Every team’s evolution from doormat to contender has that defining moment when somebody grabs the team by the scruff of the neck and shakes it awake.
That moment for the 1969 Mets came on this date when manager Gil Hodges walked out of the dugout and strolled out to left field, where he removed Cleon Jones.
The Mets lost the first game of a doubleheader, 16-3, and were getting pasted in the second, 8-0, when Johnny Edwards doubled past Jones.
It was reported at the time Jones had sustained a leg injury, but it later surfaced Hodges was angry at Jones for not hustling.
On the 40th Anniversary of that team, Jones recalled the incident as a galvanizing moment. Jones also said Hodges was his favorite manager.
Does anybody remember anything about that day?
On this day in Mets history, outfielder Cleon Jones from Plateau, Alabama, was signed by scout Julian Morgan in 1962.
JONES: Catches final out of 69 Series.
Jones made his major league debut in 1965, but won the starting centerfielder job out of spring training in 1966 and finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Jones developed into a star in 1969, and was hitting .341 with 10 homers and 56 RBI and was named the starting left fielder in the All-Star Game.
According to several accounts, the turning point of the Miracle Mets’ season came several weeks later when manager Gil Hodges walked out to left field to pull Jones after failing to hustle.
Forty years later, Jones said Hodges was his favorite manager, and recalled the incident as a pivotal moment in that season. J0nes will always be remembered for catching Davey Johnson’s fly to left for the final out of the 1969 World Series.
Jones was inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame in 1991.
Of course you remember Jay Hook, the winning pitcher in the Mets’ first victory in 1962.
HOOK: Stopped the slide.
Once a bonus baby for the Cincinnati Reds, Hook pitched eight seasons in the major leagues and compiled a 29-62 record.
Hook didn’t crack the Reds’ rotation until 1960 and after two ineffective seasons was acquired by the Mets in the expansion draft, joining a group that included Roger Craig, Gil Hodges and Don Zimmer.
Hook went 8-19 in 1962, and led the team in starts with 34 and complete games with 13. One of those victories occurred on this date when he beat the Chicago Cubs in the first game of a doubleheader to snap a 17-game losing streak.
Hook retired at 28 in 1964 to take a job with Chrysler and currently lives in Michigan.
HOOK’S CAREER NUMBERS
I don’t know why it took criticism and a year to do these things, but better late than never. Even so, the Mets made three announcements Saturday reflecting the ties to their past that should have been announced when Citi Field opened.
CITI FIELD: Missed the link to the old.
First, various VIP entrances were named after: Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver and Casey Stengel. The outfield bridge will be named Shea bridge.
Secondly, there will be a Hall of Fame, which should have been in the original blue prints. It will be next the Jackie Robinson Rotundra.
Lastly, there will be banners of Mets players on Mets Plaza in front of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda and the light poles in the parking lots will be adorned with the team’s logo.
Yes, this is something that should should have been done in the beginning, but better late than never. I love it when a team acknowledges its past. The Mets history isn’t as successful as several teams, say the Yankees, Dodgers and Cardinals, but it is colorful and rich and closing in on 50 years.
There’s no question the fans honor Mets history. The team should do the same.
On this day ....
On this day in 1985, on the day following his scuffle with a patron in the Cross Keys Inn bar in Baltimore, Yankees manager Billy Martin has his right arm broken by pitcher Ed Whitson the next morning.
We talked about Milton Bradley yesterday, which makes me wonder how he and Martin would have interacted with each other. I have a feeling it would be worse than his relationship with Reggie Jackson. Martin would have to be the manager of the all bad-guy team.
George Steinbrenner kept going back to Martin. Each time it was “going to be different,” but it never was. Martin was a quick fix kind of guy. He turned teams around right away, which makes me believe that type of fiery personality is what could be needed for the Mets.
MARTIN: Five times a Yankee manager.
However, the danger of a quick fix manager is they become super novas and burn themselves out. If and when the Mets make another managerial change, they need to go with a commanding presence, a guy who doesn’t have to be a simmering volcano, but one that demands respect and doesn’t take any crap.
The team needs a disciplinarian type, a man who would make a player shiver just by his stare. They said Gil Hodges was that way. Joe Torre is that way as is Tony La Russa. Above all, they need somebody with success on his resume, somebody who has the ring his players do not.