Apr 16, 2016

Italian / American Mid Ninties Met: Rico Brogna (1994-1996)

Rico Joseph Brogna was born on April 18, 1970 in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. The Italian / American Brogna grew up in Watertown, Connecticut where he was an All American star quarterback, getting offered a scholarship with Clemson University. He chose to play baseball & was the Detroit Tigers number one draft pick (the 26th pick overall) in 1988.

By 1990 he was an All Star first baseman at AA London, Ontario. He led the Eastern League in HRs (31) & was tied in RBIs (77). Although he didn’t match those same numbers again, he was brought up to the Tigers in September 1993. He appeared in just nine games going 5-26.
Three days before the 1994 season began he was traded to the New York Mets for Alan Zinter. 

He made his Mets debut replacing the injured David Segui at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium on June 22nd going 0-3. He then got his first hit coming at Shea Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates on the next home stand. At the end of June, entering July 1st, Brogna hit solo HRs in three straight games, giving him five HRs in his first 16 Mets games.

In July he became just the third Met rookie in history to have a five hit game. It came on July 25th in a five hit night, playing the Cardinals in St. Louis. On the next night he had a four RBI day in a tight game against the Cardinals in the same series. In the top of the 11th inning he hit a two run HR breaking the 8-8 tie for what turned out to be the game winning runs. In mid August the baseball strike killed the season, in only 38 games Brogna showed a lot of promise, batting .354 with 46 hits in 131 at bats. He had seven HRs with 11 doubles a .380 on base % & 20 RBIs.

For 1995 he was penciled in as the Mets regular first baseman& has the distinction of being the first player to hit a HR at Colorado’s Coors field. The HR came on Opening Day when he blasted a line drive HR off Bill Swift. In the third game his solo HR leading off the bottom of the 7th inning led to the Mets comeback win over the Cardinals. On May 6th he hit his third HR driving in two runs, giving him a total of seven RBIs through his first eight games. In the first two weeks of the season he was also batting .400. He finished up the end of May still hitting .300 while driving in 14 runs in the month.

He became popular with the Shea Faithful, as they would chant “Rico, Rico” when he came to bat. On June 15th in a game against the Florida Marlins, he helped tie the game with a bottom of the 9th inning base hit capping off a Mets three run rally. They went on to win the game in extra innings. On June 30th he hit a two run HR off the Reds Chuck McElroy to break a 5-5 tie in the home seventh inning, in another game the Mets go on to win. From July 13th to the 25th he drove in twelve runs including two separate four game RBI streaks.

Brogna hit safely in eleven of the twelve games & got just under the .300 mark, batting .297. He remained consistent in August gathering up two different seven game hit streaks keeping his average above .290. He had a productive September driving in 21 runs, while hitting six HRs & scoring twenty runs. From September 12- September 15th he hit five HRs driving in eleven runs while enjoying a powerful six game hit streak.

On September 14th he helped Dave Mlicki to a 4-2 win with a two run fifth inning HR in the 5th inning breaking the 2-2 tie. As the Phillies rolled into town for a Mets home stand, Brogna greeted them with a two run HR on September 16th helping the Mets to a 10-8 win. The next day he had a career day. hitting a pair of HRs while gathering up three hits & driving in five runs leading New York to a 8-2 win.

He finished out the year with six more RBIs in his last five games. He had a fine season, by leading the club in most offensive categories; HRs (22) RBIs (76) doubles (27) & runs scored (72). He hit .289 (third on the club) with 146 hits (2nd on the club) playing in 134 games. At first base he led all N.L. first basemen in fielding with a .998%, and was fifth in the NL in putouts with 1112. His biggest draw back on the year was striking out 111 times, fifth most in the league.

In 1996 a back injury ended his season on June 19th playing in just 55 games for the year. He hit.255 with ten doubles, seven HRs a .318 on base % & 30 RBIs. He began the ear by driving in the winning run on Opening Day with a double play sac fly capping off a four run Mets home seventh inning rally. He had another good start to the season batting .364 with six RBIs through the first nine games.

In May he had his best month including a May 11th game against the Chicago Cubs at home where he hit two HRs leading the team to a 7-6 win. On a West Coast road trip he hit a HR driving in three runs at San Francisco & then came back two days later to hit another HR while driving in four runs in a 7-1 Mets win in Los Angeles.

The injuries concerned the Mets, as he had been diagnosed with a form of spinal arthritis as far back as 1991. The disease is known as spondylitis (a disease that causes pain and discomfort in the joints) from then on he had to take medication daily for the pain. In the winter, the organization gave up on him & traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies. In exchange they received Ricardo Jordan who went 1-2 in 1997 and Toby Borland who never even saw Shea Stadium’s clubhouse.

In Philadelphia Brogna proved the Mets wrong; he went on to have three 20 plus HR seasons. He also drove in over 100 runs twice & had two thirty plus doubles seasons. In 1998 he led the N.L. with ten sac flies & then in 1999 had career highs in runs scored (90) as well as hits (172). In those years he did strike out over 115 times each year as well.

The Mets went out and got John Olerud to replace him at first base, and he although he worked out well, it didn’t make up for the bad decision to trading Brogna. His bat would have been a big help to the 1999 Mets wild card team.

Brogna would suffer from arthritis again & eventually it would finish his career by age 31. He went on to have quick stops with the Boston Red Sox (43 games in 2000) & the Atlanta Braves (72 games in 2001). That year he hit .248 with 3 HRs & 21 RBIs before retiring at the end of the season.

He ended his nine season career batting .269 with 795 hits 106 HRs 176 doubles 458 RBIs & a .320 on base %, playing in 848 games.

Retirement: After baseball he coached football as well as basketball in both Connecticut & Massachusetts. He then scouted for the Arizona Diamondbacks & in 2010 became a minor league manager in their system. In 2011 he became the full time head football coach at Notre Dame Fairfield high school in Connecticut.

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