Sep 30, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (1973) Mets Clinch NL Eastern Divison

October 1st, 1973: The fate of the 1973 New York Mets season, all came down to the last day of the regular season. The Mets had a scheduled double header planned at Wrigley Field to close out the season. If they could win the first game, the second game would not be necessary. The St. Louis Cardinals & Pittsburgh Pirates both lost their final games of the season.

These were the NL East standings, on Monday Morning October 1st, 1973:

New York Mets 81-79 -
St. Louis Cardinals 81-81 (1.0 back)
Pittsburgh Pirates 80-81 (1.5 back)
Montreal Expos 79-83 (3.0 back)
Chicago Cubs 77-83 (4.0 back)
Philadelphia Phillies 71-91 (11.0 back)

Less than 2000 fans came to a cloudy / rainy & soggy, Wrigley Field to see the Cubs try to play spoilers to knock the Mets out of winning the division. The game was to begin at 1100 am, but was delayed twenty minutes due to rain.

The Mets had won eight of their last ten games, nineteen of their last twenty seven in the month of September. They had gone from last place to first place since late August & were 13 games out in July.

The team had suffered injuries all season, & it wasn't until the final month all the regulars were healthy. The pitching had been spectacular as well, the starters & relievers as well.

Today Manager Yogi Berra gave the ball to his ace, the 1973 Cy Young Award winner; Tom Seaver (18-10 / a league leading 2.00 ERA & 248 strike outs) going up against knuckle curve ball pitcher; Burt Hooton (14-16 / 3.55 ERA / 132 Ks).

In the top of the 2nd inning, the hot hitting Cleon Jones hit a HR to put the Mets out in front 1-0. 

Coach Eddie Yost Congradulates Cleon Jones On HR
Jones had hit four HRs in his last six games & six HRs in his last ten games. Jones had driven in 17 runs in the final two weeks, over 14 games. He had also hit safely in ten of the last 14 games. Jones had missed a lot of action on the year; playing in 92 games finishing up with 11 HRs 13 doubles 48 RBIs & a .260 average.

In the top of the 4th, the Mets rallied as Rusty Staub singled to right field. Hooton then walked John Milner & Cleon Jones to load the bases. Jerry Grote's RBI Single

Jerry Grote
The durable Mets catcher; Jerry Grote came through with a single to center bringing home Staub & Milner to make it 3-0. Grote finished out the year hitting safely in 9 of his last 12 games with eight RBIs. Hooton was able to retire Don Hahn & Bud Harrelson on fly balls to end the threat.

In the 5th the hot Mets went to work; Wayne Garrett led off with a double & went to third on a Felix Millan bloop base hit to right field. Cubs manager; Whitey Lockman, the former New York Giants slugger, replaced Hooton with Mike Paul.

The hot Rusty Staub, who had been the Mets most reliable run producer all year, drove a base hit to right field scoring Garrett with the Mets fourth run.

Staub would have a big four hit day, after coming off a three hit, three RBI day yesterday. Staub finished the season with a 15 game hit streak, batting .279 with a .361 on base % & 15 HRs. He would lead the club in doubles (36) walks (74) & RBIs (76).

Next "the Hammer" John Milner hit a sac fly to center which brought home Millan. Milner would lead the '73 Mets in HRs (23) while driving in 72 runs & posting a .329 on base %. The Mets did not score again & left the bases jammed after Jerry Grote walked. It was 5-0 half way through.

Tom Seaver was not with his best stuff today, between the bad weather & a long September, Tom Terrific had only retired the Cubs in order in the 1st inning. In the 5th Ken Rudolph & Rick Monday both hit singles.

Tom Seaver Delivers
Tom Seaver Earns 19th Win of Season Then Don Kessinger & Billy Williams brought them both in with base hits of their own. Seaver got Ron Santo to pop out in foul territory & struck out Jose Cardenal, to end the inning. The score was New York 5 Chicago 2.

The Mets threatened in the 6th, as Harrelson doubled & Seaver singled. But Wayne Garrett hit into a fielders choice & Felix Millan hit into an inning ending double play 6-4-3. Seaver retired the Cubs in order in the bottom of the inning.

The Mets attacked again in the 7th, Staub had his third hit of the day with a base hit. After John Milner flied out, Cleon Jones drew a walk. Jerry Grote then grounded out as Staub went to third. He scored when Ron Santo made an error on Don Hahns ground ball, it was now 6-2 Mets.

In the 7th, Dave Rosello singled to right field & then Rick Monday blasted a two run HR, bringing the game to within two runs at 6-4. It was clear Seaver was tired & done for the day. In six innings he gave up four runs on eleven hit, no walks & two strike outs.

Tug McGraw Raises His Arm In Victory
Manager Yogi Berra came out & it was Tug McGraw time, McGraw had ten saves in September, six in the final two weeks, which was a lot in those days. He also had two wins in that time & had only allowed two earned runs the whole month in 28 innings, after this outing. McGraw retired his first three batters, ending the inning.

The Mets loaded the bases in the top of the 8th but Jack Aker retired Milner & Jones to end that inning. In the home 8th, the Cubs sent in two pinch hitters but McGraw retired the side in order. It all came down to the 9th inning.

Ken Rudolph led off with a base hit, bringing up the tying run at the place. But Tug got Dave Rosello to strike out & then went to a 3-2 count on Glen Beckert. McGraw went to his screw ball & got Beckert to hit a soft line drive to John Milner at first, the Hammer caught it stepped on first & it was all over.

Tom Seaver, Yogi Berra & Tug McGraw Ham it Up
At 82-79 the New York Mets were the NL Eastern Champions, from last place a month ago to clinching a playoff berth on October 1st. The second game of the scheduled twin bill was not necessary. The umpires diplomatically stated the field was too wet to play on.

Yogi Berra came into the clubhouse & yelled "the games off, get the champagne out!" The Mets clubhouse already ecstatic, began to celebrate.

Tug McGraw stood on top of an equipment trunk shouting his famous phrase "You Gotta Believe- You Gotta Believe"!! Yogi Berra told the press from a tiny office : "Its been a long year. I was on 14 teams that won but this has to be a big thrill because we had to jump over five clubs to do it. We were 12 games back & hurt. I told the guys, here Friday I'm proud of you whether you win or lose the next four. Just give me 100%".

All the players felt the same way, it was a team effort with contributions from everyone to get here. 11 of the players were left over from the Miracle Mets of 1969 & understood what winning as a team meant.

Bud Harrelson: "In 1969 it was some sort of Miracle that happened to us. We started out just hoping to do better than we did the year before & weren't expected to win. This year though we were so frustrated, we knew (tapping his heart) knew, that we should win. We had the talent & went everybody got down on us we knew they were wrong. To come back & win once we were able to play, I think of it as a much more mature feeling".

Tom Seaver said "Nothing will ever be like 1969, we were all so young then. Anyhow we've only taken one step of the three. We still have to win a playoff & a World Series to match 1969, but in a way it was more earned."

Wayne & Donna Garrett
Jerry Grote added "It was like 1969 because it was a team thing, everybody did something."

Wayne Garrett said: "Suddenly you look around during a game & see saw all the faces you were suppose to see on out there playing. Harrelson, Grote, Jones, Staub,- the regulars. It made a tremendous difference. We knew we had a good team if only we could get it out on the field."

Rusty Staub said "I simply come to play, I always do. A couple of months ago we were out of it & then we really put it all together."
Wille Mays Gets Doused with Champagane
Cleon Jones said "When I was out, I couldn't contribute, I don't think what I've done in the last month can offset that. But we're in now, that's what counts. I kept myself in shape when I was hurt & I feel strong & healthy. It's just fantastic, I can't express the way I feel."

The Mets received $5000 each player for winning the division. They flew to New York that evening arriving at 1110 PM, greeted by a reported 500 plus fans at La Guardia Airport. It was onto the playoffs with a date with the Cincinnati Reds. What a memorable season it was & what a memorable series was ahead.

Remembering Shea Stadium History: (1979) Pope John Paul II Visits Shea

October 3rd, 1979: In 1979 Pope John Paul II visited Shea Stadium as 60,000 showed up to pay tribute to the future Saint. The Mets had a horrible year that season & the Pope certainly drew more people & had a better outing.

According to heads groundkeeper Pete Flynn, he said it rained all day but when the Pope came out the skies stopped raining & the Heavens shined down on him. It was a great day in Shea Stadium history.

Quotes: John Paul II at Shea- "A city needs a soul if it is to become a true home for human beings.”

Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane / Starship Remembered

Martyn Jerel Buchwald, later to be known as Marty Balin, was born January 30th 1942 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His family eventually moved west to San Francisco, where he aspired to be a singer. Inspired by rock & roll of the Beatles & the British Invasion, combined with the folk of the Byrds & Simon & Garfunkel's success, he went into that direction.

Balin's drive would help him be one of the first key people to develop the "San Francisco sound" of the sixties. First, Balin convinced three other investors to go in with him, in transforming an old pizzeria into a night club on Filmore Street. 

This became the Matrix, a groundbreaking club which began to host bands, accompanied by light shows with local artists drawing up colorful posters to advertise the events. An incredible list of bands like the Doors, the Grateful Dead, Big Brother & the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin, Santana, Steve Miller Band, Boz Scaggs & Country Joe & the Fish would all start out playing at the Matrix at some point.

In 1965 Balin met Paul Kantner & formed the Jefferson Airplane. They eventually recruited guitarist Jorma Kaukonen & female singer Signe Toly Anderson. 

They debuted at Balin's club & became the house band. Eventually Kaukonen recruited his old friend from Washington D.C. Jack Cassidy to play bass. Skip Spence was brought in to play drums & was eventually replaced by Spencer Dryden.

On the groups first album, "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" Balin would collaborate with Kanter for the majority of the original songs. It wasn't until later in 1966, when Anderson left the band to raise a family that Grace Slick from the band "The Great Society" another Matrix band, joined that the band broke through to success.

The Jefferson Airplane are one of the most important groups in rock & roll’s history. In 1967 they released their masterpiece album- "Surrealistic Pillow" with a sound defining the Summer of Love. 

A combination of rock, folk, blues & psychedelia with vocals from Balin & Slick, at times dueling each other. The accomplished musicians all brought a unique musical experience to the sound behind the singers, with long instrumental breaks added in.

The album featured two all time classics, sung by Slick, songs she brought in from her old band- Somebody to Love & White Rabbit. Both songs became top ten hits, giving the band international national fame. They became one of the sixties biggest groups, playing television shows, touring the country & Europe, making the cover of LIFE magazine while bringing their style of music to national attention. 

The group would either headline or co-headline most major music festivals of the sixties- The Monterey Pop Festival, Berkley Folk Festival, The 1968 Isle of Wight Festival, Altamont opening for the Rolling Stones & Woodstock. They also played the first show at Bill Grahams legendary, Filmore West.

On the "Surrealistic Pillow" album, Balin helped design the album cover, contributing more upbeat & heavier songs -"Plastic Fantastic Lover" & "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds" opposed to his more usual mellower ballads.

According to Balin in the Jeffeson Airplane's Behind the Music, who ever was sleeping with Grace at the time, would have the most control in the band. Balin claimed he was the only one who never slept with her so he lost control.
On the  Airplane's third album, Bathing At Baxters, Balin was limited to just one song co-written by him & Kanter. By now the Airplane were one of the biggest bands in the world, as Kanter, Slick, Kaukonen & Cassidy had all come into their own as song writers , also limiting space on the record for Balin songs. The third album did not fair as well as Surrealistic Pillow.

By 1968, the band were living together in a huge house next to Golden Gate Park, known as "The Airplane House" or "the Mansion" at 2400 Fulton Street. The parties were legendary, there they recorded their next album "Crown Of Creation" where Balin would write or co-write four songs. The album reached #6 on the charts.

Trivia: In November 1968, the band was filmed playing live on a rooftop in New York City, eventually the NYPD came to break it up. Two months later the Beatles would do a similar thing with their legendary rooftop performance o used in the Let It Be movie.

One morning Balin was awoken by a Volunteers of America, charity garbage truck going down his street. It inspired him to pen the song "Volunteers", which would also be the title of the Airplane's fifth album.
"Volunteers" featured anti war lyrics & sparked controversies with some of its profound lyrics. Particularly the songs "We Can Be Together" which featured the line “up against the wall mother fu#@er”, as well as The song "Eskimo Blue Day" an ecological song that featured the repeated line “doesn’t mean shit to a tree”.
The album also featured guests Jerry Garcia, Steven Stills, David Crosby & Nicky Hopkins. It reached #13 on the billboard charts & is probably the group’s strongest effort after "Surrealistic Pillow".
The band would now be one of the main performers at Woodstock, although their performance was not their best. Coming on stage at daybreak after a day of partying to excess was not good. 

After this major event, the band would start breaking off in separate groups as Grace Slick & Paul Kanter collaborated musically to form the earliest version of what was to be the Jefferson Starship. By 1969 they began living together & had a daughter China Wing Kanter. 

Kaukanen & Cassidy put more time into their side project Hot Tuna. This left Balin out in the cold, on his own. 

At the Altamont concer a fan was killed by Hells Angels & three others died as well, as the sixties came to a horrible end, no more Woodstocks. At Altamont as Balin was trying to restore order, he was punched in the face by a Hells Angel.

 After the death of Janis Joplin, Balin restrained from drugs & alcohol putting him even further from his band mates. By 1971 he left the group.

Three years later Balin & Kanter wrote  the song "Caroline" together, this led Balin to join Kantner & Slick in their new group, the Jefferson Starship. 

Balin would help write & sing lead on four top twenty Starship hits "With Your Love " "Runaway" both reaching #12. A cover of "Count on Me" reaching #8 & Balins own "Miracles" reaching #3 on the charts.

By 1978 his relationship with the band & Slicks on going alchil problems led him to leave the Starship. He went on to a solo career, releasing the #8 hit "Hearts" in 1981 and another top 40 hit "Atlanta Lady".  In 1985 he Kantner & Cassidy formed the short lived KBC Band. In 1989 there was a minor Airplane reunion as well.

Balin would eventually rejoin Kantner in different line ups of the Jefferson Starship, until Katners death in 2016.

Family: Balin had been married three times & has two daughters, as well as two step daughters. He resided between San Francisco & St. Augustine Florida. He also enjoyed painting as a hobby his entire life.

In 2016 he was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, and needed open heart surgery. Balin was never the same, a lawsuit filed claimed neglect leaving him with a paralyzed vocal chord, loss of half his tongue & a thumb as well as kidney damage. He passed away on September 27th 2018 at age 76.

Quotes- Jorma Kaukonen: Marty’s passing reaffirms the power of love, the power of family, the power of possibilities." - "Marty and I were young together in a time that defined our lives. Had it not been for him, my life would have taken an alternate path I cannot imagine. He and Paul Kantner came together and like plutonium halves in a reactor started a chain reaction that still affects many of us today. Marty always reached for the stars and he took us along with him. ”

Jack Cassidy: “RIP Marty Balin, fellow bandmate and music traveler passed last night. A great songwriter and singer who loved life and music. We shared some wonderful times together. We will all miss you!!!!”

Sep 29, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (2016) Mets 1.5 Games Up Atop Wild Card Race With Three Games Left In Regular Season

Wednesday September 28th 2016: After an emotional series in Miami where the Marlins (and Mets) paid tribute to Jose Fernandez who lost his life in a boating accident earlier this week, the Mets attended to business.

They took two of three from the Marlins, eliminating them from playoff contention as well. Seth Lugo earned his fifth straight win, Jeurys Familia earned his 50th save, the most ever by a Dominican pitcher, Jay Bruce is hitting HRs as well as driving in runs & most important  the Mets are atop the wild card position in the NL. With three games left to play & four days left in the regular season the Mets magic number is down to two for clinching the wild card spot.

In the 1st inning, the Marlins Martin Prado hit a two run HR off Seth Lugo, but it would be all the runs Mets pitching would allow on the night. Lugo went into the 6th inning but after giving up a base hit, Terry Collins yanked him.

The Mets relief corps. of Hansel Robles, Fernando Salas got to the Addison Reed 8th & Jeurys Familia 9th as the two combined for another hold & save. Familia shattering the Mets record for single season saves, now at 50.

In the top of the 2nd. TJ Rivera doubled & James Loney back in the line up, homered to right field, his 8th of the year. In the 4th, Lugo helped his own cause with a double & then came in on Jose Reyes double, making it 3-0.

In the 5th, the all of a sudden, hot hitting Jay Bruce hit his third HR in five games, his 32nd of the year capping off the 5-2 Mets win. Bruce is now just four runs shy of 100 RBIs.

Quotes: Jay Bruce- "If we win, we'll be fine, We can't worry about what everyone else is doing or anything like that. It's just, play baseball. And we've been doing a good job of it. Everybody's been doing their part."

This win came off a big win on Tuesday where Noah Syndergaard won his 14th games as the Mets scored 12 runs. HRs by Yoenis Cespedes & Jay Bruce led the way as Lucas Duda & Curtis Granderson as each drove in three runs as well.

The Cardinals & Giants both lost helping the Mets in the top wild card lead.

Remembering Mets History: (1981) Pete Falcone HRs, Drives in Three Runs & Tosses A Shut Out

Tuesday September 29th, 1981: In the crazy year of the 1981 MLB Strike, the New York Mets were a bit better in the second half  of the year (24-28) than the first half (17-34). That year the season was divided by the strike as the half way point.

On this date, Joe Torre's Mets were in Philadelphia playing Dallas Green's Phillies in front of 20,110 at Veterans Stadium. The Mets Pete Falcone went up against Mark Davis. Since the strike Falcone, a local Brooklyn born, Italian American pitcher was 2-0 being used as a starter & reliever. Falcone had lowered his ERA at 3.03 & was pitching well. This was to be his best outing of the year & one of his best in his four years with the Mets.

Starting Lineups

Falcone allowed just four hits & two walks on the night, as no Phillies baserunner even reached second base. Falcone only struck out one batter on the night but kept the Phils in check recording 17 fly ball outs. On top of that Falcone had a great night at the plate too.

In the top of the 3rd inning he hit a solo HR, the only HR of his career in 416 at bats. Later in the 6th inning with New York already up 5-0, Falcone lined a single to right field with the bases loaded, scoring John Stearns & Doug Flynn.

Falcone drove in three of his season career high five RBIs that night. He bested his record to 4-3 & lowered his ERA to 2.71. Falcone was a pretty good pitcher on four years of worth of bad Mets teams.

The Mets offense supplied him with a total of nine runs, Falcone drove in three of them, also Dave Kingman hit his 22nd HR of the year. John Stearns & Ron Gardenhire supplied RBIs as well.