Aug 14, 2016

Popular Mets Back Up Catcher of the 1969 & 1973 Mets: Duffy Dyer (1969-1973)

Donald Don Dyer was born on August 15, 1945 in Dayton, Ohio. He was of English, Irish & Dutch dissent.

He got the name Duffy while his mother was listening to an old radio program called Duffy’s Tavern just before she gave birth to him. She began to laugh at the program when she fainted & awoke in hospital asking “How’s Duffy?” during labor.

The Dyer family eventually moved to Phoenix, Arizona where Dyer became a star athlete in baseball, basketball & football where he was the quarterback of the team. He attended Arizona State University, where he was the catcher on the 1965/1966 Sun Devils College Championship teams. There he played along with future Oakland A’s stars Rick Monday, Sal Bando & Reggie Jackson. He hit .325 with 4 HRs 38 RBIs & 15 stolen bases, making All Conference. He played outfield there until 1966 when he converted to catching.

He was originally chosen by the Milwaukee Braves but decided to stay in school. In 1966 he was named to the Sporting News College All American team & eventually was inducted into the ASU Hall of Fame. He was drafted by the New York Mets in the first round of the 1966 draft, the ninth pick overall.

Dyer didn’t hit much his first few seasons in the minors but reached AAA rather quickly by 1968. That season he hit 16 HRs with 48 RBIs batting .230 while making the International League’s All Star team, mostly for his stand out defense behind the plate. He was called up to the Mets in September getting a hit in his first career game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

In the 1969 off season he was almost traded along with Nolan Ryan & Ed Kranepool to Atlanta for Joe Torre & Bob Aspromonte but the deal fell through. Dyer made the 1969 Mets squad out of Spring Training as a third string catcher to Jerry Grote & J.C. Martin. On Opening Day 1969, Dyer was called out of the bull pen by Gil Hodges to pinch hit in the game against the expansion Montreal Expos.

He said his knees were shaking as he came to bat for the first time in New York in front of a full house, but he stepped in & hit a three run pinch hit HR in the bottom of the 9th in one of his greatest thrills in the big leagues. The Mets still fell short 11-10 in the classic season opener of the Miracle season.

On May 30th he singled in the bottom of the 8th inning breaking a 3-3 tie, leading the Mets to a 4-3 win over the San Francisco Giants. In mid June he went back to AAA Tidewater because the team needed a catcher, there he batted .313 with five HRs in 35 games, posting a perfect .1000 fielding %. He was back with the Mets in August & three games into his return he hit a three run HR off San Diego’s Joe Niekro leading the Mets to a 3-2 win.

In 1969 he played in 29 games, hitting .257 with 3 HRs & 12 RBIs. He had one at bat going hitless in the 1969 World Series earning a championship ring in his rookie season, never reaching the post season again in his career.

In 1970 he got into 59 games although he batted just .209 with 2 HRs, three extra base hits, 12 RBIs & a .308 on base % he did have some key hits.

Over the next five seasons the aggressive hard playing Dyer became Grote’s backup catcher and one of the league's best defensive back ups.

On May 31st he came to bat as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 14th inning of a tie game against the Houston Astros. Dyer singled off Denny Lemaster scoring Ken Boswell with the game winning run. His other HR came on August 7th at Atlanta as he tied the game with a two run shot off Pat Jarvis, leading the Mets to the 4-2 win.

On June 23rd his two run 10th inning HR at Wrigley Field led the Mets to a 12-10 win over the Cubs. He had another big hit on September 9th as he drove in two runs with a single, in a game against the Phillies at Shea Stadium, leading New York to a 3-1 win.

In 57 games at catcher he was excellent, handling the fine pitching staff while posting a .991 fielding %, & throwing out 40% of runners attempting to steal.

In 1971 his defensive numbers were similar: a 991 fielding %, while throwing out 35% of base stealers trying to steal. At the plate he raised his batting average from .209 the previous year to .231 with a pair of HRs, seven doubles 18 RBIs & a .308 on base % in 59 games.

One of his biggest games came on May 29th when he had two doubles & a triple at San Diego while catching behind the plate as Nolan Ryan struck out 16 Padres in a 2-1 victory. On June 20th Dyer pinch hit for Tug McGraw, in the bottom of the 9th inning with the bases loaded in a tie game against the Phillies. He singled to left field off Bucky Brandon scoring Dave Marshall with the winning run.

A month later he was the hero once again, coming to the plate with the bases loaded in the 9th inning. This time he singled off the St. Louis Cardinals Frank Linzy scoring Cleon Jones with the game winner. Ed Kranepool had tied the game with a double earlier in the 9th.

In April 1972 when the Mets acquired Rusty Staub from Montreal, Dyer received an early morning phone call. The team asked if he would give up his uniform number 10 for Staub. At first he said yes, but quickly called them back changing his decision to a no, when his wife informed him of the #10 displayed on his 1969 World Series ring.

That season as Jerry Grote suffered through injuries, Dyer saw action in 91 games behind the plate. He had a fantastic year defensively; throwing out 51% of would be base stealers, while leading the league nailing 40 base runners.

He had the third best fielding percentage in the N.L. (.993) & was fourth in put outs (690). He was also involved in helping turn over a career high 12 double plays. At bat he batted an identical .231 with career highs in HRs (8) doubles (17) triples (3) & RBIs (36).

His hottest streak came during a stretch at the end of May into mid June, hitting .340 with five HRs & 13 RBIs in that stretch. On the week of June 12th through June 18th, he won the NL Player of the week award. During a six game hit streak, he hit HRs in back to back games in Atlanta driving in a total of five runs. 

For a brief period he became the teams main catcher under manager Yogi Berra who felt Dyer was more of a HR threat than Grote. 

On the Fourth of July 1972 at Shea Stadium, he was the catcher as Tom Seaver flirted with a yet another no hitter going into the 9th inning, this time against the San Diego Padres. With one out in the 9th, Leron Lee got a cheap single which ruined the no hit bid. Dyer was more upset than Seaver it seemed, as he tossed Lee’s bat in disgust out of the home plate area & then ripped off his catchers gear in the dugout with disgust.

At the end of July he hit a three run HR in the second game of a double header against the Pirates & two days later hit another two run shot against the Montreal Expos. On September 9th he had a walk off single against the Pittsburgh Pirates leading rookie Jon Matlack to a 1-0 shutout win, his 13th of the season.

He suffered through injuries like so many other Mets in the 1973 NL pennant season, but still played in 70 games, hitting only .185 with a .245 on base %, one HR, six doubles, one triple & nine RBIs.

On July 10th he drove in the only run of a 1-0 Mets win against the Houston Astros. Dyer didn’t see much action as Grote returned to top form down the pennant stretch in August & September.

The Ball On the Wall Game: In a crucial September 20th game, Dyer doubled in the bottom of the 9th inning, tying the game against the first place Pittsburgh Pirates. In the game now known as “the ball off the wall game” the Mets won it 4-3 & moved within a half game behind the Pirates, overtaking them the next night.

Behind the plate that season, he was outstanding throwing out 40% of base stealers (5th in the NL), posting a .994 fielding percentage & only making one error. He didn’t see any post season action as work horse Jerry Grote took the load for every inning of every post season game.

In 1974 he hit only .211 in 63 games (142 at bats) without any HRs while driving in 10 RBIs. In his final two Mets games he drove in a run with a hit in each game.

At the end of October as the Mets acquired young catching prospect John Stearns, Dyer was traded to the rival Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Gene Clines. At first he was devastated by the trade, because he loved playing in New York with the Mets family, which was a tight organization up to that point. Things were slowly changing & three years from now the family was all gone.

Pirates Manager said Dyer would be a great addition to his team, serving as a more than adequate back up for Manny Sanguillen. In Pittsburgh he became Manny Sanguillen’s backup catcher, helping the Pirates win the 1975 NL East title with 3 HRs & 16 RBIs in 48 games played. In 1976 another career thrill was catching native New Yorker John Candelaria's no hitter that August. Defensively on the year he threw out over 40% of would be base stealers once again.

It always seemed the more playing time Dyer got, the better he was. In 1977 he had another outstanding defensive season, leading all NL catchers in fielding percentage (.996) making only two errors in 93 games. At the plate he hit .241 with three HRs & 19 RBIs, posting a career best .370 on base %.

For 1979 he signed as a Free Agent with the Montreal Expos , after one season playing in 28 games he was traded to the Detroit Tigers for future Mets manager Jerry Manuel. He would finish his playing career there in 1981 playing behind Lance Parrish.

In his 14 year career he played in 722 Games with, 441 Hits, 74 Doubles, 11 Triples, 30 HRs, 173 RBI, 228 Walks & a .221 Batting Average. Defensively he threw out 36% of would be base stealers & posted an excellent .992 fielding percentage. In his Mets career he played in 375 games.

Retirement: After his playing days he was a long time minor league manager, serving in the Twins, Brewers and Tigers organizations. He won two manager of the year awards as well as two championships as manager helm in 1985 & 1986.

He was a third-base coach for the Milwaukee Brewers (1989-1995) and Oakland A’s (1996-1997) also serving as bench coach under Art Howe in Oakland. He then moved on to manage the Blue Port Blue Fish (2001-2002) of the Independent League.

He was a scout in the Mets organization in 2003 & 2004 until the Omar Minaya era began. He always wanted an MLB managers job, but it never panned out. In the next two years he again managed in the Independent League at Erie.

He has put that behind him & returned as a minor league catching coordinator for the San Diego Padres in 2007. In a horrible 2008 occurrence while visiting the Padres club in the Dominican Republic, his World Series ring was stolen from his locker. As of 2014 Dyer was announced to be the inaugural manager for the Kenosha Kingfish of the Northwoods Collegiate Summer League.

Honors: Back during his playing days Dyer had a popular fan base at a popular local bar in Woodside Queens, called Donovan's. The traditional Irish Pub fell in love with him from his Opening Day 1969 HR & supported him until he left New York. The Pub is still going strong today.

Dyer was proudly on hand for the 1969 Mets 40th Anniversary reunion at Citi Field in 2009.

No comments: