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 15, 2013

Looking Back At Tom Seaver's Career At the All Star Game

1971 Mets All Stars Tom Seaver &
Bud Harrelson
At the 2013 All Star Game at Citi Field, the Mets & MLB are honoring Hall of Famer to throw out the first pitch. It's a perfect selection as Tom Terrific known as "the franchise" is certainly the most successful, respected & loved Mets player of all time.

Seaver has recently suffered from a terrible bout with lime disease that caused him to feel fatigued & have a memory loss. This explains Seaver's low profile in the baseball world the last year.

It was feared that he was suffering from dementia, but after his wife Nancy finally convinced him to see a doctor, lime disease was the diagnosis. It was a form that had laid dormant in his body for years before resurfacing. Now Seaver has his memory back & is fully recovering.

Lets look back at Tome Seaver's All Star Game Highlights:

As soon as Tom Seaver arrived at the 1967 MLB All Star Game, he was approached in the club house, by St. Louis Cardinal's base stealer Lou Brock. Brock asked him if he'd mind fetching him a coke, thinking he was a clubhouse attendant.

The Young Seaver told Brock, he was a player & to this day jokes with Brock about the incident. After all the two see each other every year, at Cooperstown for the induction ceremonies.

Tom Seaver made his first All Star appearance in his 1967 rookie season. The game was played in Anaheim & Seaver being from Southern California had many family & friends on hand. He entered the game in the bottom of the 15th inning with the NL ahead 2-1. They had gotten the lead after a Tony Perez HR off Catfish Hunter in the top half of the inning.

Seaver told the Daily News this week, he remembered being very nervous on the walk in to the mound from the bullpen. But it then he arrived at his office; the pitcher's mound.

Quotes: “That was the turning point of my career. As I looked down at that rubber, I said to myself: ‘I can do this!’ It was right then, right there, in front of 46,000 people, including my friends and family, I knew I belonged in the big leagues.”

Tom & Nancy Seaver
The first batter was the Red Sox Tony Conigliaro, Seaver got him to fly out to left field. Next up was Carl Yastrzemski, that years Triple Crown Winner, Seaver walked him. He then got Tigers catcher Bill Freehan to fly out & then struck out Ken Berry for the final out of the classic game, earning the save. Seaver made his second All Star Game the next year.

1968: In the 1968 All Star Game held at the Houston Astrodome, the NL won a 1-0 pitchers classic. The only run was scored in the 1st inning, as Willie Mays crossed the plate when Willie McCovey grounded into a double play. It was the second straight year, the Dodgers Don Drysdale was credited with the victory.

In this game Tom Seaver relieved Steve Carlton pitching in the 7th inning. He got Rod Carew to ground out & then struck out Carl Yastrzemski. The Twins Tony Oliva, a three time batting champion then doubled to deep centerfield. But Seaver reared back & struck out one of his idols, Willie McCovey looking.

Seaver impressed NL Manager Red Schoendienst of the Cardinals so much, he came on to pitch the 8th inning as well. Seaver allowed a double to the weak hitting Detroit Tiger Don Wert, but also struck out Boog Powell, Mickey Mantle & Rick Monday. Mets Rookie Jerry Koosman was brought in & got the final out in the 9th.

1969: Seaver was on hand for the 1969 All Star Game in Washington D.C. but did not pitch. It had just been two weeks since he threw his one hit "imperfect game" at Shea, & the Amazing Mets were surprising everyone as contenders.

The NL took this game 9-3 as they continued their dominance over the American League winning their seventh straight.

1970: In 1970 the World Champion New York Mets manager Gil Hodges, chose his Cy Young Award winner from 1969 to start for the N.L. at Riverfront Stadium, in Cincinnati. Seaver started the game by striking out Luis Aparicio. Next, Carl Yastremzski drove a single up the middle, but Seaver then struck out Frank Robinson & got Boog Powell to pop up. The two Orioles players felt like it was the 1969 World Series all over again.

In the 2nd, he struck out slugger Harmon Killebrew & D.C.'s hometown hero; Frank Howard. Seaver then pitched a scoreless, hitless third inning before being taken out of the game.

Seaver did not get the victory, as this game went into extra innings & the Dodgers Claude O'Steen was the winner. Ironically, it was O' Steen that was warming up next to Seaver in the 1967 classic when Tom got the call.

The AL took a 4-1 lead into the 9th inning, with Catfish Hunter on the mound. He surrendered a HR to the Braves Dick Dietz, then singles to the Mets Bud Harrelson & The Reds Joe Morgan. Then a AL New York's club wife swapper; Fritz Peterson surrendered a Willie McCovey RBI double, scoring Harrelson. Mel Stottlemyre was brought in & got Roberto Clemente to line out, but Morgan scored from third to tie the game up. 

It was on this night that Pete Rose rounded third base in the bottom of the 12th inning to a famous play at home plate. He arrived at the plate the same time the ball did, then leveled catcher Ray Fosse knocking him & the ball out of the play. Rose scored after former Met; Jim Hickman (now with the Cubs & having a career year) had driven a single to centerfield.

The play has been controversial for years, since it's not many times you see a violent collision at home plate in an All Star Game. Strangely Fosse had been over Rose' house the night before for dinner with the family. Fosse suffered a dislocated shoulder & was never the same player again.

Tom Seaver & Willie Mays 1971
1971: Seaver was selected to the classic 1971 All Star Game in Detroit, where the AL finally snapped an eight year losing streak, winning 6-4. This game had the Mets Bud Harrelson make the start as the NL's shortstop, in a lineup that also featured the likes of; Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell & Johnny Bench.

Twenty future Hall of Famers participated in the game, highlighted by the Oakland A's; Reggie Jackson's long HR onto the roof of Tiger Stadium. Other HRs that night were hit by Harmon Killebrew & Frank Robinson for the A.L. & Johnny Bench, Roberto Clemente & Hank Aaron for the NL.

1972: Seaver also attended the 1972 All Star Game at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium, but did not pitch once again. This was another extra inning classic that the NL pulled out in the bottom of the 10th inning, when Joe Morgan singled off The Orioles; Dave McNally to score San Diego's Nate Colbert with the winning run.

The winning pitcher was non other than the Mets Tug McGraw; who pitched a scoreless 9th & 10th inning. In the 9th Tug struck out Reggie Jackson, Bobby Grich & Norm Cash. In the 10th he struck out Carlton Fisk & got Sal Bando & Lou Pinella to ground out.

1973: The 1973 Cy Young Award winning Seaver, got to his seventh straight All Star Game that summer, pitching one inning of relief at Kansas City's Royals Stadium. The game was a 7-1 NL blow out, highlighted by HRs from Johnny Bench, Bobby Bonds & Willie Davis. Seaver pitched the bottom of the 8th inning; he walked the Royals Cookie Rojas & got three ground outs from Ed Brinkman, John Mayberry & Reggie Jackson.

1974: In 1974 the Mets were the reigning NL Champions & Mets manager Yogi Berra was the NL skipper for the Mid Summer Classic held at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium. That year Seaver was suffering from back issues that messed up his mechanics as he fell to 6-6 by the break. He would finish at 11-11 but still struck out over 200 batters. Berra chose Jon Matlack & his catcher Jerry Grote for All Str representation in the 7-2 NL win.

1975: Seaver was back in full form in 1975, rebounding with his third Cy Young season. He & Jon Matlack attended the All Star Game held in Milwaukee's County Stadium. This was not Seaver's best night, as he surrendered a three run HR to Carl Yastrzemski, whom he had battled in previous All Star match ups.

But it was Jon Matlack's night, as he pitched two scoreless innings, striking out four, earning the win & the games co-MVP honors along with the Cubs; Bill Madlock. Yaz' three run HR was all the AL put up as they took a 6-3 loss, the NL's third straight win, 11 of the last 12.

1976 Mets All Stars; Jon Matlack- Dave Kingman
& Tom Seaver with Manager Sparky Anderson
1976: The Bicentennial Year had Philadelphia host the All Star game, and Seaver, Matlack & new Met Dave Kingman represented the club. Kingman had already hit 30 HRs & made the NL start in right field.

The NL rolled along 7-1, with Seaver once again allowing the only run, a HR to Boston's Fred Lynn. Seaver pitched two innings, allowing the HR & a single to former Mets team mate Rusty Staub, now with Detroit. Seaver even got an at bat, striking out against Catfish Hunter. Kingman went 0-2 in the game.

1977: The sad season of 1977 saw Tom Seaver's last All Star appearance in a Mets uniform. He entered the game held in New York, at the new AL Clubs ball park across town, in the 6th inning with a 6-0 lead.

It turned out to be another not so good outing for Tom Terrific; as he gave up three runs over two innings of work.

In the 6th; The White Sox Richie Zisk doubled to score Rod Carew & Fred Lynn. In the 7th the Twins Butch Wynegar singled & an NL error got him to advance, he then scored on a Willie Randolph base hit, to the delight of the Bronx crowd.

The NL went on to its fifth straight win, but the next time Tom Seaver was at All Star game pitching, he was in a Reds uniform.

In 2013, Seaver will return to the mound in New York in a Mets jersey, at Citi Field the new home of the Mets to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.