Jan 4, 2015

Mid Nineties Mets Pitcher: Robert Person (1995-1996)

Robert Alan Person was born the day won their first pennant on October 6, 1969 in Lowell, Massachusetts. The six foot right hander was originally signed in 1989 way down in the 25th round by the Cleveland Indians.

He spent five seasons at the A ball level eventually getting traded to the Chicago White Sox organization. He was then chosen by the expansion Florida Marlins as the 47th pick in the 1992 expansion draft.

At the end of Spring Training 1994 he was traded to the New York Mets for minor leaguer Steve Long. He finally reached the AA level in 1994, going 9-6 at AA Binghamton. He went 5-4 the next year getting promoted to AAA Norfolk where he was 2-1. He did well enough to get a September call up to Dallas Green's second place Mets team.

Person made his debut on September 18th pitching in relief in a 7-1 Mets loss to the Atlanta Braves. After making another relief appearance, he got a chance to make his first start on September 27th. That day he earned his first career win, allowing one run on three hits over seven innings pitched against the Cincinnati Reds.

In 1996 he made the staff but was 0-1 with an ERA of 13.50 toward the end of April. He then spent the next month and a half back in AAA Norfolk.

When he returned on June 13th he threw seven shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals and earned his first victory of the season. He lost his next two decisions & was 2-3 by the break. From August through the end of the season, Bobby Valentine who had taken over as manager was using him in the starting rotation.

On a West Coast road trip he was hammered twice; first in San Diego when the Padres scored nine runs off him in just 4.1 innings & then again five days later when the Giants knocked him out scoring nine runs in two innings in San Francisco.

When he returned to Shea he beat the Giants on August 31st. After three no decisions, he earned a win on the next to last day of the season, pitching eight innings, allowing two runs in a 4-2 win over the Phillies.

Person finished up 1996 at 4-5 with a 4.52 ERA, striking out 76 batters in 89 innings pitched. His biggest problem in his career would always be the injuries which set him back. The Mets & their fans got a great Christmas present from Toronto on December 20th, 1996, when they got John Olerud in exchange for Robert Person.

Person went 5-10 his first season with the Blue Jays, and was put in the bullpen the following year. In 1998 he went 3-1 with six saves, but posted a 7.04 ERA. Midway through 1999 he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies where he was put back in a starting role. He responded by going 10-5 with a 4.27 ERA finding new life again as a starter. In 2000 he posted the tenth best ERA in the league at 3.63 while going 9-7.

The following season he had his best year ever, winning 15 games going 15-7 with a 4.19 ERA, striking out career high 183 batters (8th in the league) in 208 innings pitched. The Phillies fans were so ecstatic he even started a Robert Person fan club called “Person’s People”. 

In 2002 his career winded down but not before he performed his most famous feat, and that came with the bat. On June 2, 2002 he hit two HRs in a game against the Montreal Expos, both pitchers he hit HRs off were one time New York Mets.

 In the 1st inning, Person hit a grand slam off Masato Yoshi & then in the 5th inning he hit a three run shot off Bruce Chen. He also pitched five solid innings on his history making day.

But then injuries set him back, & at the age of 34 he pitched his final game in the majors with the Boston Red Sox. He would spend two more years in minor league ball before ending his playing career.

Overall he had spent parts of 15 seasons at the minor league level going 56-52 with a 3.86 ERA in 231 games. Person spent nine seasons in the majors, going 51-42 with nine saves, 773 strike outs 438 walks & a 4.64 ERA in 897 innings pitched over 206 games.

Drama: In November 2010 Person was arrested in Pinellas County Florida for failure to appear in court after being accused of driving with a suspended license.

In 2011 Person told Sports Illustrated that he had his share of bad investments & financial difficulty after his playing days. He pitched for the Bridgeport Blue Fish in the Independent league & attempted a comeback to the major leagues, but it didn't work out.

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