Feb 28, 2018

2018 Mets Reliever: Anthony Swarzak (2018)

 Anthony Ray Swarzak was born September 10th, 1085 in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. The six foot four right handed pitcher, was a star at Nova High, in Davie, Florida.

He was 11-1 with 120 strike outs in his sophomore year, getting him signed by the Minnesota Twins in the second round of the 2004 draft. He was named All County & All State at the highest levels. He followed that year up winning14 games in both his Junior & Senior years, while losing just three games in both years combined. He also struck out 142 & 145 batters respectively.

His minor leagues were impressive early on as well, as he was ranked one of Minnesota's top prospects until turning up dirty in a 2007 drug test, testing positive for pot. He went 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five games at AAA Rochester earning him a shot in Spring Training 2009 with the Twins.

He made his MLB debut on May 23rd getting a start against the Milwaukee Brewers where he pitched five scoreless innings earning a win. That year as a starter he went 3-7 posting a 6.25 ERA. He broke his foot after being struck by a line drive & spent the rest of 2010 at AAA. He returned to the big leagues again during the 2011 season. That year he began pitching in relief & would maintain that position for the rest of his career, except for four starts in 2014.

As for 2013 he posted a 2.91 ERA with a 3-2 record in 48 games. That year he had another dumb incident where he got injured while in his words "he was wrestling around a little bit". The next year his ERA jumped almost two runs & he was granted free agency at the end of the year.

He signed on with the Cleveland Indians & was released that June. His pitching coach there was his future Mets manager; Mickey Callaway. Callaway told him to get stronger & longer in his stride. He then went on to pitch in Korea, where he learned how to throw a slider & reworked his delivery.

In 2016 he signed with the AL New York club, pitching 26 games going 1-2 with a 5.52 ERA finishing up six games. Rather than accept a minor league demotion he chose free agency & signed with the Chicago White Sox.

With the slider now perfected he went 4-3 posting a 2.23 ERA striking out 52 batters in 48 innings in 41 games for the Sox. He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for a minor leaguer at the end of July. He pitched well again, in 29 games with the Brew Crew he was 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA, 39 strike outs in 29 innings. On the season he was 6-4 with two saves posting a 2.33 ERA, striking out 91 batters in 77 innings of work.

The Mets were impressed & gave him a two year deal in December 2017. In his career he has pitched in 287 games going 23-30 with 402 strike outs, 160 walks in 561 innings of work, finishing up 45 games with two saves. He made his Mets debut in their second Spring Training game of 2018.

Parkland Shooting Tragedy: Swarzak grew up in Broward County, and had ties with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where the shootings took place. “I played against that school growing up, my sister went to that school."

"I had two cousins that graduated from that school. My heart, it aches for those families, for all of Broward County, for the United States. This is a sad time we are living in. We all have to find a way to rise above it. Love conquers all. It really does. It’s a really sad thing.”

Family: He & his wife Elizabeth donated food to the South Florida school days after the horrible incident occurred. He claims in an interview his wife is his rock & credits her with straightening out his life. Together they have a daughter, who loves to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" & "God Bless America" at the ballpark.

Trivia: Swarzak's hobbies include fishing & golf. He is also a big foodie & loves Italian Food as well as a good steak. One of his favorite movies is "A Bronx Tale".

Feb 27, 2018

2019 Mets Front Office Advisor & Former 2018 Coach: Ruben Amaro Jr. (2018-2019)

Ruben Amaro Jr. was born on February 12th 1965 in Northeast Philadelphia. His father Ruben Amaro SR. played in the Major Leagues for eleven years, with the St. Louis Cardinals (1958) Philadelphia Phillies (1960-1965) AL New York team (1966-1968) & California Angels (1969). Amaro is Russian Jewish, Cuban Mexican American.

Ruben Jr. graduated from William Penn charter school where he played baseball as well as soccer. He attended Stanford University playing for the 1987 College World Series Championship team. He led the club in runs, triples & stolen bases. The outfielder was drafted by the California Angels in the 11th round of the 1987 draft.

In December of 1991, he was traded along with Kyle Abbot to the Philadelphia Phillies for Von Hayes. By 1992 he was the Phillies main right fielder playing in 126 games but hit just .219 with 7 HRs 15 doubles & 34 RBIs.

He began the Phillies 1993 NL Championship season at AAA getting back to the Phils in mid June. A few days later he was the hero of an 8-6 Phillies win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. After an early RBI single, he hit a two in HR off John Candeleria in the 8th inning, putting his team in front for good. 

In 25 games he batted .333 but did not make the post season. After the World Series he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Heathcliff Slocumb. 

He played briefly as a reserve outfielder with the Indians including 28 games batting just .200 in their 1995 AL Championship season. He got into three ALCS games against the Seattle Mariners, getting one official at bat & scoring a run. In the 1995 World Series he went 0-2 in two games against the Atlanta Braves.

He then resigned with the Phillies as a free agent in 1996 playing three more seasons there. In 61 games he hit .316 in 1996 then played 117 games in 1997 while batting .234. In an eight year career he batted .235 with 16 HRs 43 doubles 100 RBIs & 218 hits in 485 games. 

In 1998 he was hired by the Phillies as assistant to the GM, serving seven years under Ed Wade & three under Pat Gillick.

In 2009 he was named the Phils General Manager & got the team to the World Series that same year earning the MLB Executive of the Year Award. The Phillies  went on to win three straight NL East titles with a core of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino & Cole Hamels. 

By 2013 everything went rotten in Philly, manager Charlie Manuel was fired by Amaro & the fans voted 96% to fire Amaro as well. He was ranked the worst GM in baseball by the Sporting News with a reputation to sign washed up high price veterans. Amaro was fired by 2015.

Philly Legacy: Amaro is co-founder of the Richie Ashburn Harry Kalas Foundation, which provides baseball camps for underprivileged children in the Delaware Valley.

In 2016 he was hired by the Boston Red Sox as first base coach. In November of 2107 he was chosed as the New York Mets first base coach for 2018. He replaced Tom Goodwin, who went to the Red Sox. Amaro will also work with outfielders & oversee base running.

At the end of the season he was moved to a front office position as Glen Sherlock will be the 2019 first base coach.

Feb 26, 2018

Remebering Mets History: (1993) Dwight Gooden Shuts Out Colorado Rockies In the Franchise 1st Ever Game

April 5th 1993: The 1992 Mets ended the season at a disappointing 72-90 in fifth place. It had only been six years since the 1986 Worlds Championship & four years since the teams last N.L. East title.

In 1993 Howard Johnson, Sid Fernandez & Dwight Gooden were the only players left from the '86 Championship season. It all went so bad so quick. 1993 would be even worse as the Mets fell to seventh place winning just 59 games while losing 103. Dallas Green would replace Jeff Torborg as manager in May.

But on Opening Day there is always optimism & with Dwight Gooden on the mound at Shea Stadium, it was a good day. 53,127 Mets fans poured into Shea Stadium as the Mets got started on the 31st year in team history.

Today was a historic day for MLB as it was the first game in history for the new National League Colorado Rockies. The Rockies manager was former MLB player; Don Baylor. Baylor sent David Neid to the mound against Gooden. Nied would have a short five year career going 17-18 with a 5.06 ERA in 52 games. 

Starting Lineups

Today Dwight Gooden shined, as he pitched a complete game four hit shut out on his way to a 3-0 win. Gooden struck out just four batters while walking just one, throwing only 101 pitches. Gooden would go on to have his second straight losing season at 12-15 with a 3.45 ERA.

He got into a jam in the 3rd inning, as a single a walk & hit by pitch loaded the bases with two outs for slugger Andres Galarraga. Gooden reared back & struck out Galarraga to end the threat. Gooden never faced more than three batters until the 9th inning.

Singles by Galarraga & then Dante Bichette threatened, but Galarraga was thrown out as Bichette's pop up fell in for a single in short right field.

In the 4th inning, Gooden & Vince Coleman both singled. Gooden scored on a Tony Fernandez base hit. In the 5th inning Bobby Bonilla hit a solo HR, he would hit a career high 34 that year & drive in 87 runs.

In the home 6th, Coleman singled again & came home on Eddie Murrays single to left field.

The Mets went on to a 3-1 win.

Remembering Mets History: (2014) The First Team to Have Three Players With Lower Case "d"'s In the Line Up

 May 30th 2014: On this night, the Mets became the first team in MLB history to have three players in a line up to have their last name begin with a lower case "d".

The previous year with the addition of Travis d'Arnaud on the team, the Mets equipment manager had to use a capitol "P" & turn it upside down for d'Arnaud's uniform. In 2014 he requested extra lower case letters from Majestic, knowing this was going to be a problem with guys like Jacob deGrom & Matt den Dekker around.

Terry Collins' New York Mets (25-29) were in Philadelphia playing Ryne Sandberg's Phillies (24-28). The game began easy enough with Travis d'Arnaud starting at catcher, being the only lower case d in the line up. He would go 2-6 with an RBI on this long night.

In the 6th inning with the score tied at 5-5, Matt den Dekker made a pinch hit appearance, the second lower case "d" of the night struck out & was done for the night.

In the top of the 14th inning, with the score still tied & a depleted bench, Terry Collins put in his young soon to be Rookie of the Year pitcher, the six foot four Jacob deGrom to hit as a pinch hitter.

Although he struck out, he secured the Mets with having three lower case "d" players to appear in a game. A record that may never be broken, even though most people wont know or care.

The Mets lost this game in the bottom of the 14th as Reid Brignac singled home Marlon Byrd off Jenrry Mejia. The Mets used 21 players on the night, the Phils 19.

Early Sixties Mets Reserve Catcher: Sammy Taylor (1962-1963)

Samuel Douglas Taylor was born on February 27, 1933 in Woodruff South Carolina. The six foot two, left hand hitting catcher was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1956. After two seasons in their minor leagues he was traded along with Taylor Phillips, to the Chicago Cubs for Eddie Haas, Don Kaiser and Bob Rush.

 Taylor became the Cubs regular catcher in 1959, batting .269 with a career high 13 HRs, 13 doubles & 43 RBIs. In June of the 1959 he was involved in a strange play while behind the plate.

The legendary Stan Musial walked on a ball four, wild pitch that got past Taylor. He argued the call, saying Musial had foul tipped the ball as it rolled to the backstop. Musial ran to second, Alvin Dark ran to the backstop to retrieve the ball. The ball wound up in the hands of the field announcer, a new ball was taken, and thrown into the outfield.

As Musial tried for third; the old ball was retrieved then thrown to third base where Ernie Banks tagged out Musial. Behind the plate that season, he caught 109 games and committed a league leading ten errors. 

In 1960, he was a second string catcher behind Ed Tappe, batting only .207 in 74 games. The next season, Dick Bertell took over as the Cubs main catcher, with Taylor as a aback up seeing action in 89 games; batting .238. On April 26, 1962 he got traded to the expansion New York Mets for Bobby Gene Smith. Taylor arrived at the Polo Grounds where the young Mets had played just 14 games in the team's history. At that point they were 2-12 already 8 1/2 games back. 

On April 28th he appeared as a pinch hitter drawing a walk in a 8-6 loss to the Phillies. In his second game as a Met, Taylor got a hit. driving in a run, in a rare '62 Mets 8-0 win, also over the Phillies. On May 19th, he helped spark an 8th inning, four run Mets rally, as he singled in a run, off Milwaukee's Lew Burdette. Hot Rod Kanehl came in to run for him & scored the winning run on a Jim Hickman sac fly. 

Eleven of his twenty RBIs came in the month of June, when he saw the most playing time (21 games) getting 13 hits, including a four game hit streak. On July 7th, Taylor had a big day, hitting HRs in both ends of a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds, in games against the St. Louis Cardinals. In the first game he hit a sixth inning solo shot off Larry Jackson, which was the first run in the Mets 4-3 win. In the second game he hit another solo shot, this one off Ray Washburn, although the Mets lost the game 3-2. It would be the last HR of Taylor's career & he would finish with just three on the season. 

In July he went down with injury missing over a month of time, returning at the end of September. He spent the season in a revolving door of New York Mets catchers who tried out for a regular job in that position.

Included in the cast were; Chris Cannizzaro, Choo Choo Coleman, Joe Pignatano, Hobie Landrith & Harry Chiti. Overall in 68 games Taylor hit .222 but led all the weak hitting catchers with three HRs & twenty RBIs. In 56 games behind the plate he threw out 33% of base runners attempting to steal & posted a .992 fielding %. 

In 1963 he didn't get to the Mets club until late May, & would see action in 22 games through June, batting .257 with six RBIs. On July 1st he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds along with Charlie Neal, for another catcher; Jesse Gonder.

After one month there, Taylor was sent to the Cleveland Indians for Gene Green. He played just four games in Cleveland & spent the next two seasons in the minor leagues before retiring from the game. 

Taylor finished his brief six season playing in 473 lifetime game, hitting .245 with 309 hits 33 HRs 47 doubles, 147 RBIs & a .313 on base %.

Feb 25, 2018

Hall Of Fame First Baseman Who Spent Two Years As a Mets Player: Eddie Murray (1992-1993)

Eddie Clarence Murray was born on February 24, 1956 in Los Angeles, California. He was one of twelve children & was always playing baseball with his four brothers. He played Little League & at his Hall of Fame speech thanked his Little League coach for teaching him a love for the game. 

At Locke high school in South L.A. Murray was a team mate with non other than future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. Steady Eddie was drafted out of high school in the third round of the 1973 draft by the Baltimore Orioles. The six foot two switch hitting first baseman/ designated hitter went on to become one of the games most productive players of his era, making it to Cooperstown. 

He would play 12 years with the Baltimore Orioles, getting to seven All Star games, and win three straight gold glove awards (1982-1984). He was amongst the league leaders in most offensive categories throughout his career, including RBIs 12 times & HRs eight times. He would hit 25 or more HRs twelve times, Murray would drive in over 100 runs six times, including four straight seasons (1982-1985). He would drive in over 90 runs twelve times, score over 100 runs six times, bat over .300 six times & hit 30 or more doubles seven times. 

He won the 1977 Rookie of the Year Award, Hitting 27 HRs with 29 doubles & 88 RBIs and batting .288. In 1979 he helped lead his club to the World Series hitting 25 HRs with 30 doubles 72 walks a .369 on base % & 99 RBIs while batting .295 on the season. 

 Post Season: In the ALCS against the California Angels, he hit .417 having a big Game #2 in Baltimore. That night he hit a three run HR off the Angel’s Mark Clear while driving in another run later in the game, as the O’s won it 9-8. He struggled in the World Series going 4-30 hitting a HR in Game #2 also in Baltimore. 

In 1980 he drove in 116 runs while hitting 32 HRs (both 5th in the AL) batting an even .300. In the strike shortened 1981 season he led the league in both HRs (22) & RBIs (78). It was the only year he led the league in any significant stats with the exception of 1984 when he led in on base % (.410) & walks (107). That year he made his second All Star appearance & the first of six straight All Star games through 1986. Defensively he led the league in fielding % (.999) & did the same in 1982 (.997%). 

Defensively the three time Gold Glover, led the league in fielding three times, assists & put outs three times as well as errors twice. He continued his hitting in 1982 with 32 HRs (5th in the AL) 110 RBIs (6th in the AL) posting a career best .316 average up to that point. That year he led the league for the first of three times in intentional walks (18). 

In the Orioles 1983 championship season he hit 33 HRs (4th in the AL) drove in 111 runs (5TH in the AL) and batted .306. In the ALCS he hit a HR in Game #3 against the Chicago White Sox. Overall he went 4-15 with three walks & three RBIs in the series.

In the World Series against the Philadelphia  Phillies he hit two HRs in the Orioles Game #5 clincher at Philadelphia. Overall he batted. 250 in the Series 5-20 with a walk two runs scored & three RBIs.

During his time in Baltimore he became close friends with future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. The two became highly publicized athletes in the Baltimore /D.C area. Murray was a fan favorite as well as Ripken, as they would cheer "Eddie Eddie" many times when he came to bat. Murray was a great clutch hitter with runners in scoring position as well as with two strikes on hi. He remained in Baltimore through the late eighties continuing his excellent hitting, although the team did not get to any more post seasons for him. 

In December 1988 he was traded for Juan Bell, Brian Holton and Ken Howell going to his home town of Los Angeles to play for the Dodgers. In 1989 he hit 20 HRs with 88 RBIs in Dodgers Stadium but his average fell to a career low .247. In 1990 he was the league's top paid player & he rebounded to a .330 batting average coming in second in the NL batting race to Willie McGee. Murray hit 26 HRs with 96 runs scored (8th in the NL) & drove in 96 runs (6th in the NL). In three seasons in Los Angeles he hit over 20 HRs & drove in over 90 runs twice. 

In 1992 at the age of 35 he signed with the New York Mets as a free agent. By the time he arrived at Shea Stadium, his best years were behind him. He debuted as a Met on Opening Day batting fifth behind Howard Johnson & would be the clubs main first baseman.

In mid April he showed his Hall of Fame form, on the 14th he drove in three runs, including a pair of doubles leading the Mets to an 8-5 win over the Phillies. The next day he doubled again driving in two more runs in a 7-2 Mets win. As the Mets moved on to Montreal, Murray cleared the bases hitting a double off Dennis Martinez leading the club to a 10-2 win. The next day he had two more hits & drove in two more runs, giving him a total of ten RBIs in his last four games. 
 On April 22nd he hit a walk off HR over the right field fence, off the St. Louis Cardinals Chris Carpenter giving the team a 3-2 victory. He closed out the month with a four RBI day on April 28th , driving in all runs in the David Cone two hit shut out, over the Astros. In June he drove in runs in the first five games of the month.

On June 2nd he drove in all four Mets runs with a grand slam HR against the San Francisco Giants, helping Wally Whitehurst to a 4-3 win. On June 6th he went into the record books, and did it while wearing a Mets uniform. Murray set the record for most RBIs all time by a switch hitter, when he drove in his 1510th RBI with a sac fly in a 15-1 Mets win against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. He drove in twenty runs in the month of June. 

On July 10th, he came to bat in the top of the 9th inning, in Houston with New York trailing 6-4. With the bases loaded he doubled driving in all three runs, leading to a 7-6 Mets comeback win. At the end of July, Murray had more heroics, as he had another 9th inning double, scoring two runs & bringing the Mets from behind to win in a game at Philadelphia, against the Phillies. He hit three HRs in games against the Cubs at the start of August, in both New York & at Chicago. 
 On September 4th he hit another grand slam HR, this one against the Reds at Riverfront Stadium, leading New York to a 5-2 win. He drove in four more runs, including a three run HR, in a game at Shea Stadium on September 19th, in a 7-5 win over the Montreal Expos. Back at Wrigley Field, he drove in two runs in a 10-8 Mets win on September 14th. The next day he hit a two run HR in the 1st inning, helping New York to a 4-2 win.

The durable Murray played in 156 games leading the team in RBIs (93) & doubles (37), both were seventh most in the league. He also led the club in hits (144) walks (66) & runs scored (64). He was second to Bobby Bonilla in HRs (16) & was third in on base % (.336). At first base he led the NL with 12 errors, and was third in games played, assists & put outs. 
 He adjusted with an even better 1993 season, starting out the year going 4-9 with two RBIs in the Opening Series against the expansion Colorado Rockies. In a late April home stand he hit HRs in consecutive games against the San Francisco Giants, both leading to wins.

He went into May driving in runs in six straight games & then drove in the only run of 1-0 Bret Saberhagen win on May 10th against Florida. At the end of June he hit HRs in three straight games and drove in runs in eight of nine game sinto the first week of July.  From July 2nd - July 6th he drove in ten runs, hit two HRs and had nine hits, on a Shea home stand, against the West Coast Giants & Padres. 

Later in the month he hit a two run HR in San Diego leading to a -2 Mets win. The next day, on July 22nd, he hit two HRs, while driving in five runs at Los Angeles in a 10-5 win against his old Dodger team mates.

On July 28th, he hit a walk off double against Brian Harvey leading the Mets to a 5-4 win over the Marlins. In the month he drove in 26 runs & hit five HRs. Murray hit three HRs in the first weekof August & then three more in the first week of September. In the month of September he hit safely in 24 of 29 games, ending the year with a solid .285 average. 

Although he was 36 years old, he was still a productive player & an RBI machine. The rest of the club, did not gel around him. There there was no pennant race for the '93 Mets. The team finished dead last going 59-103 under managers; Jeff Torborg & Dallas Green. This cast of Mets were dubbed "The worst team money could buy". 

Murray drove in 100 runs (10th in the league, while leading the Mets). He led the team in batting (.285) hits (174) doubles (28) games played (154) & at bats (610). He hit 27 HRs (second on the club to Bonilla). His nine sac flies were second most in the league. 
 Murray moved on in 1994, going to the Cleveland Indians for two seasons. After a down year in the strike shortened 1994 season, Murray returned to help the Indians get to the World Series in 1995. 

He was primarily the teams DH batting .323 with 21 HRs 21 doubles & 82 RBIs. He hit a HR in each round of the playoffs, first in the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox, then a Game #4 HR in the Indians ALCS win over the Seattle Mariners. 
 In the 1995 World Series he went just 2-9, but he won Game #3 with a walk off single in the bottom of the eleventh inning off of Atlanta’s Alejandro Pena. 

The next season in July, he was traded by the Indians to the Orioles for Kent Mercker in order for him to finish his career back in Baltimore. On September 6, 1996, he hit his 500th career HR as an Oriole, exactly one year to the day that Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak. He went out a hero as the fans gave him a huge send off in his final game. 

His Hall of Fame numbers include, 3026 hits (13th all time), 504 HRs (25th all time) (second among switch hitters) 19 grand slams (4th all time) 1917 RBIs (10th all time) 560 doubles (24th all time) 1627 runs scored (40th all time) & 1333 walks (36th all time).

He has 1099 extra base hits (18th all time) 222 intentional walks (9th all time) & is first all time with 128 sac flies. He struck out 1516 times (49th all time) grounded into 315 double plays (6th all time). 

At first base he has played in the most games of any first base man in the history of the game (2413) also making the most assists ever at the position (1865). He is fourth in put outs (21255) & posted a .993 fielding % (77th all time). 

In 2003 Murray was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame with another former Mets player, catcher Gary Carter. In his speech he said it was never about one person but always about the team.

In the back of the crowd 300 inner city kids came from the Baltimore area to hear his speech, on their way out he gave the bus loads of kids autographed bats, balls & programs. His number 33 was retired by the Orioles in 1998.

Murray with Cal Ripken 1983
In the 1980's he donated large amounts of money to the Baltimore City Parks Department which led to the Carrie Murray Nature Center named in his mothers honor. 

Retirement: After his playing days Murray was the Cleveland Indians hitting coach from 2002-2005. He then spent 2006 / 2007 as a Los Angeles Dodger coach.

Former Mets Backup Catcher: Mike Nickeas (2010-2012)

Michael James Nickeas was Born on February 13, 1983 in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is the son of British professional soccer player, Mark Nickeas.

Nickeas grew up in West Lake California & then attended Georgia Tech. University playing on their baseball team for three years. The six foot right handed hitting catcher was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2004. In August of 2006 he was traded to the New York Mets in exchange for Victor Diaz. 

After having success early in his career, especially during the Pan Am games & low levels of the minors, he struggled at both A ball St. Lucie & AA Binghamton. He was at Mets Spring Training as early as 2007, but didn't get near making the team. That year he played for Great Britain in European Baseball Championship making it's All Star team & winning a silver medal. 

In 2008 he hit just .210 in the minors, in 2009 he fell to .164 playing in just twenty games as he suffered a broken finger. In 2010 he hit .283 at AA Binghamton with 15 doubles 5 HRs & 33 RBIs as the clubs main catcher. He was promoted to AAA Buffalo& after seven games got a September call up to the Mets ho still had faith in him. 

Nickeas made his MLB debut on September 4th in Chicago at Wrigley Field, getting the start behind the plate catching Jenrry Mejia. He went 0-2 that day, getting his first hit in his third game at Citi Field against Milwaukee. He played in five games going 2-10.

In 2011 he began the year with the Mets out of Spring Training, finishing up Opening Day behind the plate in the last three innings. He got his first start in Philadelphia in the fourth game of the season, going 0-5. He then hit safely in five of six games and hit his first career HR on April 21st, coming at Citi Field. 

On April 27th he was sent back down to the minors at AAA Buffalo. There he played in 60 games behind Raul Chavez who played 78 games, hit just .199 but threw out 47% of would be base stealers. Nickeas hit .214 while throwing out 40% of would be base stealers. He returned to the Mets at the end of August and got to play in a dozen more games, finishing the year at .189 (10-53) with one HR one doubles & 6 RBIs. 

Behind the plate he posted a perfect .1000 fielding % making no errors in 124 chances, in twenty games. He threw out four of thirteen base runners trying to steal on him. 

In 2012 he caught the third game of the season, going 0-4 in the Mets 7-5 win over Atlanta. On May 5th his two run single off Patrick Corbin, led to a Johan Santana 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. On May 26th, at Citi Field, he hit a grand slam HR off former Met Dale Thayer in a 9-0 Mets win over the San Diego Padres. Nickeas struggled, batting just .168 at the end of June & he was sent down to AAA Buffalo. He hit .364 there in 22 games. 

He was brought back up in September finishing the year batting .174 with one HR three doubles 13 RBIs & a .242 on base %. In the 2013 off season he was traded to Toronto in the R.A. Dickey / Travis d'Arnaud / John Buck deal.

He appeared in just one lone game with the Blue Jays, spending most of his time at AAA Buffalo where he batted just .166. In 2014 he hit .285 at AAA Buffalo in 49 games.

Old Time Bronx Born New York Giants Player Who Was Banned From Baseball: Heinie Zimmerman (1916-1919)

Henry Zimmerman was born February 9th, 1887 in the Bronx, New York. By the age of 14 he was working as a plumbers assistant to help his family earn money. He became a star player on the sand lots of New York City, before signing a contract with the Chicago Cubs in 1906. 

Zimmerman became known as a dim witted eccentric in the baseball world & was also known for erratic play, as well as his erratic behavior. Once during a five game stretch in 1913, the umpire hating Zimmerman, was thrown out of three different games. He was also known as "the Great Zim". 

 After four years as a reserve infielder, he became the Cubs main second baseman in 1911, taking over for the injured Johnny Evers. Zimmerman made it to two World Series with the Cubs, winning the 1907 Series over the Detroit Tigers. In 1910 he got into five games, driving in two runs in the loss to the Philadelphia A's. He hit 17 triples (4th in the league) batted .307 (9th in the league) & drove in 85 runs (9th in the league). 

In 1912 he moved over as the third baseman & had a big year, coming in sixth in the MVP voting. He originally won the NL Triple Crown, but through the years, it was discovered his RBI totals were wrong & he came in third in the league. He won the batting title, hitting .372, led the league in hits (207) doubles (41) HRs (14) & slugging (.571%). 

Zimmerman spent ten seasons with the Cubs, hitting over .300 once more (1913) & won an RBI title that remained intact through history in 1916, driving in 83 runs. During those Cub years he was in the top ten in the league's batting race four times. He would also be in the top ten in doubles, triples, HRs, RBIs, hits & total bases many times. In 1916 he was traded to the New York Giants for Larry Doyle, Herb Hunter & Merwin Jacobson. He has been voted #98 on the All Time 100 Greatest Cubs list. 

His career in New York began well, in 40 games of the 1916 season he batted .272 with 19 RBIs. In 1917 he won another RBI title, driving in 102 runs. He batted .297 (7th best in the NL) with five HRs 22 doubles, nine triples & 174 hits (4th in the NL). At third base he continued his fine fielding, leading the league in assists (349), was second in games played (149) & fourth in fielding (.947) as well as put outs (148). That year the Giants won the NL Pennant & played the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. 

Post Season: Zimmerman is infamous for a rundown play in the final game decisive Game #6. The game was scoreless in the 4th inning, when Chicago's Eddie Collins got caught in a run down between third & home plate. The catcher Bill Rariden, ran up the line starting the run down play. Unfortunately neither the pitcher (Rube Benton) nor the first baseman (Walter Holke) went to cover the plate. 
 Zimmerman chased Collins to the plate with his arm motioning to throw, but no one was covering the plate to throw to. Collins scored what turned out to be the game & series' winning run. Zimmerman was blamed for losing the game for years, but even Giants manager John McGraw blamed Benton & Holke who made the mental error not covering home. 

Years later it was said that Zim commented on the play, saying " who the hell was I suppose to throw to, the umpire Bill Klem?" Others say, a New York sports writer made up the quote. Overall in the World Series, Zim batted just .120 with a triple going 3-25. 

He played for the Giants for two more years, batting career low .255 in 1919. 

Drama: That same year- 1919, Zimmerman along with his friend, Hal Chase was banned from baseball for attempting to fix games. This all came down during the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal. Giants Manager John McGraw testified in court to Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis & both were indicted for bribery.

The two denied the accusations but based on past corruption, they were banned from the game. The Giants had previously released Zim, mostly due to the events of the 1917 World Series. 

 In his 13 year career he batted .295 with 58 HRs 275 doubles 105 triples (143rd all time) 695 runs scored 175 stolen bases 432 RBIs & a .331 on base % in 1456 games played. 

At second base he played 945 games, at third base he played 327 games, where he made 231 errors (59th most all time at the position). At third he is in the top 100 all time in assists & put outs. He also played at short (63 games) first base (53 games) & in the outfield (13 games).

Feb 24, 2018

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.