Feb 7, 2016

2000 N.L. Champion Mets Back Up Catcher: Todd Pratt (1997-2001)

Todd Alan Pratt was born on February 9, 1967 in Bellevue, Nebraska. The six foot three 195 pound catcher attended high school in Chula Vista, California getting drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the sixth round of the 1985 draft. He played seven seasons in the minor leagues, never hitting well until he was traded to the Phillies organization. 

In 1992 he batted .327 overall in their minor leagues at the AA & AAA levels. Pratt was mostly a career second string backup catcher, first behind Darren Daulton in Philadelphia getting to a World Series losing to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993. In 33 regular season games he hit .287 with 5 HRs & 13 RBIs. He got one at bat going 0-1 in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. 

In 1994 he hit just .196 in 28 games then signed as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs where he spent one brief season (25 games). He then signed with the Seattle Mariners but was released at the end of Spring Training. Pratt was out of baseball & worked at Bucky Dents Baseball Academy in Delray Beach Florida in 1996. He caught a big break when he was signed by the New York Mets in 1997. 

He was sent right up to AAA Norfolk where he batted .300 with 9 HRs in 59 games getting called up to the Mets that summer. Pratt debuted as a Met at Shea Stadium on the 4th of July in a game against the Florida Marlins. In that game he homered in his first at bat off future Met battery mate, Al Leiter. 

Pratt got three hits that day, driving in another run while helping Rick Reed to a 6-2 victory. He would drive in runs in five of his first six games with the Mets earning a spot as a backup catcher Todd Hundley. On August 7th he had a two hit three RBI day against the Colorado Rockies at Shea Stadium. Pratt put up a solid .283 average in 39 games (106 at bats), with two HRs & 19 RBIs for the ’97 Mets. 

 In 1998 Pratt had alot of competition at the catcher position, with guys like Alberto Castillo, Jorge Fabregas & Tim Spehr all behind the plate at some time or another. Pratt was brought up on May 5th and in his first game hit a three run HR against the Arizona Diamondbacks helping New York to a 9-1 win. The next day he drove in three more runs with an eighth inning bases clearing triple in another Mets victory. Overall Pratt only caught 16 games that season but was also used at first base (three games) as well as a pinch hitter appearing in 41 games. He hit .275 with two HRs & 18 RBIs in 69 at bats & was far better than any of the other back up catchers. 

Defensively in both the 1997 & 1998 seasons Pratt had thrown out twenty of forty two (47%) of the base runners attempting to steal on him. That summer the Mets acquired Mike Piazza for the catching job & Pratt would be the future Hall of Famers backup for the next two years. 

In the 1999 Mets Wild Card winning season, Pratt saw action in 17 games right away in April. He hit three HRs that month including shots in back to back games at Cincinnati toward the end of the month. He kept his average up over .300 until mid May then slumped off. 

On July 1st he had a three hit day in Florida driving in three runs, with a walks as well against the Marlins in the Mets 12-8 win. When he got a chance to play ( 71 games) he contributed batting his Mets career best .293, with three HRs four doubles 15 walks & 21 RBIs posting a real good .369 on base %. Defensively he posted a fantastic .996 fielding % although his percentage of throwing out would be base stealers fell to just 27%. 

 Post Season: Pratt saw his finest career moments in the Mets 1999 Post Season. In the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he got the start behind the plate in both Games three & four for a hurting Mike Piazza. Pratt had drawn two walks in Game #3 and was 0-4 in Game #4, as he came to bat against Arizona’s Matt Mantei with one out in the tenth inning. 

Pratt drilled a long fly ball to the centerfield wall, as Arizona outfielder Steve Finley jumped up and reached over the fence but could not come up with the ball. Pratt had hit a walk off game winning HR over the Shea Stadium fence, his teammates & the Shea crowd of 56,000 plus went wild. The win Mets advanced them to the NLCS for the first time in 14 years. The HR ranks as one of the top moments in Mets history, and one of their most memorable game winners.

 In the NLCS it was Todd Pratt who was right in the middle of another classic Mets post season moment. He was on first base when Robin Ventura blasted his famous walk off grand slam single in e 15th inning Game #5 against the Atlanta Braves. Pratt was also the reason why Ventura's hit only counted a single, due to the fact he went over and embraced Ventura erasing the possibility of the hit being ruled a HR. The winning run had already scored of course so no damage was done in the decision of the game. 

Back in the Mets Game #1 loss, Pratt had a 9th inning pinch hit RBI single off one of baseball's most dumbest pitchers, John Rocker. In the top of the 10th inning of Game #6 Pratt stuck it to John Rocker again, driving in the go ahead run with a sacrifice fly scoring Benny Agbayani. The Mets went on to lose the Game & the Series in the bottom of the 11th inning when Kenny Rogers walked in the winning run. 

 In the Mets 2000 NL Pennant season, Pratt returned with another solid back up year to Mike Piazza. Pratt had his usual hot start hitting a three run HR in his first game, the Mets fifth game of the year, although they took a 8-5 loss to the Padres. He hit another HR on April 30th at Coors Field in the Mets 14-11 win and finished April batting .367. At the end of May he hit HRs in three straight games he played in, including a grand slam against the Dodgers Terry Adams. in Los Angeles on May 30th. 

At the start of June he hit another HR giving him four HR in his last five games, Pratt kept his average up over .300 through mid June. He closed out the year with a three hit, three RBI day against the Braves at Shea on September 28th. Pratt saw action during interleague play & when Piazza spent time on the DL. Behind the plate he was solid, making only one error in 71 games (.997 fielding %) throwing out 40% of would be base stealers. At the plate he hit a career high 8 HRs in 80 games, while batting .275 with six doubles & 25 RBIs. 

In the 2000 post season he went hitless appearing in just two games (0-3). He got five plate appearances in the World Series, catching behind the plate in Game #1 going hitless with a walk. 

In 2001 he began the year with the Mets but struggled, batting just .163 through late July. He hit a HR against the Phillies on July 20th, driving in the only Met run in a 10-1 loss. It would be his last game as a Met as he was traded to the Phillies for catcher Gary Bennett who would play one game as a Met on July 23rd. 

Pratt spent the next four seasons in Philadelphia, primarily as Mike Lieberthal's backup. He hit a career high .311 in 2002 with 11 doubles 3 HRs & 16 RBIs. In the winter of 2005 he signed with the Atlanta Braves for the 1996 season, which would be his las year as a player. 

In his 14 year playing career he played in 662 games batting 251 with 404 hits 49 HRs 84 doubles 208 walks 224 RBIs & a .344 on base %. Defensively he posted a .993 fielding %, throwing out 27% of base runners in 553 games behind the plate.

Remembering Mets History: 1999 NLDS Game #4: Todd Pratts Dramatic Walk Off HR Clinches Series

Saturday, October 9th 1999 NLDS Game #4- Shea Stadium, New York. It turned out to be a great finish, and one of the most remembered moments in more recent in Mets post season history. 56,000 plus, packed into Shea Stadium on a chilly Saturday afternoon, for the 3:30 PM start. There was excitement in air as a Mets win would advance them to the NLCS for the first time since 1988.

Mets manager; Bobby Valentine juggled 15 different players in his line up throughout the day, only managing to get eight hits out of their bats. His biggest bat, Mike Piazza was sidelined due to a sore thumb and back up Todd Pratt was inserted in the lineup.

Starting Lineups

Al Leiter  (13-12 / 4.13 ERA / 162 Ks) got the start against Brian Anderson (8-2 / 4.57 ERA). Leiter he was outstanding, allowing just two hits & a run in the first seven innings. The run was a solo HR to Greg Colbrunn. The Mets had scored their first run on an Edgardo Alfonzo solo HR in the 4th to tie the game.

In the home 6th, Rickey Henderson & John Olerud both singled. Then Benny Agbayani doubled bringing in Henderson to put the Mets ahead.

In the top of the 8th, Leiter got the first two outs but then walked Turner Ward & gave up a single to Tony Womack. Bobby Valentine removed Leiter, handing the ball over to Armando Benitez.
Benitez immediately gave up a double to Jay Bell, giving Arizona the a 3-2 lead.

But the Mets came right back in the home 8th. Edgardo Alfonzo walked, and John Olerud reached base on a Luis Gonzales error. Roger Cedeno then tied it up with a sac fly setting the stage for extra innings.

 Benitez got through the 9th & John Franco tossed a scoreless 10th inning. Arizona brought in Matt Mantei to pitch, & with one out, nobody on backup catcher Todd Pratt came to bat.

Pratt had been up twice in the game with runners in scoring position went hitless both times. But here he blasted a shot to deep centerfield; Steve Finley leaped to the top of the fence at the classic 410 marker on the Shea wall. He landed on the ground & for a moment no one knew if the catch was made or not. 

Pratt stopped half way around first base to pray & see if Finley had made the catch. But it was soon clear Finley came up empty & it was ruled a HR. The Shea Faithful & the Mets team went crazy as Pratt leaped in the air
getting mobbed at home plate by his team mates.

He became the just fourth MLB player in history to end a Post Season Series with a walk off HR. The Mets advanced to the 1999 NLCS & avoided a date in the desert facing Randy Johnson for Game #5.  Arizona manager Buck Schowalter was soon fired after the series.

Pratt became a Mets hero and will always be remembered for hitting one of the most memorable HRs in Mets history. Just when he thought his job as Mike Piazza’s back up was to be an unmemorable experience. Pratt had only hit three HRs all year, in 71 games. He had batted a solid .293 with 21 RBIs.

Former Mets General Manager / Assistant & Scouting Director: Joe McIlvane (1980-1989 / 1994-1997)

Joseph Peter McIlvane was born in 1947 in Narberth, Pennsylvania just outside of Philadelphia. McIlvane had two brothers, one became a lawyer & the other an Opera singer, but for Joe it was always baseball.

The six foot five, Mcilvane started out his young career as a right handed pitcher. McIlvane was raised a strict Irish Catholic, & the only school that showed interest in him as a ball player was St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia. His parents were delighted, as he studied to be a priest then played baseball all summer.

In 1969 he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers & had to decide on baseball or the priesthood. It was a tough decision but he chose baseball; McIlvaine told the L.A. Times: "I think people have the perception that angels come down and sit on your shoulder and say, 'You're going to be a priest, It doesn't work that way. As hard as I tried, I think I told myself I wasn't giving this 100%. You have to be honest with yourself. When you're dealing with higher powers . . . well, you don't cheat higher powers. It really takes a commitment. You have to be celibate. You're giving up marriage. You don't have children. I don't think I was committed to making those sacrifices."

He played minor league ball from 1969-1973 but no teams were showing any interest in furthering his career. It was then he sat down with his coach, Jim Leyland, to finally decide if he should call it quits as a pitcher. Although the decision was yes, he did not want to leave baseball. He sent out resume's and got a job as a scout for the Baltimore Orioles. In the 1970's he would scout for Baltimore, The California Angels & the Milwaukee Brewers.

In 1980 McIlvane got a job with the New York Mets new ownership, as the teams scouting director. He served in that position from 1981 to 1985 & then assistant GM to Frank Cashen from 1986-1990.

In those years McIlvaine helped the Mets acquire guys like; Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, Howard Johnson, Bobby Ojeda, Sid Fernandez, David Cone, Walt Terrell, and Kevin McReynolds in trades with other clubs. Those were good years for the Mets, topped by winning a World Championship in 1986. Young Joe McIlvane only 40 years old, future looked to be long & bright. He was told by ownership he would inherit Frank Cahens GM job after he retired & he was willing to wait.

But things were going wrong by 1989, the Mets had lost the 1988 NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers & had no other World Series or playoff appearances despite such a good team. When Lenny Dykstra & Roger McDowell were traded for Juan Samuel, the fans & the media let McIlvane have it. Even his nine year old son was being teased in school about his father's trade.

McIlvane said Mets Manager Davey Johnson was pushing the front office to trade Dykstra for a couple of years, seeing him as more trouble in a wild bunch of players. But it was McIlvane who took the heat, even Mets senior VP at the time; Al Harzin said the criticism he took was harsh. A GM job with the San Diego Padres was open & McIlvane went for the job, even though Frank Cashen had first denied him the opportunity to interview for it.

Mets owner; Fred Wilpon was furious at San Diego owner Tom Werner claiming he had stolen McIlvane from him, which Werner claims was not the case. McIlvane served as Padre GM from 1990-1993. In his time there he drafted players like; Todd Helton (who did not sign), Derek Lee, Gary Mathews Jr. & Matt Clement.

In 1994 the Mets organization still wanted McIlvane & they got him back as he took over Harzins position as the Mets General Manager. McIlvane would sign players like; Jay Payton, Paul Wilson, Terrence Long & AJ Burnett. He was responsible for signing free agents Rick Reed & Bret Butler. He was also responsible for trading away Vince Coleman to get back Kevin McReynolds. He also traded away Bobby Bonilla for Damon Buford, Alex Ochoa & Jimmy Williams. He traded Jeromy Burnitz for Dave Mlicki & Paul Byrd, as well as trades sending away players like; Fernado Vina & Bret Saberhagen.

Under his reign, he acquired players like Pete Harnish, David Segui, Doug Henry & Bernard Gilkey. Some criticize him for drafting certain players but not being able to sign them. Examples Aaron Rowand, Scott Proctor, Matt LeCroy, Garrett Atkins & Jeremy Guthrie. 

 The Mets finished third under Dallas Green in the 1994 strike shortened season. In 1995 they finished second but only won 67 games while losing 75. In 1996 they fell to 71-91 a fourth place finish, That year they fired Dallas Green & hired Bobby Valentine. McIlvane held his position until July 1997 when he was fired. The Mets were above .500 & finished 88-74 their best record since the early nineties. Steve Phillips took over his position.

After New York, McIlvane went to the Minnesota Twins organization where he was special assistant to the GM from 1998-2012. There he enjoyed six post season appearances, advancing to the ALCS in 2002. Since 2013 he has served as the GM's assistant with the Seattle Mariners.

Feb 6, 2016

1986 World Champion Mets Outfielder: Nails- Lenny Dykstra (1985-1989)

Leonard Kyle Dykstra was born on February 10, 1963 in Santa Ana, California. The five foot eleven left hand hitting outfielder was signed by the New York Mets in the 13th round of the 1981 draft. 

 He rose quickly in the Mets system by 1983 he was the A ball, Carolina League MVP for the Lynchburg Mets, batting .358 with 105 stolen bases, 8 HRs & 81 RBIs. The next season at AA Jackson he hit .275 & after batting .310 in 58 games for the 1984 AAA Tidewater Tides he was called up to the Mets big league squad.

In the Mets minor leagues he became friend with fellow outfielder Bill Beane who later became the longtime GM of the Oakland A's. Beane later said "Lenny was perfectly designed, emotionally" to play baseball and that he had "no concept of failure." 

Dykstra debuted with the Mets at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati on May 3rd, 1985 batting leadoff & playing centerfield. After striking out in the 1st inning, he hit a two run HR off Mario Soto in his second career at bat. The Mets went on to a 9-5 win. He played part time & didn't get into the lineup steadily until July, when Mookie Wilson went down with injury. 

 Dykstra immediately made an impact with his scrappy style of hard nose play. He soon became known as Nails for his toughness as well as his nitty gritty style of play. In the outfield he dove for balls, on the base paths he slid head first into the bag.

It seemed he always had a dirty uniform & a cheek full of tobacco, which made him look like a real old time ballplayer. The fans soon fell in love and he became one of the most popular figures around Shea Stadium. Dykstra was a great leadoff hitter, able to slap the ball all over the field. He also showed power at times, hit a lot of doubles, drew walks and was a great base stealer. 

In the classic July 4th 1986 nineteen inning game in Atlanta, Dykstra hit a sac fly scoring Howard Johnson in the 18th inning, to put the Mets ahead. The Braves tied it again, but New York won it with a five run 19th inning.

In July he would score runs in 12 of 15 games during the first three weeks, adding six multi hit games in the month while stealing seven bases. He cooled off during the pennant race but he showed a lot of promise for the future.

In his rookie year the Mets won 98 games finishing second to the St. Louis Cardinals. Dykstra hit .254 with one HR nine doubles three triples 40 runs scored 19 RBIs & 15 stolen bases with a .338 on base % in 83 games played. 

In 1986 when Mookie Wilson got injured during Spring Training, Dykstra began the year as the Mets primary centerfielder. He was determined to prove how good he could play. Later when Wilson returned, the would share time in center field in Davey Johnson's platoon system. With Dykstra in the leadoff spot & the pesky Wally Backman batting second, the two became known as “Partners in Grime” & “The Wild Boys”. 
On Opening Day he drew two walks & scored two runs in the Mets 4-2 & Dwight Gooden's win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. On April 12th, he had a four hit day at Philadelphia, driving in two runs, stealing a base & scoring a run in a 9-8 Mets loss. He closed out the month batting .327 and already had stolen eight bases. In May his average dropped to .268 but he contributed by scoring twelve runs. 

 In June he raised his average forty six points to get back over the .300 mark. On June 2nd he cleared the bases with a bases loaded triple, in an 11-2 win over the San Diego Padres at Shea. On June 9th he had another four hit day, hitting a a pair of doubles to get over .300. In July he had two separate eight game hit steaks. On July 4th he helped Doc Gooden to a 2-1 win over the Astros at Shea Stadium, with a 7th inning tie breaking RBI single. 

Dykstra would score at least one run in seven straight games from July 7th through the 19th, for a total of 14 runs scored in that period. He had twelve hits, hitting HRs in Cincinnati, Houston & one at Shea. In that stretch he also drove in runs in six straight games & had 16 RBIs in the month. On the bases he also stole five more bases.

On August 6th he had another four hit day in a suspended game, against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The game was called on account of darkness & resumed the next day, as New York won 7-6. In the game scheduled for that day, he added three more hits in a 12-3 Mets win. On September 17th he had two hits, the night the Mets clinched their first Eastern Divisional title since 1973. 

 On a star studded power hitting team, Dykstra was the spark plug that got things going. Nails led the team with 31 stolen bases and seven triples (5th in the NL).

He hit .295 (9th best in the NL) with 27 doubles, five HRs, 45 RBIs & a .377 on base % (9th in the NL). He scored 77 runs, second on the club to Keith Hernandez (94) in 147 games played. In the outfield he posted a 990 fielding % (4th in the league) making eight assists with two double plays & making just three errors all season. 

 Post Season: With all his regular season heroics, Dykstra will forever be remembered for his walk off HR in Game #3 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium, against the Houston Astros. It is certainly one of the most dramatic & exciting moments in Mets history.

Dykstra had entered the game as a pinch hitter in the 7th inning and struck out against Houston's Bob Knepper. In the bottom of the 9th inning, the Mets were trailing 5-4, as Wally Backman led off with a bunt single. He was called safe on controversial slide into first base. 

Dykstra now came up to face Astros closer Dave Smith. Nails drilled the 0-1 pitch down the right field line & over the fence for the game winning walk off HR.

The Shea crowd went wild in one of the most dramatic Mets post season victories ever. 

Quotes: Dykstra was as shocked as anyone. "I wasn't thinking about going up there to hit a home run to win the ballgame", he said. "I was just thinking base hit. I saw the pitch real well and hit it real well. Don't get used to this. You're not going to see too many more game-winning home runs from me." 

Back in Game #2 at the Astrodome he had two hits, including a 5th inning single off Nolan Ryan. He would later scored on Keith Hernandez's triple in the Mets 5-1 win. 

In Games four & five he went hitless. In the the final Game #6 at Houston, it was Dykstra who led off the 9th inning as a pinch hitter with the Mets down 3-0. He hit a triple & scored the first run, on Mookie Wilsons base hit in the Mets comeback to tie the game.

In the 16th inning the Mets had scored two runs making it 6-4 when Dykstra’s RBI base hit scored Wally Backman in what turned out to be the Mets winning run in the 7-6 victory as the Astros scored two in the bottom of the inning.

Overall Dykstra hit .304 (7-23) with three extra base hits, three RBIs, three runs scored & a stolen base with a .360 on base % in the 1986 NLCS. 

In the World Series victory against the Boston Red Sox, he hit .296 (8-27) with a HR, three RBIs & two walks. He drew walks in both of the first two games, but only had one hit going 1-6.

It was Dykstra's leadoff home run, in Game #3 at Fenway Park that brought the Mets to life, after being down two games to none. 

Trivia: The HR made him the third Met in team history to hit a leadoff, Game three World Series HR. The first time it was done was in 1969 by Tommie Agee & the second was in 1973, hit by Wayne Garrett. Both those games were played at Shea Stadium.
Dykstra had four hits in that Game #3, scoring two runs. The next night, in Game #4 at Boston, Dykstra hit another HR, a two run shot in the 7th inning, off Steve Crawford. That put the Mets up 5-0 on their way to a 6-2 Ron Darling win.

In the classic Game #6 he went hitless. In Game #7, he came in as a pinch hitter in the 7th inning, after Ray Knight had homered to put the Mets ahead. He singled then advanced to second on a wild pitch & scored the Mets 5th run on Rafael Santana’s base hit. As the Mets won the World Series, Dykstra rode high on top of the world, celebrating the success.

In 1987 Dykstra appeared as a pinch hitter on Opening Day, going 0-1 in the Mets 3-2 win over Pittsburgh. On April 10th he hit a HR & drove in two runs leading the Mets to a 6-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.

In mid May he hit HRs, in back to back games against the San Francisco Giants. On the same home stand, five games later, he hit a pair of HRs in a May 23rd game against the Dodgers. Overall in May, he had 24 hits with four HRs, six stolen bases and 11 RBIs.

He kept his average up over .300 through mid June, although he drove in just one run all month . He did score 14 runs that month, including a big day where he scored three times in a June 21st win over the Philadelphia Phillies. In July he hit safely in 13 of 18 games over the first three weeks of that month.

On July 20th he drove in four runs, while hitting a two run HR against Larry McWilliams & the Atlanta Braves, in a 9-2 win at Shea Stadium. Through the summer months of July & August '87, he gathered twenty plus hits each month. On August 16th, he had four hits including his ninth HR, in a wild 23-10 Mets win at Wrigley Field in Chicago. 

In September he hit a grand slam HR in Montreal, against the Expos in a 10-0 Doc Gooden shutout. The next week he had three straight games where he hit a two doubles in each game. From September 20th until the end of the season he had six multiple hit games, finishing the year strong. That year, the Mets finished in second place, just three games back of the St. Louis Cardinals, posting a 92-70 record. 

For the year, Nails hit ten HRs and was being accused of trying to swing more for the fences, rather than base hits. His power surge included, setting a Mets club mark in doubles (at the time) with 37 (4th most in the league). Overall he hit .285, with three triples, a .352 on base %, 45 RBIs & 27 stolen bases. 

In 1988 for the NL East Champion Mets, injuries limited Dykstra to 126 games but he still led all NL centerfielders in fielding (.996%) making just one error all season. He started out the season with an Opening day three run HR against the Montreal Expos in the 10-6 win.

On April 14th he already hit his third HR, scoring the only run of a 1-0 Bob Ojeda win over the Expos. He hit safely in 15 of 18 games in May, with a four hit game on May4th against the Astros. In June he hit in 19 of 25 games raising his batting average to .308. He maintained his .300 average into early August. 

On a road trip to Wrigley Field, he had three straight mufti RBI games, with HRs in two of the games. The next month he hit another two run HR at Wrigley in a 13-6 Mets over the Cubs. He hit better in the earlier part of the season, as his bat cooled off during the final two months of the season. but he still led the team with 30 stolen bases, and would hit .270 on the season with 8 HRs 19 doubles, three triples, 33 RBIs & a .321 on base %. In centerfield he led the league in fielding (.987%) with four assists in 118 games. 

Post Season: In the 1988 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dykstra only had one hit in the first four games (1-7). In Game #5 he hit a three run HR off Tim Belcher, to bring the Mets closer from a 6-0 deficit, they would lose the game 7-4.

In Game #6, he went 2-5 scoring two runs as the Mets evened the Series at three games each. In that game, he led off the Mets first inning by reaching on an error, advancing to third on a Wally Backman single & scoring on a Kevin McReynolds sac fly.

In the final three games of the series, he had five hits, driving in three runs and scoring four runs. Overall in the NLCS loss, Nails batted .429 with three doubles, four walks, a HR, three RBIs and six runs scored.

In 1989 things were slowly changing in New York within the organization. Dykstra started out well in April batting .375 with twelve runs scored as he got toward the end of the month. His bat cooled off considerably in the next two months, on June 14th he hit his last HR as a New York Met, it came at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

On June 18th 1989 after 56 games he was batting .270, when the Mets made one of the worst trades of that era. The popular Dykstra and relief pitcher Roger McDowell were both traded to the Philadelphia Phillies during a road trip there for second baseman Juan Samuel, who the Mets wanted to play in center field. 

Former Mets GM; Joe McIlvane said, Manager Davey Johnson had been pressuring the front office to trade Dykstra for years. Teammate Keith Hernandez said in his book Pure Baseball that Dykstra was "on the wild and crazy side", which is why the Mets chose to trade him.

Many fans believe this was the start of the Mets downfall after their dominating 1980’s play. Dykstra was initially upset over the trade because he enjoyed playing in New York, but he adapted & soon won over the Philadelphia fans as well. 

In 1990 he started the All Star Game, led the league in hits with 192 and batted .325, finishing fourth in the league. He hit nine HRs with 30 doubles, drove in 60 runs and scored 106 runs (5th in the NL). Injuries including an opening day broken hand in 1991 beat him up over the next two seasons, limiting him to 63 & 85 games respectively, but he hit .297 or better both seasons. 

Drama: Dykstra sure had his share of drama during his career and after. In March of 1991, he was linked to a gambling probe in Mississippi. 

Just two months later, he broke his collarbone in a car wreck after team mate John Kruk's bachelor party. Another Phillie team mate; Darren Daulton was also a passenger in the car & he suffered an eye injury, as well as a broken facial bone.

According to the Police, Dykstra's blood alcohol content was 0.179 at the time of the crash. 

In 1993 he had a career year as the Phillies went all the way to the World Series. He came in second to Pittsburgh's Barry Bonds in the MVP voting, leading the league in hits (194) runs scored (143) walks (129) & at bats (637). He hit a career high 19 HRs, and 44 doubles (2nd in the league), while driving in 66 runs.

In the NLCS he hit .280 going 7-25 with 2 HRs & 2 RBIs. He hit even better in the World Series .348, going 8-23 with 4 HRs 8 RBIs and 7 walks. The Phillies lost that Series to the Toronto Blue Jays, Dykstra publicly has blamed relief pitcher; Mitch Williams for losing the series. It was Williams who gave up the walk off series ending HR to Joe Carter. In 2013 Dykstra & Williams met at a Memorabilia show at a Pennsylvania mall, almost getting into a brawl.

In his career Dykstra hit .321 with 10 HRs 19 RBIs 6 doubles 27 runs scored & 20 walks in 32 post season games. 

Injuries quickly brought a down fall to his career, as he only played in 84 games batting .274 the next season, and two seasons later he was done at the age of 35. In his twelve year career he hit .285 with 1298 hits 281 doubles 43 triples 81 HRs 404 RBIs, 802 runs scored a .375 on base % & 285 stolen bases in 1278 games played. His 116 stolen bases rank 7th all time on the Mets list & his 89 triples rank 16th. 
 Retirement: Since his retirement, Dykstra has had many ups & downs. At first he ran a car wash in Corona, California. Then he became a columnist for TheStreet.com, and served as president of several of his privately held companies, including car washes, Castrol, "Team Dykstra" Quick Lube Centers; Conoco Phillips, a real estate company; and "I Sold It on eBay" in Southern California. 

He became known as a wise business advisor & stock market whiz in the financial world. He then appeared regularly as a guest, on Fox News Channel's The Cost of Freedom business shows. He bought Wayne Gretzky's $17 million estate, and began campaigning against the use of chewing tobacco. "Copy my hustle but please, don't copy my tobacco use” he said on television ads. 

 Post Career Drama's: In 2007 Dykstra was named in the Mitchell Report for steroid use, stating that the Commissioner’s office, had known about his steroid use since 2000. Dykstra chose not to meet with the Mitchell investigators to defend the allegations against him. 

In 2009, after all his financial successes, he claimed bankruptcy after getting into $31 million worth of debt. Many large & small companies had begun to invest big monies with Dykstra, after he had success in the stock market. His style of living was out of control & he was in way over his head. During the country's recession, many of his investments fell off with the bad stock market trends. 

In 2010 a court appointed trustee accused him of lying under oath & asked the court to deny his bankruptcy claims. Also security officers kept him away from his foreclosed multi-million dollar properties in Lake Sherwood. It was there he was accused of vandalizing the properties and not maintaining home owners insurance. It was reported that his 1986 World Series Ring & trophy were sold off in an auction in 2009. 

In December 2010, Dykstra was accused of hiring Adult film star Monica Foster as a female escort. He then wrote her a bad $1,000 check which she later posted a copy of on her blog site. In 2011 he was sentenced to house arrest after a bankruptcy fraud indictment.

On August 25, 2011, he was charged with indecent exposure accusations. The Los Angeles City Attorney, accuses Dykstra of placing ads on Craigslist, requesting a personal assistant for housekeeping services. When the alleged victims arrived, they were informed that the job also required massage services. It was then that Dykstra supposedly would disrobe and expose himself.

In June 2011 he was arrested, charged with 25 misdemeanor and felony counts of grand theft auto, identity theft, & filing false financial statements.

In March of 2012, he was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading no contest to those charges. He was also accused of possession of cocaine, ecstasy, and the human growth hormone, Somatropin. He remained in jail because he was unable to post the $500,000 bail. 

He was released in June of 2013 & in his first interview after being released said the following:  “In a crazy way, going to prison when I did, I didn’t want to, trust me, it actually kind of made me realize what’s important,” I’m not recommending anybody go to prison to find your life, but to me, it was rock bottom. The next step from prison is death, if you think about it. There’s nothing worse you can do to a person than lock them up, take away their freedom.”

Honors: Before Game #5 in the 2000 Subway World Series, he was joined by some of his 1986 team mates, to threw out the ceremonial first pitch, at Shea Stadium. In 2002, he was elected as part of the Mets' 40th Anniversary All-Amazin' Team.

In 2006, he returned to Shea Stadium for the 20th Anniversary of the 1986 World Championship team. He received a very warm & loud ovation. He was also on hand for the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008 and has served as a special Mets Spring Training instructor many times.

Remembering Mets History:1986 NLCS Game #3: Dykstra Nails HR For Walk off Win

October 11th 1986 NLCS Game#3- Shea Stadium, New York: 

It was a cool overcast fall afternoon in New York City. 55,052 carzed Mets fans filled Shea Stadium, as the NLCS returned to Queens for the first time in 13 years. There was plenty of excitement surrounding this one even before it began.

The Series was tied at one game each, after a split in Houston. Mets manager; Davey Johnson sent Ron Darling (15-6 / 2.81 ERA 184 Ks) to the mound to face Houston’s Bob Knepper (17-12 / 3.14 ERA / 145 Ks).

Starting Lineups

Ron Darling was shaky in the 1st inning, giving up three hits, a wild pitch, a hit batsman and two RBI singles. Bill Hatcher got the first hit & stole second base. He scored on Wallings base hit. With Glen Davis up, Darling threw a wild pitch & then hit Davis. He struck out Kevin Bass but gave up a single to Jose Cruz.

It got worse for him in the 2nd inning, as Bill Doran hit a two run HR making it 4-0 Astros. 

Houston's Bob Knepper rolled along, fustrating the Mets hitters. He allowed no runs on just two hits into the 6th inning. The Mets fans were quiet just waiting for some thing to happen.

To lead off the home 6th, Kevin Mitchell & Keith Hernandez both singled. Next up, Gary Carter reached on a Bill Doran error as Mitchell scored the Mets first run, 4-1 Astros.

The crowd began to get excited & a classic Mets moment followed. Daryl Strawberry delivered with a dramatic high flying three run HR into the right field lodge section that tied the game at four. The shot fired up the Mets team, as Keith Hernandez gave a hard friendly shove to both Ray Knight as well as Strawberry at home plate as Straw touched the plate. The Shea crowd went into a wild frenzy.

In the top of the 7th, Rick Aguilera came in relief and gave up a walk to Bill Doran. Then Billy Hatcher bunted to third base & a Ray Knight error put runners on the corners. Denny Walling then grounded out but scored Doran putting Houston ahead 5-4.

In the bottom of the 7th inning, Lenny Dykstra pinch hit for Rick Aguilera & struck out. He would later play an important role in the game.

In the 8th inning, Astros reliever; Charlie Kerfeld retired the Mets in order, setting up a save opportunity for Dave Smith.

In the bottom of the 9th, Wally Backman led off with a bunt base hit down the first baseline. As he slid into first base, the crowd went wild & got loud. 

Astro Manager; Hal Lanier argued Backman slid out of baseline to avoid tag. Home plate Umpire Frank Pulli dismissed Lanier calling Backman safe.

Next, Dave Smith threw a pitch passed catcher; Alan Ashby and Backman advanced to second base. Pinch hitter Danny Heep stepped in but flew out to center for the first out.

Now Lenny Dykstra came to bat as Mets legendary broadcaster said "the man they call Nails" stepped in.  Murphy continued with an excited calssiccall-  "It's a high fly ball hit to right field, its fairly deep its way back, its by the wall .... its a HR a HR, the Mets win the ball game. Dykstra hits a HR"

Yes, Dykstra blasted Smith's pitch down into the right field bullpen, ending the game in dramatic walk off fashion. Shea Stadium went wild, as did the Mets team mates who went to home plate to greet Dykstra.

Quotes: "Lenny Dykstra being mobbed by his team mates"- Bob Murphy.

Nails had hit, what became one of the most famous HR’s in Mets history, putting New York up two games to one in the NLCS.

Former New York Giants All Star Catcher: Walker Cooper (1945-1949)

William Walker Cooper was born on January 8th, 1915 in Atherton, Missouri. He attended high school at Independence, Missouri where he was signed by the home town St. Louis Cardinals.  

The big six foot three, 210 pound, Cooper was an outstanding catcher but was stuck in the talented Cardinals minor leagues for five years before getting a break out.

In 1939 he batted .336 in the Piedmont League & then hit .302 in 131 games at AA Columbus in 1940. That year he got his first chance in the big leagues. In 1941 he was back up to veteran catcher Gus Mancuso who was winding down his career after many successful years with the New York Giants. On August 30th he caught Lon Warnele's no hitter. He played on the same Cardinals team for his first few seasons with his brother Mort Cooper, a pitcher.

By 1942 he was the Cardinals main catcher & would be there for three seasons. He became one of the league's best catchers, making three straight All Sta appearances & ranking in the top ten percent of the MVP voting as well. In 1942 he threw out 59% of would be base stealers while posting over 43% the next two years.

Post Season: In Game #2 of the 1942 World Series, Cooper drove in the first two runs of the game, with a long double to deep right center field off the AL New York clubs; Tiny Bonham. In Game #4, he broke a 6-6 tie with a 7th inning single scoring Enos Slaughter, as the Cards went on to a 9-6 win.

In the final clinching Game #5 he drove in the tying run, with a sac fly off pitcher; Red Ruffing. Later in the top of the 9th he scored the games winning run, when Whitey Kurowski bashed a two run HR sealing the championship.

Over the next two seasons he was in the top ten in hitting as he batted .318 & .317 respectively. His defensive numbers along with his offensive numbers made him one of the game's best all around players.

The Cardinals went on to another pennant in 1943 but this time lost the match up with the A.L. New York team. In 1944 the Cardinals faced off against their cross town rivals, the St. Louis Browns in their only pennant winning season. Cooper hit .318 driving in two runs in the series, as the Cardinals won their second title in three years.

In 1945 he went off to serve in World War II & when he returned he was with a new club. In January 1946 his contract was purchased by the New York Giants, for $175,000. At the time it was the largest contact ever purchased without actually having any other players involved in the transactions.

Cooper would spend three and a half seasons with the Giants, never finishing above fourth place. He made the All Star team each year as a member of the Giants & in 1947 came in 18th in the MVP voting.

In 1947 he batted .305 with a career highs in HRs (35)(4th in the NL) RBIs (122) (5th most in the NL) hits (157) runs scored (79) triples (8) & games played (140). That year the Giants set a record at the time with 221 HRs.

Also That season Cooper tied a 1924 NL record set by NY Giant High Pockets Kelly; of hitting HRs in six straight games. His defense was outstanding as usual, throwing out 44% of would be base stealers, coming in second in put outs & first in games played & errors, with a .982%. By 1949 Leo Durocher had taken over as the Giants manager & the team was revamped with more of an emphasis on speed.

Cooper was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in June of 1949. Three weeks after his arrival he had a huge record setting day at the plate. He became the only catcher in MLB history to ever have a ten RBI day. On July 6th 1949 at Crosley Field, he went 6-7, with three HRs as the Reds beat the Cubs 23-4.

In 1950 he went to Boston & played three seasons with the Braves catching another no hitter there. He would also bat over .300 two of those seasons & continue to be one of the best catchers in the game. He moved with the club to Milwaukee in 1953 playing as a back up to Del Crandall.

He went to the Chicago Cubs (1954-1955) as a back up to Harry Chiti & then returned to St. Louis in 1956. Cooper was the first player to hit grand slams with five different teams, Dave Kingman & Dave Winfield have matched that mark.

By 1957, he was the oldest player in the league, at age 42 but was still catching games behind the plate (17) behind main catcher; Hal Smith.

That year Coopers daughter Sara, who was voted Miss Missouri of 1957, married his team mate Don Blasingame .

Cooper said "it's time to quit when you've got a daughter old enough to marry a teammate".
In his 18 year career, Cooper caught 1223 games (69th all time) throwing out 45.4% of base stealers (84th best all time). He posted a .977 fielding % making 138 errors (90th all time) in 5893 chances. He turned also 80 double plays (90th all time).

Cooper batted .285 with 1341 hits, 240 doubles, 40 triples, 173 HRs, 812 RBIs & a .332 on base % in 1473 games.

He played in eight All Star games, earned votes for the MVP award six times & caught two no hitters.

In the World Series he won two Championships, played in three Fall Classics & batted .300 with six RBIs over 16 games.

Cooper was up for election of the Hall of Fame but has never made it in, despite some very impressive credentials.

Retirement: After his playing days he managed in the minor leagues & then coached with the 1960 Kansas City Athletics before leaving the game.

Passing: Cooper passed away at age 76, in Scottsdale Arizona in 1991.