Aug 15, 2016

Two Time Mets PLayer Raised In The Shadows of Shea Stadium: Mike Jorgensen (1968-1971) (1980-1983)

Michael Jorgensen was born on August 16, 1948 in Passaic, New Jersey. He is the only MLB player to be born on the same day that Babe Ruth died. Jorgensen would go to high school in the shadows of the new Shea Stadium, at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens.

In 1966 he was selected in the fourth round of that year’s draft by the hometown New York Mets. He hit .315 in the Rookie league his first season & then .295 at A ball Winter Haven in the Florida State League in 1967.

The first baseman / outfielder made his MLB debut on September 10th, 1968, going 0-1 as a pinch hitter at Wrigley Field in an 8-1 Mets loss to the Chicago Cubs. Jorgensen played in eight games going 2-14 (.143) that September. He spent the 1969 Mets Championship season at AAA Tidewater, hitting .290 with 15 doubles in 105 games. His 21 HRs & 69 RBIs were second on the Tides to Roy Foster.

In 1970 he made the club out of Spring Training & got an Opening Day pinch hit base hit in the Mets win over thr Pittsburgh Pirates. playing in 50 games at first behind Donn Clendenon & ten games in the outfield, usually as a late inning replacement.

He hit his first career HR at Dodger Stadium on an April West Coast trip leading the Mets to a 3-1 win. He then hit another HR in San Francisco the next week off Juan Marichal.

But Jorgensen struggled most of the year, not getting above th .200 mark until the end of July, & as a result saw less playing time. Overall he only hit .195 (17-87) with three HRs three doubles one triple a .278 on base % & four RBIs. He began 1971 back in AAA Tidewater but after 65 games he was batting .342 with 15 HRs, which got him brought back up to the big league club that June.

In his second game back up, he hit two HRs against the Los Angles Dodgers at Shea Stadium, helping the Mets to a 7-2 win. On June 20th he hit another HR against the Philadelphia Phillies & was off to a solid start. Then he slumped & was back down from July 23rd until early September.

Later in the month he had a walk off game winning single, coming against Joe Hoerner & the Philadelphia Phillies. In 45 games he batted .220 with 5 HRs, one double, one triple a .303 on base % & 11 RBIs.

On April 5th, 1972 Jorgensen was traded to the Montreal Expos along with Ken Singleton & Tim Foli for “Le Grande Orange” Rusty Staub. In Montreal he got a chance to be an everyday player & he came into his own. He turned out to be a fine defensive player, winning a Gold Glove at first base in 1973, while posting a .995 field % (second in the NL).

It was the only time during the period from 1967 to 1977 that a Dodger didn’t win the Gold Glove Award (Wes Parker 1967-1972 / Steve Garvey from 1974-1977). On the ’73 season Jorgensen hit just .230 with 9 HRs 16 doubles three triples a .336 on base % & stole 16 bases.

In 1974 he had his best season, as he led all N.L. first baseman in fielding (.998%) while batting a career high .310, with a .444 on base %. Jorgensen hit 11 HRs with 16 doubles & 59 RBIs. In 1975 he fell off to a .261 average but had career highs in doubles (18) RBIs (68) & HRs (18) leading his Expos team in that department, one ahead of a young Gary Carter.

In the bicentennial year of 1976, his numbers dropped off, batting .254 with 6 HRs. The Expos hired Dick Williams as manager & things began to change in Montreal. Over the winter Montreal acquired former Reds slugger Tony Perez to play first base & Jorgensen’s days were numbered. After just 19 games he was batting .200 & midway through 1977 he was traded to the Oakland A’s for pitcher Stan Bahnsen.

After the season he signed a two year deal with the Texas Rangers to play behind Mike Hargrove at first base. On May 28, 1979 in a game against the Boston Red Sox at Texas Arlington Stadium, Jorgenson was hit in the head by a pitch from Boston’s Andy Hassler.

He suffered headaches and missed a month of action. He was diagnosed with a blood clot, but luckily it was found quickly enough before it could cause any damage. He got into 90 plus games in each of two seasons in Texas, but batted a best .223 in 1979.

That October he was sent to the New York Mets as the player to be named later in the Willie Montanez trade. In 1980 he played right field & batted in the fifth position behind Steve Henderson on Opening Day in the Mets 5-2 win over the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium. On May 24th Jorgenson hit a HR in the 2nd inning in a 6-5 win over the Atlanta Braves. The next day he hit another HR, helping Craig Swan to a 3-0 shutout over the Braves Phil Niekro.

In early June he had a walk off game winning single off pitcher George Frazier & the St. Louis Cardinals. The next week on June 11th, he hit a dramatic walk off grand slam HR off pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-2. It was one of the few exciting comeback wins for the 5th place 1980 Mets who went 67-95 under Joe Torre.

Brawl: On the Fourth of July, Montreal Expo rookie pitcher Bill Gullickson threw a pitch that sailed over Jorgensen’s head. Jorgensen was still sensitive about getting hit in the head with pitches after the previous years beaning in Texas.

He exchanged words & gestured to Gullickson, then began to go after him on the mound. But before he arrived on the mound, team mate John Stearns, who wasn’t even in the lineup that night, tackled & body slammed Gullickson to the ground. The benches cleared as a brawl broke out.

He finished off the year with a 7th inning base hit off Pittsburgh's Don Robinson, driving in Steve Henderson with the games tying run on September 30th. After being sacrificed over, he scored the game winning run on Alex Trevino's sac fly.

On the season he batted .255 with 7 HRs 11 doubles 46 walks 43 RBIs & a .349 on base %. Jorgensen played 72 games at first base & 31 games in the outfield.

In 1981 he missed two months of action only hitting .205 with 3 HRs & 15 RBIs in 86 games. In 1982 he saw action in 56 games behind Dave Kingman at first base & as well as 16 games in the outfield. He served as a pinch hitter often, & had 12 pinch hits, while raising his average fifty points from the previous year (.255). On August 10th he hit a two run pinch hit HR against the St. Louis Cardinals although the Mets still lost the game 7-2.

By 1983 the Mets were changing personnel and Jorgensen’s contract was sold off to the Atlanta Braves on the same day the Mets acquired Keith Hernandez. He played there & then went to the St. Louis Cardinals midway through the 1985 season. In the last year of his career, and after 17 seasons he made his first post season appearance getting to the 1985 World Series. He went 0 for 5 playing in four post season games.

Jorgensen was a lifetime .243 hitter with 833 hits 95 HRs 132 doubles 13 triples 427 RBIs a .347 on base % & 58 stolen bases. At first base he posted a .994 fielding % (48th best all time) & in the outfield a .979 fielding %. In his Mets career he played in 492 games with 21 HRs & 90 RBIs along with a .234 average.

Retirement: Jorgensen was the farm director for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1992-2001. In 1995, he managed the St. Louis Cardinals after Joe Torre was fired, going 42-54 and then was replaced by Tony LaRussa the next season.

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