Jul 14, 2018

1969 World Series MVP: Donn Clendenon (Part Two): The Mets Years (1969-1971)

As soon as he arrived in New York Donn Clendennon would make a difference, giving the club a true power hitter & RBI man. Clendenon gave the Mets power against lefties and more strength off the bench.

Although a top player, he was used in a strict platoon at first base with Ed Kranepool. Manager Gil Hodges swore by playing the percentages, alternating many of his teams top positions.

Clendenon made his Mets debut on June 17th at Philadelphia, in a 7-3 loss to the Phillies. That day he got his first Mets hit as well. On June 22nd, he drove in a run in his first game at Shea Stadium, it came in the first of a twin bill sweep against the St. Louis Cardinals. On June 29th against his old Pirates team mates, he drove in three runs, helping Tom Seaver to a 7-3 victory.

At the start of July he went on a tear in the first week with ten hits & 11 RBIs, including five straight games of driving in at least one run. He hit his first Mets HR on July 6th, a three run shot in Pittsburgh against his old Pirates team mates. He drove in four runs that day, leading the Mets in a close 8-7 win. He drove in two runs or more in four games that week, as the Mets went on a six game win streak. On August 5th, he hit a three run HR off the Reds Gerry Arrigo, in a 10-1 Nolan Ryan complete game victory.

At the end of August through the first week of September, he hit five HRs driving in nine runs over a seven game stretch. It began on August 26th, as he hit a two run HR in San Diego, in a 8-4 win over the Padres.

On August 30th he hit a top of the tenth inning HR, off the Giants Gaylord Perry, helping the Mets beat the Giants 3-2. By this point the Mets were closing in on the Chicago Cubs five games back of first place.

On that same road trip, at Los Angeles, he hit two HRs off Don Sutton, on September 2nd at Dodger Stadium, leading the Mets to a 5-4 win. The next day he hit a two run HR off the Dodgers; Claude Osteen as well. On September 9th Tom Seaver pitched a five hit, one run victory against Fergie Jenkins & the Chicago Cubs, bringing the Mets within a half game of first place. Clendenon lead the offense, with a two run HR off Jenkins in the third inning.

Mets Clinch NL East: On September 24th, Clendenon hit a three run HR off the Cards; Steve Carlton in the first inning in front of a wild capacity crowd at Shea Stadium.

In the 5th inning, Clendenon added a solo HR off pitcher; Dave Giusti. He drove in four of the six Mets runs, in a 6-0 Gary Gentry shutout, on the night the Mets clinched the NL East title, against the reigning NL champion; St. Louis Cardinals.

Two days later he hit another HR while driving in two more runs, leading the first place Mets to a 5-0 win over the Phillies. Overall for the 1969 Amazing Mets, Clendenon would hit .252 with 51 hits, 12 HRs, five doubles 31 runs scored, 37 RBIs & a .321 on base %, in 72 games (202 at bats. Defensively he posted a .985 fielding % in 82 games.

Post Season: Clendenon saved his best hitting for the 1969 postseason. Amazingly enough, Donn did not play in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves because of Gil Hodges strict platoon system. Hodges went with the left handed hitting Ed Kranepool against the Braves right handed pitching.

Clendenon started out the World Series with two hits in the Game #1 loss to the Orioles in Baltimore, a double & a single. In Game #2 he hit a solo HR off Dave McNally, for the Mets first Series run helping them & Jerry Koosman to the 2-1 victory. He did not play in the third game at Shea Stadium, as Kranepool got the start.

In Game #4 at Shea Stadium, he hit a HR leading off the bottom of the 2nd inning off Mike Cueller. That was the only run the Mets scored until the tenth inning, when they won it on J.C. Martins bunt single. Tom Seaver pitched ten innings allowing just one run, earning his only World Series victory.

In the 6th inning of Game #5, the Mets were down 3-0. Manager Gil Hodges argued that Cleon Jones was hit by a pitch showing the umpire shoe polish on the baseball.

After Jones was awarded first base, the Mets rally began. Clendenon blasted a HR off pitcher Dave McNally, once again. This time the HR brought the Mets right back in the game & got the sell out crowd going wild as they began to feel the Miracle was in reach.

The Mets tied the game in the next inning as Al Weis hit a HR, then went ahead on a Ron Swoboda double in the 8th, as well as an Orioles error leading to another run. The Mets won the game & made history for all underdogs winning the World Series.

Donn Clendenon was voted the Series MVP, Setting a record with three HRs in a five game series. Overall he hit .357 with 3 HRs, a double, two walks, and four RBIs.

Looking back, his professional veteran presence on the club, made a huge impression on his team mates;

Tug McGraw said "Don was probably the key to our whole season.”

Wayne Garrett said he was the last ingredient the team needed, & Art Shamsky called him the catalyst.

Bud Harrelson said :"When we got him, we became a different team. We never had a three-run homer type of guy. He was always humble, never cocky. We were still young kids in that era. He was a veteran that came in and made us better. When you threw him into the mix with the rest of us, we became a dangerous force. He was the MVP, a very dangerous player."

Quotes: After winning the 1969 World Series MVP Award, Clendenon's said: "there is no most valuable player on this team - we've got lots of them."

It was just spectacular to see these young kids mold themselves into winning combinations, those kids did not believe they could lose.''

On Opening Day 1970, Clendenon came to bat as a pinch hitter in the top of the 11th inning at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. He singled driving home Ron Swoboda & Mike Jorgenson for the two winning runs. On April 19th he had a big day, driving in four runs including hitting a three run HR in big 10-2 Mets win over the Phillies at Shea Stadium. In 14 games in the month of April he drove in eleven runs & hit three HRs.

On May 1st he drove in both runs in a 2-0 Mets win in San Diego helping Tom Seaver to get to 5-0. On June 22nd he hit a three run HR in the top of the 8th inning off the Cubs Hank Aguirre leading the Mets to an 8-5 win at Wrigley Field. Later that week he hit another three run HR in Montreal.

Starting July 2nd he drove in at least one run for seven straight games, with a total of nine overall in that week. On July 3rd he came to bat in the top of the 9th inning with two men on in a 2-2 tie in Philadelphia. He singled to left field driving in Ken Boswell & Ken Singleton with what would be the game winning runs. He closed out the series with a 7th inning RBI sac fly to help Jerry Koosman to a 5-4 win.

On July 18th his single in the top of the 9th inning, tied up a game in Los Angles & put the eventual winning run on third base. Cleon Jones drove in that run as the Mets went on to a 4-3 win.

On July 28th he set a Mets record that stood for 38 years, driving in seven runs in a single game. In that game in front of 50,000 fans, against the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium, he hit a pair of three run HRs off pitcher Rich Robertson. He also had had a first inning sac fly driving in another run in the Mets 12-2 win.

The next day he hit a two run HR in a Mets losing effort. That July he had 19 RBIs and was batting .320 by the end of the month. As the Mets were in another tight pennant race, Clendenon was the teams main run producer in the months of August & September. In August he had ten multiple RBI games in the month & from August 23rd to the end of the month, he drove in 16 runs.

In a game against Atlanta on August 25th he drove in five runs, gathering three hits along with a two run HR. He went into September with RBIs in five straight games, four multi RBI games.

In September Clendenon had another big month, driving in 22 runs on the month. He drove in runs in 15 of 28 games. On September 23rd he hit a two run HR off former Met; Dick Selma in the top of the 8th inning in Philadelphia, leading to the 5-4 Met win. T

he Mets had a good follow up season to their World Championship but fell short, finishing in third place six games in back of the Pittsburgh Pirates. That season he set a Mets season record for RBIs driving in 97 runs, a record which stood until 1975 when Rusty Staub drove in 105 runs.

Overall in 1970 he hit .288 with 22 HRs 18 doubles 65 runs scored & three triples posting a .348 on base percentage. His seven sac flies were 5th most in the league & he even received votes for the MVP Award.

In 1971 Donn was 35 years old & his production began to drop off. On Opening Day he had two hits & drove in the Mets first run of the season in the 1st inning, leading to a 4-2 win. In his next two games he had three hits in each game then on April 16th he drove in the only run of the game with a solo HR to beat the Pirates at Shea Stadium. On May 16th he hit two HRs in a game against the Atlanta Braves .

On June 19th he hit a walk off HR against Bill Wilson in the 15th inning of a game against the Phillies. On August 28th he had a four RBI day in a 9-2 Mets win, in the first of a twin bill at Shea against the Los Angeles Dodgers. On September 23rd he hit his last career Mets HR, it came off veteran Juan Pizzaro in a 5-4 Nolan Ryan Mets win at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

On the 1971 season the Mets finished third again, 14 games behind the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. Clendenon only batted .247 with 11 HRs 10 doubles and 37 RBIs playing in just 88 games.

The Mets had Ed Kranepool having a great year, there was another young first baseman named Mike Jorgenson & a young outfielder/ first baseman slugger named John Milner also waiting in the wings. The 1969 World Series MVP Clendenon was released that October. He played his final season for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972 but hit just .191 in 136 at-bats.

In his 12-season career, Clendenon played in 1362 games, with 1273 hits, batting .274 with 159 HRs, 192 doubles 57 triples, 574 runs scored, a .328 on base % & 682 RBIs.

In 1200 games at first base he posted a .988 fielding % , turning 1136 double plays while making just 146 errors in 11878 chances.

Retirement: After baseball Clendenon earned a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University in 1975. He became a business man, serving five years as CEO of Western International Contractors, and several stints as an attorney with law firms.

In the mid-1980s he was enjoying his wealth but became addicted to cocaine. "I was 49 turning 50; and doing cocaine was kind of like a birthday present for me," he said "I was hooked immediately."

He was arrested for possession in 1988 & forced to resign from the law firm. He sought treatment in Utah, and was diagnosed with leukemia, the same disease that killed his father. He kicked his drug habit and moved away from the big city, "I had to go to a place where I could change my environment, and everything else." He said.

In 1987 he moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a small city that he grew to love. "It is a spiritual community.

People are friendly. It had a low crime rate and has a great school system for my daughter. I can be left alone to pursue my vocation outside of athletics."

Clendenon soon became a certified drug counselor and returned to law in the firm of Clendenon, Henney & Hoy. He also supported numerous local charities and was known for bringing some of his baseball friends to promote events in little Sioux Falls.

Clendenon faced his leukemia bravely, "I will die from it or a side effect of it. It's going to eventually take me, I know. But I keep fighting."

Clendenon's fight ended on September 17, 2005, at age 70. He will live forever in the hearts of Mets fans & go down as a 1969 Amazing Mets World Series MVP & hero.

1969 World Series MVP: Donn Clendenon (Part One)

Donn Alvin Clendenon was born July 15, 1935 in Neosho, Missouri. His father died when he was six months old, and his mother remarried former Negro League catcher-Nish Williams. They then moved to the Atlanta Georgia area where he spent most of his time growing up.

Donn Clendenon was a star athlete growing up not only in baseball but basketball & football as well. He actually preferred playing the other sports over baseball. His step father, Nish Williams influenced young Donn to play baseball, and coached most of the early teams he played on.

Clendenon would get the chance to meet & get pointers from some of his step dads famous baseball friends. This included MLB Players like Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson & Negro League stars like Sad Sam Jones & the legendary Satchel Paige among the many.

Later in 1970 he received a congratulatory phone call from an aging Cool Papa Bell who tearfully apologized for missing Nish Williams funeral two years prior.

In high school he finished second in his class & was set to attend UCLA in California. Instead he chose to go to Morehouse College which was closer to his home.

There he earned 12 letters in sports & graduated with good grades. On top of that in the schools tradition of having Big Brother mentors, Clendenon had his own, non other than Martin Luther King Jr. King was a huge influence to Clendenon as one would imagine. He formed a close relationship with King, a Morehouse graduate and his family as well.

Clendenon started out working as a fourth grade school teacher in Atlanta, but soon the offers came rolling in. He received invitations from the NFL Cleveland Browns, the NBA New York Knicks and the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.

In 1957 he ended up accepting a contract for less money with the legendary Branch Rickey to play baseball in Pittsburgh with the Pirates. The six foot four Clendenon put up some big hitting numbers in the minors by 1959 batting .356 with 30 HRs. In 1960 he hit .335 at A ball Savannah then .290 at AAA Columbus the next season.

Clendenon made his MLB debut with Pittsburgh on September 22nd 1961, playing left field in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies. He got his first career hit the next day & went 11-35 in nine games that September. He would play in 80 games the next year, eventually taking over the first base job held by future Met "Dr. Strange Glove" Dick Stuart. Stuart was a slugger but a terrible fielder. 

Clendenon hit seven HRs with 8 doubles 5 triples a .376 on base % 38 RBIs & a .302 average, coming in runner up to Ken Hubbs for the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He proved he could hit & remained in Pittsburgh for eight seasons as a good RBI man but was overshadowed by All Stars Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente.

In 1963 he hit .275 with 15 HRs leading the NL in strikeouts (136). Clendenon would strike out over 100 times six times & lead the league again in that category in 1968.

Clendenon took a job in the off season as many player did in those days. The educated Clendenon worked for Pittsburgh's giant Mellon Bank, which also led to jobs at the District Attorney's Office & US Steel.

He went off to get a law degree as he was accepted at both Harvard & Boston University. He attempted to commute to Boston but it didn't work out & he enrolled at Pittsburgh's Duquesne University.

Clendenon had heard Jackie Robinson tell him stories of how good at fielding & disipline his former team mate in Brooklyn, Gil Hodges was. In Spring Training of 1964, Clendenon sought out Hodges who was managing the Washington Senators, when their paths crossed in Florida for some pointers. Defensively Donn eventually posted good fielding percentages, and led the league three times in put outs, assists & errors at first base.

Clendenon with Pirates Manager Danny Murtaugh
By 1965 he was becoming one of the leagues better hitters, batting .301 (10TH in the league) with 32 doubles, 14 triples (2nd in the NL) & 96 RBIs (9th in the NL). 

In 1966 he hit .299 with 28 HRs, 10 triples (4th in the league) & 98 RBIs (8th in the league). The Pirates had 90 or more wins three times in his stay there but never made the post season. They earned the nickname "The Lumber Company" but lacked any depth in pitching. His numbers dropped a bit as he missed some thirty games in 1967, he fell to a .249 average.

1968 was a stressful year for Clendenon, first he lost his step father to colon cancer, then later in the year his mentor Martin Luther King was shot & killed. Clendenon dropped out of law school to be with his family in Atlanta. He had gotten married & had children as well.

The Pirates were also in turmoil , as the players threatened an all out mutiny with their manager Harry the Hat Walker. He was fired at the end of August & replaced with Danny Murtaugh. Clendenon also served as the teams Player Rep. & was very involved with other team reps. as a work stoppage was threatened for 1969.

As for Clendenon, he led the NL in strikeouts for the second time, but drove in 87 runs with 17 HRs 20 doubles 6 triples & a .257 average. The Pirates had a young star in Al Oliver waiting in the wings & as Clendenon's hitting fell off he was left unprotected, & got selected by the Montreal Expos in 1968 Expansion Draft. He was very quickly traded to the Houston Astros along with Jesus Alou in exchange for Rusty Staub.

But Clendenon wasn't happy about going to Houston, mainly because the new Astros manager was Harry Walker, whom he had not got along with in their Pittsburgh days. Instead of going to play in Houston he announced his retirement.

Quotes: “I decided I didn't want to play with the Astros, so I retired. I didn't like their management. I had very little respect for them. The trade was to stand & then all hell broke loose.''

New Commissioner Bowie Kuhn stepped in and told the teams to work something out. Mostly due to the fact, that the new MLB franchise in Montreal, the Expos, had promoted Rusty Staub as the face of their new organization.

In the end, The Expos sent Jack Billingham and Skip Guinn to Houston and Clendenon would indeed play for the Expos. He arrived almost two weeks into the season, & after missing Spring Training, he was out of shape. In 38 games in Montreal he hit .240, with 4 HRs & 14 RBIs.

On the June 15th trade dead line, Clendenon was traded to the New York Mets for Kevin Collins, Steve Renko & two minor leaguers.

Tom Seaver remembers his wife spotted Clendenon in the hotel lobby when he joined the team. Nancy Seaver said; "I know who you are". "Donn was wearing an island shirt and a vest, he turned to her and suavely kissed her hand. Nancy thought he was charming; he knew she was my wife and put on a little show. "It's great to be a Met" he said.”

Manager Gil Hodges told Clendenon that he & the team had tried to get him in the off season. He also told him that at first he was to platoon at first base with Ed Kranepool, but that his role would be expanded.

Donn knew as a 34 year old on a young team he was to lead by example. He also knew he had to lighten the mood when the pressure was on, he became one of the teams biggest practical jokers as well.

Jul 13, 2018

2000 N.L. Champion Mets Third Baseman: Robin Ventura (1999-2001)

Robin Mark Ventura was born July 14, 1967 in Santa Maria, California. The six foot one left hand hitting Ventura, was a star ballplayer at his high School in Santa Maria.

He then attended Oklahoma State University where he led the division twice in RBIs & had a 58 game hitting streak. Ventura also led his team to a National Championship game, although they lost to Stanford University.

In 1988 he was the U.S Olympics team’s third baseman, in Seoul Korea batting .409 while winning a Silver Medal. He starred in the 1988 World Cup as well, winning the Golden Spikes Award & getting named the best amateur player in the country.

Later in 1988 he was the Chicago White Sox first round draft pick (the tenth pick overall). He spent just one season in the minors, batting .278 at AAA Birmingham in 129 games, getting to the big leagues that September.

He made the 1990 Topps All Star Rookie team, although he only hit .249 with 124 hits 5 HRs 17 doubles & 54 RBIs . The next season he adjusted well to the majors hitting 23 HRs driving in 100 runs & scoring 92 runs, while batting .284. Over his ten seasons in Chicago, Ventura hit 20 or more HRs five times, drove in 90 plus runs six times, drive in over 100 twice, hit 30 plus doubles three times & 20 or more doubles six times. He batted over .280 five times,

Defensively he was one of the league’s best third baseman, winning five Gold Gloves and leading the league in put outs & assists three times each.

In 1993 the White Sox won the N.L. Western Title, as Ventura .262 with hit 22 HRs with 27 doubles 94 RBIs 101 walks posting a .379 on base & while scoring 85 runs.

Drama: That season during a game in Texas, he was hit in the ribs by a fast ball from Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. Ventura charged the mound, but was stopped getting caught in a head lock by the 45 year old Ryan. Ventura took at least six good blows to the head from Ryan as well.

Catcher Ivan Rodriguez broke up the brawl, and Ventura was ejected from the game, taking a two game suspension. He was highly criticized for going after the popular Nolan Ryan, and was forever booed in the state of Texas.

In the 1993 post season he struggled, only batting .200 against Toronto pitching. In 1994 injuries slowed him up, but when he returned he hit well, finishing up batting .282 with 18 HRs & 78 RBIs in just 109 games.

The next two years were maybe his best overall in Chicago; batting .295 with a .384 on base % in 1995, followed career highs in HRs (34) & runs scored (95) in 1996 with 31 doubles & 105 RBIs. 

In 1997 the Sox were heavily favored to win their division, but Ventura broke his ankle in Spring Training and his loss was a big blow to the team. It was feared he’d miss the season but he did return in late July. On the night he returned he got the game winning hit & the next night he hit his first HR of the year. In just 54 games he hit 6 HRs with 26 RBIs & a .262 average.

In 1999 he was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent and enjoyed his best season, playing in all but one game on the year.

Ventura debuted with the Mets playing 3rd base & batting sixth, on Opening Day 1999 in a 6-2 loss at Florida to the Marlins. In the second inning he hit a sac fly driving in his first career Mets run. He started off the year with a ten game hit streak & drove in eleven runs during that streak. In his first month he drove in twenty runs, hit four HRs and was batting .300.

On May 12th in Colorado he drove in three runs, then as the team went to Philadelpia he hit HRs in the next two games, all leading to Mets victories. On May 12t he drove in three runs in a 10-5 Mets win at Colorado & then hit HRs in back to back games at Philadelphia.

On May 20th in a double header against the Milwaukee Brewers at Shea Stadium, Ventura went into the record books. He became the first player to ever hit grand slams in both ends of a double header.

The first blast came in the first inning of the first game against Jim Abbot. The game was a wild 11-10 Mets win that ended with Milwaukee's Alex Ochoa getting thrown out at home plate by Roger Cedeno.

In that game Mike Piazza & Benny Agbayani also hit HRs. The second grand slam came in the night cap off pitcher Horatio Estrada. It came in the 4th inning, a long shot hugging the right field foul pole, in the Mets 10-1 twin bill sweep.

On May 23rd he started a Mets come from behind win, against Curt Shilling & the Phillies down 4-0 in the bottom of the 9th. Ventura hit a two run HR, getting the comeback started.

They went on to a 5-4 win on John Olerud's RBI base hit. On June 9th with two on & two out in the bottom f the 9th inning & the Mets trailing the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0, Ventura delivered with a single bringing in two runs. the Mets won it in extra innings.

In the summer he had two separate games where he drove in six runs & hit a pair of HRs. On June 28th Ventura went to Florida, hitting two HRs while driving in six runs in the 10-4 Mets win over the Marlins. The first off of Vic Darensboug with two on in the 4th inning & the seond off Brian Meadows in the 5th, with two more on.

On July 31st when the Mets went to Wrigley Field, he hit two, two run HRs off Jon Lieber in a wild 17-10 Mets loss. At the end of July, Ventura drove in runs in ten of the last 13 games, with 22 RBIs on the month.

He went into August hitting safely in 28 of 32 games as well. On an early August Mets road trip to Milwaukee, Ventura homered in three straight games, driving in a total of six runs. On August 15th, he hit a 5th inning grand slam off the San Francisco Giants Livan Hernandez, in the Mets 12-5 win at Candlestick Park.

Three games later he hit a three run HR in a 9-1 win at San Diego. On the month he drove in another twenty runs, keeping his average up over .300. As the Mets entered September chasing the Wild Card title, Ventura started out the month with a three hit four RBI day in Houston on September 1st. He drove in runs in the next three games against Colorado as the Mets took two of three. On October 1st he singled off Pittsburgh's Scott Sauerbeck for a walk off game winning RBI, keeping the Mets within one game of the Wild Card leading Cincinnati Reds.

The Mets & Reds ended up tied at the end of the season, forcing a one game Wild Card playoff. In the Mets 5-0 win that day, Ventura had a 3rd inning RBI single off Denny Neagle, giving the Mets a 3-0 lead. In the final four games of the year he hit safely in all of them, while driving in four runs.

At the plate Ventura drove in 120 runs (8th in the NL), hit 32 HRs with 38 doubles, a .379 on base %, while batting a career high .301. He also drew 74 walks, ten intentional walks (10th in the NL), and came in 6th place in the MVP voting. He provided a lot of power batting next to Mike Piazza & Edgardo Alfonzo in the Mets powerful line up, which carried them within one game of the World Series.

Defensively, he won another gold glove, making only nine errors in 452 chances, posting a .980 fielding % (second in the NL). He led the league's third baseman in assists (320) games played at third (160) & was second in put outs.

He was part of what Sports Illustrated called " one of baseball’s best defensive infields ever assembled" along with Rey Ordonez at short, Edgardo Alfonzo at second & John Olerud at first. The infielders made the cover of SI with that head line story during the regular season.

In the clubhouse Ventura proved to be a team leader, inspiring the club with the Doors song “L.A. Woman”. He took the term ‘Mojo Rising” from the song, and made it the Mets rally cry for the stretch run. (Music Trivia: Mojo Rising was actually Jim Morrison’s name jumbled around.)

The Mets tied for the wild card with Cincinnati that season &forced a one game playoff. The game was played in Cincinnati against the Reds, Ventura had one hit and drew two walks. One of those walks came with the bases loaded as the Mets went on to a 5-0 victory advancing to the post season.

Post Season: In the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Ventura only hit .214 (3-22) with one RBI. His moment of glory came in the NLCS against the rival Atlanta Braves.

The Mets were down three games to one, facing elimination as they battled in the bottom of the 15th inning in Game #5 at Shea Stadium. The Mets had just tied the game as Todd Pratt drew a bases loaded walk & Ventura came to bat.

The rain was falling hard & Ventura blasted a shot over the right field wall off Braves pitcher Kevin McGlinchy.

Roger Cedeno ran home & touched the plate with the winning run. As Ventura was rounding the bases, Todd Pratt got so excited getting caught up in the moment, he did not even realize it was HR. He ran over to celebrate, jumping up & down embracing Ventura. Since he failed to round the bases, Ventura was only credited with an RBI single. It became known as the “Grand Slam single”.

Overall he had just three hits in the NLCS (3-25) batting just .120. In the off season he needed knee surgery & as the 2000 season began Ventura was still recovering. Post surgery knee problems began affecting his swing.

He started the year going hitless in the two game series in Japan, against the Chicago Cubs. After a slow start, he got things going during a road trip to Pittsburgh. On April 14th, he hit his first HR of the season, it came off Jason Schmidt in an 8-5 Mets win over the Pirates. Two days later he had another six RBI day, collecting three hits & two run HR off Kris Benson, leading the Mets to a 12-9 win. Two days later when the Mets returned home, he hit a grand slam HR against Jamie Navarro & the Milwaukee Brewers, leading to a 10-7 win.

He closed out the month driving in runs in five straight games. He didn’t hit for a high average but continued to drive in runs on a constant basis. On May 21st, he tied up a game in the 8th inning at Shea with a HR off the Diamondbacks Mike Morgan. The Mets went on to beat Arizona 7-6. At the end of the month, he drove in three runs in back to back games in a series at St. Louis. In June he drove in another seven runs on a mid month road trip, including a two run HR in the regular season subway series match up, across town.

He went to Chicago & drove in two runs on June 13th & then hit a solo HR the next day in a 10-8 Mets win. This was in the midst of an eleven game hit streak, as he returned to Shea, Ventura drove in nine runs on a long Mets home stand. He struggled in July with shoulder problems causing him to miss two weeks of action. He only drove in one run that month but returned in August to hit three HRs the first week on road trips to Houston & Arizona.

He drove in 13 runs in the first two weeks of the month. On August 10th in Houston, he had a four RBI day, with a pair of doubles, in a 10-3 win over the Astros. On September 14th he hit one of three Mets HRs in a 10-5 win, his was a three run shot off Sean Spencer in Montreal. On September 29th, when the Expos came to Shea, he hit another HR driving in three more runs in a 11-2 win.

On the season his average fell off to .232 but that was mostly because of the injuries. He hit 24 HRs, with 23 doubles 109 hits 75 walks a .338 on base % & 84 RBIs.

At third base he posted a .954 fielding % (5th in the NL), while turning 27 double plays (third most in the league). His 17 errors as well as his put outs & assists were all fourth in the league.

Post Season: In the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants, he only had two hits (2-14) & drew a pair of walks. In Game #4 at Shea Stadium, he blasted a first inning, two run HR off Mark Gardner. That was the night when Bobby Jones threw his spectacular one hit shutout, as the Mets advanced to their second straight NLCS. 

In the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, Ventura only batted .214 with just three hits (3-14) but he did drive in five runs. In Game #4 at Shea Stadium, he hit a first inning double off Daryl Kile, driving in Edgardo Alfonzo & Mike Piazza, putting New York ahead 3-2. He later added a sac fly RBI in the 8th inning of the Mets 10-6 win.

In the 2000 Subway World Series, Ventura went hitless in Game #1 & went 1-4 in Game #2. In Game #3 he hit a HR to lead off the bottom of the second inning at Shea Stadium. He later doubled, then walked in the Mets 4-2 victory. Ventura would go 3-20 in that World Series for a .150 average. Overall in the 2000 post season he had eight hits in 48 at bats, with two HRs two doubles six runs scored & eight RBIs.

In 2001 he began the year with two HRs while driving in four runs on Opening Day in Atlanta. He delivered with a two run blast off John Rocker in the 8th inning, breaking a 2-2 tie. In the 10th he broke another tie, with a game winning HR off Kelly Ligtenberg for a 6-4 win. On May 1st he hit another grand slam, this one at Shea Stadium off John Powell, helping the Mets to a 7-5 win over the Houston Astros. On May 27th, he had a four RBI day, leading the Mets to a 11-3 win over the Marlins. A nine game hit streak & a solid month got him over the .300 mark once again.

On June 14th, he hit a pair of HRs at Baltimore's Camden Yards, in the Mets 10-3 win over the Orioles. Four days later, he hit a solo HR off Mike Mussina, in the subway series, in a 2-1 Mets losing effort. Overall in June he hit eight HRs. On July 28th, he hit a walk off HR against the Phillies & former Met team mate Turk Wendell, giving New York a 4-3 win over the Phillies. In August he slumped as his average dropped to .228, he went on a five week HR drought, while driving in just four runs.

After the attacks of September 11th, he returned to hit a solo HR in the final game of the three game set in Pittsburgh in a 9-2 win. As baseball returned to New York, on September 21st, Ventura went hitless in the now famous; Mike Piazza 8th inning HR game against the Atlanta Braves.

The next night, he singled to put the Mets up 2-1 in the 4th inning, then added a solo HR in the 6th inning off Steve Reed. The Mets went on win that game as well 7-3, and come within 3.5 games of the Braves in first place. The Mets faded from the race as the month went on, Ventura ended the year hitting .237 with 21 HRs 20 doubles 61 RBIs & 88 walks posting a .359 on base %.

Ventura wasn’t hitting as the Mets had hoped, thinking that the 33 year old was winding down his career, they traded him to the AL New York club for David Justice in December 2001. 

In his Mets career Ventura had 394 hits with 77 HRs 81 doubles 265 RBIs and a .266 batting average in 444 games over three seasons. He has played at 436 games at third base, sixth on the Mets all time list.

After the Mets, with the A.L. New York club, he had a good season. He made the All Star team, hitting 27 HRs with 17 doubles 92 RBIs & a .247 average.

In 2003 he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and finished his career there in 2004. He hit two more career grand slams that season as well. On August 29th he his 17th career grand slam, it came off Kris Benson & the New York Mets in a 10-2 Dodger win at Shea Stadium.

Ventura finished a 16 year career, batting .262 lifetime with 1885 hits, 294 HRs, 18 grand slams (fourth on the All Time list), 344 doubles 1075 walks, 132 intentional walks (64th all time) a .362 on base % & 1182 RBIs (158th all time).

At third base he played 1887 games (17th all time) posting a .958 fielding percentage (73rd all time). He made 3552 assists (21st all time) 1471 put outs (38th all time) & committed 220 errors (73rd all time). In his career Ventura was a .340 hitter with the bases loaded.

Retirement: His ankle had never fully recovered from the 1997 break and he walked with a limp actually being forced to even use a cane for a bit after his playing days ended.

He underwent an ankle allograft and after rehab from the surgery is able to be pain free & walk fine. In 2005 he returned to the White Sox as a broadcaster for a handful of games.

In 2008 he returned to Shea Stadium for the closing ceremonies of the Stadium.

Manager: In 2012, although he had never held any other managerial position at any level, he was named manager of the Chicago White Sox. In his first season his team finished second to the Detroit Tigers going 85-77 (.525%). In 2013 his team struggled finishing fifth in the AL Central, under the .500 mark at 63-99 (.389%). In 2014 his Sox were under .500 once again (73-89) finishing up on fourth place in the AL Central. In 2015 the team was in last place in mid June.

Remembering Mets History: (2001) Robin Ventura Leads N.L. Champs Over Braves On Opening Day

The NL Champion Mets opened up 2001 with enthusiasm, at the home of their biggest rivals during this period, the Atlanta Braves.

42,117 came to Turner Field to see Bobby Valentines Mets take on Bobby Cox's Braves.

The Mets 2001 Opening Day line up:
Benny Agbayani LF
Edgardo Alfonzo 2B
Robin Ventura 3B
Mike Piazza C
Todd Zeile 1B
Jay Payton CF
Darryl Hamilton RF
Rey Ordonez SS
Al Leiter P

In the top of the 1st, Benny Agbayani walked & was thrown out at second. Edgardo Alfonzo doubled & then Robin Ventura struck out. Mike Piazza then hit his first HR of the year, coming off the Braves ace Tom Glavine. The Braves answered with a run on base hits by Rafael Furcal, Andru Jones & the Mets nemesis; Chipper Jones. Glavine put out the Mets in order in the next five innings, Leiter allowed just two hits himself going to the 7th inning. Then catcher; Javier Lopez tied the game with a solo HR.

In the top of the 8th, Glavine walked Agbayani, Tsuyoshi Shinjo came in to pinch run & John Rocker came in to relieve Glavine. Robin Ventura shut Rocker up, with a two run HR putting the Mets ahead 4-2.

But in the 8th John Franco came on & blew the lead. Dave Martinez singled and was brought in by Rafael Furcal's double. Franco then hit Quilvio Veras with a pitch, and Bobby Valentine replaced him with Turk Wendell. He recorded the next two batters but gave up a base hit to Brian Jordan, scoring Furcal with the tying run.

The game went to extra innings, with Dennis Cook on the mound for New York & Kerry Ligtenberg for Atlanta.

In the 10th, Robin Ventura hit his second HR of the day, a two run shot following Shinjo's base hit. It was the winning run, as Armando Benitez saved it in the 9th, Cook was the winner.

The Mets would finish up 82-80 in third place, six games behind the Braves. It was disappointing after they had made the playoffs the past two years.

Jul 12, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (1977) Shea Stadium During The '77 Black Out

July 13th 1977: The night began as 14,626 fans came out to Shea Stadium to see Joe Torre's last place Mets (34-53) take on a hot first place Chicago Cubs team (55-32) led by Herman Franks. 

This was almost a month to the day, since Tom Seaver had been traded away on the Midnight Massacre. It was the start of some very dark years for Mets fans. 

Starting Lineups

Two good pitchers took the mound on this night; Jerry Koosman for the Mets & Ray Burris for the Cubs. Burris would pitch for the Mets in 1979 & 1980. In the top of the 2nd, Steve Ontiveros hit a two run HR giving the Cubs an early lead.

But Koosman struck out three batters in the inning & did so again in the 4th. Overall Koosman had already notched eleven strikeouts after six innings of work. In the 5th, Mike Vail homered for New York making it a 2-1 game. 

It was in the bottom of the 6th inning, and Jerry Koosman grounded out for the first out. Next came up Lenny Randle, facing Ray Burris. At 930 PM, the lights went out at Shea Stadium & it went dark, Randle thought God had come to take him away. What actually was happening was the famous 1977 New York City Blackout. 

Shea had a backup generator that came on keeping the Stadium partially lit & the public address system going. The original thought was that the game would resume as soon as power was restored. 

The Mets entertained the fans by doing a comedy infield routine in the partially lit stadium. Some players signed autographs around the dugout & outfield box seat areas. Craig Swan & Joel Youngblood drove their cars onto the field with the their headlights on for lighting support. Long Time Mets organist; Jane Jarvis played White Christmas on a rather hot humid, July night. 

Shea Organist: Jane Jarvis
Eventually the game was suspended & was scheduled to continue the next night. The players showered in the dark locker rooms & left the Stadium. The Cubs were driven to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel where they had to walk up to their rooms with candles, as the elevators were not working. The fans left Shea Stadium, safely without any reported incidents. 

But the rest of New York suffered one of its worse public embarrassments, getting negative attention in the national media. Looters took to the streets, broke into stores, stealing & walking away with anything they could. Rather than working themselves, the losers of society, seized the moment to capitalize on the City's hardships. It was one of New York City's lowest moments in that era or any era. The power came back briefly the next day but went out again shortly after.

Mets Catcher John Stearns
lights candle at Shea Stadium

Shea Stadium Program From That Night
The game was resumed that September, when the Cubs came back to Shea. Koosman & Burris would both continue where they left off. The Mets would lose the game 4-2.

Over those next two days the Mets would play back to back double headers against the Cubs splitting both games in each series. 

Trivia: Jerry Koosman would lose twenty games that year, most in the league, posting a 3.49 ERA, as the Mets would finish last 64-98 . The year before Kooz had won twenty games for the first time in his career (21-10 with a 2.69 ERA).