Sep 22, 2014

Remembering Mets History; (1967) Jerry Buchek Hits Back to Back Game Winners & Has A Six RBI Night

Friday September 22nd, 1967: Salty Parkers tenth place Mets (58-95) hosted Grady Hatton's ninth place Houston Astros (64-90) in a Shea double header, in front of 13,342 at Shea Stadium. 

On this night an obscure Mets short stop, Jerry Buchek, had the biggest night of his career & followed up with a walk off hit.

Tug McGraw was the Mets starter on this night up against Wade Blasingame. In the home 1st, Amos Otis walked & Eddie Kranepool singled. Bob Johnson followed with an RBI single. Buchek ended the inning grounding out into a double play.

With the Mets down 4-2 in the 8th inning Bob Johnson & Tommy Davis both singled. Jerry Buchek followed with a three run HR putting the Mets ahead 5-4. It was Buchek's 12th HR of the year. In the top of the 9th Mets pitcher Jack Fisher gave up the lead when Don Adlesh singled home Rusty Staub with the tying run.

The game went to extra innings, in the home 10th Bob Johnson doubled & Cleon Jones walked. Jerry Buchek stepped in & hit his second three run HR of the night. A walk off game winner against Houston's Tom Dukes. Buchek's six RBIs were the most in a game for a Met that season & one of the highest in their young history. It was an exciting night for the young Mets.

Saturday, September 23rd 1967: Exciting Mets Rookie, Tom Seaver (15-12) was on the mound on this night taking on Houston's Dave Guisti  in front of 11,021 fans at Shea.

The Mets 1967 Rookie of the Year, Tom Seaver went out & pitched a three hit shut out masterpiece. Seaver struck out nine batters & walked three.  The Houston pitchers; Dave Guisti & Dave Eilers matched Seaver, shutting out the Mets for eight innings.

In the bottom of the 9th, Larry Sherry came in to pitch for Houston. Bob Johnson led off with a double & Ed Kranepool was walked. Ron Swoboda then reached on an infield single. That set the stage for Buchek. Jerry Buchek delivered with a game winning single, his second game winner in two days. 

Jerr Buchek played two seasons for the Mets, he was the clubs main short stop in 1967. That year he played in 124 games, coming in second on the club in HRs with 14, while driving in 41 runs batting .236 & striking out 101 times.

Long Island Born - Fordham University Graduate- Mets Nineties Pitcher: Pete Harniisch (1995-1997)

Peter Thomas Harnisch was born on September 23, 1966 in Commack Long Island. The six foot right hander went to college becoming a star baseball player at Fordham University in the Bronx. Harnisch was a top prospect drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Orioles in 1987. He went 11-7 at both A & AA in 1988 posting a 2.45 ERA striking out 184 batters in 190 innings.

He got a September call up making his debut at Fenway Park taking a loss & then another in New York in front of many friends & family members. He began 1988 with the Orioles but was sent down to AAA after two poor starts in April. He went 5-5 at AAA Rochester being brought up again in early July. For the remainder of the season he went 5-9 with a 4.62 ERA. 

He earned a spot in the Orioles rotation in 1990 and began the year at 3-0. At the end of July he was 9-5 although he was allowing quite a bit of runs, his 4.31 ERA was respectable. He only won two more games in the final two months, finishing the year at 11-11 with 122 strike outs in 188 innings pitched, posting a 4.34 ERA. On January 10, 1991 he was traded along with Steve Finley and Curt Schilling to the Houston Astros for Glenn Davis. In Houston he became top starter going 12-9 with a 2.70 ERA (3rd in the NL) & 172 strikeouts (4TH in the NL) making the 1991 All Star team.

In September of that year, he struck out three Philadelphia Phillies batters on nine pitches. Overall he had the best hits per nine innings ratio in the league at 7.0 as well as the third best strike outs per nine innings ratio (7.15).

After an off year going 9-10 in 1992 he won a career high 16 games in 1993, leading the league with four shutouts. He threw two one hitters that year, one coming against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 10th in the first game of a double header. The second came at home in Houston, on September 17th against the San Diego Padres.

Overall he pitched over 200 innings for the third straight year while posting a 2.94 ERA (6th best in the NL). He struck out 188 batters & had five complete games as well (7th in the NL). He allowed the fewest hits per nine innings (7.0) of any pitcher in the NL once again that season. He went 8-5 in the strike shortened 1994 season before being traded to the New York Mets for Juan Castillo in November 1994.

Harnisch was happy to return to his home town area, and the team hyped him up as a local top of the line acquisition. He debuted in the fourth game of the season, pitching six innings while only allowing a run on three hits at Shea Stadium against the St. Louis Cardinals. 

He had a few good starts but would not earn his first win until May 20th when he pitched 8 shut ut innings against the San Diego Padres. He lost his next five decisions and didn’t earn another victory until two months later.

In a game against the Cubs that season, he & Chicago pitchers were throwing bean balls at each other all night. Harnisch came up with no one on base in the late innings & he knew he was going to get it. The ball whizzed by his head & he started yelling, but instead of getting into it with the pitcher, he got into it with the catcher Scott Servais. Interestingly he & Servais were very good friends. Next a 15 minute bench clearing brawl occurred, resulting in over $1000 in fines.

His season was a huge disappointment as he went down with injury missing the final two months. Harnisch would only pitch in 18 games with the Mets that season, after his highly anticipated arrival. He was a measly 2-8 with a 3.68 ERA, 82 strike outs & 24 walks giving up 13 HRs & 45 earned runs in 101 innings.

In 1996 he beat the Rockies in Colorado in his first start, and remained at the .500 mark until mid August. On July 23rd he pitched a four hit shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates, striking out seven at Shea Stadium; it was his best outing of the season.

 From there he pitched his best baseball of the season as well, winning three straight games allowing just four runs over 26 innings pitched. He bested his record to 807 but then lost his last four decisions of the season. He pitched in 31 games overall with 194 innings going 8-12 with a 4.21 ERA. He allowed 111 hits in 110 innings, striking out 82 batters. As Generation K failed, Harnisch & the ’96 Mets didn’t do much better.

In 1997 Harnisch quit a 13 year habit of chewing tobacco and suffered depression as a result. The withdrawals gave him headaches, weight loss, sleeplessness, and mental anxiety. He literally became the poster boy for Paxil, making public appearances promoting the drug that helped him cope.

Harnisch said he enjoyed his days playing in New York. The former Fordham guy had moved to Howell, New Jersey & then to Colts Neck New Jersey, commuting up the Garden State Parkway to Shea Stadium for home games. 

The Mets released him in 1997 after Bobby Valentine took over, and he signed with the Cincinnati Reds.

In 1998 he was revived in Cincinnati going 14-7 with a 3.14 ERA pitching 202 innings. In 1999 he was the ace of the Reds staff winning 16 games (16-10) with a 3.68 ERA as they tied the Mets for the wild card crown. On the final day of the season Harnisch beat the Brewers in Milwaukee to force the one game playoff. The Mets won the playoff game that decided the wild card winner. Pete suffered arm trouble had surgery, and was finished by 2001.

Retirement: He finished up a 14 year career with a lifetime 111-103 record with 1368 strike outs 716 walks, posting a 3.89 ERA pitching 1959 innings in 321 games. Harnisch resides in Colts Neck, New Jersey with his wife whom he met back at Fordham through his roommate & teaches kids instructional baseball.

Former Mets Minor League Director / General Manager & Scout: Bob Scheffing (1965-1975)

Robert Boden Scheffing was born on August 11, 1913 in Overland Missouri. During his playing days he was a catcher signed by the Chicago Cubs in the 1935.

After six almost seven years in the minors he made it to the big leagues in 1941. He played briefly for two seasons with the Cubs before going off to the military for World War II.

Scheffing who was known as “Grumpy”, was primarily a second string catcher during his career. In 1947 & 1948 he played in over 100 games, posting fielding percentages in the top three of the league.

In 1948 he played in 102 games batting a career high .300 with five HRs 18 doubles & 45 RBIs with a .351 on base %. Scheffing would also play for the Cincinnati Reds & St. Louis Cards before retiring in 1951 with a .263 lifetime average 357 hits 20 HRs 53 doubles & 187 RBIs.

After his playing days he became a coach for the St. Louis Browns in 1952 & 1953. He then was a manager, winning the Pacific Coast League championship in 1956 with the Los Angeles Angels. Next he became the Cubs manager for the 1958-1959 seasons, finishing in fifth place both times.

In 1961 he managed the Detroit Tigers to a second place finish with 101 victories. After a slow start in 1963 he was let go as manager but still worked as a scout & broadcaster in the Tigers organization.

In 1965 he joined the New York Mets organization as the director of player development. He eventually switched positions with Whitey Herzog and together they deserve credit for putting together two pennant winners & a Worlds Championship.

The Mets farm teams of the late sixties & early seventies developed many fine young players, especially pitchers.

In 1970 Scheffing replaced Johnny Murphy as Mets General Manager, after Murphy's sudden passing due to a heart attack. At first Scheffing didn’t actually want the job, but did it as a temporary favor to club President, M. Donald Grant. Scheffing would end up holding that position through 1974.

In 1972 Mets manager Gil Hodges suffered a fatal heart attack, and Scheffing immediately hired Mets coach Yogi Berra to fill the role. Berra was the more popular choice in New York, although Whitey Herzog was probably a better candidate. When M. Donald Grant wanted to fire Berra during the ’73 season, Scheffing refused to do it standing by his managerial choice, risking his own job. The Mets went on to win the division that year, beat the might Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS & fall one game short of a second world championship in five years.

Scheffing did pull off a few good trades like acquiring Rusty Staub, Felix Millan & George Stone for the ’73 pennant team. But he also takes the blame for such disasters like trading away Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi, although Ryan wasn’t happy in New York. Also there was the Amos Otis for Joe Foy trade that was mostly Gil Hodges doing.

Scheffing had enough after five years, leaving the G.M. position, being replaced by Joe McDonald in 1975. He remained in the Mets organization as a scout, retiring in Phoenix, Arizona.

Passing: In 1985 he passed away at the age of 72.

Hall of Fame Italian / American Manager: Tommy Lasorda

Thomas Charles Lasorda was born September 22, 1927 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. Tommy originally signed a baseball contract with his local Philadelphia Phillies back in 1945, then went off to do two years of military service.

He returned to play minor league baseball & got noticed by the Brooklyn Dodger organization when he struck out 25 batters in a 15 inning game setting a pro record. Lasorda even drove in the game winning run, & the Dodgers bought his contract out from the Phillies.

 He was mostly a career minor leaguer, spending 14 seasons there, nine of them at AAA Montreal. He compiled a 107-57 record over those seasons, having his best year in 1954, going 17-8 with a 2.41 ERA. He earned a late season call up, pitching in four games, allowing five runs in nine innings.

In the Brooklyn 1955 Championship season he earned himself a World Series ring, although he only pitched in four games during the regular season posting a 13.50 ERA.

His contract was sold to the Kansas City A’s the next season and he appeared in a career high 18 games going 0-4 with a 6.15 ERA. His contract was eventually sold back to the Dodgers and he finished his playing career at AAA Montreal. His playing career ended in 1960 and he served as a scout in the Dodger organization.

In 1965, he began a seven year stretch as a minor league manager. In 1973, he was named to the Dodgers coaching staff under Manager; Walter Alston. Lasorda was a loud & talkative third base coach for Los Angeles. He got national recognition during the 1974 World Series, in the first all California World Series (Oakland A's vs Los Angeles Dodgers). Lasorda was wired with a microphone by NBC television & his antics were put into that years World Series highlights film.

Lasorda turned down other managerial jobs in order to remain with the Dodgers, & was Alston’s understudy until he retired in 1976. Lasorda was named the new Dodger manager in the bicentennial year.

Lasorda would become one of the games most sucessful managers of all time. He loved to play small ball, & built his teams around solid pitching & regular every day line ups. He had a great ability to get the most out of his young players, & wasn’t afraid to give them a chance in big game opportunities. Lasorda became a media darling, and a Hollywood celebrity.

Local Hollywood stars would hang around the Dodgers clubhouse, especially fellow Italian / American; Frank Sinatra. Lasorda loved the Dodgers, just as much as he loved good Italian food. 

The Dodger infield at the time consisted of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, & Ron Cey all players he helped develop in the minor leagues. 

In his first season at the helm he finished second to the Big Red Machine but he & his Dodgers would shut the machine down taking over the N.L. West from there on in. Over the next two seasons he brought the Dodgers to the World Series, although they fell short of the Worlds Championship in six games both times.

He was the UPI & AP Manager of the Year in 1977. Three seasons later he took them to another World Series in the strike shortened 1981 season, winning the AP Manager of the Year award. His Dodgers won the NLDS over Houston, the NLCS over Montreal & then his first World Series title over the A.L. New York team. Lasorda would win two more Divisional titles in the 1980’s losing in the NLCS both times.

In 1988 the Dodgers came out of nowhere to win the West, beat a heavily favored Mets team in the NLCS & a powerful A’s team in the World Series. He was named Baseball America & Sporting News Manager of the Year. Lasorda would win two more divisional titles in 1994 & 1995 then finish second in 1996, when he retired from managing.

In his 21 year managing career he was 1599-1439 posting a .526 %. He won eight divisional titles, four pennants & two World Series. He managed nine players who won the NL Rookie of the Year award. The winners came in two sets of consecutive players (1979 -1982) Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Howe, Fernando Valenzuela & Steve Sax. From (1992 -1995) Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raúl Mondesí & Hideo Nomo. Then in 1996 he also managed that year's rookie of the year, Todd Hollandsworth.

He won his last game as manager & the next day drove himself to the hospital with abdominal pains, as he was having a mild heart attack. 

The following year he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. After managing he became a Dodgers executive & a great ambassador for the game of baseball.
He was then named Dodgers Senior V.P & then special advisor to the Chairman under the new ownership. He has been working for the Dodgers spanning a stretch of seven decade;

Quotes: "I bleed Dodger blue and when I die, I'm going to the big Dodger in the sky." - Tommy Lasorda.

His number 2 was retired by the club in 1997. Lasorda also does motivational speaking, usually averaging over 100 speaking engagements a year. He does everything from charity work with children to international events, military appearances, television shows, book signings, Dodger appearances, Italian American events & just about anything else that comes his way. He was a regular on Johnny Bench’s old TV show the baseball bunch in the early 1980’s, playing the character "The Dugout Wizard".

He was at one time the spokes person for slim fast diet when he actually trimmed down, although he didn’t keep the weight off. He has appeared on the Tonight show many times through the years from the Johnny Carson days to the Conan O’Brien /Jay Leno years. He was known for getting angry and using expletives during TV interviews, even having a fist fight during an TV interview with former coach Jim Lefebvre.

He was a close friend of Mike Piazza’s father who is also from Norristown, Pa. He was Piazza’s godfather & made sure the Dodgers signed the kid as a favor to his father. The rest of course is history. Bobby Valentine also gives Lasorda credit for being his mentor.

In 2000 he managed the United States Olympic team & won the Gold Medal, becoming the first manager to do so as well as win a World Series title. He was coaching third base As honorary captain of the 2001 Al Star Game, when a Vlad Guerrero bat shattered flying down toward the coaches box. Lasorda fell backwards to the amusement of all including himself, of course he was fine. he

In 2006, Lasorda was the recipient of the Branch Rickey Award, which is given to the major league personality who best demonstrates exemplary community service.

In 2009, a portrait of Lasorda in a Dodgers uniform was added to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. He has been honored in Jpan for his work in Japanese baseball, the Dominican Republic as well as Cuba.

Family: Lasorda has been married to his wife Jo for 60 years. In 1991 his son passed away from Aids, but Lasorda insists it was cancer refusing to acknowledge his sons homosexuality. 

The Lasorda’s also have a daughter & granddaughter.

Sep 21, 2014

Remembering Mets History: (1988) Mets Clinch NL East Title

Thursday September 22, 1988: Davey Johnson's Mets (94-57) were on a roll counting down toward winning the 1988 NL Eastern title. They come on strong down the stretch, to overtake the Pittsburgh Pirates. The win onthis evening, was their eighth in a row, 13 out of their last 14 and 18 out of their last 22.
45,274 came out to Shea Stadium, to see the Mets clinch their second NL Eastern Title in three years. The Shea Faithful, cheered loudly from the first pitch onward through the night.

NYPD had 80 mounted policeman on horses & over 800 Police officers in total were on hand to make sure no one got onto the field. Shea was not about to repeat the 1986 clinching celebration, where the fans stormed the & ripped up the field. The public address announcer welcomed their presence in the 8th inning as the crowd greeted them with boos. The fans of course wanted to repeat with an '86  type like celebration.
Ron Darling (15-9) got the start tonight and became the fourth Mets pitcher to celebrate on the mound as the Mets won an Eastern title. Darling found a little extra in his arm that night and was going to finish the game no matter what.

Darling went the distance allowing only one run, on six hits, with one walk and struck out four. It was his 16th win of the year, he would end up third on the '88 team with 17 wins and third with a 3.25 ERA.
The Mets only scored three runs off Philadelphia's Don Carman, but it was all they needed. Mookie Wilson led  with three hits on the night & a run scored.

In the home 5th, down 1-0, Kevin Elster led off with a double. Mookie followed with a one out single, Elster going to third.  Greg Jeffries then grounded out to third, scoring Kevin Elster tying the game 1-1.

 In the 6th inning, Daryl Strawberry sigled & reached third on a Kevin McReynolds single. Straw then scored when Don Carman thre a wild pitch. In the 7th, Mookie singled & advanced to second & then scored when Kevin McReynolds had an infield single himself.

In the 9th inning, Darling struck out Von Hayes, then got Juan Samuel to ground out to the mound. Darling then struck out Lance Parrish to end the game. Darling was met on the mound by catcher Gary Carter in celebration.

The rest of the team joined them with no pressure from the fans, as the mounted police stopped anyone from storming the field. The Mets celebration moved on to the clubhouse.


Trivia: The night before, the Mets recieved  bad news when pitcher; Bobby Ojeda injured himself at home trimming his hedges. Ojeda had severed his left index finger and had to under go nearly five hours of surgery to repair it. He was lost for the rest of the year & more importantly, the post season.

His absence was certainly missed as the Mets lost the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling & David Cone the Mets were still looking good in the pitching department heading to the playoffs.

1986 World Champion Mets Second Baseman & AAA Las Vegas Manager: Wally Backman (1980-1988)

Walter Wayne Backman was born September 22, 1959 in Hillsboro, Oregon. Wally Backman's dad played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization during the sixties.

Wally was drafted in the first round (16th pick overall) of the 1977 draft by the New York Mets. He hit over .280 every season in the minors and his defense improved, making him a fine defensive second baseman.

His scrappy style of play is what made him so desirable. He would do anything to get on a base, a slap hitter who could bunt well, draw walks & get hit by pitches. His uniform usually got dirty from sliding and being a pest on the base paths.

He began as a September call up in 1980, getting a base hit driving in a run in his first career at bat. He would hit.323 (30-93) with 9 RBIs in 27 games. Backman’s early years as a Met were filled with drama at times & it was tough for him to get a starting job. At the start of his career, Doug Flynn was the Mets Gold Glove second baseman & a favorite of manager Joe Torre.

Backman got sent to Triple A- Tidewater in June 1981, becoming irritated that the Mets were trying to turn him into a utility infielder. He refused to report for six days, giving him a bad reputation with the organization. But in the winter of 1981 the Mets traded Flynn and Backman was the 1982 Opening Day second baseman.

Then, more drama as he fell off a bicycle ending his season, and soon losing his job to Brian Giles in 1983. At AAA Tidewater he had impressed his manager Davey Johnson with his style of play and his hitting, batting .316. When Johnson took over as the Mets manager, he made Backman his 1984 second baseman.

On April 18th with the Mets down to the Montreal Expos 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th Backman came to bat with two men on. He doubled home Daryl Strawberry & John Gibbons with an exciting walk off Mets win. 

On July 2nd in a game at Shea against the Houston Astros he had three hits & drove in three of the Mets four runs in their 4-2 victory. On July 23rd Backman had another walk off game winning hit, this one against the Cardinals off former Met Neil Allen.

On July 27th he helped Dwight Gooden to a four hit win, when he singled home what was the game winning run in the 7th inning against Dick Ruthven & the Chicago Cubs. On July 31st he peaked out with a .300 batting average.

On August 17th Dwight Gooden & the Giants Mike Krukow had a classic shut out pitcher's duel going through nine innings in San Francisco. In the top of the tenth Backman hit his only HR of the season, a two run shot winning it for New York.

In 1984, Backman was the Mets leadoff hitter for most of the year, batting .280 with a career high 32 stolen bases, only getting thrown out nine times. He posted a .339 on base percentage with 122 hits, 56 walks,19 doubles 68 runs scored and 21 RBIs. 

Backman still wasn't sure if he would remain on the team the next season. In his personal life he spent the year living in a mobile home with his wife & daughter at a campsite in West Milford, NJ.

By 1985 Backman was having a real problem hitting left-handers, so manager Davey Johnson platooned him with Kelvin Chapman. Chapman didn’t hit at all, so Backman got his job back at second base, playing in 145 games hitting .273 with a career high 142 hits, 24 doubles, five triples & 38 RBIs.

He was still batting leadoff at the beginning of the year, but as the season went on he settled into the two spot. He posted a .320 on base percentage and drew fewer walks (36) but still stole 30 bases. Backman hit real well over the summer, starting out in July with a ten game hit streak.

That August he posted a 14 game hit streak. During that stretch he hit safely in 23 of 25 games. His problem was hitting left hand pitchers, that season against left-handers he only hit .155. So for the 1986 season, Tim Teufel was brought in from Minnesota to platoon with him at second base.

In the 1986 Championship season, Backman had a great start to the season & never looked back. Backman was platooned with Tim Teufel most of the season, but the second base spot seemed to be more effective when Backman played. He proved to be a perfect #2 hitter, usually behind the leadoff man Lenny Dykstra .

The two gritty players became known as the "Wild Boys", always playing in dirty uniforms & spitting out chewing tobacco. But most importantly, they were always getting on base setting the table for the big bats in the mighty line up.

On July 17th in Houston, Backman had a huge day, gathering up three hits while driving in five runs in the Mets 13-2 rout over the Astros. It was on this road trip to Houston, that Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, Rick Aguilera & Tim Teufel got arrested after a night club altercation with off duty Houston Police officers posing as bouncers.

On August 10th Backman broke a 2-2 tie in Montreal with a 7th inning single off Dennis Martinez. He later drove in a 9th inning run as well in the Mets 7-2 win over the Expos.

 On September 27th, his 27th birthday, Backman hit his only HR of the season. It came off the St. Louis Cardinals Bob Forsch in a 5-2 Mets win.

Backman led the 1986 Mets team in hitting with a .320 batting average, & was the only other player besides Keith Hernandez to hit over .300. Backman posted a .376 on base percentage, scoring 67 runs, while stealing 13 bases. He hit one HR with 18 doubles & 27 RBIs playing in 124 games. His 14 sac hits were third best in the National League, Wally was a very dangerous bunter as well. At second base he posted a .966 fielding % & helped turn over 56 double plays.

Post Season: Backman had a fantastic 1986 NLCS, and was in the middle of a lot of important moments. 

In Game #2 at the Houston Astro Dome he singled off Nolan Ryan in the 4th inning & then scored on Gary Carter's RBI double. It was the Mets first run of the Series. 

In the 5th he singled home Bobby Ojeda with a base hit advancing to second base putting New York up 3-0 in the 5-1 win.

With the series tied at one game a piece, the Mets were losing Game #3 by a score of 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Backman led off the inning and dragged a bunt down the first-base line As Astros first baseman Glenn Davis fielded it, Backman lunged past him into foul territory and slid safely into first base. 

Astros manager Hal Lanier argued that Backman had run out of the base path, but to no avail, he was ruled safe. Two batters later, Lenny Dykstra hit a now famous Mets walk off, game-winning HR to give the Mets the big victory.

In the great Game #5, Backman led off the bottom of the 12th with an infield hit, and then advanced to second on an errant pick-off attempt by Astro pitcher Charlie Kerfeld.

 Backman then came around to score the winning run on a single by Gary Carter, who had been in a slump since his game #2 double. It was another classic '86 Mets come back. (centerfieldmaz was in attendance at Shea that day).

In the classic Game #6, Backman did not start the game, but entered in the 9th inning as a pinch hitter for Tim Teufel. In the top of the 14th inning with two men on, he singled off Aurelio Lopez bringing home Daryl Strawberry with the go ahead run. Jesse Orosco would serve up a HR to Billy Hatcher in the bottom of the inning to tie it.

In the top of the 16th the Mets regained the lead on a Daryl Strawberry double & a Ray Knight single. Backman reached base on a walk, & later scored on Len Dykstra's single. Backmans run prove to be the game winner as the Astros scored two runs in the bottom of the inning. Overall in the NLCS Wally was 5-21 with a pair of walks, five runs scored & two RBIs. 

In the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, he got his first start in Game #2 and had a hit off both Roger Clemens & Bob Stanley.

 In Game #3 at Fenway Park he singled to right field in the 1st inning & scored on a Gary Carter double putting the Mets up 2-0 in the first series game they would win that year. The next night Backman had two more hits & did not play in Game #5.

In Game #6 Backman had an early hit, then he made the first out of the 10th inning before the famous Mets comeback rally. He came in as a pinch runner for Tim Teufel in the 6th inning of Game #7 and scored the go ahead run at the time on Gary Carters RBI force out. 

Overall in the 1986 World Series he batted .33 (6-18) with an RBI & a stolen base, scoring four runs.

Backman slumped in 1987, hitting just .250 as he battled lingering hamstring injuries. Meanwhile, Tim Teufel was playing very well at second base, hitting .308 with 14 HRs 29 doubles & 61 RBIs.

Drama: During the season Backman had a run-in with Mets All Star, Darryl Strawberry. Strawberry claimed he had a virus & pulled himself out of a crucial game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Meanwhile he had spent the earlier part of the day recording a rap song.

Quotes: Backman said "Nobody I know gets sick 25 times a year." Strawberry's response to Backman's remark was "I'll bust that little redneck in the face." So was the drama of the mid to late eighties Mets.

The Mets finished second to the St. Louis Cardinals that year & Backman hit .250 with one HR six doubles a .307 on base % & 23 RBIs in 94 games.

By 1988 manager Davey Johnson was questioning Backman's spirit & commitment to the team. He made Tim Teufel the regular second baseman during spring training. Backman accepted his role and set out to prove something to his manger & his team. After struggling to get above the .200 mark in mid May, he went on a hitting tear in June. 

He hit safely in 15 of 17 games winning back his position by midsummer. In July he had six multi hit games & was batting .300 by August. He began the month with a six game hit streak where he had ten hits in 17 at bats.

He missed two weeks of action in early September but returned for the Mets NL Eastern clinching. He ended the regular season by driving in runs in three straight games he played in the last week.

He finished the season batting .303 with his best on base percentage since his first season (.388%) playing in 99 games, with 12 doubles, nine stolen bases & 44 runs scored.

Post Season: In the 1988 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he went hit-less in the first two games. In Game #3 at Shea Stadium, Backman tied the game with a 6th inning single off Orel Hershiser. In the Mets 8-4 win, Backman went 2-4 with a run scored & two RBIs.

Backman had one hit in Game #5 & two hits in Game #6. In Game #7 he had one of the five Mets hits off Orel Hershiser in the Mets 6-0 upset loss. Overall Backman hit .273 going 6-22 against Dodger pitching in the NLCS. 

 In December 1988 with Greg Jeffries & Keith Miller waiting in the wings, Backman was traded to the Minnesota Twins for three minor league prospects who never quite made it.

Backman injured his shoulder having two stints on the disabled list, and hit just .231 that season. He signed as a free agent with the 1990 Pirates and platooned at third base with Jeff King.

On April 27, 1990, ina game against the San Diego Padres, he became the first player since 1975, to gather six hits in a game. In Pittsburgh he enjoyed beating his old Mets team mates, as the Pirates won the 1990 Eastern Division. He went 1-7 in the NLCS against the eventual World Champion Cincinnati Reds.

Backman then bounced to the Philadelphia Phillies as a reserve player (1991-1992) & Atlanta Braves for Spring Training 1993 but then got released. He was signed by the Seattle Mariners for ten games in 1993, before being released that May. In a 14 year career Backman hit .275 with 893 hits 10 HRs, 138 doubles, 19 triples, 240 RBIs stole 117 bases 482 runs scored & a .349 on base %..

Honors: Backman was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. He was at the 20th Anniversary for the 1986 Mets, as well as the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008.

Retirement: Backman was a successful manager for seven years in the minor leagues. His managing style was similar to his playing style- fiery and combustible, with a history of ejections, on-field tantrums, and suspensions.

He was the top candidate to take over Jerry Manuel's job with the Chicago White Sox, but when the team discovered he openly rooted against them so Manuel would be fired, they cut ties with him.

In 2004 he was hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, getting named The Sporting News' Minor League Manager of the Year. The Arizona organization liked what he had done so much, On November 1, 2004, they hired him as the Diamondbacks new manager.

The next day reports became public that he was convicted of DUI in 2000, pleaded guilty to harassing a female friend, beat his ex-wife & had filed for bankruptcy. The job fell through as the Diamondbacks cut ties with him as well.

In 2010 he got a chance in Mets organization & did a great job as manager of their A ball team, the Brooklyn Cyclones. Backman even coached third base to be involved in the action. He had his players on the edge of the dugout cheering on the team.

Backman went on to lead the Cyclones to a league-best 51-24 record, winning the McNamara Division of the New York-Penn League by 12 games. He lead them to the NY/ Penn. League championship series but got swept in the final series. In 2011 he was a candidate for the Mets managers job replacing Jerry Manuel but Terry Collins got the position instead.

Backman went on to manage the AA Binghamton Mets & then got promoted to the AAA Buffalo Bisons in 2012. That year his club went 67-76, the next year they became the AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

In 2013 Backman moved over to the Mets new AAA affiliate, the Las Vegas 51's. 

Trivia: The Las Vegas 51's take there name from the famous "Area 51" which is a US Military base located 80 miles from Las Vegas. The secrecy of its affairs has created folklore having to do with aliens & UFO's.

Backman along with pitching coach Frank Viola have taken the 51's to a first place finish.

Backman is once again highly regarded within the Mets organization & in baseball. Many of the players he managed & helped develop, are now joining the ranks of the Mets big league club with high praises of their former manager.

There certainly is an MLB managerial position in the future for Wally Backman. 

Early 2000's Mets Relief Pitcher: Mark Guthrie (2002)

Mark Andrew Guthrie was born September 22, 1965 in Buffalo, New York. The six foot four, left hander's family moved to a warmer climate & he attended high school in Venice, Florida. Guthrie then went to LSU, pitching for the Tigers baseball team there.

Guthrie was signed in the 7th round of the 1987 draft, by the Minnesota Twins. Two years later he was in the big leagues with the Twins, beginning his career as a starting pitcher. He would win seven games two straight years in the Twins rotation, then got moved to the bullpen becoming a middle reliever.

Post Season: He appeared in the 1991 post season with the World Champion Twins, pitching two games in the ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays. In Game #3 he earned the win, after pitching a scoreless 9th inning.

In the World Series win over the Atlanta Braves, he appeared in four games. He took the loss in Game #4 at Atlanta, giving up a 9th inning triple & an intentional walk, before getting relieved.

He gave the ball to Steve Bedrosian, who allowed the game winning sac fly to Jerry Willard. Guthrie would get into five more post seasons in his career, pitching in 15 games going 1-2 with a 3.46 post season ERA.

Guthrie spent six years in Minnesota, then four seasons in Los Angeles with the Dodgers (1995-1998) getting to two post seasons. The journeyman also pitched for the Boston Red Sox (1999)& Chicago White Sox (1999-2000). In 2000 he pitched for three teams, Chicago, Tampa Rays & Toronto Blue Jays.

For 2001, he signed with the A.L. Western Champion Oakland Athletics having his best season. He was a successful part of the 2001 wild card Oakland A's bullpen, going 6-2 with 12 holds, one save and a 4.47 ERA making 54 appearances.

Post Season: In the ALDS he appeared in two games, pitching three scoreless innings. That December he was traded to the New York Mets with pitcher Tyler Yates, in exchange for David Justice.

Guthrie debuted with the Mets, on April 3rd in the second game of the season in a 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Guthrie would pitch well for the 2002 Mets, from May 25th through August 3rd he would not allow a rub in 33 consecutive appearances (27 innings). Through early June, he had himself seven holds & recorded a save.

He earned his first Mets win on June 16th, during a subway series game, where the Mets scored three runs in the bottom of the 8th inning on Mo Vaughn's three run HR. Later that week he earned a win in an interleague game against the K.C. Royals.

A busy July had him make 22 appearances & earn eight more holds. More importantly he earned three victories in the month as well, ending the month with a 1.05 ERA.

On August 4th, he gave a up a 7th inning, three run HR to Arizona's Luis Gonzales & took his first loss, as the D-backs beat New York 12-7. He then lost his last three decisions of the year over the next two months, as he saw less time. Overall in 68 games he was 5-3 with 17 holds while posting a solid 2.44 ERA. He struck out 44 batters, while walking 19, allowing 13 earned runs in 48 innings of work.

Guthrie went to the Chicago Cubs in 2003 getting to another post season there, going as far as the NLCS. He was the losing pitcher of NLCS Game #1 allowing an extra inning HR to the Florida Marlins; Mike Lowell at Wrigley Field.

It was his final season, at age 37, he ended a 15 year career going 51-54 with 14 saves & a 4.05 ERA in 765 games pitched.

New Jersey Born Italian / American Player: Vinny Mazzaro (2009-2014)

Vincent Michael Mazzaro was born on September 27, 1986 in Hackensack, New Jersey. He grew up in the shadow of the Meadowlands & Giants Stadium, attending East Rutherford High School where he pitched his high school to two straight championships.

In 2005 the six foot two, right handed pitcher was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the third round. After winning nine games twice at the A ball level he was promoted to AA where went 12-2 with a 1.90 ERA in 2008. He was promoted to AAA Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League going 3-3 then making the A’s big league staff in 2009.

He made his MLB debut in June and won his first start, pitching into the 7th inning in Chicago allowing no runs on three hits to the White Sox. He won his next start against Baltimore as well, this time pitching into the 8th inning allowing no runs on 5 hits, with 4 strike outs, in Oakland.

From there he struggled losing his next eight decisions, before winning at Kansas City & Baltimore in early August. He closed out his rookie year at 4-9 with a 5.32 ERA. 

He set a strange record that season, having four plate appearances without recording a single at bat. In each case he safely sacrificed. The old record of three PA belonged to former Mets pitcher Dwight Bernard.

In 2010 he began the year 2-0 although his ERA was near five in early June. He had a good July winning four straight decisions lowering his ERA to 3.45. But then again he suffered a rough losing streak, dropping seven of eight games. He was 6-8 with a 4.29 ERA before getting sent back down to the minors in early September.
In November Mazzaro was traded to the Kansas City Royals for David Dejesus.

In his Royals debut, he earned no decision in a May 11th outing against the AL New York club. The Royals went on to win the game 4-3. On June 12th he pitched seven shut out innings against the L.A. Angels earning his first & only win of the year. By mid June he was 1-1 with an ERA over ten & was sent back down. Mazzaro was successful at AAA Omaha going 7-2 striking out 107 batters in 123 innings, returning for a September call up.

In 2012 he began the year with the Royals starting out at 2-0 beating good Texas & Oakland teams. He fell to 3-3 with a 6.12 ERA in mid Juluy & was sent back down to AAA Omaha. He returned in September to finish 4-3 with a 5.73 ERA in 18 appearances. In November he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates with Clint Robinson for two minor leaguers.

In 2013 he is having his best season with the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates who have been in first place most of the summer. On April 24th he earned his first win. coming against the Philadelphia Phillies.

In May he earned two more wins to get him to 3-0. At the start of June his ERA was under two, but he suffered two losses in the middle of the month, coming to the Los Angeles Dodgers & Cincinnati Reds, as his ERA went over three. Mazzaro moved on & continued to pitch well for Clint Hurdle's bullpen.

On July 12th he pitched against the New York Mets, earning the win, when Jordy Mercer singled off Gonzales Germen, to score Andrew McCutchen with the walk off winning run.

On July 30th he pitched a scoreless 11th inning, earning his sixth win in an important game against the St. Louis Cardinals, keeping the Pirates 1 1/2 games in front of the Cards. In August he pitched well in relief, allowing just one run in ten appearances while earning a hold. 

On September 1st he did allow a run, but earned a win in two innings of relief at Milwaukee. He ended the year with a win at Cincinnati on September 28th, the Pirates swept the series & won a wild card playoff spot. On October 1st, they beat the Reds in Pittsburgh advancing to the NLDS.

Post Season: Mazzaro saw action in three post season games, allowing no runs on no hits with two strike outs in 1.2 innings against the St. Louis Cardinals.

In 2014 he has spent most of the season pitching at AAA Indianapolis with just five games at the MLB level with the Pirates in May.

Trivia: He holds the record for most plate appearances in a single season without an at bat, with four. In 2009, he had four plate appearances but hit sacrifices in each. The old record belonged to Dwight Bernard of the 1979 Mets