Mike, a while back I mentioned that I have a Joe Pignatano story if you ever wanted to hear it, but you haven’t asked. I don’t mind saying, I’m a little hurt right now.
I just wanted to build the suspense. I’m always up for a Joe Pignatano story.
Well, that’s kind. But really, I shouldn’t. Thanks for your interest but, I just don’t think this is the place for — well, if you insist!
Starting in 1997, I began writing mystery books for young readers, ages 6-9. The main character was named Jigsaw Jones and he was a 2nd-grade detective, from the hard-boiled school of private eye. That series ultimately turned into 40 books across more than 10 years, translated into several languages including English (ha-ha); it looks like I wrote the last one of those a few years ago, though you still find the books in a lot of different places. More than 10 million sold.
For the names of minor characters, I often drew on former Mets players — Koosman, Kranepool, Minaya, Seaver, Hodges, and so on. Jigsaw himself, a Mets fan, even has a New York Mets garbage can in his bedroom, the same variety I purchased for my own son, now in college. One recurring character is named Joey Pignattano (spelled differently, for some reason), in honor of the former Mets coach who famously grew tomato plants out in the bullpen. That’s the kind of name — Pignatano! — and detail — tomatoes! — that sticks with a young boy. And stick it did. Until decades later, when casting around for the name of a boy who loves to eat, and who once swallowed a worm for a dollar, I hit upon Joey Pignattano. A small tribute that few if any ever noticed. For more of that kind of stuff, click here.
As a parent and Met fan I always got a kick out of the Mets names in the Jigsaw Jones series. A little bone for us! Since we brought up Piggy I’ll finish with a couple of quick memories of the real Pignatano. First off, although he was clearly better known by Met fans for all his years as a coach, Piganatano was on the 1962 Met team in his final season. In his final major league at bat he hit into a triple play.
The next one is personal. As Jimmy mentioned above, Joe had those tomato plants in the bullpen, and during slow games the cameras would show Joe tending to his garden. This always elicited the same response from my father.
“What the hell else does he have to do?”
Not a big fan of bullpen coaches, my dad.