For most Americans December 7th 1941 was ” A Day That Would Live In Infamy !”
For all Mets fans that date is today, June 15th 1977.
If you are too young to remember,or were yet to be born, sit right down and I’ll explain to you why this day will always be known as the “Midnight Massacre” for Mets fans.
At the time the Mets were still a good team. They had a strong starting rotation that was anchored by Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack. Craig Swan and a revolving door of starting pitchers completed the staff, and the Mets were always in the playoff hunt.
The Mets original owner, Joan Payson passed away in 1975. She was very passionate about her Mets, and even though she was a old school owner, Payson was never shy when it came to trying to obtain top flight talent.
After her passing, her husband, Charles Payson (an admitted Boston Red Sox fan) and her daughter, Lorinda de Roulet would take over the team. They really didn’t know – nor did they really want to deal with the daily operations of a Major League franchise. So they let Mets President, M. Donald Grant – the most polarizing figure in Mets history ( until Bernard Madoff) take over the day to day operations of the team.
Former Mets coach ,Whitey Herzog , once described Grant as a “banker who fancied himself a baseball mind” , Grant was old school. He hated free agency, and felt players should not be asking for exorbitant amounts of money.
Grant and Mets ace, Tom Seaver had a rather frigid relationship after their last contract negotiation, and it soon would develop into a full out war between the two. Grant enlisted the services of Daily News columnist Dick Young to help turn the public against Seaver, Young would tell stories of how Seaver – nor any other player should be making millions of dollars. He insinuated that Seaver was greedy, and then he wrote the column that started the Mets meltdown – he accused Tom’s wife , Nancy of being jealous of Nolan Ryan’s wife. This made Tom go nuclear and demanded to be traded as soon as possible !
Grant obliged by sending him to the Cincinnati Reds for former “Rookie of the Year” pitcher , Pat Zachry along with minor league outfielders, Steve Henderson and Dan Norman and second baseman Doug Flynn. But Grant wasn’t finished.
He proceeded to trade the very vocal ( and bitter) Dave Kingman to the San Diego Padres for washed up infielder ( and future Mets manager) Bobby Valentine and pitcher Paul Siebert.
Needless to say Mets fans everywhere were shocked and angered by these moves. It started a chain reaction of losing, and a black cloud anchored itself on top of Shea Stadium for several years.
I remember being five at the time. I was awoken by my father screaming and cursing . I was crying when he was calm enough to tell me that the Mets traded Seaver – one of my favorite players at the time.
Mets fans abandoned their team. Shea Stadium was known as ” Grant’s Tomb” in honor of the man who executed the death of many young Mets fans innocence.
Grant would be relieved of his duties 2 years later. But redemption would not come until this date in 1983, when the Metswould obtain first baseman, Keith Hernandez from the St Louis Cardinals for our reliever, Neil Allen and pitcher Rick Ownby.
Hernandez has since become a Mets icon. Mets fans have a affection with the man we refer to as the “stache and we clammor for his number 17 to be retired.
But still it doesn’t erase the pain and suffering we Mets fans endured on that day 34 years ago today.
It’s funny , I just watched “Mets Yearbook ’77” and watching the footage of then Mets manager, Joe Torre trying to spin the Seaver trade , and I felt – “Oh poor Joe – he looks so pained by trying to justify a bad trade.”. But Joe always tried to be a company man.
We will never forget.
And please – DON’T TRADE REYES !!!!
And with that said…HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!!
Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today includes:
Outfielder from the ’78 team, Ken Henderson is 65 (1946). Henderson’s tenure with the Mets was ” blink and you missed him” short ( 7 games). He was obtained in the trade that sent John Milner and Jon Matlack to the Rangers, and was traded that May to the Reds for relief pitcher, Dale Murray.
Fan favorite center fielder from the ’95 season, Brett Butler is 54 (1957) .
Reserve catcher from the ’90 season, Dave Liddell is 45(1966).
First baseman from the ’03 season, Tony Clark is 39 (1972).
Reserve outfielder from the ’09 season, Jeremy Reed is 30 (1981).
The New York Mets purchased outfielder, Gene Woodling from the Washington Senators on June 15, 1962.
The New York Mets purchased the contract of pitcher, Bob Friend from the New York Yankees on June 15, 1966.
The New York Mets traded second baseman, Kevin Collins, along with minor league pitching prospects, Steve Renko, Jay Carden and Dave Colon to the Montreal Expos for first baseman, Donn Clendenon on June 15, 1969. Even though the Mets sacrificed Renko – who would have a long and productive Major League pitching career, they got the services of Clendenon -a proven veteran who helped to mold the ’69 Mets into winners.
The New York Mets traded utility infielder, Mike Phillips to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder, Joel Youngblood on June 15, 1977. Youngblood was one of the most popular players during the Mets lean years.He was a Jack of all trades, playing in the outfield as well as the infield. In his six seasons with the Mets he batted a respectable .274 with 38 homers and 216 RBIs.
The New York Mets purchased the contract of spot starter/middle reliever, Andy Hassler from the Boston Red Sox on June 15, 1979.
The New York Mets traded pitchers, Bob Myrick and Mike Bruhert to the Texas Rangers for Dock Ellis on June 15, 1979. The trade turned out to be a wash because neither Myrick nor Bruhurt ever distinguish themselves with the Rangers, and Ellis at this point was a washed up shell of his self.
The New York Mets sold the contract of first baseman, Mike Jorgensen to the Atlanta Braves on June 15, 1983.
Jorgensen was at the end of his career, and was made expendable with the acquisition of Keith Hernandez.
The New York Mets traded minor league pitchers, Jay Tibbs, Matt Bullinger and minor league infielder, Eddie Williams, to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher, Bruce Berenyi on June 15, 1984. Berenyi pitched parts of three seasons with the Mets, going a total of 12-9 with a E.R.A of 4.28. Jay Tibbs was the only player out of the three prospects to have a a prolonged Major League career , pitching for six seasons with a handful of teams.
The New York Mets released reserve outfielder, Gary Matthews on June 15, 2010. It was about time !, Matthews gave the Mets next to nothing in terms of productivity. I know Brian Stokes was not a great middle reliever, but he was a better fit for the team than the washed up Matthews who whose career years were a testament to the use of PEDs.
Mo Vaughn has been known to massacre his icebox on many a midnight !!!