Since late July, the Mets have parted ways with several players. First, it was Carlos Beltran leaving his heart in New York to go to San Francisco. Then Jose Reyes decided to take the money and run the basepaths in Miami. Soon after, Angel Pagan flapped his wings to the Bay Area. Even Nick Evans took the job security by signing in Pittsburgh.
What do all these players have in common, including the too-good-for-Triple-A, too-blah-for-the-major-leagues Nick Evans? All four of them played for the Mets at Shea Stadium.
With the departure of Beltran, Reyes, Pagan and Evans, the Mets are now left with only six players who played home games at Shea Stadium. The current longest tenured Met, David Wright, played his first five seasons at Shea. Meanwhile, Mike Pelfrey came aboard for cups of coffee in 2006 and 2007, followed by his first full season during Shea’s last year.
The short list of Shea players also includes Johan Santana, Daniel Murphy, Jonathon Niese and Bobby Parnell. All four made it just in time for Shea’s farewell season, but only Santana was on the team for the entire season. Murphy played his first game at Shea in August 2008, while Niese waited until mid-September and Parnell almost didn’t make it in time, not appearing in a game at Shea until the ballpark’s final homestand.
There was once another New York team whose stadium was razed. You might have heard about them. They played their home games at 55 Sullivan Place. Still doesn’t ring a bell? Well, I’m sure the patriarch of the Wilpon family will be more than happy to tell you about them in great detail.
In 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers left Kings County to move to Los Angeles. As late as 1966, there were still five players who played home games at Ebbets Field toiling for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Those players (Jim Gilliam, John Roseboro, Don Drysdale, Johnny Podres and some guy named Koufax) all remained with the team long after they switched coasts, with Roseboro remaining a Dodger until 1967 and Drysdale playing his final game in Los Angeles in 1969.
In addition, one former Brooklyn Dodger was still playing in the major leagues into the 1970s, finishing his career as a New York Met. Bob Aspromonte played one game for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956, then returned to the Dodgers for parts of two seasons in 1960 and 1961. In 1971, he became the last former Brooklyn Dodger to play in the major leagues, playing 104 games at third base for the Mets.
Although Bob Aspromonte might be the answer to the trivia question, “who was the final Brooklyn Dodger to play in the major leagues?”, to Mets fans, he’s known as one of the reasons the team felt the need to trade away Nolan Ryan.
Aspromonte’s poor season at the plate in 1971 (.225, 5 HR, 33 RBI), along with the lack of development by third-year player Wayne Garrett, led the Mets to search elsewhere for a third baseman who could hit for average and power. Their search ended with shortstop (not third baseman) Jim Fregosi, at the cost of Nolan Ryan. Fregosi’s time as a productive hitter pretty much ended there as well, as did the career of the last Brooklyn Dodger.
With his recent injury history, Johan Santana is doubtful to be a Met after his current contract expires in 2013 (although there is a club option for 2014). Similarly, David Wright is only under team control until next year. If Mike Pelfrey doesn’t return to form, he might be writing his ticket out of New York as well.
Do you see where this is going? There is a real possibility that within six or seven years of Shea Stadium’s final game, there might be no one left on the Mets who could say they were there when we all Shea’d Goodbye.
Nearly a decade after Ebbets Field closed for good, several former Brooklyn players still had “Dodgers” emblazoned on their chests. Less than half a decade after Shea shut down, the number of players who could call it home is dwindling to a precious few.
Where have all the Shea Stadium players gone? The way things are going, there will be none left very soon.