Nov 30, 2017

Remembering Mets History (1969): Mets Gaurantee At Least A Tie For the NL East Title

Tuesday September 23rd, 1969: Gil Hodges first place Mets (95-61) hosted the previous years NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals (82-73).

Hodges Mets took the field in excitement knowing that a win on this evening would assure them of at least a tie for first place in the NL East.

32,364 fans came to Shea as The Mets' Jim McAndrew went up against Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.

Starting Lineups:

In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Mets short stop Bud Harrelson walked, he advanced on a fielders choice & then scored on Wayne Garrett's single to right field. The pesky Harrelson's offensive numbers never showed how valuable he was to the team, scrapping for hits, runs or stealing bases. Tonight's game was another example of his value to the club besides just his All Star defense.

The Cards took the lead in the 5th, as Lou Brock scored on a Vada Pinson grounder which was booted by Mets second baseman; Kenny Boswell. Pinson would score on Joe Torre's base hit.

In the 8th, the Mets tied it as Tommie Agee singled to left & sacrificed over by Wayne Garrett. Art Shamsky then singled bringing in Agee.

The game remained tied, McAndrew had departed in the 8th, as Tug McGraw came on for relief. He would pitch four innings holding the Cards to three hits, shutting them out while earning his ninth win of the year to get to 9-3.

Bob Gibson pitched into the 11th inning, scattering ten hits along the way, striking out five & walking three. Gibson was already an 18 game winner at that point, just coming off his fantastic 1968 Cy Young season the year before. That year he was 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA, 268 Ks & 13 shut outs, which were all league leaders.

In the home 11th, Ron Swoboda & Jerry Grote both singles for the Mets. Bud Harrelson stepped in & poked a single to left field, scoring Swoboda with the walk off winning run, as the Amazing Mets guaranteed at least a tie in the NL East. 

2000 N.L. Champion Mets Utility Player: Darryl Hamilton (1999-2001)

Darryl Quinn Hamilton was born on December 3, 1964 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The six foot, left handed hitting, right handed throwing Hamilton was signed out of Nicholls State University, by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1986.

Hamilton was known as an exceptional defensive outfielder with speed & a strong throwing arm. He began in the Rookie League and almost hit .400 getting promoted to A ball where he hit .328 at Stockton in 1987. In 1988 he then hit .325 at AAA Denver in 1988.

He made brief appearances with the Brewers over the next two years & by 1991 he was a Brewers everyday player. This was at the Brewers post Paul Molitor era & the point where Robin Yount was winding down his career. In 1991, his first full season, Hamilton would bat .311 with 57 RBIs & 16 stolen bases, making a big impact in the Brewer line up.

In 1992 he stole 41 bases (9th in the AL) with seven triples (7th in the AL) batting .298 with 5 HRs & a career high 62 RBIs. He was a god contact hitter, batting over .290 six times in his career, with four .300 plus seasons. In the outfield he led the league in fielding percentage four different times, as well as put outs once.

After spending seven years in Milwaukee (1988-1995) he signed a one year deal with the Texas Rangers in 1996. That year he hit.293 with 29 doubles 15 stolen bases 6 HRs & 51 RBIs getting to his first post season. He moved on to the San Francisco Giants (1997-1998) where he played two games in the 1997 NLDS loss to the Florida Marlins.

He then went to the Colorado Rockies (1998-1999) where he hit over .300 as a reserve player. & excellent pinch hitter

Trivia: On June 12, 1997 got the first official hit in regular season inter-league game history. Hamilton singled off the Texas Rangers Darrin Oliver to lead off the game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

In August of 1999 he was traded to the New York Mets for outfielder Brian McRae.

In his first game with the Mets on August 1st, 1999 he played center field & had a pair of hits with an RBI at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The next day he got two more hits going 2-4 in Milwaukee in a Mets 7-2 win over the Brewers. His hitting couldn’t be ignored as he found himself in Bobby Valentine's lineup more often than not. On August 30th he had a huge four hit day with a HR & three RBIs in the Mets 17-1 win at Houston against the Astros.

On September 5th Hamilton hit a grand slam HR at Shea Stadium in six run 5th inning as the Mets went on to a 6-2 victory. 
He hit safely in 20 of his first 27 games as New York Met, and would lead all NL centerfielders in fielding % (.1000). He made no errors in 102 chances with two assists in centerfield. 

In only two months in New York he batted .339 with a .419 on base %, 5 HRs 19 walks 19 runs scored & 21 RBIs.

On October 2nd, he doubled in the fourth inning off the Pirates Kris Benson tying the game the Mets went on to win in the bottom of the 9th inning. The win tied them with the Cincinnati Reds to force a one game playoff for the Wild Card title. In that game Hamilton went 1-4 with a walk.

1999 Post Season: Hamilton got into four games of the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In Game #3 of the NLDS, he came in as a pinch hitter in the 5th inning & remained in the game.

In his second at bat drove in John Olerud & Roger Cedeno with a base hit off Arizona’s Dan Pleasac, topping off a six run 6th inning, in the Mets 9-2 victory.

It was the only hit he had in the series going 1-8 (.125). He was on deck in Game #4 when Todd Pratt hit his game winning walk off HR. 

1999 NLCS: He had a much better NLCS, batting .353 getting six hits in 17 at bats against the Atlanta Braves. He played in five of the six games.

Hamilton got two hits in the 15 inning Game #5 win, where Robin Ventura hit the famous grand slam single. He got the start, but was removed in the 9th inning as Benny Agbayani came in to pinch hit for him.

Hamilton then had a big three hit night in Game #6 at Atlanta, driving in two runs. In the 5th inning with the Mets down 5-1, he singled off Kevin Millwood driving in John Olerud & Robin Ventura, bringing the Mets within two runs of the Braves.

Although they would tie the game up, they lost in the 11th inning & their season ended in an NLCS loss.

On Opening Day 2000 in a game played at the Tokyo Dome in Japan, Hamilton was the Mets starting centerfielder. He drove in a run with a 3rd inning sac fly against the Chicago Cubs.

On April 7th he sprained his foot & was out until early August. By that time Jay Payton had taken over centerfield & the Mets were one of the best teams in NL. He returned on August 9th, and hit a two run pinch hit HR INa 12-5 Mets win over the Astros in Houston. Although he had began the month with a .188 average, he brought it up to .224 by August 31st. He would also draw 11 walks in 17 games that month, putting up solid on bas percentages.

In September he hit well enough to raise his average fifty points. As a pinch hitter he was 3-6 in pinch hit appearances. On September 27th his base hit off the Braves Kevin Millwood, broke a 1-1 tie in the 5th inning. The Mets went on to a 6-2 win.

For the Mets 2000 NL Championship season he hit .276 with 29 hits 1 HR 6 RBIs & 14 walks posting a .358 on base % playing in 43 games.

2000 Post Season: In the 2000 NLDS against the San Francisco Giants, Hamilton went 2-3 as a pinch hitter, batting .500 overall (2-4).

In Game #2 at Pac Bell Park, Hamilton had a huge pinch hit base hit in the top of the 10th inning. With the game tied at 4-4 he doubled off Giants pitcher; Felix Rodriguez. Jay Payton followed with a base hit, scoring Hamilton with what was the games winning run. 

He would have seven more pinch hit appearances through the post season, going a hitless 0-5.

In 2001 the 36 year old Hamilton lost more time to injuries, and would only bat. 214 in 52 games, retiring at the end of the season. He finished his 13 year career with a .291 batting average, 1333 hits 163 stolen bases, 204 doubles, 51 HRs 454 RBIs & a .360 on base percentage. His .995 fielding % ranks him as one of the best all time in the outfield.

Retirement: After his playing days he worked for MLB radio as a color analyst. In 2006 he went to work for Major League Baseball Commissioner's Office of On-Field Operations, reporting to Vice President Bob Watson.

In 2012 he began working a number of games as an analyst for the Los Angles Angels of Anaheim.

In 2013 he joined the MLB network as an analyst. In 2014 Hamilton joined Jerry Augustine & Joe Block calling games for the Milwaukee Brewers, when Bob Ueker is absent.

Family: Hamilton met model Ursaline Steinke during Spring Training while in Scottsdale Arizona. They fell in love & she eventually gave up her career in modeling in Milan & moved with him to San Francisco.

There she blossomed once again as a model & made a good career for herself as well. The two married & have two sons together, but eventually divorced.

Passing: On June 21st, 2015 Darryl Hamilton was found dead after being shot multiple times at his home outside of Houston. Hamilton was killed by his girl friend Monica Jordan, 44, who was found in another part of the house, dead with a self inflicted gun shot.

The event happened in the expensive suburb outside of Houston at Pearland, Texas. The Houston Chronicle reported that Police originally were responding to a domestic dispute, but upon arrival found Hamilton dead just inside the front door.

The couple lived together with her two children & their nine month old baby. Hamilton has two sons from his prior marriage to model Ursaline Steinke.

On the day he was killed, he wished everyone a Happy Fathers Day on his social media site, with a picture of his two sons.

He was a very valuable all around player & pinch hitter. He was a good guy & a very popular player with his teammates & fans alike. He was just 50 years old.

The Mets issued this statement: 

“We are saddened by the tragic death of Darryl Hamilton. Darryl’s vibrant personality made him a key member of our postseason teams in 1999 and 2000. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

A moment of silence was held at Citi Field before the Mets, Reds game the following Friday night, after the Mets returned from their road trip.

Nov 29, 2017

Remembering Mets History: (1999) Orel Hershiser & Armando Benitez Combine On A Two Hitter

Thursday September 9th, 1999: It was always a big deal when Orel Hershiser returned to Los Angeles to pitch & tonight was no exception. This game meant more to Hershiser & his new team the New York Mets. 

Bobby Valentine's Mets (86-55) were on top of the Wild Card race & just three games in back of the Atlanta Braves in the standings in the NL East. Tonight 33,954 came to Dodger Stadium, as Davey Johnson's fourth place Dodgers (65-75) hosted the Mets. Hershiser (12-10) went up against Kevin Brown (16-6).

New York Mets       Los Angeles Dodgers
1Rickey HendersonLF1Eric Young2B
2Edgardo Alfonzo2B2Mark GrudzielanekSS
3John Olerud1B3Gary SheffieldLF
4Mike PiazzaC4Eric Karros1B
5Robin Ventura3B5Todd HundleyC
6Darryl HamiltonCF6Raul MondesiRF
7Roger CedenoRF7Devon WhiteCF
8Rey OrdonezSS8Adrian Beltre3B
9Orel HershiserP9Kevin BrownP

In the bottom of the 1st, Hershiser served up a solo HR to Gary Sheffield making it 1-0. In the 4th he allowed a single to Mark Grudzielanek and that was it. Hershiser didn't allow another hit or base runner the rest of the way. He would go eight innings, allowing two hits with no walks & one strike out, mastering the Dodger hitters.

Kevin Brown, one of the leagues top pitchers that year held the Mets scoreless until the 6th inning. After John Olerud reached on an error, Mike Piazza hit a two run HR to put New York ahead for good. The Mets added a run in the 9th, on a Jay Payton RBI double. Armando Benitez came on in the 9th for his 19th save, closing out the combined two hitter. 

Hershiser was a key part of the 1999 Wild Card Mets pitching staff going 13-12 with 179 innings pitched posting a 4.58 ERA at the age of 40. 

In the post season he made three relief appearances allowing no runs on just one hit in 5.1 innings of work, most ntable in Robin Ventura's Grand Slam single NLCS Game #5 win over the Atlanta Braves.

Mets 1978 N.L. ERA Leader: Craig Swan (1973-1984)

Craig Steven Swan was born on November 30, 1950 in Van Nuys, California. He was drafted at age 17, but chose to attend Arizona State University instead. There he was a top pitcher, setting a record in the 1972 College World Series allowing only one run over 18 innings pitched.

The six foot three, right handed Swan, had a good moving fastball in the low nineties and a hard slider. He was selected by the New York Mets in the third round of the 1972 draft. He had a brief cup of coffee in September 1973, debuting on against the Philadelphia on September 2nd, where he gave up four earned runs on nine hits in four innings pitched.

His next outing went better, pitching two scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs, two weeks later. He was with the club at the start of the 1974 season, having a great day on May 11th. At the plate he had three hits, driving in a run, scoring another while pitching six shutout innings to earn his first career win. In June he broke his arm and missed the rest of the season finishing up at 1-3 with a 4.45 ERA. He returned to AAA Tidewater in 1975, and was named the International League MVP going 13-7 with a 2.24 ERA.

Swan made the 1976 Mets staff as their fifth starter, behind Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack, Jerry Koosman & veteran Mickey Lolich brought in from Detroit in the Rusty Staub trade. He lost his first decision then pitched a five hit complete game shutout in Atlanta to beat the Braves. He then beat the Big Red Machine in his next outing. He had a horrible May losing five straight decisions, and only won two more games the rest of the year.

He did have good stretch in June pitching into the 7th inning or beyond giving up two runs or less five different times. All he had to show for it were two wins, two losses and a no decision due to lack of run support. The no decision came during a 10 inning three hit shutout against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Over a stretch of three games he allowed just a single earned run in 26 innings (0.35 ERA) with 21 strikeouts. He finished the year 6-9 with a 3.54 ERA, 89 strikeouts in 132 innings pitched.

In 1977 he began the year with a 1-4 record, improving to .500 by the All Star break. His best month was July when he was 3-1, including pitching a three hit shutout against the eventual NL Champion Dodgers in Los Angeles. He finished the year at 9-10, the second most wins on the staff, with a 4.23 ERA & 71 strikeouts in 146 innings pitched, as the Mets sank to last place.

Swan began 1978 with a five hit shutout victory against the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium, in the 5th game of the season. Although he pitched well, he didn’t earn another victory until mid July. He had allowed two runs or less ten times, and had actually allowed no runs pitching into the 7th inning three different times. During that stretch he posted a 2.66 ERA going 1-5, but this was a Mets team that didn’t score many runs. 

He had a 13 strikeout performance on Independence Day, but gave up two 9th inning runs and took the 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. He was one of the very few bright spots for the Mets in the summer of ’78, winning seven straight decisions during July & August. On August 15th he pitched a five hit victory at Shea against the San Diego Padres, where he allowed no earaned runs. When he faced the Padres in San Diego on the next road trip he beat Gaylord Perry in a 2-1 pitcher's duel allowing just five hits.

Although he lost to the NL Champion Los Angeles Dodgers on August 20th at Shea, he struck out ten batters. He won eight of his last nine games, posting the league’s best ERA. On September 16th, he allowed one run and three hits over nine innings but again got no decision.

He finished the season leading the National League in ERA (2.43) posting a 9-6 record, pitching in 207 innings and striking out 125 batters. He pitched well at home, posting a 1.67 ERA at Shea Stadium, with a 5-2 record.

Swan was the Mets 1979 Opening Day starter & earned the win in a wild 10-6 win at Wrigley Field. In his next start he allowed just one earned run in nine innings pitched against the Expos but go no decision. On April 25th at Shea Stadium, he tossed a two hit shutout against the San Francisco Giants walking only one batter.

In June he won three straight games, allowing only three runs over three straight complete games. In San Francisco he tossed another shut out against the Giants, this time a six hitter with seven strike outs on July 25th. He won his first three games in August, then suffered four losing decisions.

He finished off the season with two victories at the end of September, giving him 14 wins on the year. That total was more than any of his two team mates combined in that dismal season. He averaged two walks every nine innings which was one of the league's best ratios as well.

For 1979 he led the staff in ERA (3.29) wins (14) strike outs (145) shut outs (3) complete games (10) innings pitched (251) starts (35) as well as HRs, hits & runs allowed. His numbers were pretty much all career bests as by now he had developed into a mature pitcher. In the off season, he became the highest paid Mets pitcher in history signing a large contract that got him $560,000 for the 1980 season.

On Opening Day 1980 he beat the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium, with a lineup of Frank Tavares, Eliot Maddox, Lee Mazzilli, Steve Henderson, Mike Jorgenson, Jerry Morales, John Stearns & Doug Flynn behind him. On May 9th he beat the Expos in Montreal allowing just one run on three hits. On May 25th he beat the Atlanta Braves throwing another three hitter, this time a shut out performance.

By mid-June he was 5-4 with a 2.21 ERA on another bad hitting team. After losing his next four decisions, he was placed on the disabled list in what turned out to be a torn rotator cuff. He made two more starts pitched poorly & was done for the season by mid August. He went 5-9 with a 3.58 ERA, pitching 128 innings striking out 79 batters & walking 30.

He started out pitching in 1981 but went down again, missing most of the season, appearing in only five games. In one freak accident he fractured a rib, when he was hit by a throw from John Stearns trying to nail a base runner. He really should be recognized for the amazing accomplishment of being maybe the first pitcher to successfully come back from rotator cuff surgery.

After suffering a loss on April 12th, he earned a win pitching one inning of relief on April 21st at Shea Stadium. By June he was back in the starting rotation, winning his first two starts in the month. After two early season starts he spent some time in the bullpen, earning a save and posting a 1.30 ERA in relief. On August 4th, the day Joel Youngblood made history driving in the winning run for two different teams, Swan hit his only major league HR.  

In September as the Mets were on their way to lose 97 games, Swan won four of his five starts, with a complete game in his final start.

In 1982 he was second for the Comeback Player of the Year Award, leading the team with 11 wins (11-7) with a .611 winning %, pitching in 37 games, 166 innings, 67 strikeouts & a 3.35 ERA. During Spring Training the next season, he Swan felt something pop in his arm but he pitched through the injury.

He pitched the second game of the season after Tom Seavers Opening Day return to New York, and beat Philadelphia 6-2. His arm trouble affected his throwing as he only won one more game on the year, going 2-8 with a 5.51 ERA.

In 1984, while the Mets were competing for the title, Swan managed only ten awful relief appearances before being released on May 9th. The Angels signed him two weeks later but after two bad appearances he was through.

After a 12 season career, he finished up Lifetime 59-72 with seven saves, 673 strikeouts and a 3.74 ERA in 1235 innings pitched. He has that one ERA title to his credit as well. Swan is 12th on the Mets all time list in victories (59) 11th in shut outs (7) 9th in complete games (25) 8th in innings (1230) & 9th in starts (184).

Retirement: As Swan was recovering from rotator cuff surgery he discovered the technique of Rolfing. It helped strengthen his muscles back into shape. He enrolled in the Rolfe institute in Boulder Colorado and went into the practice. His office is located in Greenwich Connecticut and his son has now joined his staff.

Swan now lives in the Riverside section of Greenwich, Connecticut. Among the patients he has helped, is former team mate, Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. Years ago, Swannie lost millions of dollars in bad investments, and credits Fred Wilpon in helping get his daughter into the University of Michigan.

Nov 28, 2017

1986 World Champion Mets Infielder: Howard Johnson- Part One (The Eighties)

Howard Michael Johnson known as "Hojo" was born on November 29, 1960 in Clearwater, Florida. The five foot eleven switch hitter was originally drafted as a first round, pitcher out of St. Petersburg College, by the Detroit Tigers in 1979.

In the minors he was converted into a third baseman due to bat & his strong arm. In his third minor league season he hit 22 HRs at AA Birmingham in 1981. In 1982 he hit 23 HRs while batting .317 stealing 35 bases at AAA Evansville earning a call up to the big leagues.

He came up to the Tigers in 1982 as a back up to Tom Brookens batting .316 with 4 HRs in 54 games. By 1984 he was being platooned with Brookens, starting out the year hot, driving in run in six of ten games in May. A strong June had him hit up at the .300 mark along with four HRs. But he tailed off as the year came to an end, and he saw less playing time in September after the Tigers rolled over the American League. Soon veterans Darrel Evans & Marty Castillo were getting more playing time, especially in the post season.

Hojo had 12 HRs 50 RBIs & batted .248 in 116 games, but only had one at bat going 0-1 in the post season as the Tigers won the World Series. After the season, he was traded to the New York Mets for pitcher Walt Terrell.

He arrived in New York as one of three third baseman, but Hubbie Brooks was quickly traded in a deal to acquire All Star catcher, Gary Carter. Hojo was the Mets starting third baseman on Opening Day1985, getting a hit & drawing an RBI walk in the 6-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Hojo's debut went under noticed, since Carter was also making his debut & hit a walk off game winning HR.

Johnson struggled not getting above the .200 mark until July 4th, that month things got better for him. As Ray Knight struggled, hitting just .218 on the year, Johnson remained the teams main third baseman. He drove in 16 runs, raised his average thirty four points and hit four HRs. On August 3rd his top of the 10th inning HR in Chicago, off the Cubs George Frazier broke the 4-4 tie & was the game winner. On September 10th he hit a grand slam HR off the St. Louis Cardinals John Tudor, keeping New York in first place, one game up after the 5-4 win.

Three weeks later on September 29th, his three hit three RBI day, including a HR, helped the Mets beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh 9-7. Hojo hit, 242 with 11 HRs 18 doubles & 46 RBIs, posting a .300 on base %. For 1985 he played 126 games at third base posting a .941 fielding % making 15 errors in 253 chances.

In 1986 he started out well batting .357 in April. On April 24th Hojo hit a two run HR off St. Louis' Todd Worrell tying up the game in the top of the 9th inning. The Mets went on to beat the rival Cardinals 5-4 on George Fosters RBI base hit. From there he spent time on the DL miss most of the month of June.

Upon his return he struggled, losing his starting job at third base, to Ray Knight who would bat .298. On June 23rd he hit two HRs in a game against the Montreal Expos, even though the Mets lost 5-4. Johnson had only hit one HR going into mid June then went on a tear hitting 6 HRs during the next month.

One of his biggest blasts came during the legendary July 22nd game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. The Reds Eric Davis had slid hard into third base & Mets third baseman Ray Knight went crazy. He immediately took his glove off & threw a punch at Davis. A classic bench clearing brawl occurred as both dugouts & bull pen's emptied. Players were ejected & manager Davey Johnson had to fill spots on the field, including having pitcher Roger McDowell play outfield.

Johnson followed up with a three-run HR off Ted Power in the top of the 14th inning, which led to the Mets 6-3 victory. Hojo’s constant smile and good sense of humor was constant throughout the year.

He became Roger McDowell’s side kick in issuing the “hot foot” to Mets players in the dugout. The “Hot Foot” was when a matchbook was stuck with bubble gum to the back of a players shoe & lit on fire by either Johnson or McDowell.

This was demonstrated in the 1987 “Let’s Go Mets” video by Johnson & McDowell. He finished the 1986 Championship year batting .249 with 10 HRs 14 doubles, 39 RBIs & a .341 on base %.

Post Season: HoJo was shut out in the postseason, going 0-for-7 in the four games he played in. His only start was Game #2 of the 1986 World Series when he went 0-for-4 in the Mets loss. His only other at bat in the series was in Game #6 when he struck out in the ninth inning.

Trivia: Hojo goes down in Mets history as the first Met to greet Ray Knight at home plate as he scored the miraculous winning run in the classic World Series Game # 6.

At age 25 Johnson already had won his second World Series title. Ray Knight was gone after the World Series and Johnson became the Mets regular third baseman. He developed into one of the league’s top power hitters over the next two seasons. After a slow April, he went on a three month tear starting out with a five HR 15 RBI stretch from May 10th through May 20th. In June he had a stretch where he homered in three of four games & then three more HRs in three straight games the next week.

He had 20 HRs by the All Star break and in July he had a stretch of driving in six runs in a seven game span. From July 10th through July 16th he hit six HRs driving in eight runs. He started August with a grand slam in Montreal in the Mets 12-4 blowout win. During a thirteen-game span he had at least one RBI in all but one game. In mid August he homered in three straight games, driving in seven more runs in that span.

On August 31st he hit a top of the 10th inning HR off The Pares Keith Comstock for a game winning 6-5 Mets win in San Diego. Two days later his two run HR off Ed Whitson led New York to a 3-2 win, helping Dwight Gooden complete the three game sweep of the Padres. On September 21st he hit another grand slam, this one at Wrigley Field in Chicago helping the Mets to a big win. The win had the Mets keep pace with the Cardinals just 2 1/2 games back. They would fade away in the final week of the season & finish a very close second by just three games.

Hojo had always been a quick base runner as well. In the late eighties the trend became joining the & so called exclusive 30/30 club. Hojo did just that as he stole 32 bases & finished the year with 36 HRs (7th in the league). That year he set a HR record for NL switch hitters with his 36 HRs. He was overall a much a better hitter from the right side of the plate.

He had 99 RBIs, second on the club to Daryl Strawberry & tenth most in the league. He hit 22 doubles with 93 runs scored while posting a 3.64 on base percentage. He was now being recognized as a new Mets slugger as the careers of Gary Carter & Keith Hernandez were beginning to wind down. Johnson even earned 42 points in the MVP voting as well. The free swinging Hojo struck out 113 times (9th in the NL). It was the first in a five year stretch where he struck out over 100 times.

In 1988, Johnson’s numbers fell off, especially after he suffered a right shoulder injury. In April he batted just .171 with three HRs. On May 1st he helped Doc Gooden go to 6-0 as he hit a three run HR & drove in four of the Mets 11 runs in an 11-0 shutout. On June 2nd he hit a walk off HR against the Cubs Frank DiPino in the bottom of the 13th inning. In the final week of the month he hit four HRs & drove in runs in six of eight games. On June 29th he hit a bottom of the 9th inning HR at Shea Stadium, off the Pirates Jim Gott. The HR tied the game, in which the Mets went on to win in the bottom of the 13th.

He began July by driving in runs in the first four games of the month. hitting just .230 on the season. But he still showed some power with 24 HRs 24 doubles & 68 RBIs, setting a Mets record with 25 intentional walks. On August 27th, his first inning two run single, were the only runs Ron Darling needed in his 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants Rick Reuschel. On September 8, 1988 at Wrigley Field he had the only five-hit game of his career, going 5-for-5 with a three-run HR & four RBIs.

As Johnson was struggling on the field, mostly due to his back issues, the Mets tried out the highly touted 21-year-old prospect, Gregg Jefferies at third base, Jeffries started out on a tear & had a hot September. The Mets clinched another NL Eastern title that season, as Johnson batted .230 with 24 HRs 21 doubles & 68 RBIs. He walked 86 times (fourth in the NL) posting another good on base % at .343%, while playing in 148 games.

Post Season: Johnson struggled in the 1988 NLCS going just 1-for-18 with six strikeouts. He did not help the Mets cause, in the losing effort to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was benched in the final two games, with the exception of a Game #7 pinch hit role, where he struck out. Greg Jeffries played third base in both those games.

Trade rumors about Johnson were all over the news during that off season, but instead it was Wally Backman who got shipped out of New York. Jeffries took over second base & Johnson remained as the Mets third baseman. He would commit 24 errors at third, second most in the league in the position & fifth most out of all position players. Johnson committed a lot of errors in his career (163 overall), leading the league twice (1990-1991) & coming in the top four at third base four times.

Davey Johnson moved him up from sixth in the batting order to the number three spot in front of Daryl Strawberry in 1989. He responded by having an awesome year & the fact that he stayed healthy certainly was a difference. It began with a solo HR & three RBIs on Opening Day, as he helped New York beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-4.

In May he hit HRs in back to back games at the start of the month, including a walk off HR against the Cincinnati Red's Rob Dibble. He went on a tear in June, as he hit 11 HRs driving in 24 runs, winning the NL Player of the Month award. He hit five HRs in the first eight games that month, and had a hitting streak where he hit safely in 16 of 18 games entering July.

That season he was name to his first All Star team & started at third base for the NL in the All-Star Game held in Anaheim. In his first at bat, he drove in a run with a single off Oakland's Dave Stewart. The AL won the game 5-3.

On August 20th he hit his 30th HR of the season & joined Bobby Bonds and Willie Mays as the only multi-year members of the 30-30 club. He hit five HRs in September but the Mets finished second that year, six games behind the Chicago Cubs.

He personally finished 1989 second in the NL with 36 HRs, (tying his career-high and his own NL record for switch hitters) He led the league with 104 runs scored, drove in 101 runs (4th in the league) hit 41 doubles which set a Mets club record & was third most in the league. Johnson stole 41 bases (4th in the NL) finishing fifth in the MVP voting.

1986 World Champion Mets Infielder: Howard Johnson- Part Two (The Nineties & Beyond)

In 1990 Howard Johnson doubled his salary, earning one point six million dollars & with that, the expectations for him were very high. He hit a HR on Opening Day but finished April at .252 with just four HRs.

He began May with HRs in back to back games, & hit a third two days later, but didn't do too much more the rest  of the month. That June, he had one of his best games, having his first career five-RBI game. That day he also hit a grand slam HR in a 15-10 Mets win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

On June 26th in St. Louis, his double in the top of the 10th inning, off reliever Ken Dayley broke the tie & turned out to be the Mets game winning runs.

When Kevin Elster went down at short stop with injury, Hojo moved into the position for the last two months of the season. On August 31st he drove in the winning run off Steve Bedrosian to beat the San Francisco Giants. In September he hit three HRs & drove in 14 runs as the Mets finished the season in second place, four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 1990 he played 154 games, stealing 34 bases with 37 doubles (fourth in the NL) & 90 RBIs, but his HR production fell to 23 HRs and he hit just.244 with a .319 on base %. His 63 extra base hits were sixth in the league & his nine sac flies were 8th most. On the field he led the league in errors for the first of two straight seasons & struck out 100 times.

Trivia: Between 1987 and 1991, Howard Johnson hit 157 HRs. Only his Mets team mate Darryl Strawberry, along with Mark McGwire & Jose Canseco hit more HRs during that period.

In 1991 the Mets faded off to a fifth place finish & there wasn't too much left over from the '86 Championship team. Just six other players besides Johnson had been around that long & the face of the organization was certainly different.

Hojo returned starting out a bit slow in April, batting just .211 although he did hit fur HRs. On May 4th he hit a walk off HR off Mike Lacoss to beat the San Francisco Giants 4-3 at Shea Stadium. A week later he hit another HR off Lacoss in a 4-2 Mets win at San Francisco.

At the end of May he drove in runs in nine of twelve games & had 11 HRs for the season. In June he picked up his pace, as he hit six HRs in the month & passed Dave Kingman going into second place on the Mets all time HR list.

On June 8th, he won a game in Houston with a top of the 11th inning HR off Mike Capel. On June 18th Hojo hit a grand slam off the Reds Tom Browning at Shea Stadium. Midway through at the All Star break, Hojo had 19 HRs with 63 RBIs & was voted to his second midsummer classic.

In August he hit six HRs, topped off by hitting a pair of long balls on May 31st in Cincinnati. That day he drove in three runs leading to the Mets 8-7 win. He finished out the year with a fantastic September, hitting 10 HRs with 28 RBIs, earning him his second National League Player of the Month award. He was one of the very few bright spots for a lowly Mets team.

It was possibly his best season of all, as for the first time in history a Mets player led the league in both HRs (38)& RBIs (117). Not only that but he is also the only Met to have ever have led the league in the RBI category. He also became the only player besides Barry Bonds to join the 30-30 club in three different seasons.

Hojo scored 108 runs, which tied a Mets club record, hitting 34 doubles while stealing 34 bases. He posted a .342 on base % & hit .259, while finishing fifth in the league's MVP voting. He was so bad in the infield that, that season he began to play some outfield (30 games).

In the off season, the Mets went out & bought a bunch of high priced free agents that all would pretty much all fail, especially as a team together. As the team went down strangely so did Johnson. In 100 games he hit only seven HRs with 43 RBIs batting a lowly .223 his worst average of his Mets career. Johnson's only bright spot was when he passed Ted Simmons for the N.L record with most HRs by a switch hitter (183).

The next year (1993) was even worse for him, as injuries limited him to 72 games and at age 32 he seemed washed up. The Mets let him go to free agency & he moved on, signing a one year deal in Colorado with the Rockies.

All Time Mets Leader Board: In his nine year Mets career, Howard Johnson ranks high in many offensive categories. He is fourth all time on the Mets list in HRs (192) RBIs (629) runs scored (627) & walks (556).

Hojo is third in stolen bases (202) & fifth in doubles (214). He has 997 hits (10th on the Mets all time list) in 1154 Mets games played (7th all time) with a .251 batting average. He is third in sac flies (50) & in strike outs (827).

In 1994, Johnson signed with the Colorado Rockies & in the strike shortened year he batted a career low .211. He signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1995 hit only .195 and retired at age 35.

After a 14 year career he had batted .249 with 1229 hits 228 HRs 247 doubles 231 stolen bases 692 walks & a .340 on base % in 1531 games played.

With his glove he made 163 errors on the field. He played 1031 games at third base (98th all time) posting a .929 fielding %. Johnson played 273 games at short, 217 games in the outfield eight games at second & five games at first base.

Retirement: In 2001 Johnson was named the batting coach of the Mets' new minor league A ball team, the Brooklyn Cyclones. He became their manager the following season. He was then the hitting coach for the St. Lucie Mets, winning the Florida State championship in 2003. The next year he moved up to the AA Binghamton Mets. 

In 2005 he was the Norfolk Tides batting instructor & had the team hitting their best in six years. In 2007, he returned to New York as the Mets first base coach and eventually became their hitting coach in 2008. He served two years in that capacity but was not asked back in 2010 although he still was working in the organization.

Hojo joined the Seattle Mariners organization in 2013, starting out as coach for AAA Tacoma. Since 2014, he has been the Seattle Mariners hitting coach under Manager Lloyd McClendon.

Honors: He remains a popular Mets figure & was on hand for many of the recent team celebrations. He was on hand at the 20th & 30th anniversaries of the 1986 team in 2006 & 2016. He was also at the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008.

Family: Johnson & his wife have three children. His daughter Shannon is a figure skating coach in Florida & his son Glen plays pro baseball. He was offered a contract by the Mets in 2007 being drafted in the 37th round but did not sign.

In 2011 at age 50 he returned to pro ball playing two minor league games with his son for the Rockland Boulders