When the Mets traded Nolan Ryan to the California Angels in 1971, he was a raw-armed 24-year old capable of racking up strikeouts (493 Ks in 510 innings as an Amazin), but seeming incapable of making the ball go where he wanted it to on a regular basis (his BB/9 ticked up every year as a Met, reaching 6.9 per in his final season in Flushing).
A dozen years later, not much had changed. At the start of play on April 27, 1983, Ryan was a 36-year old member of Houston Astros who'd dealt out more bases on balls than anyone in Major League history. By day's end, he'd add the MLB record for most career strikeouts to his resume, too. Facing the Expos at Stade Olympique, Ryan whiffed five in eight innings, the last coming on a called third strike against pinch hitter Brad Mills. Freezing Mills gave Ryan 3,509 career strikeouts, one more than baseball's previous K king, Walter Johnson, whose previously unassailed record had stood for 58 years.
To bring it back to the Mets, just 14% of Ryan's swings and misses to that point in his career came as a member of the Mets. That percentage drops to under ten when you factor in the additional 2,000-plus batters the Express rang up before finally retiring at age 46. On the bright side, 66% of Nolan Ryan's three career saves came as a Met, so the team can take a little bit of credit for shaping the Hall of Famer's Coopertown-worthy stat line.
- Frank Catalanotto turns 39. According to his SABR bio, Catalanotto "spent more time than he should have fast food eateries" during his first minor league season. That's neither here nor there, but it is more interesting than talking about Frank's Mets tenure, a miserable 25 at-bat stint during the 2010 season in which he hit just .160/.192/.200.
- OG Brian Giles is 53. Not to be confused with the power-hitting outfielder of the same name, this Giles manned second base from 1981 to '83 and connected for 25 extra base hits in 605 plate appearances taken as a Met. The other Giles, meanwhile, slugged 31 XBH against New York in half the number of at-bats over the course of his career.
- Eric Hillman, the pitcher who, for years, was the tallest Met in the team's history, celebrates his 47th birthday. The 6' 10" righty held the title from 1992 until Chris Young edged him out by a fraction of an inch in 2011. Young's reign lasted less than a year, though, as the 6' 11" Jon Rauch set the new record for skyscraping Mets last season.
- Today is the 117th anniversary of Rogers Hornsby's birth. Perhaps the greatest second baseman ever to play the game, Hornsby spent the final year of his life working as a scout and third base coach for the 1962 Mets. While I won't say the Amazins killed Rajah, being around such an anemic offense must have taken its toll on the two-time Triple Crown winner.
- Lefty Bob Macdonald reaches 48 years of age. If Macdonald's highly embellished Wikipedia page is to believed, he left organized baseball after striking out 12 batters across 19 innings for the Mets in '96 to focus on his passion for playing and managing a semi-pro softball team in Clearwater, Florida. Who says American lives don't have second acts?
- Orber Moreno is 36. Twice ranked as a top 100 prospect by Baseball America, Moreno made his debut with Kansas City in 1999, but shoulder injury suffered in a biking accident hindered his development. Released by the Royals in 2002, the Mets signed him and he was pretty good reliever for a brief period of time. Moreno's only extended stint in the majors service time came during 2004 when he posted a 3.38 ERA and fanned 29 batters in 34-plus innings. Shoulder woes returned after that campaign, though, and he hasn't seen MLB action since then.
In November 1964, exactly one month after the Yankees fired manager Yogi Berra for having the temerity to lose that year's Fall Classic, the Mets swooped in and added the future Hall of Famer to Casey Stengel's staff. On April 27, 1965, the team promoted Berra to player-coach and added the formerly retired catcher to the active roster. Reactivated just before his 40th birthday, Berra went two-for-nine as a Met, then called a career for good. The four-game experiment wound up shaving a tenth of a win off of Berra's career bWAR total and bumped his Cooperstown eligibility back by two years.
Game of Note
The Mets, backed by the powerful bat of Scott Hairston, appeared to be on their way to an easy victory over the Rockies one year ago today. Through five innings, Hairston was three-for-three with a single, a triple, a homer, and two ribbies. Then Colorado came to bat in their half. Fifteen batters, seven hits, two errors, and an Acostalypse later, the Rox turned a four-run deficit into a 13-6 lead by scoring 11 times. Hairston got two back in the sixth by completing the cycle with an RBI double, but LOLpen spotted Colorado five more in the seventh to officially put the game out of reach. Final score: Rockies 18, Mets 9.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
one century two centuries ago today, U.S. general Zebulon Pike defeated the British at the Battle of York (better known today as Toronto). Though the redcoats inflicted heavy losses on Pike's army (in fact, one of the losses was Pike himself), by day's end the capital of Upper Canada fell to American firepower. This proved to be one of the few triumphs that the U.S. would achieve during the country's ill-fated invasion of our neighbor to the north.
Our New York Mets have met with similar struggles in Toronto. The team has played twelve games against the Blue Jays in Canada's Queen City and won just as many as they've lost. At home, though, the Mets are a perfect 9-0 against the Jays. The games at Shea haven't been particularly close, either, save for one: a 14-inning affair in which field marshal Bobby Valentine deployed some strategic camouflage to help spur his men to victory.