Category Archives: Baseball
Jim Abbott (Baseball. Born, Flint, MI, Sept. 19, 1967.) One of the truly inspirational stories in baseball history, James Anthony Abbott was born without a right hand and yet had a major league career that lasted more than a decade. Abbott spent two of those years with the Yankees (1993-94), where he was 20-22. He was obtained from California Dec. 9, 1992, for three players (including first base prospect J.T. Snow). Easily the highlight of his Yankees years was a 4-0 no-hit victory over Cleveland Sept. 4, 1993, at Yankee Stadium. He was 87-108 for his career (1989-96, 1998-99). Before coming to the major leagues, Abbott pitched for the University of Michigan, won the Sullivan Award (1987) as the nation’s top amateur athlete, and led the U.S. team to the Olympic gold medal at Seoul in 1988.
Edgardo Alfonzo (Baseball. Born, St. Teresa, Venezuela, Nov. 8, 1973.) Coming to the Mets at age 21, Edgardo Antonio Alfonzo struck many observers with his level of baseball sophistication, even though he was the team’s youngest player. As a rookie, he played third base, second base, and shortstop while hitting .278 in 101 games in 1995. His turn at third made him the 100th third baseman in Mets history (although first alphabetically). For the next two seasons, he was the Mets’ regular at third and, in 1997, raised his batting average to .315 in 151 games (also making brief appearance at short and second base). After hitting only 18 homers in his first three seasons, Alfonzo had 17 in 1998, a harbinger of things to come. In 1999, he was moved to second base when the Mets signed Robin Ventura, a career third baseman, as a free agent. The move was magical, transforming the Mets’ infield into probably the best in the majors, with flashy Rey Ordonez at short and John Olerud at first. Alfonzo also had the best season of his career as a hitter with 27 homers, 108 r.b.i., and a .302 average. He hit a key homer in the wild-card playoff game at Cincinnati and followed with two the next night (including a grand slam) in the first game of the Division Series at Arizona. Troubled by back problems, Alfonzo left the Mets as a free agent after the 2002 season despite hitting a club-high .308 in 135 games that year.
Ethan Allen (Baseball. Born, Cincinnati, OH, Jan. 1, 1904; died, Brookings, OR, Sept. 15, 1993.) During a 13-season career, Ethan Nathan Allen, a lifetime .300 hitter, was an outfielder who played 224 games over three seasons (1930-32) for the Giants. He led the N.L. with 42 doubles while playing for Philadelphia in 1934, when he hit .330, eighth-best in the N.L. Allen earned his greatest fame as Yale’s baseball coach for 23 seasons (1946-68). He was 336-320 with 14 ties. Both his 1947 (19-10) and 1948 (21-9-1) teams went to the College World Series, with future U.S. President George H.W. Bush as a good-glove, no-hit first baseman. After his retirement from the majors, Allen wrote several “How-To” books on baseball and designed “All Star Baseball,” a highly popular baseball board game. first released in 1941.
Neil Allen (Baseball. Born, Kansas City, KS, Jan. 24, 1958.) A righthander who was a solid reliever, Neil Patrick Allen had tours with both the Mets and Yankees. Allen had his best years (1979-83) with the Mets, compiling a 25-40 record but recording 59 saves in three seasons from 1980-82, with a high of 22 in 1980. Allen had two brief stints with the Yankees, the first in 1985 (1-0 in 17 games with one save) and 1987-88 (49 games combined with a 5-4 record and no saves). He started only 59 times in 434 games, three of those starts coming with the Yankees. He ended his career with Cleveland in 1990.
Smokey Alston (Baseball. Born, Venice, OH, Dec. 1, 1911; died, Oxford, OH, Oct. 1, 1984.) Although his major league playing career was limited to one at-bat with the St. Louis Cardinals (he struck out), Walter Emmons Alston earned a special place in the hearts of Brooklyn Dodgers fans. Alston managed the club its last four years in Brooklyn (1954-57) and skippered the Dodgers’ World Series winner in 1955, the only world championship in the team’s 74 years in Brooklyn. He was hired after Chuck Dressen, demanding a multi-year contract, was not retained despite winning N.L. pennants in 1952 and 1953. (At Mrs. Dressen’s urging, he refused a one-year contract.) Alston had managed St. Paul and Montreal (1948-53), the top Dodgers farm clubs, and won three pennants. In 1954, he fell short (finishing second to the hated New York Giants), but the next year, Brooklyn not only won the pennant but took the Series in seven games over the Yankees, setting off a borough-wide celebration. Reflecting the famous response of Dodgers fans after Series losses (1916, 1920, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953) “Wait Till Next Year!” the Journal-American headlined, “This is Next Year!” The Daily News ran Leo O’Mealia’s bum cartoon on Page 1, headlining, “Who’s a Bum!” Alston also won the flag in 1956 but not the Series. He remained with the Dodgers after the team moved to Los Angeles following the 1957 season, managing them a total of 23 years (1954-76), all on one-year contracts. Only Connie Mack and John McGraw had longer managerial terms with one club. Alston had an overall record of 2040-1613 (.558), winning seven pennants (five in Los Angeles) and four World Series.
Sandy Amoros (Baseball. Born, Havana, Cuba, Jan. 30, 1930; died, Miami, FL, June 27, 1992.) Edmundo Isasi Amoros earned his New York baseball immortality with a single stab of his glove. Amoros’ fabled catch in the sixth inning of the seventh game of the 1955 World Series paved the way for Brooklyn’s only Series triumph in nine attempts. A defensive replacement that very inning, he snagged Yogi Berra’s drifting fly in the leftfield corner with two on and nobody out and threw to shortstop Pee Wee Reese, whose relay doubled Gil McDougald off at first base to kill the best Yankees threat. Brooklyn won the game, 2-0, and the Series, four games to three. Amoros played 438 games for Brooklyn in parts of five seasons (1952, 1954-57) and later played briefly in Los Angeles and Detroit. Ebbets Field broadcasters called him “the pet alligator” because the lefthanded hitter wiggled his bat like an alligator’s tail while awaiting a pitch.
Johnny Antonelli (Baseball. Born, Rochester, NY, Apr. 12, 1930.) A fine lefthander for the Giants both in New York and San Francisco, John Albert Antonelli was later a minor league manager in the Mets system. Antonelli was signed to a then-record bonus of $65,000 by the Boston Braves in June 1948. Bonus rules then in force required the Braves to keep him on the roster. He hardly pitched and wasn’t that effective when he did. Antonelli then spent two years in military service during the Korean War. He came out of the service in 1953 to find that the Braves had moved to Milwaukee. He was 12-12 for them that year and on Feb. 1, 1954, was traded to the Giants in a six-player deal that sent Polo Grounds hero Bobby Thomson to Milwaukee. All Antonelli did was pitch the Giants to the pennant. He was 21-7, leading the N.L. in winning percentage (.750), earned run average (2.30) and shutouts (6), with 18 complete games. The lefthander gave up eight hits and six walks but only one run to win Game 2 of the World Series, 3-1, as Cleveland stranded 13 runners. He also got the final five outs of the fourth game (three on strikes) to end the Series. Antonelli was 14-16, 20-13, and 12-18 in the Giants’ final three years at the Polo Grounds and had a 19-win season in San Francisco. But, after brief turns ironically with Cleveland and Milwaukee, he was traded to the Mets Oct. 11, 1961 (before they ever played a game), but retired instead. Later, he managed both Memphis and Tidewater for the Mets. Antonelli’s overall major league record was 126-110 with 26 shutouts and 102 complete games in 268 starts.
Marty Appel (Baseball. Born, Brooklyn, NY, Aug. 7, 1948.) Martin Eliot Appel spent nearly a decade with the Yankees, first as assistant public relations director (1968-73) before succeeding Bob Fishel as public relations director when the latter moved to the American League office. Appel left in 1977 to become public relations director of the New York Apples (World Team Tennis) and joined baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn’s office in 1979. A year later, he became vice president of WPIX-TV (Channel 11), where he was executive producer of Yankees telecasts, earning an Emmy Award. After serving as VP Public Relations with the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, he returned to New York as a consultant to Player Relations Committee of MLB, and then became Public Relations Director of The Topps Company. In 1998, he established Marty Appel Public Relations (whose clients included the Yogi Berra Museum and the Baseball Hall of Fame), and continued his career as an author, writing 18 books and hundreds of magazine columns. He appeared frequently on YES Network Yankeeographies and was Consulting Producer for ESPN’s mini-series The Bronx is Burning, and a consultant to HBO’s 61*. His books included collaborations with Thurman Munson, Tom Seaver, Bowie Kuhn, Lee MacPhail, and umpire Eric Gregg; a biography of Munson, and Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss, which was the first narrative history of the team since Frank Graham’s 1943 book, The New York Yankees. Frank Graham Jr., contributed a special introduction to this work.
Also posted in A | Tagged Baseball Hall of Fame, Bob Fishel, Bowie Kuhn, Emmy award, ESPN, Frank Graham, HBO, Lee MacPhail, Martin Eliot Appel, Marty Appel, New York Apples, Olympics, Thurman Munson, Tom Seaver, Topps, Yankees, YES Network, Yogi Berra Museum
Emmett Ashford (Baseball. Born, Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 23, 1914; died, Marina del Rey, CA, Mar. 1, 1980.) A man of many firsts, Emmett Littleton Ashford was the first black man to umpire in Organized Baseball when he started in a Class C league in 1951 and 15 seasons later became the first of his race to umpire in the majors when he joined the A.L. in 1966. In between, Ashford spent 12 years in the Pacific Coast League (1954-65), where he rose to umpire-in-chief in 1964. His last major league assignment was the 1970 World Series. Ashford continued to umpire Pac-10 and other college games after his retirement from the A.L.
Neal Ball (Baseball. Born, Grand Haven, MI, Apr. 22, 1881; died, Bridgeport, CT, Oct. 15, 1957.) While the only truly significant accomplishment of his major league career came for Cleveland, Cornelius Ball began his big league career with the Highlanders in 1907. Ball, a 5’7” shortstop, was traded to Cleveland in May 1909, and on July 19 turned in the first unassisted triple play in major league history. Against Boston in the opening game of a doubleheader, he grabbed a liner hit by Amby McDonnell, doubled Heinie Wagner off second, and tagged Jake Stahl coming into the bag to end the second inning. In the home half, Ball hit one of only four home runs in his 496-game career. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 1912 in time to get one at-bat in the World Series. His career ended after the 1913 season. Ball had a .251 lifetime average.