This Date in Mets History: June 15 — Mets wave goodbye to Seaver, hello to Hernandez

Jim McIsaac / Getty Images

Six years apart, the Mets made both the team's single-worst and potentially single-best swaps on the old June 15 trade deadline.

Prior to the 1977 Mayor's Trophy game, the mid-May exhibition match the Mets and Yankees played annually (more or less) from 1962 until 1979, Mets' chairman M. Donald Grant reportedly told manager Joe Frazier that the game was a "must-win". At the time, the team was suffering through a 3-12 stretch and when word of the edict reached Tom Seaver's ears, he responded thusly:

The man is a maniac...Here we are in the worst slump of the season, and all he's worrying about is an exhibition. I never wanted to leave this organization. Never. But the time is now.

Seaver's estimate was off by roughly a month, but he ultimately got his wish. On the evening of June 15, 1977, following the conclusion of a 6-5 victory over Atlanta and an 8-7 extra-inning triumph by the Reds against Philadelphia, the Mets issued the following statement:

It is with sincere regret that we have met Tom Seaver's request and traded him to Cincinnati for the following players: Doug Flynn, Pat Zachry, Steve Henderson, and Dan Norman.

Sportswriters quickly dubbed the deal (as well as a corresponding trade that sent slugger Dave Kingman to the Padres for Bobby Valentine and pitcher Paul Siebert) the "Midnight Massacre". Dave Anderson of the New York Times opined that for the Mets to pull off a "comparable coup", the team would have needed to acquire George Foster from the Reds for Nino Espinosa, Roy Staiger, and two minor leaguers.

Exactly six years later, the Mets did pull off a comparable coup, though it wasn't for George Foster or Tom Seaver, who incidentally were teammates on the 1983 Mets thanks to of two lesser trades. On June 15, 1983, Frank Cashen executed what's probably the defining exchange of his tenure as Mets general manager by prying Keith Hernandez away from the St. Louis Cardinals for relievers Neil Allen and starting pitcher Rick Ownbey. Demonstrating a flair for understatement, Cashen said of the trade, "The move improves our starting alignment and our bench as well." Hernandez was more emotional, saying "i wasn't shocked that I was traded. I was shocked that it was to the Mets." Thirty years later, it's shocking to think of Keith wearing a uniform other than a pullover Mets jersey with an orange and blue racing stripe.

Birthdays

  • Brett Butler, perhaps the most prolific bunter in baseball history, is 56. In 1992, the speedy center fielder set the single-season MLB record for most bases empty bunt hits and by the time his playing days were over, he was baseball's all-time leader with 188 career bunt hits. The Mets signed Butler away from the Dodgers during spring training in 1995, but he played just 90 games for New York, as GM Joe McIlvaine shipped him back to Los Angeles at the trade deadline. Still, the Mets got what they paid for in that brief window of time. Butler went 17-for-32 in bunt base hit attempts, which was good for a 53.1% success rate.
  • Tony Clark hits the big 4-0 today. Standing six feet, eight inches tall, Clark broke Bill Walton's record for most points scored by a San Diego high school basketball player as a teenager and later set the mark for tallest position player in Mets team history. A one-year Met wonder just like Brett Butler, Clark adequately filled in for the injured Mo Vaughn during the 2003 season. His 16 home runs were just two shy of the club lead that year and his OPS+ was a perfectly cromulent 100.
  • Speaking of short-tenured Mets, Ken Henderson turns 67. The outfielder came to New York via a complicated four-way, eleven player trade that was initiated in December 1977 but not fully completed until March of the following year. Henderson, the last moving part to fall into place, spent all of two months as a Met before the team swapped him for reliever Dale Murray of the Cincinnati Reds in May 1978.
  • Catcher Dave Liddell, one of two position players to sport a perfect 1.000 career batting average for the New York Mets, is 47. A longtime farmhand, Liddell finally made his major league debut as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning of a June 1990 game against the Phillies. Facing lefty Pat Combs, the backstop bounced a grounder over the second base bag and into center field for a single, one of just three hits the Mets picked up that day. He was optioned back to Tidewater shortly thereafter without ever getting a second trip to the plate.
  • Jeremy Reed of the late, unlamented 2009 Mets turns 32. If you want to ruin a perfectly good Saturday morning, marvel at the fact that the joint tenure of Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel survived another 16 months after this 3-2 loss to the Dodgers in which the winning run scored because Reed, a no-hit, no-glove center fielder recast as a no-hit, no-glove first baseman completely missed Ramon Castro's catchers mitt with a throw from a distance of no more than 60 feet.

Transactions
On this date in 1969, the Mets, buyers at the trade deadline for the first time in team history, picked up Donn Clendenon from the Montreal Expos for infielder Kevin Collins, pitcher Steve Renko, and a pair of minor leaguers. The addition of the slugging first baseman gave the Miracle Mets lineup some much needed power, a skill Clendenon demonstrated in that year's World Series by clubbing three home runs and winning postseason MVP honors.

Game of Note
Julio Franco set a number of age-related records during his two seasons as a Met, one of which occurred on this date in 2007, though he needed an assist from Roger Clemens to do it. When Franco, age 48, dug in against the Rocket, age 44, to lead off the second inning of the day's Mets-Yankees interleague game, the pair represented the oldest batter-pitcher matchup in MLB history. The two were a combined age of 93 years, 246 days old. Clemens got the better of Franco that day, keeping him hitless in three plate appearances, though he'd struggle against the youngest Mets in the lineup: Carlos Gomez and Jose Reyes. The two went five-for-six with a a pair of runs scored versus Roger in a 2-0 Mets win.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Today marks the 18th anniversary of defense attorney Johnny Cochran's "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" gambit during the O.J. Simpson murder trial. The Mets, like O.J., have struggled with the glove over the past few seasons, though the team has traditionally been pretty strong defensively. Four Mets have been repeat Rawlings Gold Glove winners, a cohort that includes Keith Hernandez (six straight from 1983 to '88), Rey Ordoñez (1997, '98), Carlos Beltran (three straight from 2006 to '07), and David Wright (2007, '08). Five others have won one-off fielding trophies, most notably Ordoñez's "best infield ever" teammate, Robin Ventura. James Kannengieser examined that famous Sports Illustrated claim a few years ago and [SPOILER ALERT] determined it was mostly true.

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