Tuesday, June 28, 2011
#570) MELVIN MORA
The New York Mets signed Melvin Mora as a free agent on July 24, 1998. He was originally signed out of his native Venezuela by the Astros in 1991, but ventured to Taiwan after feeling his time in the Houston farm system was over. The move to the Mercury Tigers lasted only two months. "I don't like the kind of baseball there. They gamble everywhere. That's why I came back here." explained Mora.
He made his major-league debut when New York promoted him on May 30, 1999. Melvin entered the game at shortstop during a 10-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Shea Stadium. Mora was primarily used as a pinch-runner to begin his time with the Mets. So it wasn't until July 6th that he would record his first big-league hit. That single coming in a 10-0 victory over the Montreal Expos at Shea. Days later, Mora began to see increased time in the outfield. Unfortunately his versatility in the field was overshadowed by his inability to get things started offensively. The decision was made to return Melvin to Triple-A Norfolk the first week of August with his batting average at a lowly .083.
Mora returned when rosters expanded in September. Melvin would earn the role of late-inning defensive replacement for Rickey Henderson by the close of the season. He then stole the show on the final day of the regular season. The Mets needed a victory to create a tie with the Cincinnati Reds and force a 163rd game to the 1999 schedule. The game was knotted at 1-1 when Mora led off the ninth inning with a single against the Pirates. Melvin would eventually find himself at third base, with the bases loaded and slugger Mike Piazza coming to the plate. Former Met, Brad Clontz was on the mound for Pittsburgh. "I played with (Clontz) and I knew he would throw the ball at the dirt," Mora said. "I was thinking wild pitch because I knew he wasn't going to throw nothing around the plate to Piazza." When the pitch hit the dirt an alert Mora scampered home winning the game 2-1. "The run that's for the fans," he said. "They make a lot of noise for us and they bring the signs that say 'We Believe. We Believe."
New York defeated Cincinnati and advanced as the National League Wild Card into the postseason. Melvin was rewarded with a spot on the roster. He made himself known with a continued strong performance in October. Mora would collect the first extra base hit of his big-league career when he homered in his first at-bat of the National League Championship Series. Then saved Game 4 of that series with a defensive gem to cut a runner down at the plate in the 13th-inning. "I have said a couple times that Mora is our best defensive outfielder; people have snickered at me," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He is definitely our best bunter and one of our best defensive outfielders, if not the best. He is in there just like a reliever is in there, to save a game." Despite his efforts the Mets would fall to the evil Atlanta Braves four games to two, but Melvin would shine with six hits for a .429 batting average.
Mora made the Mets bench to start the 2000 campaign. He provided help in both the infield and outfield as well as becoming an effective pinch-hitter. Starting shortstop, Rey Ordoñez suffered a broken arm in late June, and was lost for the season. It provided Melvin with his first opportunity to become an everyday player. "It's better to play five days in a row than now and then." observed Mora. "You can do a lot of things." The task of replacing the Gold Glove shortstop that the predominantly groundball pitching staff was used to proved to be challenging. In two months Mora had committed seven errors, and forced the contending Mets to reconsider. When Cincinnati Reds legend, Barry Larkin vetoed a trade to New York another deal was reached. On July 28, 2000 the Mets traded Mora along with Mike Kinkade, Pat Gorman, and Lesli Brea to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Mike Bordick. "I had complete confidence in Melvin," Valentine was quoted even after the trade.
Mora became a two-time Major League All-Star with the Orioles. He and his wife, Gisel became the proud parents of quintuplets in 2001. Giving them a total of six children. "I love baseball," Melvin said. "I really do, but without them, I wouldn't be here."
Melvin Mora signed his card in the set for my friend Bryan before the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds game at Great American Ballpark on April 20, 2011.