Jun 30, 2019

New York Giants Catching Pioneer: Roger Bresnahan (1902-1908)

Roger Philip Bresnahan was born on June 11, 1879 in Toledo Ohio. The fiery player was known as “The Duke of Tralee” because of his Irish ancestry.

The five foot, nine inch two hundred pound right handed began his career at the turn of the 20th Century as a pitcher. He pitched for the Washington Senators (1897) & Baltimore Orioles (1901).

By 1902 he jumped over to the National League with John McGraw & Iron Joe McGinnity to the New York Giants . He would end up playing all infield & outfield positions in New York at one time or another. In New York for John McGraw's Giants, Brenahan became a pioneer catcher, introducing catching gear at the MLB level.

He is credited with inventing shin guards & being the first catcher to use them in an actual game. He also created a leather type batting helmet after he suffered a severe beaning in 1908.

These protective items were slowly being introduced in college play in the early 20th Century, but Bresnahan was the first to use them at the major league level. Because he was a first at doing something different, he was taunted by opposing players in those days. But it didn’t bother Bresnahan.

Giants Manager & friend John McGraw called him one of the best catchers in the game, and one of the toughest to steal on. He threw out 42% of would be base stealer every season he played in New York (1902-1908) & led the league in that category in 1905, nailing 55%. He was second in the league in turning double plays, as well as in passed balls two times each.

He was lucky enough to be a battery mate of the great Christy Mathewson for many of his pitching feats. Even though he was a catcher his abilities made him quick enough to bat in the leadoff spot, during an age when speed was most important over power. He would hit over .300 twice; batting .350 in 1903 (fourth in the NL) with a .443 on base % (second in the NL). That year he also stole 34 bases, hit 30 doubles, eight triples, 4 HRs & drove in 55 runs.

In the Giants 1905 Championship season he batted .302 (tenth in the NL) with a .411 on base %. He hit 18 doubles drove in 46 runs & stole 11 bases in 104 games.

Post Season: In was in that World Series against Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's, that he made history, being the catcher behind the plate when Christy Mathewson tossed three World Series shut outs in the same week.

In Game #1 Bresnahan scored the Series first run, crossing the plate on a Turkey Mike Donlin single. Bresnahan had two hits & drove in a run in the top of the 9th inning, off Eddie Plank in the Giants 3-0 win. Overall he hit .315 (5-16) in his only World Series Championship.

He hit over .280 five times in his six & a half years with the Giants, was among the league’s top ten batting leaders, three times & the top five in on base % six times in his career. He continued to have a great ability to get on base, by any means he could.

In 1906 he led the league in hit by pitches (15) while posting a .419 on base %. (Second in the NL). In 1908 he led the NL in walks (83) while batting .283 & posting a .401 on base %. (third in the league).

In 1909 the Giants traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals where he played for four years, mostly in a backup role. In 1913 he went to play for the Chicago Cubs, retiring after the 1915 season.

In his 17 year career he batted .279 with 1252 hits 26 HRs 530 RBIs 218 doubles 71 triples a .386 on base % & 212 stolen bases. Behind the plate he caught 974 games, throwing out 44% of would be base stealers, posting a .965 fielding %. He made 1995 assists (25th all time) turning 96 double plays (65th all time) while committing 167 errors (60th all time).

Hero: On July 11th, 1911 the Cardinals were on a train to Boston, when the train derailed & fell eighteen feet off an embankment, near Bridgeport, Connecticut. Although 14 people were killed, Bresnahan & his team mates survived, helping rescue some of the injured survivors. Afterward they also helped to remove some of the dead bodies. Before the train ride began it was Bresnahan that requested a change in location of Pullman cars, where the Cardinals were to be seated. At the time he was the team’s player manager (1909-1912).

Retirement: He would also managed the Chicago Cubs for two seasons while still being an active player. In 1916 he returned to his hometown of Toledo Ohio & purchased a baseball team that later became the legendary, Toledo Mud hens.

In 1925 he returned to New York and coached the New York Giants for three more seasons under his former manager John McGraw. Bresnahan passed away from a heart attack at his home in Toledo, Ohio in 1944 at age 65.

Honors: He is considered one of the greatest catchers of all time, & was enshrined at Cooperstown in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945.

Jun 28, 2019

Early Seventies Italian / American Mets Third Baseman: Bob Aspromonte (1971)

Robert Thomas Aspromonte was born to a Italian American family, on June 19, 1938 in Brooklyn, New York.

He would go to Lafayette High School, the same school that produced Sandy Koufax, John Franco, Pete Falcone & his older brother Ken who also played in the major leagues. The versatile Bob Aspromonte would play all infield and outfield positions at some point in his career.

He was signed by his hometown Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 as an amateur free agent. He played in only one game there in 1956 due to league rules for bonus babies. He played un he minor leagues for foir seasons batting .329 at AAA St. Paul in 1960. He was called up to the Dodgers now relocated in Los Angeles batting .180 in 55 at bats. In 1961 he was selected by the Houston Colt 45s in the 1961 expansion draft becoming their regular third baseman for the next seven seasons.

He would play in at least 125 games every year batting .280 or better twice. In his first full season (1962) he hit 11 HRs with 18 doubles & 59 RBIs. At third base he posted a .967 fielding % (second in the NL) playing in 142 games (third in the NL) making 150 put outs (third in the NL). In 1964 he led all NL third baseman in fielding (.973 %) while batting .280 with career highs in HRs (12) & RBIs (69).

Defensively, Aspromonte was a fine third baseman coming in the top five in put outs & assists from 1962 through 1966. He had another good season in Houston in 1967, batting .294, hitting 24 doubles with 6 HRs, 5 triples & 58 RBIs. The following year he began to play more games in the outfield.  

In an amazing true story; Bob Aspromonte became a hero to a young Arkansas child that had been blinded after being struck by lightning. Aspromonte visited the child while he was at a Houston hospital, promising to hit him a HR. Sure enough Bob went out and did hit a HR for the boy, a grand slam none the less. He came back to visit the boy again, inviting him & his family to game at the Astrodome. Sure enough Bob hit another grand slam HR, with the boy in attendance after he had gained his eye sight back. Aspromonte only hit 60 lifetime HRs in 4369 at bats over a span of 1324 games.  

In 1969 he was traded to the Atlanta Braves, hitting .253 in a utility role behind third baseman Clete Boyer & outfielders Hank Aaron, Rico Carty & Felipe Alou. In the 1969 NLCS against the Mets, he appeared in three games going 0-3 against Met pitching. In December 1970 he was traded to the New York Mets for pitcher Ron Herbel who went 2-2, with a 1.38 ERA for the 1970 Mets. Aspromonte was yet another player, the Mets organization was hoping would become the teams long term third baseman.  

In 1971 Aspro would be the Mets answer for most of that season, taking the majority of playing time away from Wayne Garrett. Aspro debuted on Opening Day at Shea Stadium getting a base hit with an RBI in the Mets 4-2 win over the Montreal Expos. Two days later he drove in another run and had six RBIs at the end of April. On May 2nd he first singled and drove in a run putting the Mets ahead at the Astrodome in Houston. Then in the top of the 10th inning he hit a triple off George Culver breaking the 5-5 tie leading the Mets to a 6-5 win.

Two days later at Shea Stadium he hit a HR off Chicago's Milt Papas helping Nolan Ryan to a 2-1 Mets win. From there Aspromonte had a rare power surge, hitting five HRs over the next two weeks. On May 14th he hit a three run shot off the Pirates Bob Moose in Pittsburgh in an 8-2 Mets win. On May 18th although the Mets lost to the Braves 8-6 in Atlanta, Aspro hit two HRs in the game both solo shots. He closed out the month with two more games where he had multiple RBIs.

On May 25th he singled off Philadelphia's Jim Bunning in the bottom of the 9th inning scoring Don Clendenon with the games winning run. On June 1st he was batting .270 but struggled from there, only driving in three runs the whole month as his average fell to .232.

During a batting slump that season he said "I heard of guys going 0-15 but I was 0 for July". He sawe less playing time as the year went on. His last big moment came on September 23rd at Wrigley Field in Chicago. In the 8th inning he singled with the bases loaded scoring Cleon Jones & Mike Jorgensen with what would be the winning runs breaking a 3-3 tie.

In 104 games he batted .225 with 5 HRs 9 doubles a .285 on base % & 33 RBIs. Defensively he led all NL third baseman in fielding percentage in 1971 (.965%) making eight errors in 229 chances, while turning ten double plays in 97 games at the position. Aspromonte was released at the end of the season when the Mets acquired Jim Fregosi, in the disastrous Nolan Ryan trade.  

Aspromonte chose to retire at the young age of 33, finishing a 12 year career with a .252 career average, 1103 hits 60 HRs 135 doubles a .308 on base % & 457 RBIs in 1324 games played. At third base he posted a .960 fielding % (61st best all time) with 1025 put outs (85th all time) turning 120 double plays in 1094 games at the hot corner (85th most all time). At the time of his retirement, he was the last active Brooklyn Dodger player still active.  

His older brother Ken Aspromonte would play for six teams over a seven year career in the late fifties/early sixties. He posted a .969 fielding percentage as a middle infielder batting .249, lifetime with 349 hits 19 HRs 69 doubles & 124 RBIs. He then managed the Cleveland Indians for the 1972-1973 seasons.  

Retirement: Bob Lost vision in one of his eyes, during a freak accident while he was helping a friend jump start his car. He has operated a Coors Beer distributorship for years in Houston, Texas & still resides in the area. In 2006 he was voted on to the Texas baseball Hall of Fame committee.

Jun 27, 2019

41 Tom Seaver Way Officially Named

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

June 27th 2019: Today the New York Mets & the City of New York Officially named 126th St along the Right field side of Citi Field, Tom Seaver Way. The official address of Citi Field is now also a tribute to Seaver, 41 Seaver Way.

Seaver who has now retired from public life, did not attend, neither did his wife Nancy who stayed with Tom back in California, where they have wine vineyards. But their daughters & grand children did make it tp the event.

Quotes- Sara Seaver: "We are so happy to be part of this ceremony & our father is honored & humbled to be memorialized in these ways, we thank the Amazing fans for their outpouring of love & support".

Seaver has had his uniform #41 retired by the Mets * did have a gate named after him at Citi Field. There are finally plans for a long overdue Tom Seaver statue outside Citi Field by the HR Apple as well.

from centerfield: It's really ashamed that it took this long for an honor like this to be given to Seaver, A statue should have been put up long ago like many other ballparks do in honor of their greatest players. 

As usual the Wilpons failed, at this point poor Tom can't even enjoy the honor. There was Jackie Robinson Rotunda, a Dodger player but never anything on a grand scale for Seaver, the greatest Met of all time. These clowns need to sell this club or the team will never be a champion. As a buisness owner if you've only come on top once in 40 years you failed!!!!

Legendary Italian / American Umpire: Ron Luciano (1969-1980)

Ronald Michael Luciano was born June 28, 1937 in Endicott, New York. Endicott is a village in Broome County, located in the Binghamton area. 

He attended Syracuse University and was a standout offensive line man, getting drafted in 1959 by the Detroit Lions, as a third round pick. His football career didn’t work out and Luciano turned to baseball.

He began his professional umpire career in the Florida State League in 1966. By 1969 he was promoted to the American League. He became a celebrity Umpire with his flamboyant style over the next 11 years.

He would shoot players out with his fingers, , shout out or safe calls repeatedly, make multiple signals of safe calls with his arms waving, stand on one leg making out calls, and many other theatrical episodes. 

He never backed down from confrontations, especially with Orioles manager Earl Weaver. They had legendary arguments, and once through Earl out of both ends of a double header. Their hatred for each other was so intense the league made sure Luciano didn’t cover any more Orioles games. 

After all his arguments he had with manager Billy Martin, Luciano paid homage to him by naming his dog after him.

Among his most memorable games was calling balls & strikes for Nolan Ryan’s second career no hitter in July of 1973. In that game Ryan struckouk 17 Tigers, & in the 9th inning first baseman Norm Cash came to bat with a piano leg. Luciano as well as Ryan laughed, & forced him to go get a real bat. 

He got to umpire in the 1973 All Star Game, the 1971, 1975 & 1978 ALCS Series’ & the 1974 World Series.

In the ’74 Series the A’s beat the Dodgers in five games, so Luciano didn’t get a chance to work behind the plate. He appears in the 1974 World Series highlight film, umpiring third base & reacting to Tommy Lasorda’ nonstop chatter. Lasorda was equipped with a mic by MLB for the film. 

Luciano was featured in the pre game show of the 1975 All Star game; doing an interview with Joe Garagiola. There he revealed he was an avid bird watcher, loving the peace & quiet of the woods, away from the ballpark.

Luciano was a good umpire who really loved the game. He was possibly the only umpire in history that some of the fans actually paid to come see. He retired from umpiring in 1980 .

He said of his time in baseball: "When I started, the game was played by nine tough competitors on grass, in graceful ball parks. But while I was trying to answer the daily quiz Quiz-O-Gram on the exploding scoreboard, a revolution was taking place around me. By the time I finished, there were ten men on each side, the game was played indoors on plastic, and I had to spend half my time watching out for a man dressed in a chicken suit who kept trying to kiss me."

He briefly worked for NBC as a broadcaster and then became a bestselling author.

He authored four witty baseball books with stories from his umpiring days: The Umpire Strikes Back, Strike Two, The Fall of the Roman Umpire, & Remembrance of Swings Past. The books sold well, some making the best sellers list. I remember reading The Umpire Strikes back as a teenager, one of the better baseball books in my huge library still.

In that book Luciano revealed many secrets, like how umpires will rush a game by calling more strikes if the game is a blow out, or if there is flight to catch or even dinner reservations. He said he never called a balk because he never understood the rule.

 He said any umpire who says he never missed a call is ..well an umpire & being an umpire is like being king, it prepares you for nothing.

Tragically in 1995, Luciano committed suicide at his home in Endicott. He had a plastic pipe, set up from his exhaust pipe into his car window, running as he sat in it in the garage. He was 57 years old, and survived by his mother & two sisters.

1974 World Series Dodgers vs. A's

Jun 23, 2019

50th Anniversary of 1969 Mets: Mets Sweep Twi-Night Double Header As Phillie Slugger Dick Allen Gets Suspended

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

Tuesday, June 24th 1969: The Philadelphia Phillies (26-38) arrive in town for a twi-night double header at Shea Stadium. The Phils managed by Bob Skinner who was a long time outfielder with the Pittsburgh Pirates, a member of their 1960 World's Championship team, also was a member of the 1964 Cardinals World Championship team. The Phillies let him go later in the 1969 season.

 Drama: In the late morning, controversial Phillie slugger Ritchie Allen (soon to be known as Dick Allen) decided he wanted to go to Monmouth Park, New Jersey to bet on a horse race. 

Allen made the 72 mile trip from Shea to the racetrack & played the ponies. He made his way back to Queens, but arrived at the ballpark after the game had already started, infuriating his manager. 

Some in the Phillies organization believed he forgot there was double header, thinking it was just an ordinary night game start. Others claim he just didn’t care. According to Allen himself, he said he got stuck in the New York metropolitan area traffic. In the end he was fined by Skinner and suspended until the middle of July.

The Phils and Dick Allen had been battling each other all year. Most recently he had already been late for two games that same month. But there were plenty of other issues too. In all fairness to Allen he was never a welcomed man in Philadelphia.

He had been booed mercifully when he struggled early on in his career. Things got so bad, he had to wear a batting helmet on the field because the fans would throw objects at him. 

He actually answered them, back by writing BOO in the dirt with his foot, around first base while playing at the position. (After seven seasons in Philly, Allen moved on to St. Louis (1970) & then Los Angeles (1971) Eventually to the Chicago White Sox (1972-1974) winning two AL HR titles, an RBI title & the 1972 MVP Award.)

As for the double header at Shea Stadium; Gil Hodges Mets (37-28) were in second place, five games back of the Chicago Cubs. In the first game they sent Tom Seaver (11-2) to the mound facing the fifth place Phils' Woodie Fryman (6-3). 

Starting Lineups

Tom Seaver went on to have another outstanding game. Tom Terrific would throw a complete game seven hitter, striking out nine batters & walking just one. The victory got him to an 11-3 record on the season, one of baseballs best, with one of the leagues best ERA's at 2.53 to go along with it, on his way to his first Cy Young Award. 

In the home 3rd, Al Weis singled & was moved over on a Seaver bunt. Bud Harrelson then tripled scoring Weis making it 1-0. It was Harrelson's third triple of the year, he would have six on the season. 

The leagues leading hitter (.346), Cleon Jones then brought in Harrelson with a base hit. It was all New York needed for the 2-1 win.

Second Game: In the nightcap Mets Manager Gil Hodges sent Jim McAndrew (0-2) to  the mound to face Philadelphia's Jerry Johnson (3-6). 

Starting Lineups

Jim McAndrew had one of his best outings of the year, shutting out the Phillies for eight innings, allowing just two hits & not issuing a walk. 

Ron Taylor came on in the 9th inning & recorded his sixth save, as the Mets easily swept the twin bill.

As for the Mets offense; In the bottom of the 4th, Tommie Agee reached on an error & Kenny Boswell singled.
Art Shamsky & Wayne Garrett both singled driving in runs making it 2-0. Ed Kranepool’s sac fly drove in Shamsky making it 3-0. The pitcher, Jim McAndrew then drew a walk with the bases loaded for the 4th run. 

In the home 8th; Tommie Agee hit his 11th HR of the year, a solo shot capping off the 5-0 win. 

Trivia: Tommie Agee would lead all batters with 14 HRs at Shea Stadium in 1969.

1966 Mets First Round Draft Pick Who Never Played In Major Leagues: Steve Chilcott (1966)

Steven Lynn Chilcott was born on September 23rd 1948 in Lancaster, California. The five foot eleven catcher/ first baseman was the New York Mets number one draft pick in the 1966 amateur draft. The Mets chose Chilcott over outfielder Reggie Jackson. Jackson was chosen by the Kansas City Athletics & went on to a Hall of Fame career.

As for Chilcott he is the only position player to be chosen first overall & never make the major leagues. Chilcott was a star athlete at Antelope Valley high school, playing both baseball & football. He attracted a lot of attention & the scouts came out to see him. Among those coming out to watch him play, was Mets manager Casey. Chilcott remembered that the day Stengel came out, hundreds of more people came just to see him.

Stengel & the Mets were convinced that Chilcott was their man; they gave him a $75,000 signing bonus to start. It made sense, that Stengel picked the catcher, since he had spoken of how important catchers were & his most prized player during his heyday was his own catcher Yogi Berra.

Also at the time there was some question about Reggie Jackson’s attitude & character. Many baseball people at the time did believe that both players were destined to solid MLB careers.

In 1967 Chilcott batted .290 at A ball with the Winter Haven Mets, with 290 at bats he did not qualify for the batting race in which he would have come in fourth.

In a game that season, he was leading off second base, when a pitcher attempted to pick him off. He dove into second base landing on his right shoulder. It was then he suffered an injury that he could never fully recover from & it ruined his once promising career. The next year he was promoted to Visalia but hit just .189.

In 1969 as the Mets were winning the World Series, Chilcott only played in seven games at Visalia, after undergoing surgery. He also suffered a broken hand as well as chronic back issues the rest of his career. In 1970 he went from AA Memphis & got to AAA with the Tidewater Tides where he hit 11 HRs in 199 at bats. The next year he hit .265 with 17 HRs & 68 RBIs, striking out 95 times in 345 at bats.

The Mets gave up on him & he played his final season in 1972 in the AL New York’s club minor leagues for 24 games. After 337 minor league games his career was over by age 24, batting .248 with 39 HRs & 153 RBIs.

Retirement: After his playing days, he went back to school & then worked as a temporary fire fighter in Santa Barbara. He then went into the construction business as a full time contractor.

Jun 21, 2019

50th Anniversary of the 1969 Mets: Mets Sweep A Twin Bill From Reigning NL Champs

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

Sunday June 22nd 1969: 55,862 fans came out to Shea Stadium for an matinee double header, on a beautiful sunny afternoon for baseball. 

Today was a special day, as Mets fans were ecstatic that the Mets (34-28) were 3 1/2 games ahead of the reigning NL Champions St. Louis Cards (32-32). The Cards were in fact NL Champions for the past two seasons winning a World Series in 1967.

Quotes: When manager Red Schoendienst was asked if his teams difficulties could be related to complacency of being a two time champion, he said "No I don't think so. They've been trying hard. They feel they can win this thing. They've been hustling. It's just for a while we weren't able to put it all together".

Starting Lineups

Todays pitchers were Cardinals Hall of Famer, Steve Carlton going up against New York's Gary Gentry. In the 1st inning, Lou Brock singled & advanced to third, then Brooklyn native Joe Torre drove in the Cards first run with a base hit.

In the 3rd inning, Carlton was shaky, he gave up four straight Mets singles. Bud Harrelson & Tommie Agee, were first to get on. Then Cleon Jones who was batting .342 at the time, singled & drove in the first run. Next up the newest Met,  Don Clendenon singled driving in his first Mets run. It was a 2-1 game. 

The Mets struck again in the bottom of the 4th, the bottom of the order Jerry Grote & Al Weis both got aboard with base hits. Pitcher Gary Gentry bunted but the lead runner was erased. 

Bud Harrelson then singled bringing in another run & knocking Carlton out of the game. Chuck Taylor came on to pitch. Tommie Agee then singled bringing in Gentry to make it 5-1 Mets.

Gary Gentry went on to earn his seventh win of the year (7-5). He struck out six, allowed one run on six hits with four walks. Cal Koonce came on in relief in the 9th inning to earn his fourth save of the year. The Nets won the first game 5-1.

Nightcap: The second game would be a real classic pitchers' duel. The Mets sent Jerry Koosman to the mound To face off against the Cards Mike Torrez.

Starting Lineups

The game was scoreless until the 7th inning, as both pitchers had their games in control. In the Mets 7th, with two outs Bud Harrelson tripled to centerfield. As the crowd began to stir up some excitement, Tommie Agee delivered a double, also to center. Harrelson scored in what was the only run of the game.

Koosman would go the distance, allowing seven hits with four walks. He struck out nine Cards in his shut out. Koosman would record six shut outs in 1969, fourth most in the NL. The sweep would put the Mets just five games behind the Chicago Cubs as the NL Champion Cards fell further back.