Monday, October 10, 2011

1977 New York Mets

1977 marked the year that it all came crashing down for the Amazin's.  The Metsies owned the town since their "miracle" championship in 1969.  Even the Yankees first World Series appearance in 12 seasons couldn't knock the Mets out of the #1 spot in the city.  The it happened...1977.  The Mets bottomed out and lost 98 games and finished dead last in the NL East, while the Bronx Bombers won their first championship in 15 seasons.  Those two events contributed to Shea Stadium becoming an empty cavern.  The dumping of "the franchise", Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman on June 15 was the coffin nail.  To that point in the season the Mets were struggling.  They were 9 games under .500, but they were competitive.  Losing their ace and their lone power threat in the lineup not only made them non-competitive on the field, but it made them a pariah at the box office.  Why did this happen ?  It all started coming apart the previous season when owner Joan Payson passed away.  Her heirs wanted to sell the team, but before they would do that they began systematically gutting it.  Trading Seaver was going to be tough, since he was the greatest and most beloved player in the franchises short history.  There wasn't a Met fan who didn't worship "Tom Terrific".  The only way to trade him was to make him demand a trade.  Seaver loved New York, so that wasn't very likely.  Payson's daughter gave M.Donald Grant (Chairman of the Board) strict instructions to get Seaver out of town.  Grant conspired with veteran NY Post columnist Dick Young to discredit Seaver.  A series of negative articles about Seaver and his family pushed him to the breaking point.  Fans didn't believe any of the crap being written and sided with their star hurler.  In an emotional press conference on June 15th, Seaver said good bye to New York and the Mets introduced the 4 young men that the Reds sent them in return.  Poor Doug Flynn, Steven Henderson, Dan Norman and especially Pat Zachry, who would have to take Seaver's spot in the rotation.  Those poor guys never stood a chance with the fans who just wanted their Seaver.  The biggest victim of all these shenanigans was rookie player manager Joe Torre, who had to deal with a crumbling franchise and angry fan base.  Even the remaining players like Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack fell on hard times.  Kooz lost 20 games even though his ERA was a rock solid 3.49.  The guys behind him couldn't hit, nor could they field.  Tidewater (AAA affiliate) was not producing star quality replacements.  The one bright spot on the horizon was Brooklyn native Lee Mazzilli, who debuted in centerfield late in the '76 campaign.  Shea Stadium, which could seat 55,000, averaged between 8,000-10,000 per game.  Dark times had hit Flushing.  As the banner read, "Welcome to Grant's Tomb"

To finish off the Mets set 17 new cards needed to be added.  A special thanks to Andy Weinrib for lending me his 1977, 1977 Revised and 1978 Mets Yearbooks, which supplied many obscure player photos.

Norman played parts of 4 seasons for the Mets after arriving as part of the Seaver trade.  He would go 4 for 16 in 7 games to hit .250 in 1977.  A corner outfielder with a AAA bat, Norman never quite caught on.  In 1979 he played in 44 games and in 110 AB's hit .245 with 3 homers and 11 RBI's.  In 1981 he would be shipped to Montreal, along with Jeff Reardon, for Ellis Valentine.  He played part of 1 season in Montreal (1982) and was released.  Norman didn't give up his dream after being let go by the Expos.  He continued to tool around the minors for another 5 season and finally quit after he bottomed out in "A-ball".  The photo for this card came from the revised 1977 Mets Yearbook.  It was taken in Joe Torre's office.  The classic brown paneling look graced many a newly acquired player's photo in the Mets yearbooks from the mid 70's to the early 80's.

The good doctor made just one housecall for the Mets in 1977 pitching 7 strong innings and giving up just 3 runs.  Since the Mets averaged less than 3 runs scored a game, Medich would take a loss in his on appearance ever in a Met uniform after being purchased from the Mariners on September 26th.  At the end of the season he signed with the Rangers as a free agent and had 4+ solid seasons.  He would finish his 11 year career with a 124-105 record then head back to medical school.  Twice during his career he went into the stands to save fans who were in the process of having a heart attack.  He would eventually get his medical license after his baseball days ended, but wound up getting is suspended due to his writing prescriptions to non-existent patients and people who never received their drugs.  The photo used here was taken during his final season in baseball, while he was a member of the Brewers.  I airbrushed out the Brewer logo and pasted on the interlocking orange NY of the Mets.

Every time the diminutive Flynn would come to bat the speakers at Shea would blast "Thank God I'm a Country Boy".  Flynn was a gold glove second baseman who .191 in 282 AB's with the Mets after joining the team on June 16th as part of the Seaver trade.  Flynn was destined to sit behind "the cat", Felix Millan, until the latter was injured by Ed Ott during a brawl at Three Rivers Stadium.  Flynn got his opportunity and made the most of it to break out of being just a utility infielder.  Flynn won 2 rings with the Reds in '75 and '76 as a utility guy that got into 90 games each season.  He would spend 5 seasons w/the Mets before being dealt to the Rangers for Jim Kern.  He would hit .238 in 11 seasons of action and win a Gold Glove in 1980.  This card photo was scanned from the 1977 Mets Revised Yearbook.  It was taken immediately after the trade from Cincy.

In his one season in Flushing, Todd went 3-6 with a 4.77 ERA.  He started 10 games and pitched 71 2/3 innings.  I can honestly say that I saw him pitch and I fell asleep at the game.  From his stats, I believe I didn't miss much other than my mom yelling at me that she wasted $3.50 on my ticket.  This is a scanned photo from the '77 Mets Yearbook.

Topps didn't issue a card for Grote in '77, because it was believed that the best defensive catcher in the league was going to retire due to back injuries.  On the eve of Spring Training Grote decided he was going to play.  This card was actually a Topps prototype that never got released.  It was originally displayed on Keith Obermann's blog along with a Reggie card with the Orioles that never saw the light of day.  I didn't create it, but since I found it I figured it would be cool to share it with everyone.  '77 would be Grote's final season with the Mets, who mercifully traded him to the Dodgers, where he went from worst to first and even saw action in the '77 and '78 World Series as a backup catcher.

Youngblood was a fan favorite during his 6 season at Big Shea.  He could play almost every position and he possessed a howitzer for a right arm.  He was a solid hitter on a team with not many hitters at all.  The Mets acquired him from the Cardinals for the hefty price of Mike Phillip's contract.  Youngblood's watershed season was the strike shortened 1981, where he hit an off the charts .350 and made the All-Star team.  In '77 he appeared in just 70 games for New York and hit .253 without any homers.  He holds a MLB record for being the only player to get a hit for two different teams on the same day.  This happened in 1982 when the Mets dealt him to Montreal for Tom Gorman.  He got a hit for the Mets during a day game then flew up to Montreal and got a hit for the Expos.  This great fielding shot was a scanned picture from the 1977 Mets Yearbook.

Known for his mustache and the fact that his cap would fall off his head on virtually every pitch.  He pitched 3 innings in 3 games and did not allow a run.  That would be the peak for a career that went 4-10 with a 5.73 ERA.  This photo came from the 1979 Mets Yearbook.

For 5 seasons "Maz" was pretty much the only reason to watch a Met game.  He is primarily responsible for any/all female Met fans who started following the team in the late 70's.  This Brooklyn native was a star at Lincoln High before being drafted in the first round by the Mets in 1973.  Met ownership would purposely tailor his uniforms to be tight, so the lovely ladies in attendance or those watching on WOR Channel 9, could see their matinee idol.  Maz could play center and first.  He could steal bases and hit with some pop.  His homer in the 1979 All-Star game in Seattle, that sliced down the left field line, helped win the game.  A switch hitter by trade, Maz could also throw with both arms.  Neither arm was very strong, so opposing runners would consistently take the extra base on him.  As the team began to improve the Mets dealt him to Texas for young hurlers Walt Terrell and Ron Darling at the end of Spring Training in 1982.  He would return to the team in 1986 as a valuable bat off the bench and 5th outfielder for their Championship run.  This card contains a great action shot scanned from the 1977 Mets Yearbook.  It's one of the few photos of Maz during this era batting without the aide of his aviator glasses.

After punching out his manager, Frank Lucchesi, during a spring training disagreement Randle was banished to Flushing.  He would lead the team in hitting (.304) and win the team's starting third base job.  Everyone in Flushing was ecstatic that the Mets finally found themselves a star to start at third.  That star shot across he sky and burnt out real quick as his average dropped to .233 the following season and the Mets decided not to renew his contract.  This photo was taken @Shea and used in the Revised 1977 Mets Yearbook.

A light hitting middle infielder, who platooned at short and second for 4 seasons in Comiskey for the Chisox.  He bounced around baseball for a while before landing on the scrap heap in Flushing.  He would get into just 1 game and not reach base in 2 at bats.  He would not play in the majors again after the season ended.  There were no photos of him in any of the Met yearbooks.  Why would there be ?  I did a Google search and found this autographed photo taken of him @Wrigley in a Mets uniform.  It was on sale for $10.  I'm hoping no one that I know gets this photo for Christmas.  If they do I want them to know that under no uncertain terms did I encourage the purchaser.

Zachry got a bum wrap in New York.  Taking Seaver's spot in the rotation could only have been easy for a guy named Gibson or Koufax.  In his own right, Zachry was a solid major league pitcher who was the 1976 National League Rookie of the Year after going 14-7 with a 2.74 ERA in Cincy.  People forget that he had some rookie season and also won a championship.  He had the misfortune to pitch for some brutal Met teams that couldn't field and had an every day lineup that had stats that resembled dead ball era teams.  In '77 he was 7-6 with a 3.76 ERA.  In contrast, Seaver was 7-3 with a 3.00 ERA prior to being traded.  Zach was pretty good.  In '78 he was having a whale of a season going 10-6 with a 3.33 ERA.  It all ended when he gave up a hit to Pete Rose that allowed Charlie Hustle to continue his 44 game hitting streak.  Zachry kicked a water cooler in the dugout and broke his foot and ended his season.  Join the Mets and get injured in mysterious ways.  Some things never change in Flushing. This action shot came from the '78 Mets Yearbook.  It clearly illustrates just how tall and skinny he was.  There were definitely a lot of moving parts in that motion.

Siebert was 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 25 games games, all in relief, in 1977.  He arrived in New York along with Bobby V in exchange for slugger Dave Kingman.  In '78 he was 0-2 with a 5.14 ERA and found himself bannished from Flushing and the majors at the tender age of 25.  This photo came from the '78 Yearbook.

Sadecki was a veteran of 18 major league campaigns by the time he returned for his second tour of duty in Flushing.  A former 20 game winner for the World Champion Cardinals in 1964, Sadecki was traded to the Giants for Orlando Cepeda in 1966.  In 5 seasons for the Mets from 1970-74 he osted a 30-25 record with a sharp 3.36 ERA as a spot starter and reliever.  He would appear in 4 games in '77 and pitch a grand total of 3 innings.  His arm was completely shot, so he decided to hang it up at the age of 36.  This photo came from the '77 Mets Yearbook and was taken in spring training when the club hoped he could overcome arm trouble that eventually ended his career.

From 1977 to 1980 Jackson shuttled between Triple A Tidewater and the Big Club.  He would go 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in '77 in 4 games worth of work as a starter.  After a 1-7 season in '80 he was sent to Toronto in exchange for utility man Bob Bailro.  He would go on to pitch 4 solid seasons up north as a middle reliever before moving on to Sand Diego and Minnesota, then calling it quits after the '86 season.  This 1978 Mets Yearbook shot was taken @ Shea during the '77 season.

Known in these parts as "Bobby V", this Connecticut native was a highly touted Dodger property in the late 60's and early 70's.  Injuries derrailed his career.  The "well traveled" Valentine was a hard nosed player who played everywhere on the diamond but catcher.  After arriving as part of the Kingman trade in '77 he hit a blistering .133 in 83 at bats.  Surpisingly the Mets brought him back for an encore in '78 and he rebounded witha .269 season in 160 AB's.  His reward for improving his average by 136 points ?  An unconditional release.  Seattle would sign him in 1979 and he would hit .276 in his final season in "the biggs" and even play a bit behind the plate.  Bobby's fame in a Met uniform would come when he managed a mediocre Met team in 2000 to the National League pennant, only to lose in the first Subway series in 

"Hendu" can do is what the fans used to say around here about Steve Henderson.  The Mets got themselves a solid professional hitter to play left field in the Seaver trade.  Hendu would hit .297 with 12 homers in 350 AB's for the Mets in '77 and finish 2nd in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting.  A .266 sophomore season in '78 was followed by a .306 season in '79 and a .290 season in 1980.  He looked to be a cornerstone of the Mets rebuilding process until he was dealt to the Cubs in 1981, so the Mets could re-acquire Dave Kingman.  Hendu would play for Chicago, Seattle, Oakland and finally Houston where he would finish his career in 1988.  He would finish up with .280 lifetime average and a .287 average in his 4 seasons with the Amazin's.  I found this photo on Google and decided to use it instead of his yearbook photo taken in an empty Shea standing next to Pat Zachry.  This was taken during the '78 season with Willie Montanez standing there waiting to greet him at the plate.

Rosado hit .208 in 9 games of action in Flushing.  He would have a 2 game tourn of duty with the big club in 1980 and go hitless in 4 AB's.  He was a solid .270 hitter in the minors, but did not have the talent to make it in the majors.  To his credit he bounced around the minors until 1985 before giving up his dream.  From 1981-1983 he played in Latin America.  This photo came from the "future stars" area of the 1977 Mets Yearbook.

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