The specter of a third major league spurs MLB to expand, plus birthdays and more!
On Thursday, November 13, 1958, New York Mayor Robert Wagner announced preliminary plans to establish a third major baseball league, the brainchild of attorney William A. Shea. The so-called Continental League would include a team to replace the two that had departed the Big Apple a year earlier — a team that would presumably be stocked with players lured away from current big league rosters. Branch Rickey was soon named league president, lending some credence to the enterprise.
“Inevitable as tomorrow morning.” —Branch Rickey’s assessment of the Continental League on the TV game show What’s My Line?, Sept. 13, 1959
The National and American Leagues thwarted the plan by announcing that each would add two new teams, including franchises in three key Continental league cities. Whether or not that was Shea’s true objective all along is a matter of conjecture. The fact remains his ploy led to the creation of the New York Mets, whose home for 45 years would be a stadium named in his honor.
Vic Darensbourg, who turns 42 today, was the second of three Victors who joined the Mets within a space of seven weeks in August-September 2004. What’s odd about this is that in the team’s first 42-plus seasons not one of the more than 700 men who donned the orange and blue had that first name.
Rigo Beltan is 43. He was a pretty good little relief pitcher in his 21-game stint the Mets in 1999, most memorably as the winning beneficiary of a five-run ninth inning rally at Shea on May 23rd against an incredulous Curt Schilling of the Phillies.
Happy 66th birthday to George “Stork” Theodore, whose nickname was inspired by his six-foot-five, 195-pound frame. He was one of many Mets who achieved near legendary status more for his engaging personality and hustle than his less-than-remarkable stats. In fairness, any chance Stork had to show off his full potential was derailed by a violent outfield collision with Don Hahn on July 7, 1973. He only played in one more game that season, but the Mets thought enough of him to put him on the post-season roster, enabling him to add a pair of World Series at-bats to the back of his baseball card.
Bobby Pfeil, 69, owes his Mets career in large part to the fact that Bud Harrelson and Ken Boswell had to serve stints in the National Guard during the 1969 season. He started 50 games and was often referred to as the “26th man – which meant he was not quite good enough to make the Miracle Mets post-season roster.
Mel Stottlemyre has fought cancer for the last 12 years and thankfully he is still with us at age 71. Who cares that he had been a Yankee. From 1984 through 1993 he worked wonders with the Mets pitching staff. Yes, Mel had a lot of talent to work with, but he got the most out of them, and he and Davey Johnson always seemed to be in synch. Like Rube Walker before him, Mel Stottlemyre truly made a difference — a positive one—a claim few (if any) other Mets pitching coaches can make.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
“On November 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence; that request came from his wife.” So begins the opening narration for TV’s The Odd Couple. The other half of that famous pair is Oscar Madison, a sportswriter whose beats include covering the New York Mets. We know that because in both the show and the movie that preceded it he is seen at various times wearing the classic Mets blue-with-orange-logo cap.
In the film there is also a famous scene where Oscar is covering a Mets-Pirates game at Shea Stadium when he gets a call from Felix telling him not to eat any hot dogs because he’s making franks and beans for dinner. The distraction causes Oscar to miss the Mets turning a game-ending triple play. The guy in the press booth who tells Oscar he just missed the “the greatest play I ever saw” is real-life sportswriter Maury Allen, who covered the Mets for the New York Post for 17 years and wrote a number of books about the Mets, Yankees and Dodgers.