Sunday, November 29, 2009
Tim Harkness joined the New York Mets when he was traded with Larry Burright from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Bob Miller on November 30, 1962. A native Canadian, Tim played with the Mets in 1963, but established his Shea Stadium claim to fame the following year. On April 17, 1964 the Mets played their first regular season game at the new ballpark. Tim was the lead-off hitter making him the first Mets batter at Shea. When he singled in the third inning off Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, Bob Friend he had established the first Mets' hit as well. On July 28, 1964, the Mets sold Harkness' contract to San Diego of the Pacific Coast League. A roster spot was needed to add outfielder, Bobby Klaus who had been acquired off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. Tim would play a couple more seasons in the minor leagues, but the first season of Shea Stadium would be his last in the majors.
After his active baseball career Tim served as a scout for the San Diego Padres and was named the Canadian Scout of the Year in 1996. Harkness was the manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and led them to a Intercounty Baseball League title in 2002.
On April 17, 2008, the New York Mets commemorated the first team to play at Shea Stadium by inviting back Tim, along with Ron Hunt, and Jack Fisher to change the sign in left-center field counting down the number of remaining games to be played there.
Tim Harkness signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on November 28. 2009.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Jesse Gonder was traded by the Cincinnati Reds to the New York Mets in exchange for Charlie Neal and Sammy Taylor on July 1, 1963. He served as the starting catcher, and clean-up hitter during the first game ever played at Shea Stadium in 1964. Jesse continued to enter into the Shea record books when he hit the first ever triple by a Mets player there on May 8th in a game facing the St. Louis Cardinals. Gonder was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Gary Kolb on July 25, 1965.
After he retired from the game, Jesse became a bus driver for Golden Gate Transit in the San Francisco Bay area, remaining in that position for over 20 years before retiring in the mid-1990s.
Jessie Gonder passed away in Oakland, California on November 14, 2004. "After retirement it was all bowling and poker," his daughter Tanya was quoted. "He was a very good father, a devoted family man. His grandchildren were the apple of his eye."
I created Jesse Gonder's card in the set from an autographed index card purchased from Bob Dowen on November 27, 2009.
Mickey Weston was selected by the New York Mets in the 12th round of the 1982 amateur draft. He would play in the Mets farm system until they granted him free agency in 1988. The Baltimore Orioles signed Mickey and he finally made his major league debut with them on June 18, 1989. A full seven years after being originally drafted. Following Baltimore his career had stops in Toronto and Philadelphia. It was after a short time with the Phillies that Weston became a free agent and resigned with the Mets on January 4, 1993.
Weston began the 1993 season with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides. On April 13th his contract was purchased from Norfolk. Mickey took the roster spot of outfielder, Wayne Housie who then joined the Tides. He would make his New York Mets debut at Shea Stadium on April 22, 1993. Weston only made four appearances before being returned to the Norfolk Tides to finish the season. He was granted free agency on October 15, 1993. "Wish I could say I had a great memory from being at Shea," Mickey said in 2012. "I wasn't there very long and had only a couple of opportunities to pitch there. I guess the best memory was getting Tony Gwynn (Hall of Famer) to groundout to short."
A devout Christian throughout his baseball career, Mickey now currently serves with Unlimited Potential, Incorporated. UPI is a ministry that conducts evangelistic baseball clinics both in the United States and cities throughout the world.
Mickey Weston signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to UPI on November 27, 2009.
"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10:9-10)
Paul Gibson was traded with Randy Marshall by the Detroit Tigers to the New York Mets on January 22, 1992 in exchange for Mark Carreon and Tony Castillo. "He doesn't light up your eyes with his fastball," said Manager Jeff Torborg, who said that as a manager of the White Sox he had been impressed with Gibson. "But he's got an air about him. He gives you the impression that the game is in control when he is on the mound."
In his first season with the Mets the left-handed reliever struggled through shoulder stiffness that placed him on the disabled list from July 28th to August 29th. He was resigned to a minor league contract and invited to major league camp during spring training of 1993. Paul made it back to New York but was only used in eight appearances before being released on June 11, 1993.
Gibson was raised in Center Moriches, Long Island and grew up being a Mets fan. He currently runs a baseball school named, "Paul Gibson's All-Pro Sports Academy" in Bellport, New York.
Paul Gibson signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on November 24, 2009.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
John Candelaria was traded by the California Angels to the New York Mets in exchange for Shane Young and Jeff Richardson on September 15, 1987. "The Candy Man" was added to strengthen a starting pitching staff that was suffering the loss of two members of the rotation. "John has playoff and World Series experience," said Joe McIlvaine, vice president for baseball operations for the Mets, "and he is just the person that we were looking for in our situation." Candy is a Brooklyn native and made three starts with a 2-0 record to finish the 1987 season. Unfortunately the Mets would finish three games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for second place in the National League Eastern Division. John would leave the Mets after that brief stint. He signed as a free agent with the cross-town rival New York Yankees on January 15, 1988.
John Candelaria signed his card in the set during a private signing held by Badgley Productions on December 6, 2008.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Kevin Lomon was selected from the Atlanta Braves by the New York Mets in 1994 Rule V Draft. The right-handed relief pitcher made his major league debut in a Mets uniform on April 27, 1994 at Coors Field facing the Colorado Rockies. "I wasn't really nervous, but my adrenaline was flowing," said Lomon, "There I was for the first time in my life, doing what I always wanted to do. It was pretty much as big as I could have imagined."
He would make a total of six appearances posting a 0-1 record with a 6.75 ERA in 9.1 innings. It was determined that he was going to be removed from the active 25 man roster. According to the draft rules he was required to be offered back to Atlanta. Kevin was returned to the Braves on May 30, 1995.
Kevin Lomon signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on February 20, 2009.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
John Stephenson was signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent on May 30, 1963. He made his major league debut in a Mets uniform facing the Philadelphia Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium on April 14, 1964. Primarily a catcher, John would also be used at third base and the outfield in his three seasons in New York. Stephenson was sent to the Chicago Cubs on June 17, 1967 to complete an earlier trade. He would return to the Mets to serve as their bullpen catcher in 1992.
John was born in South Portsmouth, Kentucky, but is featured on a 16 foot mural wearing his Mets uniform in Portsmouth, Ohio. In 1993, artist Robert Dafford began painting murals of Portsmouth's history on the city's floodwalls. Most of the mural project was finished around 2003, and the baseball mural honoring local baseball heroes was completed in 2006. Obviously he was confused about Johnny's hometown.
John Stephenson's entry in the set was created on November 24, 2009 from an autographed index card given to me by my friend Jessie.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Daniel Murphy was selected by the New York Mets in the 13th round of the 2006 free agent draft. He opened the 2008 season in Double-A Binghamton, and continued to prove that he is an exceptional hitter. On August 2nd, only a day after being promoted to Triple-A New Orleans, Daniel was promoted to New York. The Mets had placed left-handed reserve outfielder, Marlon Anderson on the disabled list and Murphy was asked to take his roster spot. A natural third baseman that now was learning the outfield at the major league level.
Murphy made his major league debut that first day and recorded a base hit in his first big league at-bat off of ace pitcher, Roy Oswalt in Houston. His father Tom said it well, "It's been overwhelming. We had no idea he would be this good this quick. We knew last year he probably had a chance, but people had to get hurt for him to get an opportunity."
"Murph" did take advantage of his opportunity. Playing the outfield with some questionable defense, but turning heads with his success at the plate. Daniel closed his first season batting .313 in 136 at-bats (exactly one at-bat too many to keep his rookie status in 2009).
"I always had to work," Murphy said. "I'm still not the fastest or the strongest. So my feeling is, If I'm going to be able to stay here in the big leagues and help this team win, I'm going to have to work every day."
Daniel Murphy signed his card in the set for me at Wrigley Field before a Mets-Cubs game on August 29, 2009. (Notice that Murph adds "Go Mets" behind his signature on the card.)
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The New York Mets have been blessed with many fantastic pitchers over the years. Perhaps none better than Tom Seaver. It would be "The Franchise" that would flirt with a no-hitter on July 9, 1969 only to fall short of the elusive goal. A feat that would be denied all Mets pitchers during the history of Shea Stadium.
Seaver was throwing a perfect game into the ninth inning. He retired the first 25 Chicago Cub batters before a hit from Jimmy Qualls ruins the no-hitter. It would be just one of many performances for the Mets to continue the inexplicable drought.
Tom Seaver recounted the event in his book, "Great Moments in Baseball" (Birch Lane Press-1992):
"We played the Cubs—a far better team "on paper"—sixteen times in 1969, and won ten. These were the first "big games" the Mets had ever played in their history. One of the wins was the famous "Jimmy Qualls game", in which I had a real shot at my first no-hitter, going to one out in the ninth, only to have Qualls get a base hit to spoil it. After the game my wife, Nancy, met me in tears, but the fact that I kept my composure and got the last two outs showed we were a team of maturity—a team ready to play more "big ones".
Seaver was the postgame interview for Ralph Kiner following the game. "Your wife, Nancy, was there, she was in tears, but you weren't bothered at all by losing the no-hitter?" Kiner said. Seaver explained that he told his weeping spouse, "What's the matter? I just pitched a one-hit shutout, didn't walk anybody and struck out 10."
Years later it was this game that Tom would share during a press conference with Mets legends recalling their memories of Shea Stadium.
Jimmy Qualls signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 17, 2012. Adding "69 Cubs" and "Tom was great that day as he was many more."
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Clarence "Choo Choo" Coleman joined the New York Mets when he was drafted from the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1962 expansion draft. The original Met would not make his Shea Stadium debut until April 16, 1966. Coleman would only appear in six games that year before he ended his major league career on April 23rd.
"When I was 8 or 9, I ran around a lot," Coleman offers in response to the origin of his nickname. "My friends called me Choo Choo because I was fast."
He was a fan favorite throughout his career who started playing professional baseball in the farm systems of the Washington Senators and Los Angeles Dodgers. Then moved to the touring Indianapolis Clowns club before returning to the majors with the Phillies. "We weren't in the Negro Leagues. We played all over." Choo Choo said of the Clowns in an 2012 interview with Nick Diunte. "I played two years. We played almost every day. We went everywhere; it was a lot of fun."
Coleman was endeared to the Mets faithful through famous anecdotes. Charlie Neal, who roomed with Choo Choo was teasing him during spring training in 1963. "I bet you don't know my name." Neal sarcastically offered. To which Coleman replied, "You No. 4."
Ralph Kiner interviewed Coleman during a postgame show and asked, "What's you wife's name, and what's she like?" A bothered Choo Choo quipped, "Mrs. Coleman, and she likes me."
After finishing up his baseball career in Mexico City and the minor-leagues he returned home to Orlando, Florida. Following the death of his first wife, Odessa the former catcher married his second wife, Lucille. They had a daughter who later married into a Chinese family living in Newport News, Virginia. The Colemans moved there and helped run a Chinese restaurant. Choo Choo often served as one of the cooks until later retiring to Bamberg, South Carolina where he remains a Mets fan. "You play for a team, you always root for them." Coleman said.
Choo Choo Coleman signed his card in the set for my friend Lou Cafiero during the JP Sports Promotions show in White Plains, New York on January 21, 2012.
Charlie Williams was born in Flushing, New York. He was drafted by his hometown New York Mets in the 7th round of the 1968 amateur draft. Charlie made his major league debut on April 23, 1971 in a game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. During the 1971 season he pitched in 31 games and made nine starts. Despite that Charlie found himself back in the minors to start the 1972 season. On May 11, 1972 he earned the distinction of being the man to be traded for the legendary Willie Mays. Williams along with $50,000 was sent to the San Francisco Giants in return for the former New York star. Mets' owner Joan Payson wanted Willie to end his playing career back in New York and continue afterward as a coach. The financially challenged Giants were more than willing to let that happen.
Charlie Williams signed this card from a private signing held by Major League Alumni Marketing on November 21, 2009.
Bob MacDonald was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent on January 13, 1996. Met's manager, Dallas Green named him the club's left-handed set-up relief pitcher during spring training that year. Bob out performed fellow southpaw Pedro A. Martinez. "He's got a better breaking ball to left-handed hitters," Green said, "Most of Martinez's best pitches are to right-handed hitters." MacDonald was used out of the bullpen and made 20 appearances with a 4.28 ERA. He remained on the major league roster until the Mets found themselves in need of adding a starting pitcher on June 14th. Robert Person was added from Triple-A Norfolk and Bob found himself ending the season with the Tides. In 1997 he decided to play in Japan and pitched for the Hashin Tigers for that year before retiring from the game.
Bob MacDonald signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home in January 2009.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Ricky Bottalico joined the New York Mets when he signed as a free agent on February 9, 2004. The right-hander made 60 appearances from the bullpen that year posting a fine 3.38 ERA. Earlier in his career Bottalico had been a closer, but was used as a bridge to Braden Looper in New York. He was quoted, "You have to do your job, bottom line. You have to act like every pitch is the ninth inning. If you go out and worry that it's a 10-0 game or whatever, you end up pitching like a pitcher who is just hoping that the ball is hit at someone." Ricky left the Mets the next season when he signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers on January 21, 2005.
Bottalico became the co-host of Big Talkers 1210's "Baseball Insiders" with John Brazer. An hour long radio program covering the Philadelphia Phillies. Prior to that he worked for Service Electric as an analyst for the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
Ricky Bottalico signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia on November 20, 2009.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Don Shaw was selected by the New York Mets in the 35th round of the free agent draft on June 8, 1965. He made his major league debut in a Mets uniform at Shea Stadium on April 11, 1967. The left hander was used out of the bullpen for two seasons before being selected by the Montreal Expos as the 40th pick in the 1968 expansion draft.
After retiring from baseball he served as a Regional Manager of a National Employee Benefits company. Don is now a 20 year veteran of the health insurance industry that operates his own business at Midwest Health Store Plan in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri.
I created Don Shaw's card in the set from a autographed index card purchased from Vabella Publishing and Printing on November 18, 2009.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Pat Zachry was traded by the Cincinnati Reds with Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, and Dan Norman to the New York Mets for Tom Seaver on June 15, 1977. He was chosen to represent the Mets in the 1978 MLB All-Star Game, but did not pitch. On July 24, 1978, Zachry was the starting pitcher against the Cincinnati Reds at Shea Stadium as Pete Rose entered the game with a 36 game hitting streak. Rose was 0-3 until a seventh inning single gave him a 37 game hitting streak to tie the National League record. Four batters later Pat was removed in favor of Kevin Kobel. In frustration Zachry went to kick a batting helmet sitting on the dugout steps. He missed the helmet and kicked the step - fracturing his left foot and ending his season.
Zachry never was quite the same after the injury. However on April 10, 1982 he would take a no-hitter into the eighth inning at Wrigley Field. It was broken up when Cubs' pinch hitter, Bobby Molinaro singled to right field. Thus continuing the curse of failed no-hitters for the team. Pat was traded by the Mets to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Jorge Orta on December 28, 1982.
After his baseball career he owned and operated a batting facility in his hometown of Waco, Texas. Pat was a member of the St. Petersburg Pelicans in the Senior Professional Baseball Association in Florida until the league folded. Zachry is a regular instructor during the Mets' Fantasy Camps. He explains it, "Baseball is still a great game, and it is great to be able to get out there and help somebody." Pat was inducted into the New Waco ISD Athletic Hall of Fame.
Pat Zachry signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home in December of 2008.
Monday, November 16, 2009
McKay Christenson joined the New York Mets when they selected him off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 3, 2002. He made his Mets debut the next day at Shea Stadium facing the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 4th. McKay played in each of the next three games, but was sent to Triple-A Norfolk to finish the season. Christenson and his wife, Stephanie welcomed their first child in August of 2002 while a member of the Tides. McKay was granted free agency at the close of the season. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies on January 17, 2003.
McKay Christenson signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on November 16, 2009.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Kevin Mitchell was signed as a free agent by the New York Mets on November 16, 1980. He made his major league debut as a Met on September 4, 1984. A special player that was able to play both the infield and outfield positions while providing considerable power hitting in the lineup. Kevin was a member of the 1986 World Champion Mets. He was said to have been called from the clubhouse to pinch hit in the ninth inning of the famous Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. He would deliver a clutch single and eventually score the tying run.
The immensely talented athlete was known as much for his unusual behavior as his baseball prowess. Kevin would eat Vick's VapoRub and once explained it, "My grandmother told me it is good for colds. It sure blows out those sinuses." Mitchell once convinced Darryl Strawberry that he possessed tremendous barber skills. The resulting haircut was so bad that Darryl shaved his head for the first time in his career.
Kevin was traded by the Mets to the San Diego Padres with Stan Jefferson and Shawn Abner in exchange for Kevin McReynolds, Gene Walter, and Adam Ging on December 11, 1986. He would be named the National League Most Valuable Player with the San Francisco Giants in 1989.
Kevin Mitchell signed his set card for me through a private signing held in California by Tom Miller on November 9, 2009.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Shaun Fitzmaurice was signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent in 1965. He made his major league debut as a Met at Shea Stadium on September 9, 1966. The centerfielder was a late season callup who appeared in nine games in what would be his only year in the big leagues. Shaun was sent from the Mets to the New York Yankees before the 1967 season.
Shaun Fitzmaurice signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on November 1, 2008.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Leo Foster joined the New York Mets when he was traded from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Joe Nolan on April 4, 1975. He made his Mets debut at Shea Stadium in a game facing the Philadelphia Phillies on August 1, 1976. Nicknamed "Bananas" Foster he played two seasons in New York before being traded to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Jim Burton on March 28, 1978.
Leo's major league debut with the Atlanta Braves was a tough day by anyone's standards. A fine fielder during his career, he committed an error on the very first ball hit to him at shortstop. Then in his first major league at-bat he grounded into a double-play. His final plate appearance of the day would be even more challenging. The first two Braves hitters of the ninth inning had reached base against the Pirates when Leo stepped to the plate. Pittsburgh pitcher, Nelson Briles staked to an eight run lead went right after the rookie. Foster responded with a hot smash down the third base line. The third baseman fielded the ball, stepped on the bag and relayed the throw to second base, who relayed to first base to complete the third out. Leo was out by an eye lash, but had hit into the first ever triple play in Three Rivers Stadium history on July 9, 1971.
Foster has a baseball field named in his honor in his hometown of Covington, Kentucky.
Leo Foster signed his card from an autograph request sent to his home on November 12, 2009.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Jason Phillips was selected by the New York Mets in the 24th round of the 1997 amateur player draft. He made his major league debut with the Mets on September 19, 2001. Jason played the majority of 2001 and 2002 in the minor leagues. Phillips stuck in New York when he became a first baseman and backup catcher to Mike Piazza in 2003. Having such a terrific season hitting that he earned the honor of "National League Rookie of the Year" from the Ted Williams Museum. Jason's energetic play made him a fan favorite, and his signature goggles did not hurt either. Phillips agreed, "....definitely, I think they are my trademark." He was traded from the Mets to the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 20, 2005 in exchange for Kazuisha Ishii.
Phillips was invited to spring training camp with the Seattle Mariners as a player in 2009. When he did not make the active roster he choose instead to become the team's bullpen catcher.
Jason Phillips signed his card in the set for me from an autograph request mailed to the Mariners training camp in Arizona on March 2, 2009.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Tommy Davis was traded along with Darrell Griffith from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the New York Mets in exchange for Ron Hunt and Jim Hickman on November 29, 1966. The two-time batting champion had suffered a broken ankle in May of 1964 while sliding to break up a double play and was lost for the rest of the season. Upon his return, Tommy was unable to recapture his previous success in Los Angeles. So the club deemed him expendable. However, Davis did not disappoint during his lone season with the Mets. In New York he was selected as the team's National League All-Star representative and led the club in all it's offensive statistics. In a move that would bring two major parts of the 1969 Miracle Mets team to town, New York traded Tommy along with Jack Fisher, Billy Wynne, and Dick Booker to the Chicago White Sox for Tommie Agee and Al Weis on December 15, 1967.
After his playing career Tommy was a promotion manager at Casablanca Records, and wrote a book titled, "Tales from the Dodger Dugout." Davis would also serve as a hitting coach for the Seattle Mariners.
Tommy Davis signed his card in the set for my friend Sam at the B.A.T. Fundraising Dinner on January 27, 2009.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Mario Ramirez signed with the New York Mets as an amateur free agent on March 5, 1976. He made his major league debut on April 25, 1980 with the Mets facing the Houston Astros. Mario played at three different infield positions for New York in the 18 games he would appear for them that season. Ramirez left the Mets when he was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 1980 Rule V Draft.
Mario Ramirez signed his card in the set for me through a private signing held by Noel Martir Arcelay on March 24, 2009 in Puerto Rico.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Gustavo Molina was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent on December 4, 2007. He was invited to major league spring training camp in 2008, but started the season with Triple-A New Orleans. His contract was purchased from the Zephyrs on April 24th when the Mets designated outfielder, Brady Clark for assignment. Starting catcher, Brian Schneider was suffering through an infected thumb and the team was in need of another catcher. Gustavo would only appear in two games for the Mets during the 2008 season, but both of these were at Shea Stadium. He was returned to the minor leagues on May 3rd after Moises Alou needed his roster spot and Schneider had recovered. Molina was brought back to New York after September 1st when rosters expanded, but never entered another game before the season ended. Gustavo signed as a free agent with the Washington Nationals for the 2009 season.
Gustavo Molina signed his card in the set for me after a game when the Syracuse Chiefs visited the Indianapolis Indians on May 16, 2009.
Derrel McKinley "Bud" Harrelson was signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent on June 7, 1963. Bud would serve as the Mets shortstop for 13 seasons and become one of the franchises most popular players. Harrelson was a terrific fielder who earned a Rawlings Gold Glove award in 1971. When Gil Hodges became the Mets manager in 1968, Bud was concerned that he might not want a ballplayer as small as he was. Hodges is remembered to have said at the official team weigh-in, "You are by far the strongest player I have ever seen at 147 pounds." A fact that the much larger Pete Rose would learn in an on-field altercation during the 1973 National League Championship series. Harrelson more than held his own when Rose slid hard into second base trying to break up a double play, and the two erupted into a fight. It almost ended the game as Mets fans in Shea Stadium pelted Pete Rose with garbage when he took his defensive position in left field.
Bud Harrelson was a member of the 1969 World Champion Miracle Mets, and the 1973 National League champion team as well. He was selected to the National League All-Star team in 1970 and 1971. Harrelson was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Fred Andrews and cash considerations on May 24, 1978.
After his active playing career he would return to the Mets as both a coach and team manager. Bud was elected to the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1982. As a life-long volunteer and supporter of several charities, Harrelson received the Gil Hodges Community Service Award in 2002.
Bud Harrelson signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on October 13, 2009.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Julio Valera was signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent on March 6, 1986. He made his major league debut as a Met on September 1, 1990 at Shea Stadium. Julio had been added when the rosters expanded and was the starting pitcher facing the San Francisco Giants. He picked up the win for throwing the first six innings of a 6-5 victory. It would prove to be Valera's only major league victory in a New York Mets uniform.
After his three starts to close the 1990 season, Julio was moved to the bullpen for his only two appearances for New York in 1991. Most of the year was spent with Triple-A Norfolk. Valera was traded by the Mets with Julian Vazquez to the California Angels in exchange for Dick Schofield on April 12, 1992.
Julio Valera signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home in Puerto Rico on November 7, 2009.
Steve Trachsel signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on December 11, 2000. His beginning as a Met in 2001 was so poor that he was demoted to the minor leagues on May 18th. The low point being when he became the only pitcher in Mets history to allow four home runs in a single inning. However his time with the Norfolk Tides actually saved his major league career. Steve began to pitch well in Triple-A and even tossed a seven-inning no-hitter on May 29, 2001. The Mets returned him to New York and into the starting rotation on June 8, 2001. He finished the season with the team recording victories in 12 of his last 20 starts.
Trachsel would remain in the Mets starting rotation for five more seasons. Registering double digit wins in all except his injury plagued 2005 campaign. Steve even lead the staff in wins with 16 during 2003. After recovering from discectomy back surgery he rebounded well posting a 15-8 record for 2006. This effort earned him two starts for the Mets in the post-season that would prove to be his last. Steve was superb in Game 3 of the National League Division Series in the Mets defeat of the Los Angeles Dodgers. In an abrupt reversal he lasted only one inning of Game 3 of the N.L. Championship series after being struck on the leg with a line drive off the bat of St. Louis Cardinal, Preston Wilson. It was his last time pitching in a Mets uniform as he signed with the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent on February 14, 2007.
Steve Trachsel signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on November 6, 2009.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Cal Koonce joined the New York Mets when they purchased his contract from the Chicago Cubs on August 2, 1967. He made his Mets debut just four days later at Shea Stadium on August 6th. The right-hander shined in that first season in New York serving as both a reliever and spot starter. Cal had two complete games (one of which was a shutout) and registered a 2.80 ERA. He would perform equally well in 1968, but was moved exclusively to the bullpen for the 1969 campaign. Koonce was a member of the 1969 World Champion Miracle Mets. He had seven saves and a 6-3 record that year. During the World Series itself he was called on to warmup in the bullpen a few times, but never got into a game. Never one to dwell on the negative, Cal was quoted saying, "You can't change the past. You have the present out there, and that's what you aim for." He remained with the Mets until his contract was sold to the Boston Red Sox on June 8, 1970.
After his baseball career Koonce returned to his hometown of Hope Mills and served his community in numerous ways. First as a physical education teacher at South View High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Then later Cal coached the "Fighting Camels" at Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC. He also served as the first general manager for the minor league baseball team the Fayetteville Generals. Cal Koonce was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and after several years fighting the disease passed away on October 28, 1993 at the young age of 52.
I created Cal Koonce's card in the set from an autographed index card (with an incredible World Champions inscription) given to me by my friend, and fellow Mets fan, Jessie on November 6, 2009.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Carl Everett was traded by the Florida Marlins to the New York Mets in exchange for Quilvio Veras on November 29, 1994. The switch-hitting outfielder showed much talent, but proved to be too difficult to manage for the Mets. He was known to enter into altercations with umpires, and became known for his unusual comments. The most famous of which was his denial of the existence of dinoaurs. This earned him the nickname "C-Rex". Everett was traded by the Mets to the Houston Astros for John Hudek on December 22, 1997.
Carl Everett signed his card in the set for my good friend, Stan when the Newark Bears faced the York Revolution on August 8, 2009.
Alberto Castillo was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent on April 15, 1987. He was only 17 years old when he was drafted and spent the majority of his time in the Mets organization with minor league teams. He was a fine defensive catcher that struggled at the plate. "If I start to hit the ball," Castillo once said with a smile, "I'll be a millionare." He appeared in a total of 92 games for New York during parts of four seasons. Alberto left the Mets when he signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies on November 5, 1988.
Alberto Castillo signed his card in the set for my good friend, Stan when the Newark Bears faced the York Revolution on August 8, 2009.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Alfred "Butch" Benton was selected by the New York Mets in the first round (6th overall pick) of the 1975 amateur draft. He made his major league debut with the Mets at Shea Stadium on September 14, 1978 as a pinch-hitter. Butch would only appear in four games that first season. It was not until the 1980 season that he would return to New York. This time Benton struggled at the plate while entering 12 games producing just one hit in 21 at-bats for a .041 batting average. On April 6, 1981 he was sent to the Chicago Cubs as a part of a conditional deal.
Butch Benton signed his card in the set from a private signing held by Major League Alumni Marketing on October 24, 2009.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Wally Backman was selected by the New York Mets in the first round (16th overall) of the free agent draft on June 7, 1977. He made his major league debut as a Met on September 2, 1980. Wally was a valuable bench player for his first three seasons until he became the Mets' starting second baseman in 1984. Backman was a member of the 1986 World Champion Mets. At that point he became a part of the second base platoon with Tim Teufel, and provided additional quickness to a very potent lineup. Wally remained with the Mets until he was traded with Mike Santiago to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Toby Nivens, Steve Gasser, and Jeff Bumgarner on December 7, 1988. None of the other players in the deal would ever reach the major leagues.
After his active playing career Wally became a baseball manager. His first assignment was the South Georgia Peanuts in the independent South Coast League.
Wally Backman signed his card in the set for my friend Robb (fellow Mets fan and autograph collector) at a Joliet Jackhammers game during the 2009 season.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Donn Clendenon was traded by the Montreal Expos to the New York Mets in exchange for Kevin Collins, Steve Renko, Bill Carden (minors) and Dave Colon (minors) on June 15, 1969. He was obtained to provide a hitter to drive in runs from the middle of the batting order. Donn did not disappoint. He saved his best for the 1969 World Series where he slugged three home runs, with each one a game difference maker. Clendenon was rewarded by being named the Most Valuable Player of that series, and becoming a member of the World Champion Miracle Mets.
After retiring from baseball in 1972, Clendenon earned a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University. He recounted the 1969 season in his book, Miracle In New York, in which he also talked about growing up in Atlanta, earning his law degree and battling drug addiction as he neared his 50th birthday. He eventually entered a drug rehabilitation facility in Ogden, Utah, and during a physical examination in connection with his treatment, he learned he had leukemia. That prompted his move to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he practiced law and became a certified addiction counselor. Donn Clendenon passed away in Sioux Falls on September 17, 2005 at the age of 70.
I converted an autographed index card I purchased from an Ebay seller into Donn Clendenon's card in the set on November 2, 2009.
Art Shamsky joined the New York Mets when he was traded from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Bob Johnson on November 8, 1967. He became part of a right field platoon with Ron Swoboda when he joined the club. Art was a member of the 1969 World Champion Miracle Mets. Shamsky described that special team perfectly in an interview with Mets Fans Forever, "Now, the thing I think that really is important here is to understand that this was a team that got help every night from a different person basically. It really was the epitome of a team victory in a sense because, if you look at the box scores, it wasn't just one person, although guys were having some great years." Art remained with the Mets until he was traded with Jim Bibby, Rich Folkers and Charlie Hudson to the St. Louis Cardinals for Jim Beauchamp, Chip Coulter, Harry Parker and Chuck Taylor on October 18, 1971.
The popular Shamsky remained very active after his baseball career ended. He maintains his own website, has written a successful book, and runs Bravo Properties in South Orange, NJ. Art was reintroduced to a whole new generation when the television sit-com, "Everybody Loves Raymond" featured an english bulldog "Shamsky" named after the former Met in a 1999 episode.
I converted an autographed index card I purchased from an Ebay seller into Art Shamsky's card in the set on November 2, 2009.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Ken Boswell was selected by the New York Mets in the fourth round of the free agent draft on June 8, 1965. He made his major league debut with the Mets on September 18, 1967 in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Shea Stadium. Ken was a member of the 1969 World Champion Miracle Mets. Playing a big part in that season hitting at a .422 average during the Mets stretch drive to win the pennant. Then leading the Mets team with five RBIs (including two home runs) facing the Atlanta Braves in the National League Playoffs. Boswell spoke of his new found acclaim in a Sports Illustrated article on October 27, 1969, "After I woke up this morning I went down into the street and some people were saying, 'There goes Ken Boswell.' When I get home to Austin they are going to have a Welcome Home Ken Boswell Parade. I hope they mean me and not some other Ken Boswell."
Boswell was still with the Mets when they returned to the World Series as the National League Champion in 1973. He was traded to the Houston Astros in exchange for Bob Gallagher on October 29, 1974.
Ken Boswell signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on June 9, 2009.
Gary Gentry was selected by the New York Mets in the third round of the free agent draft on June 6. 1967. He made his major league debut on April 10, 1969 with a victory against the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium. Gentry continued to play a crucial part of that magical season. He threw a complete-game four-hit shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals on September 24th to clinch the division and put the Mets into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. As the starting pitcher of Game 3 he had the honor of throwing the first World Series' pitch at Shea Stadium. Gary held the Baltimore Orioles scoreless for 6-2/3 innings before handing the ball over to a fellow rookie fireballer, Nolan Ryan. The club would win that game and the next two to make Gary Gentry a member of the 1969 World Champion Miracle Mets. "You looked around and you saw the team and there was never a thought that we couldn't win." Gentry recalled at a tribute to the team at Citi Field in 2009.
An elbow injury caused Gary to lose some of his effectiveness. He was traded by the Mets with Danny Frisella to the Atlanta Braves for Felix Millan and George Stone on November 1, 1972. Only to return to the organization when he was convinced to sign a minor league contract with the Mets on May 29, 1975. Gentry chose to retire about a month later on June 19th.
I purchased this signed index card from the legendary autograph guy, Jack Smalling and converted it into Gary Gentry's card in the set in January 2009. Jack's website is www.baseballaddresses.com