Sunday, February 12, 2012
Jay Payton was selected by the New York Mets in the first round (29th overall pick) of the 1994 free agent draft. He was teammates with Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek while attending Georgia Tech. The right-handed hitting outfielder got off to a successful start in the Mets minor league system. Payton captured batting titles in both the New York Penn League in 1994 and the Eastern League in 1995. Unfortunately Jay had ruptured a ligament in his right elbow late in that second season. Doctors performed a ligament reconstruction procedure that was only the first of four surgeries eventually needed over the next two years. "I'm definitely frustrated and disappointed," Payton said of the injury in 1997. "They say everything happens for a reason, but this doesn't make sense. Maybe 10 years from now it will."
Payton worked through painful rehabilitations to continue his path to New York. His efforts seemed to be rewarded in May of 1998. The Mets found themselves shorthanded with ten players on the disabled list. Jay was summoned to Shea Stadium as a replacement. "I almost wanted to cry," Payton explained of the promotion. "It's been so long. I've waited so long because of the injuries. I'm just happy. Really happy." Disappointment was to return when the young outfielder was returned to Triple-A Norfolk without an appearance.
Jay did make his eventual major league debut as a late season call-up on September 1, 1998. He was inserted as the left fielder facing the Padres in San Diego. Payton delivered base hits in each of his first two at-bats during the 9-8 road loss. He actually hit well during the short audition in New York. Jay posted a .318 batting average in his 22 at-bats to close the year.
He returned to Norfolk, but earned a second September promotion in 1999. Payton's breakout season came the next year when he made the Mets Opening Day roster. Jay established himself as the club's starting center fielder during the 2000 National League Championship campaign. He helped the Mets win the Wild Card entry with 17 home runs, 62 RBIs, and a .291 batting average. His success continued with home runs in both the NLCS and World Series. Jay's blast in Game Two of the Subway Series came off New York Yankees closer, Mariano Rivera.
"I don't get all the hoopla," Payton said after the NL Championship banner was raised at Shea Stadium the next April. "I kind of watched it go up for a half-second, then got my arm loose and got ready for the game. Come Wednesday, nobody's going to care about that banner except us and our fans. We've got to get back to business as usual and try to get us another banner up there next year—maybe one a little better."
Jay struggled through a tough season in 2001 that was complicated with a strained right hamstring. He was traded the next year along with Mark Corey, and Robert Stratton to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for John Thomson and Mark Little on July 31, 2002.
After retiring from baseball in 2011, Payton has enjoyed time with his son in Oklahoma. He serves as a professional hitting instructor at Hitting Skilz in Edmond.
Jay Payton signed his card in the set for my friend, Lou before his appearance at the Baseball Assistance Team dinner in New York City on January 28, 2012.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Tim Bogar was selected by the New York Mets organization in the eighth round of the free agent draft on June 2, 1987. A natural shortstop, who joined Eastern Illinois University as a walk on member of the baseball program. Tim not only made the team, he garnered all-conference honors after hitting 17 home runs while posting a .408 batting average in 1987. "He wasn't a superstar," Bogar's former high school coach Bill Wurl recalled. "He was a thinking player. He did the little things needed to win."
The Mets selected the infielder as a co-winner of their Class-A MVP award in 1988. He was told that a faster path to the majors might occur through more of a utility role. Tim proved his extreme versatility on September 4, 1991. Bogar appeared at all nine fielding positions in a single game as a member of the Triple-A Tidewater Tides facing the Richmond Braves.
Tim's big-league career began when he was the last player named to the New York roster to start the 1993 season. Bogar would make his major league debut on April 21, 1993 at Shea Stadium. The righthanded batter struck out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning of the Mets 10-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants. His appearance 12 games into the campaign earned him the "a-Trophy Award" for 1993. Newsday writer, Marty Noble began recognizing each season the last man on any team's Opening Day roster to make a game appearance. "I guess congratulations are in order," Bogar said when informed of the distinction. "Now I can say in my short major league career I've won an award. I figured I'd be the last on this team to play, but I didn't know I'd be the last in the major leagues. To be honest, I'm glad it's over."
Injuries, and an eventual trade of Tony Fernandez in June made Bogar the club's starting shortstop. He responded well to the assignment. Tim became a favorite of both the coaches and his teammates. Bogar's rookie season unexpectedly ended following the best game of his Mets career on August 14th. Starting at second base he collected four hits and 4 RBIs during a 9-6 New York victory over the Phillies in Philadelphia. Two of the hits were home runs. The second of which was of the inside-the-park variety. "That's the farthest I've ever run in my baseball life," Tim wheezed after the ninth-inning feat. "I got added wind when I saw how excited Cubby (third base coach Mike Cubbage) was." Bogar's slide at the plate resulted in a broken hand that required season-ending surgery.
Tim returned to the Mets the next spring, but found himself in the definite role of a reserve player. A trade brought over José Vizcaino to become the starting shortstop for 1994. Bogar began to add first base and the outfield to his major league resumé. He would continue to help the club from the bench through the end of the 1996 season.
The four-year Mets player was informed during the final days of spring training camp he was not in the club's plans for 1997. New York first designated him for assignment, and then traded Bogar to the Houston Astros in exchange for Luis Lopez on March 31, 1997. "How it all went down when I got traded to Houston, there wasn't as much of a need for me on the team that year," Tim explained in 2012. "They decided to go in a different direction. It was actually a really good thing for me. I enjoyed my four years in Houston and I got to play a lot more, and I actually went further with my career in Houston than I ever would have in New York. There's always a reason for something."
Bogar started his second career in baseball as a minor league manager for the Astros organization in 2004. He moved to the Cleveland Indians system and was named the Eastern League Manager of the Year with Akron in 2006. Tim's return to the major leagues as a coach came during the 2008 season with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The next year he joined the Boston Red Sox coaching staff. "One of my former pupils," Bobby Valentine said of Bogar in 2012. "He's a very good baseball man and future manager at the big league level, no doubt."
Tim was inducted into the Eastern Illinois University Hall of Fame in 1998.
I created Tim Bogar's card in the set using an autographed index card acquired by Jessie from the noted collection of Dr. John Davis, Jr. on February 9, 2012.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Tom Wilson joined the New York Mets when he signed a minor league contract on May 7, 2004. The contract came at the conclusion of a busy period that saw Wilson with three organizations. He initially went to spring training camp with the San Diego Padres, but was released after failing to secure the job of back-up catcher there. Tom signed with the Oakland Athletics who sent him to Triple-A Sacramento. After two weeks he was released, and signed the contract that put him with Triple-A Norfolk to begin the 2004 season.
Vance Wilson suffered a right hamstring sprain while running the bases, and was forced to the 15-day disabled list. In need of a catcher, the Mets promoted the other Wilson on June 15th to fill the void. He made his debut with the team the next day at Shea Stadium. "It's been a whirlwind," Tom said after the game. "I'll tell you what, it's nice to be back up. I thought I would make the Padres, but I talked to the Mets before I signed with Oakland." His pinch-hit assignment against the Cleveland Indians was his only appearance before being sent back to Norfolk on June 20th. The Mets needed to clear roster space in New York for the return of José Reyes from the disabled list.
Tom was summoned back to New York on June 26th. This time he was needed behind the plate for the second game of a Subway Series contest with the New York Yankees. Wilson started the nightcap of the doubleheader in the Bronx on June 27th. Tom collected his first Mets hit during the 11-6 loss that night. However, it would be his uniform to make headlines the next day. Tom and relief pitcher, Jose Parra were in the black uniforms worn by the rest of the team. However, theirs read "Mets" across the chest while their teammates had the appropriate road "New York" jerseys. The error went unnoticed for a time, as Wilson's shirt was unseen beneath his chest protector. When he came to bat in the top of the third inning the mistake was made apparent. " I had no idea." Tom said when asked about it after the game.
The man referred to as a "journeyman" would appear in a total of four games for the Mets and was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Tony Socarras on August 17, 2004. "Hey, you can call me what you want," said Wilson. "As long as my phone keeps ringing. That's the way I look at it."
Tom completed a 16-year professional playing career in 2006. The next season he joined the Trenton Thunder club as their hitting coach. Wilson remained in the Yankees organization, and began a career as a professional scout in 2009.
Tom Wilson signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on February 7, 2012.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Calvin Schiraldi was drafted by the New York Mets in the first round (27th overall) of the free agent draft on June 6, 1983. The right-hander was named Most Valuable Player of the 1983 College World Series as a member of the University of Texas Longhorns. "Seven of our scouts saw Calvin during the year, and each one gave him a glowing report." Joe McIlvaine, director of scouting for the Mets said. "He has the makeup to become an excellent power pitcher and we feel his future is just unlimited."
Schiraldi performed well in the Mets minor league system, and earned a late-season promotion in 1984. As rosters expanded he was brought up from the Triple-A Tidewater club to make his major league debut on September 1st. Calvin was the starting pitcher that game, but yielded five runs in just an inning and a third of work facing the Padres. He did not factor into the decision once New York rallied to a 10-6 victory over San Diego. Schiraldi finished that year with a 0-2 record and disappointing 5.71 ERA.
Calvin began the next season back at Tidewater. He was quickly recalled to New York on April 20, 1985. Schiraldi's first start back occurred on April 22nd. It resulted in his first career major league victory. A Mets 7-6 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis.
The rookie pitcher fractured his right small toe, and was forced onto the disabled list for two weeks in May. Calvin was struggling at the big league level. His worst outing came on June 11th in Philadelphia. Schiraldi surrendered 10 earned runs in just 1-1/3 innings during the 26-7 destruction of the Mets by the Phillies. It was no surprise that New York returned him to the Tides on June 19th.
A return back to the Mets happened when rosters expanded at season's end. Calvin came from the bullpen and recorded the final two outs of the fifth-inning on September 14th. That game would become his last for the Mets. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox along with Wes Gardner, John Christensen. and LaSchelle Tarver in exchange for Bob Ojeda, John Mitchell, Tom McCarthy, and Chris Bayer on November 13, 1985. His performance over the two seasons in New York yielded a 2-3 record, and 7.63 ERA in 15 appearances.
"I had my chances in New York and didn't capitalize. My last two years have been up and down," said Schiraldi. "I've got the stuff to get the hitters out, but I've got to get myself straightened out and start thinking about pitching instead of trying to blow the ball past hitters like I was still in college."
Calvin is best remembered by Mets fans as a member of the Red Sox. Schiraldi was on the mound for both New York victories in Games Six and Seven of the 1986 World Series. On the 25th anniversary of the event, he told ESPN that although unhappy with the outcome of the game and series he would not change the experience. Calvin values how the adversity changed him into the person he has become today.
Schiraldi finished a eight-year major league career in 1991. Calvin became a high school teacher and baseball coach at St. Michael's Catholic Academy in Austin, Texas. He credits those things learned in his baseball career, particularly in Game Six of the World Series to forming his core values and coaching systems. You'd be surprised," Coach Schiraldi was quoted in 2000. "For me, personally, it's a tremendous satisfaction in that you get to watch kids for four years and watch how they grow not only baseball-wise, but maturity-wise. In fact, it was more satisfying for me when we won our first state championship than anything I did in pro ball. Just watching them dog-pile on the field and the elation in their faces was awesome."
Calvin Schiraldi signed his card in the set for my friend, Lou during the 1986 Red Sox 25th Anniversary Show in Wilmington, Massachusetts on November 5, 2011.
Friday, February 3, 2012
Bobby Klaus joined the New York Mets when his contract was purchased from the Cincinnati Reds on July 19, 1964. "A new team is always exciting." Klaus said about the move. The Mets representative for the mid-summer classic at Shea was not as excited to see the second baseman come on board. "Let them move him to third base," angrily said Ron Hunt upon hearing the news he was losing his position. "He ain't made the All-Star team yet, has he?"
The Mets did elect to install Klaus with his superior glove into the middle infield. Casey Stengel liked what he saw in the young player. Evidence of that exists at the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum in a hand-written note where the manager describes Bobby as a "fair bunter and good hustler". Klaus made his New York Mets debut on July 30, 1964. The day of the legendary manager's 74th birthday. Stengel celebrated the day while the club hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers at Shea Stadium. Bobby was hitless in four at-bats during the 5-3 loss.
For his first season, Klaus would end up with two home runs, 11 RBIs, and a .244 batting average in 56 games. Done while playing a mix of both second and third base positions defensively. Bobby says he has fond memories of those days "playing with an old pro like Roy McMillan." The veteran shortstop's experience was of great value to the recent big-leaguer.
Klaus took a job with team sponsor Rheingold Beer during the off-season. "I was a pack-out man in Queens." remembers Bobby. During his time with the Mets, the Klaus family lived in Flushing. He was often seen there playing games of catch with his young daughter, Kelly and teaching her and friends to sing "Meet the Mets". Bobby was even known to join in neighborhood games of touch football.
In 1965, the infielder was once again asked to replace Hunt. This time it was when Ron suffered a separated shoulder injury that sent him to the disabled list from May 12th through August 4th. Bobby shared time at second base with newly-acquired Chuck Hiller during Hunt's absence.
He finished the year with two home runs, 12 RBIs, and a .191 batting average in a total of 119 games. The Mets chose to trade Klaus along with Wayne Graham and Jimmie Schaffer to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Dick Stuart on February 22, 1966.
Bobby would not return to the major leagues again, and retired from playing baseball in 1969. He was a member of the San Diego Padres system and took over as their Triple-A manager midway through the 1968 campaign. The Illinois native remained in California after baseball and started a new career with the San Diego bio-tech company, Gen-Probe. Klaus has since retired to enjoy the role of grandfather to 10 grandchildren. He even constructed a high-rise treehouse for the group in the backyard of his home.
Bobby Klaus signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on February 2, 2012.