Mar 30, 2015

One Of the Mets First Free Agent Signings: Tom Hausman (1978-1982)

Thomas Matthew Hausman was born on March 31, 1953 in Mobridge, South Dakota. He was a high school All State basketball player as well as a top right handed pitcher in Laverne California. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 9th round, of the 1971 draft. 

He won 13 games at A ball with the Newark Co-Pilots in the New York / Penn league in 1971. In 1972 & 1973 he won 12 games each season, posting winning records getting called up to the 1975 fifth place Milwaukee Brewers staff. 

 He debuted pitching in New York allowing two runs in 10-1 loss to the A.L. New York club. On the year he was 3-6 with a 4.10 ERA in 29 games pitched. After only appearing in only three games in 1976, he spent all of 1977 in the AAA Pacific Coast League.There he was 13-6 leading the league with 30 starts. In the winter of 1977 he became one of the first New York Mets free agent signings. 

He began the 1978 season at AAA Tidewater, and pitched well going 5-2 there with a 1.22 ERA in ten games. That performance got him a promotion to the Mets big league staff by July '78. He debuted with the Mets at Shea Stadium on July 7th wearing Jon Matlack’s old uniform number 32. He got the start against the Chicago Cubs, allowing six earned runs over 4.1 innings earning no decision in the 7-4 loss. He would win his next two starts including an eight inning shutout performance against Phil Neikro & the Atlanta Braves, at Shea Stadium on July 22nd. 

On August 23rd, he pitched another eight shutout innings against the San Francisco Giants but lost a 2-1 game to Bob Knepper. When the Giants came to Shea, the next week, he lost another 2-0 heart breaker to Knepper. Hausman would make ten starts for the ’78 Mets going into the 8th inning twice while allowing no runs in those two games. 

He finished at 3-3 with 16 strike outs & nine walks in 51 innings pitched posting a 4.70 ERA. That year at the plate he had three hits good enough for a .176 average driving in two runs as well. 

In 1979 he began the year at AAA Tidewater again, going 6-4 in 12 games with a 4.50 ERA getting called up in June. He lost his first four decisions, three as a starter & one where he pitched six innings of long relief. On June 18th, he lost in the 18th inning at the Astrodome, when Craig Reynolds ended the game with a walk off RBI base hit. On July 24th, he lost another extra inning game, in the 12 inning to the San Diego Padres. In the top of the 12th inning he served up a HR to Dave Winfield. 

Hausman was put in the bullpen & on July 8th, he earned his first save in win at Shea against the San Diego Padres. He then got another start & pitched a complete game victory against the San Francisco Giants on July 14th. He didn’t earn another victory until September 26th, his last start of the year. He pitched into the 9th inning at Wrigley Field, beating the Cubs in a 8-3 Mets win. On the 1979 season he was 2-6 with two saves, 33 strike outs & 19 walks posting a 2.75 ERA in 19 games. 

 In 1980 he began the year as a starter, he went 0-1 in April with a 7.27 ERA & was placed in the bullpen where he would spend the rest of the year. In June he would earn three wins in relief, the first two coming while pitching four strong innings of relief against the Pirates & Dodgers. He closed out June with a win, when Steve Henderson won a game with a 9th inning hit. On July 3rd he pitched five innings of one run ball in relief of Ray Burris, to earn a win in Montreal. 

In August he went 2-2 and by this time, had lowered his ERA down to 3.10 by the start of the month. Overall he appeared in career high 55 games (second on the staff to Jeff Reardon & Neil Allen) going 6-5 with a save, 53 strike outs & 26 walks posting a 3.98 ERA. He did allow 12 HRs & 125 hits in 122 innings pitched. 

 In the strike shortened 1981 season arm troubles began to ruin his career, he appeared in twenty games going 0-1. In 1982 he was with the Mets from May until early September, pitching in 21 games going 1-2 with a hold to his credit posting a 4.29 ERA. He was traded to the Atlanta Braves in September 1982 for Carlos Diaz.There he pitched in just three games for the NL Western Champions. 

 In his seven year career, Hausman was 15-23 with three saves, 180 strike outs 121 walks & a 3.80 ERA in 441 innings in 160 games pitched. He attempted come backs in the Pacific Coast League but it never worked out & he retired to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Long Time New York Giants Pitcher: Dave Koslo (1941-1942/ 1946-1953)

George Bernard Koslo was born on March 31, 1920 in Menasha, Wisconsin just outside of Milwaukee. The left hander was signed out of high school, making it to the big leagues in 1941 pitching in four games, posting a 1.90 ERA. He went 3-6 in 1942 before going off to serve in World War II from 1942 through 1945.

He returned to the Giants rotation three seasons later to win 14 games (6th most in the NL). He also lead the league in losses (19) hits (251) earned runs allowed (107) as well as starts (35) while overall posting a decent 3.63 ERA. Koslo was also a work horse pitching in 265 innings on the year, while pitching 200 plus innings in three of the next four seasons.

In 1947 he gave up Jackie Robinsons first career HR & served up 23 HRs to lead the league in that category. On the ’47 season he won 15 (15-10) posting a 4.39 ERA and once again allowed the most earned runs in the National league.

Two years later he had his best season, leading the league in ERA (2.50) going 11-14 while saving four games pitching 212 innings. He would post another losing record in 1950 but would then win ten or more games for the next four seasons. In the 1951 Giants pennant season, he was used mostly as a reliever, but had some big games as a starter as well. In his first start he pitched a two hit shutout in the Polo Grounds against The Cardinals. Two months later he threw another two hit shutout in St. Louis.

He won four games during the crucial September pennant race, pitching into the 9th innings three times in four starts. His 10 victories (10-9) tied him with George Spencer for fourth best on the staff. He had three saves & posted a 3.31 ERA making 39 appearances.

Post Season: He got the surprise start in Game #1 of the 1951 World Series and pitched a one run complete game victory. He struck out three & allowed seven hits beating Allie Reynolds. He came back in Game #6 and took the loss allowing 4 runs on 5 hits in 6 innings pitched in the final game.

After going 6-12 in 1953 his contract was purchased by the Baltimore Orioles where he pitched just three games. During that season he was sent to the Braves where he finished up his career near his hometown area of Milwaukee in 1955. In his final career appearance he gave up a game winning walk off HR. In his 12 season career he was 92-107 22 saves with a 3.68 ERA making 348 appearances.

Retirement: After baseball he worked for a publishing house in Menasha Wisconsin. He passed away there from unknown causes at age 55 in 1975.

Mar 29, 2015

Mets Player To Hit the First Grand Slam In Team History: "Hot Rod" Kanehl (1962-1964)

Roderick Edwin Kanehl was born on April Fool’s Day 1934 in Wichita, Kansas. The six foot one, right hand hitter was signed after high school by the A.L. New York club as an amateur free agent in 1954.

In his first year of pro ball he hit .316 but toiled at the lowest levels of the minors for four seasons. In 1958 he went to AA ball and batted .295 getting promoted to AAA the next season.

The next two years he spent at the AA & AAA levels going to the Kansas City A’s, Cincinnati Reds &; Minnesota Twins organizations. He hit over .300 in 1961 but still didn’t’ have a contract after the season. The expansion New York Mets gave him a shot to try out at Spring Training, probably due to Casey Stengel remembering him from the minor leagues.

After eight years in the minors, Kanehl played his heart out in Spring Training to earn a spot on the 1962 expansion Mets roster. He once jumped over a fence to attempt catching a fly ball, as his hustle and all out determination earned him the nick name “Hot Rod” Kanehl.

He became a favorite of manager Casey Stengel and made the team, despite the wishes of upper management. According to the book; Once Upon the Polo Grounds," General Manager George Weiss told Stengel 'I ain't seen him do anything in the field. Stengel replied 'You're full of baloney, he can run the bases."

Hot Rod began the Mets first month being used mostly as a pinch hitter & pinch runner. Kanehl debuted on April 15th in the second home game in Mets history, that day he was hitless as a pinch hitter. On April 28th he came in the game as a pinch runner in an inning where Frank Thomas, Charlie Neal & Gil Hodges had just hit three straight HRs.

With the Mets John DeMerit at third base & Kanehl on second base, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Chris Short threw a wild pitch. DeMerit scored & the always hustling Kanehl, scored right behind him. His run turned out to be the games winning run in the first ever Mets home victory. 

He became an early Mets fan favorite, claiming to have the first banner in the Polo Grounds read “We Love the Mets-Hot Rod Kanehl”. Kanehl did hit well enough to reach the .300 mark by mid May although he didn't have too many at bats.

On June 1st he hit his first career HR, it came at the Polo Grounds against the old New York Giants now visiting from San Francisco. The following month on July 6th, he hit the first grand slam HR in Mets history. On July 6th 1962 at the Polo Grounds, Kanehl stepped in as a pinch hitter, in the bottom of the 8th inning against the St. Louis Cardinals Bobby Shantz. Kanehl's blast cleared the bases as Jim Hickman, Elio Chacon & Joe Christopher all scored on the way to the Mets 10-3 win. Hot Rod hit well enough to get his average back up to .310 at the start of August.

In the final ten days of that month he drove in runs in five different games. He would never be a good hitter, by the end of the season his average fell to .248. He was certainly versatile on the field making him very valuable on a poor fielding team. He would play at seven different positions for the ’62 Mets, everywhere but at catcher & pitcher. He wasn’t a great fielder either, making 22 errors at second base (second in the league).

Playing at third base he made eight more errors in 63 chances, & made two more in the outfield. He slumped off from there finishing the season hitting .248 with 4 HRs 10 doubles 2 triples 8 stolen bases 27 RBIs & a .296 on base %.

In 1963 he was batting just .174 in early June then began to hit a bit before falling just around that .200 mark again by mid August. He finished the year at .241 with just one HR six doubles & nine RBIs playing in 109 games. Once again he played all seven positions and made fewer errors on the field.

In 1964 he made the team again, getting to play in the new Shea Stadium. In his first start of the year he drove in two runs in the Mets first win at the new Shea Stadium in the Mets 6-0 win over Pittsburgh.

At the start of May he hit safely in 16 of 19 games and at that point was batting over .400. His average fell from there bottoming out at .232 at the end of the season. In 98 games he hit one HR with seven doubles& 11 RBIs with a .256 on base %. It would turn out to be Kanehl’s last season in the major leagues.

In a three year career he batted .241 with 6 HRs 23 doubles 47 RBIs 17 stolen bases & a .277 on base %.

Kanehl was upset at his demotion saying "Baseball is a lot like life. The line drives are caught; & the squibbers go for base hits. It's an unfair game."

Retirement: In 1975 at the passing of Casey Stengel he was loyal to the very end, being one of the few Mets players to go to the funeral. In 2004 at the age of 70 Kanhel himself passed away in Palm Springs from a heart attack.

Mid Nineties Mets Outfielder: Alex Ochoa (1995-1997)

Alex Ochoa was born on March 29, 1972 in Miami Lakes Florida. He was signed by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round of the 1991 draft. 

Over the next four seasons Baseball America had his rated along the top fifty prospects each season, peaking at #35 in 1995. He hit over .290 three times in his first four seasons getting up to the AA ball level. 

He eventually got traded to the New York Mets with Damon Buford (son of former 1969 Oriole Don Buford) in July 1995 in exchange for Bobby Bonilla.

After landing at AAA Tidewater he batted .309 in 34 games with two HRs six doubles & 15 RBIs before getting called up to the big leagues in September. He made his MLB debut on September 18th, 1995 getting a hit in his first at bat stealing a base & scoring a run against the Braves in a 7-1 Mets loss at Atlanta.

As a September call up he hit .297 going 11-37, with four multi hit games in eleven games played. There was a lot of hype for the highly touted prospect Ochoa, for the future. In 1996 he began the year at AAA Tidewater, where he hit .339 getting called up to the Mets on June 22nd.

In his first game back up, he singled & drove in two runs helping the Mets to a 5-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds. He would have eleven hits in eight games entering July batting .344. On July 3rd, he had a monster day in Philadelphia, hitting for the cycle in the Mets 10-6 win over the Phillies. 

He went 5-5 that day with a single in his first at bat. He then tripled off Terry Mulholland in the 4th inning, scoring Todd Hundley. He hit a solo HR in the 8th inning & had a pair of doubles with three RBIs and three runs scored in the 10-6 Mets win. 

In the first two weeks og the month he drove in fourteen runs. He had raised his average up to .390 in his first two weeks back in the majors. At the end of July he was still hitting well batting .312 and remained steady through the season. In September he hit safley in ten of twelve games keeping his average over .300, but he went hitless in his final three games, which had him finish off with a .294 batting average. In 82 games he hit four HRs with 19 doubles 33 RBIs 37 runs scored & a .336 on base %.

In 1997 he began as the Mets main right fielder but struggled at the plate, no getting over the .200 mark until mid June. Eventually Manager Bobby Valentine used the slow footed Butch Huskey in right field more often. Ochoa began to hit better in the summer months, including a rare game winning HR in the top of the 10th inning against the Braves in Atlanta on July 13th. On September 10th he had a four hit, three RBI day against the Phillies in a big Mets 10-2 win at Shea Stadium.

Overall he saw action in 113 games as a fifth outfielder posting the league fourth best fielding % in right field (.982%). His batting average dropped to .244 with three HRs 22 RBIs & a .300 on base %. At the end of the season he was traded to the Minnesota Twins for outfielder Rick Becker who hit .190 in 49 games for the 1998 Mets.

Ochoa batted .288 in Minnesota and then was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers as a player to be named later. In Milwaukee he had a fine season, batting .300 with a .404 on base % along with eight HRs & 40 RBIs playing in 119 games.

Next year he was sent to the Cincinnati Reds where he had career highs in batting average (.316) HRs (13) & RBIs (58). He was the teams fourth outfielder behind Dante Bichette, Dimitri Young & Ken Griffey. That year the Reds finished second under Jack McKeon going 85-77. 

Over the next two years he would play for three teams; Colorado Rockies (2001) hitting a career high 30 doubles between there & the Reds, batting .276. 

In 2002 he played back in Milwaukee & then in Anaheim with the World Champion to be Angels. He saw action in all three post season series, going 2-4 as a pinch hitter in the ALCS against the Minnesota Twins.

Ochoa never hit near the .300 level again. In 2003 he went to play in Japan for & stayed there for four seasons. After an eight year MLB career he batted .289 with 587 hits playing for seven different teams. He also hit 46 HRs with131 doubles 261 RBIs  56 stolen bases & a .344 on base %. 

Retirement: In 2009 he became an assistant coach for the Boston Red Sox. In 2010 he was a Red Sox special assistant for baseball operations. In 2011 he served as batting coach at A ball Salem.

Mid Seventies Mets Outfielder: Jesus Alou (1975)

Jesus Maria Rojas Alou was born March 22, 1942 in the Dominican Republic. Jesus is part of one of baseball’s most famous families, The Alou’s. He is the brother of Felipe & Matty Alou, and the uncle of Moises Alou.

Jesus was the youngest of the talented Alou brothers & was actually considered the best prospect of all the Alou’s. He was signed with a $4000 signing bonus by the San Francisco Giants in 1958. He flew through the lower levels of the minor leagues, never hitting below .324. In 1962 he got to AA El Paso & batted .343 with a .376 on base %. The following season he batted .324 in the Pacific Coast League with Tacoma getting a September call up to the Giants team.

He made his debut in on September 10, 1963 in a game where the Alou brothers made history against the New York Mets. They became the first set of brothers to bat in the same inning, let alone for the same team. Jesus came to bat against Carl Willey in the top of the 8th inning at the Polo Grounds as a pinch hitter, and grounded out. Next Matty Alou came to bat as a pinch hitter and struck out. Felipe Alou was the next Alou to bat & he grounded out, ending the inning. Five days later, they made history again, as all three Alou brothers lined up in the San Francisco outfield, defensively for two innings against the Pirates.

Jesus Alou never hit as well as he did in the minors, he had little power and was a slow runner. He would bounce into twenty or more double plays twice with the Giants, both second most in the league. He batted over .290 twice in six seasons at San Francisco, and had three seasons where he had 15 or more doubles.

Alou went 6-6 in a July 1964 game at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs. His best season by the Bay was 1965 when batted .298 with a career high 162 hits, 9 HRs 19 doubles 52 RBIs & a .317 on base %. He posted one of the team’s highest averages, with players appearing in more than 100 games, behind guys like Willie Mays & Jim Ray Hart. The following year he dropped to .259 but then brought his average back up to .292 in the 1967 season.

He was chosen by the Montreal Expos in the 1968 expansion draft but was quickly dealt to the Houston Astros with 1969 Mets star Don Clendenon in exchange for future Met Rusty Staub. This was the famous deal where Clendenon chose to retire rather than play in Houston & eventually the decision got him to New York. 

In Houston at the Astrodome, Alou fell to a career low of .248 his first season and made 14 errors (2nd in the NL) in the outfield. In 1970 he re bounded & he hit .306 with a career high 27 doubles.

In 1972 he was limited to only 52 games, but once again hit over .300 (.312) with a .366 on base %. On July 31st 1973 his contact was purchased by the best team in baseball at the time, the Oakland A’s. He would become a pinch hitter / utility player with the Swingin' A's through two championship seasons. He hit .306 with a HR & 11 RBIs in the last two months of the ’73 season.

Post Season: In the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles he hit .333 (2-6). Although he only hit .158 in the World Series, he killed the New York Mets by driving in three runs. He got the start in right field in Game #2 and had two hits (2-6) with two RBIs. The other RBI came in Game #6 as an 8th inning insurance run on a sac fly off Tug McGraw.

In the 1974 post season Alou went 1-2 as a pinch hitter, overall not seeing much action. Alou’s 1974 Topps baseball card is a famous error card; the original card had no position listed on the top left corner. A corrected card was issued.

Oakland released him in 1975 & he was picked up by the New York Mets. Alou would play in 62 games all around the outfield & as a pinch hitter for the ’75 Mets. He debuted on April 15th as a pinch hitter in St. Louis going 0-1. He had two successful pinch hits in Montreal & Chicago, on the Mets first road trip of the season, as he bested himself to 2-4 as a pinch hitter. In his first start in the outfield on May 7th, he had three hits and an RBI against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 6-1 Met loss at Shea Stadium.

He had two pinch hit appearances in May & June where came through driving in a pair runs each time. Early on he was most successful in that role batting .300 at the end of June but he tailed off as the season progressed. He went 1-10 as a pinch hitter in July, making two starts where he got hits in both games.

On August 1st his 5th inning base loaded single broke a 2-2 tie and lead the Mets to 1 4-2 win. In September, his RBI single in the bottom of the 8th inning brought the Mets within a run against the Chicago Cubs. They would win the game on a Dave Kingman walk off HR. 

Overall on the year he hit .265 with three doubles 4 walks, a .299 on base % & 11 RBIs. In the outfield playing 20 games, he had three assists making one error posting a .963%. The Mets released him at the end of Spring Training 1976.

He went to play in the Mexican league for two years before rejoining the Houston Astros in 1978. He hit .324 as a part time player there in 74 games. Alou became a player/coach in 1979 before hanging up his playing cleats for good.

In his 15 year career he played in 1380 games, batting .280 lifetime with 1216 hits 32 HRs 170 doubles 26 triples 377 RBIs 138 walks & a .305 on base %. He played all outfield positions & made 48 assists posting a .968 fielding %. He also was a designated hitter & played some first base.

Retirement: After his playing days he scouted for the Montreal Expos. Alou was honored with a Hispanic Heritage Pioneer Award in 2008 at game in Houston.

Long Time Shortstop Finishing His Career In New York: Gary Templeton (1985)

Garry Lewis Templeton was born on March 24, 1956 in Lockney, Texas. The highly touted good hitting, quick footed, shortstop was the St, Louis Cardinals #1 draft pick (13th overall) in 1974. In 1975 he hit .310, stealing 24 bases playing in both A & the AA levels. The following year he was at AAA Tulsa where he batted .321 with 25 steals, now ready for the big leagues.

Templeton made his debut in St. Louis in the bicentennial year batting .291 in 53 games with 11 stolen bases. The next year he was the NL’s third best hitter, batting .322, leading the league with 18 triples, making the All Star team & getting votes for the MVP Award.

He stole a career high34 bases that year (8th in the league). He would lead the league in triples three straight seasons from 1976-1978. Templeton was among the top ten in batting average as well as hits three times, in his career. In 1979 Templeton led the NL in hits (211) becoming the first switch hitter to get 100 hits from each side of the plate. He led the league with 19 triples, hitting 32 doubles with 9 HRs 62 RBIs a .331 on base % & 105 runs scored (6th in the NL).

He was picked for the 1979 All Star team but not as a starter, despite having the best stats. Larry Bowa & Dave Concepion were both more popular getting chosen ahead of him. He created controversy when he refused to attend the game, saying “If I ain't startin', I ain't departin'!". Templeton batted over .300 two more times in St. Louis including a .319 average, coming in third in the batting race in 1980. He stole over 25 bases five times, & although he was fast he got caught often, leading the league in caught stealing in 1977 (24 times).

Templeton was never a favorite with the Cardinal fans and in 1981 when he gave them an obscene gesture after being heckled, it was the last straw. Manager Whitey Herzog removed him from the game to a serenade of boo’s and after the incident he was traded at the end of the season. He was traded along with Sixto Lezcano to the San Diego Padres for future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. The rest is legend for Mr. Smith who went on to Cooperstown.

As for Templeton he never hit as well as he did in the seventies, batting a high of .282 in 1985 while making another All Star team. Templeton played a solid shortstop for nine seasons in San Diego, and a new town gave him a new popularity. In Southern California he was very popular with the Padre fans, despite not putting up the best offensive numbers. At this point in his career he also began to suffer from constant knee problems.

He was considered an inspirational leader for the 1984 NL Champion Padres, playing on a team of veterans with Steve Garvey & Greg Nettles as well as a young Tony Gwynn. Short stop Larry Bowa named Templeton the team Captain which was quite an honor for that bunch. He hit .333 in the 1984 NLCS with two RBIs & a stolen base against the Chicago Cubs. In the World Series against the Detroit Tigers he hit .316 (6-19) with a run scored.

In 1985 he batted .282 with 16 stolen bases 6 HRs 55 RBIs & a .332 on base %. His numbers fell off after that season, as he never hit above .255 in his next five years in San Diego. In 1991 in the twilight of his career at age 36 he was traded to the New York Mets mid season, for Tim Tuefel. Templeton made his Mets debut as a pinch hitter on June 1st going hitless in a game at St. Louis.

On June 15th he hit a three run HR helping Dwight Gooden in a Mets 6-3 win over the Houston Astros. He drove in a run the next day & then two more the day after that against the Reds in a 10-6 Met win. He had an eleven game hit streak entering July, scoring six runs in that stretch. He appeared in 90 games for the ’91 Mets but was never the same player he was in his prime. He hit .228 with 50 hits, one HR, nine doubles, one triple & 20 RBIs in 219 at bats.

In 40 games at short he made six errors, posting a .963 fielding percentage. He also played 25 games at first base & two games in the outfield. He retired at the end of the season.

In his 16 year career he played in 2079 games, batting .271, with 2096 hits 106 triples (139th all time) 329 doubles 70 HRs 728 RBIs & 242 steals (241 all time) posting a .305 on base %. He drew 144 intentional walks (49th all time) striking out 1092 times (197th all time).

Defensively he posted a .961 fielding % at short stop playing in 1964 games at the position (20th most all time). His 384 errors are 43rd on the all time list. His 6041 assists put him at 21st all time, while his 3393 put outs put him at 27th all time.

Retirement: After his playing days he was a coach for the Angels from 1998-2001. He coached & managed in the minors, & currently manages in the Independent Golden Baseball League in California.

Mar 28, 2015

Late Seventies Mets First Baseman: "The Hot Dog" Willie Montanez (1978-1979)

Guillermo MontaƱez Naranjo was born on April 1, 1948 in Catano, Puerto Rico. The six foot left-hand hitting outfielder / first baseman who would originally get signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1965 at age 18.

Montanez would get drafted (Rule V) by the Los Angeles Angels in 1966 & making his MLB debut on Opening Day as a pinch runner. He would play in eight games before getting sent to back to the Cardinals. Montanez played the next three seasons in the minors & then was sent to the Philadelphia Phillies as a player to be named later in the Curt Flood trade. Flood had originally refused to report.

Montanez had his best minor league season in 1970 at AAA Eugene, in the Pacific Coast League hitting 16 HRs with 80 RBIs.

He became known as “The Hot Dog” with a comedic style in which he played the game. After he hit a HR, he would slowly strut around the bases, sometimes shuffling his feet after touching the bases.

When he caught fly balls, he would snatch the ball from the air one handed, then shift the glove to his opposite hip. Even when he fouled balls off, he would twirl his bat & sometimes do a leg kicking dance move routine. His style was popular with his home town fans, but not appreciated by his teammates or opposing players.

In 1971 he was penciled in as the Phillies starting centerfielder & had a great rookie year coming in second in the Rookie of the Year voting to the Atlanta Braves Earl Williams. Montanez hit a career-high 30 HRs (7th in the NL) with 99 RBIs (5th in the NL) 27 doubles a .327 on base % & a .255 batting average.

Montanez also led the league with 13 sac hits in 1971. He struck out over 100 times that season & the year as well. He did improved in that department in his later years.  In the outfield he made a league leading ten errors and made seven assists (4th most in the NL).
  In 1972 Montanez led the National League in doubles (39) hitting .247 with 13 HRs (second on his club to Greg Luzinski) He drove in 64 runs on the worst team in baseball, as the Phils finished last 59-97. In 1973 he switched back to his natural position, at first base, to make room for (future Met) Del Unser in center. Montanez hit 11 HRs with 65 RBIs while batting .263.

He was a solid fielder leading all NL first basemen in assists three times (1975,1976 & 1978) & coming in the top five in fielding % four times.

In the summer of 1974; he had a 24 game hit streak and went on to hit over .300 for the first time in his career. He would bat over the .300 mark six times. His HR totals dropped to just seven that season, but he still had 33 doubles with 79 RBIs.

In May of 1975 he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Gary Maddox. He closed out the year with a career high 101 RBIs (5th most in the NL) along with 10 HRs 34 doubles & a .302 average. Montanez a slow runner; grounded into a league leading 26 double plays. In his career he hit into 162 double plays & led the NL in that category twice.

In 1976 he was traded on the trade dead line, along with team mates; Jake Brown, Mike Eden, and Craig Robinson to the Atlanta Braves for slugger Darrell Evans and short stop Marty Perez. He closed out the bicentennial year with a career high 206 hits (second in the league) leading the NL in singles (164) and games played (163). He batted .317 with 11 HRs & 84 RBIs. The Sporting News named him their All Star first baseman.

In 1977 he made his first & only All-Star game appearance, he was Atlanta’s only player representative in the game. He went hitless in two at bats in the game held in New York, at the newly renovated AL teams ballpark. That year Montanez finished the season hitting .287 with 20 HRs 31 doubles 68 RBIs & a .328 on base % playing a full season in Atlanta Fulton County Stadiums “Launching Pad”. From the period of 1975-78 he drove in an impressive 393 runs.

On December 8, 1977, Montanez was part of a huge four team trade, which brought him to New York to play for the Mets. This is the deal that sent Jon Matlack to the Texas Rangers and John Milner to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Who could forget the way Mets announcer Bob Murphy would say now the cleanup hitter "the Hot Dog" Willie Montanez. Montanez was immediately installed as the clubs first baseman & number four hitter.

On April 15th he hit his first HR as a New York Met it came at Stade Olympique in Montreal in a 4-3 loss to the Expos. He didn't get over the .200 hitting mark until May when he had a huge month. The Hot Dog drove in 28 runs that month, more by far than any other Mets Player & most anyone else in baseball. On May 18th he had a four RBI day leading the Mets to an 8-7 win over his old Braves team mates in Atlanta. Over the next eight games he drove in an amazing 17 runs while collecting 16 hits as well.

On May 19th, he had a game winning base hit in the bottom of the 9th inning, off former Met turned Phillies reliever ;Tug McGraw. On May 24th he hit two HRs in Pittsburgh driving in four runs, although the Mets still lost the game. The next day he doubled off the Pirates; Bert Blyleven, tying up the game in the 6th inning. It was in extra innings where Lenny Randle's base hit won it for New York in the 11th inning.

On June 9th Montanez broke a 1-1 tie against the San Francisco Giants when he singled home Steve Henderson in the bottom of the 8th inning. Earlier he had driven in the Mets first run with a sac fly. On July 19th he doubled in the 1st inning, off Houston's Mark Lemongello driving in two Mets runs which were enough for Craig Swan to earn a 2-1 Mets win at Shea Stadium.

The next day he hit a two run HR & in the course of the home stand he drove in runs in five straight games, nine RBIs overall.

It was another run producing month for the Hot Dog as he drove in twenty two runs in July. On September 7th in Montreal he drove in four runs helping the Mets to a 9-4 win over the Expos. The next day as the Mets returned home he drove in all three Mets runs including an 8th inning go ahead RBI double off Bert Blyleven to defeat the Pirates 3-2.

In his only full season as a Met Montanez led the team in most offensive categories; HRs (17) RBIs (96) games (159) at bats (609) hits (156) singles (107) & sac flies (9). He set a club record (at that time) for intentional walks (19) which was later broken by Howard Johnson.

His 96 RBIs were only eight shy of Rusty Staub’s 1974 single season Mets record at the time. There is no doubt that Montanez was the teams biggest bat on a ball club that lost 96 games finishing last in the NL East.

In 1979 he got an Opening Day hit, but that was it, in the Mets 10-6 romp at Wrigley Field over the Cubs. In May he had a solid hitting streak going, where he hit safely in 15 of 17 games. He struggled with his average barley getting over the .200 mark by the end of May before falling below it again in June. In mid July he was still batting jut .210 and managed to get up to the .234 mark by August 11th. He had 7 HRs with 47 RBIs thru 109 games at that point & was traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Ed Lynch and the return of Mike Jorgensen.

The rest of the year he hit .319 with 8 HRs in Texas, but it was his last good season. From that point on he lost all his power hitting just six HRs in 142 games between San Diego & Montreal in 1980. His average dropped to .210 the next season & he became a part time player in Pittsburgh with the Pirates before finishing out his career in Philadelphia in 1982.

In a 14-year career, Montanez played in 1632 games, hit .275, with 1604 hits, 279 doubles 25 triples, 139 HRs, 802 RBIs a .327 on base % & 65 sac hits. In that career he was traded nine times, including deals that involved players like Darrell Evans, Al Oliver, Bert Blyleven, John Milner (twice), and Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.

Retirement: After his playing days Willie became a scout for the Phillies. He still appears at Mets fantasy camps and on occasional interviews involving the Mets. He currently resides in Puerto Rico.

Former Mets Relief Pitcher: Scott Atchison (2013)

Scott Barham Atchison, was born March 29th 1976, in Denton, Texas. The six foot two, right hander attended Texas Christian University at Fort Worth, where he was earned four letters & was All Conference twice. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 49th round of the 1998 draft.

He spent seven years in the minor leagues, three at the AAA level with Tacoma. In 2004 he was 5-3 with seven saves, getting a call up to the Mariners.

Atchinson would make his MLB debut on July 31st, finishing up a 9-8 loss to the Angels in Anaheim. On August 5th he earned his first career win, as he pitched two innings at Tampa in a 4-2 over the Rays. In 25 games he was 2-3 with a 3.52 ERA in 25 games. He played in just six games for Seattle the next year.

After spending 2006 in the minors he signed with the San Francisco Giants where he appeared in 22 games. At the end of the year he refused assignment from the Giants to reports to Fresno & became a free agent.

In 2008 he signed with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan, pitching there for two seasons. In 2010 he signed as a free agent back in the majors with the Boston Red Sox. He went 2-3 there with 43 appearances in 2010 posting a 4.50 ERA. He played parts of three seasons with Boston, posting a 1.53 ERA in 2012, with a 2-1 record over 42 appearances.

In 2013 he signed with the New York Mets & made the club out of Spring Training at age 37. He made his Mets debut on Opening Day, pitching a scoreless 8th inning in the 11-2 win over the San Diego Padres. He was credited with three holds in April, but a rough outing in Colorado on April 18th, where he allowed three runs, while not recording an out blew his ERA to 4.22. An injury in mid May, held him down until July. He came back going to A ball St. Lucie, then to AA Binghamton.

On July 14th he returned to the Mets & continued to see late relief action. On August 6th, he earned a win against the Rockies, when Juan Lagares broke a 2-2 tie with an 8th inning RBI single. In the next two weeks he went 1-2 , including taking a 10th inning loss against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.

In September he recorded five holds & took another 10th inning loss on September 28th, in a 4-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field. In 51 appearances he was 3-3 with ten holds, posting a 4.37 ERA striking out 28 batters, walking 12 & allowing four HRs in 45.1 innings.

He was granted free agency & signed with the Cleveland Indians in January 2014. He enjoyed success in Cleveland going 6-0 with two saves & a 2.75 ERA in 70 appearances.

In his eight year career he is 16-10 with three saves, 241 strike outs & 85 walks in 327 innings in 275 games.

Early Eighties Mets Outfielder: Mike Howard (1981-1983)

Michael Frederic Howard was born on April 2nd, 1958 in Seattle Washington. The six foot two, switch hitter was drafted out of Sacramento High school by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 6th round of the 1976 amateur draft.

He didn't show much power in the minors, but earned the nick name of Mad Dog with his hustling style of play. He would run down to first base when he drew a walk, just like Pete Rose. Howard did hit .291 with 30 doubles at AA Jackson in 1980. He was promoted to AAA Tidewater in 1981,  where he hit .278 in 120 games, 6 HRs 22 doubles & 33 RBIs.

In 1982 he was back at Tidewater, batting .286 (second on the club to Rusty Tillman) with 12 doubles & a team leading 10 triples. Howard got a September call up in the second half of the '81 strike shortened season, making his debut on September 12th. He came in the 8th inning  & doubled off the St. Louis Cardinals; Mark Littell in his first at bat. The next day he got the start & drove in the Mets only two runs in a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals. In 14 games, Howard hit .167 (4-24) with one double & three RBIs.

He got back to the Mets big league club in August & had a pinch hit sac fly RBI in his first game back. It came in a 7-3 loss in a twin bill split with the Pirates in Pittsburgh. On September 24th he hit his only career HR, it came off Ron Reed in a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea.  He would get action in 33 games for the last place Mets, batting just .179 with a HR & three RBIs.  

Howard was the Mets Opening Day right fielder in 1983, the day Tom Seaver made a triumphant return to the Mets. Seaver pitched six shut out innings, but earned no decision as the Mets beat Steve Carlton & the Phillies 2-0. Howard drove in the first run of the game, (the winning run) with a bases loaded 6th inning single.

Quotes: Mike Howard: “The thing I remember about that day was that I was with Seaver warming up in the bullpen. When he finished throwing, he said ‘I need to do something'. (before the game was to begin). So I pointed to a guy who had a cast on his arm, or was in a wheelchair and said to Tom that he should give the guy a baseball. I was thinking ‘Wow. Tom Seaver just asked me what to do.’ That was cool.”

After not being used for two weeks, the Mets sent him down to AAA Tidewater. When the clubhouse guy said to bring his uniform, he said no, feeling strongly he was coming back soon. Unfortunately he never returned.
Later that year Darryl Strawberry would come up & be the Opening Day right fielder through 1990. Howard hit below .200, was demoted to the Rookie League & was released. He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates but did not make the club.

Trivia: Howard is one of three players to have his last career game be an Opening Day start. While with the Mets his roommate was current Giants manager; Bruce Bochy.

Retirement: After baseball he became a painter & carpenter in Jackson, Mississippi. When the Mets auctioned off some old items from Shea Stadium in 2010, Howards daughter picked up one of his old uniforms & a large photo with him in the background as  player.

Short Time Late Nineties Met: Craig Paquette (1998)

Craig Harold Paquette was born on March 28th 1969 in Long Beach, California. The six foot right hand hitter attended Golden West College at Huntington Beach, California. He was signed by the Oakland Athletics in the 8th round of the 1989 draft. Paquette spent five years in the minors, hitting over 15 HRs four times.

He came up to the A's in June of 1993, making some noise, hitting 12 HRs & driving in 46 runs although he only hit .219. In 1994 he was back at AAA Tacoma where he hit .287 with 17 HRs, getting a June call up for 14 games. After the baseball strike he returned for his last season at Oakland in 1995. In Spring Training 1996 he was released but was soon signed by the Kansas City Royals.

He had his best season in Kansas City in 1996, hitting a team leading 22 HRs, with 15 doubles & 67 RBIs while batting .259. The following season injuries shut him down, for just 77 games, he hit 8 HRs batting .236. He was granted free agency & signed with the New York Mets.

Paquette debuted with the Mets on April 28th, 1998 in Houston getting a start in left field. He doubled off John Halama in his first at bat in the Mets 4-3 loss to the Astros. In early May, he got hits in three straight games for New York, starting with a pinch hit single in a 5-2 win over the Rockies at Shea. He then suffered an ankle strain which ended his season, in seven Mets games he was hitting .263 with five hits, two doubles & a stolen base.

He spent most of 1999 at AAA Norfolk where he hit .272 with 15 HRs, then on July 31st he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Shawon Dunston.

He spent the next three years in St. Louis, seeing regular playing time in both 2000 & 2001. Both seasons he hit 15 HRs while driving in better than 60 runs. He would hit over .280 in two of his three years in St. Louis. He got into four games of the 2000 NLCS against the New York Mets, going 1-6 in that series, coming into the game late each time.

For the 2002 season he signed on with the Detroit Tigers & saw action in 72 games but hit just .194. In 2003 he was back in the minors making one last appearance in the majors for eleven games.

In his eleven year career he hit .239 with 620 hits 128 doubles ten triples 377 RBIs & a .274 on base % in 814 games. In his career the versatile Paquette played 498 games at third base, 200 games in the outfield, 100 games at first, 24 games at second & 19 games at short.

Mar 27, 2015

Timeline of the Mets Female Mascot: Lady Met to Mrs. Met

The character of Lady Met was first introduced on banners, leaflets & flyers as a cartoon figure in the mid sixties. She was then pictured with the original Mr. Met back in the sixties. Soon, Lady Met started making appearances, showing up with Mr. Met around Shea Stadium. 

Her appearance was similar to Mr. Met, a large baseball head, with big eyes, but Lady Met had long eye lashes, long red hair and a more shapely figure. Lady Met sported an orange flip shoulder length hair style, with matching orange lipstick & a mod mini skirt. She also wore a little sweater with her name "Lady Met" across her chest. The chick was cool, she was not yet known as Mrs. Met & as she had her own identity. 

In the seventies she finally tied the knot & became Mrs. Met. The two would be seen together at Shea Stadium, before games & at the 7th inning stretch. 

By the time the eighties rolled around, both she & Mr. Met had disappeared from the organization. In the mid nineties Mr. Met came back but it took a few more years for Lady Met or Mrs. Met to make her return.

In 2003 Mrs. Met returned, as she & Mr. Met with three little Mets children, appeared on an ESPN Sports Center commercial in 2003. 
In 2005, centerfieldmaz photographed the Mets family riding in a red convertible, at a Mets game in Shea Stadium. Strangely, that day Lady Met was not wearing her orange hair, was this Lady Met, Mrs. Met or another female character?

Finally In 2013, just in time for the All Star Game at Citi Field, the Mets officially announced the return of Mrs. Met. The club said that she had been working as an event planner & was returning to work full time, now that the kids are grown. Mrs. Met greeted fans around New York at the All Star Game events in her return. 

She now has a new hair style, sporting a brown pony tail under a Mets cap. She wears high sox with black sneakers & a white Mets home uniform. In addition to her on-field appearances, Mrs. Met also shows up for rare non-game-day events.