Sunday, December 27, 2009

LUIS ALVARADO (April 13, 1977)

Several of the "Moonlight Graham" Mets have a much longer history in baseball than just one game and the next is another example of this. Luis Cesar Alvarado was born in Lajas, Puerto Rico and started his major league career with the Boston Red Sox in 1968 at the age of 19. So the man nicknamed, "Pimba" was definitely a veteran when the New York Mets purchased the infielder's contract from the Detroit Tigers on February 25, 1977. Luis was added to the New York roster to provide backup to starting middle infielders, Felix Millan and Bud Harrelson. In actuality it was the more versatile, and better hitting, Mike Phillips seeing any available playing time during the first few games of 1977.

April 13, 1977. The New York Mets were facing the St. Louis Cardinals in the fifth game of the still young season. Craig Swan was the starting pitcher at Shea Stadium that day. He left the game after surrendering a two-run home-run to the Cardinals catcher, Ted Simmons in the top of the third inning. That blast capped a rally which staked the St. Louis club to an early 5-0 advantage. Mets' relief pitcher, Bob Myrick took over and retired the next three batters to end the damage. After the Mets had collected a run of their own in the fourth, Myrick was victimized by the long ball himself in the fifth inning. Keith Hernandez delivered the shot which grew the Cardinal margin to 7-1. So as New York batted in the home half of that inning it called upon Ron Hodges to pinch-hit for the left-hander. His lead-off base hit was wasted when a double play killed the scoring threat.

Still trailing by the same 7-1 score, the Mets' manager Joe Frazier calls for a double-switch. He places the incoming relief pitcher, Nino Espinosa in the second place in the batting order. This removes Felix Millan, the current second baseman, who had occupied that spot in the lineup. Frazier completes the move when he summons Luis Alvarado to bat in the pinch-hiiter's spot at the bottom of the lineup, and play second base. The top of the sixth inning starts well when Espinosa strikes out the first Cardinal batter and clears the opposing pitcher's spot as he gets John Denny to weakly pop out to first baseman, Ed Kranepool. Future Hall of Famer, Lou Brock brings Alvarado into the action when he hits a ground ball to second base. Luis fields it cleanly and relays the throw to first base recording the final out of the inning.

The Mets pick up a run in their half of the inning to make it a 7-2 game. Alvarado steps to the plate with two-out and a runner on second base. Luis hits a line drive directly at the St. Louis shortstop, Don Kessinger to close the sixth inning. His second and last at-bat of the game would come in the eighth inning. This time "Pimba" would hit a ground ball back to the pitcher and again become the third and final out of the inning. The game would end in a Cardinals 7-3 victory and prove to be the only one that Luis Alvarado would ever play as a New York Met.

His contract was sold back to Detroit on April 27th. He would appear briefly in two games for the Tigers before they issued his release on June 22, 1977.

After his playing career Luis owned a grocery store in his hometown. He continued to have a love for the game of baseball and was known to play wiffle ball in the street with the local children. Alvarado passed away in Lajas, Puerto Rico on March 20, 2001 at the age of 52.

I was unable to get a signed baseball from Luis Alvarado for my autograph collection before his passing. The autographed 8x10 photo I have was purchased from a Philadelphia dealer in 2007. It features Luis in a rare picture as a New York Met that was taken at Wrigley Field during the opening series of 1977 in Chicago.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff, saw he passed away on this date on the ultimate mets database and searching for him brought me here, thanks for the story.