On July 19, 1986, the Mets were prowling the Houston night scene. "I heard about this bar, Cooter's..." offered Bobby Ojeda. No happy stories begin this way.
At 2 a.m. the boys were enjoying the cold beer at Cooter's -- actually, Cooter's Executive Games and Burgers -- when a barman announced the last call. "We're the [bleeping] New York Mets," a helpful soul pointed out. "And we'll leave when we want to." Around this time, Tim Teufel, a new father, was stepping outside with a half-consumed bottle of Heineken. Something got said, and he threw an elbow into a police officer's sternum. Moments later, Ron Darling de-Cootered only to see a big Texan kneeling on his friend's back with handcuffs a-clappin. More got said, and Ronnie may have gripped his fingers around a lawman's throat. The two scalawags were arrested and charged with aggravated assault. Aguilera and Ojeda, saying "huh?" and "wuzza?", were swept along in the paddy wagon for resisting arrest."We hardly ever have fights here," reported long-time bartender Mike Germain. "Our customers are mostly 25-to-35-year-old business people out for a good time."
That is, until the 1986 Mets came to town.
On July 19, 1976, Dave Kingman dove for a ball in Shea Stadium's left field and jammed his left thumb in the turf. The 6-foot-6 slugger had blasted 32 home runs through 93 games, and wasn't far off a Babe Ruth and Roger Maris pace. "I never idolized anyone growing up," recalled the man called Kong. "I vaguely remember hearing about Mantel and Maris. And now you're getting into a subject [chasing the record] I don't want to talk about." Kingman would ding only five more when the cast came off some six weeks later.
- David Segui spent 125 games as Met in 1994 and '95, playing first base and the outfield. A customer of Kirk Radomski's, he is better known as a witness for the prosecution in the Roger Clemens trial.
- Mark Carreon, a Met outfielder from 1987 to '91, never played more than a half-season on the club until his last, when he hit .260/.297/.331 in 106 games. In 1999, he was arrested and charged with kidnapping his estranged wife and burglarizing her home. He shares two things in common (besides a birthday) with Segui. He is the son of a major leaguer. And he was called out as a dope fiend in the Mitchell report.
- A top prospect, Mookie's nephew and stepson Preston Wilson played eight games with the Mets before he was packaged to Florida in the Mike Piazza trade in 1998. Reader, I was a Chicago teenager at the time: what were the perceptions of this trade? Preston, after all, placed second in Rookie of the Year balloting the very next year.
- Gordie Richardson (1965-6) threw 60-some relief innings for the Mets and made one start. Posting a 9.16 ERA in 1966, he retired at age 27.
Game of Note
One of the worst trades in Mets history sent future-five-time-All-Star center fielder Amos Otis in a package to the royals for third baseman Joe Foy. It was part of the same grail search for competence at third base that would send away Nolan Ryan shortly thereafter. Foy stunk for the Mets, batting .236 in only ninety-nine games before they cut him. But... on July 19, 1970, Foy went 5-5 with a double and two home runs, lifting the Mets above the hosting Giants in a 7-6 nailbiter at Candlestick Park. Foy's second homer was knocked in the top of the tenth for the go-ahead and eventually game-winning run. The Mets, tied for second place and only two games back, looked to stretch their magic into the 1970s.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On July 19, 1692, five women were hanged in Salem, Massachusetts, for practicing witchcraft. In 1969 (three numbers in common!), a black cat circled the Chicago Cub's Ron Santo in the on-deck circle at Shea Stadium. The Cubs would of course collapse like a pile of broomsticks down the stretch, allowing the Mets their improbable run. Miracle, or the dark arts?