Sep 25, 2014

The Drama of Early Nineties Mets Outfielder: Vince Coleman (1991-1993)

Vincent Maurice Coleman was born on September 22, 1961 in Jacksonville, Florida. Coleman attended the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University setting stolen base records there as well as playing football.

He followed in the footsteps of his cousin Greg Coleman who was one of the first African American punters in the NFL. Greg Coleman is a member of the Florida A & M Hall of Fame, as well as being a member of the Minnesota Vikings 40th Anniversary team. He played for the Vikings from 1978- 1987, leading the NFC in punts in 1982. He is currently a sideline reporter for the Vikings in Minnesota.

Vince Coleman chose baseball instead of a football career, getting drafted by the St, Louis Cardinals in the tenth round of the 1982 draft. In the minor leagues he set a professional baseball record by stealing 145 bases with A ball Macon in 1983 depite missing a month of the season.

During his prime he was one of the fastest men in the league & baseballs best base stealer. He would lead the league in stolen bases in his first six years, breaking the Dodgers Maury Wills NL record of consecutive years leading the league. Strangely with all his stolen bases, Coleman was never a great hitter, although he batted .289 or better twice in his six years with the Cardinals.

In the outfield despite all his speed he was the team’s left fielder as opposed to being its centerfielder. He certainly scored a lot of runs but never drove in more than 43 & was criticized by his manager Whitey Herzog for lack of RBIs.

Coleman began his career winning the 1985 Rookie of the Year Award, leading the NL in stolen bases (110) while batting just .267 with one HR 20 doubles 10 triples (4th in the NL) & 107 runs scored (5th in the NL). In left field he posted a .982 fielding % (2nd among left fielders) & made 16 assists (also second in the NL).

Coleman killed the Mets in fourteen games on the season he stole seven bases & gather up twenty hits as the Cardinals beat out the Mets for the Eastern Division crown. The Mets & Cards would battle for the divisional crown for the next four seasons stirring up a bitter rivalry.

In the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers Ccoleman played in three games going 4-14 (.286) with an RBI a stolen base & two runs scored.

Prior to Game #4 Coleman was injured as the mechanical tarp was being out on the field as a light rain began to fall. Coleman was unaware of the tarp being rolled out & had his leg get caught underneath it. He chipped a bone & missed the rest of the post season.

The Cards routed the Dodgers 12-2 that night & advanced to the World Series losing to the Kansas City Royals in seven games. Coleman’s replacement Tito Landrum went on to hit .378 during the rest of the post season after taking over left field.

Controversy: Coleman offended many fans in 1985 when he was asked about Jackie Robinson, saying “ I don’t know nothing about him, why are you asking me about Jackie Robinson?” Jackie’s widow Rachel Robinson, responded by saying, "I hope somehow he'll learn and be embarrassed by his own ignorance."

Coleman stole over 100 bases three straight years, also leading the league in caught stealing each year. He became known as Vincent Van Go running ramped on the fake turf at Busch Stadium.

In the Cardinals 1987 pennant season he stole 109 bases hitting .289 with 14 doubles 10 triples 70 walks posting career highs in hits (180) runs scored (121) & on base % (.363 on base). He struck out 126 times as well. In left field he made nine errors (third in the NL) while the previous season he had led the league with nine errors as well.

In the 1987 NLCS he got a hit & an RBI in the Series opener in St. Louis against the San Francisco Giants. In Game #3 at San Francisco his 7th inning single off the Giants Don Robinson drove in the tying & go ahead runs in what would be the Cards 6-5 win.

Coleman finished the series with seven hits in 26 at bats & four RBIs. He only hit .143 in the World Series loss to the Minnesota Twins striking out ten times, although he did manage to steal six bases & drive in a pair of runs while scoring three other runs. Coleman remained in St. Louis for three more season, hitting a career best .292 in 1990.

On December 5th 1990 Coleman went from earning 1.0 million dollars to signing a 3.1 million dollar deal with the New York Mets. Unfortunately his career went downhill before the ink was dry, between injuries, poor play & lots of embarrassing drama.

On Opening Day 1991 Coleman was batting leadoff in a lineup that included his former 1980’s Cardinal teammate Tommy Herr at second base. Also it was the return of Hubbie Brooks who was batting cleanup, & Charlie O’ Brien catching behind the plate. Coleman led off his Mets career with a double & scored the first run of the new '91 season. On April 11th he doubled home two runs & drew two walks in a 6-3 Mets win over the Montreal Expos. From April 10th through the 15th he drew eleven walks.

On April 26th he stole three bases in Mets 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. He closed out the month only batting .219 but increased his average up to .275 by June 1st.In mid June he went down with his first injry of the year , missing over a month of action. Coleman did steal 37 bases on the year but had his season shut down in early August & would only play in 72 games all season. He batted just .255 with one HR 5 triples 7 doubles 45 runs scored & 17 RBIs.

In 1992 Coleman only played in seven games over the first two months of the season. He was part of Jeff Torborg's 5th place Mets labeled the worst team money could buy. When he returned to the lineup he had a good June raising his average up to .316.

From there he missed most of the month of July & went he returned in August he slumped off to finish with a .275 average playing in just 71 games. That season he stole 24 bases with just 14 extra base hits & 37 runs scored.

Drama: During the 1992 & 1993 seasons, Coleman became involved in two very ugly incidents which ruined his reputation & his career as a Met. Early in the year, he along with Dwight Gooden & Daryl Boston was accused of a sexual assault charge in the state of Florida, although prosecutors never perused the charges. In April of 1993 he injured Dwight Gooden’s arm by carelessly swinging a golf club in the clubhouse.

Then in one of his worst escapades, he threw a lit fire cracker out of Dodger outfielder Eric Davis’ car window into a crowd of fans waiting for autographs outside of Dodger Stadium. The firecracker injured a woman & two children including a two year old girl. The Mets took action, suspending Coleman for the rest of the season.

For 1993 playing in 92 games he stole 38 stolen bases (9th in the NL) while posting a .316 on base %. Coleman hit .279 with 14 doubles 8 triples 2 HRs 64 runs scored & 25 RBIs.

In the off season was traded to the Kansas City Royals for the return of Kevin McReynolds toward the end of his career.

Coleman hit .240 with the 1994 Royals & was traded away to the Seattle Mariners in August 1995. Coleman finished his career playing in 33 games with Cincinnati in 1996 & six games with Detroit in 1997.

In his 13 year career, Coleman stole 752 bases which is sixth on the all time list.

He batted .264 with 1425 hits, 176 doubles 89 triples (215th all time) 28 HRs 849 runs scored & 346 RBIs with a .324 on base %.

In the outfield he played 1311 games making 68 errors with 109 assists & a .974 fielding %.

No comments: