Jul 27, 2019

Concert Review: Iron Maiden Legacy of the Beast Tour- Barclays Center NY 7/26/19

Iron Maiden took its "Legacy of the Beast Tour" to New York City for two incredible nights at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. The opening night was another amazing theatrical experience filled with powerful music & an energy that never stopped.

The tour began in Europe in May of 2018, going through mid August 2018. It picked up again for the North American dates, on July 18th 2019 in Sunrise Florida, just outside of Fort Lauderdale. 

Iron Maiden drummer, Nico McBrain lives in Boca Raton & has a small restaurant called "Rock & Roll Ribs" in Coral Springs, Florida. Excellent food with lots of Maiden paraphernalia around. They also serve imported, Iron Maiden Trooper beer in bottles as well as the Light Brigade version. A few of the Maiden guys spend lots of time in South Florida as well.

If you don't know Iron Maiden or have never been to one of their shows you don't get it & don't understand. This is a mega band with an incredible loyal fan base around the world. 

They have been around since 1980, released 16 studio albums & have sold somewhere between 90 & 100 million albums world wide. With a history of very little, if any, radio airplay or media attention, they are still one of Heavy Metal (as well as Rocks) biggest artists. Iron Maiden have performed in 59 countries & have played well over 2100 concerts. The show still goes on selling out world wide. My first Iron Maiden concert was my first concert ever, 1983 on the World Piece Tour at Madison Square Garden. My friend Kevin was with me & we were together for this one 36 years later?! This was my 7th Iron Maiden show.

The bands core line up always remains intact, with founder Steve Harris on bass, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith & Janick Gers on guitars. Nico McBrain on drums & the multi talented Bruce Dickinson on the vocals. 

It's really amazing how these guys can keep up the energy for two plus hours while delivering thundering heavy metal rock & roll. The guys now in their sixties never wear down. The crowd also hangs in there, trying to keep up with the band- can you imagine? The crowd, now mixed in ages from us original Maiden veterans to a younger generation, even some folks there with their small kids.

An Iron Maiden show is a theatrical experience, this production was Maiden's most elaborate to date. With multiple backdrops changing for nearly every song. Most of the giant art work featured their mascot Eddie in different scenarios.

Singer, Bruce Dickinson is the perfect front man, leaping around the large stage, changing costumes, as well as identities throughout his performance. He portrays a pilot, a soldier firing a musket, a prisoner in a cage, a frightened man with a mask & top hat holding a lantern for "Fear of the Dark". He swings swords, shoots fire from the hip, dons a black cape holding a lighted cross & is always in charge of the audience. He raises his arms & says "Scream for me Brooklyn"- they respond to the command.

This show is somewhat of a greatest hits if you will, since there is no new album to promote. The band picked from its back catalog focusing on their classic period.

The show opens with "Aces High" (a song about an air raid during the Battle of Britain from the pilots perspective)

 A giant WWII  Spitfire plane hangs above the stage, "rolling, turning, diving". Bruce Dickinson belts out the lyrics, while donning an aviator hat with googles, similar to a WWII pilot. This was one of two songs from the 1984 "Power Slave" album. The other- "2 Minutes to Midnight" was the third song of the night, another real popular crowd favorite.

The most songs from any album came from 1983's "Piece of Mind" album, first there were incredible versions of  "Where Eagles Dare" (based on the 1968 Clint Eastwood movie) the second song of the night, keeping the incredible energy up from Aces High, what a start to a show. Also from "Piece of Min" was "Revelations" where the stage was transformed to almost gothic cathedral setting, with fire lit chandeliers & stained glass, featuring different Eddies.

Then the "Piece of Mind" classics, "Trooper" & "Flight of Icarus". "Trooper"(song about the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War from a dying soldiers perspective) is where the crowd gets to see the Iron Maiden Mascot- Eddie. 

A giant Eddie wearing a British Military uniform, complete with boots & back pack, prances on stage taunting Dickinson. He then has a sword fight (in good fun) with Bruce Dickinson. Dickinson fires a musket at Eddie & waves a giant US Flag during the song as the crowd screams along the "wo oh oh oh" parts!

For "Flight of Icarus" (a song loosely based on Greek Mythology character- Icarus who while imprisoned with his father, makes wax wings to escape but flies too close to the sun). This song is super special because prior to the "Legacy Tour" starting in 2018 it had not been played in concert since 1986. The ever theatrical Dickinson sings the song (with lots of fan participation) while holding two flame blowing guns at his hip. A promo video of the tour features this song.

Second most used album of the night, was three songs from the classic "Number of the Beast" album. Of course it's title track, maybe their most popular song (?) as pyro & red flames turned Barclays into the fiery pits of hell, as everyone sang along to the 666 lyrics. 

Also from "Beast" the legendary "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (which some consider one of Metals greatest songs) returns to the set list, after being dropped for the second leg of the Book of Souls Tour in 2017. This song about a prisoner awaiting to be hung at the Gallows pole, features Dickinson singing in a cage with a swing noose behind him awaiting to be hung.

The show closed with yet another Maiden classic, third song from "Beast", the galloping "Run to the Hills" (a song about European settlers & Indians battles in the old west). At this point the crowd was euphoric.

Before the encore, it is a tradition they play their title song Iron Maiden, a song that has been played at every concert since the release in 1980.

Maiden are certainly not a thrash band, but this song is early thrash metal & hold up to anything in that genre. This song featured a tremendous gigantic Eddie head appearing behind the band above the drum kit. Up the Irons! 

- Iron Maiden Set List 7/26/19

Aces High
Where Eagles Dare
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Clansman
The Trooper
For the Greater Good of God
The Wicker Man
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast
Iron Maiden

The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Run to the Hills

Jul 25, 2019

50th Anniversary of the 1969 Mets: Seaver Recovers After Two Straight Losses

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

Saturday July 26th 1969: The Mets (55-40) five games back of the Chicago Cubs at this point, hosted the Cincinnati Reds (49-44) in a Saturday matinee at Shea Stadium. 45,074 (25,259 PAID) fans came out to see Tom Seaver take on Cincinnati's  Tony Cloninger.  These Reds only featured two players of their classic Big Red Machine line up of the 70's.

Seaver had just come off of two straight losses, a very rare thing for him in 1969, it only happened twice. A sore arm had him beat up in Montreal in his last start & a 1-0 heart breaking loss to Bill Hands in Chicago before that one. The 1969 Cy Young Winner losing three straight games in 1969, ain't gonna happen.

Starting Lineups

Today, this Seaver still wasn't his best but he was good enough for a complete game victory. Over nine innings, he scattered eight hits & two walks but allowed just two runs. He struck out eight as he earned his 15th victory of the year, tying him with Phil Niekro of the Atlanta Braves & Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers for most in MLB. His 2.56 ERA was also one of the leagues best.

In the bottom of the 4th, with one out, Mets second baseman Ken Boswell singled then stole second base, his sixth steal of the year. Art Shasky singled to bring him home for the first run.

In the top of the 5th, Lee May walked then was moved over on a bunt. After a single by Woody Woodward, the catcher Danny Breedan bunted for a base hit that scored May to tie it up.

In the home 5th, the first two Mets were erased, then Bud Harrelson singled to left field. The pitcher, Seaver then doubled to right, although Harrelson could not score. Tommie Agee then singled up the middle bringing in both Harrelson & Seaver making it 3-2. 

Trivia: Agee was now tied with Ed Kranepool & Ken Boswell with seven game winning hits credited.

The sixth inning, started out badly as Pete Rose doubled & Chico Ruiz reached on a Wayne Garrett error. Bobby Tolan then singled to score Rose making it a 3-2 game. 

But Seaver then picked off Ruiz at second, exciting the crowd. He brought the to their feet as struck out both Reds sluggers Tony Perez & Lee May to end the threat.

The Mets left the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning, as Gil Hodges did not remove Seaver for a pinch hitter with the bases jammed & two outs. In the 8th the Mets defense turned their second double play of the game, as Bud Harrelson handled a grounder touched second & tossed over to first for the two outs.

In the 9th, there was more excitement, Bobby Tolan led off with a base hit. 

Next another Gil Hodges moved to be the right decision. He brought in Rod Gaspar to play right field for defensive purposes replacing the steel gloved Shamsky. Tony Perez lined a low liner in the left field alley, at first Gaspar stumbled but recovered with his speed to snag the ball. He then threw to first nailing Tolan who was half way to second for the double play. 

It was Gaspar's 7th assist on the season & the Mets third double play of the game. The crowd went wild. Seaver struck out Jimmy Stewart to end the game & earn win #15.

Jul 24, 2019

Hoyt Wilhelm: The First Relief Pitcher To Get Into the Hall of Fame- 1954 World Champion NY Giants Closer (1952-1956)

James Hoyt Wilhelm was born on July 26, 1922 in Huntersville, North Carolina. In high school he read an article about the knuckleball pitcher Emil Dutch Leonard. He then learned to throw the pitch & master it. 

The six foot right hander, was signed by the Boston Braves but after one season in the minors, he was drafted into World War II.

Wilhelm was a hero at the Battle of the Bulge, winning the Purple Heart for heroic duty. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant & became known as “Ol’ Sarge”. After the War, at the age of 28, he was signed by the New York Giants.

He was given a chance getting put into the bullpen, making his pitching debut on April 18th against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field.

On April 23, 1952, in his first career at the Polo Grounds he hit a HR off Boston Braves’ pitcher Dick Hoover. It would be the only HR he would ever hit in his long career. That same day he earned his first career victory, pitching five innings of relief.

He won his first four decisions & was 7-2 going into July. From there he went on to save seven games & earn three more victories until finally taking a loss at the end of August.

Overall in his rookie season, he was incredible; leading the league in ERA (2.42) and winning percentage (.833). Out of the bullpen he went 15-3 with eleven saves (3rd in the league) setting a record (at that time) with 71 appearances. He had 108 strikeouts, in 159 innings pitched, averaging 6.1 strikeouts per innings, third best in the league.

He made the All Star team, finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting and fourth in the MVP voting. He became one of the first star relievers of the game, winning 124 career games in relief, still an MLB record.

He was by far the first reliever to save over 200 games and make 1000 appearances. He developed his knuckleball into one of the best the game has ever seen. The pitch put less strain on his arm and it helped him prolonged his career for 21 seasons.

In his sophomore 1953 season, he led the league in appearances again with 68, & games finished with 39. He was 7-8 with 15 saves (second in the league) posting a 3.04 ERA. In the Giants 1954 Championship season Wilhelm started out the season just 2-2 by the end of May. In June he went a roll going 4-0 with four saves, ending the month with an ERA of 2.19.

From August 22nd through the end of the season he saved two games & won four without any losses. He was the Giants best weapon for late inning pitching.

Overall out of the bullpen he won 12 games going 12-4, leading the league in winning percentage (.750%). He saved seven games and posted a 2.10 ERA in 57 appearances.

Post Season- 1954 World Series: Wilhelm made two appearances in the 1954 World Series. In Game #3 he got the save pitching a hitless 1.2 innings at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. He also pitched a scoreless seventh inning in the fourth & final game of the Series. Amazingly enough in his twenty year career he would never pitch in another post season series.

The next season he appeared in 59 games for the Giants, but didn’t record any saves going 4-1 with a 3.93 ERA. In 1956 he struggled just like the Giants did as they finished in sixth place & attendance plummeted. He was 4-9 posting a 3.83 ERA.

In February of 1957 he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for a former Giant who returned to New York, Whitey Lockman. He saved 11 games in St. Louis going 1-4, but was placed on waivers in September getting picked up by the Cleveland Indians.

In Cleveland he was given the chance to start as well as pitch in relief. In 1958 he was 2-7 with five saves before being sent to the Baltimore Orioles in late August.

On a rainy September 28th afternoon in a nationally televised game at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, he threw a no hitter against the AL New York team. He won the game 1-0 beating Don Larsen & Bobby Shantz.

He struck out eight batters, walking only two along the way. In his next outing he pitched nine innings in New York, allowing just one run but did not earn a victory in the Orioles 3-2 extra inning victory.

He stayed in Baltimore for five seasons winning another ERA title in 1959. That season he won his first nine decisions, but had a rougher time as the season went on, finishing up at 15-11 being used mostly as a starter. 

On August 6th he came in relief in the 9th inning in a game against that seasons A.L. Champion Chicago White Sox. Wilhelm would throw no hit baseball for the next 8 2/3 innings, allowing a single in the top of the 17th inning. He would earn no decision as the game ended in 1-1 tie after 18 innings.

His knuckle ball was hard to handle for the catchers. The Orioles back stops set a

record with 49 passed balls. The following year, manager Paul Richards introduced the oversized catcher's mitt that became standard equipment for catching the knuckler.

In 1961 he was an All Star, as he saved 18 games (second in the league) going 9-7 with a 2.30 ERA. He followed up with 15 saves in 1962 (fourth in the league) while making the All Star team once again. 

In 1963 he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for another future Hall of Famer, short stop Luis Aparacio. Wilhelm pitched with the White Sox from 1963 thru 1968. He would have five consecutive seasons with ERA’s below 2.00.

In 1964 he saved a career high 27 games (second in the AL) while going 12-9 with a 1.99 ERA. From the 1966 season through the 1972 seasons he would be the oldest player in the major leagues.  

In 1967 he posted a 1.31 ERA, going 8-3 with 12 saves (7th in the AL) in 49 appearances, as the White Sox finished second, to the Boston Red Sox on the last day of the season.

In 1968 he set another record, pitching his 319th game without an error, while appearing in a personal career high 72 games, at age 45.

The next season he was sent to the Atlanta Braves as he helped them capture the first NL West title, in the first year of divisional play. He did not appear in the 1969 NLCS against the New York Mets.

In 1970 he was 6-4 with 13 saves in 50 appearances for the Braves, before getting traded to the Chicago Cubs for Hal Breeden. He would pitch just three games as a Cub. In 1971 he returned to Atlanta, pitching in three games, but was soon released, then getting picked up by the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

On April 17th he earned his only save that year, it being the final save of his career. It came in Atlanta in a 8-3 win over the Braves. He would pitch in 16 games that year for the Dodgers, going 0-1 with a 4.62 ERA. Wilhelm pitched until the age of 49 and retired just two weeks shy of his 50th birthday.

In his long 21 year career he pitched in 1070 games (6th all time) finishing up 651 games (11th all time). He posted a 143-122 record, with 227 saves (41st all time) with 1610 strike outs (174th all time) in 2254 innings pitched posting a 2.52 ERA.(46th all time). He saved twenty or more games three times, with ten or more saves ten times.

He was a 15 game winner twice, made five All Star teams and was considered for the MVP award four times. He was also a fine fielding pitcher, finishing with a perfect .1000% five times.

Honors: Wilhelm was the first relief pitcher to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, getting enshrined at Cooperstown in 1985.

He passed away on August 22, 2002 in Sarasota Florida at age 79.

Jul 22, 2019

50th Anniversary of the 1969 Mets: Mets Head to the All Star Break

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

The New York Mets headed into the 1969 All Star break at 53-39 just five games behind the Chicago Cubs. It was the best position the Mets had ever been in at that point of a season, since their inception in 1962. Manager Gil Hodges had molded them into true contenders & they were for real in the exciting summer of '69.

The team closed out the first half splitting a four game weekend series in Montreal, with the Expos. On Friday night, Jerry Koosman won his third game in a row, going the distance in a 5-2 Mets win. Kooz struck out seven, walking two in the seven hitter that lowered his ERA to a 1.88, with an 8-5 record. For Koosman it was onto his second All Star Game, this one in Washington D.C.  

Jerry Grote hit his second HR of the year, a two run shot & Art Shamsky hit his eighth HR, a solo shot. Expo pitcher, Jerry Robinson walked in a run & allowed an RBI single to Rookie Wayne Garrett as well.

The Mets lost on Saturday, as Tom Seaver had one of his worst outings of the year. He allowed four runs on seven hits in just two innings of work, including a HR to Coco Laboy. 

There was some concern for Seaver's million dollar arm, as he felt a stiffness.

Quotes- Tom Seaver: "It's not from my teeth, I had them looked at. It's not from sleeping on it, because I try to sleep on my left side or my stomach. Rube (Walker) thinks it could be a cold that settled there. But I wear a pajama top to guard against air conditioning".

He said he first felt it on the night of the "Imperfect Game" in July but it worked itself out. He felt it again in Chicago & this start in Montreal, where it did not work itself out.

He was named to the All Star team but did not pitch due to the stiffness. The doctors checked him out & Seaver was fine, going onto his Cy Young season.

On Sunday July 20th, the Mets played a double header. They lost the first game 3-2 as Gary Waslewski out dueled Gary Gentry.

In the nightcap, Tommie Agee singled & Bud Harrelson walked to lead off the game. Ron Swoboda singled home Agee & Harrelson scored when Wayne Garrett grounded out. 

Mets starter, Don Cardwell took a 2-1 lead to the 8th inning, but gave up the lead when former Met, Kevin Collins doubled in Ty Cline to tie the game. 

In the 9th, another former Met, Don Shaw helped his old club, by walking Cleon Jones with the bases loaded. But Coco Laboy, struck again, hitting his 13th HR of the year to tie it up. This HR came off reliever Ron Taylor, who would only serve up seven HRs all year. It was his fourth blown save as well.
The Amazing's proved once again, how everyone on the team contributes. With two outs, Ron Swoboda doubled. 

Pinch hitter Bobby Pfeil then delivered the single that scored Swoboda with the game winning run. Pfeil would only drive in 10 runs all year (211 at bats).

Jack DiLauro came on to
pitch & earned the victory. It was his first & only victory of the year.

Also joining Seaver & Koosman at the All Star Game would be one of the leagues top hitters, Cleon Jones. At the break Jones was batting .341.