52: Tuesday, June 10 vs Diamondbacks
It is the dream, ladies and gentlemen, of every kid who has ever tossed a ball or swung a bat to put on a big-league uniform. Tonight we honor two boys who grew up to do just that…even if they never got to toss a ball or swing a bat in a big-league game.
They were Mets, in a sense. They were called up to the club, put on the roster and issued a number. They indeed, as the saying goes, came to play. But for whatever reason they made it into a game, either as a Met or for any other Major League team. As a result, their record in the bigs is nonexistent.
It's too late to do anything about that circumstance, but we can, at the very least, announce them as they might have been announced at Shea Stadium had they been penciled into a lineup or at least sent in to pinch-hit.
Your attention please, catcher for the New York Mets, number 22, called up in 1972 from Tidewater, Billy Cotton.
Your attention please, first baseman for the New York Mets, number 21, called up in 1992 from Tidewater, Terrel Hansen.
Billy and Terrel were here for such a brief time, they probably carried away nothing but a scant memory of Shea Stadium. Tonight, we want them to have more than that. Longtime equipment manager Charlie Samuels, who will be escorting our pair of almost-Mets down the right field line to remove number 52 from the wall, will first present each man with a uniform with his own originally issued number to commemorate the dreams of every kid who ever wanted to grow up to wear a Mets uniform.
51: Wednesday, June 11 vs Diamondbacks
Ladies and gentlemen, you have likely heard Shea Stadium referred to as a multipurpose facility. For the most part, that has meant the ability to host the Mets, the Jets and a few other high-profile get-togethers. While those are the calling cards of Shea, there have been a lot of sports played here. Tonight, we pay homage to a few events that deserve to be remembered as well.
The squared circle had its moment in the Shea lights in 1967 when the middleweight championship of the world was settled here. The last man to earn a boxing title at Shea was Emile Griffith, who won his belt by virtue of a 15-round decision over Nino Benvenuti. Please welcome back the champ, Emile Griffith.
From time to time, soccer has been just as prevalent at Shea as it is in the neighborhoods of Queens, as the ballpark has hosted several international matches and a few in the professional ranks of the North American Soccer League and the American Soccer League. New York's most famous soccer team played and won a big NASL playoff match of its own here 32 summers ago. From those 1976 New York Cosmos, the winning goalkeeper from that night, one of the great goalies in United States soccer history, say hello to Shep Messing.
And though it's been a long time since anybody's kicked an American football off at Shea, this used to be an occasional stopping-off point for college teams, particularly the legendary program run by Eddie Robinson. We speak of Grambling University, which prevailed over Norfolk State here in 1975. The Tiger quarterback that Saturday would go on to become the first African-American quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory. He said “it was honor to play at Shea” because his idol growing up was another Grambling alum, Tommie Agee. That's as good a reason as any for us to give a warm greeting to Doug Williams and ask him to lead our multipurpose all-stars up the right field line to remove number 51.
50: Thursday, June 12 vs Diamondbacks
To Mets management, ladies and gentlemen, every fan who passes through the Shea Stadium turnstiles is entitled to star treatment. One star who is a regular at Shea, however, has been content to be known simply as a rabid fan of the team he loves.
In the pilot to what would become his groundbreaking sitcom, the very special fan we recognize today picked up a ringing telephone and told whomever was on the other end of the line not to tell him the score of that night's Mets game because he taped it and hadn't yet watched it. That's what he said instead of “hello,” and we guess you could say he had us at hello. His series would be a showcase for references to Mets past and present and would include, hands down, the most memorable appearance by any Met on any television show this side of Kiner's Korner.
Ladies and gentlemen, to remove number 50 from the right field wall, please welcome a close, personal friend of SNY broadcaster Keith Hernandez — and the most famous Mets fan in the world — Massapequa's favorite son, Jerry Seinfeld.
49: Friday, June 13 vs Rangers
Ladies and gentlemen, congratulations on having endured as long as you have on this date, which happens to be Friday the 13th. Since baseball is filled with nonsensical rituals and superstitions, this seems a good night to carefully pay tribute to the occasional bit of bad luck that has haunted the New York Mets over the years. Quite simply, we think it's a matter of good karma.
We have two guests who are great sports. The first of them has to know his name has been invoked repeatedly at Shea Stadium every time Mets fans have gnashed their teeth at the latest one to get away. We refer, sadly, to the elusive Mets no-hitter. Our first guest also has to know his name isn't brought up with fondness. Nonetheless, it is impossible to watch great, almost perfect pitching at Shea and not, at some point in the course of a nearly spotless performance, think of the ninth-inning single that derailed what would have been the first perfect game in Mets history on July 9, 1969. Since the Mets won that night and that year, we feel we are safe from any black magic he brings us. Please give a warm welcome to the former Cub whose lifetime average at Shea was .429, Jimmy Qualls.
Our second guest, who will join Jimmy in taking down number 49, is known for a streak, but not for one he wanted any part of. Yet the streak happened and he handled all 27 consecutive losses, a Major League record, with grace and good humor. The thing is he didn't pitch too badly during that stretch of 1992 and 1993 when he was saddled with one L after another and the Shea crowd always offered him its heartfelt support. When he finally earned a win in relief on July 28, 1993, you would have thought he himself had pitched a perfect game. Please welcome back home to Shea the man they call AY, Anthony Young.
48: Saturday, June 14 vs Rangers
Ladies and gentlemen, night games in June usually mean daylight extends for several innings. But soon moonlight should be in evidence over Shea Stadium and that's perfect for our theme as we remove number 48 from the right field wall.
You are probably familiar with the classic film Field of Dreams and the mystic chords it strikes where baseball and life are concerned. If you are, you'll recognize the name Moonlight Graham, a young player — a real one — who shows up in the movie just long enough to appear in a single Major League game as a defensive replacement…not even an at-bat.
In the spirit of Moonlight Graham, we have assembled our own corps of Moonmen, if you will. They are Mets with admittedly limited Shea Stadium résumés but surely they are Mets in full. No serious aficionado of the team's history could overlook their presence on the all-time roster
Please greet for one more cup of coffee these Moonlight Mets:
• His Shea, Met and big-league debut consisted of catching the final half-inning of the final game of the 2004 season, the final game, as it happened, in the history of the Montreal Expos and, to date, the final game of his big-league career. Deciding he wasn't going to make it back to the Majors as a catcher, he has remained in the Mets farm system, working hard to convert himself to pitching. You may have seen him this past spring working in exhibition games as a reliever. Say hello again to Joe Hietpas.
• The Miracle Mets were on the verge of certifying themselves division champs when this lefty reliever made his only appearance of 1969 and, eventually, his big-league career, throwing two innings against the Pirates in a doubleheader at Shea on September 19. Give a nice hand to Jessie Hudson.
• His single game in the Majors consisted of the sixth through ninth innings of the first game of a doubleheader versus the Expos right here on September 14, 1971. Within three months, this catching prospect would be sent to the Angels in a trade that involved five players. He wouldn't make it back to the bigs with California but would go onto a lengthy career in the Mexican League and managed Mexico in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Welcome back to Shea Francisco Estrada.
• The Mets, as they were prone to be for the first four decades of their existence, found themselves short of third basemen on June 15, 1997 when, in the bottom of the seventh, they inserted into their home Interleague game with the Boston Red Sox a pinch-hitter who stayed in to play third through the ninth. He never played at Shea or anywhere else in the big leagues again, but he did stick around, in a manner of speaking, helping coordinate minor league operations for the Mets since his retirement. Say hi to the 106th third basemen in New York Mets history, Kevin Morgan.
• In the last week of the 1993 season, this pitcher tossed a scoreless inning against the Cardinals to mark his Shea, Met and Major League debut. That inning was the 17th. The Mets broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the frame, making this rookie a perfect 1-0 as a Met. Injuries would prevent his return in '94. and though he'd pitch in a few more games as a San Francisco Giant, he'd never earn another win, so it is that 17th inning at Shea that stands as the signature moment in the career of Kenny Greer, someone who did nothing wrong, only everything right in a Mets uniform. Give Kenny and all our Moonlighters a big round of applause.
47: Sunday, June 15 vs Rangers
Ladies and gentlemen, we want to wish all the dads joining us today a Happy Father's Day and even a happy birthday to all the fathers out there. It's impossible to think of Shea Stadium on Father's Day without thinking of the very first one in Shea's history, June 21, 1964. For one pitcher, it was a perfect day.
Twenty-seven Mets came to bat and twenty-seven Mets went back to the bench. The end result was the first perfect game in the National League in the 20th century. It is a feat that boggles the mind.
To remember that sun-splashed doubleheader opener, we have invited back the three principals from that game's final moment.
• The catcher from the Philadelphia Phillies, Gus Triandos.
• The batter, pinch-hitting for the New York Mets, Johnny Stephenson.
• And of course, the pitcher, who struck out John and nine other Mets that Sunday in 1964. He would eventually be elected to both the Baseball Hall of Fame and the United States Senate where he serves still. Please give a big Shea Stadium welcome to Jim Bunning.
Since the topic is hitless games and since the Mets have welcomed in the Texas Rangers for the first time in Interleague play, we thought it would be nice if Gus, Johnny and the senator had some company en route to removing number 47 from the right field wall. Thus, we asked the president of the Rangers, the author of seven no-hitters of his own and a valuable member of the 1969 world champion New York Mets to join them. Please welcome back to Shea Stadium, the hardest thrower this ballpark has ever known as its own, Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.
Numbers 59-53 were revealed here.