Archive for The Book

Marty Noble

Marty Noble’s appreciation for baseball, and what it meant for fans like him, carried through to his writing in a way that no one else who wrote about the Mets ever quite achieved.

He wrote with a sense of historical perspective and an eye for detail, telling stories that others in his position simply would not or could not. He was a dogged reporter and a skillful writer whose musings on the seemingly unimportant minutia of the game — who occupied who’s old locker, and the progression of uniform numbers — took on more depth every time he wrote about them, becoming one of the chief inspirations for the creation of this project.

I was fortunate to have met Marty on a few occasions–first to solicit a blurb for the Mets by the Numbers book–and also in a number of lengthy phone conversations over the years that loaned his perspective on the team and its players for this and other writing projects. This included a dynamite interview I published in three parts 11 years ago, and for an event in Manhattan that none among the small number of us attending fans will ever forget. While Marty wrote about uniform numbers in passing, and I do so more overtly, he completely understood what I was doing here and I will be forever grateful and humbled for his support.

Marty Noble passed away this week at age 70 and with him went a giant chronicler of Mets history. He was a Bronx-born Yankees fan who covered baseball for the Bergen Record in the 70s, Newsday for 24 years beginning in 1981 and finally MLB.com. He was opinionated and competitive, occasionally making the others on the beat look bad, and generating just the right amount of fear and respect from the subjects he wrote about. He brought a bit of himself to everything on the page including his last published piece, an astonishingly deep and heartfelt profile of Tom Seaver, another complicated legend who is also departing.

Thanks Marty for everything!

Here’s a few more appreciations of Marty from Mark HerrmannGreg Prince, Rich Countinho, Pete Caldera and Anthony DiComo.

 

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Buy My New Book!

So I owe a quick update: As we know Corey Oswalt was up., down and now back: He made his MLB debut the other night in No. 55. Gerson Bautista in the meantime has also come and now gone, having left behind a few ineffective relief appearances. Bautista as we know wore the dreaded 46.

The Mets have me worried, and it has little to do with how disappointing Harvey and Matz have been (actually I was expecting that). It’s the hitting, or lack thereof, that’s really been the problem lately. We need to get Cespendes and Bruce going, Conforto needs to start collecting some extra-base hits, we need to play Brandon Nimmo more, which may mean moving Jay Bruce to first base, and we really ought to go get a catcher who can hit.

In personal news, you may know I have written a new book on baseball, but it’s not about numbers, or the Mets.

ONCE UPON A TEAM tells the forgotten true story of the worst team ever to play major league baseball, the Wilmington Quicksteps of 1884. I know, it’s a really obscure topic so you figure, this would never be published if there weren’t a pretty remarkable story there: There’s drinking, contract disputes, arguments, treachery, guys falling down elevator shafts, cuthhroat business decisions, baffling racism and at the center of it all a very good minor league baseball team caught up in crazy circumstances that thrust them briefly and tumultuously into the ranks of the highest levels of the sport where they left behind a virtually unassailable mark for futility.

It’s a story how baseball was played and consumed in 1884, and how much — and how little — has changed. It’s also a cautionary tale about business risk and the high costs of pursuing one’s dreams.

If you’d like a copy it should be in bookstores May 1 and online. Let me know if I can get you an autographed copy!

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Let the Banners Be Unfurled

65Hey guys I’m back from a week off during which I was witness to Robert Gsellman’s heroic major league debut which also marked the first appearance of a No. 65 in team history.

50Gso far, gso gsood for Gsellman, but we’re going to need his contributions beginning today in the finale against Philly not to mention a few other guys suddenly thrown into the deep end — remember Rafael Montero? He made a brief appearance in May and is being recalled from Class AA to make Monday’s start opposite Jose Fernandez in Miami. Seth Lugo goes Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday’s starters are listed TBA and TBA, respectively. Yikes.

It’s all about the offense for the time being, but with Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker still battling lingering injuries and Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson both struggling, who knows how sustainable this latest run can be. The Mets have 33 games left beginning today (8 with Philly; 7 with Miami; 6 with Atlanta and Washington; and 3 each with Cincy and Minnesota). Could the SHaMs pull a Rush and go 21-12? That could do it.

36Thanks by the way to reader Jimmy who pointed out the database and latest edition of the MBTN book overlooked the phantom Met, Al Reyes, the ex-Tampa closer who appeared on the roster in September on 2008 but never appeared in a game before being released later that month. Reyes, as we noted then, was assigned 36 but somehow was unable to even get a turn as a reliever on that squad. I have tried very hard to get September of 2008 out of my mind — the frenzied destruction of Shea amid a second-straight choke that marked the true beginning of a rotten stretch of baseball and team stewardship that lasted for five long years.

Thanks Jimmy! We’ll reluctantly update the database.

Go Mets…

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And I Approve of this Message

12Hey, have you checked out the new book yet? Here’s a Q&A I did recently about the site, the book, and other stuff with Diane Firstman at her site, Value Over Replacement Grit.

Also my friend Sam from Rising Apple had me on as a guest in his podcast this week. Our chat, with fellow Met historian geeks Mike and Rich, might still be going on but I had to feed the cats.

I’m trying to keep up hopes up over tonight’s game and the the entire season, but Juan Lagares just hit into a double play. Rats.

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Talking Baseball

MBTN-bookshelfHey look! METS BY THE NUMBERS is here. It has been completely rewritten and re-engineered, including bios and data on more than 300 new players, with more minute details, a complete history of the uniform, new lists, new rankings, new photos, and more than 80 new pages. It’s hefty, and you can tell it’s an actual copy because David Wright appears on the cover instead of Dwight Gooden in the mockup you’ve seen until now. (Gooden instead appears on the spine, a nice touch).

It officially launches tonight with an event at Word Books (126 Franklin St., Brooklyn) where I will discuss the project in conversation with NBC Sports’ D.J. Short and Greg Prince, author of the excellent AMAZIN AGAIN. We will have books for sale and signatures, plus free beer and Crackerjacks, starting at 7 p.m. Please join us! (Word is easy to find, 2 blocks from the Greenpoint Ave. stop on the G).

62In Mets news, the club staggered to a disappointing series split in Milwaukee which saw still more of the team suffer aches and pains including manager Terry Collins (ill but thankfully appears OK), Neil Walker (bad back), Michael Conforto (wrist) and Jim Henderson (finger). Logan Verrett made a spot start then was sent down to Las Vegas and replaced by Erik Goeddel, who returned in No. 62. As noted, Kelly Johnson arrived and took over Ty Kelly’s No. 55.

Let’s Go Mets!

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Put It In The Books

mbtn-cover1Quick reminder that the all-new, totally updated METS BY THE NUMBERS hits physical and virtual bookstores any day now, and we’re kicking off the festivities officially on Tuesday, June 14 with a reading, Q&A and book signing at Word Books, conveniently located near MBTN Headquarters in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Word is located at the corner of Franklin & Milton streets — a short walk from the Greenpoint Ave. stop on the G train.

The event starts at 7 p.m. NBC Sports and Rotoworld’s D.J. Short will host, and guests include yours truly along with Greg Prince, author of the magnificent Faith & Fear in Flushing blog and the newly published fan chronicle of the 2015 season, AMAZIN AGAIN. We’ll have beer and Crackerjacks on hand and plans to head to a local watering hole to catch the Mets on TV afterward.

MBTN the book, again with contributions from Matthew Silverman, has been completely updated from the first edition which published in 2008, with details and history of more than 300 new players, all new photos, stats and sidebars including a history of the Mets uniform. Order now and get it in time for Father’s Day. Order extra ones in case it rains.

Facebook events page here.

16Hey, how about a big hand for returning hero Eric Campbell, who got the “lucky dog” promo for today’s double-dip in Pittsburgh? No? How about congratulating Rene Rivera for seemingly wrestling the No. 1 catching duties from struggling (again) Kevin Plawecki? New third baseman Wilmer Flores? New center field stud Alejando De Aza? Summer’s getting warm.

 

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In Passing

10Kevin Collins, the former Met infielder who was a key ingredient in the trade bringing the Mets 1969 World Series MVP Donn Clendenon and who also holds a distinction in the club’s uni-number history, passed away at his winter home in Naples, Fla. on Feb. 20 at age 69.

19Collins was among the “Youth of America” class of young players assembled by the Mets in their formative years. Although a steady job in the big leagues would wind up being blocked by another of that group, Bud Harrelson, Collins bobbed between the Mets’ farm and the big-league club often enough between 1965 and 1969 to achieve a notable place in team history: He was the first Met to wear four different uniform numbers, a record that would be tied in the 1980s by Ed Lynch and surpassed a decade after that by Jeff McKnight.

16As part of SABR’s book on the 1969 Mets, THE MIRACLE HAS LANDED, I interviewed Collins by phone and wrote a brief biography you can see published here. In our conversations Collins was a gregarious and funny man — when informed him of his place in Mets’ uni-number history he was so amused he told his wife as we discussed it. What emerged from my research was a story of a great teammate: When sent to the minors in 1969, instead of storming off he left a note in his emptied locker wishing luck to incoming replacement Ken Boswell; and when knocked cold in a collision at third base by a sliding Doug Rader in 1968, several teammates rushed to Collins’ aid including pitcher Don Cardwell, who initiated a bench-clearing brawl by socking Rader above the eye. After a subsequent trade made him a member of the 1970 Detroit Tigers, Collins was among the first big-leaguers to share a road-trip hotel room with a black player, Gates Brown.

1Collins wore 10, 19, 16 and 1 over his sporadic appearances as a Met, dating to a debut in 1965 as an 18-year-old.

More sad news from the afterlife: Tom Knight, a Brooklyn-based baseball historian and a fan of the MBTN project, passed away Feb. 17, according to this article in the New York Times. I knew Tom from his appearances as a master of ceremonies at countless Casey Stengel Chapter SABR meetings, and I was more than flattered when I discovered he’d penned an unsolicited and extremely positive review of the 2008 Mets by the Numbers book.

Fans and media around Metland this week are also mourning Shannon Forde, the club’s beloved media relations director, who passed away at the way-too-young age of 44.

 

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We All Follow Lucas Duda

21Thanks everyone for the continued updates as Spring Training gets rolling and the numbers pile up.

I’ve been very busy lately (more on that below) but happened to tune into the Twitter Garbage Fire ignited by Ken Davidoff’s curious piece in the Post yesterday suggesting Lucas Duda was the club’s most “overhated” and underappreciated Met. I have no problem with opinion columnists sharing opinions — particularly provocative ones — but this one simply didn’t ring true and marked the second time this month a Post columnist goofed in delivering supposed insights to the team (see Kernan’s since scrubbed-clean Jerry Blevins piece discussed below). I have a lot of respect for the Post sports but they can’t be misinterpreting fan sentiment and also cover it well.

While objectively there probably are some Mets fans who dislike Duda (some people don’t like puppies either) Davidoff’s search for an angle overlooks the obvious. Duda in fact strikes me as an especially easy player to root for, even among a current squad with plenty to like: He’s darn good to start with, and his seeming discomfort in the spotlight to me makes him come off very much one of us.

@wefollowlucasduda @cgrand3 @jlagares12 @travisdarno @mcuddy5_3_23 @jeurys27

A video posted by Wilmer Flores (@catire_4) on

Some of you may know this, but I’m busy in part because I’m making the final touches on the manuscript for a new-and-improved Mets by the Numbers book, publishing later this year (June 7) by Sports Publishing LLC. Again written with Matt Silverman, MBTN Mach II is more than just an update of the 2008 classic but a thorough and loving re-write with more cool stuff! Not everyone gets to re-write their first book, and I’m very proud of this version, and hope you will consider a few copies for yourself and the Met fan in your life. More news on that to come.

DarlingbookIn the meantime, lots of interesting Met books are on the way this year including Greg Prince’s Amazin’ Again — a lickety-split recap of that terrific 2015 season we just had, Ron Darling’s intriguing Game 7, 1986, Erik Sherman’s Kings of Queens and Matt’s own One-Year Dynasty, all reflections on the 30-year anniversary of that season.

0Dirk Lammers, a journalist who chronicled the Mets’ futile quest for a no-hitter until Johan Santana came along and ruined it all, has applied his deep knowledge of everything no-hitter into a new book, No-Hit Wonders, which I’m proud to say includes an enthusiastic back-cover blurb by yours truly. Dirk has done great work well beyond his service providing the uni-number graphics at this site, and you’ll enjoy that one too.

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Nifty 50

My 4-year-old son hasn’t yet stopped “making the apple come up” on our copy of Matthew Silverman’s new book, whose cover features a sliding Home Run Apple turning framed photos of Seaver, Kranepool, Stengel and Kingman into portraits of Gooden, Hernandez, Piazza and Wright.

So if you’re the kind of person who judges a book by its cover, then by all means go out today and get yourself a copy of New York Mets: 50 Amazing Seasons. That the inside of this book is even better is still a secret to my boy, but one I hope will reveal itself to him over many summers to come.

In perusing this book, a comprehensive, heavily illustrated, factoid-laden, coffee-table team history, I was reminded of my own youth and Donald Konig’s hardcover commemorating the Mets’ 25th anniversary. I received that book as a Christmas gift in 1986, and if you asked me then I’d have told you it was as solid a team history and as valuable a keepsake as existed in all of Metland. I can tell you today that without minimizing the hours of discovery and pleasure Honig’s book provided, Silverman’s history is not only twice as long but many times better as a story, chronicle and archive.

Silverman, who you might recall as a co-author of the Mets by the Numbers book, is a swell and generous guy and an animal when it comes to writing about the Mets. I don’t know how he does it, but this book is distinct from the half-dozen other Mets projects he’s tackled including MBTN,Mets Essential100 Things Mets Fans Need to Know and Do Before they DieTotal MetsTartar Control Mets and Raspberry Mets. I may have made a few of those up but wouldn’t be surprised to learn he’s working on them. This book is simply divided into five chapters, one for each decade of Metsdom, and has a picture or four on every page — good photos, and not just the mugshots populating Honig’s Quarter-century tome. Photos include memorabilia ranging from scorecard covers to buttons to ticket stubs to beer coasters. It all says Mets in one way or another.

Silverman’s a good writer. He’s economical and deft with transitions, helping 50 seasons (many themselves forgettable) breeze by cohesively. Mountains of sidebars liven it up, some offering summaries, others key boxscores. Brief bios of the Top 50 Mets (Al Weis? Really?) are peppered throughout. These Top 50 bios include images created so as to recall a mashup of Topps baseball cards of 1973 and 1974, and while I like that idea I don’t much like the execution. That’s a small complaint in an otherwise very satisfying team history that kids big and little will surely treasure.

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…And No. 101

Father’s Day is coming up, and since you already got Dear Old Dad the handy book version of Mets by the Numbers(you did, didn’t you?), and you know how much fun that was, don’t be stumped for a follow-up. My friend and co-author for that work, Matthew Silverman, is out with a fresh take on 100 Things Mets Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die (Triumph, 2010).

This revised and updated copy, which tells the story of the Mets in 100 bite-sized chunks, is loaded with fresh picks at the scabs of recent seasons (the Shea closing ceremony, a Molina vs. Scioscia debate) amid essential pieces on Met trivia, Met stories and Met activity, from Buckner to Benson (Anna, of course). You can find it your local bookstore, or on-line, or get a copy personally inscribed by the busiest Mets writer on the web at MetSilverman.com.

Had a great time over the weekend down in Baltimore where the Mets finally did what they’re supposed to do to a struggling team: Kick ’em while they’re down. The city was filthy with Met fans including a duo I spotted Sunday wearing jerseys bearing the names and numbers of Kelly Stinnett and Dave Telgheder. (In their 1995 versions: 33 and 40, respectively). I don’t know why I didn’t shoot a photo of these guys or at least say hi, but if you’re out there: I tip my hat to you.

Not that a team whose history would produce such fans ought to be taking pity on anyone, but it was kind of sad to see Baltimore so beaten down as a baseball town. I was a Marylander when that park opened and you couldn’t buy a seat weeks in advance: Here they were badly outnumbered by the enemy and the place was half-empty. If there was a franchise that cried out for the kind of jolt Bobby Valentine could provide, this is it. Then again, the Angelos-led organization fumbled away a previous great leader in Davey Johnson.

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