Thursday, September 30, 2010
#116) TOMMIE AGEE
Tommie Agee came to the New York Mets when he was traded from the Chicago White Sox along with Al Weis in exchange for Jack Fisher, Tommy Davis, Billy Wynne and Buddy Booker on December 15, 1967. The 1967 American League Rookie of the Year was one of the first building blocks of the Miracle Mets. "The first thing that Gil Hodges wanted to do when he became manager was to acquire Tommie Agee," said long-time Mets announcer, Bob Murphy. "He wanted a guy to bat leadoff with speed and that could also hit for power. He also knew that with the pitching staff we had with Seaver, Koosman, etc., that he needed a guy in center to run the ball down. Things worked out just like Gil planned."
Agee did not impress in his first season with the Mets in 1968. The centerfielder would only hit for a .217 average with 17 RBIs. That would all change the very next year.
Tommie led the club with 26 home runs and 76 RBIs during the 1969 regular season. A season that ended with the New York Mets capturing the team's first World Championship. Agee is best remembered for the two amazing catches that he made facing the Baltimore Orioles in the pivotal Game 3 of that World Series. The Miracle Mets returned to Shea Stadium after splitting the first two games of the series on the road. Tommie hit a home run in the first inning and then made his first defensive gem in the bottom of the 4th-inning. A backhanded grab at the base of the left-centerfield wall to steal extra-bases from Elrod Hendricks. Three innings later his belly-sliding catch of Paul Blair's sinking liner, with the bases loaded, was even more spectacular and preserved the 5-0 victory. The Shea crowd of 56,335 gave Agee a standing ovation when he led off the bottom of the 7th-inning. "Words can't describe how that made me feel," he said. "I felt like I wanted to hit two home runs in that one time at-bat."
"When I think back, I take pride in how I was a vital part of that team the whole year," Agee said in 2000. "Most of the guys on that team platooned, but I played every day and I hustled on the field. I don't think I get the credit that I deserve on that particular team for what I did, but fans remember and they tell me about it every day as I walk the streets of New York."
Tommie continued to play for New York alongside Cleon Jones, his childhood friend from Mobile, Alabama for several more seasons. He was selected as an outfielder to the 1970 Rawlings Gold Glove Award team and set many single season team records during his time with the club. On May 11, 1972 he lost his centerfield position to Willie Mays when the Mets traded for the legendary outfielder. At that point a victim of nagging injuries, Agee was traded from New York to the Houston Astros in exchange for Rich Chiles on November 27, 1972.
Tommie appeared on a episode of the television series, "Everybody Loves Raymond" where the fictional sportswriter attends a function in hopes of meeting the Miracle Mets team. Agee appeared as himself on the broadcast first aired on March 1, 1999.
After his playing career, Tommie worked for the Stewart Title Insurance Company in New York. It was walking outside of their Manhattan office building that he collapsed and fell victim to a terminal cardiac arrest on January 22, 2001. Agee passed away at the young age of 58. "It's a shock to us all, " teammate Ed Kranepool said at the time. "Tommie and I maintained a close friendship since our playing days. He was a conscientious person who did so much for the kids of the city."
The Tommie Agee Foundation supports efforts in the Gulf Coast area and several charities in New York City.
Agee was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 2002.
I created this card in the set from a vintage Murray Street business card that had been autographed on the back by Tommie Agee. It was a gift from my friend, Jessie in September 2010.