In the fifty years that the Mets have been a member of Major League baseball, pitching and defense has been their forte. But even then there has been one position that has until recently been a continuous revolving door for players. That position is obviously third base, and many men – from Don Zimmer to Dave Kingman have manned the “ hot corner” That’s not to say that the Mets haven’t had and long term solutions. There was Wayne Garret as well as Ray Knight, Howard Johnson, and most recently David Wright. But at number nine of this countdown as voted by you the readers only played three seasons at third base, but his defense, along with his potent bat has earned his place among the most elite members of this franchise.Yes number nine on the countdown is the man with the movie star looks, Robin Ventura !
Robin Mark Ventura was born in Santa Maria, California on July 14, 1967. As a teenager, Robin attended Righetti High School in Orcutt, California. After graduating high school , Robin would enroll at Oaklahoma State University where he went on to become a 3-time All-American. As a freshman in 1986, he led the nation in runs with 107 , RBIs with 96 and 204 total bases. He played in 69 games as a freshman . In 1987, he broke the previous NCAA hitting streak record which was 47 when he hit safely in 58 games. It still remains the Division I record.
In 1988 Ventura was names to the Olympic Baseball Team. He batted .409 during the Olympics.
The Chicago White Sox selected Robin tenth in the 1988 Major League Baseball Draft. Robin was immediately dispatched to the White Sox affiliate in Birmingham Alabama, and spent much of the next season and a half there. Robin was called up to the White Sox that September. In 1990, Robin made the team out of Spring training, but he struggled mightily in his first season. He at one point went through a 0-41 stretch as well as committing 25 errors.He did end the season with 125 hit though. In 1991 Robin won his first career Gold Glove. In 1992, Robin won his second consecutive Gold Glove and was elected to his first All Star Team.
In 1993, Robin struggled at the plate. He finished the season batting .262. He won his third consecutive Gold Glove that season. That season Robin appeared in his first post season. The lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS.
In 1995 Robin won his fourth Gold Glove award. He would be a productive member of the White Sox until the end of the ’98 season when he was granted free agency. In his final season with the Sox in ’98, Robin won his fifth Gold Glove.
After the ’98 season had concluded,Robin signed a four year contract with the Mets. In my opinion it was money well spent for Robin would hit Ventura hit .301 while slugging 32 homers and knocking in 120 RBIs. He made only nine errors that entire season. That May, Robin became the first player ever to hit a grand slam in each game of a doubleheader.
In some respects Robin was the unofficial leader of the team. He even introduced their ” Mojo Rising” mantra. After every Mets win as per his request the Metspublic address anouncer would play L.A Woman by the Doors. It became their rally cry of sorts. The ’69 team was “Amazin !” , the ’73 team was ” Ya Gotta Believe, and the ’99-’00 teams believed in their ” Mojo Risin !!”
Robin along with fellow Mets infielders Rey Ordonez, John Olerud and Edgardo Alfonzo were ordained as the ” Best Infield of All Time” , and were even given their own magazine cover by Sports Illustrated.
In August of ’99, Ventura tore cartilage in his lefty knee. He played injured and still helped propel the Mets to their first post season in eleven years.
The defining moment in Robin’s Met’s career happened during Game 5 of the NLCS against the Mets bitter enemies, the Atlanta Braves. The Mets were down 3 games to one – on the verge of elimination with the Atlanta Braves leading the Mets by the score tied 3-3 after Todd Pratt walked to force in the tying run. The sky was pouring rain as Ventura stepped to the plate. Ventura proceeded to wallop the ball into the dark Flushing night, but before his home run trot could get him to second base, he was mobbed by Pratt, along with the rest of the Mets team thus it was ruled that since he only touched first base he was awarded a single,hence the infamous ” Grand Slam Single ” will forever be in the lexicon of Mets fans for this and future generations. The Mets would eventually be eliminated from the playoffs in the very next game by the Braves. Robin won his first NL Gold Glove that fall his sixth overall.
After the ’99 season ended, Robin had knee surgery to repair the torn cartilage as well as shoulder surgery. It was obvious that Robin wasn’t fully healed, and he finished the regular season with a batting average of .232 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs. By July Robin was back on the disabled list due to inflammation in his shoulder.
The Mets went to their second straight post season in ’00, but Ventura was mired in a slump during both the NLDS as well as the NLCS. In those two series, Robin batted a combined. 214 with one RBI.
The Mets beat both the Giants as well as the Cardinals to make it to the World Series. Robin batted only .150 in those five games against our hated cross town rivals, the New York Yankees. Robin would hit his only World Series homer that year against Orlando Hernandez. The Mets ended up losing to the Yanks in five games, and one has to wonder how much different the outcome would have been if he was playing healthy.
In 2001, Robin continued to slide backwards when he batted just .237 with 21 homers and 61 RBIs.
After that horrible season, the Mets felt that Robin had nothing left in the tank and they traded him to the Yankees for their own faded star, David Justice. In 2002, Robin’s numbers improved slightly, batting .247 with 27 homers and 93 RBIs. he was selected to his last All Star Game that season.
Ventura managed to stick around with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the last two years of his career. He retired after the ’05 season due to arthritis in his right ankle.
Since his retirement in ’05, Robin has been a occasional commentator for ESPN but other than that he has not been so visible. Ventura was on hand for the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in September of ’08 as well as the ten year reunion of the ” Subway Series ” at Citi Field last season.
In his three years with the Mets, Robin batted .260 with 77 homers and 265 RBIs.
Tomorrow we will profile one of the most explosive as well as controversial Mets ever who comes in at number eight on the countdown.
And with that said… HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!
Mets Alumni celebrating a birthday today include :
Mets coach from the ’91 season, Tom Spencer is 60 (1951) .
One time Mets staring pitcher, Brian Bannister is 30 (1981) .
Sadly on this date in ’00, middle reliever from the ’64 team , Tom Sturdivant passed away.
The New York Mets purchased third baseman/outfielder, Dave Kingman from the San Francisco Giants on February 28, 1975. Ironically enough, the Mets reacquired him on the same day six years later when they traded outfielder, Steve Henderson to the Chicago Cubs for him in 1981.
The New York Mets signed free agent Pedro Feliciano on February 28, 2006. Pedro was the most consistant pitcher coming out of the Mets bullpen in the last 4 seasons. Good luck with the Yankees.
And while you are relishing the smackdown that Oliver Perez received yesterday, just remember that there are just 32 Tom Hausman daysuntil the Mets open the 2011 season against the Florida Marlins in Miami and just 39 days to go until the Mets 2011 home opener against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
Mo Vaughn has decided he will wrestle aligators professionally !!!