(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Whitestone native, Archbishop Molloy High School alum, and former Mets outfielder Mike Baxter made his return to Citi Field last week as his current team, the Chicago Cubs swept the Mets in a three-game series.
As is still the case in his career, Mike was the 25th man on the Mets roster, and did get a few big hits, but what he will most be remembered for the spectacular catch he made on June 1, 2012 corralling a sharply hit fly ball off the bat of St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina in the seventh inning that basically preserved Johan Santana’s no-hitter.
Santana’s career was sadly never the same after that fateful game, and frankly neither was Mike Baxter’s, as he broke his collarbone and some rib cartilage slamming into the left field wall and spent two months on the disabled list. He did not have a productive 2013 season and the Mets released him at the end of the year. The Dodgers signed him but demoted him to their Albuquerque minor league team for most of the 2014 season. He signed with the Cubs as a free agent last winter.
Joe Maddon, the classy Cubs manager, had Baxter bring out the lineup card to the umpires for each game so that he could get a little extra face time in front of his family and friends. Baxter started the last two games of the series playing right field.
It would be nice to say that Mets fans gave him a nice ovation when public address announcer Alex Anthony introduced him before he stepped into the batter’s box but that sadly would not be true. Mets fans displayed a shocking lack of either memory or appreciation in their tepid response.
I saw Mike briefly after Thursday’s game and he took the high road by saying that he heard some cheers. He was gratified by the warm welcome that he did get from former teammates, other Citi Field employees, and from a lot of the media who cover the Mets.
In fairness to Mets fans, they may have been anaesthetized by the soporific Mets offense which managed only one run in their three games with the Cubs. Just about the only thing that cheered them up upon leaving Citi Field was that Good Humor handed out complimentary ice cream novelties.
A week earlier Good Humor contracted former Mets first baseman and current broadcaster Keith Hernandez to hand out ice cream bars to the public near Rockefeller Center as a way of kicking off the company’s “Joyhood” campaign.
If Mets general manager Sandy Alderson does not start acquiring some players who can hit the ball then he had better contract Good Humor to hand out freebies to fans for the rest of the season in order to prevent Citi Field from becoming a ghost town.
Manager Terry Collins may not be the best in-game strategist but he possesses a razor-sharp wit. Last Wednesday I asked him what he thought of Cubs manager Joe Maddon hiring a magician by the name of Simon to entertain his team after they lost their fifth straight game. Simon’s magic must have worked because the Cubs won three straight from the Mets.
“Forget magicians. I may call in a witch doctor to heal all of these injuries that we are having,” Collins quickly replied. The following day he was asked by reporters in his postgame press conference about finding a solution to the Mets’ hitting woes. “We may have to try human sacrifice,” he answered. He then looked at Mets vice president of media relations, Jay Horwitz and deadpanned, “Jay, I wouldn’t rush into the clubhouse if I were you!”
A couple of Knicks who are playing in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Langston Galloway and Thanasis Antetokounmpo stopped by Citi Field last week. The Mets hottest hitter, Curtis Granderson, chatted with them and told them that he played high school ball in Chicago against teams that featured future NBA players as Eddy Curry and Dwyane Wade. Granderson said that he wanted to play in the NBA but the path to professional athletics success was easier via baseball for him.
I asked Thanasis if he and his brother, Giannis Antetokounmpo who is a star forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, were concerned about the financial crisis in their homeland. “Of course. I remember that you were the reporter who asked me at last year’s NBA Draft about getting paid in drachmas. It’s a good thing that we don’t,” he said with a laugh. He added that he still has to visit Astoria, the largest Greek-American community in our country.
I don’t know of any Knicks fans who are happy with the moves that team president Phil Jackson has made since the season ended. It looked as if former Pistons center Greg Monroe was a lock to come to the Knicks but he signed instead with the Milwaukee Bucks. Jackson had to settle for Brooklyn Nets’ center Brook Lopez’s twin brother, Robin, who is a capable player but not really a difference maker.
In the footsteps of Ernie Grunfeld, Mark Jackson, Anthony Mason, Metta World Peace (the former Ron Artest), the Knicks have acquired another Queens’ favorite son, forward Kyle O’Quinn who was acquired in a minor trade last week with the Orlando Magic where he played for four years. O’Quinn grew up in Jamaica and attended Campus Magnet High School.
ESPN executives should be ashamed of themselves for relegating my favorite annual event on the World wide Leader in Sports, the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, to ESPN2 instead of the flagship network.
In what could be a major changing of the guard, Matt Stonie ended Joey Chestnut’s eight-year run as Nathan’s champ.
The real fun of watching the July 4 event that put Coney Island on the map is watching promoter George Shea play the role of carnival barker extra ordinaire while his brother Richard has the role of TV analyst. Richard had the best line of the afternoon when he called perennial Nathan’s also-ran, Tim “Eater-X” Janus, “the Davis Love of our sport.” Love is a PGA Tour pro who is a very good golfer but whose name never adorns the top of the leaderboard of any tournament.
It was great to hear one of Connecticut radio’s great sports talk hosts, John “Bird” Crowe formerly of WICC (600 AM), doing a shift on ESPN New York 98.7 last Saturday from 10-midnight. John had a field day attacking the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony as well as the punchless Mets.
While John is opinionated, he does listen to his callers and interacts intelligently with them. That’s not generally the way it works in big market sports talk radio. To be fair, New York radio hosts, including WFAN’s Mike Francesa who is a favorite whipping boy target of many sports media columnists, are actually quite genteel ,even when they are disagreeing with their participating listeners, compared with most of their Philadelphia radio counterparts who feel that callers are their opponents in an MMA octagon and must be made to feel stupid and insignificant by the time their moment of glory on the air ends.
The Mets’ NY-Penn League affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones, will have an 11:30 AM game on Monday, July 13 as they will take on the Aberdeen Ironbirds at MCU Park that is located adjacent to the Coney Island boardwalk. It’s a fun and inexpensive way to beat the heat and humidity on a typical summer day.
It will be interesting to see whether the victory by Team USA in the 2015 Women’s World Cup will have a carryover effect for the guys playing in Major League Soccer whose commissioner is Bayside High School alum Don Garber.
MLS has definitely increased its media footprint now that it has two teams in our area, the Red Bulls who play in Harrison, NJ, and the New York City Football Club who make Yankee Stadium their home. Surprisingly though the New York dailies have not even come remotely close to giving these two teams the kind of coverage that they provide to the local teams of the more established sports. I have discovered that the best way to stay on top of what’s going on with our MLS clubs is to read Jason Schott’s coverage that’s featured in the largest independent full-service sports website in the metropolitan area, nysportsday.com. Jason also provides top-notch coverage of European soccer including the English Premier League.
The third team in our area, the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League who play at Hofstra University, get even less coverage. I have found another well-read sports website, latinosports.com, to be the best at Cosmos coverage.
For the purposes of full disclosure, I contribute proudly to both NY Sports Day and Latino Sports and when it comes to soccer in our area, I can honestly write that these digital outlets are second to none.
JetBlue has opened a rooftop garden at JFK’s Terminal 5 across from Gate 28. It’s a good way to get some fresh air and grab some sunshine while waiting for your flight. You can purchase refreshments and snacks here. JetBlue even has room for musicians to perform here and they plan to schedule concerts from up and comers. Pet owners can even walk their dogs here as well as let their cats stretch their legs after being cooped up in their carriers.
I have to admit that I enjoy red wines because of their reported cardiac health benefits. In the summer I don’t mind a lighter taste and will occasionally try a rose as long as it’s not too sweet. A good and reasonably priced bottle is 2014 SIMI Sonoma County Dry Rose.