Nov 30, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (1996) Mets Fire Dallas Green & Hire Bobby Valentine As Manager

August 26th, 1996: On this day the Mets VP Joe McIlvane fired Mets manager; the 62 year old Dallas Green.

Quotes: Joe McIlvane: ''We haven't done as well as we anticipated. Progress has been slower than expected. Our hope with this change is the younger players will begin to blossom some more, to come up to that major league level, to begin to make more significant contributions."

Green had taken over as manager of the New York Mets, in May 1993 replacing Jeff Torborg who had taken the club to a 13-25 record. When Green took over the Mets went 46-78 the rest of the way finishing in last place. In the strike shortened 1994 season, the Mets finished third (55-58) in the newly aligned division. In 1995 they finished below .500 once again (69-75) but did end up in second place. In 1996 the club was in fourth place (59-72) at the time of Dallas Green's firing. 

Green, the oldest manager in the NL at the time, was an harsh old school type of manager who was labled as having with no patience for young players.

He criticized young Mets "Generation K" pitchers Jason Isringhausen & Paul Wilson publicly saying he didn't feel they even belonged in the major leagues. This was looked at by the players & organization as a betrayal to the team.

Quotes: Green said the next day: ''We got rid of all the bad stuff and truthfully that's what I've been. I've been the damage-control guy. I go in their and clean up the bad stuff and then I get fired. That's just where I am in baseball and I understand that. That's the way the game is. I'm proud to have helped the Mets through some troubled times and get them on what I think is the right track.''

Green had been in baseball for over forty years, starting out with the Philadelphia Phillies as a pitcher. He would manage the Phils (1979-1981)  taking them to their first World Series title in 1980. He served as the clubs GM after that & then did one year as manager of the A.L. New York club.

The Mets hired Bobby Valentine as the new manager ushering in the "Bobby V" Era. Valentine would be the teams fifth manager in the past seven seasons.

The Valentine era would certainly be a successful, as the club went to two straight post seasons for the first & only time in team history in 199 & 2000.

Valentine brought the Mets to their first World Series since 1986 & the first New York Subway World Series since 1956. He also took the club to it's first Wild Card title as well.

On this date the Mets also promoted Bob Apodaca to pitching coach. Apodaca had pitched for the Mets in the 1970's but had a bright career ruined by arm troubles. He had been pitching coach at AAA Norfolk under Manager Bobby Valentine.

An Original 1962 Mets Player: Gus Bell (1962) & His Baseball Family

David Russell Bell was born on November 15, 1928 in Louisville, Kentucky. The six foot left handed hitting Bell became known as Gus, in honor of Italian / American catcher Gus Mancusco. 

Gus Bell was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947. He hit .325 at A ball Albany in 1949, followed by a huge start to his minor league season in 1950. He was batting over .400 with 6 HRs after 38 games when he got the call up to the big leagues. 

He batted behind Pirate slugger & future Mets announcer Ralph Kiner for three seasons. In his rookie year, Bell hit .282 with 8 HRs & 22 doubles. In 1951 he had his best season in Pittsburgh as he led the league in triples (12) hit 16 HRs & batted .278 while driving in 89 runs with a .330 on base %.

On June 12th he hit for the cycle in the first game of a double header against the Philadelphia Phillies. After the season he was sent to the Cincinnati Reds for Cal Abrams, Gil Henley & Joe Rossi.

He was thrilled to return to his hometown area, near Louisville as a local star. He had some good seasons in nine years at Cincinnati playing in the shadows of Reds sluggers Ted Kuzewski & Frank Robinson. 

In Bell's first year in Cincinnati he had a career high 30 HRs (7th in the league) with 37 doubles (5th in the league) & 105 RBIs while batting .300 for the sixth place Reds. it was the first of three straight seasons he drove in over 100 runs. He would make his first two All Star games in 1953 & 1954. 

Bell would have three seasons where he hit 20 or more HRs, as well as four seasons with 100 plus RBIs, coming in the league’s top ten in both categories three times. Besides hitting .300 twice he hit over .290 four more times with the Reds, as well as having two 100 plus runs scored seasons.

Gus Bell made four All Star teams and was one of the league’s top players during his years. He led all centerfielders in fielding % twice & when he played in right field he led right fielders in fielding twice as well. 

His arm got him double figures in assists eight times including a high of 18 in 1951. In 1955 he batted .308 with 188 hits (third in the league) with 27 HRs (10th in the NL) 30 doubles (5th in the NL) & 108 RBIs (10th in the NL) posting a .361 on base %. 

On May 26th, 1956 he hit HRs in three consecutive at bats in a game at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs. That day Bell along with team mates Ted Kluzewski & Bob Thurman became just the second set of players from the same team, to hit three HRs in a single game. That day Bell had five hits with seven RBIs in the 10-4 win.  

Later that year, on September 21st he drove in eight runs in a 14-5 win over the Milwaukee Braves. That day he gathered up four hits with a grand slam HR, a double & a walk. Bell made the 1956 All Star team, as the starting centerfielder going 0-1 in the NL's 7-3 win. 

In 1957 he was included with six other Reds players that made the All Star team. The Reds fans were accused of stuffing the ballot boxes illegally with their votes. Bell remained on the All Star team as a reserve player, although his team mate Wally Post was removed completely from the roster. 
Bell entered the '57 All Star game as a pinch hitter for Frank Robinson in the 7th inning. He singled off future Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn, driving in Willie Mays and Ed Bailey in the 6-5 NL loss.

Over the next few years his numbers fell off, although he did drive in 115 runs in 1959, his fourth season with over 100 plus RBIs.

For the 1961 NL Champion Reds he played in 108 games, with 235 at bats as his career began to wind down at age 32. He hit .255 with 3 HRs 10 doubles & 33 RBIs as a back up to outfielders to Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson & Wally Post.

Post Season: In the '61 World Series he went 0-3 as a pinch hitter.

In the off season, although he was way past his prime, he was chosen as the eighth pick by the New York Mets in the 1961 expansion draft. He became an original Met, batting in the fifth position playing right field in the teams inaugural 1962 Opening Day lineup. 

He made Mets history getting the first franchise hit, a single in the 2nd inning at St. Louis, off pitcher Larry Jackson. On April 17, 1962 he hit his only Mets career HR, it came against the Houston Colt 45’s in the Polo Grounds. Bell would only play just 30 games in New York, batting only .149 (15-141) with 1 HR, two doubles, ten walks, & six RBIs while scoring eight runs. 

On May 21st, he was sent to the Milwaukee Braves as the player to be named later for Frank Thomas. He returned back to the Polo Grounds with the Braves in late June for a three game series. On June 20th in the first game of a double header, he hit a three run HR off Mets pitcher Ray Daviault, leading his team to the win. He finished his playing career in 1964 at age 35.

Retirement: After 15 seasons he batted .281 with 1823 hits, 206 HRs, 311 doubles, 66 triples, a .330 on base % & 942 RBIs. In the outfield he posted a .985 fielding % with 57 assists (94th all time). 

Family: Gus Bell is the first in a long line of family members to play baseball. His son is long time player & MLB manager Buddy Bell, who was born during his dads second season playing with the Pirates in Pittsburgh. 

In 18 seasons Buddy Bell made five All Star Teams & won six Gold Gloves at third base. Buddy played for the Cleveland Indians as one of the teams few stars during a dreary era in Cleveland (1972-1978) Texas Rangers (1979-1985/ 1989) Cincinnati Reds under manger Pete Rose (1985-1988) & Houston Astros(1988). 

In 2405 career games (85th all time) Buddy Bell batted .279 with 2514 hits (99th all time) 201 HRs 425 doubles (145th all time) 56 triples 836 walks, 1151 runs scored & 1106 RBIs (208th all time) 80 sac flies (93rd all time) with 8995 at bats (75th all time) a .341 on base %.

He played 2183 career games at third base (7th all time) winning six straight gold gloves, leading the league in fielding % three times, turning 430 career double plays (6th all time).

After his playing career Buddy was a coach for both the Reds & Indians. He then managed the Detroit Tigers (1996-1998) & Kansas City Royals (2002-2007).

Family: Gus Bell's grandson is former MLB infielder David Bell, who played 12 seasons with the Cleveland Indians (1995 / 1998) St. Louis Cards (1995-1998) Seattle Mariners (1998-2001) San Francisco Giants (2002) Philadelphia Phillies (2003-2006) & Milwaukee Brewers (2006) batting .257 with 123 HRs & 589 RBIs in 1403 games.

He played in three post seasons getting to a World Series with the Giants in 2002. He has been the St. Louis Cardinals bench coach from 2015-2017.

His other grandson Mike Bell played briefly (2000) with the Reds.

Passing & Honors: Gus Bell passed away at age 67 in Montgomery, Ohio. Every year, the Gus Bell Celebrity Golf Tournament is held in his honor in the Cincinnati area.

Proceeds benefit the Down Syndrome Association, his granddaughter Traci, to whom he was very close, suffers from Down Syndrome.

Nov 29, 2018

2006 N.L. Eastern Champion Mets Reliever: Aaron Heilman (2003-2008)

Aaron Michael Heilman was born November 11, 1978 in Logansport, Indiana. The tall six foot five right hander was a star pitcher at his Logansport high school. He was the team MVP leading the school to two regional titles.

He attended the University of Notre Dame majoring in management information as well as philosophy. He was drafted by the New York Mets in the 18th round of the 2001 draft. He pitched just seven games at A ball St. Lucie in 2001 getting to AA & AAA the next year. In 2003 he was 6-4 getting promoted to the Mets staff a bit too soon.

Then the team hyped him up as the starter of the future and none of this ever worked out. He made his big league debut on June 26th at Shea Stadium taking a 6-1 loss to the Florida Marlins although he only allowed one earned run. He took another loss before getting his first win on July 21st against the Philadelphia Phillies. He went 2-7 in his first season, with a 6.74 ERA in 65 innings pitched.

The next season he spent fine tuning himself at AAA Norfolk going 7-10 with a 4.12 ERA, before getting a late August call up. In his first game the San Diego Padres knocked him out in the 4th inning as he took a loss allowing four runs. He went 1-3 the rest of the way, posting a 5.57 ERA.

In 2005 he pitched the fifth game of the season getting beat by the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. He got a surprise start in place of a scratched Kris Benson on April 15th against the Florida Marlins, pitching the game of his life throwing a one hit shutout while striking out seven. There was hope he may have finally come into his own, but it was short lived. He went 2-2 with a 4.37 ERA, with two no decisions as a starter before getting sent to the bullpen as a reliever in May.

He didn’t like the move & complained about it at first. But then things worked out for a while, he posted a 2.14 ERA in relief, posting the best ERA in the NL after the All Star break at 0.68. He earned five saves, striking out 106 batters in 106 innings.

In 2006 he was on a bullpen staff with a lot of good pitchers. In the first two months of the year he was credited with nine holds and two blown saves. In June he was credited with five more holds, but blew three saves & took a loss. The fans got restless & they were getting fed up with his walks (28) & HRs allowed (5).

On May 29th he blew a two run lead at Shea against Arizona giving up a three run HR to Chad Tracy. He was bailed out on David Wrights walk off base hit in the 9th. In June he blew two saves in interleague play, one against the Baltimore Orioles & the other against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. On the year he was credited with 26 holds and went 4-5 with a 3.62 ERA. In 87 innings he struck out a lot less batters than he had in the past (73).

2006 Post Season: In the NLDS he pitched in three games against the Los Angeles Dodgers allowing one run in three innings. 

2006 NLCS Disaster: In the NLCS he will forever be remembered for One fatal pitch, The biggest HR he ever allowed. It came against the St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina in the top of the 9th inning of Game #7.

It was what turned out to be the game winning run & Series clincher. Molina had hit just six HRs & batted .216 all season in 417 at bats. Overall in that post season Heilman allowed three runs in seven innings pitched. His fate was sealed as he heard boos, especially from me for the rest of his time in New York.

In 2007 he went 7-7 with a 3.03 ERA, allowing 8 HRs with 20 walks in 86 innings (63 strike outs).On June 6th he blew a Mets 2-0 lead against the Phillies at Shea Stadium allowing a three run HR to Jimmy Rollins, as he took the loss.

On August 16th he allowed three runs & six hits in two innings of relief at Pittsburgh taking his 5th loss of the year. He pitched a bit better only blowing one more save the rest of the way.

In 2008 manager Jerry Manuel attempted to make him the teams closer when Billy Wagner went down for the season. Heilman was terrible he blew five saves, went 3-8 with a 5.21 ERA on the year while allowing a career high 10 HRs. On May 30th he gave up five runs to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 8th inning blowing the lead & losing the game. On August 11th he blew a 9th inning save, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing two hits & a walk before exiting to a tie game. Scott Schoenweiss came in & gave up a two run single sealing the loss.

On September 10th he allowed a 6th inning two run HR to Carlos Guzman tying the game and giving him his last blown save as a Mets pitcher. The only bright spots on his season was his 15 holds & 80 strike outs in 76 innings.

In December of 2008 the organization heard the fans boos, he was part of a three team, eleven player deal that sent him to the Seattle Mariners.
He was soon shipped to the Chicago Cubs where he went 4-4 with a 4.21 ERA in 2009. In 2010 he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks going 5-8 while blowing eight save or win opportunities. On a positive note he did get credit for 12 holds.

In 2011 he was 4-1 but had an ERA of 6.88 and got released in mid July, as the Diamondbacks went to the post season without him. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Nariners & Texas Rangers but was released by all teams.

In his nine year career he was 35-46 with 16 saves, 548 strike outs, 256 walks, 72 HRs  & a 4.40 ERA in 630 innings in 477 appearances.

Nov 27, 2018

Halestorm / In This Moment / New Years Day @ Hammerstein Ballroom New York City: Concert Review

November 24th 2018- Hammerstein Ball Room New York City- Concert Review: Halestorm / In This Moment / New Years Day.

An exceptional bill of some of the leading ladies on the female fronted hard rock/ Heavy Metal scene. Me, being a big fan & supporter of the genre for many years, thought this was an outstanding night & a concert for the ages. 

My friend Jimmy & I were pleased to see many people beyond the millennial age in attendance as well as us. Seasoned veteran rock & roll fans know good stuff & anyone who says there's no good rock music out there today, certainly doesn't know these bands exist. In a genre that has been fading with new talents, this is the crème of the crop.

Ashley Costello (NYD)  / Lzzy Hale (Halestorm) / Maria Brink (In This Moment)

Halestorm: The headliner was Halestorm, a hard rock outfit from Red Lion, PA. featuring sister & brother combo, the Hales- Lzzy Hale (vocals/guitar) & Arejay Hale (drums). 

The band released their first album back in 2009 & have gotten better & bigger thru the years, constantly touring & now a major force in rock music, one of the best if not THE best. This tour supporting their latest album "Vicious" the years best album release by far.

Tonight was an incredible performance by the this awesome band. Lzzy Hale is rock & rolls best front person of the current era, male or female. This girl can rock, belting out the lyrics, almost effortlessly, with a raw but yet melodic vengeance on their hard rock classics- "Love Bites' "Black Vultures" "Uncomfortable"  "I Miss the Misery" "Vicious" "Amen"...…..

Lizy also sings the ballads with her versatile vocals, moving over to the piano for a surprising rendition of - "I Will Always Love You". She also did a couple of fine ballads, acoustically with guitarist, Joe Hottinger- " Dear Daughter" & "The Silence". 

Not to get overlooked as a musician, Lzzy Hale is one hell of a guitarist too. 

The energy that she spews as she dominates the audience is amazing. It seems she can do it all as her amazing stage presence locks the crowd in, with full fist pumping, sing a longs & plenty of vocal support.

Donning her latest short hair style, reminiscent of Joan Jett, Lzzy donned an open slited leather skirt, fishnet stockings & black thick ankle high, high heel boots KISS would be proud of.

 The band overall is pumping with raw energy, they are a tight unit, confident & blistering out pure hard rock. This may very well be the best band in rock today!

Lzzy's brother Arejay Hale, is an incredible drummer who beat his butt off all night, his drum solo was outstanding, with full audience participation. At one point he bashed away with giant drum sticks then led the crowd to a "Why Don't You Get A Job" sing along. 

I thought I heard a bit of the Beatles, The End drum solo in their as well. Also singing back up vocals, he is major forces behind the Halestorm sound. 

Joe Hottinger was great on the lead guitar, he seemed to have an almost calm, laid back relaxed look while he played, almost surpring at the rocking notes coming from him. 

He sported his long beard & donned a stylish hat, keeping off to the side buy Lzzy did give him main spotlight on many leads, as she backed off toward the drums.

Bass player John Smith a (member since 2004- taking the place of Roger Hale Lzzy & Arejays dad) did a fine job as the other part of the rhythm section. He & Hottinger also provided backing vocals on stage.

Halestorm Set List:

I Am the Fire
Love Bites (So Do I)
Black Vultures
I Get Off
Do Not Disturb
I Will Always Love You
Dear Daughter
Drum solo (with the Offspring Why Don't You Get A Job)
Freak Like Me
Killing Ourselves To Live

The Silence
I Miss the Misery
Here's To Us (with In this Moment / New Years Day members)
I Like It Heavy

In This Moment: The second band on the bill, was- In This Moment. An fantastic, outrageous theatrical stage performance led by lead singer Maria Brink, who can be described as an erotic, Heavy Metal Lady Gag Ga.

 The stage show is something Alice Cooper & KISS would be proud of, in all it's erotica & theatrics. 

Maria Brink's elaborate stage performance offered costume changes after each song. 

An exceptional performer, with a choregraphed show that brings theatrical rock & metal to new heights. 

The only negative was the smoke effects may have kept the audience from witnessing the true performance thru its haze. Lucky I had my trusty binoculars, able to witness this incredible stage show from afar thru the smoke & fog. 

Maria Brink is surrounded by two sexy masked female dancers,"the Blood Girls" who perform around her, almost answering to Maria's gyrations & stage theatrics. Like harem girls responding to their mistress' orders. They are as important to the live show as anyone in the band. It was incredible, a must see.

The guys in the band are not to go unmentioned, certainly not as lovely as the ladies, they look like they just crawled out of the grave. Dirty, long haired, evil make up, leather & flying V guitars. The bass player even wears a studded leather face mask adding to the horror.

They did a Metallica instrumental medley of For Whom the Bell Tolls & Creepy Death, it was certainly another highlight. Amazing how the crowd responded with the Creeping Death sing along " Die- Die " some 35 years after Metallica released the song, their impact, huge" 

The stage featured plenty of crosses & pentacles, flashing light show, lots of smoke & fog. On the final song "Whore" Maria stood at a podiem wearing a long dunce hat with whore written on it. 

During "Oh Lord" with the girls holding large lighted globes & during a cover of Phil Collins "In The Air Tonight" it gave the sense of attending some kind of a ritual or mass.

This band may be the current best thing in Heavy Metal & metal stars noticed. On record, their song "Black Wedding"  featured Judas Priest's, Rob Halford sharing vocals with Brink. Former Ozzy guitarist, Guitarist Jake E. Lee, shocked everyone on "That Metal Show" a few years back, when he said this was a band to look out for. Well they are here now & are a force to reckoned with.

As mentioned, the bands biggest song "Whore" ended the show with red & white balloons unleashed to fill the theater. 

Brink says Whore is about defying what other people call you & proving them wrong to succeed. 

In This Moment Set List:
River of Fire
(Band Introductions) Whom the Bell Tolls/ Creeping Death (Metallica Instrumentals) & Rock You Like A Hurricane (Scorpions Instrumental) 
Drum solo
Black Wedding (with Ashley Costello)
In the Air Tonight
Big Bad Wolf
Oh Lord


Lzzy Hale- Maria Brink- Ashley Costello
New Years Day: Ashley Costello led her band New Years Day in a short opening set, getting lost in all the greatness of the next two headlining acts.

New Years Day set list:

Killed or Be Killed
Fu@*ing Hostile
Defame Me