Jul 27, 2015

Early Eighties Mets Outfielder: Ellis Valentine (1981-1982)

Ellis Clarence Valentine was born on July 30, 1954 in Helena, Arizona. The six foot four, right handed hitting outfielder went to high school in Los Angeles getting drafted by the Montreal Expos in the second round in 1972.

Within three years he flew through the minors & was batting .306 at AAA Memphis with 13 HRs when he got a call up. Valentine made his MLB debut on September 3rd, 1975 in Philadelphia going hitless in three at bats. He played in 12 games at the end of the 1975 season batting an impressive .364.

In the bicentennial year he played in the outfield alongside Gary Carter & Bombo Rivera but he was batting just .238 in June & was sent down to tune up at AAA Denver. He returned to put in a good enough year batting .279

Ron Leflore, Ellis Valentine & Gary Carter
It didn't take the league long to see that Valentine had a rocket launcher for an arm.

His manager Dick Williams boasted, he had the best arm in the NL & compared it to Roberto Clemente’s. That season he finished fourth in the NL with 12 assists.

In 1977 the Expos failed to lure Reggie Jackson to Canada through free agency, and decided to go with their home grown talented young outfield, Andre Dawson, Warren Cromarte & Ellis Valentine. On April 15th he hit the first HR ever hit in the brand new Olympic Stadium.

Over the next three seasons Valentine would hit over 20 HRs, drive in 75 runs or more, get over 150 hits, 28 doubles & steal at least 13 bases. His defense in the outfield was one of the best in baseball. Valentine was originally a center fielder but then switched to right field in 1977. He made the All Star team that year, going 0-1 with a walk in the National Leagues 7-5 win in New York.

In 1978 & 1979 he won the Gold Glove Award, while leading the league with 24 assists in '78. The Expos became true contenders winning 90 games in 1979 & 1980, finishing up in second place both years under skipper Dick Williams.

In 1980 Valentine was having a great start until he was hit in the cheekbone with a pitch and missed 40 games. That injury may have cost the Epos their playoff hopes, in 86 games he hit .315 with 13 HRs & 67 RBIs.

In the strike shortened 1981 season, they made their first post season. That year Valentine started off slow batting just .211 in 22 games & rumors about him using drugs began to swirl. After the first part of the year he was traded to the New York Mets for Jeff Reardon & Dan Norman. The Expos beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS &lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers on the NLCS. It was their only post season appearance in franchise history.

Ellis Valentine debuted as a Met on June 7th at the Houston Astrodome, batting 5th & playing left field. In his first game at Shea Stadium he had two hits & drove in a run in a 8-4 loss against the Cincinnati Reds. After that Series the baseball strike happened for the next two months. Upon returning he hit safely in eight of the next ten games.

Valentine & Mets Manager Joe Torre
On August 19th he homered off the Atlanta Braves Tommy Boggs and hit another ten days later. They were the only two HRs he hit that month.

One of his biggest days as a Met came at Wrigley field on September 24th. He hit two HRs that day driving in five runs, in the Mets 10-9 loss to the Cubs. In 48 games that season he only batted .207 with 5 HRs 8 doubles 21 RBIs & a poor .227 on base %.

In 1982 he was penciled in as the Mets everyday right fielder, alongside a young Mookie Wilson & veteran George Foster. It looked good on paper but Foster & Valentine disappointed as the Mets finished a disappointing sixth. Valentine was limited to 111 games, batting .288 but his power never came back, he did not hit his first HR until May 24th.

That week he hit three HRs, all in Mets victories closing out the month with three straight two RBI games.

On June 14th he hit a two run HR scoring both Mets runs helping Pete Falcone beat Pittsburgh's Don Robinson. On August 22nd he drove in four runs in Atlanta although the Mets still fell short 10-9.

Overall he hit just 8 HRs with 14 doubles & 48 RBIs posting a .294 on base %. He played a quality defense throwing out 12 base runners with his strong arm & posted a .983 fielding %. The Mets chose not to resign Valentine after the 1982 season, and he signed with the California Angels.

Valentines career had fallen apart by this time, he became a reserve outfielder batting only .240. He was out of baseball in 1984 except for four minor league games, then returned for one season with the Texas Rangers playing in just 11 games batting .211.

He finished a once promising career with a 278 batting average, 881 hits 123 HRs 169 doubles 474 RBIs & a .315 on base %. In 856 games he posted a .972 on base % with 85 outfield assists.

Retirement: After baseball he struggled with his substance abuse problems & was working in a car rental place, making just $4.50 an hour.

He eventually straightened out his life and began working with youngsters in the A.V. Light Foundation. Today he is a counselor for a Church located in Grand Prarie Texas.

Late Nineties Mets Reserve Outfielder Turned Coach: Wayne Kirby (1998)

Wayne Leonard Kirby was born January 22nd, 1964 in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. The five foot eleven left hand hitting out fielder was signed out of an Apprentice School in 1983 by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 13th round.

Kirby spent  eight years in the Dodgers minor leagues before getting put on waivers & signed with the Cleveland Indians. He debuted at age 27 playing 21 games with the Indians in 1991. He spent six years in Cleveland, playing as a regular in 1993. That year he batted .269 with 123 hits, 19 doubles, 5 triples, 6 HRs, 60 RBIs & 17 stolen bases in 131 games. He was a fine defensive outfielder, making a league leading 19 assists. He also turned in five double plays & posted a .979 fielding %.

The next year he hit .293 in 78 games but then fell to .207 in 101 games in 1995 for the AL Champion Indians. He got two post season hits in seven at bats, playing 11 games in the ALDS, ALCS & World Series combined.

The next year he was placed on waivers & was signed by the L.A. Dodgers, making an NLDS appearance. After two years in L.A. where he hit .271 in 65 games in 1996 & then just .169 in 46 games the next year. In 1997  he was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals. After playing in their minors, he was traded to the New York Mets for Shan Gilbert.

Kirby arrived to debut with the Mets on June 11th as a defensive sub. He got a start the next day, going 0-4 in a 4-3 loss to the Florida Marlins. Two days later, he came into the game in the 6th inning & got two hits in three at bats. On June 25th Kirby hit a pinch hit triple in the bottom of the 7th inning, during an inter league game with the Baltimore Orioles. He tied the game when Mike Piazza scored him on sac fly. The Mets went on to a 3-2 win, on a Carlos Baerga walk off hit.

Kirby got one more start & went 1-4 on July1st in Toronto against his old Blue Jays team mates. By the end of July he was sent back down to AAA Norfolk. He finished the year playing in 33 games batting .194 (6-31) with five runs scored. 

After the season he was released & then played in the minors through 2001. In his eight year career he hit .252 with 302 hits 51 doubles 14 HRs 119 RBIs 44 steals & a .309 on base %.

Retirement: Kirby became an outfield base running coach for the Texas Rangers. In 2011 he became the first base coach for the Baltimore Orioles. He has held that position for the past five seasons.

Family: Wayne, his wife & two daughters live in Las Vegas. His brother is Terry Kirby who played in the NFL (1993-2002) FOR Miami, San Francisco, Cleveland & Oakland.

Jul 26, 2015

Short Time New York Mets First Baseman: Brian Buchanan (2004)

Brian James Buchanan was born on July 21, 1973 in Miami Florida. The tall six foot four switch hitter attended the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, Virginia. The outfielder hit .322 in 1993 as a sophomore. 

In 1994 he made All American batting .396 with 22 HRs & 66 RBIs. He was selected as a number one pick for the A.L. New York team (the 24th pick overall). He remained in their organization through 1997 when he hit .309 at AA Norwich.

He was traded to the Minnesota Twins organization making it to the big leagues by May 2000. He debuted against the Athletics in Oakland playing right field. In Mid June he was sent back down after hitting .224 with one HR & four RBIs. He returned in September then made the club out of Spring Training the next season, playing 69 games while batting .274.

The next year he was traded to the San Diego Padres for Jason Bartlett. He was the Padres main utility player in 2003, getting into 115 games batting .263 with 8 HRs & 29 RBIs.

On May 10th he hit a two run HR against Al Leiter & the New York Mets in a 4-2 Mets win. On August 3rd he broke up an extra inning 2-2 tie in Philadelphia, with a three run HR off Jose Mesa in the 10th inning for the game winner.

In August of 2004 he was granted free agency & signed with the New York Mets. Buchanan debuted with the Mets as a pinch hitter, going hitless, on August 26th at Shea Stadium against his old Padres team mates. 

On August 29th he played in his second & final game as a New York Met. He batted sixth & played a full game at first base going 0-2 with a walk in a 10-2 Mets loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He remained on the club until October when he was granted free agency.

He played in the Minnesota Twins, Cincinnati Reds & Kansas City Royals organizations through 2009. He also had stops in Japan & in an Independent League before beginning a managerial career. 

Retirement: In 2010 he began managing in the Kansas City Royals organization. First with the Idaho Falls Chukars (2010-2012) then A ball Kane County Cougars. In 2013-2014 he managed the A ball Lexington Legends.

In his five year MLB playing career he batted .258 with 198 hits 32 HRs 37 doubles a .328 on base % & 103 RBIs in 346 games.

Jul 24, 2015

Remembering Mets History: (1980) Claudell Washington Hits Three HRs In Los Angeles

Sunday June 22, 1980: Joe Torre’s fifth place Mets (28-35) took on Tommy Lasorda’s second place Dodgers (38-28) at Dodger Stadium. A good crowd of 43,000 settled in to see New York's John Pacella take on L.A.'s Dave Goltz.

Claudell Washington started out the Mets 1st with a  two run HR, his first of the day. John Pacella allowed two runs in the second & was removed as manager Joe Torre replaced him with Mark Bomback. 

The Mets struck again in the 4th when short stop, Jose Moreno (Moreno had a brief 37 game stint with the 1980 Mets) tripled home Steve Henderson & John Stearns.  Then in the 5th Eliott Maddox singled, and Claudell Washington hit his second HR of the day, putting New York up 7-3. 

But he wasn’t done yet, in the top of the 7th with knuckleball pitcher; Charlie Hough on the mound, Claudell hit his third HR of the afternoon, sealing the 9-6 Mets victory. Mark Bomback who was now 4-1 on the season.

The HRs were only Washington’s second, third & fourth of the season. He became the third Met in team history to have a three HR day. Jim Hickman did it 1965 & Dave Kingman did it in 1976. Washington was a speedy outfielder who came up with the Oakland A's in 1974, he won a World Series there, then went to the Texas Rangers & Chicago White Sox. On June 7, 1980 he was traded to the Mets for minor leaguer Jesse Anderson. 
This was Washington’s biggest day as a Met, with four hits three HRs and five RBIs. It was his only season with the Mets playing in 72 games, batting .275 with 10 HRs, 42 RBIs, 16 doubles and 17 stolen bases. He wasn't happy in New York, opted for free agency at the end of the year & went to the Atlanta Braves.

Former Italian / American Player & The Sausage King of Georgia: Biff Pocoroba (1975-1984)

Biff Benedict Pocoroba was born on July 25, 1953 in Burbank, California. To everyone's surprise, his actual name on his birth certificate is Biff.

The five foot ten inch catcher, was signed in the seventeenth round of the 1971 amateur draft by the Atlanta Braves.

In 1975 he began to get some attention when he threw out eleven straight would be base stealers during Braves Spring Training.

He made the Braves squad that year, backing up catcherVic Correl who only hit .215. Pocoroba would see action in 67 games, batting .255 with 7 doubles 1 HR & 22 RBIs. Defensively he had a rougher time than in Spring Training, throwing out only 17% of base stealers while getting charged with 13 passed balls.

His defense got better as he went along, throwing out 34% of the base runners attempting to steal the next two seasons. By 1977 he was the Braves main catcher, batting .290 with 24 doubles, 8 HRs & 44 RBIs. In May he hit a walk off grand slam HR to beat the Montreal Expos at Fulton County Stadium.

All Star: He had a good start in 1978 and represented the lowly Braves in that years All Star Game, catching the whole 9th inning as a defensive replacement. He didn’t get an at bat, but caught the final out of the game from teammate Phil Niekro. The main reason Pocoroba was added to the roster by NL Manager Tommy Lasorda was to handle Niekro's famous knuckle ball. He finished the year batting only .242, with 6 HRs & 34 RBIs.

Biff’s 1978 baseball card was always one of my favorites, he looks like real old time catcher, a cheek full of tobacco squinting into the sun, as he adjusts his catcher’s mask to go over his cap. Like many catchers of the era, Biff didn’t wear a batting helmet under his mask, as it hadn’t become a rule yet. That card also features the classic blue Braves uniform with that red, white & blue feather on the sleeve.

In 1979 Pocoroba batted .316 playing in just 28 games. He injured himself & needed rotator cuff surgery which ruined any chances of him being a top player. He stayed with the Braves for six more seasons as a backup catcher & third baseman.

He retired in 1984 after only four games at the young age of 30. In his ten year career he batted .257 with 374 hits 21 HRs 71 doubles 172 RBIs & a .339 on base %. Defensively he threw out 34% of would be base stealers, posting a .982 fielding %.

Retirement: In 1988 he & his brothers, started the Detailed Sausage World Inc. Company in Lilburn Georgia. For the past twenty five years his business has been a huge success, raking in over a half a million dollars a year while only employing five people.

Pocoroba serves as the President of the company known as Sausage World Inc, that makes every kind of sausage from sweet basil Italian sausage, links of pepperoni, bratwurst, knockwurst, kielbasa, & Andouille.

Jul 22, 2015

2006 N.L. Eastern Champion Mets Pitcher Who Once Was Chased Off the Mound By Mike Piazza: Guillermo Mota (2006-2007)

Guillermo Reynoso Mota was born on July 25, 1973, in the Dominican Republic. The six foot six right hander, was originally signed by the Mets as a third baseman in 1990 right out of high school.

He played with the Kingsport, Gulf Coast & St. Lucie Mets where he was transformed to a pitcher because he struck out way too often as a hitter.

In 2006 he was taken by the Montreal Expos in the Rule five draft. After three seasons there, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Drama: It was with the Dodgers he became famous for an incident where he was chased off the mound & into the dugout by Mike Piazza. Mota had thrown a pitch at Piazza in Spring Training at a Vero Beach.

Piazza grabbed him by the neck, as Mota was getting taken out of the game down by the first base line. Piazza yelled at him without throwing any punches.

A year later at another Spring Training matchup in Port St. Lucie, the two faced off again. The Dodgers had Mota pitch a second inning of work, possibly just to pitch to Piazza. On the very first pitch Mota came inside, on the second pitch he threw a fastball toward Piazza's head.

Piazza dropped his bat & charged the mound like a madman. Mota threw his glove at him & ran off the field to hide in the dugout.

Piazza was held back by Dodgers & Mets players, but had a certain look in his eye never seen before. Jeremy Burnitz went after Mota as he ran to the dugout, so did Joe Mcewing & Ty Wiggington as well. It was probably the angriest Mike Piazza ever was on a baseball field.

In July 2004 Mota was involved in a big trade, sending him along with Juan Encarnacion and Paul Lo Duca to the Florida Marlins for Hee-Seop Choi, Bill Murphy and Brad Penny. He went 1-4 with three saves posting a 3.81 ERA.

After the 2005 season he was in the middle of another big trade, going to the Boston Red Sox, with pitcher Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell for, Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado,& Harvey Garcia. He never pitched in Boston, as the journeyman was traded to the Cleveland Indians where he was 1-3 with an ERA over six & was released.

In August of 2006 the New York Mets gave him a shot and signed him. Amazingly he ended up pitching well for the rest of the season. Mota debuted as a Mets pitcher, on August 22nd in relief of John Maine in an 8-7 win. On September 1st he earned his first Mets win, it came against the Houston Astros, pitching a scoreless seventh inning.

On September 12th he earned a victory against his old Florida Marlins team mates & on the last day of the season he earned his third victory in Washington D.C. He was 3-0 with an ERA of 1.00 in 18 games, making the post season roster as one of two set men for Billy Wagner.

Post Season: In Game #1 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he allowed three runs in the top of the 7th inning, but still earned the victory as the Mets held on for the 6-5 win. in Game #3, he pitched two scoreless innings at Dodger Stadium as the Mets went on to sweep the series.

Mota appeared in five of the seven NLCS Games against the St. Louis Cardinals, posting a 4.15 ERA allowing two runs in 4.2 innings pitched. In Game #2 he blew a two run lead in the 6th inning & was credited with a blown save. With two outs he allowed a single to Albert Pujols & a walk to Jim Edmonds. Then Scott Spezio tripled, driving in both runs to tie the game, as the Mets would lose in the 9th inning.

Just prior to the 2007 season, Mota was suspended for fifty games for violating baseballs drug treatment plan, testing positive for steroids. He returned to Shea Stadium in June appearing in 52 games, going 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA.

He struggled, pitching poorly and the fans let him have it. He was getting booed every time he appeared & was gone by the end of the season.

He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Johnny Estrada who never suited up in a Mets uniform. Mota went 5-6 in Milwaukee, then went back to the Dodgers in 2009.

Drama: That season he hit his ex-teammate Prince Fielder, with a pitch and it did not go over well. Fielder tried to go after Mota in the clubhouse, but was stopped by security guards. Mota was never the most popular guy on the field and was generally looked at as a coward.

In 2010 he signed on with the San Francisco Giants & went on to two World's Championships with them as a middle reliever.

Post Season: He made one appearance in the 2010 World Series, against the Texas Rangers pitching 2.1 scoreless innings.

In 2012 he made one appearance in the NLDS & one in the NLCS allowing two runs each time. He did not get an appearance in the World Series.

He was granted free agency but was not signed by any team in the off season. In his 14 year career Mota was 39-45 with ten saves, 696 strike outs & 331 walks in 743 games with a 3.94 ERA.

Late Sixties Mets Outfielder: Don Bosch (1967-1968)

Donald John Bosch was born on July 15, 1942 in San Francisco, California.

The five foot ten switch hitting outfielder was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960. Bosch hit .332 at A ball Kinston in 1963, then showed some power hitting 15 HRs at AA Asheville in 1964. He was touted as being a good centerfielder with a big future ahead of him.

He played three brief games for Pittsburgh in 1966, before getting traded to the New York Mets along with pitcher Don Cardwell in exchange for Dennis Ribant and Gary Kolb.

Bosch was a centerfielder with a bit of speed, but never hit too well in the major leagues. He arrived in New York with expectations to solidify the Mets centerfield position, which had been occupied by a young Cleon Jones who was more of a corner outfielder. Right away Bosch made a bad impression with his pre mature grey hair & small size.

He was the 1967 Mets Opening Day leadoff man; getting a single in his first at bat & scoring the Mets first run of the year. Bosch the struggled mightily; he was only batting .168 with no HRs & one RBI by early June when he was sent back to AAA Jacksonville. He hit .263 with 5 HRs & 31 RBIs there playing in 90 games.

He returned to the Mets in September, but still didn’t hit, finishing with a .140 average on the season, no HRs three stolen bases & two RBIs in 44 games with 101 at bats. He made the club again in 1968, but Tommie Agee, was now the center fielder & Bosch was just a reserve outfielder.

On June 14th he hit his first career HR, it came against the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium. Bosch hit another HR the next day in the first game of a double header. He then hit his third Mets HR in a Fourth of July double header at Shea Stadium in a 3-2 loss against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He remained on the club until August when he was sent back down to AAA Jacksonville where he hit .298 the rest of the way.

For the Mets in 1968 he only hit .171 with three HRs, one double, seven RBIs & a .231 on base %. In October of 1968 his contract was purchased by the expansion Montreal Expos.

Bosch became an original Montreal Expo & came to bat as a pinch hitter in the Expos first ever game, played at Shea Stadium on Opening Day 1969.

A few days later on April 14, 1969 he made history when he scored the first MLB run outside the United States at Montreal’s Jarry Park. He had led off the bottom of the first with hit, scoring (along with Rusty Staub) on a Mack Jones three run HR.

He played 49 games for the Expos, hitting a career best .179 with one HR & four RBIs. He played his last MLB game on July 9th as he was shut down with an injury. Bosch spent 1970 at AAA Buffalo & Oklahoma City ending his playing career.

In his four season MLB career he hit .164 with 52 hits, four HRs, six doubles, one triple, five stolen bases, a .217 on base %, 13 RBIs & 34 runs scored in 146 games played.

Jul 20, 2015

One Time Mets Pitcher (1974) & Mets Minor Legue Manager (1975-1982): Jack Aker

Jackie Delane Aker was born July 13, 1940 in Tulare, California. The six foot two right hander, went to high school in Visalia California, where the Mets future farm team the Visalia Mets would play.

Aker was originally an outfielder when he got signed by the Kansas City Athletics in 1959. He was converted into a pitcher the next year & won double figures over the next two seasons. By 1963 he was 6-1 with a 1.24 ERA at A ball Lewiston, getting pushed right up to AAA Portland. After going 3-4 at AAA Dallas the next year he was brought up making his MLB debut in 1964.

He would spend four years in Kansas City with the A's then moved to Oakland with the franchise to pitch there in 1968.

In 1966, he was voted the A.L. Fireman of the Year by the Sporting News, leading the league in saves (32) & games finished (57) going 8-4 while posting a 1.99 ERA. He fell to 3-8 the next year and his ERA rose to 4.30, although he still saved 12 games (seventh in the A.L.). In Oakland in 1968, he was 4-4 with 11 saves (seventh in the A.L.) but then was chosen in the expansion draft by the Seattle Pilots.

His stay was brief with the Pilots, but he did earn a save in the team's first game on April 8th 1969 at California against the Angels. He would go 0-2 with three saves, before getting traded to the A.L. New York team in mid May for Fred Talbot. Talbot was 1-9 the previous season.

Aker remained in New York for 3 ½ years posting 16 saves in 1970 (ninth in the A.L.). Aker was in the league’s top ten in saves six times in the late sixties / early seventies and was one of the games better relievers.

He was also very active in the newly formed Players Union and was the team Player rep. in both, Kansas City & New York. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1972, that year his 17 saves led the club & were fifth best in the National League.

He would come back to save 12 more in 1973 but this time was runner up on the team to Bob Locker. Aker was released by the Cubs & picked up by the Atlanta Braves in January 1974. That June the New York Mets purchased his contract.

He was placed right in the Mets bullpen & debuted as a Met on June 16th pitching the 9th inning of a 7-1 Mets loss to the Dodgers. At the end of June he earned a win pitching two scoreless innings at his old park, Wrigley Field. Aker then earned a save on July 2nd at Philadelphia, & another ten days later at Dodger Stadium.

On July 29th he would earn his last career victory, pitching two scoreless innings against the Montreal Expos in relief of George Stone & Bob Miller at Shea Stadium. At the end of August he strained his back & missed three weeks of action. He finished the year with the Mets at 2-1 with two saves, 18 strike outs, 14 walks and a 3.48 ERA in 41 innings pitched in 24 appearances.

Aker finished his 11 year playing career at the end of that season, he was lifetime 47-45 with 123 saves, 321 games finished, 404 strike outs 274 walks and a 3.28 ERA in 746 innings in 495 games.

Retirement: He remained in the Mets organization and went on to manage the Visalia Mets in 1975 near his hometown. Then he moved up to the AA Lynchburg Mets (1976-1980) winning the Carolina League Championship in 1978.

In 1981 he moved up to AAA Tidewater (1981 -1982) winning the International League Championship in 1982. He was replaced by Davey Johnson.

Aker went on to become pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians (1985-1988) then opened the Jack Aker baseball Academy to teach young children. He taught at risk Native Americans on reservations in 1997 and was honored by President Clinton for his efforts.

In 2001 his wife won 25,000 on the game show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”. Today they are retired living in New Jersey, enjoying that money.

Former New York Giants Infielder: Daryl Spencer (1952-1953 / 1956-1957)

Daryl Dean Spencer was born on July 13th 1928 in Wichita, Kansas. The six foot two right handed infielder, known as "Big Dee" was a local boy all the way. He attended East High in Wichita & Wichita State University as well.

He had his contract purchased by the New York Giants in 1950 & got a late season call up, for seven games with the Giants in 1952. In 1953 he played behind Hank Thompson at third, Alvin Dark at short & Davey Williams at second base. He got into 118 games and showed a lot of power with 20 HRs 18 doubles & 56 RBIs but only hit .208.

On May 4th he hit a grand slam HR off the Reds Clyde King, as New York beat Cincinnati 12-5 in the Polo Grounds. On June 3rd, he hit a pair of HRs in a big 11-3 win over those same Reds. Two weeks later he had another two HR day against the St. Louis Cardinals. From July 23rd through July 5th he hit five HRs & drove in ten runs. At the end of July, Spencer had yet another game where he blasted two HRs.

He was drafted into the Military serving two years in the Korean War, missing the Giants Championship season in 1954. He returned in 1956 replacing Alvin Dark as the regular shortstop over the last two seasons the Giants played in New York. He had double figures in HRs both seasons, with a career high 31 doubles in 1957. Spencer would also be in double figures in HRs for seven years, from 1953-1956. He would lead the league in errors for two straight seasons but was among the tops in turning double plays as well.

He played in the Giants last game at the Polo Grounds going hitless. On April 15th he became the first Giants player to hit a HR in San Francisco, as he hit a solo shot off Don Drysdale in the first game ever played on the West Coast. The Giants won it 8-0.

That year he adjusted well to the West Coast, driving in a career high 74 runs, hitting 17 HRs with 20 doubles batting .256. After the 1959 season he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals with Leon Wagner in exchange for Don Blasingame.

In 1960 he was the Cards main short stop, making the second most errors in the league. In May he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Bob Lillis & Carl Warwick. 

He would be the Dodgers main third baseman in 1961 & 1962 until Ken McMullen took over in 1963. That season he was released by L.A. & went to the Cincinnati Reds where he ended his career, after being released on his birthday.

In a ten year career he batted ..244 with 901 hits 105 HRs 145 doubles 20 triples 428 RBIs & a .327 on base %. On the field he played 558 games at short stop, 322 games at second & 222 games at third. Overall he made 203 errors turning 563 double plays with a .958 fielding %.

Japan: After playing in the majors he went to play seven seasons in Japan with the Hankyu Braves, winning four pennants. He came close to winning a batting title just .009 points away, but did lead the league in walks once.

His hard nose style of base running helped change the way Japanese players stole bases & how catchers handled pitch outs. At the time he set a record for foreign players in Japan hitting 142 career HRs.

Retirement: In 1969 he retired from baseball, then opened a restaurant in Wichita. He went back to Japan, as a player coach getting to two more Japan Series', finally leaving the game in 1972.

Back at Wichita he managed a National Baseball Congress team & worked in public relations for the Wichita AA ball club.

He returned to the Giants in 2008 for the 50th Anniversary of the club in San Francisco.

Jul 16, 2015

Former Mets Coach: Razor Shines (2009-2010)

Anthony Razor Shines was born July 18, 1956 in Durham, South Carolina. He is third of a line of men in the family with the middle name of shines, although he doesn’t know the origin of the name.

Shines spent a good sixteen seasons in the minor leagues; the majority of that time was with the Indianapolis Indians. He resided nearby, became a fan favorite & a local Indianapolis legend. He was so popular that in Charlotte they held “Razor Shines Night” even though he was an opposing player. Shines was originally drafted in 1978 by the Expos as a catcher, but with Gary Carter there he became an outfielder.

Shines got a chance in the majors in 1983 playing in just three games that September. He was so star struck in the big leagues when he was asked what it was like all he could say was: "My Mama's so proud of me. I'm a Major Leaguer!”

He resurfaced in 1984 and hit .300 (6-20) in 12 games, driving in his first two MLB runs. In 1985 he was in the opening day lineup, but would only play in 47 games, a career high, playing in the outfield & at first base.

He only hit .120 and didn’t get back up to the majors until 1987. That was another brief stay, batting .222 in six games. He never made it back to the big leagues, finishing up at .222 in 68 games, never hitting a HR.

After his playing days he coached & managed in the White Sox organization in the Southern, International & Carolina Leagues. He got to four playoff series and won one championship at the A level. Overall Shines has ten Championship rings from working in winning organizations.

In 2007 he was named coach of the Chicago White sox for one season. He went back to the minors and managed another season in the Phillies organization.

When Jerry Manuel secured his job as Mets manager he called Shines, and told him he wanted him as his third base coach. The two had been friend since their playing days together in Montreal.

Shines was the Mets third base coach in 2009 & 2010. He is a very upbeat, enthusiastic type of good natured guy. Many of the young players related well to him & considered him not only a good mentor but a friend.

Trivia: In ’09 he was a spokesperson for Aquafina water, and was called the “third base coach of life” on their web site. 

Shines did not return after the Jerry Manuel era had ended in New York. Since then he has become the manager of the AA Tulsa Drillers, an affiliate of the L.A. Dodgers.
Family: His son Devon Razor Shines was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2011 MLB draft. Devon played for the Oklahoma State Cowboys in 2012 where Razor Sr. was a coach.

Trivia: In 2009 Maxim Magazine awarded him with "the most bad ass name of all time."

Jul 15, 2015

Former Mets Outfielder: Rick Ankiel (2013)

Richard Alexander Ankiel was born on July 19th 1979, in Fort Pierce Florida. The six foot lefthander attended high school in Port St. Lucie, Florida Spring Training home to the New York Mets.

He began his career as a pitcher, getting signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in the second round of the 1997 draft.

He won double figures in his first two minor league seasons, winning the Baseball American Monor League Player of the Year in 1999. After making a one game debut in 1999 he was on the 2000 St. Louis Cardinals NL Central Champions staff.

Ankiel was runner up in the NL Rookie of the Year voting going 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA (9th in the NL) & 194 strike outs (7th in the NL). During the regular season he faced the NL Champion New York Mets just once, pitching seven innings allowing just one run on two hits getting no decision in a 4-3 loss. But it was in the post season everything fell apart for Ankiel.

Post Season: He started Game #3 of the NLDS at home against the Atlanta Braves. He lost all sense of control, setting a record with five wild pitches in the same inning. No one has ever thrown more than three in agame or two in a single inning. He walked six batters in 2.2 innings, allowing four runs on four hits before getting yanked from the game. The Cards bats saved him as they won it 7-5.

In the NLCS against the New York Mets his control didn't get much better. In Game #2 at Shea Stadium he never got out of the 1st inning, as he served up ywo runs on one hit & three walks. He walked Edgardo Alfonzo then served up two wild pitches to Mike Piazza, hitting the back stop no where near the strike zone. Todd Zeile hit a sac fly scoring Alfonzo with the first run.

He then was wild again, much to the amusement of the Shea fans, as they cheered when he got one in the strike zone & laughed aloud as he hit the backstop. After walking Robin Ventura, Benny Agbayani doubled in Piazza. The Mets won it 6-5.

He returned in Game #5, in the final game, as the Mets were leading 6-0 and ready to clinch the NL Pennant. Broadcaster Tim McCarver told the television audience he hoped the Mets fans wouldn't be too hard on Ankiel if he had more troubles.

At Shea, centerfieldmaz was there in the Mezzanine section, as the fans, all revved up in anticipation of the pennant clinching, let Ankiel have it, loudly.

Ankiel walked Mike Bordick, who advanced on Mike Hampton's sac bunt. After Timo Perez struck out, Ankiel lost control worse than ever. He sailed one over the catchers head as Shea erupted in laughter. Another wild pitch followed as Bordick scored another run, as the Shea Faithful went wild. He walked ALfonzo & was relieved, receiving a huge ovation as he left the field.

In 2001 he went 1-2 in six games but walked 25 batters in 24 innings & saw his ERA balloon to over seven. He was sent down to the minors not returning until 2004 for just five games. In the off season he made the surprising announcement that he was retiring fromp itching & converting to the outfield. He hit 21 HRs with 75 RBIs in just 85 games between A ball & AA.

In August of 2007 he returned to St. Louis as an outfielder. In his first game back he hit a three run HR off Doug Brocail in a 5-0 win. Two days later he hit two HRs against the Los Angeles Dodgers, driving in three runs in the 6-1 win. All of a sudden Rick Ankiel was back, this time as a slugger. In 47 games he hit 11 HRs with 8 doubles & 39 RBIs while batting .285.

In 2008 he had his best year hitting 25 HRs with 21 doubles & 71 RBIs. He struck out 100 times batting .264 making eight errors in the outfield (fourth most in the NL). His strong arm, made him one of the best throwing outfielders in the league. On more than one occasion he has thrown perfect strikes from the outfield corner to home plate.

The next year he fell off to a .231 average with just 11 HRs striking out 99 times. He was granted free agency & would go on to play for five different teams in the next three years.

In 2010 he played with the Kansas City Royals (27 games) & Atlanta Braves (47 games) seeing action in as pinch hitter in the NLDS loss to the Dodgers. In 2011 he saw action in 111 games with the Washington Nationals batting .239.

In 2013 he began the season with the Houston Astros, and became the first Astro player to hit a HR as an American League team. But after 25 games he was released while hitting .194. On May 13th he was given a chance by the New York Mets who were in need of an outfielder.

Ankiel debuted with the Mets on May 13th, batting seventh & playing centerfield going 0-3 with a walk & run scored in a 6-3 win in St. Louis. On May 15th he hit a two run HR off Seth Maness, in a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals.

Three days later he hit another HR, a two run shot at Wrigley Field. On May 22nd he had a three hit day in a 7-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, driving in two more runs. Ankiel had two hits with an RBI & a run scored in the four game subway series sweep over the A.L. New York team.

He was batting just .209 & after going hitless in the next five games he fell to .188 & was granted free agency. In March of 2014 he announced his official retirement.

In his eleven year career he hit .240 with 462 hits 76 HRs 101 doubles 251 RBIs & a .302 on base % in 653 games.

In the outfield he had 32 assists with a .979 fielding%. On the mound he was 13-10 with 269 strike outs 130 walks & a 3.90 ERA in 51 games.

Trivia: Ankiel is only the fourth player in history to make at least 40 starts as a pitcher and hit 40 home runs.