By Michael Jawitz, AKA: Grubby Glove
My selection of twenty-five core Mets baseball cards for my friend in Sydney, Australia continues with these additions:
Carter – Fernandez – Gooden – Hernandez – Strawberry. I remember how thrilled I was the first time I saw this 1987 Fleer Super Star Specials card. After a very long drought, here were some of the Mets who brought a second World Series Championship to the Big Shea. Of further amazement to me was that there were other players who were talented enough to be featured on this card as well. But these Mets players, who represented the National League at the 1986 All-Star Game at the Houston Astrodome, were among the very best. I barely recall the game now, although I’m sure it was very important then. Imagine four Mets, Gary Carter, Doc Gooden, Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry, starting an all-star game! The fifth, Sid Fernandez appeared in a relief role in the eighth, pitching a scoreless frame.
Of course this was all occurred during 1986, the time when the best Mets team ever cut through the National League like a hot knife through butter. It was expected. After all, the 1985 team had gone 98 – 64, but still came in second to the St. Louis Cardinals, finishing three games behind the Redbirds in a hotly contested two-team race. The feeling was that 1986 would be their year. It started slowly. After not quite a week of play the team’s record was 2 – 3. Then, before you had a chance to catch your breath, they were 13 – 3; and then 25 – 9. Shortly after that, the NL East was pretty much decided.
I like this card because the grouping of players is representative of the team in its entirety. Gary Carter was among the game’s best catchers who skillfully guided a young pitching staff. Sid Fernandez and Doc Gooden were just two of these dazzling young pitchers. Keith Hernandez may have been the very best fielding first basemen ever. He and Carter provided steady defense and game-winning RBI’s. Darryl Strawberry contributed fearsome power, and stole twenty-eight bases. This baseball card stands as a reminder of a thrilling time, when all seemed possible, thanks to an amazing group of players, the Magic Mets.
Jose Reyes. Mets fans enjoyed this sparkplug’s style of play for many years. When he was healthy, he was all universe. Fans who witnessed his superlative performance during the first half of 2011 will never forget how masterful he was. Everything he wanted to do, he did. The doubles, triples and stolen bases came with unerring regularity. Even with a mid-season injury, he won the National League’s batting championship, the first ever by a Mets player, turning in a sizzling .337 average.
His talent was obvious right from the start. For example, shortly after turning 20 years old, he smacked home runs from both sides of the plate in a game against the Atlanta Braves. That same year, 2003, he finished the season with thirty-five straight, error-free games at shortstop. One of his Managers, Willie Randolph, once remarked “as Jose goes, we go.” His teammate, third baseman David Wright, once said "I think the fans love him because of his energy, his hustle, his smile. I think he's the type of player that gets an offense going and gets the fans into the game.”
I got a chance to see that for myself in a Mets – Giants game at AT&T Park on June 4, 2008. In four at bats, he got three hits, scored two runs, knocked in two runs, walked and stole a base. What's more, one of those hits was a home run that won the game. The blast to deep right field came in the top of the fourth off a Matt Cain offering. I remember one of my pals, a die-hard San Francisco Giants fan, wasn't too happy with the blast, right Jeff?
I have selected Reyes' 2008 Upper Deck card because it's design is uncluttered and the picture of him sharp. It also shows him as he is about to throw the ball. I always thought his strong arm played a key role in run prevention. Jose Reyes has moved along to the Miami Marlins, but I will never forget his contributions to the Mets. I will always wear my New York Mets Reyes jersey with pride.
I'll return next week with some additional selections.