Jan 12, 2016

1986 World Champion Mets Utility Player: Kevin Mitchell (1985-1986)

 Kevin Darnell Mitchell was born January 13, 1962 in San Diego, California. As a child he was raised by his grandmother, then as a teen he ran with a San Diego street gang .

He was a tough kid who also shot three times and still has the bullet scars for proof. He played baseball which kept him out of even more trouble & was so good, he was signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent in 1980.

In the minors he batted .300 or better his first three seasons while hitting 15 HRs at AAA getting to Tidewater by 1984. That season he batted.284 with 10 HRs getting a September call up for seven games with the Mets. Mitchell, debuted at St. Louis going 0-1 as a pinch hitter in a game against the Cardinals.


He spent 1985 back at AAA Tidewater with guys like Len Dykstra, Ron Gardenhire, Sid Fernandez, Randy Meyers, Rick Aguilera, Ed Hearn & Billy Beane. He hit .290 with 24 doubles 9 HRs & 43 RBIs in 95 games making the 1986 Mets big league club.

In his rookie year he was one of the team’s most valuable all around players that wasn’t a high paid star. Mitchell played six different positions for the 1986 Championship Mets, earning the name “World” from Hall of Famer Gary Carter because of his versatility on the field.

He started out the year as a pinch hitter going 0-3 then in his first start he had two hits. He got hot in mid April getting nine hits in a two week stretch covering a six game period. In June he had 26 hits driving in a dozen runs playing in just 21 games. On June 8th he hit a two run HR & the singled home another run leading the Mets past the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3. Mitchell continued to hit through the summer with 16 hits 5 HRs & 7 RBIs in the month of July, finishing the month with a .325 average.

On July 23rd he hit an 8th inning two run HR in Cincinnati putting the Mets ahead with the winning runs 3-2. At the end of the month he hit HRs in back to back games against the Braves & Cubs. in On August 14th he had a big day in a the first game of a double header against the rival Cardinals. He began with a two run HR then ended the game with a walk off game winning single off Todd Worrell as the Mets continued to roll over the NL East.

On August 19th he hit a two run HR off Fernando Valenzuela at Dodger Stadium leading the Mets to a 6-4 win & a series sweep over the Dodgers. In September he drove in three runs in a game against the San Diego Padres and then drove in runs in three of four straight games in the middle of the month.

Mitchell finished up his rookie year batting .277 with 12 HRs 22 doubles, 51 runs scored, 53 RBIs & a .344 on base %, finishing third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

Post Season: In Game #3 of the NLCS agianst the Houston Astros, with the Mets down 4-0, Mitchell started the Mets 6th inning rally with a base hit. He eventually scored their first run when Gary Carter reached on an error. He didn’t play again until Game #6 at the Astrodome where he went 0-4.

In the World Series Mitchell saw action in five games. He was 0-2 as a pinch hitter in games One & Three. He then was 1-4 as a designated hitter in Game #5 at Fenway Park.

In the famous final inning of Game Six, it looked as though the Mets were finished. Mitchell went to the clubhouse to make plane reservations to get the soonest flight home to San Diego. He was tracked down to go pinch hit for Rick Aguilera after Gary Carter had singled with two outs. Mitchell was already out of his uniform,& quickly had to get dressed, grab a bat & go to the plate.

He singled off his old Tidewater teammate Calvin Shiraldi and advanced to third on Ray Knight’s base hit. Mitchell would eventually score the tying run when Bob Stanley threw a wild pitch to Mookie Wilson. Overall he was 2 -8 in the Series (.250) scoring one of the biggest runs in Mets history

Drama: For the most part Mitchell seemed to do his job quietly but there are some stories that show his wild side. Back in 1981 after he was signed he was playing a pick up basketball game & got into a fist fight with Daryl Strawberry who had also been signed.

The Decapitated Cat Story: Another tale comes from Dwight Gooden in his book Heat; during an argument with his live-in girlfriend, Mitchell held Gooden hostage & allegedly decapitated the girls cat. Mitchell said Gooden's was just trying to keep the attention off of him.  

But in 2014 Darryl Strawberry confirmed
“That’s a pretty good story. I think it’s pretty accurate,” Strawberry said while promoting his new book. “Kevin Mitchell did do that. Kevin Mitchell, he’s a different type of guy.” Straw did add, "he was a great guy, super teammate & great person.”

The Mets organization felt that Mitchell was a bad influence on both Gooden & Strawberry & decided to trade the young Mitchell away.

"In New York, they used me as a scapegoat for them," Mitchell says. "I was the bad seed, they said. But those guys were already in the big leagues and I'm a rookie and I'm telling them what to do? There's no way." 

In December of 1986, Mitchell was traded to his hometown Padres along with the Bronx’s own Stan Jefferson and Shawn Abner in exchange for Kevin McReynolds. He didn’t last long in San Diego getting traded in July to the San Francisco Giants in a multi-player trade that worked out great for the Giants.


In his first year in San Francisco 1987, he hit 22 HRs with 70 RBIs & a .280 average. That year he got to the post season again losing to the St. Louis Cardinals. He hit a HR in Game #5 in San Francisco's 6-3 win, as the Giants took a 3-2 Series lead but eventually lost the series.

From when he arrived in San Francisco, Giants coach Dusty Baker took a liking to him and worked with him on his hitting after a drop off year in 1988. The next year he switched positions moving from third base, to the outfield and had a career year.

He won the 1989 NL MVP Award, leading the league in HRs (47) RBIs (125) slugging (.645) & total bases (345). He hit .291 with 34 doubles 6 triples & a .388 on base % leading his team to the playoffs & their first World Series appearance since 1962.

He hit a HR & drove in four runs on Opening Day then hit another HR the next day. To start out May he hit four HRs in three days and had nine total in the month. At the start of June he had incredible week hitting seven HRs driving in 12 runs with 11 hits in just six games. He rolled along through the summer months leading the league in HRs along the way.

 
On September 1st he hit a two run HR off the Mets Ron Darling & led the Giants to a 7-1 win driving in four of the runs. He also hit a pair of HRs in a game against the Padres, it was the fifth time that year he had muti HR games. 

Trivia: He made the highlight reels with a classic bare-handed catch of a fly ball to deep left field off the bat of Ozzie Smith, in St. Louis' that is still shown frequently today. He over ran the ball & went right through an unlocked door under the stands making it more dramatic. 

That year he made the first of two consecutive All Star appearances as well.


Post Season: In the NLCS he hit a three run HR in the first game against the Chicago Cubs in the Giants 11-3 romp. He hit another the next day & overall batted 353 with 2 HRs and seven RBIs. He played in the famous Bay Area Earthquake World Series getting swept by the Oakland A’s four straight. In the Series he hit a HR in the final fourth game, batting .294 overall (5-17) with a HR & two RBIs.

The next year he hit 35 HRs (3rd in the NL) with 93 RBIs 24 doubles a .544 slugging % (3rd in the NL) & a .290 batting average. 

By 1991 his career began to fall off, due to personal distractions, bad attitude & poor work out habits. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners after the 1991 season, and arrived at spring training 30 pounds overweight. He only played in 99 games hitting a solid .286 but the power numbers fell to just 9 HRs with 67 RBIs. 


After one season he was sent to the Cincinnati Reds, and had a resurgence in 1994, batting .326 (6th in the NL) with 30 HRs (6th in the NL) and 77 RBIs in the strike-shortened season. In 1995 he went to play in Japan becoming the highest-paid player in Japanese history. He angered the team management when he chose to travel to the U.S. in mid-season for knee problems.

In the next two years, he came back to the States and played for four major league teams, hitting only 14 HRs. He retired after the 1998 season, ending his 13-season career playing for eight different teams. He is the only MVP Award winner to play with that many teams in his career. Mitchell batted .284, with 234 HRs 760 RBIs 224 doubles & 25 triples in 1223 games.

Family: His cousin Keith Mitchell played in the major leagues four parts of four seasons with the Braves, Mariners, Reds & Red Sox in the 1990’s, batting .260 life time.

Retirement: After his playing days he has had his share of drama once again. He was arrested in 1998 for assaulting his father during an public argument. He was arrested in 2000 when he punched an opposing team’s owner in the mouth while playing in the Independent League.

More recently in 2010 he was arrested on a Chula Vista Golf course with an assault charge. Mitchell also owes the state of California more than $5 million dollars in back taxes & is one the state’s highest tax delinquents.

Medically He has been diagnosed with diabetes, and struggles to keep himself in shape. "The diabetes woke me up," Mitchell says. "I think the man upstairs has another plan for me, working with kids. The doctors said I could've died. It's changed my life."

He was on hand for the 20th anniversary festivities at Shea Stadium honoring the 1986 Championship team.

Trivia: One story says Mitchell once broke a tooth & needed root canal after he left a frozen doughnut in the microwave oven too long. He replaced his tooth with a gold one. 

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