Jan 20

Baseball Mourns Losses Of Musial And Weaver

The television sound was off, but I didn’t need words to know this was sad news. Why else would there be grainy black-and-white images of Stan Musial unleashing that powerful swing out of an awkward stance?

Musial passed away last night, not long after former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver died, and the sports world was suddenly without two legends. Despite polar opposites in terms of temperament, both were unique and left an indelible mark on baseball.

MUSIAL: Stan the Man.

Weaver was the fiery manager of the Orioles who built his championship teams with superb starting pitching and the three-run homer. Musial was overshadowed by Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, but was as lethal with the bat as any of them. Others were more spectacular and played in flashier markets than St. Louis, but Musial personified baseball in his town and throughout middle America.

Having worked in Baltimore covering the Orioles, I learned quickly now woven Weaver was into the fabric of that town, and traveling numerous times to St. Louis, and saw that city embrace Musial to where two statues of him are outside Busch Stadium.

The beauty of baseball is how the sports rolls on with one generation of greatness following the other. However, there are those few who transcend their times and will be remembered through the ages.

There’s sadness in the losses of Weaver and Musial in that they are gone, but also that many of us never got a chance to witness their greatness in person. And for that, we are all the poorer.

Jun 19

R.A. Dickey And Roger Clemens Interesting Contrast

Earlier in the day there was Roger Clemens, one of the most talented pitchers of his era, standing on the courthouse steps after being acquitted of all charges in his perjury/steroids trial.

DICKEY: The best about sports.

Later, there was R.A. Dickey, whose salary this year probably isn’t as much as Clemens spent on his legal defense team, mow down the Baltimore Orioles with his second straight one-hit shutout.

It was a contrast in talent vs. perseverance, arrogance vs. humility, and likability.

Dickey will never have the career Clemens had, and I’m talking the pre-cheating Clemens. Just because he was acquitted doesn’t mean he didn’t use steroids. This was a sham of a trial with the government as inept in its case as the Orioles hitters were last night.

When it comes to steroid trials, the government is so useless it couldn’t have gotten a conviction with a signed confession.

The issue surrounding steroids is credibility. The public wants, deserves and needs to know what it is seeing is real. With Clemens it did not, because whatever happened behind closed doors there still is the belief he cheated.

With Dickey, whose arm forced him to go with an improvisational pitch, we know we are seeing honest effort and grit, and with it genuine joy when he succeeds.

We are done with Clemens, and have been for a long time, even before he went after Mike Piazza’s head with a fastball and later a sawed off bat in a fit of steroid rage. With Dickey, we can’t get enough of him. He is a great story of what sports should be about.

He makes us happy to watch, not disgusted.

 

Dec 19

Endy Chavez Signs With Orioles

Former Met Endy Chavez is headed to the Baltimore Orioles according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.

Chavez will earn $1.5 million in 2012 with the potential to earn another $500,000 in performance bonuses.

Chavez, 33, played in 83 games last season with the Texas Ranger, batting .301 with five homers, ten stolen bases and 37 runs scored in 256 at-bats.

The Mets were reportedly interested in bringing Chavez back, but Endy may have become too costly for the cash-strapped Mets who seem to be at their spending limit.

Chavez enjoyed his best year as a Met in 2006, when he drove in 42 runs, stole 12 bases and set career highs in batting average (.306) and on-base percentage (.348), but is best known for making one of the greatest defensive plays in postseason history; a leaping catch at the wall to rob Scot Rolen of a home run in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. Chavez then threw the ball into the infield for an inning-ending double play.

Aug 30

Today in Mets’ History: Casey, then Sandy bid farewell to Shea

Casey Stengel, who broke his hip five weeks earlier, announced his retirement as manager of the Mets on this date in 1965.

The following year on this date, Bob Friend beat Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers, 10-4, at Shea Stadium. It would be his final decision against the Mets as he retired after the 1966 World Series. Davey Johnson, then the second baseman of the Baltimore Orioles and the future manager of the Mets, would get the last hit off Koufax.

Stengel eventually had his number retired while Koufax is a frequent visitor to the Mets spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

 

Jun 05

Today in Mets History: Mazzilli drafted.

A local boy made good for the Mets when on this day in 1973 they used their first-round pick to select Brooklyn Lincoln High School outfielder Lee Mazzilli.

MAZZILLI: Tabbed in draft.

Area kid, skilled and with movie star good looks, Mazzilli seemed destined to be a big New York star.

Three years later he debuted with the Mets and played with them through the 1982 season after which he was traded to the Texas Rangers for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell. It turned out to be a great deal for the Mets, who subsequently dealt Terrell to Detroit for Howard Johnson.

Mazzilli didn’t last a full season with the Rangers, who traded him to the Yankees. After the 1982 season, Mazzilli was traded to Pittsburgh, where he played three years. He was released, then re-signed with the Mets in July of the 1986 season.

Ironically, prior to that year, the Mets offered Ray Knight to Pittsburgh for Mazzilli, but the Pirates rejected the deal.

Mazzilli finished his career with Toronto in 1989, and managed the Baltimore Orioles in 2004, but was fired the following year.

Mazzilli’s best two years were 1979-80. In 1979, he represented the Mets in the All-Star Game at Seattle and hit a game-tying homer in the eighth inning and drove in the winning run in the ninth with a bases-loaded walk.

The following year, Mazzilli hit 18 homers with 76 RBI and 41 stolen bases.

MAZZILLI’S CAREER STATS

Mazzilli will also be remembered for testifying for immunity in the Pittsburgh drug trials along with teammates Dale Berra, Lee Lacy, John Milner and Rod Scurry.  Keith Hernandez also testified at the trial.