Jeff McKnight: Former Mets Utility Player (1989/ 1992 - 1994)

Jefferson Alan McKnight was born on February 18, 1963, in Conway, Arkansas. 

Family: Jeff's father Jim McKnight played 63 games at the major league level for the Chicago Cubs in 1960 & 1962. Jim was an outfielder who also played at third & second base. With 91 MLB at bats, he hit .231. 

Jim would play in 1,954 minor league baseball games over an 18-year career. Sadly, in 1994 he was killed in automobile accident in Arkansas at the age of 57.

Jeff's brothers Jimbo & Jonathan also played minor league baseball. Sadly all three McKnight brothers passed away in their fifties.

Jeff McKnight was originally drafted by the Orioles but did not sign, but in 1983 was a second-round pick for the New York Mets. 

Minor League Career: McKnight spent parts of seven seasons & nearly 700 games played in the minor leagues before making it to the majors.

In over 1500 at bats he had never hit above .264 in a minor league season. 

Mets Career: In June 1989, at the age of 26 McKnight finally got his call up, replacing an injured Tim Teufel. On June 6th, he entered a game against the Cubs as a pinch-hitter & singled off Calvin Schiraldi his first career at bat. The next day he made the start collected another hit & drew two walks in the 10-5 win.

After six games he went 3-12 batting .250 playing all infield positions but was sent back down to AAA Tidewater for the rest of the season.

Post Mets Career: Jeff was released at the end of the season & signed with the Baltimore Orioles. In two seasons at Baltimore, he played between AAA Rochester & the Orioles. In 45 games he batted just .185 in the two years.

Mets Career-Part 2: In December 1991 he returned to the Mets as a free agent. McKnight came to 1992 Spring Training as a non-roster player.

He began the year at AAA Tidewater, which was the Mets AAA teams' last season in that area before moving over to Norfolk, Virginia. 

He was batting .307 with the Tides, when the Mets called him in early August. After going hitless in his first game, he got five hits over a five-game period, hitting safely in three straight games. Thru his first 16 games he batted over .300 & was able to keep himself in the lineup on a bad team.

On August 28th, he hit a three run double off the Reds Dwayne Henry clearing the bases for his first multi-RBI game in a 12-3 Mets win. Two games later he had another multi-RBI game driving in two runs in a loss to Atlanta.

On September 15th, McKnight hit his first Mets HR, breaking a 2-2 tie in the 6th inning coming off the Cubs Shawn Boskie leading New York to a 4-2 win at Wrigley Field. When the Cubs came to Shea, Jeff hit another HR, a two-run shot off Mike Morgan in an 8-7 Mets win.

He finished the year batting .271 (23-85) with six extra base hits, two HRs three doubles, 13 RBIs & a .287 on base % for the fifth place Mets under manager Jeff Torborg.

McKnight would play seven positions for the Mets over the three seasons, including one game behind the plate in 1993. 

Uniform Numbers: Not only was he versatile on the field he was the same with uniform numbers, donning five different numbers on his back as a Mets player. When he first arrived, he wore #15, later taking #5 but Jeromy Burnitz wanted that number so McKnight switched to #7. When the Dallas Green era began, coach Bobby Wine took his usual #7 & McKnight wore #17. He gave that number up when Bret Saberhagen arrived & began to don #18.

1993: In 1993 he saw the most action of his career playing in 105 games with 164 at bats as the team’s utility man. 

On April 21st, he replaced Todd Hundley & caught the only game of his career in a 10-0 Mets win over the Giants. On May 29th he hit his first HR of the year, a two-run shot in a 4-3 win over the Reds.

McKnight struggled mightily at the plate not getting to the .200 mark until July 24th. On July 25th with the Mets ahead 1-0 in Los Angeles, he gave them some room with a 9th inning two run pitch hit single off Todd Worrell driving in Jeromy Burnitz & Jeff Kent in the 4-0 win.

Although he did not drive in any runs in August, he got his average up to .270 by early September.
Overall, on the season he batted hit .256 with two HRs three doubles & 13 RBIs.

1994: By now he was being used mainly as a pinch hitter but after 31 games, he went 4-26 batting

only .148 & was sent back down to AAA Norfolk in early June. 

In Norfolk, he hit .346 in eight games & was brought back up in August but played only one game before the players strike ended the season. In that game he singled in the top of the 12th inning in a loss at Philadelphia. It was his final career at bat.

Trivia: In Jeff's Mets career the team lost 123 of the 179 games he played in.

Career Stats: In his six-year career McKnight is a .233 hitter with 94 hits, 10 doubles 5 HR s& 34 RBIs. He struck out 76 times drew 28 walks posted a .284 on base % & .588 OPS. 

Defensively, he played at first base (39 game) second base (38 games) short stop (34 games) third base (13 games) & outfield (16 games).

He played 13 years in the minors batting .266 with 34 HRs 156 doubles 19 triples 354 RBIs 37 stolen bases a & .354 on base % in 1000 games.

Retirement: McKnight came back four years later to play in the Independent Leagues. In 1998 he was back in the NY-Metro area with the Newark Bears.

Passing: In 2005 McKnight was diagnosed with leukemia. After a ten-year battle with the disease, he passed away on Sunday March 1st, 2015, at age 52. He was survived by two sons.


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