Aug 27, 2016

Late Seventies / Early Eighties Mets All Star: Joel Youngblood (1977-1982)

Joel Randolph Youngblood III was born on August 28, 1951 in Houston, Texas. The versatile six foot right hand hitting Youngblood, was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds right out of high school, in 1970.

He spent five years in the Reds minors not seeing much hope with all the talent on the Big Red Machines big league club. He the Reds team out of Spring Training 1976 in their second straight World Series Championship season. He only hit .193 in 55 games as a utility man & did not play in the post season.

He was soon to be traded twice in 1977, first to the St. Louis Cardinals for Bill Caudill during the spring. In St. Louis he hit only .185 in 25 games, and was sent to the New York Mets for short stop Mike Phillips. The trade happened on June 15th 1977, the same day Tom Seaver was traded away in what is known as The Midnight Massacre. Also that night the Mets traded away slugger, Dave Kingman. The Youngblood for Phillips deal didn’t get many headlines behind those two stories.

Youngblood proved to be a pretty good all around player for the Mets, playing all over the diamond at every position except catcher & first base. He would also become a reliable pinch hitter through the years. When Youngblood arrived in New York, it marked the end of Joe Torre’s playing career. Torre removed himself from the active roster to open a spot for Youngblood.

He made his Mets debut at Wrigley Field on June 24th going 1-4 in a 5-0 Mets loss to the Cubs. Youngblood got hits in his first three Mets games, but fell to .217 by the end of July. On August 1st he singled off the Los Angeles Dodgers Mike Garman, driving in the walk off game winning run in the bottom of the 9th inning.

On September 11th he had a three hit day at Wrigley Field, driving in three Mets runs in their 7-3 win. On the last day of the season he had another three hit day, driving in two runs in the Mets 6-4 win over his old Cardinal team mates in St. Louis. After his arrival in New York in 1977 he got into 70 games, batting hit .253 with no HRs 11 doubles a .296 on base % & 11 RBIs.

Starting out in 1978 he was used as a defensive replacement & pinch runner for the month of April. He slowly began to get inserted in the lineup, & by August had earned a regular job in the outfield.

In late June he helped fuel a 9th inning Mets come from behind rally with a single & runs scored in a win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. In July he hit HRs in back to back games against the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. The first HR came against Tom Seaver as Jerry Koosman beat out his old tem mate in a 4-2 Mets Reds classic.

On July 20th he doubled off Joe Sambito in the bottom of the 9th inning for a game winning hit against the Houston Astros. On July 26th Youngblood had a big five RBI game against the Reds at Shea Stadium. In the 3rd inning he tripled with the bases loaded scoring Steve Henderson, Willie Montanez & John Stearns. In the 5th he then hit a two run HR, all the hits came off Mike Lacoss. On August 9th he had a big five hit day, with two doubles, two singles & a triple, driving in one run, while scoring two more runs as well in a 10-3 Mets win at Montreal.

For the year, he hit .252 with 7 HRs, 12 doubles 8 triples (10th in the NL) & 30 RBIs. In the outfield he only made one error in 50 games there, posting a .989 fielding percentage, with eight assists. He went to arbitration in February of 1979 looking for $91,000 but settled for $78,000, from the Mets tight organization.

He started out 1979 as a backup player, but when Eliot Maddox injured his foot, Youngblood got the outfield job and stole the show. In the last week of April he went on a tear, hitting four HRs while driving in runs in six straight games. He finished April batting .350 & was hitting over .300 into early June. On May 6th his 8th inning fielder's choice tied the game in which the Mets went to win 5-4 over the Giants in San Francisco.

In the final two weeks of May he hit three HRs drove in seven runs & had a seven game hit streak. He began June with a HR in Atlanta in a 5-4 Mets win & a HR in Cincinnati three days later on a 6-2 Mets win. In August he was still hitting .290 & drove in 15 runs on a weak hitting team. He was one of the better players on a bad ball club, as the Mets finished last again at 63-99 thirty five games behind the Pirates who went on to win the World Series.

Youngblood tied for the team lead with 158 games played and led the club with HRs (16) doubles (37) which were 7th most in the league, runs scored (90) & intentional walks (7). He hit .275 and stole 18 bases although he certainly was not known for his speed. He only stole 60 bases in his career spanning 1408 games. The Mets liked what they saw and gave him a deal worth just under a million dollars.

In April of 1980 he played in 15 games, driving in a dozen runs in ten of those games. He drove in runs in seven straight games and was hitting over .350. On May 6th he hit a two run HR in the bottom of the 9th inning off the Reds Mario Soto, bringing the Mets within a run in the bottom of the 9th inning. The Mets would tie it up but lose in the 14th inning. On June 7th the Mets fell behind the Pirates 5-4 in the 11th inning of a game at Shea. Youngblood tied it up with a double off Bert Blyleven, as the Mets went on to win it with a Ron Hodges pinch hit single.

In June had six straight multiple hit games, & in the next two and a half weeks drove in 13 runs. He began August hitting safely in 14 of 15 games, getting over the .290 mark. He finished out the year with 16 RBIs in the last month. On September 29th he gave the Shea crowd of 1800 people a thrill by hitting a walk off two run HR against Grant Jackson & the Pittsburgh Pirates. Youngblood finished the year with a .276 average, stealing 14 bases, hitting 8 HRs with 69 RBIs, & 26 doubles. All in all he was still a bright spot on a bad team; he only struck out 69 times in 514 at bats. He led the club with nine sacrifice hits & was walked intentionally seven times.

In 1981 Youngblood was off to a terrific start, on an early May home stand he had 13 hits over four games including two four hit days. By June he was among the league leaders in hitting, batting .359, with 10 doubles and a .398 on base percentage.

Then he injured his knee sliding into second base at the Astrodome, when he returned healthy, the players went on strike. When it was settled almost two months later, Youngblood was picked to represent the Mets in the All Star Game, going 0-1 as a pinch hitter at Cleveland Stadium in the NL’s 5-4 victory. By now the Mets were even running subway ads featuring Youngblood as the teams star with their new campaign "The Magic Is Back". 

When he returned to Shea he was so valuable with his ability to play all different positions, it hurt his chances at being an everyday outfielder like he wanted to be. He ended up reinjuring his knee and only played in 43 games all season, batting a career best .350 in 143 at bats with 4 HRs 10 doubles & 25 RBIs.



In 1982 the Mets had a new manager in George Bamberger. A young speedy outfielder named Mookie Wilson was on the scene as well as veterans George Foster & Ellis Valentine. Youngblood was playing but not seeing as much time as he would have liked. In May he had a seven game hit streak, and drove in runs in each game of a series with the Dodgers. On May 15th he hit a three run HR off Ted Power to lead New York to a 6-4 win. As the season went on he became more of a pinch hitter & was unhappy with his playing time. Youngblood soon wanted to be traded. He was hitting .257 with 12 doubles 3 HRs & 21 RBIs in early August.

Record Setting Day (A Tale of Two Cities): On August 4th the Mets were playing a day game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Bamberger knew a trade was being disused but put Youngblood in the line up anyway. He struck out in his first at bat then drove in two runs with a base hit in the 3rd inning off Ferguson Jenkins putting the Mets ahead 3-1. Then strangely the manager took Youngblood out of the game, he was surprised and went over to talk to him. Bamberger informed Joel he had just been traded to the Montreal Expos.

Montreal were short players and wanted Youngblood to join the ball club as soon as he could, hoping he could make it to the night game scheduled that night in Philadelphia. He left the dugout showered, packed his bags and got a cab to the airport. Then he realized he forgot his glove, and had to go back to the ballpark, then eventually caught the next flight to Philly. He arrived at Veterans Stadium just as the game began; there the Expos already had a uniform with his long name spelled out on the back.

He got dressed and walked into his new team’s dugout getting greeted by Montreal manager Jim Fanning. Fanning inserted him in right field to replace Jerry White in the sixth inning. He came to bat in the top of the 7th and singled off the Phillies Steve Carlton making baseball history. He became the first player to get two hits on the same day for two different teams. He also accomplished the feat, against two future Hall of Fame pitchers, not a bad day for Mr. Youngblood.

He finished the season hitting only .200 for Montreal (.240 overall) and became a free agent signing with San Francisco in the off season. The Giants made him an everyday infielder and he had his best year at the plate in 1983. He batted a career high .292 with 17 HRs 20 doubles a .356 on base % & 53 RBIs. He struggled on the field in 1984 making a league leading 36 errors at third base. He played in 95 games and hit .270.

By 1986 he became one of the league’s best pinch hitters, gathering 16 pinch hits. Overall he batted .255 with 5 HRs & 28 RBIs. In 1987 he had 13 pinch hits & broke his wrist chasing a foul ball in September. That year he missed a chance at playing in the post season as the Giants won the Western Division. In 1988 he had 15 pinch hits and hit .252 overall as utility player. He went back where he started, finishing his career in Cincinnati after the 1989 season.

In his 14 year career, Youngblood hit .265, with 969 hits 80 HRs, 180 doubles, 23 triples, 422 RBIs, a.329 on base % & 60 stolen bases. In his career the versatile all around player played 745 games in the outfield, 218 games at third base, 173 games at second base, 7 games at first base, 3 at short & one at catcher.

Retirement: Joel became a roving batting instructor for the Baltimore Orioles in 1991. He then managed the Kane County Cougars and went on to coach for the Cincinnati Reds & Milwaukee Brewers in the minor leagues.

From 2009 - 2012 he was the outfield & base running minor league coach for the Arizona D-backs. In 2010 he also was the Diamondbacks third base coach.

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