Tag Archive for Ron Darling

Oh, Darling

Hi, I wanted to share quick impressions of the inaugural Queens Baseball Convention, which took place Saturday at McFadden’s at CitiField:

12The program highlight undoubtedly was a revealing interview from Ron Darling, helped along by excellent preparation and questions from interviewer Jason Fry. Darling acknowledged the sometimes ugly singlemindedness and ego required to be a successful pro athlete and the challenges that brings: A rookie-year locker room encounter with Tom Seaver, who dropped a New York Times crossword in his lap with instructions to finish by the end of the week; feelings of confusion upon being traded; of fierce determination on the mound; and of helplessness at the prospect of being released. He described his admiration for Gary Cohen; how encountering his National Guardsman father on the Fenway Park field prior to Game 4 of the 1986 World Series helped to overcome a rattled confidence and a poor pre-game bullpen session; and what it was like to play for a phenomenal team like the 1986 Mets, using the same language teammate Gary Carter once did of saying what ultimately made the difference was love for one another. How great is that?

Darling in addition to being a favorite of mine when he played, is also becoming a terrific broadcaster and establishing a perspective, voice and an accessible presence truly unique among ex-Mets. I was thrilled to hear he signed a five-year contract to continue calling Mets games and that he’s currently at work on another book.

In the brief Q&A session afterward I asked about the rare accomplishment of having worn three different uniform numbers during the course of a single, uninterrupted tenure with the team (quite unusual as the chart on this page illustrates): He relayed the familiar story of pitchers of that era gathering numbers in the teens to surround young Dwight Gooden; but said his change from 12 to 15 some years later was a matter of playing a trick on Mets pr man Jay Horwitz, whom he knew would panic when he couldn’t explain who the guy wearing No. 15 on that mound that day was. (In contemporary accounts, Darling always seemed to me to be less-than-forthcoming, telling writers then that “12 hasn’t been showing up this year.”) Great stuff, Ron!

I was briefly mortified to have forgotten the players to have followed Dwight Gooden in the No. 16 jersey (David Cone slipped my mind) during the session on uniforms in which I participated, but it was only a speedbump in a wild and wide-ranging discussion including Todd Radom‘s discovery and subsequent re-creation of the Mets’ logo in its original — pink and black! — colors. The event also placed me in a seat next to Russ Gompers, whose Whitestone sporting goods firm Stitches is the official embroider to the Mets and so a giant in my line of research. I’m happy to report he’s also a terrific guy whom I intend to meet again soon, to discuss certain matters relating to … Doug Saunders.

We were hooked off the stage so the show could go on, and those who stayed for Mark Simon‘s presentation were treated to a well-researched and well-told tale of unusual Met victories and heros … like Chris Jones. I owe a writeup of a uni-related discovery Mark shared with me recently that was one of the things inspiring my recent return to this project.

I’m in agreement with many who noted the overriding best part of the event was the mere gathering of so many fans in January. I’m happy to have personally met a few longtime readers of the MBTN project including the immortal Alex G., Internet personalities with whom I’ve encountered virtually for many years (Shannon Shark, Mark Healey); and seeing some old friends again. My wife and son showed up and got themselves photographed and quoted. Thanks, guys!

McFadden’s vast expanse and advantageous location made for a good site to gather but some challenging acoustics for events held in the main dining room. That said I was impressed they basically opened an entire restaurant on the fly for a day. Do they ever really need a men’s room attendant? I wish they’d promote this worker to the kitchen or bar and allow me to gather my own paper towels. That goes for any day of the season.

 

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Spring Break

50Like the Mets, I’m also flying South this weekend. Only quite a bit West too.

So updates will be infrequent while I take the fam to visit the home of Sid Fernandez, Benny Agbayani, Carlos Diaz, Tyler Yates and the birthplace of Ron Darling. If you happen to see whether my imagined Tim Teufel-Ruben Tejada duel takes place and/or can fill in any other blanks below during the first week of Spring Training, just note so in the comments. Thanks and see you soon!

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One After One After 909

The arrival of Mike Baxter on Monday ended a drought of 71 days without a Met making a debut — the longest such in-season drought since 1988 and the seventh-longest of all time. This gap, between Dale Thayer at 910 and Baxter at 911 follows an April during which 13 Mets made a debut — the most in that category since 2005.

MBTN roster expert Jason E. crunched the numbers and came up with a list of the longest new-Met droughts in history, presented in handy chart form here. How about that pair from 1983?

Gap Year Met No. Name Debut Date
96 Days 1968 163 Al Weis April 15
164 Jim McAndrew July 21
94 Days 1988 402 Mackey Sasser April 10
403 Bob McClure July 14
84 Days 1986 384 Rick Anderson June 9
385 Kevin Elster Sept. 2
80 Days 1983 348 Keith Hernandez June 17
349 Ron Darling Sept. 6
78 Days 1971 188 Charlie Williams April 23
189 Jon Matlack July 11
72 Days 1969 172 Bobby Pfeil June 26
173 Jim Gosger Sept. 7
71 Days 2011 910 Dale Thayer May 28
911 Mike Baxter Aug. 8

 

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A Very Boswell Birthday

Here’s Ken Boswell’s 1971 Topps baseball card. That’s the Cardinals’ Vic Davalillo arriving too late to break up the double play as Boswell works the pivot between shortstop Al Weis and first baseman Art Shamsky. The card — which must be one of the only Mets cards that includes a view of the Whitestone — was shot on May 28, 1970, in the 6th inning of a game that Mets were losing 6-0 to the Cards. Boswell, however, was having a good afternoon. He’d go 3-for-3 in this game with a double, a sac fly, and both Met RBIs in what became a 9-2 loss. Against Bob Gibson, not bad.

Boswell wore No. 12, which is apropos in that this month marks the 12th anniversary of Mets by the Numbers, which I’ve determined “went live” for the the first time on Feb. 22, 1999. This makes MBTN one of the real dinosaurs of the Metosphere; the Ultimate Mets Database, whose awesome powers I use to determine things like what happened to the Mets on May 28, 1970, debuted at around the same time. A site called Mets Online, founded by the current Yankees beat writer for MLB.com (!) and whose offspring today operates as NY Sportsday, was around then too, but not sure of many others. No. 12 was then in a dark period following Jorge Fabregas’s departure and the coming of the Shawon Dunston Era later that year.

Boswell was a Met for eight seasons and possessed a pretty good left-handed bat for a second baseman, especially for his era. A few injuries interrupted his early progress, and he’d eventually be displaced as the regular second baseman by Felix Millan, but he remained a useful player who batted 1.000 in the 1973 Word Series (3-for-3, all pinch hits) and clubbed home runs in consecutive games in the 1969 NLCS rout of the Braves. When Willie Randolph namechecked Ken Boswell while taking the No. 12 jersey, it might have been his finest moment as Mets manager.

12The No. 12 jersey has been an interesting one in Mets history. The all-time No. 12 was probably John “Bad Dude” Stearns, a four-time All-Star and all-time tough guy. Twelve was also the best of Ron Darling’s three numbers as a Met: He went 68-38 with a 3.38 ERA wearing 12 — and 31-32, 3.73 wearing other numbers (44 and 15, respectively).  Darling’s the only Mets pitcher to ever have worn 12.

Twelve belonged to Tommy Davis during his outstanding (and only) Mets season in 1967; and to maddening chatty hacker Jeff Francoeur in 2009 and 2010. It currently belongs to Scott Hairston, who’s likely to be a pinch-hitter and hopefully not a full-time player for the 2011 squad. One day, we may remember 12 as the number belonging to two Hall of Famers who endured difficult stays in Metville: Jeff Kent (who probably deserves in) and Roberto Alomar (who’ll be enshrined this summer).

Who’s your favorite 12?

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