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.

Old Time New York Giants Outfielder: Moose McCormick (1904 /1908 /1910-1911)

Harry Elwood McCormick was born on February 28, 1881 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He earned the name Moose due to his large size of 5’ 11” at a time when people were a lot smaller. He played both baseball & football in high school, starring in both sports. 

Moose attended Bucknell University in Central Pennsylvania, where he was a team mate of the great Christy Mathewson. There he played baseball as well as using his intelligence to earn an engineering degree. In 1903 he played in the Eastern league where he led the league in batting, hitting for a .362 average. 

The New York Giants bought his contract for 1904 & he played in right field batting .266 with five triples, nine doubles & 12 stolen bases in just 59 games. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates that summer in a three team deal that brought Turkey Mike Donlin to the Giants. After the season Moose stayed in Pittsburgh and worked in the Steel Mill industry for the next three years. He returned to baseball in 1908 with Philadelphia, but had his contract bought back by John McGraw & the New York Giants in July. 

There he joined his old Bucknell University team mate Christy Mathewson who won 37 games, as well as Turkey Mike Donlin who he was traded for in 1904, who hit .334 on a strong Giants team. This was the legendary baseball season of Crazy ’08 where the Chicago Cubs beat out the Giants in a wild pennant race, that included the classic Fred Merkle’s Boner game. 

On September 23rd, 1908 the Giants & the Chicago Cubs were tied for first place, going head to head in a highly anticipated game at the Polo Grounds. In the bottom of the 9th inning the score was tied 1-1 when Art Devlin singled with one out. Moose McCormick then hit a sharp grounder to second, but the double play could not be turned due to Devlin's aggressive slide. 

Next, came rookie FRed Merkle who had just 47 plate appearances all year, he then singled down the right field line. Short stop Al Bridwell then singled to center field, McCormick scored from third base in what was thought to be the game winning run. But, the runner on first base, Fred Merkle didn’t touch second base completing the play. He thought the game was won and began to exit the field after McCormick had crossed home plate. 

The Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers alerted the umpire, Hank O'Day, to what was happening. Evers retrieved a baseball & touched second base forcing out Merkle. There are many stories as to what baseball he actually had retrieved. Some stories say a fan picked up the original ball & was attacked by Cubs players, another story said the Giants had retrieved the ball & threw it into the stands. In any event, the same incident had happened weeks before & was common at the time. But the Cubs infielder Johnny Evers had warned the umpires he would insist the rule be enforced if it happened to him again, so the league was aware of it. 

McCormick’s run ended up not counting & the game officially ended in a tie. The two teams ended up in a tie at the end of the season. The Cubs beat the Giants in a one tie breaker in front of a very rowdy Polo Grounds. 

Moose returned in 1909 to play his Giants career 105 games. He hit .291 with 21 doubles, eight triples 27 RBIs 68 runs scored & 49 walks good enough for a .373 on base %. 

He would not play in the big leagues the next two seasons but returned  for the Giants 1912 & 1913 NL Championship seasons. By then he was just a part time player, batting .333 (13-39) with four doubles & 8 RBIs in 42 games in 1912. In 1913 he hit .275 (22-86) in 57 games driving in 15 runs. He got a hit in each of the two World Series playing in seven games overall, mostly being used as a pinch hitter. 

In his five season career he batted .285 with 356 hits 26 triples 62 doubles 6 HRs 133 RBIs & 30 stolen bases. 

Retirement: After his playing days he returned to Bucknell College & the US Military Academy as a baseball coach.

Feb 26, 2016

A Wild Life Of A Short Time Met Who Once Scored Three Game Winning Runs In Two Weeks: Rusty Tillman (1982)

Kerry Jerome Tillman, known as Rusty; was born on August 29, 1960 in Jacksonville, Florida. The six foot right hand hitting outfielder, attended Florida College & was the first player out of the school to make it to the big leagues. He was drafted by the New York Mets in the tenth round of the 1979 draft.

He began playing in the Mets organization in 1979 in the Northwest & New York Penn. Leagues. In 1980 he hit .316 at A Ball Lynchburg, getting to AA Jackson in 1981 where he hit .278. In 1982 he reached AAA Tidewater playing for manager Jack Aker, with teammates Ron Darling, Walt Terrell, Bruce Bochy, Mike Fitzgerald, Mike Cubbage & Jose Oquendo. In 108 games with the Tides, Tillman hit .322 second on the club to veteran Gil Flores.

On June 6th he got called up & made his debut as a pinch hitter in a 6-3 Mets win over the Reds at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. His next three games would be exciting, as he secured his place in Mets history (although most forget the uneventful 1982 season) as he scored either the winning runs or insurance runs in that time.

On June 9th he had his first big Mets moment, when he came in as a pinch runner for Dave Kingman in the 9th inning. The Mets were down 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, when George Foster singled scoring Bob Bailor to tie the game. Tillman advanced to third base & scored the game's winning run on a Hubie Brooks Fielder's Choice off reliever Kent Tekulve.

A week later on June 18th, the Mets rallied from a 3-0 deficit against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of a doubleheader in St. Louis. Elis Valentine singled with the bases loaded, bringing the Mets to within a run 3-2. Rusty Tillman came in to pinch run for Valentine. George Foster then tied the game with a base hit & Mike Jorgensen followed with a walk. After Dave Kingman popped out, Wally Backman singled to right field scoring Jorgensen & Tillman with the games winning runs 5-3.

Two nights later, the Mets & Cards were tied 3-3 in St. Louis in the tenth inning. George Foster led off the inning with a base hit off Bruce Sutter & Tillman came in to pinch run. John Stearns followed with a triple scoring Joel Youngblood & Tillman putting New York up 5-4. The Cards scored one off Jesse Orosco in the bottom of the inning, but Tillman's insurance run proved to be the game winner.

Tillman was sent back to Tidewater, returning to the Mets in September. He would get only one hit in 12 at bats in the month, ending the season at .154 (2-13).

In 1983 he entered the year positive, playing under Davey Johnson at AAA Tidewater. But his average fell off to .255 with 8 HRs 63 RBIs, as he was overshadowed by young star Daryl Strawberry (.333 average) & sluggers Clint Hurdle (22 HRs / 105 RBIs) & Gary Rajsich (28 HRs / 83 RBIs).

In 1984 he only played in 44 games & his average fell off to a poor .219. By Spring Training 1985 he was traded to the San Diego Padres for Rick Lancellotti, who would never play as a Met at the big league level. Tillman would eventually get to the Oakland Athletics (1986) playing 22 games batting .256 & hitting his first career HR, coming off Hall of Famer Steve Carlton.

It was during that season that Tillman claims he smuggled steroids in from Mexico for team mate Jose Canseco. He said he took charter flights back to the U.S & got away with it, because no one was checking a big league ball players bags back then. When supplies ran low he would have a friend meet him at the border & he would bring the steroids back to the clubhouse for Canseco & other players.

Two years later he hit his only other HR, it came with the San Francisco Giants (1988) his only hit of the year, as he appeared in just four games. He finished his playing career in the minors the next season. He later claimed that he may have been blackballed due to his steroid running.

Retirement: Tillman had a rough life after baseball; steroids, drug use & other bad choices led him to being homeless. He was living in a tent in the woods in the Jacksonville area in the mid 2000's. According to a 2008 article in the Florida Union Times, he was selling his blood plasma to buy his only luxuries: cell phone minutes, Copenhagen snuff and Sonic banana smoothies.

In his tent he had a television which he ran on a car battery & rode a bicycle that a pastor in rec. center had given him. He had a daughter with his ex-girlfriend & was allowed to see her only to tuck her in at night. After that he went back to the woods. The article ended with him taking a job with an old friend as a plumbers assistant & coaching baseball at his old high school.

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 25, 2016

The Wild Story Of the Heavy Drinking New York Giants Pitcher: Bugs Raymond (1908-1910)

Arthur Lawrence "Bugs" Raymond was born on February 24, 1882 in Chicago, Illinois. The five foot ten, right hander supposedly got his nickname due to his antics on & off the field. Raymond pitched in pro ball in 1904, making a brief debut with the Detroit Tigers, pitching five games going 0-1. 

He went back to the minor leagues, and began throwing a spitball which was legal at the time. All of a sudden he won 35 games (35-11) for Charleston in the South Atlantic League in 1907. The St. Louis Cardinals bought his contract & he was back in the majors that season. In St. Louis he was the last place Cardinals top pitcher in 1908, winning 15 games on a team that only won 49 games in total. He struck out 145 batters (fourth in the NL), posted a 2.03 ERA (10th in the NL) but led the league in losses (25) and wild pitches (9). 

On average Raymond gave up fewer hits per games than the great Christy Mathewson did in New York with the Giants. Bugs threw five shutouts of his own, but in eleven of his starts the Cardinals were shut out as well. 

Raymond’s biggest problem was his heavy drinking which of course led to his wild antics. In December of 1908 the Cards gave up on him & traded him to the New York Giants with two other players for pioneer catcher; Roger Bresnahan. At first New York Manager John McGraw seemed to able to keep Raymond under control. 

In 1909 he then went & had his overall best season. Raymond won 18 games (18-12) with a 2.47 ERA pitching 270 innings and struck out 121 batters (9th in the NL) he also posted the tenth best strike out per nine inning ratio. He made 39 starts (5th in the NL) but also served up seven HRs (7th in the NL) 87 walks (9th in the NL) 239 hits, committing nine errors (second most in the NL). 

McGraw controlled his drinking only for a short time, soon Raymond was off the wagon & out of control once again. McGraw tried to fine him, so he wouldn’t have any money to buy liquor but that didn’t work. He would then send the money to Raymond's wife, but when Bugs found out he threatened to stop pitching saying "If she's getting my money, let her pitch." McGraw hired a private detective just to follow Raymond around to keep him in line, but that didn’t work either. Christy Mathewson once said, "after a night out, don't get too close to Bugs, his breath will stop a freight train". 

In 1910 Raymond dropped to a 4-11 record, pitching in just 19 games posting a 3.81 ERA. One old Giants Tale is that during a June game, when McGraw told Raymond to start warming up, he snuck over to a local saloon & traded a game ball for two shots of whiskey. When he was called into the 3-2 game, he hit two batters threw a wild pitch & gave up a pair of hits. McGraw was so pissed off he suspended him indefinitely. During another game he asked to be removed, even though he had pitched a scoreless one hit game through five innings. He told reporters he ate a strawberry sundae before the game & was suffering from a serious stomach ache. " 

Quotes: Team mate Fred Snodgrass once said: "When he was sober, and sometimes when he wasn't, he was the greatest spitball pitcher who ever lived." The great Giants pitcher Rube Marquard said "Sometimes it seemed the more he drank, the better he pitched. They used to say he didn't spit on the ball, he just breathed on it and the ball came up drunk, too." 

The next year he went 6-4 in 17 games, but was released mid season he kept showing up late and/ or drunk. McGraw had enough & he moved on as the Giants went on to win the 1911 pennant. Raymond hung his uniform in a saloon near the Polo Grounds & became a bartender there for a short time. 

Passing: In 1912 he pitched in the United States league in his home town of Chicago, but he kept drinking getting into fights. That same year he was badly beaten up & took some blows to the head with a baseball bat, after a bad bar fight. A few weeks later he got into a fight with an angry fan and took a few more blows to his head. Later that week, he complained of headaches and then was found dead in a Chicago hotel room. 

An investigation proved he had a fractured his skull, most likely in the brawls, and died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Bugs Raymond was only 30 years old, at the time of his death in 1912.  When his former manager McGraw learned of his death, he said " that man took seven years off my life", hence the nick name of Bugs. 

 In his six year career he was 47-57 with a 2.49 ERA, striking out 401 batters in 854 innings pitched over 136 games pitched.

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).

Former Italian / American Hall of Fame Player: Ron Santo (1960-1974)

Ronald Edward Santo was born on February 25th, 1940 in Seattle, Washington. The six foot right hand hitting third baseman, was signed by the Chicago Cubs in 1959 as an amateur free agent.  He played two pro seasons in the minors, before making the Cubs big league club during the 1960  season.

By 1961 he was a regular, securing a spot as the Cubs third baseman for next thirteen seasons. 

In that time he made nine All Star appearances & received voted for the league MVP six times. He would hit 20 or more HRs eleven times, including four straight seasons of 30 plus (1965-1967). He finished in the leagues top ten in that category seven times.

He would drive in 90 runs or better eight straight seasons, with four 100 plus RBI seasons. He was second in the NL in RBIs three times (1964, 1968-1969) but never led the league.

Santo did lead the league in walks four times, including three straight seasons from 1966-1968. He also led the league in sac flies & times on base three times, as well as on base % & games played twice. Not known for his speed, he also led the league in triples in 1964. 

In his 15 year career, Santo was a lifetime .277 hitter, batting over .300 four times, making three top ten appearances in the leagues hitting department.

He posted 2254 hits (160th all time) with 342 HRs (92nd all time) 1331 RBIs (93rd all time) & 365 doubles (237th all time). He drew 1108 walks (75rd all time) & posted a .362 on base % in 2243 games played (125th all time).

With all that offense, his defensive number may be more impressive. Defensively he was one of the best third baseman of his era, but he was over shadowed only by the Baltimore Orioles; Brooks Robinson.

Santo won five straight Gold Glove Awards in the sixties (1964-1968) leading the league in double plays six times, assists & put outs seven times each. He also set NL records for career assists (4,532), total chances (6,777) and double plays (389) at third base (all of which were eventually broken).

His 2130 games at third base are still 9th most all time. He has 4581 assists (5th all time) & 1955 put outs (13th all time). Santo turned 395 doubles plays (9th all time). He led the league six times in that category during his playing days. He also mad 317 errors (30th all time) leading the NL three times there as well.

Trivia: In a 1966  game, the New York Mets jack Fisher hit Santo with a pitch fracturing his cheekbone, during a Cubs team record hitting streak. Santo missed two weeks of action & returned wearing an ear flap on his helmet, making him one of the first players to do so.

On May 28th 1966, Santo hit a game winning, three run walk off HR off the Braves; Ted Abernathy to beat Atlanta 8-5 at Wrigley Field. The next day he hit another walk off game winner, beating Atlanta 3-2 in the 10th inning. It would be 45 years until another player (Albert Pujols) accomplished this feat.

1969 Heel Clicking: In 1969 Ron Santo & the Cubs were riding high, in first place for 180 games going into September. Santo was part of a Cubs infield that sent every player to that years All Star Game in Washington D.C.

In a June 1969 game, the Cubs were down 6-3 to the Montreal Expos. Although Santo grounded out in the inning, the Cubs came back to win it on a Jim Hickman game winning HR. Santo was so excited about the win, he jumped up, clicking his heels as the tea, walked off the field. Cubs then Manger; the legendary Leo Durocher. liked it so much, he asked Santo to continue the heel clicking after each win.

In July the New York Mets first got a glimpse of this, after a 1-0 win beating Tom Seaver, in the first game of a big three game series at Wrigley Field.

Ron Santo did his traditional leap in the air clicking his heels as the Cubs exited the field. This a week after Seaver's 'imperfect game" where he one hit the Cubs at Shea Stadium on July 9th. This did not sit well with the young New York Mets, who were getting cocky themselves as they kept winning. They thought Santos antics were it Busch league.

The Amazing’s went on to take the next two games at Wrigley, proving they were for real, coming within four games of the first place Cubbies.

Black Cat Night At Shea: In a now famous scene of the 1969 Mets season, Santo is seen watching a black cat run by him, in deck circle, one his way over to peer into the Cubs dugout. It has become known as 'black cat night" at Shea Stadium in September 1969. The black cat dropped his bad luck to the Cubs, during the Mets two game series sweep of Chicago, moving them within a half game of first place.

In the opening game, New Jersey born Cubs pitcher; Bill Hands threw at Mets leadoff hitter Tommie Agee to send a message. Mets Jerry Koosman answered by drilling Santo in his first at bat, in the second inning. Agee later followed with a two run HR leading the Mets to a 3-2 win. In September the Mets took over first place, Santo stopped clicking his heels on September 2nd, the last day his team was in first place.

Many have put him down for his over confident antics at the time & through the years. In 1969 after the Cubs collapse, the Amazing Mets went on to win the World Series. Santo finished 1969 with 29 HRS (8th in the NL) 123 RBIs (2nd in the NL) & a .289 batting average for the second place Cubs.

Santo was still productive in the early seventies but health slowly began to creep up on him as he reached 30 years old. He hit 20 plus HRs three times from 1970-1973, with four straight 70 plus RBI seasons. He hit .300 once (1972), with three .267 seasons. In 1974 he was one of the first players to decline a trade due to the new ten & five rule negotiated by the Players Union in 1972. He declined a trade to the California Angels but soon accepted a trade across town to the Chicago White Sox.

The Sox had slugger Bill Melton at third base & Santo was mostly used as a DH. It was a role he hated, but Manager Chuck Tanner would not sit Melton, who had previously had two 30 plus HR seasons himself. Santo was tried out at second base but it did not work out. He retired at the end of that 1974 season at the age of 34.

Health: Santo was diagnosed with diabetes as a teenager but hid it from the team in fear he would have to leave the game. He judged his sugar levels by his mood swings before the technology for diabetic detection improved.

He did not make it publicly known until "Ron Santo Day" in Chicago in 1971. The disease would eventually cause him to have both legs amputated & factor in to his death in 2010.

Ron Santo Day at Wrigley Field 1971

Retirement: Santo was a Chicago Cubs radio broadcaster from 1990-2010. He worked alongside guys like Harry Carry, Thom Brennaman, Steve Stone & Bob Brenly. Santo became popular with a whole new generation of Cub fans due to his loyalty to the team.

Passing: On December 2, 2010 he passed away after complications from bladder cancer. At his funeral his casket was draped with his uniform #10, carried by former team mates Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams, Glenn Beckert & Randy Hundley. He was cremated & had his ashes scattered over Wrigley Field.

Ernie Banks, Ron Santo & Billy Williams

Honors: During his lifetime, Santo was one of the strongest candidates for the Hall of Fame who did not got in because he never won a World Series or hit some of the Hall's magic numbers. After his death, Santo did get elected in by the 2012 Veteran's Committee.

In 2003 his uniform #10 was retired by the Cubs & hangs underneath Mr. Cub’s Ernie Banks. He told Cub fans that this honor was more important on him being in the Hall of Fame. I 2012 a statue of him was erected outside Wrigley Field.