Mike Vail: 1970's Met Who Tied the Rookie Game Hitting Streak Record: Mike Vail (1975-1977)

Michael Lewis Vail was born November 10, 1951, in San Francisco, California. The six feet, right-handed hitting outfielder was first drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1970 but did not sign.

A year later, he did sign a deal, this time with the St. Louis Cardinals. Over the next four years, Vail bounced from single A to double A minor league baseball.

Trivia: Im these early days, Vail's baseball roommate was future wrestler "Macho Man" Randy Savage.

After the Mets 1973 Pennant season, the team disappointed their fans finishing in fifth place in 1974. The biggest problems were an off year by Tom Seaver & more even mor so a lack of offense & power. 

During the 1974 off season, the Mets traded utility infielder Teddy Martinez to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Mike Vail & infielder Jack Heideman.

IL Player of the Year: At AAA Tidewater, Vail won the 1975 International League Player of the Year Award, hitting .342 with 23 doubles, 9 HRs & 79 RBIs. 

In 1975, the Mets brought in Joe Torre & Dave Kingman to help their hitting. The Mets & their fans were excited that season, but once again the team failed to provide offense. They needed a bat badly & called up Mike Vail in August 1975.

Mets Career: Mike Vail made his MLB debut as pinch hitter on August 18th at the Houston Astrodome in a game against the Astros, getting a single in his first at bat. 

On August 22nd, Vail was inserted as the Mets left fielder in San Francisco, getting two hits in a 6-4 Mets win over the San Francisco Giants. On August 25th, Vail had himself a big night in San Diego, while starting on a record setting feat. That night he had four hits, including a pair of doubles with an RBI, in a 4-0 Mets win over the Padres. 

The next night he collected three hits & then two more the next night, which was the final night of the San Diego series. Vail had nine hits in three games & was batting .480. The Mets organization smiled & everyone felt good about the kid's future.

Vail stayed in the lineup & continued to hit, on September 1st, he hit his first career HR & the next day his first career triple. He then drove in runs in five straight games, hitting two more HRs in that span as well. By the time the Mets homestand was over, Vail had a 13-game hit streak & was still batting .353.

As the road trip went along, Vail kept hitting. He hit safely in all three games at Montreal against the Expos, including another HR. He then hit in two games at Pittsburgh, against the Pirates & then hit safely in three straight games against the Cardinals in St. Louis.

By now Vail was getting national attention with his hitting, he had hit safely in 22 straight games & was just one game away from tying a rookie hitting streak record, last done by (former Met) Richie Ashburn in 1948 while with the Phillies.

On September 15th, 1975, the Mets hosted the last place Montreal Expos, a small crowd of just 7,259 came to Shea. 

In the 6th inning, with the Mets down 2-0, Vail came up with Del Unser on second base. Vail took Steve Rogers' pitch up the middle for a base hit, bringing in the run & setting his mark at 23 consecutive games with a hit.

Vail was now in the record books, as a Met, with a rookie consecutive game hit streak record. The ball Vail hit was even sent to Cooperstown to be displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Quotes- Mike Vail: "I never thought something like this would happen. It's unreal. I hope to get in there someday myself."

To top off his night, he singled again in the 8th inning bringing in Gene Clines with the games winning run. Quite a night for the youngster. The hitting streak was also the best of the year in major league baseball, Boston's Denny Doyle had hit in 22 straight games earlier.

Mets Drama: During the streak, the Mets were having problems in the clubhouse & it became public. Long time Met veteran, Cleon Jones had first been involved in a publicized, alleged sex scandal. Then he refused to come into a game as a substitution. This led to a public feud with Mets manager the usually easy going, Yogi Berra.  

As the team lost more & fell out of the race, Berra was being held accountable. Cleon Jones was released & Berra would be fired later on in August. Coach Roy McMillan took over as interim manager. Although, the Mets were still above .500 they had fallen to fourth place, nine games back. 

On top of all that, Mets owner Joan Payson was also in poor health, she would pass away just as
the season ended. 

After the record setting streak, Vail continued to hit safely in nine of his last twelve games to close out the season hitting safely in 31 of 35 games. 

Overall, in 38 games he batted .302 with three HRs eight doubles a .339 on base % & 17 RBIs.

His long hitting streak had the Mets hoping for great things to come. With Joan Payson now gone the people running the team were making bad decisions & would run the team into the ground.

 The team was very excited about Vail, even though he had only played in 38 MLB games. They jumped the gun, making a huge mistake, as they are trading Rusty Staub, their biggest RBI man, to the Detroit Tigers. 

They believed Vail would be an adequate replacement for Staub. Along with Dave Kingman & Joe Torre they felt the team had enough offense. 

Unfortunately, they were so wrong & the fans were soon disappointed. Vail got injured in the off season. Joe Torre was at the end of his career. Although Dave Kingman hit a club record 37 HRs, he only batted .238. Meanwhile Rusty Staub, would go on to drive in over 96 runs three straight seasons in Detroit, with a career high 121 in 1978.

Bicentennial Year: In the winter of 1976, Vail dislocated his foot playing basketball and would miss half the 1976 season. He returned in mid-June, slowly getting back into the lineup. 

He hit safely in two of three hit appearances before getting a start. On July 20th, his 1st inning sac fly gave the Mets a 2-0 lead over the Big Red Machine. Jerry Koosman held down the Reds for a 2-1 win over Gary Nolan.

By August he was seeing steady playing time. On August 11th, he drove in both runs of a 2-1 Jon Matlack win against the San Diego Padres. In a ten-game span he drove in six runs in the early part of the month. But his production went down & then he missed over two more weeks of action in September. 

For 1976, his averaged plummeted 85 points from the previous year, hitting just .217 with no HRs five doubles & 9 RBIs in 143 at bats.

1977: In 1977 Vail played outfield with the likes of Lee Mazzilli, Steve Henderson, Bruce Boisclair & veteran Ed Kranepool. He was often used as a pinch hitter as well. He had a decent start to the year, hitting .360 by mid-June when Tom Seaver was traded away. 

That night called the Midnight Massacre, Vail appeared as a pinch runner & finished the game in right field. His biggest game of the year was a four-hit day in the second game of a double header at Shea Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he also hit a solo HR. 

On June 30th in Montreal, his top of the 9th inning ground out, scored the winning run off Steve Rogers to beat the Expos. His best month came in July, as he got his average over .300, had a nine-game hit streak & hit four HRs.

From there his hitting fell off, as he ended the season batting .262 with 8 HRs, 12 doubles & 35 RBIs in 108 games. In right field he played 82 games & his .976 fielding % was fifth best in the league.

That season, the Mets finished in sixth place winning just 64 games and it was the first of six bad seasons. After anointing him the player of the future three years prior, the Mets gave up on Vail & sold his contract to the to the Cleveland Indians in Spring Training 1978.

Post Mets Career:
Three months later after playing in just 14 games in Cleveland, he was sent to the Chicago Cubs. The rest of the season he batted .333 in 74 games with the Cubs, becoming a successful pinch hitter. 

On June 30, 1979, in a game against his old Mets teammates, Vail belted a pinch-hit grand slam off reliever Dale Murray.

The HR brought the Cubs within a run, but they still lost the game 9-8. Vail hit .325 in 87 games (179 at bats) with 7 HRs & 35 RBIs for the Cubs in 1979.

In 1980 he continued to hit well playing at Wrigley Field, batting .298 in 114 games as the club's main right fielder, alongside former Mets teammate Dave Kingman. 

It was Vail's last year being a regular player, he went on to
play with four more teams over the next five seasons. 

He was with the Cincinnati Reds (1980 - 1981) & then San Francisco Giants (1983). 

With the Montreal Expos (1983) he hit two HRs, both off Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. He closed out his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers (1984) where his only hit was a walk off single.

Career Stats: Overall, in a ten-year career, he hit .279 with 447 hits 34 HRs 71 doubles 11 triples a .313 on base % & 219 RBIs in 665 games played. In the outfield he played 399 games with 35 assists & a .968 fielding %.

Retirement: Vail played in the short lived Senior Professional League with the Orlando Juice. 


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