I'll be danged. All along I thought I was blogging with Jason Hardtke.
Since my partner chose Halloween to unmask himself, it seems appropriate tonight to delve into some other quasi-secret Met identities. And what better way to do that and start running out the offseason clock than with a spooky, scary, frightening, some would say deadly quiz?
Well, not so much a quiz but a test of your deepest Mets knowledge and, perhaps, a test of your patience.
Credit Where Credit's Due Dept.: In the aftermath of Mike Piazza's (unofficial) final game as a Met, the fellow who calls himself Johnny Dickshot at Crane Pool Forum conducted a brilliant and stimulating exercise in tickling the Met memory. He offered descriptions of 44 different instances of Met players playing their final games as Mets. He described what they did in those final games and dropped an extra hint or two to help divine their identities. The key was that each answer corresponded to a different year in Mets history. There was only one answer for 1962, one answer for 1963 and so on. This provided a helpful process of elimination.
I liked Johnny Dickshot's quiz so much, I decided to rip off the concept (but not his questions or answers).
The parameters are the same. There are 44 “Who Am I?” questions below. Each of the 44 played for the Mets. Each of those 44 played his final Met game in a different Met season (perhaps in the regular season, perhaps in the post-season). Can't emphasize that enough. If you've figured out that somebody played his final Met game in 1970, then nobody else who played his final Met game in 1970 can be an answer for the rest of the test.
You must have the player and the year in which he played his final Met game to have a correct answer.
If you're with me this far, then you are probably remotely interested in proceeding. So here are some of broadly helpful hints.
• Ultimate Mets Database is, as it is with all things in life, a tremendous resource.
• Retrosheet can be useful as well.
• Read every question very carefully and take everything that you read into account. Each question is worded the way it is for a reason. It's like the New York State regents exams in that respect — they don't want to take it easy on you. (I hated the regents but this is about the Mets.) Understand that this is a test designed to get you thinking about your favorite team, so arriving at the answers is meant to keep you thinking the whole way there.
• Consider everything you know about baseball, everything you've ever read about baseball, everything you've ever absorbed about the Mets. It's all fair game.
• Some Mets are better known than others here but none was chosen in random, eff-you fashion. There's a strong chance, depending on how seriously you've been taking the Mets and baseball all these years, that you've heard of everybody who is an answer. Nobody was chosen for the sake of obscurity.
You must give the player's name and the year he played his final Met game. Again, this is to your advantage. If you know you have the 1980 Met answer, then you know you can eliminate all others who played their final Met games in 1980. (The flip side is the questions are not in chronological order.)
Reminder: 771 baseball players have played for the Mets. Some 20 to 30 have probably not played their final Met game, so you can eliminate them from consideration. Your pool is now below 750. See? This thing is answering itself.
Answers will be posted in about a week, sometime after The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror airs. If Fox can pretend Halloween goes until November 6, then so can I.
Specific questions? E-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments section good as ever but I don't plan to publicly give partial answers before next week.
If you try and you're stumped, don't worry about turning into a pumpkin. The only entities you'll be competing against are yourself and the facts. This is a test, not a contest. But feel free to send your completed quizzes in via e-mail if you're so inclined. If you've nailed all 44, then your next $6.50 beer at Shea is on me.
Good luck. Have fun. Really.
WHO AM I?
1. My influence on the Mets would turn into a subject of debate. I had virtually no influence on my final game (I went 0-for-2), but my final hit as a Met was fairly influential…and by no means understated.
2. Some guys leave the Mets in loud deals that involve multiple players and guys who've won big awards. But when I finally exited the team, I went quietly (0-for-1) and never played anywhere else again.
3. When the year I left the Mets was over, you could say I was second to nobody except Tom Seaver. In my final outing, I gave three runs in two-thirds of an inning to the Braves.
4. Please. I can clearly say I had been second to nobody except Tom Seaver. In my final outing, I gave up two runs in two-and-a-third innings to the Pirates.
5. Guys, get serious. If Seaver was 1, then I was 2. Nobody could make a stronger case for that than me. In my last game as a Met, I even collected a hit and a walk before Ed Kranepool pinch-hit for me.
6. How big a deal was my first Mets' start? A Hall of Famer came on the field and said some wonderful things before the game. A player en route to the Hall of Fame said it was a dream come true to play with me. And another future denizen of Cooperstown finished up for me. In my final game, it seemed appropriate that I collected the final hit of the Mets' season.
7. I began my lengthy career with the Tigers in the '60s. When I got to the Mets, I didn't have much left. I said au revoir to baseball after retiring Rowland Office in the ninth inning of my last game.
8. I never really got the attention I deserved as a top-notch lefty. I won more than 200 games and went 3-0 in World Series competition. But I was never as famous as the big-deal righty at the top of the rotation. Not only did he win a Cy Young, but when I had my best year, somebody else who had a splashier start to his season beat me out for the award. By the time I pitched my last for the Mets, I wasn't terrible, but they didn't score for me. As a result, my record was short on wins and long on losses. The last batter I faced as a Met was Willie Stargell — he homered off me and I didn't get a win. You may also remember me as being traded for someone who played a large role in Mets history (hint: he's another lefty and you generally don't think of him as wearing a glove in his biggest moments).
9. I was a pretty classy lefty in my day. As for my last night as a Met, I started a shutout victory that was finished by two relievers. I got the win, having gone five innings. Unfortunately, you could use fewer fingers than five that to count how many wins I collected for the Mets that year.
NEW QUESTION NO. 10 MADE NECESSARY BY SCREW-UP EXPLAINED HERE
10. The last pitch I threw as a Met was whacked for a double that scored two runs. Both the batter and one of the runners who scored were players who would go on to manage against the Mets. I'm most famous for a home run I gave up to another player in New York, one who never managed.
OLD QUESTION NO. 10, RENDERED INOPERATIVE BY AFOREMENTIONED SCREW-UP
BONUS: Mets fans should've loved me considering how well I pitched against the Yankees. Heck, in what appeared to be my final outing, I threw a shutout against Houston. In fact, I beat one of those Yankee dynasty guys. Then I was traded to a contender during the season but came back to the Mets a year later. I no longer have a legitimate place in this quiz, but I've got a really cool nickname, so try to figure me out anyway.
11. I was seven years from fulfilling my first manager's prophecy for me when I struck out in my last Met at-bat. My opportunities were limited in New York, but I got a chance in Seattle.
12. Honestly, I thought I did my job well with the Mets, but it sounds like the guy who replaced me was the right guy in the right place. In my final game as a Met, I started at second and got three hits.
13. I was lost on the mound in my final Mets appearance: two innings, two runs against the Cubs. Appropriately enough, we lost as the Mets scored nothing for me. America's a big country. Think the Mets could have found some runs for me somewhere?
14. You'd think going 3-for-5 in your last game (and 6-for-10 in your last two) would impress somebody, but the Mets couldn’t wait to get rid of me. All they got was some kid.
15. I didn't play in the Majors at all the year before I became a Met and I didn't play in the Majors at all the year after I became a Met. It was over after I went 0-for-4 against Milwaukee.
16. Heard of being cursed with versatility? That's what I'm beginning to think happened to me. I could play two positions with pretty much equal ability. Though I was known as an above-average hitter, the Mets kept shifting me back and forth in the infield depending on what big-name player they'd just acquired. I didn't make much of a fuss about it. I was taken out of my final game before it ended (having gone 1-for-3) and left the team with little fanfare. Why did they let me go? Maybe they were concerned about my health.
17. My final Met game? I played a half-inning in the field. The night before, I collected my final hit. It was a long one. Then, go figure, I was out of the lineup the next day. Ironically, I was run out of town.
18. I gave up a hit to Ernie Banks and an unearned run in my final inning of pitching for the Mets. So I wasn't perfect. Few are.
19. Nationally noticed later in my career, I went out with a whimper where the Mets were concerned. I took the collar. It was a pretty tight one for all of us that day.
20. Someday, a team would trust me to start with its pennant hopes on the line. Long before that, the Mets would let me pitch a meaningless two-thirds of an inning on the season's last day.
21. The Mets brought me in to take a shot at making the playoffs. And you may have heard I helped my team get to the playoffs twice. Alas, that team wasn't the Mets. My final appearance for them saw me give up three runs in seven innings. The Mets lost the ballgame.
22. I faced three batters in my final Mets game and allowed no hits. In fact I gave up only one hit in my final three Met appearances. The team found a reason to get rid of me anyway. That simply left me determined to strengthen my resolve.
23. Considering who I was traded for, I didn't really measure up as a Met, but I did manage to go 2-for-4 as the starting second baseman in my last game as a Met player. My last at-bat produced a double.
24. My last Mets pitching appearance was as representative as could be of all my Mets pitching appearances. It ended with a clean inning: three up, three down. And oh yeah — in my final Mets game, I went 0-for-4.
25. Ya gotta believe it was stunning to see me traded from the Mets so suddenly. What if my last pitch in relief lost us a game to the Pirates? Didn't I deserve better considering my Mets pedigree?
26. I came to the Mets a winner and I left a winner, going 2-for-4 in our victory over the Cardinals. Man, did I dig winning. Losing? Not so much.
27. If there were a number with which I was synonymous as a Met, it was three. Really, when you think of three, there were few other Mets who'd come up in the same conversation. Hence, it hardly seemed appropriate that I got only one at-bat in my final Met game and flied out to right. No, if you remember me, you remember me and three.
28. You can make a case for me as one of the finest shortstops of my generation. I wasn't a heavyweight or a heavy hitter, but I was a Gold Glover and can be recalled as feisty when I needed to be. I finished up 1-for-3 as a Met, batting (what else?) eighth. And it's worth mentioning that I was an All-Star and played in the World Series.
29. I gave up a very important run in a very important game versus the Braves. That was the last inning I pitched for the Mets. I was pitching elsewhere when the next season began after a trade.
30. A rising tide lifts all boats? I don't know about that. All I know is I sailed away after my final game at Wrigley, when I went 1-for-4, stroking a single to right with my last swing. I could hit. That's probably why I was able to sail away (theoretically speaking).
31. I'd save my best for later, but I'd never win a bigger game than I once did for the Mets. As for my farewell to them, I walked off the mound having paved the way for my successor to surrender a game-losing homer in Chicago (I took the loss) and never looked back.
32. Joe Torre derailed my final game as a Met, though Mets fans should be used to that sort of thing after all these years. To be fair, I didn't much help my cause by going 0-for-4. Performances like that didn't leave me in the mood to express what I was thinking.
33. I'd like to think I got a little revenge on Joe Torre's team given the way I closed out my Met career, giving up just one hit against them as the last Met pitcher of the night. They traded me a while after that. Hey, what can I say?
34. The manager turned to me to pinch-hit in the fifth in Cincinnati and I struck out. We got beat. After that, I could've used a vacation, but I was traded to the other league instead.
35. Reggie Jackson and his bold declarations about playing in New York had nothing on me. I threw a complete game and drove in a run in my last game as a Met. Pretty sweet.
36. I was known as a terribly dreadful hitter. Historically dreadful. They didn't get much worse than me at my position. Thus, it was as if the Mets paid tribute to me by not scoring during my last game. I, however, had four hits on my ledger that night.
37. No Met had more hits than I did in my last year as a Met. I got one in my final game, at Montreal, but it didn't rescue me from being traded in the off-season. I wasn't as mobile as I'd once been, so my career took a dive after that. Sometimes I think about who they traded me for and all I can conclude is, “Him? Rich. Very rich.”
38. My specialty was retiring lefthanders. Given that the last batters I faced as a Met (in Houston) were righties, I guess it's no wonder that they I gave up a walk then a hit. I'd hate to think that was what led to the death of my Met career. I was all about the lefties.
39. In two years' time I went from starter to rarely used backup. In the final game in which I donned a Mets uniform, I went 1-for-4 with a triple against no less a pitcher than Steve Carlton.
40. My years with the Mets spanned more than a decade. I could hit even if I wasn't exactly Babe Ruth reincarnated. Nevertheless, I was used only as a defensive replacement in my last game against Chicago before being traded in the middle of the season.
41. I didn't start the season with the Mets, but I did start the final game of my Mets career, going 2-for-4 against the same pitcher off whom Mike Piazza hit a very memorable home run. After I departed the team, I retired.
42. I gave up three hits and no runs in my final Met start, so why did they trade me? Maybe it was to set the stage for an eventual pennant.
43. My performances on the All-Star and World Series stages as a reliever were excellent, but my last appearance as a Met came as a starter. It wasn't too bad either: I threw seven innings of two-hit ball.
44. I did something no Red Sock before me could lay claim to. Yet Boston overlooked my historical contribution to their team and I ended up on the Mets. I got a hit in three at-bats in my final game for them.
Need a study break? Visit Gotham Baseball for some thoughts on why baseball cards never stop being great.