Sep 23, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (1973) Willie Mays Night At Shea

Tuesday September 25th, 1973: It was a super special night at Shea Stadium on this Tuesday evening, the New York Mets were 1/2 game up in first place over the Pittsburgh Pirates & they were to honor the great Willie Mays. 

54,000 fans showed up to say goodbye to Mays on "Willie Mays Night" in a pre game ceremony before a very important match up with the Montreal Expos. 

 The 42 year old Mays, grew tired & was hurting by this point of the season. Mays had always said he felt manager Yogi Berra had used him too much earlier on in the '73 season. 

Mays had not been in a game since a September 9th, 3-0 win over the Expos in Montreal. He had planned to leave the team & call it quits, but the Mets owner; Joan Payson, who adored Mays, convinced him to stay with the club & finish out the season. 

Now the Mets were in a pennant race & Mays, truly an inspiration to the young players, would get to go out a winner, on the National League Champion Mets. He would end playing in the World Series in the two cities that defined his career, as the Mets took on the Oakland A's of the San Francisco Bay area. 

In the 1973 NLCS against the
Cincinnati Reds, Mays would have an RBI single at Shea Stadium in clinching Game #5. In the Fall Classic he would get his final career hit, an RBI game winning single in Game #2 at Oakland. 

In the pregame ceremony on September 25th, 1973, Mays was joined by his wife May Mays & their son Michael, donning a military cap & uniform. Mets broadcaster; Lindsay Nelson hosted the ceremonies in which Willie was showered with gifts from the organization. 

Some former New York Giants team mates as well as respected rivals were on hand standing behind Mays, to honor the future Hall of Famer. Former Giants Bobby Thompson, Monte Irvin & Ralph Branca along side Brooklyn Dodgers: Duke Snider & Pee Wee Reese. Also on hand was Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby (now a coach with Montreal), Roy McMillan (now a Mets coach), & Mets manager Yogi Berra. 

As Lindsey Nelson said "Ladies & gentleman Willie Mays" in his classic drawl, the crowd went wild. 

An emotional Mays stepped up to the microphone saying: "I hope that with my farewell tonight, you would understand what I'm going through right now. Something that I never feared I was to ever quit baseball, but as you know they will always come a time for someone to get out. And I look at these kids over here, the way they are playing & the way they are fighting for themselves, tells me one thing. Willie say goodbye to America." 

He stepped back, wiped a tear from his eyes as other rolled down his face. The crowd cheered & he tipped his cap to the Shea Stadium fans. He then walked over to greet Mrs. Joan Payson. It was a big emotional night for all. 

 After the ceremony an important game was scheduled between the New York Mets & Montreal Expos. The NL East standings now said:

New York Mets 79-77 - 
Pittsburgh Pirates 77-76 / 0.5 games back 
St. Louis Cardinals 76-80 / 3.0 games back 
Chicago Cubs 75-80 / 3.5 games back 
Montreal Expos 75-80 / 3.5 games back 
Philadelphia Phillies 69-87 / 10.0 games back

Jerry Koosman (12-15) would go up against Steve Rogers (9-4).

 Koosman was 4-1 in his last five decisions, but had recently taken a loss & three no decisions since September 3rd. Prior to that he had set a Mets record that lasted thirty nine years, pitching in 36 consecutive scoreless innings, going 4-0. He would finish out the year going 6-1 from mid August on through the pennant drive in September. 

The revved up Shea crowd watched Koosman shut out Montreal through the first five innings. On the other side, Steve Rogers held the Mets down through the first four innings. 

In the Mets 5th they produced a run, playing their style of small ball. Bud Harrelson led off with a base hit & was sacrificed over by a Koosman bunt. Wayne Garrett then singled but Harrelson was unable to score from third. Then the steady Felix Millan hit a sac fly to left field, getting Harrelson home from third, making it 1-0. 

In the top of the 6th, Montreal also scrapped for a run as Ron Woods singled & stole second. Bob Bailey drew a walk & then Manager Gene Mauch called for a double steal.

 Bailey was nailed at second but Woods stole third. Hal Breeden then hit a grounder to Harrelson, but the usually sure handed short stop made an error, as Woods scored tying the game. 

 In the home 6th, the Mets took the lead right back as the hot hitting Cleon Jones hit his 9th HR of the year. Jones had missed almost two months with injuries, in the first half of the season. 

 Jones was now healthy & was the clubs best hitter in the final two weeks of the season. In the last ten games of the year, he blasted six HRs with 14 RBIs & had ten hits. In 92 games he hit 11 HRs with 13 doubles 48 RBIs & batted .260. 

 In the top of the 7th, Koosman gave up a pair of two out singles & with Felipe Alou coming to bat, Yogi Berra went to his bullpen ace; Tug McGraw. McGraw was now one of the best pitchers in the league, since August 22nd he was 5-0 with ten saves, allowing just three earned runs in 38 innings. 

McGraw quickly put out the fire, getting Alou to fly out to left field. He pitched two more scoreless innings, getting Ron Fairly to fly out to end the game. He walked off the mound, tapping his glove on his upper thigh, earning the save (his 24th). 

Trivia: The glove tapping on the thigh after a big out or win, was a secret symbol of love, to his wife Phyllis.

On this night in Pittsburgh, the Phillies & Steve Carlton beat the Pirates 2-1 on HRs by future Mets hitting coach Bill Robinson, as well as Mike Anderson. 

The Mets had their biggest lead of the season, up by 1.5 games. In St. Louis the Cubs beat the Cards dropping them four games back & out of the race. The Cubs had some life, 3.5 games out, with a four game set to be played against the Mets on the final days of the season at Wrigley Field.

Remembering Mets History: (2016) Mets Stay Atop Wild Card Race With 10-5 Win

Friday September 23rd 2016: Fresh off the night after Asdrubal Cabrera blasted a three run walk off HR, and finding out Noah Syndergaard will mis Saturdays start due to an illness, the Mets did what they needed to do, beating the Philadelphia Phillies to stay atop the wild card race.

The Phils came up with two early runs off Mets spot starter Gabriel Ynoa, but the Mets came back in the 2nd, with doubles from Michael Conforto & Travis d'Arnaud. But the Phillies took a 3-1 lead into the home 5th inning.

Rene Rivera singled & then after fouling a ball off his knee, Asdrubal Cabrera walked. He would later leave the game. Yoenis Cespedes then drew a walk as well to load the bases.  Then the Mets continued the rally as Curtis Granderson drove in his 15th run of September, followed by another clutch hit by Kelly Johnson scoring Cabrera & Cespedes.

Then Michael Conforto got his second extra base hit of the night, a long opposite field three run HR, making it 7-3 Mets. It was his 12th HR of the year. Conforto who had been struggling all year in & out of the minors relished the moment with a real true smile on his face. Hopefully we can see the Conforto of 2015 the rest of the way.

In the 7th Cespedes blasted a double to left field, Granderson then walked. Juan Lagares, still hurting with his thumb, did all about he could do, he bunted. He came through with a base hit scoring Cespedes.

Pinch hitters Eric Campbell & TJ Rivera both came through with RBI singles, making it look like Terry Collins is pushing all the right buttons.

Six Mets pitchers helped the cause with Hansel Robles putting in 2.2 innings closing out the game, helping the bullpen since Jeurys Familia was not available. The Mets took the 10-5 win going up 1.5 games on the St. Louis Cardinals and moving ahead of the San Francisco Giants as they started their game in San Diego.

Early Eighties Mets Infielder: Hubie Brooks (1980-1984)

Hubert Brooks Jr. was born on September 24, 1956 in Los Angeles California. Brooks began his college days at Whittier College then moved on to be a star baseball player at the great baseball school of Arizona State University, in the late seventies. He played infield there on the 1977 NCAAA Championship team with future Atlanta Braves slugger Bob Horner, the 1978 number one draft pick overall.

The six foot right hand hitting Brooks, was the New York Mets first round draft choice (third pick overall) in that same 1978 draft. The infielder was a great curve ball hitter with good speed on the base paths. He hit .305 in 1979 at AA with Jackson earning a late season promotion to the AAA level. He hit .297 with 14 stolen bases at AAA Tidewater in 1980 before getting a late season promotion to Shea Stadium. The Mets were desperate for some talent & Brooks became quick fan favorite.

Brooks made his debut at San Diego on September 3rd, batting in the 5th spot while playing at third base. At first he wore the uniform number 39 before taking over Ed Kranepool’s old uniform #7 which he became more familiar with. In his third career game he got two hits scoring his first run in a 8-7 loss to the Padres. On October 4th he hit his first career HR in a 5-2 win at St. Louis, in the final four games of the year he dove in five runs. In 1980, Brooks had 25 hits in 81 at bats, batting .309 showing a lot of promise for the future.

On Opening Day 1981 Brooks got his first hit of the year & then had a three hit game on the second day of the season. In May he hit safely in 20 of 24 games bringing his average up to .340. He fell into a short slump and then the Players went on strike for the next two months. When play resumed on August 10th, he had a fantastic week gathering 12 hits, with three HRs & seven RBIs. On August 11th he tied up a game in Chicago with an 8th inning sac fly. Later in the top of the 9th his double scored Ellis Valentine in what would be the game winning run. He drove in two more runs the next day at Wrigley Field as well.

On August 28th he doubled off Brooklyn Born Joe Sambito with the game winning run in the bottom of the 8th inning, to beat the Houston Astros. In September he had a ten game hit streak, including a four hit day on September 20th in a Shea game against the Cardinals. He closed out the year hitting safely in 13 of 15 games in mid September finishing the month of September with 14 RBIs.

In the 1981 strike shortened he did not disappoint batting .307 (8th in the league) with 21 doubles, posting the team’s best on base percentage (.345) and earning a spot on the Topps All Star Rookie team. He hit 4 HRs with 9 stolen bases 34 runs scored 2 triples & 38 RBIs in 98 games played. Brooks came in third behind Fernado Valenzuela & Tim Raines in the Rookie of the Year voting.

He was the Mets regular third baseman that season but led the NL in errors (21) at that position posting a .924 fielding %. He would make over 20 errors in each of the next four seasons, coming in the league's top three in errors three separate times.

In mid April 1982 he drove in five runs in a three game series against the Philadelphia Phillies. On May 13th Brooks had a big three hit day against the reigning World Champion Dodgers in a game at Shea Stadium. He drove in all four runs of Pete Falcone & the Mets 4-2 win over Burt Hooton. Two days later he helped the Mets to a 6-5 over the Dodgers with a 5th inning bases loaded base hit off Dave Stewart, that scored all three runners. He closed out May with a four hit day at Shea in a game against the Astros. On June 9th he grounded out in the bottom of the 9th inning, but scored the game winning run off the Pirates Kent Tekulve in a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh. Brooks missed over two weeks of action in June, with injury & then after a brief return missed three weeks in July.

He returned in August but never got back to top form the rest of the season. On October 1st Terry Leach & John Denny pitched nine scoreless innings against each other in a game at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. In the top of the 10th Porfi Altamirano came in to relieve Denny allowing a walk to Dave Kingman & a single to Gary Rajsich. Brooks follwed with a base hit scoring the only run of the game in the 1-0 squeaker.

For the 1982 season his hitting fell off, dropping to a .249 average with two HRs 20 doubles a .315 on base % & 40 RBIs playing in 126 games. By 1983 he would stay healthy & play in over 150 games for the Mets becoming a steady everyday player for the next two seasons. On May 6th in a game against the Reds at Shea Stadium, Brooks came in as a defensive replacement in the 10th inning. After the Reds went ahead, Brooks homered to tie the game leading the Mets to a 13th inning victory on George Fosters three run walk off HR.

On May 16th he drove in three runs at Pittsburgh in a big 11-4 Mets victory. He hit safely in 14 of 20 games that month & finished May with a game winning single against the Padres John Montefusco in San Diego. On June 23rd Brooks hit a three run HR off Dave Von Ohlen & the St. Louis Cards, while driving in another run with a base hit, leading the Mets to a 7-5 win. On June 28th in St. Louis in the first game of a double header against the Cardinals, Brooks had a five hit day, including a double & RBI. in a 10-1 Met win.

On July 25th he helped the Mets rally from three runs down in the bottom of the 9th inning against the Atlanta Braves. Brooks drove in the first run of the inning, with a single off Steve Bedrosian & then scored the tying run on George Fosters double. Keith Hernandez also crossed the plate with the game winning run on that Foster double. On August 7th he had another four RBI day, it came in a three hit performance at Wrigley Field. In September he drove in runs in five straight games from the 15th through the 19th. On the last night of that stretch, he had a walk off game winning RBI single off the Pittsburgh Pirates closing ace Kent Tekulve.

On the season he hit .251 with 18 doubles 4 triples 5 HRs & 58 RBIs. Brooks stole just six bases, drew just 24 walks & posted a .284 on base. At third base he posted a .950 fielding percentage turning 25 double plays & making 21 errors. That season the Mets finished 6th (68-94) under managers George Bamberger & Frank Howard.

In 1984 the Mets were a much improved team as Davey Johnson took over as manager. The Mets would go on to win 90 games (90-72) finishing in second place, as young players like rookie sensation Dwight Gooden brought the Mets back into the spotlight. Brooks had his best season with the Mets that year as well. He started out slow batting just .203 in the first month of the season, although he did hit three HRs & drove in eight runs.

Then in May he went on fire, he had a hit in every game he played in in that month. Brooks set a Mets record at the time with a 24 game hitting streak, passing Mike Vails’ old mark of 23 set in 1975. He was batting .306 when the streak ended in June & then he continued to hit safely in the next 8 of 11 games, having him hit safely in 32 of 35 games. He helped the Mets driving in key runs as well; on May 4th he & Keith Hernandez drove in the only two runs of Ron Darlings shut out against the Astros.

On May 11th he drove in one of the two runs off Fernando Valenzuela, in Dwight Gooden's eleven strike out, four hit shutout in Los Angeles. In June he remained hot keeping his average well above the .300 mark. In the middle of the month he drove in runs in eight of nine games & hit four HRs with five multi hit games.

On July 6th he hit a HR off the Reds Jeff Russel scoring the only run of the game helping Ron Darling to a 1-0 win. On July 20th he singled off the Reds Jay Tibbs breaking a 2-2 tie & giving Dwight Gooden a 3-2 win. Brooks would contribute with RBIs in three straight Mets one runs that week. On a twelve game August home stand he had 19 hits, including seven games with two or more hits. In that stretch he hit three HRs & drove in 13 runs right in the heat of the summer's pennant race. That month he drove in 23 runs overall & scored 15 runs.

On August 8th he had a big four hit day scoring four runs , although the Mets lost to the Cubs at Wrigley Field 7-6. On August 13th he had a big three hit day, with a walk & four RBIs in the first game of a double header in San Francisco. Over the next 16 games Brooks would drive in at least one run in thirteen of those games. He began September with five hits in a double header sweep at Shea against the San Diego Padres. In that night cap he drove in three runs in the 10-6 Mets win. On September 9th he hit a three run HR leading the Mets to a 5-1 win over the Cubs at Shea Stadium.

On September 12th as rookie phenom Dwight Gooden broke the NL Rookie strikeout record, while striking out 16 Pittsburgh Pirates on a five hit shutout, it was Brooks who supplied the offense driving in both Mets runs. (ceterfieldmaz was in attendance that night).

Hubbie finished the year hitting 16 HRs, with 23 doubles, 73 RBIs, 61 runs scored and a .283 average. He had 45 games where he had more than one hit throughout the season. He almost doubled his base on balls as he drew a career high 48 walks raising his on base % to .341 %. He also played 26 games at short stop and was used as a pinch hitter by manager Davey Johnson.

In the off season Brooks was the main chip in a blockbuster trade, going to Montreal along with along with catcher Mike Fitzgerald & Herm Winningham in exchange for Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter. In 1985 the Expos converted him to a full time short stop, & he became the first short stop since Ernie Banks to drive in 100 runs. He was so valuable to his third place Expo team he came in 14th in the league's MVP voting. Brooks hit .269 with 13 HRs 34 doubles, 7 triples (9th in the NL) & 100 RBIs (6th in the NL) posting a .310 on base %.

In 1986 he had a great first half, batting .333 making his first of two straight All Star games. After the break he played in only five more games as an injury ended his fine season. He played in only 80 games batting .340 with 14 HRs 18 doubles & 58 RBIs. In 1988 he hit 20 HRs & drove in 90 runs (9th in the league), converting from a short stop to play the outfield. In his first year playing outfield he posted a .968 fielding % making nine errors. He remained in Montreal through the 1989 season when he signed as a free agent in his home town of Los Angeles with the Dodgers.

In 1990 he won the Dodger fans over early on by hitting a game winning three HR on Opening Day. For the season Hubbie hit 20 HRs 28 doubles 90 RBIs & a .266 batting average. After just one season in L.A. he made a triumphant return to New York with the Mets in 1991 getting traded in exchange for Bobby Ojeda.

He only hit .238 and ended up being a huge disappointment like the rest of the’91 team that finished in fifth place. He hit 16 HRs & drove in 50 runs, with 11 doubles & a .238 batting average.

It was a brief stay, after that season he was sent to the California Angels for Dave Gallagher. In California he only hit .216 and went to the Kansas City Royals in 1993. There he improved to a .286 average playing in 75 games (168 at bats). Brooks retired after the 1994 baseball strike.

Brooks played 15 seasons batting .269 lifetime with 1608 hits 149 HRs, 290 doubles 31 triples 387 walks & 824 RBIs with a .315 on base %. With the glove he committed 90 errors playing at 516 games at third base, turning 80 double plays with a .936 on base %. In the outfield he played 582 games making 35 errors with 32 assists & a .966 fielding %. Brooks also played 371 games at short stop, 13 games at first base & 7 games at second base.

Sep 22, 2018

Remembering the 1973 N.L. Champion Mets: '73 Mets Take Over First Place

Friday September 21st, 1973: With the Mets now almost tasting first place, for the first time all season, over 51,000 fans packed into Shea Stadium to see their ace, the 1973 Cy Young Award Winner; Tom Sever (17-10) go up against Steve Blass (3-8).

Blass was a hero of the 1971 World Series & a 19 games winner in 1972 but he was having a rough season and would end his career after just one game the next year.

If there was one guy the Mets would want pitching on a night like this, it was Seaver. He is in the Hall of Fame for many reasons, stepping up in big games like this is one of them.

Seaver would go the distance, strike out eight batters, allow two runs on just five hits, while walking two. He earned his 18th win of the year & lowered his ERA to 1.88.

Tonight was a night the Mets gave him a lot of run support, something he did not always have the benefit of getting. The hot hitting club belted out ten runs on thirteen hits. The Mets exploded in the 1st inning, revving up the loud, excited Shea Stadium crowd.

Wayne Garrett led off with a base hit & then Rusty Staub also singled with one out. Blass got John Milner for the second out, but then the roof caved in on him. The hot hitting Cleon Jones doubled to right field bringing in Staub & Garrett.

Rookie Dave Schneck ( a power hitting prospect) was given an intentional walk. Next catcher; Jerry Grote doubled to the left center field alley scoring both Jones & Schneck & it was 4-0 New York.

The Pirates answered with two runs in the top of the 2nd, although they only had one hit off Seaver. Seaver walked Willie Stargell & then a Richie Zisk triple brought him home. Then Milt May hit a sac fly but that would be it for Pittsburgh all night.

In the Mets 3rd, "the hammer" John Milner blasted a Chris Zachary pitch over the fence for his team leading 23rd HR of the year. Cleon Jones then singled, Jerry Grote singled & Bud Harrelson delivered with an RBI base hit making it 6-2.

In the bottom of the 6th, Wayne Garrett this his 16th HR of the year off former Met Bob Johnson, making it 7-2. In the 8th the Mets added two more run, Seaver walked & advanced on a Jack Lamb wild pitch.

John Milner Congratulates Rusty Staub
Felix Millan brought him home & then Rusty Staub hit his 15th HR of the year sealing the 10-2 victory. All of a sudden the Amazing Mets of 1973 were now on top of the N.L. East at .500. (77-77) "You Gotta Believe" indeed.

The fans were dancing in the aisles & jumping on top of the dugout chanting "we're number one". The Mets locker room was just as wild, with smiles on every ones faces. Jerry Koosman told the press "It brings back memories of 1969 but it's as though it's the first time all over again".

But there were still seven games left to play & four teams right behind the Mets.

The NL East Standings on September 21st, 1973:

New York Mets -
Pittsburgh Pirates 0.5
St. Louis Cardinals 1.0
Montreal Expos 1.5
Chicago Cubs 2.5
Philadelphia Phillies 9.0

Remembering Mets History: (1991) David Cone Tosses His Third Mets One Hitter

Friday September 20th 1991: Bud Harrelson's Mets (71-76) certainly were a huge disappointment this season. It was the start of another losing era for the New York Mets who had just come off seven years of finishing either first or second in the N.L. East. As that era was ending this game was one of the few highlights of the 1991 season.

David Cone went up against Joe Torre's St. Louis Cardinals (7671) 12 1/2 games back in second place, in a pre wild card era.

Torre sent Rheal Cormier to the mound. 15,683 fans came out to Shea for the two hour & twelve minute contest.

Starting Lineups

For Cone it was another fine outing he was to pitch as a New York Met. Cone sailed along in the game, he struck out one batter in the 1st inning & then two more in the 3rd. In the 5th inning he walked Milt Thompson ending any early thoughts of a perfect game. He ended that inning striking out Ray Lankford.

Until this point the game was still scoreless as the offensive weak Mets weren't supporting Cone. In the home 6th, Kevin Elster led off with a walk. With two outs Greg Jefferies reached on an error, after a balk got Elster to third. Mark Carreon then delivered with a base hit that proved to be the only run of the game, making it 1-0.

Cone came back after an inning where no one was talking to him in the dug out & got Ozzy Smith out trying to bunt his way on, but Greg Jefferies threw him out. Then Cone struck out Todd Zeile & Pedro Guerrero to end the 7th with a no hitter still in tact.

It was in the 8th inning that Felix Jose led off with a double to deep left centerfield ending the no hit bid. Jose did have a fine year that year batting .305 in 154 games.

This was the 20th one hitter thrown in Mets history & the third by Mets pitching that month. The second from David Cone who combined with Jeff Innis (one inning) a six days earlier.

In this one Cone struck out 11 in the game & walked just one. He would lead the NL in strike outs that year for the second year in a row with 241. He went 14-14 winning 14 games for the second straight year as well.

Sep 21, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (1988) Mets Clinch NL East Title

Thursday September 22, 1988: Davey Johnson's Mets (94-57) were on a roll counting down toward winning the 1988 NL Eastern title. They come on strong down the stretch, to overtake the Pittsburgh Pirates. The win onthis evening, was their eighth in a row, 13 out of their last 14 and 18 out of their last 22.

45,274 came out to Shea Stadium, to see the Mets clinch their second NL Eastern Title in three years. The Shea Faithful, cheered loudly from the first pitch onward through the night.

NYPD had 80 mounted policeman on horses & over 800 Police officers in total were on hand to make sure no one got onto the field. Shea was not about to repeat the 1986 clinching celebration, where the fans stormed the & ripped up the field. The public address announcer welcomed their presence in the 8th inning as the crowd greeted them with boos. The fans of course wanted to repeat with an '86  type like celebration.

Starting Lineups

Ron Darling (15-9) got the start tonight and became the fourth Mets pitcher to celebrate on the mound as the Mets won an Eastern title. Darling found a little extra in his arm that night and was going to finish the game no matter what.

Darling went the distance allowing only one run, on six hits, with one walk and struck out four. It was his 16th win of the year, he would end up third on the '88 team with 17 wins and third with a 3.25 ERA.

The Mets only scored three runs off Philadelphia's Don Carman, but it was all they needed. Mookie Wilson led  with three hits on the night & a run scored.

In the home 5th, down 1-0, Kevin Elster led off with a double. Mookie followed with a one out single, Elster going to third.  Greg Jeffries then grounded out to third, scoring Kevin Elster tying the game 1-1.

 In the 6th inning, Daryl Strawberry sigled & reached third on a Kevin McReynolds single. Straw then scored when Don Carman thre a wild pitch. In the 7th, Mookie singled & advanced to second & then scored when Kevin McReynolds had an infield single himself.

In the 9th inning, Darling struck out Von Hayes, then got Juan Samuel to ground out to the mound. Darling then struck out Lance Parrish to end the game. Darling was met on the mound by catcher Gary Carter in celebration.

The rest of the team joined them with no pressure from the fans, as the mounted police stopped anyone from storming the field. The Mets celebration moved on to the clubhouse.

Trivia: The night before, the Mets recieved  bad news when pitcher; Bobby Ojeda injured himself at home trimming his hedges. Ojeda had severed his left index finger and had to under go nearly five hours of surgery to repair it. He was lost for the rest of the year & more importantly, the post season.

His absence was certainly missed as the Mets lost the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling & David Cone the Mets were still looking good in the pitching department heading to the playoffs.

1986 World Champion Mets Second Baseman: Wally Backman (1980-1988)

Walter Wayne Backman was born September 22, 1959 in Hillsboro, Oregon. Wally Backman's dad played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization during the sixties.

Wally was drafted in the first round (16th pick overall) of the 1977 draft by the New York Mets. He hit over .280 every season in the minors and his defense improved, making him a fine defensive second baseman.

His scrappy style of play is what made him so desirable. He would do anything to get on a base, a slap hitter who could bunt well, draw walks & get hit by pitches. His uniform usually got dirty from sliding and being a pest on the base paths.

He began as a September call up in 1980, getting a base hit driving in a run in his first career at bat. He would hit.323 (30-93) with 9 RBIs in 27 games. Backman’s early years as a Met were filled with drama at times & it was tough for him to get a starting job. At the start of his career, Doug Flynn was the Mets Gold Glove second baseman & a favorite of manager Joe Torre.

Backman got sent to Triple A- Tidewater in June 1981, becoming irritated that the Mets were trying to turn him into a utility infielder. He refused to report for six days, giving him a bad reputation with the organization. But in the winter of 1981 the Mets traded Flynn and Backman was the 1982 Opening Day second baseman.

Then, more drama as he fell off a bicycle ending his season, and soon losing his job to Brian Giles in 1983. At AAA Tidewater he had impressed his manager Davey Johnson with his style of play and his hitting, batting .316. When Johnson took over as the Mets manager, he made Backman his 1984 second baseman.

On April 18th with the Mets down to the Montreal Expos 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th Backman came to bat with two men on. He doubled home Daryl Strawberry & John Gibbons with an exciting walk off Mets win. 

On July 2nd in a game at Shea against the Houston Astros he had three hits & drove in three of the Mets four runs in their 4-2 victory. On July 23rd Backman had another walk off game winning hit, this one against the Cardinals off former Met Neil Allen.

On July 27th he helped Dwight Gooden to a four hit win, when he singled home what was the game winning run in the 7th inning against Dick Ruthven & the Chicago Cubs. On July 31st he peaked out with a .300 batting average.

On August 17th Dwight Gooden & the Giants Mike Krukow had a classic shut out pitcher's duel going through nine innings in San Francisco. In the top of the tenth Backman hit his only HR of the season, a two run shot winning it for New York.

In 1984, Backman was the Mets leadoff hitter for most of the year, batting .280 with a career high 32 stolen bases, only getting thrown out nine times. He posted a .339 on base percentage with 122 hits, 56 walks,19 doubles 68 runs scored and 21 RBIs. 

Backman still wasn't sure if he would remain on the team the next season. In his personal life he spent the year living in a mobile home with his wife & daughter at a campsite in West Milford, NJ.

By 1985 Backman was having a real problem hitting left-handers, so manager Davey Johnson platooned him with Kelvin Chapman. Chapman didn’t hit at all, so Backman got his job back at second base, playing in 145 games hitting .273 with a career high 142 hits, 24 doubles, five triples & 38 RBIs.

He was still batting leadoff at the beginning of the year, but as the season went on he settled into the two spot. He posted a .320 on base percentage and drew fewer walks (36) but still stole 30 bases. Backman hit real well over the summer, starting out in July with a ten game hit streak.

That August he posted a 14 game hit streak. During that stretch he hit safely in 23 of 25 games. His problem was hitting left hand pitchers, that season against left-handers he only hit .155. So for the 1986 season, Tim Teufel was brought in from Minnesota to platoon with him at second base.

In the 1986 Championship season, Backman had a great start to the season & never looked back. Backman was platooned with Tim Teufel most of the season, but the second base spot seemed to be more effective when Backman played. He proved to be a perfect #2 hitter, usually behind the leadoff man Lenny Dykstra .

The two gritty players became known as the "Wild Boys", always playing in dirty uniforms & spitting out chewing tobacco. But most importantly, they were always getting on base setting the table for the big bats in the mighty line up.

On July 17th in Houston, Backman had a huge day, gathering up three hits while driving in five runs in the Mets 13-2 rout over the Astros. It was on this road trip to Houston, that Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, Rick Aguilera & Tim Teufel got arrested after a night club altercation with off duty Houston Police officers posing as bouncers.

On August 10th Backman broke a 2-2 tie in Montreal with a 7th inning single off Dennis Martinez. He later drove in a 9th inning run as well in the Mets 7-2 win over the Expos.

 On September 27th, his 27th birthday, Backman hit his only HR of the season. It came off the St. Louis Cardinals Bob Forsch in a 5-2 Mets win.

Backman led the 1986 Mets team in hitting with a .320 batting average, & was the only other player besides Keith Hernandez to hit over .300. Backman posted a .376 on base percentage, scoring 67 runs, while stealing 13 bases. He hit one HR with 18 doubles & 27 RBIs playing in 124 games. His 14 sac hits were third best in the National League, Wally was a very dangerous bunter as well. At second base he posted a .966 fielding % & helped turn over 56 double plays.

Post Season: Backman had a fantastic 1986 NLCS, and was in the middle of a lot of important moments. 

In Game #2 at the Houston Astro Dome he singled off Nolan Ryan in the 4th inning & then scored on Gary Carter's RBI double. It was the Mets first run of the Series. 

In the 5th he singled home Bobby Ojeda with a base hit advancing to second base putting New York up 3-0 in the 5-1 win.

With the series tied at one game a piece, the Mets were losing Game #3 by a score of 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Backman led off the inning and dragged a bunt down the first-base line As Astros first baseman Glenn Davis fielded it, Backman lunged past him into foul territory and slid safely into first base. 

Astros manager Hal Lanier argued that Backman had run out of the base path, but to no avail, he was ruled safe. Two batters later, Lenny Dykstra hit a now famous Mets walk off, game-winning HR to give the Mets the big victory.

In the great Game #5, Backman led off the bottom of the 12th with an infield hit, and then advanced to second on an errant pick-off attempt by Astro pitcher Charlie Kerfeld.

 Backman then came around to score the winning run on a single by Gary Carter, who had been in a slump since his game #2 double. It was another classic '86 Mets come back. (centerfieldmaz was in attendance at Shea that day).

In the classic Game #6, Backman did not start the game, but entered in the 9th inning as a pinch hitter for Tim Teufel. In the top of the 14th inning with two men on, he singled off Aurelio Lopez bringing home Daryl Strawberry with the go ahead run. Jesse Orosco would serve up a HR to Billy Hatcher in the bottom of the inning to tie it.

In the top of the 16th the Mets regained the lead on a Daryl Strawberry double & a Ray Knight single. Backman reached base on a walk, & later scored on Len Dykstra's single. Backmans run prove to be the game winner as the Astros scored two runs in the bottom of the inning. Overall in the NLCS Wally was 5-21 with a pair of walks, five runs scored & two RBIs. 

In the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, he got his first start in Game #2 and had a hit off both Roger Clemens & Bob Stanley.

 In Game #3 at Fenway Park he singled to right field in the 1st inning & scored on a Gary Carter double putting the Mets up 2-0 in the first series game they would win that year. The next night Backman had two more hits & did not play in Game #5.

In Game #6 Backman had an early hit, then he made the first out of the 10th inning before the famous Mets comeback rally. He came in as a pinch runner for Tim Teufel in the 6th inning of Game #7 and scored the go ahead run at the time on Gary Carters RBI force out. 

Overall in the 1986 World Series he batted .33 (6-18) with an RBI & a stolen base, scoring four runs.

Backman slumped in 1987, hitting just .250 as he battled lingering hamstring injuries. Meanwhile, Tim Teufel was playing very well at second base, hitting .308 with 14 HRs 29 doubles & 61 RBIs.

Drama: During the season Backman had a run-in with Mets All Star, Darryl Strawberry. Strawberry claimed he had a virus & pulled himself out of a crucial game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Meanwhile he had spent the earlier part of the day recording a rap song.

Quotes: Backman said "Nobody I know gets sick 25 times a year." Strawberry's response to Backman's remark was "I'll bust that little redneck in the face." So was the drama of the mid to late eighties Mets.

The Mets finished second to the St. Louis Cardinals that year & Backman hit .250 with one HR six doubles a .307 on base % & 23 RBIs in 94 games.

By 1988 manager Davey Johnson was questioning Backman's spirit & commitment to the team. He made Tim Teufel the regular second baseman during spring training. Backman accepted his role and set out to prove something to his manger & his team. After struggling to get above the .200 mark in mid May, he went on a hitting tear in June. 

He hit safely in 15 of 17 games winning back his position by midsummer. In July he had six multi hit games & was batting .300 by August. He began the month with a six game hit streak where he had ten hits in 17 at bats.

He missed two weeks of action in early September but returned for the Mets NL Eastern clinching. He ended the regular season by driving in runs in three straight games he played in the last week.

He finished the season batting .303 with his best on base percentage since his first season (.388%) playing in 99 games, with 12 doubles, nine stolen bases & 44 runs scored.

Post Season: In the 1988 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he went hit-less in the first two games. In Game #3 at Shea Stadium, Backman tied the game with a 6th inning single off Orel Hershiser. In the Mets 8-4 win, Backman went 2-4 with a run scored & two RBIs.

Backman had one hit in Game #5 & two hits in Game #6. In Game #7 he had one of the five Mets hits off Orel Hershiser in the Mets 6-0 upset loss. Overall Backman hit .273 going 6-22 against Dodger pitching in the NLCS. 

 In December 1988 with Greg Jeffries & Keith Miller waiting in the wings, Backman was traded to the Minnesota Twins for three minor league prospects who never quite made it.

Backman injured his shoulder having two stints on the disabled list, and hit just .231 that season. He signed as a free agent with the 1990 Pirates and platooned at third base with Jeff King.

On April 27, 1990, ina game against the San Diego Padres, he became the first player since 1975, to gather six hits in a game. In Pittsburgh he enjoyed beating his old Mets team mates, as the Pirates won the 1990 Eastern Division. He went 1-7 in the NLCS against the eventual World Champion Cincinnati Reds.

Backman then bounced to the Philadelphia Phillies as a reserve player (1991-1992) & Atlanta Braves for Spring Training 1993 but then got released. He was signed by the Seattle Mariners for ten games in 1993, before being released that May. In a 14 year career Backman hit .275 with 893 hits 10 HRs, 138 doubles, 19 triples, 240 RBIs stole 117 bases 482 runs scored & a .349 on base %..

Honors: Backman was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. He was at the 20th Anniversary for the 1986 Mets, as well as the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008.

Retirement: Backman was a successful manager for seven years in the minor leagues. His managing style was similar to his playing style- fiery and combustible, with a history of ejections, on-field tantrums, and suspensions.

He was the top candidate to take over Jerry Manuel's job with the Chicago White Sox, but when the team discovered he openly rooted against them so Manuel would be fired, they cut ties with him.

In 2004 he was hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, getting named The Sporting News' Minor League Manager of the Year. The Arizona organization liked what he had done so much, On November 1, 2004, they hired him as the Diamondbacks new manager.

The next day reports became public that he was convicted of DUI in 2000, pleaded guilty to harassing a female friend, beat his ex-wife & had filed for bankruptcy. The job fell through as the Diamondbacks cut ties with him as well.

In 2010 he got a chance in Mets organization & did a great job as manager of their A ball team, the Brooklyn Cyclones. Backman even coached third base to be involved in the action. He had his players on the edge of the dugout cheering on the team.

Backman went on to lead the Cyclones to a league-best 51-24 record, winning the McNamara Division of the New York-Penn League by 12 games. He lead them to the NY/ Penn. League championship series but got swept in the final series. In 2011 he was a candidate for the Mets managers job replacing Jerry Manuel but Terry Collins got the position instead.

Backman went on to manage the AA Binghamton Mets & then got promoted to the AAA Buffalo Bisons in 2012. That year his club went 67-76, the next year they became the AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

In 2013 Backman moved over to the Mets new AAA affiliate, the Las Vegas 51's. 

Trivia: The Las Vegas 51's take there name from the famous "Area 51" which is a US Military base located 80 miles from Las Vegas. The secrecy of its affairs has created folklore having to do with aliens & UFO's.

Backman along with pitching coach Frank Viola tool the 51's to a first place finish. 

 Backman was once again highly regarded within the Mets organization & in baseball. Many of the players he managed & helped develop, joined the ranks of the Mets big league club with high praises of their former manager.

In late September of 2014 Backman joined the Mets big league staff as a guest coach in the dugout. The Mets announced Terry Collins will be the teams manager in 2015 but possible a position as third base coach would go to Backman. It never happened & Backman remained at AA Las Vegas as manger through the 2016 season. He was then let go in the off season.

Backman claims that Sandy Alderson is blackballing from the Mets as well as other big league managerial positions. He managed in Mexico in 2017.