Nov 30, 2014

The First Italian / American Mets Coach & Brooklyn World Series Hero: Cookie Lavagetto (1962-1963)

Harry Arthur Lavagetto was born on December 1, 1912 in Oakland, California. He attended technical school in Oakland where he graduated & played baseball.

The six foot right handed hitting Lavagetto, began his career in the Pacific Coast League playing with the famous Oakland Oaks.

It was there he got the nickname Cookie, coming from his manager. In 1933 he batted .312 at AA ball Oakland, getting called up to the Pittsburgh Pirates team the next season.

Lavagetto spent three seasons in Pittsburgh as a reserve infielder (1934-1936) batting a best .290 in 1935 while playing in 75 games. He was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937 and would play as the Dodgers regular second baseman that season before moving over to third base the next year.

Lavagetto became a star Brooklyn player, making four straight All Star teams from 1938-1941. In his Dodger years he played on two pennant winners, while driving in over 70 runs in each of his first three seasons. In his Dodger debut he batted .282 with 7 HRs 26 doubles 70 RBIs & a .375 on base %.

After another solid season where he hit .273 in 1938, he had a great 1939 season. Lavagetto batted .300 with career highs in hits (176) which was tenth in the NL. He also had personal bests in HRs (10) RBIs (87) which were 6th most in the NL & posted a .387 on base %. He had 78 walks ( 5th in the NL) 133 singles (6th in the NL) with 14 stolen bases (4th in the NL) making another All Star team.

At third base he posted the league's third best fielding % (.948%) with 278 assists (2nd in the NL) 136 put outs (3rd in the NL). That season the Dodgers finished third. In 1940 his average dropped to .257 but he walked 70 times posting a .361 on base %.

In the Dodgers 1941 Pennant season, he hit .277 with 24 doubles 7 triples 75 runs scored & 78 RBIs. That year he played in his first World Series, appearing in three games going 1-10 with three walks.

He served in the military during World War II, missing four full years, returning to the big leagues by 1946.

He was a back up third baseman to Spider Jorgenson in 1947 which would be his final playing season batting .261 in 41 games, getting to another World Series.

Post Season: His most famous moment as a player came in Game #4 of the 1947 World Series at Brooklyn's Ebbetts Field. Lavagetto came to bat as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 9th inning facing pitcher Bev Bevan who was pitching a no hitter.

Although the no hitter was going, Bevan had walked ten batters in the game & there were two Dodger runners on base when Cookie came to the plate. Cookie blasted a double to the outfield wall, breaking up the no hitter and driving in the game winning runs for Brooklyn. It was his last major league hit, as the Dodgers released him at the end of the Series.

In his ten season career he was a Lifetime .269 hitter, with 946 hits 485 walks a .360 on base % 40 HRs 486 RBIs & 183 doubles in 1043 career games.

Retirement: After his playing days, he returned to the Brooklyn Dodgers as a coach when Charlie Dressen was named manager. In a famous photograph, Lavagetto is seen sitting next to Ralph Branca holding up his head with his cap in his hand, at the steps of the Polo Grounds locker room.

The photo was taken right after Ralph Branca gave up NY Giants Bobby Thomson’s famous Shot Heard Round the World HR.

Lavagetto followed Dressen to Washington D.C. coaching the Senators from 1955-1957. He then succeeded Dressen as manger of the team from 1957-1960. Lavagetto's best finish with the Senators was fifth place in 1960, which was the teams last season in the nation's Capitol. As the franchise moved to Minnesota and became the Twins, Lavagetto became the teams first manager. In June they were in ninth place & he was let go.

In 1962 he joined Casey Stengel in New York, as an original New York Mets coach in the team’s first two years of their history (1962-1963).

In a famous 1962 Mets story it was Cookie Lavagetto who had one of the best lines of the year. It came during a June game at the Polo Grounds, when Marvelous Marv Throneberry hit a run scoring triple but was called out for missing second base.

Manager Casey Stengel came out to argue with the umpire, as he returned to the dugout he began to argue with Lavagetto who had been coaching at first base. Stengel asked why he didn’t argue the call with him on the field as well. Lavagetto told Casey “forget it Casey, Marv missed first base too.”

After his stint as a coach in New York, he went home to the Bay area and coached the San Francisco Giants through 1967. He also sold therapy equipment in his wife's business. In his spare time his hobby was golf.

Passing: On August 10, 1990 he suffered a fatal heart attack, passing away in his sleep at age 77.

Nov 29, 2014

Short Time Mets Outfielder: Matt Lawton (2001)

Mathew Lawton III was born in Gulfport Mississippi on November 30, 1971. The five ten left hand hitting Lawton was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 13th round of the 1991 draft. In 1994 he hit .300 at A ball Fort Meyers & played in the Florida State League All Star Game.

As an outfielder he was rated a poor defensive player who sometimes made basic fundamental mistakes. But Lawton did make the best of his abilities and after two brief MLB appearances in 1995 /1996, he became the Twins everyday outfielder by 1997.

He had some good hitting seasons with the Twins, batting over .300 twice & hitting over 35 doubles three times. The speedy outfielder scored over 90 runs three times in his career and stole 23 or more bases four times. He drove in over 60 runs five times & manged to hit 15 or more HRs four times.

He had his best season in 2000 making the All Star team, batting .305 with 44 doubles, 13 HRs and 88 RBIs. He was batting .293 through July of 2001 when the Twins traded him to the New York Mets for the popular pitcher Rick Reed.

Lawton made his Mets debut on August 1st in an 8-2 Mets win in Houston over the Astros. In that game Lawton had two hits & drove in a run while scoring another. On August 12th he hit the first of his two Mets HRs, scoring the only run of a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. On August 26th his double broke up a 3-3 tie in the home 7th inning. The Mets went on on to barley win the game 6-5.

In an early September series sweep over the Florida Marlins, Lawton had six hits with three RBIs. Lawton would only play in 48 games as a Met right fielder, as his average dropped to .246 in 183 at bats, with 3 HRs 11 doubles & 13 RBIs. That winter he was involved in a multi player trade going to Cleveland with Alex Escobar for Roberto Alomar and a couple of minor leaguers.

Lawton spent three season in Cleveland, having his best year in 2004, batting .277 with 20 HRs & 70 RBIs making his second All Star team. In 2005 Lawton got caught up in a steroids scandal, he apologized and admitted using horse steroids.

He finished his 12 year career in 2006 batting .267 with 1273 hits 138 HRs 267 doubles 631 RBIs & 165 stolen bases.

The Legend of Brooklyn Dodgers- Clyde Sukeforth

Clyde Leroy Sukeforth was born November 30, 1901 in Washington, Maine. He certainly wasn’t a star player (.264 lifetime hitter) but he was involved in some classic baseball events for the Brooklyn Dodgers & New York Giants.

He was a career backup catcher, first in Cincinnati from 1927-1931, seeing action in over 100 games in his last season there. He damaged his eye in a hunting accident but still continued to play baseball. 

He was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers and backed up Al Lopez for four seasons. He hit for awful averages, after a .234 season he dropped to .086 then .163 in his last season. But during the man power shortage of WW II he got another chance to play nine years later, hitting .294 in 51 at bats in his final season of play (1945).

 

After his playing days, he became a long time Dodgers coach and scout working closely for Branch Rickey. He was coach for both Jackie Robinson & Roy Campanella at the minor league level working closely to ease racial tensions within the club & the communities. 

Sukeforth was the only other person present in 1946 when Rickey told Jackie Robinson his plan for integration the next season. As the 1947 began, Leo Durocher was still the Dodger manager; he got suspended for the first few games of the season.


Sukeforth took over the helm as interim manager, and goes down in history as the manager of the first integrated team in MLB history as Robinson made his debut. The Dodgers won the game. Sukeforth did not want the job for the whole season and Burt Shotton took over. He was Shotton’s brains, helping him call the shots leading Brooklyn to a pennant. 


In the 1951 famous Giants- Dodgers Playoff series, it was Sukeforth who was in the bullpen warming up pitchers in the last inning. As manager Chuck Dressen called the pen, he told him Carl Erskine’s curve was hanging and Ralph Branca was ready. He had caught both pitchers over the past few innings and felt Branca had better stuff. The rest is history as Branca came in & gave up the final blow to Bobby Thomson, the HR sealing the pennant for the Giants.
Sukeforth was let go after the season. He went to work for the Pirates and was key in drafting Roberto Clemente away from the Dodgers in the Ruke Five Draft. He again declined the major league level manager position, this time with Pittsburgh. He coached there until 1962 then scouted for the Braves throughout the sixties. He lived a very long life, passing at the age of 98 in Waldoboro, Maine in 2000. 
Trivia: In the famous Norman Rockwell painting Game called because of rain there is more Sukeforth lore. The illustration focuses on three stern umpires deciding whether the baseball game should be called on account of rain, in the background are two other baseball figures. It is Clyde Sukeforth, who is suppose to be the Brooklyn Dodger figure on the left.

Nov 26, 2014

Former Mets 1980's Prospect: Randy Milligan (1987)

Randy Andre Milligan was born November 27, 1961 in San Diego California. Milligan was another highly touted prospect that never quite made it with the Mets at the big league level. Randy was the 1981 first round draft pick for the Mets. 

He didn’t develop like the Mets had hoped and didn’t make his MLB debut until September 7th, 1987 as a pinch hitter for Bobby Ojeda. 

He struck out in the Mets 8-1 loss at Busch Stadium. He appeared two more times, going hitless, with one walk. It was the only three games he played in as a Met. He was still considered a prospect and the next spring the Mets traded him to Pittsburgh for Mackey Sasser & Tim Drummond. 


He hit .220 in 40 games in Pittsburgh then went to the Baltimore Orioles where he spent four seasons. He saw alot of action in Baltimore, playing in over 100 games each season. His best year was 1990 when he hit 20 HRs20 doubles, 60 RBIs and batted .260. He followed that up with 16 HRs70 RBIs and a career high .263 average. 

He didn’t make the Orioles 1993 squad and spent some time with the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians & Montreal Expos, finishing up in 1994.

Milligan is a  .261 lifetime hitter, with 70 HRs 106 doubles 284 RBIs in 703 games. Retirement: Milligan became a scout with the Orioles after his playing days.

Nov 25, 2014

Former Mets Catcher: Brian Schneider (2008-2009)

Brian Duncan Schneider was born November 26, 1976 at Jacksonville, Florida. Schneider attended high school in Pennsylvania & won two Lehigh Valley Player of the Year Awards there.

The six foot, 200 pound left handed hitting catcher was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the fifth round of the 1995 draft. He spent five seasons in the minors batting .280 with 10 HRs & 60 RBIs in 1998 in A ball. By 2000 was AAA Ottawa's top catcher, getting called up to the Expos squad. He would be the backup catcher to Michael Barrett for three seasons.

He took over the position as the organizations regular catcher for five seasons, from Montreal to the move to Washington D.C. Schneider was a solid defensive catcher ranking 5th in the league in fielding percentage in 2003 making only three errors in 709 chances. Each season from 2003-2005 Schneider led all catchers in throwing out would be base stealers and threw out a leading 44% ratio.

In 2004 he threw out half of base runners attempting to steal on him (36 of 72) and set an Expos record with a .998 fielding percentage. He was on Team USA in the 2006 World Baseball Classic going 0-6 overall at the plate. On August 7th, 2007 he was behind the plate when Barry Bonds hit HR #756 off the Nationals, Mike Bacsick.

that winter he was traded to the New York Mets along with Ryan Church for Lastings Milledge. He & his wife were excited about coming to New York, when he arrived he was penciled in as the Mets regular catcher. He played in 110 games that season & brought a rugged old time style of play, out of the Jerry Grote mold, although not as effective. He had a three hit game driving in his first Met RBI, on the second day of the ’08 season in Florida in a game against the Marlins.

He drove in two more runs the next day,and hit safely in six straight games (8 out of his first 10 games). He started out well batting over .300 into early May, driving in 15 runs in the first two months of the season. He hit two HRs against his old Nationals team on September 22nd, driving in two runs in a crucial Mets win, keeping them into contention.

He finished the year with 9 HRs 38 RBIs 10 doubles and a .250 average. Behind the plate he posted a .994 fielding %, throwing out 33% of would be base stealers (4th in the NL) playing in 109 games.  

He began 2009 he was the first Met to cross the plate, scoring the first home team run, at the new Citi Field scoring on a Luis Castillo base hit. But he soon suffered from a muscle strain in his back& spent almost two months on the DL.

With the wear & tear of being a catcher for the past decade, injuries caught up to him. From this point on it is now safe to say Shneider was becoming more of a back up catcher. With the emergence of Omir Santos to go along with his injuries, Schneider only saw playing time in 59 games. He batted a mere .218 with 3 HRs and 24 RBIs.

Although he knew his days were numbered in New York, he took the time to mentor Santos and youngster Josh Thole in catching. In his two seasons in New York, Brian was a .244 hitter, but behind the plate he made only six errors in 1142 chances with a .995 fielding percentage, throwing out 34% of would be base stealers.  

Schneider went to the Philadelphia Phillies becoming the back up catcher to Carlos Ruiz. In 46 games behind the plate in 2010 he threw out just 21% of would be base stealers, posting a .993 fielding %. He batted .240 with 4 HRs & 15 RBIs.

In 2011 he hit just .176 in 125 at bats, posting a .997 fielding %, throwing out just 3 of 20 base stealers. In 2012 he returned with the Phillies for his third season, seeing action in 34 games where he hit two HRs & batted .227 Schneider has never appeared in any post season games in his career.

In 13 seasons Brian has thrown out 36% of would be base stealers, posting a .992 fielding %, making just 39 errors in 992 games. He has batted .247 with 781 hits, 67 HRs 167 doubles & 387 RBIs with a .320 on base %.

Former Italian / American Pitcher: Larry Gura (1970-1985)

Lawrence Cyril Gura, was born November 26, 1947, in Joliet, Illinois. The six foot left handed pitcher attended Arizona State University winning two National championships (1967 & 1969) under Coach Bobby Winkles.

He pitched alongside future Mets Gary Gentry & Craig Swan. Gura was selected by the Chicago Cubs as a second round pick in 1969.


He made his MLB debut on April 30th 1970 finishing up a game against the Braves in Atlanta. He would go 1-3 on the year making twenty appearances at the major league level. He spent the majority of the next two seasons in the minors winning 11 games each season. After going 2-4 with the Cubs in 1973 he was traded to the Texas Rangers but two months later was sent to the A.L. New York club, in exchange for Duke Sims. He spent two seasons there going a best 7-8 in 1975 appearing in 26 games.

That off season he was traded to the Kansas City Royals for future Mets announcer, catcher Fran Healy. Gura would spend ten years with the Royals winning a World Series in 1985, two pennants & five AL Western Divisional titles.

In 1976 he was 4-0 with a save & a 2.30 ERA mostly pitching out of the Royals bullpen. He got the start in Game #1 of the ALCS & although he pitched into the 9th inning, he was the losing pitcher. In the 1977 ALCS he was the losing pitcher in Game #4 after surrendering three runs over the first two innings.

In 1978 Gura was third on the Royals fine pitching staff with 16 wins, going 16-4 with a .800 winning % (third best in the league). He pitched in 221 innings, posting a 2.72 ERA (6th best in the AL). In that year’s ALCS he was the winning pitcher in Game #2, beating Ed Figueroa & the A.L. New York club 10-4 at Royals Stadium.

Gura would win double figures for seven straight seasons, winning 18 games twice (1980 & 1982). In the Royals AL pennant season of 1980 he was 18-10 (8th in the league in wins) tossing four shut outs (3rd most in the AL) with a 2.95 ERA (5th in the AL) pitching 283 innings (3rd most in the AL) making 36 starts. That season he made his only All Star appearance & received votes for the CY young award.

Post Season: In the ALCS he was the winning pitcher in Game #1 beating Ron Guidry 7-2. He made two appearances in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies but earned no decisions.

Gura was a fine fielding pitcher who led the league with a perfect 1000. fielding %, four times. He was also particularly good against his old A.L. New York team mates going 11-6 in his regular season career. In 1979 & 1980 he went 3-0 against them both times.

After winning 18 games in 1982 he led the league in losses in 1983 with 18 losses (11-18). In 1984 he rebounded to go 12-9 although he posted a 5.18 ERA.

In May of 1985 he was released by the Royals & then signed briefly ending his career where it began with the Chicago Cubs.

In his 16 year career he was 126-97 with 801 strike outs, 600 walks posting a 3.76 ERA in 403 games (261 starts).

Nov 24, 2014

Former Italian / American Pitcher: Dave Giusti (1962-1977)

David John Giusti was born on November 27, 1939 in Seneca Falls, New York. Guisti attended Syracuse University, & was the Captain of their 1961 College World Series team. This was the same year Ernie Davis won the Heisman Trophy at Syracuse & rocker Lou Reed was also studying for the Orange.

Giusti got signed that same year by the expansion Houston Colt 45’s & debuted the next season going 2-3 as a reliever. He bounced back & forth to the minors, going (34-27) making the Houston staff for good in 1965.

By this time the team had changed their name to the Astros & Giusti won 15 games (10th in the league) going 15-14 with a 4.20 ERA. He would win 11 games in each of the next two seasons but posted losing records both years. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinlas for the 1969 season going 3-7 with 12 starts in 22 games. He then was sent to the Pittsburg Pirates where he found a new home & new career.

Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh ,converted him to a full time reliever & Giusti became one of the NL’s top firemen of the early seventies. Using his sinking palm ball he went 9-2 with 26 saves (2nd in the league) in 1970 helping the Pirates win the NL East.

He would go on to finish second in the NL in Games Finished three times & finish in the top three in saves all but one season from 1970-1975.

In 1971 he led the league with 30 saves as the Pirates went on to win the World Series beating the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched five scoreless innings in the 1971 NLCS & then earned a save in Game #4 of the World Series at Three Rivers Stadium. Over seven innings in that post season he posted a zero ERA & won the Sporting News Relief Pitcher of the Year Award.

In 1972 he was 7-4 with 22 saves (3rd in the league) posting a 1.93 ERA, getting to his third straight post season. In that NLCS he earned a save in Game #3 at Riverfront Stadium but was the losing pitcher in the 5th & final game in Pittsburgh.

In a wacky 9th inning, Giusti came in to close out the Series ahead 3-2. Johnny Bench led off the inning with a game tying HR, then Giusti allowed singles to George Foster & Tony Perez.

Manager Danny Murtaugh pulled out Giusti replacing him with Bob Moose who threw a wild pitch, allowing Foster to score the winning run.

In 1973 Giusti posted 20 saves (3rd in the NL) going 9-2 with a .818 winning % making his only All Star team. He would pitch three more seasons in Pittsburgh coming in third & fourth in saves over the next two years.

In 1977 he pitched for the  Oakland A's & Chicago Cubs saving seven games going 3-5 with a 3.89 ERA. He retired at the end of the season at age 38.

Overall in a 15 year career he saved 145 games (77th all time) with a 100-93 record, posting a 3.60 ERA with 1103 strikeouts & 570 walks in 668 appearances with 380 games finished (67th all time).

Retirement: After baseball Giusti became a corporate manager for American Express & is now retired living in a Pittsburgh suburb.

In 2012 Giusti was on hand at PNC Park for the fortieth anniversary of the 1971 Pirates World Champion team, as the 16 surviving members were honored.

Nov 23, 2014

Former Italian /American Player: Paul Sorrento (1989-1999)

Paul Anthony Sorrento born November 17, 1965 in Somerville, Massachusetts. Sorrento attended Florida State University getting drafted in the 4th round of the 1986 draft by the California Angels.

Sorrento was a hot prospect & in 1988 he & two minor leaguers were traded to Minnesota for Bert Blyleven.

In 1989 with the Twins organization, he was named to the AA Southern League's All-Star team as he led the league with 35 doubles and 112 RBI. His 27 HRs were  second only to league MVP; Eric Anthony's 28. Defensively Sorrento was rated as a fine first baseman with his glove.

Sorrento debuted with the Twins in 1989, hitting his first career HR the following season. He saw brief action in the 1991 World Series going 0-3 as a pinch hitter.

In March of 1992, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians where he had two straight 18 HR seasons, driving in over 60 RBIs both years. In 1995 he hit 25 HRs with 79 RBIs for the AL Champion Indians, averaging a HR every 13 at bats, although his batting average was only at .231.

Post Season: In the ALDS  against the Boston Red Sox, he batted .300 with an RBI in the Game #3 series clincher. In the ALCS against the Seattle Mariners he hit just .154 with two hits in 13 at bats.

In the World Series against the Atlanta Braves he struggled again batting just .182 with two hits in eleven at bats. 

He was sent to the Seattle Mariners the next season, having career highs in hits (136) RBIs (93) doubles (32) & batting average (.289). In 1997 he hit 31 HRs averaging a HR every 15 at bats (7th most in the league) while posting the leagues second best fielding % at first base (.996).

He got to another post season that year, batting .300 with a HR in Game #3 of the NLDS against the Baltimore Orioles. In 1998 he signed with the Tampa Rays as a free agent, playing out his last two seasons there.

After an 11 year career, Sorrento hit 166 HRs in 3412 at bats, averaging a HR every 20 at bats, ranking him in the top 140 all time. He batted .257 with 565 RBIs enjoying four 20 plus doubles seasons as well as three 30 plus HR seasons. At first base his career .994 fielding % in 55th best all time.

More recently he has coached baseball in the state of Washington.

Nov 21, 2014

Three Time World Series New York Giants Pitcher: "Prince" Hal Schumacher (1931-1942 / 1946)

Harold Henry Schumacher, nicknamed Prince, was born on November 23, 1910 in Hinckley, New York on the Southern end of the Adirondack Mountains.

Hal began attending Lawrence University but had to quit due to financial reasons, even though he was an exceptional student in academics as well as in sports. He was offered a contract by the New York Giants, but he told them he’d only sign if they paid for him to finish his education, which they did.

From there on, he would spend his entire career with the New York Giants pitching 13 seasons and appearing in three World Series. He threw fast ball which was called a "heavy ball" in those days so hard, it sounded like a cannon ball when it hit the big catchers mit. He made a brief debut in April 1931 pitching just two innings in two games for manager John McGraw. He returned in June & July then got his first career win that September.

The next season Bill Terry took over as manager & by 1933 Schumacher became second on the Giants staff to Carl Hubbell, winning 19 (19-12) fifth most victories in the league, with seven shutouts, 96 strike outs and a 2.16 ERA (3rd in the NL) pitching 258 innings (8th in the NL). He made baseballs first All Star team that year and got some votes for the MVP award. That June he had his proudest moment when he graduated from Lawrence University and Manager Terry took, the whole team up North for the ceremony.

Post Season: In Game #2 of the 1933 World Series in the Polo Grounds, he pitched a five hit complete game win over the Washington Senators. He returned in Game #5 at Washington D.C. but got no decision pitching into the 6th inning leaving in a 3-3 tie. The Giants would win it & capture the Championship when Mel Ott hit a tenth inning game winning HR.

Schumacher had his best season in 1934 as he even topped his teammate Hubbell, winning 23 games (23-10) striking out 112 batters (7th in the NL) making 36 starts (3rd most in the NL) pitching in 298 innings (4th in the NL) with a 3.16 ERA (6th in the NL), 18 complete games (6th in the NL) & two shut outs. He also led the league with 10 wild pitches.

At the plate he was one of the leagues best hitting pitchers, hitting 6 HRs with 15 RBIs batting .239.On a hot day in St. Louis, while pitching Schumacher collapsed from heat exhaustion. He actually had no heart beat t one point, but was revived. He was packed in ice & recuperated right away. He would win 19 games again in 1935 (19-9) with a 2.89 ERA, making his second All Star game.

That year his average dropped a bit to .196 but he drove in 21 runs while hitting two HRs. He had an an off year in 1936 due to arm problems. The shoulder issues affected his fastball so he learned to throw a palm ball to go along with his overhand curve, That year he went 11-13 but the Giants still won another pennant, losing in the World Series.

Post Season: In that World Series he got beat up in Game #2 allowing five runs in just two innings, taking the loss. He came back to win Game #5 although he scattered ten hits & allowed six walks. He still pitched a complete ten inning game with ten strikeouts, taking a 5-4 win. At one point in the game he had the bases loaded with no one out, he then struck out Joe DiMaggio &Lou Gerig. He then got Bill Dickey to fly out to right field.

From there Schumacher went on to have four straight 13 win seasons, followed by two straight 12 win seasons, finishing above .500 all but one time. He would get to one more World Series (1937) taking the loss in Game #3.

In his 13 year career "Prince Hal" was 158-121 with seven saves posting a 3.36 ERA. He pitched 2482 innings in 391 games, making 329 starts striking out 906 batters walking 902. He threw 138 complete games with 26 shut outs. At the plate Schumacher was one of the best hitting pitchers during his time batting .202 with 15 HRs & 102 RBIs.

Military: He enlisted with the Naval Reserves in 1942 during World War II, serving America for four years. He lost his brother in the war & was devestated only pitching one more year after his Naval discharge.

When he returned he briefly pitched with the Giants in 1946 going 4-4 with 3.91 ERA in 24 games.

Retirement: After playing baseball he worked for the Adirondack Bat Company in upstate New York for twenty years. After that he worked at Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

He passed away from stomach cancer at Cooperstown, New York in 1993 at age 83. He was survived by his wife of 47 years, a son, daughter & four grand children.

Nov 20, 2014

Two Time Eighties Mets Infielder: Bill Almon (1980/1987)

William Francis Almon was born on November 21, 1952 in Providence, Rhode Island. The six foot three right hand hitter, attended Brown University, getting drafted as the number all around pick by the San Diego Padres in 1974. After flying through AA & AAA minor league ball, the Padres brought him up right away that September after just 39 games.

He played in 16 games batting .316 with three RBIs. He spent most of the next two seasons down at AAA, having a rough 1975 season batting .228 while making 48 errors at short stop (.939%). He was brought up for six brief games that September as well. The next season at AAA Hawaii he batted .291, making 36 errors at short for a .947 fielding %.  

In 1977 he became San Diego’s main short stop, leading all NL shortstops in put outs (303) errors (41) and sacrifice hits (20). He batted .261 with 2 HRs 18 doubles & 43 RBIs while stealing 21 bases. He was the Padres short stop again in 1978 but his days were numbered in 1979 when a young Ozzy Smith arrived on the scene. That year Almon played 65 games at second base & just 25 games at short stop. 

In December of 1979 he was traded along with Danny Briggs to the Montreal Expos for former All Star second baseman Dave Cash. On July 7th, 1980 after playing just 18 games he was granted free agency and four days later he signed with the New York Mets.

It would be the first of two brief stints with the Mets. Almon played a utility role backing up Frank Tavares at short stop, as well as Doug Flynn at second base. He played in 48 games batting .170 with 19 hits in 112 at bats, with no HRs and four RBIs. He made his Mets debut coming in as a pinch runner on July 11th in Pittsburgh. In his fifth Mets game, he had a big four hit day, scoring four runs in a big Mets 13-3 win over the Reds in Cincinnati. The fifth place Mets released him that December.  

He went on to play for Tony LaRussa with the Chicago White Sox for two seasons, having a fine season in 1981. He was back in a starting role, playing in 103 games in the strike shortened season, batting .301 (349 at bats) with 16 stolen bases, posting a .969 fielding % .

He played two seasons in Chicago & then signed a two year deal with the Oakland A’s playing there as their main short stop. In 1983 he had career highs in doubles (29) stolen bases (26) & RBIs (63). He went to the Pittsburgh Pirates for two seasons dropping off to a .219 average in 1986.  

In May of 1987 he came back to the Mets in a trade for Al Pedrique who had played in six Mets games going 0-6 at the plate. Almon played in 49 games for the ’87 Mets, at short stop (22 games) second base (10 games) & first base (2 games). On June 24th he had his big Mets moment, as he singled in the bottom of the 9th inning against Cubs closer, Lee Smith. The hit drove in Kevin McReynolds with the game winning walk off run. Overall he hit .241 with three extra base hits while driving in four runs.

He wrapped up his 15 years career in 1988 with the Philadelphia Phillies. Lifetime he batted .254 with 846 hits, 138 doubles, 36 HRs, 296 RBIs, & a .305 on base %. At short stop he posted a lifetime .960 fielding percentage (616 games) at third base .927 % (212) games, in the outfield (.990 %) 161 games second base .973 % (102 games) & he even played one game at catcher.  

Retirement: After his playing days Almon went back to Brown University as their baseball coach from 1993-1996.

Short Time Early Nineties Mets Infielder: Dick Schofield (1992)

Richard Craig Schofield was born on November 21, 1962 in Springfield, Illinois.

He is the son of Dick “Ducky” Schofield who played shortstop & infield for 19 seasons from 1953-1971. Ducky backed up Alvin Dark & Alex Grammas in St. Louis with the Cardinals. He then backed up the 1960 NL MVP, Dick Groat in Pittsburgh winning a World Series there that same year. He became the Pirates main short stop from 1963 to 1965, leading the NL in fielding (.981%) in 1965. He would move on to the Los Angeles Dodgers (1966-1967).

By 1968 he was back in St. Louis where he got to another World Series with the Cards losing to the Detroit Tigers. After that season he went to the Boston Red Sox backing up Rico Petrocelli (1969-1970). He ended his career in Milwaukee in 1971 after 19 big league seasons batting .227 with 699 hits 21 HRs 113 doubles 20 triples & 211 RBIs. The senior Schofield posted a .961 fielding % turning 385 double plays at short.

His son Dick Schofield was drafted out of high school first round in 1981 (3rd pick overall) by the California Angels. Two years later the highly touted shortstop made his debut. He was one the finest glove men of his era at the short stop position. He led the league in fielding four times (1984-1987-1988 & 1992), and was one of the game’s best sacrifice hitters in the 1980’s.

In 1986 he had career highs in HRs (13) RBIs (57) & stolen bases (23) as the Angels won the Western Division. He hit .300 in the 1986 ALCS with a HR off Boston Red Sox pitcher, Oil Can Boyd in Game #3. He was considered so valuable to the Angels team that he came in 22nd in the MVP voting. At short he posted a .972 fielding % turning 103 double plays. After spending ten seasons with the Angels, he was traded to the New York Mets for Julio Valera in early April of 1992.

He took over Kevin Elster’s vacant spot after he went down with injury ending his season. Schofield played in 142 games for the fifth place 1992 Mets team. Schofield led all NL shortstops in fielding that year (.988%) making only seven errors in 603 chances. On May 10th he hit his first Mets HR, a solo shot against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That day he drove in two Mets runs in the 3-0 win.

On July 19th in a game at Shea against the San Francisco Giants, Schofield had a career day. In the 4th inning he doubled with the bases loaded off John Burkett driving in three runs. Then in the bottom of the 8th he hit a three run HR off Bryan Hickerson leading the Mets with his six RBI day to an 8-4 victory.

On September 22nd he singled in the bottom of the 8th off the Cubs Paul Assenmacher to break a 5-5 tie. The Mets went on to an 8-6 win. Schofield stole 11 bases & was tenth in the league with ten sac hits. Overall he only batted .205 with 18 doubles 4 HRs 36 RBIs & 52 runs scored.

At the end of the year he ran out of New York signing as a free agent with the World Champion Toronto Blue Jays. Schofield played in just 36 games for the '93 Blue Jays as he broke his arm & missed playing in the entire 1993 post season. That year the Toronto Blue Jays won their second straight Worlds Championship. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers & finished his career in Anaheim in 1996.

In 14 big league seasons he hit .230 with 989 hits, 137 doubles, 56 HRs 353 RBIs & 120 stolen bases. At short he posted a .976 fielding % (27th best all time) with 2140 put outs (91st all time) & 3873 assists (83rd all time).

Retirement: Schofield was recently a coach for the Angels minor league club in Tempe, Arizona. He is also the uncle of the Washington Nationals Jason Werth, making him part of a rare three generation baseball family.

Nov 19, 2014

Late Seventies Mets Pitcher: Jackson Todd (1977)

Jackson A. Todd was born on November 20, 1951 in Tulsa Oklahoma. Todd was originally drafted in 1970 by the Chicago Cubs but chose to go to college instead.

The six foot two, right hander was a star pitcher for the Oklahoma Sooners for three seasons. He still holds the Sooners record with 14 complete games set during the 1973 season. That year he pitched in the College World Series allowing no earned runs in 14 innings pitched. Todd chose to skip his senior year when he got drafted in the 38th round by the New York Mets that same year.

In 1974 Todd threw a no hitter in the Texas League at A ball Victoria, going 11-8 overall with a 3.23 ERA. His ERA’s got better through the years, by 1976 he lowered his ERA to 2.91 going 13-6 overall. He began 1977 at AAA Tidewater going just 2-3 with an ERA at four when he was brought up to the Mets staff on May 5th.

It was that year that Todd was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, and told he may not survive. "What did I say when they told me?" "There isn't much you can say. I wasn't frightened. They really didn't tell me how serious it was." But Todd underwent chemotherapy treatment & became a cancer survivor. A true champion he battled back & became a major league pitcher.

He debuted pitching one inning in relief of Tom Seaver, in one of Seaver's final starts as a Met, taking a 7-2 loss to the Dodgers at Los Angeles. On May 19th he pitched into the 8th inning, allowing three runs but beat the San Francisco Giants to earn his first career win. Three days later he came to pitch relief in the 10th inning of a game in Cincinnati against the Reds.

He earned his second win when Mike Phillips singled home Dave Kingman in the top of the 11th inning off Pedro Borbon. Todd lost his next four decisions, including a game on July 2nd where he served up apair of HRs to the Montreal Expos in the second game of a double header. Todd went on to start ten games that season and appeared in 19 games overall. He had a 3-6 record with 39 strike outs, a 4.77 ERA, allowing 78 hits in 71 innings pitched. He also gave up eight HRs.

At the end of Spring Training 1978 he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for a minor leaguer & was soon released. He was picked by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1979 where he pitched for three seasons. His best year was in 1980 going 5-2 as a starter posting a 4.02 ERA in 12 appearances Todd ended up pitching in the minors through the 1985 season before retiring.

Overall in his four year career he was 10-16 posting a 4.40 ERA, with 138 strike outs, 88 walks over 286 innings pitched in 64 games.