Sunday, January 31, 2010

GEORGE "DOC" MEDICH (September 29, 1977)

The New York Mets found themselves in the middle of a public relations nightmare after losing the incredibly popular Tom Seaver in an incredibly unpopular trade during the 1977 season. The ill advised move also created a void in the starting pitching staff and led to the signing of our next one-game Mets player, George "Doc" Medich.

Medich was in the final year of a contract that would have him becoming a free agent for the 1978 campaign. Doc's current team, the Oakland Athletics had offered him a three-year deal worth $340,000 and the right-hander had turned it down. Team owner Charlie Finley angrily first put him in the bullpen and then after failing to find a trade, placed him on waivers. The Seattle Mariners claimed him for $20,000 to gain negotiating rights to sign Medich to a contract extension before he hit the open market as a free agent. George pitched in three games for Seattle and won two of them.

When it quickly became apparent that the extraordinarily cheap Mariners were not going to sign him, they too put Doc on waivers. Hoping to reclaim their $20,000 once another club claimed Medich, even though there was only less than two weeks left in the season. That team would be the Mets who desperately were looking for a positive in a rough season that saw them close to losing 100 games. New York purchased George's contract on September 26, 1977.

September 29, 1977. With five games left on the season schedule, the New York Mets were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates in the final game of a three game set. Newly acquired Doc Medich was given the ball as the starting pitcher for that evening's game at Three Rivers Stadium. It was his hometown park while growing up in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania and as a member of the Pirates in 1976. This time Doc was wearing the number "22" on the back of a road grey Mets' uniform.

Pittsburgh's starter, Terry Forster moved through a scoreless first inning and then it was Medich's turn to take the mound. He was rudely greeted by a single to right field from Pirates' lead-off hitter Frank Taveras. The veteran pitcher was able to produce a ground ball off the bat of Omar Moreno to erase Taveras at second base, and record the first out. Only temporarily skirting damage because a speedy Moreno promptly stole second base and scored the first run standing from a single to left field by Phil Garner. Seems Doc would not be pitching with the lead in his Mets' debut. He would limit it to an early 1-0 Pirates lead when Garner was caught stealing and Mike Easler grounded out to third base to end the inning.

Both pitchers seemed to be settling into grooves when they tossed scoreless second and third innings. It was the Mets that ended that streak and struck for a run in the top of the fourth. Lenny Randle led off the inning stroking a drive to right field that fell in for a triple. New York center fielder, Lee Mazzilli followed and hit a ball to third base on which Randle was cut down at the plate while trying to score. The next hitter, Steve Henderson finally put the Mets on the scoreboard with a hit to center that drove in Mazzilli and evened the score at 1-1.

Medich took the mound in the bottom half of the fourth and could not preserve the tie he was given. Doc walked Omar Moreno the first batter of the inning. Once again Moreno stole second base, and easily scored on a booming triple off the bat of Phil Garner. The Pirates expanded the lead to 3-1 when Mike Easler delivered a sacrifice fly to plate Garner. All the damage necessary had been done by the same part of the Pittsburgh batting order. When Medich struck out Dale Berra to preserve the score and finish the seventh inning it would be his last pitch in a Mets' uniform. Doc was lifted in the top of the eighth inning in favor of pinch-hitter Pepe Mangual.

New York would lose the game by a final score of 5-2 in what was the only start of George Medich's career there. The Mets could not negotiate an extension with the pitcher and he signed a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers on November 10, 1977.

In 1980, Dr. George Medich began a five-year residency in orthopedics at Fort Worth Children's Hospital while still pitching for the Texas Rangers. "Everybody told me how it couldn't be done," said Medich, "but they had blinders on. It seems like I was the only one that knew it could be done." He entered a program for dependancy of drugs he improperly prescribed for himself in November of 1983. George was later sentenced to nine years probation after pleading guilty to illegally possessing painkillers on March 07, 2001. His attorney sadly shared that Medich had struggled with drug addiction for years originating from injuries during his time in Major League Baseball.

George Medich signed this baseball and card for me from an autograph request sent to his home address on January 24, 2008.

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.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

MAC SCARCE (April 11, 1975)

Guerrant McCurdy "Mac" Scarce holds the distinction of having the shortest game history of all the "One Game Mets". He came to New York the previous winter when he was traded from Philadelphia. Mac had pitched pretty well from the Phillies bullpen during his three years there. Registering a fine 2.42 ERA and a career high of 12 saves during the 1973 season. So the Mets understandably had high expectations for him when they swapped Dave Schneck, Don Hahn, and the very popular Tug McGraw in exchange for Scarce, John Stearns, and Del Unser on December 3rd, 1974.

April 11, 1975. The New York Mets were playing their third game of the season at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Starting pitcher, Jerry Koosman cruised through the first eight innings of the contest scattering seven Pirates hits, but allowing no runs. "Kooz" had even been given a 3-0 lead behind home runs by Dave Kingman and Del Unser. So even though the Mets had been retired in order in the top of the ninth inning it still appeared things were in hand for New York's second win of the still young season. All that stood between the Mets and victory were three Pittsburgh outs.

Richie Zisk led off the bottom of the inning with a single to right field off Koosman. Not too much concern as Jerry had been working effectively all afternoon with men on base. The next Pirates batter, Dave Parker continued the offense with a single to left field. Zisk advanced to second base and now the tying run would come to the plate in the form of free-swinging Manny Sanguillen. It was obvious to all that Koosman had lost his stuff when Manny drove a base-hit to left scoring Zisk and cutting the deficit to 3-1. New York Manager, Yogi Berra had seen enough and called to the bullpen to bring the right-hander, Rick Baldwin into the game. For his first time with the Mets, the left-handed reliever, Mac Scarce was up and warming to enter the game.

In response to Baldwin's entering the game, Pittsburgh inserted pinch-hitter Paul Popovich for the prolifically light-hitting Mario Mendoza. Popovich drew a walk to reload the bases with still no one out. The Pirates began to sense a come from behind victory and went with their second pinch-hitter of the inning, Ed Kirkpatrick in place of the pitcher, Larry Demery. The Mets were able to get the first out of the ninth without a run scoring when Kirkpatrick lifted a short fly ball to right fielder, Dave Kingman. Pirates lead-off hitter, Rennie Stennett removed the short-lived reprieve by lacing a hard single to center field that scored both Parker and Sanguillen. The game that had seemed so much in hand earlier was now tied 3-3, and Yogi was ready to make his second call to the bullpen.

Berra tapped his left arm as he approached the mound to take the ball from Rick Baldwin. The next Pirates hitter was the left-handed hitting Richie Hebner and he wanted Mac Scarce to face him. After Scarce's warm-up tosses the hometown Pittsburgh faithful began to make some noise as Hebner stepped into the batters box. They then erupted when Richie delivered the game-winning base hit to left field scoring Popovich from second base and completing the Pirates 4-3 walk-off victory. Mac Scarce had made his New York Mets debut and it had consisted of one batter.

Surprisingly Mac would not enter another game for the Mets before he was traded four days later to the Cincinnati Reds for Tom Hall on April 15th. Scarce had been slated to be a key man in the bullpen for the 1975 season and now was quickly out of New York. The Reds assigned Mac to their Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis, Indiana. He would remain there until he came back to the major leagues with the Minnesota Twins in 1978.

After baseball Scarce worked for an electrical company for a few years and then went into the mortgage business. Today he is a successful broker in Alpharetta, Georgia with his own company —McCurdy Mortgage Corporation, formed in 1990.

Mac Scarce signed this baseball and card for me from an autograph request sent to his home address on November 3, 2005.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

DON ROSE (September 15, 1971)

The third member of the one-game "Moonlight Graham" Mets was Donald Gary Rose. Don would make a single appearance in New York, but unlike his two predecessors he would continue his major league career. Just not with the Mets.

Rose was drafted by the New York Mets in the 11th round of the 1968 amateur draft. He progressed through the minor league system until he found himself starting the season with the Tidewater Tides. Don pitched the entire 1971 minor league season with that AAA club. He would throw in 31 games, winning 11 games (three of which were shutouts), and finishing with a nice 3.33 ERA. This strong showing earned him his first major league promotion when the Mets expanded rosters that September.

September 15, 1971. The New York Mets had just hosted a double-header against the Montreal Expos the previous day and now were scheduled to play two against the Chicago Cubs. Imagine double-headers on consecutive days at Shea Stadium. The Mets had lost the first game to the Cubs 6-2 and handed the ball to Tug McGraw to salvage the second game of the twin-bill. Chicago countered with a rookie pitcher named Burt Hooton. The Cubs were rolling through the first five innings of the contest with Hooton firing a no-hitter with a 2-0 lead.

In the bottom of the sixth inning manager Gil Hodges pinch-hit Dave Marshall for the pitcher McGraw. He grounded out to first base unassisted and the next two batters struck out. After having used a multitude of pitchers over the multiple double-headers Hodges brought the young pitcher, Don Rose into the game with the Mets still trailing by two.

The first Chicago batter of the seventh inning was shortstop, Hector Torres. Rose retired him on a ball chopped in front of the plate that the catcher, Duffy Dyer fielded and threw to first base. One out, and Rose had made his Major League and New York Mets debut. Don had little time to feel good about it though as the next batter Ken Rudolph drove a ball to left field for a double. The opposing pitcher Burt Hooton was next, and quickly struck out. Cubs leadoff hitter Cleo James followed him and grounded out to second base to end the inning.

The Mets tied the score at 2-2 in their half of the seventh on a two run home run by Ken Singleton. So when Don Rose returned to the mound it was the first time the Mets had not trailed all day. Cubs leftfielder, Carmen Fanzone popped up to the catcher in foul ground. Dyer made the catch and there was one away. Light-hitting Paul Popovich grounded out to the first baseman unassisted for the second out of the inning. Things were looking good for Don when Ron Santo came to the plate. The scrappy third baseman lined a pitch into right field for a base hit. However he became the third out of the inning when he was thrown out trying to advance to second base. The Cubs were retired and Rose had preserved the deadlock.

In the bottom of the eight the Mets pinch hit Cleon Jones for Don Rose, and ended his afternoon. His total of two scoreless innings had placed the team in a good spot until New York closer, Danny Frisella gave up a game winning pinch-hit homerun to Billy Williams in the 9th inning of the game. The Mets had just lost the second game of the day to the Chicago Cubs 3-2. Burt Hooton picked up his first career win with a 15 strikeout performance.

Don Rose was involved in what is considered one of the worst trades in baseball history. The New York Mets dealt him along with Francisco Estrada, Leroy Stanton, and the great Nolan Ryan to the California Angels for third baseman, Jim Fregosi on December 10, 1971. Don Rose would pitch for the Angels in 1972. On May 24th in Oakland he would finally receive the chance to come to the plate to hit. Remember Rose had been lifted for a pinch hitter in his lone Mets game a year earlier. In his first major league at-bat he hit a homerun off Athletics starter, Diego Segui.

Don Rose signed and dated this baseball and cards from an autograph request sent to his home address on October 10,2009.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

FRANCISCO ESTRADA (September 14, 1971)

It is more than a bit ironic that the second man in New York Mets team history to only appear in a single game would be Francisco “Paquín” Estrada. His lone game in Major League Baseball is such a small part of his much larger story. Paquín’s professional baseball career started in his native Mexico during the summer of 1966. It was the first of 26 seasons catching in the Mexican League. He added an additional 30 seasons in the Mexican Pacific winter league. So unlike many baseball professionals Paquín played essentially year round. This dedication easily established Estrada as the man to appear in more games as a catcher than anyone else in pro baseball history. Amassing an astonishing 4,000 games behind the plate.

Francisco Estrada Soto was born on February 12, 1948 in Navojoa in the state of Sonora. His father was Francisco Estrada Martinez. That is likely the source of his name “Paquín” which is Spanish for “Frankie”. While Estrada was with the Red Devils of the Mexican League the team asked him to join the New York Yankees during spring training camp in 1968. It was his first exposure to baseball in the United States. He would not return until November 30, 1970. On that day the New York Mets acquired him from Mexico City in a trade for Cuban catcher, Orlando McFarlane and cash considerations. Paquín was invited to spring training camp with the Mets that following April. An old problem resurfaced then that had plagued him during his previous time with the Yanks in Fort Lauderdale. It was his inability to speak English. A story printed in the St. Petersburg Times told that Estrada reported to the Mets camp a week late because he had gotten lost, and that Dominican infielder, Ted Martinez had even rescued him in a Miami airport. Quite a humble beginning for the man who had help secure the 1968 Mexican League Championship.

The start of the 1971 season found Paquín assigned to Double-A Memphis. He earned a mid-season promotion to Triple-A Tidewater where he continued to progress. At the close of the Tides season the Mets added him to the major league roster, and brought him to New York.

September 14, 1971. Estrada remembers waking up at 6 A.M that morning. The Mets were hosting a double header that day against the Montreal Expos. His flight arrived at LaGuardia Airport and once again Paquín found himself not certain what to do. His fortunes changed quickly when he hailed a cab operated by a Spanish speaking man from Cuba. The driver was able to tell him Shea Stadium was nearby.

Nolan Ryan was the starting pitcher for the Mets in the first game that day. “The Express” was not what he would become later and showed it in this performance. Nolan could not make it out of the second inning and had yielded six earned runs. Ron Taylor relieved him and matched the six earned runs during his three innings plus of work. So with the score a laughable 12-0 in favor of the Expos the Mets manager, Gil Hodges thought nothing of calling on his new catcher to spell star Jerry Grote. This way he saves backup catcher, Duffy Dyer for the second game of the afternoon.

Estrada came into the game in the top of the sixth inning. He was catching relief pitcher, Charlie Williams. Paquín had never had the opportunity to catch Williams before on any team. So no real surprise that even the sure handed receiver allowed a passed ball on the fifth Expos’ batter of that inning. Not in the manner he wanted to but, he was now in the next day’s box score.

Bill Stoneman, Montreal’s pitcher, was throwing well that afternoon. So when Estrada finally got his chance to step to the plate it was with two outs, and nobody on in the seventh inning. Francisco got his pitch to hit and laced a line drive single over the shortstop’s head into left field. (It would be one of only four hits the Mets would muster that entire game.) The next batter, Ted Martinez ended the threat and recorded the third out retiring the side.

As blow-outs often do the game passed by uneventfully until the bottom of the ninth inning. New York assembled a sort of mini rally and scored one run on a pair of hits from Wayne Garrett and Dave Marshall. Then with two outs and, one on, Paquín came to the plate. Without much fanfare he grounded out to end the game that day. Little did he know that would be the end of his one game Major League career.

Francisco Estrada was involved in what is considered one of the worst trades in baseball history. The New York Mets dealt him along with Don Rose, Leroy Stanton, and the great Nolan Ryan to the California Angels for third baseman, Jim Fregosi on December 10, 1971. Paquín continued to play in the United States until 1973, but would never again appear in a major league game. He returned to Mexico, where he had been playing winter ball all along. Estrada won three additional championships in Mexico during 1979, 1983 and 1990. The last two accomplished during his hugely successful managerial career. In fact the combination led to his entrance into “Salon de la Fama del Beisbol” (the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame) and the title of “El Paquín” in his native country.

Francisco Estrada signed this baseball and card for me in March 2006. From a request sent to the Arizona training camp for WBC Team Mexico when he was manager.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

JESSE HUDSON (September 19, 1969)

No sport plays to one's imagination like baseball does. It creates a sense of lore and mystery that rivals mythology. So it is no real surprise that the first man to enter the history of the New York Mets only to exit after a single appearance was named Jesse James Hudson.

Jesse was born on July 22, 1948 in Mansfield, Louisiana. The New York Mets drafted him on June 6, 1967 in the 11th round of that year's amateur draft. Thus began the professional baseball career of the young left handed pitcher still only 19 years old on that day.

The country was experiencing many great things in the year of 1969. Woodstock, the Apollo Moon landing, and the debut of the Brady Bunch television series on ABC. Overshadowing it all for me was the improbable season of the "Miracle Mets". A team that had only a few years earlier recorded the most losses in a season now was challenging the Chicago Cubs. Fighting for the chance to become the first National League East champion in newly formed division play.

September 19, 1969. The Mets were playing the second game of a double header against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium. The Pirates had claimed the first game 8-2 and were again leading 7-0 in the second game. The manager Gil Hodges had pinch hit Bob Heise for the pitcher, Ron Taylor in the bottom of the seventh inning. So a new hurler was to enter the game to start the eighth. Hodges summoned the lefty from the bullpen. Wearing number 38 on his home white uniform, Jesse was about to make his major league debut.

Hudson retired the first batter that he faced (Jerry May) then walked Freddie Patek. The second out of the inning came at the expense of the opposing pitcher, Luke Walker. Pittsburgh lead off hitter, Matty Alou followed with a single and moved Patek into scoring position. Jesse surrendered a run by allowing an RBI double to then rookie Dave Cash. The score had climbed to 8-0 in favor of the visitng Pirates when future Hall of Famer, Willie Stargell stepped to the plate. "Pops" Stargell had already homered earlier in the game. Our Hudson avoided any further damage as he stranded the two base runners by striking Willie out to close the inning. Jesse was now officially a major leaguer and New York Met.

The Mets failed to score in their half of the eight inning and Hudson would return to throw the top of the ninth inning. This time more effective as he tossed a scoreless frame while striking out two more batters. It would prove to be his last time on a major league mound. The New York Mets of course went on to defeat the Chicago Cubs by a full eight games in the final standings. Jesse Hudson did not find his way into any other games that season. He returned to the minors in 1970 and was never to pitch in New York again.

His single game of the magical 1969 season was to be his lone appearance in the major leagues and places him in team history as the first of the "one game" Mets.

Jesse signed and dated this baseball and card for me in October 2007 from a request sent to his home address.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Made the decision to start this blog to showcase the stories of those special players that appeared in a single game for the New York Mets. I believe this is one of the most interesting aspects to a storied franchise. Our "Amazin's" have had some real characters over the years, and those have gotten much fanfare. These are the men that if you blinked you could have overlooked their careers in New York. In some cases that single game being the extent of their entire major league experience. Tomorrow we will feature the first of these.

"Let's Go Mets!" -Lee