Thursday, September 29, 2011


Wayne Graham came to the New York Mets when he was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Frank Thomas on August 7, 1964. The infielder would make his debut with the club that same day at Connie Mack Stadium. Wayne came on as a pinch-hitter and grounded out in the ninth-inning. The Mets lost to his former team by a score of 9-4.

Graham made his Shea Stadium debut on August 14th. Once again with the Mets facing the Phillies he came into the game as a pinch-hitter, but remained in defensively at third base. New York suffered another loss as Wayne went hitless in his only at-bat that game. Actually the Texas native would only record a single hit at the new ballpark during his time in a Mets uniform. A base hit off the Los Angeles Dodgers, Phil Ortega on September 5th. Still he appreciated the atmosphere in New York. "My favorite memory is the enthusiasm of the crowds," Wayne said. "A guy with a yellow poncho led cheers."

In 20 appearances, mostly as a pinch-hitter he finished with three hits for a .091 batting average. The performance would not earn him a spot on the bench for 1965. Graham was sent to Triple-A Buffalo where he played third base and hit three home runs, drove in 52, all while posting a .243 batting average. The Mets swapped Wayne back to the Philadelphia Phillies along with Bobby Klaus and Jimmie Schaffer for Dick Stuart on February 22, 1966.

Graham's playing career ended in 1967. Once out of the game he entered classes at the University of Texas and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education. Adding a Master's degree in education from the University of Houston in 1973. Throughout the process of his continuing education, Wayne became a baseball coach. First at the high school level, and advancing to coach junior college ball at San Jacinto College in 1981. His success there led to his appointment as head baseball coach at Rice University in 1992. Graham led the program to it's first NCAA National Championship in 2003. His pitcher in the final game was future New York Met, Philip Humber. "When I walked out on the field the first time as a coach—the first time—I knew it was where I belonged. I knew it." Wayne said in a 2006 interview with the Houston Chronicle. "Some people believe it or think it. I knew it. It wasn't even a question that it was what I would do for the rest of my working life."

He was enshrined into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.

Wayne Graham signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on October 2, 2009.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Mark Dewey came to the New York Mets when they purchased his contract from the San Francisco Giants organization on May 9, 1991. Dewey had been pitching for the Triple-A Phoenix Firebirds at the time of the acquisition. "There was a sense of apprehension as I had been with the Giants my entire professional career," Mark remembered. "And, at the same time a lot of excitement over the prospect of playing in New York as a member of the home team."

The 26-year-old would spend the rest of his first season in the organization with the Triple-A Tidewater Tides. He earned a 12-3 record, nine saves, and 3.34 ERA in 48 appearances of relief. Dewey was given an invitation to major-league training camp the next spring. A good showing in Florida placed him on the 1992 New York Mets Opening Day roster. He made his debut with the team on the second game of the new season at Busch Stadium. Mark threw two innings of scoreless relief during a 9-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on April 7th.

His first home game appearance did not come until April 12th. He had visited Shea Stadium previously as a member of the Giants in August of 1990. "The Mets were in the playoff race," said Dewey. "I remember the atmosphere being electric and thinking, 'What a great place to play baseball'." Now wearing the blue and orange of New York, he went 2-1/3 innings of scoreless relief in a 8-2 home loss to the Montreal Expos. In between the strong showings were appearances where Mark allowed several runs. That inconsistency found Dewey shuttling between the Mets and Triple-A Tides for most of the 1992 campaign. "I was in New York back to Tidewater, up to New York...This happened three or four times during the season," Mark shared. "It was disappointing, but I am thankful for Jeff Torborg, Mel Stottlemyre, Clint Hurdle, Bob Apodaca, Steve Phillips, Al Harrison, and Gerry Hunsicker for giving me an opportunity to pitch for the Mets."

Dewey had at times drawn criticism for his strong Christian beliefs while in San Francisco. "Every clubhouse in every city and at every level presents its difficulties for a man seeking to live in the glory of the Lord Jesus." Mark said. "New York/Shea was no different in that sense. However, there was a relatively large number of Christians on that team who were older than I was (both in chronological years and in their walk with the Lord). We prayed together on a regular basis, often before the game in the old Jets locker room, and would meet for Bible studies as well. That was wonderful."

By the end of the year Dewey had made 20 appearances for a 1-0 record, 33-1/3 innings, and a 4.32 ERA. The Mets determined that Mark would not be a part of the major-league bullpen the next season and he was claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 11, 1993.

Following big-league stints with both the Pirates and Giants, Dewey would return to the Mets organization as a coach in Kingsport for the 2000 season. "I thought that coaching would allow me to get back into the game I love and satisfy my desire to be in pro ball again." Being around the competition and throwing batting practice every day "stoked the flame to pitch". Mark would return to pitching again both in Australia and then at Triple-A Nashville until a back injury ended his attempt to return to the major leagues.

Mark came back to his Michigan home and planted and pastored a church from 2003-2008. During that time he also served as the local high school's pitching coach. Dewey joined Emory and Henry College in that role for 2009. Becoming the Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League's pitching coach in 2010. Mark and his wife are the proud parents of 12 children. "Five years into our marriage, we discussed how the Bible says children are a blessing of the Lord, and that we should be excited about every child He gives us," Dewey said. "So far, He has given us 12."

The righthander was honored with induction into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.

Mark Dewey signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 24, 2009.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," -Romans 8:1

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Braden Looper joined the New York Mets as a free agent on January 6, 2004. When the World Series Champion Florida Marlins signed Armando Benitez as their new closer it made the right-hander available. "I look at it as a great opportunity going to New York," Looper said. "I'll certainly try to do everything to make the fans happy. I'm not saying I'm going to go into the season and am going to be perfect. There aren't very many perfect players. Actually, I can't think of one. But I'm going to go in and just try to do my job."

Looper made his Mets debut on April 6, 2004 in Atlanta during a 7-2 victory over the Braves. He was able to throw a scoreless ninth-inning in the contest. He would have to wait until April 11th to record his first save for the Mets. That one facing the Montreal Expos during a game played in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Braden's home debut came the next day. He entered to induce a game-ending double play from Andruw Jones after the club had squandered a large lead in front of the Shea Stadium fans. "I couldn't draw it up any better for myself," Looper said following the 10-6 victory over the Atlanta Braves. "He's a guy you can't make a mistake to."

In his first New York season Braden converted a career-high 29 saves in 34 chances. Finishing with 79 appearances, a 2-5 record, and 2.70 ERA. Making his two-year $6.5 million contract look like a bargain. "I'm sure if they need to upgrade the bullpen, that's something they'll approach when the time comes," Looper offered. "I can't control that. I want to go out and have a good year and them have to want me back."

Opening Day of the 2005 season saw the first Mets appearance for starter Pedro Martinez. New manager, Willie Randolph gave the ball, and a 6-4 lead to Looper in the ninth-inning of the game in Cincinnati on April 5th. Braden surrendered consecutive home runs to Adam Dunn and Joe Randa. "I'm not on the Yankees anymore," Randolph offered after the game. "There are not many Mariano Riveras around." Looper began to feel the wrath of the home crowd when he again surrendered consecutive home runs facing the Philadelphia Phillies on May 4th. This time he was able to recover and hold the 3-2 score for the save at Shea Stadium. "You've got to make them hit three home runs," said Braden. "Obviously I gave up two home runs, but you've got to just keep pounding the strike zone after that." The save was part of 14 straight he converted before losing the June 26th finale of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium. He surrendered a two-run home run to Tino Martinez to lose 5-4, and prevent the Mets from a series sweep. "Loop, we're going to ride him till the wheels fall off." said Met, Cliff Floyd after the game. "We need him. He knows that. I hope he gets a chance to get back in there tomorrow." Mets fans were not in agreement with Floyd. By season's end they began to boo Looper as he walked through the bullpen gate onto the Shea Stadium field. The jeers understandably upset Braden, but he never offered excuses. Failing to do so even when it was discovered in late September he would require shoulder surgery to relieve season-long discomfort that had led to a loss of pitching control. He chose instead to describe the bone shaving as "minimal". Looper ended the year with 28 saves in 36 chances, a 4-7 record and a 3.94 ERA.

The Mets elected not to exercise their team option and Braden signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals on December 15, 2005. He returned to Shea Stadium in the enemy uniform for Game Six of the 2006 National League Championship series. Entering to familiar boos, Braden surrendered two runs in the 7th inning to allow a 4-2 Mets comeback. The New York fans mockingly cheered Looper on his exit from the game. "It's just something that you have to deal with," an understanding Braden offered. "The fans here are passionate and love their team."

Following a failed spring training comeback attempt with the Cubs, Looper ended his 12-year major-league career in 2011. Braden insisted on only accepting an assignment from a Chicago team. His family lives in the area, and he was not willing to relocate his wife and children.

Braden Looper signed his set card from an autograph request sent to the Milwaukee Brewers spring training camp in Arizona on March 16, 2009.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Billy Beane was selected by the New York Mets organization in the first round of the free agent draft on June 3, 1980. He was the 23rd overall pick of a draft that saw the Mets with no less than three selections in the first round. New York later claimed John Gibbons and previously with the first overall selection—Darryl Strawberry.

Beane was a highly regarded athlete who passed up a football scholarship to sign with the Mets. He had been recruited by Stanford University as an eventual replacement for sophomore, John Elway at quarterback. "I wasn't getting the vibes I would like," said Mets executive Roger Jongewaard. "And so I took Billy to see the big club." That summer when New York came to the Beane's hometown of San Diego to play the Padres, Jongewaard brought Billy into the visitors clubhouse to meet the Mets. The team had a jersey with his name on it, and Beane met Lee Mazzilli, Mookie Wilson, Wally Backman, and manager, Joe Torre. "It was such a sacred place," Billy would tell author Michael Lewis. "and it was closed off to so many people. And I was inside. It became real." Billy signed for a bonus of $125,000 against the desires of his mother, who favored his attending college. When Beane attempted to join classes at Stanford in the off-season he was told that the university withdrew his admission since the 18-year-old was not in their sports program.

Beane began his professional baseball career at Class-A Little Falls in 1980. He struggled at the plate hitting for a mere .210 batting average in 43 games. Billy had completed his third straight season with the Double-A Jackson Mets in September of 1984. It was the first solid year in the system delivered by the fiery tempered prospect with 20 home runs, 72 RBIs, and a .281 batting average. The performance earned Beane a promotion to New York.

Billy made his major-league debut in a New York Mets uniform on September 13, 1984. He was hitless in two at-bats during the Mets 14-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium. The rookie came on as a pinch-hitter and remained in the game as the left fielder. Beane would have to wait until September 26th for his first big league hit. It came facing Philadelphia Phillies starter, and former Mets great, Jerry Koosman. In total, Billy would make five appearances to close the season, but fail to impress the club.

The right-handed hitter was assigned to Triple-A Tidewater in 1985. He responded with another good season, and was again summoned to New York when rosters expanded in September. In eight games, being used primarily as a pinch-hitter, Billy posted a .250 batting average in eight at-bats. That winter the Mets traded Beane along with Bill Latham, and Joe Klink to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Tim Teufel and Pat Crosby on January 16, 1986.

Beane never found success in the major-leagues as a player, but changed his fortunes in 1990. That year found Billy struggling to make the Oakland A's roster. During spring training he inquired with Oakland general manager, Sandy Alderson about changing direction and becoming an advance scout. Alderson agreed and later elevated Beane to Assistant GM in 1994. Beane found great success working with sabermetric principles. His story was first chronicled in the 2003 best-selling book by Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, and then developed into the film starring Brad Pitt in 2011.

Billy Beane signed his card in the set for me during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, Indiana on December 8, 2009.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Gary Kolb came to the New York Mets when he was traded from the Milwaukee Braves in exchange for Jesse Gonder on July 21, 1965. He had been used primarily as a pinch-hitter in Milwaukee. However the versatile left-handed batter had played every position except shortstop and pitcher during his major-league career.

He made his debut with the Mets the same day of the trade in Pittsburgh. Starting in centerfield and batting leadoff against the Pirates during a 1-0 victory at Forbes Field. Gary struggled at the plate, and was relegated to a reserve role. For the season he appeared in 40 games with one home run, seven RBIs, and a .167 batting average.

Gary was assigned to Triple-A Jacksonville for the 1966 campaign. He played the entire season with the Suns and recorded a .219 batting average in 100 games. Kolb even tried his hand at pitching with 12 appearances on the mound. Gary had a 0-1 record, 4.00 ERA, and 15 strikeouts in 27 innings pitched. During that winter the Mets traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates along with Dennis Ribant in exchange for Don Cardwell and Don Bosch on December 6, 1966.

Kolb's ability to contribute at many positions kept him on major-league rosters, but his light-hitting limited his ever becoming a regular in a lineup. Gary described being the 25th man on a 25-man roster with Sports Illustrated magazine, "I dreamed the Pirate plane crashed and I was the only survivor. Then you know what happened? They called up the entire Columbus club and I still didn't play." He finished his seven-year major league career in 1969.

Gary Kolb signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on March 14, 2009.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Jason Roach was selected by the New York Mets organization in the 20th round of the amateur draft on June 3, 1997. The righthander was actually drafted as an infielder who had also thrown for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. When his hitting suffered in the minor leagues he was returned to the mound in 1999, and developed as a pitcher.

He was promoted from Triple-A Norfolk to make his major-league debut as a New York Met on June 14, 2003. The rookie was given the spot start due to the unavailability of veteran Tom Glavine's elbow inflammation. "There are five other people they could have looked at calling up, so I'm very excited," Roach said after receiving the news. "I'll go up there and pitch the way I pitch. I don't have an overpowering fastball. I'm a guy who mixes his pitches. So I'll need to be relaxed."

Jason traveled to Anaheim with his wife, Tara and her parents to face the Angels. Roach never seemed to get into a rhythm after walking the leadoff batter, David Eckstein. In three innings of work he surrendered seven earned runs including a grand slam home run to Brad Fullmer. The last batter he faced that game. "I'm just here to learn." Jason said after the 13-3 loss. "Tonight is just one night and I'm ready to go for the next time."

His next opportunity would not come until he faced the Atlanta Braves on July 8th. This appearance was in front of the hometown fans at Shea Stadium. "In Anaheim I didn't get some pitches in when I needed to," said Roach. "And they got hits." Determined to challenge hitters he was only trailing 3-2 in the sixth-inning before allowing a two-run Vinny Castilla home run to end his day. Jason described the blast as "very frustrating." Roach was able to record his own first two major-league hits with a pair of singles, but the Mets would fall 5-3 to the Braves.

Jason would not appear in another major-league game, and left the Mets organization when he signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on November 22, 2004. Roach finished with a 0-2 record, 9 innings pitched, and a 12.00 ERA.

After his active pitching career, Jason became a full-time coach through the Diamond Stars Baseball program in North Carolina. He first met former major-leaguer, Tommy Smith in 1988 when Roach was 11-years old. The two began working together when Jason started giving private instruction with Diamond Baseball Stars in 1998.

Jason Roach signed his card in the set from a request sent to his home on September 8, 2011.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Dean Chance came to the New York Mets when they purchased his contract from the Cleveland Indians on September 18, 1970. The veteran righthander was a former major league All-Star who threw a no-hitter for the Minnesota Twins on August 25, 1967. As a teenage phenom for West Salem Northwestern High in Ohio, he amassed 17 no-hitters in the late 1950s. "Well you hate to make a big deal of 'em'" said Chance.

Since Chance had pitched in the American League his only previous appearance at Shea Stadium came during the 1964 MLB All-Star Game there. Dean was the starting pitcher representing the California Angels club. In three innings of work he only yielded two singles. One of those hits was to the Mets' All-Star, Ron Hunt. The National League would later rally to win the contest and deny Chance the victory.

Dean joined New York to assist with their end of season pennant hopes. Chance worked from the bullpen and made his Mets debut on September 20, 1970. Tug McGraw had failed to hold the tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was lifted in the 10th inning. Dean recorded the final two outs of the 9-5 loss. Allowing two runs in the process. His two other appearances for the Mets that season came on the road. Giving him a combined 2 innings of work for a 0-1 record and 13.50 ERA in very limited duty.

The New York Mets traded Chance along with Bill Denehy to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Jerry Robertson on March 30, 1971. Dean pitched his final season in the big-leagues for the Tigers that season. After baseball he began a completely different career as a carnival barker. The former Cy Young Award winning pitcher traveled from one state fair to another running a game where the participant would throw three balls in an attempt to knock down two wooden clowns. "It's not too easy getting up for this kind of work," Chance admitted in an interview with author Edward Kiersch. "It was a lot different when I had to face Mantle or Maris. Then I was really psyched. Now what I'm really doing is selling toys. You have to set the game where you lose the item (a stuffed animal). Back when I was playing, everything was out front. It was me straight up against the batter....There's no better confrontation in sports."

Even while pitching professionally, Dean had an interest in boxing. He served as a manager and fight promoter during the winter months. In his retirement from baseball he reentered the world of fighting by establishing the International Boxing Association. Chance has served as the IBA President. "When I was growing up I always wanted to be a ballplayer," explained Dean. "But I always loved boxing, too. I grew up listening to and watching Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano. Boy, were they exciting."

I made Dean Chance's card in the set from an autographed index card I purchased from Bob Dowen on November 27, 2009.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Pete Harnisch joined the Mets when he was traded from the Houston Astros to the New York Mets in exchange for Juan Castillo and Todd Beckerman on November 28, 1994. Due to a new labor agreement for Major League Baseball the Astros felt it necessary to move the impending free agent. "It's become pretty obvious that they want to get rid of as much as payroll as they can, and whatever happens happens," observed Pete. "It's kind of a shame."

The New York native made his Mets debut at Shea Stadium on April 29, 1995. He started the fourth game of the season following resolution of the longest work stoppage in baseball history. The Mets charged only $1.00 for all seats, and drew an attendance of 44,636. Harnisch left the game with a 4-1 lead after pitching six effective innings. He would come away with a no-decision in the eventual 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in 11 innings.

Pete pitched pretty well for a Mets club that finished second in the National League Eastern Division with a 69-75 record. He finished the season with a 2-8 record, and 3.68 ERA. Harnisch developed a torn labrum in his right shoulder that forced him to the disabled list on August 2nd. The righthander would have later have surgery to repair the shoulder that winter.

A tough rehabilitation, which was even slowed by a bout with Lyme disease, was completed late in spring training. Harnisch first took the mound again for the Mets on April 14, 1996 in Colorado. He pitched a gritty 94-pitch performance for the New York victory over the Rockies. "I was able to get solid innings in and give the team a chance to win," Pete said. "This gives me a lot of confidence going into my next start." Mets manager, Dallas Green agreed. "He knows when he throws pitches where he wants to throw them, he's going to be more successful than not," Green said. "He gave us exactly what we wanted."

A struggling New York club replaced Green on August 26th with new manager, Bobby Valentine. "As far as I'm concerned this is what happens when you have a bunch of guys who aren't doing their jobs," Pete observed. "We weren't performing, As they say, you can't fire the players. Dallas took the fall for us." Harnisch would finish the 1996 season with 31 starts, a 8-12 record, and 4.21 ERA.

Early in spring training the next year, Valentine announced that Harnisch would be the Mets opening day starter for 1997. Pete struggled during training camp and it was reported that his manager criticized a lack of "pitching inside" to hitters. In response to a presentation of the dangers of smokeless tobacco by Major League Baseball the veteran stopped his habit "cold turkey" on March 12th. His withdrawal resulted in severe insomnia.

Despite the hardships it was indeed Harnisch who was given the ball to begin the new season on April 1, 1997 in San Diego. Pete explained afterward that he had only gotten 90 minutes sleep the night before the game. "It's been nothing but absolute insomnia," Harnisch shared. "I just sit in a dark room and stare. I can't even think about anything." He pitched five shutout innings, but in the sixth, exhausted, he gave up three consecutive home runs and was replaced. The Padres would score a total of 11 runs (off a combined four Mets pitchers) in that sixth inning and cruise to a 12-5 victory.

The team was extremely concerned over his physical issues and sent Harnisch to be reviewed by doctors. "I decided he wasn't prepared to pitch in a big league game," Valentine said after Pete had offered to make his next start. "He has a situation that needs to be taken care of before he does pitch in a big league game." Further evaluation diagnosed the hurler with clinical depression. "I've been diagnosed with depression," bravely announced Harnisch on April 26th. "It's being treated medically and with therapy." With no definite timetable for return he ceased pitching for the club. On May 5th he returned to Shea Stadium to visit his teammates. "I've been generally, day by day, getting better and better," said Pete. "The anxiety might be the biggest problem at this point. But I'm learning to deal with that too."

The veteran returned to pitch for Triple-A Norfolk before earning an opportunity to rejoin the Mets on August 5th. "I feel really good now, like my old self," said Harnisch. "I'm still taking medicine, but I'm slowly being weaned off of it..." Pete pitched effectively in the Mets victory at Shea Stadium his first game back, but flatered after that. A decision to move him to the bullpen led to a renewed feud with Bobby Valentine. "Playing for people that you don't have a lot of respect for," Harnisch stated. "is not a lot of fun." The Mets chose to trade the disgruntled pitcher to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for minor-leaguer, Donny Moore on August 31, 1997.

After the trade Valentine called Harnisch's criticism "the end of a very frustrating period" for the usual jovial pitcher. Pete would go on to pitch very successfully for the Cincinnati Reds before retiring from baseball in 2001.

"I loved it. I would have to say my first year and most of my second year I had a great time."recalled Harnisch in a 2009 interview. "The team was terrible...The Mets were at a crossroads. We had a fun bunch of guys. I had a blast. I enjoyed Dallas Green. Prior to butting heads with the other guy who was hired everything was great. I was coming home. I would have lunch every day and drive into Shea. It was great."

In retirement he has enjoyed time with his family and coaching his two sons in various sports. Harnisch is also involved in the youth programs around his New Jersey home. "I've been coaching baseball. soccer, and basketball in Colts Neck for 4 years, and I love it. I love the interaction with all the kids." explains Pete. "It's really turned into a passion for me."

Pete Harnisch signed his card in the set from a request sent to his home on September 3, 2011.