Joel Youngblood: Late Seventies / Early Eighties Mets All Star (1977-1982)

Joel Randolph Youngblood III was born on August 28, 1951, in Houston, Texas. The versatile six-foot right hand hitting Youngblood, was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds right out of high school, in 1970.

He spent five years in the Reds minors, not seeing much hope with all the talent on the Big Red Machine, big league club. 

He would make the Reds team out of Spring Training 1976, in their second straight World Series Championship season. 

He only hit .193 in 55 games as a utility man & did not play in the post season.

He was soon to be traded twice in 1977, first to the St. Louis Cardinals for Bill Caudill during the spring. In St. Louis he hit only .185 in 25 games and was sent to the New York Mets for short stop Mike Phillips. 

Mets Career: The trade happened on June 15th, 1977, the same night Tom Seaver was traded away from the Mets, known as "The Midnight Massacre". Also that night, the Mets traded away slugger Dave Kingman. Not surprisingly, the Youngblood for Mike Phillips deal didn’t get many headlines behind those two giant stories.

Youngblood would be a pretty good all-around player for the Mets teams of that era, playing all over the outfield & infield positions.

He was an actually an excellent outfielder with a strong throwing arm, throwing out enough runners to keep him in the top of the NL in assists through his Mets years. Youngblood also became a reliable pinch hitter. 

When Youngblood arrived in New York, it marked the end of Joe Torre’s playing career. Torre removed himself from the active roster to open a spot for Youngblood. Joel later said that Torre, was his favorite manager to play for & he learned a lot about baseball, as well as hitting from him.

Youngblood made his Mets debut 
on June 24th at Wrigley Field, going 1-4 in a 5-0 Mets loss to the Cubs. Youngblood got hits in his first three Mets games but fell to a .217 average by the end of July. 

Walk Off Hit: On August 1st The NL Champion Dodgers came to Shea & went at it in a 7-7 game that went into the 12th inning. In the top of the 11th the Dodgers Davey Lopes homered off Skip Lockwood to put LA ahead but in the bottom of the inning, John Stearns was hit by a pitch from Mike Garman. Lee Mazzilli singled & Ed Kranepool delivered a pinch hit single to tie up the game.

In the 12th with Garman still on the mound, Lenny Randle led off with a double & Felix Millan was walked intentionally. Joel Youngblood came on as a pinch hitter & delivered the walk off single, as the Mets had an exciting 8-7 win over the mighty Dodgers.

On September 11th he had a three-hit day at Wrigley Field, driving in three Mets runs in their 7-3 win. On the last day of the season, he had another three-hit day, driving in two runs in the Mets 6-4 win over his old Cardinal teammates in St. Louis. 

After his arrival in New York he got into 70 games, batting hit .253 with no HRs 11 doubles a .296 on base % & 11 RBIs.

Overall, in the outfield, he made 18 assists (2nd most in the league).

1978: Starting out the 1978 season he was being used as a defensive replacement & pinch runner for most of the month of April. He slowly began to get inserted in the lineup & by August had earned a regular job in the outfield.

In late June he helped fuel a 9th inning Mets come from behind rally with a single & runs scored in a win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

In July, Joel hit HRs in back-to-back games against the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. The first HR came against Tom Seaver as Jerry Koosman beat out his old teammate in a 4-2 Mets- Reds classic.

Walk Off Hit: On July 20th the Mets & Astros went into extra innings at Shea Stadium. Future Mets manager & Astro Player Art Howe hit two HRs in that game. 

In the bottom of the 11th inning, Willie Montanez who had tied the game in the 8th inning with an RBI single, got on with another base hit. Youngblood came up pinch hitting for Dale Murray, he doubled off Joe Sambito for the game winning hit to beat the Astros 5-4. His second walk off Mets hit.

On July 26th Youngblood had a Mets career high, five RBI game in a 12-3 win against the Reds at Shea Stadium. In the 3rd inning he tripled off Mike Lacoss, with the bases loaded scoring Steve Henderson, Willie Montanez & John Stearns. In the 5th he then hit a two run HR, also off Mike Lacoss. 

On August 1st, he hit a HR off Steve Carlton in Philadelphia & then drove in three runs in an August 8th win in St. Louis. On August 9th he had a big five hit day, with two doubles, two singles & a triple driving in one run, while scoring two more runs as well in a 10-3 Mets win at Montreal.

For the year, he hit .252 with 7 HRs 12 doubles 8 triples (10th in the NL) & 30 RBIs. In the outfield he only made one error in 50 games there, posting a .989 fielding percentage, with eight assists. 

He went to arbitration in February of 1979 looking for $91,000 but settled for $78,000, from the tight Mets organization.

1979: He started out 1979 as a backup player, but when Eliot Maddox injured his foot, Youngblood got the outfield job back & stole the show. 

In the last week of April, he went on a tear, hitting four HRs while driving in runs in six straight games. His three-run shot on April 24th came off the Giants Vida Blue in a big 10-3 Mets win at Shea Stadium. His other two HRs that week came against the NL Champion Dodgers. He finished April batting .350 & was hitting over .300 into early June. 

On May 6th his 8th inning fielder's choice tied the game in which the Mets went to win 5-4 over the Giants in San Francisco.

In the final two weeks of May, he had a seven game shit streak where he hit three HRs & drove in seven runs. He began June with a HR in Atlanta in a 5-4 Mets win & a HR in Cincinnati three days later on a 6-2 Mets win. 

On July 5th, he led off the game with a HR off Dickie Noles helping the Mets avoid a four-game sweep of the Phillies at the Vet. On July 25th, he homered in San Francisco in Craig Swan's six hit shutout.

In August, he started out the month with HRs in back-to-back games against the Phillies. He was still hitting .290 & drove in 15 runs on a weak hitting team. 

Overall, he was one of the better players on a bad ball club, as the Mets finished last again at 63-99 thirty-five games behind the Pirates who went on to win the 1979 World Series.

Youngblood tied for the team lead with 158 games played and led the club with HRs (16) doubles (37) which were also 7th most in the league, runs scored (90) & intentional walks (7). 


He hit .275 and stole 18 bases although he certainly was not known for his speed. He only stole 60 bases in his career spanning 1408 games. 

In left field, his strong arm got him ten assists, 5th most in the NL.

The Mets liked the way Youngblood played the game & the fans appreciated it too. In the off season they gave him a deal worth just under a million dollars. That was a lot for a cheap organization that was refusing to sign high priced free agents. Although now the ownership of Nelson Doubleday & Fred Wilpon took over.

1980- Game Saving Catch: On Opening Day Youngblood said he
 had the biggest thrill of his baseball career. He entered in the 7th inning of the game as defensive replacement for Mike Jorgensen.

With Craig Swan & the Mets clinging to a one run lead over the Chicago Cubs, Larry Bitner blasted a shot headed over the right field wall. Youngblood jumped up & snagged the ball, saving the two run HR, helping the Mets in the 5-2 win.

In April of 1980 he played in 15 games, driving in a dozen runs in ten of those games. He drove in runs in seven straight games and was hitting over .350. 

On May 6th he hit a two run HR in the bottom of the 9th inning off the Reds Mario Soto, bringing the Mets within a run in the bottom of the 9th inning. The Mets would tie it up but lose in the 14th inning.

On Saturday June 7th, the Mets fell behind the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-4 in the 11th inning of a game at Shea. Youngblood tied it up with a double off Bert Blyleven, as the Mets went on to win it with a Ron Hodges pinch hit single.

In June had six straight multiple hit games, & in the next two and a half weeks drove in 13 runs. On June 26th, his 7th inning RBI single tied up a game with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. John Stearns followed with an RBI single to lead the Mets to the victory.

He began August hitting safely in 14 of 15 games, getting over the .290 mark. Although the Mets lost twenty games in September, Youngblood finished out the year with 16 RBIs in the month. 

Walk Off HR:
On September 29th, he was batting leadoff & got three hits in six at bats but made the last one count most. He gave the Shea crowd of 1,800 people a thrill by hitting a walk off two run HR, in the bottom of the 10th inning against Grant Jackson to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-4. 


Youngblood finished the year with a .276 average, stealing 14 bases, hitting 8 HRs with 69 RBIs, & 26 doubles. All in all, he was still a bright spot on a bad team; he only struck out 69 times in 514 at bats. He led the club with nine sacrifice hits (5th most in the NL) & was walked intentionally seven times.

Once again, his strong arm in the outfield was one of the league's best, his 18 assists were third best in the NL.

1981 Strike Shortened Season: On May 3rd, Youngblood hit a three run HR in the 7th inning, off the Padres Tim Lollar breaking a 3-3 tie. In the Mets 7-4 win he got four hits & drove in three runs. Two games later on May 6th, he matched that season high with four more hits. 

In that homestand he collected 14 hits. Overall, in the month of May he had a dozen multi-hit games & was batting .361 with ten doubles & a .398 on base % by June 1st among the top hitters in the NL. He also drove in twenty runs for the month with RBIs in 10 of 15 games from May 14th-May29th.

On June 6th, Youngblood injured his knee sliding into second base at the Astrodome, he would miss time & then the Players went on strike, it was two months before he could be back in the lineup.

1981 All Star: Youngblood was picked to represent the Mets in the All-Star Game. He went 0-1 as a pinch hitter at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium in the NL’s 5-4 victory. 

Trivia: By now the Mets were even running subway ads featuring Youngblood as the team's star with their new campaign "The Magic Is Back". 

When he returned to Shea Stadium he was so valuable with his ability to play all different positions, it hurt his chances at being an everyday outfielder like he truly wanted to be. 

He ended up reinjuring his knee and only played in 43 games all season, batting a career best .350 in just 143 at bats with 4 HRs 10 doubles & 25 RBIs. In the outfield he still made seven assists which was 2nd most in the NL.


1982:
The 
Mets had a new manager in George Bamberger to start out the year. A young speedy outfielder named Mookie Wilson was on the scene. Also, the Mets brought in veterans George Foster & Ellis Valentine. Youngblood was playing outfield but not seeing as much time as he would have liked. 


On April 20th, he hit a 2nd inning HR off the Cubs Doug Bird, to help Mike Scott & the Mets to a 3-2 victory. On April 27th, he had a three RBI day in San Diego in a 8-5 Mets loss. In May Joel had a seven-game hit streak & in that time, drove in runs in each game of a home series with the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. On May 15th, he hit a three run HR off L.A.'s Ted Power to lead New York to a 6-4 win as the Mets took two of the three games. 

As the season went on, he became more of a pinch hitter & was unhappy with his playing time. Youngblood soon wanted to be traded. He was hitting .257 with 12 doubles 3 HRs & 21 RBIs in early August.

Record Setting Day (A Tale of Two Cities): On August 4th the Mets were playing a day game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Bamberger knew a trade was being disused but put Youngblood in the line up anyway. He struck out in his first at bat then drove in two runs with a base hit in the 3rd inning off Ferguson Jenkins putting the Mets ahead 3-1. 

Then strangely the manager took Youngblood out of the game, he was surprised and went over to talk to him. Bamberger informed Joel he had just been traded to the Montreal Expos.

Montreal were short players and wanted Youngblood to join the ball club as soon as he could, hoping he could make it to the night game scheduled that night in Philadelphia. 

He left the dugout showered, packed his bags and got a cab to the airport. Then he realized he forgot his glove, and had to go back to the ballpark, then eventually caught the next flight to Philly. 

He arrived at Veterans Stadium just as the game began; there the Expos already had a uniform with his long name spelled out on the back.

He got dressed and walked into his new team’s dugout getting greeted by Montreal manager Jim Fanning. Fanning inserted him in right field to replace Jerry White in the sixth inning. He came to bat in the top of the 7th and singled off the Phillies Steve Carlton making baseball history. 

He became the first player to get two hits on the same day for two different teams. He also accomplished the feat, against two future Hall of Fame pitchers, not a bad day for Mr. Youngblood.

Mets Career Stats: In six years with Mets Youngblood played in 610 games (39th most all time). He batted .274 with 519 hits (35th on Mets all-time list) with 108 doubles (26th on the Mets all-time list) 18 triples (tied for 14th on Mets all-time list) 38 HRs 216 RBIs 161 walks & a.333 on base %. 

Post Mets Career: He finished the season hitting only .200 for Montreal (.240 overall) and became a free agent at the end of the year, signing with the San Francisco Giants. He would spend six seasons with the Giants through 1988.

In 1983, the Giants made him an everyday infielder & he had his best year at the plate that year. He batted a career high .292 with 17 HRs 20 doubles a .356 on base % & 53 RBIs playing in 124 games. He was the teams everyday third baseman, but he struggled on the field making a league leading 36 errors at third base in 1984, playing in 117 games at the position. The next year Chris Brown took over the position & Youngblood was more of a utility outfielder.

By 1986 he became one of the league’s best pinch hitters, gathering 16 pinch hits. Overall, he batted .255 with 5 HRs & 28 RBIs. 

In 1987 he had 13 pinch hits for the first place Giants, but he broke his wrist chasing a foul ball in September missing his only career chance since his first season at playing in the post season, as the Giants took on the Cardinals in the NLCS. 

In 1988 he had 15 pinch hits and hit .252 overall as utility player. When the season ended, he went back to Cincinnati, signing as a free agent for 1989, finishing his playing career where it began. In 76 games he batted .212.

 On August 21st, he hit a pinch-hit HR to tie up a game at Wrigley Field. It was his final career HR leading his team to a 6-5 win.


Career Stats: In his 14-year career, Youngblood hit .265, with 969 hits 80 HRs, 180 doubles, 23 triples, 422 RBIs, a .329 on base % & 60 stolen bases. 
In his career the versatile all-around fielder played 745 games in the outfield, 218 games at third base, 173 games at second base, 7 games at first base, three at short stop & even one at catcher.

Retirement & Coaching Career: Joel became a roving batting instructor for the Baltimore Orioles in 1991. He then managed the A ball, Kane County Cougars for the Orioles. 

He then went on to coach for the Cincinnati Reds & Milwaukee Brewers organizations at the minor league level.

From 2009 - 2016 he was the outfield & base running, minor league coach for the Arizona D-backs. In 2010 he served as the Diamondbacks third base coach.

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