Kevin Elster: 1986 World Champion Mets Infielder (1986-1992)

Kevin Daniel Elster was born August 3, 1964, in San Pedro California. The six foot two, sleek infielder was signed out of Golden West College in Huntington Beach California. 

In 1984, Elster was the Mets second round draft pick & signed with them after the college season. 

In 1985 he began the season at A ball Lynchburg & was promoted to AA Jackson where he became known for outstanding defense.

1986 Mets 1986 Championship Season: In 1986 he hit .269 at AA Jackson & was noticed by Mets manager Davey Johnson. 

Quotes- Davey Johnson: "You look at your ball club & see where you have a weakness. As good as Rafael Santana has played what if I have a bases loaded situation & I'm down in a game? I would need another short stop to hit for him."

That September Elster was called up making his debut on September 2nd, as a defensive replacement in a 4-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium. The next day he came into the game late & collected his first MLB hit, a single off the Giants Frank Williams in the 4-2 Mets win. 
Elster saw action in 19 games that month, batting .167 (5-30).

He was considered such a fine defensive shortstop early on in his career, he also made the post season roster. Mets short stop legend Bud Harrelson who was a Mets coach that season once said of Elster- "Defensively I don't mess with him. He's got it all".

1986 Post Season: Kevin got into four games of the NLCS win over the Houston Astros. He was a late defensive replacement in Game #1- Game #4 & Game #5. 

In Game #6 at the Astrodome, he came into the game in the 9th inning & played thru the 16th inning 
going 0-4 but was on the field when the Mets clinched the pennant.

1986 World Series: In the World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox, he played three innings at shortstop in the classic Game #6 at Shea Stadium.

He certainly celebrated with the club on the field & was one of the last players to leave, as he is seen in many of the celebration photographs.

After the Championship: In 1987 he played at AAA Tidewater batting .310 with 8 HRs 74 RBIs & 83 runs scored, getting another September call up. Elster appeared in five games going 2-4 as the Mets finished second unable to defend their title.

1988 NL Eastern Title Season: By 1988 he was penciled in as the Mets main shortstop, with the team so confident of him, they traded away Rafael Santana. 

On Opening Day in Montreal, Elster hit a two run HR off Dennis Martinez helping the Mets to a 10-6 win over the Expos. 

Walk Off Hit: On April 17th, he came to bat in the bottom of the 9th inning facing the Cardinals Scott Terry in a 2-2 tie with one out & Mookie Wilson on second base. Elster delivered a base scoring Mookie with the walk off run.

Walk Off HR: On May 31st Elster came to bat with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning of a 4-4 tie with the Dodgers. He hit a walk off HR off Alejandro Pena to beat the Los Angeles 5-4. He closed out the month driving in runs in four of five games.

Elster was playing fine shortstop but was stopped hitting, seeing his batting average drop near .200 in mid -June. At the end of June as the Mets took two of three from the Pirates, Elster drove in five runs in the two Mets win. On June 29th, he had an RBI double & two run HR off the Pirates Bob Walk in an 8-7 victory.

On July 29th, Elster's HR in the bottom of the 8th inning, helped Bobby Ojeda beat Pittsburgh's John Smiley 1-0 in a classic pitcher's duel at Shea Stadium. 

The next day he drove in two runs, helping Sid Fernandez & Randy Meyers shut out the Pirates 3-0 at Shea Stadium.

Multi HR Game: On September 2nd, Elster had a big day hitting two HRs off the Dodgers Tim Leary while driving in three runs in the Mets 8-0 win over L.A. at Shea Stadium. The Mets swept the two-game series, as they took ten of eleven games from the Dodgers in the regular season.

On September 22nd, the Mets clinched the NL East with a 3-1 win over the Phillies at Shea, Elster went 1-3 with a double & run scored.

On the season he hit just .214 with 11 doubles a triple 9 HRs & 37 RBIs.

At short stop he posted a .977 fielding percentage (3rd best in the NL) turning 61 double plays while playing in 148 games (5th most in the NL). He was known for having a good glove & overall playing steady defensive.

1988 Post Season- NLCS: Elster played in five games of the NLCS loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He batted .250 (2-8). 

In Game #3 the Mets were down 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th inning when they scored five runs in a big comeback. Elster came into the game as a pinch runner & scored on Darryl Strawberry's two run single giving the Mets an 8-4 lead, taking the win.

In the Mets Game #4 loss, Elster went 0-2 with a walk.

In the Game #6 win at Dodger Stadium, he went 1-3 with two walks, driving in a run with a double off Tim Leary in the 3rd inning. In the final Game #7, he got one of the five Mets hits as Orel Hershiser shut out the Mets on a five hitter.

Record Breaker: During the 1988 season he began a streak of 88 consecutive games at short stop without making an error. At the time he set a new MLB record, breaking the former streak held by old time New York Giant Buddy Kerr.

Kerr was working in the Mets organization as a scout at the time. Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. would later break that record, playing in his 95th errorless game in 1990.

1989: Elster played in 150 games leading all NL shortstops in put outs & posted the league’s third best fielding percentage (.976) while turning 63 double plays. That season he put up some of his best numbers during his Mets career, with 106 hits 10 HRs 25 doubles & 55 RBIs although he only batted .231. 

Elster started out the year with a six-game hit streak, hitting doubles in four straight games. He also had RBIs in four of the first six games of the year.  On April 9th, he doubled off the Expos Andy McGaffigan in the top of the 9th inning, leading the Mets to a 2-1 win in Montreal.

At the end of July Elster had a twelve-game hit streak & drove in ten runs in a nine-game stretch. The next week he hit HRs in back-to-back games & then drove in the winning run the following day with an 8th inning single off Montreal's Tim Burke.

Walk Off Hit: On August 15th, the Mets came to bat in a 1-1 tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kevin McReynolds tied the game with a HR off Ed Whitson. Barry Lyons singled & then with two outs Elster doubled off Whitson bringing in Lyons with the game winning run.

In September, Elster helped the team compete for the NL East title, with three HRs & 11 RBIs although they fell short, by late-September, finishing off six games behind the Chicago Cubs.

1990: Elster struggled mightily in 1990, then the fans & the press got on him. His manager, Bud Harrelson tried to stand up for him, claiming he was driving in runs even with his low batting average. But Elster barley hit above .100 the first month & didn't get over the .200 mark until late June.

On July 1st, in the bottom of the 9th inning, in a 2-2 tie with that year's World Champion Reds, Elster reached on an error, as he attempted a bunt to pitcher Norm Charlton. Charlton's throw went wild scoring Mackey Sasser from second with the game winning run. 

That month Elster did drive in 16 runs. His season was cut short on August 3rd went a shoulder injury finished off his year. Elster hit only .207 with a .274 on base %, hitting 9 HRs with 20 doubles & 45 RBIs playing in 92 games.

1991: By 1991 things got really bad for the Mets as they had their first losing season in eight years. Bud Harrelson tried to juggle the struggling players around. Elster still ended up playing 107 games at short as he batted .241 with 6 HRs 16 doubles & 36 RBIs.

Defensively he was still among the top five defensive shortstops in the NL turning 39 double plays with a .970 fielding % (5th in the NL).

1992: The following season Elster felt pain when he threw to first base, he ended up needing shoulder surgery which put him out the rest of the season. 
He only appeared in just nine games that year and the Mets let him go to free agency after the season. Elster was upset at having to leave the Mets organization.

Post Mets Career: Elster didn’t play at all in 1993, as he recovered from the surgery. He then had brief stints with the A.L. New York club (1994- 1995) getting released in June 1995. Elster did not enjoy playing for the A.L. New York club but did enjoy paying for manager Buck Showalter. 

Quotes- Kevin Elster: " I loved playing for Buck.  He was a disciplinarian & that worked for him. Buck was the only manager I had who called in the off-season, just to touch base and see how everything was going. That was pretty cool ".

Move Career:
 In 1994 he appeared in the movie Little Big League making his Hollywood debut. 

In 1995 he signed with the Kansas City Royals, then got released. He then signed with the Philadelphia Phillies batting .208 playing in 26 games.

Come Back Player of the Year: In 1996 Elster had an amazing resurgence, having his best season. That year he signed on with the Texas Rangers and won the A.L. Comeback Player of the Year Award. It was an exciting year for Texas as well, as they won their first Divisional title under manager Johnny Oates.

Elster had 24 HRs with 32 doubles 99 RBIs & batted .252. He also hit eleven sac flies which was third most in the AL. 

MLB Record: That year Elster also set an MLB record by driving in 92 of his 99 RBIs batting in
the 9th position.

At short stop he led the league in put outs (285) & his .981 fielding % was second best in the league.

1996 Post Season- ALDS: In the Game #1 Texas win, Elster went 1-4 with a double. He collected a hit in Game #2 then drew three more walks in the rest of the series.

After the season, he was grated free agency & signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1997) & then another go around with Texas (1998).

In 1999 he had no contract & did not play in the big leagues. 

In 2000 out of the blue he got a call from his old Mets skipper, Davey Johnson who was now managing the Los Angeles Dodgers & needed another short stop

Multi HR Game: On Aprill 11th, the Opening Day of Pac Bell Park, the new home of the San Francisco Giants, Elster fueled the Giants-Dodger rivalry by hitting three HRs in the game.

Barry Bonds hit the games first HR, then Elster connected twice off Kirk Rueter & later again off Felix Rodriguez. 

At the end of April, Elster had already hit six HRs & was batting .281. He eventually lost his job to Alex Cora & finished the year playing in just 80 games. He batted .227 with 14 HRs & 32 RBIs finishing out his career.

Career Stats: In his 13-year career Elster batted .228 hitter with 648 hits 88 HRs 136 doubles 12 triples 376 RBIs & 332 runs scored. He struck out 562 times & walked 295 times with a .228 on base % & .677 OPS.

Defensively he posted a .974 fielding percentage, making only 98 errors in 3755 chances while turning 433 double plays. 

Family: Elster has been married & divorced three times. His first marriage was to Jennifer Pizzata in 1987. His second marriage was to Kimberlee Drake (1996-1999) & then third time around he married Jennifer Black (2003-2009).

Ladies Man Reputation: In Ron Darling's memoirs 108 Stitches he remembers as a ladies' man who often talked of his romantic adventures. Darling also noted that Elster always traveled with white cotton panties he insisted his conquests wear.

Honors: Elster has been named one of the top 50 Mets of All Time. Elster was not on hand for the 30th Anniversary of the 1986 Mets Championship team.

Elster did participate in the Mets 2022 Old Timers Day celebration & played in the game. He wasn't his usual self on the field as he misplayed a pop up for a good laugh.

He was also honored at Golden West College in Huntington Beach California at their Pillar of Achievement.


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