Despite making the All-Star team four times in his eleven-year career, Mets catcher John Stearns only got one chance to take a hack against an American League opponent. That lone at-bat came versus crosstown rival Tommy John of the Yankees in the 1980 Midsummer Classic. The sinkerballer with the surgically reconstructed arm got the better of Stearns, forcing him to tap a grounder in the direction of the second baseman, teammate/future Mets manager Willie Randolph. The next batter, Ken Griffey, had more success. Junior's dad smashed a solo home run to cut the American League's 2-0 lead in half. The Senior Circuit rallied to win 4-2.
The Senior Circuit didn't fare as well at the 1997 All-Star Game in Cleveland, dropping the contest by a 3-1 score, but one of the two Mets selected represented New York with distinction in the loss. Bobby J. Jones, an All-Star based on the strength of the 12-5 record he compiled in the first half of the season, came on to face the top of the American League order in the eighth. The right-hander allowed a leadoff single to Brady Anderson, but bore down to retire the next three batters in order. Jones even ended the frame with a flourish by fanning Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mark McGwire. Jones's battery mate, Todd Hundley, also made the trip to Jacobs Field, though he did not play.
- Gary Kroll is 72. As a rookie in 1964, Kroll pitched three innings for the Phillies and another 21 for the Mets. Despite the small sample size, he led the National League in balks with four. In spring training the following year, he and fellow reliever Gordie Richardson combined to no-hit the Pirates. Unfortunately, Kroll was eminently hittable once the calendar turned to April and the Mets sold him to the Astros at season's end.
- Reliever Ken Sanders also turns 72 today. Bulldog, as former Brewers manager Dave Bristol nicknamed him, rose to prominence as Milwaukee's closer in the seasons immediately following the franchise's relocation from Seattle. By the time of his Mets tenure (1975-76), he'd be been demoted to set-up duty.
One-time Mets assistant GM Joe McIlvaine got a long-awaited promotion on this date in 1993. McIlvaine, the former right hand man to Frank Cashen, initially left the organization in 1990 to head the Padres' front office, but New York lured him back east by offering him the job of general manager after Al Harazin's midseason firing. Brought in to disassemble a roster filled with expensive, underperforming veterans, McIlvaine supervised the trading of Bobby Bonilla, Bret Saberhagen, and others. While those specific deals didn't work as planned, he did mastermind the John Olerud for Robert Person heist. For that alone, McIlvaine deserves special mention.
Game of Note
July 8 was the seasonal nadir for the Ya Gotta Believe 1973 Mets. Former Braves starter George Stone took the mound for New York and got beat up his old team. Hank Aaron took the lefty yard twice, the 695th and 696th homers of his career, while Dusty Baker added a solo shot. Those long balls plated four runs, a total that the Mets offense, held to just eight singles by Phil Niekro, couldn't come back from. The loss pushed Yogi Berra's club to twelve games under .500 and into the basement of the National League's Eastern Division with half the season to go.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
General Douglas MacArthur took over as the commander-in-chief of UN troops in Korea on July 8, 1950. The old soldier, who at one point was the youngest major general in the U.S. Army, made his name by vowing to return to the Philippines after Imperial Japanese forces troops forced him into retreat during World War II. Several former Mets have returned to Queens in recent years. Jason Isringhausen came back in 2011 after spending a dozen years in the baseball hinterlands. Also included in the 1999 swap that made Izzy an Athletic was Greg McMichael, a reliever who the Mets once traded for, dealt to the Dodgers, and then traded for again all in the span of a calendar year.