Apr 20, 2018

1986 World Champion Mets Relief Pitcher: Jesse Orosco (1979-1987)

Jesse Russell Orosco was born on April 21st 1957 in Santa Barbara, California. The six foot two lefty attended the local high school & City College at Santa Barbara. He turned into a local star pitcher as well, getting drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the second round of the 1978 amateur draft.

In December of 1978, Shea Stadium was a already a sad place. Then one of the last pieces of the 1969 Championship team; Jerry Koosman was traded away to his home state of Minnesota. Koosman went to the Twins & a young Jesse Orosco came to the Mets. Little did anyone know that the player sent over in exchange for Koos would help be another piece to a future Championship.

In 1979 Orosco made the team out of Spring Training. He made his debut on Opening Day 1979 pitching to one batter at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Orosco relieved Dwight Bernard in the 9th inning, closing out Craig Swans 10-6 Mets victory. He earned the first victory of his career on April 22nd at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, pitching one inning of relief. But after taking a loss & seeing his ERA rise to 4.89, Orosco was sent to AAA Tidewater in early June . There he went 4-4 as a starter & was demoted to AA Jackson the next season. He converted into a relief pitcher that season under manager Bob Wellman.

In 1981 he started back at Tidewater, but improved to 9-5 with eight saves making 47 appearances as both starter & reliever. He got another brief call up, pitching in eight games that September. On the 18th of that month he pitched three innings & earned his first career save, it came against the Cardinals.

In 1982 Orosco was up for good, making 54 appearances going 4-10 with four saves while posting an ERA of 2.72 on the sixth place club.

In 1983 Orosco was a most pleasant surprise for the Mets, as he turned into one of the best pitchers in the NL. He racked up three early wins & was 3-0, with three saves, and an ERA under one (0.92) by the end of May. Orosco was even named to the NL All Star team. Later in summer, over a span of nine games, from July 31st until mid August he went 5-0 with four more saves . He won two Pitcher of the Week Awards & Pitcher of the Month Award in that August.

Overall for the ’83 season, he was the best pitcher on the staff, leading everyone including veteran Tom Seaver who had returned to New York. Orosco led the team in wins (13) going 13-7, winning % (.650%) saves (17) & topped the staff in ERA (1.47) which would also be a career best for him.

He made 62 appearances (second to Doug Sisk) pitching in 110 innings while striking out 84 batters & allowing just 13 earned runs. He made the All Star team, & finished third in the Cy Young voting.

In 1984 he started out the season strong, not allowing an earned run until May 5th. By that time he had five saves & was 2-0. The Mets had become contenders again in 1984 & Orosco was their main weapon out of the bullpen.

By the All Star break he was 7-2 with 18 saves and had an ERA under two (1.89) as he made his second straight All Star team. He had another strong August closing out six games with six straight saves a personal season best. On the year he went 10-6, with 31 saves (3rd best in the NL) posting a 2.59 ERA in 60 appearances.

In 1985, he began sharing the closing duties with right-hander Roger McDowell. Davey Johnson who loved righty lefty matchups now had an awesome combo to close games. That year Orosco made 54 appearances going 8-6, tying McDowell for the team lead of 17 saves (9th in the NL) while posting a 2.73 ERA. He struckout 68 batters in 79 innings while allowing just six HRs with 34 walks. In the final two months he had six saves went 5-2 but also blew three wins & took two losses.

In the 1986 Championship season, Jesse earned his first save in the second game of the year. Although he allowed three walks in his next outing & blew the save no runs were charged to him. He went until May 16th before allowing an earned run & earned his 10th save on June 9th in Pittsburgh.

Through the final two months he was 3-1 with eight saves, & allowed six earned runs in 32 innings. All those runs came in just three outings, as he shut out the opponent in 19 other appearances. He finished the year with 21 saves (9th in the league) posting a strong 2.33 ERA. He made 58 appearances allowing just 21 earned runs in 81 innings with 62 strikeouts.

1986 Post Season: Orosco's clutch relief pitching in the 1986 postseason was one of the key reasons the Mets were world champions. He was on the mound for the final pitch of the final game of both the 1986 NLCS against the Houston Astros, and the 1986 World Series against the Boston Red Sox.

Orosco ended both series by striking out the final batters. In the NLCS he made baseball history becoming the first and only relief pitcher to get three wins in one playoff series.

1986 NLCS: He got his first victory in NLCS Game #3 at Shea Stadium when Lenny Dykstra hit his famous walk off HR in the bottom of the 9th inning. He earned another win in Game #5, when Gary Carters base hit won the game in extra innings at Shea as well. Finally he was the winning pitcher in the epic Game #6 at the Houston Astrodome.

It didn’t come easy, as he allowed three runs in three innings pitched, but did strikeout five hitters including Kevin Bass for the final out. Houston had scored two runs to come within one run of tying the game, Manager Davey Johnson came to the mound & told Orosco he was sticking with him the rest of the way. That confidence meant everything to Jesse.

In the final at bat, Orosco was struggling a bit on Bass. Keith Hernandez came in from first base & said to Jesse “I don't care what Gary calls, If you throw a fastball I'm gonna kill you”. Orosco then struck out Bass swinging, clinching the pennant. 

Overall Jesse was 3-0 in the NLCS, appearing in four games allowing three runs in 8 innings pitched with ten strikeouts.

1986 World Series: In the World Series Orosco would save two games, allow no runs on just two hits in 5.2 innings pitched. The image of Jesse flinging his glove in the air and kneeling down on the mound in victory is now one of the most classic scenes in Mets history. He earned his first save in Game #4 at Fenway Park pitching 1 .2 innings of solid relief, as Ron Darling got the win. 

He came back in the classic Game #6, getting the final out of the 8th inning, Bill Buckner was the only batter he faced. In Game #7 he came in relief of Roger McDowell in the 8th inning with two on & nobody out. He reared back & retired catcher; Rich Gedman, Dave Henderson & pinch hitter Don Baylor to bring the Shea crowd to a near frenzy as the Mets were only three outs away from the Championship.

In the 9th he retired the side in order & struck out Marty Barrett to close out the 1986 World Series. Jesse threw his glove in the air & was mobbed by his team mates in a ecstatic Shea Stadium, on a historical night that centerfieldmaz can proudly say he was there.

In that game he also came to bat got a base hit & drove in a run in hs only post season at bat.

In 1987 he tailed off a bit going 3-9 with a 4.44 ERA, although he still saved 16 games (9th in the league). That winter he was traded away by the Mets in a huge three team, seven player deal that brought Kevin Tapani & Wally Whitehurst to the Mets.

Mets History: Orosco is third all time in Mets history in saves (107) &fifth all time in in appearances (372).

Jesse Orosco landed near his home town of Santa Barbra in Southern California with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1988 he was no longer the main closer, pitching behind closers Jay Howell & Alejandro Pena at Dodger Stadium. In 55 appearances, he posted a 2.72 ERA & went 3-2 with nine saves. He went to the post season as his Dodgers surprised the Mets in the NLCS & then went on to shock the Oakland A’s by winning the World Series.

In 1989 he signed with the Cleveland Indians and stayed there for three years. By now in his later years he became a journey man middle reliever, going to the Milwaukee Brewers for three years, saving eight games in 1993.

He went to the Baltimore Orioles in 1995, under his former Mets manager Davey Johnson. He pitched there for five more years, making it to two more post seasons (1996 / 1997), appearing in four games with 12 innings pitched. He was the AL top fielding pitcher in 1994 & 1998.

In 1995 he led the league in appearances (65) at age 38. At age forty the ageless Orosco posted a 2.32 ERA, among the best of all AL relievers.

In 1999 he was actually traded back to the Mets but never pitched for them as he was soon traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Super Joe McEwing. From 1999 through the next six seasons he would be baseballs oldest player.

As the years went on he became strictly a left handed specialist which kept him pitching a few more years. Orosco went back to the Los Angeles Dodgers (2001-2002) San Diego Padres (2003) AL New York club (2003) & Minnesota Twins (2003)before finally retiring at age 46 in 2003.

He also led the league in fielding two more times, posting perfect fielding %.

Honors: Orosco was one of the best middle relievers of his time, and had one of the game’s best sliders as his main pitch. In his long 24 year career he holds the all time MLB record for pitching appearances with 1252.

Life time he was 87 –80 with 144 saves (82nd all time) with 501 games finished (40th all time). He posted a 3.36 ERA  with 1179 strike outs & 581 walks in 1295 innings pitched. Orosco only committed four errors in 1,295 career innings pitched for a .985 fielding percentage.

He has been on hand to throw out ceremonial first pitches at Shea Stadium on various occasions. He attended the 20th anniversary of the 1986 team & the final ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2009.

Orosco was on hand for the 30th Anniversary celebration of the 1986 World Champion Mets at Citi Field. He caught the ceremonial first pitch from Gary Carters son & then Carter leaped into his arms just like dad did on that historic night. Orosco also raised his hands in victory reminiscent of 1986.

Hall of Fame: There Is a strong argument & many supporters for his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Remembering Mets Opening Days of the Past (1979): Mets Score Ten Runs In Jesse Orosco's Debut

The Mets President; Lorinda deRoulet had fired M. Donald Grant effective January 1st, 1979. Grant was one of the most hated men in New York after being responsible for trading Tom Seaver to the Reds.  He was also responsible for the past trades of Rusty Staub, Nolan Ryan, Tug McGraw, Amos Otis & Dave Kingman. 

In the wake of baseball's free agency, Grant refused to sign any top notch free agents, although the Mets were one of the richest teams in the mid seventies.

That winter of 1978-1979, the Mets had also traded away, Jerry Koosman; one of the last players (along with Ed Kranepool) from the 1969 World Champions. Koosman went to his homestate of Minnesota to play with the Twins. In exchange they received Jesse Orosco, who would play a major part in the organizations turnaround & the 1986 Championship.

They had also acquired veteran Richie Hebner (nicknamed the Grave Digger) who had a big debut that day. 

Also gone this year was original broadcaster; Lindsey Nelson. Nelson's departure, broke up the classic announcing team of Nelson, Bob Murphy & Ralph Kiner. Nelson went on to work for the San Francisco Giants. His replacement was Steve Albert.

Trivia: The 1979 season would be the first year the Mets donned the players names on the back of their uniforms.

Thursday April 5th 1979 was a wild Opening Day for New York Mets & Chicago Cubs. 35,615 Fans came out to a windy Wrigley Field in Chicago to see Joe Torre's Mets take on Herman Franks' Cubs. Craig Swan, last years NL ERA leader, was making the first of two Mets Opening Day starts in his career, as he took on the Cubs' Rick Reuschel.

The Mets '79 Opening Day lineup:
Lee Mazzilli CF
Kelvin Chapman 2B
Richie Hebner 3B
John Stearns C
Willie Montanez 1B
Steve Henderson LF
Elliott Maddox RF
Doug Flynn SS
Craig Swan P

In the home 1st inning, base hits by Kelvin Chapman & Richie Hebner singled & John Stearns sac fly brought in the first run of the year. The Cubs answered as former Met; Dave Kingman singled home Ivan Dejesus. Kingman struck again with a double to left field scoring Ted Sizemore making it 2-1.

In the 4th, the newest Met; Richie Hebner blasted a solo HR, continuing his hot debut. In the Mets 5th; with two outs Craig Swan singled & Lee Mazzilli walked. Then, Chapman singled in Swan & Hebner doubled home Maz & Chapman making it 5-2 Mets.

Kingman homered off Swan in the 6thmaking it 5-3. The Mets exploded in the 7th, Mazzilli led off with a base hit & stole second. After a wild pitch he was on third base. With one out, Hebner doubled again, bringing in Mazzilli.

Willie Hernandez came in to pitch, walked John Stearns & a base hit to Willie Montanez. Steve Henderson's base hit brought in two runs. Eliott Maddox's base hit brought in another run. Doug Flynn added a Fielders Choice bringing in Henderson with the Mets tenth run.

Swan pitched a fine game, eight innings allowing three runs on nine hits with three strike outs & one walk. Dwight Bernard came in the 9th & had a rough outing. With two outs & a runner on second, Scott Thompson singled bringing in Jerry Martin. Ivan Dejesus singled & Ted Sizemore doubled in both runners making it 10-6.

A young Jesse Orosco made his first Mets appearance, came in & got Bill Buckner to fly out to right field, ending the game.

Although Hebner had a spectacular debut, he hated life in New York & being a Met. He would only play one season in New York batting .268 with 10 HRs & 79 RBIs. The Mets as a team finished 63-99 in sixth place.

Apr 19, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (1983) Mookie Wilson & Tom Seaver Help Sweep A Twin Bill

Wednesday April 20th 1983: A Wednesday double header was big game for popular Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson. The Mets led by manager George Bamberger hosted Chuck Tanner's Pittsburgh Pirates. The first game was like a day from the past, as Tom Seaver took the mound & pitched a three hit shut out.

The 38 year old Seaver was brought back to New York that year after spending 5 1/2 years with the Reds. He was traded for Charlie Puleo, Lloyd McClendenon & minor leaguer Jason Felice. The Mets were not a good team at the time & the return of Seaver was a nostalgic treat.

This was Seaver's best outing of the 1983 season, he pitched a complete game, three hit shut out striking out nine & walking three.

Starting Lineups

The Mets offense provide some rare pop that day to back up Tom Terrific. Even Seaver himself added to the offense hitting the fifth triple of his career, at 38 years old his RBI triple made it 2-0 Mets. He would score on Mookie Wilson's sac fly.

In the 3rd, Mets long time back up catcher Ron Hodges added an RBI single & in the 7th Dave Kingman blasted a two run HR topping off the 6-0 win. Mookie went 2-4 in the first game with an RBI. On this rare occasion the Mets would sweep the  double header. The Mets would play ten double headers in 1983 winning four of them, losing two & splitting the rest. The 1983 Mets would finish last 68-94.

Starting Lineups

In the nightcap the Mets Mike Torrez went up against the Pirates Lee Tunnell. In the 2nd inning, the Pirates scored two runs off Torrez both coming from ground outs after a walk & a base hit.

In the home 2nd Danny Heep walked & Mike Bishop doubled. They were brought in by Wally Backman with a base hit. Brian Giles then singled to center & Mookie Wilson came up driving a triple down the right field line. The Mets were up 4-2.

In the 4th inning, Pittsburgh's Mike Easler walked & came home on Dale Berra's double. He advanced to third on the throw & then scored after a third strike on Steve Nicosia got by Mets' catcher Mike Bishop. The score was now tied at four.

But this wacky game had another twist In the home 5th Mookie led off with a base hit & then stole second base. He advanced to third & with two outs came home to score on a wild pitch to Mike Bishop from pitcher Rod Scurry who had relieved Tunnel. But in top of the 6th the Met lead disappeared as Met pitcher Carlos Diaz allowed a single a walked & a run to score on a double play ball.

In the 8th the Mets got to one of the top relievers in the game, the side armed throwing Kent Tekulve. With two outs Brian Giles walked & pinch hitter George Foster walked as well. Then the star of the day, Mookie Wilson drove a hit into the left center field gap scoring what was to be the winning run. The Mets went on to the 6-5 win after Neil Allen closed it out.

On the day Mookie went 5-9, with four RBIs raising his average from .263 to .300 that day. That year he would lead the NL in plate appearances (6380 bat .276 & steal 54 bases (4th in the NL).

1999 NL Wild Card Mets Pitcher: Masato Yoshi (1998-1999)

Masato Yoshii was born April 20, 1965 in Osaka, Japan. The tall six foot two right hander was originally drafted in Japan in 1984.

He struggled with high ERA’s in his first two seasons pitching for the Kintetsu Buffaloes and earned his first career win in 1987. In 1988 he was the Pacific Leagues Relief pitcher of the Year, winning 19 games while posting 24 saves. He saved twenty more games the next year and eventually converted over to being a starter with the Yakult Swallows in 1993.

He won ten or more games the next three years, having a career year in the final year of his contract. He wanted to remain loyal to his team but his agent convinced to shoot for higher salaries with other teams Some in Japan felt he was asking more than he was worth. His friend Hideo Nomo convinced him to come over & pitch in America. He refused all offers in Japan to sign on with the New York Mets for $200,000 with incentives that would make him a million in his first year.

He made his MLB debut starting the fifth game of the 1998 season, throwing seven shutout innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, recording his first MLB win. Yoshi allowed just three hits & struck out seven in that game. In May he won three straight decisions, including a complete game performance where he allowed just one run on May 21st against the Cincinatti Reds at Shea Stadium.

He was 4-1 at the beginning of June but he would lose his next five decisions, and not earn another victory until August 19th. He would win just one more game the rest of the season, coming in his last outing of the year in a game against the Florida Marlins. In 29 games he went 6-8 with a 3.93 ERA striking out 117 batters in 177 innings pitched, giving up 22 HRs while walking only 55 batters
In 1999 he was once again on Bobby Valentines staff, & won his first outing of the season. It was the sixth game of the season, a 10-3 win over the Expos at Montreal. After a 1-3 April, he won four straight starts, including a two hit six inning shutout performance against the Diamond backs in Arizona. As the season went on h got better closing out the year with five straight winning decisions in August & September.

He got better run support than the previous year, especially down the stretch. Yoshi pitched a complete game, one run, six hitter in San Diego on August 18th against the Padres to start the win streak. He would pitch into the sixth inning or beyond in all his wins, finishing the year at 12-8 with a 4.40 ERA. In 29 games he struck out 105 batters in 170 innings, helping the Mets catch the Wild Card title & go to their first post season since 1986.

Post Season: In the NLDS he started Game #2 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, going into the 6th inning giving up four runs on six hits while earning no decision. The Mets eventually won the game 8-4. In the NLCS he got the call from Bobby Valentine to start Game #1 in Atlanta against Greg Maddox & the Braves. He took the loss giving up two runs on five hits in 4.2 innings pitched.

He returned to start the eventual classic Robin Ventura "grand slam single" Game #4, and was one of the nine Mets pitchers used in the extra inning win. In the game Yoshii allowed two runs on four hits in just three innings pitched. 

In the 1999 off season he was traded to the Colorado Rockies for the left handed Bobby Jones & some guy named Lariel Gonzales. Yoshii got hit hard in the thin Rocky Mountain air at Colorado, going 6-15 (sixth most losses in the league) as he posted a 5.86 ERA. He was released after the season and signed on with the Montreal Expos pitching there for two seasons. He went 8-16 over those seasons with an ERA averaging around 4.50. By age 38 he was out of the major leagues after pitching there for five years.

Lifetime he was 32-47 with a 4.62 ERA, 447 strike outs & 222 walks in 162 games pitched. He went back to Japan and pitched there until 2007, making his fifth All Star Team there in 2006 then retiring at the age of 42.

Early Seventies Mets Relief Pitcher: Chuck Taylor (1972)

Charles Gilbert Taylor was born on April 18th , 1942 in Shelbyville, Tennessee. The six foot two right hander attended Middle Tennessee State University getting signed by the St. Louis Cards in 1961. After three years in the St. Louis organization he was traded along with future Met Jim Beauchamp to the Houston Colt 45's for Carl Warwick.

The next year he was sent back to St. Louis along with Hal Woodehick for Mike Cuellar & 1969 Mets ace reliever Ron Taylor. Taylor began his career as a starter going 7-5 in 1969 before becoming a full time reliever. In 1970 he saved eight games in 56 games going 6-7. He would pitch with the Cardinals through the 1971 season when he was 3-1.

On October 18th 1971 he was traded with Jim Beauchamp, Harry Parker & Chip Coulter for Art Shamsky, Jim Bibby, Rich Folkers & Charlie Hudson. In 1972 Taylor began the season in the Mets bullpen as a middle reliever. He debuted in the second game of the season pitching one inning against the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates.

On April 25th in San Diego Taylor pitched three innings of scoreless relief, helping Buzz Capra to a 2-1 win over the Padres while earning a save. On May 16th he pitched 3.2 innings of relief at Shm helping Tom Seaver to a win over the Expos. Taylor made twenty appearances for the '72 Mets earning two saves, posting a 5.52 ERA striking out nine batters walking nine in 31 innings pitched. He was placed on waivers in September & got picked up by the Milwaukee Brewers.

In 1973 he went to the Montreal Expos & pitched there for four seasons. In 1974 he had his best season, going 6-2 with 11 saves (5th most in the NL) posting a 2.17 ERA while making 61 appearances (9th in the NL). The next year he saved six games which still was enough to lead the Montreal staff, going 2-2 in 54 appearances. His last season in the majors was 1976 where he pitched in 31 games going 2-3 with no saves.

Apr 18, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (2017) Jay Bruce Hits Two HRs & Drives in All Five Runs

Wednesday April 19th 2017: On this cool early season evening, Terry Collins Mets (8-7) took on Pete Mackanin's Philadelphia Phillies (5-9). This early on the regning NL Wild Card winning  Mets were still hopeful for the season.

The starters were Robert Gsellman & Vince Velasquez.

Starting Lineups

The Phillies took an early 2-0 lead, on a groundout & RBI single. In the home 6th, with two outs, Asdrubal Cabrera singled & Yoenis Cespedes walked. Jay Bruce stepped in & hit a three run HR putting the Mets ahead 3-2.

Gsellman entered the 8th inning with that lead, then surrendered a lead off, ground rule double to Aaron Altherr. Jerry Blevins came in for relief & got the next two outs. Then Michael Saunders singled bringing in the tying run.

In the home 8th, Cespedes led off with a single off reliever Edubray Ramos. Jay Bruce then stepped in & blasted a two run HR, his second of the game & his 6th HR in the young season, just 16 games in.

The blast put the Mets ahead 5-3 and the extra run turned out to be good insurance, as Addison Reed allowed another run in the top of the 9th. The Mets won it 5-4.