Friday, August 26, 2011


Dave Mlicki joined the New York Mets when he was traded along with Paul Byrd, Jerry DiPoto, and Jesus Azuaje from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Jeromy Burnitz, and Joe Roa on November 18, 1994. "We saw a need to beef up our pitching staff and we had the opportunity to acquire some pitchers," explained Mets general manager, Joe McIlvaine. Although many believed that the strained relationship between Burnitz and Mets manager, Dallas Green had as much to do with the deal.

The righthander made his debut with the New York Mets on April 29, 1995. He came from the bullpen to finish the game at Shea Stadium. Dave threw a scoreless 11th-inning and was credited with the 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the Ohio native's first major-league win. "I'm going to give Mlicki a shot at it for a while and see how it goes," Manager Green said. "I think that he'll be the fifth guy for a while." Dave was given the chance to start and finished with a 9-7 record, and 4.26 ERA in 29 appearances. "Cleveland was great to me; I still have a lot of friends there," said the 26-year-old rookie. "But it was time for a change and this worked out the best."

After two consecutive losses in starting assignments to begin 1996, Mlicki began to pitch from the bullpen. He remained in that role for the entire season even after Bobby Valentine replaced Green as manager on August 26th. The results were a 6-7 record, and an improved 3.30 ERA.

Injuries to the three Mets prospects—Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson caused the trio to begin the next year on rehabilitation assignments. The development moved Dave back into New York's starting rotation for 1997. "Mlicki has had success as a starter in the past." Valentine offered. The move set up Dave's biggest moment as a New York Met. With the introduction of "interleague play" baseball had created the first meaningful match up of the Mets and Yankees in history. With fanfare rivaling that of the World Series the city braced for the Subway Series. "I remember seeing the schedule and thinking how much I wanted to pitch in just one of those games." said Mlicki. "To pitch in the first one was just so cool." The previously unheralded pitcher took the ball at Yankee Stadium on June 16, 1997. He delivered a nine-hit complete game shutout that propelled an underdog Mets club over the reigning World Champions by a 6-0 score. Dave even struck out Derek Jeter to end it. "I remember the excitement in the Stadium, all the Mets fans chanting, 'Let's Go Mets!' in Yankee Stadium." recalled Mlicki. "I thought it was really cool." The moment is remembered as an all-time favorite of all Mets fans and was not lost on Dave's biggest fan—his wife. "I'm very proud of him, thankful he's getting recognition doing his job," said Annie Mlicki. "and thankful Bobby Valentine gave him a chance to do his job."

The next year Mlicki had remained in the rotation, but was struggling with a 1-4 record during his first 10 starts. He was traded along with Greg McMichael to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Hideo Nomo, and Brad Clontz on June 4, 1998. "We're absolutely delighted with the deal," Dodgers general manager Fred Claire said. "Hideo had asked to be traded and we accommodated him. But at the same time, we've acquired two pitchers who we believe can help us."

Mlicki would finish a ten-year major league career in 2002. Following that he returned to his hometown of Dublin, Ohio where his family became the focus. Dave has been able to coach his two sons on various sports teams and work with young pitchers at Jerome High School. A passion for golf has allowed Mlicki to never lack for competition in his retirement from baseball. "It was a cool time in my life. New York was a cool place to be and I was fortunate to play there." explains Dave. "It's in the past now and now I love spending time with my family. There's nothing greater than seeing them everyday and we play catch or something and baseball is what afforded me this luxury. For that. I am thankful."

I created Dave Mlicki's card in the set from an autographed index card given to me by my good friend, Jessie on August 26, 2011.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Blaine Beatty was traded to the New York Mets along with Greg Talamantez from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Doug Sisk on December 7, 1987. The lefthander was assigned to Double-A Jackson where he had a fine season at 16-8 with a 2.46 ERA in 1988. Beatty was with a Mets system which was full of talent at both the major and minor-league level. So he pitched the next entire season at Triple-A Tidewater before being recalled to New York when rosters expanded at the close of the major-league schedule. Blaine had just taken six days leave from the team to return home and witness the birth of his son in late August. "I was a young man, a young father, and all that in the same week," Beatty fondly recalls.

Blaine made his big-league debut as a New York Met on September 16, 1989. "It was like I almost couldn't breathe," Beatty recounts. "Walking out to the mound that night felt like slow-motion, but once I started to throw things went fine. I thought, 'This is what I've trained to do." He threw a scoreless seventh-inning during the Mets 10-1 loss to the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium. It was the first of two opportunities that Beatty had to pitch for New York before the end of the season. The second was his first starting assignment, and had him facing the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Over five innings he would only allow one run, but not factor into the decision of the eventual 5-2 Mets victory.

It was not until September 17, 1991 that he would make his first appearance on the Shea Stadium mound. A ballpark he remembers as his favortie to pitch in. Blaine spent the entire 1990 season on the disabled list following surgery to his left elbow, and would have to pitch another year with the Tidewater Tides before getting his second opportunity in the majors. The southpaw made five relief appearances and registered a 2.79 ERA during those. In the following winter the Mets traded Beatty to the Montreal Expos for Jeff Barry on December 9, 1991.

His two successful stints with the Mets would suprisingly prove to be his only time in the majors. "It's one of those things, they had great pitching staffs, Fernandez, Bobby Ojeda, and then Frank Viola," Blaine said. "Looking back, I don't really know why they traded for me from the Orioles."

A long minor-league career followed that had the Beatty family traveling to many teams over almost two decades. Five different ball clubs in his last season alone. So it was only natural for Blaine to transition into a coach at the conclusion of his pitching career. He first joined the Erie Seawolves in 1999, then returned to the Mets organization in that role, and has now enjoyed success in the Baltimore Orioles system for many years. "Being a part of the development to establish the work habits and ethics involved in being a professional and carrying those on to the major league level," as Coach Beatty describes it.

Blaine Beatty signed his card in the set for my friend, Pol Heiney before the Wilmington Blue Rocks and Frederick Keys game at Harry Grove Stadium on August 17, 2011.

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Carlton Willey joined the New York Mets when they purchased his contract from the Milwaukee Braves on March 22, 1963. So he was with the Mets a season prior to the move into their new home of Shea Stadium in 1964. The righthander was an ace of the starting rotation and set a then team record of four shutouts his first year in New York.

Willey suffered a severe injury during spring training for the 1964 campaign. While pitching against the Detroit Tigers he was struck by a line drive off the bat of Gates Brown. The blow broke his jaw and forced him to the disabled list until June. "The whole thing was a shame, because it was time for Carlton to blossom, and that finished his career." recalled teammate Jim Hickman. "Nobody realized that Carl was hurt that bad because he never showed the pain. He just stood there dazed after the ball hit him." The jaw had to be wired shut to allow healing. So understandably Carl had lost quite a bit of weight during his recovery. A hastened rehabilitation may have led to throwing injuries that limited the former workhorse to just 30 innings of work over the season. Still despite it all he registered a respectable 3.60 ERA.

Carl returned with the Mets in 1965. Now working almost exclusively from the bullpen. He was able to finish with a 1-2 record and 4.18 ERA in limited duty. "I finally walked into the office and told them I couldn't do it anymore." said Willey in a 1980 interview. "It was the hardest thing I think I've ever done." Carlton pitched his last professional baseball game on September 25, 1965. Willey threw a complete-game 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium that day. Proudly wearing his New York Mets uniform.

"Oh, God, I loved 'em. I liked the Mets. It was a great club to play for. I didn't want to be traded to New York. But now I'm glad I was, because it's the best place to play in the world." Carl was quoted. "The fans are great. The fans know baseball. We were all a good family."

After his retirement from pitching, Willey stayed involved in the game by working for the Philadelphia Phillies organization as a scout for several years. Never too far from his Maine hometown. "He loved Cherryfield." recalled Nancy Willey, his wife of 26 years. "He was always very happy after the season was over to get back home." There he worked as a probation officer, was a plant manager for Wyman's blueberry processing plant in Hancock, and he and his son, Richie, started a house painting business. "One of the nicest things that anyone ever said about him was that after he had been playing baseball, he still wore the same size hat," remembered the former Mrs. Willey.

Carlton, being the humble gentleman he was, never understood why people would ask for his autograph, he considered himself just another guy." His friend, Steve McClain reflected. "But he was always quick with a smile and a handshake whenever a fan approached. He always said he was flattered that anyone remembered him and that they would want his autograph. It would bother him to see another player turn down an autograph request or be unfriendly to a fan. As he said, he wouldn't have been there without them. So when you approached him, even just to say hello, he treated you as if he had known you all his life. He loved his fans as much as they loved him."

Carl passed away following complications from lung cancer on July 29, 2009. He was 78 years old. The man who may described as having "hard-luck" did not share that opinion. "I feel as though I was lucky to make it at all," said Willey. "There are a lot of kids who didn't. I guess I was just one of the lucky ones. It still seems more like a dream."

I created Carl Willey's card in the set from a page taken from a vintage autograph book that was given to me by my good friend, Jessie on August 12, 2011. The sheet as labeled "08/21/61".

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Mike Kinkade was traded by the Milwaukee Brewers to the New York Mets in exchange for Bill Pulsipher on July 31, 1998. Mike was sent to Triple-A Norfolk where he performed well enough for the Tides to warrant a late-season call-up to New York. He made his big-league debut on September 8, 1998. Kinkade was a defensive replacement at third base during the 16-4 blow-out loss to the Phillies in Philadelphia. He would appear in only three games to close the season, and fail to record a hit in the only two at-bats he saw.

Mike made the major-league Opening Day roster with New York in 1999. He earned the opportunity with a strong .321 batting average during spring training. "Obviously it is not an exact science here," explained Mets manager, Bobby Valentine. "Basically we went with a guy that could give us a good at-bat in just about any situation in the game."

Baseball Digest shared a humorous account of one of his baseball milestones. "...when rookie Mike Kinkade got his first major league hit, (Robin) Ventura retrieved the ball, then passed off a phony one deliberately misspelling Kinkade's name on it and noting the hit as a single rather than a double. When Kinkade received the ball, he looked disappointed as teammates looked on comically. Then, Ventura came forward with the real ball and presented it to Kinkade."

Mike showed his extreme defensive versatility at Shea Stadium on April 15th. Kinkade had previous minor-league experience as a catcher, and entered the ninth inning of a 11-4 loss to the Florida Marlins at that position. He would catch Allen Watson, who struck out three batters in the frame, on an evening that saw Todd Pratt as the only active receiver on the roster. An injured Mike Piazza was unavailable.

Kinkade slugged his first major-league home run in front of the hometown fans on April 29th. The blast was part of the Mets comeback 8-5 victory over the San Diego Padres. "What was I thinking rounding the bases?," said Mike. "That I would never forget this as long as I live."

Offensive struggles caused the Mets to option Kinkade back to Norfolk on May 10th. Mike's batting average had dipped to .196. He was recalled on September 8th, but never saw another plate appearance before season's end. The Mets later discussed adding the rookie to the 1999 National League Championship series roster as a third catcher due to an injury to Mike Piazza's thumb. It did not occur and Kinkade's year ended with 27 game appearances.

The righthanded hitter was sent all the way back to Double-A Binghamton for the 2000 season. Mike excelled there and was named an Eastern League All-Star before being recalled to New York on July 25th. Kinkade played in two games for the Mets before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles along with Melvin Mora, Pat Gorman, and Lesli Brea on July 28th. New York received shortstop, Mike Bordick at the trading deadline for their postseason run.

Kinkade represented the United States in the 2000 Summer Olympics, and after his ten-year playing career became a minor-league coach. Mike was named the hitting coach of the Everett Aquasox in 2011.

Mike Kinkade signed his card in the set for my friend, Greg Norman at the Tri-City Dust Devils and Everett AquaSox game at Everett Memorial Stadium on August 11, 2011.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Aaron Heilman was selected by the New York Mets in the first round (18th overall selection) of the free agent draft on June 5, 2001. The senior from Notre Dame University had passed on joining the Minnesota Twins at the 31st pick the previous year. "I felt that the decision at that time was the best one for me to go back and finish my education," said Heilman, who earned degrees in management and information science and philosphy. "I felt confident in my decision then and I knew it would work out."

The righthander worked his way through the farm system, and made his major-league debut in a New York Mets uniform on June 26, 2003 at Shea Stadium. "It's great to be able to have my first start at Shea," offered Heilman before the game. "That's where I'd want to have it if it could be anywhere." Aaron suffered the loss even though he pitched well against the Florida Marlins. The rookie went six innings, but allowed five runs—although only one was earned—during a 6-1 defeat. The Mets would commit four errors in the contest.

For that first season he would be given 13 starts, and finish with 65.1 innings, a 2-7 record, and 6.75 ERA. Certainly not strong enough to keep him from a return to Triple-A Norfolk to begin the 2004 campaign. It was not until August that he would receive a trip back to New York. In five games for the Mets he was 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA to close the year.

Following continued struggles in the starting rotation the Mets chose to move Heilman to the bullpen on May 15, 2005. It proved to become a very successful decision, as Aaron excelled in his new role. Posting a 2.18 ERA in 48 relief appearances. The performance influenced Mets manager, Willie Randolph to select Brian Bannister as the final member of the starting rotation in spring training 2006. Heilman was now too valuable a reliever.

The Mets would win the 2006 National League Eastern Division with Heilman serving as the transition to closer Billy Wagner. The often used reliever entered a team-leading 74 games during the season and finished with a 4-5 record and 3.62 ERA. Unfortunately his success that year was overshadowed by one pitch in the seventh game of the 2006 NLCS. Aaron surrendered a tie-breaking two-run home run to the Yadier Molina of the Cardinals. The blast allowed St. Louis to eventually win the game 3-1 as New York failed to score in the bottom of the ninth. "I just left it up," Heilman explained. "I was trying to throw it down and away. Instead it stayed right over the middle of the plate." The loss prevented the Mets from advancing to the World Series.

Aaron was back in the bullpen for the 2007 season despite continued desires to reenter the starting rotation. He logged 81 appearances to lead the team. The result was another solid year with a 7-7 record and 3.03 ERA. Unfortunately the club would collectively falter to end the season in disappointing fashion.

Along the way Heilman became the target of many Mets fans ire at Shea Stadium. He was often booed during poor performances. It reached a new low on Opening Day of 2008. The hometown fans booed Heilman and fellow reliever, Scott Schoeneweis during pregame introductions. "How many guys get booed on Opening Day before they even take the field?" Schoeneweis questioned.

Heilman struggled during the final season of Shea Stadium. He entered 78 games, but was hit with a 3-8 record and high 5.21 ERA. The Mets would duplicate their late season collapse and fall short to the Philadelphia Phillies in the final days of the ballpark. Aaron was traded by the New York Mets along with Endy Chavez, Joe Smith, Jason Vargas, Mike Carp, Ezequiel Carrera, and Maikel Cieto to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for J.J. Putz, Sean Green, and Jeremy Reed on December 11, 2008.

"Sometimes a fresh start is good," Heilman said. "I definitiely didn't feel like I wanted to leave New York because of anything hanging over or anything like that. I was looking forward to going back out there this year and showing what I can do. I didn't have a good year. It's disappointing to leave on those terms and not get a chance to redeem yourself and go back out there, and prove that it was just one of those blips on the radar."

Aaron Heilman signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to the Chicago Cubs on September 17, 2009.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Jorge Julio was traded to the New York Mets from the Baltimore Orioles along with John Maine in exchange for Kris Benson on January 21, 2006. "We were able to get a power arm on the back end of the bullpen and we were able to get a young player, Maine, who had pretty good numbers in the minor leagues," commented Mets general manager, Omar Minaya. "It gives us some depth. Now Aaron Heilman can get an opportunity to start."

Julio arrived in spring training camp, and declared himself ready to go. "I think for me last year was a lot of frustration," Jorge said. "Before I was closing. I didn't know what my job was. Sometimes I threw three innings, two innings." His job with the Mets would be to assist Duaner Sanchez in setting up for All-Star closer, Billy Wagner.

The hard-throwing Venezuelan made his Mets debut on April 5, 2006. He was brought in to face the Washington Nationals at Shea Stadium during the second game of the season. Julio surrendered four hits and five runs in just two-thirds of an inning of work to lose 9-5. "I wanted to be better," said the righthander. "My first time here, pitching in this stadium, I don't know the mound, I don't know nothing here. It's my first time and that's what happened in the game." The poor first impression continued in New York, and found Jorge a target of the angry hometown fans as his ERA stood at 19.64 after four appearances. "I don't know what happens when I'm on the mound. I want to throw my best stuff, and I don't have good luck.....nothing's working right now," said Julio. "I don't listen to nothing from the fans. I don't care. They don't pay me."

Jorge saw his fortunes change for the better in the second month of the season. He even recorded his first save in a New York uniform on May 6th. "Every once in awhile he gets out of his rhythm." observed manager, Willie Randolph. "He buckled down and made some nice pitches at the right time." However, a need for starting pitching forced the Mets to trade Julio to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Orlando Hernandez on May 24th. "Julio's statistics were pretty impressive," Minaya said. "He's throwing 97-98 mph in a tough environment. He had the most strikeouts of any reliever in baseball last week." In total he made 18 appearances with a 1-2 record, one save, and a 5.06 ERA. "I'm happy. I think it's more of an opportunity for me to go over there and help over there," offered Jorge. "It's baseball. Baseball is crazy."

Jorge Julio signed his card in the set for my friend, Katie following the Toledo Mud Hens and Indianapolis Indians game at Victory Field on September 2, 2009.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Alvaro Espinoza joined the New York Mets when he was traded from the Cleveland Indians along with Carlos Baerga in exchange for Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino on July 29, 1996.

"I got to think I'm the best defensive shortstop in the league," Espinoza was quoted in 1991 as a member of the Yankees. "I got to be positive. I think I'm the best." The Mets felt they already had a defensive gem at shortstop in Rey Ordoñez. "He does things in the field that would seem to be beyond reality," Alvaro said of his new teammate. "He makes plays that you can't even ask other people to try. That's why he is Rey Ordoñez." So Espinoza certainly understood when he more often found him time at second and third base.

Alvaro appeared in 48 games for New York and finished with solid offensive numbers. Collecting 4 home runs, 16 RBIs and a .306 batting average in 134 at-bats. The effort earned him an invitation to Mets training camp the next spring, but after Espinoza did not find himself a spot on the major-league roster he was released on March 26, 1997. Alvaro joined the Seattle Mariners for the 1997 season.

The Venezuelan infielder finished his playing career, and turned to coaching in 1998. He first worked with the Montreal Expos as their minor-league infield coordinator. The Los Angeles Dodgers organization gave him his managerial debut in 1999 with their Class-A Vero Beach team. Most recently he was a coach with the Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees in 2008.

Alvaro Espinoza signed his card in the set during a private signing arranged by All-Star Cards and Collectibles on September 26, 2009.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Doug Simons was selected from the Minnesota Twins organization by the New York Mets on December 3, 1990. The Rule V selection made his major-league debut on April 9, 1991 at Shea Stadium. Doug came out of the bullpen, and was awarded the win as the Mets rallied to a 2-1 extra-inning victory. Simons came into the game in the bottom of the ninth, and kept the Philadelphia Phillies scoreless in his two frames of work. The Mets did their job with a solo-home run by Rick Cerone to tie the game, and a walk-off blast from Hubie Brooks to win it.

"You'd look at him on the mound and ask how the heck he was doing it," Mets manager, Bud Harrelson said of the 160-pound reliever. "He's interesting."

The southpaw earned a spot on the roster as the club's left-handed specialist. "It was just last year in Orlando when I started learning how to be aggressive," Simons said. "Before that I was 'crafty' and all those other words they use to describe someone who pitched tentatively. That was me. I pitched scared. It was always successful for me, but last year I decided I didn't want to be that way anymore. Today when I stand on the mound, I think I'm the boss. I'm aggressive. I pitch aggressive. I'm not afraid to throw a cutter inside on a guy's hands. And I like pitching a lot more like this."

At a diminutive 5 ft.-11 inches his biggest struggle might have been literally entering the major-league ballparks on the road. His youthful appearance forced many security guards to deny him access into the player's areas on more than one occasion. "Happens all the time," Doug said. "Philadelphia was bad. San Diego was really bad. They won't let me in." Simons devised a solution that involved taking his O-Pee-Chee baseball card from his wallet to verify his identity. A trick that seemed to work. "I told him to just keep his damn uniform on all the time," Harrelson said. "Sleep in it and wear it back to the park. Maybe they'd let him in then."

Simons remained with the Mets for the entire season. He appeared in 42 games for New York. The final of which was in the role of a starting pitcher on September 30, 1991. Doug surrendered six earned runs in just two innings of work to the Pirates in Pittsburgh. The performance hurt his statistics for the year, which ended with a 2-3 record, and 5.19 ERA.

The Mets dealt Doug to the Montreal Expos in exchange for Rob Katzaroff on April 2, 1992.

After his playing career ended in 1997, Simons became a pitching coach in the Mets organization for four seasons. He followed that with a four year stint as a full-time area scout for the Texas Rangers club. Covenant College chose Doug to restart their intercollegiate baseball program, and named him the head coach in 2005. "We are a Christ-centered program," explained Simons. "We want to give the young men in our program the opportunity to grow in Christ, get a great education and develop into players who could play at the next level."

Doug Simons signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to Covenant College on January 27, 2009.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Willard Hunter was sent to the New York Mets from the Los Angeles Dodgers to complete an earlier deal on May 25, 1962. He was the "player to be named later" from the trade that brought Charlie Neal to New York in exchange for Lee Walls the previous December. Hunter debuted with New York that year, which makes him one of the Original 1962 Mets.

The left-hander found himself back in the minor-leagues with Triple-A Buffalo for the 1963 season, but earned a promotion back to New York on June 18, 1964. He would throw an inning of scoreless relief to end a 10-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates that day.

"Hawk" Hunter had his best day as a New York Met on August 23, 1964. The reliever would pitch in both games of the double-header at Shea Stadium that afternoon. Willard was credited with victories over the Chicago Cubs in each of the contests. It took just a combined 1-2/3 innings of work to accomplish the feat. The two wins accounted for half of his career total with the Mets. The southpaw finished with a 4-9 record and 5.06 ERA over his two major-league campaigns in New York.

Hunter ended his professional baseball career throwing a final season in Buffalo. During 26 games of the 1965 season there he compiled a 0-2 record and 6.19 ERA.

Willard Hunter signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on October 4, 2008.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Jerry Martin signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on March 17, 1984. The ten-year veteran was initially brought to training camp at his own expense and without any guarantee of a job. Martin had served 81 days in a Federal prison on misdemeanor cocaine charges that winter. "A lot of ball clubs have gone through this," said Mets general manager, Frank Cashen in reference to player's drug problems. "It's a fact of life. I'm no humanitarian. If he can play, when he can play, we'll offer him a one-year contract." The Mets signed Martin even though he was suspended by Major League Baseball. It was ruled by arbitrator, Richard Block that Jerry and his past Kansas City Royals teammate, Willie Wilson could return to action on May 15th. The first day their drug suspensions were due to be reviewed.

"This whole last year has been the toughest thing I have been through in my life." said Martin. He made his Mets debut at Jack Murphy Stadium on May 18, 1984. His long road back was finally complete when he appeared as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. Jerry flew out to rightfield during the 5-4 loss to the San Diego Padres.

Martin was always known as more of a defensive specialist during his career. Even so his performance at the plate for the Mets would suggest that the aftermath of the negative publicity had taken it's toll. Jerry finished with three home runs, five RBIs, and a career low .154 batting average in 51 games of the 1984 season. The Mets chose to release Martin on September 30th. It would be his final season playing in the major-leagues.

Jerry returned to baseball as a minor-league coach in the Philadelphia Phillies system in 1990. After 20 years in their organization, Martin joined the Detroit Tigers organization, and became the hitting coach for the Double-A Erie Seawolves in 2011.

Jerry Martin signed his card in the set for Chad (from Rochester) before the Akron Aeros and Erie Seawolves game at Jerry Uht Park on July 23, 2011.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Hubie Brooks was selected by the New York Mets organization in the first round (third overall pick) of the free agent draft on June 6, 1978. The Atlanta Braves took his Arizona State teammate, Bob Horner with the first overall pick. "What stands out to me, and I think about this so much," Brooks recalled about his introduction in New York following the draft. "My first interview was with Lindsey Nelson at Shea. I was from California and I'd seen him on TV with his different colored jackets and he was talking to me! When I went back to my hotel, I thought about it and I couldn't believe it. It dawned on me where I was playing. That is really a fond memory."

Hubie quickly worked his way through the minor-league system, and following a full year with Triple-A Tidewater was brought up to New York. He made his major-league debut in a Mets uniform on September 4, 1980. Brooks was the starting third baseman, but went hitless facing the Padres in San Diego that day. However, he was impressive over the late season audition and finished with a home run, 10 RBIs, and a .309 batting average in 24 games.

The Mets were glad to insert the rookie into the mix of a previously problematic third base position. Hubie was an accomplished athlete who was also given time in the outfield. The result being a club-leading .307 batting average in 98 games. Brooks was honored with National League Player of the Week honors on September 20, 1981. Hubie would finish third in N.L. Rookie of the Year voting behind Fernando Valenzuela and Tim Raines.

Brooks was named the Mets' everyday third baseman for 1982. A pulled left hamstring forced him to the disabled list from June 28th to July 22nd. The injury seemed to work against him as his batting average fell to .249 for the season. His two home runs in 126 games was also quite low for a corner infielder. Still he remained the third baseman for most of the next two years for a struggling New York ballclub. "I know what it's like to lose 100 games in a year." Hubie remembers. "We came last two years in a row with the Mets, and believe me that's no fun." So when the team acquired third baseman, Ray Knight in a trade on August 28, 1984, he accepted a permanent change to shortstop. Even though that assignment came with only one day's notice. Brooks explained, "we were in the pennant race...I couldn't be selfish." The Mets would ultimately finish behind the Chicago Cubs for second place in the N.L. Eastern Division.

On December 10, 1984, New York traded Brooks along with Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham, and Floyd Youmans to the Montreal Expos in exchange for Gary Carter. The trade came as a surprise to Hubie who would go on to make two Major League All-Star appearances for the Expos. "But that's how the game is." said Brooks. "That trade had to be made for them to get what they wanted. I've never felt bad about that. Something had to go and it was me. I never took it personal. At least the Mets thought well enough of me to give me my first opportunity."

In a strange turn of events the Mets brought Hubie back to the team for the 1991 campaign. He was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Bob Ojeda, and Greg Hansell on December 15, 1990. Now a veteran power-hitter he was added to fill the void left by Darryl Strawberry's departure through free agency. Brooks made his return to New York quickly known with a steal of home to provide the decisive run in the season opener, and a 10th-inning walkoff home run to give the Mets a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium the very next game. "I'm glad to see the fans didn't forget me," said Hubie. "I always wanted to come back to where it started."

He was traded to the California Angels for Dave Gallagher on December 10, 1991. Brooks retired from the game in 1994, and moved back to the Los Angeles area where he grew up. "I came on back home and I had a daughter and we've been raising her," Hubie said of he and his wife Nedjin in 2010. "I haven't been in baseball at all. I've been able to be home. When you're younger playing ball, you're not really home."

I created Hubie Brooks card from an autographed index card given to me by my good friend, Jessie on August 6, 2011.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Alejandro Peña was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers along with outfielder, Mike Marshall to the New York Mets in exchange for Juan Samuel on December 20, 1989. The trade was part of the recasting of the bullpen for the 1990 season. New York had also brought in former Cincinnati Reds' left-handed reliever, John Franco.

"Every relief pitcher likes to save games," said Peña on his arrival. "I'd like to close games, too. My pride is in saving games." Alejandro made his Mets debut on April 9, 1990 at Shea Stadium. He entered in the eighth inning of the Opening Day contest with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, Peña allowed four hits and surrendered three runs without even recording a single out. His poor start in New York continued for him through late June. "I was pitiful," recalls Alejandro. "Everybody hit me hard." The veteran right-hander had allowed 17 earned runs in his first 30-2/3 innings for a 4.99 ERA. "I had a meeting with the Mets halfway through the season." said Peña. "Because they didn't believe in me, they didn't use me. I'd go ten days with one chance. You can't do that. I told them I had to pitch more to be effective. And I think I showed them. There's life left in this arm." Alejandro finished the season with a 3-3 record, five saves, and a lowered 3.20 ERA.

After deliberation the team chose to exercise his contract's option and return Peña for the 1991 campaign. "I don't blame them for having doubts then," Alejandro said during spring training. "I don't blame them for having doubts now." The reliever was always quiet among teammates in the clubhouse. Often sitting as if hypnotized. "He's certainly his own man, one who walks his own path," said Ron Darling. "It always takes a while to figure out a guy who is new to the team. A lot of people still don't have him figured out." Peña became the effective right-handed solution for the Mets bullpen they had hoped for. He was credited with six consecutive victories in relief, and found himself with a fine 6-1 record, four saves and 2.71 ERA on August 26th. It was days later that the Mets traded Alejandro to the pennant-chasing Atlanta Braves in exchange for Tony Castillo and Joe Roa. New York was in Atlanta for a series on August 28th when Peña was first informed of the deal. He had to literally walk across the field to join his teammates in the other dugout. The Dominican hurler ended the season well by becoming the Braves closer. Alejandro was part of a three-pitcher combined no-hitter on September 11th and pitched for Atlanta in the 1991 World Series.

"I never forget what Alejandro Peña once told me," said Braves pitching coach, Leo Mazzone in 1998. "He told me: 'How hard is it to go out there and get three outs?' I love that attitude. Every young reliever that goes through here I tell that to. It's a mental thing. I like pitchers who just take the ball and go out there and get three outs. Alejandro didn't care about anything else."

I created Alejandro Peña's card from an autographed index card given to me by my good friend, Jessie on August 7, 2011.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Vance Wilson came to the New York Mets when he was selected in the 44th round of the free agent draft on June 3, 1993. He made his major league debut as a member of the Mets on April 24, 1999. Vance would prove to become a very valuable back-up catcher to a club that had Mike Piazza in the starting role. Wilson filled in admirably during times he would spell the future Hall of Famer. He possessed a strong throwing arm, and an ability to throw out opposing base stealers. So he was often inserted into the later innings as a defensive replacement.

"I was excited to help our team, especially when our big guy is out." Vance once explained. He possessed a knack of excelling in both a starting and reserve position. A balance achieved through an understanding that they were indeed different. "When you sometimes go 8 to 10 days at a time without playing, you can't worry about putting together any big numbers," Wilson said. "So I just try to have a quality at-bat every time I go up there and let the situation dictate what I'm trying to do — move a runner, drive a ball, hit a sacrifice fly."

When asked, Vance cites his first major-league start as a favorite memory of Shea Stadium. He began the game behind the plate as the Mets faced the Chicago Cubs on July 4th, 2001. Wilson would call a fine game and contribute two hits, including a double, in the 2-1 New York victory.

The Mets traded Vance to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Anderson Hernandez on January 6, 2005.

Following his playing career, Wilson has begun teaching the game to future major-leaguers as a minor-league manager. Vance joined the Single-A Kane County Cougars in 2011. "I was never into the college thing, where you deal with parents and stuff like that, and I didn't want to do scouting." Wilson said. "I wanted to be able to fix kids and make them better. This was the perfect fit."

Vance Wilson signed his card in the set for me before the Kane County Cougars faced the South Bend Silver Hawks at Coveleski Stadium on July 23, 2011. Adding the date of his first major-league start.