Hot dogs, green grass, all at this place. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Years ago, back when Shea Stadium was still around, I read an article arguing the Mets were a joke because the namesake of their home field was a lawyer. As if there's something inherently noble about naming a stadium after the team's owner or the owner's side business. Not to mention that, according to his New York Times obituary, William Shea bragged about how he never "practiced law in the conventional sense." Though his presence rarely graced the courtroom, Bill Shea did have a lawyerly knack for persuasion and, after the Dodgers and Giants spurned New York for California, he used it to bring National League baseball back to the five boroughs.
One of the ways Shea achieved this was by founding the Continental League, which he did on this date in 1959. Envisioned as a third major league that would rival the National and American for the World Series, the venture was ultimately a failure. Perhaps intentionally so. Hoping to stave off outside competition, the existing leagues conspired to start expansion teams in the cities the Continental League was targeting. In 1960, the NL offered a franchise to a group of investors that just so happened to own the Big Apple's Continental League team. They accepted the deal and, in another strange coincidence, Bill Shea disbanded his fledgling league shortly afterward to focus on getting the proto-Mets a stadium to play in.
After the jump, a look at how the careers of two iconic Mets ended on this date...
On July 27, 1975, the Mets severed ties with Cleon Jones. Tensions between Jones, who debuted in the team's second year of existence, and Mets brass had been simmering since the start of the 1975 season. In May, the longtime left fielder was arrested for indecent exposure, and though the charges were eventually dropped, chairman M. Donald Grant fined him $2,000 for his conduct. Then, in mid-July, Jones refused to play the field after a pinch hitting appearance, leading manager Yogi Berra to issue the front office a "him-or-me ultimatum". The Mets sided with Yogi (temporarily, as it turned out — they would fire him less than two weeks later). At the time of his release, Jones was the team's all-time leader in hits and held the single-season record for batting average, putting up a .340 mark in 1969.
Today proved to be a happier date for the late, great Gary Carter, as he was he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 27, 2003. Though he wears a Montreal Expos hat on his plaque, Carter's reported preference was to be enshrined as a Met. You can read his induction speech here. Eddie Murray, a Met from 1992 to 1993 was also a member of Cooperstown's class of 2003.
The Mets and Phillies completed two trades on this date, one in 1989 and the other in 2001. In the earlier, more egregious deal, GM Frank Cashen sent fan favorites Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell to Philadelphia for fan punching bag Juan Samuel. A native of the Dominican Republic, Samuel believed that "you don't walk off the island" and once held the record for most outs made in a season (A record broken by Jose Reyes in 2005). Dykstra, on the other hand, led the league with 129 walks in 1993, helping the Phillies reach the World Series.
The second swap exchanged Bobby V-era bullpen stalwarts Dennis Cook and Turk Wendell for Bruce Chen and Adam Walker. If the Marlins ever make a deal for Chen, he'll become the first player ever to suit up for all five post-realignment NL East franchises.
Game of Note
In a game that took place on this date in some indeterminate future year, the Mercury Mets lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1. No one on the Red Planet nine could do much against rookie fireballer Kris Benson, but the futility of two players deserves special mention. Rickey Henderson (pictured here) played "left sector" and went hitless in three at-bats, while "intermediate station" defender Rey Ordonez took an 0-for-2.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
The 2012 Summer Olympics begin today. If you happen to watch the opening ceremonies this afternoon, keep an eye out for U.S. diving team member Brittany Viola. She's the daughter of former Met and current Savannah Sand Gnats pitching coach Frank Viola.