John Stearns – His New York Mets Career 1975-1984

John StearnsAcquired from the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 1975 season along with Del Unser and Mac Scarce in exchange for Tug McGraw, Don Hahn and Dave Schneck, John Stearns would go on to catch 678 games in a Met uniform (4th most in team history) and be selected to four different All-Star teams.    The heart and soul of some pretty bad Met teams; Stearns never let the Mets place in the standings affect his play. 

After two seasons serving as backup to Jerry Grote, Stearns became the Met fulltime catcher in 1977.  He took full advantage of the situation, leading the team with 25 doubles and tying for the team lead with 12 home runs.  For his efforts, he was selected to be the Mets lone representative in the All-Star game.  He continued his strong play in 1978 and even broke the National League record for most stolen bases by a catcher in a season with 25.  Stearns would play four more season as the Mets catcher, earning three more All-Star appearances in 1979, 1980 and 1982, before a rash of injuries took their toll forcing him to cut his career short just as the Mets had turned the corner and became one of the top teams in the league.  

During his 10 years with the Mets Stearns hit .259 with 46 HR’s and 312 RBI’s.  Stearns would return to the Mets in 2000 and 2001 serving as a coach.  He also spent two seasons managing in the Mets minor league system, 2003 with the Binghamton Mets and 2004 with the Norfolk Tides.

While with the Mets Stearns wore number 16 in 1975 and 1976 and number 12 from 1977-1984.

John Stearns also played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1974.

 

 

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Dave Kingman – His New York Mets Career 1975-1977,1981-1984

Dave KingmanDave Kingman was purchased from the San Francisco Giants prior to the 1975 season.   With the Mets in 1975 he quickly became a fan favorite and earned the nickname “Sky King” due in large part to his ability to hit tape measure home runs.  Kingman homered in his first game as a Met on Opening Day and would go on to set the Mets single season home run record with 36 round trippers.   But when he wasn’t hitting home runs he was striking out.  For the season, he hit just .231 while striking out 153 times but did drive in 88 runs, second most on the team to Rusty Staub.

Kingman followed up his first season with a similar one in 1976.  He bested his own home run record with 37 and was selected to his first All-Star team as the starting right fielder.  But like 1975 he hit just .238 and continued to rack up the strikeouts. 

After starting out the 1977 season with a .209 average Kingman was traded to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Bobby Valentine and Paul Siebert at the June 15th trading deadline.  It was the same day the Mets traded Tom Seaver in what became known as the “Midnight Massacre” to Mets fans.

Prior to the 1981 season Dave Kingman was traded back to the Mets from the Chicago Cubs as the organization attempted to appease their disgruntled fan base by bringing back some old fan favorites.   In his first season, back in New York Kingman hit 22 home runs but also led the league in strikeouts.  In 1982, he became the first player in franchise history to lead the league in home runs by hitting 37. But he also led the league in strikeouts with 156 and hit just .204 which was the lowest average for any single season home run leader in baseball history.  Kingman returned to the Mets in 1983 but when the Mets acquired first baseman Keith Hernandez at the trading deadline Kingman was relegated to the bench and used primarily as pinch hitter.  He hit just .198 with 13 home runs and 29 RBIs. 

The Mets released Kingman following the season.  During his Met career, he hit just .219 with 154 home runs and 389 RBIs.  At the time of his release he was the franchise’s all-time leader in home runs. 

While with the Mets Kingman wore number 26. 

Dave Kingman also played for the following teams:
San Francisco Giants – 1971-1974
California Angels – 1977
New York Yankees – 1977
San Diego Padres – 1977
Chicago Cubs – 1978-1980

Oakland A’s – 1984-1986

Pat Zachry – His New York Mets Career 1977-1982

Pat ZachryOn June 15, 1977, the New York Mets traded their most popular player in franchise history, Tom Seaver.  In return they received four players, Dan Norman, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson and right-handed pitcher Pat Zachry. The year before Zachry had won the National League Rookie of the Year as a member of the Cincinnati Reds.  Zachry would pitch six seasons for the Mets but would never make Met fans forget Tom Seaver.

Pat Zachry made his Met debut on June 17, 1977 against the Houston Astros.  He pitched six innings and allowed four runs all but one earned and suffered the loss in the Mets 7-1 defeat.  Zachry would finish the season with a 7-6 record and 3.76 ERA in 19 starts.

In 1978 Zachry enjoyed his finest season with the Mets, he started out the season 10-4 and was named to the National League All-Star team, he did not appear in the game.  However, following the All-Star break Zachry was lost for the season when he fractured his foot.  The injury occurred on July 24 in a fit of rage.  After giving up a hit to Pete Rose to extend his hitting streak to 37 games, Zachry was pulled from the game.  When he reached the dugout he angrily attempted to kick a batting helmet but missed and kicked the dugout step instead and fractured his left foot.

In 1979, an elbow injury limited him to just 7 starts, though he did manage to post a 5-1 record.  In 1980 despite being named the National League pitcher of the month for July, a month that saw him go 4-0, he suffered through a 6-10 season though he did post a very respectable 3.01 ERA.  It would be the first of three straight losing seasons including a 1981 season in which he led the league with 14 losses.  During his final season with the Mets in 1982 he did flirt with pitching the first no-hitter in franchise history against the Chicago Cubs on April 10.  He lost his bid with two outs in the 8th inning.   It was the highlight of his season, a season which saw him lose his spot in the starting rotation.

Following the season the Mets traded Zachry to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  In his six seasons with the Mets Pat Zachry posted a 41-46 record with a 3.63 ERA.

While with the Mets Zachry wore number 40.

Pat Zachry also played for the following teams:
Cincinnati Reds – 1976,1977
Los Angeles Dodgers – 1983,1984
Philadelphia Phillies – 1985

Lance Johnson – His New York Mets Career 1996-1997

Lance JohnsonThe Mets signed Lance Johnson to be their leadoff hitter and centerfielder prior to the 1996 season.  In his first season in New York, he far exceeded everyone’s expectations as he had perhaps the greatest offensive season in franchise history.  Johnson a career .285 hitter went on to rewrite part of the Met record book in 1996.  He led the Mets with a .333 average, which was also 4th best in the league and at the time the second highest in franchise history, Cleon Jones hit .340 in 1969.  He became the first player in Met history to record over 200 hits.  His 227 hits not only led the National League it also obliterated the franchise record of 191 by Felix Millian in 1975.  He also set the franchise records for triples (21), runs scored (117) and total bases (327).  He also stole 50 bases, which was just eight shy of Mookie Wilson’s club record 58.  He also drove in 69 runs, an impressive number coming from a leadoff hitter.    For his efforts, he was named to the National League All – Star team where he could easily have been the game’s MVP – he went 3 for 4 with a double and stolen base.

Needless to say, expectations were high for Johnson entering the 1997 season.  He did put up some decent numbers in 1997 but injuries, mainly shin splints, hampered him for much of the season.  He was hitting .306 when the Met brass sensing that his 1996 season was more an aberration than the norm decided to include him in a six-player trade with the Cubs in August.  The Mets acquired pitchers Turk Wendell, Mel Rojas and outfielder Brian McRae for Johnson, Manny Alexander and Mark Clark.  It turned out the Mets knew what they were doing when they traded Johnson, as he never again approached the numbers he put up in 1996.  He retired following the 2000 season.

In 1 ½ seasons with the Mets Lance Johnson appeared in 232 games and hit .326 with 10 home runs and 93 RBIs.

While with the Mets Johnson wore number 1.

Lance Johnson also played for the following teams:
St. Louis Cardinals – 1987
Chicago White Sox – 1988-1995
Chicago Cubs – 1997-1999
New York Yankees – 2000

 

 

 

 

 

Richie Ashburn – His New York Mets Career 1962

Richie AshburnRichie Ashburn, a former All-Star with the Phillies, has the distinction of being the first hitter in New York Mets history, he flew out to centerfield against Larry Jackson of the St Louis Cardinals on April 11, 1962.  He would later score the first run in franchise history when Charlie Neal singled him home in the third inning of the same game.

In the Mets inaugural season, a season in which they set the record for futility by losing 120 games, Ashburn was one of the few bright spots.  In 135 games as the Mets primary leadoff hitter, he hit .306 with 7 home runs and 28 RBIs and was selected to be the team’s first All-Star. 

Unfortunately for the Mets Ashburn was at the end of his career and 1962 would be his only season with the Mets, as he retired from playing following the season. 

He would be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995.

While with the Mets Ashburn wore number 1.

Richie Ashburn also played for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1952 to 1969 and the Chicago Cubs in 1960 and 1961.

Bobby Jones – His New York Mets Career – 1993-2000

Bobby J JonesThe New York Mets drafted right handed pitcher Bobby Jones in the first round of the 1991 amateur draft with a compensation pick they received when Darryl Strawberry signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent. After spending three seasons in the minors where he won 25 games, Bobby Jones made his Met debut on August 14, 1993 against the Philadelphia Phillies.  He pitched 6 innings allowing just one earned run for his first major league win.  He would finish out the season 2 – 4 with a 3.65 ERA.  In his last start of the season Jones pitched 10 innings of shutout ball and struck out 9 batters against the St, Louis Cardinals, a game the Mets would win 1-0 in 17 innings.

Bobby Jones made the Mets starting rotation out of Spring Training in 1994 as their number 3 starter.  He would go on to have a solid season for the Mets winning 12 games, 2nd to Bret Saberhagen’s team best 14, in the strike shortened season.  Now firmly entrenched in the Mets starting rotation Jones was named the opening day starter in 1995, he would go on to lead the team with 10 wins, unfortunately he also led the team with 10 losses.  He followed that up with a 12 and 8 season in 1996.   

1997 would be Bobby Jones’ best season in the majors. After starting the season 3 and 2 he reeled off 8 straight victories and was named the National League Pitcher of the Month for May.  During the month, Jones won all 5 of his starts while posting a 1.15 ERA.  He would finish the season with a career best 15 wins.  Along the way, he made his first and only All-Star game appearance where he pitched one inning and retired the side in order striking out 2 including future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.  

After posting a 9 and 9 season in 1998, Jones suffered through an injury plagued 1999 appearing in only 12 games winning just 3.  The Mets advanced to the playoffs in 1999 but Jones was left off the postseason roster.  He returned in 2000 as the Mets number 5 starter.  Despite a 5.06 ERA he managed to win 11 games and helped the Mets reach the postseason for the second consecutive season 

In the National League Divisional Series against the San Francisco Giants, Jones was tabbed to pitch game 4 with the Mets leading the series 2 games to 1.  Bobby Jones would go on to pitch arguably the greatest game in Mets history, throwing a complete game one hit shutout. He retired the side in order in 8 of the 9 innings.  With the win the Mets clinched the series and advanced to the National League Championship Series.   Even though the Mets would eventually advance to the World Series it would be Bobby Jones’ last victory in a Met uniform.  Following the season Bobby Jones signed with the San Diego Padres as a free agent, where he pitched two more seasons before retiring.   

In 8 seasons with the Mets Bobby Jones pitched in 193 regular seasons games and posted a 74 and 56 record with a 4.13 ERA.

While with the Mets Jones wore number 28.

Bobby Jones also played for the San Diego Padres in 2001 and 2002.

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Edgardo Alfonzo – His New York Mets Career 1995-2002

Edgardo AlfonzoEdgardo Alfonzo made his Major League debut with the Mets on April 26, 1995 and would go on to play eight seasons with the team becoming one of the most popular players in team history as evidenced by his being voted the greatest 2nd baseman in Mets history by the fans as part of their 40th Anniversary Celebration.

After two good yet unspectacular seasons in 1995 and 1996 Alfonzo broke out in 1997 hitting a team best .315.  But his best season with the Mets came in 1999 when he established himself as one of the top hitters in the game.  He hit 27 home runs and drove in 108 while helping the Mets reach the postseason for the first time since 1988.  He also set the Mets single season record for runs scored with 123.   On August 30th against the Houston Astros Alfonzo had a career day by becoming the first player and to date the only player in franchise history to go 6 for 6 in a game.  He hit three home runs and drove in five and became the first player since the legendary Ty Cobb to go 6 for 6 with three home runs in a game.

In 1999 Edgardo Alfonzo also established himself as one of the games best defensive players. After playing most of his career at 3rd base Alfonzo moved to 2nd base and committed just five errors for a .993 fielding percentage. Many believe he should have won the gold glove but he was beaten out by Pokey Reese of the Reds.

In order for the Mets to make the postseason in 1999 the Mets were forced to play a one game playoff against the Cincinnati Reds.  Alfonzo hit a two run home run in the first inning of the game which proved to be all the runs the Mets needed as they went on to win 5-0.

Alfonzo continued his hot hitting in his first postseason game against the Arizona Diamondback hitting two home runs including a grand slam while driving in five runs.  In all he hit three home runs and drove in six in helping the Mets defeat the Diamondbacks in the NLDS.  He continued his great hitting in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves with another home run and five RBI’s but the Mets lost to the Braves in six games.

In 2000 he continued his stellar play and earned his first All-Star selection by hitting a career best .324 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI’s in helping the Mets reach the World Series for the first time since 1986.

Alfonzo’s production started to suffer in 2001 and 2002, due in large part to back problems and the Mets let him walk as a free agent following the 2002 season much to the chagrin of many Mets fans including this one.  But it turned out to be the right move as his production continued to decline. 

Edgardo Alfonzo did try to make a comeback with the Mets in 2006 signing with their Triple A affiliate the Norfolk Tides but the bid fell short and Alfonzo never made it back to the big leagues. 

In his eight seasons with the Mets Alfonzo hit .292 with 120 home runs and 538 RBI’s in 1086 games.

In 24 postseason games Alfonzo hit .240 with 4 home runs and 17 RBI’s.

While with the Mets Edgardo Alfonzo wore number 13 in tribute to his fellow countryman Dave Concepcion from Valenzuela.

Edgardo Alfonzo also played for the following teams:
San Francisco Giants – 2003-2005
Los Angeles Angels – 2006
Toronto Blue Jays – 2006

 

Frank Viola – His New York Mets Career 1989-1991

Frank ViolaLong Island native Frank Viola was acquired by the Mets at the trading deadline in 1989 from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for David West, Kevin Tapani, Rick Aguilera, Jack Savage, and Tim Drummond.  The left-handed pitcher known as “Sweet Music’ was the defending American League Cy Young Award winner and former World Series MVP, having won the award with the Twins in 1987. 

Viola was set to join Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, David Cone, Sid Fernandez and Bobby Ojeda as the Mets made a push to win back to back division titles.  Viola won his first start as a Met on August 2nd against the St Louis Cardinals, pitching 8 innings allowing 2 runs and just 4 hits.  But unfortunately, it took Viola awhile to get accustomed to his new surroundings as he finished the season with a 5-5 record as the Mets fell short of their quest to return to the postseason.  On August 28th against the Dodgers Viola pitched his best game of the year.  He faced Orel Hershiser and out pitched the defending National League Cy Young Award winner.  It was the first game in baseball history featuring two defending Cy Young Award winners.  Viola pitched a complete game shutout allowing just three hits as the Mets won 1-0.

1990 would be Viola’s best season with the Mets.  He started out the season 6-2 and finished with a 20-12 record, becoming just the fifth pitcher in franchise history to win 20 games.   He led the National League in innings pitched with 249 2/3 innings and finished fourth in the league with 2.67 ERA.  For his efforts, he was named to the National League All-Star squad and finished third in the National League Cy Young voting.

Viola continued his strong pitching over the first half of 1991 starting the season with an 11-5 record and making a second All -Star appearance.  But as the Mets collapsed during the second half of the season so did Viola.  He lost 10 of his final 12 decisions to finish the season with a 13-15 record and 3.97 ERA. 

Frank Viola became a free agent following the 1991 season and signed with the Boston Red Sox.  In his two plus seasons with the Mets he finished with a 38-32 record and 3.31 ERA.

While with the Mets Viola wore number 26 in 1989 and 29 from 1990-1991.

Frank Viola also played for the following teams:
Minnesota Twins – 1982-1989
Boston Red Sox – 1992-1994
Cincinnati Reds – 1995
Toronto Blue Jays – 1996

Paul LoDuca -His New York Mets Career 2006-2007

paul-loducaThe Mets acquired catcher Paul LoDuca from the Florida Marlins prior to the 2006 season.  LoDuca had the unenvying task of replacing Mike Piazza, one of the franchise’s most popular players and considered by many to be the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history.  Though Met fans would never forget Piazza LoDuca made the transition easier and quickly became a fan favorite with his fiery attitude and hardnosed play.  It also helped that he had a solid year at the plate and helped the Mets win the National League’s Eastern division.

Batting in the number two hole, LoDuca led the Mets in hitting in 2006 with a .318 average, good enough for 7th best in the National League.   He hit 5 home runs with 49 RBIs while also hitting a career best 39 doubles.  The Mets fans rewarded LoDuca for his solid play by electing him the starting catcher for the National League in the All-Star game. 

LoDuca really endeared himself to Mets fans when he yelled at Alex Rodriguez during the subway series for showing up a Mets pitcher after hitting a home run in a blowout loss. 

LoDuca caught all 10 of the Mets postseason games.  In the NLDS against his former team the Los Angeles Dodgers, he hit .455 (5-11) and drove in 3 runs.  But in the NLCS against the St Louis Cardinals, LoDuca hit just .207 (6-29) but did drive in 3 runs.  His never say die attitude was never more evident than in game 7 of the NLCS.  With 2 outs in the 9th inning and the Mets trailing 3-1 LoDuca refused to give in and worked out a walk to load the bases.  Unfortunately, Carlos Beltran struck out and the Mets season suddenly ended. 

LoDuca returned in 2007 but injuries limited his effectiveness.  His average slipped to .272 though he did manage to hit 9 home runs and drive in 54 runs.  He also recorded his 1000th career hit.

Following the season the Mets decided not to resign LoDuca and he left as a free agent and signed with the Washington Nationals.   LoDuca struggled over the next two seasons with Washington and the Florida Marlins, justifying the Mets decision.

In his 2 seasons with the Mets LoDuca hit .297 with 14 home runs and 103 RBIs. 

While with the Mets LoDuca wore number 16.

Paul LoDuca also played for the following teams:
Los Angeles Dodgers – 1998-2004
Florida Marlins – 2004,2005,2008
Washington Nationals – 2008

Ron Hunt – His New York Mets Career 1963-1966

ron-huntOn October 11, 1962, the New York Mets purchased the contract of Ron Hunt from the Milwaukee Braves. Having been stuck in the Braves minor league system Hunt welcomed the opportunity to play for the Mets.  In an interview on April 20, 1963 Ron Hunt told the New York Times, “I was happy to be traded here. I knew I’d be with a bunch of guys my own age. We can at least give other teams a lot of trouble in the league.”  Ron Hunt would play 4 seasons for the Mets and go on to become the franchise’s first legitimate star.

Ron Hunt made his Mets debut on April 16, 1963, a 7–4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.  As the Mets number two batter he went 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored.  Three days later he was the star of the game, knocking in the tying and winning runs with a double in the bottom of the 9th inning against the Milwaukee Braves.  He would go on to bat .272 with 10 home runs, 28 doubles (the most in the franchises young history) and 42 RBI’s. Despite having very similar numbers Ron Hunt finished second to Pete Rose in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.

Ron Hunt got off to a fast start in 1964 hitting .300 over his first 10 games.  Along the way, he hit the first home run by a Mets player at Shea Stadium, their new state of the art ballpark, on April 23rd.  Hunt would go on to hit .303 for the season to lead the team.    For his efforts, he was elected the starting second baseman for the National League in that year’s All-Star game, the first Met player to be so honored.  In the game, which took place at Shea Stadium, Ron Hunt went 1-3.

Hunt suffered through an injury plagued 1965 season hitting just .240 with a homer and 10 RBIs in just 57 games.  He bounced back in 1966 and was selected to his second All-Star game after hitting .293 in the first half of the season. He finished the season with a .288 average.  But with his power numbers beginning to trail off, he had just 3 home runs with 33 RBI’s in 1966, the Mets traded him during the off-season to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with Jim Hickman in exchange for Tommy Davis and Derrell Griffith.  

In his 4 seasons with the Mets Hunt appeared in 459 games hitting .282 with 20 home runs and 127 RBI’s.   

While with the Mets Hunt wore number 33.

Ron Hunt also played for the following teams:

Los Angeles Dodgers – 1967
San Francisco Giants – 1968-1970
Montreal Expos – 1971-1974
St. Louis Cardinals – 1974