The Baseball Hall of Fame inducted another class of deserving recipients yesterday, and Red Wings manager Tom Nieto knew all three.
Whitey Herzog was Nieto’s first Major League manager when he got called up to St. Louis in 1984. Whitey put Tom right into the Redbirds starting lineup his first day in the Majors even though he had caught the night before for Louisville. After the game, Whitey gave Nieto a memento from his first big league game. “
“He gave me the official card that he gave the umpires. I guess he had put his coffee cup down on it because it had a nice coffee ring on it. I still have it framed in my sports room in Florida and it still has his signature and coffee ring on it.”
Even though Nieto was just a rookie, Herzog treated him with respect. “He always made you feel at ease as a manager. He treated everybody the same. He treated the #25 guy the same way he treated the #1 guy.”
Nieto later was briefly a teammate of Andre Dawson’s with the Expos and competed against him in the National League. “He was a warrior,” says Nieto. “He had those bad knees but he showed up ready to play everyday and never complained.” Nieto added that “Hawk” had the best arm he’d ever seen. “They say Ellis Valentine had a cannon, but Hawk had the best arm of anybody I ever played with or against.”
Umpire Doug Harvey was inducted into the Hall of Fame also, and Nieto says that Harvey’s personality stood out to him. “He was such a nice guy. You could actually talk to him about pitches.”
Nieto says that some umpires can actually be intimidating to a young catcher, but Harvey was such a good guy that he wasn’t intimidating. He did say that an umpire intimidated him in the first game he ever caught in the American League. Who was the umpire? None other than Rochester’s own…Ken Kaiser!
Former Seattle and Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson was at Frontier Field signing autographs last night. He was on four World Series title teams with the Yankees and is second among all pitchers in postseason appearances behind only Mariano Rivera. (In 798 regular season appearances, Nelson never made one start. Question: who has the record for most MLB appearances without ever starting a game? Answer later.)
Wings pitching coach Bobby Cuellar was Nelson pitching coach in both the minors and the majors with Seattle. Here is what “Nellie” has to say about Bobby: “Hopefully these guys listen to him. He works his butt off and he knows what he’s doing. What an asset. I loved him. The only thing that’s changed is he has more gray hair. He told me today ‘There’s a few of them from you.’”
Nelson, who does some broadcasting work now, says he thinks his former Seattle manager Lou Pinella will resurface as a big league manager again…even though Pinella says he is retiring after this season. “Some of the old school managers like Lou are going away,” says Nelson. “I’d love to see him continue. He really helped me when I went to New York. Since Lou had played in New York, he had that intensity when he was our manager in Seattle…and that really helped me when I first joined the Yankees.”
18 time All Star and 7 time batting champ Rod Carew will be signing autographs tonight at Frontier Field. It’s not often that a Hall of Famer makes an appearance at Frontier Field so make sure you get out tonight to pick up Carew’s signature!
The Wings are nearing the All Star Break with just six games left before the three day intermission. You still have four chances to catch the Wings at home before the break with two games left against Scranton/Wilkes Barre on this homestand, and then games Saturday and Sunday vs. Buffalo.
The Red Wings, of course, landed two players on the Triple A All Star Game roster….Anthony Slama and Dustin Martin (whose HR last night gave him 53 RBIs on the season to match his total from 2009.)
Two former Red Wings were selected for the Major League All Star Game (three if you can one-time injury rehabber Joe Mauer.) First baseman Justin Morneau was named to his fourth American League squad while left-hander Arthur Rhodes at 40-years-old just made his first All Star Game after getting picked for the National League. Rhodes is having a phenomenal season for the Reds compiling a 1.06 ERA in 38 relief appearances. Arthur—who spent parts of five seasons with the Wings—is the fifth 40-year-old to be a 1st time All Star joining Satchel Paige, Connie Marrero, Jamie Moyer and Tim Wakefield. Check out this story concerning Rhodes selection.
Since we are nearing the All Star Break, I thought we would check in with how a few former Red Wings are doing…
-Steven Tolleson was claimed off waivers this past offseason by the Athletics and has spent much of this season playing SS for their Triple A affiliate in Sacramento (with a brief taste of the big leagues). Steven is hitting .328 with 6 HR and 27 RBIs for the River Cats.
-Former Wings OF/1B Doug Deeds is playing well for Arizona’s Triple A team in Reno, NV. Doug is hitting .301 with 6 HR and 30 RBIs with a .394 OBP for the Aces.
-RHP Jason Jones spent last year in the Wings rotation and looked like a possibility for this year’s staff before he was released in spring training. He latched on with the Nationals and started with their Double A team in Harrisburg before a promotion to Syracuse. He has made three starts for Syracuse and nearly threw a perfect game in his last start vs. Lehigh Valley! The story is here.
-OF Trent Oeltjen just took advantage of an out clause in his contract with the Brewers. Trent, who played some in the bigs last year for Arizona, was hitting .301 with 8 HR and 38 RBI to go along with 12 steals for Nashville.
-In the Far East, Justin Huber is hitting just .184 with 5 HR in 40 games for Hiroshima in Japan.
In other news, former Wings infielder Sergio Santos picked up his first career MLB save for the White Sox last night. It is amazing to think that only two years ago Sergio was the Wings regular shortstop much of the season. Sergio and Anthony Slama were high school teammates in Santa Ana, California.
Also, our own Joe Altobelli had his Florida State League hitting streak record broken by Clearwater second baseman Harold Garcia. Joe hit safely in 36 straight games for Daytona in 1951 when he was only 18-years-old and the record had stood ever since. Garcia’s streak ended yesterday after he hit safely in 37 straight games. “Alto” took it in stride. He has even mailed Garcia a congratulatory letter which comes as no surprise from the classy former Red Wings player, manager, GM and broadcaster.
That’s all for now. Hope you enjoy our broadcasts on 1280 WHTK and FM 107.3 Rochester Sports Talk. You can also listen online at www.whtk.com.