Mets Merized Online » Ron Swoboda Fri, 02 Dec 2016 20:05:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Around the Diamond: The Straw That Stirred Right Field Tue, 28 Jan 2014 17:41:16 +0000 darryl strawberry

No other position has seen more turnover at the starting spot for the Mets than Right Field. In 52 seasons, they have seen 33 different players who would be classified as the “primary” player at the position. Darryl Strawberry was the man for eight of those seasons. The other 44 seasons saw 32 different players. The last 16 seasons have seen 15 different regular right fielders for the Mets.

The following are the top eleven players to have regularly manned right field for the Mets.

10 – Alex Ochoa (1996-97) – 170 games (132 starts). In 1996, Ochoa hit .294 with 4 HR and 33 RBI.

10 – Carl Everett (1995) – 170 games (136 starts). In 1995, Carl Everett hit .260 with 12 HR and 54 RBI.

9 – Jeff Francoeur (2009-10) – 192 games (183 starts). In 2011 (with the Mets), Frenchy hit .311 with 10 HR and 41 RBI.

8 – Bobby Bonilla (1992-93) – 229 games (226 starts). In 1993, Bobby-Bo hit .265 with 34 HR and 87 RBI.

7 – Roger Cedeno (1999, 2003) – 238 games (189 starts). In 1999, he hit .313 with 4 HR, 36 RBI and 66 stolen bases.

6 – Joe Christopher (1964) – 263 games (244 starts). In 1964, he hit .300 with 16 HR and 76 RBI.

5 – Jeromy Burnitz (2002) – 290 games (262 starts). In 2002, Burnitz batted .215 with 19 HR and 54 RBI.

4 – Joel Youngblood (1979-80) – 309 games (244 starts). In 1979, Youngblood hit .275 with 16 HR and 60 RBI.

3 – Ron Swoboda (1967-70) – 434 games (372 starts). In 1967, Swoboda batted .281 with 13 HR and 53 RBI.

2 – Rusty Staub (1972-75) – 535 games (531 starts). Rusty had some solid years for the Mets and in 1975 he batted .282 with 19 HR and 105 RBI.

1 – Darryl Strawberry (1983-90) – 1,062 games (1,022 starts). A former number one pick, in 1987, Darryl hit .284 with 39 HR, 104 RBI, and 36 stolen bases.

Presented By Diehards

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The Mets’ First Two Great Prospects: Kranepool and Swoboda Wed, 01 Jan 2014 15:57:42 +0000 Today, when teams discuss trades, prospects have inflated value based on what they MIGHT achieve according to scouts and also because they will be relatively cheap and under team control for several years to come. But prospects often don’t turn out to be big stars; some don’t make the major leagues at all. Even the greatest prospects fail more often than they succeed.

When a player already makes the big leagues at a young age and shows signs of being able to hold his own against major league competition while still a teenager or barely in his 20’s, it’s reason to get excited. The future seems unlimited and especially for a losing team as the Mets certainly were in their early years, fans begin to envision great things and a bright future for years to come.

The Mets’ very first great prospect was clearly Ed Kranepool who was signed out of James Monroe High School in the Bronx where he had broken Hank Greenberg’s home run records. In the days before the amateur draft, the Mets gave Ed an $80,000 bonus in 1962 with all the fanfare you’d associate with a #1 Draft Pick today. Kranepool was quickly brought up to the big leagues that same season after a brief and successful stint in the New York-Penn League. Although hardly ready at the age of 17, Ed was penciled in as the first baseman of the future and got a shot at the regular job the following year after Marv Throneberry was released. While Ed is remembered fondly as one of the heroes of 1969 and a solid contributor as a pinch-hitter for many years to come, without a doubt, he was a disappointment in terms of the expectations the organization and the fans had for him.

Ed was slow-footed and never hit more than 16 home runs in any season. Although he looked like he could be a .300 hitter and even got off to red-hot starts a couple of years, you could basically count on Ed to hit in the .260 range. It wasn’t long before the banner “Is Ed Kranepool Over The Hill ?” made its appearance at Shea Stadium. The Mets certainly wanted him to succeed, but bringing in players like Dick Stuart was a pretty good sign that the team realized that Kranepool would never be the player they expected. Ed was even put up in the 1968 expansion draft , still just 24 years old, and wasn’t taken by either Montreal or San Diego before the Mets pulled him back after a few rounds. I know there are still lots of Kranepool fans out there and certainly his career was considerably longer and more successful than many other players but he didn’t come close to what we all thought his “potential” was.

Ron SwobodaIn 1964, a powerful outfielder recently signed out of the University of Maryland made a remarkable splash in spring training. Ron Swoboda displayed prodigious power and for all the world looked like the future cleanup hitter for the Mets for years to come. He was so impressive that despite no minor league experience, the Mets started him in AAA Buffalo. He was a little overmatched at the plate and his fielding was atrocious so the Mets sent him to AA Williamsport. Swoboda’s season statistics at AA and AAA were extremely impressive for a player with no previous professional experience – a combined 17 home runs, 72 rbi’s and a .271 average. At the time, baseball rules dictated that first-year pros had to be carried on the major league roster the following year or be subject to a waiver claim, so Swoboda’s presence on the 1965 Mets was much anticipated.

And Swoboda started off red-hot in 1965, giving fans hope that here was a player who could hit about 40 home runs and drive in 85 to 100 runs every year. His poor defense would get better with experience as would his .228 batting average which he compiled in 1965. As for his 19 round trippers, that was just the beginning. Well, Ron never came close to even hitting 19 home runs in a season again and after 6 disappointing years with the Mets (1969 heroics aside), was traded away and never really achieved major league success.

Of course, both had their great moments with the Mets, but as prospects, neither measured up to the potential everyone thought they had. Would the Mets have even thought about trading either in their first two years ? Highly unlikely. It’s something to think abut when the Mets or any other team call their prospects untouchable even in prospective deals for established big league players. Great prospects don’t always become great ballplayers.

Presented By Diehards

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Ed Kranepool Wants Mets To Win Again Before He Runs Out Of Time Fri, 20 Sep 2013 16:51:38 +0000 ed kranepool

Almost 52 years since he made his debut with the 1962 Mets, Ed Kranepool still loves the team and follows them daily. Tim Rohan of the New York Timesspoke to Krane yesterday and the two of them discussed the current climate of the team and expectations.

Out on Long Island, Ed Kranepool, a Met for 18 seasons (1962-79), including the championship year of 1969, said he would not consider a late dash to third place this season as any sign of progress. It was more complicated than that, said Kranepool, who is usually invited back by the Mets a dozen or more times a seasons to entertain fans and tell stories about the old days.

To Kranepool, the issue is how well the younger players, like Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer FloresZack Wheeler and Juan Lagares, are developing.

It was a point of view echoed by one of Kranepool’s old Mets teammates — Ron Swoboda — who continues to follow the Mets from his home in New Orleans. Every day, he watches highlights and scans the box scores, checking the same young players Kranepool is monitoring. He, too, does not care where the Mets finish this season.

“That’s irrelevant to me!” he said, his voice rising. “Would it make any difference if they were second? It wouldn’t make any difference to me. The number that matters is: Are you in the playoffs?”

“I’m 69 years old,” he said, calming down. “I want to see them good again.” He let out a long, nervous laugh. “I don’t want to run out of time.”

For the moment, time is only running out on this season, one that might very well end with the Mets back where everybody knows where to find them — in fourth place, waiting for better digs.

I loved Kranepool as a kid. He may not have been as great as his contemporaries at first base during his time with the Mets, but that didn’t matter to me – he was great in my book.

Even in his latter years as his career was winding down, I loved standing up and cheering with everyone else at Big Shea and shouting “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie…” whenever he came out to pinch-hit.

I remember many a game where Kranepool had Shea rocking from the foundation all the way up to the rafters. Those were great times…

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Harvey And Wheeler Give Met Fans A Glimpse Into The Future Tue, 18 Jun 2013 14:44:17 +0000 zack wheeler 2There might be some question if Zack Wheeler is ready to assume the role of savior for the New York Mets, despite his and manager Terry Collins’ proclamations to the contrary of those lofty expectations.

With the statistical and financial numbers having been crunched, the decision is it is time to start the clock on Wheeler. The Mets don’t know who’ll be dropped from the rotation. Because of today’s doubleheader, the Mets will go at least one cycle through the rotation with six starters.

Wheeler will start the second game with Matt Harvey taking the opener. That pitching future the Mets have been bragging about? Well, we’ll get a glimpse today.

Ideally, the Mets don’t want to return Wheeler to the minor leagues after today. As their thinking when Harvey came up last year, they want him here to stay. Because Wheeler won’t be activated until between games, rules prohibit him of being in the dugout to watch Harvey.

That will happen soon enough.

“[It will be] a fun day,’’ Collins said this afternoon at Turner Field. “It’s a great thing for this organization and its fan base to see what the future is going to be like. We’ve got two young guys that are going to be very, very, very good.

“Pitching is the name of this game. We’re going to run two guys out there [Tuesday] that can take this organization north pretty fast.’’

Harvey has been exceptional this season, but is just 1-1 with eight no-decisions in his last ten starts. In that span Harvey has given up 19 runs. If nothing else, what Wheeler should learn quickly about pitching on the major league level is there will be times when he’ll have to do it without run support, which is what Harvey is currently experiencing.

Harvey has been successful in large part because of his composure, self-confidence and sense of worth. Harvey understands his stature and expectations of him, but hasn’t let it go to his head.

Wheeler might as well have been reciting a script given him by Harvey.

“I don’t think I’m the savior at all,’’ spoke Wheeler in a press conference Monday afternoon at Turner Field, almost a half-hour where he grew up watching Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine.

Continuing his refreshing travel down humility road, Wheeler said: “We might not be doing too well right now, but I know the talent of these guys, and hopefully we can turn it around soon. … I’m just trying to come up here and play the best that I can, help out the team any way I can.

“I know people are going to scrutinize. We aren’t doing too well right now, but hopefully we can turn it around and everybody will like us again.’’

Mets fans have liked Wheeler all spring in hope of what he might give them. Today is his first chance to deliver.

Thoughts from Joe D.

Last night I told one of my friends that today’s doubleheader was giving me the familiar feelings I had when Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman were taking the mound back in 1968. Back then, Seaver was embarking on his second full season as a major leaguer and Kooz was about to pitch his first. They each delivered on their promise that year and suddenly by the time that season was over there was a sense that somehow 1969 was going to be special for the Mets.

Koosman had the better season in ’68 winning 19 games for a team that finished in ninth place and won only 77 games that year. He posted a 2.08 ERA in 34 starts for those Amazin’ young upstarts.

Seaver, on the other hand, already had his smashing debut the season before with 16 wins and a 2.76 ERA. He duplicated that win total the following season and improved his ERA to 2.20.

Wow, what was happening here I wondered…

I spent that fall and winter flipping and trading baseball cards with all the Yankee fans in my neighborhood. My goal was to get as many Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman cards as I could get my hands on. Back then, none of the Mets hitters had a .300 average… none of the Mets hitters had hit more than 15 home runs… and I think Ron Swoboda led the team with 50-something RBIs…

The only thing the team had going for them was Seaver and Koosman and yet somehow there was a feeling that that might be enough.

That was a long time ago my friends…. The game’s changed a lot since then, but the circumstances almost feel the same where Wheeler and Harvey are concerned. I hope I’m right…

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Featured Post: Behind the Mask – Jerry Grote Tue, 23 Apr 2013 04:01:58 +0000 jerry koosman jerry grote ed charlesWinning was Jerry Grote’s bliss. In fact, his most joyous moment on the diamond was captured on film when teammate Jerry Koosman leapt into his arms after the final out of the 1969 World Series.

In 1976, Bob Myrick found out the hard way how Grote felt about losing when the Mets rookie pitcher beat his catcher in a game of Backgammon, causing Grote to explode, sending the board and its pieces across the room with a single swing of the arm.

“I just sat there staring at him – hard,” remembered Myrick. “He got up and picked up all the pieces, and we never had a cross word. He was a perfectionist.”

Grote’s desire to win led to unparalleled intensity on the field. During his 12-year career in New York, teammates labeled Grote surly, irascible, testy and moody. Then, there’s Koosman’s description: “If you looked up red-ass the dictionary, his picture would be in there. Jerry was the guy you wanted on your side, because he’d fight you tooth and nail ‘til death to win a ball game.”

Grote played with an anger and intensity that was, at times, intimidating to opponents, umpires, the media and teammates alike.

“When I came up I was scared to death of him,” said Jon Matlack, winner of the 1972 Rookie of the Year award. “If you bounced a curveball in the dirt, he’d get mad. I worried about him more than the hitter.”

“He could be trouble if you didn’t do what he said,” added former Met Craig Swan. “He wanted you to throw the pitches he called. He made it very simple. I would shake him off now and then, and he would shake his head back at me. If a guy hit a home run off of me, he wouldn’t let me hear the end of it.”

Grote had a special way of letting his pitchers know he wasn’t pleased with a pitch. “Jerry had such a great arm. He could throw with great control and handcuff you in front of your belt buckle,” remembers Koosman.

Grote would get incensed when Jim McAndrew was on the mound. “McAndrew would never challenge hitters according to where Grote wanted the ball; so Grote kept firing it back and handcuffing him in front of the belt buckle, and we would laugh, because we knew what Grote was doing,” said Koosman.

jerry groteThe tactic didn’t go over so well when Koosman pitched. During a game when Koosman was struggling to find his control, Grote began firing the ball at his pitcher’s belt buckle. Koosman called Grote to the mound.

“I told him, ‘If you throw the ball back at me like that one more time I am going to break your f—ing neck,’” Koosman told Peter Golenbeck in Amazin’. “I turned around and walked back to the mound, and he never threw it back at me again. We had great respect for each other after that.”

He took his frustration out on umpires too. Retired umpire Bruce Froemming claims Grote intentionally let a fastball get by him, nearly striking Froemming in the throat. Because they had spent the three previous innings in a non-stop argument, Froemming accused Grote of intentionally moving aside in hope that the pitch would hit the umpire.

“Are you going to throw me out?” snapped Grote.

“He made no attempt to stop that pitch,” Froemming thought. The home plate umpire fumed but realized he had no grounds to toss Grote from the game.

National League umpires were well aware of Grote, and his on-field demeanor. In fact, in 1975, the league was discussing physical contact between catchers and umpires. Jerry Crawford was queried about his unique style of resting a hand between a catcher’s hip and rib cage and he said, “I ask the catcher if it bothers him, and only Jerry Grote has complained.”

“The writers never respected Grote, but they guys who played with him could barely stand him,” said Ron Swoboda. “He was a red-ass Texan who loved to f— with people but who didn’t like anyone to f— with him. It was a one-way street. Grote is Grote, and we would not have been as good without him behind home plate.”

“Grote had a red-ass with the media, but he didn’t care,” added Koosman. “All he cared about was what he did on the field. If you didn’t get your story from what he did out there, you either talked to him nicely or he wasn’t going to give you any more story.”

Grote did not return calls or respond to multiple email requests for an interview for this story.

This is who Jerry Grote is – and the Mets knew it from the day they traded for him for a player to be named later in October 1965.

“When we got him, I don’t think anyone else had that big of an opinion of him,” said Bing Devine. “Jerry was withdrawn and had a negative personality, but he knew how to catch a ball game and how to handle pitchers, and maybe that very thing helped him to deal with the pitching staff. He was great. I know he surpassed our expectations.”

He was exactly what the Mets needed to manage a young, extremely talented pitching staff, but he was clearly a handful to manage too.

“If he ever learns to control himself, he might become the best catcher in baseball,” former Mets manager Wes Westrum told the media during Grote’s first season in New York.

Then, in 1968, Gil Hodges arrived. After being briefed on the Mets roster, Hodges said he “did not like some of the things I heard about Jerry. He had a habit of getting into too many arguments with umpires and getting on some of the older players on the club.”

Hodges, known for his firm, but fair, demeanor, took Grote into his office for an attitude adjustment. The Mets manager realized the importance of Grote’s talents and how it would affect the pitching staff. Hodges made his expectations clear.

“I hesitate to imagine where the New York Mets would have been the last few years without Jerry,” Hodges told Sports illustrated in 1971. “He is invaluable to us. He is intent and intense and he fights to get everything he can.”

Grote batted .256 in his 12 seasons in New York. He is a two-time All-Star (1968 and 1974). In 1969, Grote threw out 56% of baserunners. He ranks third on the Mets all-time list for games played (1235), 11th in hits (994), 15th in doubles and total bases (1413).

Grote fractured his wrist after getting hit by a pitch in May 1973. The Mets recorded three shutouts the first month with Grote behind the plate, four more shutouts over the next two months (May 12-August 11) without Grote behind the plate and eight more shutouts over the final six weeks of the season with Grote managing the staff. Grote caught every inning of every playoff and World Series game in 1969 and 1973. Here’s a statistic for you: In the 20 post season games between ’69 and ’73, the Mets used 45 pitchers and one catcher. Those were the only two post season appearances the Mets made during Grote’s 12 years in New York.

“One of the advantages of playing for New York is that the big crowds at Shea Stadium help you tremendously,” Grote said in a 1971 interview with Sports Illustrated. “They make you want to give 115% all the time. In other places it cannot be the same for the players. Like in Houston, nobody seems to applaud unless the hands on the scoreboard start to clap. Once those hands stop, so do all the others. Real enthusiasm.”

Grote loved playing in New York, and New York loved his gritty style.

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How The Miracle Mets Were Built: The 1968 Off-Season Sun, 27 Jan 2013 04:11:42 +0000 Welcome to Part Two of my series entitled, How The Miracle Mets Were Built. You can read Part One by clicking, The Spring Of 1968.

The 1968 Off-Season

The Mets had just completed their most successful year winning 73 games and finishing in 9th place under new manager Gil Hodges. Even though it wasn’t that much of an improvement over previous years, there were definitely some positive developments in ’68. Second-year man Tom Seaver and rookie Jerry  Koosman won 16 and 19 games respectively to give the Mets two reliable young pitchers to head the rotation.

Nolan Ryan was inconsistent and plagued by blisters, but showed great potential. Cleon Jones was solid in left field raising his average from .246 in 1967 to .297 and driving in 55 runs. Jerry Grote at catcher and Bud Harrelson at shortstop excelled defensively and Grote also hit well enough to solidify himself as the undisputed #1 catcher on the team.  Unheralded Jim McAndrew came up from the minor leagues and showed that he could be a useful 4th or 5th starter. On the farm, although Les Rohr had an injury-plagued and wasted year , the Mets were developing another good crop of young pitchers such as Rich Folkers, Jim Bibby, Barry Raziano, and Steve Renko and both Gary Gentry and Tug McGraw pitched well enough at AAA Jacksonville to contend for major league jobs in 1969. But there had also been many disappointments in 1968.

For the third year in a row, it seemed like the Mets had traded for a centerfielder who was a complete bust. Following in the footsteps of Billy Cowan and Don Bosch, Tommie Agee, playing in 132 games batted .217 with five home runs and 17 RBI, while striking out 103 times. Would Agee get another chance ? Ed Kranepool and Ron Swoboda who had once been hailed as the future hitting stars of the team, disappointed once again. Nobody on the team had more than 15 home runs and that was old man Ed Charles who won the third base job in spring training. Nobody on the team drove in as many as 60 runs.

ed kranepoolThe good news was the Mets had to finish better than ninth in 1969 because divisional play had begun and the worst the team could do was finish 6th. The first order of business was to prepare the list of eligible players for the expansion draft to stock the new Montreal and San Diego franchises. Although the Mets’ full list was never divulged, I read that Ed Kranepool was eligible, but was withdrawn after the Expos picked Don Shaw because Shaw and Kranepool were 2 of M. Donald Grant’s favorites and the Mets weren’t about to give up both.

The Mets also wound up losing Dick Selma who had been a useful swing man, but never really established himself, as well as several minor leaguers including outfielder Jerry Morales and pitchers Ernie Mc Anally and John Glass. Following the draft, the Mets sold Don Bosch to the Expos. In the Rule 5 draft, the Mets selected infielder Wayne Garrett. Before spring training, the Mets sent one-time stellar catching prospect Greg Goossen to the expansion Seattle Pilots for veteran minor leaguer Jim Gosger. Other than that, the Mets did not make a single deal in the off-season. Most experts thought that the Mets had a good shot at beating out the expansion Expos, although even that was In doubt because in Rusty Staub and Donn Clendenon, Montreal had 2 professional hitters the Mets couldn’t match.

Optimistic Mets fans saw Nolan Ryan joining Seaver and Koosman in the regular rotation possibly along with Gentry or McGraw to give the Mets an outstanding young rotation. Gentry had been making steady progress ever since the Mets signed him out of Arizona State in 1967, but was he ready for the major leagues? McGraw was definitely ready for another shot, but would he stick this time, and would he start or relieve?

Personally,  I thought that the Mets had a chance to possibly beat out both the Expos and Phillies, and maybe even the Pirates, but the Cubs and defending league champion Cardinals looked like they would dominate the division. As we all know, things fell into place very nicely for the 1969 Mets. More in my next post.

believe in miracles

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Mets Memories – Ron Swoboda Tue, 13 Mar 2012 14:16:38 +0000 To most younger Mets fans with a sense of history, Ron Swoboda will always be remembered for his great catch and clutch hits that helped the Mets win the 1969 World Series against Baltimore. But for those of us who remember when he first came up in spring training of 1964, Swoboda represented great hope. Prodigious power, loaded with potential, hard working, bursting with charisma, and yet in need of a lot of experience.

Signed to a $30,000 bonus contract out of the University of Maryland, Swoboda first attracted manager Stengel’s attention by hitting some monumental home runs in intra-squad games in spring training in 1964. “Suhboda hits the ball over buildings”, Stengel said and was further (likely mis-)quoted as saying that the young slugger could be to the Mets what Mickey Mantle was to the Yankees. Of course, this was rather unrealistic, because aside from his power, Swoboda had none of the skills that Mantle possessed. But it didn’t seem improbable that Swoboda could become say, another Ralph Kiner, good for 40 or more home runs and 100 rbi’s a season, even if his defense was barely acceptable.

Swoboda, as a 19-year old with no professional experience, started his pro career at AAA Buffalo in 1964 and was later sent down to AA Williamsport. His numbers weren’t spectacular, but a combined 17 home runs and 72 rbi’s at the minors’ highest levels for someone so green was impressive. Back then, for some reason I never understood, after a player had spent his first year in the minor leagues, the major league team had to carry him on their 25-man roster the following season, or risk losing him to amother organization that could send him out. This rule accounted for the major league status of such otherwise unqualified Mets players as Ron Locke, Jim Bethke, and Danny Napoleon, among others. Occasionally, there was a player who had to be carried under this rule who proved he was ready for the big leagues. Tony Conigliaro was perhaps the best example of this. Larry Dierker was another.

Anyway, the point is, that the Mets knew that Swoboda would be part of the big club in 1965 even though his fielding was still brutal and his judgment of the strike zone, on defense and on the base paths could have all benefited from further minor league seasoning.

And so it was, in 1965, Swoboda, playing a full season with the Mets, although batting just .228, hit 19 home runs, many of them prodigious shots into the left field parking lot. If Swoboda, who appeared to be a truly dedicated player could improve his defense and learn the pitchers around the league, the possibility of stardom was definitely there. Worst case scenario it seemed would be a shaky rightfielder who’d still be good for 25 homeruns and 80 + rbi’s and couldn’t the Mets build around someone like that ?

For whatever reason (but likely the pitchers around the league adjusted to him a lot better than he adjusted to them), Swoboda never even approached the 19 homeruns he hit as a rookie. In his second season, he hit just 8. Then, he’d hit between 9 and 13 a year. And although he worked hard to improve his defense, he was always capable of breaking your heart. I still remember crying myself to sleep the night Swoboda muffed a flyball against the Cardinals with 2 outs in the ninth inning, causing 3 runs to score, and turning a sure win into a crushing defeat.

In 1969, of course, things sort of came together for Swoboda, leading to his memorable performance in the World Series. His regular season numbers were nothing special, 9 homeruns and a .235 average, but he did have some big games, notably aginst Steve Carlton, and of course, he was an instrumental piece of the Miracle.

Swoboda played one more season with the Mets before the organization gave up on him, sending him to the Expos even-up for Don Hahn, who was no more than a defensive replacement type. Mets fans half-expected Ron’s career to blossom after he was dealt away, but instead, Swoboda played sparingly without doing much of anything. In the end, his career numbers were sadly disappointing.

But there was 1969, and for that, Met fans will always be grateful. Shortly after his active career concluded, Swoboda surfaced as a sports anchor on CBS Channel 2 in New York. He was very raw at the time and didn’t last long, but he’s since moved to New Orleans where he’s been a popular on-air sports personality for many years. When the Mets’ AAA club was located in New Orleans, Swoboda served as color commentator for Zephyrs games resuming at the time his association with the Mets and that was nice to hear.

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Former Mets Thoughts From The B.A.T. Dinner Sat, 28 Jan 2012 21:05:32 +0000 Mets 50th Anniversary

Here are some Mets thoughts from the afternoon media session from Tuesday’s 23rd annual MLB B.A.T. Dinner.

Gary Sheffield

Sheffield said it was not difficult for him to retire after his long career, which included a World Series championship in 1997 with the Marlins and hitting his 500th career home run as a Met.

“I pretty much did everything I wanted to do on a baseball field,” he said.

He has enjoyed spending time playing football and baseball with his five boys. He thinks his 5-year-old has the best shot to make it big.

Sheffield has been involved with B.A.T. in the past and likes where the organization is headed.

“I think it’s very important for every player to be here,” he said. “A lot of guys fall on hard times, but many of those guys wind up being successful.”

Ed Kranepool

Ed Kranepool

Ed Kranepool

Kranepool was an original member of 1962 Mets, so he was thrilled to be back for the team’s 50th anniversary.

“It’s a lot of fun to be part of it,” he said. “The organization has great tradition, and I hope it continues.”

Kranepool spent his entire 18-year career with the Mets and saw the team’s transformation from “Lovable Losers” to World Series Champions in 1969. He said the team was able to turn it around through the combination of hard work and the development of young players.

He also said Gil Hodges was the main reason for the turnaround.

“Under Gil Hodges’ tutelage, we became a good ball club and we could have won more pennants if he didn’t pass away,” said Kranepool.

Kranepool was the only member of the original Mets to still be with the team in ’69. Naturally, his favorite career memory was winning the World Series.

“Forty years later, they’re still talking about the ’69 series,” he said.

Jay Payton

Jay Payton was back in town for the B.A.T. Dinner, and he was one of the highlights of the afternoon media session.

Currently, Payton is spending time with his 7-year-old son in Oklahoma and is officially retired from baseball. He did say he would be interested in getting involved as a coach at the professional level when the time was right.

The highlight of Payton’s career was the 2000 World Series. He enjoyed playing for Bobby Valentine and said he wouldn’t be surprised at all if Valentine led the Red Sox to the playoff in this his first season with the team.

“We had the right blend of young guys who were hungry and veterans,” Payton said of the 2000 team.

Individually, he’ll always remember hitting a home run off Mariano Rivera. In fact, Payton’s home run in the World Series was one of only two home runs Rivera has given up in the postseason in his career.

When asked about what his advice would be to young players coming to New York, he responded with the following: “Get an apartment about 300 miles outside of the city.”

He stressed the importance of a young player keeping his head on straight, especially in the New York market.

“Having success here is unlike having success anywhere else,” he said.

Payton looks like he’s still in playing shape and joked that he could go out and play right now.

“I only need about five days,” he said with a smile.

Tom Seaver

Hall of Famer Tom Seaver was on hand for the festivities. While many of the reporters were curious to hear about Seaver’s favorite Mets memories from his playing career, all Seaver wanted to talk about was wine.

During his playing career, he was asked what he would do once his career was over.

“I said, ‘I’m going to go back to California to raise grapes,’” said Seaver.

Seaver enjoys his 90-second commute to work where he runs a Cabernet wine bottling company.

“I can’t wait to get out of bed an go to work,” he said.

Seaver said that both his dreams—playing professional baseball and having his own win company—have come true.

Ron Swoboda

Ron Swoboda

Ron Swoboda

“Rocky” was also excited to be celebrating the team’s 50th anniversary. He is currently the color man on the broadcast for the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, and he has great fun doing that.

Swoboda will never forget playing for Casey Stengel as a 19-year-old. Stengel never called him the right name—Stengel never called anyone the right the name for that matter—but he knew who Swoboda was.

Stengel placed his confidence in Swoboda as a rookie, which led to Rocky hitting 19 home runs.

“Stengel said, ‘You can’t learn to hit by sitting on the bench,’” said Swoboda.

He called the Mets climb from a 100 loss team to a 100 win team “meteoric,” especially in the days when free agency didn’t exist.

Of course, Swoboda’s legacy is his great catch in the ’69 World Series. But his favorite memories are the months leading up to that catch.

“You don’t make a catch in the World Series unless you get there,” he said. “You have to win a few ballgames to even get there.”

Finally, Swoboda actually thinks the current Mets will be better this year than last year. Let’s hope he’s right.

Wally Backman

Fiery second baseman Wally Backman will take over managerial duties of the Buffalo Bisons this season as he continues ascending up the ladder in the Mets organization. He previously managed the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Binghamton Mets.

However, he doesn’t see too much of a difference jumping from level to level.

“You’re teaching fundamentals,” Backman said. “The same things you’re teaching in the lowest levels, you’re teaching in the highest levels.”

He’s most looking forward to working with outfield prospect Kirk Nieuwenheis and the young pitchers Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Zach Wheeler (who will like start the year in Double-A). Backman compared these three pitchers to the Mets young studs in the mid 1980s: Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez and Doc Gooden.

“Being in Buffalo, my job is to get this guys to the big leagues to help Terry (Collins),” he said.

Recently, Backman spent time with Gary Carter at Carter’s golf tournament. He wished Carter the best and said “The Kid” is still fighting.

“Gary wasn’t just a teammate,” said Backman. “He was like a brother to a lot of us.”

Davey Johnson

Who would have thought that Davey Johnson would take over the Washington Nationals last season?

Well, his team played some great baseball down the stretch, and Johnson is excited for a full season at the helm. He did say it feels strange to be back in New York as the enemy.

“I have to whip up on those Metsies that I love,” he said.

Though his team lost out on signing Prince Fielder, he is happy with the current team and is excited to see young phenoms Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper take the field.

“Harper hasn’t made my club yet,” Johnson said. “But he’ll have a chance. We’ll find out this spring if he’s good enough.”

Johnson said he thoroughly enjoyed his time with the Mets. He even hinted that he had been helping the Mets well before he took over as manager in 1984.

That’s because Johnson made the final out of the ‘69 World Series on a long fly ball to Cleon Jones.

We should be seeing plenty more of Johnson this season.

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Ike Davis Needs 8 More RBIs To Break Strawberry’s Record Mon, 13 Sep 2010 17:00:15 +0000

Whether you are totally jazzed by Ike Davis’ rookie year, or luke warm on it consider this…

According to John Schweibacher of, Ike Davis is on the verge of toppling the team record for runs batted in by a rookie, a record that has stood for over a quarter century.

Ike Davis continues to climb the Mets all-time leader boards for rookies. Davis’ 18 home runs trail only Darryl Strawberry (26 in 1983) and Ron Swoboda (19 in 1965) as the most by a rookie in Mets’ history.

Here is how the Mets first-year, first baseman ranks in runs batted in and hits among rookies in club history:

Most RBI’s by a Mets Rookie:

•74 Darryl Strawberry 1983
•71 Ty Wigginton 2003
•67 Ike Davis 2010
•65 Steve Henderson 1977
•62 Jay Payton 2000
•58 Jason Phillips 2003
•57 Cleon Jones 1966
•56 Gregg Jefferies 1989
•56 Tsuyoshi Shinjo 2001
•50 Ron Swoboda 1965

Davis has done more than anyone could have expected for a player that was rushed to the majors far ahead of what the Mets were envisioning before this season started. The original game plan called for Daniel Murphy to be the everyday first baseman, Ike Davis to spend a season in AAA, with a September call-up at season’s end. An injury to Murph changed all that.

I’m looking forward to an even better season in 2011 from Ike, and I say that because unlike most rookies, Davis has shown a great ability to make adjustments as the league and pitchers adjusted to him.

One of the most remarkable things about Ike Davis was touched on yesterday by Gary Cohen during the broadcast. Davis is hitting .301 against left handed pitching this season, because he keeps his shoulder in allowing him to make better contact and get a good look at the pitch.

Going into yesterdays game, Davis was hitting .471 (16-34) with four doubles, three home runs and ten RBIs in September which is a clear sign he will be finishing strong. It tells me that Ike may not suffer from the effects of a sophomore jinx. There’s so much to like about this kid.

Great News: I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to our own Joe Spector on the birth of his new daughter, Emma. We wish Joe, his wife Barbara and their newborn bundle of joy, Emma, all the best. Follow Joe on Facebook.

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Swoboda’s Memorable World Series Catch Recalled in Historic Photo Sat, 22 Aug 2009 12:03:45 +0000

New York, August 21 — The date was October 14, 1969, when Mets right fielder Ron Swoboda made one of the greatest catches in World Series history, robbing Brooks Robinson of the Orioles in Game 4 at Shea Stadium, a defining moment in the Amazins’ improbable world championship.  Now, 40 years later, Mets fans and collectors alike can preserve that historic moment as the New York Daily News and Cirillo World present “The Catch of a Lifetime: Swoboda Saves the Day,” a limited edition memorabilia piece available for purchase, with part of the proceeds benefiting the Mets Foundation.

“After 40 years, I’m still thanking Brooksie for not hitting the ball right at me,” jokes Swoboda about the play.

Signed by both Swoboda, who has forever become a part of New York sports folklore, and Hall of Famer Robinson, this classic Frank Hurley photo from the Daily News archives is now available for purchase as a framed, limited edition memorabilia piece for $209.99 (plus tax, postage and handling).

Only 1,000 of this signed collector’s item are being made available to the public, by calling 212.972.5337, emailing, or logging onto the Daily News website at to get your collectible while supplies last.

A portion of the proceeds of each sale of “The Catch”; will benefit the New York Mets Foundation, which funds and promotes a variety of educational, social and athletic programs and other charitable causes. Founded in 1963, it continues its mission to invest in the future of the community, and to provide assistance to myriad organizations that benefit children and others in need.

Veteran New York sports public relations executive John Cirillo was 13-years-old when his boyhood idol made the eye-popping grab, and is now teaming with Swoboda on the project.

“I remember racing down the stairs at St. Mark’s School in Brooklyn, and sprinting the three blocks home to watch the end of the game,” says Cirillo, the former Knicks and Madison Square Garden exec who now runs Manhattan-based Cirillo World. “Like millions of Mets fans from that generation, the Catch has been indelibly etched in my mind’s eye for four decades.,” says Cirillo.

Adds Swoboda, “People are always asking me about it. I still have the glove. Did the play change my life? You bet it did.”

Submitted by Jerry Milani. Photo credit to the New York Daily News.

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Heroes of 1969: Ron Swoboda, The Heart Of A Lion Wed, 20 May 2009 13:10:08 +0000 2009 marks the 40 year anniversary of our first World Championship. With today’s article and continuing through the summer I will pay tribute to some of the heroes of that 69 team.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy challenged America. He insisted that by the end of the decade, we put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth. Kennedy’s idea was outlandish and considered completely and utterly impossible. However, on July 21st, 1969, Neil Armstrong set foot on the surface of the moon. Almost equally as impossible was the Mets winning a World Series. In 1962, the Mets set the modern day record for baseball futility by losing 120 games. The thought of this team winning it all by the end of the decade was also considered completely and utterly impossible. On July 21st, as Apollo astronauts Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin surveyed the lunar landscape, the Mets were 53-39, just 5 games back.

The 69 season was filled with strange plays, unlikely stars and a black cat. As the underdog Mets shocked the baseball world and ran down the Cubs to win the division, fans wondered how long the miracle would last. After outslugging the Braves in the first ever League Championship Series, the Mets faced the mighty Baltimore Orioles. Although many fans hoped the amazin’ season would continue, some were hoping the Mets would at least hold their own and not be too embarrassed by the superior Orioles. Baltimore had won 109 times during the season and captured the ALE by 19 games. The Mets were quickly brought back to reality. On just the 2nd pitch of Game One the Mets were trailing 1-0 after Don Buford took Tom Seaver yard.

The 69 club was sewn from a completely different fabric than their 86 counterparts. Whereas the 86 team was led by solid pitching, big hitters, several all-stars and were heavily favored over Boston, the 69 club was led by a bunch of guys unheard of outside of New York. The Mets won the old fashioned way: Pitching, Defense. And heart.

After losing the opening game 4-1, the Mets captured game 2, 2-1 and returned to Shea tied 1 game each. The Mets won Game 3, 5-0, highlighted by Tommie Agee’s catches and the fact that Gary Gentry out pitched Jim Palmer. Game 4 was next and that would be one for the ages. The right fielder for New York that day was Ron Swoboda.

Five seasons earlier, on April 12, 1965, 20 year old Swoboda made his ML debut. He hit 2 HR’s in his first 4 AB’s and would go on to hit 19 for the year, a Mets record for rookies at the time. Overly optimistic Mets fans quickly pointed out that was more HR’s than Mickey Mantle had hit in his rookie season. People also began drawing comparisons between Swoboda and Babe Ruth. After all, BOTH were born in Baltimore.

Although well loved, Swoboda would never be destined for greatness. There would be no all-star games in his future and no induction in Cooperstown. He was a mediocre hitter at best. But he played with heart. He was not blessed with blinding speed or natural ability. He had no special gift. But his all out play and the fact that he gave it his all and made the most of his limited talent endeared him to fans. It was once said of Ron, “He’s got the heart of a lion.” Ironically, his greatest weakness was his inept fielding. He would frequently circle under routine fly balls seeming unsure, confused. A pop up to RF was always an adventure and resulted in fans holding their collective breath. Teammates nicknamed him ‘Rocky’ as a tongue in cheek way of chiding him for his lack of defensive prowess.

Swoboda played his part in that miracle season. In Sept, Cardinals ace Steve Carlton set the ML record by striking out 19 batters–But still lost the game, 4-3, thanks to 2 2-run HR’s by Swoboda.

Pivotal game 4 featured Tom Seaver (25-7 and 2.21 ERA) opposing Mike Cuellar (23-11 and a 2.38 ERA). Both would go on to win the Cy Young Award that year. In everything World Series pitching match-ups should be but seldom are, Seaver out pitched Cuellar. With the expression ‘pitch count’ not in anyone’s vocabulary, Seaver went to the top of the 9th clinging to a 1-0 lead. With their backs to the wall, Baltimore battled back. With one out, Frank Robinson and Boog Powell both singled. Baltimore had the tying run on 3rd, the go ahead run on 1st. Future Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson stepped to the plate. He hit Seaver’s first delivery to right-center. The white baseball began sinking against the bright green grass. There was no one in sight. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the poor fielding Swoboda appeared. Using all of his limited speed, he dove and stuck out his glove. Completely parallel to the grass and fully extended, just inches from the ground, he snared the sinking liner. The initial response was one of disappointment. After all, Frank Robinson scored easily from 3rd on the Sac Fly and Baltimore tied the game. However, seconds later, the reality of Swoboda’s catch began to sink in. Had the ball gotten by him it would have easily rolled to the wall and given the Orioles a 2-1 lead, most likely a victory and guaranteed a return trip to Baltimore. Swoboda’s catch kept the game tied at 1. The Mets would win the game in 10 innings. The next day Jerry Koosman would take the mound for Game 5.

Swoboda’s catch is an iconic image, not only in Mets history but in World Series history. It is considered by many to be one of the best catches, if not the best, in the history of October baseball.

On March 31, 1971, 26 year old Swoboda was sent to Montreal in exchange for Don Hahn. Later that year, he returned to NY but was wearing pinstripes. In 1973, however, as the Mets battled toward their 2nd World Series, the Yankees released Swoboda. He attended spring training in 1974 with the Braves but did not make the team. Although he attempted a brief comeback with the Mets in 76, (he attended spring training but didn’t make the cut), Ron Swoboda decided to retire.

After departing Baseball, Ron worked as a sportscaster for WCBS-TV in NY for several years. He also worked for stations in Milwaukee and Phoenix and for a brief time, was part owner in a short lived restaurant with teammate Ed Kranepool. He is currently working as a color commentator for the New Orleans Zephyrs. He has developed a deep appreciation for New Orleans art and architecture and can frequently be spotted enjoying Jazz Music in New Orleans’ many clubs. His career stats are unimpressive. In 6 years with the Mets, he hit just 242, only collected 536 hits, a poor 319 OBP, 304 RBI’s and ironically, 69 Home Runs. However, when fans remember Swoboda, they don’t pay attention to his stats. His numbers are meaningless to Mets fans. Certain things, like home runs and RBI’s can be measured. Other things, like heart, can not. And that is one area where Swoboda is unsurpassed.

When one looks at the history of the turbulent 1960’s, there are certain images, certain photographs that will always be seen. You will always see a picture of John Kennedy. An image of Bobby Kennedy tousling his hair. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of The Lincoln Memorial. You will be sure to see a photo of The Beatles. And Jimmy Hendrix playing a guitar like no one ever had. You can count on seeing a helicopter dropping bombs in the jungles of Viet Nam and the image of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon. And also the unforgettable image of Ron Swoboda sliding across the green grass of Shea.



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Ron Swoboda Takes A Swipe At A-Rod Sat, 21 Feb 2009 14:54:04 +0000 Former Mets outfielder Ron Swoboda, who helped the Mets win their first world championship in 1969, leveled some sharp criticism at Alex Rodriguez.

Kevin Kernan of the NY Post recently interviewed the beloved Met.

Swoboda’s love for baseball remains pure. But the steroid scandal and the escapades of Alex Rodriguez disgust him.

“He is a tremendous athlete, but for what he gets paid, his game breaks down in a bunch of different ways too often when it really matters,” Swoboda said. “Like Joe Torre said, he puts a lot of pressure on himself and he’s so aware of every move he makes sometimes you can just see him cracking because the play’s too easy. The guy can’t catch a popup, can’t make a simple throw, can’t get a big hit when it really matters.

“If you had eight A-Rods out there I doubt you would be a winning team. He isn’t about winning. He may think he is, but he isn’t about winning. He’s about building those numbers and some day being called the greatest player that ever played. That’s fine and dandy, but in my humble opinion, he is way overpaid for what he contributes to winning.”

“I’m not a quarter of the player that he is, but in every way his presence is at times bigger than the game and nobody is bigger than the game.

“The game is so self purifying. It has a way of overcoming everything from lunatic owners to cheaters whose egos have hit the stratosphere.”

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