Feb 15, 2016

Remembering Former Mets Utility Player: Jeff McKnight (1989/ 1992-1994)

Jefferson Alan McKnight was born on February 18, 1963 in Conway, Arkansas. His father Jim McKnight played 63 games at the major league level for the Chicago Cubs in 1960/1962. He was an outfielder who also played at third & second base, batting .231 in 91 at bats.

He was originally drafted by the Orioles but did not sign, then in 1983 was a second round pick for the New York Mets. McKnight spent over six seasons & more than 1500 at bats before he made it to the big leagues. He never hit above .255 & the year he was called up, he had his minor league best nine HRs.

He came up in June 1989 to replace an injured Tim Tuefel and got a pinch hit single in his first at bat. After six games he went 3-12 batting .250 playing all infield positions, but was sent back down to Tidewater. He was released at the end of the season and signed with the Baltimore Orioles. He played there for two seasons not hitting much, batting .200 in 1990 followed by .171 the next year. The Mets signed him as a free agent again in 1992 and he came to spring training as a non roster player.

He batted .307 at AAA Tidewater in the teams last season before moving to Norfolk & made a return to the big leagues that August. After going hitless in his first game, he got five hits over a five game period, hitting safely in three straight, keeping himself in the lineup steadily.

At the end of the month he drove in five runs in a three game span at Shea Stadium and had a pair of three hit games as well. He hit his first Mets HR at Wrigley Field on September 15th, a two run shot helping the Mets to a 4-2 win. He finished the year batting .271 (23-85) with six extra base hits two HRs three doubles, 13 RBIs 7 a .287 on base %.

McKnight would play seven positions for the Mets over the three seasons, including one game behind the plate in 1993. Not only was he versatile on the field he was the same with uniform numbers, donning five different numbers on his back as a Mets player.

When he first arrived with the Mets he wore #15. Later taking #5 but Jeromy Burnitz wanted that number & McKnight switched to #7. When the Dallas Green era began, coach Bobby Wine took #7 & McKnight wore #17. He gave that number up to Bret Saberhagen & began to don #18.

In 1993 he saw the most action of his career playing in 105 games with 164 at bats as the team’s utility man. On July 25thwith the Mets ahead 1-0 he gave them some room, when he had a 9th inning pitch hit single off the Dodgers Todd Worrell driving in Jeromy Burnitz & Jeff Kent. He hit .256 and put up identical numbers as the year before with two HRs three doubles & 13 RBIs.

By 1994 he was used as a pinch hitter but after going just 4-26 batting only .148 in 31 games he was sent back down to AAA Norfolk in early June. He hit .346 in eight games at Norfolk but then retired from the game. He came back four years later to play two years in the Independent Leagues, spending 1998 with the Newark Bears.

In his six year career McKnight is a .233 hitter with 94 hits five HRs ten doubles 28 walks 34 RBIs & a .284 on base %. On the field he played 39 games at first base, 38 games at second, 34 games at short 13 games at third & 16 games in the outfield.

He played 13 years in the minors batting .266 with 34 HRs 156 doubles 19 triples 354 RBIs 37 stolen bases a & .354 on base % in 1000 games.

In 2005 McKnight was diagnosed with leukemia. After a ten year battle he passed away on Sunday March1st, 2015 at age 52. His passing was first reported to centerfieldmaz by the  "the great Don" Joe Vella.

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