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This Date in Mets History: January 15 — Tom Robson Was Born To Teach, Not Do

Hitting coach gave edge to team that made the postseason twice.

John Olerud was one of Tom Robson's best pupils.
John Olerud was one of Tom Robson's best pupils.
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While it’s debatable how much of an effect a hitting coach actually has on a team’s performance, the fact if that Tom Robson, who turn 67 today, presided over some of the Mets’ better offensive seasons from 1997-2000. What Robson knows about hitting could fill a book. We know this for a fact because he wrote one, called "The Hitting Edge," published in 2003.

Among the pupils who sing his praises are John Olerud, who wrote the forward to the book, Edgardo Alfonzo and Benny Agbayani–all of whom clearly benefited from his tutelage. Bobby Valentine is also a fan. He brought Robson aboard when he took over as Mets skipper, resuming a long-time relationship begun 11 years earlier with the Texas Rangers. After leaving the Mets the two men worked together again with the Chiba Lotte Marines, helping to lead that team to its first Japan Series championship.

"I've seen him make bad hitters good and good hitters better." -- Bobby Valentine on Tom Robson

Robson began his professional playing career as a first baseman in the Mets system in 1967, and for several years lived down to the expectations that come with being a 50th round draft pick. He looked like a late bloomer in the Rangers system, even being named MVP of the Pacific Coast League in 1974, but he didn’t hit a lick in two very brief stints in Texas. Several years later he worked his way back to the majors as a batting coach—a classic case of "Those who can’t do, teach."


We don’t know how many of the 8,583 fans who attended the April 13, 1977, game at Shea Stadium were still around when the Amazins came to bat in the sixth inning, down 7-1, but those who did witnessed the entire Mets career of Luis Alvarado. Entering the game in a double switch, the veteran utility infielder, who turns 64 today, went 0-2 and handled three chances in the field cleanly.

In the wake of the 11-week players strike in 1981, the Mets signed veteran reliever Mike Marshall–then 38 and turning 70 today–to help with their futile second-half pennant drive. The former Cy Young Award- winning closer pitched well enough (3-2, 2.61 ERA) in what was to be his last major league season, but the bullpen was perhaps the department least in need of shoring up that season. Those Mets just couldn’t marshal enough offense to make a serious run.

Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection

When the Mets win the World Series this year next year some year within our lifetime and have their victory parade in downtown Manhattan, let’s consider petitioning to change the moniker of the "Canyon of Heroes" to "Canyon of Champions." Consider that Martin Luther King Jr., leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, was born on this date in 1929, and also that exactly 80 years to the day later US Airways Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger guided a disabled jetliner to a safe landing in the Hudson River without sustaining any casualties. These two, and other men and women like them, are heroes. David Wright, Johan Santana, et al, are merely great ballplayers.