Jun 28

Today in Mets’ History: Casey says good-bye.

Did you know Casey Stengel was the first player to hit a World Series home run at Yankee Stadium?

And, on this date in 1975, he made his final appearance at Shea Stadium at an Old Timers Game. He died several months later.

STENGEL: An original.

 

 

Charles Dillon Stengel, nicknamed Casey, which came from the initials of his hometown of Kansas City, Mo., was not only the first manager of the Mets, but a baseball original, an icon.

Stengel was an average, but not spectacular player for the Brooklyn Dodgers – starting his career in 1912, the year the Titanic sunk – Pirates, Phillies, Giants and Boston Braves.

Of his career as a player, Stengel said: “I had many years that I was not so successful as a ballplayer, as it is a game of skill.’’

Stengel carved his niche as a Hall of Famer managing the Dodgers, Boston Braves, Yankees, and, of course, the Mets, where he became a folk hero.

Stengel won ten pennants and seven World Series titles for the Yankees, including a record five straight from 1949-53. He was fired after the 1960 World Series, in which the Yankees lost to Pittsburgh in seven games. Stengel insisted it was age related after turning 70, and said, “I’ll never make that mistake again.’’

Stengel was talked of retirement to manage the expansion Mets in 1962, and when he was hired, said: “It’s a great honor to be joining the Knickerbockers.’’

The Mets finished last in his four years with them.

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Jun 26

Today in Mets’ History: Looking at Rusty Staub.

Rusty Staub was one of the good guys in Mets’ history, not to mention one of their better players. Who can forget him playing the 1973 World Series with basically one arm?

STAUB: Pinch-hitter delux

Staub developed into one of the game’s great pinch-hitters. On this date in 1983, Staub tied Dave Philley’s then major league record  with his eighth consecutive pinch-hit in the first game of a doubleheader against Philadelphia.

Staub played 23 seasons in the major leagues, including nine with the Mets. He broke in with Houston in 1963 – the Astros’ second year of existence – then played with Montreal (1969-71); the Mets (1972-75); Detroit (1976-79), where he had three of his best seasons; another brief stint with the Expos at the end of the 1979 season; Texas in 1980; and finally five more years with the Mets.

Staub finished with 2,716 hits and 292 homers.

After his career, Staub worked on Mets’ telecasts, then own and operated two restaurants in Manhattan. He is a chef and wine connoisseur.

The Expos retired Staub’s No. 10 in 1993.

STAUB CAREER

Jun 19

Today in Mets’ History: Remembering Donn Clendenon.

We’re at the point of the season where much of the talk is about trades, so let’s look back on one of the Mets biggest deals.

CLENDENON: Big pick up for Mets.

On June 15 of 1969, Donn Clenenon was traded by Montreal to the Mets for minor leaguers Bill Carden and Dave Colon, Kevin Collins and Steve Renko.

The Mets were nine games back of the Cubs when the trade was made. Clendenon was hot down the stretch, hitting homers to beat Chicago and St. Louis, and continued to hit for power during the World Series, with homers in Games 2 and 4.

Clendenon played two more years for the Mets with limited success.  On this date in 1971, his homer gave the Mets a 6-5 victory over Philadelphia in 15 innings.

Clendenon was released after the season, played in 1972 with St. Louis and was cut after that year.

Clendenon’s father was a mathematics and psychology professor at Langston University in Oklahoma, and education was a big part of his life. After retiring, Clendenon returned to school at Duquesne University and practiced law in Dayton, Ohio.

Clendenon died at 70 in 2005 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

CLENDENON’S CAREER

 

Jun 17

Scioscia’s trip to Citi Field brings back painful memories to Mets fans.

There’s no interleague drama between the Mets and Angels, as is the case with most interleague match-ups.

SCIOSCIA: Hit infamous HR vs. Mets.

To me, the most interesting hook to this series is the return of Mike Scioscia against the Mets, the team during the 1980s that was supposed to be a dynasty, but won only one World Series.

There might have been another if not for Scioscia, then the catcher of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was Scioscia who turned around the 1988 NLCS, and subsequently might have derailed those Mets, who had won 10 of 11 games against the Dodgers during the regular season.

The Mets were up 2-1 and cruising behind Dwight Gooden in Game 4, taking a 4-2 lead into the ninth. John Shelby led off the inning with a walk, then Scioscia crushed a Gooden deliver to deep right to force the game into extra innings.

The Dodgers eventually won it in the 12th on Kirk Gibson’s homer off Roger McDowell. Without Scioscia, Gibson doesn’t hit that homer, and likely not the one against Dennis Eckersley in the World Series.

 

Jun 12

Today in Mets History: Mets sign Tug McGraw.

One of the most popular players in team history is signed on this day in 1964 when scout Roy Parlee gets the signature of 19-year-old lefthanded pitcher Tug McGraw on a contract.

MCGRAW: An original.

Once a starter, McGraw carved out his niche as a reliever with the Mets. McGraw filled in when Jerry Koosman was injured in May of 1969, but returned to the pen with the latter returned. With a rotation that also included Tom Seaver, Don Cardwell, Jim McAndrew and at times Nolan Ryan, there was no place for McGraw.

McGraw, the last player to play for Casey Stengel, pitched in the NLCS against Atlanta, but did not pitch in the World Series against Baltimore. However, his role now set, McGraw emerged as a premier closer in the early 1970s, and was an emotional leader who coined the “Ya Gotta Believe,’’ slogan for the 1973 pennant-winning Mets.

In December of 1974, the Mets dealt McGraw to Philadelphia in a package deal that saw pitcher Mac Scarce, outfielder Del Unser and catcher John Stearns come to New York.

McGraw continued on as a top reliever and was a central figure during the Phillies’ 1980 World Series season.

When asked what he spent his money on during the World Series, McGraw answered: “Ninety percent I’ll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other ten percent I’ll probably waste.’’

McGraw was always a popular visitor to Shea Stadium after his retirement, although he worked for the Phillies as a guest instructor during spring training, when he was hospitalized with a brain tumor in 2003. Less than a year later, he died.

The Mets wore a “Ya Gotta Believe,’’ arm patch in honor of McGraw during the 2004 season, and McGraw’s son Tim, a country music star, recorded the song, “Live Like You Were Dying,’’ later that year.

Tim McGraw spread his father’s ashes on the pitcher’s mound at Citizen’s Bank Park prior to Game 3 of the 2008 World Series.

McGRAW’S CAREER NUMBERS