Wednesday, January 17, 2018

#47) DANNY NAPOLEON

Danny Napoleon was signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent before the 1964 season. He made his major league debut as a Met at Shea Stadium on April 14, 1965. Danny came on as a pinch-hitter in the 11th-inning facing the Houston Astros during the second game of the season. He delivered a base hit off reliever Jim Owens, and then scored a run as part of an extra inning rally that fell short in the 6-7 loss that day.

The gifted multi-sport athlete from Claysburg, Pennsylvania had made the jump from Class-A Auburn all the way to the majors after only one season. “The way the rules were back then, they either had to protect you and put you on the 40-man roster or lose you,” Napoleon told Neil Rudel of The Blair County Sports Hall of Fame in an interview. “With the year some of us had as rookies (in the minors), the Mets protected five of us.”

Napoleon appeared in 80 games with the Mets, including 68 games in 1965 and 12 in 1966. He struggled to hit consistently and was used as a utilltyman. He finished with a career batting average of .162 over his 130 major league at-bats.

“I look back on it as it was great to be in the big leagues but the older I got, the more I thought it would have been better if they sent me out to play (in the minors),” Danny said. “The pitching was the biggest adjustment but just the opportunity to go out and play every day keeps your competitive edge. I think I would have had a much longer career in the big leagues because the second year, I was having a real good year in (Triple-A) Jacksonville after I got sent down.”

The Mets were set to recall Napoleon when a groin injury forced him to retire from baseball. Danny began his second career working as an assemblyman at General Motors in Wilmington, Delaware for over 25 years. He focused his post-baseball life on his family.

Napoleon was inducted into the Blair County Hall of Fame in 2002.

Daniel Napoleon passed away on April 26, 2003 in Trenton, New Jersey at the age of 61. His card in the set was created from an autographed index card in my collection.

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