The Mets on Tuesday will celebrate the pioneering efforts of Ron Hodges, who broke the Scrubeenie Barrier by lasting 12 seasons in a Mets uniform, the first 11 without even being considered a regular starting option.
To mark the historic occasion, every player on the Mets will be outfitted in the No. 42 jersey Ron made famous while rotting on the bench behind Grote and Dyer; then Grote and Stearns; and then Stearns and Grote; and then Stearns and Trevino; and then Trevino and Stearns; and then Stearns and Trevino again; and then Mike Fitzgerald. Relievers from Harry Parker to Wes Gardner found Hodges’ target while warming up in the bullpen; and managers from Berra to Frazier to Torre to Johnson called on his left-handed bat to pinch hit in crucial situations, provided they had already used Kranepool, Staub or Jorgensen.
“Waiting around to be useful and occasionally contributing something worthwhile are attributes I want my guys to inhabit,” explained manager Willie Randolph, who donned the 42 jersey at last year’s event. “We need to go out there and show our fans that in each of us beats the heart of a lefthanded hitting reserve catcher, preferably a veteran.”
For Hodges, 11 seasons of waiting around for a shot came to delicious fruition in 1983, when as a 34-year-old, he was the starting catcher in Tom Seaver’s glorious, opening-day return to Shea Stadium. Hodges set career highs with 110 games played and 250 at-bats.
“As a lefthanded-hitting catcher with a reputation for strong defense, I understand that Ron Hodges was every bit the player I am,” added the Mets’ current starter behind the dish, Brian Schneider. “Ron’s career reminds me of how blessed I am.”
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* Actually, all Mets are to wear 42 Tuesday to honor Jackie Robinson. The above wasn’t meant to disparage his contributions, or Ron Hodges’s, for that matter.
* Cultural omniblogger/librarian Mike Tubridy’s “Boat Against the Current” blog has nice words on Mets by the Numbers and its launch party last week.