Jan 30, 2017

Former Italian / American Player Who Helped Preserve Nolan Ryan's First No Hitter: Rudy Meoli (1971-1979)

Rudolph Bartholomew Meoli was born on May 1, 1951, in Troy, New York. The five foot nine, left hand hitting infielder was drafted in the fourth round of the 1969 draft by the California Angels.

After playing in only seven games in 1971, he was given the Angels regular shortstop job in 1973. With the departure of Jim Fregosi to the New York Mets in 1972, five time All Star Leo Cardenas had taken over the position but was at the end of his career. Meoli was suppose to be the future of the teams infield, but only hit .223 with two HRs 12 doubles & 23 RBIs (all career highs). He lost lost his job to Dave Chalk, who would have a fine career the next season.

Nolan Ryan No Hitter: On May 15th, 1973 Meoli was in the lineup against the Kansas City Royals when Nolan Ryan pitched the first of his seven no hitters. Meoli made a fine over the shoulder catch off the bat of veteran; Gail Hopkins on a bloop to shallow left field. It was the closest thing to a hit the Royals had all day.

Two months later, On July 28th he had his biggest day in the majors, driving in six runs including hitting an inside the park HR, in a 19-8 Angels rout against the Kansas City Royals.

After batting only .214 in 1975 he was traded to the San Diego Padres for future Mets manager Bobby Valentine. Meoli was then quickly shipped to the Cincinnati Reds, in exchange for Merv Rettenmund right before Opening Day. He spent the next two years in the minors having his contract purchased by the Chicago Cubs in September 1977.

Meoli hit just .103 in 47 games & then signed on with the Philadelphia Phillies the following season. There he played in just 30 games batting .178. Meoli's career was over after that year after six seasons.

He was a lifetime .212 hitter with two HRs 20 doubles four triples & a .289 on base %.

'75 Topps: The 1975 Topps Rudy Meoli baseball card was always a favorite of mine, Meoli is at the plate watching a towering pop fly he just hit above his own head, you almost get dizzy looking at the card.

It seems the picture was taken prior to the 1973 season since the Angels did away with the classic lower case letter A after the 1972 season.

Jan 28, 2017

Former MLB Umpire Ed Sudol & His Epic Mets Games Behind the Plate

Edward Lawrence Sudol was born on September 13th, 1920 in Passaic New Jersey. He attended Farleigh Dickenson University at Rutherford, long before the Meadowlands NFL football arrived in the area.

He played minor league ball through the forties in various farm systems. He batted over .300 twice, while playing mostly as a first baseman. By 1953 he retired from playing & began to umpire. He first worked in the Tri State League, then the AAA International League from 1955-1957 when he got called up to the big leagues.

Sudol was a National League umpire from 1957-1977 working three World Series & many classic baseball games. He was the home plate umpire in the 1965 World Series for Game #4 at Dodger Stadium as Don Drysdale beat Mudcat Grant striking out nine Minnesota Twins.

Sudol also worked the 1971 World Series, serving as the home plate umpire in Game #2 at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium as the Orioles hosted the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sudol worked his third & final World Series in his final season, 1977.

He worked behind the plate in Game #2 in New York as the Dodgers beat the AL New York club 6-1 on HRs by Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Reggie Smith & Steve Yeagar. Sudol was also on the field umpiring in Atlanta in 1974 when Hank Aaron broke the all time HR mark.

Sudol played a part in some classic New York Mets games as well. On May 31st, 1964, he came to a brand new Shea Stadium, to work a double header. He arrived at the ballpark at 11:00 AM & would not leave until two the next morning.

He was working behind the plate for the second game which would last seven hours & 23 minutes. The game started out between with the San Francisco Giants sending out Bobby Bolin to pitch against Bill Wakefield & the New York Mets. Twelve pitchers would take the mound during the day and a total of 42 players would participate in the game.

The Mets would come from behind 6-1 to tie the game on Joe Christopher’s three run HR in the 7th inning. The score would remain that way (6-6) for sixteen more innings until Del Crandal & Jesus Alou drove in runs off the Mets Galen Cisco in the top of the 23rd.

Less than a month later he was behind the plate again at Shea Stadium on Father’s Day 1964 as the Phillies Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game against the New York Mets. Sudol said the pressure was on him as well, as he was aware of the perfect game all along because the giant Shea scoreboard staring right at him the entire game.

On April 15th, 1968 Sudol worked home plate at the Houston Astrodome in a game between the Mets & the Astros. Tom Seaver pitched 10 innings of two hit shut out baseball for New York & Don Wilson pitched nine innings of shutout five hit ball for Houston. Neither pitcher would be around for the end, as this game took six hours & six minutes, as well as 24 innings to finish. In the bottom of the 24th inning, Houston’s Bob Aspromonte hit a ground ball to short stop Al Weis, he made the error allowing the winning run to score from third base.

Sudol worked the 1973 NLCS between the New York Mets & Cincinnati Reds working home plate for Game #1 in Riverfront Stadium.

It was a classic pitchers duel in which Tom Seaver allowed just one run on five hits until the bottom of the 9th when he allowed a walk off HR to Johnny Bench. The Reds Jack Billingham held the Mets to just three hits, their only run driven in by a Tom Seaver double.

If this wasn’t’ enough, Sudol had one more 25 innings epic game involving the Mets & St. Louis Cardinals at Shea Stadium on September 11th 1974. (see centerfieldmaz article above) Sudol said when he worked games in New York he stayed with his mom at his old house in Pasaic, NJ.

For this game his brother attended & stayed the entire game. Afterwards they went to a diner & it took him twenty minutes of walking around the parking lot to shake off the cramps from his legs.

That night Sudol was hit by foul balls seven times, he never left the field & got home at 5:00 AM.

In another classic Sudol Umpire event, during an NBC Saturday afternoon Game of the Week played at Wrigley Field in Chicago in 1969, he stripped down to his wearing his protective gear over just a white under shirt.

It was a hot humid day & as the other umpires took off their jackets umpiring in official umpire shirts, Sudol just wore his Tee.

Sudol eventually retired to Daytona Beach Florida, enjoying life in sunny Florida. He passed away in 2004 at age 84 after a bout with Alzheimer’s.

Jan 25, 2017

Short Time 2006 N.L. Eastern Champion Met: Eli Marrero (2006)

Elieser Marrero was born November 17, 1973 in La Habana, Cuba. He attended high school in Corals Gables Florida outside of Miami. He was drafted in the third round of the 1993 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He spent five years in the minor leagues getting to the big league club by 1997 debuting in an inter league games against the Chicago White Sox as a September call up.

He would spend seven years in St. Louis playing at catcher, first base & in the outfield. He began the 2000 season as the Cardinal catcher but lost a lot of time due to a bout with Thyroid cancer. That same season he caught a September no hitter thrown by Bud Smith. 

In the Cards 2000 NL Central Division Champion season he played in 53 games with 5 HRs & 17 RBIs in 102 at bats although he only hit .225.

Post Season: In the NLCS against the New York Mets he got the start at catcher going 1-3 with an RBI hit against Al Leiter in the Mets 6-5 victory.

He had his best year in 2002 playing in 131 games batting .262 with 18 HRs 19 doubles 14 stolen bases & 66 RBIs as an outfielder. Marrero got to two more post seasons with St. Louis hitting a HR in the 2002 NLCS in Game #3 against Jay Witasak & the San Francisco Giants.

In December 2003 he was Traded along with J.D. Drew to the Atlanta Braves for Jason Marquis Adam Wainwright & Ray King. As a fourth outfielder with the Braves he batted a career best .320 with a .374 on base %, 10 HRs & 40 RBIs playing in 90 games. In 2005 he would play with both the Kansas City Royals & Baltimore Orioles becoming a free agent at the end of the year. For 2006 he signed with the Colorado Rockies playing in 30 games batting .217.

On June 9th he was traded to the New York Mets in exchange for Kaz Matsui. Marrero debuted on June 11th in Arizona coming into the game as a pinch hitter. He stayed in & played centerfield doubling in two runs in his next at bat as the Mets went on to a 15-2 victory. 

On June 22nd he hit a pinch hit HR at Fenway Park batting for Xavier Nady. In his next game he got a start in leftfield in the subway series hitting a solo HR off Randy Johnson in the Mets 8-3 win. He would get two more hits as a Met but his average fell to just .204 by August 8th.

In 25 games as a Met he hit just .182 with two HRs & five RBIs. In 2007 he played one game at AAA Memphis before getting released ending his playing career at age 34. In ten seasons he hit .243 with a .303 on base %, with 463 hits 99 doubles 12 triples 66 HRs & 261 RBIs.

Retirement: In 2011 he was named batting coach of the Billings Mustangs a minor league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. He is the uncle of minor league player Chris Marrero.

Jan 24, 2017

Remembering Long Time Mets Scout: Harry Minor (1967-2011)

Harry Minor was born in 1927 at Long Beach California. Minor was signed out of high school by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947. Minor would play outfield, first base, catcher & even pitch 22 games in a 12 year minor league career. He reached AAA in 1950 with the Buffalo Bisons, his only year at that level. He spent the next two years in military service returning to the minor leagues by 1953. He would play until the 1960 season, serving as a player manager from 1958-1960. Overall he would hit .283 with 154 career minor league HRs.  

Minor soon became a scout, working in the Milwaukee / Atlanta Braves for six years 1961-1967. It was minor who actually signed Tom Seaver out of USC, for the Braves. The deal was made when Seaver was technically still a college student, therefore not making him eligible. The deal was voided by Commissioner Eckert & a lottery was held in which the Mets won, by picking Seaver's name out of a hat.

Minor then joined the Mets organization in 1967, he would stay with the team for the next 43 years. He even managed the Visalia Mets in the California League in the teams Championship season of 1969. That team featured future Met John Milner & future Mets hitting coach Tom Robson.

He would have some kind of input in signing many players on the Mets next Championship of 1986 as well, including Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, Wally Backman, Gregg Jefferies, Hubie Brooks, Kevin Mitchell & Kevin Elster.

Quotes: "I'll always remember the championships. We had some great fun building up the organization, and those World Series teams were built on a foundation of talent the Mets developed."

Minor retired in 2011 after 65 years in baseball. His two sons also scouted, one for the Mets & Arizona Diamondbacks the other in Pittsburgh with over 30 years for the Pirates.

In 1997 he won the Scout of the Year Award & was the first scout inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame (2013). That year as Mike Piazza was inducted he received the Mets Hall of Fame Achievement Award.  He passed away in January of 2017 at age 88.

Mets Pitcher: Daisuke Matsuzaka (2013-2014)

Daisuke Matsuzaka was born on September 13th, 1980 in Tokyo, Japan. The six foot right handed pitcher was a star pitcher in his native country before coming to America pitching in the major leagues.

Matsuzaka soon became a star pitcher at Yokohama high school, a school known for baseball. He went on to lose the Championship game after throwing a wild pitch  in the semi final round. 

The next year he led his school to victory & also led his team to victory in the Summer Koshien Tournament. Koshien is the largest amateur sporting event in Japan. Matsuzaka earned the attention of the souts when he threw a no hitter in the final game, after already tossing a shut out earlier. 

He was shown interest from a few MLB teams but chose the Seibu Lions of the Nippon Professional League, after the team's manager had dinner with him & gave him a ball he had earned on his 200th career win. Matsuzaka went on to a star career with Lions winning Gold Gloves in seven of eight seasons there. He led the league in strike outs four times, wins three times & ERA twice. He won the Rookie of the Year Award & made three best Nine Teams.

In 2006 he was granted free agency & hired agent Scott Boras. He landed a $51 million dollar bid from the Boston Red Sox, for the right to negotiate with him beating out the Mets, Texas Rangers & AL New York club. After Boras caused some controversy on the term, he & Red Sox ownership closed a deal that brought Matsuzaka nearly $60 million.

In 2007 Matsuzaka won 15 games (15-12) third most on the World Champion Red Sox staff (Josh Beckett 20 wins, Tim Wakefield 17 wins). He struck out 201 batters (6th in the AL)  & posted a 4.40 ERA in 204 innings pitched.He came in fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Post Season: In the 2007 ALCS he took a Game #3 loss to the Indians at Cleveland but followed up with a Game #7 (11-2) Sox pennant clincher at Fenway Park. In the World Series against the Colorado Rockies, he was the Game #3 winning pitcher, allowing two runs on three hits in 5.1 innings of work. In that game he also got a base hit driving in two runs, becoming the first Sox pitcher to do that since 1918. The only two other Red Sox pitchers do drive in runs in a World Series were Cy Young & Babe Ruth.

In 2008 Matsuzaka had his finest year, leading the Sox staff with 18 wins (4th in the AL) & a 2.90 ERA. His .857 winning % was second best in the league & he came in fourth in the Cy Young voting.  His only problem were his walks, he had walked 80 the previous year & led the league with 94 in 2008. 

He started out the year at 8-0 not losing his first game until late June, after returning from the DL. After going to 11-2 on July 28th, he won his next seven decisions not losing again until September 28th, his final start of the year.

Post Season: The Red Sox went on to win all three post season games Matsuzaka pitched in 2008. He would only earn the victory in Game #1 of the ALCS as he shut out the Tampa Rays through seven strong innings. The Rays eventually won the Series & headed to their first World Series.

In 2009 he chose to pitch in the World Baseball Classic for Japan where he went 2-0. The Red Sox were concerned about his pitching there but the issue was squashed.  His 2009 season began to get hammered with injuries, he went 4-6 in just 12 games that year. The injuries were something that followed the next two seasons as well before he needed Tommy John surgery in 2011. He returned in 2012 but went 1-7 with an 8.28 ERA in just 11 games. Some believe the many innings of work in his early career have led to the injuries.

He was granted free agency & signed with the Cleveland Indians. He never made it out of the minors & was released that August. He was then signed by the New York Mets & given a chance.

On August 23rd, Daisuke Matsuzaka made his Mets debut starting at Citi Field against the Detroit Tigers. He allowed five runs on six hits in five innings taking a loss. In his next start he gave up four runs in 4.1 innings taking a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. His third start was another debacle, allowing six runs over three innings, falling to 0-3 with a 10.95 ERA by early September.

But from there on he settled in, winning his final three starts of the season. On September 14th, he allowed just one run in seven innings beating the Miami Marlins. On September 25th, he took a shut out into the 8th inning, striking out six at Cincinnati, beating the Reds in his best outing of the year. He ended the season at 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA.

In 2014 it was determined Matsuzaka would pitch out of the Mets bullpen, especially in long relief. On April 24th he recorded his first Mets save, pitching a scoreless 9th against the St. Louis Cardinals. In six appearances in April he had posted a 1.17 ERA in seven innings.

He had a busy May,first earning a win in the subway series across town in the Bronx against the AL New York club, pitching 3.2 innings allowing just one run. He earned another victory when he made his first start of 2014, pitching six innings in a 4-2 over the Arizona D-backs.

By June he was back in the starting rotation, on June 10th he allowed one run is six innings at Citi Field, beating the Milwaukee Brewers inn a 6-2 game. On June 20th he went through a stretch that gave him three straight losses, in that stretch he allowed 11 earned runs in 15 innings of work.

On July 25th, 2014, he was placed on the disabled list with inflammation in his pitching elbow. On the season he was 3-3 with a 3.87 ERA, 71 strike outs & 44 walks in 28 games (9 starts). In October he was granted free agency & eventually signed back to play in Japan eight years after he left.

In his career he is 56-43 with 713 strike outs & 381 walks in 781 innings pitched. He has made 132 starts pitching in 152 games.

Personal: Daisuke is married to television journalist Tomoyo Shibata & they have two children.

Trivia: He is nicknamed Dice-K in America & the Monster of the Heisei Era in Japan.

After the 2011 Japan tsunami he & the Red Sox foundation donated $1 million to the Japanese Red Cross.

Jan 22, 2017

Short Time Mets Infielder: Ross Jones (1984)

Ross A Jones was born January 14th in Miami Florida. The six foot two infielder attended Miami Dade College before going to the University of Miami, playing with the Hurricanes. Jones was the Los Angeles Dodgers first round pick (the 9th pick overall) in the 1980 draft.

In 1983 he came over to the New York Mets in the same deal that brought Sid Fernandez to New York, in exchange L.A. got Bob Bailor & Carlos Diaz. After spending time with AAA Tidewater he made the 1984 Mets Opening Day Roster.

On April 28th, he had his day in the sun with a walk off RBI double against the Philadelphia Phillies. It was his only Mets RBI in 13 at bats.

Unfortunately he didn't hit, batting just .111 by May 15th & was sent back down.

On May 13 Jones committed an error that
led to three unearned runs in the Mets 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He came up for two more games in July but lost his job to guys like Ron Gardenhire, Kelvin Chapman & Jose Oquendo. He was primarily used as a pinch runner & pinch hitter.

He spent 1985 at AA Jackson & 1986 at AAA Tidewater before getting released. He played 11 games with the Seattle Mariners in 1986 & then 39 games with the KC Royals in 1987 before finishing his career at AAA Tacoma in 1988.

Jan 21, 2017

Former Mid Eighties Mets Pitcher Traded Away In The Bobby Ojeda Deal: Wes Gardner (1984-1985)

Wesley Brian Gardner was born on April 29th 1961 in Benton, Arizona. The six foot four right hander attended the University of Central Arkansas where he was later honored in the schools Hall of Fame. Gardner was drafted by the New York Mets in the 22nd round of the 1982 draft.

Gardner began his career at Little Falls in the New York Penn. League in 1982 where he went 3-6 with six saves. In 1983 he pitched at A ball Lynchburg, saving15 games going 6-3 with a 1.87 ERA. 

The next year he was promoted straight to AAA where in 40 games with the Tides he went 1-2 with twenty saves while posting a 1.61 ERA. 

Gardner was impressing the organization so much, he was brought up to the Mets staff in late July, just two years after he was drafted. Gardner made his debut on July 29th, at Shea Stadium finishing off the 9th inning of a Mets 5-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs. 

On August 5th, Gardner got his first career win, it came in Pittsburgh, when George Foster drove the game winning run with a base hit in the top of the 10th inning. He would blow two late inning saves in the next two weeks, while holding the lead in two other games. On August 12th he earned a 2.1 inning save at Shea Stadium. 

Gardner would make 21 appearances for the second place '84 Mets, going 1-1 with a save, finishing 12 games posting a 6.39 ERA. 

He began 1985 at AAA Tidewater, but was called up to the Mets in late May. In his second appearance he was roughed up by the San Francisco Giants, for six runs in the 10th inning taking a loss. That outing got him right back to Tidewater but he did return in September. In just nine games with New York, he was 0-2 with a 5.25 ERA. That off season Gardner was sent to the Boston Red Sox along with Calvin Schiraldi, John Christensen & LaShelle Tarver in exchange for Bobby Ojeda, John Mitchell & Tom McCarthy.

Gardner spent all of 1986 in the minors, making just one big league appearance. He led the Sox with ten saves in 1987, going 3-6. The next year he made 18 starts seeing action in 36 games overall. He went 8-6 with a 3.50 ERA & two saves for the first place Red Sox. In the ALCS loss to the Oakland Athletics, he made one appearance, allowing three runs in the Game #3 loss.

Gardner followed with two 3-7 seasons in Boston, and finished his career in 1991 pitching in 15 combined games at San Diego & Kansas City. 

In an eight year career he was 18-30 with 14 saves, posting a 4.90 ERA, with 358 strike outs & 218 walks in 189 games.

The Tragic Story of New York Giant / Brooklyn Dodger: Len Koenecke

Leonard George Koenecke was born January 18, 1904 in Baraboo, Wisconsin. He began his career playing in various semi pro ball clubs and working as a fireman on the Chicago Illinois Railroad.

In 1928 he hit .390 playing at various levels of AA & the minor leagues. By 1931 Koenecke was a hot prospect at Indianapolis, batting .353 with 24 HRs in the American Association making the All Star team. The New York Giants manager John McGraw watched Koenecke & that winter he was acquired by the New York Giants for four players. Koenecke wouldn’t stop hitting; he batted .355 with 18 HRs for the Jersey City Giants & got a call up to McGraws Giants.

But when he arrived in the majors he didn’t play as well as in the minors, in 137 at bats he did hit .255 with 4 HRs 14 RBIs . The next season he was at AA Buffalo where he hit .355 and was sent to the Brooklyn Dodgers organization.

He played the full 1934 season in Brooklyn, setting an NL record at the time with a .994 fielding %, making only two errors in 318 chances. He hated .320 with a .411 on base % (5th in the NL) with 14 HRs 31 doubles 70 walks (3rd in the NL) & 73 RBIs.
The next year he was drinking more acting wilder & his play became erratic. His average dropped off, although still a good .283, with just 4 HRs 13 doubles & 27 RBIs.Brooklyn manager Casey Stengel had enough by mid September & told Koenecke to go home for the rest of the season. He chartered a plane back home to his native Canada two days later.

As the story goes: On the flight he sat up front with the pilot, and seemed very distressed. He was drinking & started nudging pilot eventually tring to take control of the plane. Next, he started fighting with the co pilot & another on board companion. In order to control Koenecke, the pilot hit him on the head with a fire extinguisher as he was trying to steer the plane.

Koenecke was knocked out & soon died from a brain hemorrhage. It is one of the strangest deaths in baseball history. The pilot was charged with manslaughter in Ontario but eventually acquitted.

Koenecke left behind a wife a daughter as well as his mother, father & brother.

At 31 years old he batted.297 lifetime with 22 HRs 114 RBIs & .383 on base %. The Dodgers wore a black arm band on the sleeve of their uniform for the remainder of the season in his honor.

Jan 20, 2017

Former Mets Outfielder: Andrew Brown (2013 - 2014)

Andrew Marshall Brown was born on September was born September 10, 1964 in Dallas Texas. The six foot right hand hitting outfielder attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, getting drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2007, in the 18th round.

In 2010 Brown got to AA Springfield, hitting 22 HRs & batting .291. The next year he was promoted to AAA Memphis where he hit .284 with 20 HRs & 73 RBIs, getting a short promotion to the Cardinals for eleven games in June.

At the end of the year he was placed on waivers & got picked up by the Colorado Rockies. He hit well enough at AAA Colorado Springs to produce 24 HRs & 98 RBIs with a .308 average in 100 games.

He played 46 games with the Rockies, batting .232 with 5 HRs & 12 RBIs. He was granted free agency & was signed by the New York Mets in January of 2013.

Brown began the year at AAA Las Vegas, where he hit .346 with 7 HRs & 41 RBIs in just 41 games. He was called up to the Mets in early May when Colin Cowgill was sent to AAA Las Vegas. 

Brown debuted on May 3rd & hit a HR in his 6th Mets game later that month. On June 20th he hit a pinch hit HR off Matt Minor & the Atlanta Braves, tying the game in which the Mets went on to win 4-3. Later in the week in he hit another HR at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

On July 1st, at Citi Field, he was the hero in an extra inning Mets win, when in the bottom of the 13th inning he doubled off Josh Collmentor, driving in Josh Satin & John Buck with the game winning runs, walk off style. Later in the year, he hit a three run HR in Arizona, helping the Mets to a 9-5 win over the Diamondbacks. He saw a bit more playing time that month & drove in runs in four straight games he played in on that same road trip.

On August 30th, after driving in runs in two straight games, he drove in the winning run in a 3-2 Mets win at Washington over the Nationals. His 8th inning single off Jordan Zimmerman drove in Daniel Murphy in the 8th inning.

In September he hit two HRs in the first two weeks but a slump saw his average fall to .227 to end the season. In 68 games he hit 7 HRs with 5 doubles & 24 RBIs.

On Opening Day 2014 Brown found himself starting in left field & batting fifth, he responded with a 1st inning HR off the Washington Nats; Steven Strasburg. 

He would collect two more RBIs two weeks later in Arizona in a 9-0 Met win over the D-backs. He would get four starts in April but at the end of the month he was batting just .185 & was sent to AAA Las Vegas.

He returned in June & hit a HR at Wrigley Field in his first game back. A week later he was sent back down after hitting just .182 with 2 HRs & 7 RBIs. He was placed on waivers in October, briefly selected by the Oakland Athletic but was soon granted free agency. He played in the minors for all of 2015.

 In a four year MLB career he batted .220 with 72 hits 14 HRs 14 doubles & 45 RBIs. He has played 90 games in the outfield with a .972 fielding % & seven assists.

One of the All Time Top Left-Handed Pitchers & Short Time New York Met: Mickey Lolich (1976)

Michael Stephen Lolich was born September 12, 1940 in Portland Oregon. Lolich was a natural right-hander, but as a child he broke his arm and learned to throw left handed.

He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Detroit Tigers in 1958. Lolich pitched in the Detroit minor leagues for four seasons winning ten games in 1962 at AA Knoxville. He debuted in 1963 going 5-9 as both a starter & reliever.

Loich became a top starter the next season & remained in Detroit pitching for 14 seasons. He never experienced any arm trouble with his so called rubber arm putting in seven straight seasons with 200 plus innings of work. In 1971 he began a four year stretch where he tossed over 300 plus innings each season. He won 14 games or more from 1964 through 1974. He won 17 or more games five times in his career, including two super twenty win seasons.

Lolich & Catcher Bill Freehan
1968 World Series
Lolich was in the league's top ten in victories eight times in his career. He was a big time strikeout pitcher, coming in the top ten in strike outs ten times in his career. He would strike out 200 or more batters seven times, doing it for six straight seasons from 1969 through 1974. In the sixties from 1964-1970 Lolich had more wins & strikeouts than any pitcher in the American League.

In the 1968 Tigers Championship season, all the problems & riots of the late sixties were put on hold in Detroit. The city became captivated by the Tigers run for the pennant & trip to the World Series. Lolich went 17-9 (6th most wins in the league) second on his team to Denny McLain who won 31 games that season. Lolich's was sixth in the A.L. in strike outs (174) & winning % (.654). He posted a .319 ERA pitching 220 innings while tossing four shut outs.

Post Season: The two pitchers led the Tigers to the World Series against the defending Champion St. Louis Cardinals. After the Cards defeated McLain in Game One behind Bob Gibson's shut out performance, the start went to Lolich. In Game #2 Lolich pitched a six hit, one run complete game performance. In the game he struck out nine Cardinals. The Cards beat up on McLain again in Game #4 & Loilch once again got his team back in the Series.

In another complete game performance he allowed three runs on nine hits for the win. In Game #7 he beat the legendary Cardinal pitcher Bob Gibson, who had won seven straight World Series Games up to that point. Gibson had also won three games in the previous year’s World Series, and two games in that 1968 Series.

Lolich shut the Cardinals out for eight innings, before surrendering a 9th inning solo HR to Mike Shannon. It was only the fifth hit of the game for the Cards as Detroit won it 3-1 at Busch Stadium.

In that World Series Lolich put on a dominating performance, pitching three complete game victories, while allowing only five runs over 27 innings. He would strike out 21 batters, walk six & post a 1.67 ERA . Lolich was voted the World Series MVP. Lolich is the only lefthander to start, finish and win three complete World Series games.

The next season he won 19 games (19-11) seventh most wins in the AL, with 280 strike outs & a 3.14 ERA, as Detroit fell to second place, 19 games behind the Baltimore Orioles. In 1970 he struggled, leading the league in losses with 19 (going 14-19). He also gave up 115 earned runs which was the most in the AL. The Tigers finished fourth in the East that year & Lolich's 14 wins led his staff.

He turned it around in 1971 winning a league leading 25 games (25-14). He also led the league in strike outs (309) starts (45) complete games (29) & an incredible 376 innings pitched. The only reason he didn’t win the Cy Young Award was because Oakland's Vida Blue had an even better year, including posting a 1.82 ERA. The '71 Tigers finished second to the world champion Baltimore Orioles that season.

He won 20 games again in 1972 leading the Tigers to an AL East title, but they were beaten in the ALCS by the Oakland A’s. That season Lolich posted his career best ERA at 2.50 (10th in the AL). The big lefty struck out 250 batters (2nd in the AL to Nolan Ryan) & posted a 2.50 ERA (tenth in the AL). He made 41 starts throwing four shut outs, allowing a league high 29 HRs. In his career Lolich would allow 347 HRs (27th most of all time).

In 1973 he won 16 games for the first of two straight seasons. Lolich would start over forty games for four straight years, and since he pitched tons of innings, his decisions piled up in both the win & loss columns.

In 1974 he once again led the league in losses (21) but he did win 16 games. His ERA rose to 4.16 in over 300 innings pitched for the fourth straight season. 1975 wasn’t much better as he lost 18 games (tied for second in the AL with team mate Joe Coleman).

Also AL hurlers Fergie Jenkins & Jim Slaton lost 18 games, all second behind league leader Wilbur Wood (20 losses). Lolich was still a work horse at age 35 making 32 starts & 240 innings, although it was 68 less innings for him than the previous year.

The New York Mets front office went after Lolich at the age of 35. It was clear his great days were behind him. With a staff of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman & Jon Matlack they sure had enough quality pitching.

What they needed was more offense to help that talented staff. But instead, they traded away their main RBI man, Rusty Staub to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Lolich. They also received a young promising outfielder Billy Baldwin, who GM Joe McDonald insisted be in the trade. Baldwin never worked out either.

To this day the trade makes no sense & still bothers long time fans. Staub went on be an All Star, tearing up the American League, driving in 96 or more runs three years in a row, including 121 in 1978.

As for Lolich, he only would pitch one season in New York, going 8-13 with a 3.22 ERA. He struck out 120 batters walking 52 pitching in 192 innings. Both totals were the lowest since his rookie year in 1963.

Lolich debuted with the Met at Shea Stadium, in third game of the ’76 season. He pitched just two innings giving up three runs to the Montreal Expos, earning a loss. In that game he fell fielding a ground ball in the 1st inning, making an error that eventually led to three earned runs. He was pulled early in the game & his debut was highly criticized. This was to set the tone for his legacy as a Met.

He lost his first three Mets starts, with the next two coming on the road in Pittsburgh & St. Louis. He then pitched a complete game shutout against the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium on April 26th. After another win in early May, he lost seven of his next nine decisions.

Manager Joe Frazier was more quick to yank Lolich than his Tiger skipper Ralph Houck had in Detroit. This upset the big fellow as well as the Mets wanting him to ice his arm. Lolich said years later: "People love to put ice on their arms, but I refused, When I went to the Mets, they told me to ice my arm, but I wouldn’t. I would wrap my arm in a towel and go into the shower and let the water get hot. I would stay in there about 15 minutes until my arm was red. Teammates wouldn’t get close to me because water bouncing off me would burn them.”

Lolich did show a few brief glimpses of his studded past; He threw a two hit complete game shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 29th, notching nine strike outs.

He then threw a three hit shutout against the Atlanta Braves on July 18th beating Carl Morton. That day he walked no one & lowered his ERA to 2.69. He won his next start as well in Montreal, beating the Expos for his sixth win. On July 29th, he pitched nine innings against the St. Louis Cardinals at Shea Stadium, allowing just one run. The bullpen came in & blew the game, denying him of a victory.

On August 8th, he pitched another complete game victory at Pittsburgh, beating the Pirates 7-4. As the season came to a close, he made eight more starts, losing three four games earning four decisions. He made the Rusty Staub trade look even worse, as the Mets finished third that year (86-76) & Lolich chose to retire after the season.

A year later he returned, signing with the San Diego Padres. He pitched in 20 games, making just two starts going 2-1 with a 1.56 ERA. He came back to Shea Stadium on August 17th, 1978, pitching three scoreless innings & earning a save against the Mets. Two weeks later he got a win against the Mets when they came to San Diego. Lolich pitched a four hit shutout over five innings of work. Lolich retired in 1979 after going 0-2 in 27 games.

In a sixteen year career, he was 217- 191 (80th most wins all time / 52nd most losses).

 He struck out 2832 batters which is the third most for left-handers in history (18th most all time) pitching 3638 innings (59th all time). He had 195 complete games (146 all time) & 41 shutouts (41st all time).

In his career he gave up a lot of HRs: 347 (29th most all time) as well as a lot of walks 1009 (76th all time). He posted a 3.44 ERA pitching in 586 games (223rd all time) making 496 starts (49th all time).

Retirement: After his season with the Mets he opened a doughnut shop in Lapeer, Michigan right outside of Detroit. He ran the shop for many years before retiring to Oregon a few years ago. He still appears as a coach at Detroit Tiger events & fantasy camps.

One of his best quotes was in jest to his weight during his playing days, the big guy said; “All the fat guys watch me and say to their wives, 'See, there's a fat guy doing okay. Bring me another beer.”

Lolich ranks high in many Detroit pitching records, first in strike outs, shut outs, games, & HRs allowed. He is third in wins, games & innings.

One of The Top Relievers of the 1970's Who Closed Out His Carrer With the Mets: Mike Marshall (1981)

Michael Grant Marshall was born January 15th 1943 in Adrian, Michigan. The five foot eight, right handed Marshall attended Michigan State University where he earned three degrees, including a Ph. D in kinesiology. 

Kinesiology is the scientific study of human movement. He believes his philosophies could completely eradicate pitching-arm injuries. 

Marshall believes pitchers should externally rotate early as they swing their arm up & lift the hand before the elbow, so that the wrist faces away from the body upward. The hand is above the elbow when the front foot touches the ground, which leads to a smooth transition without a "forearm bounce," as Marshall calls it. He believes this causes UCL injuries, which require Tommy John surgery).

Marshall signed as an amateur free agent in 1960 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He began his career slowly, debuting with the 1967 Detroit Tigers where he shared the top relief closing role with Fred Gladding (6-4 / 12 saves). Marshall posted ten saves 1-3 with a 1.98 ERA finishing 23 games as opposed to Gladding's 25.

The next year Marshall was scooped up by the Seattle Pilots as the 53rd overall pick in the expansion draft. The Pilots started Marshall in 14 games & used him in another 6 games of relief, he went 3-8 with eight saves. Marshall did not get along with Pilots Manager; Joe Schultz, as documented in Jim Bouton's book; Ball Four. At the end of the season, he had his contract purchased by the Houston Astros for 1970.

After a uneventful year in Houston. he was traded to the Montreal Expos for former Met; Don Bosch. By 1971 Marshall was evolving into a spectacular reliever, he finished 52 games & posted 23 saves (2nd in the NL). Over the next four seasons, Marshall was one of the best relievers in the game. He would lead the NL in saves twice (1973 & 1974) games finished four straight years & appearances three straight years. 

In 1972 & 1973 Marshall would win 14 games out of the bullpen as well, he would come in the top ten voting of the MVP Award both years & was fourth & second respectively in the Cy Young voting. The 1973 Expos won 79 games with Marshall figuring in 45 of those wins (31 saves & 14 victories). That year he was named the NL Fireman of the Year for the first time.

Prior to the 1974 season, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for veteran Willie Davis. This deal, along with receiving Jimmy Wynn (the Toy Cannon from Houston) put the Dodgers over the top, to capture the NL West beating the Big Red Machine.

The Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS & got to the first All California World Series, although they lost to the mighty Oakland A's Dynasty in five games. By now he was sporting longer hair, facial hair & mutton chops fitting into early seventies L.A.

As for Marshall he set two records that may never be broken, the first was making 106 appearances & the second was making relief appearances in13 straight games. Marshall won 15 games all in relief, leading the NL in saves (21) & games finished (83) This year took home the Cy Young Award as well as another Fireman of the Year Award. Marshall pitched in an incredible 208 innings of relief, striking out 143 walking 56 & posting a 2.42 ERA.

Post Season: In the NLCS he finished off two games recording no saves. In the World Series, he appeared in all five games. He earned a save in Game #2 the only game the Dodgers won in the series. He was the losing pitcher in the clinching Game #5 at the Oakland Coliseum, when Joe Rudi tool him deep in the 7th inning with a solo HR in the 3-2 A's win.

The next year he fell to 9-4 with 13 saves & by mid 1976 the Dodgers made a young Charlie Hough their closer, trading Marshall to the Atlanta Braves for Lee Lacy & Elias Sosa. From there he went to the Texas Rangers before settling in with the Minnesota Twins. By 1979 he was back on top.leading the AL in saves (32) games finished (84) & appearances (90). He was 10-15 with a 2.65 ERA & 81 strike outs in 142 innings pitched.

After the 1980 season, at age 37 he signed on with the New York Mets where he would close out his career. On August 19th, a week after play resumed after the 1981 Baseball strike, Marshall made his Mets debut in a 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves, pitching a scoreless 7th inning. 

On August 25th, in his fifth Mets game, he pitched two scoreless innings at Shea Stadium, earning a 2-1 win over the Houston Astros. Two days later, he pitched part of the 8th inning as well as the 9th in a 3-2 Mets win, where he earned another victory. 

Over the next week he was credited with two holds, as well as a loss at the Astrodome when a wild pitch led to the walk off winning run, which blew the game. On September 16th, he earned his third & final win as a Mets pitcher, it came in the second game of a double header against the Philadelphia Phillies. He closed out the 1981 strike shortened season, finishing off the last game in a 3-0 loss to the Montreal Expos.

In his 14 year career, Marshall won the 1974 Cy Young Award & came in second in 1973. He made two All Star teams & won two player of the week awards. 

Overall he was 97-112 with 188 saves (54th all time) & 549 games finished (26th all time). He made 724 appearances (83rd all time) striking out 880 batters with 514 walks in 1386 innings pitched.

Retirement: He was head coach of  St. Leo University (1985-1987)  Henderson State University (1988-1990) &West Texas A & M (1994). He still coaches young players in pitching techniques & offers a free on line book with his approach.