Jerry Grote – His New York Mets Career 1966-1977

Jerry GroteThe Mets acquired catcher Jerry Grote, known more for his defense than his offense, from the Houston Colt 45’s on October 19, 1965 in exchange for Tom Parsons.  He made his Met debut on Opening Day 1966 and would spend the next 12 seasons as the team’s primary catcher.  In his first season with the Mets he hit just .237 with 3 home runs and 31 RBIs.  He did deliver the game winning hit on June 12 with a pinch-hit single in the 11th inning against the Cincinnati Reds. 

Grote hit a 2-run homer on Opening Day in 1967.  It was one of the few highlights of the season as he struggled at the plate hitting just .195 with 4 home runs and 23 RBIs.  The other highlight of his season was a 4 for 5 performance in the Mets 9-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on June 24.

Grote got off to fast start in 1968, hitting .333 over the first month of the season.  He continued to show improvement at the plate and was named the starting catcher for the 1968 National League All-Star team.  He ended the season with a .282 average with 3 home runs and 31 RBIs.  But more importantly he helped groom the Mets young pitching staff of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan. 

In 1969 Grote’s average dipped to .252 but he hit 6 home runs and drove in 40 runs both career bests.  But it was his skills behind the plate which proved his value.  He threw out 56.3% of would be base stealers, 2nd highest in the league.  He also guided the Mets young pitching staff, a staff that led the league in shutouts with 16 and posted the 2nd lowest ERA in the league, 2.99, as the Mets shocked the world and won the 1969 World Series.    In the World Series the Mets staff held the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles to a .146 batting average for the series.  Grote also got a couple of key hits in the series. In game 2 his 9th inning single prolonged the Mets rally as they went on to win 2-1.  In game 4 he led off the 10th inning with a double, he was replaced by pinch runner Rod Gaspar who eventually scored the winning run.

In 1970 he hit .255 with a 2 home runs and 34 RBIs and continued his strong play behind the plate leading the league in putouts with 855.   On April 22 he set the Major League record for most putouts by a catcher in a game with 20, it was the game in which Tom Seaver struck out 20 batters.  He also had a 4-hit performance in the Mets 7-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on July 8.

He put up similar numbers in 1971 batting .270 with 2 home runs and 35 RBIs while once again leading all catchers in putouts with 892.  He also led the team in doubles with 25.  On May 3 he recorded 4 hits and scored the winning run in the 11th inning against the Chicago Cubs. 

Injuries limited him to just 64 games in 1972 and he hit just .210 with 3 home runs and 21 RBIs.  However, he did have his only multi-homer game of his career on May 19, his 2 home runs helped propel the Mets to an 8-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Grote missed 2 months of action in 1973 with a fractured right arm.  When he returned in the middle of July he helped the Mets capture the Eastern Division title.  He finished the season with a .256 average with a home run and 32 RBIs.    His one home run was a grand slam and helped the Mets defat the San Diego Padres 7-0 on August 15.  He also had a 4-hit performance against the Cincinnati Reds on August 18.   The Mets reached the World Series but lost to the Oakland A’s in seven games.   Grote caught all 12 postseason games.  He recorded 8 hits in the World Series and batted .267.

During the first half of the 1974 season he batted .287 with 4 home runs and 27 RBIs to earn his 2nd All-Star appearance.  Injuries took their toll on Grote in the second half and he finished the season with a .257 average and 5 home runs and 36 RBIs.

In 1975 Grote hit a career best .295 with 2 home runs on 39 RBIs.  On July 4 his pinch-hit home run in the 9th inning propelled the Mets to a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.  He also led all National League catchers with a .995 fielding percentage.

Grote hit .272 in 1976 with a 4 home runs and 28 RBIs.  He enjoyed a 4-hit game on April 19 against the St. Louis Cardinals. 

Grote saw diminished playing time in 1977 with the emergence of John Stearns as the team’s regular catcher.  He appeared in 42 games. the lowest total of his Met career and batted .270 with 7 RBIs.  The Mets traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 31 in exchange for a couple of minor leaguers. 

In 12 seasons with the Mets Grote batted .256 with 35 home runs and 357 RBIs. 

Though he never won a Gold Glove he was considered to be the best defensive catcher of his era.  In fact Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, who many consider to be the greatest defensive catcher in history, once said of Grote, “If Grote and I were on the same team, I would be playing 3rd base.”

Jerry Grote was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1992.

While with the Mets Grote wore number 15.

Jerry Grote also played for the following teams:
Houston Colt 45’s = 1963,1964
Los Angeles Dodgers – 1977,1978, 1981
Kansas City Royals – 1981

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Wes Westrum – New York Mets Manager 1965-1967

Wes WestrumWhen Casey Stengel was forced to step down as Met manager in 1965 due to a broken hip the Mets named Wes Westrum the second manager in franchise history. Westrum a former catcher with the New York Giants was serving as pitching coach at the time.

Westrum managed the final 68 games of the 1965 season and under his guidance, the Mets went 19 and 48. In 1966, his first full season, Westrum led the Mets to a 66 – 95 record, a 16 game improvement, and though it still marked the Mets 5th consecutive losing season it also marked the first time the Mets didn’t lose 100 games and the first time they didn’t finish in last place; they finished in 9th. Though they were not expected to win a World Series heading into 1967, there were still many who expected the Mets to build on the previous year’s 9th place finish. However, the Mets did not show much improvement and Westrum sensing that he was not going to be retained for the 1968 season resigned with 11 games left in the season. At the time, the Mets were 57 and 94 and fully entrenched in last place.

Westrum’s final record with the Mets was 142 and 237.

While managing the Mets Westrum wore number 51 in 1965 and number 9 from 1966-1967

Wes Westrum also managed the San Francisco Giants in 1974 and 1975.

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Dallas Green – His New York Mets Playing Career 1966

Dallas GreenThe Mets purchased the contract of right-handed pitcher Dallas Green from the Philadelphia Phillies on July 22,1966. Green made his Mets debut the following day pitching one inning of relief in the Mets 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Green would make three more relief appearances for the Mets before being sold back to the Phillies on August 10. Overall Dallas Green pitched 5 innings for the Mets and posted a 5.40 ERA.

Dallas Green would return to the Mets years later serving as the team’s manager from 1993-1996

While with the Mets Green wore number 27.

Dallas Green also played for the following teams:
Philadelphia Phillies – 1960-1964, 1967
Washington Senators – 1965

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Danny Napoleon – His New York Mets Career 1965-1966

Danny NapoleonMets signed Danny Napoleon as an amateur free agent in 1964. After spending the entire 64 season in the minors where he hit .351 Napoleon made his Major League debut with the Mets on April 14, 1965 against the Houston Astros.  He singled in his first at bat as a pinch hitter Johnny Lewis.  Napoleon appeared in 68 games for the Mets in 1965 playing both the outfield and 3rd base.  He hit .144 with 7 RBIs.  The highlight of his season occurred on April 24 against the San Francisco Giants.  His pinch-hit triple in the top of the 9th inning with the bases loaded gave the Mets the lead in a game they would win 7-6.

Napoleon spent the 1966 season in the minors before being called up in September.  He appeared in 12 games for the Mets over the final month of the season and hit .212 (7 for 33).

Just prior to the 1967 season the Mets traded Napoleon to the St. Louis Cardinals along with Ed Bressoud in exchange for Jerry Buchek, Art Mahaffey and Tony Martinez.

In 80 games for the Mets over two seasons Napoleon batted .162 with 7 RBIs.

While with the Mets Napoleon wore number 16.

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Rob Gardner – His New York Mets Career 1965,1966

Rob GardnerThe Mets drafted left-handed pitcher Rob Gardner from the Minnesota Twins in the 1963 first-year draft.  Gardner spent the 1964 and the 1965 in the minors before joining the Mets as a September call-up in 1965.  He made his Major League debut September 1 against the Houston Astros.  As the starting pitcher he lasted just 3 innings and yielded 7 runs (5 earned) and suffered the loss.  He appeared in 5 games, 4 as a starter and 1 as a reliever, and finished with a 0-2 record with a 3.21 ERA.

Gardner spent the entire 1966 season with the Mets and appeared in 41 games, 17 as a starter.  He finished with a 4-8 record and 5.12 ERA.  He earned his first career victory on May 6 against the Chicago Cubs when he pitched a complete game allowing 4 hits and 1 run as the Mets won 2-1. He also drove in the first run of the game with a 5th inning double.  On May 15 he pitched another complete game four-hitter, this time beating the San Francisco Giants 6-1.

Following the season, the Mets traded Gardner to the Chicago Cubs along with Johnny Stephenson in exchange for Bob Hendley.  Overall, he appeared in 44 games for the Mets and posted a 4-10 record with a 4.79 ERA.

While with the Mets Gardner wore number 29.

Rob Gardner also played for the following teams:
Chicago Cubs – 1967
Cleveland Indians – 1968
New York Yankees – 1970-1972
Oakland A’s – 1971,1973
Milwaukee Brewers – 1973

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Ralph Terry – His New York Mets Career 1966-1967

Ralph TerryThe Mets purchased the contract of right-handed Ralph Terry from the Kansas City A’s on April 6, 1966.  Terry was a former All-Star and World Series MVP having won the award as a member of the New York Yankees in 1962.  Unfortunately for the Mets his best days were behind him.

He made his Met debut on August 11, 1966 as the starting pitcher.  He lasted 5 1/3 innings and gave 4 runs as the Mets lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-5, he was credited with a no-decision.  It was his only start on the season as he was sent to the bullpen where he finished out the season.  He made 10 relief appearances and posted a 0-1 record with a 4.74 ERA.

The Mets released Terry on November 30, 1966 only to resign him on April 12, 1967.  He made two relief appearances for the Mets in April before once again being released on May 16, ending his career. He posted 0-0 record with a 0.00 ERA in 3 1/3 innings.

In 13 games for the Mets Terry posted a 0-1 record with a 4.18 ERA in 28 innings.

While with the Mets Terry wore number 38.

Ralph Terry also played for the following teams:
New York Yankees – 1956,1957, 1959-1964
Kansas City A’s – 1957-1959, 1966
Cleveland Indians – 1965

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Bud Harrelson – His New York Mets Playing Career 1965-1977

Bud HarrelsonTypical of the shortstops of his era, Bud Harrelson was diminutive player with a strong glove and weak bat who anchored the Mets infield for 13 seasons.

Harrelson made his Major League debut on September 2, 1965 as pinch runner in the Mets 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros.  He appeared in 19 games and hit just .108 (4 for 37). He recorded his first league hit on September 19, a first inning single against the Chicago Cubs

He started the 1966 season in the minors before joining the Mets in August.  He appeared in 33 games and batted .222 with 4 RBIs.

1967 would be Harrelson’s first full season in the majors as the Mets everyday shortstop, a role he would remain in for the next decade.  He initially struggled as the everyday shortstop committing 21 errors over the first two months.  He settled down and committed just 11 over the next four months.  He hit .254 with a home run and 28 RBIs.   His first career home run came on August 17 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, it was an inside the park job that tied the score in the 8th inning in a game the Mets would win 6-5.

Injuries and a military obligation limited Harrelson to 111 games in 1968.  He hit just .219 with 14 RBIs.  He did finish with a .972 fielding percentage, the 3rd highest in the league.

During the Mets World Championship season in 1969, he solidified the Mets infield, taking away would be hits and turning double plays.  He hit .248 with 24 RBIs.  He was the offensive hero in the Mets 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on April 15.  He went 3 for 4 with 3 RBIs.  He also drove in the winning run with a walk-off single in the 10th inning on May 28.  On September 23 he once again hit a walk off single to win the game, this time in the 11th inning against future Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.

During the postseason he hit .182 with 3 RBIs in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves.   In the World Series he hit .176 with 2 RBIs against the Baltimore Orioles but his stellar defense played a huge role as the Mets went on to shock the world and win their first championship.

Harrelson got off to a fast start in 1970.  He started off with a 6-game hitting streak and hit safely in 30 of his first 35 games.  During that stretch he hit his second career home run and the first that actually cleared the fence, a solo shot in the Mets 6-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on April 17.   He earned his first All-Star game selection and had a 54-game errorless streak from June until August.  For the season he hit .243 with a career best 42 RBIs.

In 1971 he earned his 2nd All-Star game selection, this time as the starting shortstop, and won his 1st and only Gold Glove Award.   He had a 10-game hitting streak in April and a 12-game streak in May.  On May 15 he went 4 for 5 with 3 RBIs in the Mets 9-5 win over the Pirates.  He had another 4-hit performance on August 5 against the Atlanta Braves, he drove in the only run as the Mets lost 2-1.  He finished with a .252 average and 32 RBIs.     

Injuries limited Harrelson to 115 games in 1972, he hit .215 with a home run and 24 RBIs.  He did lead the team in stolen bases with 12 and on base percentage with .313.

Injuries once again limited Harrelson in 1973, he appeared in just 106 games.  He was hitting .268 on June 4 when he was lost for a month with a fractured hand.  During the month of September, he hit safely in 22 of 27 games and batted .280 as he helped the Mets win the Eastern Division Title.  He finished the season with a career best .258 average with 20 RBIs.

 

Fight
Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose Fight During Game 3 of the 1973 NLCS

During the 1973 NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds he hit just .167 (3 for 18) with 2 RBIs as the Mets won the series in 5 games.  But he is most remembered for his actions in game 3.  With the Mets leading 9-2 in the 5th inning and on the verge of taking a 2-1 series lead a frustrated Pete Rose slid hard into Harrelson with what some consider a cheap slide trying to break up a double play.  Harrelson got up into Rose’s face and the next thing all hell broke loose as the two players got in a fight which eventually led to both benches being emptied.  When order was restored neither player was ejected but Met fans began got throw objects at Rose when he took his position in leftfield.  The game had to be halted and the Mets were told by the league office that they would have to forfeit if order was not restored.  Many Met players pleaded with the fans who eventually relented, and the Mets went on to win the game and the series.

 

The Mets lost the 1973 World Series in 7 games to the Oakland A’s with Harrelson hitting .250 with an RBI.

Harrelson got off to a fast start in 1974 recording three hits on Opening Day and hitting safely in 13 of his first 20 games.  He was hitting .279 at the end of April but injuries once again took their toll and he hit just .227 for the season with a home run and 13 RBIs.   He missed a majority of the 1975 season with a knee injury, appearing in only 34 games and batting just .219 with 2 home runs.

He rebounded slightly in 1976, hitting .234 in 118 games with a home run and 26 RBIs.  He struggled for the entire 1977 season and hit just .178 for the season and following the season the Mets decided to part ways with Harrelson by trading him to the Philadelphia Phillies. 

In 13 seasons and 1,322 game Harrelson batted .234 with 6 home runs and 242 RBIs.

Following his playing career Harrelson would go on to become a coach for the Mets in 1982 and 1985-1990.  He also managed the Mets in 1990 and 1991.

In 1986 he was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.

While with the Mets Harrelson wore number 3.

Bud Harrelson also played for the following teams:
Philadelphia Phillies – 1978,1979
Texas Rangers – 1980

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Gordie Ricardson – His New York Mets Career 1965-1966

Gordie RichardsonAfter helping the St Louis Cardinals win the 1964 World Series left-handed pitcher Gordie Richardson was traded to the Mets on December 8th along with Johnny Lewis in exchange for Elio Chacon and Tracy Stallard.

After starting the season in the minors Richardson was promoted to the big club in July making his Met debut on July 9th. He allowed 1 unearned run in 1 2/3 innings as the Mets lost to the Houston Astros 6-2.   Richardson would go on to pitch in 35 games for the Mets all out of the bullpen. He enjoyed modest success posting a 2-2 record with a 3.78 ERA. He started the 1966 season with the Mets but could not duplicate his success. With his ERA at 9.16 he was demoted back down to the minors where he finished the season with the Jacksonville Suns.

Richardson retired from baseball following the 1966 season. In his two seasons with the Mets Richardson had a 2-4 record with a 5.20 ERA in 50 games.

Richardson was the last player to wear number 41 before Tom Seaver.

Gordie Richardson also played for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964.

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Bill Hepler – His New York Mets Career 1966

Bill HeplerLeft-handed pitcher Bill Hepler made his Major League debut with the Mets on April 23,1966 against the Atlanta Braves.  He pitched an inning of scoreless relief in the Mets 5-4 defeat.  He appeared in 37 games, all but 3 out of the bullpen, posting a 3-3 recprd and 3.52 ERA. 

Hepler earned his first career victory on June 15 against the Atlanta Braves.  But his most productive outing for the Mets occurred on July 18 against the Houston Astros, as the starting pitcher he allowed 4 runs and 1 earned run over 7 innings.  The Mets won the game 4-1 but Hepler earned a no decision.

1966 would be Hepler’s only season in the majors, though he did remain in the Mets organization.  He pitched three seasons in the Mets minor league system where he posted an overall record of 19-20 with a 3.82 ERA.

While with the Mets Hepler wore number 28.

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Gerry Arrigo – His New York Mets Career 1966

Gerry ArrigoThe Mets purchased left-handed pitcher Gerry Arrigo from the Cincinnati Reds in May 20, 1966.  He made his Met debut two days later pitching three innings of relief in the Mets 5-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants.  On May 29 Arrigo pitched two innings of scoreless relief to earn his first victory as a Met.   He would go on to pitch in a total of 17 games for the Mets, splitting time between the bullpen and the starting rotation before being sold back to the Reds on August 16th.

The highlight of his brief career with the Mets came on July 17.  He not only allowed one earned run over seven innings to earn the victory, he also was the hitting star of the game.  He hit two doubles and drove in three runs in the Mets 4-2 win over the Houston Astros.

In his 17 appearances with the Mets Arrigo posted a 3-3 record with 3.74 ERA.

While with the Mets Arrigo wore number 34.

Gerry Arrigo also played for the following teams:
Minnesota Twins – 1961-1964
Cincinnati Reds – 1965-1969
Chicago White Sox – 1970

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