Tuesday, March 30, 2010
#44) RON SWOBODA
Ron Swoboda signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on September 5, 1963. He made his major league debut while a member of the Mets at Shea Stadium on April 12, 1965. The 20 year-old outfielder's first manager was the great Casey Stengel. Swoboda would later change his uniform number to "4" in respect of Mr. Stengel when "The Old Perfessor" retired from the game. In only his second major league at-bat Ron hit a tape-measure home run over the back wall of the Mets bullpen at Shea. "The longest ball I ever hit" said Swoboda. His 19 home runs in 1965 would lead the team and established a then season record for a Mets rookie.
Beginning with the 1968 season, Gil Hodges became the New York manager. "Gil was so on top of the game," says Ron. "There was no one better than Hodges. He was interesting, and creative, but in a way a player could understand."
Ron was a member of the 1969 Miracle Mets World Championship team. "If you are lucky enough to get into the World Series, that's a privilege." Swoboda stated, "All I was trying to do was play baseball." His greatest contribution to that victory came in Game 4 of the World Series. In the ninth inning, with two runners on, Swoboda would make a diving, nearly horizontal backhanded grab of a wicked Brooks Robinson liner. If the ball falls in then the Orioles certainly score two runs instead of one. The Mets would go on to win that game in the 10th inning, and finish Baltimore in Game 5. An amazing fielding feat for the man nicknamed "Rocky" because his outfield play was so ragged years earlier. "I joke about it—some people had a career, I had a catch," Ron says. "You could sum it all up with that. But if you get a little deeper, it says that I worked at it."
On March 31, 1971, Swoboda was traded along with Rich Hacker to the Montreal Expos in exchange for Don Hahn. "The Catch" is currently immortalized in metal silhouette at the right field entrance of new Citi Field.
After his playing career, Ron Swoboda has enjoyed a career as a baseball broadcaster. Most recently teaming up with partner Tim Grubbs for Zephyrs games in his newly adopted home town of New Orleans, Louisiana. "Baseball is a beautiful game," Ron explains, "I feel very fortunate to do these games at the Triple-A level. Everybody's striving—they don't have it made. I like that. I relate more to that game. There's not a lot of pomposity or ego on display. It's not adorned with much other than effort and desire. It's cool."
He has also become a historian of New Orleans and is particularly appreciative of Jazz music. Ron received the Thurman Munson Award in recognition of his accomplishments on the field of play and philanthropic efforts on February 3, 2009.
Ron Swoboda signed his card in the set, adding a terrific World Champs inscription, from an autograph request sent to his home on March 18, 2010.