One year ago today in Philadelphia, rookie Jordany Valdespin collected his first major league hit: a pinch-hit three-run homer in the top of the ninth off elite closer Jonathan Papelbon that turned a 2–2 tie into a 5–2 win. It was an unlikely victory for the Mets in several ways.
For starters, Valdespin, 0-for–6 on the season, had been demoted to Buffalo two days earlier and was recalled only because Ruben Tejada had strained his right quadriceps muscle the game before and had to be put on the DL. It was also unusual for Papelbon, perfect in nine save opportunities to that point in the season, to be brought in to a tie game at home, but he needed the work, having last pitched six days earlier.
His trouble started when a struggling Ike Davis, who entered the game with a .229 on-base percentage and 30 strikeouts in 105 plate appearances, walked on a 3–2 pitch. One out later, light-hitting Mike Nickeas, who was in the game because starting catcher Josh Thole was injured in the previous inning preventing Ty Wigginton from scoring the go-ahead run, doubled to left. Nickeas would get only three more extra-base hits through the rest of the season and finish with a .174 batting average. Then, quicker than you could say “Omir Santos,” Valdespin drove an 0–1 pitch from Papelbon over the right-center field wall. More unlikeliness followed as Mets closer Frank Francisco chalked up the save with a perfect five-pitch inning.
With the Mets in 1995, catcher Brook Fordyce, turning 43 today, posted a gaudy slash line of .500/.667/1.000 with an OPS+ of 341. Of course, that was over a total of three plate appearances. For the next eight seasons he found steady employment as a backup or platoon player with the Reds, White Sox, Orioles, and Devil Rays
The Mets career of right-hander Manny Hernandez, celebrating his 52nd birthday today, consisted of one inning in a blowout loss in Montreal on September 16, 1989. He was perfect, dispatching three Expos on eight pitches total, getting two ground outs and a strikeout.
Happy 69th birthday to outfielder Billy Murphy. Compared to Fordyce and Hernandez, Murphy was a lifer, sticking with the Mets for almost the entire 1966 season, his only major league campaign. Rarely seen before the seventh inning, his overall OPS was a subpar .612, but he did well in high-leverage situations with an OPS of .846, including a 1.000 mark in 13 two out/RISP plate appearances.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
On May 7, 1912, Columbia University approved a plan to award the Pulitzer Prize, named for its late benefactor Joseph Pulitzer, to honor excellence in journalism, literature, and the arts. One such prize was awarded to longtime New York Times sports writer and columnist Ira Berkow in 2001. In March Berkow published Summers at Shea: Tom Seaver Loses His Overcoat and Other Mets Stories, a paperback compilation of his columns about the Amazins from the Casey Stengel era to the exploits of David Wright and Johan Santana. He also reflects on some of the Mets’ most revered and reviled rivals.