Jun 29, 2015

Short Time Early Sixties Met & His Big Hit: Joe Hicks (1963)

William Josseph Hicks was born on April 7th, 1933 in Ivy Virginia. The six foot left hand hitting outfielder, threw right handed. He attended the University of Virginia at Chalottesville, where he earned a degree in education.

He was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1953. He toiled in the minor leagues for seven seasons before getting a chance in September of 1959 for the Go Go Sox who were on their way to face the Los Angles Dodgers in the World Series. Hicks played in six September games going 307 (.429) but was not eligible for the post season.

In 1960 he hit .303 at AAA San Diego in the Pacific Coast League, getting back to Chicago for 36 games where he hit just .191. That December he was drafted by the expansion Los Angeles Angels as the 42nd pick in that draft. But just six days later he was traded to the Washington Senators, where he appeared in just 12 games.

In 1962 he saw the most action of his career playing in 102 games for the tenth place Senators who won just 60 games while losing 101. He was a reserve outfielder behind the likes of Bob Johnson, Chuck Hinton & Jimmy Piersall. On June 6th he hit a 9th inning HR off Dick Hall & the Baltimore Orioles, which turned out to be the games winning run.

He hit four of his six HRs in that month of June, finishing the year batting .224 with 6 HRs & 14 RBIs. That off season his contract was sold to the New York Mets who were the only team to lose more games than Washington in 1962.

He began the season at AAA Buffalo where he hit 14 HRs while batting .330 getting called up to the Mets in July. Hicks made his first appearance as a pinch hitter, striking out against Sandy Koufax in a 6-0 three hit, 13 strike out Koufax win.

Quotes: After striking out against Koufax, Casey Stengel said to Hicks: Stengel says, ‘Hicksy, don’t let it fret you, don’t let it fret you. He struck out a lot of guys and he’s gonna strike out a lot more.’

In mid July Hicks had the best week of his career, starting with a three hit, two RBI day against the Houston Astros in a14-5 Mets win in the first game of a twin bill.

Then starting on July 16th, he homered in three straight games. The first was against Houston's Turk Farrell, a solo shot & then later he doubled in another run.

On July 17th, Hicks came to bat in the bottom of the 9th inning, in a tied game against the defending NL Champion San Francisco Giants. The Giants removed Gaylord Perry & brought in reliver Don Larsen. Joe Christopher reached first base & the sign came in from third base coach Solly Hemus for Hicks to bunt. Hicks laid down a beauty, but the ball rolled foul at the last minute.

Manager Casey Stengel had managed Larsen in New York & knew after a sac attempt, Larsen would throw a high hard one. The bunt sign was off & Hicks swung away. He hit a dramatic walk off, two run HR off Larsen, scoring Christopher with the winning runs.

The next day he put the Mets ahead with a 7th inning three run HR off the Giants Bobby Bolin. The Mets would end up losing the game the next inning. His hot streak would not last, but he did keep himself in the lineup for most of the rest of the season. On August 11th he hit a three run HR, having a two hit, four RBI day in a big 11-4 Mets win at Shea Stadium.

In 56 games with New York, he batted .226 with five HRs, six doubles, & 22 RBIs. Hicks played in 41 games in the outfield posting a .966 fielding % making one assist with three errors comitted. Hicks would spend the next three seasons in the minor leagues at AAA Buffalo where he hit 31 HRs over those seasons.

In his five year MLB career he hit .221 with 92 hits 11 doubles 12 HRs & 39 RBIs.

Retirement: After baseball he became the director of athletic programs in the City of Charlottesville, Virginia. At age 80 he still plays the game & is an umpire for high school baseball.

Jun 28, 2015

Former Italian / American Long Island Born Mets Pitcher With the Fancy Hair: Joe Sambito (1985)

Joseph Charles Sambito was born on June 28, 1952 in Brooklyn, New York. The family moved to Long Island & Joe became a pitcher at Bethpage high school.

The  six foot lefty would dream of being Jerry Koosman while growing up during the Mets 1969 season. He had a try out for the Mets in 1970 at Shea Stadium but the team did not offer him a deal.

He attended Adelphi University and then got a job at the Long Island Lighting Company. He stayed home from work on draft day 1973 hoping to hear good news. He did, he got a call saying that he was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 17th round.

He spent four years in the Astros minor leagues. In 1976 he went 11-2 between AA Columbus & AAA Memphis. He got called up to the Astros in July of that Bicentennial year.

 When he arrived with the club, he was in awe that he was now a team mate of 1969 World Champion Amazing Met, Ken Boswell.

Quotes: "To this day, one of my biggest thrills was dressing in the same locker room with Ken Boswell. Anybody who played on the '69 Mets was like a god to me, and here he was, now a teammate."

In 1976 Sambito went 3-2 with a 3.24 ERA, as a starting pitcher. He would convert to the bullpen, spending the next eight seasons at the Astrodome as one of the leagues better relievers.

In 1979 he was 8-7 with 22 saves (4th most in the NL) & posting a 1.77 ERA making his only All Star team. He followed up 1980 with the NL Western Champion Astros, getting eight wins out of the bullpen, going 8-4 with 17 saves (9th in the NL) & posting a 2.19 ERA.

Post Season: In the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies, he took the loss in Game #4, when he allowed back to back doubles to Many Trillo & Greg Luzinski in the 10th inning.

By the early eighties Sambito was being ranked as one of the games top relievers by Sports Illustrated. He was certainly low profile playing in Houston and not in the national spotlight much.

He was notorious for his full head of hair, and using his blow dryer in the locker room. He was always getting ribbed by the Astros players. Once at a roast fund raiser for him, an Astros broadcaster poured a glass of water on his head, saying “I always wanted to do that”. Of course, Sambito pulled out a blow dryer and did his hair.

In the strike shortened 1981 season, he posted another ERA under two (1.81) saved 10 games (7th in the NL) & posted a 5-5 record.

Post Season: His '81 post season was a nightmare, posting an ERA of 16.20. In Game 33 of the NLDS, The Los Angeles Dodgers knocked him around for three runs on four hits in 2/3 of an inning.

He began the 1982 season with four saves and a 0.71 ERA until he developed bone chips in his pitching elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery. He missed the rest of the season all of 1983 as well. In 1984 he made a slight comeback pitching in 32 games but posted no record or saves, his ERA was 3.02.

In late April of 1985 he was given a shot by the New York Mets. He made his Mets debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium on April 28th pitching one hitless, scoreless inning in relief of Calvin Shiraldi.

On May 1st he made his second appearance, allowing a hit while facing two batters in relief of Ron Darling. On June 9th he had his longest outing of the year, a three inning relief effort where he allowed three runs on four hits. He only made eight appearances for the Mets getting no decisions.

His last outing took place in the worst loss in Mets history. The Philadelphia Phillies scored 26 runs at Veterans Stadium on June 11th, 1985 beating the Mets 26-7. Sambito pitched three innings from the 5th through the 7th innings, allowing ten runs (eight of them earned) on nine hits, issuing five walks. He was sent down to AAA Tidewater but where he went 0-3 in 19 games with a 4.35 ERA.

He was released by the Mets in August & signed with the Boston Red Sox in January 1986. He had a good Spring Training, making the Sox staff and taking over the closer role until Calvin Schiraldi won the job. Sambito was second on the team with 12 saves, going 2-0 with a 4.84 ERA.

Post Season: He appeared in two games of the ALCS against the California Angels and then two games of the 1986 World Series facing his old Mets team mates. He allowed two hits and a run, (Ray Knights double) in Game #3 at Fenway. In Game #7 he relieved Calvin Shiraldi after the Mets went ahead for good in the 7th inning, he gave up two walks & a sac fly to Keith Hernandez, which scored the 6th run. His ERA was 27.00 in the Series.

After the 1987 season Sambito retired. In an eleven-season career, Sambito posted a 37-38 record with a 3.03 ERA and 84 saves in 461 games.

Retirement: After baseball he became a player’s counselor and representative. Some of his clients have included Jeff D'Amico, Ryan Klesko, Morgan Ensberg and Andy Pettitte.

Larry Stahl: Former Mid Sixties Met Outfielder (1967-1968)

Larry Floyd Stahl
was born on June 29, 1941 in Belleville, Illinois. The left handed outfielder was originally signed by the Kansas City Athletics in 1960.

MLB Career: In 1964 he made his MLB debut as a September call up, and hit two HRs while driving in four runs in a September 29th game against the Minnesota Twins. After another brief call up the next year, he got a chance as a regular outfielder for the 1966 Athletics. He hit .250 with 5 HRs 11 doubles & 34 RBIs.

In the off season guys like Reggie Jackson & Rick Monday were brought up to the A’s team. Unfortunately for Stahl, he was placed on waivers. The New York Mets picked him up for the 1967 season.

Mets Career: He made the club out of Spring Training, debuting in the second game of the season as a pinch hitter. He drove in a run in the fourth game of the Mets season, playing in left field in a 6-2 loss at Philadelphia. He struggled, batting .088 in early May & was sent down.  

He returned at the end of June, & began to get regular
playing time. On July 13th, he hit a three run HR in Cincinnati off the Reds Don Nottebart, his first & only HR of the year.   

On the season he batted .239 with one HR, five doubles & 18 RBIs, while playing in 71 games as an outfielder /pinch hitter.

1968: He began the season at AAA Jacksonville where he hit .366 before getting called up to the Mets again in July. He hit safely in 15 of his first 21 games, earning his stay on the club for the rest of the season. 

On July 27th, he hit his first HR of the year, in a 5-2 win over the Reds at Shea Stadium. He hit two more HRs that year, both coming in a home stand against the West Coast California teams.

In 53 games played for the ninth place Mets, he had ten multiple hit games batting .235 with three HRs seven doubles & ten RBIs with a .318 on base %.

Post Mets Career: Stahl was chosen by the newly formed San Diego Padres in the 1968 expansion draft & would spend four seasons playing with the team. Although he hit under .200 the first two seasons he got a regular job playing in 114 games in 1971 batting .253 with career highs in HRs (8) doubles (13) & RBIs (36).

In August of 1972 he helped team mate Nate

Colbert tie Stan Musial's record of hitting five HRs in a double header. His two out ninth inning hit, gave Colbert the chance with another at bat in which he hit the record setting HR.

Trivia: On September 2nd 1972, at Wrigley Field. Stahl came to bat in the top of the 9th inning, facing Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas. Pappas had a perfect game going, after retiring the first 26 batters. Stahl was representing the final out.

With a two ball & two strike count, home plate umpire Bruce Froemming called two very close pitches balls. This resulted in a walk, ruining the perfect game. It was one of the most controversial walks in baseball history. Pappas retired the last batter, preserving the no hitter.

1973 Reds:
In 1973 he went to the Cincinnati Reds and appeared again at Shea Stadium in the 1973 NLCS.

In Game #3 he singled as a pinch hitter off Jerry Koosman, two innings before the Bud Harrelson Pete Rose fight. In Game #5 he singled off a tiring Tom Seaver in the 9th inning but was stranded on third base as the Mets won 7-2 clinching the pennant.

Career Stats: Stahl retired at the end of the season; in a ten year career he batted .232 with 400 hits 36 HRs 58 doubles 19 triples 163 RBIs& a .292 on base %.

Jun 27, 2015

Former Italian / American Player With a Classic Italian Name: John Boccabella (1963-1974)

John Dominic Boccabella was born on June 29, 1941 in San Francisco, California.

His parents were Italian immigrants, coming over from Italy in the 1930's. His father was from Sampeyre near the border of France & his mother was from Tuscany in the hamlet of Sant' Angelo in Campo.

Boccabella attended Santa Clara University and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1963. The six foot one right hand hitter, received attention & became even more popular just because of his Italian sounding name. When he first came up with the Cubs out of their farm team in Pocatello, Idaho, the broadcasters dubbed him “Boccabella from 'Pocatella'".

He started out his MLB career playing first base and was at one time considered to be the successor to Ernie Banks. He also played outfield then converted over to being a catcher, at the request of then Cubs manager Leo Durocher.

He stayed in Chicago for six years mostly as a reserve player, playing in 24 games or more in three of those seasons. In 1966 he played in 75 games, batting .228 with 6HRs & 25 RBIs.

Strangely in 1967, his contract was purchased by the A.L. New York team but he was returned back to the Cubs.  In 1968 he was drafted by the Montreal Expos as the 56th pick in the expansion draft.

In Montreal, the Jary Park public address announcer would love to play with Boccabella's name. He used his French accent to intone "Jean BOCK-(pause)-a-BELLLLLL-aaaaaa" much to the delight of the Expos fans.

But Boccabella struggled mightily in the Expos inaugural season, batting just .105 in 40 games. He improved to .269 the next year playing in 61 games, giving credit to coach Lary Doby for his improvement.

That season in June, he hit a two run HR against the Houston Astros driving in both runs in the 2-1 Expo win. On September 2nd, he hit a dramatic walk off HR in a classic game against the Pittsburgh Pirates off pitcher Bruce Dal Canton. The game was recently aired on the MLB network.

By 1972 Boccabella was the Expos main catcher, sharing time with Terry Humphries & Bob Stinson. He threw out 48% of would be base stealers, fourth best in the league. In 83 games he hit .227 with one HR & ten RBIs.

In 1973 he caught 117 games behind the plate, throwing out 39% of would be base stealers, nailing 34 runners (fourth in the NL). He was third in the NL in assists (65), led the league in errors (14) & had 11 passed balls. He batted .233 with career highs in HRs (7) RBIs (46) doubles (13) at bats (403) & games played (118).

On July 6, 1973 in the first game of a double header he made history, by becoming one of three catchers, to ever hit two HRs in the same inning.

He led off the 6th inning with a solo HR off the Astros Jim Ray, and then later in the inning hit a grand slam off Jim Crawford finishing off an eight run Expo rally. In the game he had three hits with the two HRs & five runs driven in, as the Expos beat Houston 12-8 at Jary Park.

His Expo Manager Gene Mauch, gave him a huge compliment calling him "one of the most underrated players in the league." He also said “He’s a very stoic individual. He leads a quiet life and nothing is going to change it. He exerts a quiet kind of leadership over our pitching staff that isn’t very visible, but you know it’s there.” “Boc is still the possessor of the softest hands and fastest release in the game".

After five years in Montreal he was traded to the San Francisco Giants in 1974 for pitcher Don Carrithers. During his last season in Montreal, he roomed with Rookie & future Hall of Famer Gary Carter, mostly in Spring Training. After 29 games in his hometown of San Francisco, and batting only .138 he was demoted to the minor leagues, ending his MLB career there that year.

In 12 seasons he batted .219 with 320 hits 26 HRs 56 doubles 148 RBIs a .267 on base % & 117 runs scored. Behind the plate he threw out 40% of would be base stealers, posting a .984 fielding %.

Retirement: Boccabella is a religious family man, who never smoked & only drank wine, like a good Italian man.

After his playing days he became a marketing representative for Pacific Gas & Electric in Marin County, California.

Jun 26, 2015

Former Mets Pitcher Turned Coach: Reid Cornelius (1995)

Jonathan Reid Cornelius was born on June 2, 1970 in Thomasville, Alabama. Despite being named like Roddy McDowell’s character in the Planet of the Apes Movie, the six foot pitcher was a star in his home state at a young age.

By the time he was 18 years old he was listed as Baseball America’s Top Prospect in the state of Alabama. He helped his team win the junior cup & got chosen in the 11th round of the 1988 draft by the Montreal Expos.

Cornelius was a ten game winner twice in the minor leagues getting called up by the Expos in late April of 1995. He was used in May as a reliever posting a 8.00 in eight games pitched. He was traded to the New York Mets on June 8th 1995 for David Segui.

The Mets used Cornelius as a starter, debuting in Cincinnati on August 3rd where he took his first loss. He beat the Phillies in his next outing but then lost his next five decisions in mid September.

In his last two outings at Shea Stadium, the Mets gave him good run support, scoring eight runs or more both times. This resulted in him winning two of his last three starts as he finished the year 3-7 with a 5.15 ERA pitching in ten games with 35 strike outs in 57 innings pitched.

At the end of Spring Training in 1996 he was traded along with Ryan Thompson to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Mark Clark. The next year he was a 17 game winner at the AA & AAA levels although he posted a 4.62 ERA.

In 1999 he was signed by the Florida Marlins appearing in just five games going 1-0. His best outing came on a night in September ’99, when the Miami area was under a hurricane warning, as he threw six shut out innings beating the Expos 4-0 earning his only win of the year.

In 2000 he went 4-10 with a 4.82 ERA, then he suffered a torn labrum. Next arthritis set in & his career was over at age thirty. In his brief three year career, he was 8-17 with a 4.91 ERA, with 101 strike outs in 211 innings pitched in 45 games.

Retirement: After his playing days he was a minor league pitching coach with the Jupiter Hammerheads & Jacksonville Suns. 

In 2010 he was appointed a coaching position with the Florida Marlins. He is currently the teams bull pen coach again in 2015.

Former Italian / American Brooklyn Born Player: Rico Petrocelli (1965-1976)

 Americo Peter Petrocelli was born on June 27, 1943 in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn.

In 1961 at age 19, he was signed by the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent. Petrocelli played three seasons in the Red Sox minors, getting a one game call up in 1963. He was brought up for good in 1965 and became the Red Sox everyday shortstop for the next decade. 

 Rico batted .232 with 15 doubles & 33 RBIs making the Topps All Star Rookie team. He hit for some power, which was still rare in the sixties. He hit 13 HRs that season followed by 18 in his sophomore year.

In the Red Sox 1967 "Impossible Dream" AL pennant winning season, he hit .259 with 17 HRs 24 doubles & 66 RBIs,. He began the year with a three run Opening Day HR & finished up April batting .333. By the All Star break he had 9 HRs with 38 RBIs, getting to start at third base while batting 8th for the American League in the All Star Game in Anaheim.

In the September pennant race he began the month driving in runs in five straight games, including hitting a HR off New York's Mel Stottlemyre, then driving in Hawk Harrelson to lead the Sox to a 3-1 win on September 7th. On September 13th he drove in three runs, with a double leading Boston to a 4-1 win. On September 20th, Petrocelli hit a 6th inning HR off Cleveland's Sudden Sam McDowell putting the Red Sox ahead for good in the 5-4 win.

Post Season: He was batting just .071 after the first five Series games, against the St. Louis Cardinals, then had a big Game #6. He hit two solo HRs off Dick Hughes (Carl Yastremski & Reggie Smith also homered). The Red Sox backs were against the wall, but the 8-4 win forced a Game seven. He doubled & struck out twice in the Game #7 loss to Bob Gibson.

Over the next two seasons he led all AL shortstops in fielding percentage, turning 102 double plays (second in the AL) in 1969. Also in 1969 he set a single season record for most HRs by a shortstop with 40 (4th in most the AL).

He also had career highs in doubles (32) batting average (.297) & on base % (.403) as the Sox finished in third place. His 97 RBIs were ninth in the league, followed by a career high 103 RBIs in 1970 (sixth most in the AL) as well as 29 HRs (8th in the AL).

Petrocelli played at shortstop until 1971, then moved over to third base, when the Sox acquired Hall of Famer; Luis Aparicio. At third, Petrocelli once again led the league in fielding percentage (.976) making only 11 errors in 463 total chances. In 1972 he posted a .970% which was second best in the league. After his 1972 season when he hit 28 HRs with 89 RBIs, his numbers tailed off as injuries began to plague him.

In 1973 he played in a career low up to that point 100 games with 129 in 1974. In 1975 he enjoyed his last full time season, winning another pennant with the Red Sox in their 95 win season under Darrell Johnson. Petrocelli played 115 games, with former Met Bobby Heise playing behind him. Rico hit 7 HRs with 15 doubles 59 RBIs & a .239 average.

In a May preview of the ALCS, Petrocelli hit two HRs & drove in four runs hitting safely in all three games at the Fenway series sweep. In June he had a five game & six game hit streak driving in 16 runs in the month. He missed over two weeks of action in August, then had a quality return in September. He hit safely in 12 of the last 15 games, with 3 HRs & 15 RBIs in the month.

Post Season: In Game #2 of the ALCS he hit a HR off Oakland’s Rollie but only hit .167 overall in the series. In the classic 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, he opened up Game #1 with two hits a double, a walk & a pair of RBIs in the Red Sox win. In that game Luis Tiant shut out the Reds & Don Gullet on a five hitter.

Petrocelli had two hits in each of the first three games, hitting safely in the first four. He drove in the second run of the game off Gullett in the Sox three run 3rd inning. Overall he hit .308 (8-26) with three walks, driving in four runs against the Big Red Machine.

He played in 85 games & then retired after the 1976 season, as Butch Hobson took over third base. In his 13 year career, Petrocelli hit .251 with 1352 hits, 210 HRs 237 doubles 22 triples 653 runs scored 773 RBI and a .332 on base% in 1553 games.

He posted a .969 fielding percentage at short stop (93rd all time) & a .970 fielding% at third base (5th best all time). He was inducted to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997.

Retirement: After his playing days, Petrocelli was a Red Sox radio broadcaster in 1979. He also hosted a TV game show for Candlepin Bowling (1980-1983). He was also a manager for the Red Sox minor league AAA ball Pawtucket team, in 1992.

He now runs Petrocelli Sports which handles speaking engagements & sports memorabilia functions.

He also heads the Petrocelli Marketing Group that sells customizes shirts & promotional products. Earlier in the sixties he opened up a small chain of gas stations with other Red Sox players.

Jun 25, 2015

One Time Mets Shortstop: Tony Fernandez (1993)

Octavio Antonio (Castro) Fernandez was born on June 30, 1962 in San Pedro de Marcos, in the Dominican Republic.

He was one of many Dominican shortstops, to come up to the big leagues in the seventies/ eighties period. Fernandez was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1979 playing four years in the minor leagues before making his brief MLB debut in 1983.

Two seasons later, he was the Blue Jays regular shortstop & stayed there for the next five seasons (1985-1990). He was a fine defensive shortstop, winning four straight Gold Gloves from 1986-1989 setting a record for AL short stops with a .992 fielding percentage in 1989. He led the American league in fielding percentage & assists twice, as well as put outs three times.

He was famous for throwing the ball underhanded to first base, on shots hit to his right side. The tall six foot, two, 165 pond Fernandez ,was always in top shape and was a fitness fanatic.

He loved to buy unusual work out machines and use them in the Jays clubhouse. Fernandez made four All Star teams (1986-1987/1989/1992) & was always among the league’s tops in games, at bats & triples.

He led the league in triples in 1990 with an incredible 17.  He was a good hitter as well, batting over .300 twice, finishing in the league’s top ten in hitting in both the 1986 & 1987 seasons. In 1986 he had a career high 213 hits (third in the AL), while leading the AL in at bats (687) & games played (162). In 1987 he had career highs in batting (.322) on base % (.379) . He played in two ALCS with the Blue Jays in those years hitting well over .300 both times.

In December of 1990 he was involved in a huge trade going to the San Diego Padres with Fred McGriff in exchange for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. He spent two seasons there batting .270 while the Blue Jays went on to win the 1992 World Series.

In October of 1992, Fernandez was traded to the New York Mets for Wally Whitehurst , D.J. Dozier & a player to be named later.

Fernandez hit in the number two spot & was the Mets 0pening day shortstop in 1993, hitting safely in six of his first eight games. His stay in New York was short, after only playing in 48 games he was hitting a weak .225 with one HR, five doubles, two triples & 14 RBIs.

That June he was sent back to Toronto, in exchange for Darrin Jackson. Fernandez arrived in Toronto just in time for the pennant race and went on to win his World Series title.

Post Season: In the 1993 ALCS he hit well batting .318, (7-22) while walking twice & driving in a run against the Chicago White Sox.

In the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, he had nine RBIs going 7-21 (.333) with two runs scored in the six games.

He would move on to the Cincinnati Reds (1994) & the AL New York team (1995) over the next two years. He missed all of the 1996 season but in 1997 he signed on with the Cleveland Indians.

There he switched over to second base, after Carlos Baerga had been sent to the Mets. His career was revived on the A.L. Champion Indians team, batting .286 with 21 doubles, a career high matching 11 HRs & 44 RBIs.

He had another hot hitting post season, batting .357 in the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles. He then hit .471 in the World Series loss to the Florida Marlins. In Game #7 in the bottom of the 11th inning, he made a crucial error on Craig Counsell's ground ball. This led to the Marlins eventual Series winning run on Edgar Renteria's walk off base hit scoring Counsell.

He went back to Toronto in 1998 and spent two seasons there hitting well over .300 both times, amongst the league’s top hitters. He played in Japan for the 2000 season. In 2001 he was back in the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers and finished his career back in Toronto later that season.

In his 17 year career, he hit .288 with 2276 hits 414 doubles 92 triples 94 HRs 1957 runs scored 844 RBIs & a .347 on base %.

He has the 9th best fielding % at short stop all time at .980%. He has played in 1573 games there (51st all time) with 2708 put outs (59th all time) 4511 assists (63rd all time) & turned 943 double plays (44th all time).

Short Time Mets Outfielder Willie Harris (2011)

William Charles Harris was born on June 22nd, 1978 in Cairo, Georgia the same hometown of Jackie Robinson. The five foot nine Harris attended Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw Georgia.

In 1999 he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 24th round. Harris never showed much power, even in the minor leagues. In 2001 he batted .305 at AA Bowie getting pushed up to the majors for a brief nine games in September. The next season he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Chris Singleton. At AAA Charlotte in 2002 he to hit .283 and was brought up for 49 games where he hit .233. He had a strong minor league start in 2003 batting .380 in 28 games getting back to the Sox big league club where he hit just .204.

In 2004 he became a regular outfielder in Chicago batting .262 but hit just 2 HRs with 15 doubles & 27 RBIs in 129 games. He was part of the White Sox 2005 World Series team, scoring the winning run in Game #4 after singling off Houston's Brad Lidge, he scored on Jermaine Dye's base hit in the 8th inning.

The journey man then moved on to Boston (2006) & Atlanta (2007) where he became the first Braves player since Felix Millan to have a six hit day. In that game on July 21st 2007 he was 6-6 with two triples & six RBIs. The next year he joined the Washington Nationals where he would play for three seasons as an everyday outfielder.

In 2008 he had his best season hitting 13 HRs with 14 doubles 43 RBIs & batting .251. His numbers diminished over the next two years, as he was only batting .183 in 2010 although he did hit ten HRs. He was granted free agency & signed on with the New York Mets in a one year deal for 2011.

Harris debuted with the Mets on Opening Day 2011 as he batted second & played left field getting two hits in Florida against the Marlins. Over the next two days he drove in two runs in each game and hit safely in every game of the first week. From there on he struggled falling to the .203 mark by the last week of May. After driving in a run during the subway series matchups on May 22nd it took him another whole month before he had another RBI.

In September he hit his second HR of the year, it came in St. Louis in a game against the Cardinals. In the final month he drove in six runs finishing the year with 23 RBIs, while batting .246 with 2 HRs 11 doubles & 62 strike outs in 240 at bats. Harris did draw 36 walks & posted a .351 on base %, fifth on the ball club. He was granted free agency at the end of the year & signed with the Cincinnati Reds.

Harris began the year with the Reds but hit just .114 through June & was shipped to the minors. He spent the rest of 2012 at AAA Louisville, batting .224 with 3 HRs & 20 RBIs.

In his 12 year career; he batted .238 with 580 hits 39 HRs 100 doubles 24 triples 212 RBIs & a .327 on base %. In the outfield he posted a .987 fielding % with 16 assists in 567 games.

Former 1970's Italian / American Pitcher: Dick Drago (1969-1981)

Richard Anthony Drago was born on June 25th in Toledo, Ohio. The six foot one, right hander attended the University of Detroit, getting signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1965.

He would win 15 games in each of three consecutive minor league seasons, beginning in A ball (1966) right through AAA Toledo in 1968. It was a thrill for Drago to be pitching in his home town with the Toledo Mud hens.

In 1968 he was the 31st pick in the expansion draft, chosen by the Kansas City Royals. In his first season he went 11-13 with a 3.77 ERA, second in both categories to Wally Bunker on the Royals staff. After a 9-15 season in 1970 he had his best season as a starter in 1971. He went 17-11 with a 2.98 ERA, throwing 15 complete games, striking out 109 batters in 241 innings of work, with four shut outs. That season he finished up fifth in the Cy Young voting behind Vida Blue, Mickey Lolich, Wilbur Wood and Dave McNally.

On July 30, 1971 he took a loss to the Baltimore Orioles, in a strange rain shortened five inning game. Drago only pitched four innings as Frank Robinson's HR ended up being the difference. Drago won 12 games in each of the next two seasons, although he posted losing records both years. He tied with Paul Splittorff for most wins in 1972 on the Royals staff.

In October 1973 Drago was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Marty Pattin. His 53 complete games with the Royals still ranks him 5th all time on the club.

He went 7-10 with a 3.48 ERA in his first season in Boston. Drago had always worked out of the bullpen as well, & by the time he got to the Red Sox he was becoming a full time reliever. In 1975 he led the A.L. Champion Red Sox in saves with 15 (5th most in the league), going 2-2 with a 3.84 ERA while finishing 34 games (9th most in the league).

Post Season: In the ALCS sweep over the Oakland A's, Drago recorded two saves in the three games, including one in the final game at Oakland. In 4.2 innings he posted a 0.00 ERA.

In Game #2 of the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, he came in relief of Spaceman Bill Lee in the 9th inning with Johnny Bench on second base & no one out in a 2-1 game, at Fenway Park. After getting Tony Perez & George Foster out, he surrendered a game tying single to Dave Concepcion. Ken Griffey then doubled what was the games winning run.

He appeared again in the classic Game #6 at Fenway, pitching three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit from the 9th through the 11th innings after Bernie Carbo tied the game with a grand slam HR. Catcher Carlton Fisk won the game on his classic, dramatic walk off HR in the bottom of the 12th.

Quotes: Dick Drago as told to the Providence Journal: Bernie hit that ball into the center field seats, and I just remember kind of jumping up and down on the bullpen mound when it happened to tie the game up, and I'm thinking to myself, "Okay, all of a sudden I'm in a game that's tied up in the sixth game of the World Series, and I'm coming in to pitch and everything is now on the line.

So all of a sudden my game face has to change and I have to get that little fire in you. I faced three future Hall of Famers, back to back to back. I think it was Rose, Bench and Perez in the top of the ninth, and retired them in order ."

On July 20, 1976 he served up the final HR in Hank Aarons career, his HR #755 in 6-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at County Stadium. Drago would pitch with the Red Sox through 1980, winning a best ten games (10-6) with 13 saves in 1979. He finished his career with the Seattle Mariners in 1981.

In his 13 year career, he was 108-117 with 58 saves in 519 games (189 starts). He struck out 987 batters while walking 558 in 1875 innings pitched.

Retirement: Drago now lives in Tampa, Florida. He helps promote a baseball book as a fundraiser called "Glove of Their Own".

Jun 22, 2015

Remembering Former Met Darryl Hamilton (1965-2015)

Last night on June 21st, 2015 former New York Mets player Darryl Hamilton was found shot dead multiple times outside of Houston. It appears that Hamilton was killed by his girl friend Monica Jordan, 44, who was found in another part of the house, dead with a self inflicted gun shot.

The event happened in am expensive suburb outside of Houston at Pearland Texas. The Houston Chronicle reports that Police originally were responding to a domestic dispute, but upon arrival found Hamilton dead just inside the front door.

The couple lived together with her two children & their nine month old baby. Hamilton has two sons from his prior marriage to model Ursaline Steinke.

On the day he was killed, he wished everyone a Happy Fathers Day on his social media site, with a picture of his two sons.

Hamilton was a member of the 1999 NL Wild Card Champion Mets team & the 2000 NL Champion Mets team. He was a very valuable all around player & pinch hitter.

He was a good guy & a very popular player with his teammates & fans alike. He was just 50 years old.

The Mets issued this statement: “We are saddened by the tragic death of Darryl Hamilton. Darryl’s vibrant personality made him a key member of our postseason teams in 1999 and 2000. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

A moment of silence was held at Citi Field before the Mets, Reds game the following Friday night, after the Mets returned from their road trip.