May 31, 2015

Concert Review : The Who 50th Anniversary Tour - With Joan Jett & the Blackhearts At Forest Hills, Queens NY

It was a beautiful night for an outdoor concert. Many years ago I stumbled on the original Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, on the site of the West Side Tennis club, right smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood of beautiful Forest Hills.

Being a New York & Stadium history buff, I explored as close as I could. I did my research & followed its progress to it becoming a once again prime concert venue.

photos by centerfieldmaz
It's an old stadium and there are no rest rooms, just a bunch of porto-sans & mobile rest rooms. There was make shift sinks with running water & sanitizer stations. There was plenty of food in the food court area at the entrance. Heineken sponsors the venue & there was a surprising number of countless beer stands. The seats where we sat were just a long steel bleacher/ bench with no back. It was ok because there was enough room on either side & most of the time everyone was standing. That said- I do prefer a seat. There were new seats in the center of the stadium in the first level.


In 1964 the Beatles played here on two night in August, they were flow in by helicopter landing in the Tennis Clubs grounds. That first night was the THE night my parents were married! The Who have played here before, performing in 1971. Tonight Pete Townshend did mention "how many were here in 1971?" Many cheered but probably more than were actually there!

This is not the same Forest Hills Stadium where the Doors played with the Who in 1968. That was the Singer Bowl in the Worlds Fair Grounds. Other acts who played at this venue were The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan & Frank Sinatra. This summer Van Morrison, James Taylor & Santana will also be appearing.

photo centerfieldmaz
Tonight it was "the Who Hits 50" Tour with special guest Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. A celebration of 50 years of the Who's music that has touched & been an important part of life for many fans in many generations. I am proud to sat I have been a fan nearly 40 of those years.
Joan Jett hit the stage at 7PM sharp, with the sun still shining into the stadium, Joan did a fine set rocking the crowd who were there to see her & those awaiting the Who. Joan is looking very thin, dressed in a an leather out fit, while talking in her heavy New York style accent. She covered some of  her hits as well as some of her Runaways songs, maybe hinting of a Runaways reunion?? We hope.

photo- pinterest
Joan Jett set list:
Bad Reputation
Cherry Bomb
Do You Wanna Touch
You Drive Me Wild
Light of Day
Love Is Pain
The French Song
I Love Rock & Roll
Crimson & Clover
I Hate Myself For Loving You

photos centerfieldmaz

 As the sun was still setting and twilight lingered over the West Side Tennis club, the Who & their band walked on to the stage. Yes they are older, as are the rest of us fans. Yes its just Roger Daltrey & Pete Townshend left from the original line up, due to alcohol & drug demons the others could not escape. But the core of the band, the two constants for 50 years ,are Daltrey & Townshend, and they are still awesome, as is their music & current band.

Zak-getty images
THE BAND- Drums: Zak Starkey (Ringo's son & Keith Moon's godson) was on the mighty drum kit. If there is any one close to the great Keith Moon, it's Zak.

He keeps the legend alive, it was Moon who bought & taught little Zak how to play drums when he was 8. Ringo tried to discourage his son from a life in Rock & Roll. Moon & Ringo were very good friends back in the day. Zak has been in the Who since 1996.

photo centerfieldmaz
Guitars, Mandolin, Vocals: Simon Townshend- a member since 1996. Simon also sung on Tommy when he was just nine years old.

photo- centerfieldmaz
Bass: Pino Palladino, possibly the tallest man on earth, is a highly acclaimed bassist (played with Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Elton John & Pete Townshend) who has been touring with the band since the passing of John Entwistle.

Keyboards & Vocals: John Corey & Loren Gold. Frank Simes in the musical director & played assorted instruments.

This was the final night of the first leg of the Who Hits 50 Anniversary Tour. It was another great performance by this timeless incredible band. The Who rocked & did not disappoint. Roger Daltrey's voice sounded fantastic.

photo- centerfieldmaz
He was able to do all his classic Who songs, while looking fantastic for 71 years old. Man, does he look good for that age! He played a bit more guitar than I like, since he is the classic front man rock singer. He still throws & twirls his microphone around but maybe not as much as he use to. Roger was on tonight, he was excellent and hit 'em all.

Pete was also on his game tonight (as usual), doing his classic occasional windmills & playing some fantastic guitar. It's Pete who wrote all these classic songs that have been such a big part of myself & so many others lives. As he takes his bow toward the end of the show you want to jump up on stage, shake his hand & just say thanks Pete, for all you have given us musically.

The show began with a swirling version of I Cant Explain, as Roger led the crowd to sing the backing vocals, it was a good touch to a great start. There was no chronological order to the bands history, nor was there any great tributes to Keith Moon or John Entwhistle like on the last Quadrophenia Tour. The second song; The Seeker was a great choice & was one of the best on the night.

The Tommy set was absolutely incredible & possibly the best set of the night. The band rocked through Amazing Journey-Sparks-Captain Walker & Pinball Wizard. For my money when ever the Who led by Pete Townshend jams out on stage, it's great.

I thought the Slip Kid- Bargain-Join Together set was also a highlight of the night, representing this part of the Who's history.

Eminence Front was also a great choice, and maybe because I was in high school when it & the It's Hard album came out, but I think is such an under rated album.
I was disappointed that Forest Hills was deprived A Quick One While He's Away, which was played most of the tour. I am assuming this was due to time limits at Forest Hills due to the residential neighborhood, as the show ended at 10 PM sharp. I also would have liked to see a few more oldies from the sixties as well as a bit more rare tunes. That I said I know there's a lot to get in in a short time.

It was an outstanding show & has me anticipating the Garden shows at the end of the year.

The WHO set list:
I Can't Explain
The Seeker
Who Are You
The Kids Are Alright
I Can See For Miles
My Generation
Behind Blue Eyes
Slip Kid
Join Together
You Better You Bet
I'm One
Love Reign O'er Me
Eminence Front
Amazing Journey
Sparks (with Captain Walker piece)
Pinball Wizard
See Me Feel Me
Baba O' Riley
Wont Get Fooled Again

photo- centerfieldmaz

May 30, 2015

Longtime Coach In the Mets Organization: Ken Oberkfell (2001-2011)

Kenneth Ray Oberkfell was born on May 4, 1956 in Highland, Illinois. The versatile infielder was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1975.

By 1979 he was playing at second base alongside that year’s NL co-MVP & future Met, Keith Hernandez. He led all NL second baseman in fielding % posting a .985 %. Oberkfell hit over .300 his first two seasons in St. Louis posting on base percentages over .375% both years as well. He spent seven seasons in St. Louis hitting over .290 two more times, gathering over 100 hits five straight seasons.

He was a solid hitter without much power or run production but got on base & could even steal a few bases. In 1981 he made the move over to third base replacing long time Cardinal Ken Reitz at the position. Oberkfell was a fine defensive infielder & made the move over to the hot corner very easily.He would twice lead all NL third baseman in fielding %.

For the 1982 World Champion Cardinals he led all N.L. third baseman in fielding percentages (.972%) turning 23 double plays & making just 11 errors in 393 chances.

He hit .289 during the regular season & .292 (7-24) the World Series against the Milwaukee Brewers. He scored four runs in the Series with two stolen bases & two RBIs. In 1983 he once again led the NL in fielding (.960 %) turning 27 double plays.

In June of 1984 he was sent to the Atlanta Braves for Ken Dayley & former Met Mike Jorgenson.

He was part of the “Bearded Braves” with his famous facial hair in the mid eighties along with Bruce Sutter & Glen Hubbard. He spent three seasons in Atlanta batting over .270 each season, with a best .280 in 1987. From there he went to the Pittsburgh Pirates (1988-1989) & the San Francisco Giants in May of 1989. With the Giants he hit .319 over a span of 83 games with two HRs 15 RBIs & a .367 on base % as a utility infielder and pinch hitter.

The Giants got all the way to the World Series that year, getting swept by the Oakland A’s in the Bay Area Earthquake Series. Oberkfell went 2-6 with three walks in the World Series good enough for a .33 batting average. He spent two seasons in Houston & played out his final season with the California Angels in 1992.

He finished his 16 year career with a .278 lifetime average with 1354 hits 29 HRs 446 RBIs 237 doubles 546 walks 68 intentional (233rd all time) & a .351 on base % playing in 1602 games. His .965 fielding % at third base puts him at #29 all time & his 1996 assists are #89 all time.

Managing & Coaching: After his playing days he has had a successful minor league managing career. He began managing in the Independent League for two years in 1995 & 1996. He went to the Philadelphia Phillies organization in 1997 remaining there through 2000.

He began in the New York Mets organization in 2001 with the Capitol City Bombers. He moved on to the A ball St. Lucie Mets the next year, winning the league championship there in 2003.

In 2005 he earned the Minor League Manager of the Year Award getting the AAA Norfolk Tides to the playoffs. He managed the Mets AAA New Orleans Zephyrs from 2007-June 2008 & then was called up to the New York Mets big league club as coach under Jerry Manuel after Willie Randolph was fired.

In 2009 & 2010 he served as manager of the Mets AAA Buffalo Bison’s. In 2011 he was named bench coach under Terry Collins but was not asked to return after the season.

In 2012 he  began coaching with the Independent League's Newark Bears but stepped down in August. In 2013 & 2014 Oberkfell was the manager of the Lincoln Saltdogs in the American Association of the Independent Pro Baseball league. He is returning for a 2015 season.

Former Italian / American Grandfather & Grandson Players: Lenny & Matt Merullo

Leonard Richard Merullo was born on May 5th 1917 in Boston, Massachusetts. The five foot eleven right hand hitter attended both Villanova University & Boston College. Merullo was a star player in the Cape Cod League & was eventually elected to heir Hall of Fame.

 He got to the big leagues in 1941 becoming the Chicago Cubs regular shortstop from 1942-1945 & again in 1947. He saw a lot of action at short, leading the league in errors in 1947 (29) coming in second in the league in that category in both 1942 & 1943. He would be among the top four in his league in assists, put outs & double plays in his years as a regular as well.

He got to play in three games of the 1945 World Series loss to the Detroit Tigers. After the death of Andy Pafko in 2013, Merullo is now the last living Cubs player to have played in a World Series game. 

Merullo (right) with Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky 2010
Retirement: In a seven year playing career he hit .240 with 497 hits six HRs, 92 doubles & 152 RBIs. After his playing days, he became a longtime top scout for the Cubs.

As mentioned above, Merullo did make many errors, on the day his son was born it is said that he made so many errors he chose to name his son; Boots. Boots would play minor league ball in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Lennie Merullo's grandson is Mike Merullo.

Passing: Lennie Merullo passed away on May 30th 2015 at the age of 98.

Matthew Bates Merullo was born on August 4th 1965 in Winchester, Massachusetts. The six foot two, left handed hitter attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was a 7th round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1986.
Merullo would spend parts of four seasons with the White Sox (1989/ 1991-1993) mostly as a back up catcher, as well as a designated hitter. He also spent a year with the Cleveland Indians (1994) & Minnesota Twins (1995). In his six year career he hit .234 with 116 hits 7 HRs 17 doubles & 59 RBIs.

Retirement: After his playing days, Merullo was a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks & a minor league manager at A ball Aberdeen in 2013. He also started & runs the Pro Advantage Baseball school in Connecticut.

May 29, 2015

Short Time Original Mets Player: Bobby Gene Smith (1962)

Bobby Gene Smith was born on May 28, 1934 in Hood River, Oregon. In 1952 he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as an outfielder.

He would hit .300 twice in the minors making the Cardinals as a reserve outfielder for three seasons (1957-1959). He hit a HR in first career game but didn’t hit too many more as the season went on.

He was labeled the ultimate six o’clock hitter by teammate Bill White, meaning he would hit HRs in batting practice but rarely in the real game. 

He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Carl Sawatski in December 1959. He hit a career best .286 in 98 games with the 1960 Phillies, hitting 4 HRs with 5 doubles & 27 RBIs. Smith was the New York Mets 16th pick in the 1961 expansion draft, making him an original Met.

Smith appeared in the third game in New York Mets history as a pinch hitter in the 9th inning, grounding out against Pittsburgh’s Roy Face. Smith’s Mets career was very short, lasting just eight games. In that time he got three hits (3- 22).

He drove in two runs on April 23rd when he tripled at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, driving in Felix Mantilla & Elio Chacon. At the end of April he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Sammy Taylor.

Two months later he would be traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. He did not reappear in the majors until 1965 finishing out his seven year career with the California Angels. He batted .243 lifetime with 13 HRs 35 doubles & 96 RBIs in 476 career games. He was a good outfielder posting a perfect .1000% in 1962 & .986% lifetime.

May 27, 2015

Original Mets Broadcaster: Lindsey Nelson (1962-1978)

Lindsey Nelson was born May 25, 1919 in Campbellsville, Tennessee. Nelson attended the University of Tennessee , graduating in 1941 & would forever be linked to that school.

After serving as an Army Captain during World War II, he became an English teacher & then a newspaper writer. In 1948 he broke into broadcasting, with his deep southern drawl, by being the first announcer to cover the play by play of games at the University of Tennessee.

Next he was hired as an administrator at NBC & was doing baseball broadcasts by 1957. He worked there for ten years, without a contract & without being represented by an agent.

From there it was on to CBS, where he would work NFL football Games for nineteen years. Nelson's great football calls also led him to do the play-by-play for the Cotton Bowl for 25 seasons. He was also the voice of Notre Dame Football for 13 seasons as well as a Monday Night Football radio broadcaster from 1974-1977.

Nelson is remembered for being the announcer during the first NFL game, on CBS, to feature the use of "instant replay", which he had to explain repeatedly during the game, reminding viewers that "this is not live."

Lindsey Nelson was also famous for his "loud" psychedelic-colored plaid sports jackets. "We were going to be televising 120 games in color. Nelson said; “I walked into a New York clothing store and told the clerk, 'Let me see all the old jackets you can't sell.'' He brought out seven, and I bought all of them.”

Nelson claimed he owned 335 of the multi colored jackets at one point in time. Those jackets often clashed with the back ground set and his surroundings, in the early days of color the television technology. New York Mets:

Mets Career: In 1962, Nelson was the experienced broadcaster the new expansion Mets needed to help bring the game to the fans. ,Nelson was to do both radio and television play by play, with former Pirates slugger Ralph Kiner and young broadcaster from Boston, Bob Murphy.

Quotes: Lindsey Nelson- "It was my job to set the broadcast policy. I told our broadcast team, 'This is a very inept group of players, and we're not going to try to hide their ineptness. We're also not going to make fun of them.' We simply described what they did, and what they did was hilarious."

His signature sign on was “Hello everybody, this is Lindsey Nelson & welcome to Shea Stadium in New York". His voice has become legendary to Met fans from the Mets glory days of the late sixties & early seventies. His professional call of the game was always flowing & interesting, with a burst of excitement when something really special happened. Nelson brought that excitement to the Mets during their early years, with his calls of the game, even though the team didn't win too much.

After the years of bad baseball, he was on hand for the arrival of Tom Seaver in 1967. Two years later he was on hand for the Amazing 1969 season.

He did the National World Series broadcast on NBC with the great Curt Gowdy for the Mets home games during that run. He got to make the call for one of Tommie Agee's great catches in centerfield in Game #3, Tom Seaver's victory in Game #4 & the comeback win in Game #5 to win it.

Bud Harrelson- Mayor Lindsay- Nelson-
Ron Swoboda & Rod Gaspar
He was in the locker room, doing interviews for the network in a shower of champagne enjoying the Mets finest moment defining the Amazing Mets.

In 1973 he was on hand for the Mets incredible September run to catch the pennant in the year of "You Gotta Believe". He made the final call of the NLCS Pennant as the Mets headed to their second World Series.

After working with the Mets through the mid seventies, he became unhappy with the way the once great organization was now being run. The team was in chaos after it's principal owner; Joan Payson passed away. The club was passed down to her daughter, Lorinda De Roulet, who let the teams Chaiman; M. Donald Grant run all baseball operations. Grant destroyed everything, refusing to give in to the new era of free agency & drove Tom Seaver out of town.

Witnessing all of this, Nelson felt it was time to move on. He took the team by surprise in 1978, when he announced it would be his last season broadcasting in New York.

After being with the team since it's inception in 1962, his 17 year association with the Mets ended. In 1979 when he moved on to work for the San Francisco Giants, doing broadcasts there through 1981.

After that stint, Nelson did CBS radio broadcasts for MLB into the late eighties. In August, 1985 he was hired by WPIX Channel 11, when former Mets ace, Tom Seaver (now with the Chicago White Sox) went for his 300th victory, in the A.L. New York's club ballpark. WPIX had Nelson call the final half-inning of Seaver's history-making day. It was almost like the good old days.

Honors: Nelson's honors include earning the Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988. He was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame along with Kiner & Murphy in 1984.

He also is in the National Sportscasters Hall of Fame in North Carolina (1979) , the American Sportscasters Hall of Fame (1986). He has won the Pete Rozelle Radio-TV Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1990) and a lifetime Emmy Award (1991). The baseball stadium for the University of Tennessee Volunteers is named Lindsey Nelson Stadium in his honor.

Retirement: After his retirement from active broadcasting he moved to Knoxville, Tennessee to an apartment across the Tennessee River from the University of Tennessee campus from which he had a view of Neyland Stadium, the Volunteers home field, and wrote an autobiographical memoir.

Passing: In his final years, Nelson suffered from Parkinson's disease. He passed away due to complications of that disease on June 10th, 1995 in Atlanta Georgia, at age 76.

Quotes: Upon his passing long time colleague Bob Murphy said: He had no tolerance for mistakes, He was totally reliable. I don't think he was late once in his whole life." Ralph Kiner added: "He had a great enthusiasm for the job, He was a tremendous guy to work for. We were very close. It was more or less like a family."

In the words of Lindsey Nelson himself: "The game is the important thing. The announcer should never get in the way of the game."


Early Seventies Pitcher: Steve Simpson (1974)

Steven Edward Simpson was born on August 30, 1948 in St. Joseph Missouri. The big six foot three, two hundred pound right hander was drafted out of Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.

He was chosen in the 4th round of the 1970 draft by the San Diego Padres. He won eight games in both 1970 & 1971 at the ball level , then became primarily a reliever by the time he got to AAA. In 1972 he had his brief cup of coffee going 0-2 for the San Diego Padres.

Just five days before Christmas 1973 he was traded to the New York Mets for pitcher Jim McAndrew. He was issued the same uniform number (43) as McAndrew had worn but was sent down to AA Victoria. There he was 10-7 with 4.78 ERA pitching on the same staff as future Mets Nino Espinosa, Rick Baldwin & Dwight Bernard. Other teammates included classic yearbook prospects Rich Puig, Brock Pemberton & Greg Harts.

By Spring Training of 1975 Simpson retired from baseball. Sadly he passed away from a heart attack in November of 1989 in Omaha Nebraska, at the young age of 41.

May 26, 2015

Former Eighties Mets Broadcaster: Steve Zabriske (1983-1989)

Steve Zabriske was born May13, 1947 in Palo Alto California. After college, Zabriskie began covering sports for a television station in Austin, Texas during the early 1970's.

The station made him change his name to Steve Zanon, saying his real name sounded to Polish. He then moved on to doing sports news in Tulsa, Oklahoma and became known as “the Big Z”.

He started doing MLB baseball games on the USA Network in the early days of cable television. In 1980, MLB did an early TV experiment that had 22 teams take part in Thursday Night Games of the week on the USA Network. Zabriskie did broadcasts for the last two years of its run from 1981-1982.

From there he joined the New York Mets broadcast team in 1983. Steve was the Mets Channel 9 & Sports Channel announcer along with Ralph Kiner & Tim McCarver from 1983 -1989. He was a very straight forward announcer with a dry sense of humor, his style worked well with Ralph Kiner.

His most famous broadcast was doing the play by play in the 9th inning in September 1986, when the Mets clinched the N.L. Eastern Title. As more games got onto cable TV, Zabriske fell out of the picture.

He had a brief stint on ESPN then disappeared from the broadcasting scene. In 2003 he wrote a children’s baseball book called “Be A Hitter”. These days Zabriske is the news director on KZST radio in Sonoma County California.

May 25, 2015

Mets Reserve Infielder: Danny Muno (2015)

Daniel Muno was born February 9th, 1989 in Long Beach California. The five foot eleven, switch hitting infielder attended California State University at Fresno.

In his Freshman year he hit .322 with 62 runs scored, helping lead Fresno State to a win in the 2008 College World Series. That year he was named All Western State. In his junior year he became the schools All Time walks leader, as well as batting .379 with 25 doubles & 74 runs scored.

In 2010 he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 26th round, but he did not sign. He played out his senior year & hit .348 with 52 RBIs in 56 games. In 2011 he signed with the New York Mets, as an eighth round pick.

In 2011 he played for the A Ball Brooklyn Cyclones & led the New York Penn. League in batting (.355) as well as on base % (.466%). Muno was noted the leagues 18th best prospect, made the All Star team & struck out just 39 times in 220 at bats while hitting 23 doubles.

In 2012 he was promoted to A ball St. Lucie but tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. He returned in 2013 playing at AAA Binghamton where e hit just .249.

In 2014 he was promoted to AAA Las Vegas where he hit a career high 14 HRs with 62 RBIs, batting .259. He is considered one of the best disciplined hitters in the Mets systems. 

In 2015 he was batting .280 in two stints at AAA Las Vegas as the Mets main third baseman there. On April  17th he was called up to the majors, making his MLB debut in a 4-1 win against the Miami Marlins. In that game he came to bat as a pinch hitter in the 7th inning, earning a single off Sam Dyson. In that game he also got his first career steal.

On April 26th he got his first start, it came in a subway series loss to the AL New York team, where he went 0-3 playing in a designated hitter role. After that game he was sent back down to Vegas. 

On May 24th, the Mets recalled Muno from AAA Las Vegas sending down catcher Johnny Monell.

Former Mets Top 2006 Draft Pick: Kevin Mulvey

Kevin John Mulvey was born on May 26th 1985 in Parlin, New Jersey. Parlin is located in Midlesex County between Old Bridge & Sayrevillle. After attending Bishop Ahr high school in Edison, New Jersey, the six foot one right hander went to Villanova, University.

Mulvey had been a star pitcher & hitter in high school. At Villanova he was an overall 15-14 in his four years, striking out 222 batters, the most in school history. He was a two time All Big East pitcher, throwing a no hitter vs. UConn in his sophnore year.

In 2006 he posted the Big East's fifth best ERA although he was 3-8. He was drafted by the New York Mets in the second round of the 2006 draft, as the 62nd overall pick. The Mets had lost their first round round pick that year, so technically Mulvey was their first.

After pitching in just one game with the A ball, Gulf Coast Mets, he was promoted to AA. In 2007 he was 11-10 with a 3.32 ERA at AA Binghamton getting called up to AAA New Orleans later in the season. That year he pitched in the Futures Game replacing Matt Garza who had made it to the Big Leagues. In his AAAA debut, Mulvey pitched six shut out innings of two hit ball, helping New Orleans clinch the PCL divisional title. 

Mulvey was considered a fine pitching prospect, voted as the Mets fourth best prospect & was used in the deal to get Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins. Mulvey went to the Twins along with Carlos Gomez & Philip Humber.

In 2009 Mulvey pitched just two games for the Twins, allowing four runs on six hits in his final outing on July 22nd, against Oakland. After two games he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks as a player to be named later. He went 0-3 that season, and returned for justtwo games in 2010, posting a 14.08 ERA in three innings. Mulvey would pitch two more years in the minors never returning to the major leagues again.

In 2012 he returned to the Mets organization, playing 13 games at AA Binghamton going 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA. In his two year MLB career he is 0-3 with a 7.90 ERA in ten games.

Retirement: Mulvey has been an assistant pitching coah at Villanova since 2013.