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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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No Zachry, All Draper, Enough Trachsel

You’ve thought it. I’ve thought it. We’ve all thought it if we’ve gone to our share of games at Shea Stadium between 2001 and 2006:

Trachsel’s pitching? I always see Trachsel!

It was rarely thought with enthusiasm.

Now that going to Mets games will presumably no longer carry any threat of Trachselization, at least not in the sense we came to understand it, I felt compelled to explore whether there was any truth to the perception that Steve Trachsel started every time I showed up at Shea.

To be fair I knew the answer was no. I know who has started for the Mets in every single game I’ve ever been to. I write it down. It’s the only player-specific notation I make in The Log, the steno pad I’ve had since high school. In it is page after page detailing the bare-bones essentials of each trip I’ve made to Shea since my first one in 1973: Date, Opponent, Starting Pitcher and Result (W or L and score) in ink; day of week, all-time record vs. opponent, number of starts per pitcher, all-time regular-season record at Shea in lead.

There are other pages devoted to games “elsewhere” and even a page that has managed to fill up with “postseason” info, but they, like the heart of The Log, contain no data pertaining to who might have hit three homers, stolen three bases or racked up his 151st career pinch-hit. That’s for memory and the Internet. But the starting pitcher is inscribed for history’s sake.

Knowing who started a dispiriting Friday night loss to the Padres in 1979 and who started a dispiriting Friday night loss to the Padres in 1996 is certainly one way of distinguishing one dispiriting loss to the Padres from another. (Falcone and Isringhausen, if you were wondering.) Plus, the starting pitcher is the only thing we’re told days in advance. We may assume Jose Reyes will be leading off and playing short when we’re making plans to buy tickets for Wednesday, but nobody lists the probable shortstops. The identity of the centerfielder is never fodder for surefire small talk either. Who’s going tomorrow? Beltran? Cool. But it sticks with me going on three decades that the first time I ever attended a Mets game without adult supervision, the LIRR conductor asked “who’s starting?” and I told him, “Craig Swan,” and I felt very on top of things (even if Swannie wasn’t, losing 3-1 to the Cards).

The only entities that win or lose are the team and a pitcher. Sometimes it’s a reliever, but his identity doesn’t emerge until after the fact and it’s almost never considered flattering. If you’re Billy Wagner, you’re not supposed to lose and you’re rarely permitted to win. If you did, you probably did something wrong. Come to think of it, I have absolutely no idea what Billy Wagner’s won-lost record was last year.

I can tell you with a flip of The Log who I’ve seen start for the Mets more often than anybody else in my 323 regular-season home games. I can tell you who I saw start once and only once. I can give you all the in-betweens as well.

But I wanted to learn a little more than I already knew I had at my fingertips. I wanted to figure out whether my starting-pitching experience has been utterly random or quirkily aberrational or perfectly normal. So in conjunction with The Log, I did a little research and discovered a few fascinating (for the middle of December) facts.

First of all, thanks to Ultimate Mets Database, I now know 217 different pitchers have started Mets games since 1962. I have attended games started by 83 of them, or 38.2% of all Mets starters. Conversely, I didn’t see 134 Mets pitchers throw a game’s first pitch. As my first Mets game came in the franchise’s twelfth season, obviously I missed a lot of pitchers.

The men who started the 13th, 14th and 16th most games in Mets history — Al Jackson, Jack Fisher and Gary Gentry — were all gone by July 11, 1973, my first appearance. Couldn’t do anything about them. This led me to wonder who I didn’t see start, particularly who didn’t start for me when, by all rights, he should have. Was there somebody who was always on his throw day when I had a ticket?

Yes. The Met who started the most games since I’ve been going to games but never started in my presence was somebody I would have preferred had never become a Met, at least via the route he traveled to get here. That would be Pat Zachry. He is No. 17 on the all-time Mets starts list with 113, a somewhat meaningless stat for my purposes since we’re talking only about starts at Shea. Zachry’s key data is the 55 times he started for the Mets at home between 1977 and 1982. In the years he was in the rotation, I went to 20 Mets games. So how is it possible that he and I missed each other every single time?

Zachry was hurt more than I remembered. The most starts he had in any one season as a Met was 26 in 1980, but that was my year to collect my one-and-done markers from Roy Lee Jackson and Mark Bomback. Two years later, I went to games on August 12 and 14, Swan and Mike Scott sandwiching Zachry. Just luck of the draw that I missed him. I did watch him record a win in 1982, but that was in long relief of my sole Charlie Puleo sighting. Only now am I realizing that a pitcher traded to the Mets for Tom Seaver picked up for a pitcher traded from the Mets for Tom Seaver.

No wonder I hold no ill will for Puleo and a ton of it for Pat Zachry.

Whatever the factors, what are the odds I wouldn’t get a single Pat Zachry Mets start? Between 1977 and 1982, I saw Puleo start. I saw Bomback start. I saw Ray Burris start. I saw a prehistoric Terry Leach start. I saw a posteffective Randy Jones start. I saw Dave Roberts and Wayne Twitchell, for crissake. Not that I was really angling for a piece of Pat, but still. I mean, how much luck of the draw is there?

Probability is measured as total number of occurrences of an event divided by total number of trials. Zachry’s Met tenure covered a period when the Mets played 430 home games (accounting for his midseason 1977 arrival — for Seaver — and a 1979 fog-enshrouded tie with Pittsburgh). Given his 55 starts, there was a 12.79% probability that if you went to Shea Stadium between the Seaver trade and the end of ’82, you’d see Zachry start. Hence, I should have seen him start 2.558 of the 20 games I attended.

But I didn’t. Go figure.

Who else escaped The Log? Frank Viola’s shorter if more successful Met term, which included a 20-win season in 1990, ran its course without my bearing witness. He started 41 of the 193 home games the Mets played while he was a Met, or just over 21% (Sweet Music was also durable). I only made it to Shea 8 times between August 1989 and September 1991, the whole of the Viola era. I should have seen him make 1.7 starts. Instead, I got Sid Fernandez thrice, David Cone twice and Bobby Ojeda, Ron Darling and Doc Gooden once each. I’m not complaining.

Likewise, Jason Jacome, Kevin Kobel and Wally Whitehurst slipped through my cracks, even if I had nothing against alliterative initials. I never went out of my way to avoid them but I never made an extra effort to see them. That could describe just about any starting assignment. Sometimes there’s a bit of extra juice in choosing a date — hey, Bill Pulsipher is being called up this Saturday! — but mostly it’s the game first, rotation spinning where it may. When I wasn’t going to that many games in a given year and a pitcher was here only a couple of years, it would figure the occasional Walt Terrell would come and go without me cheering him on in person.

My attendance was quite scattered until the past decade when it picked up dramatically. Since 1997, I’ve been good for an average of 22 games a season, which makes my missing any starters since the late ’90s a little suspicious…especially since there has been such a plethora of starters in the last ten years. I inked most of them in The Log, but not all. Tyler Yates, for example, made four home starts in April and May 2004, months when I was preoccupied enough by non-Mets matters to keep me from Shea (it happens). I went to 29 regular-season home games in 1999, but none of them was the pair that Allen Watson started. To Jeremy Griffiths: It was nothing personal, I swear, that I managed to have other engagements on August 3 and September 1, 2003.

In 2006, as every schoolchild knows, 13 different Met pitchers were entrusted to get things going. Interestingly, nobody was a classic emergency starter — every one of them got at least three shots at starting, with at least two home starts included. The Log tells me I nailed 11 of the 13, with only Jeremi Gonzalez and Brian Bannister eluding my grasp. Barring trades or disasters (or in the case of Gonzalez, a disastrous trade), out of my grasp they shall stay.

That’s mostly who I didn’t see. But who did I see? Like I said, 83 Mets starters. None more than Al Leiter. The Senator leads the list by far with 37 starts between 1998 and 2004 (not counting two starts in the ’99 playoffs, because it’s the playoffs, and his return with the Marlins in 2005, because he was the enemy). Al Leiter and I got to know each other very well. We should have. I was on hand for 36.5% of his Shea starts, nearly two of every five. Since he was in a five-man rotation and missed some starts due to injury here and there, it’s phenomenal how twinned we were.

How phenomenal? The probability of seeing Al Leiter start at Shea from ’98 through ’04 was a tad over 18%. I shouldn’t have seen him start more than 29.37 times. Perhaps he grabbed Watson’s, Griffiths’ and Yates’ turns when I wasn’t paying attention.

Following Leiter are six double-digit stalwarts.

Rick Reed 24

Steve Trachsel 20

Bobby Jones 19

Dwight Gooden 11 (6 in 1993 when the K Korner was kwiet)

Tom Glavine 10

Masato Yoshii 10 (fits right in, eh?)

As alluded to at the top, into every Log a little Trachsel must fall. I don’t think I was inhaling more than my fair share until 2006 when my life became a veritable Trachselpalooza. I saw Steve Trachsel start 6 times in my 22 dates at Shea. Seeing as how 10 other pitchers divided 16 other starts, I don’t understand what that was all about.

In terms of anomalies, Trachsel and 2006 is hardly the sore thumb of The Log. Six starts for one pitcher isn’t even a record, though it is excessive. The most I ever saw one pitcher start in one year was one-year wonder Kevin Appier. Got 9 helpings of Appier in 2001, the only season any was available. I attended a never-to-be-approached-again 38 contests at Shea in ’01, so if somebody was going to pitch, I was going to see him. That included the brief yet ubiquitous tenure of one Bruce Chen. Chen came in late July for Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook. He made 6 starts at Shea. I was there for 5 of them. Apparently, we both signed up for the Tuesday/Friday plan.

Being an integral part of Kevin Appier’s and Bruce Chen’s Mets careers (on hand for 56.3 and 83.3 percent of their respective Shea starts, all in 2001) is, uh, nice, but I’m happier to know I caught 1.5% of Tom Seaver’s lifetime Mets home starts, 0.6% of Jerry Koosman’s (my first game) and 2.2% of Jon Matlack’s (including my first win). I don’t know what to think of making only one of Anthony Young’s 18 Shea starts and that one being the one in which he set the record for consecutive losses by a pitcher starting and/or relieving.

My real badge of honor comes from being a hundred-percenter a half-dozen times. Of the 83 starters in The Log, there are 6 whose every single home start as a Met I observed in the flesh. One of them, Juan Acevedo, made two Mets starts, both at Shea, both in 1997, both with me looking in. Don’t tell Juan the first time I was there was mostly to see the other team’s starter, rarely a motivating factor, but in this case the visitors were the Blue Jays and their pitcher had last pitched against the Mets in 1986 and…oh, all right, it was Roger Clemens. Jeering the Rocket, cheering the Avocado, it was all good; we won.

Of the other five for whom I was 100% behind, three — Twitchell in ’79, Jason Roach in ’03 and the late Cory Lidle in ’97 — made two Mets starts total, but just one each at home. The remaining two hurlers received one lone Mets start apiece. One was recurringly ridiculed 1986 lefty specialist Randy Niemann, pressed into duty by a backlog of August doubleheaders. Niemann made other starts for other teams, so while he was a novelty in ’86, his unusual appearance (he started and won) was not quite akin to that which I was party seven years later.

There was only one New York Mets pitcher who made only one start in his entire Major League career who made it at Shea Stadium in front of me. Talk about probability.

Since 1962, the Mets have played 3,572 regular-season home games. But in only one of them (.0002799%) did this fellow start. Since 1962, the Mets have announced paid regular-season home attendance of 88,836,858. But only 27,904 (.0003141%) can say they held a ticket for the Saturday afternoon makeup doubleheader of August 7, 1993 and, take it from me, only a fraction of them can say they a) showed up and b) stuck around for the nightcap. Those of us who did can say they witnessed the only start by one Michael Anthony Draper.

Yes, I saw normally neglected Rule V middleman Mike Draper’s only Major League start. Filling in for a bleached-out, bum-kneed Bret Saberhagen, Draper lasted three innings, gave up three runs, all earned, on five hits and three walks. Down 3-0 with one out in the bottom of the third, Dallas Green sent up Tim Bogar to pinch-hit for him. The Mets would take him off the hook with three that inning and eventually win the game 10-8, another Michael (Maddux) grabbing his first Met win and another Anthony (Young) notching his last Met save. It was Draper’s final Major League appearance. He was DL’d August 13 with a bad elbow and elbowed out of the organization at the end of September, unconditionally released and likely forgotten by everybody but me and Boogie.

Boogie?

Almost exactly a year after his one and only Major League start, Stephanie and I were in a faux Fifties diner, Boogie’s, in Chicago (it couldn’t be real Fifties — it was 1994). On the wall above the cash register, there were maybe a dozen plates signed by local and national celebrities. Many were sports stars or at least participants. One toward the end of the row required a double-, triple-, quadruple-take to confirm it didn’t say Mike Ditka. It didn’t. It was autographed by 1993 Met Mike Draper. It probably said best of luck.

Which was quite generous of Mike, given that his luck of the draw had yielded him just the one start.

19 comments to No Zachry, All Draper, Enough Trachsel

  • Anonymous

    I know the feeling… I went to eight mets games last year, and by my count, I saw glavine pitch six times (with el duque and pedro rounding out the eight)…
    Twice at Shea (including NLCS game 1)
    Twice here in Philly
    Once in Boston
    Once in Atlanta
    By the end of it my fiancee and I felt like glavine groupies. still, it was probably better than seeing trachsel… never got to see maine in person, though, and that was a shame.
    anyway greg, hope all is well with you and yours.

  • Anonymous

    Saw Maine twice in the regular season but three times in the playoffs. That's unprecedented.
    The Mets' all-time record in my Trachsel starts: 10-10, including 3-3 last year. I just looked it up, but honestly, I could have predicted there'd be a nice big .500 attached to his even-Steven pitching personality.

  • Anonymous

    Greg, you should be thrilled you got to see all those Trachsel games. Think of it in these ways:
    1. Economically- each Trachsel game takes much longer to complete due to his ability to squeeze every available bit of energy out of every at bat. Therefore, the game lasts longer and your ticket cost basis per inning goes down.
    2. Psychologically- in addition to each at bat being longer, they FEEL even longer and more painful than a normal at bat, allowing you to spend more time considering each and every muscle movement in minute detail.
    3. Emotionally- each inning than finally passes without giving up a run is much more emotionally satisfying because of the kidneystone-like passing you had to get through to get there. Sure, one-two-three strikes you're out has it's charms but feeling exhausted in the second inning because there have already been 5 LOBs is priceless.
    So you should enjoy each Trachsel outing the same way I enjoy golf. I've played with many a geezer who hits each drive dead center and 200 yrds, while I hit mine 250 yards; 175 straight and 75 to the right. The geezer spends his whole day on short, manicured grass in the middle of a man-made oasis. I spend most of my time exploring the untrampled depths of the edges of the course, the areas the designer doesn't even know about. I see wildlife and beauty only imagined from the fairway. Then I get to hit shots from rocks, off cactuses, in snakes dens, etc. that the geezer hasn't seen in 30 years. In the end the geezer shoots a 90 and I shoot a 125. On paper he would appear to be the winner but who had the richer experience?? Who played MORE golf?? Who didn't have to wait for some moron chop to find his ball every g-damn hole, only to lose it again over the green?? I think you'll see that I'm right.
    So cherish your Trachsel time, my friend…at least it wasn't Lima Time…
    Joel

  • Anonymous

    “Al Jackson, Jack Fisher and Gary Gentry — were all gone by July 11, 1973, my first appearance. Couldn't do anything about them”
    Greg, don't despare. I saw each of them start once; Jackson in 1962 (the first Met shutout), Fisher in 1965 (rookie Ron Swoboda belting two home runs) and Gentry in 1969 (the 1-0 gem against San Francisco that went 14 innings), however, I also saw Fisher pitch against Pittsburgh on June 27, 1967 when they filmed “The Odd Couple” at Shea. Does that count as two?

  • Anonymous

    Good point. I'm still enjoying a Trachsel start from 2002.
    One Lima start in The Log. It lacked zazz, too.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like you have it covered.

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately for me, I actually saw Jose Lima pitch in a game this year. It was funny though – I considered it a game I could get drunk at. Stupid falling down drunk.
    I also saw Pelfrey pitch his first game and Oh-Pea, who was erratic but electrifying.
    But I've seen Trashball pitch more than I care to admit to. But I was at the game he was the anti-Trachsel, at the NL East clincher.

  • Anonymous

    “Stupid falling down drunk” sounds about right for Lima Time.

  • Anonymous

    Greg, you can add a total of 18 more of the list between us. The 15 others include:
    1962: Sherman Jones, Robert L. Miller
    1963 – 1964: Tracy Stallard
    1965: Galen Cisco
    1966: Bob Shaw
    1967: Dennis Bennet, Bill Denehy,
    1967 – 1971: Don Cardwell
    1968: Dan Friscella
    1969: Jack DiLauro , Jim McAndrew, Tug McGraw
    1971: Nolan Ryan, Ray Sadeki, Charlie Williams
    That means we have personally seen 101 of the 217 pitchers who ever started for the Mets (nearly half) with me pinch hitting the first decade (true, overall it's you who has seen about 95% of those 101 starters). Am sure every starter I've seen since 1972 you've also witnessed.
    If you took a poll of your readers bet that group figure could rise to maybe 75 or 80 percent!

  • Anonymous

    DiLauro…nice. He only made two Shea starts.
    Bill Denehy had a bright future. At least in terms of what he brought us.

  • Anonymous

    In 1967 Denehy, Don Shaw and Tom Seaver were considered hot rookie prospects and competed for the fourth stater among an otherwise veteran rotation consisting of Jack Fischer, Bob Shaw and Don Cardwell. I think we know who won the job and quickly got promoted to number one.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, Greg, Wow.
    I am real jealous! Not of your stats, per se, but that you have a record of your Mets record like that. I'd love to be able to dig through a notebook and pull out nuggets like that.
    Fantastic.
    -Mike V
    transplanted mets fan

  • Anonymous

    “a 1979 fog-enshrouded tie with Pittsburgh”
    Once again, a throwaway line brings back a vivid memory.
    Some Met (Joel Youngblood?) hits a routine fly ball. The Pirates outfielder loses it in the fog, throws his arms up in despair, and it goes for a triple. I think that was the hit that tied the game and convinced the umps to call for the only fog delay I've ever seen.
    I can remember staying up late with my mother, hoping they would restart the game so we could drive in that winning run, but the game was eventually called.
    But….CitiField will probably have giant anti-fog fans to ensure we never get cheated out of a win that way again.

  • Anonymous

    Future Met hitting coach Bill Robinson was the beleaguered Pirate outfielder. A triple and they took our chance to win away from us…figures.
    That was my thought then and that is my thought now.

  • Anonymous

    This column made me feel good, and actually lucky, about having seen such luminaries as John Thomson and Dicky Gonzalez.
    And Jacomenia is runnin' wild, Brother.

  • Anonymous

    Thomson (5 Shea, 3 Greg) and Gonzalez (1 for 2) had mini-Chen things goin' on. Also, I'm in on the ground floor of the Age of Dave Williams: three starts at home, two with me yelling “C'MON DAVE!”
    Jacomenia: A sure thing…or so we thought.

  • Anonymous

    I don't ever count anything, but I'd put money on Rick Reed as my all-time stalwart as well. ;-)

  • Anonymous

    I'm sure I didn't attend as many games as some of you. I think I got to 4 this year. In past years, the number has been anywhere from 2 to 20.
    But I think I must be the only person who never saw Piazza hit a home run while in attendance but yet saw Al Leiter triple and Tom Seaver hit a home run.
    I also was in Seattle for a tech conference many years back and stopped in at possibly what was the ugliest building ever to house baseball (the Kingdome) for what was supposed to be a boring, ill attended matchup between the Tigers and the Mariners.
    It turned out to be Randy Johnson's first ever no-hitter.
    Of all the frickin' dumb luck.
    JoAnn

  • Anonymous

    I'm just happy to have been there for Mike's last HR as a Met. By myself (as usual) in a largely empty Upper Deck (as usual) and that sucker landed in the parking lot. No question, from the second it hit the bat, where it was headed. I screamed “WHOAAAAAAAAAAA” as it soared.
    Greatest… Met… ever. And now I have to go to Skank Friggin' Stadium to see him. That oughta be… fun. >:-(