Jan 31, 2017

Early Seventies Mets Outfielder Traded Away With Nolan Ryan: Leroy Stanton (1970-1971)

Leroy Bobby Stanton was born on April 10, 1946 in Latta, South Carolina. The six foot outfielder was signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent in 1965.

Stanton spent two years serving in military service during Vietnam. He then spent five seasons in the Mets farm system where he earned a reputation as a speedy outfielder.

He hit ten triples each season at the A ball & AA ball levels. In 1970 he had a huge year at AAA Tidewater batting .303 with 19 HRs, while leading the club with 94 RBIs &15 stolen bases.

That September he got a call up & made his MLB debut in a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium. He went hitless that day & got five pinch hit opportunities on the season (1-5). He got his first career hit in his last appearance of the 1970 season, in a 6-3 win against the Chicago Cubs, also at Shea Stadium.

In 1971 he hit .324 with 23 HRs & 101 RBIs at Tidewater, showing a lot of promise to be a future outfielder for the Mets in the seventies.

He got another September cup of coffee, enjoying his best day on September 23rd, going 2-4, starting in right field against the Chicago Cubs, at Wrigley Field. In the 5th inning he doubled off veteran; Juan Pizzaro driving in Tim Foli & pitcher Nolan Ryan. He helped Ryan to a 5-4 win, the last victory in his Mets career. It was also Ryan's tenth victory of the 1970 season.

Overall Stanton went 5-25 with a double & a triple in nine games as a New York Met over two seasons. Stanton appears on the Topps 1972 Mets Rookies card with pitchers Jon Matlack & Buzz Capra.

In the 1971 off season, the Mets traded Stanton along with Don Rose & Frank Estrada in the Nolan Ryan deal for Jim Fregosi.

Looking back at this time period in Mets history, the Mets had outfielders Ken Singleton & Amos Otis along with Stanton, who all went on to All Star careers. All were traded away in bad deals.

These players along with Cleon Jones & Rusty Staub (acquired in 1972) could have made up a very crowded, but talented outfield for a powerful Mets line up through the seventies.

Stanton went on to play four seasons behind Nolan Ryan as an outfielder for the California Angels. In 1972 he became a regular outfielder right away, playing in 127 games batting .251 with 12 HRs & 39 RBIs.

In 1973 he tied a club record by hitting three HRs in a game against that years A.L. East Champion Baltimore Orioles. His average fell to .235 with 8 HRs 34 RBIs & a poor .300 on base %. Stanton never turned out as good as Otis or Singleton, but did play nine seasons in the majors. He struck out ofter, with three seasons over 100 K's.

In 1975 he stole 18 bases for the Angels batting .261 and recording over twenty doubles for the second straight season. In right field his .983 fielding % was third best in the A.L. in 1972. He led the AL in assists (16) in 1975 but also committed ten errors (third most in the AL).

In 1976 he was drafted away by the Seattle Mariners in that year's expansion draft. In the Mariners inaugural season he had his best year, leading the club with 27 HRs, & tying Danny Meyer with 90 RBIs while batting .275. The next year his average plummeted to just .198 & he ended up finishing his MLB playing career.

In a nine year MLB career he hit .244 with 628 hits 77 HRs, 114 doubles, 13 triples, 36 stolen bases, a .311 on base % & 358 RB Is.

In the outfield he posted a .972 fielding percentage, with 49 assists playing in 829 games. In 1979 he played one season in Japan for the Hanshin Tigers.

One of the Players Dealt Away With Nolan Ryan : Don Rose (1971)

Donald Gary Rose was born on March 19, 1947 in West Covina, California. The six foot three right hander attended Stanford University & was selected in the 11th round of the 1968 draft by the New York Mets. 

In 1969 as the Amazing Mets were winning the World Series, Rose was showing promise as a future candidate for the Mets staff going 13-6 in A ball. In 1971 Rose went 11-10 at AAA Tidewater, on a staff with Jon Matlack (11 wins), Jim Bibby (15 wins) & Buzz Capra (13 wins).

Rose got a September call up & made his only Mets appearance on September 15, 1971 at Shea Stadium. He pitched two scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs, allowing one hit & striking out the opposing pitcher Burt Hooton. Two months later, on December 10th he was involved in one of the biggest trades in Mets history. Rose was a minor part of the deal & New York certainly got the worst end of the deal. Don Rose along with Leroy Stanton & Francisco Estrada all were part of the package that sent Nolan Ryan to the California Angels for Jim Fregosi.

In Anaheim, Rose was now less than 30 miles from his hometown of Covina. He made three relief appearances in May before getting his first career start in Oakland on May 24th. He had a career day that day while making history as well. 

In the third inning he got his first career at bat, & became the 9th player in MLB history to hit a HR on the first pitch of his very first career at bat. Although he allowed five runs he still earned the win as the A’s scored six runs behind him. He wouldn’t be as lucky the rest of the way, he appeared in 16 games but lost every other decision going 1-4 on the season with a 4.22 ERA.

He spent the next year in the minors then got traded to the San Francisco Giants for Ed Figueroa. He only appeared in two game with the Giants ending his brief three season playing career in 1974, going 1-4 with a 4.14 ERA lifetime.

Early Seventies Mets Catcher Traded Away in the Nolan Ryan Deal: Frank Estrada (1970)

Francisco Estrada Soto was born February 12, 1948 in Mexico. The catcher known as "Paquin" was one of the players dealt away in the Nolan Ryan trade. 

Estrada only played in one career game with the New York Mets; On September 14, 1971 he replaced Jerry Grote at catcher, in the 6th inning of a 12-1 Montreal Expos blow out of the Mets, at Shea Stadium. The next inning Estrada singled off the Expo’s Bill Stoneman, in his first career at bat. His second and last Mets at bat, was grounding out for the final out of the game. 

On December 10, 1971 he was involved in one of the worst trades in Mets history. Estrada along with Don Rose, Leroy Stanton & future Hall of Famer; Nolan Ryan were traded to the California Angels for former All Star; Jim Fregosi.  

Estrada, never made it back to the big leagues, but did set a record. He holds the minor league record for games caught behind the plate with 2,847. He also spent twenty six summers in the Mexican League, (1966- 1970 / 1974-1994). During the winters, he played 1,538 games at winter ball, spanning thirty seasons from 1964 to 1994. 

He was also a successful player/ manager winning three titles, and managing Mexico in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. He is a member of the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jan 30, 2017

Remembering Mets History: (1970) Nolan Ryans Tosses A One Hitter

Saturday April 18th, 1970: On this afternoon matinee at Shea, Gil Hodges' reigning World Champion New York Mets were still flying high, even though it was just nine games into the 1970 season. The Mets were at 5-4, on their first home stand of the season, hosting Frank Lucchesi's Philadelphia Phillies.

On this night the Phils' Lucchesi sent Jim Bunning (0-0) (who had pitched a perfect game at Shea Stadium on Father's Day 1964) to the mound against the Mets young fireball throwing pitcher, Nolan Ryan. Ryan was making his first start of the 1970 season.

Starting Lineups

This was Nolan Ryan's day all the way, he pleased the 23,500 Mets fans with a 7-0 one hit shut out, striking out 15 batters along the way. Ryan who had control issues, early in his career, would walk six on the day.

In the top of the 1st inning, the Phillies Denny Doyle led off with a single. This would be the only hit the Phillies would manage the rest of the afternoon. Ryan walked the second hitter Don Money, then struck out Johnny Briggs & Deron Johnson. He then walked Tcatcher im McCarver to load the bases. He got out of the jam by striking out Larry Hisle to end the threat.

Ryan walked two more in the second, but returned with a strong third inning, striking out the side; Hisle, Ron Stone & Larry Bowa. He would also strike out the side in the sixth, which were the same three batters.

He closed out that inning with 15 strike outs & with three more to go, it looked like he was going to break the single game strike out record of 19.

But in the final three innings, he did not strike out another batter, although he did not allow any more hits. It was the fourth no hitter of the 38 in Mets history. Ryan went on to his first win of the year, in 27 games (19 starts) he would end up 7-11 with 125 strike outs (97 walks) in 131 innings with a 3.42 ERA.

The Mets gave Ryan run support early on, Tommie Agee & Bud Harrelson led off with singles. Joe Foy then singled to right field & both runners scored on Jim Bunning's error on the throw.

Foy scored on Art Shamsky's Fielders choice. In the 3rd, Shamsky doubled driving in another run making it 4-0. In the 6th Kenny Boswell led off with a solo HR off Barry Lersh. Agee topped it off with a two run HR in the 8th off Lowell Palmer.

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.

Former Mets Catcher Who Caught Nolan Ryan's First Game: John Stephenson (1964-1966)

John Herman Stephenson was born on April 13, 1941 in South Portsmouth, Kentucky . The educated Stephenson earned a degree at William Carey College, in Mississippi. The five foot eleven left handed hitting catcher went from A ball in 1963 right up to the Mets big league team in 1964.

He made the club out of Spring Training and appeared as a pinch hItter on Opening Day 1964 as well as in the first game ever played at Shea Stadium. He went hitless in both games. Stephenson would appear mostly as a pinch hitter & in 14 games at third base but he didn’t hit much. On Father’s Day 1964 he was the final out of Jim Bunnings's perfect game pitched against the Mets at Shea Stadium.

Stephenson's biggest thrill that season came on June 29th when he hit a leadoff HR in a game at San Francisco off Giants pitcher Bobby Bolin. Stephenson was back in the minors by July after hitting just .158. At AAA Buffalo he hit .298 the rest of the season, playing at catcher, outfield & at third base. Although he only batted .235 at Buffalo in 1965 he was brought up to the Mets anyway in late June. This time he was used as one of six catchers the ’65 Mets tried as well as a pinch hitter.

The cast of catchers included were; Cris Cannizzarro, Jesse Gonder, Jimmy Schaffer, Greg Gossen & player/coach Yogi Berra at the end of his career. All were used behind the plate at one time or another.

Walk Off Hits: On September 24th, Stephenson hit a walk RBI single, to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2. A month later he would double off former Met Bob Miller with an August 24th walk off hit to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3.

On September 16th he had a career day, hitting two HRs driving in four runs against Cincinnati in the Mets 7-3 win over the Reds.

Nolan Ryan's Debut: In that game Stephenson entered the game as a pinch hitter for Dick Selma in the 5th inning. He stayed in the game replacing Jerry Grote at catcher. He was behind the plate when a young rookie pitcher named Nolan Ryan made his MLB debut that very same day.

Stephenson made history catching the first strike out of Ryan’s career, it was pitcher Pat Jarvis. Two batters later, the great Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews struck out looking on a blazing fastball. He turned to Stephenson saying “what the hell was that!”  

Back when Ryan was first signed, Stephenson recalls; "It was me, Yogi Berra, Warren Spahn, scout Red Murff and Ryan . They told him to throw a fastball, but he didn't tell me. He hit me on the left side of my collarbone and I had to miss a week of play."

Two days later in Chicago he hit another HR, a two run shot in the Mets 4-3 loss to the Cubs. For the 1965 season Stephenson hit .215 in 62 games with four HRs, five doubles & 15 RBIs.

The next season he struggled to hit at the .200 mark all season. On August 4th, Stephenson hit an 8th inning two run HR off the Giants Juan Marichal in a game at Shea Stadium. He began a comeback rally that the Mets eventually won on a walk off HR by on Swoboda. It was a big game for New York since it was almost impossible for them to beat Marichal.

In 1966 Stephenson hit just .196 in 63 games then was traded to the Chicago Cubs to complete an earlier trade. He would spend time between the minors & majors with the Cubs, San Francisco Giants & California Angels through the 1973 season. In 1971 he played in a career high 90 games, batting .219 with three HRs & 25 RBIs for the Angels.

In 1972 he was once again reunited with Nolan Ryan & was a battery mate for Ryan at various times throughout the season.

On July 9th he was behind the plate in Anaheim as Ryan struck out 16 Red Sox & threw a one hit 3-0 shutout against Boston. Later in the month on July 27th, Ryan struck out 14 Texas Rangers pitching a two hit shutout victory in Anaheim, with Stephenson once again behind the plate.

The two were team mates once again in 1973, Stephenson's last year in the majors. In his ten season career he batted .219 with 214 hits 12 HRs 37 doubles 93 RBIs & a 271 on base %.

Retirement: After his playing days he became a long time coach, first at his alma mater, William Carey College (1974-1985). He then moved on to South eastern Louisiana University (1985-1990).

He came back to the New York Mets organization, managing the Gulf Coast Mets (1995/ 1998-1999) & then the Kingsport Mets where he finished in first place (1996). He then went to the Capitol City Bombers (1997 & 2000).

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 23, 2017

Remembering Mets History: (2015) Yoenis Cespedes Incredible Stretch Drive

At the 2015 trade deadline, the Mets GM Sandy Alderson landed one of the best late season acquisitions the Mets ever landed in Yoenis Cespedes.

In 1969 it was Donn Clendenon that helped a pitching rich team with little offense. Clendenon went on to win the World Series MVP Award. In 2015 Cespedes would take charge put the Mets offense on his back taking them through the pennant drive.

Yoenis Cespedes arrived with the Mets on August 1st playing centerfield & batting in the third position. That night he drew a walk going 0-3 in a 3-2 win over the Washington Nats, as the Mets got themselves within one game of first place. The next night they would beat Washington to tie for the NL East first place spot.

On August 3rd, Cespedes collected three hits, all doubles while riving in four runs in the Mets 1-1 romp in Miami. On August 12th, he hit his first Mets HR, a solo shot coming in a  3-0 Mets win against the Colorado Rockies. He would drive in runs in three straight games, hitting another HR two days later.

On August 21st, Cespedes had one of his best nights & put in one of the best Mets offensive games  ever. Cespedes blasted three HRs, while collecting five hits & driving in seven runs in a 14-9 Mets win in Colorado. In the 2nd inning he blasted a grand slam HR off Jon Gray to start out his big night.

In Philadelphia on August 24th & 25th he hit HRs in back to back games, leading the Mets to wins in both games. He would homer again in the fourth game of that series driving in two more runs. On his first Mets road trip Cespedes hit six HRs driving in 15 runs while collecting 14 hits, keeping his average just below .300.

As the Mets entered September they had a six game lead over the Nats & were starting to run away with he division. The Mets pitching was solid all year but now the offens tok off led by Cespedes. In the firsttwo weeks of the month he would go on aa tear like almost no Mets player ever saw, Cespedes was the  hottest hitter in the league at just he right time.

From September 1st to the 14th he nine HRs with 21hits four doubles & two triples, while driving in 19 runs scoring 16 more runs. In that stretch the Mets had an eight game winning streak & won 10 of 13 games, on their way to the division title.

On September 8th, the Mets were down 7-1 to the Nats when they had an incredible six run 7th inning tying up the game. In that inning Cespedes cleared the bases with a three run double. The Mets went on to an 8-7 victory.

The next night his two run HR in the 8th inning broke a 2-2 tie leading to a 5-3 Mets win. On September 11th his three run night in Atlanta, led to the Mets 5-1 win over the Braves. The next night he homered again & drove in two more runs in the 6-4 Mets win.

From there he cooled off driving in just two more runs the rest of the way. In his 57 games with the Mets, he had 66 hits with 17 HRs 14 doubles four triples 44 RBIs & 39 runs scored. He batted .287 with a .337 on base% & a .604 slugging %.

His presence was known on the field defensively as well, in 54 games he posted four assists posting a .985 fielding %. Soon enough the rest of the league knew better than trying to run on Cespedes.

In the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he homered in the Mets Game #2 loss & then again in the Game #3 Mets 13-7 win. That night Cespedes had three hits & drove in three runs as well.

In that series he had five hits t go along with the two four RBIs. Overall in the NLDS he batted .250 (5-20) with 2 HRs & 4 RBIs. 

In the NLCS Game #3 at Wrigley Field, Cespedes had a big three hit night, starting out with a 1st inning RBI double. He later added an RBI single, helping Jacob deGrom & the Mets to a 5-2 win. In the NLCS he batted .286 going 4-14 with three RBIs.

In the World Series he would struggle going just 3-20 batting .150.

Former Italian / American New York Giants Player Turned Long Time MLB Coach: Joe Amalfitano (1954-1955)

John Joseph Amalfitano was born January 23, 1934 in San Pedro, California. The five foot eleven right hand hitter, attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles getting signed as a bonus baby in 1954 by the New York Giants.

The rules at the time had him on the Giants big league squad for the 1954 & 1955 seasons. He appeared in nine games in the Giants 1954 Championship season going 0-5. He made also made six appearances as a defensive replacement. The next year he was used mostly as a pinch hitter batting .227 (5-22) with two extra base hits & an RBI.

He spent the next four seasons in the minors batting over .280 every year with a high of .308 in 1959. Amalfitano was back in the majors in 1960 with the now west coast San Francisco Giants, playing 106 games in a utility role.

In 1961 he was the team’s main second baseman batting .255 with 2 HRs 11 doubles & 23 RBIs. He walked 44 times & posted a .331 on base %. The next season he became an original Houston Colt 45 (later to be the Astros) after being drafted as their second pick in the expansion draft. He hit .237 that year, then was traded back to the Giants for Many Mota & Dick LeMay in November.

Amalfatano would play out his career with the Chicago Cubs as a utility infielder from 1964 through 1967. After serving as the teams main second baseman in 1964 he played behind the All Star Glenn Beckertt until 1967. In his ten year career he batted .244 with 9 HRs 67 doubles 19 triples 123 RBIs & a .320 on base % in 643 games.

Trivia: On the back of one of his early sisties Topps baseball cards it states “Joe likes to play the accordion”.

Coaching: After his playing days he became a long time major league coach for thirty one seasons. He first coached with the Chicago Cubs under his first manager back in his New York Giants playing days; Leo Durocher. Amalfitano was a member of the 1969 Cubs coaching staff that saw their NL East lead be taken over by the eventual World Champion New York Mets.

Amalfitano went back to San Francisco as a coach with the Giants (1972-1975) then to the San Diego Padres (1976-1977). He then went back to the Cubs under Herman Franks (1978-1979), even taking over as interim manager when Franks was fired. He became their full time manager after Preston Gomez was let go, (1980 - 1981). He then went to the Cincinnati Reds (1982) under John McNamara & Russ Nixon.

In 1983 he began a long 16 year run as Tommy Lasorda’s third base coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He would win a World Series title there in 1988.

It was Amalfitano who greeted Kirk Gibson as he rounded third base into the coaching box on his way to home plate, after hitting his famous 1988 World Series Game #1 walk off HR.

In 2002 he was named Dodgers senior advisor to baseball operations (2002-2004). He went back to the Giants front office in 2005 & worked as a special assistant since 2011.

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.