Exactly six years to the day after the Mets first acquired Dave Kingman from the San Francisco Giants, they brought him back in a swap with the Cubs for Steve Henderson — the man who replaced Kingman in left field after he and Tom Seaver were traded away in the infamous Midnight Massacre of June 15, 1977.
On the same day that the Mets were announcing the return of “Sky King,” Floyd Bannister, the pitcher against whom Henderson started his first game as a Met, was welcoming his newborn son Brian into the world. Brian Bannister would sign with the Mets in 2003 and pitch for them briefly in 2006. He had been a star pitcher for the University of Southern California Trojans — as had both Kingman and Seaver before him.
Dave and Tom would play together as Mets once again in 1983, but both departed the following January. Seaver was signed by the Chicago White Sox, where he replaced former teammate Jerry Koosman in the rotation and formed a one-two pitching punch with…Floyd Bannister.
The Mets’ presumptive 2013 left-fielder, Lucas Duda, is another former USC Trojan, one from whom the Mets and their fans are hoping to see some Kingman-esque power numbers.
In addition to Brian Bannister, we salute Tom Spencer, who is 62 today. He was Bud Harrelson’s first base coach and running instructor in 1991. Under his tutelage the Mets were very aggressive, stealing 153 bases, good for a virtual third-place tie in SB percentage. That didn’t keep them from finishing fifth, however, and Tom was let go at season’s end along with his manager and all but one of his fellow coaches. Only pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre survived the purge.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
The University of Utah opened its doors in Salt Lake City on February 28, 1850. Since the inception of its baseball program more than a century later, the Utes have sent only seven players to the major leagues, three of whom played for the Mets. The most well-known of all Utes was George “Stork” Theodore, whose promising career was derailed by a violent outfield collision in 1973. He recovered enough that year to become the only Ute to appear in a World Series.
Outfielder Billy Cowan was imported from the Cubs in 1965 following a 19-home-run season, but failed to produce and was shipped out in August. The Mets demoted infielder Steve Springer after an 11-day audition in August of 1992, during which he compiled a 1.000 OPS (in five plate appearances).