Aug 13, 2020

Mike Jorgensen: Queens Born Two Time Mets Player (1968-1971 / 1980-1983)

Michael Jorgensen was born on August 16, 1948 in Passaic, New Jersey. He is the only MLB player to be born on the same day that Babe Ruth died. 

Jorgensen would go to high school in the shadows of the new Shea Stadium, at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens.

In 1966 he was selected in the fourth round of that year’s draft by the hometown New York Mets. He hit .315 in the Rookie league his first season & then .295 at A ball Winter Haven in the Florida State League in 1967.

The first baseman / outfielder made his MLB debut on September 10th, 1968, going 0-1 as a pinch hitter at Wrigley Field in an 8-1 Mets loss to the Chicago Cubs. 

Jorgensen played in eight games going 2-14 (.143) that September. He spent the 1969 Mets Championship season at AAA Tidewater, hitting .290 with 15 doubles in 105 games. His 21 HRs & 69 RBIs were second on the Tides to Roy Foster.

In 1970 he made the club out of Spring Training & was walking around in awe, at the likes of the World Champs. 

Jorgensen got an Opening Day pinch hit base hit, in the Mets win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played in 50 games at first behind Donn Clendenon & ten games in the outfield, usually as a late inning replacement.

He hit his first career HR at Dodger Stadium on an April West Coast trip leading the Mets to a 3-1 win. He then hit another HR in San Francisco the next week off Juan Marichal.

But Jorgensen struggled most of the year, not getting above the .200 mark until the end of July, & as a result saw less playing time. 

Overall he only hit .195 (17-87) with three HRs three doubles one triple a .278 on base % & four RBIs. 

He began 1971 back in AAA Tidewater but after 65 games he was batting .342 with 15 HRs, which got him brought back up to the big league club that June.

In his second game back up, he hit two HRs against the Los Angles Dodgers at Shea Stadium, helping the Mets to a 7-2 win. 

On June 20th he hit another HR against the Philadelphia Phillies & was off to a solid start. Then he slumped & was back down from July 23rd until early September.

Later in the month he had a walk off game winning single, coming against Joe Hoerner & the Philadelphia Phillies. In 45 games he batted .220 with 5 HRs, one double, one triple a .303 on base % & 11 RBIs.

On April 5th, 1972 Jorgensen was traded to the Montreal Expos along with Ken Singleton & Tim Foli for “Le Grande Orange” Rusty Staub. He later admitted, he was pretty devastated at the time.

Quotes- Mike Jorgensen: "If I had known I'd be on six clubs eventually, I wouldn't have been so down. I was young. It gave me a chance to play every day. It was a nice trade for all of us".

Post Mets Career: In Montreal he got a chance to be an everyday player & he came into his own. He turned out to be a fine defensive player, winning a Gold Glove at first base in 1973, while posting a .995 field % (second in the NL).

It was the only time during the period from 1967 to 1977 that a Dodger didn’t win the Gold Glove Award (Wes Parker 1967-1972 / Steve Garvey from 1974-1977). On the ’73 season Jorgensen hit just .230 with 9 HRs 16 doubles three triples a .336 on base % & stole 16 bases.

In 1974 he had his best season, as he led all N.L. first baseman in fielding (.998%) while batting a career high .310, with a .444 on base %. Jorgensen hit 11 HRs with 16 doubles & 59 RBIs. 

In 1975 he fell off to a .261 average but had career highs in doubles (18) RBIs (68) & HRs (18) leading his Expos team in that department, one ahead of a young Gary Carter.

In the bicentennial year of 1976, his numbers dropped off, batting .254 with 6 HRs. The Expos hired Dick Williams as manager & things began to change in Montreal. 

Over the winter, Montreal acquired former Reds slugger Tony Perez to play first base & Jorgensen’s days were numbered. Midway through the 1977 season, in just 19 games, he was batting .200 & was traded to the Oakland A’s, for pitcher Stan Bahnsen.

After the season he signed a two year deal with the Texas Rangers to play behind Mike Hargrove at first base. 

Horrible Beaning: On May 28, 1979 in a game against the Boston Red Sox at Texas Arlington Stadium, Jorgenson was hit in the head by a pitch from Boston’s Andy Hassler. He had a seizer & spent a week in intensive care.

He suffered headaches and missed a month of action. He was diagnosed with a blood clot, but luckily it was found quickly enough before it could cause any damage. 

He got into 90 plus games in each of two seasons in Texas, but batted a best .223 in 1979.

Second Time With the Mets: That October he was sent to the New York Mets as the player to be named later in the Willie Montanez trade. 

In 1980 he played right field & batted in the fifth position behind Steve Henderson on Opening Day in the Mets 5-2 win over the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium. On May 24th Jorgenson hit a HR in the 2nd inning in a 6-5 win over the Atlanta Braves. The next day he hit another HR, helping Craig Swan to a 3-0 shutout over the Braves Phil Niekro.

In early June he had a walk off game winning single off pitcher George Frazier & the St. Louis Cardinals. 

Walk Off HR: The next week on June 11th, he hit a dramatic walk off grand slam HR off pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-2. It was one of the few exciting comeback wins for the 5th place 1980 Mets who went 67-95 under Joe Torre.

Brawl: On the Fourth of July 1980, the Mets had their first ever, Fireworks Night. They hosted the Montreal Expos. That night Expo, rookie pitcher Bill Gullickson threw a pitch that sailed over Jorgensen’s head. 

Jorgensen was still sensitive about getting hit in the head with pitches after the previous years beaning in Texas.

He exchanged words & gestured to Gullickson, pointing his bat & going after him on the mound. But before he arrived on the mound, team mate John Stearns, who wasn’t even in the lineup that night, tackled & body slammed Gullickson to the ground. The benches cleared as a brawl broke out.

He finished off the year with a 7th inning base hit off Pittsburgh's Don Robinson, driving in Steve Henderson with the games tying run on September 30th. After being sacrificed over, he scored the game winning run on Alex Trevino's sac fly.

On the season he batted .255 with 7 HRs 11 doubles 46 walks 43 RBIs & a .349 on base %. Jorgensen played 72 games at first base & 31 games in the outfield.

In 1981 he missed two months of action only hitting .205 with 3 HRs & 15 RBIs in 86 games. In 1982 he saw action in 56 games behind Dave Kingman at first base & as well as 16 games in the outfield. 

He served as a pinch hitter often, & had 12 pinch hits, while raising his average fifty points from the previous year (.255). On August 10th he hit a two run pinch hit HR against the St. Louis Cardinals although the Mets still lost the game 7-2.

By 1983 the Mets were changing personnel under the new management. Jorgensen’s contract was sold off to the Atlanta Braves, on the same day the Mets acquired Keith Hernandez. 

Mets Career Stats: Overall, Jorgensen spent seven years with the Mets. He played in 492 Mets games (50 most all time) batting .234 with 187 hits 30 doubles 4 triples 21 HRs 90 RBIs 103 runs scored & a .360 on base.

He played in Atlanta, once again under manager, Joe Torre for the rest of the 1983 season & part of the 1984 season. He was then traded, along with Ken Dayley to the St. Louis Cardinals. He would spent the next thirty plus years in their organization.

1985 Post Season: After 17 seasons he finally made his first post season appearance. He got to appear in two games of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 0-2 as a pinch hitter. He then got into two games of the World Series, in the Cards loss to the KC Royals. He was 0-3.

At the end of the season, the Cards wanted him as a coach, not a player. He accepted the role & began a new career.

Career Stats: Jorgensen was a lifetime .243 hitter with 833 hits 95 HRs 132 doubles 13 triples 427 RBIs a .347 on base % & 58 stolen bases. 

At first base he posted a .994 fielding % (48th best all time) & in the outfield a .979 fielding %. 

his 17 year career, he batted .243 with 833 hits 132 doubles 13 triples 95 HRs 426 RBIs 429 runs scored & a .347 on base %.

He played 1052 games at first base, 283 in the outfield, & five as a DH.

Retirement & Coaching: Jorgensen was the farm director for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1992-2001.  In 1995, he managed the St. Louis Cardinals after Joe Torre was fired, going 42-54 in that role. 

He was then replaced by Tony LaRussa, the next season. He was a minor league manager, a field coordinator & the Cardinals farm director for over a decade. In 2015 he was named special assistant to the Cardinals GM.

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