Kevin Mitchell: 1986 World Champion Mets Utility Player (1984-1986)

 
Kevin Darnell Mitchell was born January 13, 1962, in San Diego, California. As a child he was raised by his grandmother, then as a teen he ran with a San Diego street 
gang.

He was a tough kid who also shot three times and still has the bullet scars for proof. He played baseball which kept him out of even more trouble & was so good, he was signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent in 1980.

In the minors he batted .300 or better his first three seasons while hitting 15 HRs at AAA getting to Tidewater by 1984. That season he batted.284 with 10 HRs getting a September call up.

Mets Career: Mitchell made his MLB debut on September 4th appearing as a pinch hitter flying out to center. On September 19th he got his first career hit, a single off the Phillies Steve Carlton. He appeared in seven games going 3-14.

He spent 1985 back at AAA Tidewater with guys like Len Dykstra, Ron Gardenhire, Sid Fernandez, Randy Meyers, Rick Aguilera, Ed Hearn & Billy Beane. He hit .290 with 24 doubles 9 HRs & 43 RBIs in 95 games making the 1986 Mets big league club.

World: In his rookie year he was one of the team’s most valuable all-around players that wasn’t a high paid star. Mitchell played six different positions for the 1986 Championship Mets, earning the name “World” from Hall of Famer Gary Carter because of his versatility on the field.

1986 Mets Championship Season: Mitchell started out the year going 0-2 as a pinch hitter. On April 19th in his first start he had two hits & tied up the game with a 6th inning single off Shane Rawley in a 3-2 win over the Phillies. He got hot in mid-April getting nine hits in a six-game stretch. 

On April 27 Mitchell hit his first HR, it was a solo shot off the Cardinals John Tudor in a 5-3 Mets win in St. Louis. In the opening month of April, he batted .391 (9-23) with three doubles, a HR & 4 RBIs.

On May 28th his 6th inning two run HR broke a 1-1 tie with the Dodgers, leading to a 4-2 Met win.

In June he batted .426, playing in 21 games. He had 26 hits with ten doubles, driving in a dozen runs. On June 8th he hit a two run HR & the singled home another run leading the Mets past the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3. On June 30th he had a three-hit game with an RBI in a 7-0 Bob Ojeda shut out over the Cardinals. It was his second three hit game in a row.

Mitchell continued to hit through the summer with 16 hits 5 HRs but just 7 RBIs in the month of July, finishing the month with a .325 average. On July 23rd he hit an 8th inning two run HR in Cincinnati off Ron Robinson, putting the Mets ahead with the 3-2 winning run. 

On July 27th, he hit HRs in back-to-back games coming in a win at Atlanta & one at home vs. the Cubs. Mitchell hit much better in the first half of the season batting .343 then .225 in the second half.

Walk Off Hit: On August 14th in the first game of a double header against the rival Cardinals, he hit a 7th inning two run HR off Tim Conroy putting the Mets ahead 3-2. After the Cards tied it, he came to bat in the bottom of the 9th inning, with runners on first & third facing Todd Worrell. 

Mitchell singled scoring Rafael Santan with the game winning run, as the Mets continued to roll over the NL East.

On August 19th he hit a two run HR off Fernando Valenzuela at Dodger Stadium leading the Mets to a 6-4 win & a series sweep over the Dodgers.

On September 7th in the first game of a double header with the Padres, he cleared the bases with a three run double off Dave LaPoint but was thrown at third base. The Mets swept the twin bill. He then drove in runs in three straight games in the middle of the month.

Mitchell finished up his rookie year batting .277 with 91 hits 22 doubles 2 triples 12 HRs 51 runs scored & 53 RBIs with a .344 on base % & an .811 OPS. Mitchell finished the year third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

1986 Post Season- NLCS: Mitchell did not play in the first two games of the series against the Houston Astros. 

In Game #3 with the Mets down 4-0, Mitchell started the Mets 6th inning rally with a lead off base hit off Bob Knepper. He eventually scored their first run when Gary Carter reached on an error. The Mets went on to win it on Lenny Dykstra's walk off HR.
Mitchell didn’t play again until Game #6 at the Astrodome where he went 0-4.

1986 World Series: In the World Series win over the Boston Red Sox, Mitchell saw action in five games. 

In the Game #1 loss, he struck out looking at a Brust Hurst pitch in the 7th inning as a pinch hitter. In the Mets Game #3 win, at Fenway Park, he was announced as a pinch hitter but was replaced by Lee Mazzilli hen Bob Stanley was brought into pitch.

He got the start as a DH in Game #5 going 1-4 in the Mets loss.

In the famous final inning of Game Six, it looked as though the Mets were finished. Mitchell went to the clubhouse to make plane reservations to get the soonest flight home to San Diego. 

After Gary Carter singled with two outs, Mitchell was tracked down to go pinch hit for Rick Aguilera. He was already out of his uniform & quickly had to get dressed, grab a bat & go to the plate. This incident did not sit well with management.

Mitchell then singled off his old Tidewater teammate Calvin Schiraldi. He advanced to third on Ray Knight’s base hit & would eventually score the tying run when Bob Stanley threw a wild pitch to Mookie Wilson. The Mets went on to a wild 6-5 walk off win. He got the start in Game #7 going 0-2 before being replaced by Mookie Wilson defensively. 

Overall, in the World Series he was 2 -8 batting .250, scoring one of the biggest runs in Mets history

Drama: For the most part Mitchell seemed to do his job quietly but there are some stories that show his wild side. Back in 1981 after he was signed, he was playing a pickup basketball game & got into a fist fight with Daryl Strawberry who had also just been signed.

The Decapitated Cat Story: Another tale comes from Dwight Gooden in his book Heat; during an argument with his live-in girlfriend, Mitchell held Gooden hostage & allegedly decapitated the girl's cat. Mitchell said Gooden's was just trying to keep the attention off of him.  

But in 2014 while promoting his new book Darryl Strawberry confirmed “That’s a pretty good story. I think it’s pretty accurate. Kevin Mitchell did do that. Kevin Mitchell, he’s a different type of guy, he was a great guy, super teammate & great person.”

The Mets organization felt that Mitchell was a bad influence on both Gooden & Strawberry & decided to trade the young Mitchell away.

Quotes- Kevin Mitchell: "In New York, they used me as a scapegoat for them, I was the bad seed, they said. But those guys were already in the big leagues and I'm a rookie and I'm telling them what to do? There's no way." 

Post Mets Career: In December of 1986, Mitchell was traded to his hometown San Diego Padres along with the Bronx’s own Stan Jefferson & Shawn Abner in exchange for Kevin McReynolds. 

Mitchell didn’t last long in San Diego; he played in 62 games batting .245 with 7 HRs & 26 RBIs. On July 5th, he was sent to the San Francisco Giants along with Craig Lefferts & Dave Dravecky in exchange for Mark Davis, Chris Brown, Keith Comstock & Mark Grant. 

1987 Giants NL Western Champs: In 69 games with the Giants, he hit 15 HRs with 44 RBIs & a .306 average. 

1987 Post Season- NLCS: That year he got to the post season again with the Giants losing to the St. Louis Cardinals. In Game #5 he hit a HR in San Francisco's 6-3 win, as the Giants took a 3-2 Series lead. But they lost Game seven 6-0 ending the series.

From when he had first arrived in San Francisco, Giants coach Dusty Baker took a liking to him.
He helped work on his hitting. In 1988 he hit just .251 but had 19 HRs & 80 RBIs.  worked with him on his hitting after a drop off year in 1988. 

Giants Pennant & MVP Season: The next year Mitchell switched positions, moving from third base to the outfield. He would go on to have a career year. He won the 1989 NL MVP Award, leading the league in HRs (47) RBIs (125) slugging (.645) & total bases (345). 

He hit .291 with 34 doubles 6 triples & a .388 on base % leading his team to the playoffs & their first World Series appearance since 1962.

Mitchell hit a HR & drove in four runs on Opening Day then hit another HR the next day. To start out May he hit four HRs in three days and had nine total in the month. At the start of June, he had incredible week hitting seven HRs driving in 12 runs with 11 hits in just six games. He rolled along through the summer months leading the league in HRs along the way.

On September 1st he hit a two run HR off the Mets Ron Darling & led the Giants to a 7-1-win driving in four of the runs. He also hit a pair of HRs in a game against the Padres, it was the fifth time that year he had muti HR games. 

Trivia: He made the highlight reels with a bare-handed catch in St. Louis, in deep left field off the bat of Ozzie Smith. He over ran the ball & went right through an unlocked door under the stands making it more dramatic. 

That year he made the first of two consecutive All Star appearances as well.

1989 Post Season:
In 
Game #1 of the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs, Mitchell hit a three run HR in the Giants 11-3 romp. He hit another HR the next day & overall batted 353 with 2 HRs and seven RBIs. 

1989 Bay Area Earthquake World Series: He played in the famous Bay Area Earthquake World Series getting swept by the Oakland A’s four straight. In the final Game #4 he hit a HR off Mike Moore in the 6th inning. In the Series he batted .294 overall (5-17) with a HR & two RBIs.

After the Pennant: The next year he hit 35 HRs (3rd in the NL) with 93 RBIs 24 doubles a .544 slugging % (3rd in the NL) & a .290 batting average for the fourth place Giants.  Mitchell would spend five seasons with the Giants.

By 1991 his career began to fall off, due to personal distractions, bad attitude & poor work out habits. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners after the 1991 season & arrived at spring training 30 pounds overweight. He only played in 99 games hitting a solid .286 but the power numbers fell to just 9 HRs with 67 RBIs. 

In November 1992 he was sent to the Cincinnati Reds for Norm Charlton. In 1993 he batted .341 playing in 93 games with 323 at bats not qualifying for the batting race.

He followed up batting .326 (6th in the NL) with 30 HRs (6th in the NL) and 77 RBIs in the strike-shortened 1994 season. 

Japan: In 1995 he went to play in Japan becoming the highest-paid player in Japanese history at that point. He angered the team management when he chose to travel to the U.S. in mid-season to see a doctor for knee problems.

In the next two years, he came back to the States and played for four major league teams, the Reds & Red Sox (1996) the Athletics (1997) & Indians (1998).

He retired after the 1998 season, ending his 13-season career playing for eight different teams. Mitchell is the only MVP Award winner to play with that many teams in his career. 

Career Stats: Mitchell batted .284 with 1173 hits 224 doubles 25 triples 234 HRs & 760 RBIs. He walked 264 times with a .360 on base % & .880 OPS in 1223 games. He played 807 games in the outfield, 235 game at third base, 9 at first base & 69 as a DH.

Family: His cousin Keith Mitchell played in the major leagues four parts of four seasons with the Braves (1991) Mariners (1994) Reds (1996) & Red Sox (1998) batting .260 in 128 career games.

Retirement- Drama: After his playing days Mitchell has had his share of drama once again. In 1998 he was arrested for assaulting his father during a public argument. In 2000 he was arrested when he punched an opposing team’s owner in the mouth while playing in the Independent League.

In 2010 he was arrested on a Chula Vista Golf course with another assault charge. Mitchell also owed the state of California more than $5 million dollars in back taxes & is one the state’s highest tax delinquents.

Medically He was diagnosed with diabetes & struggles to keep himself in shape. 

Quotes- Kevin Mitchell: "The diabetes woke me up, I think the man upstairs has another plan for me, working with kids. The doctors said I could've died. It's changed my life."

In 2015 he suffered a severe neck injury on a disk, that required surgery as well as having a plate & four screws installed in the area. He suffered through a depression & almost gave up on life. He slowly recovered using a wheelchair, then a cane until he was able to walk again. He still has trouble with feeling from the neck down to his feet.

Honors: He was on hand for the 20th anniversary festivities at Shea Stadium honoring the 1986
Championship team. In 2016 he attended the 30th anniversary festivities at Citi Field.


Gold Tooth- Trivia: One Mitchell tale says, he once broke a tooth after he left a frozen doughnut in the microwave oven too long. He then replaced his tooth with a gold one. 

Hobbies: Mitchell also rides Harley Davidson motorcycles in a bike club.

Quotes- Kevin Mitchell: In 2016 Mitchell spoke about his time in New York. “That team meant a lot to me as far as a young kid learning. It made me a better ballplayer by playing with guys like Keith Hernandez. 

I learned how to play smart baseball. I learned from all of them. Keith was always helping me stay positive when I was on the bench, and then when I did play, he’d come up to me at my locker and say, ‘Let’s see who gets the most hits today.’ We competed and that made me a better ballplayer.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Remembering Bobby Ojeda's Tragic Boating Accident (1993)

Remembering Sal Bando: Former Italian / American All Star (1966 - 1981)

Remembering Vixen Founder / Guitarist; Jan Kuehnemund (1961-2013)

The Odd Couple TV Show's Beloved Supporting Cast

The 1970's Oakland A's Ball Girls- (MLB's First)