzie Smith "the Wizard", Andre Dawson, Wounded War hero Josh Wedge (who earned the games MVP Honors) comedians George Lopez, Gary Valentine &

True Mets Fan Kevin James
The great Mets fan; Kevin James. James made the play of the day stretching a single to a double, while sliding head first into second base.

The AL Team featured Rollie Fingers, Rickey Henderson, Frank Thomas, Bernie Williams, Miss America & Ashanti.

The game ended with Williams popping out to Mets catcher Mike Piazza.

All Star Game photos from various new sources:

Alyssa Milano

Mike Piazza & Jenny Finch
Miss America New York's Mallory Hagan

Softball Pitching Star Jenny Finch

Wounded War Hero Josh Wedge

Daryl Strawberry & Andre Dawson Celebrate Win

HR Derby: David Wright the NL Honorary Derby HR Captain, got a huge hand for the 2013 HR Derby but only hit five HRs & did not advance past the first round.

The winner was Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes who beat out Bryce Harper in the final round. Cespedes is not in the All Star game, now centerfieldmaz voted for him, but if your not in the All Star Game (although he should be) should you be in the HR Derby?

I am not a big fan of the HR Derby either, but the sell out crowd & all the traffic & madness around the Citi Field vicinity tonight, shows how popular it is.

Matt Harvey All Star Starting Pitcher
Tomorrow night: the All Star Game at Citi Field, what a thrill for us Mets fans to Have Matt Harvey start the game & David Wright bat clean up!!!!!! Cant wait.............................

A great link to a Harvey on Jimmy Fallon Show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0D8V0dCbf8

Jul 12, 2013

2013 All Star Weekend In New York City

The All Star buzz is all around New York City. Centerfieldmaz will be reporting from the game with pictures & reviews.

The All Star Game Apples on Parade, are all situated throughout the City, with representation from all MLB teams as well as our long lost- but never forgotten; New York Giants & Brooklyn Dodgers.

here is a link to the All Star Apples: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/all_star/y2013/apples_parade_map.jsp

The Empire State Building will be all lit up in Mets Orange & Blue shining brightly in the New York night. The Fan Fest is in full  gear at the Javitz Center, starting today & running through Tuesday before the game.

The Fan Fest features some all time great Mets making appearances throughout the week: David Wright, Doc Gooden, Rusty Staub, John Franco, Daryl Strawberry, Mookie Wilson, Cleon Jones, Edgardo Alfonzo.

Bud Harrelson, Howard Johnson, Jesse Orosco, Felix Millan, The Glider Ed Charles, Ed Kranepool, Joe Pignatano, Turk Wedell, Dane Kingman- "Kong", "El Sid" Sid Fernandez, Kevin Mitchell, George Foster, Tim Teufel, Barry Lyons, Cliff Floyd, Rafael Santana, Amos Otis & the first true Mets All Star (1964)- Ron Hunt. 

The Fan Fest features other ex-players like Hall of Famers: Rollie Fingers, Cal Ripken Jr., Andre Dawson, Lou Brock, Fred Lynn, Gaylord Perry, Phil Neikro, Orlando Cepeda, & Ozzie Smith. Ex-Negro League players; Jim Robinson, Bob Scott & Pedro Sierra.

Also on hand are women from the All American Girls Pro Baseball Team, as well as family members of Jackie Robinson & Roberto Clemente.

MLB guide to Fan Fest & its events: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/all_star/y2013/fanfest_legends.jsp?affiliateId=5Y7L141-FG15


Other activities featuring former Mets & celebrities relating to the All Star Game are:

Saturday 7/13: the All Star 5k run (benefiting Sandy relief) at Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Also an All Star benefit concert in Central Park,

Sunday 7/14: At Citi Field the Futures Game & Celebrity All Star Soft Ball Game.

Monday 7/15: All Star work out & HR Derby (featuring David Wright)

Tuesday 7/16: The 84th Annual MLB All Star Game @ Citi Field

Here are some other great blog/web guides to the All Star Game.


My old friend at the Mets
Police.com never lets us down-- http://metspolice.com/2013-all-star-game-info/




Jul 8, 2013

The First MLB Player to Be Born In Italy: Lou Polli (1932 / 1944)

Louis Americo Polli was Born on July 9, 1901 in Baveno, Italy located 50 miles south east of Bern, Switzerland. Polli goes down in history as the first player to make it in the major leagues that was born in Italy.

The Polli family moved to America when he was just seven months old. The settled in Barre, Vermont, where Lou played three high school sports. A high school football injury put him on crutches, earning him the nickname “Crip”, short for cripple by his team mates.

In 1921 he struck out 28 batters in a ten inning game which got him a lot of attention. He got married had children, and went to work in a rock quarry to support his family, but still played semi pro ball. By 1928 he made it to AA St. Ball playing two seasons there winning 22 games (22-9) in 1929.

He went to Spring Training in 1930 with A.L. New York team, becoming a roommate of Tony Lazzeri, while playing golf with Babe Ruth. At night time he found himself playing bridge with Mr. & Mrs. Lou Gerigh.

He later joked it was between him & Lefty Gomez for the roster spot, with the team picking Gomez to pitch. Polli didn't make the team heading North, was released later that year & went back to the minor leagues.

Although he was already in his late twenties, he went on to have a great minor league career, that overall lasted 23 years. In 655 games, he was 263-226 with a 3.77 ERA, throwing three no hitters. In 1932 he got his first chance at the big leagues, pitching with the St. Louis Browns. He debuted on April 18th in Detroit, in a 14-7 loss to the Tigers.

Overall Polli, pitched in five games earning no decisions in any game. He returned to the minors & continued his long career. His last three minor league seasons took him to Jersey City, New Jersey with the New York Giants AA farm club. There he led the International League in ERA in 1944, and got a promotion to Manager Mel Ott’s 1944 fifth place, New York Giants.

After 12 long years he was back in the major leagues, returning on April 20th, in win over the Boston Braves. On May 13th, he finished up a 7-4 win over the Reds in Cincinnati, which would have gotten him a save had it been a stat at the time. To days later he saved another game in Pittsburgh & would earn one more in July.

On May 27th, he took a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals surrendering three runs. On June 20th he took another loss, this time at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, the last decision of his career. Overall he went 0-2 with a 4.54 ERA in 19 games, getting sent back down in July.

While back in AA Jersey City, he threw a no hitter in the last professional game he ever pitched in.

Retirement: He then managed the team before returning to Barre Town Vermont, where he became the constable from 1947-1970.  He then went into the tax business as a tax collector until 1981.

The ageless Polli still worked at his friends gas station in Vermont, at the age of 80. He lived a long life to the age of 99, becoming the oldest living major leaguer, until his passing in 2000.