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.

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