Rusty Tillman – His New York Mets Career 1982

Rusty TillmanThe Mets drafted outfielder Rusty Tillman in the 10th round of the 1979 amateur draft.  He made his Major League debut on June 6, 1982 when he pinch hit for pitcher Craig Swan. He singled in the Mets 6-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds.  He appeared in three more games, all as a pinch runner before being shipped back to the minors.  He rejoined the Mets when rosters expanded in September.  He appeared in a total of 12 games for the season and batted .184 (2 for 13).

He spent the next two seasons in the minors before the Mets traded him to the San Diego Padres on March 31, 1985.

While with the Mets Tillman wore number 34.

Rusty Tillman also played for the following teams:
Oakland A’s – 1986
San Francisco Giants – 1988

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Mike Howard – His New York Mets Career 1981-1983

Mike HowardOutfielder Mike Howard made his Major League debut with the Mets on September 12, 1981 against the St. Louis Cardinals. He entered the game in the 8th inning replacing Mike Jorgensen in right field.  He doubled in his first career at bat and finished the game 1 for 2 as the Mets lost 4-2 in 13 innings.  The next day he was the starting right-fielder and drove in the only two runs in the Mets 4-2 loss to the Cardinals.  Howard would appear in 14 games for the Mets and batted .167 with 3 RBIs

After starting the 1982 season in the minors, Howard returned to the big club in August.  He finished out the season with the Mets and batted .178 with a home run and 3 RBIs in 33 games. His first career home run came on September 24, a solo shot in the 9th inning that provided the only run in the Mets 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Howard was the Mets Opening Day right-fielder in 1983 and drove in the Mets first run of the season with a 7th inning single.  It proved to be the only run the Mets needed as they won 2-0 against the Phillies It would be his only appearance for the Mets in 1983 as he was shipped backed to the minors two weeks later.  Howard spent the next two seasons in the minors before retiring from baseball.

In 48 games over three seasons with the Mets Howard batted .182 with a home run and 7 RBIs.

While with the Mets wore number 5.

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Rusty Staub – His New York Mets Career 1972-1975, 1981-1985

Rusty StaubOne of the most popular players in franchise history Rusty Staub had two successful stints with the Mets.  The Mets first acquired Staub from the Montreal Expos on April 6, 1972 in exchange for Tim Foli, Mike Jorgensen and Ken Singleton.

Staub singled in his first at bat as a Met on April 15, 1972 but injuries limited him to just 66 games for the season. But he did manage to hit .293 with 9 home runs and 38 RBIs. In 1973 he played an integral part as the Mets won the National League Eastern Division by hitting .279 with 15 home runs and 76 RBIs, the most on the team, while also setting a franchise record with 36 doubles. But it was in the postseason where he cemented his legacy in Met history. In the NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds Staub hit 3 home runs, 2 in game 3game 3, and drove in 5 runs as the Mets upset the Reds in 5 games to win the National League Pennant. Unfortunately, he also injured his shoulder when he crashed into the outfield wall. The injury hampered his ability to throw but not his ability to hit. In the World Series against the Oakland A’s, Staub was the Mets leading hitter with a .423 average and also led the team with 6 RBIs. In game 4 he hit a home run and drove in 5 runs as the Mets won 6-1 to even the series at 2 games apiece.  Unfortunately, it was not enough as the Mets lost the series in 7 games.

Rusty had a very similar season in 1974 once again leading the team in RBIs with 78 but hit just .258. 1975 turned out to be his best season with the Mets, he set a franchise record with 105 RBIs, a record that would stand for 15 seasons until Darryl Strawberry broke it with 108 in 1990.

Despite his success the Mets traded Staub to the Detroit Tigers in the offseason along with minor leaguer Bill Laxton in exchange for pitcher Mickey Lolich and outfielder Billy Baldwin.

It was a trade the Mets would come to regret as Staub went on to become one of the most productive run producers while Lolich had a mediocre season for the Mets and then retired.

Rusty returned to the Mets in 1981 as a free agent and would play 5 seasons with the Mets before retiring after the 1985 season.  In his first season back with the Mets Staub played first base and hit .317 with 5 home runs and 21 RBIs.  In 1982 he served as a player/coach and split time between the outfield and first base but hit just .242 with 3 home runs and 28 RBIs. 

From 1983 to 1985 Staub served primarily as a pinch hitter and became the most preeminent pinch hitter in the league.

In 1983 he tied the Major League record for most consecutive pinch hits with eight. He also tied the single season Major League record with 25 pinch hit RBI’s. In 1984 Staub hit just one home run, but that one home run put him in exclusive company as he became just the second player to hit a home run before his 20th birthday and after his 40th birthday, the other player was Hall of Famer ty Cobb.

Rusty Staub retired following the 1985 season. In his 9 seasons with the Mets Staub appeared in 942 games and hit .276 with 75 home runs and 399 RBIs.  He was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1986.

Following his playing career Staub spent 10 seasons in the Mets broadcast booth

While with the Mets Staub wore number 4 from 1972 to 1975 and number 10 from 1981 to 1985.

Rusty Staub also played for the following teams:
Houston Astros – 1963-1968
Montreal Expos – 1969-1971, 1979
Detroit Tigers – 1976-1979
Texas Rangers – 1980

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Rick Sweet – His New York Mets Career 1982

Rick SweetThe New York Mets purchased Rick Sweet’s contract from the San Diego Padres on December 15, 1980. Sweet, a catcher, had been with the Padres organization for six seasons but played only one season with the big club, 1978 where he hit just .221 in 88 games. After signing with the Mets, he played his first season with the Tidewater Tides in 1981 where he hit .277 with 4 home runs and 55 RBI’s. Sweet started the 1982 season with the Mets and appeared in three games, all as a pinch hitter, before the Mets sold his contract to the Seattle Mariners. In his three at bats Sweet got only one hit, a pinch-hit single on April 28 in the Mets 5-4 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Rick Sweet spent the next two seasons with the Seattle Mariners before embarking on a managerial career. In 1987 he managed the Mets AA affiliate, the Binghamton Mets.  He led them to a 68-76 record before moving on to the Montreal Expos organization.

While with the Mets Sweet wore number 8.

Rick Sweet also played for the following teams:
San Diego Padres –  1978
Seattle Mariners – 1982,1983

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Neil Allen – His New York Mets Career 1979-1983

Neil AllenIn the infancy of the modern closer role Neil Allen served in that capacity for the Mets from 1979 to 1983. But he will go down in Mets history not for the 69 games he saved but for being the central piece in arguably the greatest trade in Mets history. On June 15, 1983 Neil Allen was traded to the St Louis Cardinals along with fellow pitcher Rick Ownbey for a first baseman by the name of Keith Hernandez. Yes, the Keith Hernandez who would go on to be the leader of the 1986 World Championship team.

Neil Allen was drafted by the Mets in the 11th round of the 1976 amateur draft. Initially a starting pitcher he made his Major League debut with the Mets on April 15th, 1979 against the Philadelphia Phillies, he would suffer the loss allowing 3 runs over 6 innings. Allen would go on to lose five straight decisions before the Mets moved him into the bullpen. Allen found a home in the Mets bullpen where he won 6 games and saved another 8 over the remainder of the season.

Neil Allen became a permanent member of the Mets bullpen in 1980 eventually becoming the teams closer. He saved 59 games over the next three seasons, often keeping the fans on the edge of their seats. His best season came in 1980 when he saved 22 games.  He was twice named National Player of the Week, first for the week ending on July 6, 1980 when he saved 2 games and posted a 0.00 ERA in three appearances.  The second time came in 1981 for the week ending on August 23 when in 3 appearances he saved 2 and won the other.

In 1983 the Mets were experimenting with returning Allen back into a starter when Cardinals General Manager Whitey Herzog called them to see if they would be interested in Keith Hernandez and the rest as they say is history.

In five seasons with the Mets Allen appeared in 223 games and posted a 25 and 40 record with 69 saves and a 3.54 ERA.

While with the Mets Allen wore number 46 from 1979-1980 and number 13 from 1981-1983.

Neil Allen also plated for the following teams:
St. Louis Cardinals – 1983-1985
New York Yankees – 1985, 1987, 1988
Chicago White Sox – 1986, 1987
Cleveland Indians – 1989

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Wally Backman – His New York Mets Career 1980-1988

Wally BackmanA hardnosed gritty player Wally Backman symbolized the feistiness and tenacity of the great Met teams of the mid 80’s especially the 1986 World Championship team.

Wally Backman started his Met career as a September call up in 1980 and would spend parts of the next four seasons with the Mets. During that span he showed signs of promise but could never stick with the big club, injuries also played a factor. When not playing in New York Backman spent much of the time with the Mets Triple A affiliate the Tidewater Tides. It was with Tidewater where Backman caught the eye of manager Davey Johnson who liked his style of play. When Johnson was named the manager of the Mets in 1984, he immediately made Backman his starting second baseman and leadoff hitter. He became a fan favorite due to his hardnosed style of play, leading the league in dirty uniforms. Backman would hit .280 while also stealing 32 bases as the Mets surprised many and won 90 games for their first winning season since 1976.

In 1985 he hit .273 with 1 home run and 38 RBIs and led the team in stolen bases with 30. During the month of August, he enjoyed a 14-game hitting streak.

In 1986, Backman’s struggles against left-handed pitching forced Davey Johnson to platoon him with Tim Teufel. But he still managed to hit a career best .320 while batting in the number two spot in the lineup setting the table for the Mets big hitters, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry, as the Mets ran away and hid in the National League and won the World Series.

During the 1986 League Championship Series, he hit just 0.238 but was in the middle of some of the most pivotal moments.  In game 3, with game trailing 5-4 entering the 9th inning Backman led off with a bunt single.  He beat out the bunt when he lunged past Astros first baseman Glenn Davis.  Two batters later he scored on Len Dyktra’s walk off home run.  In game 5 with the game tied in the 12rh inning, he led off with an infield single and would eventually come around to score the winning run on Gary Carter’s single.  During the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, he hit .333 (6 for 18) and drove in one run.

Backman’s production began to fall off in 1987 and by 1988 and with the emergence of Gregg Jefferies and Keith Miller from the Mets minor league system he became expendable. He was traded to the Minnesota Twins following the 1988 season in exchange for three minor league prospects.

Backman hit .283 over his 9-year career with the Mets, playing in 765 games.

In 2010, Wally Backman returned to the Mets organization as manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones, their single A minor league affiliate.  He went on to manage their double A affiliate the Binghamton Mets.  He also managed their Triple A affiliate in both Buffalo and Las Vegas from 2012-2016.

While with the Mets Backman wore number 28 in 1980 and number 6 from 1981-1988.

Wally Backman also played for the following teams:
Minnesota Twins – 1989
Pittsburgh Pirates – 1990
Philadelphia Phillies – 1991,1992
Seattle Mariners – 1993

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Terry Leach – His New York Mets Career 1981,1982,1985-1989

Terry LeachTerry Leach, a right-handed pitcher who pithed side-armed, was originally signed by the Mets as a minor league free agent on July 27, 1980. A year later he made his Major League debut on August 12, 1981 when he pitched one inning of relief in the Mets 7-4 win over the Chicago Cubs, He allowed 3 hits and 2 runs.  He finished out the season with the Mets and appeared in 21 games, all but one out of the bullpen, and posted a 1-1 record with a 2.55 ERA.  He earned his first Major League win on September 9 against the Pittsburgh Pirates when he pitched 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.  In his only start of the season on August 15 against the Philadelphia Phillies he pitched 5 innings and allowed 3 hits and 1 unearned run.  He got a no-decision as the Mets won 3-1.

He started the 1982 season in the minors before getting brought up to New York in June.  Once again, he appeared in 21 games, all but one out of the bullpen, and posted a 2-1 record with 1 save and a 4.17 ERA.  His only start came on October 1 was a memorable one.  He pitched a complete game shutout and allowed only 1 hit and struck out 7 in 10 innings of work as the Met won 1=0.

Leach spent the entire 1983 season in the minors pitching for the Tidewater Tides.  He posted a 5-7 record with 6 saves and a 4.46 ERA.  Following the season, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs, He started the 1984 season in the Cubs minor league system before being traded to the Atlanta Braves.  He didn’t last long in the Braves organization.  He was released by the Braves on May 25 and was immediately picked up by the Mets.  He finished out the season in the minors.

He started the 1985 season in the minors before once again getting called up the New York in June.  This time he appeared in 22 games 4 as a starter, and posted a 3-4 record with 1 save and a 2.91. His best performance came on August 22 when he pitched a compete game 3 hit shut out against the San Francisco Giants.

Leach started the 1986 season with the Mets but made only 6 appearances, all out of the bullpen, before being shipped back to the minors.  He posted a 0-0 record with a 2.70 innings in 6 2/3 innings.

 He spent the entire 1987 season with the Mets and enjoyed his best season with the Mets.  He started the season in the bullpen before a rash of injuries in the Mets starting staff he was forced to join the rotation.  In 12 starts he posted a 7-1 record, He finished the season with an 11-1 record and 3.22 ERA.  His best appearance came on July 2 when he pitched a complete game shutout against the Cincinnati Reds

Leach pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in 1988 appearing in 52 games.  He finished with a 7-2 record with 3 saves and 2.54 ERA in helping the Mets win the National League Eastern Division title.  In the postseason he appeared in 3 games and did not allow any runs in 5 innings of relief.  But the Mets lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games.

In 1989 he appeared in 10 games before being traded to the Kansas City Royals on June 9.  At the time of the trade his record 0-0 with a 4.22 ERA.

In 176 games for the Mets over 7 seasons Leach posted a 24 and 9 record with 7 saves and 3.11 ERA.

While with the Mets Leach wore number 43 in 1981 and 1986 and number 26 from 1985 to 1986.

Terry Leach also played for the following teams:
Kansas City Royals – 1989
Minnesota Twins – 1990-1991
Chicago White Sox – 1992-1993

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Rick Ownbey – His New York Mets Career 1982,1983

Rick OwnbeyRight-handed pitcher Rick Ownbey made his Major League debut with the Mets on August 17, 1982 against the Cincinnati Reds.  As the starting pitcher, he allowed 5 runs over 5 innings and was the losing pitcher.  He appeared in a total of 8 games for the Mets in 1982, 5 as a starter, and posted a 1-2 record with a 3.75 ERA.  His first win came on September 8 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he pitched a complete game and allowed just one run.

Ownbey started the 1983 season with the Mets and appeared in 10 games before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on June 15th in one of the biggest trades in Mets history.  He was traded along with Neil Allen in exchange for Keith Hernandez, who played an integral part in the Mets 1986 World Championship season.  At the time of the trade Ownbey had a 1-3 record with a 4.67 ERA.  His one win came on June 10 when he pitched the final 4 innings in the Mets 4-2 17 inning win over the Montreal Expos.

In two seasons with the Mets Ownbey appeared in 18 games and posted a 2-5 record with a 4.13 ERA.

While with the Mets Ownbey wore number 20.

Rick Ownbey also played for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1984,1986.

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Charlie Puleo – His New York Mets Career 1981,1982

Charlie PuleoThe Mets acquired right-handed pitcher Charlie Puleo from the Toronto Blue Jays on April 6, 1981 in exchange for fellow pitcher Mark Bomback.  After starting the season in the minors Puleo made his Major League debut for the Mets on September 16 against the Philadelphia Phillies.  He pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in the Mets 5-4 victory.  He would appear in 3 more games, 2 out of the bullpen and 1 as a starter.  He didn’t give up an earned run in 13 1/3 innings.  His one start came on September 30 against the Chicago Cubs, he pitched 8 innings and struck out 6 and gave up 1 unearned run but got a no-decision in the Mets 2-1 victory.

Puleo spent the entire 1982 season with the Mets.  He appeared in 36 games, 24 as a starter, and posted a 9-9 record with a 4.47 ERA while also leading the team in innings pitched with 171.  On May 31 against the Atlanta Braves he struck out 10 batters in 7 2/3 innings to earn the victory. 

Following the season Puleo was included in a trade to the Cincinnati Reds that brought back the legendary Tom Seaver to the Mets.

In 40 games over 2 seasons, Puleo posted a 9-9 record with 1 save and a 4.47 ERA.

While with the Mets Puleo wore number 25.

Charlie Puleo also played for the following teams:
Cincinnati Reds – 1983,1984
Atlanta Braves – 1986-1989

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Ronn Reynolds – His New York Mets Career 1982,1983,1985

Ronn ReyoldsAfter three seasons in the Mets minor league system catcher Ronn Reynolds finally made his Met debut on September 29, 1982.  He started the game and went 0 for 2 before being removed for a pinch hitter.  He would appear in just one more game in 1982 and finished the season 0 for 4.  Reynolds started the 1983 season in the minors with the Tidewater Tides, the Mets top farm club, before being recalled at the end of April.  He appeared in 24 games, 23 as the starting catcher, but hit only .197 in 66 plate appearances and was shipped back to Tidewater in the middle of June.  He got his first hit on May 8th against the Cincinnati Reds.  Reynolds finished out the season in Tidewater; in fact, he would not make another appearance with the Mets until 1985.  After starting the season with Tidewater, playing in just three games, he was promoted to New York to be the backup catcher to Gary Carter.  Although he spent the entire season with the Mets he appeared in only 28 games and batted just .209 in 43 at bats.

Following the season, the Mets traded Reynolds to the Philadelphia Phillies. 

In 54 games for the Mets over three seasons Reynolds batted .195 with 3 RBIs

While with the Mets Reynolds wore number 8 in 1982 and 1983 and number 9 in 1985.

Ronn Reynolds also played for the following teams:
Philadelphia Phillies – 1986
Houston Astros – 1987
San Diego Padres – 1990

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