This Date in Mets History: December 7 - Howard Johnson Relocates to New York

Truly, Hojo's beard was the one to fear. - Otto Gruele, Jr. / Getty Images

Christmas came early for Mets fans in '84. Especially for those who like players with power, speed, and awesome beards.

The Detroit Tigers were riding high in the 1984 offseason. Coming off a year in which they rode a 35-5 start to an AL West crown, then roared through the playoffs and took the World Series by a convincing 4-1 margin over the Padres, the Tigers had to feel pretty good about the state of their roster.

Still, if there's one thing a team, even the reigning champs, can never have enough of, it's pitching. Enter the Mets. The '84 season had been pretty good to them, too: 92 wins thanks to the emergence of three young starters named Gooden, Darling, and Fernandez. As such, the old man of the Mets' staff, 26-year old Walt Terrell, was expendable. What New York needed, as they perpetually had to that point in franchise history, was a third baseman. So on December 7, 1984, the Mets agreed to send Terrell to Detroit in return for infielder Howard Johnson.

The trade was something of a bust at first for the Mets. Terrell won 15 games for the Tigers in 1985 and 1986, albeit with peripherals that should have foreshadowed trouble. Hojo, on the other hand, found himself in a time share with Ray Knight at third and moonlighting at short when fly ball pitchers took the mound. From '87 on, though, the Mets were the clear winners of the exchange. Over the next five years, Johnson alternated between All-Star campaigns (peaking with an MVP-caliber 6.8 rWAR season in '89) and solid regular duty. Well played, Frank Cashen, well played.

Birthdays

  • Whitestone's own Mike Baxter is 28. Born in Queens and a Mets fan since childhood, Mike from Whitestone seems like the type who'd be a WFAN regular, calling in to yak about the team with Steve Somers if he weren't actually on New York's roster. Baxter had a pretty eventful 2012 season, becoming a part of Mets folklore with this catch and MLB history by drawing five bases on balls against the Padres on August 5 to tie the record for most walks in a nine inning game. You can watch Mike do that here, though it's a mite less exciting than the first highlight.
  • Don Cardwell would have been 77 today. A veteran of four seasons in Flushing (1967-70), the righty appeared in 101 games for the Mets, making 63 starts, 21 of which came for the 1969 World Champs. On September 12 of that season, he and Jerry Koosman each twirled 1-0 complete game shutouts in a doubleheader sweep of the Pirates. The two pitchers also drove in the only runs of their respective starts.

Transactions
If you're under the age of 35 and a lifelong fan, there's a pretty good chance your favorite Met became an ex-Met on this date. In 1988, the team shipped Wally Backman to the Twins for a package of three minor leaguers. One year later, Keith Hernandez hightailed it to Cleveland, signing a deal with the Indians.

A decade after Hernandez left, the Mets lost the best first baseman they'd had since Mex to free agency when John Olerud opted to ink with his hometown Seattle Mariners. Robin Ventura became the second member of the Best Infield Ever to depart on December 7, 2001, as the Mets traded him to the Yankees for David Justice, who they then flipped to the Oakland A's one week later for Mark Guthrie and Tyler Yates.

However, the biggest departure happened one year ago, when Jose Reyes agreed to a six year/$106 million contract with the Marlins. Turns out, Reyes would spend less than 365 days in Miami orange, yellow, blue, and whatever garish undertones might be found in areas where those colors collide. As no one thinks Jose's new team is done making deals, Howard Medgal proposed a Dickey for Reyes swap, which is a nice idea, but one not likely to happen for a plethora of reasons. Barring a Queens return, Reyes on the Blue Jays is about as good as it gets for jilted Mets fans, who can now watch him gleefully beat up on the Yankees and Red Sox 36 times a year.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On this date 225 years ago, Delaware became the first state to ratify the United States Constitution, an event the tiny sovereignty creatively commemorates on its license plates, which read "The First State". In the Mets' 50-year history, the teams has only employed one player who hailed from said First State: pitcher turned manager Dallas Green. NO POLITICS, but it's a shame that grizzled Delewarean took full advantage of the Constitution's second amendment, as with stronger arms control, perhaps the careers of Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson might have turned out differently.

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