Feb 28, 2014

2006 N.L. Eastern Champion Mets Back Up Catcher: Ramon Castro (2005-2009)

centerfieldmaz photo from St. Lucie Florida
Ramon Abraham Castro was born on March 1, 1976 in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. The six foot three, catcher was a first round pick (17th pick overall) in the 1994 draft for the Houston Astros. Castro was actually the first Puerto Rican played to be drafted by the Astros.

Back in those days he earned the nickname “Bigote” which means mustache. 

 Castro played six seasons in the minors having his best year in 1999 hitting 15 HRs with 61 RBIs. He was traded to the Florida Marlins in 1998 making his MLB debut in late August of 1999. In September '99 he hit his first career HR which came in St. Louis during a 9-3 loss to the Cardinals. He saw a lot of playing time that month, batting .179 for the season.

He spent six seasons with the Marlins, at first sharing time with Mike Redmond behind the plate, until Charles Johnson arrived for his second term in Florida. Castro hit his Marlin best .283 as a member of their 2003 World Championship team. He appeared in 40 games during the regular season hitting five HRs with eight RBIs but saw no post season action.

In December of 2004 Castro signed as a free agent with the New York Mets and would spend four and a half seasons in New York as a backup catcher. The theme music he chose when he came to bat at Shea, was the Darth Vader Imperial march from the Star Wars movies. 

Castro was one of the slowest runners the Mets ever had; it was almost comical to watch him run the bases. If he had to circle around a few bases at once, he would slow up even more as he ran out of gas. His teammates would let him have in a fun way, as he became the ridicule of many slow running jokes in the dugout. 
  Castro backed up Mike Piazza in 2005, playing in 99 games, batting .244 with eight HRs & a career high 41 RBIs. On April 16th he drove in his first Mets run, a walk off base hit against Gillermo Mota & his old Marlin team mates.

On June 16th he had a big day against the Oakland A's in an interleague west coast game. In the Mets seven run 5th inning, Castro hit a bases loaded double scoring all three runs. He then advanced to third base on an error, much to the delight of his team mates laughing at his base running in the dug out. In July he had five games where he had multiple RBIs while hitting three HRs playing in just 14 games. 
  On August 13th he hit a solo HR at Dodger Stadium in a 5-1 Mets in at Los Angeles. A week later he hit a three run HR at Shea Stadium in a 9-8 win against the Washington Nationals. Two days later on August 23rd, in the first game of a double header at Arizona, he drove in five runs gathering up two hits, in the Mets 14-1 romp over the Diamond backs.

On August 30th at Shea Stadium, Casto hit a three run HR in the bottom of the 8th inning, against Ugueth Urbina & the Philadelphia Phillies leading the Mets to a 6-4 come from behind win. As Mike Piazza’s Mets career ended, Castro thought he may have a chance as a starter but the Mets traded for Paul Loduca in the off season. 

In the Mets 2006 NL Eastern Championship title season, Castro played in just 40 games missing two months of action. He hit .238 with four HRs seven doubles & 12 RBIs. Behind the plate he threw out 35% of would be base stealers posting a .996 fielding %.

Castro opened up his season, with doubles in the first two games he played in on the season. On April 22nd, his fourth game he hit a two run HR in an 8-1 win over the Padres in San Diego. He hit a HR in each of the next two months.

On July 1st he broke up a subway series tie, with a fourth inning base hit off Randy Johnson. The Mets went on to an 8-3 win at the AL New York ball park. He would get shut down in August & most of September returning in the final week of the season. He did not play in the post season. 
 
In 2007 he played in 52 games hitting a career high .285 with 11 HRs (also a career high). He added six doubles 24 runs scored & 31 RBIs.

In April he started out the year hitting three HRs in his first six games & drove in seven runs in three straight games. In July he played in thirteen games hitting three more HRs while driving nine runs. He got his average up over the .300 mark as well.

On August 1st he hit a three run HR in Milwaukee, elading to an 8-5 Mets win over the Brewers. Behind the plate on the season he only threw out three base runners in thirty stolen base attempts (10%). He closed out the season with two HRs in the final week of the season, including a solo shot in a 13-0 win over the Florida Marlins in the next to last game of the year. The win gave the Mets hope for the playoffs in the final game but they fell 8-1 to the Marlins missing the post season after a horrible season ending collapse. 

 

In 2008 the Mets signed Brian Schneider, once again passing up on Castro as the lead catcher. In April he hit .38 playing in seven games driving in five runs in four of those games. In July he saw a lot of playing time, having six multi hit games. On July 1st he drove in three runs leading the Mets to a 7-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

 A week later hit a three run HR against the San Francisco Giants, in a 5-0 Johan Santana shut out at Shea Stadium. During the month he had three more multi RBI games raising his average up to .283. On the season he hit .245 with 7 HRs 7 doubles 24 RBIs & a .312 on base %. Behind the plate he improved to throwing out 22% of would be base stealers. 
  
May 2009, centerfieldmaz caught a Ramon Castro foul ball, sitting up behind home plate in the Promenade club seats at the new Citi Field. It was one of Castros last games as a New York Met. The third string Catcher Omir Santos; had started out hot and won the backup catchers job, making Castro expendable.

On May 29th Castro was traded to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Lance Broadway. On July 23rd 2009, Castro was behind the plate, catching Chicago pitcher Mark Buehrle for the first time.

That night Buehrle put himself in the record books, throwing the seventeenth perfect game in MLB history with Castro calling the signals. Castro only hit .184 in Chicago that season, seeing action in 31 games.
 
In 2010 he improved to a .278 average hitting eight HRs with two doubles & 21 RBIs. In 2011 he played his last season back with the White Sox batting .235 playing in 23 games.

Retirement: Castro retired at age 35 finishing his 13 year career batting .237 with 67 HRs 66 doubles 217 RBIs & a .310 on base %.

 In 503 games he threw out 23% of base runners trying to steal. He posted a .990 fielding % with 21 double plays. 

Castro lives in Miramar, Florida with his wife Brenda & their three daughters.

Feb 21, 2014

Former Bronx Born- Italian/ American Player: Dom Zanni (1958-1966)

Dominick Thomas Zanni was born on March 1, 1932 in the Bronx, New York. The right handed pitcher was signed by the New York Giants in 1951, but never got to pitch for New York in the Polo Grounds.

He spent seven years in the minors before getting to the big leagues. His first season was rough, as the big league club got to the World Series, Zanni went 1-12 in the low level of the Giants farm system. In 1952 he rebounded to a 20-8 record getting pushed up to Muskogee in the C level.

In 1954 he pitched a no hitter, getting future Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver as the last out. In a 1994 interview Zanni said "I'll never forget Weaver saying, 'just throw a strike, buddy, and that's the end of your no-hitter.' But he just popped it up to second. "That's Weaver for you. He would bother you for everything...."

Zanni posted two 15 win seasons along the way &; in 1958 after going 14-11 at AAA Phoenix he made it to the Giants staff, who were now in San Francisco. At the end of September he earned his first win in his MLB debut, coming against the St. Louis Cardinals. He beat Sam Jones while pitching four innings of relief.

Although his 1959 Topps baseball card listed him as a rookie star for 1959 it didn’t quite work out that way. He would bounce back & forth to the minors his entire career. He pitched in the big leagues with the Giants (1958-1961) the Chicago White Sox (1962-1963) & Cincinnati Reds (1963-1966). He pitched in the minor leagues a total of 15 seasons going 140-122 with a 3.44 ERA.

He saw the most action with the White Sox in 1962 going 6-5 with five saves in 44 games pitched, posting a 3.79 ERA. He came to play the A.L. New York club that year & everyone he ever knew in the Bronx wanted free tickets.


He said in the book “The Giants of ‘58” that he left tickets for about a million people; his grammar school & his high school were also in attendance. He was so excited when manager Al Lopez called him in to pitch in relief.Lopez had t yell at him to get out of there, so he could start pitching. In a late July series, he struck out four batters (Clete Boyer twice, Tommy Tresh & Elston Howard) pitching 2.1 innings of work. His friends & family in the stands, were thrilled.


Retirement: In his seven year career he was 9-6 with 10 saves & a 3.79 ERA in 111 games pitched. After his playing days he became an insurance agent & has retired on Long Island in the town of Massapequa.

Feb 17, 2014

2014 Mets To Honor Ralph Kiner

The 2014 Mets will honor former broadcaster; Ralph Kiner all season, by wearing a commemorative uniform patch on their right sleeve. They will start donning the patch during Spring Training & continue during the regular season.

In addition; there will be a pre game Opening Day ceremony at Citi Field when the logo will be displayed on the left field wall. The Mets Museum at Citi Field, will also have a special "Kiners Korner" display added to it's memorabilia section.

The new Kiner logo will be painted onto the grass at Port St. Lucie's Tradition Field during Spring Training as well.

Feb 6, 2014

"Going Going Gone Good Bye" The Passing of Ralph Kiner ( A true Mets & Basbeall Legend)

Today centerfieldmaz remembers Ralph Kiner on his passing.

Kiner was a Mets broadcaster from the teams very first season in 1962.

 For those of us growing up in the "golden age "of Mets baseball, it was Ralph Kiner, along with Bob Murphy who brought us all the great Mets memories.

Kiner was there at start for the Mets 120 game losing season. He was there when the Amazing Mets won the 1969 World Series.


Kiner with Casey Stengel
He was there for Tom Seavers three Cy Young Award seasons. He was there for the 1973 You Gotta Believe NL pennant winners. He was there for the bad years & the rebirth in the 1980's. He was there for Dr. K as he struck out everyone on his way to an electrifying year. He was there for Mex, Daryl & the Kid.


Kiner & Willie Mays
He was there when the '86 Mets, clinched the pennant after a 16 inning NLCS thriller. He was there when the ball went under Bill Buckner's legs &  the Mets won it all once again. He was there for the Mike Piazza years & when Bobby Valentine took the team to two straight post season appearances & the Subway Series &

Thanks for all you gave us Ralph. The classic one liners, the mistakes, the malapropisms, the great baseball stories & the actual live action of Mets baseball.

No matter what jokes people remember about Ralph & his style, he was a true, great baseball broadcaster. He is forever enshrined in Cooperstown in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Broadcasters wing. In a time where baseball was simpler & really for the fans, Kiner gave us a legendary TV show; Kiners Korner.

After each Mets home game, Kiner would interview a star player of that days game for a small bonus check. Kiner not only featured Mets players but visiting players as well. Great stuff. As Ralph would say on his HR calls "going going gone good bye".