Mar 28, 2019

Remembering Mets History: The Mets Bullpen Cart

What fan from the sixties through the eighties can forget the old baseball shaped bullpen carts. When a relief pitcher was brought into a game, he would get driven from the bullpen along the foul lines to the pitchers mound area near the dugouts. There he would exit, leave his jacket with the driver & proceed to walk to the mound. The vision of the Mets great reliever, Tug McGraw comes to mind immediately.

The Mets bullpen cart was the first of it's kind. Other teams had started the practice of driving the pitcher to the mound back in the fifties & the Los Angeles Dodgers were the first to use an actual golf cart. But the Mets were the first to put a team cap /helmet on the top of the vehicle.

The cart was a 1967 electric powered Presidente Cart. It was battery operated with a steering wheel on the drivers left side. The cart was shaped like an actual baseball, complete with red stitching on the sides of the front of the cart. 

The seats were white cushioned, designed to look like bases & the floor area was green representing grass on the baseball field. 

The front had two bats supporting the Mets cap / helmet which sat atop as the roof, complete with the Mets orange NY logo on it, classic stuff!

In 2015 the cart was auctioned off by Sotheby's, expecting to go for $25,000 range it sold for an Amazing $112,500.

Over the last two years it seems the bullpen cart is making a comeback on the field in MLB. 

Mar 25, 2019

1999 NL Wild Card Champion Mets Hitting Coach: Mickey Brantley & His MLB Family

Michael Charles Brantley was born June 17th 1961 in Catskill, New York. The youngster starred in baseball, as well as soccer & basketball in the Catskill Mountain Region of New York. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the second round of the 1983 draft. He became known as Mickey Brantley.

Brantley played four years with the Mariners, seeing the most playing time in 1988 (149 games). In his MLB career he batted .259 lifetime, with 32 HRs 56 doubles 125 RBIs in 1222 games. Brantley then went on to play in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants.

He returned to MLB as a roving coach with the San Francisco Giants in 1994. From there he moved to the New York Mets organization, managing the St. Lucie Mets in 1996 & 1997.

 In 1999 the Mets front office, led by  GM Steve Phillips, fired most of Bobby Valentines coaching staff without consulting him. Mickey Bradley was brought in as the new Mets hitting coach.

At the point that Brantley took over as Hitting coach, the Mets went 70-38 the rest of the way, securing a tie for the Wild Card spot with the Cincinnati Reds. The Mets beat the Reds in a one game tie breaker, then beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS, before falling to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS in six games. The Mets finished second in the NL as a team with a .279 batting average, as well as second in walks, third in hits & overall best in on base %. No doubt that Brantley did a fantastic job.

Unfortunately, he did not return in 2000 as he went back to being a minor league hitting instructor. The Mets brought back Tom Robson in 2000, mostly as a peace gesture to Bobby Valentine, who was never told about his coaches being fired the previous season.

Brantley went on to coach with the Toronto Blue Jays through 2007.

Michael Brantley Jr.: Brantley's son, Michael was 12 at the time. He would attend the games & mimic stances of the Mets star hitters of the day, Mike Piazza, John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzo & was in attendance at Shea Stadium, the day of Robin Ventura's walk off grand slam single in the NLCS. He would go on to a big league career of his own, starting just nine years down the road. 

Michael Brantley would play ten years (thru 2018) with the Cleveland Indians, batting .300 or better four times, leading the league in doubles in 2015 with 45, getting to three post seasons. In 2019 he signed on with the Houston Astros.

Justin Brantley: Justin is Mickey Brantley's nephew. The young pitcher briefly played in the Mets organization with the St. Lucie Mets in 2017. He had previously played in the Indians organization like his cousin. He then moved on to Independent League baseball.

Mar 23, 2019

Remembering Mets History (2007): Tom Glavine One Hits St. Louis In a Rain Shortened Game (2007)

June 27th 2007: In this rematch of the 2006 NLCS, the First place New York Mets (43-33) under Willie Randolph, faced off against Tony Larussa's reigning World Champion Cardinals. The Cards were 10.5 games out of first place at 34-41 at this point.

Tom Glavine (6-5) went up against Anthony Reyes (0-9) to an excited Shea Stadium crowd of 40,948. The Mets started off scoring right away, in the 1st inning Paul Loduca singled,& with two out, David Wright blasted a two run HR. It would be all the Mets needed in the 2-0 win.

Tom Glavine, gave up a 2nd inning single to Scott Rolen which would be the only hit he would allow. The rains came down & shortened the game after six innings. It was an official game as the Mets won it 2-0. In six innings, Glavine allowed no runs, on one hit, three strike outs & two walks for his 7th win of the year (4.12 ERA).

It was the 30th one hitter in Mets history. The latest one since the September 3rd, 2006 combined one hitter by; Orlando Hernandez, Roberto Hernandez, Darren Oliver & Guillermo Mota. He finished the year at 13-8 with a 4.45 ERA.

Mar 18, 2019

50th Anniversary of the 1969 Mets: Gil Hodges Cools Down Jerry Grote's Temper

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

Manager Gil Hodges led the Mets to an improbable 1969 World Series Championship. He was a stern disciplinarian who took no garbage, but also respected the players & let them prove themselves. His leadership is the players on that team said made them play to the best & above their abilities. In this example, Hodges spoke to a fiery tempered Jerry Grote & helped bring him down a notch.

Jerry Grote came from the Houston Colt 45's (later to be the Astros) for pitcher Tom Parsons in October 1965. Parsons was 2-12 with a 4.58 ERA in two seasons with the Mets (39 games). He never played a game for Houston at the major league level.

Grote noted for his defense, batted just .181 in Houston in 1964 with 3 HRs 24 RBIs. This was one of the Mets brilliant trades early on in their history. Grote would get to two World Series with the Mets, play on the team for 12 years, mostly as the main catcher in every season. 

He was voted onto the 1968 All Star team by the players ahead of Johnny Bench. Bench once said of Grote, if he were the catcher on my team I'd be playing third base. Grote became known as one of the best backstops in league defensively during his era.

At first Grote had a big temper problem. He would argue with umpires, batters, even his own pitchers. He would sometimes throw the ball back to the mound harder than the pitcher threw it to him. The first time he did it to Tom Seaver, Seaver called him to the mound & told him to never do it again.

Grote was tossed from games for arguing with umpires & making it bad for his pitchers by doing so. No way he was getting any close pitches his way. Mets Manager once said of Grote "if he ever learns to control his temper, he could be the best catcher in baseball".

Once during a1968 intra squad game in Spring Training, Grote even managed to argue with the umpire. Manager Gil Hodges called him into his office. Hodges told Grote he was not doing what he is capable of doing to help the pitcher.

Quotes- Gil Hodges: "There's a time to argue, if you think he's blown a call, tell him. Then you get over it. You have to be more concerned with the course of the game. You have to think about situations. There's more to catching than putting down one finger & here comes the fastball. You cant get all riled up."

Hodges warned Grote about throwing the ball back to his pitchers hard, when he was shook off on signs, stop it. At the plate, Hodges had Grote cut down on his swing & go the opposite field more often.

Grote also had the advantage of getting tips from Yogi Berra who was a coach with the Mets & later became his manager.

No doubt Hodges influence got Grote to calm down & be good at his position for another decade. Knowing how important pitching is, Grote may have been the first person in 1969 to call the Mets Miracle. When he saw the staff he was catching, he said " we can win it all". A bold statement in Spring of 1969.

Mar 13, 2019

Mid Sixties Mets Mets Outfielder: Al Luplow (1966-1967)

Alvin David Luplow was born on March 13, 1939 in Saginaw, Michigan. Luplow attended Michigan State University, where he played varsity football, as well as baseball for the Spartans. The five foot eleven Luplow, earned a reputation as a hard nose aggressive style player, making several minor league All Star teams. 

He was a right hand hitting, left hand throwing outfielder, originally signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1959. He batted .300 in the New York Penn. League, making it through the ranks of the minors the next year. In 1961 he batted .302 at AAA Salt Lake City, getting a promotion to the big leagues by the end of the season. 

 He spent five seasons with the Indians, mostly as a reserve outfielder. In 1962 he played in 97 games, batting .277 with 14 HRs 15 doubles & 45 RBIs (362 at bats). The next year he was a regular in the fifth place Indians outfield, next to Vic Davillio & Tito Francona. He played in 100 games, but his average fell off to .234 with just seven HRs, six doubles & 27 RBIs. 

 That year he made a spectacular game saving catch stealing a HR away from future Hall of Fame manager, Dick Williams. It happened at Fenway Park, in front of only 6000 fans on a weekday afternoon. Although it has been written about throughout baseball history, only those who were there on that day, actually saw the catch be made. No recorded video of the play exists. 

Luplow chased down Williams deep fly ball, he leaped in the air & caught the ball over the fence. He flipped over the right center field wall & landed in the Red Sox bullpen. He jumped up waving his glove to show he made the fantastic catch and let everyone know he was alright. He posted the best fielding % of any outfielder in the AL that season at .994%. 

He saw little action over the next two seasons, batting a dismal .111 in 19 games in 1964. Then in 1965, the Indians acquired New York born, Italian American All Star; Rocky Colavito and Luplow would see even less playing time. 

The fact he hit just .133 in 53 games, didn't help his cause. At the end of November 1965, his contract was purchased by the New York Mets. Al Luplow certainly is not be the most famous #18 to wear a Mets uniform, like Daryl Strawberry, but he was on board for the 1966 season. 

Luplow debuted as a Mets player in the second game of the 1966 season, as a defensive replacement in the Mets 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves. Luplow eventually made his way as one of the teams main outfielders by June. Al got himself into 111 games for the ’66 Mets, playing all three outfield positions & making pinch hit appearances. 

On June 13th he drew three walks in the second game of a double header, then went on a five game hit streak. On June 21st, he helped New York to a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals with a ground out RBI, scoring Chuch Hiller for the first run of the game. 

On July 1st he hit a HR off Pittsburghs Steve Blass, helping the Mets to a 4-3 win over the Pirates. Two days later he drove in the first run of the Mets 9-8 win over the same Pirates, as the Mets took a rare series victory from the Bucs. Luplow's big day came on the 4th of July 1966, in Philadelphia where he hit a two run HR off Ray Culp & the doubled home two more runs in the Mets 8-1 victory over the Phillies.

 On July 20th in San Francisco, Luplow hit a HR off Hall of Giants Famer Juan Marichal. In that same game, weak hitting short stop Roy McMillan hit his only HR of the year off Marichal as well. The game went to extra innings & was won by New York on a Ron Swoboda HR off Bill Henry in the top of the tenth inning. It was a big deal, because it was one of the few times that the Mets could beat the Giants, especially with Marichal on the mound. 

 In the first two weeks of August Luplow had two four game hit streaks with five multi hit games. On September 17th he hit two HRs in another game at San Francisco, although the Mets lost 7-4. On that last west coast road trip, he had six hits with three HRs & seven RBIs. On the 1966 season Luplow would bat .251 with seven HRs, nine doubles, 38 walks, a .331 on base % & 31 RBIs. 

In 1967 he began the year hitting safely in seven of nine games at the end of April, but he struggled after that. He was hitting just .205, with three HRs & nine RBIs, when the Mets sold his contract to the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 21st. Luplow hit only .184 the rest of the year playing in 55 games. In his seven year career he played in 481 games, batting .235 with 292 hits 33 HRs 34 doubles 125 RBIs & a .311 on base %. 

Retirement: After his baseball career, Al ran a tavern, worked as a real estate appraiser & coached baseball. He was generally known as an all around good guy & good tipper.

Passing: Al Luplow passed away in December 2017 at age 78.

Mar 9, 2019

The Wild Career of One Time Mets Pitcher: Dock Ellis (1979)

Dock Phillip Ellis was born March 11, 1945 in Los Angeles California. The six foot three right handed pitcher was an outspoken controversial figure during his baseball career & makes for some good stories as well. No matter what he certainly had some good years pitching as well. Ellis was originally signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1964 after winning double figures twice in the minor leagues he was up in the majors by 1968.

That year he was called up in June and did not make his first star until mid August finishing the year at 6-5 with a 2.50 ERA. By 1970 the Pirates were a dominant force in the National League. They won three straight divisional titles, one World Series & were defeated twice in the LCS by the Cincinnati Reds- Big Red Machine. In 1970 Ellis was 13-10, tops among the starters on his staff pitching 201 innings with 138 strike outs and a 3.21 ERA (7th in the NL).

On June 12th 1970 he was hanging out in his hometown of Los Angeles with his friends and decided to tale LSD. hen his girlfriend read the newspaper she found out Ellis was scheduled to pitch that night. He hopped a shuttle to nearby San Diego and prepared to pitch. By now the LSD took effect he was tripping, couldn't feel the baseball & couldn't see the batters clearly.

That night his catcher was Jerry May, who would play briefly for the 1973 Mets, & he helped out Dock by wearing reflective tape on his fingers. That night although he walked eight batters and was helped out by two fine defensive plays from Bill Mazeroski & Matty Alou, he threw a no hitter defeating the San Diego Padres.

Quotes: Dock Ellis- I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria. I was zeroed in on the (catcher's) glove, but I didn't hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters, and the bases were loaded two or three times. The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn't.

Sometimes, I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate. 

They say I had about three to four fielding chances. I remember diving out of the way of a ball I thought was a line drive. I jumped, but the ball wasn't hit hard and never reached me.

1970 Post Season: In the 1970 NLCS he matched zeros with the Cincinnati Reds Gary Nolan for nine innings in Game #1 at Three Rivers Stadium. The Reds went on to win the game in extra innings when reserve player Ty Cline triples & Pete Rose drove him in for the first of three Reds runs in the 10th inning.

In 1971 he had his finest season, after a 3-3 start he went on to win 13 straight games from May through late July. In that time he threw five complete games including a three hit shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals & an eight hit shutout against the New York Mets.

1971 All Star Game: He was the starting pitcher in the classic 1971 NL All Star Game, which featured 20 future Hall of Famers. Ellis first two innings went well, then in the third Oakland's Reggie Jackson blasted a mammoth HR over the Tiger Stadium roof hitting a transformer. 

Three batters later Frank Robinson hit another HR making it 4-0 American League. Ellis was the losing pitcher in the game & it would be last time the AL won an All Star game for another dozen years. 

On the season Ellis was 19-9 (5th most wins in the NL) with a 3,06 ERA, he struck out 137 batters in 226 innings pitched while walking 63 & throwing eleven complete games. 

In the NLCS he was the winning pitcher in Game #2 against the San Francisco Giants beating John Cumberland 9-4. In the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles, Ellis started Game #1 and was beaten by Dave McNally 5-3. 

Although the Pirates went on to win one of their two World Championships in seventies, Ellis did not pitch in anymore games that Series.

In 1972 he went 15-7 with a 2.70 ERA (9th in the NL). Ellis allowed the fewest HRs in the league per nine innings over that season & the next as well as averaging less than two walks per game. 

1971 Post Season: In the NLCS against the Big Red Machine he was the losing pitcher in Game #4 allowing three runs in five innings. 

The NLCS had drama for Ellis when he was given a hard time trying to get into the ballpark. After the situation heated up he was maced by security guards afer he had raised his fist to them. Ellis later claimed he was showing his World Series ring on his finger to prove he was a member of the Pirates. He vowed to hit every batter in the Reds line up in the future to retaliate against the Reds.

Sure enough in May 1974 he did just that, hitting Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, & Dan Driessan. Tony Perez avoided getting hit & drew a walk scoring a run. Ellis then threw at the head of Johnny Bench & was removed from the game.

Personal issues & arm issues contributed to Ellis falling to 12-14 in 1973 as the Pirates lost their three year NL Eastern Champion reign to the New York Mets. 

In 1974 he was 12-9 then falling to 8-9 the next year. In 1975 he was traded along with a young Willie Randolph & Ken Brett to the AL New York team for Doc Medich. Ellis won the Player of the Year award going 17-8 (8th most wins in the AL ) posting a 3.19 ERA. When he faced off against Reggie Jackson who was playing with Baltimore that season, he threw at his head hitting him in the face in retaliation for the 1971 All Star Game HR.

In the ALCS he allowed three first inning runs to the Kansas City Royals in Game #4 but settled in to roll along for eight innings earning the 5-3 win.

In the World Series the Red got their revenge clobbering him for four runs on seven hits in just 3.1 inning sof work in Game # on their way to the four game series sweep.

In 1977 he was Traded with Larry Murray and Marty Perez to the Oakland A's for Mike Torrez. Then after seven games his contact was purchased by the Texas Rangers.

He went 10--6 in 1977 at Texas as the Rangers finished up in second place. In the following season he was 9-7. Ellis had more drama in Texas when he got the players to revolt against manager Billy Hunter. He said "Hunter may be Hitler but he ain't making no lampshade out of me". On the June 15th trade deadline, Ellis was sent to the New York Mets for Bob Myrick & Mike Bruhert.

Ellis made his Mets debut in Houston pitching six innings avowing just two runs but earned no decision in the Mets 3-2 loss. His next start was at Three Rivers Stadium against his old Pirates team mates who were on their way to another World Series title. 

Ellis again earned no decsion in the Mets 12-9 win. He had pitched six innings allowing just two earned runs. In his next two starts he was hit hard allowing over five runs both times, taking losses to the Phillies & Padres. 

On June 12th he beat the reigning NL Champion Dodgers at Shea Stadium pitching into the 8th inning. On July 27th Ellis pitched a complete game but lost to the Chicago Cubs 4-2. In August he would go 1-3 having a horrible outing on the 1st, giving up seven runs on ten hits to the Phillies in just three innings.

He beat the Expos in Montreal & then beat the Pirates pitching three innings of relief on September 8th. On September 19th he made his last appearance with the Mets pitching two innings of scoreless relief. 

Later that week his contract was purchased by the Pirates & he ended his career in Pittsburgh playing in three games seeing no post season action. In his brief two months Mets career Ellis was 3-7 with a 5.77 ERA in 17 appearances.

In his 12 season career he was 138-119 with 1136 strike outs 674 walks a 3.46 ERA pitching in 1430 innings over 345 games with 14 shut outs & 71 complete games. 
After his playing career the LSD story came out in 1984. Prioir to that the rest of the baseball world didn't know he was tripping during the 1970 no hitter. 

Passing: He became a drug counselor in the Los Angeles area but passed away in 2008 from cirrhosis of the liver. He was 63 years old.

Mar 7, 2019

Tom Seaver To Retire From Public Life

It is sad to report that Mets legend, Tom Seaver has been diagnosed with dementia & will be retiring from public life. He is not expected to be attending any of the 50th Anniversary celebrations for the 1969 Mets.

In a statement the Mets said- “We’ve been in contact with the Seaver family and are aware of his health situation,” the Mets. Although he’s unable to attend the ’69 Anniversary, we are planning to honor him in special ways and have included his family in our plans. Our thought are with Tom, Nancy and the entire Seaver family.”

Mar 6, 2019

Mets Third Base Prospect: David Thompson (2019)

David Thompson was born August 28th, 1993 in Miami Florida. The six foot two, third baseman broke a Florida high school HR record originally set by Alex Rodriguez, when he bashed 55 HRs. Thompson was also a star football, quarterback at Westminster Christian High School, as well as a playing on the basketball team. 

He was drafted in the 38th round of the 2012 MLB draft but did not sign, instead opting to go to college.

He then attended the University of Miami, where he was to play both football & baseball, but eventually committed to the baseball career. He was drafted by the New York Mets in the fourth round of the 2015 draft, the 119th pick overall. 

After playing in the College World Series he reported to A ball Brooklyn Cyclones, but did not hit too well, blaming it due to being exhausted from the College World Series & recovering from a bout with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome the previous year .

The next year he hit better, 11 HRs 34 doubles & 95 RBIs while batting .280, at St. Lucie & Columbia combined. He was promoted to AA Binghamton where he led the second place Rumble Ponies with 16 HRs 29 doubles & 68 RBIs. He did strike out 92 times, third most on the club & he is not known for the best discipline at the plate. 

The Mets invited him to Spring Training 2018 where he impressed hitting .348. A promising year at AAA Las Vegas was set back when he suffered a hairline fracture in his left hand after getting hit by a pitch. He played in just 22 games in 2018 for Las Vegas with 1 HR.

He was back in Mets Spring Training in 2019 donning the uniform #87. In the second Spring Game of the year he surprised everyone bashing a three run HR to tie the game up against the Houston Astros. 

Centerfieldmaz was at the game & the joke with us Mets fans in the first two rows behind home plate was "the #87 era has begun"!

In seven Spring games he had two hits up to that point, both were HRs, both against the Houston Astros. The third baseman has power but all the Mets depth at third base all of a sudden will probably keep him at AAA in 2019, unless he becomes a force to be reckoned with.

Mets Add Jessica Mendoza - John Franco & Al Leiter As Baseball Ops Advisors

The New York Mets have announced that Jessica Mendoza will serve as a baseball operations advisor in the front office.

Quotes- Brodie Van Wagenen: "I want an outside the box hire. I've been a believer that you need to get new voices & fresh perspectives in any room, especially when making decisions. Jessica has a very high baseball IQ she has aptitude to learn anything & she knows the game."

Mendoza & Van Wagenen are both Stanford alumni, she supported him in his move from agent to GM & his wife Molly, along with Mendoza serve on the Women's Sports Foundations board of Trustees

Jessica Ofelia Mendoza was born November 11th, 1980 in Camarillo, California. Her father played football at Fresno State for four Years. The five foot nine, star athlete excelled in both baseball & basketball, winning "Female Athlete of the Year Awards" in her junior & senior high school years.

She attended Stanford University where she was the Cardinals' super star player. She holds school records for hits, HRs, stolen bases, runs scored, slugging & batting average. She won three Pac 10 Awards as well as three Stanford Player of Year Awards. Academically, she holds a Masters Degree in education & Social Sciences.

Mendoza was a two time outfielder for Team USA in the Olympics. Her team won the Gold medal in  the 2004 Athens Games & then a Silver Medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. She was also a player in the Women's softball, National Fast Pitch League.

In 2004 she began working on ESPN's Baseball Tonight. By 2015 she became the first female broadcaster to call the College World Series as well as the first Female to call an MLB Post Season Game that October. In 2016 she joined the crew for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.

The Mets have also announced that former Mets pitchers, John Franco & Al Leiter will also join the organization as baseball operations advisors.

Quotes- Brodie Van Wagenen: “We’re really excited to have both. John has been with the organization for a long time. He’s been very active in community service. But to be able to bring him into the fold & have him become an advisor in the baseball operations department, we’re excited about. And Al has a unique energy. For those of you who have met Al in the past, he brings an energy every day.”

The Mets also added David Wright to the front Office this past winter. Hopefully these successful fan favorites of the past will bring nostalgia & knowledge to the team.

Mar 1, 2019

50th Anniversary of the 1969 Mets: Tips From Manager Gil Hodges

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

In 1969 Gil Hodges brought the Mets from being a joke team to World Series Champions. He made the amazing Mets the Amazing Mets with a capitol A.

Here are some tips on managing from Gil Hodges: "Treat everyman on your team alike. Play no favorites. They are all here for the same purpose: to do what they can to win. Try To remember that. Also try to remember that once you make rules for conduct for your ball club, they apply to every man on the club."

"You will be tested. managers always are. Be ready for it. Be firm but be fair and be that to the No. 25 man on your team just as much as the No. 1 man."

As for the second guesser, Gil once said " There is one thing the second guesser does not take into consideration, the man in the stands, the man in the press box, is not always on top of the situation".