Saturday, January 31, 2015

Card #144: Fred Breining

Who Can It Be Now?
Fred Lawrence Breining was born on November 15, 1955 in San Francisco, California. He grew up in the City of San Francisco and attended high school there.  He then matriculated at the College of San Mateo, a community college in San Mateo. The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him in the third round of the 1974 January Draft (Regular Phase) and Breining signed shortly thereafter.

Breining's career stalled out in the Pittsburgh system, and it appeared as though he had plateaued and reached his level in 1978 in Triple-A. He got rocked for a 6.38 ERA in 55 innings at Columbus that year, and things were not looking good for him. But, in 1979, Breining was a throw-in in a trade between Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Breining went back to his hometown club (along with pitchers Al Holland and Ed Whitson) in exchange for the one star in the trade -- Bill Madlock -- along with Lenny Randle and one of the Dave Robertses.  That trade at the end of June of 1979 seemed to revitalize Breining, leading to his call-up in 1980.

Just 25 in 1981 despite 7 years of professional baseball under his belt, Breining looked to be a legitimate major league pitcher (despite a FIP that was 1.25 runs per nine innings higher than his ERA). He backed that up in 1982 with a stellar season -- 11-6 record, 3.08 ERA (3.00 FIP) and 2 complete games in 9 starts. He moved to the rotation in 1983 and racked up 202-2/3 innings over 32 starts with an 11-12 record and a 3.82 ERA.

The real controversy in his career came in late 1983 and early 1984. Breining was traded early in spring training to Montreal for Al Oliver. When he arrived for spring training, his shoulder was tender to the touch. Breining said his shoulder was hurt the previous September, and the Giants claimed they knew nothing about it. Eventually, the Giants sent a second pitcher, Andy McGaffigan, to Montreal to make up for the issue.  That didn't help Breining's career -- he pitched 6-2/3 innings for the Expos in 1984 and never pitched in the major leagues again.

Mustache Check: It's a wispy mustache more appropriate for a teen, but there is definitely one there.

The Verdict
The Great Recession of 2008 to, well, probably around 2013 or so caused a lot of people financial harm. Many folks were so far underwater on their mortgages that, try though they might, they were unable to refinance their homes and lost the house. Still others got close to that precipice of foreclosure but attempted to stave it off with lawsuits.

It is into this final category that Fred Breining appears to fall. Breining and his wife appear to have tried to refinance their home, gotten the runaround from their various mortgage companies, and, then, only got a denial for refinancing and had to resort to court. This court order from July 2014 granted the finance company's motion to dismiss, but gave Breining and his wife leave to amend their pleading. I'm not sure how it's played out, but I feel for them.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
Breining never pitched in the AL and pitched only for a few years in the majors, so I can't say that I recall him at all. In fact, if you pressed me on who the guy in the picture is, I would have guessed Mike LaCoss due to the gnarly glasses Breining has on here.

It appears that Breining has spent most of his post-baseball career serving as a private pitching coach and attempting to be an inventor. A quick look at his LinkedIn page shows that he has been giving private pitching lessons for the last 26 years in California. Indeed, Fred's page mentions that he had 7 students drafted in the 2010 to 2012 drafts.

That said, I don't know that he really understands Twitter at all.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Card #143: Mookie Wilson

Programming Note: Yes, I'm back. Finally. Here's the thing, though -- life has gotten incredibly busy for me. So much so that I do not have the time to write up the big career stories that I was writing. Instead, going forward, the posts will look more like this one -- a much shorter "Who Can It Be Now?" along with whatever category posts I have and maybe a paragraph wrap-up with my thoughts.

Who Can It Be Now?
William Hayward Wilson -- Mookie -- was born on February 9, 1956, in Bamberg, South Carolina. He became a South Carolina Gamecock eventually, spending his junior year in Columbia. His junior year was good enough to make him the Mets second round pick (42nd overall) in 1977.

If you know one thing about Mookie Wilson's career, you know that he was the guy who tapped the dribbler in the tenth inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series -- the dribbler that went through Bill Buckner's legs and scored the winning run. Wilson was one of only a few holdovers on that '86 team from the early 1980s Mets -- most of which were not very good teams.  

Mookie spent parts of ten seasons in Flushing, and, indeed, stands 15th at present in career wins above replacement among all New York Mets players -- just behind Howard Johnson and just ahead of David Cone's Mets years. After he left the Mets, he finished his career off with three seasons in Toronto. His career came to a close after the 1991 American League Championship Series in which the Jays lost to the eventual World Series Champions, the Minnesota Twins.

Mustache Check: Mookie is definitely whiskered.

Family Ties
In a convoluted and potentially uncomfortable family tie, Mookie's stepson is former major leaguer Preston Wilson. Mookie is also Preston's uncle, because Preston's natural father was Mookie's brother Robert.  

Mookie also had two other brothers who played minor league baseball.  Younger brother John Wilson was the Mets 17th round pick in the 1982 January Draft -- which pretty much guarantees that John was not regarded highly despite impressive speed in the minor leagues. 

The youngest of the three Wilson brothers to play professionally was Phil Wilson, who was a fifth round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1984. Phil had trouble making enough contact to get past Triple-A.

Mookie Wilson parlayed his fame in the 1986 World Series into a TV appearance. He joined Keith Hernandez, Mark Ingram (the Dolphins and Giants WR who fathered the running back who attended Alabama), Sean Landeta, Pee-wee Herman, Jeremy Irons, Madeline Kahn, Itzhak Perlman, Paul Simon, and Rhea Perlman, among others, in singing "Put Down the Duckie" in a 1988 "All-Star Musical Special" of the same name for Sesame Street.

The World According to Garp
In April of last year, Mookie released a book called "Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the '86 Mets." If you are a Mets fan, or if you like good baseball books, this may be one to pick up. The book has been reviewed 21 times on Amazon, and it has received 17 5-star reviews and 4 4-star reviews.  

A Few Minutes With Tony L.
Mookie's distinctive nickname made him well-known to all fans of baseball in the 1980s. A number of the reviews of his book mention how much Mookie loved baseball -- playing the game and being around it.  

It should come as no surprise, then, that he has spent a great deal of his post-playing career as a coach for his New York Mets. He was unhappy to be named as a club ambassador last spring, however, because it was a role he received after being pushed out of his on-field role. Indeed, this link has excerpts from his book in which he said that he had "basically become a hood ornament for the Mets" after his demotion from being an on-field staff member in 2011.