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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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February 17's Other Met

On February 17 we lost not one but two Mets.

There was no shortage of farewells for Tony Phillips, who died in Scottsdale, Ariz., at 56. And that was to be expected — Phillips racked up 2,023 hits over an 18-year career.

Brock Pemberton was the other Met who died on Feb. 17. His death at 62 in Ardmore, Okla., went largely unremarked in baseball circles, which also wasn’t unexpected. After all, Pemberton collected 2,019 fewer big-league hits than Phillips. His pro career spanned eight seasons, with a ’74 cup of coffee in New York and the merest sniff at one — two games, two at-bats — the next year.

(photo from OOTP)

(photo from OOTP)

But as I learned making baseball cards for obscure Mets, even agate-type careers contain interesting stories. Pemberton’s dad Cliff was a Dodger farmhand in the late 1940s and early 1950s, hitting for a high average without much power. His son was born in Oklahoma but blossomed at Marina High in Huntington Beach, Calif., where the Pembertons had moved in ’68. (Marina High later produced Kevin Elster.) The Mets drafted Pemberton in ’72 and he turned out to be a lot like his dad — a spray hitter who made solid contact without clearing too many fences. Cliff played second base, but Brock was a first baseman — a slightly speedier Dave Magadan.

Pemberton’s breakout season was ’74, when he hit .322 with 89 RBI for Joe Frazier‘s Victoria Toros. After the Toros wrapped up the Texas League title, Pemberton learned he’d been granted a September call-up to the Mets. He struck out as a pinch-hitter against the Expos on Sept. 10, but more, well, amazin’ events were in store.

A day later, a 3-1 Met lead evaporated against the Cardinals in the ninth, setting up one of baseball’s all-time marathon games. In the 25th inning St. Louis grabbed a 4-3 lead when Hank Webb picked Bake McBride off first (balking in the process) but hurled the ball down the line; McBride ran through the third-base coach’s stop sign and was out from me to you. Well, at least he was until Ron Hodges dropped the ball.

In the bottom of the 25th, fly balls by Ken Boswell and Felix Millan left the Mets down to their last out. It was after 3 a.m. Yogi Berra sent Pemberton up to the plate, and the rookie nearly decapitated Sonny Siebert for his first big-league hit — almost certainly the first big-league hit seen by the fewest people in Mets history. (John Milner then struck out.)

Pemberton collected three more hits in September, had a brief call-up in ’75, and then was traded to St. Louis with Leon Brown for Ed Kurpiel after the 1976 season. 1980 was Pemberton’s final year in pro ball, and saw him serve as the 26-year-old player-manager of the Macon Peaches. After leaving baseball, he lived in New Mexico, working as a landscaping supervisor for state parks, Indian reservations and colleges.

His obituary is filled with family recollections and in-jokes — his time in California is recalled as “the wildest of times and the best of times (with burning leaves)” and continues with the note that “Brock was a free spirit. He loved the outdoors, fishing, hunting and gardening. He was also a fabulous baker and cook.”

I don’t know what the reference to burning leaves means (though I have a guess), but Pemberton’s family and friends did, and that’s the important thing. If you’re a fan of the A’s, Tigers or even the Mets, you have plenty of memories of Tony Phillips and knew a little something about his life; only the most committed Mets fan remembers Brock Pemberton or knew anything about what he did away from baseball stadiums.

But they were both Mets, both ballplayers, both sons and brothers and husbands. And both gone before what those they left behind had hoped would be their time.

When I first became a fan, the vast majority of the men who’d been Mets were still alive — it was only 14 years since there’d been New York Mets, and the exceptions, such as Danny Frisella and Gil Hodges, were tragedies. Now, four decades later, it’s different. Nineteen of the 45 ’62 Mets are no longer with us. There will come a day when only a few are, and then one, and then none, and the other rosters will follow suit, from the ’60s into the ’70s and then the ’80s and one day the teens of a no longer so new millennium.

It’s the way of baseball because it’s the way of all things. And it will be up to us to remember these men who were Mets, from stars and can’t-miss prospects and Hall of Famers to scrubs and did-miss prospects and trivia answers. Like Tony Phillips. And like Brock Pemberton.

11 comments to February 17’s Other Met

  • Dave

    As a Mets fan of a certain age and still holding on to a good memory for the little stuff, or at least some of it, I do remember Brock Pemberton, and may he rest in peace. And this is what many of us especially love about FAFIF, the celebration of all things Mets, not just Seaver and Piazza, not just 69 and 86, not just good times and those players who leave the biggest mark. To ignore or forget the non-stars whose tenures are brief is contrary to the essence of being a Mets fan, and for recognizing that I’m always appreciative. Brock Pemberton…perhaps the McKay Christensen of the 70’s.

  • Brian Hutwagner

    Great article, thanks. Wayne Garrett went 0/10 that day with 4 K’s, tough day!

  • argman

    I’d like to echo what Dave said above, although I have to admit I do not remember Brock Pemberton at all. And that is yet another reason why this blog is such a must read.

  • Pat

    Lovely, Jason. I hope somebody points it out to the man’s family.

  • Rob E.

    Nicely done. While I hate to hear about the passings, you and Greg are outstanding at bringing the importance of one’s life into the light. It all matters in an “it’s a wonderful life” kind of way, and it’s great that you guys remind us of that.

  • eric1973

    I was getting Joe Frasier’s autograph in 1976 in the Shea Stadium parking lot, and all of a sudden he starts talking about a great up-and-comer named Brock Pemberton. Being 11 at the time, the name sounded very funny to me, and so I never forgot it, and so it saddened me when Jason said he died.

    Folks are leaving us, ever so gradually, from our favorite 25-man teams, mine being 1973, and 1969, a team I was too young to remember first hand.

    A connection between those two teams is that they had 11 of the same players. Now 5 from each team are gone:
    1969 – Agee, Clendenon, Cardwell, Koonce, McGraw
    1973 – Beauchamp, Milner, Parker, Sadecki, McGraw

    BTW, the same 11 are – Harrelson, Kranepool, Dyer, Garrett, Boswell, Grote, C. Jones, Koosman, Seaver, McAndrew, McGraw

    R.I.P. Brock Pemberton

  • open the gates

    At the end of the day, Brock Pemberton has the words “major league baseball player” in his obituary. In other words, he reached the very highest level of his very exacting profession, even if he didn’t last there very long. How many people could say that of any endeavor, let alone that of pro athlete?

    RIP.

    • Dennis

      Well put and something I think of when the discussion of any baseball player’s shortcomings is brought up. RIP Mr. Pemberton

  • eric1973

    Thanks, StorkFan.

    My intention was to only include the ‘basic’ 25-man roster, and/or the postseason roster.

  • Sheela Wolfe

    Very poignant and well-written…I actually remember him and most that followed him…Some day soon the bell will toll for me. Thanks…wish I had played in the majors, but I did have 30 years of very competitive softball.