This Date in Mets History: November 29 — Howard Johnson Is Born… With a Bat In His Hands

T.G. Higgins / Getty Images

Clearwater native was clearly a favorite of the Shea faithful.

Happy 52nd birthday to one of the most popular Mets of all time, Howard Johnson. The switch-hitting Hojo, who put up some of the best numbers in the team’s history, ranks in the top four all-time among Mets in home runs, RBIs, doubles, stolen bases, and intentional walks (and yes, strikeouts too).

He is the only Mets player in 51 years to lead the league in RBIs and one of only three Mets to win the home run crown (along with Dave Kingman and Darryl Strawberry). He is also a three-time member of the 30 HR/30 SB club.

Although he often made spectacular plays, Hojo’s metrics as a third baseman were below average and his throws often presented a challenge to first baseman Keith Hernandez. He was not adept at shortstop or the outfield, either, but as the consummate team player he tried his best to adapt to these positions when called upon to do so by his managers.

Hojo was a clutch hitter, especially from the seventh inning on. He hit particularly well against the archrival St. Louis Cardinals, with closer Todd Worrell being his favorite victim: four homers in nine at-bats. Cards skipper Whitey Herzog frequent charged that Johnson was corking his bat, but numerous confiscated Louisville Sluggers yielded no such evidence.

“It's his favorite bat. Throw it against the wall. Tap it. It doesn't rattle." —Davey Johnson on Howard Johnson’s alleged bat-corking

1991 was the last truly productive season for Hojo. Over the next few years a fractured wrist, shoulder tear, and damaged knees took their toll on his bat speed and confidence. His attempt at a comeback with the Mets in the spring of 1997 was not a success, but he did return to play professional baseball 14 years later. On Labor Day weekend of 2011, he played in two games with his son, Glen Johnson, for the Rockland (NY) Boulders of the independent Can-Am League.

C’mon everyone–let’s give him a big, well-deserved birthday cheer: “Ho-JO, Ho-JO, Ho-JO...”

Birthdays

Dear Joe McIlvaine: Did you really think we wouldn’t notice that the Pedro Martinez you traded for in 1995, the one who is celebrating his 44th birthday today, was three inches taller than his emerging-star Expos namesake — and left-handed to boot? Tried to pull a fast one, eh Joe? Too bad we had to wait seven more years for the real thing, who by them was damaged goods.

Happy 56th birthday to Rick Anderson, a victim of 1986's ridiculous 24-man roster experiment that deprived him of a well-deserved spot in the Mets’ post-season bullpen. He was impressive enough for the Royals to give up David Cone in exchange for his services.

Amazin’ly Tenuous Connection

Vin Scully turns 85 today. Universally acclaimed as the greatest baseball play-by-play man of all time, he has been the voice of the Dodgers since their Brooklyn days in 1950 and has worked numerous national Game of the Week, All-Star Game, and post-season broadcasts. Among his many famous calls, of course, came during Game Six of the 1986 World Series when Mookie Wilson swung at a three-two pitch from Red Sox reliever Bob Stanley and the world heard him exclaim:

"There's a little roller up along first, behind the bag. It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!"

Mets fans can also relate to an on-air comment he made about then-Dodger Bobby Bonilla in 1998: "Sometimes it seems like he's playing underwater."

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