Polo Grounds patrons got a small glimpse of the future toward the end of a dreary 4-0 loss to the Colt .45s on September 14, 1963. In the ninth, manager Casey Stengel gave Cleon Jones his first taste of MLB action, sending the 21-year old rookie to center field as a defensive replacement. Cleon wouldn't do much more than occupy space during his debut, as no Colt hit a ball his way, nor could the Mets bring his spot in the lineup to bat in the bottom of the inning. Still, the appearance allowed the young Alabaman to thumb open the late edition and see his name printed in a big league box score for the first time ever. Jones's stat line would show up under the NYM header 1,200 more times in the ensuing 12 years.
- I always thought Chad Bradford was just a character from the book Moneyball, but I guess author Billy Beane based him on a real player, because Baseball Reference says a Chad Bradford pitched for the Mets in 2006. Anyway, that guy is 38 years old as of this morning.
- In 1993, the Mets carried Rule 5 draftee Mike Draper, 46 today, on the active roster from Opening Day until the end of September, only to release him four days before the end of the season. That's like waiting 45 minutes for a table at Outback Steakhouse, then walking out because they forgot the dipping sauce for your Bloomin Onion.
- Original Met Dave Hillman is 85. The righty hurled 15 innings for the team before deciding that his heart was in haberdashery. If you're ever simultaneously in Kingsport, Tennessee and the market for a new sport coat, Fuller & Hillman on Broad Street has you covered.
- Harry Parker, a key bullpen contributor during the Mets' 1973 pennant run, would have been 65 today if not for his death earlier this year. Parker posted a 8-4 record for the National League champs and his 109 ERA+ was tops among the team's relievers.
This space has criticized Steve Phillips in the past for getting fleeced more often than a sheep with a Propecia habit, but the man made one of his savvier pick-ups on this date in 1999, sending Quad-A pitcher Dan Murray to the Kansas City Royals for Glendon Rusch. The short-arming lefty made 63 starts over two-plus seasons with the Mets and was perfectly average, amassing an ERA+ of 100 on the nose.
Game of Note
The Mets trailed the Chicago Cubs by one game for the wild card coming into the September 14, 1998 contest against the Astros in Houston. Mike Piazza fired the day's opening salvo, blasting Jose Lima for a two-run bomb in the first. Unfortunately, Masato Yoshii gave those runs back, plus two more for good measure, in his half of the inning. That's how this one remained until Mike Piazza dug in against Billy Wagner in the top of the ninth. The Astros closer won the battle, inducing a one-hop liner to deep short, but a hustling Piazza beat it out for a single. That seems like something the next batter, Brian McRae, would be more prone to do, but B-Mac made like Mike and took Wagner's 0-2 pitch deep for a dramatic, game-tying home run. McRae would play the hero again four innings later, socking a two-RBI double in the thirteenth to put the Mets up for good. The comeback, coupled with a late rally that pushed the Padres ahead of the Cubs, brought the NL wild card standings to a tie with just 11 games left to play. In a footnote, John Franco pitched an uneventful final frame for his 37th save of the season, setting a new club record, albeit one that would be broken just two years later.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Today marks the 45th birthday of former MTV Sports host Dan Cortese. In 1997, Cortese engineered perhaps the biggest trade in Rock N' Jock Softball history. Acting as manger of the Homeboys, Cortese fobbed an underperforming Bobby Bonilla onto the Awayboys for Salt and Pepa (though, strangely, Spinderella was not included in the deal). The transaction made teammates out of Bonilla and Mike Piazza a full two years before the pair would share a clubhouse on the 1999 Mets.