Jan 30, 2016

1999 NL Wild Card Mets Reserve Player: Jorge Toca (1999-2001)

Jorge Luis Toca was born on January 7, 1975 in Villa Clara, Cuba. The six foot three, right hand hitting Cuban defector was signed by the New York Mets in 1998 as an amateur free agent.

The first baseman /outfielder quickly got to the Mets big league club, as a September call up during their 1999 Wild Card season. He debuted on September 12th, getting a hit in his first MLB at bat, a single in a 10-3 Mets win at Dodger Stadium. He would play in just four games, going 0-3, being used mostly as a pinch hitter.

In the Mets 2000 NL Pennant season, Toca was at AAA Norfolk  batting .272 getting another September call up. He got into eight games and batted .429 (3-7).

His moment in the sun came on Saturday, September 30th in a game against the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium. Toca hit a line drive bases loaded double to left center field off Javier Vazquez, clearing the bases to help lift New York to a 4-2 victory. The next day he got another pinch closing out the regular season with a 3-2 win at Montreal.

He made no post season appearances but did return in 2001 for 13 games, only batting .176 and not returning to the big leagues again.

Trivia: At the plate Toca held the bat very loosely & on more than one occasion had it fly out of his hands into the stands.

In 2003 his contract was purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates but he was soon released. After minor league stints with four more teams he was found guilty of violating the minor league drug policy & was suspended. He was last seen playing in the Mexican League in 2008.

Jan 29, 2016

Remembering Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane / Jefferson Starship (1941-2016)

This week Rock & Roll lost yet another classic legendary artist. The past few months have been rough in the Rock world as we have lost many great artist, some bigger than others but all have had an impact on music or more importantly to this site to centerfieldmaz.

Paul Kantner was born March 17th, 1941 in San Francisco California. He attended a Catholic High School & then finished three years of College between the University of Santa Clara & San Jose State. At an early age he developed a love for science fiction & music. He dropped out of college to enter the music scene & sing protest songs, as he was a fan of Pete Seeger.

Kantner was a very outspoken political anarchist & counter culture advocate. Early on he was an openly admitting drug user, particularly marijuana & psychedelics. Later in life he changed his tune saying "As you get older and accomplish more things in life in general, you realize that drugs don't help, particularly if you abuse them."

The San Francisco music scene was very happening in the mid sixties & about to explode into helping forge main stream Rock & Roll. Janis Joplin, David Crosby & Jerry Garcia were among the many music people Kantner became friendly with. In 1965 he met Marty Balin who was starting to form the Jefferson Airplane.

Trivia: The name origins of the name Jefferson Airplane is disputed. Some say that it was taken from the slang "Jefferson airplane" which is a home made roach clip using a matchstick to smoke a marijuana joint as it got too small to hold. Jorma Kaukonen said it came from a take on old blues names like Blind Lemon Jefferson.

Kantner & Balin recruited female singer; Signe Toly Anderson into the band in a somewhat ground breaking move that is very much over looked through time. She & Balin would share the lead vocals. Next Kantner reached out to his old guitarist friend from San Jose; Jorma Kaukonen to join as well. Kaukonen then got his old pal from Washington D.C. bassist Jack Cassidy to join next. The Airplanes first drummer was Skip Spence (who went on to form Moby Grape) he was replaced by Spencer Dryden. The band played all the San Francisco music clubs (The Filmore, the Matrix,The Avalon Ballroom) & earned a huge local name for themselves.

In 1966 they released their first album, a folk rock album: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. It sold well going gold even though the band had not played outside of the Bay Area. In October 1966, Signe Anderson became a mother & left the group. Her replacement was an already known female Bay Area singer, who was in a band called the Great Society with her brother in law, Darby Slick.

The chick was Grace Slick, who would help push the Airplane forward into huge commercial success, as she herself would become a pioneeress for Women in Rock & Roll. 

She brought two songs originally written by her "White Rabbit" & Darby Slicks "Somebody to Love". These songs would be huge top ten hits & forever classics breaking the band into the mainstream of the changing music scene.

Their classic 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow, sold a million copies & reached #3 on the charts. The Airplane led the way for the San Francisco groups, along with Janis Joplin (Big Brother & the Holding Co.), the Grateful Dead, Santana, Quick Silver Messenger Service, the Beau Brummels, Sly & Family Stone, Blue Cheer, Country Joe & the Fish, the Steve Miller Band & one of the first all girl bands The Ace of Cups to name a few.

This & the major music festivals, The Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park & The Monterey Pop Festival ushered in the Summer of Love & the influx of hippies & youth to the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco.

The band purchased a house at 2400 Fulton Street across from Golden Gate Park, where they lived & conducted business. The house & its tales are legendary.

Grace Slick & Paul Kantner 1966

The Airplane played all the major Festivals mentioned, as well as Woodstock in 1969 as one if its headliners. The band was due on Saturday night but didn't get on stage until sunrise of Sunday morning. Later that year they played at Altamont Raceway outside Frisco supporting the Rolling Stones.

This show was a disaster as Hells Angels hired as security killed a man. During the Airplanes set, Marty Balin was knocked out by a Hells Angel trying to stop them from beating another person. Kantner appears in the film on stage very angry at the situation.

The Airplane would get more attention appearing on television shows such as American Bandstand, The Smothers Brothers, the Dick Cavett Show & Johnny Carson. They also received attention from articles in Newsweek & Life Magazine as the scene grew larger.

Trivia: In April 1967 Paul McCartney visited San Francisco & jammed a bit with Kantner & Jorma Kaukonen. Macca had a hard time with Jack Cassidy's bass & it is legend the three then took an acid trip together.

Their commercial success reached it peak & they may have never captured the genius of Surrealistic Pillow again but they continued on still putting out good music & were very popular. Their 1968 album Crown of Creation reached #6 on the charts.

Trivia: On the morning of December 7th, 1968 the band was filmed by Jean Luc Godard playing live on the rooftop of the Schuyler Hotel in New York City. The noise led to the Police shutting down the operation & taking them in, since no permits were ever issued to film or perform. This was almost a year prior to the Beatles famous rooftop performance in London.

1969's Volunteers reached #13. The Volunteers album featured guests Jerry Garcia, Nicky Hopkins, Steven Stills, David Crosby & the Ace of Cups. Two songs featured curse words & made the album controversial. The song "We Can Be So Good Together"  had the lyric "up against the wall mother fu@#er" & "Eskimo Blue Day where Slick sings "it doesn't mean shit to a tree".

Grace Slick had love affairs with everyone in the band (except Marty Balin) & by the late sixties she & Kantner fell in love. The two were labeled "The Psychedelic John & Yoko", in 1971 their child  China Wing Kantner (who later became an actress & MTV VJ) was born. In the mid seventies, Slick would eventually leave Kantner & marry a Jefferson Starship roadie Skip Johnson.

 Jefferson Airplane: Woodstock:

Domestic Battle: Slick was once arrested after an argument with Kantner, as she was intoxicated. She tossed their car keys on to some ones lawn & was later spotted by the cops screaming & intoxicated crawling on the lawn searching for the keys.

The Airplane took a break after China's birth, Slick & Kantner recorded a bit together celebrating China's birth. In 1970 they released "Blows Against The Empire" credited to Jefferson Starship, a sci fi rock experience led by Kantner's love of the two art forms (much like Gene Simmons of KISS). By 1973 Kaukonen & Cassidy left Airplane, devoting all their time to their Hot Tuna project. Dryden had already left after Woodstock.

Trivia: Kantner wrote many of the Airplane's early songs, including The Ball of You Me & Pooneil" "Watch Her Ride" "Crown of Creation" 'Martha" "Wild Tyme" & "We Can Be Together" He & Balin wrote "Today" & "Volunteers". He also co-wrote Crosby Stills & Nash's "Wooden Ships" with them.

The group now officially became the Jefferson Starship. Kantner would be the longest tenured member of the band there from the start to 1984, then returning in 1992- until his death in 2016.

Grace Slick would stay with the band until 1978 & then returned in 1981 to 1984). Marty Balin, the other main member was there from 1974-1978 & again (1993-2008). Bassist, guitarist, keyboardist & singer David Freiberg was with the band from 1974-1984. Other members came & went which also led the band to many different sound variations.

Jefferson Starship 1975
Jefferson Starship: Their main success came in the 1970s with albums such as Dragon Fly (1974) the multi platinum #1 Red Octopus (1975) featuring Balin's "Miracles" which reached #3 on the charts. Spitfire (1976) which reached #3, also going platinum featuring the hit "With Your Love".

Kantner with Jerry Garcia
Earth (1978) reached #5 on the charts, it featured two top ten hits "Count On Me" & "Runaway". This led to a long awaited tour, due to the fact that Balin didn't want to tour. But the Earth tour was a disaster due to Grace Slicks drinking problems, which came to a head in Germany as a riot broke out & the bands equipment was stolen. Kanter eventually had to ask Slick to officially resign.

Freedom At Point Zero (1979) pushed the band to a new direction with singer Mickey Thomas, it was highlighted by the great rocker Jane (#14 hit).

In 1980 Kantner suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at age 39.  He had a serious head injury from a motor cycle accident in the early sixties & the hole in his head left by that accident helped him from serious complications recovering from the hemorrhage.

The early eighties featured a more pop sound with Thomas, also Slick returned in 1981. Kantner left the band in 1984 saying "I think we would be terrible failures trying to write pop songs all the time. … The band became more mundane and not quite as challenging and not quite as much of a thing to be proud of".

He took out  lawsuit preventing the band to use the name Jefferson Starship which resulted in Starship. Under the terms of the settlement, no group can call itself Jefferson Starship without Paul Kantner as a member. Grace Slick had a huge pop hit with Starship "We Built This City" which reached #1.

Kantner with band mate Marty Balin
Kantner joined Balin & Jack Casady for the short lived KBC band in the mid eighties. In 1988 during a Hot Tuna San Francisco gig, Kantner, Balin & Slick all played for the first time since the early seventies. A short reunion tour followed but nothing more ever came of it except a live album.

In 1996 the Airplane were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The original band (with Dryden) all except Slick (who was suffering from a leg infection) played together for the first time since Woodstock. A VH1 Behind the Music was done on the Airplane the next year.

Kantner continued with various versions of Jefferson Starship until his death. They were never a mainstream band again due to all the line up changes. Even with Balin they were nothing like they were in the old days.

In March 2015 he suffered a heart attack, the band carried on without him but he did return  as his band celebrated the Jefferson Airplane's 50th Anniversary with a few small venue club dates. On January 28the 2016, Kantner passed away in San Francisco, due to multiple organ failure and septic shock after he had suffered anther heart attack days earlier. He was 74.

Quotes- Grace Slick: "Rest in peace my friend. Love Grace."

Marty Balin: "So many memories rushing through my mind now. So many moments that he and I opened new worlds. He was the first guy I picked for the band, and he was the first guy who taught me how to roll a joint. And although I know he liked to play the devil's advocate, I am sure he has earned his wings now. Sai Ram 'Go with God.'"

Jefferson Starship on Fridays 1981

Jan 28, 2016

Mid Sixties Mets Reserve Outfielder: Tommie Reynolds (1967)

Tommie D. Reynolds was born on August 15th, 1941in Arizona, Louisiana. The six foot two right hand hitting outfielder was signed by the Kansas City A's in 1963.

Reynolds played parts of three seasons with the Kansas City A's, seeing the most action in 1965 (90 games) batting just .237. In 1966 he played in the Pacific Coast League at Vancouver batting .248. That November he was drafted Rule V by the New York Mets.

Reynolds would be the fourth outfielder for the 1967 Mets team, that finished up in tenth place at 61-101 under Wes Westrum (151 games) & Salty Parker (11 games).

He debuted for the Mets on Opening Day 1967 entering the game in the 8th inning & playing left field. In the third game of the year he homered for the only Mets run against the Phillies at Connie Mack stadium. Reynolds struggled to bat near .200 most of the year.

On June 18th, in a game at Shea Stadium against the Chicago Cubs, Reynolds hit a walk off tenth inning HR off future Met Cal Koonce. Three days later his 1st inning sac fly was one of two Mets runs, that helped Jack Fisher beat the Phillies Jim Bunning 2-0 in a tight game in Philadelphia. On a August 17th double header he collected five hits against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with a pair of RBIs overall, helping the Mets to a 6-5 win in the first game.
Reynolds fin
ished the year batting .206 with 2 HRs one double a .278 on base % & nine RBIs. He played in 72 outfield games with New York. That off season he was taken away, Rule V by the Oakland A's.

In a full season there playing in 107 games he hit .257 playing outfield alongside Reggie Jackson & Rick Monday. From there he went to the California Angels for two seasons & then ended his career with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1972. Reynolds played eight years batting .226 with 265 hits 12 HRs 35 doubles a .306 on base % & 87 RBIs.

Retirement: After his playing days he coach with the Oakland A's (1989-1995) winning a World Series there in the 1989 Earthquake Series in the Bay Area. He then coached in St. Louis in 1996 under Tony Larussa just as in Oakland.

Family: Reynolds is the cousin of former MLB player Floyd Robinson who played nine years in the major leagues as an outfielder. Floyd played seven seasons with Chicago White Sox, hitting over .300 there three times in the sixties. 

Robinson was third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1961 & made the Topps All Star Rookie Team. He would receive votes for the MVP Award four times in his career. In 1962 he led the AL in RBIs batting .312 (third in the NL) with 109 RBIs (4th in the NL) & 11 HRs. That year he led the Midwest League in batting .332 with a .384 on base % & tied for the lead in RBIs (88). He hit .301 again in 1964 for the last time.

In 1967 he played with the Cincinnati Reds then in 1968 he played for both the Oakland A's & The Boston Red Sox. Robinson was a lifetime .283 hitter with 67 HRs 426 RBIs & a .36 on base %.

Mid Sixties Mets Pitcher: Darrell Sutherland (1964-1966)

Darrell Wayne Sutherland was born on November 14, 1941 in Glendale, California. The tall 6’ 4” lanky right hander, attended Stanford University, getting signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1963. The next year he was selected as a first year waiver pick by the New York Mets. The youngster went 10-1 at AAA Buffalo that season getting brought up to the Mets staff in late June. 

On June 28th, 1964 Sutherland debuted against the Milwaukee Braves, getting knocked out in the first inning, allowing five earned runs walking two batters. On July 2nd he made a start at the Astrodome, pitching five solid innings allowing two runs, but the Mets only scored one run for him & Sutherland was given another loss. 

He was placed in the bullpen the rest of the month, getting a start on July 23rd losing to the Reds in Cincinnati. By August 8th he was 0-3 & had given up a total of 26 runs in 26 innings pitched in his ten appearances (7.76 ERA). It was a classic example of a young pitcher brought up to early, even though he was not ready for the big leagues. 

In 1965 Sutherland was 8-8 at AAA Buffalo with a 3.99 ERA. The Mets were still in need of pitching & he was brought back up in early August. He earned his first career win at the Houston Astrodome pitching four scoreless innings of a 1-0 win, where Ron Hunt reached on an error with the bases loaded scoring Chuck Hiller. 

He earned two more relief wins in late September, both coming on the road at Chicago & Pittsburgh. He appeared in 18 games mostly in mid relief, finishing up 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA. 

In 1966 he made the Mets staff out of Spring Training & spent most of the year with the big league club. On April 26th he was credited with a hold, although he gave up three runs at Wrigley Field in the Mets 14-11 win. 

Three days later he notched a save in Pittsburgh but was sent back down to AAA for two months due to his 7.76 ERA. When he returned he struggled but posted a 2-0 record, allowing 60 hits with 25 walks in only 44 innings pitched, posting a 4.67 ERA in 31 appearances on the year. 

In 1967 he went 6-3 at AA Williamsport, fourth best on the team. In November of 1967 he was drafted away by the Cleveland Indians & pitched three games for them at the major league level in 1968, posting an 8.10 ERA. He pitched in the minors through 1969 with AAA Portland. In his brief four year career he was 5-4 winning all his games in relief & losing all his games as a starter. 

He posted a 4.78 career ERA with 11 saves, 50 strikeouts & 58 walks allowed in 122 innings in 62 appearances. At the plate he was a good hitter batting .238 lifetime going 5-21.

Jan 27, 2016

Short Time 2000 NL Champion Mets Infielder: David Lamb (2000)

David Christian Lamb was born June 6th 1975 in West Hills, California. The six foot two switch hitting infielder was signed out of high school at Thousand Oaks, California, by the Baltimore Orioles.

 In 1998 he was drafted away by the Tampa Bay Devil Ryas & would play in 55 games for them batting .226 in 1999. The next year he was placed on waivers & picked up by the New York Mets.

He played 109 games at AAA Norfolk 55 games at short, 38 games at third & 10 games at second, batting .225.  On July 5th he was called up to the Mets big league squad, coming in the 9th inning in an 11-2 win at Florida over the Marlins. In his next three games he came in as a late inning defensive replacement as well, getting no at bats. 

On July 18th, Lamb got his only Mets start, it came in an inter League game in Toronto where he played short stop & batted ninth. In the 8th inning he got a base hit & scored on Lenny Harris double. (That night centerfieldmaz was at the game & met Mike Piazza earlier in the afternoon outside the Hockey Hall of  Fame. Piazza also hit a grand slam!) As for Mike Lamb he would play in just two more games before being sent back to the Tides. On the year he was 1-5 (.200) with a run scored.

He was granted free agency and would play in the  Anaheim Angels, Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins & Minnesota Twins organizations. He would play in just seven games at the big league level for the Twins that year, his last in the majors. The next year would be his last in the minors as he retired from the game.

Old Time New York Giants Short Stop: Al Bridwell (1908-1911)

Albert Henry Bridwell was born January 4, 1884 in Friendship, Ohio. The five foot nine, left hand hitting infielder began his career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1904. In 1906 he was traded to the Boston Braves playing there for two seasons. He didn't hit much in either season & then got traded to the New York Giants.

By the time he got to the Polo Grounds, he became Manager John McGraw’s shortstop for the next three & a half seasons. Bridwell was a perfect player in the McGraw mold, he was hardnosed, rough & came right at you with all he had. Although he had all the respect in the world for McGraw, his own temper once caused him to punch the manager in the nose. Because of the incident, Bridwell was suspended for two games.

In 1908 Bridwell hit .285 (8th best in the league) & posted a .346 on base percentage (6th best in the league). He also stole 20 bases, hit 14 doubles & drove in 46 runs for the second place Giants, who were fighting for a pennant all year long. Bridwell posted a .933 fielding%, turned 39 double plays (4th most) and led all short stops with 55 errors.

Overall he was a pretty good player, but he is best remembered as being the player who got the base hit during a legendary ball game.

In the heat of a tight 1908 pennant race with the Chicago Cubs, the two team were tied up in a tight game at the Polo Grounds. In the 9th inning, Moose McCormick was on third base representing the winning run, as Giants Rookie; Fred Merkle was on first base, when Bridwell came to bat. He came through & singled home McCormick with the winning run. But Merkle never touched second base & walked off the field, thinking the game was over. The fans exited through the field in those days and began to leave the ball park.

The rules state, that a base runner must proceed to the next base after a run scores, or the run would not count. It was not enforced much at the time, but this had happened to the Cubs recently. This time, Cubs player Johnny Evers got hold of the umpire & called for the ball. He got hold of a ball, whether it was the actual ball that was in play or not will never be known. He stepped on second base for the third out, beating Merkle who had left the field.

There was chaos on the field & the umpires met after the game, contacting the League officials. The next day the league ruled the game had indeed ended in a tie. The two teams would replay the game if it was necessary at the end of the season.

As fate would have it, the Giants & the Cubs tied and needed to play the tie breaker. In a madhouse scene at the Polo Grounds, the Cubs beat the Giants & won the pennant.

In 1909, Bridwell came back to hit .294 & draw 67 walks (both fifth best in the league). He also stole 32 bases (tenth in the NL). Unfortunately the Giants finished third that year & second the next season. He was then traded back to Boston in exchange for Buck Herzog during the 1911 season.

The Giants went to the win three straight pennants, over the next three years, playing in the World Series. As for Bridwell, he played for two more seasons, in Boston, as well as one in one in Chicago with the Cubs. He then played two seasons in the Federal League finishing his career.

In his 11 year career he batted .255 average with 1064 hits, two HRs, 95 doubles, 32 triples & 136 stolen bases in 1252 games.

Retirement: He was interviewed in the classic baseball book; The Glory of Their Times in 1966. Bridwell passed away in Portsmouth Ohio in 1969 at age 85.

Jan 26, 2016

Late 2000's Mets Utility Player: Nick Evans (2008-2011)

Nicholas Reginald Evans was born January 30, 1986 in Glendale, Arizona. The six foot two, right handed hitter was drafted out of high school in Phoenix, by the New York Mets in the 5th round of the 2004 draft.

Evans was primarily a first baseman in the Mets organization, in 2007 he batted .286 with 15 HRs at A ball St. Lucie. In 2008 he was at AA Binghamton when he was brought up to the Mets in May to replace an injured Marlon Anderson.

In his first MLB at bat he doubled off Colorado’s Jeff Francis, & then hit two more doubles in the same game. He was the first Met since Kaz Matsui in 2004 to have three extra base hits in his MLB debut. He got to play regularly for a week but after his hot start was batting .174 when he was sent back down in June. At Binghamton overall he would bat .311 with 14 HRs & 53 RBIs on the year, finding his way back up to the majors in the summer when Ryan Church got injured.

On August 31st he hit his first career HR coming against the Florida Marlins. In 50 games at the big league level he hit .257 with two HRs ten doubles & nine RBIs. 

By now Evans had become a highly touted prospect, although a first baseman by trade his future would soon be in jeopardy with the emergence of Ike Davis. 

Evans also did not hit for power, but the team was hoping he could be more of a doubles hitter, especially in Citi Field where he had little chance to hit HRs in the big ball park. 

In 2009 he began the year at AAA Buffalo but got sent down to AA Binghamton when he struggled. At the end of June he was back with the Mets for a month.

He hit a HR in his second game back, gathering two hits & two RBIs at Citi Field in the Mets 11-0 win over the Cardinals. The bouncing around of Evans continued as he was back at the end of August through September. On the year he hit .231 with one HR five doubles & seven RBIs in 30 games (15-65).

In 2010 he hit well at both AAA Buffalo & AA Binghamton batting .300 with 20 HRs 44 doubles & 80 RBIs getting a brief two game call up to fill a roster spot in July, but then returned as a September call up.

On September 19th his RBI single off Chan Ho Park beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the bottom of the 9th inning at Citi Field for an exciting walk off win. In 20 games he hit .306, with one HR 3 doubles & 5 RBIs in 36 at bats.

In 2011 he continued to hit at the minor league level batting .313 with 13 doubles 8 HRs & 32 RBIs at AAA Buffalo. 

When he was brought up to the Mets in May after David Wright went on the DL, it took him ten games to get his first hit. He was sent down to make room for Lucas Duda, but returned to the club in July and over a month got his average to peak at .300. He saw alot of playing time in August & September since Ike Davis was gone for the season with injury. 

In early September he hit HRs in back to back games then two days later had a three RBI day in Florida against the Marlins. He drove in 14 runs in the month and finished the year batting .256 with 4 HRs 10 doubles 26 runs scored 25 RBIs & a .214 on base % in 59 games. At first he posted a .993 fielding % making just three errors.

The Mets decided to part ways with Evans as he was let go to free agency in November 2011.

He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates two weeks later & played just 21 games in their minor leagues in 2012. He was granted free agency getting signed & released quickly by the L.A. Dodgers.

In Spring Training of 2013 he signed with the Arizona D-backs. He played 133 games as an all around guy for AA Mobile batting .267 with 19 HRs & 81 RBIs. 

In 2014 he made the D-backs playing in 18 games from May through July. On June 3rd he hit a HR at Colorado & on July 26th he hit a three run, tenth inning pinch hit HR at Philadelphia helping in a 10-6 Arizona win.

In 2015 he played at AAA Reno batting .310 in 139 games. He was released by Arizona & signed with the San Diego Padres in November 2015.

In a five year MLB career he is batting .257 with 30 doubles 3 triples 10 HRs 56 runs scored & 53 RBIs posting a .305 on base % in 177 games.

Jan 24, 2016

Short Time Mid Eighties Mets Pitcher: Bill Latham (1985)

William Carol Latham was born on August 29, 1960 in Birmingham, Alabama. The six foot two inch lefthander, was first drafted by the expansion Seattle Mariners in 1977 but did not sign. Instead he pitched for Auburn University getting signed as an amateur free agent by the New York Mets in 1981.

He won 12 games at the A – AA levels in 1983, pitching for Lynchburg & Jackson. I 1984 he was promoted to AAA Tidewater after seven games, going 11-3 with a 3.06 ERA. In 1985 he had a good Spring Training and found himself going North with the Mets big league team.

On April 15th he made his MLB debut, giving up three runs on three hits against the Pirates, in Pittsburgh, taking a 4-1 loss. He then made a relief outing pitching two scoreless inning against the Phillies, but with such a talented staff was sent down to AAA Tidewater. He came back for one game on July 27th, having the best day of his brief MLB career. Latham pitched seven innings, striking out four Astros, allowing three runs and beating Houston 7-3 at Shea Stadium.

He would go back down to Tidewater, going 13-8 with a 2.68 ERA & was brought back up in September. He made four appearances and took two losses, one in a start to the Montreal Expos on October 6th the final game of the regular season.

In January 1986, he was traded along with outfielder Billy Beane and Joe Klink to the Minnesota Twins for Tim Teufel & minor leaguer Pat Crosby. Latham went 0-1 in seven games for Minnesota, then was traded Latham was 1-4 lifetime in the majors with 18 strike outs 13 walks & a 5.35 ERA in 14 games. In the minor leagues he was 63-51 in 164 games over eight years .

Retirement: After baseball he became a coach with the Aball St. Lucie Mets & later an MLB scout.

Jan 23, 2016

YES pedes!!!! Yoenis Cespedes Signs Deal With Mets

YesPedes!! centerfieldmaz has wanted this all along..........The New York Mets & Yoenis Cespedes have come to terms on a three year $75 million deal bringing the star slugger back to New York.

The deal gives Cespedes $25 million a year which is the highest single season contract given to any player this off season. Although he took less years than he originally wanted he not only got that $25 mil. a year but an option to opt out after the first year as well as a no trade clause.

Cespedes in the middle of the Mets line up means so much, his arm & speed in center field is just as important. The Mets are now the true favorite in the National League East & will certainly be right up there defending their NL Championship Title.

With that pitching staff, Cespedes back & Mike Piazza going to the Hall of fame its once again a great time to be a Mets fan!!!

Jan 22, 2016

In Honor of the 2016 Queens Baseball Convention at O'Neill's Pub in Maspeth Queens this Saturday January 23rd, we honor posts of it's special guests Tim Teufel & Bobby Valentine.

Jan 21, 2016

Former Mid 2000's Mets Pitcher: Matt Ginter (2004)

Matthew Shane Ginter was born on December 24th, 1977 in Lexington, Kentucky. The six foot one, righty attended Mississippi State University.

He was one of four first round pitchers chosen by the Chicago White Sox in the 1999 amateur draft.

Ginter had pitched in the 1998 Baseball World Cup earning a save with a 5.40 ERA. He went through the White Sox minor leagues & by 2000 he was 11-8 at AA Birmingham posting a 2.25 ERA.

He debuted in the majors that September actually earning a win against the Anaheim Angels in his first game, pitching a scoreless inning. In his next appearance he blew a save allowing four runs on two hits in just one inning.

In 2001 he was picked as the best prospect in the Sox organization by Baseball America. He was called up in June & made twenty appearances as a middle reliever going 1-0 with a 5.22 ERA.

He spent two more seasons in Chicago making 33 appearances in 2002 but just three the next year in 2003. That off season he was traded to the New York Mets for Timo Perez. He began the year at AA Norfolk & would go 1-5 there with a 2.95 ERA during the season.

He got to the Mets club by May 16th, debuting in Houston getting the start against the Astros Roger Clemens. Ginter pitched well into the 6th inning, but earning no decision. He left the game behind 2-0 but a 9th inning Mike Piazza HR, off former Mets pitcher; Octavio Dotel tied the game. The Mets won it in the 13th inning, on a Jason Phillips HR. In his next appearance he allowed five runs but beat the Colorado Rockies 9-7 at Shea Stadium earning his only win as a Mets pitcher.

He would take a loss to Cleveland on June 16th as the Indians scored five runs off him in an inter league game at Shea. 

A week later he was knocked out in the third inning across town by the A.L. New York team in a Mets subway series loss.

Ginter made 15 appearances for the fourth place Mets, going 1-3 with a 4.54 ERA, 38 strike outs & 20 walks in 69 inning pitched. On April 5th of the 2005 he was sent to the Detroit Tigers for Steve Coyler who never pitched in a Met uniform.

Ginter only played in 15 games there becoming a free agent at the end of the year. He signed with a bunch of teams but didn't see any big league action until 2008 with the Cleveland Indians where he went 1-3 in four starts.

 In his seven year career he was 5-7 with 132 strike outs 75 walks one save a 5.43 ERA in 232 innings pitched over 96 games.

Jan 18, 2016

Remembering Glenn Frey of the Eagles (1948-2016)

It is with sadness & deep regret that centerfieldmaz reports the death of another legendary Rock & Roll artist. Glenn Frey a founding member of the Eagles, one of the most popular & successful American rock bands ever, has died at the age of 67.

Frey passed away in New York City of pneumonia, rheumatoid arthritis & acute colitis while recovering from intestinal surgery.

Grey was a versatile musician, singer, song writer whose contributions to classic rock & roll is astounding. Frey will be missed but never forgotten.

Glenn Lewis Frey was born on November 6th, 1948 in Detroit Michigan. Frey began his musical career during the sixties Detroit music scene, getting a break to play guitar for Bob Seger. He eventually moved west to California where things were really happening.

He & his girlfriend lived in an apartment above Jackson Browne & he would hear Browne writing songs below him. Frey always said he learned a lot about writing songs from Browne. Frey's girlfriend at the time introduced him to J.D.Souther who was dating Linda Ronstadt.

Eventually Souther suggested Frey to Ronstadt when she was looking for a back up band.
Glenn Frey with Linda Ronstadt

This famous back up band would soon become the Eagles. That year Frey met drummer Don Henley who would become his friend, musical partner & collaborator forming one of the most successful rock acts of all time. 

The two backed up Linda Ronstadt on her tour in 1971. This also met to the meeting of band members Bernie Leadon & Randy Meisner, who all became the original Eagles.

The Eagles went on to become one of the most successful American band ever, selling over 150 million albums & are the fifth largest selling music act of all time overall. Their albums Greatest Hits (1971-1975) has sold 42 million copies & Hotel California has sold 32 million copies. Both are among the top 20 albums EVER sold. The Eagle have only recorded seven studio albums, two reaching number one. Overall they have charted five number one singles

Their debut album, a mellower country rock style, in 1972 spawned three top ten songs- Take It Easy, Peaceful Easy Feeling (both sung by Frey) & Witchy Woman.

After the less successful Desperado album they released On the Border in 1974, which featured Don Felder on guitar as well,  gave them two more top ten hits- Already Gone (Frey) & Best of My Love. This album featured a Frey sung classic- James Dean a great rocker & a staple back in 1970s rock radio. It was co written with Jackson Browne.

The EAGLES 1974

In 1975 they reached an even higher level with the One of These Nights album. It had three more top ten hits- Lying Eyes (Frey) Take It To The Limit & the number one title track.

Glenn Frey & Don Henley
By 1976 they added Joe Walsh to the band, replacing Bernie Leadon. This led to a more harder rock sound & got them even further away from their earlier country sound. The Hotel California album took over a year & half to record but when it was released in December 1976 put the Eagles in the superstar legendary stratosphere.

The album was number one for eight weeks in 1977 & won two Grammys. The only thing that kept it from being even bigger was Fleetwood Macs Rumors album. Hotel California charted three top twenty songs, two of which were number one's- New Kid In Town (Frey vocal) & Hotel California.

the EAGLES 1976
The other hit was Life In the Fast Lane, a definite classic rocker, maybe my favorite Eagles song & a soundtrack to my life in a certain time period as well. The song shows a wilder side of the Eagles that featured drug use, drinking binges & wild sex tales that were a big part of the band, but something many of the more casual fans were surprised to know.

The album is certainly one of the best albums ever released by anyone & was major staple of radio in the late seventies as well as today. Who hasn't broke up with a girlfriend & listened to Wasted Time 100 times????

A grueling but successful tour followed & all the stresses of super stardom was also leading to problems within the band.

 In 1977 the band went in to the studio to record a double album but only came up with enough songs for a single album. It took two years to complete the Long Run, although not as good as the master piece  Hotel California was, it was another huge seller.

It sold seven million copies & spawned three more top ten hits. The Long Run & Timothy B. Schmidt's (now also a member) I Cant Tell You Why both reached #8, while Heartache Tonight (Frey vocal) became the groups last number One. The song was co written by Frey, Henley, Bob Seger & J.D. Souther.

That year they also released the classic Christmas record- Please Come Home For Christmas which also charted reaching #18.

In 1980 tempers flared between Frey & Felder backstage at a Long Beach California concert. The two were threatening to beat each other up during the show. Legend has it- Felder told Frey "Only three more songs until I kick your ass, pal", he said near the end of the band's set.  Felder said Frey told him during "Best of My Love", "I'm gonna kick your ass when we get off the stage."

These were the final events that broke the band up. Frey quit the group & the others went their separate ways. A live album was released in 1980 & the linear notes said Thank You & Good Night.

Trivia: Some of Frey's biggest Eagles songs in which he sung lead were- Take It Easy, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Already Gone, Tequila Sunrise, Lying Eyes, New Kid In Town, Heartache Tonight, James Dean, Teenage Jail & How Long.

After the Eagles break up in 1980 the members went on to solo careers. Frey no longer donned his long hair, mustached rock star look & had now became a short haired, muscular framed, clean cut looking eighties guy. Frey would have major Eighties hits with "The Heat Is On" (from Beverly Hills Cop) & "You Belong to the City" & "Smugglers Blues" (from Miami Vice).

Overall he had 12 charting hits as a solo artist. Mets fans remember "You Belong to the City" was featured in the Mets 1986 A Year to Remember video.
Glenn & Cindy Frey

Frey would also have success in acting, he had a popular guest appearance on the Miami Vice  TV show in its hey day. The shows title Smugglers Blues inspired the song. Frey would also appear with actor Don Johnson (Miami Vice) in poplar 1980's Pepsi commercials. Frey would also appear on Nash Bridges, Arlis & was to star in a show called South of Sunset that never made it.

In the movies had a big role in 1986's Lets Get Harry with Robert Duvall & Gary Busey. Later on he played owner of the Arizona Cardinals football team in Jerry Maguire in 1996.

Glenn Frey married his wife Cindy in 1990 at a video shoot, she was a dancer & choreographer, they have two sons & a daughter.

Frey said people thought he & Henley hated each other but that wasn't the case. They got along fine but he said, but during interviews when asked when the Eagles were getting back together, they'd reply "When Hell Freezes Over".

the Eagles 1995

It froze over in 1994 as the Eagles reunited with Frey, Henley, Walsh, Schmidt & Felder. An incredible tour did happen & was highly successful. In 2007 the band released an album of new material called Long Road Out of Eden & a tour followed.

the EAGLES 2013
On occasion they would tour & put on one of the best concerts money could buy. centerfieldmaz attended four of these Eagles tours & they were among the best shows ever attended.

In 2001 Don Felder was fired from the band, he & Frey would take out law suits against each other & Felder did not appear on any more tours. ThE 2013 tour featured Meisner & Leadon from the early days but no Felder. A great DVD History of the Eagles was also released that year as well.

The Eagles 2000's

The Eagles have issued the following statement: "Words can neither describe our sorrow, nor our love and respect for all that he has given to us, his family, the music community and millions of fans worldwide."

Frey & Henley
Quotes: Don Henley- “He was like a brother to me; we were family, and like most families, there was some dysfunction, But, the bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved.

We were two young men who made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles with the same dream: to make our mark in the music industry — and with perseverance, a deep love of music, our alliance with other great musicians and our manager, Irving Azoff, we built something that has lasted longer than anyone could have dreamed".

“It will be very strange going forward in a world without him in it. But, I will be grateful, every day, that he was in my life. Rest in peace, my brother. You did what you set out to do, and then some.”

Bob Seger: "He had been in the hospital since November. He was in a coma, and he'd come out, but then he couldn't breathe. They'd put him back into the coma," Seger told the Free Press. "They were trying like hell to keep him alive. He'd been at Columbia University Medical Center since November. (Eagles manager) Irving (Azoff) pulled every ace out of the hole — he had the eight best specialists working on Glenn. About a month ago, they had to throw up their hands."

Frey with Paul Stanley of KISS
KISS Paul Stanley: SHOCKED to report the death of GLENN FREY. Eagle & brilliant songwriter. We shared some memories at RRHOF. Shocked

KISS Gene Simmons: our condolences to friends and family. Rest In Peace.

Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue): R.I.P. Glen Frey....Thank you for all the great songs and powerful lyrics...Jesus can the reaper please take break for awhile

Sheryl Crow: Sad day. My heart goes out to Cindy and the members of the Eagles and his entire family of friends and fans who loved him so.

Carole King: R.I. P. Glenn Frey. Deepest condolences to his family and Eagles.

Don Felder: "He was funny, strong and generous. At times, it felt like we were brothers and at other times, like brothers, we disagreed. Despite our struggles and difficult moments together, we managed to create some magical songs, recordings and live shows. His charisma on stage was felt and loved by millions of people all over the world. Glenn was the James Dean of the band, He was the leader that we all looked to for direction and by far the coolest guy in the band."