Monday, May 31, 2010
The New York Mets acquired Kane Davis from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Corey Brittan on February 21, 2001. The hard-throwing right-hander was brought in to provide depth to the Mets bullpen. He made his Mets debut on April 3, 2002. Davis gave up a hit and struck out a batter in his 1/3-inning performance at Shea Stadium facing the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Elbow problems that had plagued him the previous season in Colorado had returned. At the beginning of March he received a cortisone shot in his right elbow. It reduced the inflammation, and Davis had some success initially. Kane struck out 24 batters in just 14 innings of work. By his last game on May 12th, his ERA had rose to 7.07 and something was obviously wrong. An MRI determined a tear in the flexor tendon. The team suggested the best course of action was rest. "I'm done with cortisone shots," Davis said. "All they do is mask the pain. The next time it happens, I just want to get it fixed and be done with it."
Season-ending surgery was performed on July 9, 2002. He was granted free agency at the end of the year and returned to pitching with the Iowa Cubs in 2003. Davis has been a part of several teams in the independent Atlantic League throughout the later years of his professional baseball career.
Kane Davis signed his card in the set for my friend, Lou before the Lancaster Barnstormers and Long Island Ducks game at Suffolk Sports Park in Central Islip, New York on May 11, 2010.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Willie Blair was traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks along with Jorge Fabregas to the New York Mets in exchange for Nelson Figueroa and Bernard Gilkey on July 31, 1998. A trading deadline deal that gave the Mets a total of 13 pitchers upon Blair's arrival. So with an abundance of starting pitchers it was determined that Willie would move to the bullpen. Which was an adjustment for him. "My arm's been fine, that's not the problem," Willie explained at the time. "I've always been able to recover quick. The thing is having the mentality to get ready quick, control your adrenalin and still keep the aggressiveness you need....Hopefully down the line, I'll be able to pitch in those (setup) situations."
An inconsistent Hideo Nomo created an opportunity for Blair to be granted a much more familiar starting assignment. He threw 7-1/3 scoreless innings against the Montreal Expos and earned the win on September 13th. It seemed that Willie was in the mix for a spot in the Mets rotation for the upcoming season. "To me, (Blair)'s a quality major-league pitcher, no question," said general manager, Steve Phillips. "I don't know about all his starts with Arizona, but he has proven that he could start and get major-league hitters out." Willie ended the season with a 1-1 record, and 3.14 ERA for the 11 games he appeared in for New York.
Willie Blair was traded to the Detroit Tigers in a cost cutting move to try and find resources to bring future Hall of Famer, Rickey Henderson to the Mets. New York received Joe Randa in return for the right-hander on December 4, 1998. The veteran, Randa (and his salary) was immediately traded for a minor league player six days later.
Blair coached Cal Ripken League youth baseball teams after his playing career. Leading squads to the World Series in both 2005 and 2007. Willie became the head junior varsity baseball coach at Lexington Christian Academy with his son, Taylor Blair a member of the team. In 2010 he joined the Joliet Jackhammers as their pitching coach. "Even when I was playing," Blair said. "I knew I wanted to have a role in coaching."
Willie Blair signed his card in the set for me before the Lake County Fielders and Joliet Jackhammers game at Silver Cross Field on May 30, 2010 in Joliet, Illinois.
Ced Landrum signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on May 14, 1993. He has been released from the Minnesota Twins less than a month earlier. The Mets placed him with their Triple-A Tidewater Tides team. The 5-foot, 9-inch outfielder was known for his speed. Having been used mostly as a pinch-runner during his major-league experience with the Cubs.
At Tidewater he performed quite well. Batting for a .291 average, with 5 home runs and 29 RBIs in his 69 games there. Landrum also added in 16 stolen bases and 39 runs scored. All of which earned him a promotion to New York. He made his Mets' debut on August 13, 1993. Ced would only play in the outfield for three of the 22 games he appeared in to close that season. The last one coming on September 25th. Landrum finished with a .263 batting average, and surprisingly no stolen bases. "I tore my groin, and speed was my game," explained Ced. "That cut short my career. My last year playing in the states was 1995, when I was in the Rockies organization."
After his playing career, Landrum first coached in the Montreal Expos organization in 1997. The same year he was inducted into the University of North Alabama Hall of Fame. Ced coached high school baseball until 2000, and then went to the Baltimore Orioles organization as a roving hitting and outfield instructor until 2005. He returned to baseball when he accepted the hitting coach position with the Joliet Jackhammers of the Northern League in 2010.
Ced Landrum signed his card in the set for me before the Lake County Fielders and Joliet Jackhammers game at Silver Cross Field on May 30, 2010 in Joliet, Illinois.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Steve Springer was originally selected by the New York Mets in the 20th round of the 1982 amateur draft. The right-handed hitting infielder was named the Doubleday Award winner for Class-A when he hit .338, with 12 home runs, and 88 RBIs for the Columbia Mets in 1983. After six seasons in the minor league system he had advanced to the Triple-A Tidewater Tides. He was there when the Mets traded him along with Tom McCarthy to the Chicago White Sox organization. New York received Vince Harris and Mike Maksudian in the deal on August 4, 1988. "I've never really felt like a prospect. That's the indication that I have gotten here," Steve said before the trade. "They don't have any plans for me. I'm just helping them out in Triple-A." Springer eventually made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians on May 22, 1990.
Steve returned to the Mets when he signed a free agent contract on December 19, 1991. It was not until the 1992 season, a full decade later, that he would finally reach Shea Stadium in a Mets uniform. Springer would strike out as a pinch-hitter leading off the ninth inning facing Mitch Williams on August 15, 1992. It was one of four appearances that Steve would have with the major league club before returning to Triple-A in late August. Springer collected two hits in five at-bats while in New York.
Springer would move to the Detroit Tigers organization in 1994. Following his playing career, he would spend five years as a scout with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2000, Steve became a player agent and the senior athlete advisor for the GAAMES agency in Scottsdale, Arizona. He began marketing "Quality At-Bats" an instructional CD on hitting technique in 2003. Steve later became a minor league performance coach with the Toronto Blue Jays organization. "I can't spell psychology", Springer explained about his ability to train future major league players. "I've got hard knocks, 6,000 at-bats. I think that God put me in Triple-A of 11 years to do what I'm doing right now."
"A 4-foot 11 freshman who barely makes the team, who doesn't start as a senior in high school, and I played in the big leagues?" Springer reflected in 2014. "I'm totally fine with my career."
"A 4-foot 11 freshman who barely makes the team, who doesn't start as a senior in high school, and I played in the big leagues?" Springer reflected in 2014. "I'm totally fine with my career."
Steve Springer signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on May 29, 2010.
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, but God's wrath remains on him." (John 3:36)
Friday, May 28, 2010
Darrin Jackson was traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the New York Mets in exchange for Tony Fernandez on June 11, 1993. The trade was as much to move the disappointing shortstop as it was to acquire Jackson. The Mets true need at the time as a starting pitcher. "An outfielder is clearly not our No. 1 need," said general manager, Al Harazin at the time of the trade. "But he's a outfielder with power who can play defense. June is not a great time to be trying to make this caliber of trade. And this was the best deal I could make for Tony Fernandez."
Shortly after Darrin arrived in New York he was diagnosed with hyerthyroidism. The condition was causing him to sweat profusely and shake uncontrollably. He spent nearly two months on the disabled list while undergoing radioactive-iodine treatment and ingesting 10 pills a day. "I was relieved it wasn't cancer," said Jackson, "but it was an extremely disappointing set-back. I'd had good years and was about to get to the top and—boom—this hits. Suddenly I had to prove myself all over again."
He was able to play in 31 games and only hit for a .195 batting average, with one home run and seven RBIs. Darrin left the Mets at the close of the season to sign a free agent contract with the Chicago White Sox on December 28, 1993.
After his playing career he worked as the color commentator for the White Sox television broadcasts. Jackson moved to the Chicago radio broadcasts in 2009.
Darrin Jackson signed his card in the set for my friend, Lou when the Chicago White Sox visited the New York Yankees on April 30, 2010.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
The New York Mets began something special when they signed a young Venezuelan infielder as a free agent on February 19, 1991. Edgardo Alfonzo would play four years in the minor league system before making his major league debut on April 26, 1995. He made the jump from Double-A Binghamton to New York and enjoyed great success during his rookie season. "Fonzie" had been a natural shortstop early in his career, but proved he also had the ability to play all the infield positions. Alfonzo finished up with a .278 batting average and 41 RBIs. The year ending early when a herniated disc in his back forced him to the disabled list in August.
Edgardo's versatilty would be tested throughout his time with the Mets. Alfonzo moved to second base when the club added Rey Ordoñez as their slick-fielding shortstop. Then later moved to third base when Carlos Baerga came to New York. Only to again become the everyday second baseman in 1999 when the team brought in Robin Ventura. "I told the Mets if we're going to be a better team, I'll give it a chance," Alfonzo said. "I mean, I've played there before."
The 1999 Mets infield of Alfonzo, Ventura, Ordoñez, and John Olerud has often been referred to as "The Best Infield Ever". The quartet was featured on a Sports Illustrated cover proclaiming just that. For his efforts that year, Edgardo was selected to the National League Silver Slugger team after logging career bests in home runs (27) and RBIs (108).
Alfonzo had one of the greatest single games by a New York Met on August 30, 1999. He went six-for-six at the plate with three home runs, as the Mets defeated the Houston Astros by a score of 17-1. Edgardo scored a modern major league record six times and drove in five runs. "Tonight I just started having a good time and enjoying every at-bat," Fonzie said. "It's fun when you do good and win. I really enjoyed this game. It was one of those nights when everything was going well."
He was a member of the 2000 National League Champions that fell to the New York Yankees in the World Series. Alfonzo was named to his first Major League All-Star team that year.
When Ventura left the club, and Roberto Alomar was brought in to play second base, Edgardo willingly returned to playing third base during his final season in New York. The Mets chose not to resign their star over a dispute concerning contract length. He joined the San Francisco Giants as a free agent on December 15, 2002.
Alfonzo was in attendance with former Mets teammates, including Mike Piazza, and John Franco for the final game played at Shea Stadium in 2008. "It was fun, but I felt confused," said Edgardo. "In that moment I was feeling old, but I was only 35. Everybody asked what I was doing. I said, 'I still play.'"
Hoping for one last season, Fonzie was interviewed before the 2010 season. "My dream is to retire with the Mets colors," Alfonzo said. "That's my dream. It's what I'm praying for, maybe it will happen, maybe not, but dreams sometimes come true, you know." He continued, "I love the Mets and I love the Mets fans. I would like that dream to come true."
Edgardo Alfonzo signed his card in the set for my friend, Lou after the New York Yankees and New York Mets game at Citi Field on May 22, 2010. Fonzie was part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the 2000 World Series team that night.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Tim Leary was selected by the New York Mets in the first round (second overall pick) of the free agent draft on June 5, 1979. He made his major league debut on April 12, 1981, when the Mets visited Wrigley Field to battle the Cubs. Tim got the starting assignment on a cold and dreary day. Leary was forced to leave after throwing only 37 pitches in the first two innings of the game. The hard-throwing prospect had not allowed a hit or run to that point. His arm injury was termed as a strain in his right elbow.
It was discovered that the rookie had possibly injured the muscle during an exhibition game in Jackson, Mississippi a few days earlier. Or perhaps before that while in spring training. "A few days before Jackson," Leary said, "I was shagging fly balls in the outfield in St. Petersburg. I was feeling good, and I was throwing the ball fairly hard back to the infield. I don't actually remember any pain then. But later, in the sixth inning in Jackson, I did feel some soreness."
After spending time on the disabled list, he finished the season with Triple-A Tidewater. Joining the Tides on August 2nd, and registering a 1-3 record with a 3.71 ERA.
Tim would not find his way back on the major league roster again until September 25, 1983. In a bit of irony he would start the game facing the same Cubs at Wrigley Field. This time when Leary was removed in the second inning, it was after Chicago had scored six times. Only one of which was an earned run. The Mets would ultimately lose the contest by a score of 11-7.
His next turn in the rotation was a success. Tim recorded his first major league victory by besting the Montreal Expos on October 2, 1983. Leary threw a complete nine-inning performance and struck out eight at Shea Stadium on the final day of the season.
In 1984, the Mets initially had the recovered right-hander pitching in the starting rotation. After a couple of starts he was shifted to the bullpen. Finishing the season with 20 appearances and a 3-3 record with a 4.02 ERA.
Tim was part of a four-team trade that involved six players on January 18, 1985. Leary was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Mets received Frank Wills from the Kansas City Royals. He would win a World Series Championship with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988.
After his active baseball career, Tim returned to his alma mater, UCLA. He served as their pitching coach from 1997-2000, and again in 2004. Leary later became the pitching coach for Loyola-Marymount University in 2005.
I purchased this signed index card from the legendary autograph guy, Jack Smalling and converted it into Tim Leary's card in the set in January 2009. Jack's website is www.baseballaddresses.com
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
David Cone came to the New York Mets when he was traded along with Chris Jelic by the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Ed Hearn, Rick Anderson, and Mauro Gozzo on March 27, 1987. The 24-year-old prospect, Cone was available only because the Royals greater need for a catcher. "Going from the Royals to the Mets, I was going from the best staff in the American League to the best in the National. I was concerned about getting a job," Cone remembers. "John (Schuerholz, Kansas City general manager) said the Mets had been offered every other pitcher in the organization, but they wouldn't give in. I was the pitcher they wanted."
The Mets insistence was rewarded when David emerged as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. The 1988 season was his first full one in the major leagues. Cone finished with a record of 20-3, while compiling 213 strikeouts (second to only Nolan Ryan that year), and a 2.22 ERA. He was named the National League Pitcher of the Month in May, and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting. Not only had he secured a spot in the rotation, David had become an ace of the staff. Cone was selected as a Met to the Major League All-Star team in both 1988 and 1992.
"I was considered a flake in Kansas City," David said, with a sly smile. "I fit right in when I came here." Cone had come over with a reputation as a spirited young bachelor who enjoyed the nightlife. "The swaggering, arrogant Mets," he said fondly. "We played hard and we partied hard. I'm not ashamed of that. I was no angel—I did some things I shouldn't have done, lived a lifestyle I shouldn't have lived. I had a blast at times; other times, I probably compromised my job, my duty to do my job, to be ready as a professional."
On the mound he was astounding. The final day of the 1991 season he faced the Philadelphia Phillies and fanned 19 batters in his nine-inning shutout victory. Raising his total to a league best 241 strikeouts for the year. Cone had also been the National League leader in 1990.
David was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson on August 27, 1992. In the final year of his contract, the Mets felt little chance of being able to resign the star on the free agent market. Cone would capture his first World Series Championship with the Blue Jays that season.
Cone returned to the Mets when he signed as a free agent on February 13, 2003. The now 40-year-old pitcher had sat out the previous season and wanted to see if indeed his career was at it's end. An arthritic hip proved to be too great an obstacle and he announced his retirement during a press conference at Shea Stadium on May 30th. He said, "I'm very thankful to the Mets for allowing me to come back to New York and do this properly, as opposed to last year when I just kind of faded away."
In 1996, he established the David Cone Foundation, an organization to assist children's charities.
David Cone signed his card from the set for my good friend, Jessie at the Steiner Sports Store inside Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, NY on May 15, 2010.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Junior Ortiz was traded along with Art Ray from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the New York Mets in exchange for Marvell Wynne and Steve Senteney on June 14, 1983. He would make his debut with the club the very next day. Then play consistently as the team's catcher in place of the injured John Stearns. During his first season Junior appeared in 68 games and hit for a .254 batting average. He would lose his starting position to rookie, Mike Fitzgerald during the 1984 season.
The Puerto Rican native was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Rule V Draft on December 3, 1984.
Junior Ortiz signed his card in the set through a private signing held by Tom Orr on May 17, 2010.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Darryl Strawberry was selected by the New York Mets as the first overall pick in the amateur draft on June 3, 1980. Perhaps no other player in Mets history came into the major leagues with as much fanfare and expectations as the left-handed slugger from Los Angeles, California. He made his big-league debut on May 6, 1983 at Shea Stadium facing the Cincinnati Reds.
"It was so nerve racking." Darryl remembered. "Mario Soto on the mound for the Reds, one of the top pitchers in the game. Fans cheering. The stage so much bigger and more electrifying than playing in the minor league ballpark. You've got everything going, TV cameras, the whole thing. Soto struck me out three times that night with that changeup of his, and I told myself, 'He's never going to get me out again.'" For his career against Soto, Strawberry would bat .333 and hit five of his 335 home runs.
As a young hitter it seemed like there was nothing that he could not accomplish. When he approached the plate all eyes in any ballpark were transfixed upon him. An electricity emerged with each swing. The media referred to Darryl as the black Ted Williams. Lofty praise for certain. "No doubt he's got great natural talent," the legend, Ted Williams himself observed in 1986, after watching Strawberry play. "He's going to get better, to be sure. When he misses balls, he looks good missing 'em. He's a big tall kid like I was, and he's got a big swing like I had."
Strawberry was selected as the 1983 National League Rookie of the Year and a seven-time MLB All-Star (1984-1990) with the Mets. He was also the National League Home Run Champion in 1988 with 39 round-trippers. The charismatic "Straw" became a media sensation.
In 1986 he realized his dream, and that of a second generation of Mets fans. Darryl was a member of the 1986 World Championship club that defeated the Boston Red Sox in seven games. A victory that had to be sweet for the outfielder who was endlessly serenaded by a juvenile taunting chant of "Darrrryl...Darrrryl" from the Fenway Park crowd. Strawberry even helped in sealing the Red Sox team's fate with a long home run in the deciding Game 7. Over two million people attended the ticker tape victory parade in New York. One that featured Darryl smiling and waving from a red Cadillac convertible. In the vehicle, 16-month-old Darryl Jr. clung to his mother, a safe haven from the whirling madness.
The Mets would not return to the World Series again during Strawberry's time there. Both he and good friend, Dwight Gooden began to become the victims of bad off-field behavior. Problems involving both substance abuse and infidelity would derail Darryl's once promising career. He chose to return home to California and play for the Dodgers. Signing a free agent contract with Los Angeles on November 8, 1990. "I have a lot of regrets over what I've done," Strawberry said at the end of his career. "If I had it to do over again, I would have never left the Mets."
Darryl successfully received treatment for colon cancer in 1998. After continued problems with substance abuse he served prison time in 2002 for violating parole from an earlier 1999 sentence. His life now turned around, Strawberry has served as a special instructor for the New York Mets. Mentoring to current players in an effort to keep them off the path he has traveled.
He married his third wife, Tracy in October 2006 and the two founded "The Darryl Strawberry Foundation". An organization that is dedicated to children and adults with autism. A Christian man with a new focus on life, Darryl said, "I want them to see the remarkable man who I always knew I had the capabilities of being. And not playing baseball, but the remarkable man God has me. They see that today. I am so proud of what the Lord has done for me and through me. You become a splitting image of God's image when the world can see that you're different."
The slugger was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 2010.
Darryl Strawberry signed his card in the set for my good friend, Jessie during a public signing at the Best Buy store in Flushing, NY on April 6, 2010.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Royce Ring was traded from the Chicago White Sox along with Edwin Almonte and Andrew Salvo to the New York Mets in exchange for Roberto Alomar on July 1, 2003. The left-hander was the key player for the Mets in the deal. Royce has projected as a future closer in the major leagues. "I was shocked when I was traded because I had barely spent a full season in their organization," Ring said. "But then I realized it was good that another team wanted me and that I had an opportunity with the Mets."
That opportunity came on April 27, 2005. Ring was added to the roster after pitcher, Mike Matthews was designated for assignment. "Royce has been throwing the ball very well at Triple-A," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "He's continued to get lefties out, and we just felt the young guy should get a chance." He would make his Mets' debut on April 29th facing the Washington Nationals at RFK Stadium. Ring appeared in 15 games, with a 5.06 ERA before returning to the Norfolk Tides to finish the season.
Royce pitched most of the 2006 season again in Triple-A. He enjoyed much success there and was named to the International League All-Star team. Ring established a Norfolk Tides record with a 26-2/3-scoreless-innings streak from April 19th through July 8th. So it was not surprising that when Mike Pelfrey was optioned to Norfolk, it was Ring who was recalled on August 2nd. He pitched well in New York, but was the victim of a needed roster move that added newly acquired outfielder, Shawn Green three weeks later. Royce was sent back to the Tides temporarily, but brought back to the Mets on September 1st. He appeared in a total of 11 games in 2006 compiling a fine 2.13 ERA with eight strikeouts in 12-2/3 innings.
The Mets traded Ring along with Heath Bell to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins on November 15, 2006.
Royce Ring signed his card in the set for me after the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees and Indianapolis Indians game at Victory Field on May 21, 2010.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Kurt Abbott signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on January 26, 2000. He signed the contract knowing that any middle-infielder on the same team as Gold Glove winners, Edgardo Alfonzo and Rey Ordonez would see limited playing time. So when he made his Mets' debut on April 5, 2000 it was in a reserve role. That situation changed on May 29th. Ordonez suffered a broken left forearm at Dodger Stadium, and the decision was made to establish Kurt as the starting shortstop during his absence. "I'm not replacing him. I'm filling in for him," Abbott said. "I'm not feeling any pressure because I can't do what Rey Ordonez does. I can't think, "If Rey Ordonez in out there, he'd make that play."
Kurt was the hero of the day for the Mets on June 8th facing the Baltimore Orioles at Shea Stadium. With one out in the 10th inning, he hit the first pitch from Jose Mercedes into the left field seats to send the 9,540 fans who showed up—the smallest crowd in three years—home happy. His home run sealed the 8-7 victory. "Rounding third-base, seeing your teammates waiting to trample you is a great feeling," Abbott said. "I don't know if I've done that before. I certainly hope to do it again."
Abbott shared the shortstop duties with Melvin Mora until the club traded for Mike Bordick on July 28th. Kurt was a member of the 2000 National League Championship team, and appeared in the World Series. He was given a much publicized start at shortstop for Game 5 of the Subway Series against the Yankees. "I don't think that one person out there thought Kurt Abbott would start a game in the World Series at shortstop," he would say to a large group of writers before the game. "I bet my a-- on that." He would get a hit in his three at-bats, but the Mets would lose the game and series to the Bronx Bombers.
At the conclusion of his playing days, Kurt followed his desire to pursue a career in law enforcement. In 2006, the World Series hero became one on a different level when he rescued a family from a smoke-filled apartment fire in Palm City, Florida. "I turned my back to the door, and took a deep breath," Kurt recalled. "I put her arms around my neck and the other girl held on." Abbott became a Martin County Sheriff's Deputy serving on the Community Oriented Policing Unit.
I created Kurt Abbott's card in the set from an autographed index card given to me by my good friend, Jessie on May 18, 2010.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Bill Sudakis had his contract purchased from the Los Angeles Dodgers by the New York Mets on March 27, 1972. As a prospect he had been so highly regarded that the Dodgers had moved fellow prospect, Steve Garvey to first base to open up third base for Sudakis. "Suds" would make his Mets' debut on July 11, 1972 facing the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium. He was assigned to the team's Double-A Memphis Blues club in August. After 25 games he had a .167 batting average there. Despite that Bill was recalled to the Mets when major league rosters expanded in September. During his two short stints with New York, the switch-hitter appeared in 18 games and batted .143 with one home run and seven RBIs.
Bill was traded by the Mets to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Bill McNulty on March 28, 1973. The Rangers used Sudakis, who during his career had always been a better hitter than fielder, in the American League's newly introduced designated hitter role.
Bill Sudakis signed his card in the set during a private signing held by Chris Potter Sports in California on May 12, 2010.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Amos Otis was drafted by the New York Mets from the Boston Red Sox in the minor league draft on November 29, 1966. He made his major league debut while a member of the Mets on September 6, 1967. The young prospect was an end of the season call-up and appeared in 19 games. Amos collected his first big-league hit on September 14th off future Hall of Famer, Phil Niekro facing the Braves in Atlanta.
Amos was returned back to the minor leagues until his return to New York in April of 1969. He would break camp with the Miracle Mets, but not be a part of the club that claimed the World Championship. Unable to secure an everyday position the struggling outfielder was sent to Triple-A Tidewater in mid-June. Once again he would be promoted in September to finish the year. "I didn't even hit my weight with the Mets in '69," Otis said, laughing. He was not a part of the post season roster.
Otis was traded along with Bob Johnson to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Joe Foy on December 3, 1969. He would go on to become an All-Star centerfielder during his 14 years in Kansas City.
Since retiring from the game, Amos has enjoyed playing golf, helping at select baseball clinics, and building his own autograph collection. One of his prized possessions is a signed item featuring the cast members from "The Andy Griffith Show," including Gomer Pyle.
He also still enjoys signing autographs. Amos explained, "The day they stop asking, that's a problem. I'm always thrilled when people recognize me and want my autograph. And it happens every now and then in various cities. I'm always happy to sign autographs, and I don't like the guys who won't sign autographs because, without the fans, there really is no baseball."
I created Amos Otis' card in the set from an autographed index card given to me by my friend, Ritchie on May 10, 2010.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Marco Scutaro was claimed by the New York Mets off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers on April 5, 2002. He was invited to major league camp during spring training, but assigned to Triple-A Norfolk to begin the 2002 season. An injury to Joe McEwing presented an opportunity for Scutaro to be promoted to New York. His Mets' debut came on July 21st facing the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. His first hit for the club was a pinch-hit, two-run triple the next day that led to a 5-2 Mets' victory. "We got veteran players over here that pinch-hit better than me," Marco said, "I'm glad that Bobby gave me the opportunity."
Earlier during the same road trip to Cincinnati, his manager Bobby Valentine had not recognized the Venezuelan infielder. Valentine had mistaken him for a friendly fan, when Scutaro introduced himself at a restaurant after first joining the team.
Marco was doomed by a feud that existed between Bobby and general manager, Steve Phillips. Valentine had asked for outfield help, and Phillips chose to promote Scutaro, an infielder who had a few games of outfield experience instead. On August 10th in St. Louis, Marco was used as a pinch-hitter and then sent out defensively to play left field. That area was notoriously a "sun field" at Busch Stadium, and very difficult for even an accomplished outfielder. Scutaro misplayed a fly ball that fell in for a double and proved to be the Cardinals winning run. Afterward, Valentine just shook his head. "Steve told me the kid could play the outfield. Not much I could do," he said. It would be Scutaro's only appearance in the outfield for the Mets.
Marco never adjusted well to the role of a bench player during two brief stints in New York. He was claimed by the Oakland Athletics off waivers when the Mets tried to return him to the minors on October 9, 2003. "I don't look at the Mets as anything other than just another team," Scutaro was quoted after becoming Oakland's starting second baseman. "I don't really care about that organization. They didn't treat me right. They didn't give me a real chance."
Marco Scutaro signed an index card that I used to create his card in the set for my friend, Nick Diunte of Baseball Happenings in Florida on February 18, 2010.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Tom Glavine came to the New York Mets when he was signed as a free agent on December 5, 2002. The former two-time Cy Young Award winner with the Atlanta Braves was brought over to become the staff ace for the Mets. "I never thought I would play for someone else." Glavine said at the time of the deal. "I thought I would play my whole career with the Braves. I held out hope that things would work out, but they didn't. There's a lot of emotions. It's a tough time."
His first season in New York was an adjustment and the results showed that. Tom finished with a 9-14 record and 4.52 ERA. In 2004 the left-hander would return closer to his previous form. Glavine represented the Mets in the All-Star Game that year and dropped to a 3.60 ERA for the season. He even flirted with a no-hitter, which would have been the first in franchise history, on May 23rd facing the Colorado Rockies at Shea Stadium. Tom was working on the no-hitter until Kit Pellow hit a double in the eight inning with two outs. "Believe me, a no-hitter or a perfect game, that's the last thing that I expect to do," Glavine said. "I've got a better chance of going 4-for-4."
Tom was just 10 wins shy of collecting 300 victories in his career at the close of the 2005 season. With his contract with the Mets fulfilled, Glavine again expressed a desire to return to Atlanta. "It's been a very difficult month for him. agonizing over it," his agent Gregg Clifton explained, "but when he never got an offer (from Atlanta), there was nothing to really think about in the end." Tom was signed to a one-year $10.5 million dollar contract with the Mets.
Glavine became only the 23rd pitcher all-time, and 5th left-hander, to reach the 300 win plateau on August 5, 2007. He reached the milestone with a 8-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Thus becoming the only man to do so while wearing a Mets' uniform. "I think that the feeling right now is probably relief," Tom said. "At some point in time, I don't know when, the historic side of it will sink in. I know the company I'm in, and I'm as proud as can be to be in that company." The entire Mets' clubhouse was proud of him too. They all donned special t-shirts that were ordered by clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels following the game. An orange "300" and a silhouette of Glavine pitching were on the chest. The future Hall of Famer was honored in a pre-game ceremony at Shea Stadium on August 12th. "To say that I'm humbled and flattered certainly would not scratch the surface of how I feel right now at this moment," Tom told the crowd that day. "To you guys, the fans in New York, it's been a fun ride for me here (and) it's a pretty cool thing to be a part of."
He returned to Atlanta when he signed as a free agent contract with the Braves on November 18, 2007.
Tom Glavine signed the logo card I used to create his card in the set when the Atlanta Braves visited the Washington Nationals for a spring training game in Viera, Florida on March 15, 2010.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Barry Jones came to the New York Mets when he signed as a free agent on August 14, 1992. The right-handed sinkerball pitcher had been released by the Philadelphia Phillies on July 29th. Mets' manager Jeff Torborg was familiar with Jones having managed him previously with the Chicago White Sox. Barry now joined a struggling New York club that eventually finished 24 games behind the front-running Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Eastern Division. He would register a 2-0 record, with a 9.39 ERA in 17 appearances. Jones was granted free agency and signed with the Chicago White Sox on January 2, 1993. He would retire that next season.
"It all happened so fast," he explained. "I don't think I had anytime to stop and think. I was just fortunate enough to have the God-given ability to throw the baseball 90 mph and have it go where I wanted it to."
Barry was born in Centerville, Indiana, and they celebrated the fact on May 17, 2008. The former pitcher was invited back home to serve as the Grand Marshall of the Centerville Youth League Parade. "Barry grew up about three houses from the ball park and played there all the time," said Chuck Bryant, president of the CYL at that time. "So, when he comes back home in May, we're going to dedicate a diamond in his name."
After his baseball career, Jones began working in the construction industry. He was the project manager for Ionadi Corporation when they poured the concrete for the main concourse of PNC Park, the new home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. "I spent eight months down there," Barry recalled. "It was really cool. We had the entire main-level concourse. We would do 700-yard pours. It was quite interesting—a big project. I think our contract was $14 or 15 million." Which could place him as the only former major leaguer to later help build a stadium.
Barry Jones signed his card in the set for me through a private signing held by Badgley Promotions on April 9, 2010.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Mike Howard was selected from the Los Angeles Dodgers by the New York Mets in the minor league portion of the 1978 Rule V Draft. The switch-hitting outfielder would spend the first years with the organization playing for the Jackson (AA) and Tidewater (AAA) clubs. He made his major league debut as a Met on September 12, 1981. Mike delivered a double to left field, in his first big league at-bat, during the 4-2 loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis that day.
Howard would bounce back and forth between New York and the Tidewater Tides during the two seasons to follow. Collecting a total of 48 games in the major leagues. The last of which was Opening Day of the 1983 season. The contest marked the return of Tom Seaver to New York, and Mike was the starting right fielder. He drove in the first run off of Steve Carlton in a 2-0 win against the Philadelphia Phillies. It was Howard's last game in the major leagues.
The Mets returned him to Tidewater for a time. Then the decision was made to convert Mike into a catcher. To learn the new position he was sent all the way back to the Mets' Gulf Coast League team in the Rookie League. Howard hit for a .316 batting average, but the 26 year-old was in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization the following season.
Mike Howard signed his card in the set for my friend Nick, of the Mets Underground on May 5, 2010.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Chris Aguila signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on February 12, 2008. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans out of spring training camp. Chris was playing very well for them at the time he was promoted to New York. Batting for a .528 average, with seven home runs over a nine game period. "I wouldn't look at myself as a big home run guy," Aguila said. "I was swinging the bat pretty good, and happened to hit some home runs. But I wasn't out there trying to do that. It just happened."
Chris made his Mets' debut on June 11, 2008 at Shea Stadium facing the Arizona Diamondbacks. The outfielder would get a hit in the 5-3 New York victory. One of only three games in which he would appear before being returned to the New Orleans Zephyrs.
When the Mets placed Luis Castillo on the disabled list and optioned pitcher, Carlos Muniz to Triple-A, both Aguila and Argenis Reyes were promoted to New York on July 3rd. After five more appearances in which he would only manage one hit in six at-bats, Chris was granted free agency on September 29, 2008.
Chris comes from a widely varied ethnic background. His father is of Filipino and Spanish decent, and his mother is Samoan, Tongan, and Fijian. He learned the Polynesian Fire Knife Dance when he was a youth. "Because of the danger, I wasn't taught the Fire Knife Dance until I was 16. Basically, it's twirling and spinning a burning knife while someone is playing the drums. Sometimes I'll put it on my tongue. It's a lot of fun." Aguila explained.
Chris Aguila signed his card in the set for my friend Eric when the Colorado Springs Sky Sox visited the Las Vegas 51s at Cashman Field on May 2, 2010.
Ralph Terry joined the New York Mets when his contract was purchased from the Kansas City Athletics on August 6, 1966. The former Yankee pitcher came over to the Mets at the end of his career. In the past he had been a starting pitcher, but was used almost exclusively from the bullpen in 1966. He ended with a 0-1 record and a 4.74 ERA.
Terry's greatest contribution to the Mets came in the Florida Instructional League following the 1966 season. It was there that he suggested the addition of a screwball pitch into the repertoire of a young Tug McGraw. "With the natural tail you have on your fastball," Ralph suggested, "you should try it." It would become McGraw's "out pitch".
Ralph was released in November 30, 1966, but resigned as a free agent only four and a half months later. He would appear in two games for the Mets in 1967. Not allowing a run in either outing, but retiring from baseball after his release on May 16th.
After baseball Terry became a professional golfer on the Senior Tour. He had played recreationally throughout his pitching career, but obtained his card by earning a spot through Q-school. "I remember Bob Charles saying, 'You're playing good, but you're 40 years behind us,'" Ralph said. "I was fairly long, a little wild off the tee, a good putter and I could have a hot streak once in awhile. But I didn't know how bad I was, and those guys don't know how good they are."
Ralph Terry signed his card in the set for me from a private signing held by Bob Crabill on February 7, 2009.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Bobby Parnell was selected by the New York Mets in the ninth round of the free agent draft on June 7, 2005. The right-hander was used as a starting pitcher with much success during his time in the minor leagues. Parnell was named an All-Star in each of three leagues, and led the New York-Penn League with a 1.73 ERA in 2005.
The Mets promoted Bobby from Triple-A New Orleans to New York when rosters expanded in September 2008. Armed with a 97-98 mph fastball the team placed the North Carolina native as a member of the bullpen. Two weeks later he made his major league debut on September 15th. Parnell pitched the eighth inning facing the Nationals in Washington, D.C. Retiring all three hitters he faced. "It felt like I was floating to the mound," Bobby remembered. "You go to get the ball, and after that I looked down at the mound and said, 'It's the same mound you've always been pitching on. It's nothing new.'" New York eventually lost the contest 7-2. "We lost and we're in a playoff race, so it was subdued in there," Parnell said, "but it was still cool for everyone to come over and congratulate me."
On September 22, 2008, he had the distinction of becoming the last new Mets player to appear in a game during the Shea Stadium era. Bobby would make it into six total games to close that year. He was actually the final Mets pitcher, getting the final out, in the last game played at Shea. The infamous 4-2 season-ending loss to the Florida Marlins.
Bobby Parnell signed his card in the set for me before the Buffalo Bisons faced the Indianapolis Indians at Victory Field on May 8, 2010. Adding his Shea Stadium debut inscription.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Jim Dwyer was traded by the Montreal Expos with Pepe Mangual to the New York Mets in exchange for Wayne Garrett and Del Unser on July 21, 1976. The veteran was a fine fielder, who was capable of handling each of the three outfield positions. He also had a knack for pinch-hitting and served in that capacity during the majority of his 11 games with the Mets. Dwyer struggled in New York and only hit for a .154 batting average with just 13 at-bats.
Jim was involved in a three team trade on December 8, 1976. The Mets dealt him to the Chicago Cubs. Pete LaCock went to the Kansas City Royals from Chicago. New York received a player to be named later that became the Royals' Sheldon Mallory on December 13th. Dwyer would go on to play in a total of 18 major league seasons and record 103 pinch-hits during that time.
After his playing career, Jim has served as a minor league manager and hitting coach. Most recently in the Minnesota Twins organization.
Jim Dwyer signed his card in the set for my friend, Mike before a Ft. Myers Miracle game in Florida during their 2009 season.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Shane Spencer signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on January 29, 2004. He entered spring training camp that season with the team expecting him to form a right field platoon with his longtime friend, Karim Garcia. "The fact that we're close will help us this season," Spencer said. "If I am doing something wrong, he'll tell me what he is seeing, and I'll do the same. We have a respect for each other. We've seen both sides of this game—the top and the losing side."
The gentlemen were indeed close and on one occasion, during spring training camp, their off-field actions brought them trouble. After leaving a bar in Port St. Lucie, Florida the pair were involved in an altercation with several local men. The Mets fined the two outfielders a reported $1,000 each for the incident. "I'm certainly disappointed," the team owner, Fred Wilpon was quoted. Following their investigation, the St. Lucie Police Department dropped all charges days later.
Shane made his Mets' debut in the second game of the 2004 season. He delivered two hits during a wild 10-18 loss to the Braves in Atlanta on April 7th. In 74 games that year he would hit for a .281 batting average with four home runs and 26 RBIs. A freak accident on July 24th landed Spencer on the disabled list. Shane sliced open the heel of his right foot in a strange sequence of events at a Manhattan bar. The New York Times reported that Spencer had chosen to visit the bar after completing a team sponsored cruise around New York Harbor to benefit the Mets Foundation. Shane was sitting at the bar wearing a pair of leather sandals. As he got up, the sandals partially slid off his feet. Stepping down he felt something dig into the back of his right heel. After a few moments, Spencer noticed the blood and broken glass around his foot. "It was a pretty big gash," Shane said. "It makes me mad. You don't go on the D.L. for something stupid. I kind of laugh about it, but at the same time, it's hard." Paramedics took him to St. Vincent's Hospital where five stitches were required to close the cut.
The New York Mets released Shane on August 7, 2004.
Shane Spencer became the hitting coach for the Lake Elsinore Storm, and signed his card in the set for my friend, Mike during their 2009 season.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Fernando Tatis joined the New York Mets as a free agent on March 23, 2007. He spent that first year in the organization entirely with Triple-A New Orleans. The Dominican Republic native had been home healing injuries and out of baseball for the two prior years. In fact during 2005 and 2006 he had avoided baseball. "I didn't even watch a game," Tatis said. "I had no plans to play again." His two young sons encouraged his return when the time was right. "They wanted to see me play," Fernando explained. "In my heart, I know I am a player. I promised to try and go back. I put the feeling in my heart one more time." A secondary explanation surfaced as well. "In my town," Tatis said, "We needed to buy land to build a church. And I said to my family, the only way that we can buy this land is if I come back to baseball and make the money to buy the land to build the church." It worked. "You put something in your mind and when you see the reality, and when you see the church is so beautiful, so big," the slugger said. "It's amazing."
Tatis made his New York Mets debut on May 13, 2008 when starting outfielder, Moises Alou was ailing and Angel Pagan became injured. Once brought to the roster Fernando immediately began to deliver key hits. Late inning home runs to win ball games became his specialty. A big game of his charmed season came on August 5th in New York. Facing the San Diego Padres a resurgent Tatis would hit two home runs and drive in four runs during the Mets' 6-5 victory. His second blast was followed by a curtain call from the fans. "All of Shea Stadium cheering my name — it's unbelievable," Fernando said at the time. "It's amazing for me."
A versatile player who was able to play both outfield and infield positions, but somehow his appearance as an everyday player was questioned by some. "He's a good ballplayer. He's always been a tough out. He's not a surprise to the guys that know him." responded teammate, Billy Wagner.
The dream season would come to a close on September 16th. While attempting to make a diving catch in the outfield, Fernando was injured. Tatis landed on his shoulder and stayed on the ground as the ball rolled past him for a double. It was diagnosed as a separated shoulder that ended his season. "He's done," manager Jerry Manuel would announce. "That's very discouraging, to lose a big piece of where we are and what we've accomplished so far."
In October, Fernando was named the 2008 National League Comeback Player of the Year. His fellow players in Major League Baseball had voted him the winner of the annual award.
"To me, I take it this way: it's a blessing for me to be here," Tatis had commented earlier in the season. "God has blessed me every day just to be here in the big leagues, to be alive. That's the way I take it right now. And it's amazing."
Fernando Tatis signed his card in the set for me when the New York Mets visited the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark on May 4, 2010.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Willie Montanez was traded by the Texas Rangers along with Ken Henderson, and Tom Grieve to the New York Mets in exchange for Jon Matlack and John Milner on December 8, 1977. The trade was actually part of a bigger one that involved a total of 11 players from the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates. It brought the colorful first baseman to a Mets' club definitely in need of a power hitter.
During his first season in New York he would lead the team with both 17 home runs and 96 RBIs. Willie also established a then team record of 19 intentional walks in 1978. He was known to field his position in a flamboyant style. Often snatching the ball out of the air and then mimicing a "holster" of it to his hip. "If you have a different style and you're a white American, then they call it colorful," Montanez was later quoted in an interview. "But, if you are Latino or black, they say you're a hot dog."
After suffering through a season long slump in 1979, Montanez was traded to the Texas Rangers for two players to be named later. Those turned out to be Ed Lynch and Mike Jorgensen on August 12, 1979.
For many years after retiring from the game he would serve as a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Willie Montanez signed his card in the set for me from an autograph request sent to his home in Puerto Rico on February 21, 2009.