Remembering Mets History (1974) Benny Ayala Becomes First Mets Rookie to HR in His First Career At Bat

 Tuesday August 27th, 1974: It was a terrible year for the reigning NL Champion Mets, as they found themselves 56-70 ten games out of first place in fifth place. Yogi Berra's club suffered through lots of injuries, no one hit higher than Cleon Jones .282, no one drove in more runs than Jon Milner's 63. He also led the team with 20 HRs. 

Even the pitching staff struggled, Tom Seaver had problems with his mechanics & had a career worst 11-11 record. Jerry Koosman won 15 but lost 11. He posted a 3.36 ERA. 

Jon Matlack did win 13 games but lost 15 mostly due to lack of runs support as he posted a 2.41 ERA which was third best in the league

Cleon Jones hurt his thumb & went out with the injury. The Mets brought up outfielder Benny Ayala to fill his roster spot. Ayala had hit .274 with 11 HRs 21 doubles & 40 RBIs at AAA Tidewater. He was in his fourth year in the Mets organization.

On this day Ayala was called up to the big leagues while he was in Portsmouth Virginia getting
ready for a game with the Tides. He caught a flight & made it to Shea Stadium just before game time. He told the media he had time for a doughnut but not even a cup of coffee. He was inserted batting sixth & playing left field.

Tonight, the Mets hosted Preston Gomez's fourth place Houston Astros (66-62) in front of 20,934 fans at Shea Stadium. Tonight's pitchers were the Mets Tug McGraw (4-7) making a rare start against the Astros Tom Griffin (12-6). Griffin would lead the Astros with 14 wins (14-10) that season.

It was Tug McGraw's first start of the season; he was 4-7 with a 4.50 ERA at that point in the season. He helped fill a rotation slot & was trying to get his own act together as well. He had four blown saves & three games he blew that became losses.

In the 2nd inning, after Wayne Garrett popped out to second base, the young 23-year-old rookie from Puerto Rico, Benny Ayala stepped in for his first career at bat. Ayala made Mets history as he hit Griffin's pitch over the fence for a HR. He became the first Mets rookie to ever HR in his first career at bat.

Trivia: Ayala was the first of four Mets to hit HRs in their first career at bat. The next time it was done was almost a decade later in 1983 when Mike Fitzgerald hit one of his four Mets career HRs. In was done again in 2004 Kazuo Matsui- 2005 Mike Jacobs & then in August 2022 by Brett Baty. 

The inning continued after the Mets congratulated Ayala, with two outs Ted Martinez singled. Griffin then walked Tug McGraw & Jim Gosger to load up the bases. Felix Millan then singled bringing in two runs making it 3-0 Mets.

In the 5th, catcher Milt May homered off McGraw for the first Astro run.

In the 7th, with Harry Parker pitching for the Mets Doug Rader singled, May doubled & Greg

Gross delivered a two-run single, making it a one run game.

In the 8th, Astro pitcher Ramon de los Santos walked Benny Ayala with one out. He then walked Teddy Martinez, then the pitcher Harry Parker reached on an error by Doug Rader at third, allowing Ayala to score his second run of the game. The Mets won it 4-2 after Parker closed out the 9th.

Benny Ayala went 1-3 with a walk, a HR & two runs scored in his MLB debut. He would play 23 games for the Mets the rest of the way batting .235 with 2 HRs a double & 8 RBIs. Ayala spent 1975 in the minors batting .277 at AAA Tidewater. 

In 1976 he made the club out of Spring Training. He played 22 games with the Mets batting .115 with one HR. That came against the Big Red Machine's Jack Billingham in a 5-1 Mets May loss. He was back down in the minors by June.

The Mets traded him to St. Louis in 1977 & then he was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles in January 1979. He played six years with the Orioles, getting to two World Series with them in 1979 losing to the Pirates & then another in 1983 beating the Phillies.

 In the 1979 World Series he homered in Game #3 off John Candelaria. In the 1983 post season he played two games & had two RBIs. 


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