Jul 31, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (2015) Mets Sweep Nats Take Over First Place

Saturday August 1st 2015: After the exciting dramatic walk off HR from Wilmer Flores the night before, Terry Collins Mets (54-50) were now just one game behind the Washington Nats (54-48).

Mets fans were excited with a new boost of energy & 42,996 filled Citi Field with plenty to cheer about. Tonight was the debut of the new Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes, playing left field & batting third. On the mound was Jacob deGrom going up against Joe Ross.

Starting Lineups

In the 1st inning, deGrom was shaky, two walks & a walk led to a base loaded two out situation. Ian Desmond singled in between second & short bringing in the Nats first two runs.

The Mets remained down 2-10 when Lucas Duda hit a solo HR in the 4th to make it a one run game. In the home 7th Duda came through again, leading off with another solo HR, his 20th of the year tying the game & bringing Citi Field to a huge roar. Duda was now on fire.

In the home 8th, Curtis Granderson doubled, with one out Yoenis Cespedes was walked intentionally, bringing up Duda. Duda delivered again, doubling off the left field wall, giving the Mets the lead they would never give up.

Jeurys Familia retired the Nats in order in the 9th for his 28th save. The Mets were now tied for first place & would never look back. In his debut Yoenis Cespedes went 0-3 with a walk.

Sunday August 2nd 2015: The Mets & Nats played the weekend series finale, that would determine who was to be in first place. The Mets (55-50) looking for the sweep sent Noah Syndergaard to the mound against the Nats (54-49) Jordan Zimmerman.

Starting Lineups

Syndergaard known as "Thor" in Mets world scattered seven hits over eight innings of work. Along the way he only gave up two runs & struck out nine while walking no one!

In the 1st the Nats began with a solo HR from Anthony Rendon. But in the 3rd the Mets attacked Zimmerman, Curtis Granderson & Daniel Murphy hit back to back HRs.

Two batters later after Yoenis Cespedes got his first career Mets hit (to a big ovation) the hot hitting hero of yesterdays game, Lucas Duda connected for his 21st HR of the year.

The Mets were up 5-1 & the crowd went wild as they went on to a 5-2 win. The first place New York Mets were up by a game & would never fall behind again.

Late Eighties Mets Player: Greg Jefferies (1987-1991)

Greg Scott Jeffries was born August 2, 1967 at Burlingame, California. Jeffries was drafted right out of high school in San Mateo, California, in the first round (20th pick overall) in 1985.

He became a minor league success right away, winning two minor league MVP Awards & a Player of the Year Award as well. He was hyped up as the next great Mets hitter, even Davey Johnson said “he could hit .300 on his head”. In 1987 he batted .367 at AAA Tidewater with 20 HRs & 101 RBIs.

In September of 1987, at age 19 Jefferies got a September call up, debuting in Los Angeles going hitless on September 6th. Overall in six games he was 3-6 as a pinch hitter on the season. The next year, he spent most of the year at AAA Tidewater because there was no where to put him on the talented big league club. He hit .282 at AAA Tidewater & got brought up at the end of August.

He went on a tear right away, getting nine hits in his first five games, batting .475. On August 29th his second game of the season, he hit a two run HR in the Mets 6-0 win over the San Diego Padres. In the first nine days of September he hit four HRs driving in seven runs.

On September 19th his base hit in the bottom of the 9th was a walk off game winner aginast the Montreal Expos. He would stay hot all through the September Pennant race, batting .321 in 109 at bats, with 6 HRs, 8 doubles & 17 RBIs. Although he only played 29 games he received votes for the Rookie of the Year Award.

Post Season: He played in all seven games of the 1988, NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Playing mostly at third base, while slugger Howard Johnson moved over to short stop. Jeffries played a solid defense, hitting .333 (9-27) with two doubles, an RBI & four walks. It would be his only post season appearance.

The Mets had to find a place for him on the field and ended up trading away the popular Wally Backman to open up the second base spot. Jeffries found himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated & with a Starting Lineup Action figure before he even played one full season.

After two hits on Opening Day, Jeffries struggled in 1989 not getting over the .200 mark until late June. On June 15th he won the game with a walk off single beating the Chicago Cubs 4-3. The next day he homered & drove in four runs in the Mets wild 15-11 win at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.

He hit well in July raising up is average while hitting safely in 16 of twenty games. On September 7th he hit a pair of HRs & drove in five runs in a 13-1 Mets romp over the St. Louis Cards at Shea.

On the year the Mets finished second six games behind the Chicago Cubs, Jefferies batted only .258 with 12 HRs 28 doubles 56 RBIs while posting a .314 on base %. He stole an impressive 21 bases playing in 141 games. At second base he made 12 errors posting a .975 fielding % turning 41 double plays.

Drama: Jefferies didn’t adjust to the hardships of playing in New York at the big league level so quickly. He was constantly frustrated and complained often enough to earn a reputation as a whiner by his team mates & the fans.

He would throw his bat in frustration when he struck out & was called a baby. threw his bat in the dugout he was called a baby, (it wasn’t until years later that things like that made other cry babies like Paul O’Neill be considered intense).

He wrote an open letter to Sports Radio 66 WFAN, when it was a new station criticizing his team mates for not supporting him. This only buried him deeper & the fans let him have it. He heard the boos loudly at Shea when he didn’t do well.

In 1990 things did get better, he led the NL in doubles (40) and raised his average up to .283, with 15 HRs, 68 RBIs scoring 96 runs. But the fans still wanted more due to the hype he had received early on. The Mets finished second once again, this time four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, which also frustrated the fans.

Jefferies became a target of the team's inability to capture the NL East in the past two seasons. He got hot from June 7th through June 14th in the midst of a twelve game hit streak, driving in eight runs with five straight multi hit games. On June 24th he led the Mets with a HR & Four RBIs to beat the Phillies 6-5 at Shea Stadium.

Throughout the summer he was hitting above .300 most of the time, driving in runs in five straight games two separate times. On August 3rd he topped off a Mets top of the 9th inning three run rally in St. Louis, driving in the winning run with a single off reliever Lee Smith.

A week later his three RBIs helped the Mets beat the Phillies 8-4 at Shea Stadium. In September he fell from a .297 average to finish the year at .282. At second he posted a .976 fielding % making 12 errors turning 49 double plays.

In 1991 he drove in the Mets first run of the year with a first inning double, leading to a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. On April 20th he broke a 1-1 tie in Montreal with an 8th inning double scoring the game winning run. After missing the first two weeks in May he hit safely in 12 of 14 games raising his average up to .284.

In July he missed another week of action, then returned to drive in ten runs in the week of his return. As the season went on he kept status quo finishing the year at.272 with 19 doubles, 9 HRs & 62 RBIs & a .336 on base % in 136 games. His time was up in New York, and he was traded with Kevin McReynolds & Keith Miller to the Kansas City Royals for All Star pitcher Bret Saberhagen.

Jefferies hit .285 with 10 HRs & 75 RBIs in one season at Kansas City, then got traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Felix Jose & Craig Wilson.

In St. Louis he moved over to play first base, and had his best career year. He hit .342 (3rd in the NL) with a .408 on base %, 16 HRs, 24 doubles 83 RBIs & 89 runs scored. He made the All Star team that season & the next as well.

In 1994 he hit .325 (7th in the NL) with 12 HRs 55 RBIs in the strike shortened season. After contract disputes with Cardinals management, he signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1995.

Jefferies was yet again in the top ten in batting that year (hitting .306, bashing 31 doubles. He hit .292 the following year playing in 104 games.

By 1997 he was entering the twig light of his career, as his average fell to .256, In the middle of the 1998 season he was traded to the Anaheim Angels for a player to be named later.

He finished up the year, hitting .300 but was not resigned. He went to the Detroit Tigers but injuries got the best of him, making him a part time player. He played two more seasons in Detroit, finishing his 14 year career in 2000. 

Overall he hit .289 lifetime, with 1593 hits, 300 doubles, 27 triples 126 HRs, 663 RBIs 196 stolen bases & a .344 on base %.

Retirement: He currently lives outside Sacramento California, coaching high school baseball & varsity football.

He is married to his second wife and has four children. He looks back at his time in New York, wishing he was a little more mature back then. He said the 1988 playoffs spoiled him, and he misses the chance of not playing in a World Series.

Former Mets Manager: George Bamberger (1982-1983)

George Irvin Bamberger was born August 1, 1925 in Staten Island, New York. The six foot right handed pitcher was signed by the New York Giants in 1946. His dream came true as he made the 1951 home town New York Giants pitching staff. He only pitched in two games allowing four runs in two innings of work. Needless to say he didn’t make the World Series roster.

In 1952 he appeared briefly in five games, allowing four runs in four innings. He spent the next six years in the minors and fifteen years overall, mostly in the Pacific Coast League winning 216 games there overall. He had one last hurrah in the majors, pitching three games with the Baltimore Orioles in 1959. He stayed in their organization at various levels and then became one of the best pitching coaches in the game during the late sixties/ early seventies.

In 1968 he was first named pitching coach for a mighty Orioles team under manager Earl Weaver. He was a firm believer in the four man pitching rotation, feeling the more a pitcher used his arm without abusing it, the stronger it became. He would hold the position for the next decade, getting to three World Series, producing 18 twenty game winners, including a record of four on the same 1971 staff . That historic season Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, & Pat Dopson all won twenty games for Bamberger.

In his time as pitching coach he also had the privilege of coaching four Cy Young winners; two during his tenure- Mike Cuellar (1969) & Jim Palmer (1973 / 1975-1976) Then after his departure Mike Flanagan (1979) & Steve Stone (1980). Bamberger's pitching staff were first in the American League in ERA every season from 1968 through 1973. His staff was first in wins five times as well.

In 1969 he sat in the dugout at Shea Stadium during the Worland watched the young New York Mets staff out pitch his own mighty heavily favored Orioles staff. Little did he or anyone else, know he would be in the dugout managing the Mets 13 years later.

In 1978 he was hired as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers and got them to over 90 wins for the first time in their ten year history. He won the A.L. Manager of the Year Award, with his team finishing in third place at 93-69. It was a tough division and the Brew Crew improved to finished second to his old Baltimore team in 1979, winning 95 games. In 1980 he suffered a heart attack during Spring Training, and was sidelined for a the first few months of the season. After 92 games the Brewers were only at .500, and he resigned as their manager.

Meanwhile, in New York a new ownership took over the Mets ball club and Joe Torre was fired as manager after five losing seasons. The new General Manager for the Mets was Frank Cashen, who had been the GM in Baltimore during Bamberger's years when he was the Pitching Coach. Cashen went right out and hired his old pal Bambi, as the Mets manager for the 1982 season.

Bamberger told The New York Times: ''My whole idea is to throw the ball over the plate. The most important pitch is a strike. But the trick is to change speeds. Trying to pinpoint a pitch is crazy. Throw the ball down the middle, but don't throw the same pitch twice. Change the speed.''

In 1982 the Mets started out a little better than the previous years. In June they were still at .500 and more fans were coming to the ballpark. There really wasn’t much pitching there for Bamberger to work with, the staff was led by Craig Swan who would win 11 games. Charlie Puleo (9-9) Pete Falcone (8-10) a young Mike Scott (7-13) & a veteran Randy Jones (7-10) made up the starting rotation. As Pat Zachary (6-9) & Ed Lynch (4-8) also saw some starts.

To Bamberger's credit, Jesse Orosco said Bambi helped him develop his slider while he was in his rookie season. As for the lineup Dave Kingman’s bat wasn’t enough to carry the team, although he hit 37 HRs & drove in 99 Runs he only batted .204. George Foster (13 HRs & 70 RBIs) & Ellis Valentine (8 HRs & 48 RBIs) both came to New York with expectations, but they neither proved too change the team around.

The few bright spots were youngsters Mookie Wilson & reliever Neil Allen. At the end of the year the Mets didn’t finish much better than the previous season, going 65-97 in last place 27 games back of the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. 

In 1983 after a 16-30 last place start to the season, Bamberger resigned. He said “I probably suffered enough , I'm going fishing”, feeling all the stress of losing in New York was going to give him another heart attack. He was replaced by big Frank Howard for the rest of the 1983 season. In 1984 Davey Johnson would take over and enjoy a successful run throughout the 1980's.

Bamberger went back to Milwaukee & did two more years as the Brewers manager (1985-1986). His team finished last both seasons winning an identical 71 games each year. In 1986 he retired for good, moving to North Redington Beach, Florida with his wife of 53 years. In 2004 he passed away at age 80.

Jul 30, 2018

2006 NL Eastern Champion Mets Closer: Billy Wagner (2006-2009)

William Edward Wagner was born on July 25, 1971 in Tannersville, Virginia.

The farmer from the South, was originally a right hander but after breaking his arm, he learned to throw left handed off the door of his barn. He developed that arm into one that was known to throw a fastball at 100 mph. 

Wagner set N.C.A.A. records in the small school of Ferrum College getting himself drafted number one by the Astros in 1993. In the minors he was a starting pitcher and in 1994 led all pitchers with 204 Ks at that level.

He got promoted in September 1995, and in 1996 saved 9 games and would eventually replace Todd Jones as their closer. Over the next seven seasons (1997 -2003) he would save 30 games or more five times including a career high 44 in 2003. 

Post Season: In 1997 he finished off Game #2 of the NLDS in a 13-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves. In 1998 he finished up Game #2 of the NLDS earning a win, even though he had blown a save against the eventual NL Champion; San Diego Padres.

In 1999 he won the Relief Man of the Year Award , saving 39 games and struck out 124 batters in only 74 innings. He set a new MLB record for strikeouts per 9 innings (15) including, striking out the side 15 times as well as posting a 1.57 ERA. The Astros made their third straight post season that year as well.

In 2000 he tore his flexor tendon and missed most of the season, he returned in 2001 to save 39 games and be a leading candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year.He also made two appearances in the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves.

His contract year of 2003 may have been his best season, saving career high 44 games, with 105 strikeouts in 86 innings pitched and a 1.78 ERA. That June he was one of six Astros pitchers, to combine for a no hitter, against the A.L. New York club. From Houston he went to Philadelphia for two seasons and saved 21 then 38 games respectively.

In 2005 he stated to the press the Phillies had no chance in making the playoffs. This of course irked some of his teammates & some of them confronted him. Outfielder Pat Burrell actually came out & call him a rat in public. At the end of the season it was no surprise he did not resign with Philadelphia. In 2006 Wagner signed on with New York Mets as a free agent.

He got his first Mets save on opening day at Shea, against the Washington Nationals. Wagner had a great start as a Met, he didn’t earn a loss until late June, by that time he was 3-0 with 14 saves and a 2.14 ERA. He rolled through the summer and was one of the best Mets relievers in years as he was able to close out the 9th inning. He went on to save 40 games (second best in the NL) for the ’06 Mets, going 3-2 with a 2.24 ERA, striking out 94 batters in 72 innings pitched, coming in 6th in the Cy Young voting.

Post Season: In the NLDS Wagner would get credit with saves in the first two games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He would be on the mound for the final inning of the 9-5 Game #3 series clinching win at Dodger Stadium.

He was the first Mets pitcher, since Mike Hampton in 2000, to close out a Mets post season series victory while celebrating on a pitcher’s mound. Overall he posted an ERA of 3.00 while striking out four batters in three innings of work.

In the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, he closed out Game #1 securing Tom Glavine’s 2-0 shutout. In Game #2 he came into the 9th inning with the score tied 6-6, but took the loss as he gave up a lead off HR to Sao Taguchi, then two more runs on hits by Scott Spezio & Juan Encarnacion. He did not appear again until Game #6 when he entered a crazy Shea Stadium, to nail down John Maine’s 4-0 lead.

Wagner again struggled again against Sao Taguchi, who doubled home two runs bringing the score to 4-2. Wagner then got David Eckstein to ground out to secure the win. He finished the Series with one save, 0-1 with a 16.88 ERA in 2.2 innings pitched over three games.

In 2007 he put in began with another fine season up until August as the Mets closer. He had an ERA under two and had saved 17 of 19 games in the first half of the season, earning him a spot on the NL All Star team.

In July he was a perfect 8 for 8 in save opportunities. He had 26 saves and a 1.28 ERA by mid August when he took his first loss. He would blow four saves and post an ERA over three in the final two months of the season.

One of his worst memorable games as a Met, came on August 30th, 2007. Wagner came into the 9th inning with a 10-9 lead, but base hits by pinch hitter Tad Iguchi & Chase Utley won it for the Phils.

His old teammates completed a four game sweep over the Mets dropping New York's first place lead from 6 games to just two games. This Series made a making a big difference at the end of the season, as the Mets finished one game behind Philadelphia. 

As the Mets were struggling in early 2008, Wagner lashed out on his teammates, especially the ones who were not around for post game interviews. Many believe this was meant for the Carlos’ Beltran & Delgado. It was hoped that his words would have sparked the team a bit, but in the end manager Willie Randolph got fired & the Mets missed the playoffs on the last day of the season for the second straight year.

Wagner pitched well in the first half posting a 2.14 ERA with 26 saves, earning him another spot on the NL All Star team. Wagner came into the game with two outs in the 8th inning with the NL Leading 3-2. Grady Sizemore singled & stole second and then Evan Longoria’s ground rule double tied the game sending it to the 15th inning where the A.L. won it.

In September he suffered a huge injury that hurt the Mets team badly, definitely having an impact on their bullpen for the rest of the year, causing them to miss the playoffs.

Wagner had torn the ulnar collateral ligament of his left elbow and also his flexor pronator tendon. These injuries required major reconstructive surgery, and he was done for the year &most of the next season as well. In an emotional press conference he vowed to return but said his days as a Met were probably over, and the team should move on.

For 2008, he saved 34 games posting a 2-2 record, with a 2.63 ERA striking out 80 batters in 68 innings. Wagner returned to the Mets in 2009, and made his first appearance on August 20th, striking out two Atlanta Braves. He would only pitch in two games for the Mets, before getting traded to the Red Sox for Chris Carter at the end of August.

In Boston he would go 1-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five games pitched. He played in two games of the ALDS loss to the Anaheim Angels allowing two runs in one inning of work. At the end of the season he signed with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent where he recovered to have a remarkable season. 

In Atlanta he emerged as their closer made the All Star team & was a good candidate for comeback Player of the Year. Wagner saved 37 games (5th in the NL) going 7-2 with a 1.49 ERA. He made his final post season appearance, pitching 0.1 innings in Game #2 loss of the NLDS to the San Francisco Giants.

After the season he retired finishing his 16 year career with 422 saves (5th most saves all time) finishing 703 games (6th most all time), going 47-40 with 1196 strike outs in 903 innings pitched in 853 appearances (36th all time) 

In his career Wagner made seven All Star Games & post season appearances.

Former Mets Player (1983-1987) & Mets Minor League Manager (1988-1993): Clint Hurdle

Clinton Merrick Hurdle was born on July 30, 1957 in Big Rapids, Michigan. His father worked for NASA during the space age race to get a man on the moon. The Hurdle family moved to Merritt Island, Florida when Clint was a boy.

The six foot three left hand hitting Hurdle was an outstanding athlete, getting drafted in the first round (the 9th pick overall) by the Kansas City Royals in 1975.

He was a promising young outfielder, making his MLB debut at just twenty years old. He made the cover of Sports Illustrated getting labeled “This years phenom” during Spring Training 1978. It was later looked backed at that those words this jinxed his career.

He joined an already powerful Royals team that won three straight A.L. West titles (1976-1978) Hurdle debuted as a September'77 call up, hitting an impressive .308 in nine games.

In 1978 he was a utility player getting into 133 games in the outfield & at first base. He hit .264 with seven HRs & 56 RBIs as the Royals won another Western title.

In The ALCS he played in four games going 3-8 (.375) with an RBI. The next season he struggled, batting .240 by the end of May, not living up to all the hype. He was sent back down to fine tune in the minors hitting just .236. His 1979 Topps baseball card had him holding a bat on his shoulder with a cheek full of tobacco, looking like a classic old time ballplayer.

He returned to finish out the year with K.C. In the Royals 1980 World Championship season, he had his best season. He was the clubs main right fielder, batting .284 with 10 HRs, 31 doubles & 60 RBIs, mostly hitting seventh behind Amos Otis. In the outfield he had eight assists.

Post Season: In the 1980 ALCS he only got two at bats going 0-2 . In the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, he played in four games, hitting safely in each one. He batted .417, scoring a run & even stole a base. Hurdle only had one other stolen base in his entire career.

1981 began well, but back injuries set him back & eventually ruined his career. He finished the strike shortened 1981 season batting .329 in only 28 games played. In 1982 he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Scott Brown. Hurdle hit just .206 and was released.

The New York Mets gave him a chance in 1983 & he reported to AAA Tidewater. In Tidewater he found new life, still only 26 years old, he hit 22 HRs driving in 105 runs & batting .285. He got a September call up to the Mets debuting as a pinch hitter on September 12th. In 13 games he went (6-33) hitting just .182, playing nine games at third base.

He spent all of 1984 back at AAA Tidewater, hitting 21 HRs as the Mets coaches continued to transform him into a full time catcher. He progressed well & earned a shot on the 1985 Mets squad as the team's third string catcher.

On April 28th, he was a Mets hero even though it came due to an opposing players error. In the bottom of the 18th inning of a five hour & twenty minute game, he hit a ground ball to first base. The ball was misplayed by the Pittsburgh Pirates Jason Thompson, allowing Mookie Wilson to score the game winning run.

On June 9th he hit a two run HR against the St. Louis Cards in an 8-2 Mets loss. He hit two more HRs on the season driving in a total of seven runs in 82 at bats, appearing in 43 games (17 games at catcher) batting only .187. He was drafted away (Rule 5) by the St. Louis Cards in December 1985.

In 1986 he played 78 games, backing up Jack Clark at first base. He hit just .195 & was released. In 1987 he once again signed with the Mets as a free agent. In 1987 he made two pinch hit appearances and filled in at first base for one game in New York. On June 17th he got his last career hit before ending his playing days.

In a ten year playing career, Hurdle hit .259 with 360 hits 32 HRs 81 doubles 193 RBIs & a .341 on base % in 515 games played. He played 329 games in the outfield with a .965 fielding % & 19 assists. He played 92 games at first base & 22 games at catcher.

Retirement: Hurdle played 1989 in the short lived senior professional league in Florida. He returned to the Mets organization becoming manager of the St. Lucie Mets in 1988. There he won the league Championship finishing up in first place three times.

Next, he served as Manager for the AA Jackson Mets (1990–1991) getting to the playoffs two more times. He then went to manage the AAA Tidewater Tides in their last season at Tidewater in 1992. In 1993 he was at the helm in the team's first season at Norfolk.

In 1994 he joined the Colorado Rockies organization and became the big league club's hitting coach by 1997. Five seasons later in 2002 he took over as the Rockies manager replacing Buddy Bell. The Rockies had five straight losing seasons under Hurdle, finishing fourth four times.

In 2007, the season looked like another losing one for the Rockies early on. Then the team went on a tremendous hot streak in the final month of September, finishing up winning 19 of their last 20 games. The last team to win 19 out of 20 games was Clint Hurdle’s 1977 Royals.

The Rockies tied the San Diego Padres for first place on the last day of the regular season, forcing a one game playoff. They won the game in dramatic fashion; in the 13th inning advancing to the team s first post season in the franchise history.

Post Season: Hurdle’s Rockies remained hot, sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS. They then beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in four straight games in the NLCS advancing the their first World Series. It was here the team finally ran out of gas, as they were swept by a mighty Boston Red Sox team, four straight.

After all the celebrations in Colorado & honors for the surprising team effort, it was back to work in 2008. The Rockies would finish third & then after starting out 18-28 in 2009, Hurdle was fired as manager. His career record in Colorado was 534-625 (.461%).

In 2011 he took over as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. hurdle finished fourth two straight seasons & impressed everyone winning 79 games (79-83) in 2012.

In 2013 his Pirates won 94 games (94-68) winning an NL Wild Card spot. It was the best seasonal record Hurdle posted in his managerial career. That season Hurdle won the National League Sporting News Manager of the Year Award. The team finished second behind the St. Louis Cardinals, but won five of their last six games, three straight over the Cincinnati Reds to earn a wild card spot. They would face the Reds in the NL Wild Card Game.

The Pirates brought baseball life back into the City of Steel, as Pittsburgh had become a football town almost forgetting the lowly Pirates of the past. Hurdle's club was led by the NL MVP; Andrew McCutchen, one of the games most popular players.

The Pirates beat the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Wild Card game, but lots an exciting five game series to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Division series.

In 2014 the Bucs returned to the post season going 88-74, even tough they had lost the final two games of their regular season. They lost to the eventual World Champion San Francisco Giants in the NL Wild Card Game.

In 2015 Hurdle's team won the most games in a single season of any team in his entire managerial career (98). In a tough division it was only good enough for a second place wild card spot. The Pirates lost to the Chicago Cubs in the NL Wild Card game.

In 2016 he returned for his seventh season as Pirate manager. Thru June 10th in his managerial career he is 534-625 with a .461 win %.  

Jul 29, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (1962) Casey Stengel Lightens the Mood With A Pep Talk

August 7th 1962: On this day the New York Mets dropped a 7-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Ravine in the brand new Dodger Stadium. At this point in time the last place Mets were 29-81 and were officially mathematically eliminated from the pennant race.

After the game, Mets manager Casey Stengel called a team meeting & jokingly told his players they can now loosen up & relax since they are officially out of the playoff run.

Unfortunately the team took his advice & the '62 Mets won just eleven more games the rest of the way, with two more months left in the season.

The First Mets Manager: Hall of Famer- Casey Stengel (The Mets Years 1962-1965)

Charles Dillon Stengel was born on July 30th 1890 in Kansas City Missouri to Irish, German immigrants.

He was a five foot eleven all around left hander who started out a pitcher with a Kansas City minor league team.

He attended Dental school to have a back up career if baseball didn't work out. The dental school background also helped him negotiate a contract in baseball. He could run fast, hit well but not pitch all that great, so he was switched to being an outfielder. He was a hardnosed player who always hustled on the field. He was a brawler who liked his liquor & nights out on the town.

Casey Stengel Brooklyn Superbas
In 1912 he made it to the big leagues with the Brooklyn Superbas, who later became the Dodgers. In his first game he had four straight base hits , walked & had an RBI.

Trivia: While playing in a poker game during a rain delay, another player commented "you finally won a hand there Kansas City". The moniker stuck, this led to people shortening it to KC, which soon became Casey.

He also first earned the nickname "Professor" when he went to rehab a shoulder injury with his old high school coach, who was now with the University of Mississippi.

He held out for a bigger contract before the 1913 season, but was sent a contract by Charles Ebbetts before the season began. History remembers him as the first Brooklyn player to come to bat in the new Ebbetts Field & the first to also hit a HR. In 17 games his first season he hit .316. He would spend six years in Brooklyn, leading the league in on base percentage in 1914 while batting .316 with 19 stolen bases.

In 1916 he helped Brooklyn win a pennant, hitting 27 doubles & driving in 53 runs & scoring 66. He was one of the leagues best right fielders as well, leading the league in assists & double plays turned.

He hit .364 in the World Series loss to the Boston Red Sox. The next year he led all right fielders in fielding, double plays, assists & games played. Casey eventually went to play in Pittsburg with the Pirates (1918-1919) but was not happy there.

In a famous game back at Brooklyn, the fans were really letting him have it on a bad day. He put a small swallow, under his cap & when he got onto the field getting booed, he tipped his cap & the swallow flew away. He had given the crowd the bird, even the umpire had to laugh. That move didn't amuse management & he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for parts of the next two seasons.

In July of 1921 he was traded to the New York Giants along with Johnny Rawlings in exchange for Lee King, Goldie Rapp & Lance Richboug. 

He was more of a part time player & pinch hitter by this time, playing for Manager John McGraw. But in 1922 an injury had him see more playing time as a regular & Casey batted .368 in 84 games.

He helped the Giants get to two World Series, winning the Championship in 1922 in the second ever NY Subway World Series. The Giants won both of those first two match ups. Stengel injured his led in the '22 Series & went 2-5 in two games before getting side lined.

Stengel 1923 World Series: NY Giants
Post Season: In the 1923 Series he was the Giants best all around hitter, batting.417 (5-16)with two HRs & four RBIs, in the six game Series loss.

In Game #1 in the Bronx ballpark, he hit a game winning top of the 9th inning, inside the park HR, putting the Giants up 5-4.

In Game #3 he hit a HR over the right field porch, scoring the only run of the game, as Art Nehf out dueled Sad Sam Jones 1-0. As he rounded the bases, he blew kisses to the fans & snubbed his nose to the AL New York's team bench.

This didn't go over well, as he was fined by the Commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis who was at the game.

Owner Jacob Ruppert wanted him suspended but Landis replied: "Casey Stengel just can't help being Casey Stengel."

Stengel also drove in runs in the next two games, which the Giants lost. In his time under John McGraw Stengel studied the legendary manager, learning all he could. With his memory he filed the information & used it later on during his managerial career.

In November of 1923 Stengel was traded to the Boston Bees where he played out the rest of his playing career. In 14 seasons he hit .284 with 1219 hits 60 HRs 182 doubles 89 triples 131 stolen bases 575 runs scored & a .356 on base % in 1277 games.

In the outfield he had 147 assists with a .964 fielding% in 1183 games.

In 1931, he joined his old team mate & friend Max Carey, as coach who was now manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Stengel began his managerial career in 1934, taking over for Carey, with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Casey & Edna Stengel at the Polo Grounds
He had a "prodigious memory" which had him recall every detail of specific events. He began modestly as a manager but became baseballs winningest managers.

His was never considered to be the best manager, as a lot of credit to his team's success went to his All Star players. He would coach the third base box, entertain the fans & the media with his stories.

He irked his old Giants team, when he beat them in the last two games of the 1934 season, making them loose the pennant to the St. Louis Cards Gas House Gang. Giants manager has Bill Terry had said a few weeks earlier "Is Brooklyn still in the league?" which irked Stengel.

While in Brooklyn he invested in an oil field & a new drug called penicillin, both were successful & made him a lot of money.

He stayed at the helm in Brooklyn for three seasons finishing under .500 each time, never higher than fifth place. In 1938 he began a six year stay as manager of the Boston Bees who became the Boston Braves in 1941.

Four straight seventh place finishes had him fired during the 1943 season. In these years he managed in the minor leagues, winning a championship with Toledo in 1927.

During this time, Stengel moved with his wife Edna, to Glendale California & would live there until the time of his death. While in California he managed the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League.

It was there the Oaks had their legendary Championship season with the so called "Nine Old Men" behind Stengel on the field. This run got Casey inducted into the Pacific Coast League's Hall of Fame.

In 1943 on one of he & his wife's Edna's trips to New York, he was struck by a taxi cab hurting his leg. In the hospital he suffered a staph infection & would always walk with a limp from there on in.

Stengel & "his man" Yogi Berra as Mets
In 1949 he got the call as manager of the A.L. New York team. There in an ever changing revolving door of high priced players, Casey had his core All Stars for many years & went on to win five straight World Series.

He won seven championships & ten pennants in twelve seasons. He has managed the most World Series games (64) & had the most Series wins (34) of any manager in history.

In 1954 his club won the most games of his run with them, but they lost the pennant that year to the mighty Cleveland Indians. His main player in New York was the catcher he called his man, he said he never played a big game without "his man" , who was catcher Yogi Berra.

Quotes: Casey once said of Berra "He'd fall in a sewer & come up with a gold watch".

ome of the other All Stars like Mickey Mantle were drinking too much & not taking care of them selves, with not enough focus on the game like Stengel had wanted.

After missing the 1959 Series & then losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960 he was let go after his successful run as manager. It was first thought that he would resign, but instead he shocked the press when he announced he was being let go due to the new youth movement. He told the press "I'll never make the mistake of being 70, again".

He went off to California & worked as V.P to a bank in Glendale owned by his wife's family. Eventually he was persuaded by his old friend & G.M. George Weiss who was now working for the expansion New York Mets.

He convinced Stengel to return to baseball & be the Mets first ever Manager.

He began with his already famous Stengelese talking, during the expansion draft when the Mets first pick was an unknown catcher named Hobie Landrith.

He said "You have to have a catcher or you'll have a lot of passed balls". At the first press conference he said "it's an honor to be joining the Knickerbockers".

He was presented with a key to the city as New York City held a parade for it's newest National League team. There was a lot of excitement around the Mets, fans were hungry for NL baseball since the Dodgers & Giants had left for the West Coast.

Stengel would now have the rare privilege to have on field affiliations with all four New York baseball teams.

In Spring Training, the Mets took over St. Petersburg when the AL club had left to go to Ft. Lauderdale. He entertained the press with his fast talking & promoting of his young players.

Stengelese at its best. It was said that while he was talking about one subject his mind would be thinking of the next topic and he'd start talking about that one, then jump back & forth to both topics without missing a beat. This would confuse listeners, but whether done purposely or not, many believe Casey always knew what he was saying.

Being such a successful manager in New York gave him credibility, while even at 72 years old, he was still sharp & wise. He would talk to anyone who would listen, and could go on for hours at a time.

Stengel would be out early in the morning in each city to talk to a reporter, but it even wore him down. Once when Press Secretary Lou Niss came calling Casey said "tell them I'm being embalmed". 

On his three catchers in Spring Training he said: "I got one that can throw but can't catch, one that can catch but can't throw, and one who can hit but can't do either."

That season the Mets lost a record 120 games; finishing in last place. The team would find a new way to lose every day, but through it all they became loveable losers, New York's underdog, darlings.

The fan base grew even though the team wasn't winning. A lot had to do with Stengel's promotion of the team & it's players. He was the best public relations man a team could want; it was he who gave the club the name "the amazing Mets".

He said when people teach their children to talk, their first words are not mamma & dadda but "Metsie, Metsie".

During the season, Stengel made some legendary quotes like; "Cant anybody here play this game?" & "Been in this game one-hundred years, but I see new ways to lose 'em I never knew existed before." He told the press after one horrible loss "Don't cut my throat, I may do that later myself". 

When slugger Frank Thomas kept trying to pull the ball, where there was sign on the right field fence that said hit it here win a boat, Stengel said "If you want to own a boat, join the navy".

If things were not confusing enough, the '62 Mets had two pitchers named Bob Miller. Stengel couldn't tell the two apart & just called one of them Nelson to make it simple. 

One of the Mets first folk heroes, Marvelous Marv Throneberry, once hit a triple but was called out for not touching second base. When Stengel went to argue, coach Cookie Lavagetto told him " don't argue too much, I think he missed first base too".

In 1963 the Mets started out the same way with an Opening Day loss, after the game Stengel said "we're frauds, & we can't fool the New York fans". That year the Mets won eleven more games, going 51-111 finishing up in tenth place, but their attendance went up by one million.

In 1964 the Mets opened up the new Shea Stadium, at the time it was one of the biggest & most beautiful Stadiums. Located right across from the World's Fair, Shea's first year of attendance was 1.7 million, second in the National League to only the L.A. Dodgers. finished tenth again, going 53-109, Stengel said: "President Lyndon Johnson wanted to see poverty so he came to see my team."

In 1965 He compared his two new rookies Ed Kranepool and Greg Goossen to reporters saying: "See that fellow over there? He's 20 years old. In 10 years he has a chance to be a star. Now, that fellow over there, he's 20, too.

 In ten  years he has a chance to be 30." During an exhibition game at West Point, he fell on a wet pavement breaking his wrist. He carried on without missing a game.

When young slugger Ron Swoboda first came up, he was hitting HRs but couldn't field all at that well. Stengel said "Amazing strength, amazing power - he can grind the dust out of the bat. He will be great, super even wonderful. Now, if he can only learn to catch a fly ball."

During a rare four game win streak he said " If this keeps up, I'm about to manage until I'm one hundred". The Mets went 31-64 under Stengel, until July 24th.

It was on that day the Mets lost their tenth straight game, after an Old Timers Day in which Casey's upcoming 75th birthday was honored.

After the game there was a party at Toots Shor's restaurant in Manhattan, but it was there he slipped in the bathroom & broke his hip. His wife convinced him it was time to retire, the Mets kept him on the payroll as a West Coast scout.

That year he became the first Mets player to have his number retired, as #37 will never be worn by another Mets player.

Mets #37 Retired: 1966
Not everyone was amused by Stengel's managerial ways, some critics felt he was far too old to get through to the young Mets players, some fifty years his junior.

It seemed some of the press were divided into agreeing with Casey or opposing him. Strangely the younger reporters were the ones who sided with Stengel, like Maury Allen.

A young broadcaster at the time Howard Cosell, who did Mets pregame shows with former Dodger Ralph Branca, was very critical of Stengel. He & Jackie Robinson brought it to the public's attention that Stengel was falling asleep in the dugout.

Cosell also commented on how he was not helping to develop the young Mets talented players.

Cosell stated that Casey's losing ways was making the New York kids fall in love with futility, as opposed to the mid western kids who had Vince Lombardi's winning ways. He was seen falling asleep in the dugout at times during the games.

In 1969 as the Mets were enjoying their Amazing World Championship season, Stengel was always around Shea promoting his ball club. Now the Amazing Mets were actually Amazing for their winning ways.

Stengel threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the first World Series Game held at Shea Stadium. He was interviewed on television telling everyone how "amazing, amazing, amazing" the Mets were .

At the game he sat next to his old player when he managed, Joe DiMaggio & the Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. The Mets presented him with a World Series ring after the season, he wore it proudly the rest of his life.

That summer he was also honored as the greatest living Manager, at baseball's All Star Game, celebrating its 100th season. Stengel would keep making appearances around Shea Stadium at Old Timers Day games & special occasions.

He also spoke at banquets, & made appearances at the World Series, continuing to amuse with his stories. His legacy became larger than life with his colorful personality & love of the game.

Honors: He threw out the first pitch of Game #3 of the 1973 World Series at Shea Stadium, between the Mets & Oakland A's. He had to leave during the game due to ill health. Casey Stengel was

In 1973 his wife Edna, suffered a stroke & had to be moved to an assisted living facility. He stayed in the house at Glendale, assisted by a woman who served as nurse & secretary.

In 1975 he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer & passed away on September 29th at age 85. He is laid to rest with Edna, in Forest Lawn Cemetery alongside many celebrity personalities at Glendale California.
Honors: In 1966 Casey Stengel was inducted in the baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstwon.

In 1981 he was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.

In his honor Casey Stengel Plaza, outside of Shea Stadium's Gate E was named after him, as is the New York City Transit's Casey Stengel Depot across the street from Citi Field. There is also a Stengel entrance at Citi Field.