Feb 18, 2016

The First Mets Player To HR In His First Career At Bat: Benny Ayala (1974 / 1976)

Benigno Ayala was born on February 7, 1951 in Yauco, Puerto Rico,. The six foot right hand hitting outfielder was signed as an amateur free agent by the New York Mets in 1971. He was a highly touted outfield prospect with a reputation for hitting with power in the minor leagues.

The six foot one, right handed batter, hit 19 HRs at A ball with the Visalia Mets in 1972. He followed with 17 HRs the next year at AA Memphis. In 1974 Ayala was with AAA Tidewater batting .274, leading the club with 11 HRs 21 doubles & 40 RBIs when he got called up to the Mets at the end of August.

Benny made his MLB debut at Shea Stadium as the Mets left fielder on August 27, 1974 & would make a mark in Mets history. Ayala became the first Met in team history to hit a HR in his first career at bat. It came in the 2nd inning when he homered off the Houston Astros Tom Griffin. After the game he was a guest on Kiners Korner with Ralph Kiner. Kiner invited Felix Millan as well, to help Ayala in case his English wasn’t all that good. Benny did a good job, especially when he told Ralph the HR was on a “high fostball”.


Ayala had a pair of two hit games during the next month but didn’t hit another HR until September 28th, twenty games after his debut shot. In his last five games he hit in four straight games, including a string of three straight multi hit games. On the season he hit .235 with two HRs one double, eight RBIs, a .305 on base %, while batting .235.

In 68 at bats he struck out 17 times and found himself back at AAA Tidewater for the 1975 season. In just 65 games at Tidewater he was second to Roy Staiger on the team with HRs (6) & his .277 average was fourth on the team behind Mike Vail (.342) Brock Pemberton (.297) & Bruce Boisclair (.278).

In 1976 Ayala made the Mets club out of Spring Training, but he hit just .115 and was sent back to AAA Tidewater at the end of May. There his average fell to .225 but his 12 HRs were second on the Tides club to Billy Baldwin, who arrived in the Rusty Staub trade.

In March of 1977 Ayala was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Doug Clarey who never played for the Mets big league squad.
In 1977 Ayala hit 18 HRs with 73 RBIs while batting .298 at AAA New Orleans. By 1979 the Baltimore Orioles acquired Ayala, and he became one of their key role players getting to the 1979 World Series. He hit .256 with six HRs, five doubles & 22 RBIs in 42 regular season games as their fifth outfielder.


Post Season: He did not play in the ALCS win over the California Angels. In the World Series against the "We Are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates, he got the start while batting in the second spot in Game #3. That night at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, he hit a two run HR off future Mets pitcher, John Candelaria. He got another start in Game #6 but went 0-3. Overall he hit .333 (2-6) in the series.

The next year 1980, he had career highs in games played (76) HRs (10) RBIs (33) & doubles (8) batting .265. He would spend a total of six years with the Orioles, hitting a career high .305 in 126 at bats, with six HRs & 24 RBIs. He was also a member of the Orioles 1983 World Series championship team, playing in 47 regular seasons games batting .221.

Post Season: He was 0-1 as a pinch hitter in the 1983 ALCS against the Chicago White Sox. In the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, he came to bat as a pinch hitter in Game #3, with the Orioles down 2-1. He hit a single off Steve Carlton driving in Rick Dempsey with the tying run. He then scored what turned out to be the winning run on Dan Ford's base hit & short stop Ivan DeJesus ' error.

After the 1984 season he was granted free agency & signed a one year deal with the Cleveland Indians.

In his ten year career Ayala hit .251 with 217 hits with 38 HRs 42 doubles 71 walks 145 RBIs & a .305 on base % in 425 games.

In the eighties he played in the short lived Senior League Professional League in Florida.

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