It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.
It is the Mets Final Exam. It asks you on Halloween to see through the secret identities of 44 Mets who played their final game for the Mets in one of the 44 different seasons the Mets have played, one player per each Mets season. It chooses Election Day to unmask them and show you who they really are. Infer what you will about the timing.
This heartbreaking quiz had its share of pain for the administrator who admittedly slipped, slid and stumbled on five separate questions, twice tripping up on detail, twice not properly clarifying his clues and once out-and-out giving you the wrong question (which has since been simultaneously replaced and reborn as a bonus query). I thank the readers who pointed out my foibles and continued to take the test despite my chipped credibility.
I wanted this to be hard, but after a couple of days I had a hunch that it was too hard, so in the great tradition of Cablevision's public access channels at Regents time, I offered Extra Help. I have to admit I had gone from “oh boy, they'll never get this one” to “oh no, they'll never get this one” and I began to feel kind of bad about that. There's a dark side to me, an ugly sliver of my disposition that wants you to know I know something you don't know. But my ultimate joy is in sharing that piece of data so we both end up knowing it and can talk about it 'til we're blue and orange in the face. (I like learning stuff, too, so feel free to stump me and show me up.) I would never keep baseball secrets from my fellow Mets fans. Not for more than a week and change anyway.
Time's up, fellas. Drop your masks and reveal yourselves.
WHO I AM
1. Given my gang-member background, I was thought to be a dangerous dude to have around two other young African-American players, so I was traded after I helped the Mets win a World Series. Though I got no hits in the final game, I made its existence possible with a big hit in the tenth inning of the previous game, Game Six. According to legend, I got that hit while wearing nothing underneath my uniform pants (I allegedly gave up on the season and was back in the clubhouse making plane reservations home). I'd later win an MVP award for another team while the teammates I had to be separated from — Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden — found other influences. My name is Kevin Mitchell and my final game as a Met came on October 27, 1986.
2. I came to the Mets in a loud deal that involved multiple players and a guy who would win a big award, the National League MVP of 1989. And I left the Mets in a loud deal involving multiple players and a guy who won a big award, the American League Cy Young of 1985 and 1989. But eventually I came back in a manner befitting my personality: practically mum. A players' strike curtailed my last season and I doubt anybody noticed that I didn't return when play resumed. My name is Kevin McReynolds and my final game as a Met came on August 11, 1994.
3. My best years as a Met came early in the club's existence. I came back for another go-round that ended just as things were getting good. By the end of that particular season, I was second to Tom Seaver on the all-time Met victory list with 43 wins. My name is Al Jackson and my final game as a Met came on May 22, 1969.
4. I was at my best in the mid-'70s, winning a Cy Young Award in 1976 and finishing second in the voting to Tom Seaver in 1975. The Mets waited several years after my peak to acquire me. My name is Randy Jones and my final game as a Met came on September 7, 1982.
5. Though Hall of Famers like Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk had the privilege of catching Tom Seaver, it was I who caught him more than anybody. If you were filling in your scorecard when The Franchise started, he was 1 and I, more than any other receiver, was 2. My name is Jerry Grote and my final game as a Met came on August 23, 1977.
6. My first start in the Major Leagues was the same night the Mets honored their Hall of Fame broadcaster, Bob Murphy, on the occasion of his final game. My brother Tom was thrilled to find me at first because he was pitching. It was like we were kids again! And though I was the starting first-sacker, the guy who finished the night at that position — though I'd hardly call him my caddy — was none other than Mike Piazza. My career ended three days later, but it was a memorable ride. My name is Mike Glavine and my final game as a Met came on September 28, 2003.
7. I pitched for the Tigers before they won the World Series. Detroit was the first of nine Major League stops for me. The Mets were my last, a good seven years after I won the National League Cy Young Award and set a record for most appearances (106) in one season. My name is Mike Marshall and my final game as a Met came on October 2, 1981.
8. In many ways, my career parallels that of all-time Mets great Jerry Koosman. But my big years were 1968, when I went 3-0 in the World Series despite laboring in the shadow of Denny McLain, and 1971, when I lost the American League Cy Young Award to Vida Blue. I'm yet another pitcher who the Mets picked up when he was past his prime, though I mostly pitched in hard luck, going 8-13 but with a decent (for then) 3.22 ERA. The Mets got me in exchange for Rusty Staub, who'd become best remembered as a pinch-hitter deluxe. When Rusty came back to the Mets (I was long retired by then), he wore two batting gloves but rarely a fielder's mitt. My name is Mickey Lolich and my final game as a Met came on September 20, 1976.
9. I wasn't a Met for very long. I was only with New York — essentially rented from the Angels at the end of my contract — because Ron Darling had gotten hurt against St. Louis and we were short a starter. In my brief Met tenure, I went 2-0 with a 5.84 ERA. My name is John Candelaria and my final game as a Met came on September 28, 1987.
10. Yes, I gave up a double to Frank Robinson that scored Pete Rose and Vada Pinson in the middle of very important pennant race game for their team, the Reds. (Can you believe Robinson is managing all these years later?) I'm better known for surrendering a home run to Roger Maris at Yankee Stadium in 1961. It was his 61st. My name is Tracy Stallard and my final game as a Met came on September 27, 1964.
BONUS: I used to be the answer to Question No. 10 before Greg realized that what he thought was my final game as a Met was really just the final game of my first tour of duty with the Mets. Too bad, because in that game, I beat the Houston Colt 45s and — get this — Don Larsen, 3-0. That's beautiful because my nickname was The Yankee Killer (derived from my success as a Tiger) and I defeated the man who threw a perfect game for the Yanks in the 1956 World Series. If Interleague play had been around when I played, I'll bet Mets fans would've adored me. As it was, I was traded to the Braves about a week after I beat Larsen. My name is Frank Lary and what Greg thought was my final game as a Met came on July 31, 1964. The Mets got me back in 1965 and traded me in mid-season to the White Sox where I finished up. I can't be the answer for 1964 and I'm not the answer for 1965, so never mind.
11. In 1965, which was Casey Stengel's last year of managing the Mets, he said something really nice about Ed Kranepool, that he was 20, but in ten years he had a chance to be a star. Casey couldn't just leave it that. Referring to me, the skipper added that I was 20 and in ten years I'd have a chance to be 30. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Case (and by the way, I was 19 when you said that). Still, I hung around the Mets for a few more years before catching on with the expansion Pilots. In 1975, I got to where Casey always said I would. I turned 30. My name is Greg Goossen and my final game as a Met came on July 16, 1968.
12. I may have finished as the Mets' second baseman, but I played a good year-and-a-half at third. The promotion of David Wright rendered my services unnecessary. My name is Ty Wigginton, and my final game as a Met came on July 29, 2004.
13. If Mets fans remember me, they'll remember me for two things. One, the Mets almost never scored for me, particularly in 1968 when we were shut out in five of my first seven starts. And two, I hailed from one of the most unusually named hometowns in America: Lost Nation, Iowa. My name is Jim McAndrew and my final game as a Met came on September 15, 1973.
14. To be fair, the Mets didn't just get some kid in exchange for me — they got The Kid. It's the only reason you'd trade a player who came up and hit .407 as a September callup, don'tcha think? Alas, I went with Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald and Floyd Youmans to Montreal for Gary Carter. My name is Herm Winningham and my final game as a Met came on September 30, 1984.
15. I'm known for a lot of things in baseball, my playing career as a Met not being one of things I'm most not remembered for. I was retired as a player for a full year before joining the Mets. My on-field comeback was short on length (all of four games), something else that's little-remembered by those with a long memory. Perhaps I'm most famous for declaring that there are various degrees of finality befitting a situation that looks hopeless but still appears to have some hope when you look at it. So when I say “it was over,” I mean it. Because, you see, it was me who told the world that it ain't over 'til it's over. My name is Yogi Berra and my final game as a Met came on May 9, 1965.
16. When I broke my left wrist sliding toward second against the Cubs, it ended my Met career, one that had been promising (got three hits my first night and the Mets got themselves a division title) and intermittently productive. I played both first and third as a Met, finding a home, I thought, at first, until the front office brought in future Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. Then I found myself back at third. Anyway, I was more a hitter (.328 one year) than a fielder. Then I was no longer a Met. I enjoyed nine more seasons with six other teams before hanging 'em up in 2001. My name is Dave Magadan and my final game as a Met came on August 8, 1992.
17. My whole Met career was weird, but right away I helped the team get to the playoffs, hitting .315 in the process, so I was allowed my idiosyncrasies for a while. It was my second year when things really went sour. On a Friday night against the Marlins, I hit a ball to deep left. I thought it was gone, so I went into a trot. Instead, it bounced off the base of the wall and I was held to a very long single. The manager and the GM had seen enough. I only got into the next afternoon's game because the Mets were running out of players (they used a pitcher to pinch-hit that day). When my plaque goes up in Cooperstown, this incident will not be engraved. My name is Rickey Henderson, and my final game as a Met came on May 13, 2000.
18. If you've read Jane Leavy's biography of Sandy Koufax (and if you haven't, you should — it's probably the best baseball biography of recent years), you'll know she weaves the story of Koufax's life around the narrative of Sandy's best outing, his perfect game of September 9, 1965. I was the opposing pitcher on that occasion and I threw my greatest game: a complete game one-hitter. The only run I gave up was unearned. I wasn't perfect. He was. I was a Cub then. Two years later, I'd end my career as a Met. My name is Bob Hendley and my final game as a Met came on September 3, 1967.
19. Not unlike Johnny Cash, I've been everywhere, man. I've been with San Diego, Cleveland, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Boston, Arizona, Long Island and a team in Japan. Some of those organizations dumped me before I could play a game that counted for them. My most recent stop was with Washington where as a National I had evolved into a reliable pinch-hitter and occasional cleanup hitter of all things. And of course I was once a Met. For them, I had a bad last day. Shoot, we all had a bad last week, losing five in a row and blowing our grip on the National League Wild Card. My name is Carlos Baerga and my final game as a Met came on September 27, 1998.
20. The Chicago White Sox led the Los Angeles Angels three games to one when the Halos handed me the ball for Game Five of the 2005 American League Championship Series. I won Game One for them, but Game Five didn't go as well and we lost the pennant. Still, I had come a long way since my generally undistinguished Met tenure. My name is Paul Byrd and my final game as a Met came on September 29, 1996.
21. The Mets were teetering on the edge of contention extinction when they traded a starting outfielder to get me for an unlikely Wild Card push. It didn't work out. Later on, I'd go to their nemesis, the Braves, and I would work out great for them. So what else is new? My name is John Thomson and my final game as a Met came on September 27, 2002.
22. Technically, I'm not an ex-Met yet, but considering that a) they took on the final year of my contract only to get rid of one they wanted even less, b) I was diagnosed with a serious injury that curtailed my season to three appearances and c) I've been suspended for steroid use, I don't expect to be back. My name is Felix Heredia and my final game as a Met all but certainly came on April 18, 2005.
23. The guy I was traded for had 8 inches and 151 Met home runs on me, so, no, I didn't measure up. Yet in the scheme of things, Mets fans will almost certainly manage to remember me more fondly (or at least more strongly) than they do Dave Kingman. My name is Bobby Valentine and my final game as a Met came on September 29, 1978.
24. You know why my last Mets' pitching appearance was so darn representative of all my Mets pitching appearances? Because it was my only Mets pitching appearance. I was extremely versatile my one year as a Met, playing second, short and third…and even pitching once when we were hopelessly behind. Unlike the other Met position players to trudge to the mound (Bill Pecota, Matt Franco, Derek Bell and Todd Zeile), I delivered the goods. Three up, three down, baby. My name is Desi Relaford and my final game as a Met came on October 7, 2001.
25. I wasn't Tug McGraw but I was traded for Tug McGraw. We were the lefty relievers who swapped sides in the six-player deal that also brought the Mets John Stearns and Del Unser. Considering that the Mets gave up their one of their most legendary characters and greatest pitchers to get me, you'd figure they'd give me more than one batter to prove myself, but that was it. I gave up a game-winning hit to Richie Hebner and next thing I knew, I was traded to Cincinnati for Tom Hall. Ya gotta believe my Met appearances weren't plentiful. My name is Mac Scarce and my final game as a Met came on April 11, 1975.
26. Yeah, I was quite the winner, playing for seven division champions in nine years before being traded to a Mets team that had no shot with or without me. Playing in New York reminded me of my offseason job, which was digging graves. With my attitude and generally crummy play, I suppose I dug my own grave with the Mets. Whatever. I just wanted out. My name is Richie Hebner and my final game as a Met came on September 30, 1979.
27. I know what you're thinking: Bud Harrelson. No doubt about it, Bud Harrelson wore No. 3 with more distinction than any Met ever has. But I didn't say I wore that number, I just said it was what I was synonymous with. I suppose Jim Hickman, Dave Kingman, Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry and Edgardo Alfonzo might claim that, too, but they probably did other things as a Met besides hit three home runs in one game. Honestly, that's all I can remember doing for the team. My name is Claudell Washington and my final game as a Met came on October 3, 1980.
28. My dossier sounds a bit like Harrelson's, except Buddy went 0-for-2 in his last game. Sounds a bit like Rey Ordoñez, too, but Rey never made the All-Stars or got to the Series (and he was more annoying than feisty). My biggest years were with the Phillies, but I ended my playing days as a spare part for a Mets team that just missed the playoffs. I recently took a job with the Yankees, so there's even less reason to remember me as a Met. My name is Larry Bowa and my final game as a Met came on October 6, 1985.
29. Greg was so anxious to confuse you that he initially made me sound a lot like Kenny Rogers. Kenny, however, wasn't traded after giving up a very important run in a very important game against the Braves; he left as a free agent. And unlike Rogers, who was tagged with a loss in the sixth game of the 1999 NLCS, I was credited with the win in the fifth game, the one know better for Robin Ventura's grand slam single. What's sort of forgotten is I allowed the Braves to take the lead in the top of the fifteenth inning. At least I didn't give up anything else in my three innings of work, putting the Mets in a decent position to stage their miracle resurrection (is there any other kind?). Some people think I should've pitched again for the Mets, in the eleventh inning of Game Six instead of Kenny. Some people are saying that I might pitch for the Mets in 2006, but until that happens, that Game Five was my Met farewell. My name is Octavio Dotel and my final game as a Met came on October 17, 1999.
30. I was voted the most popular player on the worst team in history. Yea for me! Seriously, I was awarded a nice boat for my troubles. Of course I lived in Nebraska nowhere near water. Typical. No wonder I retired as soon as my one and only Met season was over. My name is Richie Ashburn and my final game as a Met came on September 30, 1962.
31. In all the excitement over Mookie Wilson's ground ball trickling through Bill Buckner's legs and scoring Ray Knight, it's easy to forget that there was a winning pitcher in Game Six of the 1986 World Series. That was me, despite giving up the two runs that made the bottom of the tenth such a desperate situation. I was usually a starter back then but was pitching in relief that night. I'd eventually become one of the best relievers in baseball, but was still getting the hang of that role at the end of my Met tenure. Things got better for me in Minnesota. My name is Rick Aguilera and my final game as a Met came on July 30, 1989.
32. Bringing up Joe Torre was meant to throw you off track. Because he's been such an icon of sanctimonious hegemony over the past decade, it's easy to forget he had a very long playing career. While it's true that Torre hit two homers and drove in three runs for the Braves on my last day with the Mets, I wanted words like “derailed” and “express” (and “off track” just now) to guide you. In addition to pointing you toward my nickname, I want you to know now that I didn't want you to know what I was thinking when I was playing, because, really, that's what I was most famous for: not saying anything worth a darn. None other than Ralph Kiner still likes to tell the story of how I came on his show and told him nothing. He asked me where I got my unusual nickname and I told him I didn't know. He asked my wife's name and “what's she like?” I told him, “her name's Mrs. Coleman, bub, and she likes me.” If you know your early Mets, you've figured me out because, for once, I've told you too much. My name is Choo Choo Coleman and my final game as a Met came on April 23, 1966.
33. Joe Torre had gone from the Braves to the Cardinals and was in the process of winning an MVP the night the Mets last used me to pitch. Nearly eight months later they used me for something bigger. When I asked you, “hey, what can I say?” I was hoping you'd put together “say” and “hey”. Then you'd understand that I was traded for the greatest player in the history of the National League. Imagine that: me (and a bundle of cash) for Willie Mays. I still can't believe it. My name is Charlie Williams and my final game as a Met came on September 27, 1971.
34. Those who absorb such things will remember me for dating the lead singer of a pop group whose hits included “Turn To You,” “We Got The Beat” and “Vacation”. Yes, I went out with Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go's when they were hitting it big. Hitting it big…not something I did as a Met. No wonder Mets fans eventually went head over heels for Dave Magadan instead of me. My name is Mike Marshall and my final game as a Met came on July 12, 1990.
35. Granted, they named a candy bar after Reggie Jackson (1978) long before I made my Major League debut (1991), but I had a candy bar named after me (1917) long before I was born (1968). More saliently, I threw my only complete game of the season the day before I was traded in a six-player deal. My name is Mark Clark and final game as a Met came on August 7, 1997.
36. I collected six hits…as a batter…in my career. Those four hits I mentioned? Those were hits I gave up as a pitcher. Sorry if I misled you. If you were another pitcher, I would've been nicer to you. Those six hits came in 206 at-bats. That left me with a career batting average of .029. Yes, .029. That's the worst Major League batting average by any player with more than 100 plate appearances. Some time ago, I told the Scripps Howard News Service that such offensive lameness at least made me a better bunter. Wearing my trademark specs, I could at least see the sunny side of things. Incidentally, I never came to the plate as a Met but did go 2-2 in 12 relief appearances. My name is Ron Herbel and my final game as a Met came on September 30, 1970.
37. You probably know me for a number of things in Mets history. I rescued the team in one very famous game. Took a dive, but in an extremely fortuitous way. Mobile? I could run and I was from there. I also carry the distinction, if you want to call it that, of being the only Met to lead the team in base hits for a season with a total under 100. To be fair, we all missed a lot of time due to injuries that year, but even the severely strike-shortened seasons of '81 and '94 saw a Met get a hundred hits. Accumulating the least-most safeties is no way to stay safe from a trade, apparently, because the next thing I knew, despite all I did for this organization, I was sent to Houston for somebody named Rich Chiles. Fame isn't just fleeting. It's mobile. My name is Tommie Agee and my final game as a Met came on October 4, 1972.
38. Know why Mets fans are so suspicious of guys their front office trades for? It's because of guys like me and how my credentials get overblown. When I came over as part of a multiplayer swap, I was by no means the key component, but somebody — Joe McIlvane, I think — felt compelled to tell the press that I was “death on lefthanders”. That was incorrect. I was lefthanded and I was death to the Mets' chances of getting out of any inning I pitched in relief. In portions of the two seasons I was with New York, I allowed more than one of every three batters I faced to reach base. Does that sound like death on anybody? If McIlvane or Frank Cashen or whoever had said, “the Padres threw this guy in and we took him,” maybe I'd be remembered merely as a non-entity instead of as a symbol of raging bullpen ineptitude. My name is Gene Walter and my final game as a Met came on July 9, 1988.
39. Truth is I was a starter for only one of my six full Met seasons and it was only because the guy I was always behind was hurt. I batted .231 during my big opportunity and wound up back on the bench. Bench…as a hitter, there's somebody I'll never be mistaken for. But my thing was catching, and I did that for a long time with four different teams. My name is Duffy Dyer and my final game as a Met came on October 2, 1974.
40. Perhaps you've noticed that the Mets don't keep too many players around for more than a decade. But my Mets service spanned three decades. The trick is to 1) Come up late in one decade; 2) Hang on into a second decade; 3) Get traded and blossom elsewhere; 4) Get reacquired by the Mets on the downside of your career and the beginning of a third decade. That's more or less my story. Eventually, I lost all meaningful playing time to a big lummox at a position where I fielded really well. Because of him and his occasional home runs, I didn't get a single start my last year with the Mets. Then me and him were both deemed obsolete when the Mets got a first baseman who could field and hit. I caddied for Dave Kingman, was bumped by Keith Hernandez but can claim something neither of them can — a kinship with Babe Ruth. I was born the same day he died. My name is Mike Jorgensen and my final game as a Met came on June 14, 1983.
41. Terry Mulholland's been around forever. He gave up that home run to Piazza that capped the ten-run inning in 2000 but he was also pitching when I was playing and I was done before Mike ever made the big leagues. My career stretches back to the '70s. That's when people were predicting all-time greatness for me. I played really well (long before I became a Met, natch), but my reputation took a downturn after I took great offense at being named an All-Star reserve. I deserved to be the starting shortstop and made no bones about it. “If I ain't startin',” you might remember me saying, “I ain't departin'.” My name is Garry Templeton and my final game as a Met came on October 5, 1991.
42. I was traded for two guys, see? One of them, a minor leaguer who never made it to the bigs, got traded a few years later and helped bring back two guys. One of them became a Mets mainstay, playing a large role when they made the World Series in 2000; the other was packaged by the Mets for a player you could say the same thing about. The other guy I was traded for was a pitcher who didn't do all that much for the Mets, and he was traded for yet another guy about whom you could say the same thing. That guy went in a deal that brought over two more players. One of them was part of the Mets' 2000 National League championship edition. The other? He was traded for a guy who was traded for a guy who was also part of that 2000 club. So thanks to me, you eventually got Armando Benitez, Mike Hampton, Darryl Hamilton and Joe McEwing, 16% of a pennant-winning roster. Of course you had to launder (among others) Arnold Gooch, Roger Cedeño, Juan Acevedo, Rigo Beltran, Chuck McElroy and good ol' Jesse Orosco to get them. Did I say launder? That's funny. As a Met, I developed a peculiar attraction to bleach. My name is Bret Saberhagen and my final game as a Met came on July 29, 1995.
43. If the only times you ever saw me pitch were in the All-Star Game, you'd think of me as quite a reliever. I made two such squads and pitched out of the pen both times. Never gave up a run and even got a save. And if the only time you saw me pitch was in the World Series, you'd know me as a lights-out middleman. I turned around the deciding game of the Fall Classic one year with 2-1/3 innings of virtually spotless work. But if you're a Mets fan, you know that those were bullpen cameos and that I was a member of the Mets rotation for most of ten seasons. My name is Sid Fernandez and my final game as a Met came on October 2, 1993.
44. By making the final putout of the 2004 World Series, Doug Mientkiewicz did something a Red Sock hadn't done in more than eight decades. But it had been done. What I did, though…that was a first for the Red Sox, though it's hardly to their credit. Boston was the final team to add an African-American player to its roster. According to one account, “irate fans paraded around Fenway Park for three days protesting the Red Sox' refusal to bring [me] up from the minors.” Did you know they waited more than 12 years after Jackie Robinson made his debut with Brooklyn to give a black man a chance? That black man was indeed me. On July 21, 1959, I became the first African-American to play for the Red Sox. Unfortunately, my career was no match for that of Jackie Robinson or Jackie Jensen or Jackie Gleason even (a slight exaggeration; I hit .246 across parts of five seasons). When I finally made it to the big leagues, I was said to have “disappointed even [my] most ardent supporters by being unable to either hit Major League pitching or field Major League hitting.” I compounded those shortcomings by demonstrating an inability to travel with my Major League team. Gene Conley and I hopped off the team bus while the Red Sox were stuck in New York traffic in 1962 and went AWOL. We had a plan to board a flight to Israel, but that went awry and, to put it in a nutshell, I wasn't long for Boston. They traded me thereafter to a team that had just lost 120 games, the Mets. In Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?, Jimmy Breslin suggested that “anybody who does not stand up and root for [me], and root hard, simply has no taste for the good life.” My name is Pumpsie Green and my final game as a Met came on September 26, 1963.