|Center fielder / First baseman|
March 25, 1955 |
Brooklyn, New York
|September 7, 1976, for the New York Mets|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 29, 1989, for the Toronto Blue Jays|
|Runs batted in||460|
|Career highlights and awards|
An excellent athlete, young Lee was the son of welterweight boxer Libero Mazzilli. Unlike most switch hitters, who naturally bat from one side of the plate and train themselves to feel comfortable on the other, Mazzilli was naturally ambidextrous, and swung the bat both ways from an early age. The sport he most excelled in as a junior was speed skating, in which he won eight national championships. He graduated from Brooklyn's Lincoln High School in 1973, and was the first round selection (14th pick overall) of the hometown New York Mets in the 1973 Major League Baseball Draft.
He was quite popular in New York City, thanks not only to his talent, but his Brooklyn roots and matinée idol looks. While in the minor leagues, Mazzilli set a California League record (and what is believed to be a professional record) when he stole seven bases in a game for the Mets' minor league affiliate Visalia against San Jose on June 8, 1975.
In 1979, Mazzilli led the Mets with 181 hits, and 79 runs batted in, and was their sole representative at the All-Star Game in Seattle. Mazzilli hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth inning of that All-Star Game, and drew a bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning to bring in the winning run of the National League's 7–6 victory. The following year, he had his best statistical season, leading the Mets with 162 hits, 31 doubles, 16 home runs, 76 RBIs, 82 runs, and 41 stolen bases.
Following the 1981 season, where he hit only .228 and was hampered by injuries to his back and elbow, he was traded by the Mets to the Texas Rangers. Though initially unpopular with Mets fans, the deal would prove to be a good one, bringing minor league pitchers Ron Darling and Walt Terrell in return. Darling would go on to be a key starter on Mets' 1986 World Series championship team, while Terrell was traded to the Detroit Tigers for another important player on that team, third baseman Howard Johnson following the 1984 season.
Mazzilli played only 58 games with Texas and was traded to the New York Yankees for Bucky Dent midway through the 1982 season. Prior to the 1983 season, Mazzilli was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Tim Burke, Don Aubin, John Holland and Jose Rivera.
Pittsburgh drug trials
Mazzilli and Pirates teammates Dale Berra, Lee Lacy, John Milner and Dave Parker, along with several other notable major league players, were called before a Pittsburgh grand jury for their involvement in the Pittsburgh cocaine distribution trial of Curtis Strong. Their testimony led to the drug trials, which made national headlines in September 1985. He and the other players brought before the Pittsburgh Grand Jury were granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony.
Re-signing with the Mets
The Mets were early favorites to reach the post-season in 1986, and prior to the start of the season offered third baseman Ray Knight to the Pirates for Mazzilli. The Pirates turned them down. The Pirates released him in July 1986, and he re-signed with the Mets on August 3.
Upon signing with the Mets, Mazzilli was assigned to their triple-A affiliate, the Tidewater Tides. This was his first tour of duty with the Tides as he had made the jump to the major leagues from double-A. On August 7, the Mets released left fielder George Foster and called Mazzilli up to the majors. Foster was very critical of this move by the Mets, and accused his former employers of racism.
Mazzilli turned out to be an important part of their championship team. His career with the Mets continued until 1989 when he was claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays on waivers. Mazzilli retired after the 1989 season, his 14th in the major leagues.
His final major league at bat came on September 29, 1989 when the Toronto Blue Jays were hosting the Baltimore Orioles. There was a great deal of attention paid to the game, as it was the middle game of a three game series that would decide the winner of the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles had beaten even the most optimistic expectations and were in first place for much of the 1989 season. Baltimore needed to win three games against Toronto to enter post-season play. Baltimore had lost the first game. In Mazilli’s final at bat came during the second game, he hit a double to center field. He was then replaced with a pinch runner who eventually scored what turned out to be the game-winning run, ending one of the greatest team improvements in American sports history.
Mazzilli was manager of the Baltimore Orioles from 2004 until August 4, 2005. The 2005 team compiled a surprising record of 42 wins and 30 losses while spending 62 days in first place in AL East. Its subsequent losing streak led to Mazzilli's firing. He was first base coach to the New York Yankees from 2000 to 2003 and bench coach in 2006.
Mazzilli's brother Fredo introduced him in 1981 to Danielle Folquet, a host of the New York City edition of PM Magazine. They were married at St. Patrick's Cathedral on February 4, 1984. The Mazzillis have three children: Lacey, Jenna, and Lee Jr. (known as L.J.) L.J. was drafted by the New York Mets in the fourth round of the 2013 Major League Baseball draft after playing for the University of Connecticut.
- The Ballpalyers – Lee Mazzilli
- The Official Site of The New York Mets: News: New York Mets News
- "Records might mean more later," Peter Marshall, San Bernardino County Sun, August 20, 2005
- SI.com – Writers – All-meltdown team (cont.) – Tuesday August 29, 2006 5:42PM
- Sharon Angela (I) – Biography
- Mazzilli rejoins Yanks as bench coach (11/02/2005)
- Reimer, Susan (May 16, 2004). "The Home Team". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
- "LJ Mazzilli". UConn Baseball. University of Connecticut. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or The Baseball Cube
- BaseballLibrary.com – player profile
- profile at Pittsburgh Lumber Co., part of the Most Valuable Network
|Tampa Yankees Manager
|Norwich Navigators Manager
|New York Yankees First Base Coach
|New York Yankees Bench Coach