Jun 2, 2020

Remembering Mets History: (1963) Duke Snider Hits Two Exciting HRs

Friday June 7th 1963: In the early days of the Mets at the Polo Grounds, nostalgia was everything. The Mets signed up many players from the old NY Giants & Brooklyn Dodgers to attract their old fans.

One of the most popular players, was Brooklyn Dodger legend, Duke Snider labled the "Duke of Flatbush".

On this day, Johnny Keane's St. Louis Cardinals (31-24) were in a three way tie for first place, as they came to the Polo Grounds, to face Casey Stengel's tenth place Mets (21-34) in front of a crowd of 15,260.

Starting Lineups

Al Jackson would get the start for New York, pitching a complete game as he allowed just two runs on eight hits. In the 1st inning, Curt Flood doubled & scored on Dick Groat's double. Later in the 4th, Ken Boyer led off with a HR. Jackson struck out seven along the way, while walking six.

Future Mets relief pitching star,  Ron Taylor went for the Cardinals, pitching a fine game, getting into the 9th inning with a two hit shut out. 

In the bottom of the 9th with one out, Met slugger Frank Thomas came in to pinch hit for Choo Choo Coleman. Thomas singled & Casey Stengel had "Hot Rod" Kanehl pinch run for him. The next batter Ron Hunt then drew a walk & Taylor was replaced on the mound by Diomedes Olivo.

The Mets batter was Duke Snider. Snider a Brooklyn Dodger legend, was near the end of his 18 year Hall of Fame career. He was brought to the Mets as a nostalgia player, hoping to draw some of his old National League New York fans.

In a short team history, as the Mets were only in their second season, and few highlights, Snider provided the Polo Grounds fans with a huge thrill on this day. Olivo pitched to Snider & the Duke blasted a three run walk off HR, providing the Mets with the game winner. 

The Polo Grounds crowd & the Mets team went wild. As Duke was hero for the Day.

Trivia: Also on this same day, Mets Scout Roy Partee signed short stop Bud Harrelson.

Friday June 14th, 1963: A week later, at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, the Mets (24-38) took on Fred Hutchinson's fifth place Reds (31-28).  The Mets Carl Willey up against the Reds, Bob Purkey. 

Starting Lineups

In the top  of the 1st inning Ron Hunt singled. Then former Brooklyn Dodger, future Hall of Famer Duke Snider reached a career milestone. The Duke blasted his 11th HR of the season, a career milestone # 400 of his great career HR. 

The 37 year old Snider, had hit more HRs than anyone in the 1950's. Duke spent just one season with the Mets (1963) hitting14 HRs driving in 45 runs playing in 129 games. 

He would finish his career the next year in San Francisco with the Giants. Overall Duke Snider hit 407 career HRs & is 53rd on the all time HR list.
The Mets would win the game 10-3 on that day in Cincinnati. Frank Thomas had four hits & drove in four runs. There were also RBI singles from Ron Hunt, Tim Harkness & Jimmy Piersall. Carl Willey would get the win putting his record at 5-5. He went seven innings, allowing two runs & seven hits. One run was scored by a rookie named Pete Rose.

Barry Lyons: 1988 N.L. Eastern Champion Mets Backup Catcher (1986-1990)

Barry Stephens Lyons was born June 3, 1960 in Biloxi, Mississippi. The six foot one, southern man was an All American catcher at Delta State, University. He was originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 1981, but did not sign. The next year Lyons was drafted by the New York Mets in the 15th round & this time he did sign.

In 1984 with the A ball Lynchburg Mets, Lyons batted .316 with 12 HRs & 87 RBIs winning the Carolina league MVP. His MLB career was set back in 1985 when the Mets acquired All Star, Gary Carter. Lyons near future was to be the Hall of Famer Carter’s back up catcher.

That season Lyons continued to hit well at AA Jackson, driving in 108 runs batting .307 with 11 HRs. The Mets minor league teams he played for all won championships at all three minor league levels.

Lyons started out on the Mets squad in April 1986, getting his MLB debut on April19th at catcher, as Gary Carter was inserted in the left field spot. Lyons went 0-3 but drove in a run with a sac fly in the Mets 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. But after going hitless in nine games, he was sent down to AAA Tidewater, losing his backup job to Ed Hearn.

Originally after the Mets had won the 1986 World Series; Lyons, Terry Leach, Dave Magadan and Randy Myers were not set to get World Series rings. But Randy Myers campaigned to have rings made for them all, with the Mets permission it happened.

Just before the 1987 season began, Lyons got a chance to play when Ed Hearn was traded to the Kansas City Royals for pitcher David Cone. Lyons officially now became Gary Carters back up for the next two seasons until Mackey Sasser arrived on the scene. 

On April 26th, he hit his first career HR a pinch hit shot in a 7-4 Mets loss. Lyons had a three hit game against the Pittsburgh Pirates onon June 7th in the second game of a double header.

In July he had a five game hit streak, while driving in three runs. On July 22nd, he helped spark a Mets come back win against the Pirates, when he singled to tie up the game & then later scored the winning run on a Lee Mazzilli pinch hit single. 

On August 20, 1987, Lyons had one of his biggest moments as he hit a game winning grand slam, off the San Francisco Giants Kelly Downs at Shea Stadium. "We were 2 1/2 games out after that game," Lyons said. "I felt I helped the team."

Overall in 1987 he played in 53 games, batting .254 with 4 HRs 4 doubles & 24 RBIs. Behind the plate he threw out 22% of would be base stealers while posting a .984 fielding % in 49 games. The next year he played in 50 games (32 at catcher) batting .231 sharing back up duties with Mackey Sasser. 

In 1989, Gary Carter missed ten weeks of action, giving Lyons a chance to start. Unfortunately he injured his foot and missed most of the month of July himself. In May he hit HRs in back to back games & got his average up over the .320 mark for a brief time. On June 7th he had a pair of hits with three RBIs at Wrigley Field in a 10-5 Mets win.

Upon returning from his injury, he drove in five runs over his first seven games back. In September another hot streak had him drive in five runs over a four game stretch. That season he put up career highs in RBIs (27) games played (79) & at bats (235) but only hit .247. Behind the plate he threw out a career best 27% of base stealers & posted a .980 fielding percentage.

By 1990 Carter was at the end of his career & got released. This led to Lyons and Sasser battling for the vacant catcher’s job. Lyons was the opening day catcher & hit a HR in the Mets 12-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

He was better defensively, but he hit only .238 and was sent back to AAA Tidewater where he hit only .171. He was released in early September, and got picked up by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He spent the next three seasons in the minors, and then had one last hurrah with the Chicago White Sox in 1995. That year he had career highs in average (.266) & HRs (5) playing in just 27 games. He also had a six-game hitting streak and a four RBI game with the Sox. At the end of the season he retired at age 35. 

In his seven year career Lyons batted .239 with 150 hits 26 doubles 5 HRs 16 RBIs & a .304 on base %. At catcher he threw out 23% of would be base stealers with a .981 fielding % in 207 games.

Retirement: After baseball he became a minor league manager, a broadcaster and ran a baseball academy. 

In 2002, Lyons was involved in bringing pro baseball back to his hometown of Biloxi becoming the GM for the amateur Biloxi Breeze. 

In 2014 he brought pro baseball back home, with the AA Biloxi Shuckers, an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Drama: During Hurrican Katrina his home was destroyed &he lost all his possessions, including his 1986 World Series ring. Luckily his family all managed to survive as they rode out the storm.