Hi, I'm Casey Kasem and this is Metropolitan Top 100. You're hearing us on great radio stations like KENT-AM, your redass connection; W-AY-L, which gives up the hits 27 different ways; and Pacella-FM, where our hat's always off to you. Before we resume the countdown, it's time for our long-distance dedication.
This week's comes to us from Joe, listening to us on I-95, The All-Time Number One Utility Station in Bristol, Pennsylvania. He writes,
“Dear Casey: I'm a big fan of Metropolitan Top 100. You've made me feel a part of it from the very first broadcast. Until very recently, I had a really great job that I liked a lot and I thought everybody there liked me. True, I wasn't always that good at what I did but I always gave it my best whether I was on the clock or not. I tried to be a good friend to all the other guys at this place, particularly when they'd hire somebody new. However, when I saw they were bringing in people with the same job description I had, I could read the handwriting on the wall.
“Casey, even though I'm not there anymore, I'd really appreciate if you could dedicate the next segment of your countdown to all my former colleagues and all the folks who followed what we did. I'll always carry them in my heart.”
Thanks Joe. Here's your long-distance dedication.
70. Dave Magadan: Mags had a habit of busting out all over, which is ironic considering the guy made unassuming look ostentatious. His first moment in the spotlight came on the night of September 17, 1986 when he subbed for the flu-ridden Keith Hernandez, collected three hits and inspired the instantaneous creation of his own passionate core of acolytes (or at least the one guy who wrote DAVE MAGADAN FAN CLUB on an empty pizza box, captured forever in A Year To Remember) in the division-clinching melee at Shea. Mex pulled himself together long enough to take the field so he could be on it for the big celebration, a Met-aphor, perhaps, for the way he showed little inclination to take his eventual successor under his wing. By the time Keith was gone, Dave had to put up with Mike Marshall until he bust out all over again, this time in Chicago. Just as the 1990 Mets were finding their sealegs, Mags batted his way into the lineup, going 4-for-4 and driving in six runs on June 12, a 19-8 thumping of the Cubs. He started the game at third but poetic-justly finished it at first. Marshall was done and Magadan let Buddy Harrelson, who had clung to the washed-up Dodger for too long, know it. When one of the quiet guys is laying down the law to the manager, it probably isn't a good thing, but thank goodness someone did. Dave finished 1990 at .328, the first Met in more than 20 years to rake at that rate.
69. Rickey Henderson: When Rickey Henderson was making his first comeback with the Newark Bears in 2003, Sports Illustrated ran a nifty profile of what made Rickey run. Maybe it was in there or someplace else that Rickey defended his role on the 1999 Mets, the card-playing and the questionable hustle. One quote stood out (paraphrasing here): “I was the best player on that team.” On a club fronted by Piazza, fueled by Alfonzo and defined by Ventura, it seemed a dubious claim. But look at it from Rickey's perspective. He batted .315, highest among regulars. He stole 37 bases. He tutored Roger Cedeño to steal 66. In what we will forever refer to as the Matt Franco game, we could look up when the excitement died down (if it indeed has) and see 40-year-old Rickey Henderson had been on base five times — three hits and two walks — in five plate appearances, scoring three runs. His OPS, playing three of every four games that year, was .889, comparable to Robin's and Fonzie's. And he stole six bases in the Division Series against Arizona. But it was never all good again after Bobby replaced him for defense in the fourth game with Melvin Mora (who immediately threw out Jay Bell at home, confirming what Bobby Valentine knew: that Melvin Mora could play some ball and that Bobby Valentine was a genius). From there, he wrote his ticket out of town. Before then, Rickey wasn't as crazy as Rickey tends to come off.
68. Al Jackson: On June 29, 1969, Tom Seaver won his twelfth game of the season, the 44th of his young career. In doing so, he surpassed Al Jackson to become the winningest pitcher in Mets history. Seaver's career record to that point: 44-28. Jackson's totals for parts of six seasons as a Met, predominantly the character-building years of 1962-65: 43-80. Would have the little lefthander from Waco, Texas fared better on a better team in his salad days? Consider that in the first four years of the Mets' existence, Little Al Jackson threw 10 shutouts. In all of Metsdom, only Seaver, Koosman, Matlack, Gooden and Cone have posted more. Give the man credit, as well, for assessing the state of the team in 1962, as recorded in Can't Anybody Here Play This Game? by Jimmy Breslin: “Everybody here crazy.”
67. Ed Charles: He was the Poet Laureate of the 1969 Mets. That in and of itself is a ticket to Heaven.
66. Gary Gentry: So little-known were the individual Mets even as they ascended the national stage that in a pre-Series workout in '69, Tom Seaver and Gary Gentry switched uniform tops. Reporters furiously scribbled the knocks No. 41 was putting on No. 39, not realizing No. 39 was really No. 41 and vice-versa. It was an easy enough mistake to make since Gary Gentry was thought to be the next model off the assembly line of ferocious righties who would keep the Mets in pennant heat for years to come. Gentry, 22, won 13 games in '69. He never won that many again.
65. Lance Johnson: One of these seasons is not like the others: .333 BA, 50 SBs, 21 triples, 227 hits, 682 ABs. Lance Johnson's 1996 was the most cheerfully aberrational year in Mets history. No Mets centerfielder had done anything like it. No Met playing anywhere had strung together those kinds of concurrent numbers. It was one of the best campaigns in the league, too. One Dog led everybody in three-baggers, safeties and at-bats. Slugged .479 from the leadoff position. Couldn't be gotten out in September as he shattered all kinds of single-season team marks, appropriate as it turned out to be his single, solitary full season as a Met. Damn those shin splints.
64. Kevin Mitchell: His teammates called him 747 because he was jumbo. Then they called him World because his versatility was all-planet. That a high-profile act like the '86 Mets could unveil a secret weapon like Kevin Mitchell in full view of the competition was indication enough to the N.L. East that it could make other plans for the summer. Including post-season, Mitchell collected 95 hits that year. The first 94, presumably, were gathered fully equipped.
63. Dennis Cook: Tom Gorman, meet Joe Sambito. Joe Sambito, meet Randy Niemann. Randy Niemann, meet Gene Walter. Gene Walter, meet Bob McClure. Bob McClure, meet Jeff Musselman. Jeff Musselman, meet Dan Schatzeder. Dan Schatzeder, meet Doug Simons. Doug Simons, meet Rich Sauveur. Rich Sauveur, meet Paul Gibson. Paul Gibson, meet Lee Guetterman. Lee Guetterman, meet Jeff Kaiser. Jeff Kaiser, meet Eric Gunderson. Eric Gunderson, meet Don Florence. Don Florence, meet Bob MacDonald; Bob MacDonald, meet Ricardo Jordan. Ricardo Jordan, meet Yorkis Perez. Now all of you dismal left-handed relievers who clogged up the basepaths with your ineptitude for almost fifteen years, meet Dennis Cook and watch him get batters out. What? He looks so angry all the time? No wonder. Look at the mess you left him!
62. Art Shamsky: It could be said with a modicum of debate that through October 6, 1969, Art Shamsky stood alone as the greatest player in the history of the National League Championship Series, having had the benefit of being present at the creation of the it two days earlier. The left-handed half of Gil's right-field platoon apparently figured out these newfangled playoffs before anybody else did, batting .538 as the Mets swept the Braves in three. Hank Aaron batted .357 with three homers, but his team lost.
61. Rafael Santana: Shortstop is often termed the most important position on the field. The team that wins the World Series is recognized as the best team in baseball. The World Series winner that piled up more victories than any other World Series winner in its time can be considered the best baseball team of that time. Conclusion: Rafael Santana was Man of the Decade for the 1980s. Gorbachev was a distant second.