Friday, October 28, 2011
Jack Heidemann was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals along with Mike Vail to the New York Mets in exchange for Teddy Martinez on December 11, 1974. The Texas native had been a former first round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians. He joined New York with strong expectations. "I thought I would get a lot of playing time since Bud Harrelson had a knee operation." shared Heidemann. "I played all spring training, but did not start the season opener." Jack made his Mets debut the next game as a pinch-runner, and remained in the game at shortstop. He delivered a base hit in his first at-bat in a New York uniform.
Heidemann has fond memories of being around great players like, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack, and Rusty Staub. As well as working for Manager Yogi Berra, and Coach Willie Mays. He formed a friendship with his roommate that season, Ed Kranepool. Check out this awesome video of Jack with other members of the 1975 Mets team during "Camera Day" at Shea Stadium. (Heidemann is uniform #12 at the 2:10 mark.)
The season saw Jack serving as the team's backup shortstop. He would appear in 61 games, hitting one home run, with 16 RBIs, and a .214 batting average.
"The Mets loved Buddy Harrelson....." explained Heidemann. So he was not surprised that when the 1976 team broke camp in Florida, he started the new season with Triple-A Tidewater. Jack admits being disappointed. "But, I felt I would get recalled soon. Options are a part of the game if a player has them left." he said. "Sometimes they are used as a tool to get another player on the roster. With no regard to the player with options remaining."
Jack hit for a scorching .356 batting average with the Tides, and was recalled to New York in mid-June. After just five appearances with the Mets, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Tom Diedel on June 22, 1976. He still recalls riding the subway back to Shea Stadium following the trade announcement. "A very empty feeling in the clubhouse." said Heidemann.
In Milwaukee he roomed with the Brewers young shortstop, Robin Yount, and lockered next to the legendary, Hank Aaron. "Again, I thought I would get more playing time." Jack offered. "Then, they had a guy (Paul Molitor) they said they had to give a chance to play."
Once he retired from the game, Heidemann went straight into real estate sales in Arizona. "Becoming completely out of touch with baseball", and enjoying over 30 years of being a realtor until semi-retiring from that in 2011. "Slowing the lifestyle down." said the grandfather of six. Jack became active in the Arizona Major League Alumni organization. Making appearances at their clinics and golf outings in the area.
Jack Heidemann signed his card in the set for me from an autograph mailed to his office at Realty Executives on December 29, 2008.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Mark Little came to the New York Mets when he was traded along with John Thomson from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Jay Payton, Mark Corey, and Robert Stratton on July 31, 2002. The deal was made to bolster a club in contention for the National League Wild Card spot.
Mark made his debut with the Mets the next day at Shea Stadium. He came on as a pinch-hitter and grounded out to the pitcher in the sixth-inning of a 3-1 loss to the Houston Astros. The 30-year-old outfielder was used in the same reserve role during both games of a double-header on August 3rd. He would go hitless in both at-bats, and see New York swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Mets designated Little for assignment on August 4th to allow for the recall of Ty Wigginton. After clearing waivers and being assigned to Triple-A Norfolk, he was later traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for P.J. Bevis on August 16, 2002.
Following his playing career, Little became the minor-league roving outfield and baserunning coordinator for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007. He left baseball the next year to become a district sales manager for Pegasus Biologics. Mark remained in the surgical sales field moving to Gulf Coast Surgical Services in 2010.
I created Mark Little's card in the set from an autographed index card purchased from Jack Smalling in January of 2009.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Jim Lindeman joined the New York Mets when he signed a free agent contract on December 16, 1993. The team signed the veteran bench player as a possible first baseman to replace the recently departed Eddie Murray. Jim was invited to major-league spring training camp where he hit for near a .400 batting average. Even with that success the Mets chose to trade for David Segui and option Lindeman to Triple-A Norfolk. "It was the first time I've ever been surprised," he said. "In 11 years, I've never been surprised at where I was assigned. Until this year."
Jim began his season with the Tides very well, and earned a promotion to New York when outfielder, Kevin McReynolds was injured. Lindeman made his Mets debut on May 20, 1994. He came on as a pinch-hitter during New York's 5-3 loss to the Phillies in Philadelphia. Jim got his first starting assignment as the Mets' left fielder the next day. He responded with three hits, two runs scored and an RBI. Actually, the addition of Lindeman proved to energize a lethargic Mets offense, but it brought with it a questionable fielding ability.
A dropped fly ball in June resulted in a loss to the Atlanta Braves. New York Manager Dallas Green was less than understanding. "The big E—that's what hurt," the 59-year-old skipper complained. "It set the whole game up for them. It's a fly ball, all he's got to do is catch the thing. If it's a tough play I don't blame him. But I blame him if it's one I can catch. You're paid to catch the baseball if it's up in the air." Lindeman agreed, "There's no excuses, no nothing. I just missed it. I don't think I've ever in my life dropped a ball, but I did tonight."
Jim's power bat more than made up for any defensive shortcomings. He was a much welcomed hitter when in the lineup. His home run in San Francisco on July 4th proved to be the game winner over the Giants. "He has the ability to do what he did—which is hit the long ball," said Green. "We've been looking for a little offense and truthfully, he's given it to us."
During the 1994 campaign he contributed seven home runs, 20 RBIs, and a .270 batting average in 52 games. Lindeman was invited back to training camp for the next season, but was released by the New York Mets on April 24, 1995.
Jim finished his college degree at Northeastern Illinois University after he retired from professional baseball. Lindeman became a Physical Education teacher and assistant baseball coach at Lane Tech in Chicago. He quickly moved to Rolling Meadows High School where he also served as a PE teacher, head varsity baseball coach, and assistant freshman basketball coach. "I plan to continue teaching and coaching at Rolling Meadows until the day I retire." said Lindeman. Jim and his wife of more than 25 years, Debbie have four children. "My only real hobby is golf, and I don't have much time to play." says Jim. "So I am basically busy with teaching, coaching, and most importantly, family obligations."
Jim Lindeman signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 23, 2009.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Larry Bearnarth pitched for the St. John's University baseball team and was signed as an amateur free agent prior to the 1962 season. The righthander was in his second season with the Mets when Shea Stadium opened in 1964. Bearnarth had established the team record with 58 game appearances in 1963, and was a again a well-used member of the New York bullpen the next season.
Larry was a native of New York City. So it was only fitting that he would be among the "firsts" of the new stadium. Bearnarth threw the first-ever wild pitch while facing the Cincinnati Reds at Shea on May 6th, 1964. The errant throw occurred during the first night game played at the ballpark. New York would fall to the Reds by a score of 12-4.
He earned the nickname, "Bear" both due to his last name and his aggressive style of pitching. "You challenge the hitters when you come in as a relief pitcher," said Larry. "You can't give in to the batter or pitch around batters." Bearnarth was respected by his manager, Casey Stengel who believed that Larry would make a great coach one day. Stengel just had trouble remembering his name. "He would call down to the bullpen for a relief pitcher and I would hear him tell the pitching coach, 'Get Big Ben ready'," recalled Larry. "Once I realized that was the way Casey was with everybody, it no longer bothered me."
On May 31, 1964, the Mets were facing the San Francisco Giants in a double-header at Shea. Bearnarth came into the game and threw seven scoreless innings of relief during what became a 23-inning contest. Larry was working in the top of the 14th-inning when Stengel came to the mound with two runners on and nobody out. The "Old Professer" simply said, "Tra-la, la-la-la." and returned to the dugout. The next pitch that Bearnarth threw was lined into a rare triple play that ended the inning. An excited, but confused Bear went to Stengel and asked what he had meant by his odd comment. "Triple play!" responded Casey. Unfortunately the Mets would lose the game, and allow the Giants a doubleheader sweep. Despite Mets pitching holding San Francisco scoreless for 19 consecutive innings of work.
His 1965 season was split between the majors and Triple-A Buffalo. Larry ended with a 3-5 record and 4.60 ERA for New York. Feeling he needed to work on his control, the Mets sent him to pitch in Venezuela that winter. An ugly incident occurred during the Winter League there. Bearnarth responded to a heckling crowd by throwing a ball into the stands. It so angered the fans that four policemen had to escort him back to his hotel, and shortly thereafter he left the country.
Larry pitched 29 more games for the Mets in 1966. Those would be his last in New York. The reliever remained in the organization at the Triple-A level until his contract was purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers on October 20, 1970.
Bearnarth fulfilled Casey Stengel's prediction upon completion of his active pitching career. He first became a successful pitching coach for the Montreal Expos in 1976, and moved to the Colorado Rockies as their first in that role in 1993. Larry left coaching to become a scout for the Detroit Tigers in 1996.
Bear was elected into the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
Larry Bearnarth passed away from a heart attack in his Seminole, Florida home on December 31, 1999. He was just 58-years-old.
I created Larry Bearnarth's card in the set from an autographed index card that I received from Kevin Kemmetmueller on June 27, 2011.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Ron Taylor came to the New York Mets when his contract was purchased from the Houston Astros on February 10, 1967. Mets general manager, Bing Devine was familiar with Taylor. The right-hander had pitched successfully for him while a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ron made his debut with the Mets on April 13, 1967. He pitched a scoreless ninth-inning to preserve New York's 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium. Taylor would led the team with 50 appearances during the 1967 campaign. Working from the bullpen he finished with a 4-6 record and 2.34 ERA.
The Canadian native became the main weapon from the bullpen. Over the next two seasons, he continued to lead the Mets in appearances. Entering games 58 times in 1968, and 59 more the next season. "Gil defined everybody's role," Taylor shared about Gil Hodges appointment as Mets manager in 1968. "We sat in the bullpen, Tug McGraw and I, Don Cardwell, Cal Koonce, and we said to each other how good this team could be."
Ron was a strong contributor to the 1969 World Champion Miracle Mets. He threw scoreless relief in six total postseason appearances. Taylor would pick up saves in both the National League Championship and World Series. The veteran was also credited with the NLCS Game 2 victory after throwing 1-1/3 innings in relief of starter, Jerry Koosman. "I really loved it there," Ron recalled in 2008. "I really loved the fans. We won the Series, the tickertape parade was overwhelming. To be out there in an open car, all that confetti coming down, the roar, it was amazing."
Taylor pitched two more years with the Mets, but began to see the emergence of his friend Tug McGraw in the bullpen. He also started to see himself in a new career. The revelation occurred while traveling with McGraw on a USO tour of Vietnam after the 1969 season. "We visited a lot of hospitals and that did it." So when the New York Mets sold his contract to the Montreal Expos (on October 20, 1971) it was no surprise that his baseball career ended soon after. "Athough I was old for medicine, I still had a chance" explained Taylor.
He entered the University of Toronto medical school in 1972 alongside students a dozen years younger. Armed with an Engineering degree from 1961, he was able to accomplish the improbable task of earning his medical degree in 1977. Dr. Taylor returned to Major League Baseball in his new role of team physician for his hometown Toronto Blue Jays in 1979. "I've been a doctor for over 30 years," the converted relief pitcher said in 2008. "I'm happy helping people."
Ron Taylor signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on February 18, 2009. Including the awesome "1969 World Champions" inscription.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Dick Tidrow joined the New York Mets when he signed as a free agent on January 27, 1984. The veteran was brought in to replace the recently traded Carlos Diaz in middle relief. Tidrow was part of the New York Yankees during three World Series. "I had great moments during my last stay in New York," he said at the time of the signing. "I'm not that familiar with the Mets, but I know they have a lot of good young starting pitchers and I want to help."
The righthander made his debut with the Mets on Opening Day in Cincinnati. Throwing a scoreless ninth inning of relief during the New York 8-1 loss to the Reds on April 2, 1984. It would be one of his few strong outings. "Dirt" made his first Shea Stadium appearance on April 17th. He surrendered four runs in three innings while the Mets lost 10-0 to the Montreal Expos.
On May 8th, the Mets requested waivers on Tidrow for the purpose of granting him his unconditional release and recalled pitcher Brent Gaff from Triple-A Tidewater. Dick ended with a 0-0 record, and 9.19 ERA in 11 appearances. The move would end his major-league pitching career.
Tidrow rejoined the New York Yankees organization as a special assignment scout. He held that position from 1985 through 1993. The San Francisco native moved to the Giants as their scout for the American League prior to the 1994 season. The Giants elevated him to director of player personnel in 1997. His development of talent in the organization had a hand in the careers of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Brian Wilson and Madison Bumgarner. San Francisco's 2010 World Championship came during Tidrow's 12th year as their Vice President of Player Personnel. "Tidrow is pretty good at getting guys to the big leagues pretty fast," praised Giants General Manager Brian Sabean.
I created Dick Tidrow's card in the set from an autographed index card that I purchased from Bob Dowen on December 30, 2008.