Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Marlon Anderson first joined the New York Mets when he signed as a free agent on January 7, 2005. The versatile veteran came to the club on a minor league deal and unseated Joe McEwing to win the utility player spot on the roster.

The Shea Stadium fans witnessed the brand of hard-nosed baseball Anderson was known for on June 11, 2005. Marlon came to the plate as a pinch-hitter facing the American League West-leading Angels' closer Francisco Rodriguez. He stroked a drive that eluded Steve Finley and bounced along the warning track in right field. Anderson circled the bases and collided with Anaheim's catcher, Jose Molina upon reaching home plate. The collision resulted in three stitches to Marlon's cheek, and the first inside-the-park home run at Shea since 1989. "It was well worth it," Anderson said.

By the middle of his first year in New York, the left-handed hitter gained a more permanent place in the lineup. Manager, Willie Randolph installed the 5'11" Anderson as the team's starting first baseman. Former Gold Glover, Doug Mientkiewicz was fighting an injury that necessitated a replacement. "Nothing surprises me anymore," said Marlon. "You get to a point where doing things comes naturally. You just keep adding to your résumé. If you can hit they'll always find a place for you. I'm a guy that hits, and this is a team that needs hitting."

In total he played in 123 games for the season with seven home runs, 19 RBIs, and a .264 batting average. Anderson left the team when he signed a contract with the Washington Nationals on November 18, 2005.

His departure was relatively short-lived. Marlon returned to the Mets as a free agent on July 12, 2007. He had been released by the Los Angeles Dodgers the previous day. Back in New York he was a very productive pinch-hitter for the Mets. "This is the start of my season," was how Anderson described his return. He finished the year with a fine .319 batting average. Establishing himself as an invaluable bench option. "The biggest thing is that you can't look at it as being a pinch-hitter—you have to look at it as your chance to help the team that day," Marlon once offered about his craft. "The one thing you know is that you're usually coming up in a big situation, and that gets your attention."

The Mets signed Anderson to a two-year contract extension that winter. Injuries hampered his performance during the final season of Shea Stadium. He spent weeks on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring in both May and August. In June of 2008 he penned an inspirational note that was given to the team at a player's only meeting. It was a document designed to show players that they could reach 92 wins and the playoffs. "I was just encouraging the guys, saying- 'Don't believe what you read in the papers, what you see on TV.'" Marlon explained at the time. "The bottom line is it's not over, and we're going to be okay."

Anderson was a pinch-hitter during the final game at Shea. He recorded the second out of the eighth inning on the 4-2 loss to the Florida Marlins. His time with the Mets would conclude during the 2009 season.

When once asked what he might have pursued if he had not been a baseball player, Marlon responded, "Some sort of teacher or mentor or church leader. Trying to help people better themselves, believe in themselves, to get them to dream outside the box." So it was no surprise that at the conclusion of his playing career he began working with young players as a minor-league coach. First as the hitting coach for the Hagerstown Suns in 2011, and then the Potomac Nationals in 2012.

"I love to read uplifting books about people's lives," said Anderson. "I do a lot of things in my life, but I try to spend time wisely, to enrich myself and learn."

Marlon Anderson signed his card in the set for me before the Mets and Reds game at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati on July 19, 2008.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Armando Reynoso was traded from the Colorado Rockies to the New York Mets in exchange for Jerry DiPoto on November 27, 1996. The Mexican-born righthander made his Mets' debut at Shea Stadium on April 15, 1997. He started and tossed five innings of the 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers that day.

Reynoso recorded an even better performance on June 5th at Shea. Armando pitched his first complete game shutout leading the Mets to a 6-0 win over the Florida Marlins. "I've had a lot of good games," Reynoso said after the game. "But this is the best. Maybe someday I'll throw a no-hitter. That would be better." He faced 30 batters and matched a club record by inducing five double plays. "When I go out to the mound I feel big confidence," he explained. "because I know I have big defense."

On June 17th, he suffered his first loss as a member of the Mets. The finesse pitcher got off to a bad start facing the New York Yankees, and was trailing 4-0 in the second inning. A Luis Sojo line drive struck Armando on the inside of his left knee. "I could just feel my knee explode," Reynoso said. "I thought it was bad. I felt a lot of pain at that moment." He admitted to soreness in his previously repaired shoulder once being placed on the disabled list. Shoulder and elbow surgeries took their toll and ended his year as well as the start of the 1998 campaign.

Reynoso returned to the mound for the Mets on July 24, 1998. The rejuvenated hurler reeled off five consecutive victories upon his return to a six-man starting rotation. "I think that this team, this organization has been so patient with me when I came back. I have to prepare for anything," offered Armando. "I prefer starting." He pitched effectively through the conclusion of the year ending his second shortened season in New York with 11 starts, a 7-3 record and 3.82 ERA.

Armando left the Mets when he signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks on December 2, 1998. The move allowed him to play ball closer to his native Mexico. "The two years in New York were very tough. I missed my family so badly." Reynoso revealed. "When you get hurt and you're not contributing to the team, it doesn't feel good. It's not about the money."

Diamondback Charities teamed with the pitcher to create "Armando Reynoso Field" in Somerton, Arizona. The baseball facility became the third park created through the "Diamonds Back" Youth Field Building Program on September 12, 2002.

Reynoso was named the bullpen coach for Team Mexico during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, and was enshired into the Salón de la Fama del Beisbol Professional de México in 2010.

Armando Reynoso signed his card in the set for my friend Hal during the Major League All-Star Game Fanfest on July 9, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Jeromy Burnitz was selected by the New York Mets in the first round (17th overall) of the free agent draft on June 4, 1990. A product of Oklahoma State University who worked his way through the minor-league system and made his major-league debut in a Mets uniform on June 21, 1993. He would record his first big-league hit as a pinch-hitter at Shea Stadium the next day.

The rookie posted fair numbers during his first experience in the majors. Playing for a club that would lose 103 games, Burnitz finished his first year with 13 home runs, 38 RBIs, and a .243 batting average in 86 games. A performance that gave him the opportunity to become the Mets starting right fielder to begin the 1994 season.

New York manager, Dallas Green quickly soured on the young player, and was quite vocal about his displeasure. Criticizing both poor outfield play, and bad decisions on the base paths from Burnitz. The left-handed hitter had seen his batting average drop to a meager .192. In mid-May the announcement was made that Jeromy was heading back to Triple-A Norfolk. "I keep trying to improve and trying not to make the mistakes I've made in the past," Burnitz explained. "I admit I've made mistakes, but I will learn from them and I will be successful whether it's here or I have to go somewhere else first."

Jeromy would return for the month of July, but ultimately return to the Norfolk Tides to close out the year. Green again vocalized his disappointment in August. "He decided to send me down and said a couple of things to me that I disagreed with, and that was it," Jeromy remembered. "The things he said to me didn't make me happy. They weren't positive, I can tell you that." It was not a terrible surprise when the Mets traded Burnitz along with Joe Roa to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Dave Mlicki, Paul Byrd, Jerry DiPoto, and Jesus Azuaje on November 18, 1994.

Burnitz would continue to improve away from New York and became a Major League All-Star with Milwaukee in 1999. He averaged 34 home runs and 107 RBIs during his last four seasons playing for the Brewers.

With a different manager now in place, the Mets returned Jeromy to the Mets as part of a massive three-team trade that involved no less than 10 players on January 21, 2002. Burnitz was now a veteran who found a supporter in Bobby Valentine. "His personality is alive." said his former Norfolk manager. "He has less questions now. He got more upset with stuff before, but now he knows the answers and he has fewer questions." Jeromy would fail to find any consistency throughout the season. His batting average dipped to a career-low .215 at the close of the 2002 campaign. The 154 games he appeared in led the team, but only managed to provide 19 home runs and 54 RBIs. Marks that were far below expectations.

New York unsuccessfully attempted to trade the slugger that winter. "He didn't forget what to do last year. I think things just kind of snowballed, got away from him a little bit as the season went on." explained general manager, Steve Phillips. "I think when he struggled he tried harder and it compounded his struggles. Nobody cares more. Nobody works harder. And that's a pretty good combination." Jeromy was enjoying a successful start to the 2003 season when another setback occurred. A bone in his hand was broken by a Billy Wagner fastball at Shea Stadium on April 22nd. Burnitz remained in the game following the injury, but x-rays revealed the break and placed him on the disabled list. "It's heartbreaking when you get hurt anytime," Jeromy said. "But it definitely adds to it when you're feeling good."

Burnitz returned to the lineup on May 23rd, and provided instant offense for a club slipping out of division contention. Despite missing a month of the season he found himself with 18 home runs by the All-Star break. In an effort to shed payroll from the team, the Mets dealt Jeromy to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Victor Diaz, Kole Strayhorn, and Joselo Diaz on July 14, 2003. "It's hard for me to get real specific but I wouldn't trade my experience in New York for anything," Burnitz said at the time of the trade. "It gave me something inside. My personal experience there is tough for me to define. I wasn't part of a contending team, but they are the organization that drafted me."

"And with last year's struggles, I felt as bad as anyone. But to be able to come back and execute my job in a way that was productive to the team. When you're struggling there's no hiding anything in New York. To be exposed in a way through struggles, the whole experience gave me a lot inside and I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Jeromy Burnitz signed his card in the set for me from an autograph request sent to his home on November 28, 2011.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Manny Alexander was traded along with Scott McClain from the Baltimore Orioles to the New York Mets in exchange for Hector Ramirez on March 22, 1997. "They are Ripken casualties," Mets general manager, Joe McIlvaine said. "Alexander was behind him at shortstop last season, and McClain was behind him at third base this spring."

"It's exciting," said Alexander. "It's a new team. I knew that I wasn't going to play for the Orioles. I hope that it's the right thing. You never know what the chances are." New York placed him on the opening day roster as the insurance policy for an injured Rey Ordoñez. The Dominican Republic native made his debut with the Mets on April 2, 1997.

Manny became the team's starting shortstop when Ordoñez broke a finger on his left hand on June 1st. The assignment was short-lived. Alexander was also forced to the disabled list when he was injured running the bases on June 10th. The injury required arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. "It's frustrating because not many teams have a backup player who could step in and become an everyday player without losing anything," assistant GM Steve Phillips said. "Manny was a luxury. This is just another challenge. This team has overcome a lot so far." Recovery from the procedure kept Alexander out of the lineup until July 10th.

Manny returned, but once back in the lineup aggravated the injury to his tendon making a spectacular diving play against the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium. He returned to the disabled list on July 28th due to inflammation of his right knee.

Before he was able to return to play, the Mets sent Alexander to the Chicago Cubs completing a six-player deal that imported Turk Wendell, Mel Rojas, and Brian McRae. "It's like doing your shopping at 7-Eleven," Mets manager, Bobby Valentine explained the trade that also included the popular Lance Johnson. "You need something right now, so you pay a little more. We did that—but I think it was the proper thing to do." Manny finished with two home runs, 15 RBIs, and a .248 batting average in 54 games for New York.

I created Manny Alexander's card in the set from an autographed index card that was signed for Dion Soskin in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania during the 1992 season.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


The baseball world questioned what could ever best the ending of the 1986 National League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and New York Mets. An answer quickly came during the World Series to immediately follow. It featured the swaggering Mets against a Boston Red Sox franchise looking to erase years of frustration.

The two talented clubs had played an exciting World Series entering into Game Six in New York. After grabbing the lead in the top of the 10th inning, Boston was threatening to close things out when the true drama was about to unfold.

Calvin Schiraldi was in his third inning of work, and quickly retired the first two New York batters of the inning. The Red Sox stood one out from a World Championship. "I was up in the clubhouse," remembers Keith Hernandez, who had made the second out of the inning. "The reasoning was I didn't want to see Boston celebrating on our field. Then all of a sudden, we're watching it on TV, and this stuff starts happening. I didn't get out of that chair."

What happened were consecutive base hits from Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell, and Ray Knight. The events plated a run and forced Red Sox manager, John McNamara to pull Schiraldi and insert reliever, Bob Stanley. With Mets outfielder, Mookie Wilson at the plate, Stanley uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Mitchell to scamper home with the tying run.

Facing a full count, Mookie continued to foul off pitches until connecting on a ground ball to first base. "A little roller up along first....Behind the bag! It gets through Buckner!" was the call of broadcaster Vin Scully. "In comes Knight, and the Mets win it!"

New York had gotten down to their very last strike before elimination, and rallied to victory. After earning the right to a Game Seven, the Mets finished the drive to their second World Championship two nights later.

"I can't remember the last time I missed a ball like that," offered a dejected Buckner. "But, I'll remember this one." It became regarded as the greatest single moment in Shea Stadium history.

Controversy has surrounded McNamara's decision to leave his first baseman, who was hampered by leg injuries in the contest. The ball was picked up by right field umpire Ed Montague, who put a small "x" near a seam to identify it. Montague gave the baseball to Mets executive, Arthur Richman, who in turn presented it to Mookie. At that time Wilson wrote on it, "The ball won it for us". The souvenir was passed around the victorious clubhouse, and someone even left a tobacco stain where he kissed it.

Owners of the baseball have included actor, Charlie Sheen who first purchased it at auction. It has spent time on display at the the Mets Hall of Fame.

"It's crazy the way, it's 25 years later, people are still talking about it, and it was not the seventh game of the World Series, it was only the sixth," said Bill in 2011. "The series was tied, we might not even won, but for some reason, it stuck." The legendary error should not overshadow the fine career of Buckner. A man who recorded 2,718 career hits and played the game with passion and grace.

Bill Buckner signed his card in the set for my friend, Jessie at JP's Sports and Rock Solid Promotions autograph show in Uniondale, NY on October 23, 2011.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

#144) DON HAHN

Don Hahn joined the New York Mets when he was traded from the Montreal Expos in exchange for Ron Swoboda and Rich Hacker on March 31, 1971. The move allowed the then discontented Swoboda a new chance away from the Mets.

Hahn made his debut with the team on April 11, 1971 at Shea Stadium. He came into the game as a pinch-runner for Art Shamsky in the ninth-inning facing the Cincinnati Reds. Don made his first start as centerfielder on May 3rd. It was the beginning of his replacement of Tommie Agee as the Mets regular at that position. Hahn finished the year with one home run, 11 RBIs and a .236 batting average. Although he did not provide much offensively, it was apparent that he provided a solid glove in center field.

Don was sent to Triple-A Tidewater for the 1972 season. He recorded a .282 batting average in 114 games, and was promoted back to New York at the close of the year. Hahn managed just 6 hits during 17 games for the Mets that year and saw his big-league batting average stand at just .162. With the team's addition of the legendary Willie Mays, there was no immediate need for Don to provide assistance in center field.

When the Mets traded Tommie Agee that winter it still did not initially provide an opportunity for Hahn at the major-league level. Don was returned to the Tidewater Tides, and did not return until June of the 1973 season. The future Hall of Famer, Mays was showing signs of his 42-years of age in the field. Hahn was summoned to New York to share time in center field. He finished the year with 93 games played, but a low .229 batting average.

The Mets had rallied to win the 1973 National League Eastern Division, and then defeated the "Big Red Machine" of Cincinnati in five games. Don was in center field for all the games of the National League Championship Series. He was also there for the World Series games against the Oakland A's. Hahn flashed his defensive skills in Game Three, by leaping up to pull back a Joe Rudi drive over the right center field fence. Don was not near as fortunate when the next hitter, Sal Bando crushed a Tom Seaver pitch over his head. The Shea Stadium outfield had been reconfigured due to turf removed by celebrating fans following the victory over the Reds. Over 1,000 square feet of grass had been moved to the infield to cover bare spots. As a result the warning track had grown two feet wider than it had been all season. "I was playing deep, but not deep enough," said Hahn. "I played the warning track. What should have been, wasn't. The ball dropped for a double. After the game Seaver told me he knew about the field being changed, but forgot to tell me about it." Oakland would win the game 3-2.

The light-hitting Hahn, delivered a triple during Game Five of the series that drove in one of the two runs in New York's 2-0 victory. Then he added an additional three more hits in the deciding Game Seven, but saw the Mets ultimately fall to the reigning World Champion Athletics.

With the retirement of Mays, he was established as the full-time centerfielder for the 1974 campaign. Hahn was able to deliver four home runs, 28 RBIs, and a .251 batting average in 110 games. The Mets traded Don, along with Tug McGraw and Dave Schneck to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for John Stearns, Del Unser, and Mac Scarce on December 3, 1974.

Hahn played for three different organizations during his final year in professional baseball. After leaving the game he began a real estate career in the San Jose, California area. Don and his wife, Kathy had four children who became accomplished college athletes. Their youngest son, Dustin was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2004. "When I was growing up we would play from sunup to sundown," Hahn remembers. "There are more opportunities today if kids today take advantage of them."

I created Don Hahn's card in the set from an autographed index card given to me by Adam and Dan of City Liquidators on October 29, 2011.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Geremi Gonzalez signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on January 24, 2006. A once highly-touted prospect with the Chicago Cubs who following a pair of major elbow surgeries hoped for a healthy return. The Venezuelan native was given a minor-league contract and invited to major-league spring training camp. There in Port St. Lucie, Florida he lockered next to Jose Lima, and the two pitchers developed a friendship. The duo were the perpetrators of many practical jokes on their Mets teammates throughout the two months of camp. Before heading north, it was decided that Gonzalez would be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to start the 2006 season.

The National League Eastern Division leading Mets found themselves in need of starting pitching, and Geremi was promoted to New York. He made his debut with the club on May 13, 2006. The righthander faced the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. "Pitching from the first-base side of the rubber out of a hunched, stiff windup, Gonzalez was anything but tentative, firing his fastball over the plate and letting its movement work for him." Is how the New York Times described his work that game. The result was a five-plus inning performance in which he only surrendered two solo home runs. An implosion from the Mets bullpen kept Geremi from receiving the victory in an eventual 9-8 New York win.

Next up was a marquee matchup with the New York Yankees at Shea Stadium on May 19th. Gonzalez squared off against Randy Johnson, and was quickly battered by the Yankees offense. Geremi lasted but three innings while allowing nine hits, and six runs. He exited the game with a ballooned ERA of 10.13. Remarkably, the Mets would rally back to win 7-6 on a game winning ninth-inning hit by David Wright off Mariano Rivera.

Due to the struggles of Gonzalez and Jose Lima, changes were made to the starting rotation. The Mets added Alay Soler from Norfolk, and acquired Orlando Hernandez in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Geremi quickly found his opportunity limited.

"Who knows? Gonzalez might come around and do a good job today," manager Willie Randolph was quoted before his next start on May 25th. "He might deserve another shot." Instead Geremi surrendered deep home runs to Bobby Abreu and Ryan Howard to stake the Philadelphia Phillies to a 3-0 first inning lead. He would pitch six innings, but see New York fall by a final score of 5-3. Gonzalez was designated for assignment following the conclusion of the game.

The club traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Mike Adams on May 26, 2006. Ending his brief Mets career with an 0-0 record, and 7.71 ERA over 14 innings of work.

Geremi was on a pier along a beach in western Venezuela when he was the victim of a fatal lightning strike. Gonzalez tragically passed away (at the young age of 33) in Punta Palma on May 25, 2008. Two years to the day from his final appearance at Shea Stadium.

I created the set card for Geremi Gonzalez from an autographed index card purchased on October 17, 2011.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Rick Wilkins came to the New York Mets when he was traded from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Lindsay Gulin on May 12, 1998. The veteran catcher was obtained to fill a void left by the injuries to catchers, Todd Hundley, Tim Spehr, and Todd Pratt. "I thought he had a lot of upside," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said at the time of the trade. "He's done a lot of things at the major-league level. I thought he was a good bet. I'm hoping I was right." The team's general manager, Steve Phillips was concerned with Alberto Castillo as the only healthy option. "It's too uncertain. We didn't want to get caught with Castillo going down, and have Jim Tatum as our only catcher." said Phillips.

Rick made his team debut behind the plate on May 14th at Jack Murphy Stadium. He was hitless in four at-bats during New York's 3-1 loss to the San Diego Padres. Wilkins would not collect his first hit in a Mets uniform until his first game at Shea Stadium. His single to right field drove in the first run of the 5-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds on May 19th.

The Mets options at catcher quickly changed when the club acquired Mike Piazza on May 23rd. Wilkins was sent to Triple-A Norfolk where he finished out the season with the Tides. During this time he partially tore the labrum in his shoulder, but did not require surgery. At the conclusion of the season he elected to become a free agent and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization on March 6, 1999. "Guys are playing until they're 36, 37, 38," said Wilkins in 1999. "I still have quick hands and feet. I still have a quick bat. I think that age is overrated in major-league baseball."

Wilkins retired from playing after the 2002 season. In 1993 (a year that saw him hit 30 home runs and a .303 average with the Chicago Cubs) he established the Rick Wilkins Foundation. With the help of his brother, Ray they have raised money to support various organizations that work with adults with disabilities. The idea began as a tribute to their sister, Trisha who was born with cerebral palsy. "This is strictly a labor of love," said Ray Wilkins.

The Rick Wilkins Academy of Baseball was opened in 2009. The indoor facility located in Mandarin, Florida has batting cages, pitching machines and personal instruction. "It's good to come home and settle back where it started and provide an opportunity for those in the area."explained Wilkins.

I created Rick Wilkins card in the set from an autographed index card purchased on November 18, 2011.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Scott Erickson joined the New York Mets as a free agent on February 5, 2004. The event of his signing a minor-league contract was the last of three big days for the former Minnesota Twins star. His 36th birthday was first. Followed by his wedding to former Monday Night Football sideline reporter, Lisa Guerrero the next day. "I wish spring training started tomorrow," Erickson was quoted from his honeymoon in Hawaii. "I'm ready to go."

Scott was coming off a season lost to shoulder surgery, and had previously missed the 2001 campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery. "We're lucky." Scott said. "With the way medicine has advanced, 15 years ago I'd have been finished." The right-hander pitched his way into the fourth spot of the Mets starting rotation with a strong spring training performance.

Erickson was scheduled to make his debut with the team facing the Atlanta Braves on April 9th. Eight minutes before the first pitch of the game at Turner Field, he strained his left hamstring while warming up in the bullpen. "It's unfortunate, after all the work to get ready with my arm, the leg sets you back," Scott said. "There was a lot of buildup for this." The Mets placed Erickson on the 15-day disabled list and recalled Jae Seo to the roster.

A rehabilitation in the minor leagues followed, but by mid-season he had worked his way back to New York. Scott made his comeback in front of 23,176 fans at Shea Stadium on July 19th. Erickson hurled six innings, giving up eight hits and was in position to win the game when he left. The Mets bullpen would falter and provide a 6-5 Florida Marlins victory. "There really wasn't as much emotion or nerves as when I made my first start after Tommy John surgery," Scott recalled. "I was more nervous getting ready in Atlanta earlier this year, to tell you the truth."

The veteran did not fair nearly as well in his next start for the Mets. Erickson would only last into the third inning, but allow seven runs to the Montreal Expos. New York would ultimately lose by a score of 19-10. A disappointed Mets team chose to designate him for assignment prior to the next day's game at Olympic Stadium. Scott was traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Josh Hoffpauir on July 31, 2004.

Scott continued to pitch until 2006. After retiring from baseball he began a new career as a motion picture producer. "And I basically left Yankee Stadium, flew out to Montana right onto the set and threw on a headset," Erickson remembered. "And it was perfect timing, in a sense, that my baseball career ended and my moviemaking career started basically within a week of each other." His first film was the 2007 release A Plumm Summer, which featured his wife, Lisa.

Scott Erickson signed his card in the set for my good friend, Jessie at the MAB Celebrity Services show in Fairfield, New Jersey on November 12, 2011.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Charley Smith joined the New York Mets when he was traded from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Chico Fernandez and Bobby Catton on April 23, 1964. Smith made his debut with the club at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh the next day. He entered the 9-4 loss to the Pirates as a late inning defensive replacement at third base.

Charley established himself as the Mets most used option at third base during the first season of Shea Stadium. He appeared in 85 games at the position, but also was used in left field. Smith rewarded the club's faith in him by leading the team in home runs with 20 round-trippers.

Smith's biggest moment in the new ballpark came on August 17, 1964. Charley slugged a pair of homers that drove in a total of four runs during New York's 5-0 victory over the Pirates. It was all the offense needed to back up Mets rookie pitcher, Dennis Ribant on way to his first major-league win.

Charley returned for a second season with the Mets in 1965, and led the team in RBIs. During his two years with the team he hit 36 home runs, with 120 RBIs, and a .242 batting average. The free-swinger also recorded team highs in strikeouts during his two years in New York.

The Mets traded Smith along with Al Jackson to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Ken Boyer on October 20, 1965. Charley continued to play in the major-leagues until leaving the game in 1969. His two games with the Chicago Cubs that season allows him the rare distinction of having played for all four New York and Chicago big-league clubs.

The South Carolina native later retired to Reno, Nevada. Charley Smith passed away following knee surgery at the Washoe Medical Center there on November 29, 1994. He was just 57 years old.

I created Charley Smith's card in the set from an autographed Mets game program acquired from Adam Novak of City Liquidators in August of 2011.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Lee Mazzilli was selected by the New York Mets in the first round (14th overall pick) of the free agent draft on June 5, 1973. As a young athlete the Brooklyn native participated in speed skating and won eight national championships. Lee was naturally ambidextrous which translated into his ability to effectively switch-hit as a baseball player. He joined the Mets straight out of Lincoln High School with large expectations.

"Maz" was brought to Shea Stadium to officially sign his first major-league contract. The 18-year-old was asked by General Manager, Joe McDonald if there was anything that he wanted to see at the park. "Yeah, Willie Mays," responded Mazzilli. "I'd like to meet Willie Mays." Lee remembers this first day as his all-time favorite memory of Shea. "So they took we down to the clubhouse, the trainer's room. I walk in, and Willie Mays is on the trainers table." recalled Maz. "What could have been better? And then he came into Yogi's office. I'm there with Yogi Berra and Willie Mays. You kiddin' me? It was like a monument to me. Talk about being starstruck."

The fleet-footed Mazzilli set a minor league record by stealing seven bases in one game for the Visalia Mets of the Carolina League in 1975. He was soon promoted to New York as a late-season call up and made his major-league debut on September 7, 1976 in Chicago. The next day at Wrigley Field he delivered a three-run pinch-hit home run to propel a 11-5 ninth-inning victory over the Cubs.

During his first full season the Mets used Mazzilli, and his matinee good-looks as a centerpiece for their marketing campaign. He responded with a fair showing of six home runs, 46 RBIs, 22 stolen bases and a .250 batting average for a 1977 team that lost 98 games.

Lee's breakout season came in 1979. Maz was selected as the Mets' lone representative to the Major League All-Star Game in Seattle. He entered the game as a pinch-hitter and hit a game-tying solo home run in the eight inning, and then drew a bases loaded walk in the ninth to force in the winning run as the National League claimed a 7-6 victory over the American League.

For the year, Mazzilli delivered 15 home runs, 79 RBIs, 34 stolen bases, and a career-high .303 batting average. Even further endearing himself to the Shea Stadium faithful.

New York, searching for pitching, traded Maz to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell on April 1, 1982. His departure proved temporary as the Mets returned their hometown hero during one of the franchise's finest years. The Mets resigned Lee as a free agent on August 3, 1986. Most importantly, he was eligible for post-season play. In the role of a pinch-hitter, the veteran sparked rallies in both Games 6 and 7 of the World Series. Appropriately making one of the most popular players in Mets history a part of the 1986 World Champions. "It was a special team." recalls Mazzilli. "It was a confident team that had a lot of ability and great players, but most importantly they played as a team. That shows when you play together as a team, you win."

Lee remained with the Mets until being selected off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays on July 31, 1989. He would end his playing career at the close of that season. Maz became a coach with the Yankees in 2000, and served as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles in 2004-2005. He later returned to the Mets as a member of the SNY broadcast network in 2007. "The Mets have been a huge part of my life..." said Mazzilli.

Lee Mazzilli signed his card in the set for my good friend, Jessie at JP's Sports and Rock Solid Promotions autograph show in Uniondale, NY on October 23, 2011. Adding a "86 WSC" inscription.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Bill Hepler was selected from the Washington Senators by the New York Mets in the Rule V Draft on November 29, 1965. Once chosen, it was required for the young Hepler to remain on the major league roster that entire next season. If not he would have to be returned to the Senators. Bill made his big-league debut in a Mets uniform on April 23, 1966.

"I felt I belonged and was able to get the major league hitters out." said Hepler. "I was very poised at the age of 20. I thought at the time I would be a major league pitcher for many years."

Bill was used as both a reliever and starting pitcher during the 1966 campaign. He would record his first major-league victory in relief facing the Atlanta Braves at Fulton County Stadium on June 15th. However, it was an August 17th contest at Shea Stadium that is his greatest memory. "The one game that stands out the most was against the Pirates." shared Hepler. Jack Fisher, the New York starter, had allowed three Pittsburgh home runs. "We were losing 7-1 and I relieved in the third inning. Pitched four innings giving up four hits and no runs to win the game 8-7."

"It was always a wonderful feeling to play at Shea." Bill said. "I pitched more at Shea and did very well there. In 69 innings of big-league ball I got 15 double plays."

Hepler finished his rookie year with a 3-3 record, and a 3.52 ERA in 37 appearances.

Still the lefthander found himself back in minor-league baseball for 1967. "The Mets felt I needed to get some innings in." explained Bill. "I bounced around in AA and A-ball but ended up in the Carolina League where I helped the team win the League Championship."

"In 1968, I pitched in the Texas League and became a pitcher that knew how to pitch." said the southpaw who recorded a 9-6 season with a 3.14 ERA. "I felt like I was ready to pitch again in the major leagues. The Mets had other plans." He understood that the club had pitchers like Ryan, Koosman, and Seaver, "So I wasn't in their plans." The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Hepler into their system and assigned him to their Triple-A Tulsa club managed by Warren Spahn. "I was throwing in the gym at home in Covington, Virginia and felt something in my shoulder." A poor spring training audition followed and the Cardinals returned Bill to the Mets. "I couldn't really throw like I used to," Hepler remembers. "Finally in 1970, I gave it up. Still love the game and wish I could be involved with the Mets."

After retiring as a pitcher, he coached amateur baseball for a couple of years. Then found a new career in the construction industry for the next 37 years. "Mostly as a Senior Superintendent for a large commercial company that built high rises, commercial buildings, schools and churches." Hepler retired from his second career in 2010. He and his wife of more than 30 years spend time around their home in Florida. Enjoying family and allowing Bill to play as much golf as possible.

Hepler is among the 874 retired major-league baseball players that have been denied a pension they would have easily earned in today's game. Their case has been waged for over 30 years and is chronicled in Douglas Gladstone's book, A Bitter Cup of Coffee.

Bill Hepler signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on October 22, 2008.

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."

Taylor was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.

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.

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.