Aug 10, 2016

1986 World Champion Mets Outfielder / Pinch HItter: Danny Heep (1983-1986)

Daniel William Heep was born on July 3, 1957 in San Antonio, Texas. The five foot eleven, left hand hitting Heep, began his baseball career as a pitcher. He attended St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, winning two All American honors, while earning a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education. He would eventually be elected to the schools Hall of Fame.

Heep was drafted as a second round pick by the Houston Astros in 1978. In 1979 he was the Southern League’s MVP batting .327 with 21 HRs 30 doubles & 84 RBIs at AA Columbus. He got a late season call up, making his MLB debut against the New York Mets on August 31st. He went 0-1 as a pinch hitter that day popping out to third base, off pitcher Craig Swan.

The next year at AAA Tucson in the Pacific Coast League, Heep batted .343 with 17 HRs playing in 96 games. He got back to the Astros for 33 games that year, where he hit .276.

In 1981 he started back at AAA Tuscon, batting .337 overall. He got called up to Houston in May & then again in September being used ,mostly as a pinch hitter, as well as a utility outfielder. Heep saw more action in 1982, playing in 85 games, batting .237 with 14 doubles 4 HRs & 22 RBIs. On May 14th, he his first career HR, it came off the Chicago Cubs Dick Tidrow at the Astrodome. 

He had one at bat (0-1) in the 1980 NLCS loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. In December 1982 he was traded to the New York Mets for pitcher Mike Scott. In New York, Heep soon became one of the league’s top pinch hitters. He along with Rusty Staub, gave the Mets two dangerous, late inning, pinch hit threats.

Heep made his Mets debut batting in the 5th spot & playing right field, in the second game of the '83 season. He had a big day, getting three hits & scoring two runs in Craig Swan's win over the Philadelphia Phillies. In just his fourth Mets game, Heep hit a HR in Philadelphia off pitcher Dick Ruthven in a loss to the Phillies. Two games later he hit another HR, this one in St. Louis in another Mets loss.

On April 22nd, his sac fly off the Reds Tom Hume in the top of the 9th inning at Cincinnati was the games winning run. Heep was batting .400 by the end of April That season Heep would set a Mets club record with four pinch hit HRs, hitting them all at home in Shea Stadium.

On May 6th he hit a pinch hit HR off Mario Soto, against the Cincinnati Reds, in the bottom of the 8th inning helping the Mets to a 7-4 comeback win. The next month On June 14th his bottom of the 8th inning HR off Dick Ruthven; now with the Cub, put the Mets ahead in a 3-3 game. Chicago would tie it but The Mets would win the game in the 11th inning, on Rusty Staub’s pinch hit RBI single.

He would hit pinch hit HRs in each of the next two months, both coming in Mets losses. At the start of August he drove in six runs, over eight games he played in during that time period. On October 2nd, Heep got the start in right field in a game at Montreal against the Expos. He hit a first inning HR off Chalie Lea, that was the only run scored in the game as the Mets & Walt Terrell won it 1-0. On the year he got into a career high 115 games, hitting .253 with 8 HRs, 12 doubles 21 RBIs & a .326 on base % in 253 at bats.

In 1984, Heep started out the year well going 5-8 as a pinch hitter & batting .412 at the start of May. In the middle of June he got a few starts, due to Mets injured outfielders. Heep began with three multi hit games, including a three hit day on June 21st against the Phillies. He would hit safely in eight of nine games while batting .328 by late June.

On July 3rd, his RBI single tied up the game against the Houston Astros, in the 6th inning. He scored the go ahead winning run when Keith Hernandez drove him in the next at bat. He kept his average up over .300 until the All Star break, but in the second half of the season he saw his average dropped to .231. He ended the year with with one HR, nine doubles, two triples & 12 RBIs.

In the second game of the 1985 season, Heep drew a bases loaded pinch hit walk, off former Mets reliever, Neil Allen. The walk ended up being the game winner, as the Mets had a 2-1 win over the rival St. Louis Cardinals.

On May 5th he had a big two hit, five RBI day in a 9-4 win against the Cincinnati Reds. In the 4th inning, he drove in a run with a sac fly for his first RBI. He then doubled with the bases loaded in the 5th inning off Mario Soto & again in the 7th another double drove in two more runs.

On May 15th he hit a HR off veteran Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, in a 5-3 win at Houston over the Astros. He had a hot first week of June filling in at right field for Daryl Strawberry, hitting three HRs while driving in six runs on the west coast road trip.

On June 2nd he homered in San Diego & the next day he hit one at Dodger Stadium off Ken Howell. On June 12th, his 8th inning HR off the Phillies Kent Tekulve tied up the game, in which the Mets went on to win 7-3.

In the classic 19 inning July 4th Mets- Braves game at Fulton County Stadium, Heep entered the game in the 8th inning & ended up with five at bats. In the top of the 19th, Gary Carter scored on a Ray Knight double to give the Mets the lead. Two batters later, Heep singled with the bases loaded scoring all three runs, with help from a Braves throwing error. He then scored on a Wally Backman single, the runs proved important as the Braves scored two more in the bottom of the 19th. Ron Darling held on in relief for the 16-13 Mets wild win.

In September as the Mets chased the Cardinals for the Eastern title Heep contributed. He drove in two runs in the second game of a double header against the Cardinals helping New York to a 7-6 win. Two days later he hit a first inning three run HR in Montreal leading to a 6-3 Met win.

In 1985 Heep hit .280, with 7 HRs, 17 doubles a .341 on base % and 42 RBIs, appearing in 95 games. That same year he was involved in a violent outfield collision with Mets rookie Terry Blocker. It happened on June 9th, on Banner Day at Shea Stadium, in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The play resulted in an inside-the-park grand slam Terry Pendleton HR. Later that season he was involved in some drama on a team flight, getting into a fist fight with Darryl Strawberry. According to some accounts, Heep actually beat Straw up pretty badly. All made nice & everything was settled between the two, for the 1986 Mets championship season.

In the 1986 Championship season, Heep got the start in the third game of the Mets season in Philadelphia. His third inning triple drove in Keith Hernandez & Gary Carter in what turned out to be the winning runs in the eventual Mets 9-7 win.

On April 26th he got the start in left field, getting two hits & driving in two runs helping the Mets to a 4-3 win in St. Louis. They would win the next game & sweep the entire four game set, leading Cards manager Whitey Herzog to concede the division that early in the season.

In the month of April; Heep hit .368 with seven hits & eight RBIs. He saw some regular playing time in early to mid May, enjoying a personal seven game hit streak. He kept his average up over .300 through the middle of June & while drawing a lot of walks, kept his on base percentage over .400% into July.

In September he drove in eight runs as well as having four pinch hits in eight pinch hit appearances. On September 25th, although the Mets had wrapped up the division, Heep helped win a game in Chicago with a pinch hit, two run, 9th inning double against the Cubs. He would lead the club in pinch hitting, batting .300 (9-for-30) in that role in the 1986 season, overall he hit .289 with five HRs, eight doubles, 33 RBIs & a .379 on base %.

Post Season: In the 1986 NLCS against the Houston Astros, he appeared in five games, getting four pinch hit at bats with one hit. That hit came in the first game at the Astrodome. In the Game #4 loss at Shea Stadium, Heep drove in the only run against Mike Scott, with a sac fly.

Trivia: In the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, Heep became the Mets first ever official designated hitter, appearing in that role in the first two games at Fenway Park (Games #3 & 4).

On another piece of trivia he became the first official designated hitter in World Series history to have the actual initials "D.H." In that first, historic designated hitter at bat, he singled to center field off Boston's Oil Can Boyd, driving in Keith Hernandez & Gary Carter, putting New York up 3-0. They went on to a 7-1 win, their first victory of that series. It was his only hit in the World Series going 1-11 (.091) overall.

After the 1986 season, the Mets chose not to sign him, he was let go to free agency and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the next two years. He struggled in 1987 batting just .163 in 60 games in Los Angeles.

In 1988 he batted .242 playing in 95 games, winning another World Series with the Dodgers that season. He also got to pitch for an inning that season, just like his early days at St. Mary’s.

Post Season: In the 1988 NLCS against his old Mets team mates, Heep had two plate appearances; striking out & drawing a walk. In 1989 Heep moved on to the Boston Red Sox playing there for two seasons in the twilight of his career.

In 1989 he had career highs in batting (.300) at-bats (320) hits (96) RBIs (49) & runs scored (36) playing 75 games in the outfield. He also pitched an inning there as well. In his time in the American League, he made the record books as Nolan Ryan’s 4000th strike out victim.

Heep finished out his career with the Atlanta Braves in 1991, posting a.462 on base % while playing in just 14 games. He did not appear in the postseason. In his 13 season career, Heep batted .257 lifetime, with 503 hits, 30 HRs, 96 doubles, 6 triples, 208 runs scored, a .330 on base % & 229 RBIs in 883 games played.

Retirement: After playing he became a long time head coach for the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, where he won two division championships through 2010.

Heep also runs pro baseball camps in San Antonio Texas.

Honors: In May of 2016 Heep was on hand at Citi Field for the 30th Anniversary celebration of the 1986 Mets Championship team. Heep had also been on hand for the teams 20th Anniversary reunion at Shea Stadium as well.

family: Heep is the nephew of former MLB catcher Matt Batts. Batts was a star baseball & football player at Baylor University, serving in the US Air Force in 1942. He was a fine defensive catcher who played for the Boston Red Sox (1947-1951) St. Louis Browns (1951) Detroit Tigers (1952-1954) Chicago White Sox (1954) and Cincinnati Reds (1955-1956).

In his ten year career Batts threw out 47% of would be base stealers, batting .269 lifetime with 503 hits 30 HRs 96 doubles & 229 RBIs in 883 games played.

1 comment:

David Giwner said...

I was wondering when Heep would get some press on your site... Thanks. You can see me wearing my 1986 Heep Jersey at Citifield. Sec 515.. He is one of my all time favorite Mets...

Thanks again for the memories.. Love your site. Check it out everyday.