Sunday, January 31, 2010


Dan Schatzeder joined the New York Mets when he was traded from the Houston Astros in exchange for Steve LaRose and Nicky Davis on September 10, 1990. The left-handed reliever was brought in as the Mets were chasing the Pittsburgh Pirates for the National League Eastern division title. Dan made six appearances before the close of the 1990 season. A season that saw New York fall short of the Bucs in the final standings and finish in second place. Schatzeder, who had won a World Series as a member of the Minnesota Twins in 1987, was exactly as hoped for. He did not surrender a single run in his 5.1 innings of work and ended with a perfect 0.00 ERA for his Mets' career. "I enjoyed my short time with the Mets." Dan told me, "Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre was awesome. The bullpen was fun with (Bob) Ojeda and (John) Franco cracking me up and (Alejandro) Pena endlessly flicking sunflower seeds. I remember the disappointment of losing 6 of 8 at home against the lowly Phillies and Expos in September to knock us out of the race."

Schatzeder filed for free agency and signed with the Kansas City Royals on December 4, 1990. He recalled, "I tried to resign with the Mets, but their offer was quite low so it was time for me to move on." After his baseball career Dan became a physical education teacher at Waubonsie High School in Aurora, Illinois.

Dan Schatzeder signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to the school on January 27, 2010.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Tom Edens was traded by the Kansas City Royals to the New York Mets on April 1, 1984 in exchange for Tucker Ashford. The right-hander had been selected by the Royals in the 14th round of the 1983 amateur draft and was assigned to the minors when joining the Mets. He pitched his way to Triple-A Tidewater in 1986. When the Mets found themselves in dire need of starting pitchers due to a rash of injuries midway through the 1987 season they turned to the Tides staff. "I knew they needed help," Edens said, "and I got the idea it might be me when I was asked to pitch a day early. In the first four innings, I didn't allow any runs, and we were ahead... My manager, Mike Cubbage, got me aside in one corner of the dugout and said: 'Do you want to go back out there and get the win here? Or do you want to come out now and pitch Tuesday in Los Angeles?' "I said I wanted to do both, but he made me an offer that I couldn't refuse."

So on June 2, 1987 he made his major league debut at Dodger Stadium. Tom would leave after five innings of work with the score tied 3-3. The game would go to Los Angeles in the final innings with veteran reliever, Jesse Orossco taking the loss in an eventual 3-6 final score. The rookie had not pitched poorly, but was not gaining support from the Mets management. On June 7th, The New York Times printed an article stating that the legendary Tom Seaver was exploring the idea of returning to New York due to the desperate situation of injuries to the Mets' staff. "Is Tommy Seaver better than (John) Mitchell or Edens right now, that's the question I had to answer," Manager Davey Johnson said, referring to the pitchers of that day's double-header. "My judgement is that he's better than those two kids. I think he'll do very well. Two or three weeks from now I think that everybody will find out that Tommy Seaver can still pitch." Edens would only last three innings in his start that day at Shea Stadium. He allowed three runs and uncorked two wild pitches. He was optioned back to Tidewater on June 11th. The same day that the Hall of Famer, Seaver threw in an exhibition game that saw the New York Mets facing the Tidewater Tides. Seaver lasted two innings and surrendered eight runs. The great experiment that Davey Johnson had boasted about was over. "Tom Terrific" clearly stated, "I've used up all the competitive pitches in my arm."

Edens was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies with Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell in exchange for Juan Samuel on June 18, 1987. Tom would pitch in the majors until 1995.

Tom Edens signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 29, 2010.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Rich Sauveur signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on January 22, 1991. It had been two years since he pitched in four games at the major league level with the Montreal Expos. The case was the same for Rich in the Mets organization when he began his season at Triple-A Tidewater. When New York lost John Franco to injury they promoted Sauveur who made his Mets' debut on June 5, 1991. The left-handed reliever appeared in six games, but only logged a total of 3-1/3 innings of work. His off-speed repertoire did not serve him near as effectively as it had in the minor leagues. So his outing on June 19th, surrendering three hits in a third of an inning at Shea Stadium, was his last as a Met. Rich finished the season with the Tides and was granted free agency on January 23, 1992.

Sauveur was a member of the Cincinnati Reds organization when he played in Indianapolis. The Triple-A Indians captured the American Association Championship in 1994. Rich was perhaps that club's best option from the bullpen during the run. Whenever he was not on the mound showcasing his fine curveball he could often be found in the local baseball card shops building his collection. "Baseball has been everything that I thought it would be." Rich was quoted in 1998, while still a member of the Indians, "I mean, I can't say I stayed up there. But I have been up there. And they can't take that away".

After his playing career Rich became a pitching coach in 2002. Beginning as a player/coach with the Brockton Rox of the Independent Can-Am League. He worked his way to the Triple-A minor league level with the Pawtucket Red Sox. He has been able to use his vast experience with various organizations to his advantage. "Most of all, I try to be a teacher." Sauveur noted, "I've tried to take the best of coaching from everyone that I have worked with."

Rich Sauveur signed his card in the set for me before the game on May 29, 2009. When the Pawtucket Red Sox faced the Indianapolis Indians at Victory Field.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Andy Hassler joined the New York Mets when they purchased his contract from the Boston Red Sox on June 15, 1979. He had started the season poorly with the Red Sox. Going 1-2 with a 8.80 ERA in eight games. The Mets were more than happy to take a chance on the left-handed reliever who had enjoyed strong success earlier in his career. So they brought him in at the mid-season trading deadline the same day the club also added the right-handed Doc Ellis in a separate trade.

Hassler made 29 appearances, eight of which were as the starting pitcher with New York in 1979. His longest outing of that year was a complete game performance in Philadelphia on July 4th. Andy went eight innings allowing only a single run, but the Phillies pitching star, Steve Carlton was a touch better and the Mets fell 0-1. His 4-5 record and 3.70 ERA (for a Mets club that lost 99 games) was enough to convince the Pittsburgh Pirates to sign him as a free agent on November 21, 1979. Andy would resurface in 1985 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals team that edged out the New York Mets by three games to claim the National League East division and an eventual World Series berth. Hassler however was not included on any of the post season rosters.

Andy Hassler signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on December 31, 2008.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Jeff Musselman came to the New York Mets when he was traded along with Mike Brady by the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for the very popular Mookie Wilson on August 1, 1989. The Mets were in the beginnings of a rebuilding process and were honoring a trade request made by the veteran Wilson. In doing so they brought a sorely needed left-handed pitcher to the roster. "I like what I've seen so far." Mets' pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre would say days after the trade, "He's probably better suited for the role we've been looking to fill - that of a leadoff lefty in the bullpen and maybe spot starter - than anyone in awhile. He'll fill a void nicely."

Musselman had more to prove than just his ability to get hitters out when he found his new home with the Mets. In April of 1989, with the permission of the Blue Jays, he had admitted himself into a treatment center for alcohol dependency. A month later he rejoined his team with a new view on life. "Alcoholism is a disease that tells you you do not have a disease," Jeff explained, "and it's so important, obviously, that I remember that I do have it. But the feeling I have now is a wonderful one of relief." Musselman believes that his problems went as far back as his days pitching for Harvard University while he was earning a degree in Economics. "I relied upon it to get me through everything, The alcoholic is blinded," Musselman said, "My drinking was a symptom of other things, fear, anxiety, anger, loneliness." Jeff credits his Christian faith as instrumental in allowing him to continue a life of sobriety today.

During his two years with the Mets his pitching would meet with mixed results. Used exclusively from the bullpen, he made 20 appearances in the final two months of 1989. Posting a record of 3-2 with a 3.08 ERA. The next season was not nearly as kind. After a rough start to the 1990 campaign he was sent to Triple-A Norfolk. He remained in the Tides' starting rotation until being recalled in September. The Mets granted Musselman free agency on December 20, 1990.

It was while pitching with the Tacoma Rainers two years later that his life would encounter another setback. An unexplained heart attack unrelated to his earlier drinking came within moments of ending his life at the age of 29. A blood clot in his right coronary artery was successfully dissolved, but ended his playing career.

Jeff was able to find a way to remain around the game. He became a Vice President with the Scott Boras Corporation taking advantage of both his education and life experiences. In addition to working with Boras in the negotiation of sports contracts he also provides counseling for athletes with alcohol problems. "It's a gift that I like to pass on," Musselman said.

Jeff Musselman signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to the Boras Corporation office on January 26, 2010.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Luis Alvarado became a member of the New York Mets when the Detroit Tigers sold his contract to them on February 25, 1977. He started that season with the Mets and made a single game appearance for them on April 13th. He entered the contest that day at Shea Stadium as part of a double-switch substitution. New York would sell his contract back to the Tigers fourteen days later on April 27, 1977.

His story as a "Moonlight Graham Met" is told here.

After his playing career Luis owned a grocery store in his hometown, He continued to have a love for the game and was known to play wiffle ball in the street with the local children. Luis Alvarado passed away in Lajas, Puerto Rico on March 20, 2001 at the age of 52.

I created Luis Alvarado's card in the set from an autographed index card (with this awesome inscription) purchased from the legendary autograph guy, Jack Smalling on January 26, 2010.

Monday, January 25, 2010

#416) D.J. DOZIER

D.J. Dozier signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on March 26, 1990. In a very unusual situation the extremely gifted athlete was also a member of the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League. He had actually been drafted first by the Detroit Tigers out of Kempsville High School, but elected to attend Penn State University (where he won a National Championship) and pursue his football career before professional baseball. D.J.’s time with the Vikings seemed to be at an end and he decided to give baseball a chance again. Once in the Mets organization he moved through the minor leagues while still playing each winter with the NFL Detroit Lions. The “double-duty” was quite impressive, but was being done by fellow football/baseball stars Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders during that same time.
Dozier was promoted to the New York Mets and made his major league debut facing the Reds in Cincinnati on May 6, 1992. It would be one of only 26 appearances he would have for the Mets during the 1992 season. D.J. did not duplicate the same hitting success at the major league level that he had known in the minor leagues. So when injured outfielder, Vince Coleman returned from the disabled list on May 29th, the Mets returned Dozier to Triple-A Tidewater where he finished the season. The left fielder was traded along with Raul Casanova and Wally Whitehurst to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Tony Fernandez on October 26, 1992. He would not reach the major leagues again and chose to leave the sport in 1994. "I thought I'd play a lot longer than I did," Dozier told the PSU Collegian in 1996, "The reason I retired was not because of baseball, but because God told me to retire." The life-long Christian felt he was being given a higher calling.

D.J. spent the first two years after his retirement from professional athletics serving as a coach for Rock Academy in Virginia Beach before joining a ministry from his new home in Orlando, Florida. Dozier would travel the world for the next five years with various ministries, including Benny Hinn’s Miracle Crusades. He also entered the financial services industry and specialized in commercial real estate and venture capital projects. In March of 2006, Dozier started a business partnership with fellow financial advisor Tyler Green called Cambridge Sports Consultants. They specialized in transitioning retired athletes into other professions. D.J. now works with Alliance Marketing Group and serves as their CEO and Co-President.

"I walked away in the world's view prematurely, but just in time for what God wanted me to do," Dozier said. "I can honestly say I don't miss it. I'm content with what happened. When God moves on out of sport and into the ministry, I follow. Wherever He is, I want to be."

D.J. Dozier signed his card in the set for me through a private signing held by Kevin Heninger in Virginia Beach on April 6, 2012.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Chris Cannizzaro was one of the original 1962 Mets when he was drafted from the St. Louis Cardinals on October 10, 1961. He was a superb defensive catcher and had his best season with the bat during the first year of Shea Stadium. Chris registered a .311 batting average for the 1964 season. Accomplishing that without hitting a single home run. Actually, he would go his entire Mets career (581 at-bats) never managing that feat. Cannizzaro's greatest defensive play would come at Shea in 1965. He was in the middle of a triple play against the Houston Astros on April 15th. With runners at first and third, Astros' batter Jimmy Wynn hit a ball to right field. Johnny Lewis made the catch and threw to the plate as the runner tagged up from third base. Chris grabbed the one bounce throw and made the tag at the plate for the second out. He would then fire a bullet to Mets' shortstop Roy McMillan who was able to tag the Astros' runner off first base to complete the rare feat.

Cannizzaro's contract was sold to the New York Yankees on December 7, 1966. He became one of the original 1969 San Diego Padres when he was selected in that team's expansion draft. Chris was even the Padres first All-Star representative when he was selected to represent the club during it's inaugural year. After his playing career ended he became a major league coach with the Atlanta Braves (1976-78) and the manager of the Class A Cal State League team for the California Angels (1979-82). He took the position of Assistant Coach for the University of San Diego Toreros baseball team at the start of the 2000 season, and was promoted to their Director of Baseball Operations in 2006.

Chris Cannizzaro signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on November 5, 2008.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Elliott Maddox was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent on November 30, 1977. The New Jersey native had been playing with the crosstown New York Yankees in 1975 when he suffered a severe knee injury. Surgeries to that knee had limited his once promising career. Back in 1971, when he was traded to the Washington Senators the legendary Ted Williams, then the club's manager, had projected him as a future batting champion. With the Mets it was a struggle for Maddox to stay healthy. In each of his first two seasons he spent a month on the disabled list with hamstring injuries. No longer a fleet-footed outfielder, Elliott was used almost exclusively at third base during his final season in New York. On February 5, 1981, Maddox was working out at Shea Stadium when he was summoned into the office of General Manager, Frank Cashen. He was informed that the Mets were placing him on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release. "I'm still in shock." is what Elliott would tell the New York Times the next day.

After his release by the Mets he joined the Yankees at their spring training camp in Florida. It was upon learning that he would not make the roster there that Elliott Maddox retired from baseball. Following that he worked on Wall Street for seven years as an investment banker, returned to the Yankees in 1990 as a roving coach for two years, and then moved to Florida in August of 1991. There, he became a clinical social worker working with at-risk adolescents. It was through this experience that he found his current calling as a youth baseball coach.

Elliott attended the University of Michigan and while in Ann Arbor, took Judaic Studies courses. He is now an ardent Zionist who has even traveled to Israel to coach youth camps there.

Maddox is perhaps most famous in Shea Stadium history for the lawsuit that resulted from his injury while with the Yankees. During renovations to Yankee Stadium they were sharing the ballpark with our Mets. So it was at Shea his injury occurred while playing on wet field conditions. A $12 million lawsuit followed, but was dismissed when it was ruled the outfielder had assumed the risk by choosing to play.

Elliott Maddox signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 22, 2010.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Nino Espinosa was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent on September 30, 1970. While in the minor leagues he was part of the Victoria Mets of the Texas League. The club completed a three-game sweep of their playoff series with El Paso to win the league championship on September 7, 1974. That day the Mets purchased his contract and he boarded a plane, along with Victoria teammate, Brock Pemberton to New York. The 21 year-old would make his major league debut at Shea Stadium on September 13th facing the Chicago Cubs. Nino was the starting pitcher and went eight innings allowing three runs in a 3-4 loss. Espinosa would only make it into one more game to finish the season and was returned to the minors at the start of the 1975 season.

The right-hander pitched for the Triple-A Tidewater Tides in 1975. A team that won 22 of their last 33 games to finish the regular season in a tie with the Rochester Red Wings. Nino threw a four-hitter in the one-game playoff that gave his club the International League Championship. At the conclusion of that post-season run he received another September promotion to New York. This time Espinosa would remain in the major leagues and became a solid member of the Mets starting rotation. Nino lead the team in both wins and complete games during both the 1977 and 1978 campaigns. He was often a victim of the long-ball and surrendered a famous one on July 26, 1978. Cincinnati Reds catcher, and future Hall of Famer, Johnny Bench hit his 300th career home-run off Espinosa at Shea Stadium during a 12-3 Mets' blow-out victory.

Espinosa became a true fan favorite who enjoyed interacting with the Shea Stadium faithful during pre-game warm-ups. He was also known for his quick smile and distinctive large hair. At times it seemed his afro would barely fit within his ball cap. Nino was traded by the Mets to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Richie Hebner and Jose Moreno on March 27, 1979. After pitching with the Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays he would return to his hometown, Villa Altagracia of the Dominican Republic in 1981. Espinosa was the victim of a heart attack and passed away there on December 24, 1987 at the young age of 34.

I created Nino Espinosa's card in the set from an autographed index card purchased from Bob Dowen on November 16, 2009.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Mark Johnson joined the New York Mets when he signed as a free agent on February 22, 2000. The former starting quarterback for Dartmouth College had been playing in Japan with the Hanshin Tigers in order to stay in the game the previous season. While in New York the natural first baseman found himself also serving as a pinch-hitter and reserve outfielder. To further complicate matters he was also often splitting time between the Triple-A Norfolk Tides and the Mets. Mark's batting average of .407 in pinch-hitting situations (11 for 27) lead all the major leagues during the 2001 season. "Baseball's a game of timing." Johnson explained, "If you are not getting consistent at-bats, it's tough to keep your timing. You're basically just going up there and trying to put the ball in play." He was able to do more than just make contact in a reserve role. His two-run pinch-hit home run on April 24, 2002 was a game winner facing the St. Louis Cardinals, and one of six total he hit that season in limited duty.

Mets fans saw more of Johnson during the winter of 2002 than they might have at Shea Stadium. Although without a contract to return for the season, Mark participated in many of the charity functions the Mets organized. A free agent at the time and searching for other opportunities he remained loyal to New York. "I think it kind of gave away my hand as far as my intentions," Johnson said, "but, I think I made it clear all along that I wanted to stay."

He would start the season with the Mets in 2002, and struggle to find time at first base with Mo Vaughn receiving the bulk of the playing time. His intense pre-game drills were never overlooked by Manager Bobby Valentine when he stated, "No one works harder than Mark." He ended the season with the Norfolk Tides and retired from baseball after that. "It just seemed like the right time." Johnson explained, "I wanted to embark on the second part of my life, and wanted to do it while I was still young."

After baseball Mark, who had graduated with a degree in psychology from Dartmouth, became a Vice President and Senior Institutional Sale Trader at Sanford Bernstein & Company in New York.

Mark Johnson signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home in January 2009.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Anderson Hernandez was traded from the Detroit Tigers to the New York Mets in exchange for Vance Wilson on January 6, 2005. The slick-fielding shortstop was brought over to provide a future replacement for Kaz Matsui at the second base position. That happened sooner than expected when Anderson was promoted from the minors, and made his major league debut at Shea Stadium on September 18, 2005. Hernandez was inserted as the starting second baseman that day. Unfortunately he would go hitless in his first 14 at-bats and not get a hit until the final game of the season. So it was not surprising that Anderson found himself just hoping to make the major league club during 2006 spring training camp. Due to the absence of many Mets players to the World Baseball Classic tournament he was finding ample playing time. Most of which was at shortstop for the missing José Reyes. "I don't look at where he plays so much as how he handles himself," Manager Willie Randolph said. "And, I like his approach." A good spring coupled with a knee injury to Kaz Matsui found the young switch-hitter not only on the roster, but the starting second baseman on Opening Day 2006. "Wherever they want me to play, I'll go." Hernandez said, "I just want to play." During the start of the season he continued to provide spectacular defense which even earned him the nickname "Air Hern" after an exceptionally aerobatic play. Still the hitting woes continued to haunt him. So when Matsui was ready to return, the Mets sent Anderson, who was suffering from a bulging disk in his lower back, to the disabled list on April 20, 2006.

Hernandez served most of the next two years with the Triple-A team in New Orleans, but did see a pair of brief call-ups along the way. In each case his lack of a consistent or powerful bat limited his opportunity to stick around. His first career home-run in the major leagues came at Shea Stadium on September 19, 2006. Ironically that swing, off Florida Marlins pitcher Scott Olsen, became the 6,000th regular season home-run hit in New York Mets history. Anderson was given to the Washington Nationals as the player to be named to complete the trade for Luis Ayala on August 17, 2008.

Anderson Hernandez signed his card in the set, for my friend Tom, during Washington Nationals Spring Training camp (Viera, Florida) in February 2009.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Mike Jorgensen was selected by the New York Mets in the 4th round of the amateur draft on June 7, 1966. A graduate of Francis Lewis High School in Queens, he would make his major league debut, at the age of 20, with the Mets on September 10, 1968. The kid nicknamed "Spider" by his friends at Public School 46 in Bayside, NY was known as a legend on the schoolyard. Mike could often be found returning there to hone his skills in everything from basketball to stickball since his family lived in the neighborhood. After his initial roster expansion call-up, Jorgensen did not reach the majors again until the 1970 season. The Mets had both Ed Kranepool and Donn Clendenon as first base options at that time. So the superb fielding Jorgensen could offer was overshadowed, and he was traded along with Tim Foli and Ken Singleton to the Montreal Expos in exchange for Rusty Staub on April 6, 1972.

Mike would become the regular first baseman for the Expos and win a Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 1973. While playing for the Texas Rangers on March 28, 1979 he was struck in the head by a pitch from Boston Red Sox pitcher, Andy Hassler. The pitch was behind him, and Jorgensen ducked right into it. Four days later he entered the hospital, complaining of headaches. He and his wife and daughter were watching The Bad News Bears in his hospital room when he suddenly passed out and went into convulsions. He had a blood clot on the brain, and if oxygen hadn't been administered immediately Mike would have joined Ray Chapman as the only major-leaguers to die as a result of being hit by a pitch.

Jorgensen returned to the New York Mets when he was given as the player to be named later in a deal that sent Ed Lynch to the Rangers for Willie Montanez on August 12, 1979. During the first ever fireworks night in Shea Stadium history on July 4, 1980, Mike would take exception at a beanball pitch thrown at his head by Expos' rookie pitcher, Bill Gullickson. Jorgensen pointed his bat at the mound in defiance, and teammate John Stearns (not even in the lineup for the second game of this double-header) charged the mound from the dugout. A full scale melee ensued and in an odd way created a sense of team unity that had been lacking with the club. "Jorgy" would leave the Mets when his contract was sold to the Atlanta Braves on June 15, 1983.

I created Mike Jorgensen's card in the set from an autographed index card purchased from Bob Dowen on November 16, 2009.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Dennis Musgraves was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent on June 20, 1964. He was a College All-American when the Mets signed him to a considerable bonus. After a short and successful trip through the minor league system, Dennis made his major league debut at Shea Stadium on July 9, 1965. He would throw three innings of scoreless relief in a 2-6 loss to the Houston Astros. Three more appearances from the bullpen without allowing a run earned him the first starting assignment of his young major league career. Musgraves went seven innings facing the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 29th. The right-hander from Indianapolis, Indiana would only allow one run before being lifted for pinch-hitter, Joe Christopher in a 0-1 game. The Mets would eventually lose the game 1-2 in extra-innings. Dennis found he has lost much more.

The next morning Musgraves woke with a swollen elbow. He was officially placed on the disabled list on August 9, 1965. Two surgeries on the elbow followed and Dennis was able to resume pitching after those. He was never able to advance beyond the minor leagues and was finally given his release in 1972. Making those five games in 1965 the total of his major league career, and giving him an astounding 0.56 lifetime ERA.

Dennis told writer Mark Simon, in his article for Inside Pitch Magazine (October 2004), that he never was given an explanation as to why he wasn't provided a second chance at the major league level. "I'd like to know myself why I didn't get back. I thought I was a better pitcher after the operation as far as knowing how to pitch. I had people in high places behind me the first time around. The second time around, there were different people in charge. I guess back then you had to be an extraordinary pitcher if you had a sore arm."

After retiring from baseball Musgraves returned to finish his degree at the University of Missouri and upon graduation went into the insurance business for the next 24 years.

Dennis Musgraves signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on November 3, 2008.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Scott Strickland was traded with Matt Watson and Phillip Seibel by the Montreal Expos to the New York Mets on April 5, 2002 in exchange for Bruce Chen, Dickie Gonzalez, and Luis Figueroa. He would make his Mets debut the next day facing the Braves in Atlanta. The hard-throwing reliever was acquired to set-up the team's closer, Armando Benitez. Scott would pitch well in 2002. Mets' General Manager, Steve Phillips was quoted after resigning Strickland for the 2003 season, "We feel that our bullpen is one of the deepest in the National League and Scott was a key contributor last season." That depth would be quickly tested as Strickland suffered a severe injury only 36 games into the year. The injury would require Tommy John surgery and sideline him for most of the next two years. Scott made his reappearance with the Mets during spring training of 2005. He was once again auditioning to become the set-up man in the bullpen. This time for new closer, Braden Looper. Strickland still had his sights on the more coveted role of finishing games. "That was the plan when (my career) started. It still is." Scott said, "I like being on the mound at the end — the last one standing." The Mets would keep Strickland back in Florida with the St. Lucie minor league team when they broke camp and headed north. After requesting the chance to pitch elsewhere, if not brought to the major league club, he was released by the Mets on May 22, 2005.

Scott was able to return with the Houston Astros during the 2005 season, but has pitched for only Triple-A baseball teams since. He collected 32 saves in 34 opportunities with the Albuquerque Isotopes during the 2009 season, and will be given the chance to make the Florida Marlins in 2010.

Scott Strickland signed his card in the set for my friend, Sam during Los Angeles Dodgers spring training camp in Glendale, Arizona on February 20, 2009.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Kelvin Torve was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent on December 13, 1989. The longtime minor leaguer had finally gotten his major league debut with the Minnesota Twins the year before, but his Mets debut was as memorable. Kelvin was a September call up in 1990, "Nothing out of the ordinary. I just got there and saw a locker with my uni it it, No. 24." Torve would recall to Mets By The Numbers, "I didn't give a second thought to it. I don't know who assigned the number, it might have been Charlie Samuels but I'm not sure. I guess they didn't give it much thought either." Problem was that the "24" jersey had not been worn by another Mets player since it graced the back of the legendary Willie Mays almost 20 years earlier. Owner Joan Payson had promised the "Say Hey Kid" that it would not be worn again, but the club had never officially retired it. Public outcry by the Shea Stadium faithful about the oversight became great. After the homestand, Kelvin was told of the mistake and issued another jersey number. This time a much safer No. 39. It was later brought to Torve's attention that he had hit better than .500 during the games while wearing "24". He replied, "Hopefully I did OK in it, because I know Willie Mays did it proud as well."

After a second September call up, Kelvin was released by the Mets on December 13, 1991. He chose to play the next two seasons with the Orix Blue Wave of the Japanese professional baseball league. One of his teammates there was a rookie named Ichiro Suzuki.

Today he works as a salesman for a packaging company and coaches at Carolinas Baseball Center (CBC) in Davidson, North Carolina.

Kelvin Torve signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 14, 2010.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Thomas Steven "Tucker" Ashford was traded by the New York Yankees to the New York Mets in exchange for Felix Perdomo and Steve Ray on April 18, 1983. Tucker had spent all of the 1982 season with Triple-A Columbus and found it as no surprise that his first experience with the Mets began with the Norfolk Tides. That would not last too long as the team was struggling in New York. So on May 5th, Ashford flew from Norfolk to LaGuardia with Tides' teammate, Darryl Strawberry. He would make his Mets' debut at Shea Stadium starting alongside the famous slugger on May 6, 1983. The club tried to pass off Ashford and Strawberry as comparable that first night, telling the reporters that each was a young talent with a bright Mets future. However, Tucker would only appear in 35 games that lone season. One of which the second/third baseman appeared defensively as the "emergency" catcher in the top of the ninth inning during a game facing Cincinnati on July 13, 1983. Relief pitcher, Doug Sisk would set the Reds down in order with Ashford behind the plate. Tucker's playing career with the Mets ended when he was traded to the Kansas City Royals for Tom Edens on April 1, 1984.

He later returned to the Mets organization as a successful minor league manager. Tucker remained with them for four seasons until offering his resignation in October 1988. Ashford chose to join his father's meat business in Covington, Kentucky. "The main factor is travel and being away from my family," he said, "Last year I was away from home from March to the first of June. It was too much of a separation."

Tucker Ashford signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 28, 2009.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Mike Vail was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals with Jack Heidemann to the New York Mets in exchange for Ted Martinez on December 11, 1974. After starting the season tearing up pitching in the International League (He would be named IL Player of the Year) the Mets brought Vail to New York and he made his major league debut on August 18, 1975. He got a hit in his first career at-bat and continued to establish a 23 game hitting streak. It was then a Mets team record and a major league record for a rookie. "I can see!" Vail explained to Sports Illustrated, "They told me it was a lot easier to hit in the majors because of the great lighting. But I never dreamed that you could see this well. You can see the spin on the curveball and everything."

Vail hit a home run off Pittsburgh Pirates, John Candelaria, in his first at-bat at Shea Stadium. He finished the season with a .302 batting average and appeared to be on his way to becoming the future everyday left-fielder for the Mets. During the winter following his rookie season Mike broke his foot while playing basketball. It forced him to miss the start of the 1976 season and hampered his performance the whole year. Vail was selected off waivers during spring training of 1978 and ultimately had the Mets sell his contract to the Cleveland Indians on March 26th.

Mike Vail signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on November 25, 2008.

Monday, January 11, 2010


The New York Mets signed Argenis Reyes as a free agent on November 30, 2007. He had previously spent six years in the Cleveland Indians minor league system. An injury to second baseman, Luis Castillo provided the opportunity he needed to reach New York after starting the season in Triple-A New Orleans. Argenis was added to the Mets roster on July 3, 2008 and made his long awaited major league debut that same day. He entered the game as a defensive replacement for Damion Easley in the late innings of a 11-1 victory over the Cardinals in St. Louis.

The switch-hitter collected his first major league hit at Shea Stadium on July 8th facing the San Francisco Giants. Then hit his first career home run, a 371 foot solo shot to right field, off Brad Thompson of the Cardinals on July 25th.

Argenis is not related to teammate Jose Reyes although they do have an extended history. "I've known him for a long time, since we were kids," Jose would tell the New York Daily News, "We played Little League baseball together. We worked out together in the winter. We live close in the Dominican. I feel comfortable with him and you can tell he is comfortable here." Exceptional defensive skills was something the pair also shared. Although his lack of offense would allow Damion Easley to receive the majority of the starts at second base, Argenis did find his way into 49 games during the final season at Shea Stadium. When he did play the 25 year-old rookie was described by the SNY broadcast team as "seemingly in the middle of everything."

"I want to stay here. But it is not my decision," Argenis summed it up, "I just want to keep doing good so I (can) stay." Reyes forced his way on to the roster until August 27th, when the Mets needed to add a pitcher, but was quickly brought back from New Orleans when rosters expanded on September 1st. Argenis even appeared in the final game played at Shea Stadium. He would resign with the Mets in 2009, and then join the Los Angeles Dodgers by signing a minor league contract on January 11, 2010.

Argenis Reyes signed his card in the set for me before a game when the Buffalo Bisons visited the Indianapolis Indians on July 26, 2009.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Rey Ordonez was signed by the New York Mets as an undrafted free agent on February 8, 1994, following a special lottery to determine which team would be offered his services. The promising young shortstop played for the Havana Industriales team and was the second Cuban baseball player in history to defect to the United States. He left the team during the World University Games that were being held in Buffalo, New York that year. After a stint in the minor leagues, Rey made his highly anticipated major league debut with the Mets at Shea Stadium on April 1, 1996. The Mets were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals and future Hall of Famer, Ozzie Smith on Opening Day. Many were comparing the young Ordonez to the "Wizard of Oz" at that time. Rey was an immediate sensation as he pulled off a spectacular relay throw, from his knees, to cut down a Cards runner at the plate. Stunning the hometown crowd and allowing the Mets to complete a 7-6 come-from-behind victory. Mets centerfielder, Lance Johnson was quoted, "Never, ever, ever seen anything like it." Ozzie Smith shrugged at the comparisions and said, "I've heard a lot about this guy, but the thing that determines greatness is time. We'll see."

Ordonez did continue to exhibit a spectacular glove at shortstop (earning him three consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove Awards in 1997-1999), but featured a less than stellar bat at the plate. He was an accomplished bunter and contact hitter. Just possessing little power to his swing. Rey would set a Major League record in 1999 by not committing an error at shortstop in his last 100 games.

On May 29, 2000 at Dodger Stadium, Ordonez was attempting to make a tag at second base and fractured his left arm on the play. He had a metal plate and six screws inserted into the arm. It caused him to miss the remainder of the season and a chance to play in the Subway World Series. Upon his return the next year it seemed the injury was having a continued effect on his once amazing defensive skills. After those began to slip his lack of offensive skills became more glaring. When the boos started at Shea Stadium, he called the Mets fans "stupid" in an newspaper article at the close of the 2002 season.

"Thing is, what they put in the paper was "The fans are stupid," Ordonez said, "What I said was, 'The fans are stupid. I want to win. I play hard.' The next day I told the writer I was sorry. He said, "Rey, it's too late this is New York."

Ordonez was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in exchange for Russ Johnson and Josh Pressley on December 15, 2002. The deal also called for the Mets to pay $4.25 millon of the $6.25 million dollars still owed to Rey for the final year of his contract. Years later when asked by WABC-TV about his time in New York he claimed no regrets and said with a smile, "It's my best city."

I created Rey Ordonez's card in the set from an autographed index card that I purchased from Nick of Baseball Happenings on December 29, 2009.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Vic Darensbourg was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent on July 15, 2004. He had started the season in the Chicago White Sox organization and when acquired was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk. Darensbourg had a record of 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA while throwing 22.2 innings for the Tides. His contract was purchased during the late season roster expansion and he made his Mets debut on September 4, 2004. The left-handed reliever would make five appearances for New York before being granted free agency at the close of the season.

I created Vic Darensbourg's card in the set from an autographed index card that I purchased from Nick of Baseball Happenings on December 29, 2009.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Juan Acevedo was traded along with Arnold Gooch from the Colorado Rockies to the New York Mets in exchange for Bret Saberhagen and David Swanson on July 31, 1995. Four days after the trade Juan was given an MRI to determine what was causing an aching right arm. The Mets feared that they had been dealt damaged goods, but it was determined to be tendinitis which did cut short his 1995 season in the minor leagues. Acevedo did not make it out of spring training the next season. He had fallen victim to a severe hamstring problem that limited his season with Triple-A Norfolk in 1996. His season was ended on July 25th when he fractured his leg from getting struck by a batted baseball. The Tides manager that year was Bobby Valentine who would be promoted to the New York Mets as manager in 1997. Bobby said of Juan, "There's no doubt in my mind that he can be a good major league pitcher." Acevedo agreed it was his time when he stated, " I feel good. I want to not just show Bobby, but I think I have to show a lot more people, because the last few years I haven't done what they projected for me." The result was 25 games (including two starts) that yielded a 3-1 record and a 3.59 ERA. The Mets traded Acevedo to the St. Louis Cardinals for Rigo Beltran on March 29, 1998.

I created Juan Acevedo's card in the set from an autographed index card that I purchased from Nick of Baseball Happenings on December 29, 2009.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Hal Reniff joined the New York Mets when his contract was purchased from the New York Yankees on June 29, 1967. The right-handed reliever was used in middle relief during the 1967 season and established the longest scoreless relief inning streak to begin a Mets career with 21. Reniff's ERA in 43 total innings with the Mets that season was 3.35. So his ERA in the final 22 innings was 6.55. Hal was released by the club on October 3, 1967.

After retiring from baseball he would face personal problems that led to the end of his marriage. In the divorce settlement his estranged wife, Ann Marie Reniff gained possession of the 1961 World Series ring he had won while pitching for the Yankees during his rookie season. She first listed it for sale on Ebay asking $200,000, but it was later purchased at the November 17, 2001 MastroNet auction for $18,975. "I could care less what she does with it," Hal was quoted saying, "You are talking about stuff that happened 40 years ago. What do I care?"

Hal Reniff passed away after a fight with cancer in his hometown of Ontario, California on September 7, 2004. He was 66 years old. Reniff was remembered on March 28, 2006 by Chaffey High School with a permanent display case honoring his athletic career that began there when he played both baseball and basketball.

I created Hal Reniff's card in the set from an autographed index card that I purchased from Bob Dowen on November 16, 2009.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Jim Hickman was selected from the St. Louis Cardinals by the New York Mets in the expansion draft on October 10, 1961. Making him one of the "Original Mets" of 1962. Hickman was the first member of the new club to hit for the cycle when he accomplished the feat facing the Cardinals at the Polo Grounds on August 7, 1963. A bright spot in the teams' early years, Jim also was the first Met to hit three home runs in a single game on September 3, 1965. All three shots coming off pitcher Ray Sadecki of the Cardinals at Sportsmans Park in St. Louis.

Jim also was a part of a pair of Shea Stadium firsts. He became the first Met to draw a walk, and also the first to be hit by a pitch in the park's inaugural game on April 17, 1964. Hickman was traded by the Mets with Ron Hunt to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Tommy Davis and Derrell Griffith on November 29, 1966.

Jim Hickman was one of the very first Mets to sign his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on October 8, 2008.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Ken Sanders was traded to the New York Mets from the California Angels in exchange for Ike Hampton on March 22, 1975. "The Bulldog" had previously saved 31 games in a season and been named the American League Fireman of the Year with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1971. His role in New York was to serve as a set-up man for Skip Lockwood. However, an unfortunate accident would serve as Ken's most memorable moment as a Met.

On August 10, 1975, the Mets were facing the Los Angeles Dodgers at Shea Stadium. Sanders was brought in to pitch the bottom of the eight inning. During his warm up tosses Ken lost a return throw from catcher John Stearns and it struck him directly in the right eye. "I never touched it." Sanders recalls, "It actually knocked me out." The incident is even more remembered because the game's television broadcast was on the air at that very moment. Announcer Lindsey Nelson was reading the out of town scores with the warmup occurring in the background. Even after Ken was struck in the face the scores were continued to be read until Nelson said, "Ken Sanders is hurt. I confess I did not see what happened." The right-hander was unable to enter that game and was forced to the disabled list until September 1st.

Ken would appear in 60 games during his two seasons in New York with a 2-3 record and fine 2.60 ERA. His contract was sold to the Kansas City Royals on September 17, 1976.

Since 1987, Sanders has chaired an annual charity golf tournament in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin called "Swing With The Legends." Ken also has been on the board of directors for both the Major League Baseball Alumni Association and the MACC (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer) Fund. After retiring from baseball he has built a successful career in the real estate business. After selling his firm, Equitable Stefaniak Realty he became the Vice President of Corporate Services for GMAC First Realty in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Ken Sanders signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 7, 2009.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Bob Aspromonte joined the New York Mets when he was traded from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Ron Herbel on December 1, 1970. The man nicknamed "Aspro" was well-liked by the Houston fans, but had gotten on the wrong side of management over an issue in 1968. Bob and fellow teammate, Rusty Staub refused to play on the national day of mourning for Senator Robert Kennedy. It was not long after that he was traded to Atlanta. Aspromonte was in the twilight of his career when he joined New York. "My legs were giving out." Bob recalled, "About the best advice I got when I was having trouble running was to take the subway." Mets' fans held a special night to honor the Brooklyn native and presented him a new automobile. He was released two months later on October 28, 1971. The club had acquired Jim Fregosi to become their future third baseman. By lasting so long, Bob had earned the distinction of being the last active former Brooklyn Dodger to retire from baseball.

Bob's greatest story occurred in 1962. A young little-leaguer from El Dorado, Arkansas was hit by lightning and tragically lost his eye sight. The boy, Bill Bradley was a big Houston 45's fan whose favorite player was Bob Aspromonte. Learning this "Aspro" visited the young Bradley in the Houston hospital where he was about to undergo the first of several eye surgeries by Dr. Louis Girard. Bob brought the youngster an autographed baseball, pair of Colt 45 pajamas, and a transistor radio to listen to the games. Before Aspromonte left a grateful Billy innocently asked his star to hit a home run for him. It is said that Dr. Girard allowed Bradley to attend the game but insisted that he return to the hospital by 10 p.m. to rest for the next day's surgery. Bob had struggled at the plate and was 0-3 heading into his last at-bat in the eighth inning. By that time Bradley was back in his hospital bed and listening to the game on radio. Aspromonte sent a 2-1 pitch over the fence as Houston broadcaster Gene Elster yelled, "This one's for you Bill Bradley!" The youngster returned the following year on two occasions for continued surgeries. Each time he was visited by Bob and asked by young Billy to repeat the home run feat. On each of those occasions Aspromonte responded with no less than Grand Slam home runs! Bradley's eyesight gradually improved and with the help of contact lenses became 20/20 vision. A couple years later, while still pitching in Little League, Billy tossed a no-hitter. He told the El Dorado News-Times that he did it for Aspromonte and sent a copy of the article to his hero.

Ironically three years after his retirement from baseball Bob Aspromonte was the victim of a freak accident. He was nearly blinded in his right eye when a car battery exploded in his face. It took several surgeries, by none other than Dr. Girard, to restore 40 percent of his vision.

Along with his brother Ken Aspromonte, also a former major leaguer, he built a beer distribution business (with an estimated worth of $15 Million dollars in 1981) and owns two Burger King restaurants in the Houston area. Bob sold majority interest in Aspromonte Coors to two local Miller distributors in 2000. "After a period of time, you have to look at what the marketplace is doing." Aspromonte was quoted, "Right now, It's consolidation."

Bob Aspromonte signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on November 29, 2008.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Chuck Taylor was traded with Jim Beauchamp, Harry Parker, and Tim Coulter from the St. Louis Cardinals to the New York Mets in exchange for Art Shamsky, Rich Folkers, Jim Bibby, and Charlie Hudson on October 18, 1971. The veteran reliever did not have a great year with the Mets in 1972, and actually spent a great deal of it in the minors. He posted an uncharacteristic 5.52 ERA in his 20 game appearances in New York. (Taylor had a lifetime 3.07 ERA during eight seasons.) The Milwaukee Brewers selected him off waivers from the Mets on September 13, 1972.

An annual golf tournament, the "Chuck Taylor Scramble" is named in his honor with charitable proceeds going to the Middle Tennessee State University baseball team. Chuck, a native of Murfreesboro, TN, got his start with the hometown Blue Raiders. Several years back he suffered a stroke, but with his wife Joyce, still remains active in community efforts.

Chuck Taylor signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on December 8, 2008.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Eric Valent was drafted from the Cincinnati Reds by the New York Mets in the Minor League Draft on December 15, 2003. Most believed there was little chance that Valent was going to make the major league team before spring training started. "He's a great story," Mets' manager, Art Howe said that spring, "He's impressed everyone on our staff with his work ethic and how he handled himself on and off the field." In fact they were so impressed with what they saw the team traded Roger Cedeno to open a spot in the outfield for the former UCLA star. "I believed in my ability, and was excited when I made the team." Valent remembers. "You never know when you're not on the major league roster, but I knew I belonged."

The California native enjoyed his season in New York, and lists his favorite memory of Shea Stadium as "the great people who worked there that I saw everyday."

On July 29, 2004 he became only the eighth player in New York Mets history to hit for the cycle. "It's cool," Valent said that day. "It's tough to do. You need a lot of luck. It's a nice thing you can say when you're done playing." His four hits and three RBIs facing the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium were a definite highlight. "With my short career?" Eric said in 2012. "Definitely, a career highlight. Wish I could have played longer!"

Eric was granted free agency after the 2005 season and signed with the San Diego Padres on January 12, 2006. Although he would play the 2006 season in Japan.

Valent became a coach in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system after his active playing career ended. Later he was named their Northeast Area Scouting Supervisor. Eric has also remained around the game he loves by serving as an instructor for youth baseball camps. "Baseball has provided me with tremendous opportunities," explains Valent. "And, I want to pass my experiences on to the future young ballplayers."

Eric Valent signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 3, 2012.

Friday, January 1, 2010


The legendary Yogi Berra first came to the New York Mets when he was signed as a free agent on April 27, 1965. The catcher had been a non-playing manager for the New York Yankees during the prior season. He was fired when his club lost the 1964 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Yogi's return to the diamond with the Mets would only last four games (three of which occurred at Shea Stadium) and only two had him defensively behind the plate. Berra's finale as an active player came on May 9th facing the Atlanta Braves in the first game of a Sunday afternoon doubleheader in New York. Although known as a very selective hitter throughout his career, he would strike out three times that afternoon. The end was obvious, and Yogi was granted his release as a player on May 19, 1965.

Yogi would continue his coaching duties with the Mets from 1965-1971. Assisting the great Gil Hodges during the 1969 Miracle Mets World Championship. It was Hodges' untimely death that gave Berra the chance to return as a major league manager. He became the Mets' skipper at the start of the 1972 campaign. Leading the team to the National League Championship by defeating "The Big Red Machine" in an improbable upset of Cincinnati in 1973. During which he added to his classic quotes, "It ain't over, till it's over!" The colorful Berra would remain the manager of the Mets through the 1975 season.

Yogi Berra was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. "You never think of that when you're a kid," Berra said of his induction. "But egads, you gotta be somethin' to get in."

Yogi Berra died of natural causes in Montclair, New Jersey on September 22, 2015 at the age of 90. He was preceded by his beloved wife of 65 years, Carmen who passed away in 2014. 

I created Yogi Berra's card in the set from an autographed notepad sheet. It was signed for a staff member at the Vista International Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when Yogi was a guest there.