Dec 13, 2018

Remebering Mets History (1972): Rusty Staub Misses 96 Games With Misdiagnosed Fractured Wrist

Saturday June 3rd, 1972: Prior to the 1972 season Rusty Staub had come over from the Montreal Expos in a deal that sent youngsters Ken Singleton, Tim Foli & Mike Jorgenson to the Expos.

It was a lot to give up but Staub was on of leagues better, proven hitters. Gil Hodges had all but signed the deal. But when Staub arrived Hodges had passed away suddenly to a heart attack. The Players were also on strike to begin the season. Yogi Berra was named manager & everything eventually got underway. The Mets had the pitching but needed to score runs.

By June 3rd, 1972 the Mets were in first place, with the best record in baseball (31-12  with a .721 winning %) & a five game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.

On this Saturday afternoon over 41,947 showed up at Shea Stadium to watch future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver at 7-2 go up against Atlanta's Tom Kelley. Eddie Mathews Braves (19-23) would finish fourth in the NL West in 1972.
In the 2nd inning, Cleon Jones singled 7 Wayne Garrett walked. Mets catcher Duffy Dyer then hit a three run HR. In the 7th, In the 4th Seaver doubled, Bud Harrelson singled & when Teddy Martinez grounded out, Seaver scored. Cleon Jones doubled in a run to cap off the 5-2 win.  
Dusty Baker drove in both Braves runs.Seaver got his 8th win, pitching into the 8th inning striking out nine Braves, allowing two runs, two walks & seven hits. Tug McGraw closed it out with his 8th save of the year.
But the Mets suffered a huge loss that day, that would play a big part in the rest of their season. In the bottom of the 7th inning, the Braves brought in George Stone to pitch, as Rusty Staub led off the inning. Stone struck Staub on the wrist with a pitch, that would later prove to be very damaging.

Staub attempted to play through the pain, he would play through June 18th when he was removed from a game against the Cincinnati Reds. In that time he went from batting .313 to .298. In those 15 games he hit two HR & drove in eight runs, but was not at full strength. The Mets were still in first on June 18th, but only by  a half game over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Staub had no grip & would miss a month of action. He attempted a return on July 18th, he went 1-4 with a double but the pain was too much.

When he was hit by George Stone's pitch, it caused a fracture. The Mets diagnosed him with tendonitis listing him as day to day all along. Not until he got to Los Angeles did hand specialist Dr. Herbert Stark see the fracture & it was agreed upon by Mets physician Dr. Peter LaMotte. Staub agreed to surgery & entered the Roosevelt hospital  in New York on July 20th. He would miss two months of action,  not returning until September 18th. By then the Mets were 73-67 in third place 15 games out.

 Staub had only missed seven games in the past four seasons while playing in Houston & Montreal. It was a big blow to the Met offense, since he was hit by the pitch, the Mets would go 52-61 the rest of the way, finishing in third place, fourteen & a half games behind Pittsburgh Pirates & two games behind the second place Chicago Cubs.

Quotes: Mets Pitcher Gary Gentry- “Rusty was supposed to be the answer to a lot of our problems when we got him and we counted on him."
The Mets would aquire pitcher George Stone (along with second baseman Felix Millan) from Atlanta for the 1973 season, Stone would go 12-3 with a 2.80 ERA helping lead the '73 Mets to the NL Pennant.

The First Italian / American Mets Coach & Brooklyn World Series Hero: Cookie Lavagetto (1962-1963)

Harry Arthur Lavagetto was born on December 1, 1912 in Oakland, California. He attended technical school in Oakland where he graduated & played baseball.

The six foot right handed hitting Lavagetto, began his career in the Pacific Coast League playing with the famous Oakland Oaks.

It was there he got the nickname Cookie, coming from his manager. In 1933 he batted .312 at AA ball Oakland, getting called up to the Pittsburgh Pirates team the next season.

Lavagetto spent three seasons in Pittsburgh as a reserve infielder (1934-1936) batting a best .290 in 1935 while playing in 75 games. He was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937 and would play as the Dodgers regular second baseman that season before moving over to third base the next year.

Lavagetto became a star Brooklyn player, making four straight All Star teams from 1938-1941. In his Dodger years he played on two pennant winners, while driving in over 70 runs in each of his first three seasons. In his Dodger debut he batted .282 with 7 HRs 26 doubles 70 RBIs & a .375 on base %.

After another solid season where he hit .273 in 1938, he had a great 1939 season. Lavagetto batted .300 with career highs in hits (176) which was tenth in the NL. He also had personal bests in HRs (10) RBIs (87) which were 6th most in the NL & posted a .387 on base %. He had 78 walks ( 5th in the NL) 133 singles (6th in the NL) with 14 stolen bases (4th in the NL) making another All Star team.

At third base he posted the league's third best fielding % (.948%) with 278 assists (2nd in the NL) 136 put outs (3rd in the NL). That season the Dodgers finished third. In 1940 his average dropped to .257 but he walked 70 times posting a .361 on base %.

In the Dodgers 1941 Pennant season, he hit .277 with 24 doubles 7 triples 75 runs scored & 78 RBIs. That year he played in his first World Series, appearing in three games going 1-10 with three walks.

He served in the military during World War II, missing four full years, returning to the big leagues by 1946.

He was a back up third baseman to Spider Jorgenson in 1947 which would be his final playing season batting .261 in 41 games, getting to another World Series.

Post Season: His most famous moment as a player came in Game #4 of the 1947 World Series at Brooklyn's Ebbetts Field. Lavagetto came to bat as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 9th inning facing pitcher Bev Bevan who was pitching a no hitter.

Although the no hitter was going, Bevan had walked ten batters in the game & there were two Dodger runners on base when Cookie came to the plate. Cookie blasted a double to the outfield wall, breaking up the no hitter and driving in the game winning runs for Brooklyn. It was his last major league hit, as the Dodgers released him at the end of the Series.

In his ten season career he was a Lifetime .269 hitter, with 946 hits 485 walks a .360 on base % 40 HRs 486 RBIs & 183 doubles in 1043 career games.

Retirement: After his playing days, he returned to the Brooklyn Dodgers as a coach when Charlie Dressen was named manager. In a famous photograph, Lavagetto is seen sitting next to Ralph Branca holding up his head with his cap in his hand, at the steps of the Polo Grounds locker room.

The photo was taken right after Ralph Branca gave up NY Giants Bobby Thomson’s famous Shot Heard Round the World HR.

Lavagetto followed Dressen to Washington D.C. coaching the Senators from 1955-1957. He then succeeded Dressen as manger of the team from 1957-1960. Lavagetto's best finish with the Senators was fifth place in 1960, which was the teams last season in the nation's Capitol. As the franchise moved to Minnesota and became the Twins, Lavagetto became the teams first manager. In June they were in ninth place & he was let go.

In 1962 he joined Casey Stengel in New York, as an original New York Mets coach in the team’s first two years of their history (1962-1963).

In a famous 1962 Mets story it was Cookie Lavagetto who had one of the best lines of the year. It came during a June game at the Polo Grounds, when Marvelous Marv Throneberry hit a run scoring triple but was called out for missing second base.

Manager Casey Stengel came out to argue with the umpire, as he returned to the dugout he began to argue with Lavagetto who had been coaching at first base. Stengel asked why he didn’t argue the call with him on the field as well. Lavagetto told Casey “forget it Casey, Marv missed first base too.”

After his stint as a coach in New York, he went home to the Bay area and coached the San Francisco Giants through 1967. He also sold therapy equipment in his wife's business. In his spare time his hobby was golf.

Passing: On August 10, 1990 he suffered a fatal heart attack, passing away in his sleep at age 77.

Long Island Born Italian / American Hall of Famer: Craig Biggio (1988-2007)

Craig Alan Biggio was born on December 14, 1965 in Smithtown, New York. Biggio was a star athlete at Kings Park high school in Long Islands Suffolk County. There he won the Hansen Award which is given to the top football player in Suffolk County.

He received a bunch of football offers but chose to play baseball at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. There he was a team mate of future Met Mo Vaughn & John Valentin. He earned All American Honors & was selected first round (22nd pick overall) by the Houston Astros in 1987.

Biggio would debut in 1988 for 50 games & by the following season would be an Astro regular for twenty seasons. He began his career as a catcher, then played two seasons as a centerfielder before switching to a full time second baseman in 1992 winning four Gold Gloves at the position. He is the first player to make the All Star team as a catcher then second baseman.

Biggio would play in seven All Star Games, lead the league in plate appearances five times, games three times, doubles three times, runs scored twice, stolen bases once & hit by pitches five times. He broke Don Baylor's record of hit by pitches in 2005 finishing his career with 285.

In all those times getting plunked he never charged the mound. Biggio is one of three players all time with more than 2,500 hits, 500 doubles, 400 stolen bases and more than 250 home runs. In 1998 he became the first player since Tris Speaker to hit 50 doubles & steal 50 bases.

Biggio was a long time leadoff man, one of the best all time & is the NL leader in lead off HRs (2 During the 2007 season the Astros installed a digital counter scoreboard in left field keeping track of Biggio’s hits, counting down to 3000.

On June 28, 2007, he became the 27th player in MLB history to join the 3000 hit club. The hit came against Aaron Cook & the Colorado Rockies, even though he was tagged out trying to stretch a single to a double. The game was stopped while Biggio shared the moment with his wife, children &

Longtime friend Jeff Bagwell who emerged from the Astros clubhouse to congratulate him.

Biggio played in six different post seasons, playing in two NLCS & one World Series losing to the White Sox in 2004. In the 2004 NLDS against Atlanta he hit .400 with a HR in the five run 2nd inning of Game #4.

In 2005 he rolled through the post season batting .316 in the NLDS with four doubles. In the NLCS he was 8-24 batting .333 with three RBIs. In the World Series he batted only .222 driving in a run in Game #3 of the Series sweep.

Although he never led the league in any major category he was among the top many times, although he played in a smaller media market in Houston & was over shadowed by many other star players with bigger number, he is a shoe in for the Hall of Fame.

Biggio finished his career winning four Gold Gloves, made seven All Star teams & four Player of the Week Awards. He also won the 1997 Branch Rickey Award, 2005 Hutch Award & 2007 Roberto Clemente Award.

He had 3060 hits (22nd all time) 668 doubles (5th all time) 55 triples, 291 HRs (135th all time) 1175 RBIs (168th all time) 1844 runs scored (15th all time) 414 stolen bases (66th all time) 1160 walks (67th all time) a .281 batting average & a .363 on base % in 2850 games played (15th all time).

Honors: In 2015 Biggio was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. His class included former Met Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz & Randy Johnson.

Biggio had his number 7 retired by the Houston Astros, and has won numerous awards through the years for his charity works.

At Shea Stadium the Mets also honored the Long Island native in his last series against the Mets. He is currently the head varsity baseball coach for St. Thomas High School in Houston, Texas.

Dec 12, 2018

1969 World Champion Mets Top Relief Pitcher Turned Medical Doctor: Ron Taylor (1967-1971)

Ronald Wesley Taylor was born December 13, 1937 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Taylor was originally signed as a teenager by the Cleveland Indians in 1956.

He pitched in the minors but also chose to finish his studies at the University of Toronto where he earned an electrical engineering degree.

He began the 1962 season on the Indians staff & got the start in the second game of the season at Fenway Park against the Red Sox. He pitched 11 shut outs innings matching zeroes with future Mets coach Bill Monboquette. In the 12th inning of the scoreless tie Carl Yastremski lead off with a triple.

Taylor ended up allowing a walk off grand slam to Caroll Hardy, taking a tough loss. It was the only time in history a game was won with a walk off grand slam in the 12th inning of a scoreless tie. By the end of May he was sent back down& went 12-4 at AAA Jacksonville, earning a big league call up the next season, this time for good.

That winter he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and became a top reliever in their pen saving 11 games (7th in the league) with a 9-7 record and a 2.34 ERA. He struck out 91 batters in 131 innings pitched. In 1964 he was going 8-4 with seven saves & a 4.62 ERA winning his first World Championship with the Cardinals.

Post Season: He appeared in two World Series games, not allowing any hits in 4.2 innings pitched earning the save in Game #4. With the Cards already down two games to one, a win in Game #4 was very important. Taylor shut the door & held a one run lead for four scoreless innings, it was the turning point of the Series.

Quotes: Tim McCarver - “He had the heaviest sinker on the outside. When he threw to left-handed batters you couldn’t pull it.”

In 1965 he was 2-1 with a save and an ERA creeping up near five, when on June 15th he was traded along with Mike Cuellar to the Houston Astros for Chuck Taylor and Hal Woodeshick. After saving four games in Houston’s new Astrodome he became a middle reliever for the 1966 season & not happy with his surrroundings.

In February of 1967 Taylor’s contract was purchased by the New York Mets, by the teams GM Bing Devine, whom Taylor had pitched for in St. Louis. In the off season Devine had called Taylor & asked if he could pitch; Taylor replied " get me out of here".

In New York he would see a lot of action and his career was revitalized, as he became one of the league’s best relievers.
In those days the relief pitcher was just starting to become an important role.

Taylor would make made over 50 appearances in each of the next four seasons (1967-1970) and lead the team in saves each time. Taylor notched a save in his first Met game on April 13, 1967, although it was not an official stat at the time. He was 2-0 with three saves at the 1967 All Star break, and finished 4-6 with eight saves & a quality 2.34 ERA.

In early April, in just his third game, he gave up a HR to Pittsburgh's Manny Jimenez. But from there, he wouldn’t allow another HR until into the 1968 season, 92 innings pitched later. The next year in 1968 he recorded his first save at the end of April.

 He had a good month of June, recording four saves , while only allowing runs in two of nine games he pitched. On July 7th, he blew a save in Philadelphia, serving up a walk off three run HR to the Phillies Dick Allen. Taylor only blew two save opportunities, all year but his record fell to 1- 5.

He pitched well enough to set a Mets record at the time, with 13 saves, (5th most in the league) posting another good ERA (2.70) striking out 49 batters in 76 innings pitched.

In the off season he joined other major leaguers on a tour of hospital visits in Vietnam during the war effort. There he talked to doctors & later said he realized that he wanted to help people in this field in the future.

In 1969 Taylor didn’t earn his first save until mid May, but then from that point through the end of August he saved twelve games going 7-3 with a 2.39 ERA. On June 1st he picked up a win, when Ron Swoboda drew a bases loaded walk off Joe Gibbon to beat the San Francisco Giants in the bottom of the 9th inning.

Two days later in his next outing, after pitching two scoreless innings, he got another win when Wayne Garrett hit a walk off single to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers. He followed that week up with three more saves through June 10th.

Trivia: During a regular season game, Taylor got a visit to the mound from Gil Hodges against the eventual Mets NLCS opponent the Atlanta Braves. With Hank Aaron up to bat, Hodges told Taylor to put him on & face Orlando Cepeda. Taylor said “No, I want Aaron”. Hodges was surprised at his answer & angry, but he let him face Aaron & said “You better get him out”. He got Aaron to ground out to end the inning.

He closed out the year with a September 28th save in Philadelphia & an October 1st win at Wrigley Field, after Art Shamsky's 11th inning RBI base hit beating the Chicago Cubs.

Overall Taylor was Gil Hodges best pitcher out of the bullpen that year making 59 appearances (8th most in the NL), leading the team with 13 saves (7th best in the NL) Finishing 44 games (4th in the league), going 9-4 with a 2.72 ERA. He struck out 42 batters walking only 24 in 76 innings pitched.

1969 Post Season:

1969 NLCS: In the 1969 NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, Taylor pitched in two games, starting out by earning the save in relief of Tom Seaver in Game #1. Historically, he earned the first save in NLCS history.

The next day he got the win in Game #2 relieving Jerry Koosman in the fifth inning. He pitched 1.1 innings allowing no runs on one hit, and setting up for Tug McGraw to close it out.

Overall he struck out four Braves, allowing no runs on three hits in 3.1 innings pitched. Taylor made history by being the only Canadian to ever get credit with a win in a League Championship Series game.

1969 World Series: In the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles, Taylor saw action in the first two Series games at Baltimore. He pitched the last two innings of Game #1, allowing no runs, giving up two hits and striking out three of Orioles.

In Game #2 he relieved Jerry Koosman in the 9th inning with two Orioles runners on base representing the tying & winning runs. He got Brooks Robinson to ground out securing the two hit shutout, evening the Series at one game apiece.

He wasn’t needed again in the Series, as Nolan Ryan was the only pitcher to make another relief appearance. Overall Taylor posted two saves with a 1-0 record in the ‘69 post season. After pitching 3.1 hitless innings in the 1969 Series, he bested his career World Series streak to seven hitless innings, striking out nine batters in ten innings.

After the Series during the ticker tape parade down Broadway, Taylor couldn't help think this was the same path taken by Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower & John Kennedy.

After the Miracle season of ’69, he would again lead the 1970 Mets in appearances (57) games finished (40 which was 8th best in the league) and saves (13) going 5-4 with a 3.93 ERA.

 On Opening Day 1970, he was the winning pitcher in Pittsburgh after Donn Clendenon won the game with a top of the 11th inning RBI single. He suffered two losses at the end of the month, but rebounded & already had seven saves by June 1st. Although he was ninth in the league in saves (13) he also had six blown opportunities & had an ERA near four.

By 1971 Tug McGraw was emerging as the premier Mets reliever as Taylor’s career began winding down at age 33. That season he gave up the first upper deck HR at the new Three Rivers Stadium, served up to Willie Stargell.

 1971 would be his last year at Shea, going 2-2 with only two saves, and a 3.65 ERA, in 45 appearances. His Mets record in 269 games is 21-21 with 28 saves & a 3.04 ERA .

His contract was sold to the Montreal Expos in October of 1971, but he was soon released, never getting to play for his native Canada. In May he got picked up by the San Diego Padres where he ended his career after only four games in 1972 at age 34.

Overall Taylor was 45-43 with 71 saves, 464 strike outs 209 walks in 800 innings and a 3.93 ERA in 491 games over 11 seasons.

Retirement: After the Mets World Series win, he toured Vietnam with the USO. Taylor would tour field hospitals & be inspired to make a difference. He took wounded soldiers phone numbers to let their loved ones know they were alright.

After his baseball career, the Toronto native returned to the University of Toronto & met with the dean to try to earn a degree. When he saw his grades from 1961 he was amazed & said if you can still get these kinds of marks your in.

Taylor got into his studies, using a letter of recommendation from Mets General Manager M. Donald Grant & he was back in college. 

He remebers how the young students were amazed that this middle aged guy was their classmate. Five years later in 1977, he graduated from medical school and became Doctor Ron Taylor.

He eventually became the Toronto Blue Jays team physician in 1979 & won two more World Series (1992 & 1993) as the teams Doctor. He is the only former MLB player to return to baseball as a team doctor.

Taylor still keeps very busy, into his seventies, he just retired in 2015 at his family practice in North Toronto. He was also the head of a Sports Medicine Clinic he helped develop some 30 years ago in Toronto. He was also the medical director for the Toronto Blue Jays, overseeing a team of sports specialists.

In 2015 a documentary was made about him called "Ron Taylor: Dr. Baseball"

Taylor was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame as well as the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. He has also been honored for his work in medicine being elected to the Order of Ontario.

In 2009 he was on hand for the Mets 40th anniversary of the 1969 Championship at Citi Field & Long Island baseball card show.

Family: Ron’s son Drew Taylor pitched College baseball for Georgia Tech. & Michigan. He was drafted by the Blue Jays in 2006.

Quotes: "Doubleheader tomorrow, barring nuclear holocaust." - Mets Pitcher Ron Taylor, 1969

Mid Sixties Mets Outfielder: Joe Christopher (1963-1965)

Joseph O’ Neil Christopher was born on December 13, 1935 technically being the first MLB player born in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The speedy five foot ten, outfielder was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955. He would hit over .300 three straight years in the minor leagues at the AAA level with Salt Lake & Columbus. Christopher made his MLB debut in 1959 in a game where Pittsburgh's Harvey Haddix pitched a 12 inning perfect game. In 15 games that year he went hitless in twelve at bats.

He became a reserve outfielder behind Roberto Clemente, Bill Virdon & Bob Skinner on the 1960 World Champion Pirates team. On September 27th he had a big five hit day, in a 16 inning victory over the Cincinnati Reds. He only hit .232 in 50 games on the year, & scored two runs in the World Series as a pinch runner. He hit .263 the next season before getting picked up by the New York Mets in the 1961 expansion draft as the tenth pick overall.

He began the Mets inaugural season at AAA Syracuse playing in 12 games batting .301 with 6 HRs, the Mets in need of offense brought him up right away. On May 21st in his Mets debut at the Houston Astrodome, where he got his first career hit a double. The next week he batted leadoff for the first time and got three hits against the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Polo Grounds.

He had a good September hitting safely in 17 of 21 games seven multi hit games, driving in 15 runs in the month. On September 2nd, he singled with the bases loaded in the top of the 9th inning, breaking a 2-2 tie leading the Mets to a 4-3 win. It was just their 35th win up to that point. He drove in two more runs the next day, although the team lost to the Pirates 5-4. From September 15th through the 20th he had three multi RBI games, with six runs driven in.

In the Mets inaugural season he played in 119 games in the outfield, batting .244 hitting 6 HRs with 10 doubles and 32 RBIs The quick footed Christopher stole 11 bases in 14 attempts, and recorded two triples.

Christopher began the 1963 season at AAA Buffalo, hitting .288 with 12 stolen bases 19 HRs 59 RBIs & a .403 on base % in 85 games played. For the Mets he arrived in mid July & would play in 64 games batting .221 with one HR & 8 RBIs.

On July 17th he hit an exciting two run HR, off the Giants Gaylord Perry at the Polo Grounds, in the 6th inning putting the Mets ahead. The Giants tied it up but New York won it with a Joe Hicks walk off HR against Don Larsen. Games between the Mets & Giants were big in those days, since the team had left for San Francisco just six years prior.

It was Christopher's only HR all season. On September 8th he had a big four hit day, in Cincinnati including an RBI triple in the Mets 3-2 win over the Reds.

In the opening year of Shea Stadium in 1964 Christopher led the Mets in almost all offensive categories except HRs. He was tops on the club in hits (163) doubles (26) RBIs (76) walks (48) runs (78) and tied for the lead in stolen bases with six. His eight triples which were also eighth most in the league.

Christopher was the fourth Met in history to hit over .300 and the first to have done it with more than 500 at bats (543). Christopher also was a good pinch hitter off the Mets bench, as his six pinch hits were 10th in the NL. He also contributed with six sacrifice hits which were 7th most in the league. He enjoyed 13 games were had three or more hits during the season, including two 11 game hit streaks.

He began with an Opening Day HR in Philadelphia against the Phillies & batted .375 in the month of April. On May 8th his 9th inning single off St. Louis' Bobby Shantz resulted in a walk off win for New York, the first ever such win at Shea Stadium for the Mets.

In May at the end of the month, he had two different three RBI games against the San Francisco Giants. On May 31st he hit a two run double in the first inning & then added an RBI sac fly in the 8th to finalize the 6-3 Mets win. In the four game series which the Mets split, he drove in seven runs with seven hits.

In June he drove in 19 runs and remained at .300 midway through the month. On June 20th in New York, he hit two HRs in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies the Mets won 7-3, beating pitcher Dallas Green. On June 26th, Christopher hit a grand slam HR off the Milwaukee Braves Bill Sadowski, for an 8-4 Mets win.

That week he drove in runs five straight games, seven of nine. On July 12th he had another walk off hit, this time a double off Joey Jay of the Cincinnati Reds. It was the only run scored in Galen Cisco's six hit shut out win. On July 19th in the first of two in St. Louis, he & Frank Thomas drove in the only runs of a 2-1 Jack Fisher win. 

In August he hit HRs in back to back games early on in the month. On August 18, he drove in five runs with a HR as he had the biggest day of his career. He collected four hits with a pair of triples, the HR  and a double against his old Pirates team mates.

In September he broke up a no hit bid of Cincinnati Reds pitcher; Jim Maloney in a game at Shea Stadium. Christopher hit well enough to finish with a .300 average. Christopher was one of the few bright spots on a dismal 1964 team that lost 109 games.

In 1965 he began the year as the teams left fielder & fifth place hitter. He hit a HR in the second game of the year but then didn't hit another for a month and a half. He struggled most of the season having his best stretch when he hit safely in 16 of 17 games at the end of August into September.

Christopher always seemed to thrive against the Giants, on April 23rd he helped a four run Mets come back rally in the 9th inning with an RBI hit. The Mets won it 9-8 in the 11th inning. After driving in five runs in the first two days of June, he only drove in four more runs in the next two months.

On September 1st in the first game of a double header at the Astrodome, he tripled home two runs, in the top of the 8th inning off future Mets relief ace Ron Taylor. The Mets went on to a 4-1 victory. On the year his numbers fell off dropping to a .249 batting average, with 109 hits, 5 HRs & 40 RBIs while playing in 148 games. He tied for the team lead with six pinch hits and four stolen bases.

In November of 1965 he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Eddie Bressoud. Christopher batted .265 with 28 HRs 22 stolen bases & 156 RBIs in his four year Mets career. He only played in 12 games in Boston, batting .077 before finishing his playing career with two more seasons in the minors.

In his eight year MLB career batted .260 with 434 hits, 68 doubles, 17 triples, 29 HRs 173 RBIs 29 stolen bases & a .329 on base % in 638 games.

Retirement: After his playing days Christopher ran a baseball school in the Virgin Islands, and then became a free lance artist in the Baltimore area.

Short Time Member of The 1973 N.L. Championship Mets Team: Jerry May (1973)

Jerry Lee May was born on December 14, 1943 at Staunton, Virginia. May was originally a pitcher & outfielder playing in American Legion ball back in 1961.

The six foot two right handed hitting May, was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1961. He hit 21 HRs batting .284 in the A ball NY Penn League in 1962. He never hit that well again, playing three more seasons in the minors making a few brief appearances with the Pirates during the 1964-1966 seasons.

May had a strong throwing arm and was excellent at gunning down base stealers. In 41 games in 1966 he threw out 63% of would be base stealers. Over the next five years he would throw out over 40% of base stealers attempting to steal. He became the Pirate regular catcher in 1967 batting .271with 3 HRs 13 doubles & 22 RBIs in 110 games.

In 1968 he played a career high 137 games but fell off to a .219 average with 15 doubles, just one HR & 33 RBIs. In 1969 he was back as the starting catcher until July 14, 1969, when he crashed into the dugout in Montreal's Jarry Park.

May had to be taken to the hospital & on the way his ambulance got into an accident, injuring his right shoulder. He was replaced by rookie Manny Sanguillen, who remained at the Pirates catchers position the next eight years batting over .290 six times.

In 1970 May would only catch 51 games but he threw out 50% of would be base stealers, the best percentage in the league. He only hit .209 overall on the year, but on June 12th he had a memorable day.

May was behind the plate wearing reflective tape on his finger tips so Doc Ellis could see the signs as well as the target.

That day Ellis forgot he was supposed to pitch & was tripping on LSD when the team finally got hold of him. They got him to the ball park & Ellis He went out tossing a no hitter that day against all odds.

That December May was traded to the Kansas City Royals with shortstop Freddie Patek in a six-player deal. He battled injuries again playing in the American League, batting .252 in 71 games but dropped off to .190 in 53 games the next season.

In the early part of the Mets 1973 NL Pennant season, the team was short on catchers when injuries set down Jerry Grote & Duffy Dyer early on in the season. The team needed catching help & some insurance as a back up. They purchased May’s contract from the Royals on May 12th and he briefly spent time with the 1973 Mets.

He made his Mets debut at Dodger Stadium catching Tom Seaver & getting two hits against the Dodgers in his first Mets game. He & Seaver were both long gone when the game ended 19 innings later in a 7-3 Mets win.

May only appeared in four games as a Met, going 2-8 with a walk. He was released on July 10th then resigned with the Pirates, but never resurfaced on the major league level.

He caught in 525 career games with a .990 fielding percentage, throwing out 43% of would be base stealers. At the plate he batted .234 lifetime with 357 hits 15 HRs 63 doubles 10 triples & 130 RBIs.

Passing: In a tragic incident On June 30, 1996, May was killed in a farming accident in Swoope Virginia, at the age 52.

Dec 11, 2018

1969 World Champion Mets Back Up Catcher & His Amazing World Series Game Winning Bunt: J.C. Martin (1968-1969)

Joseph Clifton Martin was born December 13, 1936 in Axton, Virginia. Both of his grandfathers were named Joseph, so the family began to call him by his initials J.C.

He was a clean cut Christian boy the son of a county deputy who use to visit his father at work & see the men in jail. Martin never drank nor smoked, lived a pure life because he all he wanted was to be a base ball player. 

Martin was a high school baseball, basketball & track star getting offered contracts in both basketball as well as baseball. Martin was signed by the Chicago White Sox as an amateur free agent in 1956, as a first baseman.

In 1958 he hit .330 at Dululth-Superior, then was promoted to AA Indianapolis in 1959 where he hit .287. Martin made his MLB debut getting his first MLB hit on the last day of the 1959 season, just as the Go Go Sox won the A.L. pennant. He did not play in the Sox World Series loss to the LA Dodgers. 

He played in the Pacific Coast League with the San Diego Padres in 1960 batting .285 with 13 HRs & 73 RBIs & then came up for good in 1961 Splitting time between first base and third base.

He batted .230 with 5 HRs 8 doubles and 32 RBIs making the Topps All Star rookie team. By 1962 long time White Sox catcher Sherm Lollar was at the end of his career, and manager Al Lopez convinced Martin to go down to the minors and learn how to be a catcher to succeed Lollar. He returned as the clubs catcher in 1963 winning over the job from Cam Carreon. He threw out 44 % of would be base stealers, which was best in the league but also allowed 12 passed balls (2nd in the league).

At the plate he hit a career high 5 HRs in 1963 but only batted .205 in 105 games played. In each of the next two seasons he would lead all catchers in passed balls with 24 in 1964 & in 33 in 1965 setting a record that stood for 22 years. In those years Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm's knuckleball added to Martins passed ball totals. In 1964 he dropped below the .200 mark (.197) and then became a back up to Johnny Romano the next two years.

In 1965 Martin raised his average 64 points, hitting a career best .261 with 2 HRs 12 doubles & 21 RBIs. In 1967 he was team mates with the 1966 AL Rookie of the Year, Tommie Agee, whom he would win a World Series with in New York.

The 1967 Sox began the year with three catchers but when Duane Josephson went down with injury Martin saw most of the playing time. On July 25th he hit a walk off HR against Sudden Sam McDowell in the first game of a double header, then hit another HR in the second game. In that game Chicago's Ken Berry hit another walk off HR & it was only the second time in history both ends of a double header ended in walk offs.

The 1967 White Sox were in a four way pennant race losing out to the Red Sox on the last day of the season. On September 10th he caught Joe Horlen's no hitter against the Detroit Tigers.

Martin hit .234, and posted his best fielding % to date at .987%, allowing 16 passed balls second in the league, as Wilbur Wood also a knuckle ball pitcher, also joined the Sox staff.

Before the 1968 season Martin was traded to the New York Mets along with Billy Southworth in exchange for Ken Boyer and Sandy Alomar. New Mets manager Gil Hodges planned to use Martin as a platoon partner Jerry Grote for the 1968 season.

Martin actually got the start on Opening day, catching the first Tom Seaver Opening Day in Mets history. Seaver would go on to start the next nine opener's as well. Martin got a hit in the Mets loss to the San Francisco Giants, but worse, he fractured his finger and missed a month of action going on the DL.

Grote came into his own as one of the leagues better defensive catchers and Martin became his back up. Martin returned to play sparingly in May & at the end of the month going into June had an incredible run production for a reserve player. 

Martin drove in runs in six straight games he played in, with a stretch of at least one RBI in 12 of 15 games. On June 4th Jerry Koosman blanked Fergie Jenkins & the Cubs 5-0, as Martin had tw hits & drove in two of the runs.

On June 12th with the Mets down 1-0 to Don Drysdale & the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Martin doubled to score Dick Selma with the game tying run. Jerry Grote then singled home Martin in what was the game winning run. On July 21st in St. Louis he drove in the only run of another Koosman shut out, this time in St. Louis.

In mid August he showed some power hitting HRs in two of three games that week. On September 3rd he led the Mets to a 4-3 win over the Braves at Shea Stadium with a two run shot off Milt Pappas. In the 7th inning he tied the game on a force out & Ed Charles followed with another ground out scoring Art Shamsky which was the game winner.

In 1968 he batted .225 with three HRs, nine doubles, 31 RBIs & a .298 on base % in 78 games. He threw out 40% of would be base stealers behind the plate in 53 games.

In 1969 he continued his backup catching role, but fell more to the third string catcher behind Grote & up & coming rookie Duffy Dyer. Martin played for a week straight in May as Grote missed some time with injury. He swung a hot bat with six hits & five RBIs on the week. On May 11th he drove in two runs in the second game of a double header, leading the Mets past Houston 11-7. It was big since the Mets only beat the Astros twice all year.

In another stretch where he played two weeks steady in June, he got another eight hits. On June 17th, Martin drove in the only run of the game when Gary Gentry pitched a two hit shutout in Philadelphia against the Phillies.

In July in the second game after the All Star break, he hit an 8th inning HR off the Cincinnati Reds reliever Clay Carroll. The two run shot scored Al Weis & put the Mets ahead in what turned out to be the game winner.

In July he had three multi RBI games. During the final two months of the season he saw very limited action as Dyer got most of the backup time. On the season he only batted .207 with 4 HRs 5 doubles & 21 RBIs in 66 games. In 48 games at catcher he posted a .996 fielding % throwing out 21% of base stealers.

Post Season: In the NLCS vs. the Atlanta Braves Martin appeared in two Games as a pinch hitter going 1-2. In Game #1 at Atlanta, he pinch hit for Tom Seaver and drove in two runs with a pinch hit single off future Hall of Fame pitcher; Phil Neikro. The hit sparked a five run Mets rally.

In Game #4 of the 1969 World Series, Martin became a Mets hero & had one at bat that he will be remembered for forever. It’s not even what he did at the plate but more so the way he ran to first base after a sacrifice bunt. With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 10th inning, the Mets had pinch-runner Rod Gaspar representing the winning run on second base. Gil Hodges summoned Martin to pinch-hit for Tom Seaver. The Orioles’ manager Earl Weaver had been ejected from the game earlier and future Met skipper George Bamberger brought in relief pitcher Pete Richert to face Martin.

J.C. laid down a perfect bunt in front of the pitcher’s mound. He ran to first base close to the foul line, as Richert fielded the ball, the lefty threw to first base.

Martin was hit on the wrist by Richert’s throw, and the ball ricocheted into right field as Rod Gaspar scampered all the way around to score the winning run.

The Mets now led the Series three games to one, and Tom Seaver had his only World Series victory of his career. The Orioles protested after the game that Martin had ran inside the foul line although there was no argument on the field. Home plate Umpire Shag Crawford said he didn’t make an interference call because he felt Martin didn’t intentionally interfere with the play. The next day the controversy was the talk of the baseball world. a

Quotes: JC Martin: "Remember first base is actually in fair territory. If you are a left handed hitter and you run inside that double line, you’ll never touch the bag if you run straight at it. The funny thing is that nobody really made a big deal about it until the papers came out the next day.

They had a picture that showed Pete Richert’s throw hitting me on the left wrist. The umpire said I was safe, so I must have been safe, I get a kick seeing the ball roll away and old Gaspar scoring”.

After the World Series, the Mets decided to go with Duffy Dyer as their back up & just before the 1970 season began, Martin was traded to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Randy Bobb. He spent three seasons in Chicago, mostly backing up Randy Hundley & former Met Chris Cannizzaro. He had his best season in Chicago in 1971 hitting .264 with 2 HRs 5 doubles & 17 RBIs in 47 games.

Martin would retire after the 1972 season, finishing a 14 year career, batting only .222 with 487 hits, 32 HRs, 82 doubles 12 triples & 230 RBIs, in 908 lifetime games played. His 121 passed balls are 99th most all time, and he threw out 34% of would be base stealers in 692 games at catcher posting a .987%.

Family: Martin’s son Jay went on to have a fine college career at Wheaton College and became the head baseball coach in Canton, Ohio.

Retirement: In 1974 Martin was a bull pen coach for the Chicago Cubs under former New York Giant Whitey Lockman. He then moved into the broadcast booth with the White Sox, alongside the legendary Harry Caray the next season. He only remained as a broadcaster for one season mostly because he did not get along with Caray.

When asked if he enjoyed his White Sox broadcast experience: JC- "Not really. I didn’t really fit in with Harry. He didn’t want to work with me. We didn’t hit it off at all. I wasn’t used to working with a guy that had that kind of authority and Harry used that against me. I was only there for one year. Now Bill Mercer was a great guy, he helped me out a lot. Harry just left me out to dry.

Quotes: J.C. Martin - " I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I spent 14 years in the big leagues seeing the best players ever, guys like Bob Gibson, Willie Mays, Carl Yastrzemski. Players like that just aren’t around anymore. Baseball was better back then, they didn’t have the DH, which has killed all the suspense in the American League, and the ballparks were fair. You didn’t have this emphasis on hitting home runs all the time. It was great.”

Trivia: J.C. caught five Hall-of-Fame pitchers: Tom Seaver & Nolan Ryan with the Mets, Early Wynn, Hoyt Wilhelm with the White Sox and Ferguson Jenkins with the Cubs.