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Mets’ top 25 all-time home run leaders, #25: Ron Swoboda

Known best for making a catch, the outfielder hit enough home runs in his Mets career to make this list.

N.Y. Mets Ron Swoboda takeS batting practice prior to Game 3 Photo by Dan Farrell/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

In this, the first installment of our series looking at the Mets’ top 25 all-time home run leaders, we will discuss the player ranked 25th: Ron Swoboda. Before we begin, it seems worth noting that many of the players on this top-25 list, including Swoboda, have some degree of broader historical significance to the Mets—which is probably self-evident to some extent, given the general notoriety of home run hitters and players who stay with one team long enough to ascend the leader boards. The lower-ranked players on this list, starting with Swoboda, are especially interesting when considered together, as each player represents a different era in Mets history. Let’s get started.

25. Ron Swoboda

Home runs as a Met: 69
Home run rate: 1 per 36 plate appearances (2.78%)

Ron Swoboda hit 69 home runs as a Met, which, for now, is good enough for 25th place on the team’s home run leader board. It seems appropriate to start this series with a player like Swoboda, who is so closely associated with the early days of the Mets, and whose brilliant and unlikely catch in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series forever enshrined him in Metsian lore.

Swoboda broke into the major leagues at age 20 in 1965 and was a fixture on the Mets’ roster through 1970, appearing in 737 games in blue and orange along the way. In total, he was mediocre at the plate for the Mets, although he did have a couple good seasons in 1967 and 1968.

An anomalous rookie season aside, Swoboda could never be mistaken for a power hitter, much less a home run hitter. In fact, Swoboda’s home run output followed a strange path over the course of his career, such that if it were represented on a graph, it would resemble the path a hiker might take from the top of a mountain to one of the foothills below. He hit 19 homers in his rookie season and then never again came close to reproducing that single-season output. It can be noted that Swoboda’s significant drop-off in home runs was in proportion to gradual, if uneven, improvements in other areas.

Swoboda’s days on this list are numbered. If Yoenis Cespedes, who currently has 48 homers as a Met, stays relatively healthy in 2017, he will probably finish the season in the top 25—which would, of course, displace Swoboda. Regardless, Swoboda is on the list the for the time being, and his place in Mets history is forever secure.

This will not be a feature of every article in this series, but I have a Ron Swoboda story to tell—more exactly, my dad has a Ron Swoboda story that I will share. My dad was born and raised in Brooklyn and has been a die-hard Mets fan since they came into existence. Like all of us in our own ways, my dad was profoundly affected by 9/11, and when the opportunity arose to experience community and catharsis in the form of attending the first game back in New York after that horrible day, he took it.

I was in college at the time and couldn’t join him in person, but I watched the game on TV. A couple innings in, the phone rang—it was my dad, calling from his seat at Shea. It was hard to hear him. It was 2001, for one thing, and cell phone sound quality wasn’t what it is now. For another, my dad was surrounded by 50,000 anxious Mets fans. But the main reason I couldn’t hear him was because of a single loud voice in the near background of the call.

“Dad, who is that?” I yelled. My dad’s response was unintelligible; it sounded like he had turned his head to talk to someone else. Suddenly, “Sorry, Nate. I was just talking to Ron Swoboda.” (Chuckle)

“What!?” I intelligently replied.

“Yeah! I’m here enjoying the game with my new best friend, Ron Swoboda!” (Background guffaw, joined by dad Gismot guffaw)

It was true. Swoboda was in the building that night, out in the stands, and he just so happened to be sitting directly behind my dad—and they just so happened to find their way into friendly banter between themselves, talking and laughing about baseball and life.

It was a profound and historic evening—a legendary moment in time, really. That my dad was able to be there was very important to him and very moving for me and the rest of my family. That Ron Swoboda was there with him, enjoying the game, playing the part of comic relief, and invoking the Mets’ early days—and a more innocent time—was a perfect coda.

Ron Swoboda (with the Mets)

Year Games Plate Appearances Home runs OPS+
Year Games Plate Appearances Home runs OPS+
1965 135 438 19 103
1966 112 381 8 79
1967 134 494 13 118
1968 132 508 11 110
1969 109 375 9 91
1970 115 289 9 96