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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Do You Remember the 131 Mets of September?

What the Mets could use right now is another Ed Kranepool, another Cleon Jones, another Bud Harrelson, not to mention another Nolan Ryan, another Ken Boswell, another Duffy Dyer. Maybe another Lee Mazzilli, another Mookie Wilson, another Wally Backman. Throw in another Ron Darling, another Kevin Mitchell, another Kevin Elster. Hell, even another Doug Sisk (there, I said it).

The Mets, shooed from contention as they’ve been, could always use a boost of talent. The aforementioned 13 players were the MLB equivalent of FDA-approved boosters in their day. Each of them was called up to the Mets in some September to make their major league debut. Eventually, each of them became a World Champion Met, populating an October roster at Shea Stadium.

Their collective success could be like one of those commercials for the Boy Scouts in which Hank Aaron and Gerald Ford, among others, implied that getting started in scouting as a kid would lead to big things as an adult. But I’m not necessarily asking for a 1969 or 1986 payoff. I’d be happy with Steve Dillon, who came up to the Mets with Cleon Jones, in September of 1963; with Shaun Fitzmaurice, who came up to the Mets with Nolan Ryan, in September of 1966, with Scott Holman, who came up with Mookie and Wally (and Hubie Brooks), in September of 1980.

September big league callups and their subsequent big league debuts informed the lifeblood of the waning Met weeks most every September between 1962 and 2019. It didn’t matter if it was a big prospect (Gregg Jefferies’s first cup of coffee was in September 1987, a year before he returned to make his splash). It didn’t matter if the coffee was bound to be sipped in a sec and never refilled (Rich Puig went 0-for-10 with a walk in September 1974 before never being heard from again). It didn’t matter if that initial September slurp waited until early October (Randy Myers first saw action in the eghth inning of Game 162, October 6, 1985; Joe Hietpas became his spiritual batterymate in the ninth inning of Game 162, October 3, 2004). The point was new blood; fresh blood; lifeblood!

We don’t get that blood anymore. When MLB and the MLBPA agreed on expanding the everyday rosters from 25 to 26, they also decided the September rosters, instead of being allowed to comically bloat into the 30s and theoretically as high as 40, would be capped at 28. This would make managing more manageable, keep the clubhouses closer to capacity, align opposing dugouts so one team didn’t pack 37 players and the other didn’t travel with 29. It made all the sense in the world.

To which I say to sense, BOOOOOOO!!!!!

I LOVED those September callups. I LOVED that influx of new faces. I LOVED thinking in seasons like this one, OK, once we’re mathematically eliminated and we’re not playing anybody for whom the outcome desperately matters, we can fill the lineup with these new kids. Not so much to “see what they can do,” which I always thought was a little overstated, but just to have some novelty to root for and, later in my life, blog about. I’ve looked at Miguel Cairo enough by September of 2005, let’s get a couple of paragraphs going on Anderson Hernandez. Enough with the Brian Schneider in September of 2009, bring on Josh Thole for my snap judgment. Hey, 2011 has been a long year; now that it’s September, can we have a glimpse of Stinson (Josh), Satin (Josh) and Schwinden (Chris)?

We could. That’s how it worked. You’d get a gander at the guys you got in trades — Dan Norman for (gulp) Tom Seaver in 1977, Victor Diaz for Jeromy Burnitz in 2004. You’d get to slot next year’s rotations this year — Walt Terrell in 1982 for 1983, Dillon Gee in 2010 for 2011. Or you’d get the random Met callups or who would remain random Mets forevermore. Greg Harts: three plate appearances in September 1973; Jesse Hudson: a single game pitched in September 1969; the immortal Al Schmelz in September 1967, who needed neither innings nor results to plant a flag in the psyches of obsessive Mets fans not yet born.

The first fastball fiend to come firing out of Fresno came up in September of 1965: Dick Selma, nineteen months ahead of his pal Tom Seaver. One of the great center fielders of the 1970s, Amos Otis, came up in September of 1967, never mind that he became one of the great centerfielders of the 1970s in a Kansas City Royals uniform. We were introduced to Leroy Stanton in September of 1970 and Frank Estrada and Don Rose in September of 1971. Perhaps September 1966 callup Nolan Ryan had a chat around the batting cage with the three youngsters at some point. Perhaps a scout for the California Angels saw them gathered together and thought, “What it would take to get them as a group?”

Craig Swan’s twelve solid seasons in orange and blue started with a September 1973 debut. Bruce Boisclair’s legend as Bruce Boisclair began with a September 1974 callup. Alex Treviño was promoted in September of 1978; by 1982, the Mets would make him the centerpiece of a trade to get George Foster, a very big deal at the time.

Your current Mets have some roots in classic September callups. Jeurys Familia made his debut on September 4, 2012. Tomás Nido made his on September 13, 2017. Familia would set the club record for saves, clinch postseason berths and series and make an All-Star team. Nido seems like a heckuva nice guy. They were part of a grand tradition. Greg Goossen, who in ten years had a chance to be thirty! Les Rohr, the franchise’s first No. 1 draft pick! Joe Nolan, who I remember catching every single day once he joined our roster, but caught only three games after making his debut on 9/21/72, yet made quite an impression on my nine-year-old mind! Joe Nolan didn’t last with the Mets, but he carved out a backup catcher niche in the bigs until 1985, winning a World Series ring with the Orioles in 1983. But I’ll bet Joe Nolan remembers the 21st night of September.

On September 4, 2019, Sam Haggerty made his major league debut as a New York Met. He would pinch-run for us eight times, score twice, hit not at all (0-for-4) and effectively end an era. Haggerty was, by my count, the 131st expanded-roster callup to make his major league debut with the Mets. Ed Kranepool was the first, in 1962. There were none in 2020. There’ve been none in 2021. Oh, the roster did expand from 26 to 28, but c’mon. It’s not the same. Nobody debuted last September or appears about to this September. We’ve been shuffling players twixt and tween taxi squads, alternate sites and Syracuse so often this year, the coming and going no longer carries that implicit Bobby Morse grin of impetuous youth. If it happens all year round, what’s left for September?

Where are the John Milners and Lucas Dudas, bound to slug their way into our hearts for years to come? Where are the Esix Sneads and Travis Taijerons, on hand to take one game-winning swing and effectively vamoose? Where’s the next Jon Niese, which I grant you is something you’ve never asked yourself since the last Jon Niese, but no Met pitcher started more games overall in the first two decades of this century. Niese got his first start, his first taste, in September 2008, amid a playoff push. Dave Magadan made himself intrinsic to the telling of a division-clinching on September 17, 1986, going three-for-four ten days after his MLB debut and mere innings before clearing a path for Keith Hernandez — who insisted on being at first base for the moment the NL East title became official — to get trampled by onrushing fans. Butch Huskey landed in Houston in time to be no-hit by Darryl Kile along with his fellow September 1993 Mets (but they, unlike Butch, had practice not hitting). Timo Perez started running in September 2000, even if he took an ill-timed pause in October 2000. Alex Ochoa displayed all five tools in September 1995. Mike Glavine showed off the rarely evidenced sixth tool — nepotism — in September 2003.

So many players’ stories began as September callups. So many players’ stories were they’re being September callups. Nowadays, it’s neater and trimmer and we don’t do that anymore. It was more fun when we did.

11 comments to Do You Remember the 131 Mets of September?

  • Seth

    Wow, I didn’t realize Jeurys has been around so long.

    Especially this year — I agree it would be nice to have some new faces on the roster.

  • Ken S.

    The day after the Mets were eliminated from the division race in 1970, I was excited to see Leroy Stanton was in the lineup leading off against the Cubs and playing center field. I was really excited to see Leroy Stanton leg out a triple in the first inning for his first major league hit. But I was disappointed to see Leroy Stanton leave the game after being hit in the head by the throw to third base.

  • mikeL

    yep, for all the over-use of relievers it permitted (not an issue with the ridicuous 3-batter rule) i do miss the days of new faces in september. brings back memories of the several closing days i caught at shea in the early 00’s.
    don’t recall any of the call-ups i saw panning out but always enjoyed wondering…
    and yes, it would have been nice to see some of the bench mob’s own bench guys back for a bittersweet encore at very least. who knows, maybe *one* of those guys might have done *something* to breathe life into this team while it still mattered.

  • Dave

    I was a Mets fan for a very long time before I realized that my love of lots of September callups was a minority opinion. A pinch runner guy, a few extra mop-up bullpen arms, an extra few bats off the bench…and every now and then, one turned out to be a bigger deal down the road and we can go around saying things like “I was at Randy Myers’ major league debut” (which I was, and it was also Rusty Staub and Larry Bowa’s farewell). I thought September callups were fun.

  • open the gates

    Seems to me like all the rule makers in baseball (and there seem to be an awful lot of rule maker callups recently) think of all these logical reasons to make new rules, except for one: actually making the game more fun.

    Fun. Remember when baseball used to be about having fun?

  • Eric

    I enjoyed the annual novelty of September call-ups. I didn’t think it created a significant competitive imbalance since I figured an organization’s best pitchers and position players were on the major league club already. And fast, no-hit pinch runners, the biggest change from September call-ups, were universal.

  • […] Do You Remember the 131 Mets of September? »    […]

  • eric1973

    Sorry for being late to this party, but whenever these ’70’s’ names are invoked, I need to chime in.

    (BTW, I was there the night Sisk said he wanted to feed arsenic to the fans….. my proudest moment as a fan.)

    I love Boswell, Ryan, Dyer, as well as Milner, with all his personal faults, and well as the (not late) Jesse Hudson, from my old yearbooks.

    Good Times.

  • eric1973

    Steve Dillon just retired as head of Security for the building that I currently work in. He took my picture that is on my employee card.

    He had a picture of himself on his desk, in his Met uniform from back then.

    I should have gotten his autograph when I had the chance!

  • […] as much validity to it as it once did. The September part, at any rate. We don’t expand rosters the way we used to, so the games of September are pretty standard. The Mets were, you’ll vaguely recall, playing for […]