Feb 21, 2020

Ron Hunt: The First Mets Player To Start An All Star Game (1963-1966)

Ronald Kenneth Hunt was born on February 23, 1941 in St. Louis, Missouri The infielder was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1959, spending time in the low minors for three seasons. In 1962 he batted .309 at AA ball when he was purchased by the New York Mets that October. 

At first The Mets were using him as a bullpen catcher during spring training 1963. “Larry Burright wasn't doing too well at second base" Hunt recalled "I went up to Casey after a game in the Polo Grounds and said, I’m Ron Hunt #33. I'm not a bullpen catcher, I can play second base. If you want me to go to the minors every day until you need me, I'll do it.”

“I guess Casey took a liking to me, he said, `Do you want to play that badly, son? You're in the lineup tomorrow." 

Hunt became the Mets main second baseman for the next four seasons, and in 1963 he was one of their most steady players in his rookie year. In just his third game he had three hits including an exciting walk off game winning double in the bottom of the 9th inning, off Milwaukee's Claude Raymond.

A week later he drove in one of two runs in Carl Willeys three hit shutout against the Chicago Cubs. He kept his average over .300 with a ten game hit streak, hitting safely in 17 of twenty games through mid May.

 In June he had a four hit day against the Reds in Cincinnati & then the next day drove in two runs leading New York to a 4-1 win over the Reds. He went into September hitting safely in twenty of twenty two games and then drove in runs in four straight games in the middle of the month. For the season he led the team in hits (145) batting average (.272) doubles (28) runs (64) & on base percentage (.334) as well as sacrifices & hit by pitches (13).

Hunt would become famous, actually legendary, for getting hit by pitches, leading the team every year in that category from 1963-1966. The thirteen HBP in 1963 was a club record that would stand for 34 years until John Olerud broke it in 1997. 

 That year Hunt also hit a career high 10 HRs & 28 doubles with 42 RBIs finishing as runner up to Pete Rose for the Rookie of the Year Award. 

 In 1964 he started out the season getting two hits on opening day in Philadelphia. On April 17th, 1964 he started at third base and batted in the third position in the first game played at the new Shea Stadium.

Mets Firsts:  He doubled in the 4th inning, getting the first Mets extra base hit in the new ballpark, then scored the teams first run, when Jesse Gonder singled him home. Three games later, Hunt hit the first home run by a Mets player in the new Shea Stadium.

In May he had a nine game hit streak & hit safely in 13 of 16 games. Hunt was hitting really well getting over the .300 mark & never looking back all year. In mid June he had a twelve game hit streak & had multi hit games in eight of those. 
First Met to Start All Star Game: By July he was hitting .312 and got to represent the Mets  in a starting position as the National League's second baseman, in the 1964 All Star game.

The game was played in the brand new Shea Stadium in New York just across from the 1964 Worlds Fair in Queens. This was the only All Star Game ever held in Shea Stadium.

The anticipation mounted as he awaited his turn at bat in between innings in the on deck circle. Hunt received a tremendous standing ovation from the home town fans when he came to bat in the bottom of the third inning. He led off the inning with a single off Dean Chance. Overall he was 1-3 in the game.

In the second half of the year Hunt continued his fine hitting. He put together an eight game hit streak in July with another six game hit streak in August. 

On August 28th during a wild 12-10 Mets win at Wrigley Field, it was Hunts bases loaded single in the 8th inning that tied the game. That day he had three hits, drove in three runs & scored two runs as well. In September he missed three weeks of action due to injury, returning to close out the season. 

He finished the 1964 season leading the team with a .303 average & getting hit by 11 pitches. He hit six triples with 6 HRs 19 doubles 59 runs scored & drove in 42 runs. He posted a .357 on base % & his six stolen bases were also enough to lead the slow footed club.

At second base his .979 fielding % was fourth best in the NL, and he was fourth in assists (317) & fifth in put outs (244). 

 Injuries limited him to only 57 games in 1965, as he season didn't start until April 30th & then he missed another three months during summer. On August 27nd he hit three doubles off a 44 year old Warren Spahn after he had been released by the Mets & was now pitching for the San Francisco Giants. On September 28th The Mets Dennis Ribant threw 11 innings of shutout ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the bottom of the 12th the Mets loaded the bases of Elroy Face & Hunt delivered the walk off game winning base hit, giving New York an exciting 1-0 win.

The Hunt's Grocery Shopping in Maspeth Queens
For the 1965 season. Hunt hit .240 with 12 doubles, one HR, 10 RBIs & a .309 on base % in 196 at bats. 

Quotes: Hunt recalls his personal early days with the Mets: "My first contract was for $7,000, we couldn't afford to live in New York, so my wife Jackie found us a place in Fort Lee, New Jersey. I drove an 18-wheeler for $2.85 an hour in the offseason. 

Casey called me in the office about a month into the season and he said, 'Son, you need a raise.' I said, 'Yes, sir.' He said, 'How's $500 sound?' I said, 'Is that $500 a month?' He said, 'No! That's 500 a year.' So I called my wife - and it's still the same wife, 37 years now - and she said, 'We'll take it!' When the Mets moved to Shea in 1964, Ron & his wife moved into a basement apartment in Maspeth.

In 1966 he had a great May after a slow start, including getting 17 hits on a ten game home stand in the beginning of the month. On May 20th at Candlestick Park he drove in five runs, with a HR, three hits & a hit by pitch helping the Mets to a 7-5 victory.

Another Mets First: On June 5th, he became the first Met to hit an inside the park HR, it came off of non other than Sandy Koufax, in the first game of a double header loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On June 17th his 8th inning double off the Reds Bob McCool drove in Johnny Lewis & Chuck Hiller giving the Mets the lead, as they went on to win 6-5 over Cincinnati. He was batting .293 at the break & made another All Star team. He had another hot streak in August getting 19 hits in a ten day stretch while hitting safely in ten of eleven games raising his season average over .295. 

On the next to last day of the season, he helped Jack Fisher preserve his six hit shut out by driving in the only run of the game. Hunt's base hit off Houston's Larry Dierker in the bottom of the 9th inning, scored Eddie Bressoud for the Mets 1-0 win over the Astros. 
He would finished the year once again leading the team in batting average(.288) hits (138) on base % (.356) and hit by pitches (11). Hunt hit three HRs with 19 doubles 63 runs scored & 33 RBIs.

In November of 1966 he and Jim Hickman were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Tommy Davis. It was the first trade between the two rivals since they had moved to the West Coast. 

Hunt was heartbroken after the trade, & took time for him to adjust. On the year he batted .263 & was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Tom Haller that winter. Hunt played three seasons as the Giants main second baseman in San Francisco, leading all second baseman in errors in 1968 (20) then posted the league’s fourth best fielding % in the next year. 

On September 17th, 1968 his HR was the difference in Gaylord Perry’s no-hitter at Candlestick Park as the Giants edged Bob Gibson & the St. Louis Cardinals 1-0. He led the NL in getting hit by pitches in each of his final seven seasons including 25 hit by pitches in 1968. That year he hit just .250 but posted a .371 on base % while drawing 78 walks (3rd in the NL). 

In 1969 he was hit 25 times by pitches, setting an MLB record on April 29, that season getting plunked three times in a game against the Reds. On eof them came from his former Mets team mate Jack Fisher. In 1970 he batted .281 with 6 HRs 17 doubles & posted a .394 on base %. The following year Tito Fuentes took over at second base as the Giants went on to win the NL Western title. That December he was traded to the Montreal Expos for Dave McDonald, there he became a popular player again, this time in Canada. 

On September 29th in a game against the Chicago Cubs at Jarry Park, Milt Pappas plunked Hunt with a pitch. That was the 50th pitch he was hit with on the season, setting a new record for batters in the 20th century. Pappas argued that the pitch was a strike & Hunt got in the way of the ball. Legendary managers Leo Durocher & Sparky Anderson had similar claims throughout the year. 

 Hunt posted his best on base % (.402%) up to that point in his career (4th in the NL) while batting .279 with 41 walks 20 doubles 5 HRs & 38 RBIs. He only struck out 41 times in 528 at bats, 638 plate appearances, while hitting 20 doubles for the first of two straight seasons. That season he also had career bests in runs scored (89) (8th in the league) & games (152). 

In 1973 he batted a career high .309 with a career best .418 on base %. He received votes for the MVP award, coming in 26th while playing in 113 games, & getting hit by 26 pitches.

Hunt also set an Expo record by only striking out 19 times in 401 at-bats. Late in the 1974 season after 115 games, he was batting .268 with 15 doubles & 26 RBIs but was placed on waivers, getting picked by the Cardinals on September 5th. He got to finish his career in his hometown of St. Louis playing in 12 September games that month. 

In his 12-year career Hunt batted .273 with 1439 hits 39 HRs 223 doubles 23 triples 745 runs scored a .368 on base % & 370 RBIs in 1483 games played. He was also one of the most difficult batters to strike out, fanning 382 times in 5235 at-bats.

Upon his retirement, his 243 Hit by pitches were a MLB career record, but since he has fallen to sixth on the all time list. 

Hunt played in 1260 games at second base (67th all time) posting a .976 fielding % turning 685 double plays with 156 errors in 6402 chances. His 2734 put outs & 3512 assists are both 72nd most all time for second baseman. He also played in 158 games at third & two games at short. 

Trivia: His motto was, “Some people give their bodies to science; I give mine to baseball”. Hunt insisted that he never deliberately got hit by a pitch. On occasion, he was said to have worn a wetsuit underneath his uniform to ease the pain from being hit by a pitch. 

Retirement: After his playing days he owned a liquor store, then sporting goods store in the St. Louis suburb of Wentzville. He also raised cattle & still works his farm. 

Since 1985 he runs The Ron Hunt Baseball Association, a non-profit instructional league for teens, & still runs the annual fund raiser in New York. 

Hunt returned to the Mets for the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008.

Remembering Mets History: (1966) Mets Second Baseman Ron Hunt Helps NL Win the All Star Game

1966 MLB All Star Game: Busch Stadium- St. Louis Missouri: Back in the day, many All Star Games were actually played in the day. This was the case for the 1966 Mid Summer Classic, played on a hot humid, 105 degree St. Louis day.

The managers were Walter Alston from the World Champion, Los Angeles Dodgers & Italian American, Sam Mele  from the A.L. Champion Minnesota Twins. Curt Gowdy & Pee Wee Reese called the game for NBC Sports. The game consisted of twenty Hall of Famers who were either playing or coaching in the game, with the NL boasting 14 of those HOF members.

The starting pitchers were the Detroit Tigers; Denny McLain, who would be the last pitcher to win 30 games, a feat he would accomplish in 1968. And for the NL, the greatest pitcher of that era; the Dodgers Sandy Koufax.

Starting lineups

American LeagueNational League

PlayerTeamPosition          PlayerTeamPosition

Dick McAuliffeTigersSS
Willie MaysGiantsCF

Al KalineTigersCF
Roberto ClementePiratesRF

Frank RobinsonOriolesLF
Hank AaronBravesLF

Tony OlivaTwinsRF
Willie McCoveyGiants1B

Brooks RobinsonOrioles3B
Ron SantoCubs3B

George ScottRed Sox1B
Joe TorreBravesC

Bill FreehanTigersC
Jim LefebvreDodgers2B

Bobby KnoopAngels2B
Leo CárdenasRedsSS

Denny McLainTigersP
Sandy KoufaxDodgersP

In the 2nd inning, Baltimore's Brooks Robinson (the games MVP with three of the AL's six hits) would hit a triple to left field & score on a wild pitch thrown by Koufax.

It would be all the runs the AL would score against pitchers; Koufax (3 innings) Jim Bunning (2 innings) Juan Marichal (3 innings) & Gaylord Perry (2 innings).

In the 4th inning, Willie Mays & Roberto Clemente singled, with Mays being driven in by the Cubs Ron Santo. The score stayed tied as AL pitchers  Mel Stottlemyre & Sonny Siebert held down the fort.

In the 6th inning, the lone representative for the New York Mets, Ron Hunt came into the game to play second base replacing Jim Lefebvre. This was Hunts second All Star Game as a Mets Player, he got the start in the 1964 Game played at the new Shea Stadium.

Hunt began his career with the Mets in 1963 coming in second place in the Rookie of the Year voting to a guy named Pete Rose. Hunt spent four years (1963-1966) with the Mets batting .282 in 459 games.

Trivia: Hunt was hit by pitches 243 times in his career (6th all time).

Hunt grounded out in his first at bat in the 7th inning. Then in the 10th he was crucial on helping the NL win the 2-1 squeaker. The Cardinals Tim McCarver led off with a single off Pete Richert. Hunt then laid down a sac bunt, getting McCarver to second. The Dodgers Maury Wills then singled to right field, scoring McCarver with the walk off run. Exciting indeed!!

Feb 20, 2020

Remembering Mets History (2015) The Mets Wives & Girl Friends At The World Series

Stacey Harris soon to be Mrs. deGrom -Molly Beers Wright- Bethany Niewenhuis- Leah Niese - Tayler Francel the soon to be Mrs. Plawecki & Britney Cobain the future Mrs. d'arnaud

Remembering Mets History: (1960's) The Shea Usherettes, Diamond Club Hostesses & Players Wives

Back in 1964 when Shea Stadium opened during the midst of the New York's World Fair, it was a grand place. It was a tourist attraction & one of the biggest most beautiful ball parks in all of baseball.

One of its most interesting & good looking attractions, were the Shea Stadium Usherettes. An usherette is defined as a female hostess who greets & escorts a paying customer to their seat at a stadium or concert hall.

The Shea Stadium Usherettes dressed like the airline stewardesses of the mid sixties, in seersucker suits, with knee high skirts, sexy but yet very professional looking. 

Some wore the solid Mets color jackets & skirts with the Mets logo on their left breast. Others wore a blue & orange pinstripe style with bow ties. Both uniforms were usually accompanied by a hat.

The Shea Stadium, Diamond Club Restaurant also had its own set of ladies, they were hostesses that greeted & sat its patrons down to their seats. 

These were tough jobs to get. The Mets were way ahead of their times with the restaurant idea & hiring of young the ladies.

Here is a promotional photo of the 1964 New York Mets players wives at the Shea Diamond Club. Left to right: Jackie Hunt, Shirley Kanehl, Rachel Altman, Annitte Hunter, Martha Cisco, Nancy Willey, Carol Smith, Barbara Bearnarth, Beverly Cannizzaro, Nadine Jackson & Marie Taylor.

Left is a charity event photo, with some of the 1968 Mets players wives. Standing left to right: Lavonne Koosman, Nancy Seaver,Yvonne Harrelson, Sharon Grote, Cecilia Swoboda, Nadine Jackson, Carol Kranepool & Barbara Weis. Kneeling: Caroline Selma, Ruth Ryan  Diane Bucheck.

Feb 19, 2020

Bruce Berenyi: 1986 World Champion Mets Forgotten Pitcher (1984-1986)

Bruce Michael Berenyi was born August 21, 1954 in Bryan, Ohio. Berenyi was the nephew of MLB pitcher Ned Garver (1948-1961) who once won 20 games for the St. Louis Browns. Garver a lifetime 129-157 pitcher with a 3.73 ERA also pitched for the Detroit Tigers & Kansas City A’s.

Bruce Berenyi attended Northeast Missouri State University and once tied a college record by striking out 21 batters in a game. The six foot two inch, right hander was the Cincinnati Reds first round draft pick (third pick overall in the secondary draft) in 1976.

He went on to lead the American Association pitchers in strikeouts & ERA, getting a Reds, September 1980 call up. He went 2-2 in Cincinnati although he had a rather high 7.81 ERA pitching in six games. 

In 1981 he was 9-6 with 157 strikeouts (6th in the NL) & a 3.50 ERA. He also threw a pair of two hitters that season but had some control issues as well.

He led the league in walks with 77, and in one game against the Los Angeles Dodgers threw 15 straight balls. In that game he walked seven batters over 3.3 innings. The next week he came back to tossed a one hitter against a strong Montreal Expo team that made it to the post season. 

The next season things fell apart as he led the league in losses (18) but pitched better than his record showed. He was best in the league in giving up fewest HRs, as his HRs allowed per nine innings (0.324) was tops in the NL. He went 9-18 but put up a solid 3.36 ERA, striking out 157 batters (9th in the NL).

In 1983 he once again had a decent ERA (3.86) but had a poor 9-14 record. In 186 innings, he allowed 102 walks & gave up 80 earned runs, striking out 151 batters (10th in the NL). In June 1984 he was 3-4 with an ERA of 6.00 when he was traded to the New York Mets for Jay Tibbs & Eddie Williams, two players who never suited up in Mets uniforms.

Berenyi debuted for New York on June 17th 1983, although he lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, allowing four runs over seven innings. In July he won three straight starts including a seven inning shutout performance in Atlanta, beating the Braves 7-0. He was 5-1 from mid August to the end of the season, pitching into the 7th inning four of those times. He finished up the 1984 season at 9-6 with 134 strike outs 95 walks & a 3.76 ERA.

In 1985 he started the third game of the season on April 12th at Shea Stadium. In that game he pitched seven innings of one hit baseball, allowing no runs earning a win in the 1-0 shutout of the Reds. The only run of the game came on a Gary Carter HR.

 Injuries: He had pitched with shoulder pain throughout his career and in his third start of the 1985 season he had to leave the game in pain. He found out he had a torn rotator cuff and was done for the year. He had the surgery and returned to the Mets for the start of the 1986 Championship season.

On April 29th he earned his first win since the injury of the previous year. He got the win in relief of Ron Darling in a 10-5 win in Atlanta against the Braves.

He was put back in the rotation by May, going 2-2 posting an ERA of 6.35, but there wasn’t much room for him on the staff with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, & Bob Ojeda.

Berenyi was demoted to AAA Tidewater, where he went 2-6 but never returned to the big leagues. He did sign a deal with the Montreal Expos but his arm acted up in pain when he pitched forcing him to retire. 

In a seven year career he was 44-55 with a 4.03 ERA, 607 strikeouts 425 walks in 781 innings pitched in 142 games.

Retirement: After baseball he spent part of the year in a home he had built in Sherwood Ohio & a second residence in North Miami. There he worked on a golf course. 

The Pitcher Who Was Traded to New York For Ron Darling: Tim Burke (1991-1992)

Timothy Philip Burke was born on February 19, 1959 in Omaha, Nebraska. The six foot three right hander became a star pitcher at the University of Nebraska where he went on full scholarship. There he was a four year All Big Eight player for the Cornhuskers baseball team, getting signed as a second round selection of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1980.

He was shipped around in the minors, first going to the A.L. New York club with three other minor leaguers for former Met Lee Mazzilli in 1982. Burke got married the same year & was then traded to the Montreal Expos organization, where he played for his future MLB manager Buck Rodgers. He went 11-8 with a 3.49 ERA & three saves at AAA Indianapolis in 1984.

The next year he made the Expos staff out of Spring Training & went on to tie a record with 78 appearances in his rookie season. That season he was mainly a set up man to Jeff Reardon, having a 20 2/3 scoreless inning streak going from June to mid July. He went 9-4 with 13 holds a 2.39 ERA & eight saves in 78 games for the 1985 Expos.

When Jeff Reardon went to Minnesota in 1987, Burke took over and became one of the leagues better closers in the late 1980’s. In 1987 he was 7-0 with 18 saves, posting a fantastic 1.19 ERA in 55 appearances. He saved 18 more games the following season, going 3-5 & leading all NL pitchers in fielding%. 

He had his best overall year in 1989. coming in fourth in the league with 28 saves, going 9-3 with a 2.55 ERA making his first All Star appearance. 1990 was his last big save season, posting 20 saves going 3-3 with a 2.52 ERA.

During those years he was amongst the league’s top ten in saves four times, but by 1991 Barry Jones took over the closing role. Midway through 1991 he was 3-4 with five saves when he was traded to the New York Mets for Ron Darling. Darling had been struggling & the Mets felt it was time to move on as the final pieces of their 1986 Championship season were going fast.

Burke came to the New York bull pen mostly being used as John Franco’s set up man, and to work as a middle reliever. He debuted at Shea Stadium on July 18th against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The next day he earned his first win pitching two innings in relief of Sid Fernandez also against the Dodgers. The Mets would win the game led by Kevin McReynolds three run 8th inning HR. Burke would blow a save and then lose two games before earning his first Mets save at the end of August.

In September he won two more games, & was credited with three hold but also blew two save opportunities well. Overall In 35 games he went 3-3 with a save, four holds and a 2.75 ERA. 

In 1992 after 15 games his ERA was up near six & he was traded to the A.L. New York team for Lee Gutterman. After going 2-2 there in 23 appearances he chose to retire from baseball at age 32. 

In an eight year career he was 49-33 with 102 saves & a 2.72 ERA. He has 444 strike outs & 219 walks in 699 innings of work in 498 appearances.

Retirement: Burke is a born again Christian & wanted to get away from a life on the road. He chose to leave the game in order to have a more settled down style of life with his wife & form a family. 

The Burke’s adopted four children from different parts of the world, two from Korea, one from Vietnam & one from Guatemala.

He wrote a book in 1994 about his career ending decisions, called Major League Dad: The Moving Story of an All-Star Pitcher Who Gave up Baseball for His Family. 

He also enjoys riding his motorcycle.

Sal Yvars: 1951 N.L. Champion New York Giants Reserve Catcher Who Claimed He Was Key Figure In Sign Stealing (1947-1953)

Sal Anthony Yvars was born February 20, 1924 on Houston St. in Little Italy, New York. His family soon moved to Westchester County in Valhalla, New York when he was six months old. 

Yvars starred in three sports at White Plains high School in the late thirties & early forties. In 1942 he served in World War II with the US Air Force & by 1946 got signed by the New York Giants. 

He was a tough guy with a mean disposition. Brooklyn Dodger pitcher, Don Newcombe told a story, that Yvars once came to bat in the minors, picked up a handful of dirt & threw it in Roy Campanella's face. 

He hit .290 or better every year from 1946-1949 in the minors leagues. He was also considered a fine defensive catching prospect with a strong arm. The day after he was called up to the Giants, he got married to his high school sweet heart. 

Yvars would only make a handful of appearances over the next four seasons backing up the likes of Giants full time back stops, Walker Cooper, Wes Westrum & Sam Calderone. 

Although he saw limited playing time, he threw out 40% or better of would be base stealers every year of his career. Yvars was also one of the few players to ever get away with talking back to Leo Durocher. 

Although after one early confrontation with Durocher, he was sent back in the minors, only to return in Leo's dog house for the rest of the season. But by 1951, the sly, Yvars became useful to manager Durocher. He was used in a different role, this time as a sign relayer. 

Sign Stealing Controversy: Yvars resurfaced & became famous, on the 50th anniversary of "The Shot Heard Round the World" Bobby Thompson HR. He reported the controversial story that the 1951 New York Giants were stealing signs. 

The media flocked to Yvars, as the news broke, although it was received with mixed reactions. According to Yvars, the story goes that a Polo Grounds, electrician (from the Bronx) hooked up a buzzer, linked from the Giants club house to the bullpen in the outfield. The clubhouse, was located nearly 500 ft. from home plate, had a coach, Herman Franks, perched with binoculars spying on the catchers signs. 

Next, Franks, would ring the buzzer, once for a fastball or twice for an off speed pitch.

Quotes- Sal Yvars: ''If it was a fastball, I would do nothing, sit still, maybe cross my legs. If it was off-speed stuff I would toss a ball up and down''. 

Some batters used the system others refused. In any event, there was a very short amount of time to react. They would still have to hit the ball& produce.

The Giants did come back to win the Pennant, after being 10 1/2 games out in mid August. Although the stats indicate the Giants actually won with better pitching at home & better hitting on the road. 

As for
Yvars, he would play an eight year career, mostly as Wes Westrum's backup catcher. In the Giants 1951 pennant season he played in 25 games, batting .317 (13-41) with 2 HRs 2 doubles & 3 RBIs. Behind the plate he played in 23 games throwing out five of ten runners trying to steal (50%). He went hitless in one pinch hit at bat in the 1951 World Series. 

In 1952 he saw the most action with 151 at bats in 66 games, batting .245 with 4 HRs & 18 RBIs. In 59 games behind the plate he posted a .988 fielding % throwing out 18 of 27 batters trying to steal for a remarkable 67%. 

After 20 games with the '53 Giants he had already thrown out six of ten base stealers but Yvars contract was purchased by the St. Louis that June. In 1954 he played in 38 games with the Cards behind Bill Sarni as the Giants won the World Series. 

Yvars retired the next year with a .244 average 10 HRs 12 doubles 42 RBIs & a .315 on base % in 210 career games over eight seasons. Behind the plate in 176 games he threw out 39 of 70 base runners attempting to steal (56%) He posted a .987 fielding % turning 11 double playsmaking 526 put outs in 620 chances making just eight errors.

Retirement: After baseball he spent 50 years as an investment banker. He lived in a house in Valhalla, NY that he bought from his share of the 1951 World Series money. He lived there for 56 years until he passed away in 2008 at the age of 84.

Feb 18, 2020

Lenny Harris: The All Time MLB Leading Pinch Hitter (1998 / 2000-2001)

Leonard Anthony Harris was born October 28, 1964 in Miami Florida. Harris was signed out of high school as a fifth round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 1983.

The five foot ten left hand hitter signed as a third baseman & outfielder. Harris then spent six years in the minors, never hitting more than ten HRs or batting above .285.

In 1988 he hit .338 at AA Glen Falls in 17 games getting promoted to AAA Nashville. There he batted .277 making it to the big leagues as a September call up. In 16 games Harris batted .372 getting noticed. In July 1989 he was traded along with Kal Daniels to the Los Angeles Dodgers on exchange for Mariano Duncan & Tim Leary.

Harris spent five years with the Dodgers becoming their main third baseman by 1990 while also playing some outfield. He hit .304 16 doubles & 15 stolen bases in his first full season in L.A. He followed up batting .287 with 12 steals in 1991 but his average fell off over the next two seasons, bottoming out at .238 by 1993. 

Harris found himself back in Cincinnati in 1994 signing as a free agent. He hit .310 as a reserve player that year in 66 games.

He played four and a half more years with the Reds playing all around the diamond, becoming one of the league's best pitch hitters.

In 1995 he made his first post season with Reds, driving in a run with an RBI single off John Smoltz in Game #3 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves. Harris got himself into over 100 games that year as well as the next three seasons, being as versatile as he was.

In 1998 he even pitched one inning for manager Jack McKeon. He struck out a batter and didn't allow a hit or a run. On July 3rd 1998 he was traded to the New York Mets for pitcher John Hudek.

Harris debuted with the Mets on the Fourth of July batting leadoff in a game against the Braves in Atlanta. Harris got a hit in his first two Mets games & got himself over .300 right after the All Star break. On August 4th he drew a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the 10th inning off the San Francisco Giants Joe Mesa, bringing in the game winning run. On August 18th Harris hit a two run HR off former Met Jerry DiPoto helping in a 6-3 win over the Colorado Rockies.

Over the next two weeks he hit four HRs to close out a solid August. Harris saw steady action the rest of the way with the Mets, as a versatile player he saw action in the outfield (65 games) third base (10 games) as well as two games at second base & one game at first.

Overall he hit .232 with 6 HRs seven doubles, five stolen bases & 17 RBIs in 75 games. After the season he signed in Colorado with the Rockies as a free agent. On August 31st he was sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks for their playoff run batting .310 on the season.

In the NLDS against the Mets, he was 0-2 as a pinch hitter. Bobby Valentine liked Harris’ versatility as well as his key late inning pinch hitting. He & the Mets went after him even though he was struggling to bat near .200 that season. On June 2nd, the Mets sent Bill Pulsipher to Arizona in exchange for Harris who was hitting just .188 at the time.

Now his role was pinch hitter and late inning utility guy for Valentines & the 2000 NL Champion Mets. On July 18th during an inter league game at Skydome in Toronto, Harris led off the game with a HR. The Mets went on to win the game 11-7 highlighted by a Mike Piazza grand slam. centerfieldmaz was there in attendance that night.

That month Harris new environment rejuvenated him, he raised his average fifty points hitting two HRs with six RBIs and having a personal six game hit streak. He came through for Bobby Valentine when he got a chance to play.

 On June 22nd he had a pinch hit double against the Phillies and scored on Derek Bell's base hit. Although the Mets were already ahead, it turned out to be the winning run. On July 27th he hit a HR off Montreal's Hideki Irabu helping Mike Hampton in a one run victory.

In 76 games with the Mets Harris had ten pinch hits, with 42 hits in 157 at bats, raising his average up to .260 for the year. In mid September he had three straight games where he was successful with pinch hits. Harris posted a .381 on base %, scored 22 runs, with three HRs with three triples, six doubles & 13 RBIs. In the 2000 Mets post season, Harris saw action getting seven at bats but went hitless.

In 2001 at age 37, Harris set a bunch of pinch hitting records while wearing a Mets uniform. He set a record for most games as a pinch hitter (83) & most at bats as a pinch hitter (95) in a single season.

On October 6th he set his biggest record of all, coming on the next to last day of the season at Shea Stadium. Lenny Harris came to bat as a pinch hitter in the 6th inning, against the Montreal Expos; Carl Pavano. Harris singled to right field, reaching a mile stone putting him ahead of Manny Mota on the all time pinch hit list. Play was halted as Harris’ Mets team mates rushed to congratulate him on the field. He ended his season with consecutive pinch hits in his last three games.

Overall on the season he got into 110 games batting .222 with five doubles & nine RBIs. In January of 2002 he was involved in a huge ten player three team trade that landed him in Milwaukee with the Brewers.

In Milwaukee he rebounded with another .300 season, playing in 122 games (197 at bats) being used often as a pinch hitter. The well traveled Harris found himself with the Chicago Cubs (2003) & Florida Marlins (2003-2005) over the next three seasons, playing until the age of 41.

In 2003 he won a World Series with the Florida Marlins, coming over as a late season acquisition. 

In five 2003 post season games he was 1-5 as a pinch hitter in the both the NLDS & NLCS. In his long 18 year career Harris holds the all time record for most pinch hits (212) pinch hit at bats (804) & pinch hit appearances (810 games).

Overall in 1903 games he hit .269 with 1055 hits 37 HRs 161 doubles 21 triples 131 stolen bases 369 RBIs & a .318 on base %. As a New York Met he hit .252 in 261 games.

Retirement: After his playing days he was the hitting coach for the Washington Nationals (2007-2008). He then became a minor league hitting instructor for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In Spring Training of 2010 he was rushed to a hospital with chest pains, there he needed quadruple bypass surgery. In 2011 he was hitting coach for the A ball Great Lakes Loons & then with the Gulf Coast Marlins. He got the job as Miami Marlins third base coach, being let go after the 2016 season. 

In 2017 he returned to the Reds minor leagues to coach.