Al Downing happy to be part of the Yankees tradition
A half-century after his debut, Downing is still living the legacy of the pinstripes
07/11/2014 10:27 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro
Al Downing (right) clowns around with David Cone and David Wells during 2011's Old-Timers' Day festivities.(AP)
Al Downing turned 73 years old just days after the Yankees held their 2014 Old-Timers' Day festivities, and while his age won't stop him from coming, don't expect to see him take the mound alongside guys like David Cone and El Duque anytime soon.
"I've retired from throwing; my arm told me it was time to stop," he laughed as he watched batting practice prior to this year's Old-Timers' Day Game. "I can think about it, but it's time to stop."
And that's okay, as Downing pitched 2,268 1/3 innings over 17 years in the Majors, even if it wasn't as smooth a career as he would've liked.
"As long as you can complete a season healthy, every year is a good year, just some are better than others," he laughed, "but I always took the optimistic point of view; when my arm was healthy, I didn't care if I threw 80 or 90, I felt I could always get a batter out."
Downing can relate to what the current Yankees pitching staff is going through, specifically having 4 starters on the DL and at least 2 of them likely out for the year - and he also has a cautionary tale about what it means going forward, too.
"When I got hurt in the second half of 1967, I never recovered the rest of the time I was here," he remembered. "I was finally better in 1969, and then I was traded that winter, so when I went to the National League, I started really a new career."
In that "new career" Downing had some highs (a 20-win season in 1971 and a 3ird World Series appearance in 1974 among others) and some lows (he is, after all, the man who gave up Hank Aaron's then-record 715th HR), but the 9 years he spent with the Yankees taught him all he needed to know about success - and he still learns more every time he comes back for Old-Timers' Day.
"Old-Timers' Day reinforces what this tradition is all about. I just saw Yogi (Berra) and Whitey (Ford) and (Don) Larsen inside, and when you see these guys, you know they represent a tradition from long before I got here," he said. "We were keepers of that tradition, and now that's moved on to the guys like (Johnny) Damon and (Hideki) Matsui, and soon to the guys like Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte - and that's great, because it means that you have the right people here who understand what the Yankee pinstripes are all about."
During Downing's time in pinstripes (1961-1969), the Yankees were at the tail end of a dynasty and in reality, a transition period; they won the World Series in 1961 and 1962 (years in which Downing was not on the postseason roster) and reached the Fall Classic in both 1963 and 1964, but from 1965-1968 they finished no higher than 5th in the American League and, in the debut of divisional play in 1969, placed 5th out of 6 teams in the AL East.
Whether worst or first, though, Downing knows the Yankee legacy is about more than just the total in the win column.
"It's not so much about the success, it's about the striving for that success, so you know you have to uphold that legacy," he said. "These guys before us won a lot, so you know that you have to win a lot. Being ordinary is not acceptable."
There's one current Yankee (and sadly, soon-to-be "Old-Timer") that exemplifies that, and Downing believes that the Captain, Derek Jeter, even transcends baseball in that realm.
"You have to go beyond the team and ask what Jeter has meant to baseball, and what he has meant to Americana," Downing said. "When we think about Derek Jeter, you wonder who in our lifetimes has gone beyond baseball to be talked about like that. Babe Ruth, and that's about it."
To Downing, as with many others, it's the Captain's never-say-die attitude and class in any situation that makes him so special, at least on the field.
"Derek embodies character and playing to the greatest of his ability at the highest level he can play, and nothing kept him out of the lineup," Downing said. "As a competitor, you see that smirk he has, and it's like he's feeling that 'I've got you where I want you, and I'm gonna beat you.'"
That said, though, Downing wouldn't classify Jeter as the greatest shortstop ever - and not because of anything related in the slightest to baseball ability.
"I don't qualify talent, I qualify the person, and as a person, he would've been great no matter where he played," Downing said of Jeter. "To try to compare positions isn't fair because you play in different eras and situations; for instance, Derek never really played much on Astroturf. But, he's a very successful competitor and a highly competitive athlete - and one we were very lucky to have (in New York)."
Come 2015, Downing may get to stand alongside the soon-to-retire Jeter as an Old-Timer, but until then, as he says, he's going to "keep doing what people are supposed to be doing at my age!"
And whether he's standing on the field next June with one or more of the Core Four or just any four ex-Yankees in general, Downing will for sure be back, because to him, there's no better feeling.
"Putting on the pinstripes again is great; it's like having a cashmere coat, suede shoes, and a fedora hat…uptown, Jack!"
Backstop from the 1960s has had three great stints in the organization
07/04/2014 10:27 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro
Jake Gibbs spurned both the NFL and AFL to sign with the Yankees in 1961.(AP)
From Bill Dickey on down to Brian McCann, the Yankees have had a strong legacy of catchers for over 100 years. Jake Gibbs may not be a household name to many Yankees fans these days, but he is part of that legacy, and he's proof of the thought that once you put the pinstripes on, you bleed them forever.
A Bombers backstop from 1962-1971, Gibbs began his career learning from Yogi Berra and Elston Howard, finished it as a mentor to Thurman Munson, and in between had about a 3-year span where he was the main man behind the plate.
He'll be the first to remind you that his Yankees teams weren't always the greatest - the 1962 World Series champions notwithstanding - but he will also be the first to remind you that whether you go 162-0 or 0-162, you're still part of the legacy.
"I enjoyed my time here; maybe we didn't have the good teams that they did before I came or after I left, but that was part of it," he said. "Once you put the pinstripes on, it doesn't matter what era it was - you're always a Yankee."
For Gibbs, that legacy has included 3 stints in the organization, the 1st coming when the 2-sport star at the University of Mississippi eschewed the NFL in 1961 - despite being taken in both the NFL and AFL drafts - to sign with the Yankees.
Gibbs returned to Ole Miss when his baseball career ended and retired after winning 485 games as the Rebels' head baseball coach from 1972-1990, but once again, his pinstriped mistress came calling; so, after a couple years off, he spent the 1993 season as the Yankees' bullpen catcher before signing on to manage the team's Advanced Class-A affiliate when it moved to Tampa in 1994.
He spent just2 years in that role, and even though he led the T-Yanks to the Florida State League title in 1994, his fondest memory there was helping shape the careers of two of the greatest Yankees ever.
"You could see how special of a player Derek Jeter was even then," he recalled, "and Mariano (Rivera)…man, he did pretty well for himself, huh?"
Gibbs now serves as a guest at the annual Fantasy Camp the Yankees run each January in Tampa, and he also works with a Pennsylvania-based company called Tyndale that produces worker safety apparel; as such, he considers himself only "halfway retired," but Old-Timers' Day is one special event he makes sure to make time for every year.
"I see a lot of the guys from time to time," Gibbs said, "and as soon as you get out on the field you recognize everybody - but no matter who is here, it's always great to come back, because I had a lot of good memories that always stayed with me."
This year, as he watched Goose Gossage get honored with a plaque in Monument Park, the 73-year-old recalled his own moment in the sun, a September 22, 1971 ceremony celebrating his pending retirement on the day of his final home game.
Gibbs was 1-for-4 as the starting catcher that day, and although the pomp and circumstance surrounding his departure paled in comparison to what Rivera got last year and Jeter is likely to get this September, it was still a career highlight he knows not everyone is fortunate enough to get.
"When I retired, they gave me a day, and I'll never forget it…that was a fun day, and I'll cherish it forever."
Attendance: Not known, but the Red Sox's average attendance that season, per Baseball Reference, was 6,093.
Ruth's line: Seven innings pitched, three runs (two earned) allowed on eight hits with no walks and one strikeout. He was 0-for-2 at the plate.
Famous K: Ruth struck out in his first at-bat, against Naps pitcher Willie Mitchell, who, interestingly, had thrown a perfect game against LSU. In that game, Mitchell logged an incredible 26 strikeouts while pitching for Mississippi State in 1909.
Cooperstown cred: Three eventual Hall of Famers were on the field that day: Ruth, Boston center fielder Tris Speaker and Cleveland second baseman Nap Lajoie. Hall of Fame right fielder Harry Hooper did not play in this game but was with the Red Sox that season.
Notable opponents: Two other Naps players who faced Ruth that day: "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, whose involvement in the 1919 Black Sox scandal and continued ineligibility for the Hall remains a subject of great dispute, and Ray Chapman, who in 1920 became the only Major League player to die from an injury suffered on the field.
Mike Hegan, left, and his father, Jim, at Yankees spring training camp in 1962.
Mike Hegan, the scion of a Cleveland baseball family who played a dozen seasons elsewhere in the big leagues but returned to his hometown as a longtime broadcaster for the Indians, died on Wednesday in Hilton Head, S.C. He was 71.
The Indians announced his death on Twitter. The Associated Press reported that the cause was a heart problem.
From 1964 to 1977, Hegan had two stints with the New York Yankees and two with the Milwaukee Brewers. He also played for the Seattle Pilots in 1969, their only year of existence before the franchise migrated to Milwaukee, and the Oakland Athletics.
A sometime outfielder (and, after 1972, a designated hitter), he was better known as a slick-fielding first baseman. From Sept. 24, 1970, when he was a Brewer, until June 3, 1973, by which time he was with Oakland, he played 178 games at first base without committing an error, at the time a major league record for the position. (Kevin Youkilis, whose streak of 238 consecutive errorless games at first for the Boston Red Sox ended in 2008, is now the record-holder.)
A left-handed hitter, Hegan was an All-Star in 1969 and played in two World Series — once in a losing cause with the Yankees in 1964 against the St. Louis Cardinals, and once with the Oakland A’s, who defeated the Cincinnati Reds for the championship in 1972.
“I faced Bob Gibson twice in the 1964 Series,” Hegan said in a 2011 interview with The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. “I walked and struck out and never took the bat off my shoulder. My knees were shaking so much, I didn’t know what to do.”
James Michael Hegan was born in Cleveland on July 21, 1942, and grew up there; in Lynn, Mass.; and in Lakewood, Ohio. He was the son of Jim Hegan, then a young player for the Cleveland Indians and, from 1946 to 1956, their starting catcher.
After high school in Cleveland, he played baseball and football for a year at Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., before signing in 1961 with the New York Yankees, for whom his father, recently retired as a player, had become a MLB coach. Mike Hegan spent 3 seasons in the Yankees’ minor league system before making his big-league debut in September 1964.
The Yankees returned him to the minors in 1965, and he was up to the big leagues and down again off and on until he was traded to Seattle. The Yankees brought him back in 1973 to shore up their infield defense, but after acquiring Chris Chambliss from Cleveland in early 1974, they sent Hegan to Milwaukee.
In 1963, Hegan married Nancy McNeil, who survives him. Major League Baseball’s website, MLB.com, reported that he was also survived by two sons and four grandchildren.
He retired from the Brewers in 1977 and worked as a television color commentator for the team. He returned to Cleveland in 1989 and broadcast Indians games on TV and radio for 23 seasons.
For his career, Hegan hit .242, with 53 homers and 229 runs batted in, and had a few notable individual highlights. On April 8, 1969, in the first inning of the first game in Seattle Pilots history, he hit the franchise’s 1st home run. On Sept. 3, 1976, he hit for the cycle — a single, double, triple and home run in the same game. He is one of seven Brewers to accomplish that feat since 1970.
But perhaps Hegan’s most unusual distinction in baseball came on July 18, 1973, when his playing and post-playing careers coincided. A reserve player for Oakland, he was told by his Manager, Dick Williams, just before that day’s game against the Baltimore Orioles that one of the regular announcers was ill. Williams told him to change out of his uniform and report to the broadcast booth. Hegan did. He announced 3 innings of the game. Then he put his uniform back on and returned to the dugout.
Signed ticket from Lou Gehrig's last game nets $95,600 at auction
08/01/2014 5:20 PM ET
By The Associated Press
Lou Gehrig wipes away a tear while speaking during a tribute at Yankee Stadium in New York.(AP)
NEW YORK (AP) -- A ticket stub signed by Lou Gehrig on the day he retired from baseball sold for $95,600 at an auction on Thursday, and the boxing gloves Muhammad Ali wore in the first of his three fights against Joe Frazier sold for $388,375.
The July 4, 1939, ticket and the 1971 Fight of the Century gloves were among the highlights from Heritage Auctions' sale at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland.
Gehrig's 1924 rookie year contract sold for $358,500. A 1927 New York Yankees signed baseball sold for $143,400, and Babe Ruth's 702nd home run ball sold for $191,200.
The auction house said more than 60,000 tickets were sold to Gehrig's last game, at Yankee Stadium in New York. Only two tickets are known to have survived. Of them, only the mezzanine box ticket had Gehrig's autograph.
The ticket was owned, until Thursday's auction, by a collector who did not want to be identified.
Gehrig retired after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, now known as Lou Gehrig's disease. In his farewell speech that day he said he considered himself "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."
Willie Randolph hopes Old-Timers' Day isn't his last chance to wear a uniform
Now 60, Randolph still hopes for another shot at managing
08/01/2014 10:27 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro
Willie Randolph hopes Old-Timers' Day pinstripes aren't his only future uniform choice.(AP)
Willie Randolph played for six teams from 1975-92 and has been a coach with four organizations, including a three-and-a-half season stint as manager of the New York Mets from 2005-08.
Still, no matter what he adds to his resume, fans have always considered Randolph a true Yankee, and that's why he loves coming back to the Bronx to be part of Old-Timers' Day.
"It's always special to be back, man. Every year I look forward to this; it's a celebration of tradition and legacy," Randolph said at this year's festivities. "All these guys are my brothers, and they taught me how to play the game."
Now 60, Randolph has had Major League Baseball in his blood for more than two-thirds of his life; that journey began when he was drafted by the Pirates in 1972, came to fruition when he made his MLB debut with Pittsburgh three years later, and continued on with him in uniform in some capacity every season but one through 2011.
That's four decades of learning, and yet, Old-Timers' Day still means class is in session once more.
"I came up when I was 21, so to be here and see all these guys, it's always a big thrill for me," he said. "I get a chance to rub elbows and talk shop, but I still learn some things from these guys, so it's always a big day for me. I have a blast."
Randolph has technically been inactive, however, since he parted ways with the Orioles after spending 2011 as Buck Showalter's bench (and later third base) coach. He did serve as Joe Torre's third base coach with Team USA in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and was a guest instructor in Yankees camp this spring, but Randolph made no bones about it: he wants his next official gig to be the big one.
"I'm looking for another shot (to manage)," he said, "and I'm disappointed that it's taken this long to get one. I'm keeping my irons in the fire and staying busy with some things off the field, but hopefully I'll get another shot."
It may have been disappointing to not spend this past March in camp in an "official" capacity, but Randolph is grateful that he got a chance to be in Tampa to take part in Derek Jeter's final spring training. Willie was a Yankees coach for the first decade or so of Jeter's career, and said it was a thrill to see The Captain come full-circle and get one last glimpse at the legend Jeter has become.
"He's phenomenal, and you run out of superlatives because he's been the epitome of excellence on and off the field," the former Yankees Captain said of the current one. "I grew up in this town and played here, so I know what it's like, but I've never seen a superstar of his magnitude handle himself the way he has. He has been a winner his whole career, and a great guy off the field with his charity work and his Turn 2 Foundation. I'm very proud of him and blessed to have had a part in developing one of the greatest players ever."
Jeter will be eligible for Old-Timers' Day next year, and Randolph hopes one day he'll have the chance to "turn two" with The Captain in the game; it's a moment he'd relish, and Willie promised that Jeter or not, until he has the chance to apply his knowledge elsewhere, he'll definitely be leaving his home in New Jersey for a day trip to the Bronx every summer.
"This event speaks to how great the organization is, how they take care of their people and have such a family atmosphere where guys feel comfortable," he said. "I know they can't bring everyone back every year, so they move it around so you see a lot of guys periodically. Most teams don't do this, so the Yankees are unique in this way, and I'm glad to be a part of it."
That said, when asked why the Yankees mystique, especially around Old-Timers' Day, continues to grow every year, Randolph had but one answer.
"I think 27 World Championships speaks for itself, no?"
Former Yankees Catcher Jerry Naron Remembers Thurman Munson's Death
The moment is forever burned into Jerry Narron's memory.
A young catcher with the New York Yankees, Narron and his roommate, Ron Davis, were spending a lazy off-day at their apartment in New Jersey 35 years ago Saturday when Catfish Hunter called and told them to turn on the television.
And there it was. The reports that Thurman Munson, the first Yankee since Lou Gehrig to be given the title "Captain," had died in a private plane crash. Instead of heading back to New York from Chicago, where the Yankees had last played, Munson, who had a private pilot's license, flew home to Ohio to spend time with his family.
While practicing landings and takeoffs at the Akron-Canton Airport, Munson's Cessna Citation crashed, and he suffered a broken neck.
"Ron and I just sat there, in silence, not believing what we were seeing," said Narron. "It was unreal."
The reality set in the next night at Yankee Stadium, Aug. 3, 1979. The Yankees hosted the Baltimore Orioles. Narron, a 23-year-old rookie, was the one who had to step in behind the plate for "The Captain."
"That day at the ballpark, there had been a death in the family,'' said Narron, now a bench coach with the Milwaukee Brewers. "Solemn doesn't begin to give you a feeling for the emotions."
Back then, the players from the home team took the field and stood at their position during the playing of the national anthem. When the Yankees headed out of the dugout that night, however, Narron remained behind, standing next to Yankees great and Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra.
Home plate remained vacant.
It was a mandate from owner George Steinbrenner.
"It told you how sacred Thurman was to George," said Narron.
And the reaction of the 51,151 fans who filled Yankee Stadium underscored the respect Munson had earned from the public.
"It was so emotional," said Narron, remembering the face of Munson glancing down at the crowd from the center-field scoreboard. "To have that ovation that lasted a couple of minutes made it so evident the respect people had for Thurman."
Narron was in another world.
A left-handed hitter struggling to get to .200 in his 1st big league season, he had to face Orioles lefty Tippy Martinez, and struck out twice before Oscar Gamble pinch-hit for him, and Gamble also struck out. The Orioles won, 1-0, but on that night, nobody seemed too concerned about the outcome -- not even Steinbrenner.
"It shook George up," said Narron. "They had that bond. They both wanted to win so badly. They were both from Ohio."
That game was so different from any other Narron ever played.
Filling in for Munson was part of Narron's job, but the finality of what happened that led to his start on this night was an emotional challenge.
"The night before [Munson's death], he played first base and I caught," said Narron. "His knees were bothering him. The game before that, he played a couple innings and then they took him out early. The plan was to give him a few days off from catching.
"But that night at Yankee Stadium, that was different than any game I ever played."
What may be the ultimate moment of Narron's career was in 2009, 30 years after Munson's death, when he was invited to participate in the Yankees Old-Timer's Day.
Munson's widow, Diana, threw out the first pitch. Narron caught it.
"The day was about Thurman's memory," said Narron. "Some of the Yankees fans had to be wondering what a career [.211] hitter was doing playing in a Yankees Old-Timer's Game. I would have, if I was a fan."
Narron, however, was more than a fan. He was a part of that memory of Munson.
"He was a leader and everybody liked him," said Narron. "He and [Yankees manager] Billy [Martin] were close. Lou [Piniella], Catfish, club officials, pitchers, position players, regulars, backups, it didn't matter. Munson was the guy everybody turned to."
Munson had his own style, gruff but caring.
"He wasn't a style master," said Narron. "He wasn't a smooth talker."
Having spent the previous season at the Class A Advanced level, Narron was brought to big league Spring Training for the first time in 1977 to help ease the catching load on the big leaguers. One day during live batting practice, Narron was catching and Munson was hitting.
"You want my job, don't you?" Munson said.
"Yeah," Narron replied.
"Well," said Munson, "I'm going to practice hitting foul balls."
Narron smiled when he recalled the moment.
"The first couple he hit went right off my mask," said Narron. "He wanted me to know. It wasn't going to be easy. I better be tough if I wanted the job."
Nothing, however, prepared Narron for dealing with a moment as tough as that 1st pitch he caught in that first game after Munson's death.
This undated photo provided by SCP Auctions shows Lou Gehrig's 1928 New York Yankees World Championship wristwatch.(AP)
LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (AP) -- A watched owned by Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig has been sold for $340,000 in an online auction.
The buyer of the watch, given to Gehrig to commemorate the New York Yankees' 1928 World Series title, was not identified by SCP Auctions.
The bidding ended Monday, and the company made the announcement Tuesday. Both the company and the consignor agreed to make donations to their local ALS Association chapters, which fund research aimed at finding a cure for the disease named after Gehrig.
Yankees outfielder Tyler Austin poses with his Kevin Lawn award.(AP)
The New York Yankees have announced the seven players they'll be sending to the Arizona Fall League this year, and among that group are two of the Yankees' three first-round picks in 2013 and one AFL alum.
Headed west this fall to be part of the 2014 Scottsdale Scorpions are: RHPs Caleb Cotham, Branden Pinder, and Alex Smith, outfielders Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge, first baseman Greg Bird, and third baseman Eric Jagielo.
In addition to the seven players, Tampa Yankees hitting coach P.J. Pilittere will also be there, serving the same role on the Scorpions staff.
Cotham, 25, was a fifth-round pick of the Yankees in 2009 out of Vanderbilt. He split the first two months of 2014 between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, going 0-4 with a 5.77 ERA in 10 starts before landing on the disabled list. He missed more than two months before returning in early August and has since made six appearances between Class-A Advanced Tampa and the Yankees' two Gulf Coast League teams, not allowing an earned run in 8 1/3 innings.
Pinder, 25, was a sixteenth-round pick in 2011 and, like Cotham, has split the season between Double-A and Triple-A while also spending time on the DL. Pinder was 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA and four saves in 12 relief appearances earlier this year in Trenton, and is 1-0 with a 3.78 ERA and one save in 13 outings for the SWB RailRiders.
Smith, 24, is a Connecticut native who was signed as an undrafted free agent in February 2012. He has spent the entire season in the Tampa Yankees bullpen, going 5-5 with a 2.40 ERA and seven saves in 44 appearances.
Austin, 22, played in the AFL briefly last year, but left after just four games because of a recurrence of the wrist injury that cost him much of the 2013 regular season. So far this year at Double-A, the 2010 13th-round pick has hit .275 with nine home runs, 47 RBI, and 20 doubles in 105 games.
Judge, 22, was the middle selection of the Yankees' three first-rounders in 2013 (No. 32 overall) and has split 2014 between Class-A Charleston and Tampa, hitting .309 overall with 17 homers, 78 RBI, 24 doubles, and a .910 OPS.
Bird, 21, was the Yankees' fifth-rounder in 2011 and won the Kevin Lawn Award this spring as the Yankees' outstanding minor-league position player in 2013. He missed the first month of the season with a back injury but has since split the year between Tampa and Trenton, hitting .272 with 14 homers, 42 RBI, 28 doubles, and an .853 OPS.
Jagielo, 22, was the Yankees' top overall pick in 2013 (No. 26 overall) and has spent most of this season in Tampa, hitting .246 with 17 homers and 54 RBI in 80 games. He missed about six weeks in May and June because of a ribcage injury, and played seven rehab games in the GCL before rejoining the T-Yanks.
Pilittere and the seven Yankees prospects will join players from the Mets, Phillies, Pirates and Giants organization on the 2014 Scorpions and will be managed by current Pirates bench coach Jeff Bannister.
The 32-game Arizona Fall League schedule begins October 7 and concludes with a championship game on November 15.
RailRiders second baseman Jose Pirela named year-end International League All-Star
08/26/2014 2:17 PM ET
By Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders Media Relations
Yankees' Jose Pirela warms up before batting during spring training.(AP)
Moosic, Pa. -- Jose Pirela's 2014 season has had the talented hitter soar to heights previously unseen on his career. Today, he can add another accolade to the list. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders' (Triple-A/New York Yankees) versatile leadoff man was named the International League's All-Star 2nd baseman on the year-end squad.
Pirela ranks among the IL's leaders in batting average (4th, .308), hits (1st, 159), runs scored (1st, 85) and total bases (2nd, 231). The 24-year-old native of Venezuela was the IL's starting 2nd baseman at July's Triple-A All-Star Game and earned the league's Player of the Month honors for June.
Pirela has spent the majority of his time this season at 2d base. He has also demonstrated his talents at other positions both new and familiar. He has seen time in all 3 outfield spots, at shortstop and at 1st base along with select time as the squad's DH. Pirela had never played center field, right field or 1st base in his stateside pro career before this season. He is the team's first player to receive year-end honors since Jorge Vazquez as the DH in 2011. Pirela is the 1st SWB player to achieve post-season All-Star status at 2nd base since Kevin Russo in 2009.
The 2014 International League All-Star squad is voted on by the circuit's managers, coaches, media and club representatives.
The RailRiders open a short 3-game, 2-day home series against the Buffalo Bisons (Toronto Blue Jays) Wednesday night with a 5:35 p.m. doubleheader. Matt Tracy (1-6, 5.07) gets the ball in game one against fellow southpaw Raul Valdes (4-5, 3.89). The RailRiders look to lefty Nik Turley (3-3, 4.83) in the nightcap while Buffalo has yet to announce its starter for that affair. Aaron Berlin will have the call on radio starting with the pregame show at 5:05 p.m. on NEPA Sports Radio - The GAME, Northeast PA's largest sports radio network: 100.7 FM, 1340 WYCK-AM, 1400 WICK-AM, 1440 WCDL-AM and 106.7 FM. For ticket information or to book a group outing, call (570) 969-BALL (2255) or visit swbrailriders.com.