Feb 21, 2019

centerfieldmaz Remembers the Monkees Peter Tork

Peter Halsten Thorkelson was born February 13th, 1942 in Washington D.C. Although his early Monkees bio claimed falsely that he was born in New York City. As a child he exceled in music, playing piano, then guitar, banjo & the bass. 

After attending high school & college in Connecticut, he moved to New York City's Greenwich Village. There he became part of the Folk scene with many others, like himself, who would become pop & rock stars in the sixties. The likes of Bob Dylan, John Sebastian (The Lovin' Spoonful), Cass Elliot, John Phillips & Denny Doherty of the Mammas & Pappas, Ritchie Havens, and Steven Stills (of Buffalo Springfield & Crosby Stills & Nash).

Peter & Stills became good friends, in fact it was Stills, who had auditioned, but did not get the role in the Monkees. But when asked if he knew anyone who resembled himself, with the so called Nordic look, he suggested Peter. He encouraged Peter to go for the part & he got it, becoming Peter Tork, as the world would forever know him. He was the oldest of the four Monkees, age 24 in 1966. He played the part of the dumb, silly one, when in fact he may have been the most intelligent one of the group.

Tork the thought the Monkees were going to be a real band, but soon learned he was to be an actor in his role. After bringing some musical changes to the powers that be for the song "Last Train to Clarksville" he was told, you don't understand, everything has been finished already. But Tork did get to play as a backing musician on many of the early songs. He even co-wrote "For Pete's Sake" which closed out the show in the second season.

The Monkees were basically to be a TV version of the Beatles Hard Days Night movie. Professional song writers & professional musicians did the songs, & the actors, acted out being the band. The Monkees did do their own lead vocals. Eventually the four Monkees became more involved & played their own instruments as well as wrote their own songs. Tork was to be the bands bass player, although he was a better guitar player, as well as keyboardist. One of Tork's most famous musical pieces was the intro on piano to "Daydream Believer".

The Monkees were huge at their peak,
everything from records to tv, to film to a full line of bubble gum cards, lunch boxes & full merchandising supported the band. The Monkee mobile was one of the hottest cars ever produced & is still popular today. The TV show would only run for two seasons, (winning an Emmy Award for best comedy) but play on for generations in reruns.

At the time, the Monkees were not looked at as a joke by the rock world since they were the first of the counterculture, young peoples generation to make it to prime time. Even the Beatles loved the Monkees, John Lennon calling them the best thing since the Marx Brothers. The two groups actually became friendly & Peter Tork played on George Harrisons first solo effort, Wonderwall.

Tork eventually left the Monkees by the end of 1968. Exhausted by the grueling schedule of recording (six albums in two years) constant touring & filming a tv show, as well as the 1968 psychedelic film Head. Named that by the Monkees so they could bill it as- "from the people who gave you head."

Tork went on to a solo career but it didn't take off. He got married & had a son, money problems had him living in the basement of David Crosby's house. He eventually took on jobs as a music teacher, a school teacher, baseball coach & musician. Things did get better for Tork along the way.

In the mid seventies he reunited for a Christmas record with Davy Jones & Mickey Dolenz. By the mid eighties the three were back (sans Nesmith) as the Monkees. The 20th Anniversary tour was a big success, new songs with another Greatest Hits album, all sold well. MTV helped launch the Monkees back on TV again & a whole new generation, as well as the ones from the past were all lovin' the Monkees.

Tork would reunite with the Monkees throughout the years as well as record as a solo artist & session man. He would make TV appearances on Wings, Boy Meets World, 7th Heaven & my favorite The King Of Queens, as leader of a wedding band. Tork is also member of the Long Island Musicians Hall of Fame.

In his personal life he was married four times & has three children. In 2009 he was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the tongue. He was given all clear after surgery by 2010. He passed away in Mansfield, Conn at age 77.

Quotes: Mickey Dolenz- " There are no words right now, heartbroken over the loss of my Monkee brother Peter".

Mike Nesmith- “Peter Tork died this AM. I am told he slipped away peacefully. Yet, as I write this my tears are awash, and my heart is broken. Even though I am clinging to the idea that we all continue, the pain that attends these passings has no cure. It’s going to be a rough day. I share with all Monkees fans this change, this ‘loss,’ even so. PT will be a part of me forever. I have said this before — and now it seems even more apt — the reason we called it a band is because it was where we all went to play.” 

“A band no more — and yet the music plays on — an anthem to all who made the Monkees and the TV show our private — dare I say ‘secret’ — playground, I can only pray [Peter’s] songs reach the heights that can lift us and that our childhood lives forever — that special sparkle that was the Monkees. I will miss him — a brother in arms. Take flight my Brother.”

The First Mets Player To Start An All Star Game: Ron Hunt (1963-1966)

Ronald Kenneth Hunt was born on February 23, 1941 in St. Louis, Missouri The infielder was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1959, spending time in the low minors for three seasons. In 1962 he batted .309 at AA ball when he was purchased by the New York Mets that October. 

At first The Mets were using him as a bullpen catcher during spring training 1963. “Larry Burright wasn't doing too well at second base" Hunt recalled "I went up to Casey after a game in the Polo Grounds and said, I’m Ron Hunt #33. I'm not a bullpen catcher, I can play second base. If you want me to go to the minors every day until you need me, I'll do it.”

“I guess Casey took a liking to me, he said, `Do you want to play that badly, son? You're in the lineup tomorrow." 

Hunt became the Mets main second baseman for the next four seasons, and in 1963 he was one of their most steady players in his rookie year. In just his third game he had three hits including an exciting walk off game winning double in the bottom of the 9th inning, off Milwaukee's Claude Raymond.

A week later he drove in one of two runs in Carl Willeys three hit shutout against the Chicago Cubs. He kept his average over .300 with a ten game hit streak, hitting safely in 17 of twenty games through mid May.

 In June he had a four hit day against the Reds in Cincinnati & then the next day drove in two runs leading New York to a 4-1 win over the Reds. He went into September hitting safely in twenty of twenty two games and then drove in runs in four straight games in the middle of the month. For the season he led the team in hits (145) batting average (.272) doubles (28) runs (64) & on base percentage (.334) as well as sacrifices & hit by pitches (13).

Hunt would become famous, actually legendary, for getting hit by pitches, leading the team every year in that category from 1963-1966. The thirteen HBP in 1963 was a club record that would stand for 34 years until John Olerud broke it in 1997. 

 That year Hunt also hit a career high 10 HRs & 28 doubles with 42 RBIs finishing as runner up to Pete Rose for the Rookie of the Year Award. 

 In 1964 he started out the season getting two hits on opening day in Philadelphia. On April 17th, 1964 he started at third base and batted in the third position in the first game played at the new Shea Stadium.

Mets Firsts:  He doubled in the 4th inning, getting the first Mets extra base hit in the new ballpark, then scored the teams first run, when Jesse Gonder singled him home. Three games later, Hunt hit the first home run by a Mets player in the new Shea Stadium.

In May he had a nine game hit streak & hit safely in 13 of 16 games. Hunt was hitting really well getting over the .300 mark & never looking back all year. In mid June he had a twelve game hit streak & had multi hit games in eight of those. 
First Met to Start All Star Game: By July he was hitting .312 and got to represent the Mets  in a starting position as the National League's second baseman, in the 1964 All Star game.

The game was played in the brand new Shea Stadium in New York just across from the 1964 Worlds Fair in Queens. This was the only All Star Game ever held in Shea Stadium.

The anticipation mounted as he awaited his turn at bat in between innings in the on deck circle. Hunt received a tremendous standing ovation from the home town fans when he came to bat in the bottom of the third inning. He led off the inning with a single off Dean Chance. Overall he was 1-3 in the game.

In the second half of the year Hunt continued his fine hitting. He put together an eight game hit streak in July with another six game hit streak in August. 

On August 28th during a wild 12-10 Mets win at Wrigley Field, it was Hunts bases loaded single in the 8th inning that tied the game. That day he had three hits, drove in three runs & scored two runs as well. In September he missed three weeks of action due to injury, returning to close out the season. 

He finished the 1964 season leading the team with a .303 average & getting hit by 11 pitches. He hit six triples with 6 HRs 19 doubles 59 runs scored & drove in 42 runs. He posted a .357 on base % & his six stolen bases were also enough to lead the slow footed club.

At second base his .979 fielding % was fourth best in the NL, and he was fourth in assists (317) & fifth in put outs (244). 

 Injuries limited him to only 57 games in 1965, as he season didn't start until April 30th & then he missed another three months during summer. On August 27nd he hit three doubles off a 44 year old Warren Spahn after he had been released by the Mets & was now pitching for the San Francisco Giants. On September 28th The Mets Dennis Ribant threw 11 innings of shutout ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the bottom of the 12th the Mets loaded the bases of Elroy Face & Hunt delivered the walk off game winning base hit, giving New York an exciting 1-0 win.

The Hunt's Grocery Shopping in Maspeth Queens
For the 1965 season. Hunt hit .240 with 12 doubles, one HR, 10 RBIs & a .309 on base % in 196 at bats. 

Quotes: Hunt recalls his personal early days with the Mets: "My first contract was for $7,000, we couldn't afford to live in New York, so my wife Jackie found us a place in Fort Lee, New Jersey. I drove an 18-wheeler for $2.85 an hour in the offseason. 

Casey called me in the office about a month into the season and he said, 'Son, you need a raise.' I said, 'Yes, sir.' He said, 'How's $500 sound?' I said, 'Is that $500 a month?' He said, 'No! That's 500 a year.' So I called my wife - and it's still the same wife, 37 years now - and she said, 'We'll take it!' When the Mets moved to Shea in 1964, Ron & his wife moved into a basement apartment in Maspeth.

In 1966 he had a great May after a slow start, including getting 17 hits on a ten game home stand in the beginning of the month. On May 20th at Candlestick Park he drove in five runs, with a HR, three hits & a hit by pitch helping the Mets to a 7-5 victory.

Another Mets First: On June 5th, he became the first Met to hit an inside the park HR, it came off of non other than Sandy Koufax, in the first game of a double header loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On June 17th his 8th inning double off the Reds Bob McCool drove in Johnny Lewis & Chuck Hiller giving the Mets the lead, as they went on to win 6-5 over Cincinnati. He was batting .293 at the break & made another All Star team. He had another hot streak in August getting 19 hits in a ten day stretch while hitting safely in ten of eleven games raising his season average over .295. 

On the next to last day of the season, he helped Jack Fisher preserve his six hit shut out by driving in the only run of the game. Hunt's base hit off Houston's Larry Dierker in the bottom of the 9th inning, scored Eddie Bressoud for the Mets 1-0 win over the Astros. 
He would finished the year once again leading the team in batting average(.288) hits (138) on base % (.356) and hit by pitches (11). Hunt hit three HRs with 19 doubles 63 runs scored & 33 RBIs.

In November of 1966 he and Jim Hickman were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Tommy Davis. It was the first trade between the two rivals since they had moved to the West Coast. 

Hunt was heartbroken after the trade, & took time for him to adjust. On the year he batted .263 & was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Tom Haller that winter. Hunt played three seasons as the Giants main second baseman in San Francisco, leading all second baseman in errors in 1968 (20) then posted the league’s fourth best fielding % in the next year. 

On September 17th, 1968 his HR was the difference in Gaylord Perry’s no-hitter at Candlestick Park as the Giants edged Bob Gibson & the St. Louis Cardinals 1-0. He led the NL in getting hit by pitches in each of his final seven seasons including 25 hit by pitches in 1968. That year he hit just .250 but posted a .371 on base % while drawing 78 walks (3rd in the NL). 

In 1969 he was hit 25 times by pitches, setting an MLB record on April 29, that season getting plunked three times in a game against the Reds. On eof them came from his former Mets team mate Jack Fisher. In 1970 he batted .281 with 6 HRs 17 doubles & posted a .394 on base %. The following year Tito Fuentes took over at second base as the Giants went on to win the NL Western title. That December he was traded to the Montreal Expos for Dave McDonald, there he became a popular player again, this time in Canada. 

On September 29th in a game against the Chicago Cubs at Jarry Park, Milt Pappas plunked Hunt with a pitch. That was the 50th pitch he was hit with on the season, setting a new record for batters in the 20th century. Pappas argued that the pitch was a strike & Hunt got in the way of the ball. Legendary managers Leo Durocher & Sparky Anderson had similar claims throughout the year. 

 Hunt posted his best on base % (.402%) up to that point in his career (4th in the NL) while batting .279 with 41 walks 20 doubles 5 HRs & 38 RBIs. He only struck out 41 times in 528 at bats, 638 plate appearances, while hitting 20 doubles for the first of two straight seasons. That season he also had career bests in runs scored (89) (8th in the league) & games (152). 

In 1973 he batted a career high .309 with a career best .418 on base %. He received votes for the MVP award, coming in 26th while playing in 113 games, & getting hit by 26 pitches.

Hunt also set an Expo record by only striking out 19 times in 401 at-bats. Late in the 1974 season after 115 games, he was batting .268 with 15 doubles & 26 RBIs but was placed on waivers, getting picked by the Cardinals on September 5th. He got to finish his career in his hometown of St. Louis playing in 12 September games that month. 

In his 12-year career Hunt batted .273 with 1439 hits 39 HRs 223 doubles 23 triples 745 runs scored a .368 on base % & 370 RBIs in 1483 games played. He was also one of the most difficult batters to strike out, fanning 382 times in 5235 at-bats.

Upon his retirement, his 243 Hit by pitches were a MLB career record, but since he has fallen to sixth on the all time list. 

Hunt played in 1260 games at second base (67th all time) posting a .976 fielding % turning 685 double plays with 156 errors in 6402 chances. His 2734 put outs & 3512 assists are both 72nd most all time for second baseman. He also played in 158 games at third & two games at short. 

Trivia: His motto was, “Some people give their bodies to science; I give mine to baseball”. Hunt insisted that he never deliberately got hit by a pitch. On occasion, he was said to have worn a wetsuit underneath his uniform to ease the pain from being hit by a pitch. 

Retirement: After his playing days he owned a liquor store, then sporting goods store in the St. Louis suburb of Wentzville. He also raised cattle & still works his farm. 

Since 1985 he runs The Ron Hunt Baseball Association, a non-profit instructional league for teens, & still runs the annual fund raiser in New York. 

Hunt returned to the Mets for the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008.

Remembering Mets History: (1966) Mets Second Baseman Ron Hunt Helps NL Win the All Star Game

1966 MLB All Star Game: Busch Stadium- St. Louis Missouri: Back in the day, many All Star Games were actually played in the day. This was the case for the 1966 Mid Summer Classic, played on a hot humid, 105 degree St. Louis day.

The managers were Walter Alston from the World Champion, Los Angeles Dodgers & Italian American, Sam Mele  from the A.L. Champion Minnesota Twins. Curt Gowdy & Pee Wee Reese called the game for NBC Sports. The game consisted of twenty Hall of Famers who were either playing or coaching in the game, with the NL boasting 14 of those HOF members.

The starting pitchers were the Detroit Tigers; Denny McLain, who would be the last pitcher to win 30 games, a feat he would accomplish in 1968. And for the NL, the greatest pitcher of that era; the Dodgers Sandy Koufax.

Starting lineups

American LeagueNational League

PlayerTeamPosition          PlayerTeamPosition

Dick McAuliffeTigersSS
Willie MaysGiantsCF

Al KalineTigersCF
Roberto ClementePiratesRF

Frank RobinsonOriolesLF
Hank AaronBravesLF

Tony OlivaTwinsRF
Willie McCoveyGiants1B

Brooks RobinsonOrioles3B
Ron SantoCubs3B

George ScottRed Sox1B
Joe TorreBravesC

Bill FreehanTigersC
Jim LefebvreDodgers2B

Bobby KnoopAngels2B
Leo CárdenasRedsSS

Denny McLainTigersP
Sandy KoufaxDodgersP

In the 2nd inning, Baltimore's Brooks Robinson (the games MVP with three of the AL's six hits) would hit a triple to left field & score on a wild pitch thrown by Koufax.

It would be all the runs the AL would score against pitchers; Koufax (3 innings) Jim Bunning (2 innings) Juan Marichal (3 innings) & Gaylord Perry (2 innings).

In the 4th inning, Willie Mays & Roberto Clemente singled, with Mays being driven in by the Cubs Ron Santo. The score stayed tied as AL pitchers  Mel Stottlemyre & Sonny Siebert held down the fort.

In the 6th inning, the lone representative for the New York Mets, Ron Hunt came into the game to play second base replacing Jim Lefebvre. This was Hunts second All Star Game as a Mets Player, he got the start in the 1964 Game played at the new Shea Stadium.

Hunt began his career with the Mets in 1963 coming in second place in the Rookie of the Year voting to a guy named Pete Rose. Hunt spent four years (1963-1966) with the Mets batting .282 in 459 games.

Trivia: Hunt was hit by pitches 243 times in his career (6th all time).

Hunt grounded out in his first at bat in the 7th inning. Then in the 10th he was crucial on helping the NL win the 2-1 squeaker. The Cardinals Tim McCarver led off with a single off Pete Richert. Hunt then laid down a sac bunt, getting McCarver to second. The Dodgers Maury Wills then singled to right field, scoring McCarver with the walk off run. Exciting indeed!!

Feb 20, 2019

50th Anniversary of the 1969 Mets: Possible Players Strike Looms At Spring Training

50th Anniversary of the 1969 World Champion "Amazing Mets"

On 1969 the MLB season was in jeopardy right as Spring Training was about to begin. What has now become common every few years, was pretty ne back then, a Players strike was looming. 

The newly formed MLB Players Association (1966) was fronted by Marvin Miller, who had negotiated labor agreements for the National War Labor Board, the International Association of Machinist, the United Auto Workers Union & most recently the United Steel Workers Union. Miller would change the way baseball operated forever.

In 1969 the main issue was the players pensions, mostly how revenues from the gate& television dollars from the World Series & All Star Games were distributed to the plan. In 1969 NBC had signed a three year $45 million dollar deal. Lots of bucks for that era.

Some players not all on board yet with the union idea, crossed the picket lines but many did not, especially the big names. 

Tom Seaver who would be the Mets Player Rep. held work outs for Mets players privately, in a playground near his Florida apartment. Jerry Koosman, Bud Harrelson, & Al Jackson were some who attended the sessions to stay in shape. 

Quotes- Tom Seaver: "We're running, playing catch & doing some sit ups. We'll be ready when the time comes".

Seaver even Met with Mets President Johnny Murphy, to tell him how he felt about the whole issue. He did not work out in Mets camp.

On February 24th, just before the midnight hour, an agreement was reached. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn had flow to New York late that weekend to urge both sides to settle. According to Kuhn a fair deal for both sides was finalized including: better retirement benefits, more life insurance coverage, & retirement age lowered to 45.

Quotes- Marvin Miller: "The players held ranks remarkably well, you can't believe what pressure some of them were under. Nobody is being critical of others, but facts are facts". Miller was happy about the deal but not ecstatic.

Trivia: 1969 was the first year of divisional play, the two leagues were broken down to Eastern & Western Divisions with a five game playoff between the two divisional champions to be played at the end of the 162 game season. The winners went to a seven game World Series.

Also the NL had added two teams, the Montreal Expos & San Diego Padres. The AL added the Kansas City Royals & the Seattle Pilots. The Pilots were to become the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970.

The Last Mets Third Baseman Before the David Wright Era: Ty Wigginton (2002-2004)

Ty Allen Wigginton was born on October 11, 1977 in San Diego, California. The stocky six foot, 230 pound right hand hitting infielder attended UNC Ashville College where he still holds many hitting records. He became the first alumni to make the major leagues when he was drafted by the New York Mets in 1998 in the 17th round.

Wiggy hit over 20 HRs with 70 plus RBIs at A ball St. Lucie in 1999 & then did the same at AA Binghamton in 2000. In 2002 he was brought up to the Mets in May for just six games then was sent back down. He would hit .300 at AAA Norfolk although he only had six HRs & return to the Mets in August.

On August 4th he hit his first career HR with a big four hit day in Arizona in a loss to the diamond backs. In the first week og September he hit three HRs and got his average up over .300 to end the season. He showed promise hitting .302 with 6 HRs & 18 RBIs in only 46 games (116 at bats).

In 2003 he became the Mets primary third baseman, leading the team in games (156) RBIs (71) hits (146) doubles (36) triples (6) runs (73) & slugging percentage (.396).

He also led the team in strikeouts (124) and batted .255. At third base he led the league in put outs with 117, posting a .962 fielding % making 16 errors (5th in the NL).

Wigginton made the Topps Rookie team & came in eighth, one spot behind team mate Jose Reyes in the Rookie of the Year voting. On April 8th he hit his first HR of the year, driving in three runs leading the Mets to a 4-1 victory in Florida against the Marlins. In mid May he had back to back three RBI games in a series in Colorado. He had his first four hit game at Milwaukee in May against the Brewers with another at Texas against the Rangers the following month.

On June 5th he hit HRs in both ends of a double header against the Milwaukee Brewers at Shea Stadium. He drove in three runs in each game, totaling six overall in the twin bill, although the Mets lost both games. On July 6th he doubled in the top of the 8th inning, tying up a game against the Reds in Cincinnati which the Mets went on to win.

In the middle of the month he drove in runs in four of six games, on a six game hit streak. He hit pretty consistent over the next two months putting together a few more small hit streaks.

On August 21st he hit a three run HR in San Diego leading the Mets to a 5-1 win. The next day he hit another three run shot in Los Angeles. In August he drove in 15 runs before slumping to finish off the season in September.

Trivia: Over the course of the summer, the fans adopted the song “getting’ jiggy with it" changing the words to gettin wiggy with it” in his honor. By 2004 David Wright was on the scene as the third baseman of the future and Wiggy’s days were numbered.

On the Fourth of July he had one of his biggest days as a Met, hitting a pair of HRs driving in three runs, in the Mets 6-5 Subway series win.

On July 15th his 9th inning single off Roberto Hernandez drove in the winning run as the Mets beat the Phillies at Shea Stadium. On July 31st, after 86 games played, he was batting .284 with 12 HRs 23 doubles & 42 RBIs, when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jeff Kepplinger, as well as the team of Kris & Anna Benson.

Trivia: Wigginton is ninth on the Mets all time list for games played at third base (235).

He didn’t play much in Pittsburgh hitting .220 the rest of the year & .258 with just 7 HRs the following season. He was released in December 2005 & signed with the Tampa Devil Rays for 2006.

He rebounded to rejuvenate his career, hitting 24 HRs with 25 doubles & 79 RBIs while batting .279.

Family: In December his wife Angela, went into unexpected labor & while on the phone with the 911 operator, he helped deliver his son Cannon. The Wiggintons have three children.

In 2007 he was traded to the Houston Astros mid season for Dan Wheeler. He finished that season & the next with similar numbers, hitting over 20 HRs with 25 plus doubles & 65 or more RBIs, while raising his average to the best since his debut at .285. After the season the Astros let him go to free agency, upsetting some Astro fans due to his popularity.

In 2009 he signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles, there he batted .273 with 11 HRs 19 doubles & 41 RBIs in 122 games. He missed some time on the DL battling injuries.

In 2010 he hit 22 HRs with 73 RBIs batting .248 playing in 154 games, making his first All Star team. The slow footed Wiggy grounded into 23 double plays on the year (4th in the AL).

In December he signed with the Colorado Rockies for 2011, he hit 15 HRs with 47 RBIs batting .242. On April 11th he got his 1000th career hit, a HR off the San Francisco Giants Matt Cain. It was also his first Rockies HR. 

In November 2011 he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies & got a lot of playing time as Ryan Howard was down with injury most of the early part of the season. Wiggy also got to play at third base & some games in the outfield. In 125 games he hit 11 HRs with 43 RBIs batting .235.

In 2013 he signed on as a free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals but only hit .158 & was released in July. The Miami Marlins also gave him a minor league deal in 2014 but he was released that March.

Retirement: In 2015 he became a high school baseball coach in North Carolina.

In his 12 year career the journeyman has hit .261 with 169 HRs 245 doubles 14 triples with 594 RBIs & a .323 on base % while striking out 891 times in 1362 games.

Former Deaf Mute New York Giants Pioneer Player: Dummy Taylor (1900-1908)

Luther Haden Taylor was known in the politically incorrect world of the early 20th century as Dummy Taylor. Taylor was a deaf mute who was born February 21, 1875 in Oskaloosa, Kansas. He attended the Kansas School of the Deaf in Olathe Kansas, just outside of Kansas City, Missouri. 

He began playing semi pro ball in the Mid West, before breaking through in organized ball in Albany, New York. From there he was signed by the New York Giants and played with New York from 1900-1908. 

He would communicate with the other players on the field through sign language and has been credited with helping expand the use of signs in baseball. He & his team mates would raise their fingers to show how many outs there were and do the same for pitch counts. 

Taylor was a fan favorite with the Polo Grounds faithful at the turn of the century. He was also popular with his team mates & manager John McGraw, possibly because he couldn’t answer back. In any event McGraw learned to communicate with Taylor through sign language as well. On the mound Taylor was noted for an eccentric corkscrew windup that would fool hitters. He also was notorious for some of his antics on the field. 

He loved to bait umpires with his sign language although it did backfire at times. One funny story has McGraw & Taylor insulting an umpire through signage, only to find out the ump had a deaf relative and understood what they were relaying. He ejected them both from the game. Another story tells how Taylor walked on the field under an umbrella with winter boots on, during a rainy day game. The delay in play caused the game to be stopped. 

Taylor debuted in 1900 going 4-3 with a 2.45 ERA in eleven games for the 8th place Giants.

In 1901 he had a rough season, although he won 18 games he also led the league in losses (27). He also allowed a league leading 377 hits, posting a 3.18 ERA pitching 353 innings with 43 starts in 45 appearances. 

He briefly leaped to the recently formed American League in 1902, going to Cleveland but ended up right back with the Giants that same season. He went to 13-13 in 1903 and from there on would never post a losing record again. 

In 1904 the Giants won the Nation League title but did not play in the World Series because manager John McGraw refused to even acknowledge the new leagues existence. Taylor was 21-15 (4th in the league in wins) & third on his team behind thirty game winners; Christy Mathewson & Joe McGinnity. Taylor posted a 2.34 ERA, struck out 138 batters (6th in the NL) pitched 29 complete games & threw five shutouts (3rd in the NL). 

He would win 16 or more games in each of the next two seasons, pitch over 200 innings and strike out over 90 batters. He would post winning percentages over .600% in each of his last four seasons & average an ERA of 2.50. 

 In 1905 he was 16-9 with a 2.66 ERA but did not pitch in the World Series, as this was the year of Christy Mathewson. In the World Series he pitched three shut outs in the same week, & Joe McGinnity pitched the other two games. The Giants won their first World's Championship that year. 

In 1906 he was 17-9 for the second place Giants, coming in third on the staff once again to Mathewson & McGinnity in wins. But Taylor posted the best ERA of the three at 2.20.

Taylor returned in 1907 to go 11-7 as the Giants dropped to fourth place, he posted a 2.42 ERA making 21 starts also getting credit for a save in one of seven relief appearances. His last season was the wild NL season of 1908 where he was 8-5 with two saves. 

 Taylor played on two Giants pennant winners but never pitched in a World Series game. In his nine year career Taylor was 116-106 pitching in 1916 innings over 274 games. His 2.75 ERA is #88 on the all time list & his 21 shut outs are 230th most all time. Taylor has 160 complete games (199th all time) striking out 767 batters with 551 walks. 

Retirement: After baseball Taylor devoted his time to administration in deaf education & coaching the deaf in sports. He worked in schools in Kansas, Iowa & Jacksonville, Illinois. 

Taylor passed away in 1958 at age 82 in Illinois. He was elected to the American Athletic Association of the Deaf Hall of Fame & has the gym at the Kansas State School for the Deaf named in his honor.

Feb 19, 2019

The Mets New 2019 AAA Affilate - The Syracuse Mets

The New York Mets new minor league AAA affiliate for 2019 is the Syracuse Mets. They part ways with the Las Vegas 51s, who are now the Las Vegas Aviators an affiliate of the Oakland A's in the Pacific Coast League.

The Syracuse Mets have a long history, formerly known as the Chiefs for majority of that time, with a ten year period being known as the Sky Chiefs. The team dates back to 1936, when they moved from Jersey City New Jersey, as the Skeeters upstate to Syracuse as the minor league club of the Boston Redsox. 

From 1957 to 1961 there was no team at Syracuse, as two different teams with the name left town. Then after the Montreal Royals, the long time affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers was abandon, it moved south to become the Syracuse Chiefs once again. 

Thru the years, 13 different teams have been affiliated with Syracuse along the way, most recently the Washington Nationals from 2009-2018. Before that the Toronto Blue Jays had the longest run with AA baseball in Syracuse, a good twenty years from their inception 1978 to 2008. Many of those Blue Jays who won back to back World Series in 1992 & 1993 came through Syracuse. In 2017 The New York Mets announced they had purchased the club & it would be there AAA team by 2019. 

The newly named Mets will don the Mets orange & blue colors as well. They will play at NBT Bank Stadium, a 11071 seat facility in Onondaga County. The stadium has also hosted concerts, hockey & soccer. 

The facility has luxury boxes, a banquet room named after former MLB Player Hank Sauer & a state of the art scoreboard.

The 2019 Syracuse Mets will feature Peter Alonso as its star player, the top ranked Mets prospect. The club announced Tony DeFrancesco as its manager, with pitching coach Glen Abbot & Joel Chimelis as its hitting coach. The bench coach is Benny Distefano.

AAA Syracuse Italian / American Mets Manager: Tony DeFrancesco

Anthony John DeFrancesco was born April 24th 1963 in Suffern, New York. The Italian American Rockland, County native, attended Seton Hall University & was a ninth round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 1984.

 DeFrancesco would play minor league ball for the  Red Sox & Cincinnati Reds from 1984 - 1992. He was a lifetime .232 hitter with 17 HRs & 167 RBIs in 567 career minor league games. Primarily a catcher who played briefly in the outfield, at third & first base.

He retired from playing in 1992 & by 1994 was a minor league manager, winning the Sporting News Minor League Manager of the Year Award in 2003 with the Sacramento River Cats, in the Pacific Coast League.

DeFrancesco spent one season as the Oakland A's third base coach (2008) before returning to Sacramento.

In  2012 he got his only shot at MLB managerial experience, he headed the Houston Astros for 41 games replacing Brad Mills. His first win came against the New York Mets on April 24th. His record as manager was 16-25 overall that season.

Trivia: He became the last manager of the Astros in the National League as the team transferred to the American League in 2013.

He returned to the minors, managing & leading the AAA Fresno Grizzlies to a championship, winning another Manager of the Year Award. In 2018 he replaced Wally Backman to manage the Mets AAA, Las Vegas 51's club, finishing in third place with a 71-69 record.

Overall he has been won four Pacific Coast League Championships & two AAA National Championships in his 21 years of managing.