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Mets Hall-of-Famers

Yesterday I mentioned that nine current hall of famers have played for the Mets at one time or another. I'm not counting future inductees (Mike Piazza, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, Rickey Henderson) or coaches/managers (Casey Stengel, Rogers Hornsby, Red Ruffing). Some of you guessed them all, but here's the entire list for everyone's benefit.

Player With Mets Year Inducted
Yogi Berra 1965 1972
Warren Spahn 1965 1973
Willie Mays 1972-1973 1979
Duke Snider 1963 1980
Tom Seaver 1967-1977,1983 1992
Richie Ashburn 1962 1995
Nolan Ryan 1966-1971 1999
Eddie Murray 1992-1993 2003
Gary Carter 1985-1989 2003

Only one of these cats is actually in the hall of fame as a Met (Seaver), and only one other could reasonably consider the Mets an important stop on his way to the hall (Carter). Nolan Ryan began his career with the Mets but achieved virtually all of his personal success elsewhere, and the rest of this group played for the Mets at or around the end of their ropes, mostly with skill sets that had long since evaporated.

Regardless of their accomplishments with the Mets, let's take a look back and see how these guys wound up in Queens and how they fared once they arrived.

Richie Ashburn

Year(s) with the Mets: 1962

How'd he wind up here? The Mets acquired Whitey from the Cubs on 12/8/1961, just a couple of months before the team reported to their very first spring training. The cost? An untold sum of cash.

How'd he do? Great, actually. Ashburn was the Mets' first All Star in their very first season, and he hit a splendid .306/.424/.393 with 81 walks and 39 strikeouts in 389 at-bats, sharing time in center field with Joe Christopher.

And after he left? Nothing. Ashburn retired from baseball following the '62 season, transitioning right into the radio booth for the Phillies.

Duke Snider

Year(s) with the Mets: 1963

How'd he wind up here? The Mets bought him from the Dodgers for around $40,000 on 4/1/1963, a week before the season began. Snider spent his first sixteen big league seasons with the Dodgers: eleven in Brooklyn and five in Los Angeles.

How'd he do? Like Ashburn before him, Snider was brought in to give the Mets a bit of credibility and wound up making the All Star team in his only season with the club. He hit .243/.345/.401 with 14 homeruns in 354 at-bats.

And after he left? On 4/14/1964, the Mets sent Snider back to the west coast, shipping him to the Giants for $30,000. The Mets had rebuffed Snider's request to become a player-coach and, after cutting his salary from $38,000 to $31,000, finally agreed to send him westward so he could be closer to his home in Fallbrook, California. After playing in six World Series with the Dodgers, Snider couldn't have been thrilled with toiling in a part-time role with the 10th-place Mets.

Warren Spahn

Year(s) with the Mets: 1965

How'd he wind up here? Purchased from the Milwaukee Braves on 11/23/1964 for an undisclosed amount of money.

How'd he do? Brought in as a player-coach (along with Yogi Berra), Spahn was pretty bad for a Met team that was itself dreadfully inept. The 44-year-old tossed 126 innings, striking out 56 and walking 35 and compiling a park-adjusted ERA that was 20% worse than the rest of the league (4.36 ERA for you old-schoolers). He *did* manage to draw seven walks in 35 at-bats as a hitter, only ten fewer than everyday third-baseman Charley Smith coaxed in almost 500 at-bats.

And after he left? He signed as a "free agent" with the Giants in 1966, posting a solid 3.39 ERA in 71.2 innings before hanging 'em up for good.

Yogi Berra

Year(s) with the Mets: 1965

How'd he wind up here? The Mets brought Berra aboard in 1965 to be their first base coach, but was convinced by team president George Weiss to try his hand at pinch-hitting. On 4/27/1963 the Mets added Berra to their active list, making him eligible to remain with the team as a player when the roster was trimmed to 25 on May 12.

How'd he do? Yogi appeared in just four games with the Mets, starting two and pinch-hitting in two, and collecting just seven at-bats overall. He had two singles and nothing else, and struck out three times while taking an 0-for-4 in his final career game, 5/9/1965.

And after he left? The Mets didn't need his bat or his glove, but Berra remained a coach for the Mets through the 1971 season and then took over for Gil Hodges as manager from '72 through '75. His 588 games managed with the Mets is the fifth-highest total in franchise history, trailing only Davey Johnson (1,012), Bobby Valentine (1,003), Joe Torre (709) and Hodges (649).

Nolan Ryan

Year(s) with the Mets: 1966-1971

How'd he wind up here? The Mets selected Ryan in the 12th round of the 1965 entry draft, 226th overall, out of Alvin High School in Texas.

How'd he do? Ryan had one very good season, 1970, in which he notched a 3.42 ERA (compared to 4.01 for the league) with 125 strikeouts and 97 walks (ed. note: cripes!) in 131.2 innings. In parts of five seasons, Ryan compiled a 29-38 record, a 3.58 ERA, 493 strikeouts and 344 walks in 510 innings. He was traded to the Angels along with three others (Frank Estrada, Don Rose and Leroy Stanton) for Jim Fregosi on 12/10/1971.

And after he left? On the Mets' trade of Ryan et al for Fregosi, manager Gil Hodges said:

"You always hate to give up on an arm like Ryan's. He could put things together overnight, but he hasn't done it for us and the Angels wanted him. I would not hesitate making a trade for somebody who might help us right now."

--New York Times, 12/11/1971

Ryan struck out 329 batters in 284 innings for the Angels the next year, finishing 8th in the Cy Young voting. That season proved to be the turning point in a career that saw Ryan strike out more batters than anyone in the history of the game (it should be noted that he also walked more batters than anyone in the history of the game). In 1973 he set the modern-day record for strikeouts in a season with 383, finishing second in the Cy Young voting to Jim Palmer. It was the closest Ryan would come to winning the award.
Tom Seaver

Year(s) with the Mets: 1967-1977,1983

How'd he wind up here? Signed with the Mets as an amateur free agent on 4/3/1966. Seaver was originally drafted by the Dodgers in the 10th round of the 1965 draft but the two sides couldn't come to terms on a contract. He was drafted first overall by the Braves in 1966 and promptly signed a contract with them, but the deal was voided by the commissioner. Per Wikipedia:

In 1966, he signed a contract with the Atlanta Braves, who had drafted him number one. However, the contract was voided by Baseball Commissioner William Eckert because his college team had played two exhibition games (although Seaver hadn't played). Seaver intended, then, to finish the college season, but because he had signed a pro-contract, the NCAA ruled him ineligible. After Seaver's father complained to Eckert about the unfairness of the situation, and threatened with a lawsuit, Eckert ruled that other teams could match the Braves' offer. The Mets were subsequently awarded his signing rights in a lottery drawing among the three teams (Philadelphia and Cleveland being the two others) that were willing to match the Braves' terms.
On two different occasions the Mets nearly missed out on signing the best player they would ever have. Then, on one of the darkest days in the franchise's history, Seaver was traded to the Reds on 6/15/1977 after a drawn-out contract dispute. He was dealt back to the Mets on 12/16/1982, five-and-a-half years later.

How'd he do? In eleven seasons with the Mets, Seaver won the Rookie of the Year and three Cy Young awards, plus two other top-five finishes. He fell 22 points shy of Willie McCovey for the National League MVP in 1969 (they each had eleven first-place votes). He is the franchise leader in career strikeouts (2,541), wins (198), complete games (171), shutouts (44), starts (395), starter ERA (2.57), starter ERA+ (136), starter WHIP (1.08), et cetera.

And after he left? Seaver had two top-five Cy Young seasons with the Reds and was very good in 1978 (124 ERA+), 1979 (120 ERA+) and 1981 (140 ERA+). He had another great season with the White Sox after leaving the Mets for the second time, notching a 136 ERA+ in 238.2 innings as a 40-year-old.

Willie Mays

Year(s) with the Mets: 1972-1973

How'd he wind up here? Acquired from the Giants on 5/11/1972 in exchange for RHP Charlie Williams and $50,000 cash.

How'd he do? Very well, then not so well. In 195 at-bats over four-plus months of the 1972 season Mays hit .267/.402/.446 (good). Mays returned for the 1973 season and hit .211/.303/.344 in 209 at-bats as a 42-year-old (bad).

And after he left? Mays retired following the 1973 season and stayed on as a coach with the Mets from 1974-1979.

Gary Carter

Year(s) with the Mets: 1985-1989

How'd he wind up here? Acquired from the Expos on 12/10/1984 in exchange for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham, and Floyd Youmans.

How'd he do? Four All-Star appearances and two top-six MVP finishes in five years with the Mets. He drove in 100 runs twice, belted 20 or more homeruns three times, and was largely considered the missing piece that vaulted the Mets from "merely" great to "World Series Champion" great. Hit his 300th career homerun in 1988.

And after he left? Hung on for three more seasons with the Giants, Dodgers and Expos, hitting just .254, .246 and .218 in those twilight years.

Eddie Murray

Year(s) with the Mets: 1992-1993

How'd he wind up here? Signed a then-absurd two-year deal worth $7.5 million on 11/27/1991.

How'd he do? So-so. Drove in 193 runs in his two years at Shea, hitting 27 homeruns in 1993. The Mets lost 193 games in his two seasons here, though Murray was actually one of the few regulars who didn't embarrass himself during that span. Perhaps most famously, Murray drove in the winning run in a 5-4 Mets victory against the Marlins on 7/28/1993. Why was that night memorable? Pitching in relief of Bret Saberhagen, Anthony Young finally earned a victory after 27 consecutive losses, a record for (team) futility that still stands.