Apr 25, 2014

Italian / American Father & Son Players: Steve Lombardozzi Sr. & Steve Lombardozzi Jr.

Stephen Paul Lombardozzi was born on April 26, 1960 in Malden, Massachusetts. He attended the University of Florida, getting drafted in the 9th round of the 1981 draft by the Minnesota Twins.

He was an excellent defensive second baseman known more for defense rather than his bat. After four years in the minors he was brought up in 1985 & the next year replaced Tim Tueful as the Twins regular second baseman.

In his rookie season he led all AL second baseman in fielding (.992%) & made just six errors in 701 chances. His locker at the Metro dome was right next to Kirby Puckett’s, & he joked that he knew the back of all the writers heads since they were always around Puckett. In the Twins 1987 Championship season, he batted just .238 with 8 HRs & 38 RBI but went on to have a great post season, becoming an unlikely hitting hero.

Post Season: In the ALCS against Detroit he hit .267 driving in a run, going 4-15.

In Game #1 of the World Series he hit a 5th inning two run HR off St. Louis’ Bob Forsch in a wild Metro dome as the Twins went on to win the game 10-1.

Quotes: "The feeling was unbelievable. As soon as I hit it I knew it was gone, but I didn't believe it. I hit first base and between first and third, I had all these thoughts about all the friends and family and relatives that were all back home. I was visualizing all these different families - there were probably 10, 12, 15 of them all huddled around a TV going, 'Oh my God, our Steve hit a home run in the World Series! It was a highlight of my whole career."

In Game #6 with the Twins trailing the Series three games to two, Lombardozzi singled home two runs breaking a 5-5 tie. Minnesota never looked back as they went on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in that game & the next to earn their first Championship title.

Lombardozzi finished the series leading his team in hitting, batting .412. He was second with Tim Launder in hits (7) with a HR & four RBIs.

Despite his World Series heroics after just one more season, the Twins acquired veteran Tommy Herr by 1989 & Lombardozzi was traded to the Houston Astros. There he helped tutor Craig Biggio with his transition to second base. He played very brief in two seasons in Houston & his playing days were over by 1990.

In a six year career he hit .233 with 20 HRs 61 doubles 107 RBIs. He posted a .986 fielding% making 31 errors in 1837 chances.

Retirement: After his playing days, he ran a small business & raised his family. He eventually went into coaching & is a minor league instructor for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Steven Paul Lombardozzi Jr. was born on September 20th 1988 in Fulton Maryland. Steve Jr. was born with a clubbed foot deformity. At two years old he needed surgery which was done by the old NHL Minnesota North Stars hockey team surgeon. His clubbed foot never hurt his ability to play baseball.

The six foot switch hitter attended St. Petersburg College where he was drafted in the 19th round of the 2008 draft. In 2009 he hit .296 at A ball Hagerstown, then in 2010 he batted .294 between Potomac & AA Harrisburg.

In 2011 Lombardozzi batted .309 in 65 games at AA Harrisburg, getting promoted to AAA Syracuse where he also batted over .300. He earned himself a September call up debuting as a pinch hitter on September 6th in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He played in 13 games batting .194.

In 2012 Lombardozzi found himself as the main left fielder on a surprising young Nationals team that has been in first place almost all season. Lombardozzi also has played at second & third base.

In an important three game series against the second place New York Mets in July, Lombardozzi drove in three runs in the midst of an eight game hit streak. On July 17th he drove in an 8th inning run with a single of Josh Edgin putting the Nats up 2-0. Although the Mets tied it up, the Nats went on to win it 4-3. The next day his 7th inning double off Miguel Batista put Washington up 4-1 and turned out to be the game winning runs in a 4-3 win.

Lombardozzi had a good year, as the Nationals made their first post season, batting .273 with 3 HRs 16 doubles & 27 RBIs posting a .317 on base %. In the post season he made three pinch hit appearances, going hitless in the NLDS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

In 2013 he played in 118 games batted  .259 with 15 doubles 2 HRs & 22 RBIs as a utility player. In a busy off season he was first traded to the Detroit Tigers & then to the Baltimore Orioles.

In a four year career he is hitting .264 while playing second base (86 games) outfield (64 games) third base (19 games) & two games at short stop.

Charity: The Lombardozzi family are helping relief efforts for victims of super storm Sandy.

Apr 23, 2014

Former Italian / American Player: Mickey Morandini (1990-2000)

Michael Robert Morandini was born on April 22nd 1966 in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. The five foot eleven second baseman, threw right but batted left handed.

After attending Indiana University at Bloomington, Minnesota he was a one of the top players in the 1987 International Cup Tournament. He was also a member of Team USA's champion Olympic Team in 1988. He was selected as a fifth round draft pick for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1988.

He got to the big leagues as a reserve infielder for the 1990 & 1991 seasons. In 1992 he became the Phillies main second baseman for the next six years.  On September 20th, 1992 he turned an unassisted triple play in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with Jeff King as the batter. In the Phillies 1993 NL pennant season, he batted .247 with 9 triples (third in the NL) 3 HRs 13 stolen bases & 33 RBIs.

Post Season: In the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, he hit a two run triple in the final 6-3 Phillies clincher game at Veterans Stadium. In the World Series loss to The Toronto Blue Jays, he had just one start in favor of Mariano Duncan.

Morandini was not known for his hitting, but he did have some good seasons, batting over .290 twice. He was in the leagues top ten in triples four times, doubles & singles two times each. In 1995 he made the NL All Star team as well.

He was a solid second baseman, known as "the Dandy Glove Man", coming second in the league in fielding % four times & leading the league in that category in 1998, while with Chicago Cubs (.993%).

After eight seasons in Philadelphia he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1998 for Doug Glanville. Morandini only hit 32 career HRs in 4558 at bats, hitting a career best eight, while playing at Wrigley Field in 1988.

On July 1st 1999, he had a rare two HR game, in a wild 19-12 Cubs win over the Brewers at Wrigley Field.

After two seasons in Chicago, he closed out his career in 2000 playing for the Toronto Blue Jays & back with the Phils. In eleven seasons he hit .268 with 1222 hits 54 triples 32 HRs 209 doubles 597 runs scored & 351 RBIs. In 1245 games at second base he posted a .989 fielding % (12th all time best)  turning 669 double plays (91st all time).

Retirement: Morandini began coaching high school ball after his playing days. In 2011 he was manager of the A ball Williamsport Crosscutters in the Phillies organization. He then moved up to the Lakewood Blue Claws (2012-2013).

In 2014 he was named to the AAA Lehigh Valley coaching staff.

Apr 1, 2014

Concert Review: Ozzy & Black Sabbath Rock Brooklyn's Barclay's Center (3/31/14)

Last night was opening night, of the second leg of the Black Sabbath's North American; "13" Tour.

13 is the latest Black Sabbath album, released in 2013. It is the first Black Sabbath album to hit #1 in the United States. It also topped the UK charts, 43 years since the Paranoid album had done the same. The 43 year gap is the longest space for the same group to have a chart topper.

13 is the first Sabbath album of all new material featuring Ozzy Osbourne on lead vocals since 1978. The album was also picked as the #1 album of 2013 here on centerfieldmaz top albums of the year.

Ozzy Osbourne
There are two big points that stand out to me about of this incredible Black Sabbath show, first of course was the front man; Ozzy Osbourne & second was he band behind him. I will explain both:

First off, Black Sabbath as a live group, are still one of the few live classic acts that goes out on stage with just it's four members. There are no backing musicians, or no one else accompanying the three musicians.

The incredible Guitarist; Tony Iommi leads the charge with his heavy riffs. He is known as the master of the riff, & the father of Heavy Metal. In case you were wondering about the name; yes- Iommi is Italian on his mothers side of the family.

Tony Iommi

As a young man, a factory accident left him with two deformed fingers on his left hand. The left handed Iommi, originally thought he may have learn to play right handed or give up the guitar entirely. But he was encouraged by a friend after hearing another guitarist who had burned off tips of his fingers. Iommi's handicap helped him create his own sound working those fingers on a fret board.

As Iommi plays the lead, it's Gezer Butler's incredible heavy bass playing carries the songs rhythm. Geezer who is also the main song writer in the Ozzy era Sabbath, is also one of the most influential pioneers of heavy metal bass. In order to play along with Iommi, Geezer down tuned his bass from the customary E-A-D-G notes & was one of the first bassists to use a wah wah pedal. This helps define the Black Sabbath's sound.

Geezer Butler
Original drummer; Bill Ward is no longer with the band due to contract disputes. Which is a shame because Ward's drumming behind Butler as well as Iommi is an important part of Sabbath as any.

The bands latest drummer: Tommy Clufetos, is outstanding in his own right. He pounds the drums with a vengeance, seeming appreciative & privileged to be in this legendary ensemble. His resume includes playing with Ozzy solo, Alice Cooper & Rob Zombie. Clufetos drumming was outstanding & he gave the crowd a fantastic drum solo as well.

Then of course there is Ozzy. One of the greatest front man in rock & roll, a reality tv star, father of one of the richest families in England. The Prince of Darkness, Heavy Metals godfather & rock  music's bad boy over & over again.

Ozzy: "Clap your f'in hands"
Once a wild young rock star, fronting a band with an darker side than most, the legend of Ozzy Osborne has just kept growing decade after decade. After getting fired from Sabbath in 1979, he was in the dumps, abusing alcohol & drugs to massive levels.

His manager, soon to be wife; Sharon, helped turn his career around & deserves as much credit as he in his success. From there the solo career takes off, as Randy Rhoads one of the best guitar players ever joins the band & a rock anthem in Crazy Train becomes a classic.

Then Ozzy bites a head off a dove at the record company, bites a head off a bat thrown on stage at a concert & the legend of the madman blows up. He thought the bat was fake, his response on classic Ozzy: "what kind of a person brings a bat to a concert?". Then the bad press when his song Suicide Solution was blamed on a teens suicide. Then the classic tour stories, with the legendary drinking & cocaine binges.

Then there was the legendary out grossing contests with Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue, which included the snorting of the ants & urine. According to Tommy Lee; there was a night Ozzy dropped a crap in his hotel room floor & began painting the walls with his own feces. Not a pretty picture, but one of the legendary stories that made the mad man/Prince of Darkness who is Ozzy.

Financially he & his wife have built an empire, of course the music library & the concerts but much more beyond that. There was the day long Ozzfest concerts, that helped out many metal bands starting out, usually headlined by the man himself. The reality TV show, which sadly showed the more addicted side of a rock star at home, even though at the time people thought it was an act.

The solo career may not be kicking out the classics of its glory days, but its still going strong, with quality songs & solid backing musicians like Zak Wylde & Clufetos. If Ozzy can stay healthy and not succumb to alcohol or substance abuse again, he is blessed by still being able to do it. And do it better than anybody in his field.

To see the performance he gave last night, means that he is dedicated to maintaining that image & has worked very hard to be in the shape he is in. Ozzy can drive an audience wild with just his presence & shouting out "clap your f'in hands". Waving his arms back & forth to coax the crowd, leaping up & down & doing jumping jacks on stage are all part of his strange repertoire.

Tony Iommi plays to the Barclays Center Crowd
He did it all at this show & was exceptional in his performance. He took just one break in the two hour show, constantly singing, jumping up & down & shouting "clap your hands".

Ozzy's voice sounded right on point, the entire, night. The only time I saw or heard fatigue, was in the shows final song "Children of the Grave. He was very into giving a great show. He kept walking to all sides of the stage, waving, laughing & having a good time with the crowd.

A wet Ozzy Osbourne Wows 'em

He kept cooling himself off throwing his customary bucket of water over his head, making his figure look more evil & wild on stage, as his long wet hair dripped down his face. He even threw a bucket of water at the folks in the first few rows.

photo by centerfieldmaz
The Ozzman was very appreciative of the crowds admiration & devotion, as he kept giving us his blessing, repeating "God Bless You All". Now what king of devil worshiper would say that?

All those years of people accusing him of worshiping Satan, always made me laugh, ever listen to how many Sabbath songs mentioned getting along & love?

Trivia: Black Sabbath started out rehearsing next to a movie theater, as they watched people pay admission to see horror flicks & be scared. They decided to put a darker theme into their music & the rest is history, a genre was born. The silver crosses which the band wears, most notably Ozzy, & which has become a symbol for the band, were originally hand made by Ozzy's father at work.

An overall review of this 2014 Sabbath concert, is nothing less than outstanding.

"The Don" comes out of concert retirement
with DarthMaz & cf-maz
The crowd was mixed with original fans, as well as countless new generations of fans. Many folks came in families with their kids, mostly young adults & teens.

The opening moments were awesome, as the lights went down to the start of War Pigs. Ozzy drove the crowd to a wild roar, as he sang the first verse & let the crowd sing the next verse. It was on & never stopped, two hours worth of a great show.

Sabbath played the classics as good as ever, with a massive sound system that was very loud but clear. They added three new songs from 13 to the set list & they too were done exceptionally well. The heavy riff in Age of Reason is heavy, yet melodic as only Iommi can do & God Is Dead? is already a classic Sabbath song. Only at a Black Sabbath concert will you see beach balls & balloons happily bouncing to a song called God Is Dead? And in the finale': Purple Balloons & Confetti falling festively to the words of Paranoid.

drummer Tommy Clufetos
Other notable highlights included, Gezer's bass solo leading into (one of my fav's) N.I.B.. This one had the crowd roaring & singing along "oh yea". The title song from the first album; Black Sabbath was done in its classic epic live horror movie style. Ozzy led the way, with his masterful evil vocals & laughter done right on the money.

The all time classics; Iron Man & Paranoid were of course huge crowd pleasers, done perfectly. Another big response came from Fairies Wear Boots, with its burlesque video background, surprisingly, this came off as one of the best songs of the night. No signs of this huge Sabbath behemoth ever slowing down either.

As long as the band continues to stay healthy the Black Sabbath shows will keep coming. Yes, Ozzy is the man, he still rules & is the prince of f'ing darkness!

photo by centerfieldmaz

Opening Night Set List- Barclays Center, Brooklyn NY
War Pigs
Into the Void
Under the Sun- Every Day Comes & Goes
Age of Reason
Black Sabbath
Behind the Wall of Sleep
N.I.B.(with Geezer Butler bass solo intro)
End of the Beginning
Fairies Wear Boots
Rat Salad (with Supernaut instrumental & Clufetos' Drum Solo)
Iron Man
God Is Dead?
Dirty Women
Children of the Grave

encore: Paranoid (with Sabbath Bloody Sabbath Intro)

Sabbath back in the day