MBTN reader Zach this week sent along the accompanying image of lefty Bob Ojeda warming up in St. Petersburg. They were culled from footage of “A Season to Remember” the 1986 Mets highlight video that I still have on VHS but haven’t watched since having decommissioned my VHS player years ago. Zach pointed out that some angel recently digitized it and that it now resides on YouTube, at least until MLB’s goons get ahold of it.
As you can see in the stills, Ojeda in these shots was wearing No. 43, and not the No. 19 he would wear when the Mets broke camp. The story behind that relates to the Mets’ decision to demote Ron Gardenhire to Tidewater as insurance for starting shortstop Rafael Santana, rather than carry him on the everyday roster — which at the time required the team to carry just 24 players and not 25. (Were that still the case, we wouldn’t now be sweating Ronny Cedeno). Gardenhire, who’d occupied No. 19 for four years but was a regular only in 1982, got the backup nod over another shortstop candidate, Argenis (Angel) Salazar, who was traded to Kansas City the same spring. Salazar had come to the Mets’ system a year earlier in exchange for Jose Oquendo but like Gardenhire in ’86, would be stashed for the season at AAA Tidewater as a backup for Santana.
Gardenhire’s departure — he was demoted just days before the season began and would not return to the Majors until beginning his coaching and managerial tenure with the Twins — gave Ojeda the chance to wear the No. 19 he’d rocked previously in Boston. No. 43 would next alight on the back of John Mitchell that September.
Thanks Zach for the photos and link! Also, be sure to see Matt’s comment below about Gardenhire bequeathing the 19 jersey to Ojeda and making plans for an eventual return. Great stuff!