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For the Love of the Mets
An A-to-Z Primer for Mets Fans of All Ages
By Frederick C. Klein, Mark Anderson
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2009 Frederick C. Klein
All rights reserved.
"A" is for the "Amazin's," Who made many gaffes, But also were good for A whole lot of laughs.
The New York Mets began life in 1962 as an expansion team ungenerously stocked with has-beens and never-weres. They finished last in the National League in five of their first six seasons and lost more than 100 games in each. But managed by the wry Casey Stengel (who first referred to the "Amazin' Mets") and fielding lineups of plucky strivers, they nonetheless came off as lovable to a growing legion of fans. The classic early Mets story involved "Marvelous" Marv Throneberry, a bumbling first baseman, who was called out for missing second base after hitting a triple. When Stengel charged out of the dugout to protest the call he was restrained by his third base coach, Cookie Lavagetto. "Don't bother," Lavagetto said. "He didn't touch first, either."
"B" is for Beltran, Who patrols the big green. At the plate he is strong; In the field he is keen.
Carlos Beltran made a grand show in the 2004 playoffs as a Houston Astro, hitting eight home runs and batting in 14 runs in that team's 12-game pennant try. The next winter he attracted considerable interest as a free agent before signing a seven-year, $119 million contract with the Mets. Injuries hampered his 2005 campaign, but the native of Puerto Rico rebounded strongly the next three seasons, hitting a total of 101 home runs, driving in 340 runs, and establishing himself as a top-flight center fielder.
"C" is for Carter, The last piece in the scheme That brought home the title And fulfilled the dream.
Gary Carter, nicknamed "the Kid" for his always-youthful enthusiasm for baseball, was an All-Star catcher for the Montreal Expos when he was traded to the Mets after the 1984 season. In New York, he continued apace, completing the lineup that would win the 1986 World Series. That year he hit 24 home runs and drove in 105 runs during regular-season play, hit two homers in Game 3 of the World Series against Boston, and started the game-winning rally in Game 6 with a single. He would play five seasons for the Mets before concluding a Hall of Fame career back in Montreal.
"D" is for Darryl, Who could hit the long ball, But his skills couldn't save him From a very hard fall.
Lanky Darryl Strawberry came out of inner-city Los Angeles as the No. 1 choice in the 1980 amateur draft. He hit the major leagues running with the Mets in 1983 and starred for the next eight years, blasting a team-record 252 home runs with his signature high knee cock and looping, powerful swing. Off-field problems began to plague him, and though he continued to play, his last nine seasons in the Bigs never equaled his early year bests. His post-baseball life has been marred by illness, drug and driving arrests, and a prison term.
"E" is for Elster, A boon to the club. He went 88 games With nary a flub.
Kevin Elster was the prototypical slick-fielding shortstop while holding down the starting spot at the testing position for the Mets during most of his 1986–1992 stay with the team. In one stretch during the 1988 and 1989 seasons he completed 88 straight games without an error, setting a major- league record that the great Cal Ripken broke in 1990.
"F" is for Fernandez, The Portly "El Sid." Fans still remark About the things that he did.
At times weighing close to 250 pounds, Sid Fernandez filled out his baseball uniform. He also posted impressive pitching numbers during 15 major-league seasons, 10 of which (1984–1993) were with the Mets. The left-handed sidearmer had wicked stuff, recording 114 career wins and 1,743 strikeouts. Most impressively, his 6.85 hits-allowed-per-nine- innings average ranks among the best ever. The Hawaiian's best year was with the Mets' 1986 champs, when he had a 16–6 won-lost mark and 200 strikeouts. He gave up just one run in 6 2/3 innings in the '86 World Series, fanning 10.
"G" is for Gooden, The swift "Dr. K." He'd set up a batter Then blow him away.
Few pitchers have burst onto the big-league scene as splashily as Dwight Gooden.
Flashing a high-90s fastball and sharp-breaking curve, the lean right hander won 17 of 26 decisions with 276 strikeouts in 1984 as a 19-year-old rookie. The next year he had a 24–4 won-lost record and a league-leading 268 strikeouts. But while he pitched effectively for a half-dozen seasons thereafter and won 19 games in 1990, he never fully matched his earlier performances. Injuries contributed to his decline, and like teammate Strawberry he fell into a drug habit that followed him into retirement.
"H" is for Hernandez — For batters, a pit. Everything hit Keith's way Wound up in his mitt.
Top first basemen generally distinguish themselves as hitters, and while Keith Hernandez had a .296 batting average over 17 major-league seasons, seven of them with the Mets (1983–1989), he made his mark mainly with his glove. His range was so wide that he could play farther off the bag than others and still cover the foul line. His arm was so strong that his teams routed outfield relay throws through him. And he was so good at turning sacrifice bunts into force-outs or double plays that many foes simply abandoned the tactic against him. Some experts consider him the best ever to play the position.
"I" is for Innings, The standard is nine. But if the game's tied Then more are just fine.
"J" is for Johan, For whom teams bid high. 'Cause his luggage contained More than one "Cy."
For most of his seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Johan Santana was considered the best pitcher in the American League — and he had two unanimous Cy Young Awards (in 2004 and 2006) to prove it. When the Twins put him on the trading block after the 2007 campaign they received many bids. Signed by the Mets to a seven-year, $137.5 million contract in the winter of 2007, the Venezuelan lefty swiftly verified his worth by posting a 16–7 won-lost record in 2008 and leading the majors with a 2.53 earned run average.
"K" is for Koosman, Who with chips on the line Came through like a champ In 1969.
Jerry Koosman won 19 games as a rookie in 1968 and 17 the next year in teaming with Tom Seaver to pitch the "Miracle Mets" to a World Series title for a franchise that had never finished higher than ninth in the National League. The lefty was at his best in the 1969 Series, throwing 8 2/3 innings in the Mets' 2–1 Game 2 win over the Baltimore Orioles and going all the way for a 5–3 victory in the fifth and deciding contest. Over a 19-year big-league career — 12 years of it in New York — he won 222 games and had an earned run average of 3.36.
"L" is for Leiter A pitcher with guile With the 2000 Mets, He made the fans smile.
Al Leiter, from Toms River, New Jersey, is another left-handed pitcher who figured prominently in a Mets pennant run. In 2000, his 16 regular-season victories were a team high, and he pitched effectively throughout the playoffs, helping the Mets reach the World Series. In seven seasons with the Mets (1998–2004) the control specialist had a 95–67 won-lost record and never posted a losing year.
"M" is for McGraw, Always there to relieve. All New York loved his slogan: "You Gotta Believe!"
Frank "Tug" McGraw was a left-handed relief specialist for the 1969 and 1973 Mets pennant winners. His best pitch was a screwball, a backwards curve few pitchers can master. McGraw also was known for enjoying himself off the field and issuing colorful locker-room quotes. Of his salary he once said, "Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women, and Irish whiskey. The rest I'll probably waste." He coined the Mets' 1973 battle cry, "You Gotta Believe!" His son, Tim, is a successful country music artist.
"N" is for Nelson, A broadcasting pro. His voice on the airwaves Helped make the team grow.
Early New York Mets teams may have been amateurish but when the club wanted someone to lead its broadcasting team it turned to a man who'd already established a national media reputation. Wearing his trademark loud sports jackets, Tennessee-born Lindsey Nelson was the Mets' primary radio and TV voice from 1962 through 1978. When he departed, his sidekicks Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner carried on in his stead. Nelson and Murphy are in the Baseball Hall of Fame as broadcasters, and one-time slugger Kiner is there as a player.
"O" is for Olerud, A sweet-swinging lefty. His power was good. His average was hefty.
John Olerud, who stood 6'5?, had a left-handed swing that made batting coaches sigh with pleasure and pitchers groan in pain. His power to all fields and sharp batting eye gave him a distinguished, 17-season major-league career. In his three seasons with the Mets (1997–1999) he set single-season team records for batting average and on-base percentage (.354 and .447, respectively, in 1998) and walks (125 in 1999). Two Golden Glove Awards attested to his fielding ability at first base.
"P" is for Piazza — Played catcher, batted right. Groove a fastball to him and It was gone-out of sight!
One of baseball's best-hitting catchers, Mike Piazza's 396 career home runs at the position is a record. Eight of his 16 seasons (1998–2005) were with the Mets, where he established a team career mark for slugging percentage (.542) and is second in home runs (220) and runs batted in (655). He's considered a sure Hall of Fame selection when he becomes eligible in 2012.
"Q" is for Quest, For the NL crown. Get anything less and The town feels let down.
"R" is for Reyes, On the bases, a whiz. He gives the Mets' lineup A big shot of fizz.
Jose Reyes is one of the fastest players to wear a Mets — or any other club's — uniform. Just 21 years old when he became the team's starting shortstop in 2005, he stole 258 bases and accumulated 779 hits in his first four full major- league seasons, while also making the National League All-Star team twice.
Excerpted from For the Love of the Mets by Frederick C. Klein, Mark Anderson. Copyright © 2009 Frederick C. Klein. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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