Sunday, October 5, 2014


Joe McEwing came to the New York Mets when he was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Jesse Orosco on March 18, 2000. The versatile utility player was brought in with just five days remaining before the Mets completed spring training and headed to Japan for a special opening to the 2000 season. That timing was too short and forced Joe to begin his Mets career with the Triple-A club in Norfolk. "At first, I was hurt," McEwing said about the trade. "I'd be lying it I said it wasn't tough. It took me a good week to get back on focus. You understand the business side of the game. They needed a left-handed pitcher in the bullpen. It's a very humbling game."

"Super Joe" was the nickname that McEwing had earned in St. Louis during his 1999 rookie season. The 5-foot-11, 170 -pounder, established that he had the ability to play each of the infield and outfield positions at the major league level. That was secondary to the hustle he brought to every opportunity to help the team. Joe became an extremely popular player in New York after joining the Mets later in the 2000 season. He would continue to play the role of super-sub until his release from the club on March 17, 2005.

"You hate to pinpoint one," Joe said when asked his favorite memory from his days with the Mets. "Obviously fulfilling your childhood dreams, and that's competing in the World Series, and being able to play the Yankees. You figure the whole world is focused on one city. For that to happen, it's pretty special. And the biggest thing for me is being part of the relief efforts after 9/11. That holds the biggest impact, because it had nothing to do with the game. It was as a ballclub contributing to the city of New York and the country. That really sticks out and means a lot to me as an individual. To be able to take the pressures and everything off a lot of individuals for a couple of hours a night, to give peace and happiness and something positive to cheer for."

The reserve player contributed in a even further lasting way to Mets history. He served as the mentor to future All-Star David Wright during his rookie season. "David was easy," McEwing said. "David is a special kid and special person and a good friend. Every rookie that comes up, you just try to guide them the right way to go about things. I wasn't hard to guide David the right way. He has outstanding core values." Wright is proud to be part of McEwing's Mets legacy. "Real proud," David told in 2005. "If people saw me play and thought of Joe. I'd like him to be remembered in New York. I want his influence to mold my character so I can be like him."

Joe returned during the 2008 season to pay his respects to Shea Stadium. "I needed to," explained McEwing about needing to see the park one last time. "It's such a historic place—in my heart anyway. I needed to see it before they knocked it down. I brought my son back to let him know that's where daddy played and it's not going to be here any longer."

Joe McEwing signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to the Winston-Salem Dash team on July 13, 2009.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Billy Cowan was traded to the New York Mets from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for George Altman on January 15, 1965. Billy was coming off a fine rookie season in Chicago during which he had hit 19 home runs, and drove in 50 runs with a .241 batting average over 139 games. "Cowan adds speed, good defense, power and youth to the outfield," said Assistant to the Mets President Bing Devine. "This gives us another center fielder who has played regularly in the big leagues," legendary Manager Casey Stengel explained. "He can run and catch the ball. He has to cut down on the strikeouts and he can become a good hitter too."

Cowan made his debut with the New York Mets on Opening Day, April 12, 1965. The center fielder and leadoff hitter struck out three of his four at-bats facing Don Drysdale during the 6-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Shea Stadium. It was June the 21st before Billy would hit his first home run as a Met. The blast proved to be the game-winner as the Mets defeated Claude Osteen, who had taken a no-hitter into the seventh inning by a 1-0 score.

The results were not what the club had hoped for when signing Cowan. The Mets began giving time in center field to both Cleon Jones and Johnny Lewis which affected Billy's playing time. When the team found themselves in need of a roster spot to return Ron Hunt from the disabled list, they sold Cowan's contract to Triple-A Buffalo on August 5th. The Mets later traded Billy to the Atlanta Braves for two players to be named later on August 10th.

Cowan ended his one year with the Mets hitting three home runs, 9 RBIs, a .179 batting average and striking out 45 times against just four walks. "I enjoyed being with the Mets," Billy said in a July 1969 interview.  "When I first came to the Mets they said I was gonna play center field regularly. I don't think I ever played a full two-week stretch."

Billy retired from baseball in 1972. He formed his own real estate investment firm, Bill Cowan Associates in Palos Verdes Estates, California. Spending most of his spare time playing golf and racket ball while raising three children and seven grandchildren with his wife, Allene.

He was inducted into the East High School Hall of Fame in his hometown of Bakersfield, California in 2012. "I have been inducted into a couple of others, but I don't think any of those mean any more to me than this one does." Cowan offered. "It is really a privilege.

Billy Cowan signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on October 6, 2008.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Tom Grieve came to the New York Mets in a rare four team trade on December 8, 1977. The Texas Rangers sent Grieve and a player to be named later to the Mets. The Atlanta Braves shipped Willie Montanez to the Mets. Texas then sent Tommy Boggs, Adrian Devine and Eddie Milner to the Braves and Bert Blyleven to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates sent Nelson Norman and Al Oliver to the Rangers. The Mets moved John Milner to the Pirates and Jon Matlack to the Rangers. Texas would send Ken Henderson as the player to be named later to New York on March 15, 1978 to eventually complete the complicated transaction.

Grieve was an accomplished veteran outfielder who had hit 20 home runs during the 1976 season with the Rangers. Two years later, during his lone season with the Mets he would only start 21 games for New York. Tom's debut with the team came on April 9, 1978 at Shea Stadium. He grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth-inning of a 5-0 loss to the Montreal Expos. Grieve's first home run with the club came on April 14th when the team visited Montreal. His ninth inning blast tied the game that was later won by the Mets 3-2 in 10 innings. "Naturally I want to be a starting player." Grieve said after the game. "I will stay in the best of shape and show them I can play regularly."

Tom was not able to establish himself as an everyday part of the lineup as he had hoped. He finished the 1978 season with 54 appearances, two home runs, 8 RBIs, and a .208 batting average. It was a year that also saw the Mets flounder to a miserable 66-96 record. The last victory led by Grieve in a guest manager role. Mets manager Joe Torre had a tradition of selecting a veteran from the current roster to take over managerial duties on the final game of each season. "He said you can do anything you want except change pitchers," Tom recalled to in 2011. "I said, 'Can I put on the suicide squeeze?' He said, 'Sure". Grieve got the chance in the fifth inning. The Mets led 1-0 and had one out, a runner on third and pitcher Kevin Kobel at the plate. Tom called for the squeeze. "He fouled off the pitch," Grieve said. Kobel then grounded out, but the runner later scored on a hit and the Mets won the game 5-3 over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. With his managerial experience Grieve became part of a special tradition that Torre kept up all the way through his 29-year coaching career. "That was a great thing that he let players do," said Grieve. "I'll never forget it."

Grieve was traded along with minor league pitcher, Kim Seaman to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Pete Falcone on December 5, 1978. He played one year with the Cardinals and retired as a player after the 1979 season. Tom became the General Manager and later broadcaster for the Texas Rangers. He was inducted into the Ranger's Hall of Fame on July 24, 2010.

Tom Grieve signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 31, 2009.

Monday, August 18, 2014


Tom O'Malley joined the New York Mets organization when he was traded from the Montreal Expos along with Mark Bailey in exchange for Steve Frey on March 28, 1989. O'Malley was a former major league veteran who had been working to return to the major leagues the last few seasons. "I know I can play in the big leagues," The Triple-A Tidewater Tides third baseman said in an interview in May 1989. "It's tough not to have the chance. About the only thing you can do down here is to try to keep from pulling an attitude muscle." O'Malley was looking at a tall order to make the New York team with Howard Johnson as the Mets starting third baseman. "I am just down here trying to put up some good numbers again. I hope they notice."

O'Malley was promoted to the Mets when rosters expanded, and made his debut with the club at Shea Stadium on September 7, 1989. Tom came in as a pinch-hitter during the 13-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. He would appear in a total of nine games for the team that finished in second place of the National League Eastern Division. O'Malley did deliver six hits in 11 at-bats for a .545 batting average over that handful of games.

The left handed hitter made the big league club out of spring training to be used as a pinch hitter and reserve corner infielder. O'Malley was struggling with just two hits during his first 22 at-bats when what is possibly his greatest Mets moment came on June 5, 1990. He entered the 5-5 tie game against the Montreal Expos at Shea in the 10th inning. His first at-bat that day came in the bottom of the 11th inning. "My birthday is June 6th," remembered Mets manager Buddy Harrelson. "Tom had been struggling for us as a pinch-hitter, and I said that I would give all my presents back the next day if Tom O'Malley would just hit a home run." When the ball sailed over the head of David Martinez falling over the 410 foot marker of the centerfield fence, Tom had delivered the game winner. "It was a birthday wish that came true and I thought that was the catalyst that got us going in June." Harrelson concluded. "It was unexplainable," O'Malley said after the game. "It's something I didn't expect. People might not have been aware that I was on the team. Maybe this will be a start and people will recognize the Irish fellow."

Tom remained with the club as a part time player for the remainder of 1990. He appeared in a total of 82 games hitting three home runs, driving in 14 runs while posting a .223 batting average. At the end of the season the Mets sold his contract to the Hanshin Tigers of Japan's Central League.

O'Malley played six years in Japan for both the Tigers and later Yakult Swallows. He was both the regular season and Japan Series MVP while leading Yakult to win the Japanese Series in 1995. After retiring from playing in 1996, Tom managed the independent Newark Bears from 1998 to 2001.

The Montoursville native became the coach of the local Loyalsock High School softball team in 2013. "It's been a lot of fun so far. They've played hard. They've had great attitudes." Coach O'Malley described his start with the Lady Lancers. "And you know they're doing the little things and we worked on the fundamentals."

Tom returned to Japan in January 2014. He became the hitting coach for the Hanshin Tigers.

Tom O'Malley signed his card in the set for Jamie Blye at the Williamsport Crosscutters 8th Annual Hot Stove Banquet in Williamsport, PA on January 20, 2013.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Nolan Ryan was selected by the New York Mets organization in the 12th round of the free agent draft on June 8, 1965 out of Alvin High School in Texas. The 18-year-old right handed pitcher was sent to rookie level ball at Marion of the Appalachian League. Nolan advanced quickly during the very next year. He began 1966 in Single-A Greenville, where he posted a 17-2 record before being promoted to Double-A Williamsport and finally the major leagues as a September call-up.

The "Ryan Express" made his big league debut as a member of the New York Mets on September 11, 1966. The Shea Stadium faithful saw the Mets lose to the Atlanta Braves by a score of 8-3. The 19-year-old future legend threw two innings of relief. Nolan struck out the first batter he faced, but in his second inning of work surrendered a solo home run to Joe Torre. A week later, Ryan was given his first starting assignment but lasted a single inning. Nolan surrendered four runs on four hits while striking out three Houston Astros batters at the Astrodome in his home state of Texas. Nolan was returned to the minor league system following those two appearances.

He would leave the minor leagues for good at the start of the 1968 campaign. Ryan's first game back at the big league level was a return to the Astrodome on April 14th. This time Nolan would show signs of the pitcher he was to become by hurling 6-2/3 innings of shutout baseball while striking out eight, and earning his first ever major league victory with a 4-0 win over Houston. He started a total of 18 games during his 25 appearances in 1968. His first full season ended with a 6-9 record, and fine 3.09 ERA. Most importantly the power pitcher struck out 133 batters in 134 innings of work.

Nolan was used as a spot starter and long reliever during the magical 1969 season. His efforts helped the "Miracle Mets" win the franchise's first World Championship. There was no question that the right hander had a tremendous fast ball. Often the question was could he keep it in the strike zone. Mets manager, Gil Hodges brought Ryan into a key moment of Game Three of the National League Championship Series. Trailing in the game with two runners on base, Mets starting pitcher Gary Gentry had fallen behind 1-2 in the count. Desperately needing a strike three, Hodges bypassed a more reliable Tug McGraw and summoned Nolan from the bullpen. "Keep it down," the manager instructed as he handed Nolan the ball. "Just keep it down." A packed Shea Stadium crowd alongside the rest of the national television audience saw the young Texan fire in strike three on his first pitch. The Mets manager called for an intentional walk to the next Atlanta batter, future Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda to load the bases. Now a lapse in control would force home another run with any additional walk. Ryan struck out Clete Boyer and ended the inning with a fly ball to left field off the bat of the next batter. New York had come out unscathed and Nolan would finish the game and be credited with the win as the Mets rallied back to a 7-4 victory. It was the first post-season win at Shea Stadium and sent the club to the World Series. "We were elated, absolutely overjoyed," remembered Jerry Koosman. "We were so happy and proud of Nollie. We just couldn't believe it."

Ryan came out of the bullpen for Game Three of the World Series to record the save by closing out the 5-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Shea Stadium. "Looking back on it." Ryan reflected to the Daily News in 2009. "It was my one shot at a World Series team. When it happened, probably a lot of us, thought that we'd be in that position again. It was our inexperience to not realize how hard and unique it is to get to that position. Now, there's such an appreciation."

Nolan would pitch two more years for the Mets before being sent to the California Angels in what would become one of the all-time worst trades in baseball history. New York traded Ryan along with three prospects in exchange for third baseman Jim Fregosi. "As for Ryan, I really can't say I quit on him." offered Mets general manager Bob Scheffing in December 1971. "But we've had him three full years and, although he's one hell of a prospect, he hasn't done it for us. How long can you wait? I can't rate him in the same category with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman or Gary Gentry."

Nolan Ryan and his 100 mph fastball would go on to throw a major league record seven no-hitters, strike out 5,714 batters, while earning a total of 324 victories over a 27 season career. He was enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

Nolan Ryan signed his card in the set through an autograph request sent to the Nolan Ryan Foundation on August 13, 2014.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Mark Carreon was selected by the New York Mets in the eighth round of the free agent draft on June 8, 1981. The Tucson, Arizona native is part of a baseball family. His brother Michael played on the 1973 Cactus Little League team that represented the United States in the Little League World Series. His father was Camilo Carreon, a former major league player for 8 seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Clevelend Indians and Baltimore Orioles.

The 17-year-old outfielder made his professional debut with the Rookie Level Kingsport club playing 64 games in 1981. He had worked his way up to the Triple-A Tidewater Tides by the close of the 1985 season. Carreon hit 10 home runs, with 89 RBIs and a .312 batting average during a fine year with the Tides in 1987. The effort earned him a September call-up to the major leagues.

Carreon made his big league, and New York Mets debut on September 8, 1987 as a pinch-hitter at Shea Stadium. A bitter sweet moment for the rookie who had dealt with the passing of his father only six days earlier. Mark would appear in a total of nine games that year, but return back to Norfolk to begin the next season. He received another September call-up in 1988 and entered seven games for the National League East Champions.

Mark became a permanent major leaguer during the 1989 campaign. On May 12th, the Mets began to use him as their right handed pinch-hitter off the bench and he rewarded their confidence by setting the then club record of four pinch-hit home runs that season. He was also an option in the outfield and finished with an overall total of 6 home runs, 16 RBIs with a .308 batting average over 133 at-bats.

At the beginning of the 1990 season, Mark was able to switch from his assigned uniform number 32 to the same number 45 his late father had worn. He was enjoying a breakthrough season hitting 10 home runs with 26 RBIs in only 188 plate appearances when an unfortunate injury occurred. Carreon tore the ligament in his right knee while rounding third base in San Diego on August 21st. "People say you hear the ligament go," Mark recalled to the New York Times. "I didn't hear anything. I just wound up on the ground. I couldn't move an inch." During his rehabilitation time Carreon checked himself into New York's Smithers Center for Alcoholism and Drug Treatment. "I checked into the program because I wanted to educate myself, to learn more about this problem before it got any worse." Mark explained to the Tuscon Star at that time.

He worked hard over the winter and reported to spring training to compete for a spot in the outfield. "When I reported, I was called a cripple," said Carreon. "But I've made great strides since I've been here." A good spring earned him a roster spot, but the free agent signing of Vince Coleman forced Mark back into the bench role he had shaken during the previous year. "It's a tough pill to swallow," the outfielder remarked about playing time in April. "But it's beyond my control." On May 4th he hit his eighth career pinch-hit home run to establish the Mets club record. "It's unfortunate that my career is at a standstill when I'm 27 years-old and at the peak of my abilities," Carreon told reporters after the game. "There is no doubt that I want to play and no doubt I would do about anything so that I can play." Mark's attitude deteriorated throughout the rest of the season. It was reported that twice during 1991 he violated club policy by leaving the dugout and departing the stadium before the end of the game. The Mets eventually honored his requests and traded him along with pitcher Tony Castillo to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Paul Gibson on January 22, 1992. "I'm not going to cut any throats," Carreon said following the trade."New York is definitely the place to play, but you have to be playing. I've always had full confidence in my ability. I just couldn't show it in New York."

Mark played another five years in major league baseball and two more in Japan before retiring in 1999. After baseball he was part of a shipping company in McComb, Mississippi. Carreon was among the players named in the 2007 Mitchell Report as a known user of performance enhancing substances during his time with the San Francisco Giants. "Regarding the Mitchell Report, the following is true-towards the end of my 18-year career, regretfully on one occasion I experimented with a performance-enhancing sustance, however the remaining 17 years were unscathed by this one error in judgement." Carreon explained in a written statement. "Meanwhile here in the present, I support the challenge that lay before the Players Association, current players and owners in restoring the great game of baseball."

Mark Carreon signed his card in the set through a private signing held by Nick Cicogna on August 5, 2014.

Monday, July 14, 2014


Josias Manzanillo joined the New York Mets when he was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Wayne Housie on June 12, 1993. The right handed pitcher from San Pedro de Macoris of the Dominican Republic is the 17th of 18 children in his family. Josias was assigned to Triple-A Norfok after the trade, and primarily served as a starting pitcher for the Tides. He earned a promotion to New York to make his Mets debut at Coors Field in Colorado on August 21, 1993. He would make six appearances with the club to record a 3.00 ERA over 12 innings of relief work.

Manzanillo was unable to retain a spot in the Mets bullpen during spring training the following season. A disappointed Josias almost refused his assignment to Norfolk but reconsidered. "I didn't want to start over and rebuild with another club," Manzanillo told The New York Times. "I felt like what I had to do was show them here what I can do." Less than a month into the season he was rewarded for that decision when the Mets added him to the major league roster.

The spirited pitcher was known for ending innings in an unusual way. Josias would place his head down and sprint full speed into his team's dugout whenever the third out of an inning was recorded. This bold display would occasionally irritate the opposing batter who had created that out. Something which might encourage an opposing pitcher to retaliate. "It's my nature. It's the way I play the game. It's nothing I plan," explained Manzanillo. "It's not to show anybody up or to be a hot dog. I don't want to do anything that would put my teammates at risk. That's not good for the team, either."

"Manzy" fit well into the job of a major league reliever. Mets manager, Dallas Green established him as the set-up man to the club's closer, John Franco. "This is all new to me," Josias observed. "but I like the idea of throwing one inning. I like the idea of setting up for Johnnie, because he's one of the best in the game at that role." His season took a bad turn when an MRI on August 2nd revealed a bone spur in his right shoulder. The injury ended his 1994 campaign with 37 appearances over 47.1 innings, with a 3-2 record, 48 strikeouts, and a 2.66 ERA.

He returned to pitch the beginning of the 1995 season with much different results. "I think it's a matter of confidence as much as anything," Green said in mid-May. "Manzy breeds on confidence, and he doesn't have it right now." Josias was designated for assignment and selected off waivers by the New York Yankees on June 5, 1995. His 12 appearances for the Mets finished with a 7.88 ERA over 16 innings.

The Mets returned Manzanillo to the organization when he resigned on July 3, 1998 following his release by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. It was not until Opening Day the next season before he pitched for New York in a major league game. He threw two scoreless innings of a 2-6 loss to the Miami Marlins at Dolphin Stadium on April 5, 1999. "I see myself as a guy that needs a job in the big leagues and will pitch in any type of role that throws me out there," Josias told the NY Daily News. Pitching for the Seattle Mariners two years earlier, Manzanillo had been struck in the groin by a Manny Ramirez line drive. He was not wearing a protective cup. The extreme injury forced emergency reconstructive surgery to both testicles. "I came back and I wasn't the same guy," Manzanillo offered. "My confidence was tough because I was trying to protect myself before I threw the ball." His work during the 1999 season was brief as the Mets designated the right hander on May 10th. His final run with the Mets ended with a 4.90 ERA over 18.2 innings of work.

Josias pitched for three other clubs before retiring from baseball in 2005. "I love baseball. I have a passion for the game," Manzanillo said. "I enjoy every single time I walk on that field." He remained around baseball by establishing Manzys Pitching Farm in Florida. HIs program offers pitching instruction to prepare youth for high school and college programs.

Josias Manzanillo signed his card in the set at a private signing in Florida by Signatures4U on July 2, 2014.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Tom Veryzer was traded to the New York Mets from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Ray Searage on January 8, 1982. "With the trade of Frank Taveras, we were looking for an experienced infielder to team with our youngsters like Ron Gardenhire and Wally Backman," Mets general manager, Frank Cashen told the New York Times. "Tom Veryzer provides us that infielder."

The 29-year-old Long Island native was glad to join the Mets. "I'm thrilled about the trade," Veryzer said from his Islip home. "Nothing could be better than going home to play. I was a regular for four years in Cleveland and I know there is a chance to play here too."

Veryzer made his Mets debut on April 9, 1982 facing the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. He entered as a replacement for the starting shortstop Gardenhire. Tom was used primarily as the backup to the younger infielder until an injury essentially ended his season. Veryzer fractured his leg when Atlanta Braves outfielder, Claudell Washington slid into him at second base on June 1st. Tom was unable to return to play until September. "I've played long enough to know you accept these things," Veryzer reflected later. "You can't change what has happened. A lot of things could be worse." He appeared in a total of 40 games with 54 plate appearances and a .333 batting average.

Veryzer returned to battle for one of the starting middle infielder jobs the next spring. Although the veteran really considered himself a shortstop. "Everybody says that if you can play shortstop you can play second base," Tom explained. "My problem is that while I'm at shortstop I don't have to think. But at second, a little thing like a ground ball to third, I'm supposed to run to first. But half the time, I just stand there." The club valued his bat but decided to remain with their two younger options. They traded Veryzer to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for minor leaguers, Rob Schilling and Craig Weissmann on April 2, 1983.

Tom continued his major league career two more seasons before retiring from the game following the 1984 campaign. He was inducted into the Suffolk County Hall of Fame in 1995.

Veryzer suffered a stroke and passed away at the young age of 61 on Tuesday July 8, 2014.

Tom signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 28, 2009.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Dan Wheeler joined the New York Mets when he signed a free agent contract on January 27, 2003. The right-hander struggled in the early years of his major league career as a starting pitcher with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Mets brought him into the organization with the plan to convert him into a full-time relief pitcher.

He would successfully begin that season with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides and be promoted to New York in June. It was on June 18, 2003 that Wheeler made his Mets debut at Dolphin Stadium facing the Marlins. Dan threw scoreless ball over the final three innings of the Mets 10-5 victory over Florida. He earned his first major league save. Wheeler would remain a part of the bullpen for the remainder of the season posting a 1-3 record, 35 strikeouts, two saves, and a 3.71 ERA over 51 innings of work.

Dan made the major league team out of spring training for the 2004 season. He was a favorite of Mets manager, Art Howe due to his ability to consistently throw strikes. Wheeler was 3-1 with a 4.80 ERA working out of the bullpen when New York attempted to demote him to Norfolk. The Mets needed his roster spot for starting pitcher, Jae Seo. Dan was traded to the Houston Astros in exchange for minor league outfielder, Adam Seuss on August 27, 2004. "I was very surprised," said Wheeler. "I understand that they had to make a move, but a trade was the last thing I thought of. I talked to Jim Duquette and he said they put a claim in on me, so they had to make a move to keep me in the big leagues. So they did this out of respect to me."

Following 13 seasons in the major leagues, Wheeler retired from baseball in 2014.

Dan Wheeler signed his card in the set for my friend Lou at the Major League Baseball offices in New York City before Draft Day on June 5, 2014.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Larry Bowa came to the New York Mets when he was signed as a free agent on August 20, 1985. The 16-year veteran had been released from the Chicago Cubs eight days earlier. Bowa came to a first place New York team that found themselves unexpectedly in need of a reserve shortstop. Rafael Santana had been backed up by Ron Gardenhire that season, but a groin strain forced him to the disabled list. "When Gardy went down I got on the phone and said: 'Get me Bowa'. He's an ideal player of experience for a pennant race." Mets manager, Davey Johnson told the New York Times.

"I didn't expect to get any calls, what with the age factor, and most of the clubs are pretty solid at shortstop," the 39-year old Bowa told the Chicago Tribune. "The only thing that made it easier was the chance to play with a contender." Larry would make his Mets debut at Shea Stadium on August 23rd. Bowa was the starting shortstop for the 3-0 loss to the San Diego Padres.

The switch-hitting infielder would appear in a total of 14 games for New York and record two hits in 19 plate appearances for a .105 batting average. The Mets would finish the season with 25 wins against 17 losses, but their 98 wins placed them three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for second place in the N.L. Eastern Division. Larry was granted free agency at the end of the season.

After his retirement following the 1985 season, Bowa went into coaching, serving as the manager of the San Diego Padres for two years. He also served as a coach with the Phillies, Anaheim Angels, and Seattle Mariners before returning to Philadelphia for a four-year stint as the manager of the Phillies. He was named the National League Manager of the Year in 2001 after guiding the Phillies to within two games of the division title after a last-place finish the year before. He followed that by serving as a third base coach for Joe Torre with both the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Larry Bowa signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 22, 2009.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Pedro Martinez joined the New York Mets as a celebrated free agent on December 16, 2004. The three-time Cy Young award winner left the Boston Red Sox after helping them win their first World Series title in 86 years. "It was more of a commitment from this team than it was money, actually," Martinez said when introduced to the New York media at Shea Stadium. "I gave Boston every opportunity to actually get me."

He became the ace of the staff and posted a tremendous first season with the Mets in 2005. Proving to be the fierce competitor on the mound that made him famous in the American League and the perfect teammate that endeared him to the Boston Red Sox organization. Pedro would strut around the clubhouse adorned in a garish orange two-piece suit before each game of a three-game winning streak. Then wore a trash can upon his head to celebrate a game-winning hit delivered by large-noggined back up catcher, Ramon Castro. Most importantly he ended with a 15-3 record, 208 strikeouts, and a 2.82 ERA for the year. "Carlos Beltran, Cliff Floyd, Jose Reyes...they all play better when I pitch," Pedro bragged following a victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. "Maybe it's my tempo out there. Maybe they just like me and like playing behind me. But our team seems to be doing better when I pitch." The Mets would finish in third place in the National League East with 83 wins, and a renewed optimism.

Pedro's next three years with the Mets were broken up with a series of injuries. His trips to the disabled list began with losing the month of July 2006 due to right hip inflammation. Then back to the DL in mid-August for a month to nurse a strained right calf muscle. Martinez would lose most of the 2007 season rehabilitating from rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder. He returned to the team on September 3, 2007 to make his first start of that season in Cincinnati. Pedro became part of a very exclusive club recording his 3,000 career strikeout in the 10-4 victory. "It's been awhile since I could say that I'm good enough to pick up a ball tomorrow and go right back out there and do it again, " Martinez was quoted after the game. "I'm going to continue to work hard. If I work hard, it will obviously pay off. I'm not done yet."

Pedro suffered a strained left hamstring two days into the 2008 season that placed him back on the disabled list. Once back in the rotation he registered his weakest season in a New York uniform. Finishing with a 5-6 record, 87 strikeouts in 109 innings and a 5.61 ERA. His time with the team ended when the Mets granted him free agency on October 31, 2008.

Martinez earned $52 million dollars to pitch in the 79 games of his Mets career. Omar Minaya, who was the Mets general manager that signed Pedro defended that decision in 2013. He argued that the Dominican star brought another value by attracting other players and boosting interest in the team. "I don't think there are too many contracts where you get four, five full years, especially with veteran guys."

Pedro Martinez signed his card in the set through legendary promoter Jack Berke at the Fanatics Authentic Sports Spectacular Convention Boston Show in Marlborough, Massachusetts on May 18, 2014.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Damon Buford became a member of the New York Mets when he was traded from the Baltimore Orioles along with Alex Ochoa, and Jimmy Williams in exchange for Bobby Bonilla on July 28, 1995. He had the unusual experience of actually being traded by his father, former major leaguer Don Buford.  The elder Buford held the position of assistant director of player development with the Orioles and had orchestrated the deal with New York. "The trade came out of the blue, but my dad sees it as an opportunity," Damon said. "He's my dad first." It was a chance to return from Triple-A Rochester back to the major leagues.

The Mets inserted Damon into the starting lineup immediately. He made his debut with the team as the left fielder at Shea Stadium that same day. Buford delivered a base hit in the 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The new player found a friend in the Mets veteran center fielder Brett Butler. "The first couple of games I was nervous," Damon said. "I felt like it was spring training all over again. But it was great to be around Butler. I sat next to him on the bench and I talked to him in the outfield. I learned more from him in the past two weeks than I have in the last couple of years."

Buford inherited the leadoff spot in the batting order when Butler was forced to temporarily leave the club to address the death of his mother. Following his return to New York, Brett was later traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 18th. His departure made Damon's move permanent.

On September 13th he recorded the first multiple home run game of his career. Buford slugged two blasts while driving in five runs during the 10-5 win over the Houston Astros at Shea. "I just felt I was in a comfort zone." Damon said. "I felt I could do anything, that if I took a short, quick swing, I could hit the ball out. I've got that feeling at the plate now"

Unfortunately he did not finish the season as strongly. He collected just five base hits in his final 25 at-bats of the year. Damon finished with a .235 batting average, four home runs, 12 RBIs and seven stolen bases during his 44 games with New York.

The Mets traded Buford to the Texas Rangers in exchange for minor league outfielder, Terrell Lowery on January 25, 1996. Damon would play for the Rangers, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs until 2001.

After baseball, Buford has operated several tanning salons in Arizona with his wife, Sara Neeley-Buford. The couple are also part of 2nd Serving Foundation a mobile food bank serving the Phoenix community. Damon was named their Chairman of the Board of Directors in January 2013.

Damon Buford signed his card in the set through a private signing held by Signatures4U on March 12, 2014.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Rich Rodriguez was first a part of the New York Mets organization when they drafted the native Californian out of the University of Tennessee in the 9th round of the 1984 amateur draft. He would pitch as high as Double-A Jackson in 1988 before the Mets traded him to the San Diego Padres for two other minor leaguers on January 13, 1989.

The left-hander returned to the Mets as a major league veteran when they signed him to a two-year, $1.5 million contract in January of 2000. He was officially added to the 40-man roster on February 8th.

Rodriguez made his New York Mets debut during the very unusual "Opening Day" on March 29th at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. He would allow a home run to Mark Grace during his inning of work in the 5-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs. His first appearance at Shea Stadium came days later on April 5th. Rich was effective that game. Striking out four and scattering two hits across three innings of work facing the San Diego Padres.

The southpaw began to struggle with surrendering the long ball after that. He has victimized for three home runs from the Philadelphia Phillies in his next two appearances. "It's only May, and I am going to turn it around," Rodriguez said at the end of the month. "It is going to get better; it will happen soon." Rich had allowed runs in eight consecutive relief appearances before the Mets relegated him to limited bullpen duty. The veteran accepted a demotion to Triple-A Norfolk on June 28th. "After so many years, that adrenaline flow needs to be there to have a real competitive edge," Mets manager Bobby Valentine explained to The New York Times. Bobby felt that the lack of use in critical spots may have contributed to the 7.67 ERA of Rodriguez.

Rich was recalled in July and continued to struggle. That resulted in a return to the Norfolk Tides which lasted until rosters expanded in September. Rodriguez was brought back to a Mets club playing for a postseason appearance. He would pitch in four more games and allow runs in three of those. During the 2000 campaign he threw 37 innings allowing 59 hits with a 7.78 ERA.

The Mets released Rodriguez on March 29, 2001. Exactly one year to the day of his debut with the club in Japan.

He would pitch more effectively with three different American League teams before retiring from professional baseball in 2003 at the age of 40. At that point he began work on the High School level as a pitching coach in California. In January of 2012 he joined Elite Nine Baseball Camps and Clinics as a pitching instructor. He is joined there by fellow former Met player, Gregg Jefferies.

I created Rich Rodriguez's card in the set from an autographed index card given to me by my friend, Jessie through the good people at City Liquidators on March 8, 2014.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Juan Castillo was signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela on May 2, 1988. The 18-year old right-hander would pitch five seasons at Class-A level before becoming a bone fide prospect in 1992.  That season he would post a 1.83 ERA over his final 12 starts with the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League. The performance earned him a promotion to Double-A Binghamton for 1993.

Castillo was summoned from Binghamton to New York on July 26, 1994. Starting pitcher Pete Smith was suffering shoulder stiffness and had been placed on the 15-day disabled list. The scenario set up Juan's major league debut later that night. Castillo was the starting pitcher at Busch Stadium and lasted five innings facing the St. Louis Cardinals. He worked methodically allowing only one hit per inning through the first four frames. The Cards gathered two hits in the fifth, and Todd Zeile would end Juan's night with a three-run home run to right off a high fastball. Castillo earned a no-decision when the Mets rallied to win the game 10-9 in extra innings.

Juan would get one more start before being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on August 2, 1994. He finished his major league time with a 6.94 ERA in 11.2 innings over those two appearances. Major League Baseball began their most infamous work stoppage on August 12th of that year. The entire season was lost and the World Series cancelled. When things became apparent there was to be no quick resolution teams began to send their players to foreign countries to play winter baseball there. "It's been a little more difficult this year because a lot of Latin-American teams are waiting to see if they can get some of the major league-caliber baseball players to play there because of the strike," said Steve Phillips, the director of minor league operations in 1994. Juan was assigned to pitch in Venezuela along with teammate Edgardo Alfonzo.

Baseball returned once the strike was concluded on April 2, 1995. Starting pitcher, Pete Harnisch had been acquired  during that strike in a trade with the Houston Astros on November 28, 1994. The New York Mets sent Juan Castillo as the player to be named later in that deal on April 12th. He would remain in the Astros minor league system until retiring in 1996.

I created Juan Castillo's card in the set from an autographed index card given to me by my friend Jessie Burke in December 2013.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Ricardo Rincon was signed by the New York Mets as a minor league free agent on January 23, 2008. The 37 year-old left-hander had appeared in 557 games over a 10-year career in the major leagues. Rincon had not pitched in the big leagues since appearing in five games two years earlier with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was coming off a torn ACL in his right knee that followed a year that had ended with surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff. The Mets invited the veteran to spring training camp with a chance to become a member of the bullpen.

Rincon surprised many with a fastball that reached 90-91 miles per hour during the Grapefruit League schedule. It was still not enough for him to break into a full roster heading north to New York. The Mets did not choose to option him to Triple-A New Orleans. Instead in an effort to allow Ricardo to remain closer to home, his contract was loaned to the Mexico City Reds of the Mexican League on April 2nd. He would pitch 42 games in Mexico with a 0-2 record, two saves and a 3.82 ERA.

It was time for Rincon to return to the major leagues when rosters expanded towards the end of the 2008 season. The Mets brought him to New York to supplement an extremely tired bullpen for a team that was beginning to surrender leads late in games. Ricardo made his debut with the club on September 5th getting the first two outs of the ninth inning during the 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium.

The lefty would be called upon to preserve the victory during the final start of Pedro Martinez's Mets career on September 25th. Rincon entered the game and surrendered a three-run home run to Chicago Cubs rookie, Micah Hoffpauir on the first pitch. It would be the final pitch that Rincon would throw in his major league career.  The New York Mets granted the veteran free agency at the end of the season. Ricardo ended his brief Mets tenure with eight appearances, striking out three batters and walking one while registering a 4.50 ERA.

Rincon continued to pitch occasionally for his hometown Diablos Rojos club for a number of years to follow.

Ricardo Rincon signed his card in the set for Ricardo Lopez before a baseball game in Tijuana, Mexico on August 23, 2013.

Friday, February 28, 2014


Jeff Gardner signed with the New York Mets as an amateur free agent on August 28, 1984. The infielder from California had been selected in that year's amateur draft by the Houston Astros, but elected not to sign at that time.

Gardner worked his way through the Mets minor league system. Impressing many coaches with his strong work ethic along the way. "You need to see him play for two weeks to appreciate him," observed Mike Cubbage, his Triple-A manager in Norfolk. "He's sure-handed, and he turns the double play as well as anyone in the major leagues. He does the little things with the bat–bunts and moves guys over–that helps the team." Jeff was in an unenviable scenario as a middle infielder with an organization full of talent at those positions. "I'm not saying there's no chance of getting to the big leagues, but as far as me being their second baseman of the future, I'm sure they don't see that," Gardner told The Los Angeles Times in 1989. "But that can change."

Jeff continued to play at the Triple-A level and work as a waiter at a San Luis Obispo restaurant during the winter. Believing that continuing to work towards a major league contract would be the best way to benefit his young family. "As long as I still have some chance to make the big leagues, I'll stay," Gardner explained. "If you don't have a chance, I think they'll let you know."

His work paid off when he was promoted to New York as rosters expanded to end the 1991 season. Jeff would make his long awaited major league debut at Shea Stadium on September 10th. Gardner was the starting shortstop during a one-hit gem tossed by fellow rookie, Pete Schourek. Jeff contributed his first big league hit and two runs scored to the 9-0 victory over the Montreal Expos. "I have quite a few memories," Jeff shared in 2014. "I recall driving to the stadium, seeing my uniform and then just walking out on that field for the first time as the most vivid snapshots."

Gardner would appear in 13 games to close the season with six hits in 37 at-bats for a .162 batting average. The Mets traded Jeff to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Steve Rosenberg on December 11, 1991. He would enjoy his best major league season with the Padres in 1993. "I wasn't ready to be in the big leagues no matter how many guys were ahead of me," Gardner offered. "Until after I left the Mets."

Jeff entered the business world after leaving professional baseball in 2005. He gained success in a variety of real estate related occupations. Once his children were through their college years, he returned to the game as a Major League advance scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014.

He signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his office on October 9, 2013.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Amado Samuel joined the New York Mets when his contract and that of Adrian "Smokey" Garrett was purchased from the Milwaukee Braves on October 15, 1963. Samuel was a pioneer with the Braves when he became the first of a string of major league shortstops to come from San Pedro de Macoris of the Dominican Republic. "I am proud of being the majors' first Dominican shortstop," he told Sports Illustrated in 1987. "I guess there are a lot of them now. You know, one reason there might be so many is the ground they play on. You've got to have very good hands to play on those fields."

Samuel made his New York Mets debut as the starting shortstop in the first game ever played at Shea Stadium. He would give the club it's only lead of the day with a two-run double in the eventual 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Amado started nine of the first 11 games, but saw his batting average at a lowly .127 by the end of May. The light-hitting infielder tried everything, including wearing glasses, to get his bat going. The Mets acquired Roy McMillan in a second transaction with the Braves on May 8, 1964. New York gave pitcher, Jay Hook and a player to be named later to Milwaukee. That player ended up being Adrian Garrett on June 17th. The addition of McMillan moved Amado to the Mets bench until an on-field injury sent Roy to the disabled list.

Amado took advantage of this second chance. He responded by hitting a torrid .303 over 23 straight starts at shortstop and third base. When McMillan returned Samuel was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo in a roster move. "I didn't play too long after the Mets 'cause I tore up my knee in Buffalo," Amado said. "Missed out on the big bucks, I guess but I'm healthy, doing fine, no complaints." He finished the 1964 season in New York, his last in the majors, with a .232 batting average, and 5 RBIs in 53 games.

He is often mistakenly thought to be related to fellow Mets player, Juan Samuel. "I don't even know him," explained Amado to clear up that confusion in an interview with SABR author, Malcolm Allen in 2006.

After retiring from baseball, Samuel continued to live in his adopted home of Louisville, Kentucky. Amado and his wife Aldetha, who he married in 1962 raised their family there. Samuel worked many years as a refrigerator repairman at the General Electric plant in Louisville. "Me, I haven't played in years," he offered in 1987. "I'll go to a game in Cincinnati once in a while—I said hello to Cesar Cedeño when he was with the Reds—but the Mets are still my team."

Amado Samuel signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 14, 2014.

Monday, February 24, 2014


Larry Stahl joined the New York Mets when his contract was purchased from the Kansas City Athletics on October 17, 1966. "It was a good feeling going to the National League," Stahl remembered. He would make the team as a utility player to begin the next season. Larry made his Mets debut as a pinch hitter at Shea Stadium on April 13, 1967. His first hit would not come until April 27th at Wrigley Field during a 3-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs. The left handed hitter's struggles at the plate led to his demotion to Triple-A Jacksonville in early May. He returned in June, but ended the year with a .239 batting average, one home run and 18 RBIs in his 71 games.

Stahl began the 1968 campaign back in Triple-A. A hot start there saw him raise his batting average to a robust .366. The Mets recalled him to New York in July. Once there he played in 53 games and produced a .235 batting average with three home runs and 10 RBIs.

Larry became one of the "original" 1969 San Diego Padres when he was selected by that club from the Mets as the 13th pick in the expansion draft. Stahl became an everyday player there until joining the Cincinnati Reds in 1973. He was a bench player for the "Big Red Machine" club who lost to the Mets in the National League Championship series. It would be his last year in the major leagues.

Stahl's favorite memory of Shea Stadium was the Old Timer's Game that the Yankees played there in 1975. "I got the old Yankees autographs, including Joe Dimaggio," Larry said.

Larry is best remembered for breaking up a potential perfect game by the Chicago Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas on September 2, 1972. Stahl drew a walk with two outs in the ninth inning. An out by the following batter preserved the no-hitter, but it was the first time perfection had been thwarted in that manner. Pappas argued the pitch he threw was too close to call ball four. "The pitch was outside," Umpire Bruce Froemming defended years later to The New York Times in 2010. "I didn't miss the pitch. Pappas missed the pitch. You can look at the tape."

After baseball he remained in his hometown of Belleville, Illinois where he enjoys spending time fishing and hunting.

Larry Stahl signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on January 7, 2014.

Monday, February 17, 2014


John Strohmayer came to the New York Mets when he was selected off waivers from the Montreal Expos on July 16, 1973. The right-hander had spent parts of four years in the major leagues with the Expos and was brought in to replace reliever Phil Hennigan. "We are both so happy," Mrs. Connie Strohmayer told the Montreal Gazette after the announcement. "He pitched so well against New York earlier this year and he had two good starts against them in '71. I guess they remember." John remembered one game in particular as his favorite ever at Shea Stadium, "Defeated Nolan Ryan and the Mets in a complete game 5-hitter in 1971. We won 2-1."

John made his debut with his new team that evening facing the Braves in Atlanta. He tossed a scoreless ninth inning during the Mets 8-6 loss. Strohmayer actually did not allow a run until a rough outing in St. Louis on July 26th. John would surrender six earned runs in two innings of relief including a grand slam home run to Cardinals pitching great, Bob Gibson. In total he only made seven appearances (two at Shea Stadium) before an arm surgery ended his season with the eventual 1973 National League Champions.

Strohmayer finished his injury rehabilitation and pitched with the Triple-A Tidewater Tides before earning a September call up the next year. His appearance on September 14, 1974 at Shea was his final one of his major league career. "I had arm surgery in 1973 and it never really came back," Strohmayer remembered. "I went to spring training in 1975 with the Cleveland Indians. Frank Robinson was the manager. I decided after not being able to put up with the pain that I needed to go back and begin what I started, so I embarked on a career in education."

John first became a teacher and coach at the Middle School level, and soon advanced to teaching mathematics to High School students. Strohmayer began his administrative career in 1992 when the Gateway Unified School District was formed in Northern California. He retired with 16 years of teaching and 17 more years of school administration on his resumé. "We turned 1930s and 1940s schools into really quality modern school sites," John explained. "It took a lot of money but there were a lot of real positives."

John and Connie Strohmayer enjoyed some good fortune in February of 2009. They joined 14 other Gateway employees in dividing up a $76 million California Super LOTTO Plus jackpot. "The most fantastic thing about this win is that we have really good people- all of them hard working educators- and now they get to realize their dreams," said Steve Gray, assistant principal at the Shasta Lake School.

John Strohmayer signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on September 20, 2011.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Orber Moreno was signed as a free agent by the New York Mets on March 6, 2003. His first name is a combination of his parents' names—Orlando and Libertad. The hard-throwing Venezuelan was originally signed as a 16-year-old prospect by the Kansas City Royals in 1993. A major arm and a second shoulder surgery brought the Royals to the decision of granting him his release.   The Mets pitching coach at Single-A St. Lucie, Rick Mahler had been Orber's Triple-A coach with Omaha. He encouraged his new team to grant Moreno a tryout. "Orber was a kid who came up fast," Mahler remembered. "I saw what he went through and how hard he worked to get back. It was very easy for me to recommend a guy like that."

Moreno described the scars of his surgeries in an interview with writer Lee Jenkins of The New York Times in April 2004 as Bengal stripes. "It's like I'm a tiger," Orber said.

The right-hander was recalled to New York following a strong season at Triple-A Norfolk, and made his Mets debut on September 3, 2003. Orber came in to pitch the ninth inning of a brilliant start from Steve Traschel facing the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium. Moreno would surrender two runs, but still be a part of the 9-3 victory, and grateful for a major league return. "I was excited," said Moreno. "I felt really good. A lot of things crossed through my mind, like the last time I pitched (with the Royals in 1999)."

He appeared in seven games to finish the 2003 season. The results were not as strong as with Norfolk, and resulted in a high 7.88 ERA. Still the Mets saw his promise and invited him to big league spring training camp the next year. Moreno rewarded their confidence with a strong preseason performance. Orber made the Opening Day roster and gave the Mets a fine season until a shoulder injury shut him down in late July. At that time he had posted a 3-1 record with 3.38 ERA in 33 appearances. That October another arthroscopic surgery was performed on his right shoulder and ended his time with the New York Mets. "My favorite moments were when I was done doing my job the fans always supported me!" was how Orber recalls his favorite personal memories at Shea Stadium.

Orber returned to pitch for the Venezuelan team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Between then he had endeared himself to his new hometown fans in Orlando, Florida. Moreno coached a 9-10 year-old Little League team and later developed the "Orber Moreno Baseball Clinic" there. Crowds of youngsters and parents would chnat "Or-ber! Or-ber!" while attending the WBC games. "You just never know how much you mean to them and how much they mean to you," a smiling Moreno said. "The answer is...Wow, I don't have words for it. The way they treat me is amazing."

Orber Moreno signed his card in the set from an autograph request that was sent to his home in September 26, 2009.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Jim Fregosi joined the New York Mets when he was traded from the California Angels in exchange for Francisco "Paquin" Estrada, Don Rose, Leroy Stanton and the great Nolan Ryan on December 10, 1971. A trade that would come back to haunt the Mets organization and overshadow anything that Fregosi could ever do in New York. The six-time All-Star was brought in to solve a continuing problem at third base. Ryan went on to throw seven career no-hitters and become a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"You always hate to give up on an arm like Ryan's," said Mets manager Gil Hodges to the New York Times the day of the trade. "He could put things together overnight, but he hasn't done it for us and the Angels wanted him. I would not hesitate making a trade for somebody who might help us right now, and Fregosi is such a guy."

"Being traded didn't upset me too much." Jim told writer Milton Richman. "What teed me off was that they said I was old. I'm not old. I'm only 29, and I think I can play for quite a long time yet."

Fregosi made the switch to third base in spring training until suffering a broken right thumb. To make matters worse the new Met came to Florida obviously out of condition. "It wasn't just the extra weight he was carrying," Coach Eddie Yost told Jack Lang of The Sporting News. "It was all that stuff around his middle. He couldn't move and he couldn't bend over." Jim was able to make his New York Mets debut on Opening Day, April 15, 1972 at Shea Stadium. He would hit a double in his first at-bat to contribute to the 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately the rest of the season would not be as kind to Fregosi. He would finish with a .232 batting average, 5 home runs and 32 RBIs. Far short of expectations. "I was living the good life and I loved it," Jim recalled about the 1972 season. "But I was paying for it on the field."

A committed Fregosi came to the 1973 campaign 15 pounds lighter and ready to return to his former success. The jovial infielder also had not had a drink in four months, vowing to get out of the game if he could not bounce back from the two off years. His struggles on the diamond seemed to continue none the less. Despite a brief period when he replaced an injured Bud Harrelson at shortstop in early June he duplicated the production of the previous season. The Mets sold his contract to the Texas Rangers on July 11, 1973.

Jim continued his playing career until 1978. After that he enjoyed a very successful managerial stint that included leading the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series in 1993. "I learned in my first managing job not to take myself so seriously," Fregosi offered. A well respected and enjoyed member of the Major League Baseball community serving in various functions with several teams. In 1988 the Anaheim Angels retired his uniform number 11, and elected him into the team's Hall of Fame the next year.

Jim Fregosi suffered a stroke in the Cayman Islands while on an MLB alumni cruise. He passed away surrounded by family and friends in Miami, Florida days later on February 14, 2014.

Jim signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home on November 20, 2008.