Baseball underwent a fundamental change forty years ago today, as the American League voted by an 8-4 margin to approve use of the designated hitter for an initial three-year trial run. As a National League team, the Mets have only a tangential connection (though not a tenuous one-it's an important distinction) to the position. Herewith, some fun facts about the AL's defining characteristic as it related to our favorite Senior Circuit franchise:
- The first Amazin to sport DH next to his name was Danny Heep, who went 1-for-3 with two ribbies from the seven-hole in Game Three of the 1986 World Series.*
- Eleven years later, Butch Huskey became the first Met to take designated hacks during a regular season game when he drove home John Olerud with a first inning single, a base knock that helped the team top the Yankees 6-0 in the inaugural interleague matchup.
- Mike Piazza, unsurprisingly, is the Met to have DHed most often. He's also had the most success in the slot, swatting nine homers in 35 pine-riding games.
- Finally, special consideration should be shown to Carlos Delgado's prowess as a designated hitter. Fernando Tatis got the start at first on June 27, 2008 against the Yankees, allowing Carlos Numero Dos to focus solely on his swing. He responded by hitting two long flies and driving in a franchise-high nine runs.
*Though the Mets wound up representing the National League in the World Series the same year of the DH, the rule wasn't applied to postseason play between the leagues until 1976.
- Former bench coach Manny Acta turns 44. Willie Randolph's right hand man for two years, Acta left in 2007 to take Nationals' top job. He hasn't yet found much success as a manager, but he also hasn't had much to talent to work with either. An outspoken advocate of not giving away outs and one of the few MLB tacticians who seems to understand how to leverage relievers, an Acta/Amazins reunion wouldn't be the worst idea should Terry Collins's lame duck status take a turn toward the fatal in 2013. BP ran a pretty good warts-and-all assessment of Acta after the Indians axed him in September, which you can read here.
- Jermaine Allensworth is 41. The Mets' fifth outfielder in 1998 and '99, Allensworth didn't play much, which presumably left him plenty of opportunity get up at 4:52 in the a.m. and appear on Perspectives with Lionel Osbourne. Sadly, clips of his interview seem to have been engulfed by SNL's ever-widening memory hole, though a transcript exists.
- Jim McAndrew, the Pride of Lost Nations, Iowa, celebrates his 69th birthday. The righty made 105 starts for the Mets between 1968 and 1973, winning 36 and losing 49. As the Mets' fourth starter in both '69 and ‘73, McAndrew got to pitch for two NL pennant winners, but never had the honor of toeing the rubber in a postseason game.
- Outfielder Danny Napoleon would have been 71 today. At 5' 11", Napoleon stood five inches taller than the famed French general with whom he shares a name. Danny's Waterloo proved to be MLB-caliber pitching. After slugging .636 with 36 home runs as a 22-year old for Single-A Auburn in 1964, Napoleon played 80 games for the Mets over the next two years. Hitting just .162/.225/.200, he was soon exiled to minors, and unlike his namesake, he never escaped.
- One of the players acquired from the Reds in the Midnight Massacre trade of Tom Seaver, Dan Norman is 58. After four years in Flushing, the Mets sent the outfielder and reliever Jeff Reardon to the Montreal Expos for Ellis Valentine, another blockbuster deal that blew up in the team's face.
- Last and least, Rey Ordonez turns 42. The only member of the Best Infield Ever who isn't remembered fondly these days, Ordonez's popularity peaked in 1999 as he won his third consecutive Gold Glove and posted a career-best .258/.319/.317 line. He missed most of 2000 with a broken arm and then permanently fractured his relationship with Mets fans by calling them "too stupid" two years later.
The Mets resigned Scott Hairston on this date one year ago. In a corresponding move, the team lost former Teenage Hitting Machine Fernando Martinez to the Astros via the waiver wire. The two had similar low OBP, high SLG seasons in 2012, though Hairston's was the more impressive due to park effects and the fact that he played three times as many games at the major league level. To his credit, Martinez stayed healthy enough to appear in 130 games total between Houston and Triple-A Oklahoma City. That's the first time in his seven-year professional career he's broken the century mark and he should merit serious consideration for the Astros' DH slot when they shift to the AL this year. Hairston, meanwhile, might re-up again, move cross town, or sign with the ever-threatening mystery team. "Do the Mets Miss Fernando Martinez?" remains a pertinent question.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a National Monument on this day in 1908. A quick and dirty search of the Daily News archives shows that the 277-mile long gorge is the American landmark that its writers most often compare Citi Field to. Assuming there's no stash of Bill Madden articles likening the Mets home to South Dakota's Wind Cave hidden behind a paywall.