Apr 30, 2019

Remembering Mets History: (1968) Ron Swoboda Slugs Seven April HRs

April 1968: On April 30th the Philadelphia Phillies (8-9) came to Shea Stadium to face Gil Hodges New York Mets (7-9). Hodges was ending his first month as Mets Manager & was still observing what he had to work with. Both teams were just under .500 but were hoping for good things, for the Mets they were one year away from that Miracle Season.

Tonight's game was a classic pitchers duel as the Mets Don Cardwell went on to a five hit shut out, walking no one while fanning three. It was his first win of the year against two early losses. His opponent was the Phillies Chris Short, Short pitched 7 innings & allowed just one run but that was all New York needed.

In the bottom of the 2nd inning, Ron Swoboda hit the game winning solo shot. It was Swoboda's 7th HR of the month, in which he had played in just 16 games. He also had collected 16 RBIs and was among the league leaders that early in the season.

In the second game of the 1968 season, the Mets visited San Francisco to play the Giants. In a great pitching matchup, Tom Seaver went up against Juan Marichal. The two Hall of Famers went at it, both  lasting eight innings. Seaver took a 4-2 lead into the 9th before running out of gas. The Giants Willie Mays singled & moved up on a passed ball, then scored on Jim Ray Harts base hit. Seaver was relieved by Danny Frisella and hits to Nate Oliver & Jesus Alou ended in a Mets loss.

The Mets hitting star of the day was Ron Swoboda. In the 1st Swoboda's RBI single started off the big day. Then in the 3rd inning with Ken Boswell & Tommie Agee on base, Swoboda cracked a long three run HR off Marichal into the windy San Francisco night. It was his 1st HR of the season & put New York up 4-0.

April 19th - April 21st 1968: This three day four game stretch for Swoboda was certainly a hot one. On April 19th he hit a solo HR off the Los Angeles Dodgers Claude Osteen, but the Mets went down 3-2.

The next day Tom Seaver & Bill Singer went at it, matching zeroes into the 6th inning. Bud Harrelson reached base for the Mets with a bunt single, and Art Shamsky later walked. Swoboda came up hitting a three run HR, his third of the year. The Mets went on to a 3-3 win behind Swoboda & Seaver.

Sunday April 21st was a classic double header matinee at Shea. The Dodgers took the first game but Swoboda remained hot, he hit a 4th inning two run HR off Dodger ace; Don Drysdale, in a five run Mets inning. A four run Dodger 8th & a two run 9th off Met pitchers Bill Short & Deick Selma ended in a 7-6 Met loss.

The Mets dropped the second game as well, but Swoboda stayed hot, hitting a 4th inning solo HR. He kept a five game hit streak in tact & had hit HRs in four straight games with seven RBIs.

On April 27th Swoboda hit another HR & drove in two more runs, although the Mets lost again, this time 5-3 at Cincinnati to the Reds.

 Unfortunately his hot streak ended & he would struggle the rest of the year. He would hit just 11 HRs with 59 RBIs in 132 games.

Former Mets Catcher & Helmet Inventor: Charlie O'Brien (1990-1993)

Charles Hugh O’ Brien was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 1, 1960. The six foot two Charlie O attended Wichita State University, hitting 25 HRs with 116 RBIs while leading his team to the 1982 College World Series.

That year he was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the fifth round as a catcher. Initially he hit .291 with 14 HRs at AA Albany in the Eastern League in 1983 but dropped off significantly the next two seasons. In 1985 the solid defensive catcher, got a September call up batting .273 in 16 games.

In 1986 he got traded to the Milwaukee Brewers along with two minor leaguers for pitcher Moose Hass. He played three seasons in Milwaukee and never hit like he did in college ever again, putting up a best .234 with 6 HRs 35 RBIs in 1989. In Milwaukee he was primarily B.J. Surhoff’s backup catcher, putting up strong defensive numbers. He threw out 43% of runners attempting to steal in 1989 & tossed out at least 36% every season in Milwaukee.

In August of 1990 he was traded to the New York Mets for two players to be named later, who turned out to be Julio Machado and another player named Kevin Brown. He didn’t hit much but became known around the league as one of NL's best defensive catchers.

O’Brien battled Mackey Sasser & Rick Cerone for the Mets catching job in 1991. Although he did not win the starting role, mostly due to his hitting, he became Dwight Gooden’s personal catcher.

With the Mets, O’Brien would also catch former Cy Young winners Bret Saberhagen & Frank Viola. In his career O'Brien would be the back stop for a total of eleven Cy Young Award winners that he would call pitches for. Only four of those pitchers actually won the Award the season O'Brien was their catcher. O’Brien became famous for his long curly hair over the collar look, similar to Gary Carter.

O'Brien debuted in New York on September 1st with the first place Mets catching Julio Valera who earned his first win that day, beating the San Francisco Giants. On September 8th O'Brien had a rare big day at the plate getting three hits with three RBIs in a Mets 12-2 win over the Phillies.

On September 11th he had another three RBI day in a Mets 10-8 win over the Cardinals topped off by a walk off Daryl Strawberry HR. In the month he hit .162 with nine RBIs in 28 games played. Behind the plate he threw out a league best 46% of would be base stealers 16 of 35.

In 1991 his first full season as a Met he hit .185 with two HRs, six doubles & 14 RBIs. But it was his defense that made him such a good player, in 1991 he posted a .988 fielding % throwing out 32% of would be base stealers. At the plate he enjoyed a three hit day on May 15th driving in a run against the Padres at San Diego.

Later that summer he drove in three runs in a 904 win over the Dodgers at Shea Stadium. He hit his first HR of the season on August 22nd in a Mets 6-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. On August 30th he hit a solo HR helping David Cone beat the Reds 3-2 in Cincinnati.

In 1992 as Todd Hundley's backup catcher, he threw out 46% of would be base stealers, second best in the National league while posting a .991 fielding %. At the plate he hit .212 with 2 HRs 12 doubles & 13 RBIs.

On May 1st he hit a two run HR in Atlanta against the Braves in an 8-7 win. O'Brien added another HR in late August in a game against the Cincinnati Reds. On September 14th O'Brien drove in three runs with a bases clearing double in a Mets 10-8 win at Wrigley Field.

In 1993 he had his best year at the plate & hit a career high .255 with 4 HRs 11 doubles & 23 RBIs appearing in 67 games. In early May he had a three game stretch where he had seven hits while driving in runs in three straight games. On May 25th his double in the top of the 9th inning drove in two runs putting the Mets ahead for good, after rallying from being down 4-1.

Again in July he had a three game stretch where he drove in runs in each game, enjoying a four game hit streak. In August he had another four game hit streak & had two different games where he drove in more than one run. On September 22nd, he hit a two run HR in Pittsburgh scoring Jeromy Burnitz for the game winning runs. He averaged 67 games behind the plate in each of his three seasons with the Mets.

O’Brien was not resigned for 1994 as Kelly Stinnett was given the backup catcher’s role. Charlie O went to the Atlanta Braves as a free agent & became the personal catcher of Cy Young winner Greg Maddox. He also was Steve Avery’s main catcher as the Braves went on to win the 1995 World Series. O’Brien went 2-5 in the NLCS good for a .400 average and 0-3 in the World Series against the Cleveland Indians.

Brawl At Shea Stadium: He became unpopular with Met fans, when he was involved in a brawl at Shea, leveling short time Met John Cangelosi. Cangelosi had charged the mound after getting hit by a pitch from Braves pitcher, John Smoltz. It was the second time that season Smoltz had plunked Cangelosi. The 6'2" O'Brien tackled the 5'8" Cangelosi from behind, wrestling him to the ground.

After two seasons in Atlanta, he moved onto to the Toronto Blue Jays backing up Pat Borders and having career highs in 1996 in HRs (13) & RBIs (44) hitting .238.

In Toronto he would catch Pat Hentgen in his CY Young season adding to his list of award winners. O’ Brien had brief stints with the Anaheim Angels (1998-1999) Chicago White Sox (1998) & Montreal Expos (2000) bbefore retiring in 2000.

In a 15 year career he was a lifetime .221 hitter, with 493 hits 56 HRs 119 doubles a .303 on base % & 261 RBIs. He posted a .990 lifetime fielding % making only 47 errors in nearly 5800 innings. He threw out a career 37% of would be base stealers (265 runners) posting a .990 fielding %.

Inventor: The biggest thing Charlie O’Brien will be remembered for is pioneering the hockey-style catcher's mask used today by many catchers.

While playing with the Blue Jays he invented the new style mask, and worked with the Van Velden Mask Co. of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, to develop his idea. The new design, called the All-Star MVP, was approved by MLB in 1996 and O’Brien was the first to use it.

Retirement: Since baseball O'Brien, a life long hunter & lover of the outdoors, now runs one of the premier whitetail deer operations in the country, Catch 22 Ranch. His hunting success and knowledge of deer hunting has led him to be one of the key members and hosts of the ever-popular hunting show Deer Thugs.

O'Brien still resides in Tulsa.

Family: O’Brien’s son was a star basketball player & catcher at his dads old college at Wichita State. In 2011 he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 18th round.

Former Mets Coach & Scout: Sheriff Robinson (1963-1977)

Warren Grant Robinson was born April 8th 1921 in Cambridge, Maryland. The six foot right hand hitting catcher, earned the name "Sheriff" after his father had unsuccessfully ran for County Sheriff twice, in their home town in Maryland.

Robinson began a long minor league career that began playing in 1938  in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He soon landed with the AA Rochester Red Wings by 1941. He spent two years there before going off to serve three years in the military during World War II. He was assigned to Guam on a floating dry dock for the US Navy.

In 1946 he returned to AA Rochester moving to Baltimore with the team the next year, as they were now a AAA affiliate. He spent two years there before dropping to the low levels of the minors with the Boston Red Sox organization through 1953. In 15 years the catcher, was a .251 hitter with 44 HRs & 115 RBIs.

Retirement: In 1957 he began a three year stint as manager of the AA Oklahoma City Indians & then the Memphis Chicks. In 1960 he joined Johnny Murphy in the AL New York club organization as a minor league manager winning a Texas League pennant in 1961.

In 1963 he joined Murphy now a VP in the New York Mets organization. Robinson began as manager of the A ball Quincy Gems. In his minor league managerial career he was 786-821 (.489 %) over twelve seasons.

In 1964 he became the Mets bullpen coach under Casey Stengel, in the Mets first year at Shea Stadium. In 1965 he began the year managing at AAA Buffalo but rejoined the Mets as first base & bullpen coach under Wes Westrum. He held that position through the 1967 season, until Gil Hodges arrived.

In 1968 Robinson tried to get a young Tug McGraw to concentrate on throwing a curve ball instead of his famous screwball. McGraw & his brother Hank would both have problems & get into it with Robinson. 

Robinson then became a long time Mets scout, until the late seventies. In 1969 he scouted the Baltimore Orioles home games late in the season & ALCs for the Mets, earning a World Series ring. He made another appearance as a Mets coach for 1972 Mets under  Manager Yogi Berra, after the sudden passing of Gil Hodges.

Passing: After baseball in 1977 he became the Dorchester County tax collector until 1991. Robison passed away at age 80, in 2002 at Cambridge, Maryland.

Apr 29, 2019

Remembering Mets History (1988): Mets Come Back To Win As Pete Rose Bumps Umpire

Saturday April 30th 1988: Davey Johnson's New York Mets (15-6) were off to a good start, on their way to their 1988 NL Eastern title. On this wild night they came to Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium, always am interesting place for the Mets, to face Pete Rose's Reds (11-11). 

33,346 fans would certainly make their presence known tonight, in what would be an ugly situation before it was all over. The Mets sent Bobby Ojeda to the mound, against the Reds Tom Browning. It turned out to be an infamous game that tarnished an umpire's career & added more drama to a Player/Manager's legacy.

Starting Lineups

Things started out quietly, the Mets got a run in the 2nd, on Gary Carter's sac fly & the Red answered in the bottom of the inning, with an RBI single from Barry Larkin. 

In the top of the 4th, Tim Teufel singled & moved along the bases, scoring on Kevin McReynold's two out single. The Reds tied it up, but in the top of the 6th, Darryl Strawberry blasted a two run HR making it 4-2 Mets.

In the 7th inning, Mookie Wilson hit a two out triple. Things began to get weird, Tom Browning was called for a balk & Wilson came home with the Mets fifth run. 5-2 New York.

By the 8th inning, the Mets had Roger McDowell on the mound. He issued a lead off walk & then a base hit to Larkin, and then a one walk to load the bases. Nick Esasky singled, knocking out McDowell in favor of Randy Meyers. Tracy Jones then singled off Meyers to tie the game at five.

The crazy 9th inning began, in what was to be an inning remembered forever. The Reds reliever & future Met captain, John Franco started the inning by walking Howard Johnson. Kevin Elster sacrificed him over to second. After Barry Lyons struck out, Mookie Wilson stepped in. Mookie always seemed to be in the center of attention or in the eye of the hurricane in those days.

He hit a bouncer to short, Barry Larking took the hop & threw tp first base, pulling Nick Esasky off the base.First base umpire, Dave Pallone, delayed his safe call. With the delay, Howard Johnson scored what turned out to be the games winning run & the Reds went nuts. 

Reds Manager, Pete Rose came running out of the dugout to argue the late call. Things quickly got heated, Rose raised his arms & pointed his finger at Pallone. Pallone pointed back, possibly mimicking Rose. Rose went nuts & bumped the umpire forcefully. His team mates & coaches held him back from who knows what, as the fiery tempered Rose was all revved up.

Rose was immediately ejected from the game. Rose claimed that Pallone poked him with his finger, Pallone denied the charge. As calm was staring to get restored, the Reds fans showered the field with any kind of debris they could find. 

Umpire Dave Pallone, was removed from the field for his safety. It was an ugly scene for the city & fans of Cincinnati. Play was delayed as the field was cleaned up. The Mets went on to a 6-5 win, as Randy Myers retired the Reds in order in the bottom of the 9th, after allowing a lead off single.

In the aftermath, Rose was fined $10,000 & suspended a month. Dave Pallone, who had a controversial history as an umpire was forced to resign at the end of the season. 

Trivia: Dave Pallone was the home plate umpire in 1985, when Pete Rose tied Ty Cobb for the all time hits record.

Pallone had a bad history with the Reds. He admitted to having an ongoing feud with shortstop Dave Concepcion, since 1983. Pallone later admitted he would even try to block Concepcion's view while at his position on the field. In another incident he ejected Concepcion for arguing a strike call, that he later admitted he had missed the pitch.  

Pallone was also accused of threatening pitcher, Jeff Reardon. He also admitted to have outstanding gambling debts in the past, but was never accused of gambling on baseball. His ratings as an umpire were usually among the leagues lowest. Years later, he came out publicly, as being MLB's first gay umpire. He now teaches diversity courses to buisness & sports companies.

Pete Rose of course has his own controversies outside of this incident, the all time hit leader is still banned from being inducted into the Hall Of Fame.