Oct 30, 2014

One of The Games First Full Time Relief Pitchers- New York Giants Pitcher: Doc Crandall (1908-1912)

James Otis Crandall was born October 8th, 1887 in Wadena, Indiana. He was signed by the New York Giants in 1908 & became one of the first pitchers to be used primarily in Relief. He earned the nickname "Doc" because he was able to recuperate sick Giants games. Team mate Damon Runyon said he was "the physician of the pitching emergency."

In his first season in New York he went 12-12 third on the Giants staff behind Christy Mathewson (37 wins) & Hooks Wiltse (23 wins) posting a a 2.93 ERA. Over the next five seasons he would close out & finish the most games in the league each year. Crandall also led the league in reief wins from 1910-1912 in pennant years with the Giants. In 1910 he won a career high 17 games (17-4) with an .810 winning % while posting a 2.56 ERA.

The Giants would win N.L. Pennants three straight seasons from 1911-1913, losing in the World Series twice to Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics & once to the Boston Red Sox. On the 1911 squad Crandall was third on the teams in wins behind Mathewson (26) & Rube Marquard (24). His 2.63 ERA was also third best to the same two pitchers & his five saves were second best in the league, although the stat was nor kept tract of in those days.

Post Season: In the 1911 World Series Crandall first appeared in Game #2 at Philadelphia pitching in relief of Rube Marquard in the 3-1 Giants loss. In Game #5 at the Polo Grounds Crandall came in relief of pitcher Red Ames in the 8th inning with the Giants behind 3-1. In the bottom of the 8th he doubled & then scored the tying run on Josh Devore's extra base hit. Crandall earned the victory as he pitched through the 10th inning & in the bottom of the frame Fred Merkle won the game with an RBI sac fly.

In 1912 Crandall once again won double figures going 13-7 with a team leading 1.69 ERA. He made ten starts in 37 games finishing 25 (best in the NL) & posting two saves. This year he was the Giants fourth best pitcher behind Mathewson (23-12) Marquard (26-11) & Jeff Tesreau (17-7). In the World Series against Boston he appeared in just one game pitching two scoreless innings.

In 1913 he was sent to the St Lois Cardinals but upon hearing the news at the Polo Grounds the fans went crazy & there was a huge public outcry. He was immediately sent back to the Giants where he went 4-4 with six saves (second in the NL) & a 2.86 ERA finishing off a league best 27 games. Crandall was also a good fielder posting a perfect .1000 fielding % and also played two games at second base.

Post Season: In the World Series he appeared in four games, two as a pitcher, finishing off the Giants Game #3 loss & two more as a pinch hitter going 0-4 overall.

As a hitter Crandall hit over .300 four times in his ten year career. He also hit a HR in every season from 1908 through 1911, driving in a a career high 21 runs that season. In his batting career he hit .286 with 253 hits 9 HRs 35 doubles 19 triples &126 RBIs with a .375 on base %.

In 1914 he went over to the Federal League playing for the St. Louis Terriers, not only did he pitch but was also the teams second baseman. He was one of the last players to pitch & hold another position. In 1915 he won twenty games going 21-15 with a 2.59 ERA.

Crandall went on to pitch in the Pacific Coast League with the Los Angeles Angels (1917-1926) then went to Wichita & Sacramento before returning to L.A. to close out his career at age 41 in 1929. He was 249-163 in the Pacific Coast League making it to their Hall of Fame in 1943,

In his ten year MLB pitching career he was 102-62 with a .622 win loss % (68th best all time) with a 2.92 ERA, 606 strike outs 379 walks in 1546 innings. In 302 games he finished 146, posted 25 saves & made 134 starts.

Passing: Crandall passed away in Bell, California in 1951 at age 63.

Oct 29, 2014

Late 2000's Mets Pitcher: Darren O'Day (2008)

Darren Christopher O'Day was born on October 22nd 1982 in Jacksonville, Florida. The six foot four right handed, side armed pitcher attended the University of Florida where he was a top pitcher.

In 2006 he was signed by the Anaheim Angels as an amateur free agent. In 2007 he shot through all levels of A ball saving a total of 21 games going 7-4 with a 2.53 ERA. The Angels were impressed and he made the 2008 club out of Spring Training as a reliever. He appeared in thirty games going 0-1 with a 4.47 ERA. In 2008 he was a Rule V draft selection of the New York Mets.

O'Day began the year with the Mets making his debut in Cincinnati in the third game of the season relieving Oliver Perez after an eight run outing. O'Day would only pitch in four games with the Mets, three innings of work overall. On April 11th he allowed two runs on three hits to the Marlins in Florida pitching just 1.1 innings. On April 22nd he was placed on waivers & was picked by the Texas Rangers.

O'Day arrived with the Rangers during a game in Toronto against the Blue Jays. That night he was needed to pitch in relief but a uniform with his name had not been completed yet.

With nothing else to do, he borrowed team mate Kason Gabbard's #30 and went on to pitch. Eventually his uniform with O'Day #56 was ready the next day. He went to have a good year in Texas going 2-1 with 21 holds posting a 1.94 ERA in 64 appearances.

He remained with the Rangers for through 2011 getting to two World Series with them. In 2010 he led the staff with 72 appearances going 6-2 with 21 holds & a 2.03 ERA. In the ALCS he appeared in three games taking a loss in Game #1. In 2011 he only pitched in 16 games and was injured missing the rest of the year. He was placed on waivers in November & picked up by the Baltimore Orioles.

In 2012 he was back as a solid middle reliever going 7-1 with 15 holds & a 2.28 ERA making 69 appearances for a surprising Oriole team that won an AL Wild Card spot.

Post Season: He pitched two scoreless innings of the AL Wild Card game, as the Orioles beat the reigning AL Champion Texas Rangers. O'Day made four appearances in the ALDS pitching five scoreless, hit less innings.

In 2013 he returned with the Orioles going 5-3 with a pair of saves posting a 2.18 ERA with 20 holds.

For the 2014 AL East Champion Orioles the side arm thrower, was second in the O's bullpen to Zach Britton in ERA (1.70) & appearances (68). He finished 14 games going 5-2, which posted the staff's second best win % (7.14%).

Post season: In the 2014 ALDS against the Detroit Tigers, O'Day gave up one run in his only appearance, coming in the Game #1 Orioles win. In the ALCS he made three appearances, taking two of the series losing decisions to the Kansas City Royals.

In Game #1 he gave up a lead off 10th inning HR to Alex Gordon breaking the 5-5 tie. He then walked Salvatore Perez who turned out to be the winning run when Mike Moustakas hit a two run HR off Brian Matusz, later in the inning. 

In Game #2 he gave up a lead off walk in the 9th inning of a 4-4 tie. He was relieved by Zach Britton who gave up two runs including Infante which turned out to be the winning run. O'Day was charged with the loss.

In a seven year career he is 25-11 with eight saves, 349 strike outs & 97 walks in 378 innings pitched in 391 appearances.

Family: O'Day has been married to FOX News reporter; Elizabeth Prann since 2010. For FOX Prann is based in the Washington D.C. area & also is a rotating anchor for the America's News on Saturday afternoons. 

Elizabeth graduated from the University of Florida & began her career working locally in Florida. In 2006, she began as a production assistant for the show; On the Record With Greta Van Susteren. She helped launch Gretawire.com & became a FOX TV correspondent in 2010.

Mets Player Who Set A Record Hitting Four HRs In His First Four MLB Games: Mike Jacobs (2005 / 2010)

Michael James Jacobs was born October 30, 1980 in Chula Vista California. 

The six foot three inch, left hand hitter, was originally selected by the New York Mets as a catcher in the 38th round of the 1999 draft. By 2003 he had developed into a power hitter (17 HRs) and won the Sterling Award as the Mets top prospect.

In 2004 he suffered a torn labrum while at AAA Norfolk and the next season learned how to play first base. In 2005 he hit 25 HRs with 93 RBIs at AA Binghamton, getting called up to the Mets in August, to replace Doug Mientkiewicz and help solve the first base problem.

He made his MLB debut on August 21st, in a game against the Washington Nationals. He became the fourth Met in history to homer in his first MLB at bat, bashing one off Esteban Loiza. Two days later during a four game sweep in Arizona, Jacobs homered again. The following day he hit two more HRs, both coming off Claudio Vargas in the Mets 14-1 win. In that game Jacobs set an MLB record hitting four HRs in his first four career games.

On September 25th the Mets entered the top of the 8th inning behind 4-3. In the inning David Wright homered to tie the game & two batters later Jacobs hit one as well, it turned out to be the winning run. In only 100 at bats that season Jacobs hit 11 HRs with 23 RBIs, a .310 batting average, and a .375 on base percentage.

He closed out the season with hopes of being the Mets first baseman of the future. There was a quick change of plans around Thanksgiving, when the Mets traded him along with Yusmeiro Petit and Grant Psomas to the Florida Marlins for Carlos Delgado.

In 2006 in Florida he hit 20 HRs with 37 doubles with 77 RBIs batting .262. He became one of the Marlins most popular young players. That year he got married and had twin daughters in his first season in the sunshine of south Florida. He played a few less games in 2007 (114) hitting 17 HRs with 27 doubles 54 RBIs & a .265 average. The free swinger struck out 101 times on the season.

In 2008 he played a career high 141 games and had his biggest year; 32 HRs 27 doubles & 93 RBIs but his average dropped to .247. The Marlins needed a closer and on October 31st, 2008 traded Jacobs to the Kansas City Royals for Leo Nunez. He struggled defensively and found himself as the Royals DH, batting a career low .228 with 132 strike outs. He did hit 19 HRs with 16 doubles & 61 RBIs in 2009.

In 2010 he signed a minor league deal with the New York Mets & found himself as the teams Opening Day first baseman when Daniel Murphy went down with injury. But by April 18th, he was batting .208 & was designated for assignment. In just seven games he went 5-24, with one HR & two RBIs.

While playing at AAA Buffalo he hit 15 HRs batting .260 with 57 RBIs. On July 30th he was traded to the Toronto Blues Jays for a player to be named later.

In 2011 he was playing at AAA Colorado Springs hitting 23 HRs, but after he came up positive for using a human growth hormone, he was released by the Rockies organization.

He signed with the Arizona D-backs & after hitting 18 HRs was given another big league shot. He got into 13 games batting .208 but was granted free agency after the season.

In seven career seasons he batted .253 with 493 hits 100 HRs, 116 doubles, 312 RBIs & 492 strike outs in 1949 at bats in 569 games.

Mid Nineties Mets Utility Player: Tim Bogar (1993-1996)

Timothy Paul Bogar was born October 28, 1966 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He attended East Illinois University getting drafted by the New York Mets in the 8th round of the 1987 draft.

He spent six years in the minors having his best year at A ball Columbia in 1988 batting .282. Bogar was a member of the last AAA Tidewater Tides team before they moved over to Norfolk.

He was one of the teams top hitters batting .279 behind Jeff McNight (.307) Chris Donnels (.301) & Steve Springer (.290) . Bogar made the Mets in 1993 debuting as a pinch hitter at Shea Stadium against the San Francisco Giants.

The versatile Bogar would play all infield & outfield positions for the Mets from 1993-1996. One of his biggest days at the plate came on August 1st, 1993 in his rookie year. He hit a pair of HRs & had four hits in Philadelphia in a game against the Phillies. He would only hit 6 HRs in 491 at bats in his entire Mets career. Unfortunately he got injured and was sidelined for the rest of the season. He hit .244 with three HRs 13 doubles & 25 RBIs in 78 games played.

In 1994 he remained with the club until early August but was only batting .154 in fifty games before getting sent to AAA Norfolk. In 1995 when play resumed after the great baseball strike, Bogar was back on the big league club.

He struggled hitting just .158 at the end of May. From June through the end of the year he hit well as he saw more steady playing time. He finished the year drawing a bases loaded walk in the final game of the season, giving the Mets a walk off win over the eventual World Champion Atlanta Braves.

Bogar had his best season batting .290 in 78 games, with one HR seven doubles & 21 RBIs. In 1996 he saw action in 91 games behind Jeff Kent (third base), Rey Ordonez (short stop) & Butch Huskey (first base) around the infield but his average fell off to .213. Bogar was traded at the end of Spring Training 1997 to the Houston Astros for Luis Lopez.

He spent four years in Houston hitting a high of .249 in 1997 getting to the post season in 1999. In 2001 he played his final season with the Los Angeles Dodgers He finished his nine year career with a lifetime .228 average with 345 hits 24 HRs 69 doubles 9 triples & 161 RBIs.

Retirement: After his playing days he became a manager in the Cleveland Indians minor leagues winning Baseball Americas Future Manger Award. He then coached for the Tampa Rays as their quality assurance coach.

In 2009/2010 he was the Boston Red Sox first base coach moving over as the third base coach for 2011. In 2012 he was the Boston bench coach under Bobby Valentine. Bogar has since become the Manager of the AA Arkansas Travelers.

New York Giants Hall Of Famer & The Last NL Player To Hit .400: Bill Terry (1923-1936)

William Harold Terry was born on October 30, 1898 in Atlanta, Georgia. Memphis Bill, as he was known, began his playing career as pitcher while he was still a teenager.

By 1922 the Toledo Mud Hens signed him & he converted to a full time first baseman. Terry more importantly who was a fantastic hitter.

That year in the minor leagues, he batted .377 with 15 HRs & was brought up to the New York Giants team by mid September.

The following season he was backup at first base to Hall of Famer; George “High Pockets” Kelly, batting .239 with 5 HRs & 24 RBIs in 77 games. The Giants won the pennant and faced the Washington Senators in the World Series.

Post Season: In Game #1 of the World Series, he got the start at first base & High Pockets Kelly played outfield & second base. Terry had a big day, collecting three hits, including a 4th inning HR off Walter Johnson in the 4-3 win. Overall he batted .429 (6-14) in that Series.

By 1925 he was the Giants main first baseman, as the infield was switched around to accommodate Terry. With an injury to Henie Groh, Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch was moved to the spot & Kelly to second base. He hit .319, but the Giants finished second & he found himself a back up to Kelly once again in 1926, as the defense was switched back to the way it was.

By the 1927 season, the Giants traded Kelly, as well as Frankie Frisch & Terry became the teams main first baseman for good. That year he had his breakout season, batting .326 (10th in the N.L.) with 20 HRs (4th in the NL) & 121 RBIs (5th in the NL). 

In 1928 he would hit .326 but even better things were ahead. In 1929 Terry hit .372 (4th in the NL) with 226 hits (4th in the NL) driving in 117 runs (9th in the NL) while blasting 39 doubles in each of the last two seasons, while coming in the top ten in most offensive league categories.

In 1929 he finished third in the MVP voting. In 1930 he had his best season, becoming the first player since Rogers Hornsby (1925) to bat over .400. Terry hit .401 & is still the last N.L. Player to accomplish this feat. Ted Williams is the only other player to have hit over .400 since Terry’s 1930 season.

Terry easily won the batting title, while leading the league in hits (254). That tied Lefty O'Douls 254, for a record of most hits in a single season, in the National League. Terry hit 23 HRs (8th in the league) with 39 doubles 15 triples (5th in the league) & 129 RBIs (5th in the league) winning the Sporting News MVP Award. Unfortunately the Giants finished third that season.

At first base he led the N.L. in put outs & assists posting a .990 fielding percentage. In his career he led first baseman in put outs & assists five times, as well as leading twice in fielding percentage & coming in runner up three more times.

In 1931 he led the league in triples (20) & runs scored (121) while coming in runner up for the batting title to the St. Louis Cardinals; Chick Hafey. Hafey beat out Terry in one of the closest batting races in history, a mere .0002 points.

Terry had another 200 plus hit season that year with 213 hits, as well as 112 RBIs. Terry would hit a career high 28 HRs in 1932 and bat .350 coming in runner up to Brooklyn's Lefty O'Doul (.368). That June he was named the New York Giants player manager, replacing legendary Hall of Famer; John McGraw who was ill & retired after managing the Giants for thirty years.

After a sixth place finish that season, Terry lead the Giants to another World Series title in 1933, as they defeated the Washington Senators in five games. Terry himself batted .322 but saw his power numbers fall to just 6 HRs & 58 RBIs.

Post Season: In the '33 World Series, he hit .273 (6-22) with a HR in Game #4 at Washington D.C. He would win another pennant as manager of the NY Giants in 1936 and bat .240 in that World Series. His power numbers certainly fell off after his .400 season, but he still batted over .310 every season, which was six more years.

In his career; Terry hit over .300 eleven times, while driving in over 100 runs six straight years. He had six seasons where he had 200 or more hits.

In his 14 year career he batted .341 (15th best all time) & in the modern era he would be ranked at tenth best. Terry had 2193 hits (182nd all time) in 6428 at bats.

He hit 154 HRs, 373 doubles (226th all time) with 112 triples (119th all time) & a .393 on base percentage (91st all time) . He scored 1120 runs (236th all time) in 1721 games played.

His defensive numbers are very impressive; playing 1579 games at first base (51st all time) making 1108 assists (34th all time) with 15972 put outs (35th all time) turning 1334 double plays (36th all time).

His range factor according to baseball reference is tenth best all time & he would have led the league in that department eight times.

If a Gold Glove Award had been issued the, speculation is Terry would have a few of them. The All Star Game didn't begin until he was 34 years old, but he still got into three of those.

Retirement: After his playing days, Terry remained the Giants manager. He won another pennant in 1937, but then never finished higher than third place.

He continued to manage the New York Giants until 1941, when his protégé & long time team mate; Hall of Famer Mel Ott, took over as the teams Player/ Manger.

After baseball he owned a car dealership & a minor league ball team in Jacksonville, Florida. Terry passed away in 1989 at the age 90.

Honors: Although he was popular with the Sports writer, he did not elected to the Hall of Fame until in 1954.

He had his Giants uniform #3, retired by the club in 1984. He was a nominee for Baseballs All Century team & was voted #59, in the Sporting News All Time Greatest Players.

Oct 28, 2014

Former Bronx Born New York Giants Prospect Turned Manager: Charlie Fox (1942)

Charlie Francis Fox was born on October 7th, 1921 in the Bronx, New York. Fox earned the nickname Irish and as a boy sold newspapers in the shadows of the Polo Grounds. He later attended high school at James Monroe High School in the Bronx. This was the same high scholl long time Met Ed Kranepool would also attend.

As a young ball player he dreamed of playing for the team he rooted for the New York Giants. Fox got his chance, getting signed by the New York Giants in 1942 & making it right to the big league club. He got to play in three career games going 3-7 giving him a lifetime .429 batting average. From there he went off to serve in the Navy in World War II for the next three years, where he was involved in some very dangerous assignments.

Fox returned to baseball but would never play in the big leagues again. He spent 12 seasons in the minor leagues, mostly playing catcher & batting a career high .271. In those years he coached & managed in the Giants minor leagues. As the Giants moved to the West Coast, Fox became a scout for them from 1957 through 1963. He then managed & coached again in the Giants minor leagues through 1970.

In May of 1970 Fox took over as manager of the Giants big league club, replacing Clyde King. That season the Giants finished third behind the NL Champion Reds & the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1971 he won the Manager of the Year Award, in what became known in San Francisco as "The Year of the Fox".

That season he led the Giants to a first place finish & a 90 win season. That year the Giants were loaded with four future Hall of Famers; Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry & Juan Marichal.

In the NLCS they lost to the eventual world champion Pittsburgh Pirates. Fox would manage the Giants into 1974 when he was replaced by Wes Westrum. Overall he would be associated with the Giants for over thirty years. Fox would move on to the Montreal Expos organization where he would serve as a manager briefly in 1976.

He then was named the team's General Manager through 1978, getting credit for selecting players like Bill Gullickson, Charlie Lea, Scott Sanderson & Tim Raines. He also maneuvered trades that brough Tony Perez, Will McEnaney, Chris Spier & Stan Bahnsen to Montreal.

Fox would again get a chance to mange, briefly in 1983 with the Chicago Cubs. In his final years in baseball he served as a scout with the Houston Astros until 1993.

Passing: Fox died of pneumonia at age 82 in Stanford, California in 2004.

Former Mets Prospect Who Went On To A Fine Career: Jim Bibby (1965-1971)

James Blair Bibby was born on October 29th, 1944 in Franklinton, North Carolina. The six five, right handed pitcher was signed by the New York Mets in 1965.

Bibby began his career pitching for the Marion Mets in the Rookie League in 1965, going 2-3 giving up 30 earned runs in 24 innings. He then went off to serve in the military for two years during Vietnam, where he saw actual combat action. When he returned he was assigned to A ball Raleigh Durham in the Carolina League going 7-7.

In 1969 as the Amazing Mets were winning the World Series, Bibby started out by going 10-6 at AA Memphis getting promoted to AAA Tidewater. He went 4-4 with the '69 Tides posting a 3.48, on a team that featured 14 game winner; Jon Matlack & 11 game winner; Danny Frisella.

 In 1970 he missed the entire season with an injury & returned to have a top year in 1971. In 1971 at AAA Tidewater Bibby led the club in wins (15-6) strike outs (150) innings (176) & starts (26). He was the top pitcher on a staff that included Buzz Capra (13-3) Jon Matlack (11-7) Don Rose (11-10) & Rich Folkers (7-11) all of whom would have major league success.

At the end of the 1971 season, Bibby was traded along with Folkers, Art Shamsky & Charlie Hudson to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Harry Parker, Jim Beauchamp, Chuck Taylor & Chip Coulter. The deal did help the 1973 Mets, as Parker did a fine job out of the bullpen & Beauchamp was a solid pinch hitter. But Bibby did go on to have a long career in the major leagues & had much success.

Bibby made his big league debut with the Cards in 1972 & in June of the 1973 season, was traded to the Texas Rangers for Johnny Wockenfuss & Mike Nagy.

On July 30th, he threw a no hitter in Oakland, shutting out the World Champion A's while striking out 13 batters & walking six. Bibby would have seven double digit strike out games that season, including a 15 K performance on August 30th against the Minnesota Twins. He ended up going 9-10 that season with 153 strike outs, posting the seond best strike outs per nine inning ratio at 7.7. He allowed just six hits per nine innings which was best in the AL.

In 1974 Bibby won 19 games (10th in the AL) tied with three other 19 game winners. That season the A.L. proudly showcased ten twenty game winners. Bibby was second, on the second place Rangers staff to Hall of Famer; Fergie Jenkins, who led the league with 25 wins (tied with Catfish Hunter).

Bibby also lost 19 games (4th in the AL) while walking 113 batters 3rd most in the AL) , throwing 11 wild pitches (6th most) & serving up 25 HRs (8th in the AL). Over the next few years he was used both as a starter & reliever, getting traded to the Cleveland Indians (with Rick Waits & Jackie Brown) in 1975 for Gaylord Perry.

There he went 13-7 for the 4th place Indians in 1976 behind Pat Dobson & a young Dennis Eckersley. After spending three seasons in Cleveland (1975-1977) he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a free agent in 1977.

In 1979 he was 12-4 with the league's best winning percentage (.750%) for the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. He posted a career best (up to that pint) 2.81 ERA , striking out 103 batters in 110 innings.

Post Season: In the NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds, he got the start in Game #3 against Frank Pastore. Bibby allowed just one run on four hits in seven innings. The Pirates used six pitchers that day, winning the game on a Dave Parker base hit to score Omar Moreno in the 10th inning.

In the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles, he started Game #4 pitching into the 7th inning, allowing three runs (two earned) striking out seven in the 9-6 loss. He then started the final Game #7, against Scott McGregor, but was relieved after four innings when he gave up just one run.

He returned in 1980 to win 19 games once again (3rd most in the NL) while posting the league's best win percentage for the second time. In the strike shortened 1981 season, he was 6-3 but then needed surgery after suffering a torn rotator cuff. He missed all of the 1982 season, returning to go 5-13 in 1983. He signed with the Rangers again in 1984 ending his playing career there.

In a 12 year career Bibby was 111-101 with 1079 strike outs & 723 walks in 1722 innings of work over 340 games posting a 3.76 ERA.

Retirement: He earned himself a bachelor's degree in health & phys ed. from Lynchburg College in 1980. Bibby pitched for the Senior Professional Association in Florida in 1990.

After his pitching days, he coached at Lynchburg for the Mets & then Red Sox from 1985-2000. There he is a legendary coach, having his #26 retired by the Hillcats.

In 2010 he passed away at age 65 due to bone cancer.

Family: His brother (Henry) & nephew (Mike) both played in the NBA.

Oct 27, 2014

Former Mets Relief Pitcher: Braden Looper (2004-2005)

Braden Laverne Looper was born October 28, 1974 in Weatherford, Oklahoma. He is one of the few Mets to be born in Oklahoma and one of very few players to have a middle name of Laverne. Looper was no dummy a smart student graduating in the National Honor Society. He was a scholar, as well as a four letter man in High school.

The six foot four right handed pitcher attended Wichita State, earning All American honors going to the College World Series and later getting elected to the Wichita Hall of Fame. In 1996 he was part of the bronze winning US Olympic baseball team in Atlanta.

The tall six foot five right hander was originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1996 as a first round selection the third pick overall. Two years later he was traded to the Florida Marlins with Armando Almanza and Pablo Ozuna for Edgar Renteria. Looper debuted during the 200 season as a mid reliever in going 5-1, with 18 hold as the set up man to Antonio Alfonseca. He remained in that role before gradually earning the role of the Marlins closer toward the end of the 2002 season.

He originally took the role over from Vladimir Nunez, going 2-5 with 13 saves, posting a 3.14 ERA. In 2003 he had 28 saves (8th in the NL) with a 6-4 record finishing off 64 games, while posting a 3.68 ERA for the Marlins World Championship team. Toward the end of the season he lost his job to Ugeth Urbina who enjoyed a short lived success as a closer.

Post Season: Looper saw action in two games of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants. He was the winning pitcher in Game #3 at Joe Robby Stadium in Florida. In Game #1 of the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs he earned the save, again seeing action in two series games.

He appeared in four games of the 2003 World Series getting roughed up for four runs in 3.2 innings of work. After winning the World Series Championship in Florida he signed with the New York Mets for the 2004 season.

Looper debuted on Opening Day 2004 in the Mets 7-2 win in Atlanta against the Braves. In the month of April he had four saves and a perfect 0.00 ERA showing some promise. Overall Looper had as strong first half, gathering up 18 saves a 1.88 ERA while posting a 2-2 record by the All Star break. In the second half he took two losses & blew two saves through late August.

In September he saved five games, but took two losses & blew a save allowing four runs to the Phillies in one inning of work on September 11th. That would be his best career season in 2004 gathering up 29 saves (10th in the league) going 2-5 with a 2.70 ERA. He did blow five saves along the way & allowed five HRs in 83 appearances.

The following year although he saved 28 games but he blew a lot of save opportunities which is how he is remembered. It started on Opening day in Cincinnati when he entered the 9th with a 6-4 lead. He gave up a single then two consecutive HRs to Adam Dunn & Joe Randa, taking the 7-6 loss.

There was a collapse in a June Subway series match up where the Mets could have swept that AL team but Looper gave up two 9th inning runs. In August there was a nightmare game against the Washington Nationals where the Mets blew an eight run lead.

 Looper entered the 9th with a 8-6 lead but surrendered the tying runs as the Mets lost it in extra innings. The fans began to boo the hell out of him and he was doomed in New York. Any site of him would lead a chorus of boos and he became known as Braden Blooper.

To his credit that September it was learned he was pitching with a blown AC joint and required surgery. Looper an easy going nice guy took it all in stride and didn’t blame the injury for his pitching woes. The Mets didn’t sign him in 2006 and he went to the St. Louis Cardinals who went on to beat the Mets in the NLCS.

Post Season: Looper laughed off the greeting he got at Shea Stadium when he entered Game #1 in the 8th inning; he gave up two hits but no runs. In Game #6 (a game I attended) us fans really let him have it in the 8th inning. After getting the first two outs, Michael Tucker & Jose Reyes both singled then stole bases.

Next the winning runs were driven in by catcher Paul Loduca, sending the series to a game seven. In three games he posted a 5.79 ERA allowing three runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings of work. In the World Series he appeared in three games against the Detroit Tigers.

The Cardinals made him a starter in 2007 and he won 12 games, going 12-12 with a 4.94 ERA striking out 108 batters in 199 innings. In 2008 he was 12-14 with a 4.16 ERA.

In 2009 he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers going 14-7 leading the NL in starts (34) but also gave up the most HRs (39) & earned runs (113). He did not pitch in 2010 & although he signed with the Chicago Cubs in 2011 he did not make the team.

Looper retired finishing off his 12 year career with a 72-65 record & 103 saves. In 670 games he pitched 1176 innings posting a 4.15 ERA allowing 132 HRs.

Former Mets Player & Minor League Manager: Chuck Hiller (1965-1967) (1970-1973)

Charles Joseph Hiller was born on October 1, 1934 in Johnsburg, Illinois. The five foot eleven. left hand hitter attended the University of St. Thomas a St. Paul Minnesota, eventually signing with the Cleveland Indians as an amateur free agent in 1957. The next year he was drafted away by the San Francisco Giants & hit .334 at AA Rio Grande in 1960.

In 1961 he made the Giants big league squad for Opening Day, getting a hit in his career first game. He was batting .230 by early July & was sent down to AAA where he hit .324 getting called up again in September. Upon his return he had three hits in his first game back, coming against the Philadelphia Phillies.

In 1962 he played every game for the Giants at second base, batting .276 with 139 singles (6th in the NL) 13 sac hits (2nd in the NL) 7 sac flies (5th in the NL) 3 HRs 22 doubles 48 RBIs & a .334 on base %. He earned the nick name “Iron Hands” after making 29 errors during that season.

Post Season: In the 1962 World Series he went 7-26 (.269) but made history becoming the first National League Player to hit a grand slam HR in a World Series. The historic HR came in Game #4 off pitcher Marshall Bridges, evening the Series at two games each.

The next year his average fell to just .228, followed by a .180 average in 1963. In 1964 Hal Lanier took over the Giants second base job and Hillers days were numbered in San Francisco. After four and one half seasons there his contract was sold to the New York Mets in May of 1965.

Hiller debuted on May 18th in Milwaukee entering the game as a pinch hitter in the 7th inning. In just his second Mets game he drove in two runs without even getting a hit, as both runs scored on ground outs with runners scoring from third base. Hiller started out slow but then hit well, raising his average up to .286 by early July. He began to see more time as the team’s main second baseman when Ron Hunt went down with injury.

Hiller would play in 100 games for the ’65 Mets batting .238 with 5 HRs 11 doubles & 21 RBIs posting a measly .275 on base %. Old Iron Hands made 16 errors in 80 games at second base.

In 1966 Hiller was seeing more time as a pinch hitter & reserve infielder behind Hunt. On June 8th he hit a 9th inning, pinch hit HR off the Braves Clay Carroll but the Mets still fell short 7-6. On July 3rd the Mets staged a dramatic comeback against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a six run 5th inning. Hiller completed the rally with a double scoring Jerry Grote in what turned out to be the game winning run.

From July 1st through the 18th he had eight multiple hit games, gathering 21 hits, hitting safely in 13 of 17 games. On July 31st he hit one of his two HRs for the year, helping the Mets to a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs in a game at Shea Stadium. Hiller batted over .300 throughout the season up until September. Overall on the season he Improved to a .280 batting average (second on the club to Ron Hunt) with a .332 on base %, a pair of HRs, eight doubles & 14 RBIs. At second base (45 games) he improved to a .981 fielding % making four errors. He also appeared in 15 games at third base behind Ken Boyer & 18 games in the outfield.

After just 25 games in 1967 he was batting .093 and was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for the harmonica playing Phil Linz. Linz had an incident a few years earlier with the AL New York manager Yogi Berra while playing harmonica on a team bus. Hiller ended up in Pittsburgh the next season after being drafted away as a Rule V draftee. He batted .385 (5-13) but finished his season & his playing career in the minor leagues by the end of the season. In a eight year career Hiller batted .243 with 516 hits 76 doubles 20 HRs 152 RBIs & a .299 on base %. He played the majority of his games at second base (546 games there) posting a .967 on base % making 84 errors in 2325 chances.

Retirement: After his playing days he came back to the Mets organization developing a close relationship with Director of Player Development Whitey Herzog. Hiller managed the AAA Tidewater Tides in 1970 finishing fourth & losing in the first round of the playoffs. In 1971 & 1972 he managed the Marion Mets in the Appalachian League returning for another stint in 1974.

In 1973 he served as a coach to Whitey Herzog with the Texas Rangers, he then moved on to the Kansas City Royals with Herzog from 1976-1979 winning three AL Western Titles. He returned back to the Mets organization to manage the Kingsport Mets in their first year in the Appalachian League in 1980 & then again in 1986. Hiller also coached for the San Francisco Giants & worked as a Cardinals minor league instructor.

Passing: In October of 2004 Hiller passed away in St. Petersburg Florida at age 70.

Former Brooklyn Born Italian / American Player: Mike Fiore (1968-1972)

Michael Gary Joseph Fiore was born October 11th, 1944 in Brooklyn, New York. The six foot left handed hitter, played first base & outfield. Like so many Brooklyn born baseball players, Fiore attended Lafayette High School in the Bath Gate section.

The school has produced John Franco, Sandy Koufax, Pete Falcone, Ken & Bob Aspromonte, Al Ferrara, Luis Lopez & Kevin Baez.

Fiore was signed by the New York Mets in 1963, just the teams second year in existence. The new ball club was hungry for some home grown talent, and looking for another local kid like Eddie Kranepool.

But in 1963 he was drafted away by the Baltimore Orioles & spent six years in their minor league system. In 1968 he hit 19 HRs & batted .271 but wasn't going anywhere in the talented Orioles system. He played in six games at the MLB level, going 1-17 before getting drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 1968 expansion draft as the 17th pick.

He was the fourth place, Royals main first baseman in the club's inaugural season. Fiore hit the franchise's first ever HR, coming in the teams fifth game. It came in the 2nd inning off the A's Blue Moon Odom at Oakland. At the end of May he drove in runs in four straight games and had a big week with RBIs in eight of ten games.

That year Fiore led the team in walks (84) & on base % (.420%). He batted .274, second on the club to the AL Rookie of the Year; Lou Pinella. Fiore hit 12 HRs (third on the club to Ed Kirkpatrick & Bob Oliver) with 14 doubles & 35 RBIs. At first base he committed ten errors (third in the AL) making 94 assists (4th in the AL) with a .988 fielding %. Bob Oliver would take over at first base the next season & the outfield was filled with exciting young players like Pinella, Pat Kelly & Amos Otis acquired from the New York Mets.

The next year he struggled batting just .181 in May & was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Tommy Matchick. He became a reserve player batting under .200 the next two seasons. He would go to the St. Louis Cardinals & San Diego Padres in 1972 ending his once promising MLB career at age 28. He played in the minors through 1978 at AAA Columbus.

In five seasons he batted .227 with 13 HRs 18 doubles 50 RBIs & a .369 on base % in 254 games.