44 Caliber Killers

Henry Aaron pioneered No. 44 as a number reserved for sluggers, and fellow Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Reggie Jackson solidified the trend. For the Mets, the 44 jersey has often found its way onto the backs of guys who only think they’re power hitters.

There was Jay Payton, who had all the muscle of a power hitter but a delicate frame and a line-drive bat. Ryan Thompson could hit it out of the park in interviews but was never as ferocious at game time.Lastings Milledge and his similarly powerful mouth wore out his welcome in less than two years (and only 11 Met home runs).Mike Cameron slammed 30 home runs in 2004 but his hardest hit as a Met was a gruesome collison with teammate Carlos Beltran in 2005.

What’s a Met 44? It’s Howard Johnson in May of 1991 switching to No. 44 in an attempt to jump-start his game, only to scurry back to his familiar No. 20 in less than a week when his wife reminded him her jewelry all included the No. 20. It was reserve catcher Harry Chiti, acquired from the Cleveland Indians in 1962 for a player to be named later — Harry Chiti, and the Mets would get fleeced. It was four different players as recently as 2008, and I can barely remember any of them: Brady ClarkTony ArmasEddie Kunz and Brandon Knight. They threaten to join Kevin Lomon and Tom Filerand Bob Rauch, to name three Met pitchers who wore 44 in my fan lifetime and of whom I retain no specific memory whatsoever.

Like everything in Mets history, 44 was good for a stretch in the mid-1980s — Ron Darling and David Cone each wore it before switching to other unis — but it wasn’t long before 44 was again the domain of guys like Tim Burke and John Cangelosi and Jay Bell, who I still can’t believe chose sticking out to the bitter end of the 2003 campaign over retirement, or the Mets for allowing him .

It’s into this dysfuctional family that Jason Bay officially arrived in a Met press event today. Bonne chance, Jason! Ya gotta believe!

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One comment

  1. Jon Springer says:

    Submitted by Gordon Handler (not verified) on Wed, 01/06/2010 – 12:28pm.
    I alway thought Darryl belonged in 44

    So did Darryl

    Submitted by Jon Springer on Wed, 01/06/2010 – 1:36pm.
    He wore it with LA of course. Better than the 39 the Yankees gave him. I always pictured that like Darryl walking into the clubhouse and an equipment manager tossing a shirt at him like a chef greeting a new dishwasher with an apron. “Here. Wear this. Be on time.”

    I should have mentioned I don’t mean to deride 44 particularly as a point of pride among African American players, sluggers or not.

    How about Milledge by the way. Now wearing 85 with the Pirates.

    Trade Me Now

    Submitted by Gordon Handler (not verified) on Wed, 01/06/2010 – 3:34pm.
    85 represents the number of trades that the Mets turned down for him. Imagine what we could have had. I’ve changed my feelings about minor leaguers. I’d trade anybody for a proven major leaguer. You can count on one hand (maybe 2) the number of these can’t miss phenoms that actually pan out for any team. Based on the odds, I say trade em while you can.
    How about an all-time Mets can’t miss but they did team? I’ll start with these:
    P – David West
    P – Generation K – Pulsipher, Isringhausen, Wilson
    OF – Alex Escobar
    OF – Lastings Milledge

    speaking of izzy

    Submitted by 9th string catcher (not verified) on Wed, 01/06/2010 – 6:11pm.
    Wasn’t he in 44 originally as well?

    Izzy 44

    Submitted by gored82 on Wed, 01/06/2010 – 8:15pm.
    Indeed he was…

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