At right, Mets center fielder/CEO of One Dog Records, Lance Johnson - Al Bello / Getty Images
The inking of Lance Johnson was one of the savvier signings in team history.
The Mets welcomed Lance Johnson, the reigning AL hit king, to the organization on this date in 1995, signing swift center fielder to a two-year deal. Switching leagues agreed with Johnson, who turned in his finest season as a professional the following year, thwacking an NL-leading 227 hits and an MLB best 21 triples. One Dog, as Johnson called himself in reference to his uniform number and ability to rack up singles, remains the only player in Major League history to lead both the AL and NL in hits. He was less prolific with the base knocks in 1997, but actually more effective at getting on base, posting a .385 OBP from the top spot in the Mets lineup until an early August trade made sent him to the Chicago Cubs.
- Greg Goossen would have been 66. Probably best known as one of the colorful characters described in Jim Bouton's memoir Ball Four, Goossen played with the Mets from 1965 to 1968 before getting traded to the Seattle Pilots. After retiring in 1970, Goossen went on to have a long career as Gene Hackman's stand-in, so if you've seen films like Unforgiven, Get Shorty, or The Firm, you've likely seen the former Mets catcher's back.
- Jerry May, another Mets backstop with ties to one of baseball's more eccentric pitchers, would have turned 69 today. As a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1970, May was behind the plate the day Dock Ellis threw his no-hitter while tripping on LSD. According to Ellis, he was having trouble seeing the signs from the mound, what with his eyesight rendered unreliable by the lysergic acid diethylamide swirling around his brain, so May wrapped his fingers in reflective tape. May played four games with the Mets in the summer of '73, which happened to the last of his big league career.
Just one week after acquiring David Justice from the Yankees for Robin Ventura, GM Steve Phillips flipped him to the Oakland Athletics on this date in 2001. In return, the Mets received pitchers Mark Guthrie and Tyler Yates. The former was a fairly effective member of the bullpen in 2002, while the latter showed promise, but was sidetracked by Tommy John surgery that year and underwent rotator cuff repairs two seasons after that.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On this date 109 years ago in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright (of no known relation to the Mets' high-flying third baseman) made four short flights in the world's first successful engine-powered airplane. Years later, when architects were zeroing in on Flushing Meadows Park as the preferred site for what would become Shea Stadium, a study was done to see if the descendants of the Wright Flyer taking off and landing at nearby La Guardia would interfere with game play. The initial results were positive. Of course, in the time between the study and Shea's completion, the airport altered flight paths to take planes directly over the stadium, much to the chagrin of Keith Hernandez.