Friday, April 30, 2010
Roberto Petagine was traded by the San Diego Padres along with Scott Adair to the New York Mets in exchange for Pete Walker and Luis Arroyo on March 17, 1996. The slugger from Venezuela made his Mets' debut at Shea Stadium on May 31, 1996. He had been acquired to provide insurance for Rico Brogna at first base, and it was indeed a shoulder injury to him that caused Roberto's promotion.
Petagine struggled to consistently hit major-league pitching, but exhibited a fine glove at first base. He would not deliver his first home run until August 24th as a pinch-hitter facing the Dodgers in Los Angeles. In a total of 50 games during the 1996 season he would hit four home runs, with 17 RBIs, and a .232 batting average. Nothing close to his numbers facing minor-league pitching in Triple-A. So he would return to the Norfolk Tides for the 1997 campaign. Petagine responded with an International League MVP season that year. Even so, the Mets had little need for him with John Olerud playing first base. Roberto did receive a promotion to New York when the rosters expanded, but could only muster one hit in 15 at-bats during the month of September.
He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Yuri Sanchez on February 5, 1998. When assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis he would win his second consecutive International League MVP award in 1998. Roberto was inducted into the International League Hall of Fame in 2009.
The path of Petagine's baseball career has taken him to the Japanese, Mexican, and Korean professional leagues. During six years playing in Japan's Central League, the left-hander won three gold gloves, two home run titles and one MVP award. All earning him great notoriety in that country. Japanese is one of four languages that Roberto is fluent in. The others being Italian, English, and his native Spanish. "I was here doing it in the minor leagues, but they didn't give me a chance to play every day in the big leagues," Petagine reflected. "Japan was a good opportunity to do it. And I put up numbers there."
Roberto Petagine signed his card in the set for me from an autograph request sent to his home on April 29, 2010.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Rick Cerone became a New York Met when he signed as a free agent on January 21, 1991. After a difficult season with the crosstown Yankees he had been placed on waivers. "I wanted to play for the Mets," the Cresskill, New Jersey native said. "I wanted to play for a contender, and I wanted to stay close to home." However, he was aware of his situation with the Mets already with catchers, Mackey Sasser and Charlie O'Brien on the roster. "I'm not a threat to them," Rick said. "I'm really not here to compete for a starting job. I can help these guys. I've learned a lot in the last three or four years. I've learned that you can help a team win even if you are on the bench."
Cerone would open the season by throwing out the first four runners attempting steals. (A feat not repeated until Henry Blanco accomplished it in 2010.) Not bad for a catcher that had broken the ring finer of his glove hand during a spring training game that March. Rick would also hit a game-tying pinch-hit home run in his first at-bat as a member of the New York Mets on April 9th. A 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium.
The veteran took exception to St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, Willie Fraser hitting Mets' batter, Howard Johnson with a fastball on August 21st. During the second game of a double-header at Shea Stadium the benches would empty led by Rick Cerone. The catcher would connect with a solid punch to Fraser before disappearing in a sea of players. "Had to do it," Cerone would explain. "Sometimes you just have to do it. We've just lost eleven games, we're finally winning one, and some guy throws at our best player? You can't let that happen."
Cerone would play in 90 games that season, but was granted free agency at the end of the year. He signed a contract with the Montreal Expos on February 12, 1992.
Rick helped establish the Teach Our Children Foundation in 1998. A charity to provide aid to children of the greater Newark, New Jersey area.
After his playing career he was a broadcaster and later became a minor-league owner founding the Newark Bears baseball team of the independent Atlantic League.
Rick Cerone signed his card in the set for my friend Jessie at the Long Island National Show at Hofstra University in Uniondale, New York on April 24, 2010.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Brandon Knight joined the New York Mets when he signed a free agent contract on May 29, 2008. He made his Mets debut on July 26th, when he was granted an opportunity to start in place of Pedro Martinez. The future Hall of Famer, Martinez had left the team to travel home to the Dominican Republic following the death of his father.
Knight had battled to remain in baseball previous to his time with the Mets organization. Spending time in Japan and Mexico along the way. His most recent assignment had been pitching for the Somerset Patriots in the Independent League. "Over the last couple of years it has definitely been a roller coaster," said Brandon. "It's amazing how this game is, how life is. How much it can change — like that."
Strange as it was the pitcher had also been selected to participate for USA Baseball during the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. "It's almost too much good news all at once," said his father, Mike Knight. "He was ready to get out of the game and all of a sudden got back in and now all kinds of great things are happening." After his one start for the Mets it was decided to designate him for assignment so the right-hander could participate in the Olympics. Team USA and Knight won the Bronze Medal with a victory over Taiwan.
Brandon returned to Triple-A New Orleans until he was recalled in September when rosters expanded and bullpen help was needed. "This feels like it's settled down a bit now that I'm finally here and had some time to throw a couple of games from the bullpen." Knight said. "To be honest it is probably the most comfortable I've been all year." He was given one final start on September 17th in which he earned his only victory as a New York Met.
Brandon Knight signed his card in the set for my friend Dan Viglietti after the game between the Indianapolis Indians and Buffalo Bisons at Dunn Tire Park, in New York, on June 10, 2009.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Brian Buchanan signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on August 25, 2004. Just days before the September roster expansion the club found themselves in need of an outfielder. Brian had been designated for assignment by the San Diego Padres. "We've been battling through a period here and maybe Buchanan can provide us with some offensive spark, especially against left-handers," General Manager, Jim Duquette said. "We'll see if he provides some pop."
Brian joined the Mets very briefly. A total of only five days. He appeared in two games (both of which occurred at Shea Stadium), getting three at-bats without a hit, before he was designated for assignment on August 30th. Relief pitcher, Mike DeJean was placed on the disabled list and Brian was replaced with Heath Bell. After clearing waivers, Buchanan accepted an assignment to Triple-A Norfolk. The Tides season ended five games after he arrived. Brian was not offered an opportunity to return to New York even after the rosters expanded to close the season. He signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on December 17, 2004.
Buchanan ended his 16-year professional playing career, that included five years in the major leagues, and became the manager of the Kansas City Royals' Rookie-level team in Idaho Falls in 2010.
Brian Buchanan signed his card in the set for my friend, Tim before the Omaha Royals faced the Round Rock Express in Texas on April 14, 2009.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Larry Miller was traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers to the New York Mets in exchange for Dick Smith on October 15, 1964. He started the 1965 season with Triple-A Buffalo. A strong performance there had the left-hander with a 6-1 record and 2.59 ERA when he was promoted to New York. Larry made his Mets' debut on June 3, 1965. Used primarily as a relief pitcher, it was in this role that Miller recorded his lone Mets' win. Throwing 3.2 innings to finish the 3-2 victory over the Dodgers in Los Angeles on June 20th.
The Topeka, Kansas native had a dubious distinction. Larry was the final pitcher removed from the mound by legendary manager, Casey Stengel. "I knew I was getting tired," Miller recalled. "Even the outs were line drives at somebody. I knew I wasn't going to be around much longer." Larry wasn't going to give up, even when he saw Stengel leave the dugout. "Casey had a bad leg— it took him awhile to get around— and if he came out, you were done," Larry said. "When he got close, I said, 'Casey, I think I'm OK. I'm not that tired.' He said, 'Miller, you may not be tired, but those damned outfielders are exhausted.'" Stengel removed Miller and gave the ball to Dennis Musgraves. The manager would send out a rookie named, Tug McGraw to finish the ninth inning of the Mets 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. That night Casey Stengel fell and broke his hip exiting a cab. He would not return to the Mets and officially retired on August 30, 1965.
Larry was optioned to the minors along with six other players on October 22, 1965. Miller pitched the entire 1966 season in Triple-A, and did not return to New York until he received a September call-up. Only appearing in four games for the Mets to close that season before leaving the organization in 1967 to join the San Francisco Giants.
"For me having had a marginal career," Miller said, "I've got to say that I had some exposure to some really significant people." Larry had appeared on pitching staffs that featured Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, and had owned the locker next to Sandy Koufax while a member of the Dodgers.
Larry Miller signed his card in the set for me from an autograph request sent to his home on October 27, 2008.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Paul Lo Duca was traded by the Florida Marlins to the New York Mets in exchange for Dante Brinkley and Gaby Hernandez on December 5, 2005. It brought him to the team for which he had rooted for as a boy growing up in Phoenix, Arizona. Without a local team there the future major-leaguer chose the club playing closest to his birthplace of Brooklyn. "When Jesse Orosco threw up his glove in '86, I was jumping up and down on my bed." remembers Lo Duca.
The addition of Lo Duca not only brought an All-Star catcher to the club (He would be voted a starter again in 2006), but also another character to their unique clubhouse chemistry. In the cover article for Sports Illustrated in July 2006, Paul said, "Welcome to Rip City, where we get on each other all the time." An explanation of the loose, and teasing atmosphere enjoyed by the Mets teammates. The club played well as a result. Paul effectively handled the pitching staff while also maintaining a .319 batting average for the season.
On July 3rd, the Mets faced the New York Yankees in a Subway Series matchup. Yankees slugger, Alex Rodriguez hit two home runs that day. During the second one, a grand slam, A-Rod was a bit too celebratory for Lo Duca's taste. He felt Rodriguez was showing up his pitcher, Alay Soler and provided a heated exchange as he crossed home plate. The two had to be separated by the home plate umpire. "It upset me a little bit that he threw his bat. I want to protect my pitcher, and I didn't like the way he showed him up," Paul said. "You want to stare at it, that's fine. But don't toss your bat and stare at your dugout like that. Act like you've hit one before."
Off-field issues took center stage for Lo Duca in August of 2006. His personal life became a cavalcade of tabloid accusations ranging from marriage infidelities to gambling issues. In response to the media attention Paul said, "The issue here is my daughter. I love my daughter more than anything in the world, and I love my wife. We just decided that we're parting ways, bottom line. We're great friends, and to drag her through what's been going on is disappointing to me." His fellow Mets supported him as evidenced by David Wright's statement, "I think it's important to have the guys stick behind him. He's a great guy...I think it's important for him to know that he's got guys in here that care about him and guys that are going to have his back."
Paul's second season in New York allowed baseball to again become the major story. The Mets were facing the Oakland A's at Shea Stadium on June 23, 2007. An enraged Lo Duca was called out on strikes and followed with an epic tirade. He was fined and suspended two games for throwing equipment on the field as he exited. "Obviously, I overreacted," he said. "I called my ex-wife. Hopefully my daughter was not watching. I didn't realize that my eyes looked like that."
Lo Duca fell to a right hamstring injury and had to be placed on the disabled list on August 12th. He had played through the injury in order to be available to catch Mets' pitcher, Tom Glavine's 300th career victory on August 5th. Glavine had struggled in earlier starts using backup catcher, Ramon Castro. So Paul wanted to be in there to give him his best chance for success. "It felt good to contribute and just be a part of it." Lo Duca said after the victory was achieved in Chicago's Wrigley Field. A baseball from that game was signed by both Glavine and Lo Duca and presented to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The catcher was a part of the Brooklyn and Queens Borough Public Library's program, "Get in the Game...Read!" Paul is a huge advocate of reading and made appearances in which he conducted public readings to area children.
Paul had hoped the Mets would offer him a chance to return with a new contract in 2008. He was a weekly guest on radio station WFAN during his time in New York. During one broadcast he said, "I want to come back here. They have the core to go a long way and be winners for a long time." After no contract was offered he signed as a free agent with the Washington Nationals on December 10, 2007.
I created Paul Lo Duca's card in the set from an autographed index card that I received from Nick Diunte of Baseball Happenings on March 27, 2010.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Ruben Gotay joined the New York Mets when he was traded by the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Jeff Keppinger on July 19, 2006. He would finish that first year with the Mets in the minor leagues playing for Triple-A Norfolk. The next season Ruben again did not make the major-league club out of spring training, but was promoted to New York on April 30, 2007. Gotay appeared as a pinch-hitter that day facing the Florida Marlins at Shea Stadium for his Mets debut. He was used initially in that role and to occasionally spell Damion Easley in the lineup.
"This is how God works," Ruben said, "I was waiting for this, like, a year ago but, hey, it's not when I say it's time–it's when God gave me the chance. I am just trying to help the team, do my best and perform."
The versatile infielder made his mark and worked well with the other half of the Mets' double-play tandem, Jose Reyes. "Reyes is always talking to me and helping," Gotay shared. "He's always telling me when I do something good and when I do something bad. It's always good to have somebody tell you that because you want to get better."
A season-ending injury to Jose Valentin provided Ruben the opportunity to become the starting second baseman. "I'm pretty sure that teams are going to call now, and I'm willing to listen," said Mets General Manager, Omar Minaya. "But, we're going to go with Gotay."
Ruben continued to work hard throughout the season. He was often seen taking additional infield practice with Sandy Alomar, Sr. and extra batting practice with Howard Johnson. "I'm not afraid of making mistakes as long as I learn from them," Gotay explained. "I am afraid of making mistakes because I didn't work hard enough." He finished the 2007 season with a .295 batting average, hitting four home runs, and driving in 24 runs during his 98 games played.
During the off-season the Mets resigned newly-acquired second baseman, Luis Castillo to a contract extension. The move made Ruben expendable. Out of minor-league options, he was designated for assignment and placed on waivers during 2008 spring training. "I thought I did a good job last year. I didn't think I deserved this," Gotay would say with tears in his eyes as he sat in front of his locker. Ruben was claimed by the Atlanta Braves on March 28, 2008.
Ruben Gotay signed his card in the set, for my good friend Patrick, when the St. Louis Cardinals faced the Washington Nationals in a spring training game in Viera, Florida on March 19, 2010.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Kevin Collins was signed by the New York Mets out of Tech High School (Springfield, Missouri) in June of 1964. He made his major league debut as a New York Met on September 1, 1965. "I was 17 years old playing at Van Horn Park, and then when I was 18 I was playing at Shea Stadium." Kevin recalled. The late season call-up appeared in 11 games to close the year, but returned to the minor leagues for the 1966 season. Kevin would be named the Double-A Eastern League All-Star shortstop during that time. "You do what you have to do," Collins said. "You go from being the hot shot in Springfield...It's a stark realization that there are a whole lot of other Kevin Collins' out there. Being very good or pretty good in Springfield doesn't mean a lot."
He returned to New York at different parts of both the 1967 and 1968 campaigns. Serving as a reserve infielder in both those years. Kevin was traded to the Montreal Expos along with Steve Renko, Jay Carden, and Dave Colon in exchange for Donn Clendenon on June 15, 1969. "I grew up a Met," said Collins. "I knew everybody; I played with everybody. Look at some of the careers they had. You get comfortable. You know everybody, and they know you. And then, in mid-season, you're sent to another organization."
The 1969 team went on to become the Miracle Mets that won the first World Series for the franchise. "I saw those guys the next year at spring training, and I told them, 'I did more work for you guys than anybody on the Mets. I was the one who got traded for Clendenon, and he was the MVP of the World Series'," joked Kevin. "We had many laughs about that."
Collins worked for 20 years at an automotive supply business, and eventually advanced to become the Vice President of that company. During his time there he suffered an accident with a fork lift that severed part of his right foot. Kevin required 14 operations to reconstruct the foot. "It was quite an ordeal for everybody," he admitted. "That's not something you prepare for. But then again, you've just got to go on. Am I sorry it happened? Of course I am. But if that's the hand you are dealt, what are you going to do?" With much rehabilitation effort, he has been able to play golf two times a week, and creates wine from his home on Lake Huron in Michigan. Enjoying time with his family along the way.
I created Kevin Collins card in the set from an autographed index card given to me by my good friend Jessie on April 11, 2010.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Brian Daubach was drafted by the New York Mets in the 17th round of the 1990 free agent draft. He played in the minor league system until leaving as a free agent and signing with the Florida Marlins on November 7, 1996. "I wasn't very good until my last year with them," Daubach reflected later. "That last year was my breakout year. When they let me go, at the time, it was the best thing for me. I left on good terms." Brian would make his major league debut with the Marlins and finish second in the 1999 American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Daubach returned to the Mets when he signed a free agent contract on March 8, 2005. It was decided to start him in Triple-A Norfolk for the season. This due mostly to his delay in reaching spring training camp and the already established major-league roster. "It has been a little bit over a year since I've been in the big leagues, but to go to minor-league camp this year was tough," Brian would say at the time. "To think about all the guys who went to big-league camp and I wasn't able to go, it was a crossroads, definitely. I thought about not even playing this year. I knew I could still play, but going to minor-league camp wasn't fun by any means."
A strained left-hamstring injury moved veteran Miguel Cairo to the disabled list and provided a roster opportunity for Daubach. He was promoted on June 15, 2005, and made his Mets' debut the next day. The first baseman drew three walks in the Mets 9-6 victory over the Oakland A's at Oakland Coliseum that game. Brian recalls, "I told my family, 'This is probably better than the first time I got called to the big leagues.' " Daubach delivered a pinch-hit home run on June 21st, and then made his long overdue debut as a New York Met in Shea Stadium on June 28th. Brian would play a total of 15 games before being designated for assignment on July 15th when fellow first baseman, Doug Meintkiewicz was activated from the disabled list.
After his active playing career, Daubach first became a coach with the Nashua Pride of the Atlantic League. When asked about his long path to the major leagues, Brian said, "As a player it certainly didn't help, but I think it's helping my coaching. I've been through every situation these guys will see. I can relate to what they're going through. In my last three years, I was up and down (from the majors to minors) and I was much older than a lot of the guys when I was in the minors, so I was sort of acting like a coach then."
"I've been a sports fan my whole life," he said. "I was a fan before I was a player and I know what it's like to try and get an autograph. I remember going to the '82 World Series as a 10-year-old with my dad and I was doing the same thing."
Brian Daubach signed his card in the set for me during his appearance at the Cardboard Promotions Show in Mansfield, Massachusetts on April 26, 2009. Adding the date of his Shea Stadium debut.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Jerry Grote began his journey with the New York Mets when he was traded from the Houston Astros in exchange for Tom Parsons on October 19, 1965. "I was glad to come over to the Mets from Houston," Grote once said. "I knew that team would never win. They had too many old players, and they had no defense. It was different with the Mets. You could tell they had talent."
Jerry was a fine defensive catcher, and became quite important in the development of the young pitching staff that would become such a big part of the Mets' success. Winning that would come much faster than most would have ever expected. Although he knew in 1969. "In spring training, Jerry Grote knew," Tom Seaver would remember. "He said we were going to win it. We thought he was crazy, nuts. But it made sense. He was the one who had caught us all the year before, and he was catching us now in spring training. He just knew. " Jerry was correct and became a member of the 1969 Miracle Mets when the team won it's improbable World Series Championship that year.
"It's no miracle," Grote said of the 1969 team. "Now, '73 that was a miracle."
The 1973 Mets team would beat the "Big Red Machine" of Cincinnati in the National League Championship Series, but fall to the Oakland A's in seven games during the World Series. Once again the All-Star catcher (he represented the Mets in 1968 and 1974) was directing a talented pitching staff along the way.
When Joe Torre joined the Mets in 1975 he observed, "Most people don't understand catchers. For example, Jerry Grote is a catcher who hits. Johnny Bench is a hitter who catches. There is a big difference." The Hall of Famer, Bench agreed when he said, "If Jerry Grote were on my team. I would be playing third base."
Grote ended an era when he was traded by the New York Mets to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Dan Smith and Randy Rogers on August 31, 1977. Using his World Series check, he bought a ranch near Austin, Texas and raised prized longhorn cattle there.
Jerry was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1992. He was part of the group of players that were honored at Citi Field for the 40th Anniversary of the Miracle Mets on August 22, 2009.
Jerry Grote signed his card in the set, for my good friend Jessie, at the Long Island Card Show in Farmingville, New York on April 10, 2010.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Mike Jacobs was selected by the New York Mets in the 38th round of the free agent draft on June 2, 1999. He was drafted as a catcher, and did play 309 minor league games at the position. In May of 2004, an injury would require season-ending surgery, and on his return it was determined that Mike would begin the conversion to a first baseman.
Mets' slugger, Mike Piazza fractured a bone in his left wrist, and in response the club called up Jacob's from Double-A Binghamton as a roster replacement. On August 21, 2005, the 24-year-old would make his major league debut. In his first at-bat while facing Nationals pitcher, Estaban Loiaza the rookie pinch-hitter would drive a 0-1 pitch into the right-field bullpen of Shea Stadium. Jacobs became the fourth Mets player to blast a home run in his first major league at-bat. "Obviously you dream like that and hope something like that could happen," said Mike. "Even getting here and getting a base hit would be awesome. To be able to do that was amazing, you know. I can't even put it into words." The home crowd asked for a curtain call. "That was just another first," Jacobs said. "I don't know who it was, but they said, 'They want you out there kid,' so I went up and took my hat off. It was cool."
The power display continued as Jacobs would hit three more home runs in his next three games. Establishing a major league record for most home runs hit by a player in his first four games of his big-league career. Mike would remain with New York for 30 games until he was returned to Binghamton to finish the season. He ended with a .310 batting average and 11 home runs.
Mike was traded by the Mets along with Yusmiero Petit and Grant Psomas to the Florida Marlins in exchange for Carlos Delgado on November 24, 2005.
Mike Jacobs signed his card in the set for me before the Buffalo Bisons and Indianapolis Indians game at Victory Field on May 8, 2010. Adding the awesome first home run inscription.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Angel Pagan was originally selected by the New York Mets in the fourth round of the 1999 free agent draft. He had not made it to the major leagues with the Mets before they sold his contract to the Chicago Cubs on January 25, 2006. Pagan returned to New York when the Cubs traded the switch-hitting outfielder back to the Mets in exchange for Corey Coles and Ryan Meyers on January 5, 2008.
Angel made his Mets debut in Miami, Florida on March 31, 2008. He was the starting left-fielder in the Season Opener against the Marlins. Pagan got off to a hot start and was the hero of a 12-inning victory facing our division rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies. On April 10, at Shea Stadium, Angel delivered the game-winning single which drove in Jose Reyes to complete the 4-3 win. " I saw the center-fielder was playing shallow, but I trusted Reyes' speed," said Pagan. "Right now, I feel great and I'm trying to do whatever I can to help the team win any way that we can."
Then on May 7th, Angel would be derailed by injury. While catching a fly ball off the bat of Dodger's hitter, Andre Eithier he fell into the stands along the left-field line in Los Angeles. Pagan would leave the game and only pinch-hit in two later games before being placed on the disabled list. The team reported it as a bruised shoulder, but the outfielder from Puerto Rico disagreed. "I have a torn labrum," Angel would report, "I had an MRI after we came home from L.A., and that's what they said it was." Season-ending shoulder surgery was performed and was the premature end to his only season at Shea Stadium in a Mets uniform.
Angel Pagan signed his card in the set for me before the New York Mets faced the Chicago Cubs in a game at Wrigley Field on August 29, 2009.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Doug Linton was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent on December 16, 1993. After starting the year in the minor leagues, his contract was purchased from Triple-A Norfolk on April 8, 1994. The right-hander made his Mets debut that day in a relief role. Doug would add three starting assignments during his 32 appearances that season. Finishing with a 6-2 record and 4.47 ERA. Linton was granted free agency at the close of the year and signed with the Kansas City Royals.
The Mets resigned Linton as a free agent on May 9, 2001. He would pitch again for Norfolk, but not return to the major league roster.
After his playing career he has become a successful minor league pitching coach in the Colorado Rockies farm system. First with the Tri-City Dust Devils and most recently with the Colorado Sky Sox of the Pacific Coast League.
In a particularly rough outing on May 9, 1995, Doug would throw 36 pitches to get the first out of the game while then pitching for the Kansas City Royals. He had surrendered eight runs on three home runs to that point. Linton was quoted as saying, "I wish they had delayed the National Anthem about a half-hour."
Doug Linton signed his card in the set for my friend Greg Norman before a game between the Colorado Sky Sox and Tacoma Rainiers at Cheney Stadium on April 9, 2010.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Greg McMichael was traded by the Atlanta Braves to the New York Mets in exchange for Paul Byrd on November 26, 1996. He was brought in by general manager, Joe McIlvaine to challenge the club's pitchers and provide someone with postseason experience. "Joe talked about a starting goal of improving the record, and that's good for a young team," McMichael said, "But it's difficult for me. Every year (with the Braves), the first talk was about getting ready to go back to the World Series."
Greg featured an unusual submarine approach that allowed him to remain equally effective facing right-handed hitters. "I hated facing him," said Carl Everett, a switch-hitter himself. "That funky delivery, everything looks like a change-up." McMichael had a fine season in 1997. He figured in a tremendous amount of decisions from the bullpen. Registering a 7-10 record with seven saves and a nice 2.98 ERA. All while serving as the set-up man to veteran, John Franco who had 36 saves himself that year.
On June 4, 1998, during his second season with New York, he was traded with Dave Milicki to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Mets needed starting pitching and received Hideo Nomo, and Brad Clontz in return. It was believed that hard-throwing, Mel Rojas would provide adequate set-up help from the bullpen, and make Greg expendable. Rojas was not the answer as he would blow three of five save opportunities while recording a 5.23 ERA. In a odd move the Mets reacquired McMichael from the Dodgers a little more than a month later on July 10th. "It's a strange situation," Greg said following the news. "I should ask for a raise for mental stability."
McMichael would remain with the team until he was again traded mid-season. This time to the Oakland A's, on the final day of the trading deadline, along with Jason Isringhausen for Billy Taylor on July 31, 1999. "It was a great experience living in New York and playing for the Mets," Greg would later reflect. "They are a class organization and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to play with some great guys like John Olerud, Todd Hundley, Carlos Baerga, and Fonzie (Edgardo Alfonzo).
Throughout his playing career McMichael has been, and continues to be associated with the Christian based, "The Goal". He established two ventures upon retirement from the game in 2001. Hardball Warehouse is a private instructional facility located in Duluth, Georgia specializing in baseball, softball, and strength training. Secondly, Spectacular Events a company to assist organizations plan and execute their corporate picnics or team building events.
Greg McMichael signed his card in the set for me from an autograph request sent to Hardball Warehouse on April 12, 2010.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Players come and go as the seasons change, but one figure has endured throughout the entire Mets' history in Shea Stadium and now beyond. The iconic image of "Mr. Met". So as I was determining the "Special Moment" cards for The Amazing Shea Stadium Autograph Project it just had to include Mr. Daniel Reilly.
Dan's journey with the Mets began during the winter of Shea Stadium's construction. "It was a snowy February morning the day of my interview," Reilly recalls. "From the outside, it looked like an orange-and-blue skeleton. Nothing was happening and nobody was around. Inside they were still putting the seats in." He was hired by the team as a member of the ticket sales staff.
Much like the transformation of Clark Kent into Superman, this mild-mannered ticket salesman was about to have his destiny forever changed. This time instead of with a cape his identity would be altered using a massive papier-maché globe. The Mets public relations department had come up with an original idea. To create the first uniformed mascot in baseball history. It was determined that no one would be better suited for the assignment than the jovial Dan Reilly. "Baseball was not as commercial as today," Dan said, "Mr. Met was to entertain the children." A character who, up to that time, had only been seen as an illustration in the 1963 Mets Yearbook. The team hired an artist to sculpt the large baseball-shaped head that would bring him to life. Reilly would describe it as clumsy and having no ventilation at all, and "It had a ring inside that went around your head like you were going to the electric chair." Paired with a non-numbered Mets uniform (the "00" would appear later) he was ready.
Dan made history on May 31, 1964. It was determined that the debut of Mr. Met would occur between games of a double-header facing the San Francisco Giants. "The stadium was packed and I was nervous," Reilly recalls. "They had told me to play it straight, just walk out there and wave. but the kids started swarming down to meet me in the stands. I shook hands, posed for pictures, signed autographs. After that, I got cocky and started dancing. It was an instant hit. Back then, the fans might not have recognized the players, but they recognized Mr. Met."
He was even pressed into service to assist Mets' corporate sponsor, Borden's Dairy during the Macy's Thanksgiving's Day Parade in 1965. As the famed "Elsie the Cow" hot-air balloon traveled down the streets of New York the parade spectators were treated to a cycling Mr. Met circling underneath. "I wish I could find a picture of that," Dan said, "me riding that bicycle with that head on."
Reilly would continue his dual role as ticket salesman and mascot until 1967. Along the way creating a bond with the fans that would remain to this day. He also had a unique friendship with the players of those years. "We were a small organization back then, no superstars," said Dan. "I drank with those guys. I knew where all the good Irish bars in Queens were. And I knew when to keep my mouth shut. That's why everyone liked me."
The original Mr. Met would later move into the promotions office and also serve as a V.I.P. handler for visiting celebrities and politicians, run the Mets' Speakers Bureau program and fill in as public address announcer at Shea Stadium for three weeks in 1966. All part of a rich career in the Mets' organization that lasted until 1973.
Dan has recounted his experiences in the book, "The Original Mr. Met Remembers: When the Miracle Began." which he published in 2007.
Mr. Met was enshrined in the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2007. The original Mr. Met head was entered into the Mets Hall of Fame Museum at Citi Field for the opening of the 2010 season.
"Baseball is tradition," Reilly explained during his last visit to the dismantled ballpark, "Mr. Met touched people then, and he still does. I think it's important to remember how we used to do it, what Shea used to be like. If we do there will always be a Shea Stadium."
Dan Reilly signed his card in the set for my friend, Jessie in New York City on March 10, 2010. Adding the amazing inscription of "The Original Mr. Met, Baseball's First Mascot."
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Skip Lockwood joined the New York Mets when his contract was purchased from the Oakland Athletics on July 28, 1975. The hard-throwing pitcher actually started as a third baseman in the major leagues. It was decided early on that his success in baseball would depend on his converting to a pitcher. When he joined the Mets he was in the middle of another transition. This time a move to the role of relief pitcher. "I thought my career was over," Skip would remember. He was sent back to the minor leagues and worked on the change with the Triple-A Tucson Toros in 1975. Lockwood felt that he got too uptight between starts and pitching more often would solve that problem. It worked and appearing every day had another benefit. "I felt more a part of the team." he explained.
"In the 70's if you were in the bullpen you had one foot in the minor leagues." said Skip. It was a time before bullpen specialization, but that was changing. Teams began to designate a closer to finish games. Ken Sanders was ticketed for that job with the Mets. A freak eye injury forced Sanders to the disabled list and provided Lockwood the opportunity to close. Skip excelled with the chance. In 1976, he had 19 saves and a 2.67 ERA. " I wanted to get the ball with the game on the line," Lockwood explained, "I loved to pitch." With a different perspective he was able to handle the pressure too. "It's a Samaritan kind of thing to come out of the bullpen and save a game for somebody else." he said, "I haven't done it long, but I like relief pitching because you are not involved in tangential things. You're isolated on one problem—to get the guy out and save the ball game."
Skip had a great friendship with staff ace, Tom Seaver and replaced "The Franchise" as the Mets team representative after he was traded in 1977. He was designated the Mets' Rolaids Relief Man and led the team in saves from 1976-1978. A shoulder injury forced Lockwood to the disabled list and prematurely ended his season in late June of 1979. He was signed as the first-ever free agent of his hometown Boston Red Sox on November 27, 1979.
After his playing career Skip enrolled at the Sloan School at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He graduated with an MBA in 1983, and became one of the few MIT graduates to have played Major League Baseball. Lockwood also has a Masters degree from Fairfield University and a Bachelor's of Science degree from Emerson College.
He has served as a bank president, and CEO of the internet marketing company PACE 360. Skip makes appearances as a motivational speaker through his association with Pro Athletes in Demand.
Skip's wife, Kathleen Lockwood has written a book entitled, "Major League Bride: An Inside Look at Life Outside the Ballpark" about their experiences together.
Skip Lockwood signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on June 22, 2009.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Duffy Dyer was selected by the New York Mets in the first round (ninth overall) of the free agent draft on July 2, 1966. He made his major league debut as an end of the season call-up on September 21, 1968. That put him in great position to be added to the roster for the Miracle 1969 season. Duffy would begin his role of serving as the back-up to Jerry Grote and became a member of the World Champion team in his rookie season. "Well, the Mets had always been the clowns of baseball," Dyer said. "When we won the World Series, nobody could laugh at us anymore. The perception of the New York Mets changed from that day on."
Injuries to Grote allowed Duffy the opportunity to play in a career high 93 games with the Mets in 1972. He would respond with eight home runs and 36 RBIs, both career highs. Dyer even got his lone appearance in the outfield that year. When an injury to starting left-fielder, John Milner occurred in the third inning of the game against the Giants something creative had to be done. Duffy had started the Shea Stadium contest as the catcher on July 11, 1972. So Jerry Grote was inserted behind the plate and Dyer was moved to right-field to keep both of them in the line-up. The ball always seems to find a fielder out of position. It did this day when Duffy looked like a catcher playing the outfield on the only ball hit to him. In the seventh inning, Bobby Bonds hit a drive that was misplayed by Dyer and resulted in two runs of the 6-1 loss to San Francisco.
The next season found Dyer returning to his back-up role, and also saw the Mets return to the post-season. This time falling to the powerhouse Oakland Athletics in the World Series in 1973. Duffy failed to get into a game during the fall classic or the National Championship series. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Gene Clines on October 22, 1974.
After his playing career, Dyer has been a coach and manager, but more recently became a roving catching instructor for the San Diego Padres.
Duffy joined several other members of the 1969 Miracle Mets team in a tribute to the 40th anniversary of their World Championship on August 22, 2009 at Citi Field.
Duffy Dyer signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on November 1, 2010.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Butch Metzger came to the New York Mets when they purchased his contract from the St. Louis Cardinals on April 5, 1978. The former 1976 Rookie of the Year, made his Mets debut just three days later on April 8th. Throwing to just five Montreal batters in the sixth inning while recording one out and surrendering two runs that day at Shea Stadium. His struggle with control of the strike zone was his downfall.
Metzger would make a total of 25 appearances for New York, and proved to be ineffective from the bullpen. He finished with a 1-3 record and 6.51 ERA. His contract was sold to the Philadelphia Phillies on July 4, 1978. He was returned to the minors and never pitched in another major league game.
After his pitching career, Butch has served as a scout for the Texas Rangers covering the Northern California region. Most notably discovering Seattle Mariners prospect, Brodie Downs.
Butch Metzger signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on September 27, 2013.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
The fortunes of a franchise changed on June 15, 1983. That is the day that the St. Louis Cardinals traded Keith Hernandez to the New York Mets in exchange for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey. "Some of what we experienced in '69, I saw happening again after Keith joined us that year," the great Tom Seaver observed, "We began to take ourselves more seriously. It brought back feelings I had when we began to assert ourselves in 1969. We didn't win a lot, but there was a sense that we would, and there was a reward in winning that we hadn't really understood. I know Keith made a difference then." The man nicknamed "Mex" was not initially certain that he wanted to be a part of the Mets. "I had probably the worst attitude in my career playing out that '83 season." Keith remembers. He had actually asked his agent if there was enough in his deferred income to retire after the trade news. Instead Hernandez rededicated his efforts and finished the year with a .297 batting average.
He was a complicated man who took to New York City and it's varied offerings. Keith explained, "There's so much to fill your time—plays, parties, sporting events, great restaurants, museums. I love art." An interest that is rivaled by his longtime study of Civil War history. Hernandez has even spoken at West Point about that war. Still, his true comfort came with a familiar glove and bat. "Baseball totally consumes me when I get to the ballpark," Keith told Sports Illustrated magazine in 1986, "I've always been able to separate everything from baseball for three hours. Out in the field, no one can touch me. In a sense it's my sanctuary, a glass house sanctuary. They can look in and see, but they can't touch."
With the Mets he continued to yearly win Gold Glove Awards at first base (1983-1988), and swing a valuable bat. The unexpected addition was his transformation into the team's unquestionable field leader. Keith's mentor in St. Louis, Hall of Famer, Lou Brock described it as "being an agent of action." Hernandez had definitely became one. He was not only positioning the infielders, but chattering constantly at the pitchers. "He knew every hitter in the league," recalls Ed Lynch, "If Einstein starts talking about the speed of light you better listen to him."
The acquisition of Gary Carter took some of that burden off of Hernandez. As the young talent in the system came to the major league level the Mets were primed for a big run. In 1987, Keith was named the first team captain in franchise history. Hernandez then led the charge as the Mets won the World Series in seven games over the Boston Red Sox in 1986. Sports Illustrated aptly described him when they said, "He had become, to the Mets, simply the best and most valuable player in franchise history."
When asked his favorite memory at Shea Stadium he cited the 1986 World Championship moment. "Jessie (Orossco) striking out Barrett for the final out. The glove going up in the air, and the big pile up. That to me is my greatest moment at Shea."
Keith Hernandez was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1997.
He returned to the New York Mets after his playing days and became a much respected announcer for the SNY Network. He is involved through that association in charitable work for Pitch In For A Good Cause.
Keith Hernandez signed his card in the set from a private signing held by Show-Me-State Signatures in St. Louis on March 20, 2010.
Nelson Figueroa was selected by the New York Mets in the 30th round of the free agent draft on June 1, 1995. The Brooklyn, New York native did not reach the major leagues before he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks with Bernard Gilkey in exchange for Willie Blair and Jorge Fabregas on July 31, 1998.
He returned to New York when the Mets signed him as a free agent on February 6, 2008. Making his way onto the major league roster following spring training, Nelson appeared in a relief role during two road games to start the season. His special moment came on April 11, 2008. The now 33 year-old, made his first appearance as a starting pitcher for the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. Actually his first start in the majors since 2003. Around 100 of Figueroa's friends and family were in attendance that night. "Every time I looked up in the stands there were three or four more," Nelson remembers. He did not disappoint them. The right-hander was perfect through the first four innings. "This is fantastic. I died and went to heaven." was Nelson Figueroa, Sr.'s comment during an in-game interview during the television broadcast. The elder Nelson, an electrician in Brooklyn, was wearing one of his son's jerseys in support. "You do not know how proud he made us tonight." his mother, Irsa would say, "That's his dream. His goal was to play on this team." And his father added, "He was so blessed to get his chance."
The Mets would win the game while the family watched from Billy Wagner's donated stadium suite. Nelson throwing six innings in the 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. "It was everything that I dreamed it would be," Figueroa would say. "To come back in baseball and pitch for my hometown team, this journey has been incredible. It's storybook like."
He would remain in the rotation that season until returning to Triple-A Buffalo in mid-May. Only to return on August 27th and finish the year in New York.
His father would honor Nelson's achievement with the Mets on a FanBrick at the new Citi Field.
Nelson Figueroa signed his card in the set for me following a game between the Buffalo Bisons and Indianapolis Indians at Victory Field on July 26, 2009. Even adding the awesome "April 11, 2008 Shea Stadium" inscription.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Dave Kingman first became a New York Met when his contract was purchased from the San Francisco Giants on February 28, 1975. The young slugger had requested a trade from the Giants and the team granted his wish. "Fantastic," a enthusiastic Kingman responded, "I love it. I've always hit well in Shea Stadium." A third baseman in San Francisco he was brought in as a potential outfielder. "If he makes contact he can scare you," said Mets manager Yogi Berra of his new player. "He strengthens our bench and gives us insurance in the outfield."
The first season was a great one for Kingman. He was selected as the National League Player of the Month in July. His long home runs set a team season record with 36, and surprisingly he lead the Mets with seven stolen bases in 1975 as well. Unfortunately that same big swing also produced 153 strikeouts and a low .231 batting average. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it," said Kingman. "It would be easy to say I showed the Giants, but I don't bear any animosity. I'm just glad to be here...and I hope to do better next year."
Dave's popularity was evident when he was selected as the starting National League right-fielder for the 1976 All-Star Game. He also bettered his Mets single season home run record by one with a total of 37. On April 14th he stroked the longest home run ever at Wrigley Field, and one of the longest in baseball history. Kingman drove a pitch from Cubs pitcher, Tom Dettore onto a porch of one of the homes behind the stadium. An estimated 550-600 feet. Dave clubbed three home runs in the June 4th game facing the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Done while driving in eight runs of the Mets 11-0 victory that day. It was the first of five times in Kingman's career that he would hit three home runs in a single game.
On June 15, 1977, the New York Mets committed what is referred to as the "Saturday Night Massacre." Legendary pitcher, Tom Seaver was traded to Cincinnati, and Dave Kingman was traded to the San Diego Padres in a separate deal. New York received Paul Seibert and Bobby Valentine in return.
The man once described by a Mets' teammate as having, "the personality of a tree stump", returned to New York on February 28, 1981. Kingman was traded by the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Steve Henderson and cash. Now only considered a first-baseman he would lead the National League in home runs during the 1982 season. His batting average of only .204 established the lowest mark ever by a home run champ. Dave also led the National League in strikeouts during both 1981 and 1982. So when the club acquired first-baseman Keith Hernandez in 1983, it was not surprising that Kingman was reduced to a limited role. He was then released at the end of the season.
Dave ended his major league career with 442 home runs. He became the first player in baseball history to hit over 400 round trippers and not be elected into the Hall of Fame.
Dave Kingman signed his card in the set for me through a private signing for Dale Nehring on March 15, 2010.