Mets Merized Online » Willie Mays http://metsmerizedonline.com Tue, 17 Jan 2017 03:21:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.17 All-Time “He Was Good Until He Went to the Mets” Team http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/07/all-time-he-was-good-until-he-went-to-the-mets-team.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/07/all-time-he-was-good-until-he-went-to-the-mets-team.html/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:00:33 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=217606 jason bay

“He was good. Until he went to the Mets.”

If you’re a Mets fan, there’s a solid chance you say or hear that sentence at least ten times per year. The Mets have had several notable occurrences of “He Was Good Until He Went To The Mets” syndrome over their five decades of play, and countless players have fallen prey to it.

When the Mets turned 50, they released an “All-Time Team” to remember the greats who wore the orange and blue. But if you’re a die-hard Mets fan, you know that the greats are only half of the story. For every Keith Hernandez, there’s a Mo Vaughn. For every Mike Piazza, there’s a Jim Fregosi. For every… you get it.

So now we have an all-time “He Was Good Until He Went To The Mets Team.” This team was built with the players at each position who had the best careers prior to a lackluster stay with the Mets:

Catcher - Yogi Berra

After Berra was fired as Yankees manager in 1964, the Mets immediately scooped him up as a player/coach. Many people don’t even realize that Berra played for the Mets– albeit for four games in 1965. He went 2-for-9, and retired after striking out three times in a game for the second time ever on May 9. The American icon went on to coach and manage with the Mets for the next decade, including in a memorable run to the World Series in 1973.

First Baseman - Mo Vaughn

Vaughn looked like a potential Hall of Famer when he played for the Red Sox and Angels. From 1993-2000, an average season for Vaughn was .305/.394/.552 with 35 home runs and 111 RBI. But it was all downhill after the 2000 season. He missed all of 2001 with a torn bicep and was traded to the Mets for Kevin Appier prior to the 2002 season.
While Appier won 14 games and helped the Angels win the 2002 World Series,

Vaughn did little for the Mets. His first year with the team was far below his pre-injury averages– albeit not awful. He batted .259/.349/.456 with 26 home runs and 72 RBI. However, he played in just 27 games in 2003 and missed all of 2004 with a career-ending knee injury. The Mets paid him $46 million dollars over these three seasons to play in just 158 games.

Vaughn is perhaps best remembered by Mets fans for his weight issues; despite once weighing 225 pounds, Vaughn had skyrocketed to 275 pounds when he was with the Mets. This led to many an angry call into “Mike and the Mad Dog.”

Second Baseman - Roberto Alomar

Alomar has a plaque in Cooperstown today, but it’s safe to say this has little to do with his time on the Mets.
Much like Vaughn, Alomar was acquired from the Indians during the 2002 offseason to revitalize the team. The Mets would be acquiring a 32-year-old player who had made 12 consecutive All-Star teams and won 11 consecutive Gold Gloves.

Both of these streaks ended once he came to the Mets. Alomar batted just .266/.331/.376 in 2002, and after putting up similar numbers the following season, was traded to the White Sox in July of 2003. Alomar played just one more season before calling it a career.
The trades for Vaughn and Alomar helped end Steve Phillips’ time as GM of the Mets, who was fired in 2003.

(Dis)Honorable mention #1 - Carlos Baerga

Baerga was the first second baseman since Rogers Hornsby to record consecutive seasons of 200+ hits, 20 home runs and 100 RBI when he did so in 1992 and 1993. After he was traded to the Mets in 1996, he never reached any of these plateaus again.

(Dis)Honorable mention #2 - Luis Castillo

Castillo won three Gold Gloves with the Marlins, yet is best remembered as a Met for failing to catch a pop-up. Enough said.

Phillies vs Mets

Shortstop: Kaz Matsui

Matsui is a legend in Japan, where he batted .309/.362/.486 with 150 home runs and 306 steals from from 1995-2003. This 2003 scouting report on ESPN.com called him “More talented than Hideki Matsui,” and the “Best all-around player [in Japan] since Ichiro left.”

So when Matsui decided to take his talents to America, the Mets signed him to a three-year, $20 million contract prior to the 2004 season. The team was so confident in his abilities that it moved highly-touted shortstop prospect Jose Reyes to second base to make room for Matsui.

Unlike the other Matsui in New York at the time, Kaz failed to meet expectations. He batted just .256/.308/.363 in three injury-plagued seasons with the Mets. He was traded to the Rockies in June of 2006. He spent the next four seasons with the Rockies and Astros before heading back to Japan in 2011.

In case you’re wondering, Matsui still plays in Japan for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, where he batted .256/.324/.366 with ten home runs and 48 RBI in 126 games last season.

Third Base - Jim Fregosi

Before the days of David Wright, the Mets struggled to find an everyday third baseman throughout much of their early history. In fact, they had eight different starting third basemen from 1962-1971.

The Mets hoped to put an end to these woes when they acquired Jim Fregosi from the Angels in December of 1971. Fregosi was a six-time All-Star with a bWAR of 44.8 and an OPS+ of 119 from 1963-1970. But a down season in 1971 made him expendable for the Angels, who traded him to the Mets for some young pitcher named Nolan Ryan.

Unfortunately for the Mets, the man bought in to be the third baseman of the future had a short and forgettable stay in Flushing. He batted an abysmal .233/.319/.328 with five home runs and 43 RBI in 146 games in 1972 and 1973. The Mets’ search for a star third baseman would continue until Howard Johnson made his debut with the team in 1985. Meanwhile, Nolan Ryan went on to throw over 5,000 strikeouts and seven no-hitters en route to the Hall of Fame.

Outfield - Jason Bay

After a season in which Daniel Murphy led the Mets with just 12 home runs, the Mets were in desperate need of a power hitter. So they signed Bay to a four-year, $66 million contract. Bay came to the Mets with seven consecutive seasons of at least 20 home runs and 80 RBI, and was coming off a season in which he hit 36 home runs and 119 RBI with the Red Sox.

In three years with the Mets, Bay hit just 26 home runs and 124 RBI. He batted just .234/.318/.369, and had his contract terminated prior to the 2013 season.

Outfield – Vince Coleman 

Coleman stole 549 bases during the first six seasons of his career with the Cardinals. He is one of just four players in the modern era to steal over 100 bases in a season, which he did three times from 1985-1987.

It looked like the Mets were signing the next Lou Brock when they signed him in 1990. What they got was one of the biggest embarrassments in team history. Coleman, who played with the Mets from 1991-1993, never played more than 100 games in a season.

Aside from the disappointing on-field performance, his off-field behavior was even worse. He was gone for good after he was charged with felony a firecracker at a group of fans at Dodger Stadium, which injured three people– including a two-year-old girl. Prior to this dubious incident, he injured Dwight Gooden by swinging a golf club in the clubhouse and had been suspended for feuding with manager Jeff Torborg.

willie mays

OutfieldWillie Mays:

The “Say Hey Kid” was traded to the Mets in the middle of the 1972 season. Mays was 41 at the time, and was hardly the player he used to be. He hit just .238/.352/.294 in 135 games with the Mets from 1972-1973 to finish out his career.

Unlike many of the players on the “He Was Good Until He Went to the Mets” team, Mays is still looked at with reverence by the organization and fans, so much so that his No. 24 jersey has remained mostly out of circulation since he retired.

(Dis)Honorable Mention #1 - Bobby Bonilla

Many Mets fans would probably put Bonilla over Mays on this list, but from a purely numerical standpoint, Bonilla was actually not awful. He made two All-Star teams in four seasons while he recorded an OPS+ over 120 in each of his first four years with the team.

(Dis)Honorable Mention #2 - George Foster

Much like Bonilla, Foster didn’t live up to the hype of his five-year, $10 million contract, the second-largest in baseball history in 1982, but still put up decent numbers. Foster had at least 20 home runs in three of his five years with the Mets and had two years with a WAR over 1.5.

(Dis)Honorable Mention #3 - Duke Snider

Snider was a Hall of Famer and fan-favorite in New York as a Brooklyn Dodger before the team relocated to Los Angeles in 1958. He came back to New York in 1963 when he was sold to the Mets, where he batted .243/.345/.401 with 14 homers and 45 RBI in his only season with the team.

New York Yankees v New York Mets

Starting Pitcher - Pedro Martinez

Pedro signed a four-year, $53 million dollar contract with the Mets in December of 2004. This represented a new era in Mets history, and was a major factor in persuading Carlos Beltran to sign. However, he contributed little on the field after the first year of his deal.

Martinez’s first season with the Mets was electrifying, as he went 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA and a league-leading 0.949 WHIP and 4.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio. After this season,Pedro would never make more than 24 starts in a season again, and recorded a 4.74 ERA throughout his remaining time with the Mets. A healthy Pedro could have made all the difference in 2007 and 2008, when the Mets were eliminated on the last day of the season.

Starting Pitcher - Tom Glavine

Glavine was one of the best pitchers of his era with the Braves, and was pretty solid with the Mets as well. He went 61-56 with a 3.97 ERA during his five seasons in New York. But he will always be remembered for his performance on the final day of the 2007 season, when he allowed seven runs in one-third of an inning to the last-place Marlins. Not a good time to have the worst start of your career.

Starting Pitcher - Warren Spahn

As a Brave, Spahn averaged 20 wins from 1947-1963. But after going 6-13 with a 5.29 ERA in 1964, he was sold to the Mets.
Much like Berra, Spahn had an oft-forgotten abbreviated cameo with the Mets in 1965. He was purchased and given both a spot in the rotation and the title of pitching coach.

Spahn had won 356 games prior to joining the Mets, and still believed that he could get to 400 wins when he joined the team. This proved to be a fruitless endeavor, however, as the 44-year-old went just 4-12 with a 4.36 ERA before being released midseason.

While on the Mets, Spahn was reunited with Casey Stengel, who he had played under with the Boston Braves in 1942. Reminiscing on his time with the Mets, Spahn once said: “I’m probably the only guy who worked with Stengel before and after he was a genius.”

Relief Pitcher: Francisco Rodriguez

The 2008 Mets’ bullpen was so bad that had their games ended in the eighth inning, they would have won the NL East by 12 games rather than losing it by three games. So that offseason, they signed Francisco Rodriguez, who was fresh off setting a single-season record with 62 saves, to a three-year, $37 million contract.

Rodriguez failed as a member of the Mets. His ERA ballooned to 3.71 in 2009– more than a run higher than it had been in 2008. He suffered a season-ending thumb injury in August of 2010 by assaulting his girlfriend’s father following a loss. “K-Rod” was traded to the Brewers in a salary-dump trade in 2011, where he has since made two All-Star teams.

Relief Pitcher - J.J. Putz

Putz recorded a 5.22 ERA as the setup man in 2009 before suffering a season-ending elbow injury that June. Putz was a stellar closer for the Mariners prior to 2009, as he had a 3.07 ERA and 101 saves in his six-year tenure with the team. After his time with the Mets, he recorded two 30-plus save seasons with the Diamondbacks in 2011 and 2012.
Putz later said that the Mets never gave him a physical upon acquisition. As Mets fans found out last year, medicals are rather important.

Manager - Art Howe

Howe was bought in in 2003 to be the Mets’ manager following Bobby Valentine‘s firing. Howe was the hottest managerial name on the market, as he had just led the Athletics to three consecutive playoff appearances. If he could lead the $40 million payroll Oakland A’s to three straight playoff appearances. Imagine what he could do with more than double that budget?

Not much. Howe went 137-186 in his two years on the job. He was fired following the 2004 season, and never managed again after leaving the Mets.

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A Father’s Day Tale: Heroes Don’t Always Hit Home Runs http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/a-fathers-day-tale-heroes-dont-always-hit-home-runs.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/a-fathers-day-tale-heroes-dont-always-hit-home-runs.html/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 13:00:50 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=215222 johnny bench tom seaver

It was my first baseball game. And it was almost my last.

In the summer of 1972 I was pushing Tonka trucks around the floor in a one bedroom apartment in The Bronx. I noted the wide range of emotions my Dad went through watching a 2 ½ hour baseball game. Happiness, frustration, cheering, despair. I’d casually glance up at the Zenith B&W. Slowly my toys became secondary and I found myself sitting on the sofa next to my father.

There were the multi-colored sport jackets of Lindsey Nelson, the malapropisms of Ralph Kiner and the velvety cadences of gray-haired red-faced Bob Murphy, who my dad said was, “As smooth as a duck’s tuchus.” That made me laugh.

But my dad was the one who taught me baseball. He explained the game to me, the game within the game, the intricacies. And I got hooked. I watched, I listened, I learned

The following season, with some apprehension, he decided to take me to my first game. Watching on TV was one thing, but would this seven year old become distracted and grow restless and impatient? After handing over some change to park our Plymouth Scamp, we got out of the car.

My chin hit the asphalt. I was blown away. The stadium was huge, enormous. It was like the Roman Coliseum and it was right here in Flushing.

shea stadium 2

Clusters of people–older, younger, boys my age and icky girls–were all walking toward something in unison, moving together as one cohesive unit. For the first time in my life I became a part of something bigger, something that extended far beyond my bedroom and my classmates. I was now one of tens of millions of baseball fans.

With Dad’s hand on my shoulder, he guided me between the throngs of fellow Mets fans, passing blue and orange panels hanging from cables on Shea’s exterior. Dad handed over our tickets to an usher wearing an orange jacket and blue slacks.

“Enjoy the game, son.”

I was too busy gazing around in awe when dad nudged me. “What do you say to the man?”

“Uh…Let’s Go Mets.”

Dad laughed. “Anything else?”

“Oh, yea, thank you.”

Seconds later I was bequeathed something in a wrapper. Whoa, cool! A real authentic plastic Mets helmet. Did they give these out every day? Or maybe just to me since it was my first game. Christmas in April. Little did I realize it was Helmet Day. I tore open the packaging, placed the item on my head…and my lips quivered. It was too big. Dad adjusted the interior settings and now it fit perfectly.

He saved the day.

Before heading to our seats, we walked through the passageway in the Loge level. My eyes bulged out of my head, my heart leapt in my chest. Watching on WOR didn’t do it justice. I couldn’t grasp how gigantic the field was. It went on forever. The scoreboard was colossal. I’d never seen grass so green. The grounds crew watered down the infield, causing brown dirt to contrast strikingly with pristine white bases.

Thwack.

Thwack.

Baseballs, like little round missiles, were rocketing all over the place as players took batting practice. Yeah.., I could get used to this.

“Daddy, daddy!” I shouted, jumping in place nearly wrenching his arm out of his socket. “There’s Rusty!!!”

rusty staub square

Rusty Staub was my favorite Met. I don’t know why I took to him. I had yet to grasp the significance of confusing stats and complicated numbers. I didn’t quite comprehend batting average or Earned Run Average and didn’t know if Rusty was good or not. Maybe it was his unique hair color, or his strange batting stance which was upright and stiff with his backside sticking out. Maybe it was the fact he and I shared the same initials or perhaps it was simply due to his cool nickname, Le Grande Orange.

Yea, I definitely could get used to this.

We watched BP for a while before heading to our seats. We went inside the stadium and took the escalator up. And up. And up again. And up some more.

I don’t know what happened, don’t know if the guy who sold dad the tickets gave us the wrong seats. But we were sitting in the very last row in the grandstands, the upper deck. The grating was against our backs. Miles beyond my shoulder was the NYC skyline with the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers that had just opened two weeks earlier. It felt like I was closer to the cement sidewalk four levels below than to the field. Planes landing at LaGuardia were practically on eye level. The players were tiny. I couldn’t tell who was who. Which one is Rusty?

The seats in the stratosphere, however, was secondary. The date was April 21, 1973. It was cloudy, overcast, there was a crisp bite in the air, the wind whipped around with gale force ferocity. Baseball was played in the summer but winter seemed reluctant to release its grip. My hands were shoved deep in my pockets, my feet growing numb, my teeth chattered. I knew the words to the song but right now I didn’t want anyone to buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks. I just wanted a hot chocolate.

Dad lit up a cigarette. (Hey, it was 1973) “You okay?”

“Ss-ss-sure, da-da-daddy, this is gr-gr-great.” I may have been fighting frostbite but I didn’t care. I was at my first ballgame.

Moments later, he tapped my shoulder. “C’mon.” He took my hand and led me down the steep steps. On the walkway he approached an usher. My dad was a salesman and went into selling mode. “Look,” he began pleasantly, “This is my son’s first game. And if I bring him home with pneumonia, my wife will kill me. She’ll never let me take him to another game and you’ll lose a fan for life. You gotta get us into better seats.”

The usher pointed to a different usher a few sections over. That guy told us to speak to someone else. The third guy directed us to someone in an office. We went inside the concourse and hurried to this other guy. My little legs had difficulty keeping up with my dad’s long loping strides.

This new guy informed us we’d need to discuss it with someone different.

Organ music emanated from massive speakers as Jane Jarvis began the opening notes to Meet the Mets.

Along another concourse we went. My dad now jogging, me running alongside.

Shea Stadium 1969

The voice of the PA announcer boomed across Flushing like the voice of God. “Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman, boys and girls. Welcome to Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets.”

A roar went up. Fans cheered. But my dad and I were running around like Matt Damon would be forty years later in the final twenty minutes of “The Adjustment Bureau.”

Dad picked up the pace. “C’mon, Rob!”

We went into another office. This guy in a white shirt and tie directed us to an office on the second level.

We took off again.

“We ask you to remove your hats and please rise for the singing of…”

“Daddy!” I shouted.

“What?!” he clipped, understandably frustrated.

“It’s the National Anthem.”

He gave me a look, then couldn’t help but laugh

Oh, Canada, Glorious and Free….

“What’s that?” I asked, scrunching my face.

“We’re playing Montreal. That’s the Canadian National Anthem,” he explained.

“They have a different one than us?”

Moments later, the more familiar, Oh, say, can you see…

I stood motionless, respectfully removing my brand new helmet, patriotically placed my hand over my heart and sung.

And the home of the brave.

And off we went again.

“Here are today’s starting lineups and batting orders. First, the visiting Montreal Expos.”

Boo!

“Daddy, the game’s starting!” I cried out, gasping for air. My short legs ached, I had sticking pain in my side from running so hard and so fast. I liked running. I was one of the faster boys in my second grade class. But even this was getting excessive.

There was no one around, everyone already in their seats. We bulleted around a corner and were dashing down a wide ramp full speed.

My side was stabbing but not from running so hard. Instead it was cause of my Dad. He was really old, the ripe old age of thirty and I’d never seen him run before. I tried to keep up but was giggling so hard, I pulled up short and angled forward, laughing uncontrollably.

The hilarity of the moment quickly turned to tears when my helmet slipped off my head, hit the concrete and fractured.

Twenty yards ahead, Dad turned, came back and took a knee by my side. He sympathetically lifted my splintered helmet and embraced me. “I’ll get you another one,” he whispered while hugging away the tears.

I’m not sure how he did it but somehow he made sure everything worked out.

lindsey nelson ralph kiner bob murphy

With mere seconds to spare before the first pitch we ended up in our own private press box Reporters from local newspapers and TV stations close by. Three booths to our right were the Mets play-by-play announcers. Lindsey’s jackets were even brighter in person. “There’s Ralph,” Dad pointed reverentially, even at thirty somewhat awed by the presence of Kiner’s greatness.

I learned a lot that day.

During the middle innings, Expos manager Gene Mauch got ejected for arguing a call. Dad wasted no time in pointing out, “See what happens when you don’t respect authority.”

The Mets had a pitcher named Tom Seaver who was supposedly pretty good. Dad had stated repeatedly, “He’s gonna wind up in Cooperstown one day.” I guess if you’re good you go to Cooperstown, whatever that means. But Seaver didn’t pitch that day. Neither did Jerry Koosman who was on the mound when the Mets won their only championship four long years ago in 1969. It wasn’t even the lanky fella named Jon Matlack. Toeing the rubber this day was spot-starter Harry Parker.

But that didn’t matter.

My guy, Rusty, didn’t get any hits, but walked three times and scored twice.

But that didn’t really matter.

willie mays

I got to see some guy wearing number 24. He was supposedly pretty good, too, probably also going to that Cooperstown place. He used to play here in NY with a team called the Giants a long time ago and made some catch in a World Series. Willie Mays went 0-for-3.

But that didn’t really matter either

I got to see my first Home Run, a two run blast in the 8th off the bat of John Milner, The Hammer. The Mets defeated Montreal 5-0. Harry Parker pitched 7 shut-out innings before Tug McGraw recorded the final 6 outs

But no, that didn’t matter either.

What did matter was not the specifics–who won, who lost.

Over the next several decades I was privileged enough to see first-hand many great players. Some like Seaver, Mays, Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Mike Piazza wore a Mets jersey. Others I saw like Mike Schmidt, Don Sutton, Willie Stargell and Pete Rose did not.

I saw Seaver and Rusty go away, only to return years later. And I saw Tug McGraw and Gary Carter go away, never to return.

Gary-Carter-John-McDonough-Icon-SMI

I went as a 7-year old with my dad. I’d go with my uncle, with friends from school, with buddies from college, with girlfriends and with wives. I saw one of Mookie Wilson’s first games and one of Jesse Orosco’s last. I went from eating chocolate and vanilla ice cream in little cups with wooden spoons to drinking beer. I saw Shea go from a ‘state-of-the-art’ modern sports venue to an archaic outdated relic. I saw rallies in the bottom of the 9th, bench clearing brawls, grand slam home runs, walk-off home runs, inside the park home runs, championships won, a no-hitter and I even caught a foul ball. I got to see Hank Aaron hit two of his 755 Home Runs.

But honestly, none of that mattered either.

What did matter is that this was my first Major League Baseball game. And despite seats up in the ether freezing my tuchus off, fighting frostbite, and my very first article of Mets attire breaking after only thirty minutes, my dad made it something memorable, something I’ll never forget, something I’ll always cherish. My dad saved the day and made everything better.

Sometimes heroes are not the guys who hit 700 Home Runs or get 4,000 hits.

Footnote:

I still have that same helmet forty three years later. It’s in a box, alongside yearbooks, scorecards, programs, old Mets caps that are frayed and tattered with age, my old glove, a signed Baseball by Davey Johnson—all stored away with memories of my childhood. Despite my dad’s offer to get me a new helmet, I refused. I wouldn’t change a thing from that blustery April day and if I could, I’d go back in time and relive it all over again, relive that very first baseball game I went to with my father.

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No ‘Home’ For the Man with 660 Home Runs http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/no-home-for-the-man-with-660-home-runs.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/no-home-for-the-man-with-660-home-runs.html/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 01:46:55 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=180761 alex rodriguez

Christmas 1980 was a few days away. As Americans anticipated the swearing in of President-Elect Ronald Reagan to end the malaise that had befallen the nation, and the entire world was still dealing with the assassination of John Lennon, my dad and I had our first father-and-son weekend getaway. Destination: Cooperstown.

Lake Otsego was completely frozen. Dead branches like skeletal arms veiled the road into town. When we entered the actual Hall itself I was awed by the sheer quietness of the grand room. For this was a shrine, a temple to the greatest men to ever walk onto a field. I’d finally get to see plaques of players I’d read about when I should have been doing homework. I sucked at math and was failing algebra. But I could tell you any guy’s batting average.

All generations were represented. Pitchers from The Dead Ball era like Walter Johnson and Cy Young were honored alongside sluggers from The Live Ball era such as Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig. My dad ambled around, spending extra time at the plaques of his childhood heroes like Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and his favorite Brooklyn player, the recently enshrined Duke Snider. I chuckled when he only gave a passing glance to Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and other Yankees from the 1950’s.

“Dad, here’s Yogi,” I pointed out, referring to the Mets former manager.

“Yogi was good,” my dad conceded, “But he was no Campy.”

“You think the Mets will ever get any guys in here?” I whispered reverently.

Without hesitation, he answered. “Tom Seaver.”

“Cool.” I mulled that over, then asked, “You think Lee Mazzilli or Steve Henderson will make it?”

My dad arched a brow at me, probably wondering if I was really his child.

The players my father and grandfather saw as a boy were memorialized for all eternity. Eventually players I grew up watching would also be acknowledged. Guys like Willie Stargell, George Brett, Rod Carew—and yes, Tom Seaver.

Today there’s an entire generation of fans who will never get to experience that. Some of the best hitters they watched—Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez—may possibly never be enshrined.

And perhaps no player typifies the ugliness of The Steroids Era more than Alex Rodriguez. Ironically, by tying Willie Mays on the all-time HR list he has only cemented his standing as the poster boy for everything wrong with baseball for a generation.

Babe Ruth hit for power and average but didn’t have the speed. Rickey Henderson had the speed but not the power. Mel Ott had the power but didn’t have the glove. Roberto Clemente had the glove, the arm and the average but not the power. Ernie Banks had the power and the glove but was a career .274 hitter.

willie mays_b3_600

Willie Mays did it all.

The Say Hey Kid scored over 2,000 runs and retired with a BA above .300. When Willie said goodbye to America in 1973, he was 6th in RBI’s (1 903), 3rd in HR’s (660) and 7th in hits (3,283). As if these stats aren’t impressive enough, one must remember Mays played during a time when stadiums were massive enough to warrant their own zip code.

Mays also stole 338 bases, an impressive total considering he hit in the middle of the batting order. His success rate on the base paths was 76.6%. His 12 Gold Gloves ties him with Clemente for the most by any outfielder. Again, an amazing accomplishment considering Willie played the bulk of his career in the blustery winds of Candlestick Park, perhaps the worst location ever for a stadium.

He won Rookie of the Year, two MVP’s and his 24 All-Star games ties him with Stan Musial and Hank Aaron for most midsummer classics. Despite these numbers, SF Chronicle journalist Harry Jupiter once wrote, “As a player, Willie Mays could never be captured by mere statistics.”

Willie is one of those players, along with Aaron and Sandy Koufax, who even the casual fan knows what number they wore.

There have been probably billions of photos capturing many of the National Pastime’s greatest moments. However, no image is more iconic than that of number 24 with his back to home plate, snagging a deep fly off the bat of Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series. It’s an image so entrenched in our psyche that even today, more than 60 years later, whenever an outfielder makes an over-the-shoulder catch the announcer invokes the name Willie Mays.

world_series_mays

In the 1950’s, Mays frequently played stickball with kids in the shadows of the Polo Grounds. To this day, in the Bay Area, Mays is treated like royalty, more so than Tony Bennett or Joe Montana. Willie is the only ballplayer in history to be equally loved on two coasts three thousand miles apart.

Alex Rodriguez, like Mays, also played on two coasts. And that’s where the similarity ends.

Despite the fact A-Rod has now tied Willie in HR’s as well as passing him in doubles, RBI’s and Slugging, the adoration Mays experienced from New York to San Francisco is not something A-Rod experienced from Seattle to New York.

Over the last two decades there’ve been numerous players who can be considered black marks on Baseball. But A-Rod is unique. Barry Bonds is still appreciated in the Bay Area. Sammy Sosa is idolized in Chicago. Mark McGwire is loved in both STL and Oakland. But A-Rod? He’s burned bridges everywhere he’s played.

a_rod alex rodriguez

In Seattle, he was appreciated for being the quiet kid with great talent. After the 2000 season, however, he left behind an admiring public and went to Texas. Granted, who amongst us hasn’t taken a job for more money? But despite the fact his contract was the biggest in history, it was clear A-Rod’s decision was all about A-Rod. The Rangers were an awful team, losing 91 games and finishing more than 20 GB. However, Arlington is a hitter’s park. And while making more than a quarter billion dollars, he could also pad his stats. That’s exactly what he did.

In just 3 years with Texas, Rodriguez clobbered 156 HR’s, 24% of what Mays hit over his 22 year career. He racked up 395 RBI’s while compiling a .615 slugging percentage. Now that A-Rod had locked up the Hall of Fame, there was one thing missing from his resume. A ring.

The Rangers were looking to free themselves of A-Rod, and the man who wanted a Championship found himself playing for the most successful franchise in the history of American sports, a team that played in 6 of the previous 8 World Series. After his arrival, A-Rod’s Yankees would appear in the Fall Classic just once in the next 10 years

Early on we heard he needed to ‘earn his pinstripes.’ Despite being a Yankee for more than a decade, he never truly did. In 60 post-season games he’s averaged an insipid 238. Yankee fans are quick to cheer him when he does something good but equally quick to boo him when he doesn’t. He’s failed to win the hearts of fans the way Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams or even Aaron Boone did.

alex rodriguez a-rod

Despite his impressive career stats, through artificial means or not, you never heard him praised. I can’t recall anyone saying he was a good teammate. I don’t remember a rookie ever thanking A-Rod for helping with a flaw in his swing. No one has ever called him a ‘positive influence in the clubhouse.’ If anything, A-Rod’s behavior over the last several seasons, his smug denial of steroid use in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, has caused tenseness in the clubhouse. His off-the-field antics have overshadowed what transpired between the lines.

A-Rod being A-Rod.

Rodriguez has burned bridges from Seattle to Arlington. Ironically, even though he hasn’t vacated New York, he’s already burned that bridge as well. A new low even for him. Ownership has tried to rid themselves of A-Rod and the baggage that comes with him. The organization that spends money like there’s no tomorrow is refusing to pay his $6 million dollar bonus for tying Mays’ mark of 660. It’s difficult to imagine an Alex Rodriguez statue outside a stadium where he played. It’s even more difficult to picture him being immortalized in Monument Park next to Yankees like Mantle and DiMaggio and Mattingly, Yankees who DID NOT disgrace their uniform or the game.

We are generally a forgiving society. Twenty five years ago who would’ve believed Pete Rose would be taking baby steps toward inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Maybe twenty five years from now players from the steroid era will be considered.

Perhaps in 2040, some will make the trip from San Francisco to Cooperstown to honor Barry Bonds induction. People may don Cubs hat and cheer when Sammy Sosa steps to the podium. Yankee and Red Sox fans may stand side-by-side, simultaneously cheering Roger Clemens. And what about A-Rod? If he is one day inducted, would anyone even bother showing up.

In closing, the words of Ty Cobb seem fitting. Cobb was an avid racist and one of the most despised players in his day. But even he had a home and a loyal following in Detroit. In the twilight of his life with his heath failing, the 74 year-old Georgia Peach looked back on his career and said, “I wish I would’ve done things differently. I wish I would’ve had more friends.”

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An All Star Game To Remember http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/an-all-star-game-to-remember.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/an-all-star-game-to-remember.html/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 04:44:45 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160725 beatles2_1024

1964 was a bustling time in our nation’s history. With America still reeling from the shock of our president being assassinated on the streets of Dallas, we were under invasion by a group of four long haired lads from Liverpool. New President Lyndon Johnson declared a ‘War on Poverty.’ Average annual income in America was $6000, a new house cost $13,000, a new car $3500. For $1.25 you could purchase a movie ticket, for $4.50 you could fill your car.

Sidney Poitier became the first African-American to win an Oscar for his role in “Lilies of the Field.” Ford unveiled a new sports car called the Mustang, a game show named “Jeopardy” premiered and another group from England, this one calling themselves the Rolling Stones, released their debut album. In New York, a group of twelve young men were arrested for their rebellious act against the establishment. In what is regarded as the first anti-war protest of the decade, they publicly burned their draft cards in protest of our growing involvement in a place half way around the world most Americans could not locate on a map. A place called Vietnam.

People in NY were excited. Not only were we hosting the World’s Fair but with the opening of Shea Stadium, NL baseball was officially back in NY. With this new state-of-the-art modern facility that could be modified for football, Mets fans were ecstatic. In only the 31st game ever played at Shea, Jim Bunning tossed a Perfect Game. It was the seventh perfecto in history and the first in the NL since John Montgomery Ward tossed one against the Buffalo Bisons in 1880.

Now it was time for our home to appear in the National spotlight. 50,850 packed Shea as the Mets hosted the 35th All-Star Game. The 1964 midsummer classic is regarded by historians as one of the best ever. Walt Alston managed the NL club and Al Lopez piloted the AL players. Current Mets manager Casey Stengel and future Mets manager Gil Hodges were coaches. Dean Chance took the mound for the AL, Don Drysdale for the NL. The Mets own Ron Hunt started at second base. Of the 18 starting players, eight wound wind up in Cooperstown.

Batting Orders

American League                                                                 National League

Jim Fregosi  (SS)                                                                  Roberto Clemente   (RF)

Tony Oliva   (RF)                                                                   Dick Groat         (SS)

Mickey Mantle  (CF)                                                              Billy Williams    (LF)

Harmon Killebrew  (LF)                                                         Willie Mays     (CF)

Bob Allison    (1B)                                                                 Orlando Cepeda  (1B)

Brooks Robinson  (3B)                                                          Ken Boyer     (3B)

Bobby Richardson  (2B)                                                        Joe Torre      (C)

Elston Howard     (C)                                                             Ron Hunt       (2B)

The AL wasted no time taking the lead. Fregosi opened the game with a solid hit to left field, moved to second base on a passed ball and scored two outs later on a rocket to left off the bat of Harmon Killebrew. 1-0 AL.

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LA Angels’ Dean Chance baffled the NL for three innings. In the fourth he was replaced by John Wyatt of the Kansas City A’s. Billy Williams welcomed Wyatt to the game by leading off the fourth with a solo home run. Later that inning a solo blast by Ken Boyer put the NL on top, 2-1.

The NL added to the lead in the fifth. With two outs, Clemente singled up the middle off of Camilio Pascual. Cardinals shortstop Dick Groat doubled, Clemente raced home and the NL was up 3-1.

The American League rallied to tie the game in the sixth. After Oliva was fanned, Mantle and Killebrew singled. Brooks Robinson hit a line drive to the power alley in left-center. The ball rolled to the wall, Mantle and Killebrew scored. 3-3.

The AL recaptured the lead in the seventh when Elston Howard was hit by a Turk Farrell pitch. Pinch-hitter Rocky Colavito doubled, making it second and third. Fregosi hit a sac-fly to center that scored Howard and put the AL back on top, 4-3.

Boston’s Dick Radatz came in and once again the NL hitters were baffled. Radatz struck out 4 of the 6 batters he faced in the 7th and 8th. Juan Marichal made quick work of the AL in the top of the 9th. Radatz took the mound in the bottom half of the frame needing only three outs. But he’d have to face the heart of the NL’s potent lineup.

1964All-StarGame

Mays opened the inning with a walk and stole second. With the tying run in scoring position, Mays’ teammate Orlando Cepeda dug in. He hit a pop fly to short right that dropped. Mays scored easily to tie the game at 4-4. Cepeda, who took second on the throw home, was replaced by pinch runner Curt Flood. Ken Boyer popped out for the first out. Reds catcher Johnny Edward was intentionally walked to set up the DP. With runners on first and second and the game knotted at four in the bottom of the ninth, who was due up but none other than our own Ron Hunt, the Mets sole representative.

Manager Alston, however, decided to pinch hit for Hunt with Hank Aaron. The future HR king was fanned and it seemed like Radatz would get out of the jam when Phillies outfielder Johnny Callison stepped to the plate. Callison sent the first pitch high and deep and the ball sailed over the right field wall and gave the NL an improbable come from behind 7-4 victory, scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth. The Phillies outfielder joined Ted Williams and Stan Musial as the only players to win an All-Star Game on a walk-off HR.

It was a great and memorable All Star moment and it happened right here in Flushing, right here at Big Shea.

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Amazin’ Moments: Willie Comes Home http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/amazin-mets-moments-willie-comes-home.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/amazin-mets-moments-willie-comes-home.html/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 14:00:10 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=112167 As we all know, the Mets were created fill the gap left after the departure of the Giants and the Dodgers from the city of New York following the 1957 season. In the four year period before the advent of the Amazin’s, Gotham’s National League fans were left to follow their teams as best they could from afar (remember, no cable TV at this time nor webcasts, and radio coverage was spotty at best if you were following a west coast team). 

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For die-hard fans, and there were many, this was a hardship that was duly noted by the fledgling Met ownership which sought to assuage (or exploit, depending on how you look at it) their feelings of abandonment by bringing in notable Dodger greats like Gil Hodges and Duke Snider for a last go-round in a Met uniform.

But for fans of the “New York baseball Giants” as they were once referred to, there were no remaining links to the glory days of the team. Instead, they were left to scan the box scores or change their allegiance to the Yankees. The latter choice was anathema to most of the Giant faithful, including my father, who had regaled me with stories of following the 1951 pennant race by radio as many had done, and had exulted with much of the city as Bobby Thomson’s  “Shot Heard Round the World” was broadcast. His favorite player was not Thomson, however. It was the Giants’ wunderkind, Willie Mays.

Mays had a place in New York baseball folklore as part of a triumvirate of great center fielders along with Mickey Mantle and the Duke, but had a penchant for near-mythical displays that seemed to supersede his contemporaries. Who could forget “The Catch” where he tracked down Vic Wertz’ missile in the 1948 World Series or “The Throw” where he ran to catch a shot in the right field gap and spun on the dead run to unleash a throw like no one had ever seen to catch the Dodgers’ Billy Cox at the plate? Not to mention an MVP season in 1954 and a 1955 season where he clubbed 51 homers, a feat that was downright uncommon in the pre-steroid era.

willie2Mays would go on to more glory with the Giants, including a pennant in 1962, another MVP in 1965, Gold Gloves, perennial All Star appearances, and all the things that fans bask in when their team and their favorite player are in the limelight. But Mays was San Francisco’s now, even if those fans more readily embraced Willie McCovey. New York fans were left with their memories…and the Mets.

So, when the buzz began in May of 1972 that a deal was in the works to bring Willie back to the east coast, the “sleeping Giant” so to speak, of 1950’s New York baseball fandom began to stir. And lo, so it was, for a mere $50,000 and a middling right-hander named Charlie Williams, the Mets finally obtained what may have been the most symbolic link to the city’s baseball legacy.  And, largely symbolic it was, because at 41 years of age, Mays was clearly a shadow of his former self as a player. Still, his mere presence in a Met uniform was enough to drive fans into a state of excitement usually reserved for visits from the President or the Pope.

Fans flocked to Shea for the series against Mays’ now former employers the Giants. Willie was set to make his debut as a Met in the Sunday game on May 14th, but when the team needed a pinch hitter in the Friday game prior, fans began clamoring for manager Yogi Berra to send him to the plate. When John Milner emerged from the dugout instead, he was booed roundly “for not being Willie Mays” as I recall the announcer Lindsey Nelson reporting. Finally, the big day arrived and Mays was in the lineup, leading off and playing center field.

willie-mays2My dad and I watched the game together. He had been a fairly hard core NY Giants fan but had come over to the Met side of the dugout for the most part as his kids had “caught baseball fever” as a MLB marketing campaign had urged and gotten swept up in the championship run of 1969. But today was all about number 24 and his return to the fold.

If you are familiar with the game, you know that it began auspiciously for the Mets, with Giants pitcher Sam McDowell walking the bases full and then surrendering a grand slam to Rusty Staub. By the bottom of the fifth however, the Giants had tied the score and McDowell had been lifted in favor of right hander Don Carrithers. Mays led off the inning and unloaded on a fastball. As the ball cleared the fence in left and Mays trotted around the bases for the 647th time in his career, my father stopped grinning long enough to tell me “That’s the way it should be.” Cornball, but I swear it’s a true story.

That homer provided the winning edge as the Mets prevailed 5-4, and even though moments like that would be few and far between for the balance of Mays’ Mets career, the memory of that triumphant return and its near-poetic climax (hitting the homer in the bottom of the ninth would have clinched the poetic part, but let’s not squabble over details) remains indelible. The Mets and Mays had helped the New York branch of Giant fans to reclaim at least part of their legacy and gave the team that abandoned them a swat in the process. For that day, it was enough.

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MMO Fan Shot: Zen and the Misery of Being a Met Fan http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/mmo-fan-shot-zen-and-the-misery-of-being-a-met-fan.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/mmo-fan-shot-zen-and-the-misery-of-being-a-met-fan.html/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 12:00:24 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=157698 mets-fans

An MMO Fan Shot by Andy Love of Fair and Unbalanced.

Being a Met fan is not a choice.  As a recent study published in the New York Times confirmed, if your team wins a championship when you are between the ages of 8 and 12, you are far more likely to maintain a lifetime loyalty to that team.  In 1969, I was ten years old.  Quod erat demonstrandum.

If my parents had only waited and had me 8 years later, I would be an insufferable Yankees fan instead of a suffering Mets fan.  Alas, there is nothing to be done despite the unrelenting misery over the last six or seven years.  Who am I kidding, with rare exceptions, over the last 45-plus years.

By the time the Mets miraculously won the World Series in 1969, I was already hooked (thanks to my father, who adopted the Mets after being abandoned by the Brooklyn Dodgers) and was inured to their lovable losing ways. But, as David Searles wrote a while back, ”the miracle year of 1969 changed everything.”   Indeed.

jerry koosman 1969

“It was the first year where legitimate excitement surrounded the team,” when they “seemed to perform a new miracle every day down the stretch that season.” And after they won, it was never the same — losing would no longer be lovable.

I will always cherish that 1969 team — Tom Seaver, Tommie Agee, Cleon Jones, Bud Harrelson, Tug McGraw, Jerry Koosman, Jerry Grote and the rest. And, only a few years later, with many of the same players, minus a few (like Agee) and some key additions (like John Milner, Jon Matlack, Rusty Staub, Felix Millan and even Willie Mays), they pulled off another miracle, winning their division after being in fifth place at the end of August, and then beating the mighty Reds in the playoffs before losing in seven games to the A’s in the World Series.

But that was it for a decade. Things got so bad that in 1979, the 10th Anniversary of The Miracle Mets, my friend Michael and I went to Old Timers’ Day at Shea Stadium and after watching our beloved 1969 stalwarts play a couple of ceremonial innings we left prior to the start of the “real” game. We simply couldn’t bear the stark contrast with the then-current team, led by the likes of Willie Montanez, Richie Hebner and the detritus from the catastrophic Tom Seaver trade two years earlier.

Finally, in 1983, despite another last place finish, there were some hopeful signs. Darryl Strawberry, with his great name and incredible talent made his debut, and in mid-season the Mets acquired a star from the Cardinals, Keith Hernandez. Then in 1984, after seven straight losing seasons, the Mets became a fun team to watch. With a full year from Keith, and a youth movement led by Strawberry and phenomenal rookie sensation Dwight Gooden, the Mets won 90 games and finished in second place.  And then, before the 1985 season, the Mets acquired the great Gary Carter, who had succeeded Johnny Bench as the dominant National League catcher.

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Of course, in 1986, the Mets won the World Series, with the help of Bill Buckner‘s wobbly legs, after a stunning playoff against Houston. Miracles abounded once again, and so did expectation. The Mets had a fabulous team filled with great young talent. But it was not to be. 1987 started with Dwight Gooden in drug rehab and 1988 ended with an excruciating loss to the Dodgers in the playoffs. After that, the Mets began dismantling the 1986 team, replacing iconic players like Len Dykstra, Strawberry and Mookie Wilson with spectacular underachievers like Juan Samuel, Bobby Bonilla and Vince Coleman (see Mets or Bust), resulting in six losing seasons in a row.

Even after signing Mike Piazza in 1998, the team would consistently cause heartburn and heartbreak. The Mets lost their last five games Piazza’s first year to miss the playoffs by one game, followed in 1999 with a defeat by the Braves in the playoffs after Kenny Rogers walked in the winning run of the deciding game. The 2000s were not much better, starting with the crushing loss to the Yankees in the World Series (Armando Benitez, anyone?) followed by several mediocre seasons.

An exciting 2006 team reached the playoffs but lost a devastating final seventh game to the Cardinals. Two searing images from that game form the perfect Met microcosm: Endy Chavez makes one of the most incredible catches ever in the post season in the 6th inning only to have Carlos Beltran strike out looking with the bases loaded three innings later to end the game.

And since then, historic collapses to miss the playoffs, baffling player moves, an unprecedented number of injuries to star and potential star players, culminating in the entanglement with Bernie Madoff, which has caused ownership to shrink payroll and behave like they own a small-market team.

So, to paraphrase legendary announcer Bob Murphy, here’s the “(un)happy recap”: The Mets were laughably bad until they won in 1969. By the mid-1970s they were awful again, and it wasn’t so cute. They peaked again in 1986, but couldn’t sustain their greatness, and in the 28 years since, if anything could go wrong it invariably did.

After Matt Harvey, the Mets’ dynamic young phenom, went down with an elbow injury last year at the height of his remarkable rookie season, I penned the Seven Stages of Being A Met Fan, which  starts with hope, works its way through anger and despair, and invariably reaches acceptance.

Despite the Mets better play of late, and the excitement surrounding the bevy of young arms in the system, I, along with many Met fans, am currently somewhere between anger and despair.  The owners, general manager and field manager have lost what little trust they had left.  They hire PR men instead of HR men.  They blame the fans for not showing up to support their lousy product.  They make bad choices when they finally ease the tightening of purse strings (e.g., Chris Young), they dither  interminably when it comes to choosing among the players they do have (e.g., the Lucas Duda-Ike Davis drama), they confuse promising youngsters by bringing them up only to bench them in favor of players they previously disparaged (e.g., Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada) or play mediocre veterans (e.g., Eric Young, Chris Young) instead of their very few exciting young players (e.g., Juan Lagares).

Confronting yet another season of misery and frustration, I need to somehow move past anger and despair and get to acceptance.  I need to remind myself that while there have been only two miraculous championship years, smaller miracles happen all the time – even now:  a Lagares catch, a Flores grand slam, a Mejia save, an Abreu double, a deGrom anything.  Being a Met fan is about expecting the worst, which will probably happen, although in ways that are unexpected; but it is also about reveling in these spectacular surprises and moments of beauty that make it all worthwhile.  Om shanti.

* * * * * * * *

This Fan Shot was contributed by Andy Love of Fair and Unbalanced. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to us at FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Stick http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-stick.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-stick.html/#comments Thu, 26 Dec 2013 15:30:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=136676 There are a lot memories, a lot of history, being left at Candlestick Park. Willie Mays recorded his 3,000th hit at The Stick; Bill Walsh won his first NFL game and O.J. Simpson played his final game at Candlestick; a massive earthquake rocked the Bay Area and the 1989 World Series; um, Jerry Rice (enough said); and Joe Montana, Dwight Clark and the miraculous “Catch.”

These are good times in San Francisco sports history, and what sports fan doesn’t have a soft spot in their heart for the glory and goosebumps that accompany Candlestick Park? The Stick is part of our collective sports past. During Monday Night Football, potentially the final game in Candlestick history, ESPN reminded us of the greatness in name and performance that now represents the hallowed ground. But don’t be fooled by the drama and romance. The truth is, Candlestick Park has long been thought of as miserable.

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Candlestick Park opened in 1960. According to Jonathan Fraser Light, author of the Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball, the ballpark was named for the “tall trees and jagged rocks in the nearby area known as Candlestick Point.” The ballpark received rave reviews when it opened. Candlestick Park was touted as the first American stadium to be built entirely of reinforced concrete, and included state-of-the-art features. Fans would be treated to radiant heating under the seats and first modern baseball scoreboard.

“This will be one of the most beautiful baseball parks of all time,” said then vice president Richard Nixon, who made history throwing out the first pitch.

One year later Major League Baseball hosted the All-Star Game at Candlestick, an opportunity for the entire nation to experience Candlestick, warts and all. The game was marred by reports of heat prostration — or hear exhaustion — a condition brought on by intense or prolonged exposure to heat, characterized by profuse sweating with loss of fluids and salts, pale and damp skin, rapid pulse, nausea, and dizziness, progressing to collapse. Final score: National League – 5, American League – 4, Heat exhaustion – 95 cases.

Hey, take me out to the ballgame? Sounds like fun.

In 1962, San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli — the “King of Torts” — filed a lawsuit against the Giants in an attempt to get a refund of his season tickets claiming “breach-of-warranty” and “fraudulent misrepresentation.” He accused Giants owner Horace Stoneham of not turning on the radiant heating under the seats. During the trial Belli wore a winter parka and called an Abercrombie and Fitch salesperson to testify on “outfitting arctic groups with cold weather gear.” Belli eventually won his lawsuit and was awarded $1,886.59 for his pain and suffering. The Giants responded by putting a disclaimer in their game scorecards.

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The Giants finally decided enough was enough, enclosing the stadium in 1971. Architects and team owners believed the modifications would serve to accommodate the 49ers while diminishing the powerful winds during the baseball season. To no avail.

Twenty five years after Nixon called Candlestick Park one of “the most beautiful baseball parks of all time,” the Sporting News labeled The Stick “baseball’s worst ball park.”

The Giants played their final game at The Stick in September 1999, losing 8-4 to the rival Los Angeles Dodgers; coincidentally, the final out was recorded at 4:35 p.m., the same minute the final out was record at the Polo Grounds.

“When we left Candlestick in 1999 for AT&T Park, it was very much a bittersweet feeling,” said San Francisco Giants owner Larry Baer. “There are memories there that will not leave. Willie Mays patrolling center field, Juan Marichal’s high leg kick on the mound. I think people are able to separate out the wind and the conditions from the memories.”

Really?

Try and convince former St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog that. “Sitting in the dugout [at Candlestick Park] is like sitting in the bottom of a toilet,” he said. “All that tissues blows in, and no one flushes it.”

Or, Dwight Clark, who experienced his greatest professional moment at Candlestick Park. “It was a dump,” he said. “But it was our dump.”

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Bambino’s, Billy Goats…and Joan Payson: Why the Mets are Cursed http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/bambinos-billy-goats-and-joan-payson-why-the-mets-are-cursed.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/bambinos-billy-goats-and-joan-payson-why-the-mets-are-cursed.html/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 13:30:16 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=130557 babe-ruth-red-sox_i-G-16-1685-P161D00Z - CopyOn January 3, 1920, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth along with mortgage rights on Fenway Park to the New York Yankees. On January 4, 1920, there were no newspaper articles talking about ‘The Curse of the Bambino.’ For a curse to gain traction two things must happen. First, there must be the passage of time. Secondly, a reversal of fortune based around strange and unexplainable events from that point forward must occur.

Prior to trading Ruth, the Boston club had won 5 of the first 15 World Series played. It would take 86 years to capture their 6th. And as New Englanders waited, they watched the Yankees win 27. The curse ended on October 27, 2004 when Boston completed a sweep of the Cardinals. The final out was recorded on a comebacker to the mound off the bat of Edgar Renteria. Renteria, like Babe Ruth, wore no 3.

In 1945, the Chicago Cubs were facing the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. In the stands at Wrigley that afternoon was Billy Sianis, avid Cubs fans and owner of The Billy Goat Tavern. Sianis brought his pet goat to the game but when fans seated nearby complained about the goats’ odor, security had both of them physically removed from the stands. Furious, Sianis shouted, “Them Cubs, they aint gonna win no more.” Not only have the Cubs not won a World Series since then, they have never even returned to the Fall Classic.

Over the last few decades, we have shaken our heads more times than we can recall at the amount of absurdities and “unexplainable” bad luck that has befallen our Mets. But maybe, it’s not a simple case of bad luck. Perhaps, just perhaps, the Mets, like the Red Sox and Cubs, are cursed.

To look for the origin of this curse, one must go back. Way back. Before the Mets even existed.

The year was 1957 and Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley was insistent on moving his team 3000 miles away to Los Angeles. For Major League Baseball to approve a transcontinental move, a second team would also need to relocate to California. The westernmost team at the time was St. Louis and it would be too costly to have clubs fly another 1500 miles for just 3 games. Enter Horace Stoneham, owner of the New York Giants. Stoneham, like O’Malley, was getting nowhere in his quest for the city to build his club a new stadium. When the Giants decided to vacate the hills of Coogan’s Bluff for the hills of San Francisco, there were only three dissenting votes. The nays were that of Joan Whitney Payson, her husband and M. Donald Grant. When the relocation was officially announced, Joan Payson immediately sold her shares of stock and promised to do whatever necessary to bring National League Baseball back to New York.

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Her dream came to fruition in 1962 when the Metropolitans played their first game in, of all places, the Giants old stadium. Payson became the first woman in the history of North America to be a majority owner of a professional sports franchise. She was a brilliant businesswoman who was also an avid baseball fan. And although she loved her Mets—not as an investment but as a team—her heart was in San Francisco. Her favorite player on her beloved Giants was on his way to becoming the greatest all-around athlete the game had ever known. On May 11, 1972, at the unremitting demand of Payson, the Mets sent pitcher Charlie Williams along with $50,000 to bring The Say Hey Kid back to New York. Another dream of Joan Payson’s came true as she watched her cherished Willie Mays play for the team she owned.

At 41 years old, Willie was in the twilight of his career and was focusing on what to do after his playing days ended. The Giants were financially strapped and management could not keep Mays on payroll in any capacity, be it coach, hitting instructor, scout, etc…Payson assured Willie a spot on the coaching staff after retirement. He agreed and Willie Mays once again wore NY on his cap.

Payson made Mays a promise. His time as a Met would be brief and she could not justify having his number joining Casey Stengel’s 37 as the only numbers retired. She did, however, promise that no Mets player would ever again wear no. 24.

On October 16, 1973, Willie Mays played his last professional baseball game. On October 4, 1975, Joan Whitney Payson passed away. On August 7, 1990, the Mets “accidentally” reissued number 24. And so, ladies and gentlemen, begins The Curse of the Joanbino.

payson willie

Kelvin Torve was a 30 year-old utility infielder when he entered the Shea clubhouse for the first time in the summer of 1990. He had played 12 games with the Twins 2 years earlier but now was awed as he looked around at his new teammates. Torve was back in ‘The Show,’ sharing a locker room with Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, David Cone, Sid Fernandez and Frank Viola. He was handed a jersey, number 24, and suited up to take infield practice.

Fans began calling the front office. They started writing letters. That number was never supposed to be used again they reminded management. The Mets went on the road and while in the visiting clubhouse, equipment manager Charlie Samuels advised Torve of the uproar and asked if he’d mind changing numbers. Torve had no qualms about it. He was trying to stay in the majors and would do anything asked of him. On August 18th, he replaced his 24 with no. 39. The change of numbers happened on the road…as the Mets played, of all teams, the Giants. In the 10 days Torve wore Mays’ number, he batted .500.

In April 99, the number would be issued again, but this time not by accident. Newly acquired outfielder Rickey Henderson insisted on wearing 24. But it really didn’t matter by then. The Curse of the Joanbino had already taken hold.

As I alluded to earlier, for a ‘curse’ to have some legitimacy, there must be strange, unusual or downright weird events. Using the issuance of the Torve uniform as a benchmark, one can clearly delineate a reversal of fortunes of the Mets from that point forward.

Prior to 1990, our Mets were no strangers to bizarre plays. However, they always went in our favor.

Ron-Swoboda-Catch

In 1969, the Mets shocked the baseball world by overcoming 100-1 odds and defeating the heavily favored Cubs for the division title. Facing the power heavy Braves in the LCS, the big question was could the Mets pitching quiet the lethal bats of Hank Aaron, Rico Carty, Felipe Alou and Orlando Cepeda. Our pitching failed miserably. However, the light hitting Mets beat the Braves at their own game, scoring 27 runs in a 3-game sweep. The Mets would go on to upset the Baltimore Orioles, a team that carried 4 future Hall of Famers–Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer and manager Earl Weaver, along with 1969 Cy Young Winner, Mike Cuellar. Ron Swoboda, a well-known liability in the field, would make one of the most iconic defensive plays in Series history. A miracle indeed.

With the 1973 pennant hanging in the balance, another “strange” play occurred. On Sept 20, in a crucial game against the first place Pirates, Pittsburgh appeared ready to finally win in extra innings with a long blast to LF. The ball, however, did not go over the wall. Nor did it bounce off the wall. Rather, it bounced on TOP of the wall and back into play. Cleon Jones turned, fired to Garrett who pivoted and threw home to catcher Ron Hodges who nailed Richie Zisk at the plate. The Mets would win in the bottom of the next inning and pull to within half a game of first. Two weeks later the Mets were facing Cincinnati in the LCS. At the time my dad advised me, “The ghost of Gil Hodges was sitting on the fence and knocked the ball back into play.” I was almost 8 years old and that seemed plausible. Strange indeed.

And if the Miracle of 1969 and balls bouncing on top of walls weren’t enough, there’s also Game 6 in 86.

All of these peculiar plays went in the Mets favor. After Kelvin Torve was issued Mays’ number, the Mets underwent a reversal of fortune and everything from that day forward has seemingly gone against us. Although we only won 2 Championships and 3 pennants before the mishap of reissuing the number, the Mets still appeared almost charmed with good luck. After, we seemed, well, cursed.

Here are some of the bizarre incidents that transpired after Joan Payson’s promise was not maintained.

1991: The very first year after accidentally allowing another player to wear Mays’ number, the Mets draft 2 pitchers they intend to build their future around: Bill Pulsipsher and Jason Isringhausen.

1992: The Mets sign Bobby Bonilla to a lucrative (at the time) 5 year/$29 million contract. Bonilla was a superstar in Pittsburgh. And although he was a native New Yorker just like John Franco, Lee Mazzilli and Ed Kranepool, he would become perhaps the most despised Met in team history. A subsequent renegotiation of his contract will see us paying Bonilla until he turns 72 years old. 72, the same year Willie Mays returned to New York.

bobbybonilla

Mid 90’s: The Mets spend big bucks to bring a pennant to Flushing. The plan falls short and instead they become known as ‘The Worst Team Money Can Buy.’

1999: After one of the most dramatic moments in team history, Robin Ventura’s  famous Grand Slam single, the Mets lose the NLCS the following day on, of all things, a walk-off walk. It’s the only time in history a team lost the pennant in such fashion.

2000: The Mets lose the World Series in 5 games to the Yankees. Mike Piazza records the final out. Piazza didn’t ground out to the shortstop or strike out or pop up. He flew out—to center field, the same area Mays patrolled decades earlier.

2003: Earning more than $17 million, Mo Vaughn is the highest paid player on the team, netting more than even Piazza. His season ends on May 2 due to injuries. He retires from baseball.

2006: The Mets are expected to crush the Cardinals. St. Louis barely made the post-season and had numerous players injured. They were relying on a rookie to close named Adam Wainwright. The loss in the 7 game LCS was a shock and never expected. The decisive blow was a HR by Yadier Molina who hit only 6 HR’s all season. At the time, Molina was 24 years old.

2007: The Mets suffer what is regarded by many to be the greatest collapse in baseball history, blowing a 7 game lead with just 17 left. We even fail to make the wildcard.

2008: The Mets blow a 3 ½ game lead with 17 left. We again fail to even make the wildcard.

2009: Citi Field opens and in the inaugural game, a cat runs onto the field. Although it was not a black cat like happened to the Cubs in the heat of the 69 pennant, there is an interesting similarity. Fellow MMO blogger Ed Leyro pointed out at the time that in 69, the black cat ran out while Ron Santo was in the on deck circle. In 09, a cat ran out while David Wright stood in the on deck circle. Both Santo and Wright are considered the best third basemen in the history of their respective clubs.

2009: Mets players spend a total of 1,480 days on the disabled list. Our new home offers no immediate hope of a bright future. The Mets finish under .500 for the first time in 5 seasons.

$19SPYANKEESMURRAY

2009: Luis Castillo against the Yankees. ‘Nuff said.

2011: After 50 years and 8020 games, a Mets pitcher finally throws a no-hitter. And from this point forward, for all intents and purposes, Johan Santana’s career comes to an end.

2013: Johan Santana’s salary is $25,500,000 for the season. He pitches zero innings.

2013: Fans finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. Matt Harvey conjures up images of Seaver and Gooden. He becomes the first Mets pitcher to start an All-Star Game in a quarter century. Six weeks later he is put on the disabled list. He is 24.

Maybe it’s just bad luck. Fate, perhaps? But one can easily see a difference in the Mets pre-Joanbino curse and post-Joanbino curse. In addition to the previously mentioned bad karma that has appeared since the no. 24 was reissued, there are also other, shall we say, “coincidences.”

2000 saw the Mets lose the Series to the Yankees. However, for the entire post-season, the Mets outscored their opponents, 60-51. 51…as in 1951, the year Willie Mays debuted. The last time the Mets won a World Series was 1986, our 25th year in existence. However, many don’t consider the strike-shortened 81 season a real season. Therefore, you can say that 86 was the Mets 24th season. Granted, that’s a stretch and somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

Here, however, are a couple more that garner some serious attention. Things that appear too coincidental to be mere happenstance.

Game 6 of 86 saw the Mets conclude the greatest come from behind victory in World Series history. We tied the series at 3 games and game 7 was slated for the following day. However, the hand of fate intervened and the game was rained out, played instead on Monday, October 27, 1986. 10-27-86. 1+0+2+7+8+6=24.

Billy Sianis Cubs Playoffs 1984In 1969, the Mets swept Atlanta, then defeated Baltimore 4 games to 1. In 73, we defeated the heavily favored Big Red Machine in 5 before falling short to Oakland in 7. In 86, we defeated Houston in 6, Boston in 7. In 1988, we were upset in the NLCS by the Dodgers, 4 games to 3. All of these post-seasons appeared before Willie’s number was accidentally reissued. The total post-season victories—3 against Atlanta, 4 against Baltimore, 3 vs. Cincy, 3 vs Oakland, 4 vs Houston, 4 vs. Boston and 3 vs. LA totals out to…yes, you guessed it. 24.

The bad thing about curses is they are inconsiderate when it comes to time. If the Mets are in fact cursed, how long will it last? The Curse of the Bambino lasted over eight and a half decades. The Billy Goat Curse is still ongoing.

On the positive side, Mays’ old number was recirculated in 1990. 24 years from that makes it 2014. On the other hand, Joan Payson was 72 years of age when she passed away. That would make it 2062 if 72 years has to pass. And worst of all, Mays hit 660 home runs.

Do I really think our Mets are cursed? Nahhh, of course not. Probably not. I’m sure it’s not real. I mean, come on. That’s silly. Right?

But just in case the spirit of Joan Payson is really, really upset and keeping in mind Willie’s 660 career home runs, here’s to the 2650 Mets.

New York Mets owner Joan Payson

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Marlon Byrd Might Do What No Met Has Done Before http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/marlon-byrd-might-do-what-no-met-has-done-before.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/marlon-byrd-might-do-what-no-met-has-done-before.html/#comments Mon, 19 Aug 2013 21:11:13 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=127486 Power hitters don’t usually run very well.  And speedsters aren’t prone to hitting home runs.  So it would be reasonable to say that players who are among the league leaders in home runs don’t usually find their names near the top of the triples leader board.  Of course, there have been some exceptions over the years.

Hall of Famer Stan Musial led the league in triples in 1948, 1949 and 1951.  He hit 39, 36 and 32 homers in those years, respectively.  More recently, in 2007, Jimmy Rollins led the league with 20 triples while hitting 30 homers to capture the National League Most Valuable Player Award.

Only three players in the modern era of baseball (since 1900) have led their respective leagues in triples and homers in the same season.  Those players are Willie Mays (13 triples, 51 homers in 1955), Mickey Mantle (11 triples, 37 homers, also in 1955) and Jim Rice (15 triples, 46 homers in 1978).  All three are in the Hall of Fame.

As you can see, it’s quite rare for a player to be among the league leaders in both triples and home runs.  Just nine players have finished in his league’s top ten in triples and homers over the past 20 years, as seen in the chart below.

Player

Year

Triples

Place

Home Runs

Place

  Sammy Sosa

1994

6

T-6th

25

9th

  Ellis Burks

1996

8

T-5th

40

T-5th

  Vladimir Guerrero

1998

7

T-8th

38

T-6th

  Barry Bonds

1998

7

T-8th

37

9th

  Nomar Garciaparra

1998

8

T-4th

35

T-10th

  Vladimir Guerrero

2000

11

T-2nd

44

T-4th

  Luis Gonzalez

2001

7

T-8th

57

3rd

  Ryan Braun

2007

7

T-6th

37

T-4th

  Carlos Gonzalez

2010

9

6th

34

4th

  Curtis Granderson

2011

10

3rd

41

2nd

Of the nine players in the last 20 years who have finished in the top ten in both three-base hits and homers, only Vladimir Guerrero accomplished the feat twice, doing so for the Expos in 1998 and 2000.

But notice that none of the nine players played for the Mets.  That shouldn’t be surprising.  After all, only 16 Mets have ever cracked the year-end top ten in triples.  And of those 16 players, none of them hit as many as 20 homers. (Jose Reyes‘ 19 homers in 2006 are the most.)  Obviously, that means no Met has ever finished in the top ten in both triples and homers in the same season.

That could all change this season.  And it might be done by an unlikely candidate.

WORD…

Marlon Byrd currently has five triples and 20 home runs.  His five triples are good for a ninth place tie in the National League, while his 20 homers are tied for the eighth highest total in the Senior Circuit.  Should Byrd finish in the top ten in the league in triples, he would be the first Met to hit 20 homers in a season in which he cracked the top ten in triples.  In addition, should Byrd remain in the top ten in both triples and homers, he’d become the first Met ever to do so.

Not Jose Reyes.  Not David Wright.  Not Darryl Strawberry.

Marlon Freakin’ Byrd.

No one expected Marlon Byrd to do much for the Mets this year.  He was supposed to be part of a rotating outfield who could perhaps hit well against left-handed pitching.  But instead, he’s become the team leader in home runs, runs batted in, and slugging percentage.  He also has a chance to be among the league leaders in both triples and homers.  That’s something very few players can claim over the past 20 years.  That’s something no Met has ever been able to claim.  Until now.  Maybe.

This has truly been a remarkable season for Marlon Byrd.  And it also has a chance to be an historic one.

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Must See Video: Alonzo Harris Makes An Amazin’ Catch http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/must-see-video-alonzo-harris-makes-an-amazin-catch.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/must-see-video-alonzo-harris-makes-an-amazin-catch.html/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 16:49:43 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=127128 Check out this amazing catch by Alonzo Harris last night as he channeled his inner Willie Mays to make and over the shoulder catch with his back to the ball.

After a breakthrough season for Advanced-A St. Lucie in 2012, Harris has struggled this season at the plate for the Binghamton Mets, and has been plagued with a couple of minor, but nagging injuries.

Selected by the New York Mets in the 39th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of McComb (Miss.) High School, Harris posted a .287/.354/.437 slash for St. Lucie with 38 extra-base hits, 74 runs scored and 40 stolen bases in 433 at-bats in 2012.

However, this season has been a different story for Harris as his .220/.287/.304 batting line will tell you.

Thanks to Mr. North Jersey for the link…

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Like Father, Like Son: L.J. Mazzilli Off To Hot Start With Cyclones http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/06/like-father-like-son-l-j-mazzilli-off-to-hot-start-with-cyclones.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/06/like-father-like-son-l-j-mazzilli-off-to-hot-start-with-cyclones.html/#comments Mon, 24 Jun 2013 20:37:40 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=123010 Former Mets’ star Lee Mazzilli made the borough of Brooklyn his stomping grounds growing up.

Abraham Lincoln H.S. in Coney Island was his home until the Mets drafted him right out of high school in 1973.

Lee and L.J. Mazzilli (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Lee and L.J. Mazzilli (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Located just a mile and half from Lincoln down Ocean Parkway and on Surf Avenue is MCU Park. Though the stadium wasn’t there during Mazzilli’s playing days, he now has a special connection to the park.

Lee’s son, L.J. Mazzilli, was the Mets’ fourth-round draft-pick out of the University of Connecticut in early June. The second baseman was immediately assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones, who play their home games at MCU.

“I sit here with goosebumps because I grew up about a mile or two away from here,” said Lee, who now works for the Yankees. “As a dad, I don’t know if I can be any more proud. Now just to see my son (L.J.), I think every dad would feel the same way. It’s just a special feeling, and he’s going to go out and start his own career. The Mets didn’t draft him in the fourth round for any nepotism. He’s got some talent. They’re not going to waste a fourth-round pick on that. They’re smarter than that. So he’s got a chance to do some pretty good things.”

Lee  Mazzilli (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Lee Mazzilli (Photo by Jim Mancari)

L.J. hit safely in five of the Cyclones’ first six games as the team’s No. 3 hitter. He said his dad has consistently helped him with the mental approach to the game of baseball.

“I’m just so proud to be his son and be able to not necessarily follow his footsteps and what he did with the Mets but to add to my own legacy and wear my last name with a lot of pride,” L.J. said.

Right when L.J. was drafted, he and his dad immediately jumped up and gave each other a huge hug. L.J. said that Lee was probably even more excited than he was with the selection.

“We’re still on cloud nine, but I think we’re starting to come down a little bit,” L.J. said.

Lee said he learned the game from the greats like Willie Mays, Tom Seaver and Joe Torre, and he passed on what he learned to L.J. Though he was born in 1989 – the year Lee retired – and never saw his father play, L.J. has plenty of memories as his dad as a coach for the Yankees and Orioles.

L.J.  Mazzilli (Photo by Jim Mancari)

L.J. Mazzilli (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Lee said that he is lucky to work for a great organization like the Yankees and now have his son work for a great organization like the Mets.

“He’s (L.J.) better than I was; I’ve watched him,” Lee said. “He’s more advanced than I was at his age. I think because guys have more things readily available for them, things we didn’t have growing up.”

“I think I’m a good hitter, and I bring the bat to the table,” L.J. said. “I’ve been working out my all around game as well, and I think I can bring fielding and instincts and base running as well. But I think my bat is the one thing that will talk for me.”

In addition to the similarities playing for the Mets and playing in Brooklyn, the two are also linked through Cyclones’ manager Rich Donnelly. Lee is ecstatic that L.J.’s first pro manager is Donnelly, who was the first base coach when Lee played with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986.

Lee and L.J. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Lee and L.J. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Lee said he wasn’t able to see L.J. play as much as he would have liked to based on the nature of his job. But now, he will be a fixture at MCU Park

“Now it’s come full circle, and he’s (L.J.) going to leave tickets for me,” Lee said. “I’ve been around here a long time. There are so many good things that have happened to me like winning a World Series, playing in New York and playing in my hometown. But to see your son play, it’s kind of neat and I’m proud of him.”

As for L.J., this summer in Brooklyn will lay the foundation of his career, and he’s excited to keep getting better and taking pointers from his dad.

“I absolutely feel like this is my first step,” L.J. said. “I just want to get in there and get playing. I dream to be playing for the Mets one day at Citi Field hopefully for a long time.”

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My Personal Attempt To Sabotage The All-Star Game http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/05/my-personal-attempt-to-sabotage-the-all-star-game.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/05/my-personal-attempt-to-sabotage-the-all-star-game.html/#comments Thu, 23 May 2013 10:50:01 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=119618 721_-mlb_all-star_game-primary-2013It’s that time of the year again. Seven weeks into the season and we are being asked to vote for the 2013 All-Stars.

This week Cincinnati came to town. Now, imagine for a moment, if as you walked into Citi Field you were handed a ballot where you could choose which Reds you would want playing that day. Safe to say, we Mets fans would probably decide that Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce deserve a day off. We could have Jack Hannahan bat clean-up. Johnny Cueto? Are you kidding me? Of course not.

Why would we do this? The answer is obvious. We want our Mets to win.

Now, of course that would never happen. When do fans get to pick their opponent’s team? Unless, it’s the All-Star Game.

Growing up and becoming a fan in the 1970’s, the Mid-Summer Classic was a highlight of the season for me. It gave me a chance to see my baseball cards come to life. The game was steeped in tradition. It showcased the top talent in the game. It was an opportunity for America to see the best and brightest from each league battle for ‘bragging rights.’

Ray Fosse On Ground, Pete Rose StandingWe had the opportunity to see dream match-ups that only existed in Strat-O-Matic. We could watch our own Tom Seaver try to fan Rod Carew, a young cocky Roger Clemens trying to sneak a fast ball by Tony Gwynn, Charlie Hustle digging in against Catfish or Rickey Henderson challenging the arm of Dave Parker. Yes, this is what the All-Star Game was. And what it is meant to be.

As we all know the game regrettably has changed. League loyalty is gone. Not only do players not stay with one team for most of their career, but they have no qualms about switching leagues. Guys like George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, Jim Palmer, Willie Mays and countless others never would have dreamed about ‘crossing over.’ Nowadays, however, one doesn’t have to look far. Pujols, Cabrera, Fielder, Beckett, A-Gon have all switched.

And that’s fine. But in the midst of this, league loyalty fades away.

Yet, in 2003, Bud Selig elected to add a disturbing nuance to the ASG when he decided that the winner of a ‘meaningless’ game in July determines who has home field advantage for the World Series.

Obviously, thanks to the commissioner, the contest is no longer a simple platform to display the top stars. The game now has major significance, huge importance. The All-Star Game has a direct outcome on who may become World Champions. Since the inception of this rule a decade ago, the league that won the All-Star Game has gone on to win the World Series 7 out of 10 times. And the last four in a row. (The only exceptions were the 03 Marlins, 06 Cardinals and 08 Phillies.)

Now, being a NL fan, I obviously want the NL to win. And since this is the case, explain to me why I should vote for the top stars from the AL. Are you joking? I’m rooting for the NL—But yet I am supposed to vote for Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols and Dustin Pedroia and Torii Hunter??? The heck with that! I’m going to vote for the worst hitters I can find, some guy from Seattle or Kansas City I never heard of. I’m supposed to vote for Ian Kinsler or Howie Kendrick when Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis is on the ballot? Come on people. Get real.

Roberto-Clemente-Willie-Mays-Hank-Aaron

And since Commissioner Selig has turned this exhibition game into something of great significance, I, as a NL fan, want the best NL-ers out there. Since the point is to win, why does every need need to be represented? Why does every player need to get one at-bat? Why are the managers equally concerned with making sure every player gets in the game as they are with winning the game? Since the purpose is to win, I better see Buster Posey and Bryce Harper out there the entire night. I want to see Kershaw for 8 and Romo to close it out.

When Giants manager Bruce Bochy set his line-up for game 4 of the World Series last year, he didn’t decide that perhaps Pablo Sandoval needed a day off. He didn’t elect to give Posey a rest and put Hector Sanchez behind the plate. He put his best team on the field. Why? Because it was a must-win game…just like the All-Star Game has become.

Now, of course, this would never happen. Dodger fans would be up in arms (and rightfully so) if their ace “wasted” a start in the “meaningless” All-Star Game. But really, how meaningless is it?

So, as a Baseball fan, I will vote for the 2013 All-Star Game. But as a Mets fan, and as a fan of the National League, I will be voting for the worst the American League has to offer. And I will continue to do so until Selig reinstates the Mid-Summer Classic to what it was and what it should be: A traditional setting where fans could sit back and enjoy the best our National Pastime has to offer.

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There Goes Willie Mays, The Best There Ever Was: Say Hey Kid Turns 82 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/05/there-goes-willie-mays-the-best-there-ever-was-say-hey-kid-turns-82.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/05/there-goes-willie-mays-the-best-there-ever-was-say-hey-kid-turns-82.html/#comments Tue, 07 May 2013 13:55:30 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=117784 williemays-swing - Copy

A member of the SABR once said, “There are 499 ballplayers. And then there’s Willie Mays.”

It was way back in the summer of 1973. Camera Day. I was a few months shy of turning 8 years old. My dad nudged me closer to the railing along the third base line so no grown-ups would block my view. Mets players walked around the warning track, stopping every few feet to smile for the cameras. My dad clicked away on his little Kodak Instamatic. I was just feet away from my Mets. Something I still remember 40 years later.

Tug and Harry Parker rode around on the back of the Mets bullpen cart. Jerry Koosman, void of his cap, stopped within arm’s reach. Lanky Jon Matlack smiled broadly. Cleon Jone carried himself with swagger, looking every part the major leaguer. Rusty Staub carried a teddy bear. Then, an eerie hush, the calm before the storm, came over the crowd. The quietness gave way to a volcanic eruption of cheers and shouts. Carrying a baseball bat as if he was born with it in his hand came # 24.

As game time approached and my dad and I walked to our seats in Loge section 5 along first base, he leaned over and told to remember today. One day I would be able to tell my kids that I saw Willie Mays.

I was 7 years old. All I knew about this guy was that he had once played in New York a long time ago and made some important catch once.
When the topic comes up of who is the greatest to ever play the game, I immediately respond without hesitation: Willie Mays. Ruth didn’t have the speed, Williams didn’t have the glove, Cobb, although he played in the dead ball era, didn’t have the power. The Say Hey Kid didn’t just do it all. He did it better than anyone before or since.

Born May 6, 1931 in Westfield, Alabama, William Howard Mays was taught the game of baseball at age 5. His father, William Howard Taft, named after a US president, played in the Negro Leagues for the local iron plant. His mother was a talented basketball and track star. Willie had the genes.

Attending Fairfield Industrial High, Willie set school records in both basketball and football.

Upon graduating, Willie played for the Birmingham Black Barons. He caught the eye of Bud Maughn, a scout for the Boston Braves. Boston was interested in purchasing Mays. However, they dragged their feet and could not come to an agreement with the Barons. Had the Braves moved quicker, it’s likely that Willie would have been teammates with Hank Aaron.

Brooklyn was also interested in Mays, but by the time they got around to it, he’d already been signed by their crosstown rivals, the hated New York Giants.

There was no Roy Hobbs moment when Willie took the field in 1951. He didn’t knock the cover off the ball in his first AB. As a matter of fact, he went 0-for-his first 12. Then, his first hit came: A towering HR off future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. Spahn later joked, “For the first sixty feet, it was a hell of a pitch.”

Willie hit 274-20-68 in 121 games and won the NL Rookie of the Year. It was Mays who was on deck later that season when Bobby Thomson hit ‘the shot heard round the world.’

willie mays catch

The Giants lost the Series in 6 to the Yankees. Mays, along with Monte Irvin and Hank Thomson, were the first all-African-American outfield in baseball history.

After only 127 AB’s the following year, Uncle Sam came calling. Willie was drafted into the Army. He would not return to the majors until 1954. He missed 266 games.

But when he did return in 1954, he returned with a bang. He won his first of 2 MVP’s, hitting a league best 345 along with 41 HR’s. The Giants crushed the heavily favored Indians in 4 straight. The Series is best remembered for Willie’s iconic catch off the bat of Vic Wertz. In what is possibly the most popular image in Baseball history, The Say Hey Kid thus elevated himself to mythical proportions. This was the start of a legend. Modest Willie stated years later, “I don’t compare ‘em. I just catch ‘em.”

It was the last World Series the Giants ever won in New York. The team would not win another until 2010.

That season Willie earned $12,500.

The Giants played 3 more years in NY and over that span, Willie averaged 316, compiled 122 HR’s, 551 hits, 112 XBH, knocked in 308. Oh, and also managed to steal 102 bases.

In 1957, he became a member of the 20-20-20 club. 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 HR’s. No player has done that since.

Willie Mays was not just a great ballplayer. He was fun, colorful and exciting. He had ‘a lot of little boy in him’ and that showed, both on and off the field. “I like to play happy,” he stated. “Baseball is a fun game. I love it.”

Willie was not only larger than life ON the field but off the field as well. He’d frequently hang out in Harlem, playing stick ball with neighborhood kids. When the Giants moved to San Francisco, he continued the tradition, playing in the sandlots with local kids. He truly was loved coast to coast.

Willie had no trouble winning the hearts of San Francisco fans. His first year out west he hit a career high 347. And although the Giants initially struggled in San Francisco, Willie continued putting up
Hall of Fame numbers.

On April 30, 1961, Mays hit 4 HR’s in a game. He was in the on-deck circle when the final out was recorded.

In 1962 the Giants won a tight pennant race and met the Yankees in the Fall Classic. The Giants lost in a heartbreaking 7 games. Willie hit just 250. He would not appear in another World Series until 1973.

July 2, 1963 is what many claim to be the best baseball game ever played. Two future Hall of Famers, Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn, dueled it out. For 16 innings the game was scoreless. It was like a heavyweight fight between two warriors who refused to go down. In the 16th inning, it was Willie Mays who delivered the knockout blow, hitting a HR and giving SF a 1-0 win.

In turn, this added yet another historical fact to the lore of Mays. He is the only player to hit a HR in every inning, 1 thru 16.

It was 1964. Willie’s friend and teammate Bobby Bonds welcomed a son into the world and named him Barry. He asked Willie to be the newborn’s Godfather.

August 22, 1965 is widely regarded as one of the ugliest days in Baseball history. The Giants and Dodgers were embroiled in a tight pennant race. Tension was high, tempers were short. Things boiled over. Juan Marichal hit Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro in the head with a bat. And then all hell broke loose. Red Sox/Yankees had nothing on this. This was not the usual bench clearing brawl where a couple guys tousle and everyone else stands around. This was an all-out war that went on for 14 minutes. Players were bloodied, uniforms shredded. It was Willie along with Sandy Koufax who restored order. Just a few years ago, Marichal stated, “Had Willie and Koufax not ended that, we’d probably still be going at it today.”

The following year, 1965, Willie surpassed another historic milestone. He hit his 500th HR, a blast off of Don Nottebart. When he returned to the dugout he was met by now teammate Warren Spahn. 13 years earlier it was Spahn who gave up Willie’s very first HR. The veteran LHP asked him, “Was it anything like the same feeling?” Willie responded, “Exactly the same feeling. Same pitch, too.”

Shortly after Jerry Koosman got Orioles second baseman Davey Johnson to fly out to left in October 69 and the Mets proved miracles can come true, The Sporting News named Willie Mays ‘The Player of the Decade.’

By early 1972, age was catching up to The Say Hey Kid. The Giants were struggling financially. Owner Horace Stoneham regrettably advised the Giant legend that he could not afford to offer Willie any type of position or financial reward upon his retirement. Enter the Mets.

willie-mays - CopyMets owner Joan Payson had been a minority shareholder for the New York Giants. In the late 50’s, she fought hard to keep them in New York. Payson watched her beloved Giants move 3000 miles away, longing for the day when her adored and cherished Willie Mays would somehow return to New York. That opportunity presented itself now.

Payson saw the chance, fought hard to get Willie back to New York and offered him a coaching position upon retirement. In early May the Mets sent Charlie Williams and $50,000 to Stoneham. The Say Hey Kid was back in New York, just 10 miles away from where the Polo Grounds once stood. And where the legend of Willie Mays was born.

It was a rainy Sunday, May 14, when Willie wore “NY” on his cap for the first time in fifteen years. In the fifth inning of his debut game, Willie, as always, rose to the occasion. He hit a HR that put the Mets ahead to stay. The losing team was, yes, the Giants.

August 17th of the following season, 1973, Mays hit a solo HR off Reds starter Don Gullett. It was # 660, the final one of his illustrious career.

The Mets shocked baseball once again, coming back from the dead and from last place to find themselves battling the A’s in the World Series. At age 42, Willie became the oldest player to appear in the Fall Classic. He got the Mets first hit in the World Series.

Willie only had 7 AB’s against Oakland. He got 2 hits, including the game winner in the 12 inning Game 2. In spite of Willie’s hit tying up the Series, it was a heartbreaking day for fans of the game. And for fans of Willie. He misplayed a routine fly ball, losing it in the glare of the northern California sunlight. Just across the bay from where Willie established himself as the best fielding CF-er of all time, he dropped a fly ball hit directly to him. After the game, he commented, “Growing old is just a helpless hurt.”

In 1979, William Howard Mays was enshrined in Baseball immortality. He was elected to the Hall of Fame with 95% of the vote. Amazingly, 23 sportswriters did not include Mays on their ballot. Caustic New York columnist Dick Young, never at a loss for biting sarcasm, stated, “If Jesus Christ were to show up with his old glove, some guys wouldn’t vote for him. He dropped the cross three times, didn’t he?”

Willie was at or near the top of every offensive category at the time of his retirement. And in spite of the steroid era, smaller stadiums and weaker pitching staffs, he remains a “giant” among the greats: 660 Home Runs (4th), 1903 RBI’s (10th), 3283 hits (11th), 2062 runs (7th), 10881 at-bats, 557 slugging (19th now but 10th at retirement). All this plus a lifetime batting average of 302 and oh yea, 338 Steals, a 77% success rate on the base paths.

As impressive as these stats were and still are today, keep in mind Willie played the bulk of his career in the 1960’s, a decade dominated by pitching and cavernous stadiums.

He was a 2 time MVP winner (1954, 1965). He won a record 12 Gold Gloves for CF, a remarkable feat considering Willie had 6 years under his belt before the award was even created. And the fact that he played in the swirling unpredictable winds of Candlestick Park. His 24 All-Star games tie him for the most mid-summer classics with Stan Musial. In 1999, Mays was chosen as #2 on the Greatest Players of the 20th century, the only living member. He holds the record for 13 straight years playing 150+ games.

In addition to his accolades, Willie, usually bashful, was honest and forthright. He knew he was good. And so did we. Some of his quotes:

“They throw the ball, I hit the ball. They hit the ball. I catch the ball.” “When I’m not hitting, I don’t hit nobody. But when I am, I can hit anybody.” “The game was easy for me.” When asked who he thinks was the best ball player he ever saw, Willie replied with a broad smile. “I think I was the best I ever saw play.”

As much as fans loved seeing him play, he was equally respected and admired by his peers and contemporaries.

Ted Williams: “They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays.”

Ted Kluszewski: “I’m not sure what charisma is but I get the feeling it’s Willie Mays.”

Mays’ manager Leo Durocher: “He can hit. He can run. He can field. If he could cook, I’d marry him.”

Reggie Jackson: “You used to think if you were winning 5-0 somehow Mays would find a way to hit a 5 run HR.”

Opposing manager Gil Hodges: “I can’t tell my batters not to hit it to him. Wherever they hit it, he’s there anyway.”

It’s been 4 decades since this little scrawny 7 year-old kid with a front tooth missing was nudged closer to the railing at Shea on Camera Day 1973, trying to see past all the tall grown-ups. It’s been 4 decades since my dad told me to remember the day I saw Willie Mays on a Baseball field. It’s been 4 decades and this little kid is now in his late 40’s. And yes dad, I still remember.

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How It All Went Wrong For Lastings Milledge http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/04/how-it-all-went-wrong-for-lastings-milledge.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/04/how-it-all-went-wrong-for-lastings-milledge.html/#comments Sun, 07 Apr 2013 12:53:41 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=113354 lastings milledge 2I will remember it as if I saw it yesterday for the first time.

A sheet of notebook paper, with the words, “Know your place, Rook … signed, your teammates,” was taped over Lastings Milledge’s locker in the Mets’ clubhouse in old RFK Stadium. This, in the late summer in 2006.

The Mets were en route to the playoffs and a veteran laden team was rubbed the wrong way by Milledge’s brashness and arrogance. Then-manager Willie Randolph – who reprimanded Milledge several times that summer – ripped down the sign, but knew he hadn’t ripped away the problem.

The Mets labeled it a misunderstanding, and Randolph called Lastings Milledge “a good kid,’’ but this clearly was not a misunderstanding with a teammate. It was the accumulation of several incidents that rankled several teammates.

Milledge burst upon the Mets, hitting over .300, was dazzling on the bases and showed a strong arm. He was going to be the next “fill in the blank.’’ Willie Mays? Roberto Clemente?

However, things quickly cooled after his first career homer, when on his way to the outfield he high-fived fans down the right field line in Shea Stadium. Randolph sensed how the Giants seethed in their dugout, especially since he saw some of his own players do the same.

Randolph reprimanded Milledge on the unwritten laws in baseball, but it didn’t take. There were ground balls he didn’t run out and times he didn’t hustle in the outfield. He was flash with the jewelry swinging wildly on the field, but in the clubhouse he often sat buried in his locker wearing headphones or playing a video game.

milledge 3He came off as sullen and angry and clearly couldn’t be bothered by getting to know his teammates. Or, a baseball legend for that matter. During spring training then-GM Omar Minaya brought Milledge to the Nationals dugout to meet Frank Robinson, but Milledge was came off as being in-different.

Finally, he arrived in the clubhouse in Philadelphia an hour before a day game. Although it was early, the veterans made it in on time. David Wright had enough when Milledge strolled in with sunglasses and an iPod as if he owned the place and told him this wasn’t acceptable.

Wright wouldn’t belabor the issue Opening Day, only managing to say “seniority is big in this game,’’ which is the politically-correct translation for Milledge hadn’t earned his stripes.

Milledge popped into my consciousness today when I learned it was his 28th birthday, an age when he should be in the prime of his career. Instead, Milledge is one of hundreds of baseball prospects given the label of “can’t miss, but eventually did.’’

Seven years ago – the career lifetime of a select few – the Mets had three prized outfield prospects in Milledge, Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez. One by one they arrived, fizzled to the point of exasperation and were traded. Not one of them hustled like journeyman outfielder Collin Cowgill.

After turning down several proposals for Manny Ramirez, the Mets eventually traded Milledge to Washington as part of a trade that brought Ryan Church – he of the concussion fiasco – and catcher Brian Schneider. Milledge had his coffee to go with Washington, then Pittsburgh and finally the White Sox before heading to Japan. Milledge had his head-scratching moments in each place, but basically stopped hitting.

At 28, Milledge is still young. It’s about discipline in Japan and if Milledge comes back with a changed attitude perhaps he’ll get another chance. It’s a long way to Japan, and perhaps an even longer route back to the major leagues.

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Special Feature: Saluting The 1973 Mets; The Start Of A Series http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/special-feature-saluting-the-1973-mets-the-start-of-a-series.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/special-feature-saluting-the-1973-mets-the-start-of-a-series.html/#comments Tue, 26 Mar 2013 13:59:35 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=111966 mays

MAYS: ENDURING IMAGE OF A FORGOTTEN TEAM

The Mets have made four World Series appearances, with each of those seasons and Octobers giving us cherished memories.

But, only one – the nearly forgotten 1973 team, with the still memorable rallying cry of “Ya Gotta Believe,’’ – identifies with the tumultuous ride this franchise has been on since its birth as the replacement child for the kids New York really loved – the Dodgers and Giants.

Think of it, the Mets’ colors are Giant orange and Dodger blue. The early rivals, before realignment with divisions, were against the teams that fled, namely because the wounds were still fresh.

Ah, c’mon, we don’t have to think that much. Let’s not go forty years to analyze. Go back only four when the owner of this team was criticized for honoring his beloved Dodgers at the opening of Citi Field – complete with the Jackie Robinson rotunda – more than his own team.

The Summer of 69 was special in that it was the first. It was the summer of Vietnam, the year after the race riots than burned numerous cities in America, including nearby Newark, and, the close of the decade seeing a man walk on the moon.

Countless times that summer, the improbability of the Mets’ drive to the World Series was compared to the moon landing. They were the Miracle Mets, but often overlooked in that season was dominant pitching, and dominant pitching usually wins.

That team doesn’t totally identity with the franchise because of how close it was to its birth. Seven years after first pitch in the Polo Grounds and the Mets are champions? That stuff only happens in the movies, and while it was a special, sometimes the ride is still hard to believe. Then again, there are some who still can’t believe man walked on the moon.

The 1986 champions did not identify with the franchise’s personality in that it was brash, bold and overwhelming, hardly descriptors fitting the Mets. During the season it bullied the National League. Only in the playoffs and its two Game Sixes, did it show the comeback, gritty nature associated with the franchise.

The 2000 team lost to the Yankees in the “Subway Series,’’ which was a marketing salute to a past that existed before the Mets were even a gleam William Shea’s eye. Wasn’t the whole build up of that World Series just a love-fest for what baseball was in the Fifties, the Golden Age of the sport in New York?

Remember, that was age that didn’t include the Mets and the Yankees won.

The World Series run that most identifies with this franchise’s nature was the gritty season of 1973. The Mets, as usual, were underdogs to Pittsburgh and St. Louis in the division, to Cincinnati in the NLCS, and Oakland in the World Series.

When the Mets won they’ve had good pitching. Tom Seaver was still here and joined by Jon Matlack, but they didn’t have a 20-game winner that season. They also didn’t have a .300 hitter and were at the bottom in runs scored. Save the 1986 monster and a few subsequent seasons with the Darryl Strawberry-Keith Hernandez-Gary Carter core, the Mets have rarely been a masher franchise. That’s just not them.

They were in last place as late as August 26. Then came the free-for-all pennant race in September, with the Mets getting a disputed call that enabled them outlast the Pirates, Cardinals and Cubs. The Mets won the win the division with a muddied 82-79 record, the worst in baseball history for a division winner.

For the number of teams involved, it was one of the more compelling pennant races in history, but lost in the mediocrity of the combatants. The still new divisional alignment required another step, which was the expected slaughter at the hands of the Big Red Machine, which was on its own historic run.

The Mets brawled their way through the NLCS with the enduring image being Bud Harrelson going afterPete Rose on a play at second. The Mets rallied to beat the Reds and hung tough against Oakland with their arms, those on the mound and Rusty Staub’s dangling at his side.

It was a season that showed the improbable, yet resilient nature that has been the Mets. The record typifies the franchise, which has lost more than it has won in fifty years. At 3885-4237, there has been more frustration than glory. The irony is it was managed by a man, Yogi Berra, whose career was all about winning.

From start to finish, the 1973 season most typifies the ride of this franchise than any of the other pennant winners. The 1973 team tells the story, with its collection of non-descript players joined by its best player and an iconic star on his last legs. The 1973 team overachieved, which has been a Mets’ signature, but left us unsatisfied and wanting more, feelings all Mets’ fans know so well.

The story of the Mets is captured in two images.

There’s the unabashed joy of Jesse Orosco in 1986 after striking out Marty Barrett to end the World Series as champions. There’s also the pain and anguish of Willie Mays – somebody else’s star – on his knees, pleading for a call in the 1973 Series.

Now, which picture best shows us fifty years of Mets’ baseball?

This season I will salute the 1973 team on New York Mets Report, with a series that each week highlights a game, event or player profile. Hope you enjoy.

Thoughts from Joe D.

John, I’m very excited to be working with you again on another new Mets feature. I loved the 1973 season. As I look at the image we have on the top of this post, I can’t help but notice how symbolic it is of our plight during the last 51 years of Mets baseball. So close, but yet so far… Next week, we’ll retell the tale of how the slogan “Ya Gotta Believe” first came about. All you newbies out there pay attention.ya gotta believe button

This season me and Joe DeCaro of Metsmerized Online will be collaborating on this new feature saluting the 1973 Mets.  Both on MMO and here on New York Mets Report, each week we will highlight a game, event or player profile commemorating that unforgettable season. Hope you enjoy.

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Chipper Jones Says Hell No To The Yankees http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/chipper-jones-says-hell-no-to-the-yankees.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/chipper-jones-says-hell-no-to-the-yankees.html/#comments Sun, 10 Mar 2013 22:23:49 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=110722 chipper jones

CHIPPER TO YANKEES: Chop This!

I was very glad to see Chipper Jones reject the Yankees’ overtures for a comeback. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to see Jones have a change of heart, but not with the Yankees … not with anybody else but the Braves.

I’ve always admired players to begin and end it with the same team. That‘s what I want to see for David Wright. It’s one of the things I liked about Cal RipkenDon Mattingly and Derek Jeter.

It’s rare these days for a player to retire with the same team he began his career with. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that way with Pete RoseHank Aaron and Willie Mays.

The Yankees’ stream of injuries prompted WFAN to run a poll of retired players fans wanted to come back with the Yankees. Ripken was on the list. I wonder if it is more a sign of respect or just not being realistic.

Incidentally, Wright is enjoying his time at the WBC, but I can’t but wonder if his time would have been better off had he stayed in Port St. Lucie.

Think of it for a moment, he’s going to be the captain of this team, so it stands to reason his presence would be beneficial to the younger players in camp.

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Metsmerized Hall of Fame: David Wright, 3B http://metsmerizedonline.com/2012/12/metsmerized-hall-of-fame-david-wright-3b.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2012/12/metsmerized-hall-of-fame-david-wright-3b.html/#comments Thu, 20 Dec 2012 03:00:09 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=102467

Last month, Mets Merized Online began rolling out our Metsmerized Hall of Fame. We decided to begin with our FIVE FOUNDING MEMBERS just as they did when they got started in Cooperstown.

In the last four weeks we have selected Tom Seaver in week one, and Keith Hernandez in week two, Jerry Koosman in week three, and Dwight Gooden in week four. It is now, with great pleasure, that we announce our fifth founding member of the Metsmerized Hall of Fame…  A drum roll please for…

MMO Hall of Fame David Wright

Everything Is All Wright: David Wright, 3B

You can ask ten different Baseball fans “Who is the best all-around player of all-time?” and you’d get ten different answers.

Babe Ruth saved the game and hit more home runs than entire teams. But Ruth did not have the speed. Ty Cobb’s lifetime .367 career batting average has never even been approached in almost a century. But Cobb, due to the era he played in, didn’t hit for power. Ted Williams was a natural hitter with 15/20 eyesight. But Ted was bored playing defense, frequently standing in left field practicing his swing in between pitches.

Me? I always choose Willie Mays for one simple reason. He did it all. He hit for power, average, was the best defensive center fielder in the game, had speed and well…, simply put, how could you not love Willie?

Now, ask yourself who is the best all-around Mets player of all time? There are several names that come to mind.

John Olerud’s .315 batting average is the highest in team history. But Olerud didn’t have any speed. Who is the Mets’ best home run hitter? You can say Strawberry or Piazza. But Straw’s best batting average was .284. Piazza’s offensive numbers were downright frightening, but we all know that opposing base runners seemed to steal at will on him. When you think Mets defense, how can you not think Keith Hernandez? Mex won six consecutive Gold Gloves with us, but he was not a long ball threat. His biggest home run total was 18 in 1987. One can choose Jose Reyes for his speed. Single-handedly, Reyes could change the flow of a game. Like Keith, however, Reyes was not a home run threat.

wright presserMe? I’d choose David Wright. In the nine years he’s been wearing the blue and orange, Wright, like Willie Mays, can do it all. He may not be GREAT at one single facet of the game. But he is very, very, very good at all facets of the game.

Former hitting coach Howard Johnson said of David, “He’s the complete package. He uses the whole field with power all over the place. Defensively he makes all the plays.” Teammate Joe McEwing said, “He’s a special player and a special person.” “He has natural ability and a tremendous work ethic,” stated his former High School coach, Steve Gedro. “To have both these things in one athlete is rare.”

David made his debut on July 21, 2004. In 263 AB that season, he swatted 14 home runs, plated 40 RBI’s and batted .293. Along with teammate and friend Jose Reyes, 21 year-old Wright would become the face of the Mets, the players that a championship would be built around.

In 2005, his first full season, the Mets won 12 more games, finishing over .500 for the first time in four years. David’s line was .306 – 27 HR – 102 RBI. He also scored 99 runs and for good measure stole 17 bases. He was the Mets leader in over a dozen different offensive categories.

On August 9th against the Padres, Wright, with his back to the infield, made a bare handed catch over the shoulder. This Year In Baseball chose this as the Best Defensive Play of the Year.

In 2006, David showed no signs of a Sophomore Jinx and in fact he improved across the board. Wright hit 26 homers and knocked in 116 while posting a .311 batting average. To go along with this there were 40 doubles, a .531 slugging percentage and even stole 20 bases in what was a truly amazing all-around season. Wright was in the top 3 of all team offensive categories. Oh, and for good measure, he was the starting third baseman for the NL in the All-Star Game where he promptly hit a home run in his very first at-bat.

In 2007, David showed no signs of slowing down. If anything, he improved, having probably his best offensive season. He reached 30 HR’s for the first time and topped 40 doubles for the 3rd straight year. His .325 BA was third highest at that time in Mets history. He also set career highs in slugging (.546) and OBP (.416). On September 16, David became the 29th player in MLB history to join the 30-30 club, but only the third before turning 25. And while doing all of this, David also put together a 26-game hitting streak. But wait, there’s more… He won his first of two consecutive Gold Gloves and in 39 stolen base attempts, he was safe 34 times. For his incredible season, he finished 4th in the MVP voting.

Yes, he can do it all.

2008 saw David set career highs in HR with 33 and RBI’s with 124, the latter tying a Mets record for most in a single season. He also hit 42 doubles while posting a 534 slugging percentage. And in between David sending outfielders looking over their shoulder or racing into the alley, he achieved a 75% success rate of steals, 15 steals in 20 attempts. Oh, and yes, another Gold Glove, too.

On April 13, 2009, David became forever linked with Gil Hodges and Ron Hunt as the first Mets player to hit a HR in a new home stadium.

Since Citi Field opened, David’s numbers have dropped. He’s also been hit with injuries as well, However, while his stats have decreased since 09, they are still very respectable. In the last 4 seasons (including playing just 102 games in 2011), Wright has averaged 152 hits, 35 doubles, 82 RBI’s, 19 HR’s, a 288 BA and 467 slugging.

His career stats with the Mets are a 301 BA, 204 HR’s, 818 RBI’s, 381 OBP, 506 SLG, 322 doubles and has stolen 166 bases while being caught just 54 times, a 75% success rate.

He is the Mets all-time leader in hits (1426) Runs (790), doubles (322), RBI’s (818) and walks (616). He is 2nd in Batting Average (301) and At Bats (4742), 3rd in HR’s (204), tied for 3rd in slugging (506), 4th in OBP (381) and 5th in SB’s with 166.

Florida Marlins v New York MetsIn addition to the power, average, speed and glove, David is also the type of athlete that’s become a rarity. He is the consummate professional. When things are going bad for the Mets, he tips his hat to the opponent and makes no excuses. He’ll be the first to admit that the club, himself included, need to work on things. When some of his teammates avoid the media after a tough loss, David is always there, representing the team. He’s the type of ballplayer you can have your son or daughter look up to. In that respect he is like another one time Met, Tom Seaver. Mike Piazza one said, “He’s a good kid. You pull for someone like that.”

I don’t remember the exact date. I don’t even remember the exact year. I think it was about 1976. But I do remember we were playing the Phillies. I was at a game with my dad. I did my duty as a Mets fan, cheering for John Milner and Buddy and Grote and promptly booing Greg Luzinski and Garry Maddox and Steve Carlton. My father leaned over and pointed to the guy playing 3B for the Phillies and said, “You won’t realize what a great player he is until he retires.” Sure, Mike Schmidt was good and hit a lot of home runs, but he was no Dave Kingman! My dad was right. Schmidt went into the Hall of Fame and Dave Kingman? Well, I don’t know what ever happened to him.

Being the best all-around player in team history, it’s safe to say a player like David Wright comes around to the Mets only once every fifty years.

Metsmerized Hall of Fame

David  Wright Record Breaking

Congratulations, David!

Now that our Five Founding Members have been selected, next week we will roll out our 2013 Metsmerized Hall of Fame Ballot. We will ask you, our readers, to cast your vote for who should be selected for enshrinement in 2013. Learn more by visiting our Metsmerized Hall of Fame.

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The Best There Ever Was Turns 81 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2012/05/the-best-there-ever-was-turns-81.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2012/05/the-best-there-ever-was-turns-81.html/#comments Mon, 07 May 2012 04:32:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=80135 Throughout the 150+ year history of Baseball there are only a few truly iconic images burned into our psyche: A solemn Lou Gehrig standing at a microphone. Babe Ruth pointing his bat towards the outfield ‘calling his shot.’ Jackie Robinson running onto the field in 1947 and changing not only the game but America. Bob Gibson, cap low over his head, staring in for the sign. Hank Aaron, a black man in the deep south, rounding 2nd after hitting number 715, being patted on the back by two white fans. Bill Buckner bending over but a ball scooting by. Kirk Gibson hobbling around the bases.

However, perhaps the most classic image of all is of the number 24, back to the plate, running all out, catching a line drive over his shoulder, in the depths of the Polo Grounds.

People generally enjoy a hearty debate. Politics, abortion, gun control. Or important issues like ‘Who is the greatest player to ever play the game?’ When I’m asked I confidently state Willie Mays.

Babe Ruth meant more to the game and for all intents and purposes, saved Baseball after The Black Sox Scandal. But Ruth didn’t have the speed. Teammate Lou Gehrig also lacked speed. Rickey Henderson didn’t hit for any power. Mike Schmidt had a mediocre career Batting Average. Ted Williams, perhaps the greatest natural hitter of all time, lacked defensive skills. Willie Mays did it all. And did it all well. A five tool superstar.

Born on May 6, 1931 in Westfield, AL, he began playing in the Negro Leagues by the time he was 16. On May 25, 1951,Mays broke into the majors with the NY Giants. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire, going 0-for-12. His first hit was a mammoth blast that came off Warren Spahn who was en route to becoming the winningest LHP in history. Giants announcer Russ Hodges stated that ‘Even if this kid never hits another one, people will still talk about it.’ There were 659 more to follow.

To this day, anytime a center fielder makes an over the shoulder catch with his back to the plate, we immediately conjure up images of Willie’s catch nearly 60 years ago.

It was Game 1 of the 1954 World Series when Vic Wertz of the heavily favored Indians hit a rocket to straight away CF. With men on base, Willie turned and ran. And ran. And ran some more. Center Field was 475 feet deep (65 feet deeper than Shea).The only question was would Wertz be held to a triple. Catching the ball was simply out of the realm of possibility. But we all know what happened.

Ted Williams stated once, “The All Star Game was created for Willie Mays.” Giants manager Leo Durocher said, “He can hit, he can run, he can field. If he could cook, I’d marry him.”

There were great players. And then there was The Say Hey Kid. On April 30, 1961, Willie joined an exclusive club by hitting 4 HR’s in a single 9 inning game. He was on deck when the final out was recorded. On July 2, 1963, Warren Spahn and Juan Marichal dueled it out for an unheard of 16 innings before Mays won the game with a solo blast in the 16th. He is the only player in history to hit at least a single HR in 16 different innings. Willie is also the only player to have a 4 HR game and a 3 triple game. He played in at least 150 games per year for 8 straight seasons. He is one of just 8 players to reach 100 RBI’s 8 straight seasons and surpassed 95 RBI’s 12 of 13 consecutive seasons.

His stats are impressive. He appeared in 24 All-Star Games, second only to Hank Aaron. He won 12 Gold Gloves…but the award was not even created until Willie’s 6th season in the majors. He is one of only 5 OFers to have won at least 10. He recorded 7095 put-outs, most in history.

Along with Aaron and Ruth, Mays was one of only three players at the time of his retirement to have surpassed 600 HR’s. The man in 4th, Frank Robinson, was nearly 100 behind him. His 660 total still places him 4th. Of his 660 round-trippers, 22 came in extra innings.

In addition to his power and glove, Willie compiled 3283 hits and retired with a  302 Bat Ave. There were also 2062 Runs, 523 doubles, 140 triples, a 557 career slugging percentage, 384 OBP  and 1903 RBI’s. And he missed two years for military service.

For the 8 year period of 1955-1962, Willie also stole 221 bases, being caught just 64 times. A 78% success rate is good. But keep in mind, Willie was a clean-up hitter.

Sporting News  named Willie ‘The Ballplayer of the Decade’ for the 1960’s. And why not? Mays didn’t play in the day of steroids and small bandboxes. He played  during a time when pitching dominated the game. Koufax and Drysdale were in the same division as the Giants. There were also guys like Seaver, Gibson and Carlton. And the stadiums were cavernous.

But Willie Mays was more than stats and numbers. He played the game with flare and knew how to capture the dreams of fans everywhere. He wore a hat too small so it would fly off his head while running the bases, making him look ‘so fast.’ ‘Basket Catch’ entered our vocabulary thanks to Willie. Both in NY at the outset of his career and later in San Francisco, Willie would be seeing playing stickball with neighborhood kids in downtrodden areas.

In May1972, the Giants were struggling financially. GM Horace Stoneham traded the aging legend to the Mets for pitcher Charlie Williams and $50,000. Upon returning to the city where his career began Willie once again showed flare for the dramatic. In his first game as a Met, the 40 year old hit a HR and gave the Mets a victory—over the San Francisco Giants.

His final HR, # 660, came off of Don Gullett on August 18, 1973. Willie announced his retirement, ‘saying good-bye to America’ on Sept 25, 1973.

The Mets, however, managed to squeak out the division title and get by The Big Red Machine in the playoffs. At age 41, Willie Mays was in the World Series, playing against the team across the Bay from San Francisco. Willie got the first Mets hit in the fall classic and went for 2-7 overall. However, the heartbreaking moment came when the aging superstar lost a routine fly ball in the sun. After the game, Willie stated, “Growing old is just a helpless hurt.”

After retirement, Willie served as a coach for the Mets until 1979. Shortly after his enshrinement in Cooperstown, Willie, along with Mickey Mantle, was suspended from Baseball by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn due to the fact they  were employed as ‘Greeters’ for an Atlantic City casino. This was overturned by Peter Ueberroth in 1985.

In 1999, Mays was listed at the #2 spot on the All-Century Team. His #24 has fittingly been retired by the Giants, although he offered his number to his God-son Barry Bonds. Barry refused, opting to go with #25 worn by his father Bobby when he had played for the Giants. On July 14th, 2009 Willie was the special guest of President Obama for the All-Star Game in St. Louis and flew on Air Force One.

Outside the main entrance to AT&T Park where the Giants play is a larger-than-life statue of The Say Hey Kid. If you’re interested in seeing it next time you’re in San Francisco, you can find the stadium in the heart of downtown. It’s located at 24 Willie Mays Plaza.

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Brooklyn Dodger and Baseball Legend Duke Snider Passes Away http://metsmerizedonline.com/2011/02/brooklyn-dodger-and-baseball-legend-duke-snider-passes-away.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2011/02/brooklyn-dodger-and-baseball-legend-duke-snider-passes-away.html/#comments Mon, 28 Feb 2011 03:22:11 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=45305 Duke Snider passed away earlier today in Escondido, CA. The former Brooklyn Dodger great was 84.

He was Brooklyn’s CFer during what has been called ‘The Golden Era of Baseball in New York.’ And Golden it was. While Duke played CF for Brooklyn, Willie Mays covered CF for the New York Giants and Mickey Mantle played for the Yankees. Three of the greatest Center Fielders in history, all playing at the same time. And in the same city.

For the 11 year period from 1947-1958, at least one New York team played in the World Series every year, other than 1948.

He was born Edwin Donald Snider in Los Angeles on Sept 19, 1926. One day, the young Snider was walking home from a little league game. He had a good day at the plate and there was a strut in his walk to go along with his beaming smile. His father noticed the bounce in his son’s confident gait and commented jokingly, “Here comes the Duke.” The name stuck.

Snider broke into the majors in 1947 but struggled early. He played only 93 games his first two years, hitting just 241 and 244. He was a wild swinger. It was Branch Rickey who turned around and perhaps saved Snider’s career. He would have Duke stand at the plate during BP, bat on his shoulder and NOT swing. Instead, he wanted the young outfielder to call out if the pitch was a ball or a strike. This taught Snider the strike zone.

And now, he became The Duke of Flatbush.

In a lineup filled with future and should-be Hall of Famers such as Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo, Snider was the Dodgers’ only LH power hitter. The RF wall in Ebbets Field was only 297 feet away, but it stood  38 feet high, higher then The Green Monster.

The Duke of Flatbush would go on to lead the NL in HR’s for 5 straight seasons. From 1950 through 1957, Snider averaged 36 HR’s and 111 RBI’s to go along with a 306 BA.

Brooklyn fans always stated ‘Wait ‘til next year.’ ‘Next year’ happened in 1955 when the Dodgers won their one and only championship in Brooklyn. And Snider was in the middle of it. He has perhaps his best year, hitting 309 with 42 round trippers and 136 RBI’s. In the 7 game series vs. the Yankees, Snider went deep 4 times and knocked in 7. In spite of his great numbers, he failed to win the MVP, losing by one vote to teammate Roy Campanella. Snider never did win an MVP.

In 1958, now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Snider walked up to a young Giants rookie just before his first game in the majors. “Good luck, Orlando,” he said to rookie and future Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda. Cepeda stated years later, ‘He was one of my idols. I almost fainted.’

In 1963, Snider returned to New York for one season with the Mets. The following year he returned to the west coast for what would be his final season in the majors. He played for the Giants. Another future Hall of Famer, Willie McCovey said of Snider, ‘He was just an all around first class guy.’

Duke retired after the 64 season. He ended his career with 407 HR’s, a 295 career batting average and 1333 RBI’s. He was an 8 time All-Star, winner of 2 World Series’ and was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1980.

By the 1980’s, the premier LH power hitter for The Boys of Summer had to make appearances at Baseball card shows where he charged for his autograph. He had very little in savings, did not earn a lot as a player and had made some bad investments over the years. In 1995, Snider plead guilty for Tax Evasion. He had failed to report $97,000 he made while appearing at card shows. Sentence was handed down at the Brooklyn Federal Court House, just blocks from where Ebbets Field once stood.

Edwin Donald ‘Duke’ Snider passed away earlier today. He leaves behind 4 children, his wife Beverly, whom he married in his rookie year of 1947 and throngs of fans who idolized him. Snider was the last surviving member of the 1955 Dodgers who were on the field when they won their one and only championship.

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Giants, Distant Cousin Of The Mets, Head To The Fall Classic http://metsmerizedonline.com/2010/10/giants-distant-cousin-of-the-mets-head-to-the-fall-classic.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2010/10/giants-distant-cousin-of-the-mets-head-to-the-fall-classic.html/#comments Wed, 27 Oct 2010 08:50:44 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=37903 When one thinks of storied franchises in Baseball the Yankees immediately come to mind, thanks to Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle and 27 titles. One can even think of the Dodgers. It was in Brooklyn where the color barrier was broken and in Los Angeles where for a 5 year period a LHP pitcher dominated the game like no other. However, the very fabric of our National Pastime is sewn with the Giants.

Starting back in 1883 through 1957 some of the best to ever walk onto a baseball field walked onto that field wearing a Giants uniform. Legends such as Christy Mathewson (373-188, 2.13 ERA and 79 shutouts), Carl Hubbell (best known for mastering the screwball and for fanning Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons and Cronin in succession in the 1934 All-Star Game), Mel Ott (the 1st NLer to surpass 500 HR‘s), Bill Terry (341 career BA and the last NLer to hit over 400), ‘Iron Man’ Joe McGinnity (246 wins in 10 years) and Roger Connor (baseball’s original HR king) all played for the Giants.

They were managed by John McGraw, the 2nd winningest mgr ever. McGraw compiled a .586 winning percentage over 33 years. In 1904 the Giants won the pennant but McGraw refused to let his team play in the World Series. The American League was ‘inferior’ as he put it and they didn’t deserve to be on the same field with his team.

In 1951, the Giants trailed the Dodgers by 13 ½ games on August 11. Although Brooklyn played well down the stretch (26-22) the Giants took it to another level, playing an unfathomable 841, going 37-7. It was arguably the greatest comeback ever. It culminated with Bobby Thomson’s HR in a playoff game against Brooklyn to determine the pennant. Thomson’s HR is considered the greatest ever in Baseball history. Russ Hodges’ cry of ‘The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!’ has gone down as perhaps the most memorable line ever spoken by a broadcaster.

Willie Mays catch in 1954 is the best and most famous defensive play in World Series history.

It was October 1956 and as usual, Brooklyn was battling the Yankees in the Fall Classic. But as the Yankees prevailed in 7 games there was a storm brewing. Rumors were intensifying that the Dodgers as well as the Giants were considering moving.

Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley was seeking a new home. Ebbets Field, while beloved by faithful fans, was becoming run down. The surrounding neighborhood was unsafe. In spite of the teams unparalleled success throughout the 1950’s the small stadium rarely sold out.

O’Malley was butting heads with Robert Moses, the construction coordinator for the city. O’Malley set his sights on a plot of land at the Brooklyn waterfront. Moses, however, had the power to condemn the land. And he did just that. Instead, he tried to bully O’Malley into moving to Flushing Meadows. O’Malley was irate and began looking elsewhere. The exact spot that Moses had in mind would later be the site of Shea.

O’Malley was heavily courted by city officials from Los Angeles. At the time baseball did not extend beyond St. Louis and it would be too costly to fly to California for just one team. O’Malley needed someone else to move.

Enter Horace Stoneham, principal owner of the Giants. Stoneham was also looking for a new home. Their stadium, the Polo Grounds, was also badly in need of repair and Stoneham, like O’Malley, was getting nowhere with city officials. He had been leaning towards moving his Giants to Minneapolis. However, he was being enticed by officials from San Francisco. That, along with O’Malley’s skill of persuasion, convinced Stoneham to head west.

When the Giants Board of Directors voted, there were only two individuals who voted for them to stay put: Joan Whitney Payson and M. Donald Grant.

Grant would become the Chairman of the Mets. It was he who was the driving force in bringing Gil Hodges ‘home to New York’ in 1968 to manage.

Joan Payson would become the first principal owner of the Mets. But she never stopped loving her Giants. It was she who was very influential in the design of the ‘NY’ logo on the Mets cap. As a tribute to the city’s baseball heritage, she wanted to use the exact same NY insignia as her Giants wore-Giant orange but now on a Dodger blue background. It was also Payson who was prominent behind the Mets getting Willie Mays in 1972. She was determined to have her idol finish out his career in the city he started.

In spite of many great players playing in San Francisco, a championship has alluded them. Only the Cubs and Indians have gone longer without winning.

As an organization the Giants have won 21 pennants, but 17 came in NY. They’ve won 8 World Series but all of those were in NY as well.

In 2002, they lost the World Series in 7 games to the Angels. In 62, they again lost in 7 games, this time to the Yankees. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the 9th in game 7, the Giants put the tying and winning runs in scoring position but Willie McCovey lined out to end the series.

In 1989 they got swept by their cross-bay rivals, the A’s. But that series was more remembered for the massive 7.1 earthquake that hit the Bay Area. The quake hit at rush hour, 5:04 pm. 63 people were killed that day. But many had left work early and were in Candlestick Park or at home preparing for Game 3. Had the Giants not been in the World Series experts calculate the death toll would have been between 400-500.

Since moving west the Giants have had 9 MVP’s and 4 Rookie of the Year’s. In 1981 they became the first team in the NL to hire an African-American manager. 2 of the top 4 HR hitters of all time, 3 of the top 18, all played in SF.

The NY/SF Giants have won more games then any other team. They have 28 players enshrined in Cooperstown, also more then any other team.

Some of the biggest stars of the last half century have been San Francisco Giants. Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, Will Clark, the Alou brothers, Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent have all played for this team. In spite of this, the Giants have yet to win a Series.

Based on that, it’s almost hard to imagine them winning it all with Posey, Lincecum and Huff. It’s hard to believe that Matt Cain can do what Marichal couldn’t. But isn’t that what makes this game great?

It’s World Series time. Welcome to October…

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Would You Let Your Child Root For This Team? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2010/09/would-you-let-your-child-root-for-this-team.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2010/09/would-you-let-your-child-root-for-this-team.html/#comments Mon, 13 Sep 2010 04:31:08 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=35926 Lets be honest. We all could have been Yankee fans. We could be wearing Derek Jeter jerseys, praying every night to our God Mickey Mantle and ending all debates with the robotic illogical response, “27 Championships.”

But we’re not. We’re Mets fans. And like a marriage, we’re in this for better or worse. Lately, however, it’s becoming hard to remain faithful and to love, honor and cherish this team.

Why exactly did we become fans of this team in the first place? Was it an older brother, a parent? For me it was my dad, a former Brooklyn Dodger fan who followed the Mets since their inaugural game. When I first learned baseball and incorporated Mets hats, jackets and t-shirts into my wardrobe, it was easy. The year was 1973, we went on to be NL Champions and were a good, competitive ball club. We had players, heroes, that a young boy could easily idolize. But what if it was now?

Imagine you have a son or nephew or younger brother who wants to become a Baseball fan in 2010. Would you steer his allegiance to this team? Why would you ask an impressionable child to devote a lifetime of baseball loyalty to a team and an organization such as this? Especially when there’s that other team in The Bronx?

It’s now approaching 25 years–a quarter of a century–since these Mets were Champions. To a young child, that is an incomprehensible amount of time. 25 years ago??? You might as well be talking about Babe Ruth. In the same time that we have won 1 championship and 2 pennants the Yankees have taken home 5 Championships and 7 pennants. They have won more Series’ in the last 11 years then we have won in almost 50. Now try to convince that young boy or girl to root for the Mets instead.

But it runs deeper then that. There is losing–and then there is losing. The Red Sox were cursed for 86 years but yet Fenway sold out seemingly every night and Red Sox Nation stayed faithful. The last time the Cubs were champions was 1908. Christy Mathewson led the league with 37 wins and Tim Jordan of the Brooklyn Superbas led the league in HR’s with 12. But yet, can you think of a more devoted fan base then the Cubs? The last time the Giants were Champions the highlight of that series was ‘The Catch’ by Willie Mays. The Giants, despite having some of the best HR hitters in the last half-century, have yet to win since leaving The Polo Grounds for San Francisco. Yet, their fans remain dedicated.

We, too, are no strangers to losing. For the first 8 years in our history we averaged 105 losses per season. But we were ‘lovable losers.’ Sure, we lost, but at least we were funny. Entertaining. It was Casey Stengel who said, ‘I’ve been in this game 100 years and I find new ways to lose every day I never knew existed.’ In the late 70’s/early 80’s we lost, too. The players we had were barely one step above AAA. But they hustled and they played with heart. And although Shea had 45000 empty seats every game, no one booed. We still cheered for them because at least they tried. One rare highlight during those dark days was when we won 5 of our last 6 games in 1979 to stay under 100 losses for the season. Times were so bad we were actually proud of that “accomplishment.”

When my father taught me the game, I asked plenty of questions. But they were all baseball-related. What’s the difference between a sacrifice and a suicide? What’s the difference between a passed ball and a wild pitch? But nowadays if your son is asking questions, they are of a different nature. How does one explain to their son or daughter why your closer beat up his father-in-law. Or explain Rape to a young child when they read about accusations surrounding your ace. Or explain why certain members of this so-called “team” refused to go to a hospital to visit wounded soldiers.

Even our own heroes have checkered pasts. I was too young to remember 1969. But when I asked my dad where those players were now the answers made sense to a 7 year old. Ed Charles retired. Donn Clendenon became an attorney. Tommie Agee owned a restaurant. Ron Swoboda was the sports anchor on Channel 2.

Move forward. How do you answer your 10 year old when they ask, ‘Whatever happened to Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry?’ Try to explain why part of the reason Keith Hernandez is not in the Hall of Fame may be due to his cocaine use. Or why Ray Knight, although series MVP in 86, was gone the following year for more money. Whereas my dad explained to me what a balk was nowadays one must explain what Rehab means.

Even our expensive new stadium has done little to increase interest. As bad as things may seem now, imagine how bleak they may look in 15 years. The kids of today are becoming the Yankee fans of tomorrow.

It’s difficult to be proud of anything Mets-related. What happens ON the field has taken a back seat to what happens OFF the field. This club has been transformed from a major league team to a reality show. But this season will end shortly. Jerry Manuel? Omar Minaya? Howard Johnson? Luis Castillo? Who will be voted off next? Stay tuned…

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