Saturday, March 21, 2020

Vintage Railroads: Only Real Brooklynites Know Where Kouwenhover Is

Have car, can't travel?  Welcome to life in Gotham.  Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, we are a sidewalk trampling, street crossing, bus hopping, subway surfing, railroad riding society.  Simply put, we New Yorkers are commuters.  From every borough and burb we are a metropolis and citizenry forever on the move.  It's our reality as urbanites, something coded into our big city DNA.

ICYMI: PART ONE

A Vintage Bus and the Real Manhattan Transfers
NYC Surface/Bus Transfers circa 1945-1948
Courtesy Lohn Landers Collection





I scantly remember the last days of the Myrtle Avenue El (lasting through the mid 1970s), back when the now demolished Cascade Company building at Marcy Avenue was still operating at full steam.  Today it is clear where the transit system truncated the line just off the Broadway El at Marcus Garvey Blvd.  The photo featured below once hung in the Cascade Company lobby.  I showed up one day (ten years ago) fortunate to meet a gracious maintenance employee willing to give me a tour.  He spoke of the place with such reverence making it difficult deciphering whom was having more fun, him or me.  Two days later they closed their doors for good.




I have much better recollection of the Culver El extension which ran through Borough Park via 37th street - since truncated at Avenue C where today's F-train goes elevated/subterranean.  Vivid childhood memories remain of my dad and me driving to his favorite food shops and passing by the Bocce ball guys playing in the grade level tracks underneath the still standing El at 14th Avenue.





Like the Manhattan surface transfers, all the railroad tickets pictured here were provided to me 
by Mr. John Landers, whom several years ago in support of my blog reached out to me via email.
In fact, he was delightfully succinct when sending this particular picture, saying only, "The single rarest LIRR ticket known to exist, and it is mine!  Only a REAL Brooklynite knows where Kouwenhoven is."

That says it all ...

I'll leave the details to the experts:


The New York and Manhattan Beach Railroad is also known as the Bay Ridge Branch.  A well kept secret?  Kinda, but in truth, not really.  Growing up throughout Brooklyn we knew at some point trains must have run through here and there.  But it wasn't the system we 80's teens were operating on and so we didn't think much of it despite there being evidence all around.  Not knowing any better, we always thought they were abandoned.  As adventurous dumb asses we would sometimes scale down and walk the tracks below the apartment towers along Flatbush near the Nostrand Avenue Junction.  On my way to baseball practice at a batting cage located along Utica Ave and Foster Avenue I routinely passed underneath another portion of the line.  The old batting cage was right up the block from the former church that for a while owned the Ebbets Field flagpole.  We used to see that thing all the time.  Then one day the flag pole mysteriously disappeared.  The church had folded and sold it.  A neighboring businessman on the block said they hauled it off on a flatbed.  Thankfully it turned out being the Brooklyn Nets whom purchased it from the church and ceremoniously returned it to Flatbush Avenue.

The Bay Ridge Branch is most clearly visible at the 65th street Brooklyn Army Terminal water front, with views extending along the Sea Beach Line, 5th and 8th avenues, and particularly at the 62nd street and New Utrecht Avenue station.  It runs under Brooklyn College, traverses Utica Avenue, Kings Highway, and Ralph Avenue in the Flatlands and Farragut sections of Brooklyn.  Shortly thereafter one would finally pull into Kouvenhoven Station, said to be located just off Kings Highway on East 53 Street between Foster Avenue and Farragut Road.  The station opened in the summer of 1877 but by 1924 ceased servicing public transportation.










COURTESY OF THE
JOHN LANDERS COLLECTION




Monday, March 16, 2020

N.Y. Mets: Introducing The Mets Hall of Pretty Damn Good

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


THE METS HALL OF PRETTY DAMN GOOD

On Sunday we had on the podcast author Brian Wright who has a new book out: THE NEW YORK METS ALL-TIME ALL-STARS, The Best Players At Each Position For The Amazin's



Brian Wright selects 30 starting players and reserves, with 18 additional honorable mentions.  He also selects a manager, two coaches, a general manager, and owner.  It is with little hesitation that I say he nails it.  The book is a smooth read with not a single dead spot.  All his player selections receive their own narrative which took yours truly on a journey through many Metsian memories and joyous moments in time.  A very enjoyable read indeed.

What follows is my roster comprised of players not mentioned in Brian Wright's book.


PITCHERS
  • R.A Dickey - Nolan Ryan - Craig Swan - Frank Viola - Al Jackson - Matt Harvey
  • Ron Taylor - Skip Lockwood - Billy Wagner - Turk Wendell

CATCHERS
  • Starter: Paul LoDuca
  • Reserve: Mike Fitzgerald

FIRST BASE
  • Starter: Lucas Duda
  • Reserve: John Milner
  • Reserve: Willie Montanez

SECOND BASE
  • Starter: Ken Boswell
  • Reserve: Jose Valentin
  • Reserve: Doug Flynn

SHORTSTOP
  • Starter: Asdrubal Cabrera
  • Reserve: Rafael Santana

THIRD BASE
  • Starter: Hubie Brooks
  • Reserve: Lenny Randle
  • Reserve Ray Knight

OUTFIELD
  • Starters: Frank Thomas, Lance Johnson, Curtis Granderson
  • Reserves: Cliff Floyd, Joel Youngblood, Tommy Davis


STARTING LINE-UP
 1) Lance Johnson
 2) Paul LoDuca
 3) Hubie Brooks
 4) Lucas Duda
 5) Frank Thomas
 6) Curtis Granderson
 7) Asdrubal Cabrera
 8) Ken Boswell
 SP) Matt Harvey


THE MANAGER
  • Casey Stengel

COACHES
  • First Base: Joe Torre
  • Third Base: Willie Randolph
  • Bench: Yogi Berra
  • Pitching: Rube Walker

FRONT OFFICE
  • Johnny Murphy, Joe McDonald, Bing Devine, Omar Minaya

OWNER
  • Nelson Doubleday 




Sunday, March 15, 2020

A Metsian Podcast Quarantine Book Review Party: The New York Mets All-Time All-Stars by Brian Wright

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



A METSIAN PODCAST
with SAM, RICH, and MIKE

GUEST
author
THE NEW YORK METS ALL-TIME ALL STARS 
The Best Players At Each Position For The Amazin's

100 minutes



Thirty Players
58 Years of Memories
A Romp Through Mets History



Friday, March 13, 2020

N.Y. Mets: No Baseball For You

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

WE INTERRUPT SPRING TRAINING AND THE
2020 REGULAR SEASON DUE TO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK 

No baseball for you  - at least not yet, or the foreseeable future.  With coronavirus running wild, Take Me Out to the Ballgame certainly takes on a different tune.

However, the Trolley rolls on ... 


I - Starting Pitching


Noah Syndergaard will turn 28-years old this season.  It's time for him to step it up.  My most serious criticism against Noah through the years has been his lack of craftsmanship.  Last season he exceeded 30 starts for the first time in three years, fanning 202 batters and walking only 50 through 197.2 innings pitched.  However he surrendered a career high 24 home runs which contributed greatly to his career high 4.28 ERA.  That must change.  With health presumably back on his side there will be little excuse should he fail to elevate his game.  We Mets fans wish and hope for him to become an elite pitcher.  But he is not there yet.

Rick Porcello has to date yielded 15 hits and just one walk with eight strikeouts through 10.2 innings pitched.  I was in complete agreement with this acquisition.  However, the signing of Michael Wacha, not so much.  Wacha has surrendered eight hits and four walks in just 7.2 Grapefruit League innings pitched.  In 2019, Wacha's first full season back from injury, he yielded 143 hits and 55 walks for a 1.563 WHiP through 126.2 innings.

II - Bullpen

Looks like Dellin Betances will have all the time he'll need for amping up that velocity.  He says he's a slow starter.  Time is now on his side.  Meanwhile a slimmed down Jeurys Familia is performing well, but the troubled Edwin Diaz is not - four hits allowed and just one strikeout in three innings pitched.

As we know the Mets staff is short on left-hand pitching.  In fact, Justin Wilson is the only bullpen southpaw whom I would qualify as reliable.  That's why I've been rooting for Chasen Shreve to win a seat on the bus back to Flushing.  A potential power arm, Shreve to date has yielded five hits (two home runs) and two walks with five strikeouts in six innings pitched.  Not exactly what I had in mind.

Seth Lugo wants to start, but his performance betrays him.  Compare 2017, his last season as a full time starter, versus his last two seasons as a full time reliever.  As a starter he yielded 114 hits in 101.1 innings.  As a reliever these last two seasons, he has allowed just 137 hits over 181.1 innings pitched.  As a starter he posted a 10.1 H/9, 2.2 W/9, and 7.5 K/9.  Last year he posted a career low 6.3 H/9 and 1.8 W/9, and a career high 11.7 K/9.  The Mets need to utilize him to the best of his ability.  If that means putting their foot down, so be it.


#washyourhands


Thursday, March 12, 2020

Sports World Closing Up Shop Over COVID-19




CORONAVIRUS
COVID-19
Shuts Down the Sports World

Basketball both college and pro lead the way insofar as proactive measures.  March Madness is essentially canceled.  The NBA, NHL, and MLS, are putting their respective regular seasons on hold.  In baseball, Spring Training is suspended effective immediately.  For the moment the MLB regular season is being pushed back two weeks.  Arena wrestling appears no less safe, and the XFL finally announce the suspension of their regular season.



* mural, Bushwick, Brooklyn

Monday, March 09, 2020

N.Y. Mets: Stop Matzing Around With the Starting Rotation

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Stupid is as Stupid Does

No one is untouchable.  But all this trade scuttlebutt involving Steven Matz potentially going to the Yankees as far as I'm concerned is pure media clickbait.  I do not believe any of it.

However, I strongly believe the Mets would be foolish to utilize Matz out of the bullpen.  While there exists a dearth of left-handed pitching throughout the pitching staff, taking him out of the rotation is a non-starter.  As the lone southpaw in the rotation the Mets would be better served having Matz break up the train of right-handers.  Now the latest rumor has the Mets assigning a fifth starter based on that particular day's opposition.  Because turning Matz and Wacha into spot starters makes sense.?  That's called out-thinking themselves.  While seemingly clever on paper, practical application usually proves ruinous.

Pure folly ...

After three appearances Michael Wacha has to date yielded just one Grapefruit League run through 7.2 innings pitched for a deceptive 1.71 ERA.  I am not impressed as Wacha has also surrendered eight hits and walked four for a 1.57 WHIP.

In his three Grapefruit League appearances, Matz has yielded just one earned run on two hits and no walks with five strikeouts through 6.0 innings pitched.

He is coming off back-to-back 30 start seasons, and turns 29-years old in May.  Most would agree when I say Steven Matz' biggest problem has always been between the ears.  Therefore the hope for Matz as he enters his physical prime is that he is growing into a more composed, mature, and polished hurler.

Michael Wacha is nothing more than the back up plan.

Steven Matz gets first dibs.


Arizona Mets Fan Anna Brice Weighs In On Another Metsian Podcast

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

You can take the girl out of the city,
but you can't the city out of the girl.
LISTEN IN

A METSIAN PODCAST
with SAM, RICH, and MIKE

GUEST:
Native New Yorker, Jersey Girl, Arizona Resident, 
and Mets Fan Extraordinaire

102 minutes



Coronavirus Panic
Steven Matz ~ Dellin Betances ~ Seth Lugo ~ Michael Wacha
Robinson Cano ~ Yoenis Cespedes
Great Broadcasters in Mets History ~ Mets Who've Worn #46
Steve Cohen ~ Sale of the Mets ~ James Dolan
Arizona Pizza ~ Lee Mazzilli
and so much more!

#LFGM



Sunday, March 08, 2020

XFL Week Five: N.Y. Guardians Surge to Victory Over Dallas Renegades

From the desk of:  GOTHAM GARGOYLES OF THE GRIDIRON


WEEK FIVE
GUARDIANS   30
RENEGADES   12

Halfway through the XFL regular season, the New York Guardians have finally established an identity.  They're a feisty and undisciplined bunch, sometimes both at the same time, yet find themselves in a three way tie for first place of the XFL East.

The Gargoyles are a defensive oriented team first, with good special teams second.  They rank number two in the league with 13 sacks, and fourth with eight turnovers.  And when you take into account their week two (0-27) loss against the Defenders, followed by a (9-29) trouncing at St. Louis, New York still ranks second in average points against.

With starting quarterback Matt McGloin out nursing a rib injury, the Guardians offense has actually stabilized through better game management via back-up quarterback Luis Perez playing off a credible running game.  Through five games New York is 7th in average yards per game, and rank last with only 15.8 points per game.  However, they rank 5th in rushing averaging 98.6 yards per game.

Saturday against the Dallas Renegades the trio of Justin Stockton, Tim Cook, and Darius Victor, rushed 29 times for 125 yards.  Luis Perez was 16/30 for 229 yards, with a touchdown pass to Colby Pearson, and an INT.  The Guardians recorded three sacks, two by DT Cavon Walker.

After losing two straight, the Guardians are now winners of two straight.  They have allowed their opponents an average of 9.6 points in each of their three victories.

Shout out to Coach Gilbride.  He identified a problem three weeks into the season and took corrective action.  The last two games speak for themselves.


Brooklyn Nets: Why Sean Marks is the Sharp End of the Stick

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

HEAD COACH KENNY ATKINSON and BROOKLYN NETS 
MUTUALLY AGREE TO PART WAYS

I'm stunned.  Never saw this coming.

Shocked?  Not really.

Make no mistake.  Kenny Atkinson has a fan in me.  Coach was absolutely the right man for the job.  He served the Nets very well, nurturing a rebuilding club and coaching them up into a burgeoning contender.  Last year's playoff appearance has Atkinson's name written all over it.  What transpired along Flatbush Avenue was pure home grown.  And Atkinson was a leading force behind the organization, the fans, and Brooklyn itself, finally solidifying a long term relationship together.  So, yeah, Sean Marks nailed it when he hired Kenny Atkinson.

Sure Coach had some X and O issues, and suffered occasional bouts of game mismanagement.  What coach doesn't.?

Player conspiracy?  You tell me.

However, an analytics driven system predicated on the high screens and pick and roll, over dependence on three-point shooting, and ruinous fourth quarter meltdowns had become all too predictable.

After three seasons of steady improvements, Sean Marks this last off-season upped the ante.  Expectations changed, injuries be damned.  The Nets presently have a precarious hold on seventh place in the conference standings with just 20 games left to play.  Kenny Atkinson indeed helped get the Nets to this point.  But let's be honest, he rarely deviates from the plan.  In the midst of year four, it cost him.  Now Sean Marks wants more.  I believe in his narrative about needing a new voice in the locker room.  In fact, the more I ponder Saturday's action the more I agree with the decision.  Next season the dynamic in the Nets locker room is sure to change.  I view this as Sean Marks jumping in front of the situation.  While the timing seems odd, I applaud his conviction.  Above and beyond the position of head coach, I want the general manager of the organization operating with proactive confidence rather than in some panic riddled reactive manner.

And this is what makes Sean Marks the sharp end of the stick.




Saturday, March 07, 2020

Brooklyn Nets: Dr. J Makes a House Call

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

DR. J
Julius Erving Makes First Ever Visit to Barclays Center

Hall of Fame member Julius Erving made his first ever visit to Barclays Center on Friday.  The Nets legend more popularly known throughout the basketball universe as Dr. J, upon his pre-game introduction was welcomed by the Flatbush faithful with a rousing standing ovation.  After launching his professional career with the Virginia Squires, the Long Island native was traded back home where he would lead the New York Nets in 1974 and 1976 to American Basketball Association championships.  After the ABA/NBA merger, Julius Erving would spend his entire NBA career with the Philadelphia 76ers, where in 1981 he won league MVP, and in 1983 captured his third championship title.  His #6 was retired by the Sixers, while Dr. J's #32 was retired in 1987 by the New Jersey Nets.

Hosting their former ABA brethren, Caris LeVert leads the Nets in a resounding 139-120 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.  Coming off a 51-point performance earlier in the week at Boston, Caris LeVert posts his first ever triple-double with a game high 27-points, and a team best ten assists and eleven rebounds.  Playing a team high 31-minutes, Caris also registers a game best +18 plus/minus.  Joe Harris is next in with twenty points on 9/14 from the floor, and DeAndre Jordan put up a double/double with twelve points and ten rebounds.  Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot leads the bench with 19-points, shooting 3/5 from beyond the arc and a perfect 6/6 from the line.

The Nets improve to 17-14 at home, and have exactly twenty games remaining on their regular season schedule.  Despite a 28-34 record, they remain in seventh place of the conference standings.


Art mural featuring Dr. J is from a car wash and auto detail center formerly located at the corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and Atlantic Avenue.  Recently demolished the sight is presently under construction.




Friday, March 06, 2020

LIU Sharks: One Victory Down, Two To Go

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH


NEC TOURNEY
Fairleigh Dickinson    72
LIU SHARKS               73

With less than four seconds left to play and LIU down by one, senior Julian Batts receives a baseline inbounds, dribbles high around the left elbow, then cuts down the lane for the game winning layup.



LIU takes a 15-point lead (44-29) into halftime, and by 13:26 of the second session lead by as many as 19-points.  After which the Knights strike back with a furious 35-16 run, closing within two points of the Sharks with under a minute left to play.  A defensive rebound and layup at the other end by FDU's Elyjah Williams ties the score at 71-71 with just 0:22 second left.  Williams' free throw conversion then gives the Knights their first lead since 8:40 of the first half.  But it wouldn't last.  A key Raiquan Clark rebound gives LIU possession with just three seconds showing on the clock.  Coming out of a time out, Batts scores off the glass just before the buzzer sounds.

With Thursday's 73-72 victory over #5 Fairleigh Dickinson at the Wellness Center, the Sharks advance to the Northeast Conference semifinal round against top seed Robert Morris at Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

N.Y. Mets: Rotation Weaker Without Zack Wheeler

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


Although Zack Wheeler last March made it very clear to all that he welcomed free agency and that the club would need to meet his price, I was hoping against hope the Mets would re-sign him.

In turn the Mets let the regular season play out and apparently were dissatisfied with his performance.  Granted, Zack posted a somewhat unsightly 3.96 ERA and 1.259 WHiP through 195.1 innings pitched.  However, despite turning 30-years old this coming May, I believe health is finally on Wheeler's side and that his best days are still ahead.  Over the last two seasons he's made 60 starts with 374 strikeouts through 377.2 innings pitched.  Fangraphs had his 2018 velocity pegged at 95-mph, while last year's velocity remained steady at 96-mph.  Be that as it may the Mets made him no offer, qualifying or otherwise, electing instead to let him walk.

Wheeler signed with Philadelphia for $118 million over five seasons.  The general manager within me would have been agreeable negotiating a one hundred million package.  However I would have tried chewing him down from the other $18 million.  I'm inclined to believe Wheeler and his agent just to stay in New York would have agreed to a five year $105 million dollar deal.

Moreover, Zack Wheeler at the time I feel was better than any available replacement sans Gerrit Cole.  Simply put, the acquisitions of Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha have yet to sway my opinion, which is the starting rotation has been weakened.

Starting Depth: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Rick Porcello, Steven Matz, Michael Wacha.

vs.

Impacting the N.L. East: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Marcus Stroman, and adding Rick Porcello.

Of course, I could be wrong.

But I doubt it.



Sunday, March 01, 2020

XFL Week Four: N.Y. Guardians Defend Their House

From the desk of:  GOTHAM'S GARGOYLES OF THE GRIDIRON


WEEK FOUR
L.A. Wildcats     14
N.Y. Guardians   17

Coach Gilbride Speaks, and Gotham Guardians Listen

During last week's fight marred and rather embarrassing defeat against the St. Louis BattleHawks, the Guardians for the viewing audience put on full display their lack of discipline, poor effort, and wide spread ineptness.  Beleaguered quarterback Matt McGloin incurred an early injury forcing him out of the game; performance at center continued being a major issue; otherwise everything that could go wrong did.  How bad did it get?  Coach Gilbride on the sideline was overheard suggesting in rather matter of fact manner (paraphrasing) how the team's leadership had effectively checked out.

After winning their inaugural game at home, the Guardians resounding 9-39 defeat at the St. Louis Battle Dome marked their second straight road loss.  And with the visiting Los Angeles Wildcats coming off their big week three victory over the D.C. Defenders, naturally I believed the Guardians troubles were sure to worsen Saturday at MetLife Stadium.  Instead, a resilient home effort against Los Angeles elevates the Guardians back to par with a 2-2 record.

New York's victory over the Wildcats very much resembles their week one victory against Tampa Bay.  A solid defensive effort highlighted by a couple of key sacks, and a game changing interception, complimented by a strong running game, and back-up quarterback Luis Perez' effective game management and overall performance, proved successful.         

Los Angeles quarterback Josh Johnson was 26/40 (63%) for 330 yards, with a pair a TD's and one pivotal INT.  Otherwise the Wildcats had no running game to speak of.  Their backfield was limited to just 38 yards on 12 rushing attempts.

The Guardians on the other hand were able to ride the backs Tim Cook and Darius Victor whom joined for 114 yards yards on 26 rushes. Victor carried the load with 18 rushes for 82 yards, and Cook followed with an effective 32 yards on eight attempts.

Making his first start for the Guardians, Luis Perez despite being sacked three times was an efficient 18/26 (69%) for a modest 150 yards, with a touchdown connection to Mekale McKay, and no interceptions.  It bears mentioning that with 5:40 left in the fourth quarter the two missed on a potential 32-yard connection when a well placed pass by Perez simply slipped through a wide open McKay's fingers.

Marquis Williams gets an honorable mention for his five yard QB sneak and successful two-point conversion, as does special teams whom also played a pivotal role in Saturday's victory.

After the game Coach Gilbride further elaborated about needing to adjust his team's attitude coming off last week's performance.  For now it seems to have worked.  They responded with a victory over the team whom dumfounded Cardale Jones and the previously undefeated D.C. Defenders.

The Guardians certainly dodged a third straight loss thanks to a Wildcats missed field.  But chalk one up for coaching and corrective mood management as well.



Saturday, February 29, 2020

N.Y. Rangers: Big Bucks and Dumb Luck

From the desk of:  RAISE GRESCH WITH THE GREATS


New York Rangers: The Up and Down Week of Chris Kreider.

I wanted Chris Kreider traded.


Chris is in his eighth season with the Rangers, the present campaign being arguably his best.  However through his first seven seasons I always considered him somewhat of an underachiever.  Jeff Gorton's purge and transformation of the team is proving quite fruitful.  Therefore as a rebuilding club I believed there was yet another appreciable return to be had, potentially another high draft pick.  Instead the parties agree to a seven year contract that pays the veteran left winger roughly $6.5 million per season.  Kreider turns 29-years old in April, which is to say when the deal expires he'll be 36-years old.

With all that being said.  I'm not an enemy of Chris Kreider.  When his head is screwed on right he's a fine player.  There's still every reason to believe the total package is still on the way.



My answer is, yes indeed.  As the careers of Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal wind down, Kreider is the blueshirts' torch bearer moving forward.  If this season is indicative of a mature Kreider entering his mental and physical prime, he'll fill the role well.

Friday against the Flyers he blocks a shot resulting in a fractured foot. 

That's just dumb luck.