Mar 28, 2016

The St. Lucie Mets

As Spring Training winds down, lets take a look at the St. Lucie Mets who will be playing at Tradition Field once the big league club heads North.

Port St. Lucie is a city of approximately 175,000 people located in the mid eastern sections of Florida in St. Lucie County. The area has grown rapidly in the last decade.

The St. Lucie Mets began playing Advanced A ball in 1988, the same year Thomas White Stadium opened up & the New York Mets started playing their Spring Training games there. White was a real estate developer who along with sports writer Jack Champion helped bring the Mets to St. Lucie. The Mets moved on from their previous Spring Training spot of St. Petersburg, Florida.

That same year, the St. Lucie Mets went on to win the Florida State League Championship. Johnny Monell Sr. was the clubs second baseman, father of current Met Johnny Monell Jr.  

After two years the team became the Class A affiliate of the New York Mets & have been that way ever since. In 2004 the stadium's name was changed to Tradition Field, a 7160 seat venue. For a short lived time it was also called Digital Domain Park.

The St. Lucie Mets have won four more Florida State League titles : 1996 with future big leaguers Vance Wilson, Preston Wilson & Guillermo Mota. 1998 with players like Jason Tyner, Melvin Mora, Todd Hundley (12 games) & Grant Roberts.

The 2003 Champions featured David Wright who went on to a fine Mets career, Angel Pagan, Scott Kazmir & Tyler Yates. The last time the St. Lucie Mets won the FSL Championship was in 2006, although they did win a 2011 Divisional title.  

That team featured current Mets Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares as well as Josh Edgin & Matt den Dekker.

Other current Mets who played at St. Lucie are Jacob deGrom, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejasa & Dilson Herrera.

In 2015 Tradition Field hosted the FSL All Star Game. Current MLB Managers Clint Hurdle (1988-1989) & John Gibbons (1996-1997) both former Mets players have managed the St. Lucie team. Current Mets third base coach Tim Teufel managed the team in 2004-2005 & then again in 2008-2009. Gary Carter managed the 2006 squad.

The team mascot since 2013 is "Klutch" who replaced "Slider" who had been the mascot for 17 years before moving to the Kingsport Mets. A Floridian Mr. Met is also used as a team mascot.

Late 2000's Mets Utility Player: Mike Hessman (2010)

Michael Steven Hessman was born March 5th, 1978 in Fountain Valley, California. The six foot five inch, two hundred fifteen pound right hand hitter was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1996. From 1997 through 2002 the big guy hit 19 or more HRs each season in the minor leagues.

 In 2001 & 2002 he blasted 26 HRs in each season. The power also came with low batting averages as well as a lot of strike outs, including six straight minor league seasons of 125 or more strike outs. 

In late August of 2003 he was brought up to the Braves big league club & in his second game hit a 9th inning pinch hit HR against the New York Mets. The HR came against Mike Stanton bringing the Braves within a run, although the Mets prevailed 6-5. He hit another HR two games later & it would be his last for the season. In 21 at bats he hit .286 with two HRs & three RBIs. 

 In 2004 he made the club out of Spring Training but was back down in the minors by July 1st hitting 2 HRs batting just .130. He spent two seasons in the minors, then signed on with the Detroit Tigers.

Hessman played in less than twenty games each season batting 296 in 2008. Previously in 51 at bats (17 games) during 2007 he hit 4 HRs and drove in 12 runs with the Tigers.
 In 2008 Hessman was a member of the U.S. Olympic & hit 34 HRs for the AAA Toledo Mud Hens. In an early September game he played all nine positions in a game for the AAA Toledo Mud Hens. In December of 2009 he signed with the New York Mets as a free agent. At AAA Buffalo, he hit .274 leading the Bison's with 18 HRs & tying for the team lead in RBIs along with Russ Adams with 58. Hessman was brought up to the Mets at the end of July 2010 debuting as a pinch hitter on July 27th.

The next day he got a start & Hessman drove in two runs with a double against the St. Louis Cardinals. Albert Pujols would drive in the winning run to defeat the Mets in extra innings.

On August 5th Hessman hit a three run HR against the Philadelphia Phillies although the Mets still lost the game 7-5. He never got his batting average back up over the .200 mark through the seasons. Overall he played in 32 games being mostly used as a pinch hitter for the Mets batting .127 with one HR & six RBIs. On the field he played eight games at third base & six games at first base. 

After the season he refused a minor league assignment & was granted free agency. He then went on to play the 2011 season in Japan for the Orix Buffaloes in their Pacific League.

In 2012 he signed with the Houston Astros & had to play in the minor leagues, as he hit 35 HRs with 78 RBIs, batting .231 at AAA Oklahoma City. In 2013 he played for the Cincinnati Reds & Detroit Tigers minor leagues.

In five MLB seasons he hit .188 with 14 HRs 8 doubles 33 RBIs & a .272 on base % in 109 games.

Mar 25, 2016

Early 2000's Mets Relief Pitcher: David Weathers (2002-2004)

John David Weathers was born on September 25, 1969 in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. Weather was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 3rd round of the 1991 draft. The six foot three right hander was a journey man pitcher who pitched in the big leagues for 19 years. Weather is only the twentieth pitcher in history to appear in over 900 games.

His long career began in Canada, & after two brief seasons in Toronto he became a starter with the Florida Marlins going 8-12 in 1994. He eventually became a full time middle inning reliever by 1996, and would land in New York (A.L.) Cleveland, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Chicago (NL) until he landed in with the New York Mets in 2002.

He arrived via free agency and found a spot as a solid middle reliever having one of his best seasons going 6-1 with a 2.91 ERA. On Opening Day he got credit for the hold in the Mets 6-2 win at Shea Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the month of April he made 12 appearances with three holds, a blown save & earning himself two victories. Weathers became a workhorse already having 12 holds in 44 appearances by the All Star Break.

In late July he got credit for two wins in a three day span in Chicago & at home against the Montreal Expos. In the final three months of the season he won three games, got credit for eight holds & only blew one save which came on September 24th at Pittsburgh against the Pirates. For the season Weathers struck out 61 batters in 77 innings posting a .667 winning percentage.

In 2003 he wasn’t as effective, as he dropped to 1-6 with a 3.08 ERA in 77 appearances, although he struck out 75 batters in 84 innings pitched. In 2004 after 32 appearances, he was 5-3 with an ERA of 4.28 in June when he was traded along with Jeremy Griffiths to the Houston Astros for Richard Hidalgo. For the remainder of the season he pitched in both Houston & Florida.

In 2005 he went to the Cincinnati Reds and found a spot as a quality closer for four seasons. In 2005 he was 7-4 with 15 saves & a 3.94 ERA. In 2007 he saved 33 games (7th in the NL) and led the league finishing up 60 games posting a 2-6 record with a 3.59 ERA. He was still active at age 40, pitching moving on to the Milwaukee Brewers going 1-3 with a 4.88 ERA in 2009 before retiring.

Lifetime Weathers pitched in 964 games in 1376 innings, going 72-87 with 75 saves 976 strike outs 604 walks and a 4.53 ERA.

Mar 24, 2016

Remembering Mets History & the Slogans: "The Magic Is Back " & "Catch The Rising Stars"

In 1980 the New York Mets ownership changed hands as the team was purchased by Fred Wilpon & Nelson Doubleday. 

One of the first things the Doubleday people did was, hire a Madison Avenue advertising company to promote the team. The firm of Della Femina, Travisano & Partners were paid a hefty $400,000 to come up with a new slogan to sell a Mets new image.

Jerry Della Femina, was a giant in the ad industry, also having a bestselling book under his belt, he spoke out right away for his new clients. 

He said attendance should rise by 50,000 just getting rid of M. Donald Grant & the De Roulet sisters. He said New York fans had to settle for a Reggie Jackson when the Mets started losing in the late seventies. If the Mets were where they were in ’69, a guy like Jackson couldn’t get arrested in New York. He also said going to a game in the Bronx baseball Stadium was a very unpleasant experience and Shea was a better & safer place to go. 

He promoted Lee Mazzilli as a guy with Bucky Dent looks that could actually hit. Of course the AL New York team got upset at these comments, even baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn stepped in and fined the Mets $5000.

This was at this time when the advertising firm came up with the classic slogan “The Magic Is Back” for the 1980 season. 

Obviously the Magic wasn’t back in 1980 as the Mets lost 91 games. In the strike shortened 1981 season they went 41-62, and in 1982 they lost another 94 games. The media laughed at the slogan as did some teams driving into the ball park. It didn’t do well. 

After 1983 the team changed it to another Della Femina advertising classic; “Catch the Rising Stars”. In the 1988 Mets Yearbook, there is a 25th Anniversary tribute to Shea. In is a picture dated around the mid eighties where the slogan atop Shea says "The Magic Is Real- Catch It."

As those words were painted atop the sides of Shea Stadium, a strange thing happened, in 1984, the Mets began to win & became contenders. 

Those Rising Stars did actually rise, most of the most of them right out of the organization and by 1986, they won another World Series.

Mar 23, 2016

Bill Sudakis: Early Seventies Mets Reserve Catcher (1972)

William Paul Sudakis was born on March 27, 1946 in Joliet, Illinois. The six foot one switch hitter, was  signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1964 as an amateur free agent. 

He projected a macho, tough guy image & liked to be the center of attention. He earned the nick names "Suds" &  "Sudsy", because he liked to drink with his teammates.

Suds was originally known as a power hitting third baseman as he began his pro career, belting out 23 HRs at A ball Santa Barbara in 1966. 

In 1968 he was the Texas league co-MVP along with Jim Spencer, batting .298 with 16 HRs & 75 RBIs.

He got called up to the Dodgers making his MLB debut in September1968. In his first career game he hit a HR off the Phillies Dick Hall in the 8th inning of a 10-9 Dodger win. 

That rookie year he led the club in slugging percentage (471%), with three HRs & nine extra base hits in only 87 at bats. 

In 1969 he was named the Dodgers regular third baseman playing in 132 games batting .294 with 17 doubles five triples & 53 RBIs. He hit 14 HRs for two straight seasons coming in second on the team to Andy Kosco in 1969. He also had 17 doubles with 53 RBIs while batting .234. 

At third he made 21 errors in 391 chances for a .946 on base %. 

In 1970 along with his 14 HRs (second to Billy Grabarkewitz) he batted .264 with 44 RBIs, drawing 35 walks giving him a .352 on base %. At third base he improved to a .983 % making 14 errors in 178 chances.

For the 1971 season, the Dodgers acquired Dick Allen to play third base, Allen hit .295 with 23 HRs & 90 RBIs. In the meantime a young future star named Steve Garvey, who was originally a third baseman, was on the horizon in the Dodger organization. 

The team & minor league manager, Tommy Lasorda, tried to convert Suds to a catcher. In a 1971 game against the Mets, he was trying to score & was ready to crash into Mets catcher, Duffy Dyer. Dyer moved out of the way at the last minute & Sudakis went down on his knee suffering an injury.

 He needed an operation to repair it from Dr. Frank Jobe. The injury affected his play & a .193 batting average got him put on waivers by Spring Training 1972.

Mets Career: The New York Mets picked him up, and sent him to their AA Memphis farm club. Although he only hit .167, he came up to the big league club that July. On July 11th, 1972 Suds made his Met debut at Shea Stadium, playing at first base He drew a walk in four at bats that night & got a his first Mets hit the next day. 

He would play at first base, in his first seven Mets games & then was sent back down to the minors through the month of August. He was used as a pinch hitter going 1-7 in the first half of September. 

On September 22nd, he hit a HR in his first start at catcher, driving in three of the four runs in a 5-4 loss to the Phillies. He closed out the season catching the final three games of the year, getting three hits.

In 18 games as a New York Met he hit .143 with one HR & seven RBIs. In that short time as a Met, Sudakis appeared on both a 1972 & 1973 Topps baseball card as a Mets player.

With the birth of the Designated hitter in 1973, he was traded to the Texas Rangers for Bill McNulty who never played a game for the Mets. Suds hit a career high 15 HRs in Texas, batting .255 in 82 games that year. 

In the off season he was traded to the A.L. New York club, for future Mets closer Skip Lockwood.

In New York, he used to mimic the teams manager Bill Virdon who would try to flex his muscles while addressing the team. 

Sudakis who had pretty big arms himself, would stand behind Virdon & flex himself to the delight of his team mates. 

He also got into a famous fight, with teammate Rick Dempsey, a short time AL New York player, at the Hotel Pfister in Milwaukee. The two threw punches & furniture (as some remember it) in front of a bunch of surprised hotel guests. Outfielder Bobby Murcer, broke his finger trying to break up the fight between the two players.

Over the next two seasons he would play in New York, with the California Angels & Cleveland
Indians, before the knee injuries cut his career short.

At age 30, Sudakis' MLB career ended in 1975,  batting a .234 lifetime with 362 hits 59 HRs 214 RBIs & 56 doubles.

Drama: In 1985 he was arrested with a business partner, for possession of over $200,000 worth of cocaine & possession of hand guns.

He later coached youth baseball in California, as well as the Independent League Palm Spring Suns & was baseball director for the Palm Springs Police Activities League.

Passing: On September 15th 2021, Sudakis, passed away in Palm Springs, California, at age 75.

Mar 22, 2016

Short Time Mets Third Baseman: Joe Moock (1967)

Joseph Geoffrey Moock was born on March 12th 1944 in Plaquemine, Louisiana.  The six foot one, left hand hitter, threw right handed. His father Joseph, was a minor league infielder in the forties. 

Moock attended LSU at baton Rouge, getting drafted by the New York Mets in the third round of the 1965 amateur draft.

In 1966 he hit .284 in the New York Penn League & spent most of 1967 in the minors as well. The Mets as they were desperate for a third baseman to back up Ed Charles & brought him up in September.

Moock debuted on September 1st, 1967 wearing uniform #18, striking out in his first career at bat. In his second start at third base on September 13th, he helped Tom Seaver to his 14th win of the year. Moock doubled off the Braves; Par Jarvis in Atlanta, in the 4th inning, driving in Ron Swoboda to tie the game. The Mets won it 2-1 on Jerry Grote's 9th inning base hit.

Moock would enjoy a four game hit streak that month in late September. On September 29th, he drove in two runs with a bases loaded single off  the Dodgers; Bill Singer in a 5-1 Mets win in L.A. The next day he drove in two more runs, with a bases loaded single off Don Drysdale in the 1st inning. The Mets won this game 5-0 on a Les Rohr shut out. Moock would play in 13 games batting .225 with two doubles & five RBIs, but never make the major leagues again.

He would be a member of the Montreal Expos organization in their inaugural season. He had a fine Spring Training with the '69 Expos & hit the teams first ever HR in an intra squad game. He was eventually cut from the team as they went North.

He would play in the minors through 1970 batting .300 in a five year career.

Retirement: After his playing days he coached baseball at a private school in Louisiana.

New York Giants Hall of Fame Pitcher: "Iron" Joe McGinnity (1902-1908)

Joseph Jerome McGinnity was born March 20, 1871 in Cornwall, Illinois. He earned his nickname of "Iron Man" because he worked in an Iron foundry in the off seasons. 

The name fit well because on the mound, the five foot eleven right hander's durability, was also that of an iron man. He claimed his arm never hurt him and that he could throw the ball all day long. His style of pitching was a submarine style curve ball that he called "old Sal" & said was easy on his arm. 

McGinnity began pitching with the Decatur Coal Mining Company in the late 1880's in Decatur Georgia. His family moved West toward Montana but along the way, his Aunt struck gold in a coal mine. The family settled in Oklahoma, where McGinnity met his soon to be wife. There he popularized the sport with his pitching as well. From there he was discovered & pitched six minor league seasons. While pitching at Peoria, he was dicovered by the owner of the Brooklyn Grooms who also owned the Baltimore Orioles team of the day. 

 McGinnity was assigned to the Baltimore Orioles big league club in 1899 for $150 a month. There he played along with John McGraw who refused to report to the Brooklyn squad, because he had invested in a Baltimore Restaurant. He & player manager Wilbert Robinson influenced McGinnity with their over aggressive style of play. He went 28-16 that season leading the league in wins pitched 48 games (second in the league) & posted a 2.68 ERA (third in the league). 

The next year he went to Brooklyn, pitching for the newly named; Superbas. Once again he led the league in wins with 28. He also led the NL in winning percentage (.778) and innings pitched with an incredible 343. That year he led Brooklyn to a title winning the Chronicle Telegraph Cup. He also set a modern day record with 40 hit batsmen. 

 The following season he jumped over the newly formed American League, taking less money than the Brooklyn team had offered him. In the new league he had a chance to reunite with his old teammate John McGraw. But McGraws teams were always involved in fights, in the dirty early twentieth century days of baseball. In one incident McGinnity spat on an umpire & was arrested, receiving a long suspension, that was shortened when he apologized. 

The next year the Orioles were sold due to financial debts. The new owners also owned team in the NL; The New York Guants & Cincinnati Reds. They cut the players from the Orioles teams & assigned them to the NL teams. McGinnity joined John McGraw, Roger Bresnahan , Cy Cemour & Dan McGann on the Giants, who were to become one of the elite teams in the NL for years to come. 

In 1903 he won 31 (31-20) ames setting NL records in starts (48) & innings pitched (434). His Iron Man status was confirmed as he started both ends of double headers throughout the season. He once did this three times in a month& in August of '03 pitched in over 100 innings. Along with his team mate Christy Mathewson, they accounted for three quarters of the teams victories. At the end of the season he joined several team mates accusing owner John T. Brush on holding out on payouts to the players. 

Quotes: "Nothing can hurt my arm. I can throw curves like that all day. Last year, I pitched a 21-inning game for Peoria that took four hours. I never hurt my arm." - Joe McGinnity. 

 In the 1904 season he came back to go 35-8 leading the league in wins, winning percent (.814%) a career best ERA (1.61) innings pitched (408) starts (51) & saves (5). As the Giants were fighting the Chicago Cubs in a pennant race, he pitched both ends of double headers winning both games three times over a months' time. That year the Giants topped the NL, but did not compete in a World Series because John McGraw refused to acknowledge the American League & their champion Boston Pilgrims. 

 In 1905 he was second to Christy Mathewson (who won 31 games) on the Giants staff winning 21 games (21-15), posting a 2.87 ERA, and pitching 320 innings. He would again lead the league in starts (46) and do so for five straight seasons total, six times overall. 

 Post Season: 1905 would be his only World Series appearance, although he got overshadowed by Christy Mathewson’s three shutout performances. McGinnity took the loss to the Philadelphia A's in Game #2, getting shut out 3-0 by Chief Bender. It was the only game the Giants would lose in that series. 

He came back in Game #4 to throw a five hit shutout of his own, sandwiched between two Mathewson shut out performances. In that game McGinnity allowed just five hits in beating Eddie Plank in a 1-0 duel. 

McGinnity came back to lead the league in wins again 1906 with 27, going 27-12 with a 2.25 ERA. The next year he went 18-18 the only time in his career he didn’t post a winning record. 1908 was his last MLB season going 11-7 with a 2.27 ERA and leading the league in saves again with five. 

 In the famous Fred Merkle's boner game, against the rival Chicago Cubs in the heat of a late season pennant race; McGinnity was coaching at third base. Merkle got what appeared to be the game winning hit, as the Giants winning runs scored Merkle left the base paths not following through to the next base. This had happened before & alert Cubs infielder Johnny Evers called for the ball to touch the base & record Merkle as out. 

There was soon chaos on the field, as the fans were exiting onto the field heading toward the centerfield gates, which was normal in those days. According to some accounts the actual ball was thrown into the stands by McGinnity as the Cubs players were trying to recover it. The game was replayed later on with the Cubs winning it & the 1908 pennant . 

Iron Man finished his ten year career with 246 wins (49th all time) & 142 losses with a 2.66 ERA (66th all time). He pitched 3441 innings (77th all time) with 314 complete games (33rd all time) 32 shutouts 999th all time)& 24 saves. He posted 1068 strikeouts in 465 games pitched. He was a fine fielding pitcher, making 929 assists mostly due to his slow "old Sal" pitch. He had eight twenty win seasons, two thirty win seasons, & led the league in wins five times. 

 Retirement: He went back to the minor leagues and pitched until he was 54 years old winning a total of 207 games there. He passed away in Brooklyn, NY at his daughters house in 1929, he was 58 years old. 

 Honors: Joe McGinnity was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.

Mar 21, 2016

Former Early Nineties Met: Chris Donnels (1991-1992)

Chris Barton Donnels was born April 21st 1966 in Los Angeles California. The six foot left handed batter, threw right handed, played at first & third base. After graduating at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles he was the New York Mets number one draft pick (the  24th pick overall) in the 1987 amateur draft.

Donnels went through the minor leagues winning the Florida State League MVP in 1989. He reached AAA Tidewater in 1991 where he batted .303 in 81 games getting called up to the Mets big league team.

Donnels debuted with the Mets at Shea Stadium on May 7th in a 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. A Dodger team that featured Darryl Strawberry, Gary Carter & Juan Samuel, all former Mets. In the bottom of the 1st Donnels singled bringing in Howard Johnson with his first career hit & RBI. The Shea crowd welcomed him.

The Mets went west to San Francisco, Donnels was inserted in the line up in the second night, collecting a double & RBI in the Mets 6-2 win. On May 12th, he came into the game in the 8th inning as a pinch hitter, drawing an intentional walk. The game went to extra innings, Donnels drew another walk in the 10th inning.

In the 11th He followed Dave Magadan's RBI single with an RBI single of his own, scoring Kevin McReynolds. The Mets went on to a 4-2 win. His hitting stopped & Donnels went back & forth to AAA Tidewater the rest of the year, remaining as a September roster addition. He hit .225 on the year with 5 RBIs.

In 1992 he played 45 games for the Mets hitting a weak .174 with six RBIs.

In December he was drafted by the Florida Marlins as the 67th pick in the expansion draft. A year later he was put on waivers & was selected by the Houston Astros. He would spend 2 1/2 seasons with the Astros playing as a reserve player at first, second & third bases. In 1995 after batting .300 in 19 games with Houston,  he was traded to the Boston Redsox hitting .253 in 40 games.

He spent the next four seasons playing in Japan with the Kintetsu Buffaloes & Orix Blue Wave.

In 2000 he signed on with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he hit .294 in 41 games that year but fell to .174 the next season. His last season was in 2002 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He played at the minor league level for the Chicago Cubs, Florida Marlins & Colorado Rockies before he officially retired.

In an eight year career he hit .233 with 186 hits 17 HRs 36 doubles 86 RBIs & a .312 on base %.

Mar 20, 2016

Former Mets Generation K Pitcher: Paul Wilson (1996)

Paul Anthony Wilson was born on March 28, 1973 in Orlando, Florida. He was a star pitcher for the Florida State Seminoles and was the New York Mets number one draft pick, the first pick overall in 1994. He was highly touted with his fastball/slider combo.

In 1994 he was 0-7 in the Rookie League & at A ball with the St. Lucie Mets. In 1995 he was promoted to AA going 6-3 at Binghamton & then 5-3 at AAA nrfolk. On the year he combined for a 2.41 ERA & 198 strikeouts.

He along with Jason Isringhausen & Bill Pulsipher were billed as Generation K and the future stars of the Met staff. He made his highly publicized debut on April 3rd 1996, at Shea Stadium. He pitched well allowing three runs in six innings with six strikeouts getting no decision. His next two starts didn’t go that well, he allowed 12 runs in just under six innings pitched taking one losing decision.

He got his first win at Shea against the Cincinnati Reds, allowing only one run on three hits in 8 innings of work. He lost his next three decisions and was 1-4 before putting in two fine performances at the end of May/start of June.

Then his troubles began, it started with tendinitis in his right shoulder which sidelined him from June 5th to mid July. He had a great start against the Expos on July 20th, allowing only one run on three hits, in 8 innings pitched. More troubles came his way as he lost his next seven decisions before getting a win in what would be his last Mets start. He went 5-12 with a 5.38 ERA, 71 walks & 109 strikeouts in 149 innings pitched.

It was discovered that he had a torn labrum which led to surgery that wiped out his 1997 season. Setbacks & injuries kept him down for four years before the Mets finally gave up on him on July 28, 2000. He was traded to Tampa with Jason Tyner for Bubba Trammell & Rick White.
Wilson came back to win 8 games (8-9) with a 4.88 ERA.

After two seasons he went to the Reds and had a fine 2004 season, pitching in 29 games, going 11-6 with 117 strikeouts and a 4.36 ERA, including one complete game.

In 2005 he dropped to 1-5 and another surgery ended his career for good. What was supposed to be a promising career ended at 40-58 619 strikeouts in 941 innings pitched with three complete games & a 4.86 ERA after only seven active seasons.

Early Eighties Mets Outfielder: Mike Howard (1981-1983)

Michael Frederic Howard was born on April 2nd, 1958 in Seattle Washington. The six foot two, switch hitter was drafted out of Sacramento High school by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 6th round of the 1976 amateur draft.

He didn't show much power in the minors, but earned the nick name of Mad Dog with his hustling style of play. He would run down to first base when he drew a walk, just like Pete Rose. Howard did hit .291 with 30 doubles at AA Jackson in 1980. He was promoted to AAA Tidewater in 1981,  where he hit .278 in 120 games, 6 HRs 22 doubles & 33 RBIs.

In 1982 he was back at Tidewater, batting .286 (second on the club to Rusty Tillman) with 12 doubles & a team leading 10 triples. Howard got a September call up in the second half of the '81 strike shortened season, making his debut on September 12th. He came in the 8th inning  & doubled off the St. Louis Cardinals; Mark Littell in his first at bat. The next day he got the start & drove in the Mets only two runs in a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals. In 14 games, Howard hit .167 (4-24) with one double & three RBIs.

He got back to the Mets big league club in August & had a pinch hit sac fly RBI in his first game back. It came in a 7-3 loss in a twin bill split with the Pirates in Pittsburgh. On September 24th he hit his only career HR, it came off Ron Reed in a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea.  He would get action in 33 games for the last place Mets, batting just .179 with a HR & three RBIs.  

Howard was the Mets Opening Day right fielder in 1983, the day Tom Seaver made a triumphant return to the Mets. Seaver pitched six shut out innings, but earned no decision as the Mets beat Steve Carlton & the Phillies 2-0. Howard drove in the first run of the game, (the winning run) with a bases loaded 6th inning single.

Quotes: Mike Howard: “The thing I remember about that day was that I was with Seaver warming up in the bullpen. When he finished throwing, he said ‘I need to do something'. (before the game was to begin). So I pointed to a guy who had a cast on his arm, or was in a wheelchair and said to Tom that he should give the guy a baseball. I was thinking ‘Wow. Tom Seaver just asked me what to do.’ That was cool.”

After not being used for two weeks, the Mets sent him down to AAA Tidewater. When the clubhouse guy said to bring his uniform, he said no, feeling strongly he was coming back soon. Unfortunately he never returned.
Later that year Darryl Strawberry would come up & be the Opening Day right fielder through 1990. Howard hit below .200, was demoted to the Rookie League & was released. He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates but did not make the club.

Trivia: Howard is one of three players to have his last career game be an Opening Day start. While with the Mets his roommate was current Giants manager; Bruce Bochy.

Retirement: After baseball he became a painter & carpenter in Jackson, Mississippi. When the Mets auctioned off some old items from Shea Stadium in 2010, Howards daughter picked up one of his old uniforms & a large photo with him in the background as  player.

Mar 19, 2016

Forgotten Member of the 1986 Mets Team: Tim Corcoran (1986)

Timothy Michael Corcoran was born on March 19, 1953 in Glendale, California. The left-handed outfielder attended California State University just after Mets pitcher Bob Apodaca left the school. 

Corcoran was signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1974, making the club by 1977. That season he hit .346 at AAA Evansville which got him the call up. In 1978 he became the Tigers main right fielder sharing time with Mickey Stanley in the final year of his long career. Corcoran batted .265 with one HR 13 doubles & 27 RBIs playing in 116 games. He was the A.L.’s fifth best right fielder posting a .984% with six assists, making just three errors in 195 chances. After two more seasons in Detroit he was traded to the Minnesota Twins, playing just 22 games in 1981. 

In 1982 he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent. He spent that whole year at AAA Oaklahoma City batting .289. The next year he hit .311 & played three games for the NL Champion Phillies, but did not make the post season roster. In 1984 he was back in the majors with a career year, he played in over 100 games for the Phillies batting .341 in 208 at bats with 5 HRs & 36 RBIs posting a .446 on base %. In 1985 his average plummeted to just .214, although his seven sac hits were sixth best in the league. He was released in December & signed with the New York Mets for 1986. 

 He spent most of the year at AAA Tidewater batting .260 in 86 games, getting called up to the Mets squad at the end of April being used as a pinch hitter in five games going 0-5. On June 6th he got his only Mets start of the season in what would be his last career game as well. He played first base that day, going 0-4 with a walk & a run scored at Pittsburgh in the Mets 10-4 win over the Pirates. Three days later he was released as the Mets went on to win the World Series. 

 In his nine season playing career he batted .270 with 283 hits 12 HRs 46 doubles & 128 RBIs playing in 509 games in the outfielder, at first base & as a pinch hitter.

Mar 18, 2016

Late Nineties Mets Short Stop: Manny Alexander (1997)

Manuel de Jesus Alexander was Born on March 20, 1971 in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. He was signed at the age of 17 by the Baltimore Orioles in 1988. 

Alexander spent fourteen seasons in the minors throughout his career with brief call ups to the majors debuting in 1992. He was not known for hitting but being a fine defensive shortstop, voted the #39 top prospect by Baseball America in 1992. 

He didn’t see much action at short for the Orioles as Cal Ripkens back up so he played over at second base, third base & occasional outfield in his Orioles years (1992-1996). In Spring Training of 1997, he was sent to the New York Mets for Hector Ramirez.
Alexander debuted in the Mets second game of the year in San Diego as a defensive replacement for Carlos Baerga. He also got a single in the 9th inning in a game the Mets lost in extra innings. He would play in 54 games for the Mets at second base & short stop making four errors posting a .980 fielding %. He hit stole 11 bases hit 2 HRs with 9 doubles 3 triples 15 RBIs while batting .248.

One of his biggest days at the plate was in Colorado on May 6th, when he had three hits & an RBI in the Mets 12-11 loss in a game that had 34 hits combined by both teams. Then in early July he had another three hit day in Atlanta helping the Mets to a 10-7 win. First he hit a solo HR off John Smoltz in the 8th inning bringing the Mets to within a run. Then in the 9th he tripled, scoring Carl Everett breaking the tie & then scoring on Edgardo Alfonzo’s hit. On August 14, 1997 he was the player to be named later in a deal with the Chicago Cubs which sent Lance Johnson to Chicago for Brian McRae, Mel Rojas and Turk Wendell.

Alexander would go on to play two seasons with the Cubs, then go to Boston in 2000 but had his career derailed when illegal seroids were found in his car. He returned to the big leagues four years later with Texas, then he moved on to San Diego ending his MLB career in 2006 batting .231 with 293 hits 50 doubles 12 triples 15 HRs 115 RBIs in 37 stolen bases in 593 games over 11 seasons.

In 2008 Alexander player in the Italian baseball League (Serie A1) & hit .331 for Rimini. Rimini is located on the Adriatic Sea in the province of Emilia-Romagna. It is one of largest seaside resorts in Europe & is known as the Miami of Europe. He also played in the 2009 European Cup baseball tournament.

Mar 15, 2016

Short Time Late Nineties Met: Craig Paquette (1998)

Craig Harold Paquette was born on March 28th 1969 in Long Beach, California. The six foot right hand hitter attended Golden West College at Huntington Beach, California. He was signed by the Oakland Athletics in the 8th round of the 1989 draft. Paquette spent five years in the minors, hitting over 15 HRs four times.

He came up to the A's in June of 1993, making some noise, hitting 12 HRs & driving in 46 runs although he only hit .219. In 1994 he was back at AAA Tacoma where he hit .287 with 17 HRs, getting a June call up for 14 games. After the baseball strike he returned for his last season at Oakland in 1995. In Spring Training 1996 he was released but was soon signed by the Kansas City Royals.

He had his best season in Kansas City in 1996, hitting a team leading 22 HRs, with 15 doubles & 67 RBIs while batting .259. The following season injuries shut him down, for just 77 games, he hit 8 HRs batting .236. He was granted free agency & signed with the New York Mets.

Paquette debuted with the Mets on April 28th, 1998 in Houston getting a start in left field. He doubled off John Halama in his first at bat in the Mets 4-3 loss to the Astros. In early May, he got hits in three straight games for New York, starting with a pinch hit single in a 5-2 win over the Rockies at Shea. He then suffered an ankle strain which ended his season, in seven Mets games he was hitting .263 with five hits, two doubles & a stolen base.

He spent most of 1999 at AAA Norfolk where he hit .272 with 15 HRs, then on July 31st he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Shawon Dunston.

He spent the next three years in St. Louis, seeing regular playing time in both 2000 & 2001. Both seasons he hit 15 HRs while driving in better than 60 runs. He would hit over .280 in two of his three years in St. Louis. He got into four games of the 2000 NLCS against the New York Mets, going 1-6 in that series, coming into the game late each time.

For the 2002 season he signed on with the Detroit Tigers & saw action in 72 games but hit just .194. In 2003 he was back in the minors making one last appearance in the majors for eleven games.

In his eleven year career he hit .239 with 620 hits 128 doubles ten triples 377 RBIs & a .274 on base % in 814 games. In his career the versatile Paquette played 498 games at third base, 200 games in the outfield, 100 games at first, 24 games at second & 19 games at short.