Apr 29, 2016

Life Long Mets Fan & Broadcaster: Gary Cohen (1988-2015)

Gary Cohen was born on April 29th, 1958 in Flushing New York. He was raised in Queens between Flushing & Jamaica attending the United Nations School.

He was true Mets fan idolizing Bud Harrelson, attending many games at Shea Stadium as a boy growing up. Cohen & his father were in the last section of Shea Stadium’s left field (Section 48) for Game #3 of the 1969 NLCS, making it all the way down to the field to get his piece of turf after the game, as the Mets won the pennant.

He attended Columbia University, graduating on the dean’s list while earning a degree in Political Science. He wanted to be a short stop following in Harrelson’s shoes but couldn’t hit well enough to remain on the baseball team. He loved basketball but was too short to play that sport.

He then moved into a broadcasting career, beginning by calling soccer games at Columbia University. From there he began to broadcast minor league baseball, for Boston's AAA Pawtucket club of the International League (1987-1988), the A ball Durham Bulls of the Carolina League (1986) and the A ball Spartanburg Spinners of the South Atlantic League (1983-1984). He would also do broadcast for Providence College basketball & football for Brown University.

His lifelong was to do to major league baseball, & at first he didn’t care what team would give hom a chance. But when it turned out to be the New York Mets, his dream came true. He grew up a fan of Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson & Ralph Kiner as well as Marv Albert.

In 1988 he was called into the booth to work with Bob Murphy for one game. In his big chance he choked up & didn’t say anything. “Murph reached out with his hand and he patted my hand in a grandfatherly way as if to say don’t worry, you’re okay, you’ll be all right, and he just started talking and that took the pressure off,” said Cohen.

“He went out of his way to make it okay and I never forgot that, that’s going to always be my greatest memory,” The next season (1989) he became Murphy’s partner in the radio booth, filling in for Gary Thorne who left the position.

His smooth baritone voice & incredible knowledge for the game makes him a natural. He never stops studying the game he has loved & lived his whole life.

He once said in an interview in the Queens Tribune: The people who you’re talking to can’t see what you’re describing so you have to describe it as fully as you can. You can’t decide when you’re 21 that you want to be a baseball broadcaster, you have to have been a fan of the sport from the time you were little. You have to know the rules, you have to know the terminology, you have to know the history, and you have to keep up with it all the time.”

Cohen took over the as the Mets lead radio broadcaster when the great Bob Murphy retired after the 2002 season. He worked well with sidekick Howie Rose until 2006 when he became the Mets lead television broadcaster on the SNY network as well as the Mets local Chanell 11 games.

At this point he was teamed up with Mets legends Keith Hernandez & Ron Darling from the 1986 Championship squad.

The three have become a very popular team, and work very well together. They have formed a charity which can be accessed through the website: www.pitchinforagoodcause.org.

Gary’s signature calls are "It's outta here!" when a player hits a home run & "Swing and a miss, he struck him out!" after a big strike out.

In 2006 he returned to the radio booth since the Mets post season games were not televised on the local networks. He was behind the mike for the great Endy Chavez catch, robbing St. Louis Jim Edmonds of a HR.

In addition the Mets he has done baseball on the CBS Radio Network. Rose was also the radio voice for St. Johns basketball from 1995-2002 when WFAN lost its broadcasting rights.

Since then he has covered Seton Hall basketball on WABC, & has a brief run with New York Rangers hockey. He has done U.S.A. Men’s & Women’s Olympic Hockey on CBS Radio (1992-1994-1998)

Cohen is a listener of WFUV radio, lives in Connecticut with his wife Lynn, & has three daughters & two sons as well as three dogs.

Apr 27, 2016

Short Time 1973 NL Champion Mets Reliever: Phil Hennigan (1973)

Philip Winston Hennigan was born on April 10, 1946 at Jasper, Texas. The five foot eleven right handed pitcher, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 4th round in 1966. He served in Vietnam doing Military Service in 1967, then returned to the pitch minor leagues.

After going 10-10 at AA Waterbury in 1969, he got the September call up  having to face Hall of Famer Rod Carew in his first appearance.

Hennigan spend some more time in the minors, but would mostly pitch out of the Cleveland bullpen from 1969-1972. In 1970 he was 6-3 with three saves posting a 4.02 ERA in 42 games. He became Cleveland’s ace reliever in 1971, going 4-3 with 14 saves (8th best in the A.L.) posting a 4.94 ERA in 57 games. He dropped off to six saves, third best on the Indians staff in 1972 behind Steve Mingor (10) & Ed Farmer (7) while posting a 5-3 record. 

That November he was traded to the New York Mets as they wanted to booster up their bull pen. In exchange pitchers Brent Strom & Bob Rauch were sent to the Indians. Hennigan was only 27 years old at the time, but his Mets career would turn out to be short lived.

In 1973 Hennigan got the save for the Mets in their third game of the season, helping Jerry Koosman in a 5-4 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis. The next day he saved another in a tight 2-1 Mets win. Henneigan was used often in the early part of the season, but then his next three decisions were losses.

On June 5th in Cincinnati he relieved Tug McGraw in the 10th inning with Mets ahead 5-2. Duffy Dyer had cleared the bases with a three run triple in the top of the inning. McGraw had allowed a run to score & left two men on base as well. Hennigan then gave up a three run walk off HR to catcher Johnny Bench taking the loss. After making thirty appearances he was be 0-4 with an ERA with four saves posting a 6.23. In July the Mets were still struggling in last place, and having problems in the bull pen.

Hennigan was sent down to AAA Tidewater and spent the rest of the year there, as the Mets went on to win the NL Pennant. He pitched at AAA Tidewater in 1974 as well going 0-3 finishing out his playing career.

He will forever be remembered as a Met by his 1973 Topps baseball card, where his hat was air brushed with a Mets logo. Lifetime in a five season career, he was 17 -14 with 25 saves a 4.26 ERA, 174 strike outs & 193 walks in 120 games pitched.

Apr 23, 2016

2000 N.L. Champion Mets Pitcher: The Left Handed Bobby Jones (2000-2002)

Robert Mitchell Jones was born on April 11, 1972 in Orange, New Jersey. The Jones’s moved to Rutherford New Jersey, right on the outskirts of the Meadowlands & Giants Stadium.

Bobby played baseball in Rutherford Little League & then at Rutherford high school. He was drafted in the 44th round in 1991 by the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1995 Jones went to the Colorado Rockies getting drafted in the Rule 5 Draft. He made his MLB debut against his favorite team growing up, the New York Mets.

On May 18, 1997, at Shea Stadium he got no decision pitching into the 6th inning, allowing two runs while walking seven. Jones would pitch as both a starter & reliever for Colorado over the next two seasons, going 13-18 with a 5.52 ERA. In January of 2000 he was traded to his favorite team, the Mets for pitcher Masato Yoshi. Things got a little confusing with two Bobby Jones’ on the same pitching staff. This Bobby Jones, became known as the left handed Bobby Jones.

He came up briefly at the end of June & took a loss on the 4th of July in Florida allowing seven runs in four innings pitched. He was sent back down to AAA Norfolk where he went 10-8 on the season. He got the September call up, getting no other decisions in 11 games on the season, seeing no post season action.

In 2001 he was on the DL pitching just seven games in the minor leagues. He returned in 2002 to appear in 12 games before getting traded to the Padres along with a young Jason Bay for Steve Reed & Jason Middlebrook. Jones missed all of 2003 & then went to the Boston Red Sox for a brief three games in 2004. In his six year career he was 14-21 with a 5.77 ERA.

Retirement: Jones went back to New Jersey and played for the Independent Newark Bears. He was signed by the White Sox but did not crack the big league squad. He eventually opened a baseball academy in Montville, New Jersey.

He also became a pitching coach for both the Don Bosco Prep and the Montclair Mounties varsity teams. He currently works as an instructor with the Academy of Pro Players in Hawthorne, New Jersey.

Former 2010's Mets Relief Pitcher: D.J. Carrasco (2011)

Daniel Carrasco was born April 12th 1977 in Safford, Arizona. The six foot four inch right handed pitcher was a 26th round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1997.

He began pitching in the minor leagues in 1998 & has pitched there in every season but three. He has a 36-36 minor league record with 51 saves & a 3.86 ERA in 275 appearances. In his long up & down career he was been signed & released by the Orioles, Cleveland Indians & Pittsburgh Pirates before landing with the Kansas City Royals in 2002.

Carrasco pitched three seasons in Kansas City, he went 6-5 as a reliever in his rookie season of 2003 appearing in 50 games for the third place Royals who made a good run for the AL Central title all year.

In 2005 he was used as a starter in 20 games going 6-8 with a 4.79 ERA, 49 strike outs, 51 walks in 149 innings pitched. He was released & then pitched in Japan for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in 2006.

That winter he signed on with the Arizona Diamondbacks pitching in their minor leagues & learned the game of ping pong which he says helped revive his pitching career due to its mechanics.

He was eventually released & signed on with the Chicago White Sox in 2008 where he returned to the major leagues after a two year absence. In 2009 he was 5-1 with the Sox posting a 3.76 ERA in 49 games.

The journeyman ended up in Pittsburgh with the Pirates in 2010 before getting traded back to Arizona in July, along with Ryan Church & Bobby Crosby for Chris Snyder Pedro Ciriaco & cash. That winter he signed on with the New York Mets as a free agent.

Carrasco debuted with the Mets on April 3rd, getting credit for a hold in a game at Florida against the Marlins. On April 10th he blew a save against the Nationals & then took a loss against the Atlanta Braves in a rare starting role.

On June 16th he came on to pitch the tenth inning of a 8-8 tie game between the Mets & Braves at Turner Field. With runners on second & third he balked home the game winning run with Jason Heyward at the plate. The so called "balk off win" was the second ever allowed in Mets history.

Carrasco continued to pitch out of the Mets bullpen in the 2011 season & on August 9th he finally earned his first Mets win. It came after one inning of relief at Citi Field in a game against the San Diego Padres.

On the season he was 1-3 with two holds & a 6.02 ERA, allowing 67 hits in 49 innings in 42 games.

In 2012 he twisted his ankle in Spring Training & did not make a bullpen spot, retiring at age 35. In his career he is 24-21 with a 4.48 ERA, 312 strike outs & 199 walks in 490 innings in 286 games.

Apr 22, 2016

Early Sixties New York Born Met: Duke Carmel (1963)

Leon James Carmel was born on April 23rd, 1937 in East Harlem, New York City. Carmel attended Benjamin Franklin High School off Pleasant Ave back in the days when East Harlem was still an Italian neighborhood.

There was Patsy's Pizzeria, Espresso Coffee cafe's, real Italian Ice shops & plenty of baseball. He earned the nick name "Duke" & being known as Duke Carmel he had a classic name, pefect for baseball.

Carmel was signed as an amateur free agent in 1955 by The St. Louis Cardinals. In 1957 he slugged 29 HRs with a .329 batting average leading his team to the Pioneer League Pennant. In 1959 he hit 23 HRs while batting .291 at AA Omaha getting pushed to AAA for three games, then debuting with the Cardinals for ten games in September. 

In 1960 he only appeared in four games at the big league level & then spent two more seasons in the minor leagues, batting a best .243. In that time he went to the Dodgers, Indians organizations & then back to the Cardinals.

In 1963 he played in 57 games with St. Louis before getting traded to the New York Mets on July 30th, for Jackie Davis who never played in a Mets uniform. As Carmel joined the '63 Mets, he became part of one of the only teams in baseball history to have two guys named Duke on the same squad. The other was veteran Hall of Famer Duke Snider.

Those clever early Mets fans at the old Polo Grounds would even hang banners for Manager Casey Stengel saying "Hey Casey Put Up Your Dukes".

Carmel debuted as a Met at County Stadium in Milwaukee, getting two hits in an 8-0 Mets loss to the Braves. On August 8th Carmel had his big Mets moment when he hit a two run HR in the bottom of the 8th inning off the St. Louis Cardinals Bobby Shantz, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead & the eventual win. 

On September 1st he hit a three run HR in the bottom of the first inning in a wild game against his old Braves team mates. The Mets would win the game on a walk off HR by Tim Harkness.

The next day in the first game of a double header against the Cincinnati Reds, Carmel tripled to score Harkness & Ron Hunt in what turned out to be the game winning runs. Duke Carmel played in 47 games for the '63 Mets playing at first base, out field & as a pinch hitter. He batted .235 with 3 HRs five doubles three triples eleven runs scored & 18 RBIs.

Carmel spent 1964 at AAA Buffalo having a big year with 35 HRs 99 RBIs & batting .271. The next year he was drafted as Rule V player by the AL New York club, playing just six games at the MLB level.

In Jim Bouton's book Ball Four he sardonically mentions Carmel was to be the next Joe Dimaggio. When he couldn't hit during Spring Training Whitey Ford told him " Your just not a Florida hitter". When he didn't hit up North he said " You just can't hit south of the Mason Dixon line". Carmel went 0-8 with five strike outs before getting reassigned.

He was back with the Mets organization as well as the Reds organization through 1967 playing at the AAA Level. Carmel played four seasons at the MLB level batting .211 with 4 HRs seven doubles 23 RBIs & a .294 on base %.

Retirement: After baseball Carmel settled in Coram, New Jersey & became a salesman for a liquor store.

Apr 21, 2016

Mid 2000's Mets Infielder: Jerr Keppinger (2004)

Jeffrey Scott Keppinger was born on April 21, 1980 in Miami, Florida. The six foot infielder, attended the University of Georgia where he hit .380 getting to the college World Series in 2001.

That same year he was drafted in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. His power numbers fell off in the minor leagues, but he still continued to hit well batting .325 at A ball Lynchburg.

In the summer of 2004 he came over to the New York Mets organization in the Kris Benson deal. He made brief stops at AA Binghamton & AAA Norfolk early that summer. He got a break when a roster spot opened up, making his MLB debut with the Mets, on August 20th at San Francisco. He came into the game as a pinch hitter, going 0-1.

The next day he came into the game in the 7th inning & got his first career hit in the Mets 11-7 extra inning win. On August 22nd he made his first start at second base & got two hits in the 3-1 Mets loss. At the end of August, he hit HRs in back to back games, at Shea Stadium in losses to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Keppinger saw a lot of playing time in September, & drove in seven runs from the 10th through the 18th. On the year he would bat .284 with three HRs & nine RBIs playing in 33 games at second base.

He was back at AAA Norfolk in 2005 batting .331 in 64 games and was set to replace Kazo Matsui when he went down with injury. Unfortunately Keppinger himself, fractured his knee cap & wasn’t able to play. Instead he missed out the rest of the season.

Things may have been different for him & the Mets had he been able to succeed Matsui if he had not been injured.

The following season he was batting .300 again at AAA Norfolk but got traded to the Kansas City Royals for Ruben Gotay. He played in 22 games for the Royals that year, batting .267. On September 9th, he hit a three run pinch hit HR at Boston's Fenway Park in a 10-4 Royals win, it was his first hit in two years.

He eventually got traded to the Cincinnati Reds for 2007 & would hit .333 in 67 games that season. The next year he became Dusty Baker & the Reds regular short stop where he hit .266.

In the off season he was traded to the Houston Astros where he became their regular second baseman for 2010 hitting .288 with 34 doubles 6 HRs & 59 RBIs.

Late in 2011 he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Henry Sosa & Jason Stoffel. In 2012 he signed with the Tampa Rays, where he hit .325 in 115 games (385 at bats) seeing action filling in for the injured Carlos Pena & Ben Zobrist.

He was granted free agency & was perused by the AL New York club when they knew Alex Rodriguez was going to be out most of the season. He declined their offers & signed with the Chicago White Sox for 2013.

In 2013 Keppinger was the White Sox ultimate utility man playing at second base (45 games) third base (41 games) first base (20 games) & DH (16 games). Overall he hit .253 with 4 HRs & 40 RBIs.

He hit nine HRs 15 doubles & 40 RBIs. Keppinger played at first, second, third base & designated hitter. 

In 2014 he was designated for assignment & was released, he is currently a free agent.

In his eight year career he played 701 games, batting .288 with 41 HRs 126 doubles 255 RBIs & a .337 on base %.

Apr 19, 2016

1999 NL Wild Card Mets Pitcher: Masato Yoshi (1998-1999)

Masato Yoshii was born April 20, 1965 in Osaka, Japan. The tall six foot two right hander was originally drafted in Japan in 1984.

He struggled with high ERA’s in his first two seasons pitching for the Kintetsu Buffaloes and earned his first career win in 1987. In 1988 he was the Pacific Leagues Relief pitcher of the Year, winning 19 games while posting 24 saves. He saved twenty more games the next year and eventually converted over to being a starter with the Yakult Swallows in 1993.

He won ten or more games the next three years, having a career year in the final year of his contract. He wanted to remain loyal to his team but his agent convinced to shoot for higher salaries with other teams Some in Japan felt he was asking more than he was worth. His friend Hideo Nomo convinced him to come over & pitch in America. He refused all offers in Japan to sign on with the New York Mets for $200,000 with incentives that would make him a million in his first year.

He made his MLB debut starting the fifth game of the 1998 season, throwing seven shutout innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, recording his first MLB win. Yoshi allowed just three hits & struck out seven in that game. In May he won three straight decisions, including a complete game performance where he allowed just one run on May 21st against the Cincinatti Reds at Shea Stadium.

He was 4-1 at the beginning of June but he would lose his next five decisions, and not earn another victory until August 19th. He would win just one more game the rest of the season, coming in his last outing of the year in a game against the Florida Marlins. In 29 games he went 6-8 with a 3.93 ERA striking out 117 batters in 177 innings pitched, giving up 22 HRs while walking only 55 batters
In 1999 he was once again on Bobby Valentines staff, & won his first outing of the season. It was the sixth game of the season, a 10-3 win over the Expos at Montreal. After a 1-3 April, he won four straight starts, including a two hit six inning shutout performance against the Diamond backs in Arizona. As the season went on h got better closing out the year with five straight winning decisions in August & September.

He got better run support than the previous year, especially down the stretch. Yoshi pitched a complete game, one run, six hitter in San Diego on August 18th against the Padres to start the win streak. He would pitch into the sixth inning or beyond in all his wins, finishing the year at 12-8 with a 4.40 ERA. In 29 games he struck out 105 batters in 170 innings, helping the Mets catch the Wild Card title & go to their first post season since 1986.

Post Season: In the NLDS he started Game #2 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, going into the 6th inning giving up four runs on six hits while earning no decision. The Mets eventually won the game 8-4. In the NLCS he got the call from Bobby Valentine to start Game #1 in Atlanta against Greg Maddox & the Braves. He took the loss giving up two runs on five hits in 4.2 innings pitched.

He returned to start the eventual classic Robin Ventura "grand slam single" Game #4, and was one of the nine Mets pitchers used in the extra inning win. In the game Yoshii allowed two runs on four hits in just three innings pitched. 

In the 1999 off season he was traded to the Colorado Rockies for the left handed Bobby Jones & some guy named Lariel Gonzales. Yoshii got hit hard in the thin Rocky Mountain air at Colorado, going 6-15 (sixth most losses in the league) as he posted a 5.86 ERA. He was released after the season and signed on with the Montreal Expos pitching there for two seasons. He went 8-16 over those seasons with an ERA averaging around 4.50. By age 38 he was out of the major leagues after pitching there for five years.

Lifetime he was 32-47 with a 4.62 ERA, 447 strike outs & 222 walks in 162 games pitched. He went back to Japan and pitched there until 2007, making his fifth All Star Team there in 2006 then retiring at the age of 42.

Former Mets Catcher: Ronny Paulino (2011)

Ronny Leonel Paulino was born on April 21, 1981 in Santo Domingo. The six foot three catcher was originally signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1997 at age 16.

While rising through the ranks of the minor leagues, he batted .285 in 2004 at AA Altoona & then .306 overall in 2005 between AA & AAA. He was passed up as the Pirates top catching prospect by Ryan Doumit who was tearing up A ball with his hitting. That season Paulino made his debut with the Pirates appearing in two late September games.

In 2006 he had his first full season due to injuries to the Pirates catchers. Paulino batted .310 with 6 HRs 19 doubles & 55 RBIs. Behind the plate he caught a league leading 38 runners trying to steal (36%) & was second with 72 assists. He also allowed a league leading 11 errors & nine passed balls (third in the NL). The next year he fell to a .263 average but had career highs in HRs (11) RBIs (55) doubles (25) & games played (133).

In 2008 he became a back up catcher as Ryan Doumit took over the position after playing the outfield the previous year. Paulino was also sent to the minors playing in just 40 games with the Pirates.

In December 2008 he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jason Jaramillo. In March 2009 he got traded to the San Francisco Giants & the same day was shipped to the Florida Marlins for a minor leaguer. He spent two seasons in Florida, the first as a back up to John Baker.

In 2010 he was the Marlins main catcher batting . 259 with 4 HRs 18 doubles & 37 RBIs, while posting a .991 fielding % throwing out 31% of runners trying to steal. He threw out 24 runners (5th best in the NL) but committed six errors (4th most in the NL) &allowed 53 stolen bases (5th most).

His year started off well, first on April 7th in the second game of the season he singled in the winning run in the top of the 10th inning, in a game against the Mets at Citi Field. On April 10th he came in to bat as a pinch hitter in the 9th inning with the bases loaded & the Marlins down 6-4 to the Los Angele Dodgers.

Paulino doubled scoring the tying runs as Jeff Cantu later drove in the game winner with a sac fly. On April 17th he hit a three HR leading the Marlins past the Philadelphia Phillies 5-1. He hit well enough to keep his average above .300 into early June. On July 17th he drove in both Marlins runs in a 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals. His season was cut short with an injury on August 19th. In December he signed a deal with the New York Mets.

Paulino began the year at St. Lucie then at AAA Buffalo quickly making it to the Mets squad by the end of April. He would be used as a back up to Josh Tole playing in 78 games for the 2011 Mets.

In his first Mets start he played all 14 innings of a game at Philadelphia & ended up being the hero. Besides gathering five hits that night, in the top of the 14th he doubled off Kyle Kendrick driving in David Wright with the winning run. On July 3rd he came into the game as a pinch hitter, then singled off Mariano Rivera tying up a subway series game at Citi Field in the bottom of the 9th inning.

The Mets would win the game on Jason Bay's walk off base hit in the 10th inning. Paulino hit well enough through the year to stay above .300 into August. He finished the year batting .268 with 2 HRs 13 doubles a .312 on base % & 19 RBIs in 228 at bats. Behind the plate he threw out just 20% of runners trying to steal posting a .983 fielding %.

He was granted free agency & signed with the Baltimore Orioles for 2012. He appeared in just twenty games behind O's backstop Matt Wieters (144 games) & Taylor Teagarden (22 games) seeing no ALDS action. In 2013 he played in the minors for the Orioles & Detroit Tigers.

In an eight year career, Paulino hit .272 with 508 hits 33 HRs 93 doubles & 216 RBIs in 573 games. Behind the plate he caught 528 games throwing out 29% of would be base stealers.

Apr 18, 2016

Early Eighties Mets Catcher: Mike Bishop (1983)

Michael David Bishop was born on November 5th 1958 in Santa Maria, California. The six foot two right hand hitting catcher, was drafted out of high school in the 12th round of the 1976 amateur draft by the California Angels.

He showed some power in the minors hitting 28 HRs or better between two leagues in both 1979 & 1980.  In 1980 he led the Texas League with 33 HRs & 104 RBIs while playing at AA El Paso. That same year he got to AAA Salt Lake City & followed with a full season there in 1981, hitting 15 HRs with 91 RBIs. In 1982 he hit .267 with 12 HRs & 49 RBIs at AAA Spokane but was granted free agency at the end of the season.

In December of 1982 he signed with the New York Mets organization. The Mets were in quick need of a catcher & brought him right up to the club. He made his MLB debut on April 16th, 1982 at Busch Stadium, catching Ed Lynch. He struck out twice in the 6-2 Mets loss to the Cardinals.

On April 20th, he got another start in the second game of a double header. Tom Seaver threw a 6-0 shut out in the first game. In the second game, Bishop got his first hit, a double off Pittsburgh's Lee Tunnell. He was at bat with the bases loaded in the 5th inning, against Pirates pitcher; Rod Scurry. Scurry threw a wild pitch with Bishop at bat & Mookie Wilson scored from third base. Bishop then walked to load them up again. The Mets won this one 7-5 at Shea. Bishop played in just one more game before getting sent back down.

Veteran Ron Hodges (96 games) would see most of the catching action that year, his last season. Junior Ortiz, Mike Fitzgerald & Ronn Reynolds all played behind him for the sixth place Mets (66-94).

He played most of the year at AA Jackson & hit .280 with 13 HRs 43 RBIs in 66 games. His HRs were second to John Gibbons & Kevin Mitchell. He was promoted to AAA Tidewater where in 27 games he batted just .203 with one HR & 11 RBIs.

Passing: It seems an injury ended his career at that point because he never played minor league or major league baseball again.

Sadly, Bishop passed away in 2005 at Bakersfield, California at age 46.

Apr 15, 2016

Legendary Sixties Mets Scout: Red Murff (1963-1968)

John Robert Murff was born on April 1st, 1921 in Burlington Texas. He served in the Army in World War II & it was there he began to play baseball. The six foot three right hander was a star minor league pitcher as soon as he signed out of Gettysburg College. After winning 17 games in his first year of pro ball he went on to win twenty games the next two seasons.

In 1951 he pitched a no hitter pitching for the Texas City Texans & the following year pitched 19 2/3 innings of a twenty inning game although he took the loss. By 1955 he was 27-11 with a 1.99 ERA for the AA Dallas Eagles winning the Texas League Player of the Year Award as well as the Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year. Back injuries prevented him from ever becoming a full time MLB pitcher.

He was signed by the New York Giants but was soon traded to the Milwaukee Braves for a player to be named later. In 1956 he made the Braves staff and debuted as a rookie at the age of 35. He was the team's starting pitcher in the fourth game of the season, allowing five runs on seven hits to the St. Louis Cardinals but earned no decision. He was moved to the bullpen where he got credit for one save appearing in just 14 games on the year.

In 1957 he began the year with a save & then beat the Cincinnati Reds for his first career win. By early May he was 2-0 with two saves & an 0.93 ERA before he went downhill. He lost his next two decisions & raised his ERA to 4.85 by the end of the month. He was sent back down & never returned to the major leagues. He pitched in the minors until 1960 ending his minor league career at 146-95 with a 2.94 ERA.

He quickly became a minor league manager in 1960 & there he convinced a young Phil Niekro to throw a knuckleball. The following year Murff then began a very successful career as a scout. First he scouted with the new Houston Colt 45's where he signed a young fellow native Texan, a catcher named Jerry Grote. Murff was later instrumental in getting Grote to the New York Mets as he convinced the Mets brass of how good he was. He & Grote remained friends for the rest of his life.

Murff began working for the Mets in 1963, and through the next few years was responsible for signing many of the players that would make up the core of the 1969 World Champions. He held the first ever try outs for players enrolled in job training programs, & helped establish winter instructional leagues in Mexico. He followed the tip from an usher at Shea Stadium who had a son pitching at Fort Bliss Texas who was talking about a great pitcher they had down there. The pitcher turned out to be Jerry Koosman and although he seemed lax & a bit over weight he was signed by Murff.

Murff also signed two other Texans, second baseman Kenny Boswell & a skinny right hander who threw hard but was a bit wild, Nolan Ryan. In Ryans acceptance speech to the Hall of Fame he mentioned Murf (as did Phil Neikro) saying “He thought when he saw me at 6-foot-2 and 140, he wasn’t discouraged by my build and by the way I threw the baseball as many other scouts were. And I appreciate the fact that Red spent so much time with me and worked to help me become a better pitcher.”

By the time the Mets won the 1969 World Series, Murff was working for the newly formed Montreal Expos team as a scout. He worked in their organization through 1986 & was named Montreal's scout of the year in 1975. He then went on to the Atlanta Braves organization from 1987-1991 before retiring.

He helped establish baseball at the University of Mary Hardin- Baylor near his home & had the ball field there named after him. He also helped develop a program to have released players get a college education while playing baseball there. Murff also wrote a book & was elected to the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.

Passing: Murff passed away in 2008 at a nursing home facility in Tyler, Texas at age 87.

The Oldest Japanese Player To Debut In The Majors: Ken Takahashi (2009)

Ken Takahashi was born on April 16th 1969 in Yokohama, Japan. The six foot left hander was originally an outfielder turned pitcher in Japan. He pitched for 14 seasons with the Hiroshima Carp, where pitched a no hitter in 1996.

After five year with sub .500 records he made his first All Star team in 2000 with a 5-9 record & 4 saves [posting a 3.93 ERA. In 2001 he went 10-8 with a 4.27 ERA making another All Star team.

He continued to pitch through 2008 where he was known as the leagues old timer. He retired but expressed an interest in pitching in the Major Leagues.

He signed a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays but injured his calf fielding a bunt in his very first Spring Training appearance. He was released & was offered a contract by the New York Mets.

He made his first American appearance at AAA Buffalo on April 9th, 2009. He allowed two hits, two walks & a run to Pawtucket. After six games he was called up to the Mets to fill in for an injured Casey Fossum.

On May 2nd, he became the oldest Japanese player to debut in the major leagues, as he came in the 5th inning to relieve Oliver Perez, in a 6-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies as Citizens Bank Park.

Takahashi remained with the club trough the year, making 28 relief appearances. He took his only decision a loss on May 13th, at Citi Field, losing to the Atlanta Braves after allowing a HR to Martin Prado.

In 28 games he was 0-1 with 23 strike outs 14 walks & a 2.96 ERA in 27.1 innings of work.

He was not resigned & went to pitch in Japan another season in 2010.

Apr 14, 2016

Italian / American Baseball & Football Pioneer: Edward Abbaticchio

Edward Abbaticchio who was known as “Batty” and at times “Abbey”, is the second Italian American to play major league baseball, although many sources have him also down as the first.

Logically he has to be second because his career started after Lewis Pessano who was known as Buttercup Dickerson.

One thing for certain, Abbaticchio didn’t change his name to sound more American. Not only is he an Italian American baseball pioneer, but he is believed to be the first Italian American to play pro football as well.

Edward James Abbaticchio was born on April 15, 1887 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. After playing semi pro ball he made his debut in September of 1897 with Philadelphia. He played there briefly for two seasons, and then went to play in the Southern League for two seasons, leading the league in hitting both times.

He came back to the NL with the Boston Bean Eaters for two seasons. There in 1905, he hit .279 with 30 stolen bases as well as career highs in doubles (25) & triples (12) while leading the league in at bats (610).

He was a fine defensive infielder playing both shortstop & second base. In 1903 he led the league in put outs at second (316) & then in 1905 led the league in games played (152), put outs (386) & errors (75) at short.

In 1908 he would lead all second baseman in fielding (.969%). Abbaticchio was a fast runner and a good base stealer, stealing over twenty bases five times & over thirty bases twice. After the 1906 season he retired from playing ball and ran a family owned hotel in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Pirates convinced him to return to baseball and convinced him by paying him very well.

In 1907 he became the Pirate second baseman, playing alongside the great Hall of Famer Hounus Wagner. The two would form a strong friendship that lasted beyond their playing days.

In 1909 he was a member of the Pirates World Champion team, although he was only a reserve player by then. He hit .230 in 36 games that season, diving in 12 runs with two stolen bases. He made one appearance in the World Series striking out in a pinch hit at bat. He finished his baseball playing career with nine seasons, 855 games & a .254 batting average. He had 772 hits with 11 HRs 43 triples 99 doubles 324 RBIs and 142 stolen bases.

Pro Football: In 1895 Abbaticchio was a member of the first American professional football team, the Latrobe Volunteer Firemen Football team. He was a star full back and kicker, who gets credit for developing the spiral punt. He was payed a hefty $50 a game to play football in 1895.

Retirement: After playing sports he continued to run his Hotel, the Latrobe House until his retirement in 1932. He moved to beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida and lived there for 25 years before passing away on January 5, 1957 at age 79. He is inducted into the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame as one of its first members.