Feb 28, 2021

Michael Conforto: Mets Out Fielder (2015-2021)

Michael Conforto was born on March 1st, 1993 in Woodinville, Washington. He comes from a family full of athletes. His mother, Tracy Ruiz Conforto was a two time, Olympic Gold Medalist (1984 / 1988) in synchronized swimming. His father was a football, line backer at Penn. State University & his sister, Jacquekine was a college soccer player.

In 2004 he played in the Little League World Series for the North West Region. 

In high school the honor roll student played short stop on the baseball team & was a stand out safety in football. He was recruited by several Ivy League schools for football  & was also sought after for baseball. He chose to stick with baseball & play at Oregon State. 

In his first year he was voted Freshman Hitter of the Year batting .349 with 13 HRs & setting a school record with 76 RBIs. 

In his sophomore year, he was named All American, leading his Oregon Beavers to the College World Series, where he went 7-14, getting named to the All Tournament Team. In his off seasons he played for USA Collegiate National teams.

In 2013 he batted .345, named the Pac 12 Player of the Year & was named a first-team All-American. He went into 2014 as the pre season, Sporting News College Player of the Year. 

The six foot one, left hand hitting outfielder, throws right handed. He attended Oregon State University getting drafted by the New York Mets in the first round in 2014 (the #10 pick overall).  

Minor Leagues: Conforto's pro career began that same year with the Brooklyn Cyclones. That year he led his club in batting (.331) & in HRs (3) while playing in 42 games. He started 2015 with the St. Lucie Mets where he hit .283 with 7 HRs & 28 RBIs in 46 games.

He got promoted to the AA Binghamton Mets in late May where he continued his hot hitting. He batted .312 with 5 HRs & 26 RBIs in 45 games, getting named to play in the 2015 Futures Game.

With the New York Mets struggeling to score runs & an injury to Michael Cuddyer, the team decided to promote Conforto right up to the big league level. At this point in time he was the organizations best hitting prospect. He made his debut in the big leagues on July 24th, 2015 starting in left field and going 0-3 in a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The young man said he got chills as the Citi Field crowd of 36,666 greeted him with a nice ovation. The next night, in his second game he collected four hits, including back to back doubles, two singles & a walk. This made his the fastest Met ever to have a four hit game.

On July 31st when the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes, Conforto was sent back down to the minor leagues to develop his young career. 

Four days later on August 3rd he was back in the big leagues when Kirk Nieuwenhuis went on the DL. By this time the Mets had now taken over first place. That night he hit his first career HR, in a 12-1 Mets win in Florida as the team took over sole possession of first place.

Conforto drove in runs the next two nights, including game tying single in the top of the 9th inning at Tampa, as New York came from behind to beat the Rays 4-3. Conforto scored the game winner on Wilmer Flores RBI hit. 

He hit his second HR on August 15th & another six days later in a Mets win at Colorado. On August 31st, he brought his average up over .290 and hit his fourth HR helping the Mets in a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field.

In a hot September he was a big contributor to the Mets offense & run at the NL East title. Along with the newly acquired Yoenis Cespedes the Mets outfield all of a sudden had pop & lots of hits out of their spots in the lineup.

Conforto, Cespedes and veteran new comers Kelly Johnson & Juan Uribe turned around a Mets team that struggled for hits & runs earlier in the year.

In the first seven days of September he hit two HRs & drove in five runs in five games he played in. On September 13th toward the end of the Mets eight game win streak, he hit a two run HR in a 10-7 win & sweep of a series against the Braves in Atlanta.

On September 21st, he hit another HR against the Braves helping Jon Niese & the bullpen in a 4-0 shut out at Citi.

Since his arrival in August, Conforto had 13 multi hit games, with 9 HRs with 23 RBIs. In a total of 56 games, he had 47 hits batting .270 with 9 HRs 14 doubles & 26 RBIs. He played primarily in left field, making six assists with a 1.000 fielding %.

2015 Post Season- NLDS: Conforto got the start in left field at Dodger Stadium, in the Mets first post season game in nine years, batting 7th as the Mets faced the Dodgers in Game #1 of the NLDS.

In the 2nd inning, three batters after Yoenis Cespedes hit a HR, Conforto followed with a HR of his own, both coming off Zack Greinke. Conforto did not get any more hits in the NLDS or in the NLCS sweep of the Chicago Cubs.

2015 World Series: Michael Conforto was thrilled to be playing the World Series, having been in the minor leagues just two months before & playing College ball just a year earlier.

On October 27th, in Game #1 of the World Series, Conforto hit a 6th inning sac fly off Edinson Volquez driving in Yoenis Cespedes for the Mets second run.

In Game #3 at Citi Field, the game in which the Mets won 9-3 behind Noah Syndergaard, Conforto hit a 4th inning double driving in Lucas Duda with the Mets fifth run.

 In the Mets Game #4 heartbreaking loss, the game was highlighted by Confoto's two HRs, in the 3rd & 5th innings. Conforto also had two hits in the final 5th Game at Citi Field.   

Overall in the World Series, Conforto led the Mets in batting .333 (for batters with more than two at bats) and was one of four Mets to have five hits. He was second in HRs (2) & RBIs (4) in the Series for the Mets as well. 

Overall in 12 post season games, he had two six hits (6-30) batting .200 with 3 HRs & 6 RBIs.

Trivia: Conforto  became the third player in MLB history to have played in the Little League World Series, College World Series & MLB World Series.

After the Pennant- 2016: The 2016 season, started out well for Conforto as he finished April batting .365 4 HRs & 18 RBIs. On April 8th he had a three RBI day on a 7-2 Mets win over the Phillies at Citi Field. In mid April he drove in three runs with a HR as the Mets took two of three  in Cleveland against the eventual AL Champions.

On April 24th he drove in two runs in the Mets 3-2 win at Atlanta over the Braves. In a six game stretch from April 24th to April 30th he drove in ten runs during an eight game hit streak where he collected 15 hits. 

His average fell to below .300 by mid May until he had another hot streak. He would hit a HR on May7th, then hit safely in nine of eleven games. On May 17th, he hit a solo HR off Max Scherzer, in a 2-0 Mets win over the Washington Nats. On May 20th, he hit another solo HR, this one against the Milwaukee Brewers in a 3-2 Mets win.

Things weren't going well at the plate for Conforto, but there were a few highlights. On June 4th, his 8th inning hit off David Phelps in Miami put the Mets ahead in a 6-4 win. 

On June 8th in Pittsburgh, he drove in three runs including a game tying HR to help the Mets in a 6-5 win over the Pirates. At Citi Field he would hit another HR against the Pirates a week later.

From May 24th to June 24th, he had just eight hits in 84 plate appearances in 25 games, as his average plummeted to .222. 

On June 24th & he was sent down to AA Las Vegas as the Mets called up Brandon Nimmo, one of the teams top prospects. 

He returned in mid July & began to play in right & center field as well as his usual left. He was used mostly as a reserve than as a starter, without the Mets giving him an everyday chance it may have affected his play even more so.

On August 7th, he hit his first HR in nearly two months in a 3-1 win at Detroit. During the September pennant stretch, he had a two RBI game on September 18th against the Milwaukee Brewers in a 3-2 win. 

On September 23rd he hit a HR with three RBIs & two hits  in a 10-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Overall in a disappointing 2016 season, he hit .220, struggling mightily against lefties,with 12 HRs 21 doubles & 42 RBIs.

In the off season , the Mets resigned Yoenis Cespedes & could not shop Jay Bruce in the trade market as expected. That left Confoto's future uncertain. 

2017: As 2017 began, Conforto lost his starting role & was penciled in as the fourth outfielder. But a hot April had him batting .321 with 6 HRs 13 RBIs in the month. From April 9th to the 15th, he drove in runs in five of six games with a pair of HRs. On April 29th he hit two HRs & carried the Mets to a 5-3 win over the Nats in D.C.

In May he regained his starting role as he hit seven more HRs & drove in 21 runs. From May 14th to the 25th, he hit five HRs including two in a May 23rd win over the San Diego Padres. In that game he had four RBIs in the 9-3 Mets win at Citi Field. 

2017 All Star Appearance: As the Mets suffered injuries, Conforto became the teams best player, at the break after 70 games, he was hitting .284 with 14 HRs & 41 RBIs. He was named as the Mets only representative to the All Star Game in Miami. In the NL's 2-1 loss, Conforto got two at bats collecting a base hit.

He would match his season high four RBI game high twice, once in a July 14th, 14-2 Mets win over the Rockies & again on July 21st. In that game, at Citi Field in a Mets 7-5 win over the Oakland A's, he had one of his three multi HR games.

On August 24th, he injured himself while swinging  at a pitch and tore his shoulder. He missed the remained of the season & opted to get the surgery. 

He ended 2017 with 27 HRs & 68 RBIs (both second on the club to Jay Bruce). He had 104 hits with 20 doubles 57 walks 113 Ks & a .384 on base % in 109 games. 

In the outfield he posted a .984 fielding % with five assists. 52 games in left, 43 in center & 11 in right.

2018: To start out the 2018 season, he played his first game on April 5th in Washington D.C. hitting a HR & driving in two runs, On May 11th his two run HR helped the Mets to a 3-1 win at Philadelphia. 

He hit another HR on May 19th, helping the Mets in a 5-4 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, in a game where Wilmer Flores provided the walk off sac fly RBI. 
At the same time this week he was struggling just to keep his average over .200.

From July 14th to the 27th, Conforto had a hot streak in as he hit four HRs with a dozen RBIs & a dozen hits. In August he hit HRs in back to back games including one in the Mets subway series win. Later that week he had three hits & a HR in the Mets 24-4 romp over Philadelphia. 

The next day, although the Mets lost, Conforto had three more hits while driving in four runs. On August 28th, he matched that with four more RBIs & another three hit day, in the Mets 6-3 win over the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field.

In September he had his best offensive production of the season, in the first two weeks of the month he hit 6 HRs with 17 hits & 15 RBIs. 

On September 13th, in the second game of a double header, his solo HR off Kyle Barraclough tied the game up at 3-3. Todd Frazier's walk off HR beat the Miami Marlins 4-3, in a n exciting win. 

On September 17th, he had a season high six RBI's carrying the Mets to a 9-4 win. On the day he hit a single, double & a three run HR.

In the Mets poor 2018 season, Conforto led the team in HRs (28) walks (84) RBIs (82) & runs scored (78). He batted .243 with 132 hits  a .350 on base %. His 84 walks were 8th most in the NL & his 159 strike outs 7th most. 

He spent the most time in left field (84 games) with 58 in center & 12 in right. Overall he had five assists with a .990 fielding %.

2019: Conforto was the Mets main right fielder in 109 playing 129 games there. He also played 39 games in center.

He got off to a hot start after Opening Day, hitting safely in 14 of 16 games, with three straight games where he hit a HR. He peaked with a .372 average but that quickly fell off, as he ended April batting .269 but was second to Pete Alonso with 14 RBIs.

In late May he hit four HRs over an eight game span. On May 28th, he hit his first career grand slam. The HR came off the Dodgers, Scott Alexander in Los Angeles, Conforto drove in five runs in the Mets 7-3 win.

In June he had a ten game hit streak, as he hit 6 HRs with 14 RBIs in the month. On July 2nd, he drove in two runs, including the game winning run in the subway series. His 8th inning double came off reliever Zack Briton at Citi Field. 

As the Mets began to win, they found themselves in the play off hunt for a wild card spot. At the end of July they won seven straight, Conforto homered in three straight games from July 27-July 30th, during that  streak. On July 31st, he & Todd Frazier had 8th inning RBI singles, leading the Mets to a 4-2 win in Chicago, over the White Sox. 

On August 4th, Conforto had two hits & hit his 22nd HR, in the Mets 13-2 win over the Pirates. 

The next day, he homered in the second game of a double header, against the Marlins at Citi Field. He drove in three runs that day & then in his next game on August 6th, hit two HRs with another three RBIs. The Mets won both games in the midst of another eight game win streak. The Mets won 15 of 16 games in that stretch.

Walk Off: On Friday August 9th, the Mets went into the bottom of the 9th inning, down 6-3 to the Washington Nationals. Todd Frazier, tied the game with a three run HR off Sean Doolittle. 

The Mets, Joe Panik then singled & Juan Lagares came in as a pinch runner. With two outs, Amed Rosario singled & the stage was set for Conforto. 

He singled driving in Lagares with the walk off game winning, run. The exciting win had the Citi Field crowd go wild.

 On August 18th, he hit his 26th HR, a two run shot off Kansas City's Glenn Sparkman, as he drove in four runs in the Mets 11-5 win. 

On August 20th, he hit a two run HR in Cleveland, off Shane Biber, in the Mets 9-2 win as they won another five straight games. 

The Mets & Conforto both slumped as they lost five straight. On August 30th, he hit a two run HR  as the Mets beat the Phils in Philadelphia 11-5.

Conforto hit his 30th HR, on September 12th, during the Mets four game sweep of the D-backs at Citi Field. 

The Mets slowly fell out of the wild card race during the end of the season, but had a quality 86 win season. On September 24th, he had another multi HR game, hitting two & driving in four runs in the Mets 5-4 win over the Marlins.

Overall Conforto had his best year up to that point un his career with career highs in hits (141) runs (90) & doubles (29). 

His 33 HRs & 92 RBIs, were both second to Pete Alonso & also career highs. He was third on the team with a .363 on base %, & with games played 151.

In the strike shortened Covid19 season, he played in 54 games, leading the team in batting (.324) & on base % (.412%). He hit 9 HRs with 12 doubles 24 walks & 31 RBIs in 202 at bats. 
On August 19th, in Miami the Mets were tied 3-3 in n the top of the 9th inning, Conforto hit a two run HR off Brandon Kintzler, to win the game. In August 26th, he hit another HR against the Marlins, in a 8-7 Mets win.

In September 2nd, in Baltimore, Conforto had a
big day collecting four hits, hitting a HR & driving in five runs, on a 9-4 Mets win over the Orioles. 

On September 9th, he helped spark a Mets three run comeback against the O's, with a HR in the 5th inning off Jorge Lopez. In his next game, at Toronto,  he hot a three run HR off Chase Anderson. He later collected a walk, a hit & an RBI in the Mets huge, ten run 4th inning. The Mets won the game 18-1. 

Career Stats:
In his six year career, he is a .259 hitter with 118 HRs 121 doubles 4 triples & 341 RBIs with a .358 in base %. He has played in 632 games overall with 579 games in the outfield (11th most in Mets history). 

He played 259 games in left (9th most in Mets history) 217 in right & 146 in centerfield. He has 34 assists & posted a .989 fielding %.

Early in his career, he was living on the Upper East side with Noah Syndergaard until 2017. He then got a place of his own, preferring one of the more quieter neighborhoods in Manhattan. 

Family: In January of 2021, Conforto got engaged to his longtime girlfriend Cabernet Burns while in Mexico. Burns is VP at Prom Series which curates, foster girls to build confidence & worth.

Feb 27, 2021

Remembering Mets History (1960's) The Shea Stadium Usherettes & Hostesses

Back in 1964 when Shea Stadium opened during the midst of the New York's World Fair, it was a grand place. It was a major tourist attraction & one of the biggest most beautiful ball parks in all of baseball.

One of its most interesting & good looking attractions, were the Shea Stadium Usherettes & hostesses. 

An usherette is defined as a female
hostess who greets & escorts a paying customer to their seat at a stadium or concert hall.

Theses Usherettes greeted the fans as they first entered the Stadium & pointed them to their seating sections. 

The girls would constantly have guys coming on to them & were always within ear shot of a police man or security guard if there was any trouble. The only worked street level & field box levels as well.

The girls would also help with general knowledge of the new ballpark, in which they were trained to know the surroundings.

Most of the girls were college students in their late teens or early twenties. Some girls were even married & had children. 
Sydney Anne Zatskin, was a freshman at Hofstra working as an Usherette in 1964. 

She did a fantastic interview on the great website: uniwatch.com earlier in this year (link- A Shea Stadium Usher’s 15 Minutes of Fame | Uni Watch (uni-watch.com)) She said in the interview that the girls didn't go into the stands, because the organization was afraid of rowdy fans. 

She also said that the girls & the players were both told to leave each other alone. More so as to not bother the players in the bullpen.

Sydney got her picture in the paper & was subject to a New York Times article, which led to an appearance on the TV show "What's My Line". (see the link mentioned)

The Shea Stadium Usherettes dressed similar to the airline stewardesses of the mid sixties, in seersucker suits, with knee high skirts, sexy but yet very professional looking. 

Actually, there were a variety of different outfits, the usherettes wore at Shea Stadium. They were designed by Whitestone resident, Elaine Goldsmith of Whitestone Queens, who worked for the New York fashion Company, Saxony Clothes. 

One outfit was a "Mets blue" jacket with orange tie, white shirts & pearl grey shirt. Another was a pinstriped jacket, in "Mets orange & blue" of course, with a bow tie & grey skirt. The uniforms were also accompanied with a hat, either a bowler or derby cap. Both uniforms displayed the new Mets logo on the left breast.

Another had blue & orange dresses, slightly higher above the knees with the derby hats.

The design was also meant to capture a 1900th Century look to contrast the modern age. 

Shea Stadium also had a fancy, Diamond Club Restaurant. The swanky Diamond Club had its own set of ladies, they were called hostesses that greeted & sat its patrons down at their tables. 

These were tough jobs to get. At the
time the team paid the girls 13.25 a game & 15.50 for double headers. They had to arrive an hour before the game & were relieved of their work duties in the middle of the 4th inning, unless it was a twin bill. 

The Mets were way ahead of their times with the restaurant idea & hiring of young the ladies.

In a NY Times article April 16th 1964, one usherette Naomi said; " It's awfully good for the ego, just standing here. I mean people come by & they look at you & they say, 'you look sharp'".

Another pretty young Shea Usherette, Gunnell Bertson, appeared on the show, What's My Line a bit afterward.

Sydney Anne is on starting at 11:29

Remembering Mets History (1962): MLB Fines Casey Stengel For His Beer Ad with Kathy Kersh (Miss Rheingold)

In 1962 the Mets started their long time relationship with Rheingold beer. Rheingold a local beer with its headquarters in Brooklyn became the official beer of the New York Mets. It was originally introduced in 1883 & by the time the Mets were born, the beer claimed to hold 35% on New York State's beer sales. 

Rheingold had already sponsored the Jackie Robinson Radio Show for a decade, on AM Radio 66 in New York. Robinson, Leo Durocher, as well as stars like the Marx Brothers, Linda Darnell, John Wayne, Nat King Cole & Sara Vaughan all represented the beer in ads across the City.

Each year they would also hold the Miss Rheingold contest, where the public voted for the winner. The first Miss Rheingold was Jinx Falkenburg, a 1930s supermodel, tennis star, actress & pionereeress in talk shows. 

There were also the Rheingold girls would also be spokespersons & appear in ads, as well as appearances for the beer.

In 1962 Mets manager Casey Stengel was a larger than life public figure,  forever promoting his Mets. So it was no surprise that Rheingold wanted him & he wanted was happy to oblige. Casey appeared in his Mets uniform, holding a bat ready to bunt, alongside Miss Rheingold 1962.

Trivia: Miss Rheingold 1962 was Kathy Kersh. Kersh, a model/ actress who would eventually marry Batman TV series co-star, Burt Ward (Robin the Boy Wonder) they met on the set, quickly marries & were divorced two years later. 

She appeared on Batman as Cornelia, now a beautiful blonde moll to the Joker, wearing a skin tight purple outfit. 

Kersh, appeared on the music show Shindig twice & the Beverly Hillbillies four times. But very quickly, her career soon faded. Legend has it, that when the studio signed Sharon Tate, Kersh became forgotten.

At the time MLB prohibited players or managers to be in uniform, or displaying any team logo, while promoting any alcohol or cigarette products. If they were out of uniform, it was no problem. 

So whether it was Rheingold's competition, or rival baseball teams ratted out Casey to the league office,  MLB Commissioner Ford Frick had to react. He responded by fining  Stengel $500 for the ad. It is rumored that Rheingold paid the bill for the Mets & Stengel.

Stengel & Kathy Kersh would do more ads together for Rheingold all throughout her reign as the beers spokeswoman.

Quotes- Casey Stengel: "The Rheingold people been so nice to us that I didn’t have the heart to turn them down when they asked me.”

Remembering Former Bronx Born Italian / American Player: Frank Malzone (1955-1966)

Frank James Malzone was born on February 28, 1930 in the Bronx, New York. 

In the 1940's, Malzone attended Samuel Gompers High School on Southern Blvd. just off 149th St. Malzone planned to be an electrician if his baseball career didn't work out.

In 1947, the five foot ten, third baseman was spotted by the Boston Red Sox. He was signed, for $150 a month salary by the Sox. 

In 1949, Frank married his wife Amy, while playing in the minor leagues at Oneonta, NY. They remained married for 57 years, until her death in 2006.

Before getting to the major leagues in the early 1950's, Malzone served two years of Military service, during the Korean War.

He was already 25 years old when he debuted with the Red Sox, for a brief call up in 1955. Two years later, he became the Red Sox regular third baseman, and had a fantastic rookie season. 

Rookie Season: He batted .292 (10th in the AL) while driving in a career high 103 runs (3rd in the AL). Malzone hit 15 HRs with 31 doubles five triples & posted a .323 on base % playing in 153 games. 

He made the All Star team & came in second to Tony Kubek in the Rookie of the Year voting. Malzone was seventh overall, in the MVP voting as well. 

He won his first Gold Glove at third base, the first year the Award was issued. He also became the first player in modern baseball history, to lead his position in games played (153) putouts (151) assists (370) errors (25) fielding & double plays. On September 24th, 1957 he tied an MLB record making ten assists. 

In 1958 he followed up with another All Star season, batting .295 coming in second in the league with 185 hits. He hit 15 HRs with 30 doubles 87 RBIs while leading the league in games (154) & at bats (627). At third base he won his second Gold Glove, posting a .954 fielding %, leading the league in assists (378) games (154) & errors (27). 

 In 1959 he hit .280 having another All Star year, hitting a career high 19 HRs with 34 doubles (2nd in the AL) 169 hits (6th in the AL) & 92 RBIs (10th in the AL). Malzone won another Gold Glove in 1959, & was the last third baseman to win the award before Brooks Robinsons’ won an incredible 16 straight. 

Trivia: In the first of two All Star games of that year, he batted 7th & drove in a run with a double off the Dodgers, Don Drysdale.

Malzone also set another defensive record at the time for third baseman, as he led the league in double plays five straight seasons. As he entered the sixties he dropped in numbers the first two years of the decade. He helped a young Carl Yastrzemski make a transition in left field replacing Ted Williams. 

Quotes- Carl Yastrzemski: “When I first came to the big leagues in 1961, Frank was the guy who took me under his wing. I struggled when I first came up, and he took care of me and stayed with me. He was a real class guy, a very caring guy, and I owe him a lot. You aren’t going to find too many people like him.”
In 1962 had a career high 21 HRs with 95 RBIs &
 20 doubles while batting .283. 

He returned to have a good 1963 season as well, batting .291 with 15 HRs & 71 RBIs. Malzone spent eleven seasons as the Red Sox third baseman, winning three Gold Gloves making six All Star teams. 

 After the 1965 season Malzone was released, he would be replaced by future Met & another Bronx born player, Joe Foy. 

In his eleven seasons with the Red Sox the club never finished above third place & would finish seventh or worse in his final four years.

Malzone signed with the Los Angeles Angels in what would be his final season as a player. In 82
games he batted just .206 & retired at age 35. 

In his 12 year career Malzone hit .274 with 1486 hits 133 HRs, 239 doubles, 21 triples, 337 walks 728 RBIs & a .315 on base % in 1441 games. 

He posted a .955 career fielding average, making 196 errors in 4388 chances. He ranks in the top twenty in Red Sox history in hits, HRs, games played, doubles, runs, and RBIs. 

Retirement: After his playing days, Malzone was a scout for the Red Sox for 35 years, and a long time consultant for player development. 

He was elected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1995. Malzone & his wife resided in Needham just outside of the city of Boston. 

"As far as my personal achievements with the game I would say when you play ten full years and make the All-Star team eight times that is quite an accomplishment for myself. The only thing that I regret is that I never got to play in the post-season."

Passing: Malzone passed away, due to natural causes on December 30th 2015 at the age of 85.