The Mets All-Time “2 Guys” Team: Right Field

Mike:

As we round out our “2 Guys” Team, I took a quick turn from center and ended up in right field. Right field is pretty far from the action but that didn’t stop us from getting a lot of nominees. I counted six. Swoboda, Staub, Youngblood, Strawberry, Nady, and yes, Shane Spencer.

I will skip right by Shane and Xavier. Although I have somewhat fond memories of Joel Youngblood, I don’t think of him as tough or gritty.

For Swoboda, I have a quick personal story. After the Mets won the second game of the 1969 World Series, Dad got the idea that we should head out to the airport to meet the plane coming back from Baltimore. I don’t know how he got the correct flight information, but we headed out and sure enough we had a spot outside the runway, behind a fence, and the players all had to pass us before getting inside to the terminal. About fifty people had the same idea, no more, but we cheered as loudly as we could as the players filed past, waving and smiling at us. As Swoboda went by, he stopped and looked out at all of us and yelled, “We will not be going back! We sweep them from here!” Which, of course, they did. Unlike before Super Bowl III with Joe Namath, no reporters were around to record Ron’s words, but it showed the cockiness Swoboda always played with. Swoboda was also a real “dirty uniform” type guy, and his crazy catch in the 1969 World Series was clearly an example of how he always went all out. I think Ron deserves consideration.

Well, Jimmy, I still haven’t gotten to either Darryl or Rusty, but I don’t want to dominate the conversation. What do you think of the right field crew assembled?

Jimmy:

The Preller family, Easter, 1966. The hats are the big tip-off. I’m the shortest.

First off, that’s a great Swoboda story. Didn’t any of you think of bringing a camera? I got the impression the Geus clan was always snapping pictures back then? In my family, Dad brought out the camera for Easter, high school graduations, and when anybody bought a new car, and that was it.

Back to right field. Fifty-seven guys have played 50 games or more in RF for the Mets — and Mordecai Brown could count the tough guys on one hand. Strawberry deserves consideration, because he was clearly a guy nobody wanted to mess with when the dugouts emptied. But I don’t think that’s our kind of toughness, exactly. Toughness is what Rusty Staub gave us in the 1973 playoffs.

Mike:

Yes, Staub is the guy. What Rusty was able to do in 1973 was truly remarkable. First, in tough guy fashion, Staub crashed into the wall making a game-saving catch to help win game four of the NLCS against the Reds. Staub severely injured his shoulder on the play, and it seemed clear when he missed the clincher the next day that his season was finished.

Rusty was our best hitter that year and the idea of playing Oakland without him  put a damper on the Mets second World Series appearance. But Staub played, basically with one arm. Not just one pinch-hitting appearance like that wimp Kirk Gibson (a bad hamstring, c’mon rub some dirt on that!), nope Staub started and played right field in all six games. It was one of those things you never forget. Staub was injured so badly that on some plays he would shovel the ball to the center fielder to make the throw to third or home. He was hitting with one arm too.

Now there is a fine line between tough and selfish. What good is going out there if you can’t find a way to help the team? Not to worry with Rusty. The one-armed bandit hit .423 in that World Series and he had an OPS of 1.079. Oakland couldn’t get him out.

I could go on about Staub in general, but I’ll just add one more fact. He is my wife’s favorite player. And it’s common knowledge that she has a thing for tough guys.

Oh, and Jimmy, about those pictures. No, we have nothing from that particular night. But we have a whole lot, some real cool stuff, and some home videos too. Right now it’s all in the attic, collecting dust, but I think it might be time to climb up there and see what I can find.

Spring is right around the corner, spring cleaning will come with that.

 

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6 comments

  1. A few things about Rusty:

    The man played 23 seasons, that says a lot right there.

    That he came back to swat 19 PHs in 1984, after being a full-time regular and 5-time All-Star from ’66 to ’78, well, that’s like David Wright come back as a pinch-hitter in 2024 — and delivering.

    I remember him tucking his glove under his armpit as a he jogged in from the outfield. Did that really happen?

    My earliest memory of his was as an Astro playing in that crazy stadium. He played alongside Jimmy Wynn, the Toy Cannon. Boy, that nickname captured my imagination as a kid. Wynn could play. He was really, really good, but overshadowed, I think, but some of the all-time greats in the NL outfield: Mays, Aaron, Clemente. But go look up Jimmy Wynn, he was something. That Astros organization at that time, the early 70’s, real dumb. They traded away anyone with talent — and it showed.

  2. Alan K. says:

    The Mets were every bit as dumb as the Astros during the 1970’s. They traded a lot to get Rusty – Ken Singleton, Tim Foli and Mike Jorgensen, and three years later traded him for an over hill the Mickey Lolich.

    • Your comment triggered a memory of Lolich logging a ton of innings, so I looked it up: 1971, 376 ip; ’72, 327 ip; ’73, 308 ip; ’74, 308 ip; ’75, 240 ip and a 12-18 record. So THAT’s when we traded for him — and Mickey was burnt toast.

  3. Frank Dunne says:

    Le Grand Orange! Great choice. I concur. I do have a Rusty story…

    Debbie (my new bride) and I decided to venture out to Shea early in the 1981 season, well before the mid season strike. Although it was late April, they were already well below .500 so the stands were busting at the seams with about 7000 diehards. The Mets were already battling the Cubs for the cellar in the NL East- doing what they seemed to do best in ’81. The Pirates came out on top 10-0.

    Our seats were a field level box right on the rail at first base. Nothing about this loss was memorable, just another B-League performance by the Mets. On that day, Joe Torre started Rusty at First Base. By the third inning the Mets were down by 6 runs. DISMAL!

    As Rusty was walking out to first to start the fourth- I started to develop Jack Daniels muscles (yes- I had a flask with me that day, the only way one could bare 9 innings in Flushing). I started yelling at Rusty about the lack of any baseball being played on the part of the Metropolitans. I don’t remember my exact words. The Pirates continued the slaughter that inning scoring 3 more runs. When the inning mercifully came to an end, after a full barrage from me- aimed at an undeserving Staub- he didn’t go directly to the dugout. HE CAME TO ME! He stood about 6 feet in front of me and spent the next 30-45 seconds giving it back to me both barrels. Again, with time, my memory has dimmed. At the end of his tirade- he did say “What the f#$* do you expect. We are a shitty team. Don’t expect too much from us this year!” Torre was yelling for him to get in the dugout, the Shea security came running (why they didn’t eject me- I will never know) and Debbie didn’t speak to me for the rest of the game.

    In the bottom of the fourth, finally, some signs of a pulse. I think Mazilli and Kingman were on base. Rusty came up and in short order… grounded out to 3rd base. Torre replaced him the next inning. To this day, I often think to myself if I had anything to do with him being replaced.

    • Michael Geus says:

      That is some story, thanks so much for sharing it. A quick thought, maybe Rusty needed to come out because he had a flask too.

    • James Preller says:

      So Frank Dunne was the trigger guy all along.

      There are few expressions that I hate more than “Thanks for sharing,” but, well, in this it’s the best I’ve got.

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