In the world of baseball there are two types of players, Those who can adjust to the bright lights and the marquees of the big city and those who as hard as they try just can never succeed. There has been many casualties down that canton of heros. Names like Pavano, Jefferies, Foy and Whitson.
But none of those men could ever hold a candle to number 35 on this list of the top 50 Mets of all time.
Who you may ask am I referring to ? Well it’s none other than one of the best offensive and defensive outfielders this team has ever known – number 20 himself – Tommie Agee !!
Tommie was born on August 9th 1942 in Magnolia Alabama. Agee attended one year at GramblingState University before he signed his first professional contract with the Cleveland Indians for a then mind blowing $60,000 signing bonus.
Ageewould make his big league debut as a September call up for the Indians in ’62. In ’62 and ’64 Tommie didn’t make the Indians out of Spring Training, and would only get called up to finish the season as a September call up . He would play in a total of 31 games with the Indians before being traded to the Chicago White Sox before the start of the ’65 season.
Ageeonce again toiled in the minors , this time with the Sox AAA affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians of the Pacific Coast League.
In1966, Agee would win the starting center fielder job in Spring training out of Spring Training. That season , Tommie was the White Sox sole representative to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
Tommie would slug 22 homers and knock in 86 RBIs, and he was voted American League Rookie of the Year. Tommie also won his first a Gold Glove. Tommie would also make the All Star Team in 1967.
On December 15 1967 , the Mets made what was possibly the steal of the year , when they traded power hitting outfielder, Tommy Davis, pitcher Billy Wynne , minor league catcher, Buddy Booker, and pitcher, Jack Fisher to the White Sox for Agee and light hitting second baseman , Al Weiss.
1968 was not one of Tommie’s best seasons. He struggled mightily at the plate and ended the season with a .217 batting average, with five home runs and 17 RBIs.
But in 1969 Agee flew out of the gates like a man possessed . In the third game of the season, Tommie had his first multiple home run game of his career. This was the game where one of his home runs hit halfway up in section 48 of the left field upper deck at Shea Stadium. No other player had ever came close to hitting a ball there. The Metsmarked the area where the ball landed witha sign that was painted withhis name uniform number and date. with Agee’s name, uniform number, and the date.
Ageeended the ’69 regular season with a.271 batting average , a team leading 26 home runs and 76 RBIs.
Tommie was named the Sporting News’ NL Comeback Player of the Year.
In the Mets three game sweep of the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, Agee batted .357 , hammering two home runs and driving in four RBIs.
During the ’69 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles, Agee would make some of the most amazing catches in post season history. In game three Agee made two catches that arguably saved five runs.
For the ’69 World Series would bat .167 with one homer and one RBI.
Agee had a great ’70 season, batting .286 with 24 homers and 75 RBIs. He would go on to establish a Metsseason record with 182 hits, 107 runs and 31 stolen bases. That season Tommiewould win his second Gold Glove award. He would become the first African-American player to win a Gold Glove in both leagues.
By ’71 Agee started to suffer from a chronic knee injury . He still hit well enough to finish the season with a .285 average with fourteen home runs in 1971.
But in 1972 his batting average plummeted to .227 knocking in 47 RBIs to finish second on the team.
That off season , Agee was traded to the Houston Astros for outfielder, Rich Chiles and pitcher, Buddy Harris.
Tommie would play for the St Louis Cardinals before hanging up his cleats in ’74.
After he retired, Agee was not a stranger to Mets fans. He made frequent appearances at Shea Stadium and he became a good will ambassador for the team. He took part in many charitable events.
On January 22 2001 Tommie was fatally stricken by a heart attack while he was finishing up a meeting in New York City – his adopted home. He was 58 at the time.
During the ’02 season, the Mets posthumously inducted Tommie into their Hall of Fame .
I have had the privilege of meeting Tommie as a young teenager. He was one of the sweetest men I have ever met. He was down to earth , very positive and he loved children no matter what their ethnic makeup. I remember crying when I found out that he had passed. I was 28 at the time and though I have no memory as a child seeing him play , his warmth and kindness reverberated in me.
I do miss him so.
Tomorrow we will profile at number 34 one of the original Mets from that awful ’62 team.
And with that said…. HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!
Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today include :
One of the better middle relievers on those crappy late ’70′s teams, Dale Murray is 61 (1950) .
Mets utility infielder from ’76-’77, Leo Foster is 60 (1951) .
Mets reserve outfielder from the ’90 season, Pat Tabler is 53 (1958) .
One time , long time Orioles pitcher who pitched a handful of games for the Mets in ’04, Scott Erickson is 43 (1968) .
Mets middle infielder from ’99-’00, Melvin Mora is 39 today (1972) . O how I rue the day Steve Phillips traded him to the Orioles for Mike Bordick after Rey Ordonez was disabled with that broken arm. I recently had a conversation on Twitter with Jim Duquette about that trade , which he intimated was a mistake.
Spot starter from the ’07 team, Jason Vargas is 28 (1983) . We recieved Vargas from that much reviled trade that sent Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens that also brought back minor league pitcher, Adam Bostick. Neither Vargas not Bostick panned out for the Mets while for a short time both Owens and Lindstrom were highly touted relievers.
New York Mets traded outfielder Carlos Gomez along with pitching prospects Phillip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra to the Minnesota Twins, for ace starting pitcher, Johan Santana, on February 2, 2008. I remember the days leading up to the trade being a nervous wreck. I didn’t calm down until after Johan hammered out a contract extension with the Mets. Even though Johan has been injured the past few season, I still consider this trade a steal. Johan has thus far had many great moments as a Met and I feel he is one of the keys to the Mets in the upcoming seasons.
And while you hope that all this Wilpon/Madoff buisness starts to blow over, just remember that there are just 58 days until the Mets open the 2011 season against the Florida Marlins in Miami and just 65 days to go until the Mets 2011 home opener against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
Mo Vaughn just added two new members to his syndicate to purchase the Mets, former managers Jeff Torborg and Mike Cubbage !!