George Theodore: 1973 N.L. Champion Mets Folk Hero (1973-1974)

George Basil Theodore was born November 13, 1947 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

He was Nicknamed "The Stork," because team mate Jim Gosger said he looked like a stork & the name stuck. 

The tall lanky six-foot four right-handed outfielder, was an unusual looking ballplayer. He wore thick glasses, had long legs with a hunched over shoulder frame and a long nose. 

He also has the distinction of being the only Mets player in history to ever be from the state of Utah.

Theodore attended the University of Utah playing baseball with future MLB player Bill Parsons. Theodore was selected by New York Mets way down in the 31st round of the 1969 free agent draft. 

He hit well in the minors, in 1971 he was the California League MVP for the A ball Visalia Mets batting .333 with 28 HRs. It’s hard to imagine but the Stork was a power hitter, but he was early in his career in the small ballpark at Visalia.

In 1972 at AAA Tidewater, he hit .296 leading all starting players in batting, he also had 9 HRs with 15 doubles & 76 RBIs. That year as a first baseman he led all International League first baseman in put outs & chances. 

1973 Mets Pennant Season: He made the 1973 Mets team out of Spring Training as a reserve outfielder.

The Stork made his big league debut on April 14th at Shea Stadium, replacing Willie Mays in the 6th inning & struck out in his first at bat. A week after his debut, he got his first hit, a double coming against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of a double header at Shea Stadium.

On April 21st he drove in his first run at the start of a three-run rally, in the 6th inning against Montreal’s Balor Moore in a 5-0 Met win. He closed out April hitting safely in five of six games, hitting safely in three straight games on a road trip to Houston & Atlanta.

In May he had a hot series in Los Angeles getting seven hits in fifteen at bats, while driving in two runs. At the end of May he was batting .290 with seven RBIs, playing mostly in the utility role.

The fans soon fell in love with him, due to his unusual appearance and the underdog persona. Theodore became an instant Mets folk hero & legend even though he wasn't a great hitter.

Trivia: To add to his flaky legacy the back of his 1974 Topps baseball card said: “George likes marshmallow milkshakes”.

He once filled out a Mets publicity questionnaire by recording his interests as “astrology, marbles, people watching & psychoanalysis”. 

He asked Mets management for a $1000 bonus if he was voted “Most Popular Met”, saying he couldn’t hit much but was very likeable.

Quotes- George Theodore:
In another interview he once said “I've been trying transcendental meditation, and that helps me be passive and wait on the curve. I've got to find something else to hit except the slider." 

In reality the Stork was a actually very intelligent man, who seemed out of place with other players.

He was seeing more playing time in the summer of '73, due to injuries to most of the Mets regulars. The Stork was playing left field to replace the injured Cleon Jones, until he went down himself.

On June 3rd, Theodore was hit in the eye by a pitch from Gary Ross in the 9th inning at San Diego. It was feared he would lose his sight, but the ever-durable Theodore was back in the lineup five days later. 

In a June game against the San Francisco Giants on national TV, Theodore found himself in left field, next to centerfielder Willie Mays. Mays had been an inspiration to him, just by watching the veteran play & how the fans loved him.

On a ball hit to the gap Theodore rushed over to help out the old timer, Mays. To his surprise Mays had already gotten to the ball, but because he was having arm trouble he tossed it for The Stork to throw in. 

But Theodore dropped it and was charged with an error. Years later Theodore would say it was an honor taking an error from the great Willie Mays.

On June 30 his fielder's choice scoring play, ended up being the winning run in Jon Matlack's 2-1 victory. 

On the 4th of July in Montreal, he had one of the biggest games of his career, going 2-3 with three RBIs. That night he also hit his first career HR a three-run shot off the Expos pitcher- Balor Moore.

Violent Collision: On July 7th, 1973, he was involved in a one of the most violent collisions in Mets history, and unfortunately it is what the Stork is best remembered for. 

In a game against the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium, he had made an error in the 7th inning on a single to left field that allowed a run to score. He was upset at himself and determined to make up for it.

In the next inning Ralph Garr smashed a liner to left center field, Theodore came charging over from left field & crashed into centerfielder Don Hahn who was rushing over from center.

They both went down & lay motionless on the field for a few minutes as Garr rounded the bases with an inside the park home run. Strangely the moment was captured forever in a photograph in the 1974 Mets yearbook next to Theodore’s bio.

Theodore fractured his hip, and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. 

 In a NY hospital he told reporters he had a dream two weeks earlier that he was being removed from the field on a stretcher carried by Jerry Koosman & Tug McGraw.

He spent a few days in the hospital and was pretty much done for the year except for one pinch hitting role in September.

In May of 2011 he told the Daily News: "I did play two more years, but I was never the same. It changed my life, put me in a new direction, but it's all been good. That's the way it is."

Theodore returned on September 20th. On the season he hit .259 (going 30-116) with one HR four doubles, ten RBIs, 14 runs scored & a stolen base.

1973 World Series:
 Theodore did not see any action in the NLCS win over the Cincinnati Reds.

In the World Series against the Oakland A's, Theodore came to bat in the 5th inning of Game #2 pinch hitting for Ray Sadecki. He grounded out to short. The Mets went on to win this wild wacky affair, 10-6 in 12 innings over four hours & thirteen minutes.

He came in as defensive replacement for Cleon Jones in the 8th inning of Game #4 at Shea Stadium. Jones had been battling the flu the previous night. Stork got one more at bat, popping up to end the 8th inning. The Mets won the game 6-1 to even the series.

After the Pennant: In 1974 he appeared as a pinch hitter through mid-May going hitless in eight at bats. On May 17th he got his first start against the Montreal Expos, getting his first hit of the year & scoring a run in the 5-0 Met win.

He hit his second and last career HR on July 20th in the first game of a double header at San Diego. In the inning Theodore hit the first of three consecutive HRs off the Padres Lowell Palmer.

After Stork's blast, Rusty Staub & Cleon Jones followed with round trippers in the Mets 10-2 win. It was his only RBI of the year, as he struggled most of 1974, finishing up batting .158 (going 12 -76). He played his last career game on the last day of the 1974 season.

Career Stats: In his brief but memorable two-year career The Stork was a .219 hitter with 42 hits two HRs, five doubles, 18 walks, 16 RBIs, 21 runs scored & one stolen base in 105 games played. 

Theodore can say he was in the big leagues and batted in a World Series.

Retirement: After his playing days in 1975 he got his Master's degree in social work. Theodore serves as a youth baseball coach and gives counsel to elementary school students. He made a triumphant return to Shea Stadium for the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008.

Quotes-George Theodore: "Fans, they don't seem to forget, I always appreciated them and the attention they gave me. It never was a business to me. Maybe they realized that. There will always be a soft spot in my heart for New York and the Mets. 

"My wife Sabrina is from Jackson Heights, and we met at the end of my career, had a long-distance courtship and we've been married for 33 years. The Mets have always treated me like family, and I appreciate that family."

Theodore with Jerry Koosman in 2012


Anonymous said…
For some reason, I've never forgotten Theodore, and I'm not even a Mets fan. He seemed so gawky and out of place in the outfield... guess he reminded me of myself on the softball field....
Unknown said…
I remember George. As a 12 yo. kid trying to get autographs at 2 different games I passed my paper into a group and both times they came back George TheodorešŸ˜€. I had to laugh but it showed how much he gave to the fans. I treasure them along with my Joe Pignatano. Never seemed to score the superstar's autograph but I got he ones of people who realized the fans were important.

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