Feb 29, 2016

The Story of the New York Mets Logo

On November 16, 1961 cartoonist Ray Gotto (1916-2003) unveiled the circular New York Mets logo, a symbol which has virtually gone unchanged since its birth 55 years ago.

Gatto was the illustrator of the "Ozark Ike" & "Cotton Woods" comic strips as well as having drawn many classic sports cartoons for the Sporting News.

He won a contest that the club sponsored in order to start up a fan base beating out over 500 other entries for his design. The prize was not only to have his logo used but also $1000. 

Artist Ray Gotto
The original New York Mets team colors are blue and orange, the colors represent the two former National League teams who left New York for the West Coast.

The orange represents the former New York Giants & the blue represents the Brooklyn Dodgers. Blue & orange are also the official colors of New York State.

The logo design is a round baseball with orange stitching and the Mets orange script lettering outlined in white across the middle.
The blue skyline in the background also has special meanings to the city of New York. At the far left is a church spire, symbolic of Brooklyn, which is known as the borough of churches.

The second building from the left is the Williamsburg Savings Bank, the tallest building in Brooklyn at the time of the logo design. Next to that is Manhattan's famous Woolworth Building and a then a general skyline view of midtown Manhattan, featuring the Empire State Building at the center. At the far right the United Nations Building is represented.
The white bridge is not supposed to be one specific bridge, but rather a representation of all bridges in the area. This is also to symbolize all boroughs of the city.

Trivia: An interesting note is that the Throgs Neck Bridge opened up for travel the same year, 1961. The Whitestone Bridge opened up in 1939. Both Bridges opened in coincidence with those years upcoming World’s Fair's in Queens.

In 1966 the Mets used that logo on their left uniform sleeve for the first time. It was used in that spot for three seasons but replaced in 1969 with MLB logo.
It has come & gone in that spot  on the players sleeve many times over the years.

In 1998 the Mets dropped the small orange NY on the left side of the logo, located just above the curl of the letter M. That season they also started using the black colors, an alternate logo featured the skyline in black, with the Mets in blue lettering with an orange shade. The bridge remained white & the stitching remained orange.

Trivia: In 2012 the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building slightly changed its shape, appearing a bit wider & it's dome flatter. Many agree this is due to the latest digital printing age. Also that year which was the teams 50th Anniversary, the black logo & uniforms were done away with.

Brooklyn's First Ball Park: The Union Grounds (1862-1883)

A long time ago, prior to the Civil War, in the very early days of baseball, ballparks like the Elysian Fields in Hoboken were wide open picturesque landscapes. There were no fences & no need to keep people away. They didn't even think about charging people to watch the events, especially since players did not get paid. So the more people that came the more welcome they were. That slowly started to change by the late 1850's.

By the 1860's ice skating was all the craze & elaborate balls for dancing on the ice while skating were held. On the corners of Marcy  & Rutledge Streets in  Williamsburgh, Brooklyn the Union Skating Ground was such a place.

Owner William Cammeyer saw the opportunity to get in on the growing popularity of baseball matches. (He owned a team that was already playing in Hoboken). A baseball facility was built for $60,000 (around $1.5 million in todays money) . Cammeyer contributed $20,000 & raised the other $40,000 in bonds. The majority of the revenue was thought to come from skating & at first no admission fees were thought to come from baseball matches.

On May 15th 1862, the Union Grounds located in Brooklyn across the East River from lower Manhattan was first opened for baseball. The ball park was baseballs first enclosed field ever to be constructed.

It had huge dimensions of over 500 feet from home plate to the outfield fences, with a brick three story pagoda building located in center field which was in play. The building was to offer a birds eye view of the on field action. The ball park was said to hold a crowd of up to 15,000 people.

Soon a 10 cents admission fee was added, for revenues of course but also to keep out rowdy drunks as well as gamblers who were a big problem in baseball's earliest days. Tall eight foot fences surrounded the facility so no one could get a free glimpse in.

Quotes: The Brooklyn Eagle- "The chief object of the Union Grounds reported is to provide a suitable place for ball playing, where ladies can witness the game without being annoyed by the indecorous behavior of the rowdies who attend some of the first-class matches.”

The field was home to the Brooklyn Eckfords of the National Association (1872) The New York Mutuals of the National Association (1871-1875) & the National League (1876); the Brooklyn Atlantics of the National Association (1872-1875) and the Hartford Dark Blues of the National League (1877).

The ballpark was also used briefly by the Brooklyn Bridegrooms of the American Association as well as other neutral  local teams. There were also games played there by other ball clubs outside of the area billed as special events.

At the time Brooklyn was a booming Metropolis & baseball was becoming a very popular local pastime.

The site was still used for skating in the winter time, the pagoda in center field was filled with lanterns to give a glittering effect on the ice. At times Cricket matches were also played there. By 1877 baseball was no longer played there.

The Union Grounds were demolished in July 1883, half of the site became the 47th Regiment Armory, which still stands today.

Feb 28, 2016

Late Nineties Mets Prospect & Short Time Player: Terrence Long (1999)

Terrence Deon Long was born on February 29, 1976 in Montgomery, Alabama. Long was the New York Mets first round draft pick in 1994 (20th pick overall) getting selected right out of high school. The outfielder remained in A ball for four years before making to AA Binghamton in 1998. There he hit .297 with 23 stolen bases, 16 HRs & 58 RBIs. 

Long went to Mets Spring Training in 1999 & made the team after having a good run. He would make three appearances as a pinch hitter as a New York Met, going 0-3. He was sent to AAA Norfolk, where he batted .326 with 7 HRs 20 doubles & 47 RBIs playing in 78 games.

 Then in July he was traded to The Oakland A’s for veteran pitcher Kenny Rodgers. Rodgers helped the Mets win the 1999 wild card race, going 5-1 with a shutout & two complete games. But he had a bad post season, going 0-2 & walking in the winning run of Game #6 of the NLCS in Atlanta. 

 Terrence Long went on to make his debut in Oakland the next year, as the teams main centerfielder. He batted in the leadoff spot & sparked an Oakland team to four straight post season appearances. In 2000 he batted .288 with a career high 18 HRs & 104 runs scored. He drove in 80 runs hit 34 doubles with four triples posting a .336 on base %. Long came in second in the Rookie of the Year voting to Seattle’s Kazuhiro Sasaki. Long & the A’s got to the 2000 ALDS where he only batted .158 but he did hit one HR in Game #3 off Orlando Hernandez. 

 Over the next two seasons, Long would play in every game of the regular & post seasons for the Athletics. He would hit 30 or more doubles for three straight seasons & hit 14 or more HRs for four straight years. With Oakland he would get to four straight posts seasons but lose in the first round each time. In 2001 Long would bat .283 with 12 HRs 37 doubles & a career high 85 RBIs. 

 Post Season : That year in the ALDS he hit .389 (7-18) with a pair of HRs & three RBIs. In Game #1 he hit a fourth inning, lead off HR off Roger Clemens & in the top of the 8th hit another off Sterling Hitchcock. 

The A's won the game 5-3 on the road. Long would hit safely in all five games, driving inn another run in the Game #4 loss. The A's started out the series with a two games to nothing lead, but lost the final three games. His average fell off to .240 in 2002 but he did hit 16 HRs with 32 doubles & 67 RBIs.

 In 2003 he hit just .245 & the A’s traded him along with catcher Ramon Hernandez to the San Diego Padres for Mark Kotsay. It was a big trade at the time, but neither player worked out for too long. In one season at San Diego, Long batted .295 in 136 games (just 288 at bats) but only hit three HRs with 28 RBIs. In the outfield he made twelve assists which was second most in the NL. 

After the season he was traded to the Kansas City Royals for Darrel May & Ryan Bukvich. Longs career winded down quickly, he signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 2006 but was released. He got picked up by the A.L. New York team, playing in 12 games. 

After eight seasons, Long batted .269 with 824 hits 69 HRs 166 doubles 21 triples 428 runs scored 376 RBIs & a .318 on base % in 890 games played.

1970's Italian / American Pitcher: Steve Mingori (1970-1979)

Steven Bernard Mingori was born on Leap year, 1944 in Kansas City, Missouri. He was a star player at his local Rockhurst high school, having his number retired there.

The five foot ten left hander went to Pittsburgh University and got signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1965. After posting ERA’s under thee for three straight seasons in the minors, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians organization in 1970. 

 The crafty left hander was tough on right handed hitters especially when he threw his famous screwball. Mingori debuted with Cleveland in August 1970, getting his first win against the Detroit Tigers on September 15th. The next year he posted a 1.43 ERA in 56 innings pitched, making 54 appearances as a middle reliever.

He then struggled in 1972 putting up am 0-6 record with a 3.95 ERA. In June 1973 he was traded to his home town to pitch for the Kansas City Royals as a middle reliever.

He went 3-3 with a save that year, and even got a rare start on the last day of the season. Although he went seven strong innings pitching against the Rangers in Texas he still ended up taking the loss. It was only one of two starts he made in his entire career. Mingori pitched well out of the Royals pen the next six seasons posting ERA’s under three four times. 

In 1974 he had a 23 2/3 scoreless innings streak, and in 1975 he posted a career high ten saves which put him amongst the league’s top ten relievers. In the middle to late seventies during the Mingori Royals era, George Brett would emerge as one of the games best hitters & the Royals would win straight AL Western titles. 

Post Season: In the 1976 ALCS he pitched to just one batter in Game #3 & gave up a game winning double to New York's Elliot Maddox although he took no decision. He came back to earn the save in Game #4, pitching two innings while allowing a HR to Greg Nettles. 

In 1977 he saw action in three ALCS games, his best moment coming when he put out the fire in Game #2 with two runners on & one out. He retired the next two hitters to hold the 3-2 lead until Dennis Leonard blew the lead in the next inning. 

In the 1978 ALCS, Mingori was tagged for three runs on five hits in Game #1 at Kansas City, pitching three innings of middle relief. 

In 1978 the Royals had a great bullpen, which was named "Mungo, Hungo, Duck and the Bird" by manager Whitey Herzog. Mingori (Mungo) Al Hrabosky (Hungo) Marty Pattin (Duck) and Doug Bird (Bird). Mingori posted a 2.74 ERA and was second on the team in appearances with 45.

The 1979 season would be his last year pitching, he went 3-3 with a 5.79 ERA On August 20th he had a horrid outing where he allowed eight runs in an inning and a third against the AL New York club. 

Lifetime he pitched ten seasons going 18-33 with 42 saves, 329 strike outs 225 walks and a 3.03 ERA in 385 appearances. 

Retirement: After baseball he briefly coached for the Toronto Blue Jays organization in the early nineties. He later suffered back issues due to his wiry pitching motion. In July of 2008 Mingori passed away at age 64 due to natural causes.

Early Nineties Mets Pitcher: Tony Castillo (1991)

Antonio Jose (Jimenez) Castillo was born March 1, 1963 at Quibor, Lara, Venezuela. The five foot ten left hander, was originally signed by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1983. In his years at the A ball level he switched over to being a relief pitcher. He posted a best 14 saves in 1988 at playing at A ball Dunedin & AA Knoxville.

Castillo debuted in the majors with the Blue Jays in 1988 appearing in 14 games, earning his first career win against the Texas Rangers that September. He was back & forth from the minors up to the majors through 1993, getting traded to the Atlanta Braves along with Francisco Cabrerra for Jim Acker. Cabrerra is forever famous for getting the game winning walk off base hit in the 1992 NLCS Game #7, scoring Atlanta's Sid Bream.

Castillo pitched parts of three seasons with the Braves going 5-1 with a save in 1990 while posting a 4.23 ERA in 52 appearances. On August 28th, he was traded to the New York Mets, with a player to be named later (Joe Roa) for pitcher Alejandro Pena. Castillo debuted with the Mets on August 29th 1991 in Atlanta, finishing up a 2-0 loss to John Smoltz, in relief of Anthony Young.

On September 11th 1991 he made his first start of the season, in was in Chicago at Wrigley Field. He went six innings allowing no runs on three hits earning the victory. He would make two more starts getting to the fifth inning both times, allowing just one earned run in those starts but getting no decisions. In his last Mets outing he was credited with a hold as New York defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in 11 innings giving John Franco a victory. He would pitch in just ten games for the Mets the rest of the season, posting a 1.90 ERA in 23 innings of work.

In January 1992 he was traded along with Mark Carreon to the Detroit Tigers for Paul Gibsson. He spent the season AAA Toledo going 2-3 with a 3.63 ERA & then signed as a free agent back with Toronto the next year. He would spend parts of the next four seasons as a Blue Jays reliever saving a career best 13 games in 1995 going 1-5 with a 3.22 ERA in 55 appearances.

In 1993 he was part of the Toronto World Championship team, going 3-2 on the year & making four post season appearances. In the Woirld Series against the Philadelphia Phillies he was the winning pitcher in the wild Game Four 15-14 Blue Jays win.

Castillo was traded to the Chicago White Sox & finished out his ten season career there in 1998. Overall he was 28-23 with 22 career saves, posting a 3.93 ERA, striking out 333 batters walking 179 in 526 innings over 403 games.

Feb 27, 2016

The First Brooklyn Cyclone Player To Make the Mets Big League Club: Brain Bannister (2006)

Brian Patrick Bannister was born on February 28, 1981 in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is the son of former big leaguer Floyd Bannister, who pitched in the majors for 15 seasons, with the Houston Astros (1977-1978) Seattle Mariners (1979-1982), Chicago White Sox (1983-1987) & Kansas City Royals (1988-1989) going 134-143 lifetime with a 4.06 ERA. 

 Floyd had double figures in victories for seven straight seasons, including two 16 win seasons with the White Sox in the eighties. In 1982 while pitching for the Mariners, Bannister led the AL in strike outs (209) going 12-13 pitching 247 innings (8th in the AL) posting a 3.43 ERA (8th in the AL).

Bannister was a good strikeout pitcher, having the best strike out per nine inning ratio in 1983 & 1985. He was in the league's top ten in strike outs five times, finishing his career with 1723 (108th all time). He was also in the top ten in ERA three times. In his career he also allowed 291 strike outs (53rd most all time). 

Brian Bannister attended the University of Southern California and starred as both a starting pitcher as well as a closer there. The six foot two right hander, was drafted by the New York Mets in the seventh round of the 2003 draft. In 2003 he pitched for the A ball Brooklyn Cyclones, going 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA in 12 games. 

 In 2006 when he made the Mets pitching staff, he became the first Cyclones player to make it to the big league team. He was honored at Brooklyn's Keyspan Park in September 2006, having his number retired by the Cyclones on Brian Bannister bobble head night. In 2004 he went from A ball St. Lucie to AA Binghamton & was highly touted at this point in his career. In 2005 he was 9-4 at AA Binghamton getting promoted to AAA Norfolk. There he was 4-1 witha 3.18 ERA in eight games.

In 2006 he had a good spring training & made it to the Mets staff as a fifth starter. Bannister debuted at Shea Stadium in the Mets second game of the season, pitching six innings against the Washington Nationals, allowing three runs getting no decision.

In his second career start, at Washington he earned his first career win, allowing just one run in seven innings. On April 16th he got his second win, it came against the Milwaukee Brewers where he allowed just one run in five innings. After five starts he pulled a hamstring while running the bases in San Francisco & went on the DL with a 2-0 record. 

He missed four months, returning back in late August, in his first start he took a loss to the Phillies allowing four runs in six innings of work. He was sent right back to AAA Norfolk after the game, but returned to make two relief appearances in September.

On the season he would go 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA, striking out 19 batters in 38 innings while walking 22. Bannister was a good hitter as well going 4-12 with three doubles and two RBIs, good enough for a .333 average. 

Over the winter the Mets traded him to the Kansas City Royals in order to boost up their bullpen, as they acquired Ambiorix Burgess. In Kansas City, Bannister was put right into the rotation, and had a great start, winning the Pitcher of the Month Award in June. He went on to make the Topps All Star Rookie team, leading the staff in wins with 12 (12-9). He posted a 3.67 ERA pitching 216 innings making 34 starts. 

He struggled the next season on a 4th place Royals club, losing 16 games (second most losses in the league) while allowing 29 HRs, posting a 5.76 ERA. He went an identical 7-12 the next two seasons, and in 2010 his ERA climbed to a whopping 6.34. In 2011 he signed to pitch in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants, but left before the season started due to concerns with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. 

Retirement: Bannister has now retired from the game in both countries. He is also a professional photographer and had his work published in the NY Times, NY Daily News as well as other publications. 

Bannister is also the founder of Loft 19 Photography Studios in Phoenix, Arizona.

Feb 26, 2016

Mid Nineties Mets Pitcher: Pete Smith (1994)

Peter John Smith was born on February 27, 1966 in Abington, Massachusetts. The six foot two right hander, was a 1984 first round draft pick (21st pick overall) for the Philadelphia Phillies. A year later he was traded along with Ozzie Virgil, to the Atlanta Braves for Steve Bedrosian and Milt Thompson. 

Smith would debut with Atlanta in September 1987 pitching in six games as a starter. The next year he was 7-15 with a 3.69 ERA, tying a young Tom Glavine for the team lead in wins. That year the Braves finished last going 54-106. In 1989 he was 5-14 on another last place Braves team. Smith remained in Atlanta for seven seasons as the Braves got better & went to two consecutive World Series. 

 In the Braves 1991 NL Pennant season he only made ten starts, as he spent time in the minors, appearing in 14 Braves games going just 1-3. He had his best season in 1992, as the Braves won another pennant. Smith began the year at AAA Richmond going 7-4 with a 2.14 ERA , getting up to the Atlanta staff in early August. 

He surprised everyone, as he went 7-0 with a 2.05 ERA, making 11 starts with two complete game victories. He pitched three games in the 1992 post season, all in relief, allowing one run in six innings pitched. He would fall off the next season dropping to 4-8 with a 4.37 ERA, allowing 15 HRs in 90 innings. That winter Smith got traded to the New York Mets for Bob Gallagher.

 In 1994 Smith was the Mets third starter behind Bret Saberhagen & Bobby Jones. The rotation also included Mike Remlinger & Jason Jacome. He debuted on April 5th, 1994 in the Mets second game of the year. He got his first Mets win that day, in a 6-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The win helped the Mets sweep the series & begin the year at 3-0. Smith gave up six runs over five innings in his second star, losing 6-1 at Houston. 

He lost three straight decisions in April, as his ERA rose to near six. At the start of May he defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, pitching seven innings of work. Two more losses followed, until he a threw a eighth inning, one run complete game victory at Shea Stadium over the Cincinnati Reds.

 Smith's biggest problem was giving up HRs, he would serve up HRs in six straight games twice on the year. On May 22nd he allowed four HRs to the Philadelphia Phillies at Veterans Stadium, in an 8-3 Met loss. Smith allowed two HRs in a game seven times on the year. From June to early August he won just one more game, going 1-5, when the baseball strike ended the season. 

Smith allowed the most HRs in the National League that season (25). He won just four games, going 4-10 with a 5.55 ERA making 21 starts with 62 strike outs & 42 walks in 131 innings pitched. The Mets did not resign him after the season & he moved on to pitch for the Cincinnati Reds going 1-2 in 1995. Smith then went to the San Diego Padres (1997) where he made 37 appearances going 7-6 with a 4.81 ERA. In 1998 he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles pitching as a middle reliever closing out his career. 

 In his 11 year career Smith was 47-71 with 640 strike outs 404 walks in 1025 innings pitched, allowing 16 HRs with a 4.55 ERA in 231 appearances.

Feb 24, 2016

Late Sixties Mets Pitcher: Don Shaw (1967-1968)

Donald Wellington Shaw was born on born on February 23, 1944 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The six foot left hander attended San Diego State University getting drafted by the New York Mets in 1965, down in the 35th round. Shaw went 6-2 at the A ball level, at Marion & Auburn in 1965, showing some good stuff. 

By 1967 he had become one of the Mets Chairman of the Board, M. Donald Grant’s favorite players. Shaw soon found himself on the '67 Mets big league staff. Trivia: This Mr. Shaw was no relation to Bronx born pitcher Bob Shaw, who was also on the 1967 Mets staff. 

 Donnie Shaw made his debut on Opening Day 1967, closing out a 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He appeared in two more games, before he recorded two saves on back to back days, at the end of April. On April 23rd Shaw took his first loss, blowing a save to the Philadelphia Phillies. First he served up a tie breaking HR to Dick Allen & then a two run double to former Met, Phil Linz. On May 2nd he earned his first career win, although he only pitched to one batter in the top of the 12th inning. In the bottom of the inning, Ed Kranepool tripled , scoring Al Luplow & then he scored on a John Sullivan walk off RBI single. 

On August 1st, he pitched five scoreless innings striking out five Astros at the Houston Astrodome, in a 5-1 Mets victory. In the next two weeks he took a relief loss to the Giants, then earned a two inning save against the Pittsburgh Pirates at home. Two days later on that home stand, although he gave up two earned runs in the 8th inning, he earned the 11-9 win against the Pirates. It was the last game he pitched in that season. 

Shaw would make 40 relief appearances with the '67 Mets, going, 4-5 with three saves posting a 2.98 ERA. Shaw allowed seventeen earned runs in 51 innings pitched, striking out 44 batters & walking 23. That off season he was supposed to go to the Chicago White Sox along with Tommy Davis, in a deal to get Rookie of the Year Tommie Agee. But the trade was balked because M. Donald Grant, still favoring his pitcher, said “we’re not trading my Donnie Shaw”. It was decisions like this that drove Mets Minor league Director of Player Development Whitey Herzog crazy. 

Setbacks only got Shaw into seven games in 1968 and he was eventually picked by the Montreal Expos in the 1968 expansion draft. Shaw made history on Opening Day 1969, as the winning pitched in the first game in Montreal Expos history. The win came at Shea Stadium against his old Mets team mates. Shaw pitched 35 games as a mid reliever with the Expos, going 2-5 with a save. 

 He pitched in just 14 games in 1970 in the minor leagues & returned with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971. He had his best season there going 7-2 with two saves & a 2.65 ERA in 45 games. In May of 1972 he was traded to the Oakland A’s, pitching in just three games there for the eventual World champions.

Shaw ended his five season career in 1973 at age 29. He was 13-14 lifetime with six saves, 123 strike outs, 101 walks in 188 innings pitched posting a 4.01 ERA appearing in 138 games (one start).

Feb 23, 2016

Late 2000's Mets Reserve Catcher: Gustavo Molina (2008)

Gustavo Eduardo Molina was born February 24, 1982 in La Guaira, Vargas Venezuela. The six foot one catcher, was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 2000 at age 18. Molina played six years at the A ball & Rookie leaguye levels before getting to AA in 2006. 

In 2007 he began the year with the Sox big league team, playing ten games as a pinch hitter or late inning replacement at catcher. In mid May he was sent back to AAA Charlotte getting put on waivers in July. He was selected off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles returning to the big leagues as a September call up. He hit .111 in 27 at bats that season. 

In December 2007 he signed with the New York Mets as a free agent. Molina would play just two games for the Mets, making his debut on April 26th, 2008. He was one of five catchers used by the Mets that season, including main back stop Brian Schneider (110 games), Ramon Castro (52 games), Raul Casanova (20 games) & Robinson Cancel (27 games). 

Molina was behind the plate catching John Maine at Shea Stadium, in a 4-3 win over the Atlanta Braves. Billy Wagner would help out with the save. Molina singled off Tim Hudson in his first Mets at bat. He went 1-3 with a walk on the night. Four days later he made his second & last Mets start, going 0-4 in a 13-1 debacle of a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played out the rest of the year at AAA New Orleans batting just .206, he was granted free agency at the end of the year. 

After spending 2009 in the minors, he played four games with the Boston Red Sox in 2010 & three games with the A.L. New York club in 2011. He was granted free agency in November 2012 after playing in their minor leagues.

Feb 21, 2016

Former Mets Relief Pitcher: JJ Putz (2009)

Joseph Jason Putz was born February 22, 1977 in Trenton, Michigan. The tall six foot five right hander, attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor going on to pitch in the major leagues with a long line of other Wolverines.

In his college days he shared a dorm with New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady. Putz was drafted three different times, lastly by the Seattle Mariners in the 6th round of the 1999 draft.

In the minors he was mostly a starting pitcher, switching to a reliever in 2003 when he saved 11 games in 41 appearances. Putz debuted in 2003 with a good fastball at around 97 mph. Over the next two years he became a middle reliever behind closer Eddie Guardado, going 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA in 2005. That year Guardado taught him to throw a split finger fast ball & it changed Putz into a much better pitcher.

He took over the Mariners closer role in 2006 & saved 36 games (6th in the league) going 4-1 with a 2.30 ERA. The following year he was spectacular, leading the A.L. in appearances (65) going 6-1 with a 1.35 ERA & 40 saves (second in the league). He won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award & set a Mariner record of 30 consecutive saves.

Elbow injuries nagged him throughout the 2008 season & he fell to a 6-5 with 15 saves (3.88 ERA) in 47 appearances. In December of 2008 Putz came to the New York Mets along with Sean Green & Jeremy Reed in a three team trade also involving the Cleveland Indians.

The Mets sent away fan favorite Endy Chavez, along with Joe Smith, Aaron Heillman & Jason Vargas in the trade. There was a lot of excitement for 2009 at the new Citi Field with Putz expected to rebound from his injury, accepting a set up role behind new Mets closer Frankie Rodriguez. Putz pitched for Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Putz appeared in the first two games of the season, getting credited with two holds in the Mets first two wins in Cincinnati against the Reds.

On April 17th he earned his first win it came against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field.

On April 21st he came into a tie game (4-4) at Citi Field against the St. Louis Cardinals, he gave up an RBI double & sac fly RBI taking the loss. A week later he blew an 8th inning save when Florida's Cody Ross drove in two runs giving the Marlins the lead & the eventual win. 

Putz had a decent May with two saves & six holds, allowing seven earned runs over 17 innings. His ERA was at 3.81 at the end of May before he suffered more elbow problems. In his last three outings he allowed seven runs in 1.1 innings over three games before getting shut down for the rest of the season.

On June 1st the Pirates got him for three runs in less than inning of work & then on June 4th they got him for two more runs over one inning in Pittsburgh. His ERA ballooned to 5.22 as he finished the year at 1-4 with two saves allowing 18 runs in 29 innings.

The Mets chose not to pick up his option in 2010. He went to the Chicago White Sox & served as set up man to Bobby Jenks going 7-5 with a 2.83 ERA. He recorded 14 holds & three saves while making 60 appearances. In December 2010 he signed with the Arizona D-Backs & was penciled in as their closer for 2011.

He recorded 45 saves (third most in the NL) for the 2011 NL Western Champion D-backs, posting a 2.17 ERA going 2-2 in 60 appearances finishing 52 games (7th in the NL). He followed up 2012 with 32 saves & a 1-5 record posting a 2.82 ERA.

In 2013 the D-backs closer role went to Heath Bell (15 saves) & Brad Ziegler (13 saves). Putz made 40 appearances, with six holds & a 2.36 ERA in 34 innings. He would pitch in just 14 games in 2014 before ending his big league career.

Putz & his family resided in the Pelham Manor section of New York during his time in New York. He now lives in Peoria, Arizona in a residence he kept ever since pitching in the Cactus League.

Trivia: He enters the game to the tune of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck".

In his twelve year career he made 572 appearances, going 37-33 with 189 saves posting a 3.98 ERA. In 566 innings he struck out 599 batters & walked 184.

Former Italian / American Pitcher Who Later Threw Mets Batting Practice: John Valentinetti (1954-1959)

Vito John Valentinetti was born on September 16, 1928 in West New York, New Jersey. He grew up in his later years in Mount Vernon, New York just outside the Bronx. 

Valentinetti went to Aviation high school with Hall of Fame pitcher-Whitey Ford & got a baseball scholarship to Iona College in New Rochelle. Vito made Iona history by throwing  the school’s first ever no hitter. 

He helped lead the Iona Gaels team to winning seasons ever year he pitched. The hard throwing right hander became the first Iona player to make it to the major leagues & is enshrined in their Hall Of Fame. Three players, all pitchers have made it to the bog leagues via Iona.

Valentinetti was signed by the Chicago Cubs in 1950, but then went off to the US Army for two years of military service. He joined the Cubs staff in 1954 pitching just one game. He went back to the minors returning in 1956 going 6-4 with a 3.78 ERA. He was mostly a relief pitcher in his career but made occasional starts as well. 

He would pitch in the South side of Chicago  for parts of three seasons, as well as for the Cleveland Indians (1957) Detroit Tigers (1958) &Washington Senators (1958 -1959). In 1958 he made 23 appearances (10 starts) going 4-6 with a 5.08 ERA for the 8th place Senators.

Over a five year career he posted a 13-14 Career record with 3 saves, 94 strike outs & a 4.73 ERA in 257 innings pitched in 108 games.

NY Mets Ties: After his playing days he threw occasional batting practice for the Mets home games from 1962-1982. He also tossed some BP across town for the A.L. New York team, during their home stands. Pretty kool job in retirement for Mr. Valentinetti.

Honors: He was honored in a parade at Hoboken, New Jersey with other Jersey born major leaguers, celebrating 100 years of baseball in that town. The mayor of Hoboken, the Governor of New Jersey & other celebrities were also on hand for the bog event. 

He was also honored by the Detroit Tigers at their new ball park, with a brick engraved with his name & other old Tiger player’s names on it.

After throwing batting practice, he began a 25 year career in the New York State Department of Office Administration. In 2009 he was on hand to open up the new Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Feb 20, 2016

Long Island Born Player Who Finished His Career With the Mets: John Valentin (2002)

John William Valentin was born on February 18th, 1967 in Mineola, New York on Long Island. He then attended Seton Hall University in New Jersey, getting drafted in the 5th round of the 1988 draft by the Boston Red Sox.

He was playing at AAA Pawtucket by 1991 hitting 9 HRs batting .260 in 100 games. He came up to the majors briefly in 1992 arriving for good the next year. Valentin would spend ten years with the Red Sox, playing his first five years as the teams short stop until Nomar Garciapara arrived on the scene. Then Valentin moved over to third base.

In Boston he hit over .300 twice (1994 & 1997) with two twenty plus HR seasons, three forty plus doubles seasons & four seasons of seventy plus RBIs.

In 1995 he had his biggest year hitting 27 HRs with 37 doubles 102 RBIs a .399 on base % while batting .298. That year he came in 9th in the MVP voting.

In 1997 he led the AL in doubles (47) hitting 18 HRs with 77 RBIs batting .306. He was a fine infielder leading the league in assists at short in 1995, coming in second in put outs & first in errors (18). He was 5th in fielding in 1999 (.954%).

When he switched over to third base he was in the league's top five twice, leading the league in put outs in 1998 coming in second in assists. Valentin got to three post seasons with the Red Sox, batting .347 with 5 HRs 6 doubles & 19 RBIs.

Post Season: In 1999 he had a huge ALDS against the Cleveland Indians, hitting three HRs driving in 12 runs going 7-22 against Indian pitching.

In Game#4 at Fenway Park he hit two HRs & drove in seven runs as the Sox pounded Cleveland 23-7 tying the series up. In the final Game #5 he had two more hits driving in two more run as the Red Sox advanced on a 12-8 win.

After the 2001 season he was granted free agency at age 34. In the off season he signed a one year deal with the New York Mets finishing out his career. Valentin seemed to have big hits in amny games for the 2002 Mets although the team finished 5th with a 75-86 record.

On Opening day Velentin got a pinch hit at bat going 0-1. On April 15th the Mets were behind 6-1 to the Atlanta Braves in the seventh inning. They scored three runs & had Rey Ordonez on first base when Valentin was called to pinch hit. He blasted a two run game tying HR off Mike Remlinger, the Mets went on to win it 7-6.

In another game in late April the Mets were down 5-1 to the St. Louis Cards when Valentin started a comeback rally with a two run double. The Mets went on to win that game as well.

On May 3rd he had a huge day in Houston, with three hits a HR and four RBIs in the Mets 11-3 win. In June he hit a two run HR against the Kansas City Royals in an interleague game at Shea, sparking the club to another come back. In Cincinnati on July 28th, his 7th inning double came with the Mets down 4-3, the hit put the Mets ahead, in another game they came back to win. In September he drove in two more runs in two games the Mets beat the Phillies in by one run each time.

On the year he played in 114 games with 3 HRs 15 doubles & 30 RBIs while batting .240.

Valentin finished his 11 year playing career with a .279 average 1093 hits 281 doubles 17 triples 124 HRs 463 walks 558 RBI& a .360 on base %.

Feb 19, 2016

One Time New York Mets Pitcher: Livan Hernandez (2009)

Eisler Livan Hernandez was born on February 20, 1975 in Villa Clara Province Cuba, although many people question how true that date is.

He was getting paid $6 an hour as a Cuban athlete when he planned his escape through Mexico with a baseball recruiter at the age of 20. His half brother Orlando El Duque Hernandez defected two years later, also pitched in the major leagues. Hernandez signed with the Florida Marlins in order to live in the Miami area making a brief debut in September 1996. 
 Since then Hernandez is spending a long career as a work horse journey man who pitched 199 innings or more every season for over a decade (1998-2007).He had great movement on his pitches & has the ability to change speeds although he throws only in the mid 80's. 

In the Marlins 1997 Championship season he made his first start in June pitching in an interleague game against the AL New York club. On June 28th he beat the Montreal Expos at home & went on to win nine straight decisions into September.

He ended the year at 9-3 in 17 starts with a 3.18 ERA, striking out 72 batters in 96 innings of work. He beat the Mets for his second win on July 2nd but lost to them on September 22nd when he allowed seven earned runs in just 2.1 innings of work. 

Post Season: In the NLCS he beat the Atlanta Braves twice, winning the LCS MVP Award. His first win came in relief in Game #3 & then he pitched a complete game in Game #5, where he out pitched Greg Maddox 2-1. In the Series he posted a 0.84 ERA in 10.2 innings pitched striking out 16 Braves. 

In the 1997 World Series he beat Orel Hershiser & the Cleveland Indians in the opener 7-4. He returned in Game #5, although he gave up five runs, he pitched eight innings & earned his second World series win.

As the Marlins won the Championship, Livan put himself on the map winning the Series MVP Award going 2-0 with seven strike outs, ten walks, nine runs allowed in 13.2 innings pitched. Overall he was 4-0 in his first post season. He is one of just four players to win both the LCS & World Series MVP Awards joining; Darrel Porter (1982) Willie Stargell (1979) & Orel Hershiser (1988). 

 Before Game #7, the United States & Cuban Governments worked together to bring his mother to Miami. Livan & his mother were reunited for the first time in two years. Quite a night for the two, his mother & his sister still reside in Florida today. 

Following the championship in 1998 he went 10-12 with a 4.72 ERA allowing a league leading 265 hits pitching in 33 games in his first full season. That year the Marlins had a fire sale getting rid of their top players, dropped to fifth place going 54-108. Livan also would be moved going to the San Francisco Giants for Jason Grilli & Nate Bump. 

Livan would spend four years in San Francisco, having his best year there in 2000, leading the NL Western Champion Giants by winning 17 games (going 17-11) posting a 3.75 ERA, striking out 165 batters pitching in 240 innings (5th in the NL). He pitched five complete games & had two shut outs. That year he allowed another league leading 254 hits, in his career he would allow the most hits in the league five times. 

Post Season: In the 2000 NLDS against the New York Mets he was the winning pitcher in the opening Game #1, allowing just one run in seven innings pitched. 

 The next year he led the NL in hits (266) earned runs (132) while going 13-15 (4th most losses in the NL) posting a 5.24 ERA. His last season with the Giants was the 2002 wild card season where they went all the way to the World Series. Hernandez led the league in losses (going 12-16) posting a 4.38 ERA. His 12 wins were last among the Giants starters who had two 14 & two 13 game winners. 

Post Season: In the post season he beat Tom Glavine & the Atlanta Braves in Game #4 of the NLDS, pitching into the 9th inning striking out six Braves. In the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals he got a no decision pitching into the 7th inning allowing two runs in Game #4 at Pac Bell Park in San Francisco. 
 This time in the World Series he wasn’t as successful going 0-2 allowing nine earned runs in 5.2 innings pitched against the Anaheim Angels.

In Game #7 he allowed a double to Bengie Molina in the 2nd inning tying up the game, but the big blow came in the third inning. He gave up a bases loaded double to Garrett Anderson which scored three runs, earning him the loss. 
 In Spring Training 2003, he was traded to the Montreal Expos where he would win 15 games, leading the league in complete games (8) & innings pitched (233).

He would lead the league over the next three seasons, moving with the Expos franchise to their new home in Washington D.C. He made the first start in Nationals history on April 4th in Philadelphia taking a loss to the Phillies allowing seven earned runs in 4.2 innings of work. After a 1-2 start, he went on to win ten straight decisions, giving the Nationals a taste of some of their early history excitement. He made the All Star team that season & the next season as well. He finished the year at 15-10 (9th most wins in the league) leading the league in starts (35) innings (246) & hits (268) posting a 3.98 ERA. 

 In August of 2006 he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Matt Chico & Garrett Mock. He went 13-13 on the year, also going .500 (11-11) in 2007.

He got to another post season that season, his fourth & last to date. Hernandez beat the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS & then lost Game #3 to the Colorado Rockies as they went on to sweep the D-backs four straight.

He signed on with the Minnesota Twins for 2008 going 10-8 but was placed on waivers in August to make room for Nelson Liriano. He was soon picked up by the Colorado Rockies. He finished out the season there going 3-3 in eight games with the Rockies. 

In February of 2009 Omar Minaya, now General Manager of the New York Mets signed him to a one year deal. The two had formed a relationship during their days with the Expos organization.

Hernandez began the year as the teams number five starter, debuting in Florida on April 11th against the Marlins. He won his first Mets outing pitching into the seventh inning allowing two runs in the 8-4 Mets win. He lost his first game that year in St. Louis, allowing seven runs in less than five innings of work. 

Livan pitched well from the start of May into early June, winning four straight decisions in that time. He would pitch into the seventh inning in the first two of those wins, in Atlanta & at Citi Field against the Pirates.

On May 26th he threw a complete game win against his old Washington teammates, allowing just one run while striking out six. He made Mets history by pitching the first complete game in the new Citi Field. Livan was 5-1 with a 3.88 ERA on June 7th, as the Mets were 30-25 just three games out of first place, but then the whole thing fell apart. 

Livan then lost four straight games and seven of his next nine decisions before he was released on August 20th, to make room for Billy Wagner's return. As a Met, Hernandez pitched 23 games going 7-8 with a 75 strike outs, 51 walks while posting a 5.47 ERA. He was picked up once again by the Washington Nationals & then went 2-4 the rest of the way. 

In 2010 he became the teams main starter, pitching in 35 games leading the staff in wins (12) ERA (3.66) complete games (2) shut outs (1) & innings pitched (211). In 2011 he was 8-13 making 29 starts posting a 4.41 ERA pitching 175 innings. 

At the age of 37 Hernandez began the 2012 season with the Houston Astros but was released at the end of Spring Training. He was then signed by the Atlanta Braves & made his Braves debut at Citi Field, in the second game of the season, pitching two innings of the Braves 4-2 loss to the Mets. 
 He pitched in 18 games as a middle reliever for the Braves, earning a win at St. Louis on May 11th. In mid June his ERA was 5.24 & he was released, getting picked up by the Milwaukee Brewers. In 26 games with the Brewers he went 3-0 posting a high 7.68 ERA. 

In his career Livan has been a solid defensive player, making just 15 errors on the mound in 827 chances & 3189 innings, leading the league in assists twice. He is also a good hitting pitcher, batting .221 with 215 hits in his career, 10 HRs 38 doubles & 85 RBIs. 

In his 17 year career he is 178-177 (79th most losses all time) with a 4.44 ERA striking out 1976 batters (75th all time) & walking 1066 (88th all time). He has pitched 3189 innings (107th all time) given up 3525 hits (62nd all time) & 1572 earned runs (34th all time). He has thrown 50 complete games with nine shut outs in 519 games & 474 starts (63rd all time).