Big-time spoiler alert. If you want to take the test that I'm about to write about, don't scroll too far down from here just yet, because I'm giving away a whole bunch of answers.
Otherwise, go ahead.
The test in question is something I'd heard of but had never bothered to investigate until I was too intrigued by the topic at hand to give it a whirl. It's called a Sporcle. What the hell is a Sporcle? Its home page describes its tests as “mentally stimulating diversions”. They give you a category, they name some parameters, they give you a set time to name as many as you can.
Then you want to do it again.
I try to avoid mentally stimulating diversions, lest I become any more diverted from whatever than I usually am (or, god forbid, get mentally stimulated), but I was sent too good a link the other day to pass up:
Can you name every player to play for the Mets in the 1980s?
Given enough time, sure. For example, in my lifetime, I have no doubt obsessed on each of the (Sporcle said) 153 men who played at least one game as a Met between the beginning of the 1980 seasons and the end of the 1989 season. Even the ones whose tenures blinked if you missed them have come up in my voluminous research (a.k.a. Met-ally stimulating diversions). There's no telling when one name or another among all 153 has or will come up in my thinking.
But that's not how Sporcle is played. This Sporcle gave me precisely 14 minutes to name as many as 153 Mets from the '80s as I could. These happened to be fourteen minutes during which a Stouffers meal I had stuck in the microwave was dinging that it was done and Stephanie was attempting to hold a brief conversation with me. I politely ignored both as I thought to myself, “Mets who played in the '80s…Mets who played in the '80s…”
I had fourteen minutes but I can't say I used each of the 840 seconds efficiently. My mind wandered. It also kept circling back to names I'd already named. I kept wishing Sporcle came with a pause button so I could turn off the stupid microwave timer. By the final 1:00, I just sat and watched the clock knowing there were names to be named that I was not going to name right now.
My final total was 113 of 153. That sounds pretty good, I guess, but I considered the rules relatively forgiving. I didn't have to list them in any particular order. When I typed in a name, it would appear on a line next to a number signifying how many games that Met played for the Mets in the '80s. Also, if a last name happened to be shared by more than one '80s Met, you got credit for all of them with just one name. Thus, if one of the first guys you thought of was a Gold Glove first baseman, you were automatically filled in for a relief pitcher of fleeting familiarity.
I'm happy to report there was no real I could just kick myself! omission on my part. I managed to name each of the first 44 on the list, from the Met who played the most games for them in the '80s to the Met who played the 44th most. I was also satisfied to come up with plenty of Mets the less than obsessive fan would classify as obscure. There are no obscure Mets, just those who don't often reveal themselves. I got almost three-quarters of the list. I'm not ashamed either for missing who I missed or for knowing as many of them as I do.
What piques my interest in this Sporcle is who I missed. When your clock runs out on Sporcle, your missing answers are automatically filled in. I wondered immediately why those forty didn't leap to mind. I wonder why they remained out of my grasp for a full fourteen minutes. Why were they provisionally more obscure than their 113 decade rostermates?
I'm not sure, but I'm going to try to figure it out right here, right now. What follows, in the order they were listed by games played as Mets during the 1980s, are the forty I missed and why, maybe, I should have thought of them.
Kelvin Chapman The only Met from the first column I didn't name. I think of him as an overmatched 1979 Met, not as a useful 1984 (or less useful 1985) Met. I know a Mets fan named Kevin Chapman, but couldn't think of Kelvin Chapman.
Pete Falcone The Oliver Perez of the early '80s. It was said he had concentration problems on the mound. I used to look at frozen concentrated orange juice and figured it was beyond the comprehension of Pete Falcone.
Junior Ortiz He was going to be the long-term post-John Stearns answer when we got him at the trading deadline in 1983. The other trading deadline acquisition of note that season was a Gold Glove first baseman. Later another catcher supplanted Junior Ortiz in making us forget Stearns. Still, I just mentioned Junior Ortiz in snarky passing last Friday. This is what happens when I take a few days off from blogging.
Tom Hausman Borderline inexcusable. I mention Tom Hausman prominently in my book, at least as prominently as anybody has ever mentioned a 1980 Met middle relief stalwart in any book.
Jerry Morales I'm in love with the Jerry Morales story! The Jerry Morales story is Joel and I go to a game in 1980 and we agree our seats are so good that we can see everything except for a ball that's hit into the right field corner. Soon enough, a ball is hit into the right field corner, and the rightfielder — Jerry Morales — doesn't dig it out until about 1982. Forever more, the right field corner is known as Jerry Morales Territory.
Gary Rajsich One night in '82, Gary Rajsich walloped a three-run homer off Bruce Berenyi of the Reds and made an incredible catch. Months later, a guy I knew said, “I was at the Gary Rajsich Game,” and I knew exactly what he meant.
Mark Carreon I never really bought into Mark Carreon as any kind of answer to any kind of role on the Mets and was always forgetting he was on the bench. Not surprised I forgot him here.
Claudell Washington Three home runs in one game against the Dodgers. That should be enough to get you remembered in a fourteen-minute span.
Mark Bradley I took a crummy picture of him with a 110 camera at Al Lang Field in 1983 before a game that was ultimately rained out. Later in the season, Tom Seaver, according to Howie Rose, stood on the mound with his hands on his hips and stared at Bradley after Bradley did not exactly charge an extra-base hit. Seaver would tell Rose he didn't remember it, but if he did it, he shouldn't have.
Dan Norman Had no problem naming the other three members of the Seaver Four. Perhaps Dan got left out here because he peaked on June 15, 1977, when he was still no more than a scouting report.
Mike Cubbage More a scowling interim manager than a pinch-hitter at the end of the line in the mind's eye.
Carlos Diaz He was quite the lefthanded specialist in 1983. Some days of the week that would be enough to make me think of him 26 years later. Some days, not so much.
Jeff Innis The Mark Carreon of the bullpen. He pitched a lot, but I never remembered he was here. Holds the inactive record for Met who pitched the most games without pitching for anybody else. Had a most pronounced sidearm motion. And I still forget him.
Ronn Reynolds Everybody's got a few of those prospects who you're sure is the guy they have to give a shot to even though you have no reason to back that assertion up. Ronn Reynolds was one of mine. I still have no reason to back it up, but he didn't play enough to make me back down.
Jerry Martin Ohmigod, I hated this guy. Nothing personal. All business. But ohmigod, I hated this guy.
Charlie Puleo Kind of a latter-day Mark Bomback in that in 1980 Bomback was unknown but more effective than anybody else on the staff for a while. Puleo's latter day vis-à-vis Bomback was 1982. He was 5-2 by Memorial Day. Also, he was traded for Bomback. Later he was traded for Seaver. By then Puleo was 9-9, Seaver was an injury-riddled 5-13 and Bomback was done.
Ed Glynn The Flushing Flash! That's all.
Tucker Ashford To shake up the 6-15 Mets in early May 1983, the Mets called up two minor leaguers. One was Darryl Strawberry. One was Tucker Ashford. I'm pretty sure Strawberry was the first or second name I typed for the Sporcle.
John Pacella The hat! That's all.
Wes Gardner During SNY's recent airing of Don't Stop Us Now, the 1984 highlight film, I was reminded of what high esteem the Mets held their first groomed-to-close closer. Wow, what crummy scouting.
Jose Cardenal Cardenal's name crossed my mind during this exercise, but I consigned him to 1979 and out. D'oh! in that the main reason I remember Jose Cardenal was that we let him go in 1980 and finished next-to-last. The Royals picked him up and he played in the World Series for them that very year. Like I said, D'oh!
Jeff Musselman I just bitched and moaned about the trade that brought him here a couple of months ago. I consider it more an indictment of Musselman than my memory that he didn't occur to me again.
Phil Lombardi Came over from the Yankees in the Rafael Santana deal and seemed not at all the prospect he was cracked up to be.
Bruce Bochy The size of his head and his helmet was all that came to light during his severely limited 1982 Met tenure. I hear he went onto manage some teams on the West Coast.
Greg Harris The ambidextrous guy!
Rick Anderson The only 1986 Met I didn't name. Uncle Andy didn't make that year's World Series roster either.
Kevin Kobel Name occurred to me, but I placed him exclusively in 1979, when a letter from a four-year-old appeared in the Mets yearbook proclaiming the lefty as the kid's favoritest player ever, or words to that effect. By forgetting his 1980 (7.03 ERA), I feel I did both Kevin and his Kobelphile a historical service.
Lou Thornton As a pinch-runner, Lou scored the winning run in what was a huge pennant race game in 1989. Then he just kept running until he was gone.
Rusty Tillman His would be a great name in a children's book. Alas, he performed more like a real-life Kerry Jerome Tillman.
Julio Machado Ohmigod, I LOVED this guy! The first thing he did was brush back Tom Pagnozzi. Then he struck him out. Then he was convicted for killing somebody. But I LOVED this guy!
Tom O'Malley Did nothing as a Met in the '80s. Hit a big pinch-homer as a Met in the '90s.
Wally Whitehurst Some players give you hope. The ascension of others depletes it.
Bill Latham Those awesome 1985 Mets came out of the gate 5-0. Bill Latham started the sixth game.
Jeff McKnight It would take too long to explain why here, but earlier this year I wrote song parody called “Stuck With Jeff McKnight” to the tune of the Starland Vocal band's “Afternoon Delight”. It began as such: Gonna tweak the roster/But not do it right/Gonna purchase the contract/Of Jeff McKnight. Pretty much describes the Mets' player procurement philosophy from 1989 to 1994.
Juan Berenguer I knew a guy during his frequent callups who couldn't come close to pronouncing Berenguer. “Beren-jower” he always said. That guy grew up to be Mike Francesa. (No he didn't, but that pronunciation drove me up the freaking wall every time.)
Craig Shipley He's Australian.
Mike Bishop I think it's fair to say that if I had gotten 152 of the 1980s Mets, Mike Bishop would have been the elusive 153rd.
Rick Sweet I had outsized hopes for this guy. Just play Rick Sweet every day, I urged George Bamberger through the television. Bambi didn't listen and, you'll notice, he's not our manager anymore.
Blaine Beatty Aaron Spelling wanted to name the John Forsyth character in Dynasty Blaine Beatty, but it didn't test well, so they went with Blake Carrington.
Tom Edens What gets me is I got Don Schulze and I got the “other” Bob Gibson, but I didn't get Tom Edens. In the summer of 1987, they were all the same pitcher. Of all forty I missed, Tom Edens is the one whose omission actually bugs me the most.