Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Mets Team Is Worth A Thousand Players

According to, the Mets have had 984 players appear in a game for them during their first 53 seasons.  From Aardsma to Zimmer, these players have played the field, appeared as a pitcher or had a turn at the plate at least one time in a Mets uniform.  Sixteen of these players made their Mets debuts in 2014.  Another sixteen in 2015 would give the Mets an even thousand.

To mark this soon-to-be occasion that will be probably be old news once the thousand-and-first player sets foot on the field or in the batter's box, I have come up with a few factoids, oddities and other fun bits of minutiae in this, my 1,000th Studious Metsimus post.  (So THAT'S the reasoning behind publishing this now!)  Hopefully, this blog post won't be forgotten once my 1,001st piece is published.  Enjoy!

The three most common surnames by Mets players are Hernandez, Johnson and Jones.  Each last name has been represented seven times.  I'm sure you'll remember most of these players very well and some of these players not at all:

This one's Luis.
  • Keith Hernandez (1983-89)
  • Manny Hernandez (1989)
  • Roberto Hernandez (2005, 2006)
  • Anderson Hernandez (2005-07, 2009)
  • Orlando Hernandez (2006-07)
  • Livan Hernandez (2009)
  • Luis Hernandez (2010)

One of the Bobs.
  • Bob Johnson (1967 - infielder)
  • Bob Johnson (1969 - pitcher)
  • Howard Johnson (1985-93)
  • Lance Johnson (1996-97)
  • Mark Johnson (2000-02)
  • Ben Johnson (2007)
  • Rob Johnson (2012)

NOT the Mets' Randy Jones.
  • Sherman Jones (1962)
  • Cleon Jones (1963, 1965-75)
  • Randy Jones (1981-82)
  • Ross Jones (1984)
  • Bobby J. Jones (1993-2000)
  • Chris Jones (1995-96)
  • Bobby M. Jones (2000, 2002)

Of course, one of the most popular Johnsons to ever wear a Mets uniform never played a game for New York, and hence, would not appear on the list of Johnsons above.  That would be manager Davey Johnson, who is the team's all-time winningest skipper and led the club to its second World Series championship in 1986.  He is also the only manager to win two division titles (1986, 1988) during his tenure with the Mets.

Excluding the inaugural 1962 campaign - a year in which every Met player (all 45 of them) suited up for the very first time in a Mets uniform - the year that saw the most new players appearing in at least one game for the Mets was 1967.  Thirty-eight years before Carlos Beltran coined the phrase, there were 35 "new Mets" in 1967, none more famous than The Franchise himself, Tom Seaver.  Unlike Seaver, who set and still holds most of the club's pitching records, a total of 14 players from that squad never played for the Mets after 1967, including Al Schmelz, who is the owner of one team record that's still standing.  His seven-letter surname is the longest last name in franchise history with only one vowel in it.  Of course, if that's the one thing Al Schmelz is going to be known for, then his career must have really stunk.

Conversely, the year that saw the fewest new Mets was 1988, when just four players made their debuts with the team (Bob McClure, Ed Nuñez, Mackey Sasser, David West).  That was the same year New York retired Tom Seaver's number.  And lest we forget, it was also the year Al Schmelz turned 45.

Editor's note:  For those who are curious, Al Schmelz has had a wonderful post-baseball career.  He has been a successful real estate broker in Arizona, where he currently resides, so maybe he's going to be known for more than just having the longest one-vowel surname in Mets history and for turning 45 in 1988.  And I'm sure he doesn't mind that at all.

Of the 984 players who appeared in at least one game for the Mets, only eight of them never played a defensive position while on the team.  Those eight players are Lou Klimchock (1966), Greg Harts (1973), Rick Sweet (1982), Randy Milligan (1987), Brook Fordyce (1995), Terrence Long (1999), Gary Bennett (2001) and Abraham Nuñez (2008).

All eight players appeared in games solely as pinch-hitters or pinch-runners.  Of the eight, Klimchock had the most plate appearances, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in five pinch-hitting appearances.  Just four of the eight players (Harts, Sweet, Fordyce, Bennett) collected hits in their brief, non-defensive-playing Mets careers, with Fordyce collecting the only extra-base hit when he doubled in his final at-bat as a Met.

Brook Fordyce never had a chance with the Mets.  Not with that smile.

Greg Harts is unique among all 984 players, as he is the only player in Mets history whose entire major league career consisted of pinch-hitting and pinch-running.  Harts appeared in three late-season games for the 1973 Mets, just as the team was making its unexpected run to the NL East title.  Harts collected a pinch-hit single in his major league debut on September 15.  Two days later, he grounded out as a pinch-hitter for Ray Sadecki.  Three days after that, he pinch-ran for Duffy Dyer.  Harts never appeared in a major league game again for the Mets or any other team.  The other seven players who never played a defensive position for the Mets at least got the opportunity to play the field with other teams, a privilege that wasn't afforded to Harts.

Finally, there have been many players in Mets history who never walked up to the plate with bats in their hands.  Naturally, most of those players were relief pitchers who were usually taken out of games for pinch-hitters when their spots in the batting order came up.  But just two non-pitchers in franchise history got to play defense without getting an opportunity to step into the batter's box while wearing a Mets uniform.

In 2004, catcher Joe Hietpas appeared in his only major league game as a late-inning defensive replacement for Todd Zeile, who was playing in his 2,158th and final major league game.  The contest, which took place on October 3, was also the final game ever played by the Montreal Expos.  Hietpas never batted for the Mets - or any other team - but at least he made two putouts, both on strikeouts by Bartolome Fortunato, and can say he was on the field when future Met Endy Chavez made the final out in Expos history.

Unlike Hietpas, Shane Halter can say he played in several games for the Mets, even if he never took a bat in his hands for the team.  Five years before Hietpas became the final new player to play for the Mets in 2004 (and the 747th overall), Halter appeared in seven games for the 1999 Mets.  Halter was a pinch-runner in five of those games and played the field in the other two.  On September 18, Halter played center field in the eighth inning, then moved to shortstop in the ninth, never collecting a plate appearance.  Two weeks later, in the game against the Pirates that forced a one-game playoff with the Cincinnati Reds, Halter played the final out of the nail-biting ninth inning in right field.  He never got a chance to bat, as the Mets won the game in the bottom of the ninth.  Halter played in seven games with the Mets, but failed to pick up a plate appearance.  He also never made a putout on the field.  At least Hietpas got to do that with the Mets five years later.

"Here's to you, Mr. Hietpas.  Mets fans love you more than you will know, wo, wo, wo."

A total of 984 players have played in at least one game for the Mets.  Some of them had long and distinguished careers in the majors, while others had careers that were over before you could say Schmelz, Harts and Hietpas.

At least four new players have joined the team every year they've been in existence.  Sixteen of those players became Mets in 2014.  If that number repeats itself in 2015, the number of players to have appeared in at least one game with the team will reach one thousand.

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Pretty soon, the Mets will have reached a thousand players.  And that's a picture that's over half a century in the making.

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