This Date In Mets History: December 6 — Now Pitching For The Mets, John Franco

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He often made us nervous, but ultimately made us proud.

The Reds and Mets swapped closers on this date in 1989, with Randy Myers going to Cincinnati and John Franco coming to Shea. I'm not going to dwell on my issues with Franco as a player. One can argue his stats, pros and con. He had mostly pretty good years for the Amazins and a few poor ones, most notably 1998 when, perhaps called on to do more than his 37-year-old arm could handle, he went 0-8 in a season in which two more wins would have put the Mets in the post season.

On this anniversary of his coming home to the Big Apple to pitch for the Mets, let’s celebrate team captain John Franco, the man who:

  • Visited Ground Zero with some of his teammates shortly after 9/11 and could be found in the days thereafter unloading trucks of food and clothing at Shea for volunteers and visiting firehouses around the city.
  • Wore an FDNY hat not just for that first post-9/11 game, but, in defiance of MLB officials and threats of heavy fines, did so for the remainder of the 2001 season.
  • Along with player rep Todd Zeile and manager Bobby Valentine, rallied the rest of the team to continue wearing the various caps representing New York’s police, firefighters, and other first responders.
  • With his wife Rose has helped initiate fundraisers to support worthwhile causes through the John Franco Foundation.
  • Always wore an orange Department of Sanitation T-shirt under his uniform in honor of his father.
  • By most accounts was a “regular guy” who was gracious about signing autographs for fans and chatting with them, even those, like me, who didn’t always welcome the sight of him charging in from the bullpen.

Birthdays

Happy 45th birthday to Kevin Appier. A real workhorse in 2001, he excelled down the stretch, posting a 2.11 ERA over his last eight starts of which the Mets won seven. He was rewarded with a ticket to Anaheim for 2002 in exchange for Mo Vaughn. Appier pitched in the World Series that year while Mo and the Mets licked their wounds after tumbling to the basement.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s the Mets had a knack for developing speedy, light-hitting outfielders. Terry McDaniel, a 1991 Met who turns 46 today, was no better than Lou Thornton and no worse than D.J. Dozier.

First-baseman-catcher Luis Rosado, 57, played very briefly for the 1977 Mets and returned for an even briefer stay in 1980.

The Mets had first dibs in the 1968 MLB June Amateur Draft. They could have picked Thurman Munson, Greg Luzinski, Gary Mathews (Sr.), or even, oddly enough, Bill Buckner. They chose instead 17-year-old (now 62) Tim Foli, who, after a disappointing rookie season, was shipped to Montreal in the Rusty Staub trade. They reacquired him in 1978 and swapped him the following April for the Pirates’ Frank Taveras. Freed from “Grant’s Tomb,” Foli had a career year in Pittsburgh that ended with a World Series ring, while his ex-mates got wrung for 99 losses.

Larry Bowa celebrates his 67th birthday today. He ended his career with a brief (and inexplicable) stay with the Mets at the end of the 1985 season. He would go on to manage the Padres and Phillies and, in between, coached under Terry Collins in Anaheim. He was a finalist in the Mets' bench coach sweepstakes last winter, but lost out to Bob Geren.

Amado Samuel is 74 today. As a Milwaukee Brave in 1962, he became the major league’s first Dominican shortstop. Hailing from (where else?) San Pedro de Macoris, he didn’t set the bar very high for future shortstops from the Dominican Republic, or future Mets shortstops for that matter. Not long after he arrived at Shea in 1964 he was replaced by another Braves import, Roy McMillan.

Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection

Our favorite commissioner, William Eckert resigned (not entirely voluntarily), on this date in 1968. It was he who voided Tom Seaver's contract with the Braves, set up a pay-to-play lottery for teams interested in the pitcher’s services, and pulled the Mets’ name out of a hat. He also supervised the institution of divisional play and expansion from 20 to 24 teams. The latter was a boon to the eventual 1969 World Champions as nearly one-quarter of the Miracle Mets’ wins — 24 out of 100 — came at the expense of the newly minted Expos and Padres.

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