On my bookshelves you'll find a fairly random assortment of Met media guides from various years. (I don't bother with them much anymore because all this stuff is now online.) The other night I was looking through an old one in search of biographical information about the immortal Brian Ostrosser (don't ask) and was surprised by how thoroughly the tone of these things has changed.
Sure, recent media guides still have some of the goofy features of media guides since time immemorial: And the Name Is…, Mets/Shea Stadium Firsts, Road Hotels, Last Time That X Happened, For the Cycle, Mets Triple Plays, Last Trade With, Mets Who Played for Yankees, etc. But the bios? Well, they're a bit different.
Here are some musings about Roger Cedeno, from the 2002 media guide: His wife is named Thais, his daughter is Michele. In 2001 he led the Tigers with 41 multi-hit games and registered a career-high 48 RBIs. In 1999 he led the Mets with nine outfield assists. In 1997 he hit in a then career-best 10 consecutive games. In 1994 his .321 average was the fifth-highest in the Dodger organization. In 1993 he was the youngest player to play in the Texas League since Bobby Tolan. His brother Nolys Solarte played in the Pirates' organization. He donated $10,000 to charity after 9/11.
Yawn. You get the idea — cherrypicked positives. The only hint of something less than ideal is a mysterious note from 2001: Did not play the final 19 games of the season (manager's decision).
Now, let's look at the much-thinner, not-so-glossy 1975 Press-Radio-TV Guide. It's impossible to miss the generational oddities, like the eight scheduled doubleheaders or the need to note on the schedule that certain games are televised (TV) and others are night games (N). But just wait.
There's the rather odd-sounding biography of Yogi Berra, described at various points as “the fire-pluggish open-faced son of Italian immigrants,” “the piano-legged paisan” and “the shy recruit whose face has been likened to a fallen souffle”. Oh, and that bio opens with this: “The fortunes of Yogi Berra represented a series of emotional peaks and valleys in fateful 1972. There was January's joy, generated by Destiny's touch of immortality, and April's anguish and appreciation, stoked alternately by the hands of tragedy and opportunity.” Whew! (Apparently that's the work of Harold Weissman and Matt Winick, who seem to have been paid by the eye-roll.)
Now, some tidbits that the media guide saw fit to include in scouting reports on the players who wanted to be Mets in 1975:
Bob Apodaca: “Completely ignored in 1968 draft following conversion from third baseman at Cerritos Junior College (where coach decided he 'couldn't hit or run good enough to be an infielder'); subsequently transferred to California State.”
Benny Ayala: “after hitting safely in first four games he steadily lost ground and confidence; and powerful, compact swing that fascinated Yogi Berra and Rube Walker during winter tour had vanished.”
Gene Clines: ” 'Super Sub' label failed to placate one-time Bay Area wunderkind who openly voiced displeasure over frustrating inability to win full time status … Brightest stat of 1974 campaign, dimmed by request to be traded, was 14 steals in 16 attempts”
Wayne Garrett: “One of few positives of negative 1970 that followed Met Miracle”
Bud Harrelson: “1974 wasn't a total loss. … One of few bright spots to penetrate gloom of 1970” (Jeez, you can't win every year!)
Felix Millan: “Soft-spoken Beau Brummel of Mets”
Rich Puig: “Personable youngster has yet to live up to billing as 'one of the organization's better hitting prospects,' or to develop in manner that attracted the attention of pro scouts when he was 14 … accompanied Mets to Japan, but limited to three pinch-hit appearances because of intestinal infection which was cleared up before tour's end.”
Rusty Staub: “Spent most disciplined culinary winter of career in determined effort to regain heralded form”
Joe Torre: “Swarthy local product”
Hank Webb: “Opportunity, afforded by fascination with 'one of organization's liveliest arms,' has been there for three years, but indifference last season continued to represent the distance separating free-spirited local product from predicted major league stardom; hopes are renewed now that responsibility of post-season marriage will help close tantalizing gap”
They don't make 'em like they used to. Sometimes that's not a bad thing.