20th anniversary: the least likable team ever strikes again

Twenty years ago today marked another low point for arguably the least likable team of all time: the 1993 Mets.

This is a club that really made it rough to be a fan. Let’s start with the basics. They lost a lot of games, finishing with a 59-103 record. Well, that’s bad, but that doesn’t mean they’re unlikable, just that they ain’t any good.

True, but there’s also this: they were underachievers. The Mets’ Pythagorean record placed them at a 73-89 mark, 14 games better than their real record. Folks, you don’t underachieve by 14 games without a lot of crucial clutch breakdowns.

Again, true, but it’s still far too harsh to call them one of the least likable teams of all time just for losing games. Yeah, but it’s what they did off the field that really set them apart.

Their most infamous incident happened earlier in the week. On July 24, 1993, aging outfielder Vince Coleman threw a firecracker from a car—where people were standing. He hurt three people with his malicious toss, a woman and two children. They were just waiting for autographs outside Dodger Stadium. Coleman faced felony charges for that and ended up doing 200 hours of community service.

You’d think the Mets would learn from having one of their teammates stuck at the center of a vile and rotten incident. You’d be wrong.

Just three days later, on July 27, 1993, a new incident happened. One member of the team thought it would be a real gas to spray bleach into a group of reporters. Yeah, that’s not a good thing to do. No one was hurt, but still, who the hell fires bleach at people, especially just after a teammate faced charges for what he’d thrown at people?

In fact, for a while no one knew who did it. Not until Aug. 10, 1993, did someone step forward: Bret Saberhagen. He apologized and donated some pay to charity.

It shouldn’t have been too surprising that Saberhagen was the culprit, because this wasn’t his first offense against the media that year. On July 7, he threw a firecracker under a table near reporters at Shea. That time, he didn’t wait to come forward—and for that matter he didn’t apologize, either. He said it was a practical joke, and if the media couldn’t take it, forget them.

Then, 17 days later, Coleman showed just how horribly wrong Saberhagen was in his indifference. And three days after that, Saberhagen showed he was too thick-skulled to learn the lesson. As long as someone has to be the biggest underachieving team of all time, thank God it was these cretins.

They had some of the worst behavior of any team ever, and one of their more notable incidents happened 20 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversaries and “day-versaries” (which are things that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better items in bold if you’d rather just skim.

Day-versaries

3,000 days since Tony Pena resigns as Royals skipper.

4,000 days since Ellis Burks gets his 2,000th hit.

4,000 days since Reds catcher Jason LaRue has an outing from hell, allowing three straight passed balls and also giving up a run-scoring wild pitch. Knuckleballer Jared Fernandez is on the mound.

5,000 days since the Angels hire a new manager: Mike Scioscia.

7,000 days since the Silver Bullets beat the Richfield Rockets in St. Paul, marking the first victory for a female team over a male team.

8,000 days since Vinny Castilla appears in his first game.

8,000 days since Eric Karros makes his big league debut.

9,000 days since the Cubs and Rangers stage a nine-player trade that sends Jamie Moyer and Rafael Palmeiro to Texas and cardiac closer Mitch Williams to Chicago.

Anniversaries

1849 Davy Force, early baseball star, is born.

1876 Chicago Cubs star Ross Barnes gets six hits in one game. Teammate Cal McVey did it twice in the previous five days. The Cubs have scored 88 runs over their last four games.

1880 Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Tinker is born.

1885 John Clarkson no-hits the Providence Grays, outdueling Old Hoss Radbourn.

1891 Hall of Fame outfielder Joe Kelley makes his big league debut.

1893 Brooklyn purchases Wee Willie Keeler from the Giants for $800, which even back then isn’t a large sum.

1897 Hall of Fame Negro League catcher Biz Mackey is born.

1904 Giants owner John Brush and manager John McGraw say that if they win the NL pennant, they have no intention of playing the AL champs. Back then, the World Series was not mandatory.

1905 Cooperstown-bound manager Leo Durocher is born.

1906 The Detroit Free Press reports that young outfielder Ty Cobb is in a sanitarium.

1909 Minor league pitcher Pete Alexander is hit on the head while running the bases. He’ll suffer from vision problems for months.

1918 Harry Heitmann makes one of the worst debuts in big league history, getting one out while allowing four runs for an ERA of 108.00. Not only does he never pitch again, but the annoyed pitcher enlists in the Navy that very same day.

1922 Nig Cuppy, four-time 20-game winner for 1890s Cleveland Spiders, dies at age 53.

1923 Tilly Walker becomes the first person to homer 100 times for the A’s franchise. They are the fifth franchise with a 100-HR guy.

1923 Ray Boone, baseball family patriarch, is born.

1926 Wilbert Robinson notches his 1,000th managerial victory for a 1,000-975 career record.

1926 Veteran AL shortstop Everett Scott plays in his last game.

1927 18-year-old outfielder Mel Ott belts his first home run, which is an inside-the-park shot.

1928 Hall of Famer Goose Goslin gets his 100th career triple. It’s his fifth triple since July 20. He had just one triple all year prior to then. Go figure.

1928 For the last time in his career, Ty Cobb appears in the starting lineup. He singles, doubles, and is hit in the chest by a pitch against the White Sox.

1929 Jimmie Foxx’s longest career hitting streak peaks at 22 games. He has just 27 hits in this span.

1929 Charley Root, the all-time winningest Cubs pitcher, has perhaps his best day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and four RBIs.

1930 Reds reliever Ken Ash gets a win on one pitch for a full inning’s work. His only pitch to Charlie Grimm goes for a triple play, and then the team lifts Ash for a pinch-hitter.

1932 George “Highpockets” Kelly appears in his last game. Kelly is a Hall of Famer, albeit arguably the least deserving one.

1933 The Red Sox sign veteran infielder Joe Judge as a free agent.

1933 Carl Hubbell pitches his third consecutive complete-game shutout. He’s allowed 18 hits and three walks while fanning nine over 27 innings in that time.

1935 Lefty Grove smacks the only grand slam home run of his career. In the same game, he allows 21 hits, easily his most. He pitches 14.2 innings in the game.

1937 Joe Medwick hits his 100th home run.

1937 Indians hurler Mel Harder loses his 100th decision for a 118-100 record.

1937 Great Giants pitcher Carl Hubbell has the worst start of his career: 3.1 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 1 BB, and 2 K for a Game Score of 9.

1938 For the second straight game, Hank Greenberg homers twice. He has four homers in four at-bats, tying a record.

1941 Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Gordon conks his 100th home run.

1941 Red Ruffing wins his ninth straight decision, his longest career winning streak.

1942 The leftist paper New York Daily Worker says that the Pirates owner Benny Benswanger arranged for the tryout of Negro League stars, including Roy Campanella.

1945 The Cubs purchase Hank Borowy from the Yankees for $97,000.

1946 Tigers slugger Rudy York hits two grand slams in one game. It gives Hal Newhouser his eighth straight win. Newhouser’s ERA is 0.99 in that span.

1947 Jake Jones of the Red Sox hits a six-foot triple. He’s awarded third base when the Browns pitcher tosses his glove at it trying to get it to go foul.

1947 On his 50th birthday, former Negro Leagues catcher Biz Mackey appears in the East-West Game, making him the oldest man ever to appear in it.

1948 Joe Tinker dies on his 68th birthday.

1948 Hank Arft has a great big league debut, tripling and homering for three RBIs in a 4-0 Browns win over the Yankees. It’s all downhill from here.

1950 Phillies star Del Ennis gets seven RBIs in two innings (the seventh and eighth) in their 13-3 win over the Cubs.

1950 Stan Musial goes hitless, ending his hit streak at 30 games.

1952 Bob Lemon loads the bases with no outs in the fourth versus the Senators and then fans three straight to escape the jam unscathed.

1952 Longtime Orioles second baseman Rich Dauer is born.

1953 The Tigers release former ace pitcher Hal Newhouser.

1955 Len Barker, Indians pitcher, is born.

1955 Shane Rawley, southpaw pitcher, is born.

1956 Roy Campanella hits the rare walk-off GIDP for a 4-3 Dodgers win over the Cubs in 10 innings. There won’t be another walk-off GIDP in the major leagues until 1973.

1956 Two Royals each get five hits in one game, Vic Power and Hector Lopez, and the team still loses, 10-9 in 14 innings, to the Yankees.

1959 New York attorney William Shea announces the formation of the Continental League.

1960 Hard-throwing Reds pitcher Jim Maloney makes his big league debut.

1961 Bob Gibson, pitching in relief, allows a walk-off walk to Bob Will of the Cubs for a 3-2 Cardinals loss.

1961 Hank Aaron has his first sacrifice bunt since 1956 and his last one ever as a Brave.

1962 In a traffic jam, Red Sox players Gene Conley and Pumpsie Green leave the team bus and abandon the team.

1962 Al Kaline experiences his best-ever WPA game: 0.840 WPA. He’s 1-for-4 with a walk, reached on error and two RBIs in a Tigers 4-3 win over the Angels. He hits a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off win.

1963 Former Tigers workhorse Hooks Dauss dies at age 73. He won 223 games as a Tiger, still the most in franchise history.

1963 The Mets release veteran outfielder Jimmy Piersall, whom the Angels sign later in the day.

1964 Reds manager Fred Hutchinson enters the hospital for cancer treatment.

1965 The Japanese League lowers the number of foreigners allowed to be on a team from three to two.

1965 Warren Spahn loses his ninth straight decision, his worst losing streak.

1966 Sandy Koufax and Jim Bunning duel for a mutual no-decision. Bunning fans 12 while Koufax fans 16, but neither is around when LA finally wins, 2-1 in 16 innings.

1966 The Wisconsin Supreme Court overrules a lower court’s decision that prevented the Braves from moving to Atlanta. The higher court says the state lacks the jurisdiction to prevent them from leaving.

1968 Steve Carlton homers and pitches a complete-game shutout in a 4-0 Cardinals win over the Phillies. Carlton will have three more SHO/HR combos in his career.

1968 Former Pirates pitcher Babe Adams dies at age 86.

1968 Denny McLain wins his 20th game. He’s 20-3 on the year and counting.

1969 The Red Sox top the Seattle Pilots in a 20-inning marathon, 5-3.

1969 Leo Durocher tells the Cubs he’s feeling ill and then travels to Wisconsin to visit his son in camp.

1973 A would-be no-hitter by Jim Palmer is broken up in the eighth inning by a George Hendrick single. It’s one of five one-hitters for Palmer.

1975 Tommy Davis gets his 2,000th career hit.

1975 Alex Rodriguez is born.

1975 Ron Guidry makes his big league debut.

1975 The Mets release Cleon Jones after previously suspending him for insubordination.

1975 Shea Hillenbrand is born.

1976 Fergie Jenkins wins his 200th decision for a 200-147 record. He does it despite allowing a career-worst 14 hits.

1976 Dock Ellis intentionally beans Reggie Jackson in the face with a fastball. It’s the first time Ellis has faced Jackson since the 1971 All-Star Game, when Jackson hit a famous homer off Ellis. Today, Ellis looks at Jackson’s crumbled body by the plate and nonchalantly asks, “Is he dead?”

1978 Catfish Hunter has the worst start of his career: 0 IP, 3 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, and 0 K for a Game Score of 17.

1978 Duane Kuiper legs out two bases-loaded triples in the second game of a doubleheader for a 17-5 Indians win over the Yankees.

1978 Mike Cubbage hits for the cycle.

1978 It’s Reggie Candy Bar Day at Milwaukee’s County Stadium. In the game, after a brushback pitch, Reggie tosses his bat at the mound and gets into a fight.

1978 George Steinbrenner has a secret meeting with Billy Martin about the latter coming back to manage the Yankees. Steinbreinner is floored by the fan backlash over Martin’s recent “resignation.”

1979 Bert Blyleven goes 0-for-5 with five Ks in one game, his worst day at the plate.

1979 Cecil Cooper hits three home runs in one game.

1980 A quake rocks the upper deck and press box during an A’s-Tigers doubleheader.

1982 Cal Ripken hits his first career walk-off home run.

1982 Nolan Ryan wins his 200th decision for a record of 200-183.

1982 Rickey Henderson is 1-for-4 in stolen base attempts against Bob Boone.

1983 Gaylord Perry becomes the fourth pitcher in history to get to 3,500 career strikeouts. Three of the four did it this year: Perry, Nolan Ryan, and Steve Carlton. Only Walter Johnson had done it before 1983.

1983 It’s Whitey Herzog at his most Whitey Herzog, as the Cardinals are 9-for-9 in stolen base attempts in their 7-6 win over the Giants.

1984 Charlie Hough completes his sixth straight start, his most ever.

1984 Longtime pitcher Mike Torrez appears in his final game.

1984 Pete Rose gets career single No. 3,053, passing Ty Cobb for the most ever.

1985 The Astros allow 16 runs, but, incredibly, they are all unearned. The Mets top them, 16-4
.

1985 At age 95, Smokey Joe Wood dies.

1985 Never has George Brett been so feared in one game. He draws a personal-best three intentional walks.

1986 The A’s top the Blue Jays, 1-0 in 15 innings, on a walk-off walk. It’s the latest 1-0 game to end on a walk-off walk since at least 1950.

1987 Hall of Fame shortstop Travis Jackson dies at age 83. He doesn’t deserve to be in Cooperstown, but he’s there nonetheless.

1987 Gene Mauch becomes the third manger to lose 2,000 decisions. Connie Mack and Bucky Harris are the first two to do it. Mauch’s record is 1,877-2,000.

1987 The minor league Salt Lake City Trappers lose, ending their 29-game losing streak, a professional record.

1988 Texas signs amateur free agent Ivan Rodriguez.

1988 Tommy John makes three errors on one play. He bobbles the ball, tosses it into the outfield, and then after cutting off a throw from the outfield, throws it to the backstop when he tries to nail a runner attempting to score.

1989 Dale Murphy hits two home runs in one inning for the Braves.

1990 It’s one of the best pitchers’ duels of the decade as young Cubs ace Greg Maddux and Expos pitcher Mark Gardner exchange goose eggs for nine innings. Maddux allows just two hits, while Gardner surrenders four but fans 10. The Cubs win in 10 frames, 2-0, but Maddux gets the no-decision. He really doesn’t need this, as he’s in the midst of a career-worst 13 straight starts without a win.

1991 Denny Neagle makes his big league debut.

1992 The Astros begin a 26-game road trip while the Astrodome hosts the Republican National Convention.

1993 Cal Ripken hits the best WPA home run of his career, a 0.592 WPA blast. It’s a two-out, three-run blast in the top of the eighth with Baltimore trailing Toronto, 3-2.

1993 Frank Thomas experiences his best game according to WPA. He’s 4-for-4 with a pair of homers and five RBIs in Chicago’s 7-4 win over the Indians for a 0.669 WPA.

1993 Kevin Appier gives up just one hit in a nine-inning, 11-K complete game, but it’s a home run by Rafael Palmerio for a 1-0 Rangers win over the Royals.

1994 Garret Anderson makes his big league debut.

1994 Sparky Anderson ties Joe McCarthy for fourth place on the all-time managerial wins list with 2,126 triumphs.

1995 Hall of Fame catcher Rick Ferrell dies at age 89. He’s one of the most bizarre and unjustifiable Cooperstown picks the Veterans Committee ever made.

1996 Paul Molitor gets career triples No. 100 and 101, not bad for less than a month away from his 40th birthday.

1996 Joe Carter hits a 483-foot home run to the Skydome’s upper level. He’s the third man to hit one there.

1996 Orel Hershiser sets a personal worst with a Game Score of 5. His line: 5.1 IP, 11 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 4 BB, and 3 K.

1997 At a Reds-Braves game, the on-field temperature on the turf is 152 degrees.

1997 The Rockies trade Craig Counsell to the Marlins.

1997 Detroit retires No. 16 for Hal Newhouser.

1998 Andruw Jones lays down what is still his last sacrifice bunt.

1998 Sammy Sosa finally gets his first grand slam, which is career home run No. 248.

1998 Pittsburgh’s Tony Womack sets a record with his 888th consecutive at-bat without a GIDP.

1999 It’s the first Turn Ahead the Clock Night as the Pirates top the Mets, 5-1, in futurist uniforms. They are ugly.

1999 Fred McGriff gets his 2,000th career hit.

2000 Jim Fregosi notches his 1,000th managerial win for a record of 1,000-1,064.

2001 Tampa trades Fred McGriff to the Cubs.

2001 John Olerud hits home run No. 200.

2002 Alex Rodriguez has a very enjoyable 27th birthday when he hits a walk-off grand slam. It’s the first walk-off home run of his career.

2004 Gary Sheffield gets his 400th career home run.

2004 Seattle releases professional hitter John Olerud.

2007 The White Sox trade Tad Iguchi to the Phillies.

2007 Shea Hillenbrand celebrates his birthday by finding out the Padres have just signed him as a free agent.

2007 Texas trades veteran center fielder Kenny Lofton to the Indians.

2008 A’s rookie Brad Ziegler has now thrown 27 innings in his career and has yet to allow a run, a record scoreless streak to start a career.

2009 Nationals player Josh Willingham hits two grand slams in their 14-6 win over the Brewers.

2010 Jason Kendall catches his 2,000th career game.

2010 Nationals uber-prospect Stephen Strasburg is a late scratch with shoulder tightness for tonight’s game with the Braves.

2010 Florida releases pitcher Nate Robertson.

2011 The White Sox trade Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen to the Blue Jays for Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart. Then Toronto trades Octavio Dotel, Jackson, Corey Patterson, and either three players to be named later or cash to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus.

2011 Former big league pitcher Hideki Irabu commits suicide at age 42.

2011 Anaheim’s Ervin Santana pitches a no-hitter over the Indians. He allows a first-inning run off an error, stolen base, productive ground out, and wild pitch. He later walks a batter.

2012 The Nationals release Rick Ankiel.

2012 Milwaukee trades starting pitcher Zack Greinke to the Angels.

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Comments

  1. Jim said...

    I don’t know, nor care, how you rate Hall of Famers, but if it was entirely up to you, there wouldn’t be many in there.

    Interesting that Cal Ripken got .592 WPA for a homerun and the Big Hurt only got .669 for his best game.  No further comment.

  2. Chris Jaffe said...

    Jim – are you referring to my comment on Rick Ferrell?  Because thinking he doesn’t belong in Cooperstown hardly makes me a small hall guy. He is one of the worst picks in VC history.

    Thanks for the correction on the KC entry.

  3. Jim said...

    Chris, no it just seems every day you mention something about a hall of famer and add that he is not deserving or worthy.  After awhile it sounds like you would cull out a lot of the members and make membership smaller.  That’s all.  You made two such comments in today’s column – Kelly and Farrell.

  4. Chris Jaffe said...

    Jim – Ah, I see.  What’s going on here is I looked up a bunch of info on all the Hall of Famers for my file.  I was going to do similar for a bunch of guys as good/better than them, but – well, I just didn’t.  So I got a lot on guys who were chosen – arbitrarily chosen – for Cooperstown. 

    Just referring to someone like Travis Jackson or Chick Hafey or Ferrell as a Hall of Famer seems like a bit much to me.  They shouldn’t be there – so I make the qualifier.  And since I have lots of info on all of them, a lot of days you see comments like this.

    I’m actually a big Hall guy.  But the 1920s-30s are bad overrepresented.  There are plenty of guys from the last 50 years I’d be willing to put in.

  5. dennis Bedard said...

    Gene Conley and Pumpsie Green go AWOL in the middle of a traffic jam?  No way you can print this and not follow up with a story.

  6. JAMES CASEY said...

    Was ‘93 also the year Bobby Bonilla offered to duke it out with a reporter in the locker room, or was that later?

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