Monday, January 31, 2011
Dave Gallagher was traded from the California Angels to the New York Mets in exchange for Hubie Brooks on December 10, 1991. He said the trade "was kind of a shocker to me," but his disappointment was eased by a reunion with Mets manager Jeff Torborg. Dave had played for Torborg as a member of the Chicago White Sox.
The veteran outfielder made his Mets debut on Opening Day —April 6, 1992. He entered the game as a pinch-runner for Eddie Murray in St. Louis facing the Cardinals. Gallagher had been acquired to be a bench player, but did get his first start of the year on April 12th as the lead-off hitter and left fielder at Shea Stadium against the Montreal Expos. In all he would appear in 98 games during the 1992 season. Hitting for a .240 batting average with one home run and 21 RBIs.
Dave thought he had resigned with the Mets for the next year, but had the Player's Association void the contract. The proposed agreement would have exceeded more than the 20% maximum cut allowed by the collective bargaining agreement. The club found a compromise and eventually did sign Gallagher to a one-year deal for the 1993 season.
Dave rebounded and raised his batting average to .274 during 99 games. Not nearly enough to offset the damage caused by a relentless series of off-field antics from several of his teammates. Manager, Jeff Torborg was fired and replaced mid-season with Dallas Green. All of which disappointed Gallagher who was a Trenton, New Jersey native and often had many friends and relatives in the Shea Stadium seats for the games. The Mets would lose 103 games and finish last in the National League Eastern Division.
"I agree that it was, "The Worst Team That Money Could Buy,'" Dave said in a 2008 interview. "It wasn't even about the baseball. I honestly felt like I was in kindergarten. It was really two years of feeling like I was in the minor leagues."
Gallagher was traded to the Altanta Braves in exchange for Pete Smith on November 24, 1993. Part of a series of moves that were made by the Mets at the conclusion of the year.
Dave was granted a patent for the "Stride Tutor" in 1987. A hitting aid that is designed to correct flaws in a batter's stride. "I decided there was too much inconsistency in my stride," Gallagher told Sports Illustrated magazine in 1989. "I was jumping at the ball, throwing my balance off. I figured that if I could control my feet, the rest of my body would follow suit. I thought why not just put something there to control them?" He developed the prototype from items purchased at a hardware store during the off-season. The apparatus has been used by many major-leaguers, including Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett.
In 2002, he founded the Dave Gallagher's All-American Baseball Academy at Frogbridge Daycamp in New Jersey. There he is able to continue teaching the game to young players. A skill that began when he served as the hitting instructor for the Triple-A Trenton Thunder baseball team following retirement from his playing career in 1996.
Gallagher has been part of the SNY Television broadcasts of Brooklyn Cyclones games.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Jose Oquendo signed with the New York Mets as a free agent out of Puerto Rico on April 15, 1979. As a Little Leaguer he had been helped by former major-leaguer and fellow countryman, Vic Power. "He said he would help me get to the big leagues," Jose later shared. "And he said he would show me how to act when I got there." The fifteen year-old switch-hitting infielder was sent to the short season Class-A Grays Harbor team to begin his professional career. By 1983, he had worked himself all the way to Triple-A Tidewater. Oquendo made his major-league debut with New York on May 2, 1983. Jose would enter as a pinch-hitter in the 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros at Shea Stadium.
The rookie impressed with his glove, and became the Mets starting shortstop. His offensive ability was quite a different story. Jose would finish the year with a low .213 batting average, a single home run, and 17 RBIs in 120 game appearances. He was brought back as the shortstop the following season, but finished with similar numbers.
On April 2, 1985, one day before the start of the season, the Mets traded Oquendo along with Mark Davis to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for John Young and Argenis Salazar. Jose exhibited his extreme versatility for the Cardinals during the 1988 season. He became the first National League player since 1918 to play all nine positions in a single season. "I didn't expect to play this much," he said. "I figured I would be a utility player again and worked hard at the different positions. When the injuries hit, I was ready."
Jose played ten seasons with the Cardinals before becoming their third base coach in 1999. He was invited to interview for New York's managerial vacancy in 2010. "Managing in the big leagues in something I hope to do. The opportunity to interview with the Mets is exciting," Oquendo was quoted. Jose did serve as the manager for the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic.
Jose Oquendo signed his card in the set for my friend, Terry at the Cardinals Winter Warmup event in St. Louis on January 15, 2010.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Jerry Hinsley was selected by the New York Mets from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first-year draft on December 2, 1963. "Reluctant to put him on their roster, the Pirates tried to hide Hinsley by assigning him to Kingsport and keeping him on the bench. He played not an inning all year, but the following winter the Mets drafted him anyway." reported Sports Illustrated in 1964. The magazine heralded Jerry as the fastest thrower in a crop of young Mets pitchers.
He made his major-league debut on April 18, 1964. Coming on in the sixth inning of the second game played in the brand new Shea Stadium. When Hinsley surrendered a triple to the legendary Roberto Clemente in the seventh inning of that game, it became the first three-base hit in the park's history. The right-hander made some Mets history of his own by becoming the youngest pitcher in team history at 19 years and 31 days of age.
Hinsley and his fastball were a favorite of Mets manager, Casey Stengel. While searching for a fourth starter in the rotation, he gave Jerry the ball to begin the second game of a double-header facing St. Louis on May 10th. Hinsley retired the first eight Cardinal batters, but lost the game after allowing four earned runs in the third-inning. He would pitch in a total of nine games with a 0-2 record, and 8.22 ERA. The flamethrower was optioned to the minor-leagues at the end of May and finished the season there.
Jerry suffered a broken jaw at the close of the 1965 minor-league season when he was struck by a line drive. It delayed his start in Winter League ball, but the Mets resigned him for 1966. "I think my chances are very good this year." Hinsley told the Las Cruces Sun-News. "The Mets have sent three hurlers down and another is in the Army."
It would not be until rosters expanded in September of 1967 that Jerry would return to New York. Then only for five innings over two games with a 3.60 ERA. He would be sent back to the minor-leagues and pitch there until retiring from baseball in 1971. "In Triple-A, you have three or four good hitters," explained Hinsley. "You get to the big leagues and they are all good hitters, one through eight."
Jerry's twin brother, Larry Hinsley served as his catcher during their illustrious high school career in La Cruces, New Mexico. The pair were both initially drafted together by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
Jerry Hinsley signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on October 23, 2008.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Eddie Kunz was selected by the New York Mets during the first round of the free agent draft on June 7, 2007. The right-handed junior from Oregon State University was the 42nd overall selection. He had served as the closer for the College World Series Champions. "It's definitely an amazing feeling," Kunz said when the team announced his signing at Shea Stadium. "Ever since I was a little kid, I always wished I could do that, and the best part is wearing the Mets uniform, and Major League-anything is definitely one of the greatest feelings that I have ever had."
After finishing the season with the Brooklyn Cyclones the 21 year-old was invited to major league spring training camp in 2008. "I'm really looking forward to seeing this kid pitch a little bit," commented manager Willie Randolph. "I see him as a kid who can help us in the near future, whenever that may be. You can see he's got the stuff to get hitters out. His ball has some hard sink when it's down."
Billy Wagner's strained left forearm gave the Mets the opportunity to promote Kunz from Double-A Binghamton. He made his major-league debut facing the Astros in Houston on August 3, 2008. Eddie gave up a bunt single, and committed an error to the next batter on a second bunt. He was bailed out by a double-play grounder to end the inning. "I've watched all those (college closers) a little bit here and there and saw the success they've had here." Kunz said. "I'm hoping I have the same."
His second appearance was his first at Shea Stadium. Eddie allowed a run during the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss to the San Diego Padres on August 6th. Discussions continued that the rookie Kunz would be used as the Mets interim closer while Wagner was unavailable. Following a very poor outing by Eddie in Pittsburgh the team chose to go in another direction. They optioned the reliever to Triple-A New Orleans on August 18th after acquiring Luis Ayala from the Washington Nationals.
Kunz ended with four appearances that totalled 2.2 innings of work with a 13.50 ERA. In 2010 the Mets converted Eddie into a starting pitcher in their minor-league system, but he was returned to the bullpen before the close of the season.
Eddie Kunz signed his card in the set for my friend, Dan before the Indianapolis Indians and Buffalo Bisons game at Dunn Tire Park on June 6, 2009.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Dae-Sung Koo joined the New York Mets as a free agent on January 8, 2005. Born in Daejeon, South Korea as a right-hander who converted to a left-handed thrower following an injury. The 35-year old came from the Orix Blue Wave of the Japanese Pacific League. Dae-Sung had also pitched for South Korea in the 2000 Olympic Games. Throwing a complete game victory over Japan to earn a bronze medal.
After initial negotiations with the New York Yankees stymied (due to their attention in acquiring Randy Johnson) the opportunity shifted to the Mets. His lifelong dream of pitching in the major-leagues was realized. "I believe I have accomplished all that I could in terms of my record and career in Japan and Korea, and now I want to come to the United States and pitch at a high level," Koo said through an interpreter. "If they call me to start, I will be ready as a starter. If they want me as a reliever, I am ready, as I am a team player."
Koo would make his major-league debut on April 4, 2005. He threw an inning of scoreless relief and struck out two Reds batters on Opening Day in Cincinnati.
Dae-Sung's greatest moment as a New York Met came on May 21st during a nationally televised game on the FOX Network. Koo came on in relief of Kris Benson facing the Yankees in front of a sold out crowd at Shea Stadium. After getting three quick outs the Mets elected to forego a pinch-hitter, and keep Dae-Sung in the game. Not much could have been expected from the pitcher who was quite unaccustomed to hitting. Particularly facing the future Hall of Famer and Yankees ace, Randy Johnson as he was. To the delight of the home crowd Koo stroked a drive to right-centerfield that fell just short of the warning track. A hustling Dae-Sung ran to second base with a double. Then when the next batter, Jose Reyes bunted to sacrifice him to third base an alert Koo saw home plate unprotected. He scampered to score with a head first slide just ahead of the tag by Yankees catcher, Jorge Posada. "I think he made the right call," Koo said of the umpire. "If he said safe, then I am safe." The Mets would win the game by a score of 7-1. "It never came to my mind that I could hit a ball that far," he said through a translator after the game. Mike Piazza summed it up, "We were all dumbfounded."
Over the season Dae-Sung appeared in 33 games for the Mets, but was not as effective facing left-handed hitters as the club had hoped. His 3.91 ERA came with 23 strikeouts in 23 innings of work. Koo was invited to spring training camp for the 2006 season, but returned to pitch in South Korea after only a few days.
The 41-year old reliever pitched for the Sydney Blue Sox during the inaugural season of the Australian Baseball League in 2010-11. "He's got a lot of poise out there and he doesn't get over-awed by situations," said coach Glenn Williams. "He's in his early 40s so obviously he doesn't throw as hard as he used to but he's got a few different breaking balls he throws." Koo finished the season as the league leader in saves.
Dae-Sung Koo signed his card in the set for my friend Tyler during a Blue Sox team workout at Blacktown Olympic Park in Sydney, Australia on January 8, 2011.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Pat Mahomes signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on December 21, 1998. He was placed into the role of the team's long reliever for the 1999 season. A change for the right-hander who had enjoyed some success with the Minnesota Twins as a starting pitcher. He was now returning from pitching the 1997 and 1998 seasons in Japan for the Yokohama BayStars.
Mahomes made his Mets debut on May 15, 1999, and made an immediate impact. Pat threw 2-1/3 innings of scoreless relief and earned the win as the Mets rallied to defeat the Phillies 9-7 in Philadelphia. His fifth win of the season came at Wrigley Field on August 1st. The Mets were forced to bat Mahomes in an extra-inning contest. Pat responded by driving in the winning run with a single in the top of the 13th inning. He took the mound for the bottom of the 13th and protected the 5-4 lead for the victory. Emphasing it with a loud shout following a strikeout of the final Cubs batter. "I worked so hard to get back, and it seems like it's all paying off," Mahomes said after the game. "The 5-0 record and the hitting, all that's a plus. I'm just trying to reestablish myself."
His fine season continued as the Mets chased the Atlanta Braves for the National League East division title. On August 11th, at Shea Stadium is lead-off base hit ignited a New York rally that helped the Mets to come from behind and defeat the San Diego Padres. Mahomes was credited with his sixth victory of the season. "He's making a pretty good year out of being used in that situation, and he realizes how much he's needed," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "There's no reason for him to wish for another one."
Pat finished the regular season with a perfect 8-0 record, and a 3.68 ERA in 39 appearances. His efforts contributed to the Mets winning the National League Wild Card berth into the 1999 Division Series. New York would advance to the NL Division Series, but fall to the Braves in six games. Mahomes appeared in three of those with a 1.42 ERA.
Avoiding arbitration the Mets resigned Pat for the next season. In 2000, he was asked to both work from the bullpen and act as a spot starter on occassion. The results were not as they had been the previous year. Mahomes finished with a 5-3 record, but much higher 5.40 ERA. New York again earned the N.L. Wild Card entry, but this time the Mets elected to leave Pat off all the post season rosters. Even the eventual World Series one facing the Yankees. He was given his release at the conclusion of the season.
Pat left the Mets when he returned to his Texas home, and signed a free agent contract with the Rangers on January 11, 2001. " I really would like another chance to start," Mahomes said. "I know if I play for the Mets, I'm not going to have a chance to do that. I defintely know I would like a more defined role."
Pat pitched for a variety of Independent League teams after leaving the major-leagues. "I haven't pitched in the big leagues since I was in Pittsburgh in '03," he commented as a member of the Sioux Falls team in 2007. "But when you think there's a chance you can get back, it's hard to quit."
His son, Pat Mahomes II has benefited from his coaching through the years. The junior Pat is a straight-A student and accomplished shortstop in Tyler, Texas. "This is more exciting for me," said the father Mahomes. "When you are out there playing, you have some control over what is going on. When you are in the stands watching your son, you just hope for the best."
Pat joined the staff of Thomas Hitting Academy in Longview, Texas in 2010. Booking private lessons as a pitching instructor for young players in that area.
Pat Mahomes signed his card in the set for my friend Phillip at the Thomas Hitting Academy on January 10, 2011.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Danny Graves joined the New York Mets when he was signed as a free agent on June 11, 2005. He had been released by the Cincinnati Reds following a slow start and unfortunate incident with some angry fans. Graves was the first Vietnamese born major-league player. A racial reference was made and Danny responded from the dugout with an obscene gesture. "Obviously, I overreacted, jumped the gun,' Graves later offered. "But in the heat of the moment it was just a natural response. I've never had that said to me in my professional career." The Mets contract came just days following a workout for the team at Shea Stadium. "We think it is a low risk deal with a big upside," said general manager Omar Minaya.
The former two-time All-Star closer for the Reds made his New York debut on June 14th throwing a scoreless inning of relief. "I went from a team that wasn't a contender to a championship atmosphere," Danny said. "If I never come in as a closer again, that'll be okay. I've had a lot of saves. I'm happy to do anything they ask me to do here."
Graves struggled to regain a consistency from the bullpen. Concerns came from a decreased velocity in his pitches. "I still feel like I am close," Danny said at the time. "It's pretty discouraging." His ERA was at 5.89 when the Mets chose to designate him for assignment on August 23rd. The right-hander cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk.
He returned to the New York when rosters expanded in September. Ending the 2005 season with a combined 20 appearances and 5.75 ERA. The Cleveland Indians signed Graves as a free agent on December 19, 2005.
In January of 2006, Major League Baseball in conjunction with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund brought several players to dedicate the first baseball field in Vietnam. The goodwill tour was to showcase the sport in a place it was unknown. Accompanied by his mother, Danny Graves made his first trip back to the country of his birth. "This, honestly, is the most fun I've had in a long time with baseball," he was quoted. "These kids are great. It's just so much fun to be out here and I'm really, really excited."
After his active pitching career, Danny continued his desire to coach young players as the pitching instructor at Xtreme Speed Performance Center in Texas.
Danny Graves signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to Xtreme Speed Performance Center on January 6, 2011.