Mets immortalize numbers at Shea
Digits serve as stepping stones through stadium history
NEW YORK -- The games-to-go countdown for Shea Stadium, an exercise in nostalgia and numerology, continues this evening and runs through Sunday. The countdown reached No. 8 -- in this rendering at least -- in the last homestand. Tonight, a notable No. 7 will tear down No. 8, and we'll go from there. The remaining digits should include some of Shea's most magical numbers. MLB.com again offers suggestions for participants for the tear-off-the-number exercise:
John Rocker may see No. 7 and associate it with the train he took from midtown to Shea. And one or two folks out there will recall that footballer D.J. Dozier was a No. 7 in 1992 or that Chuck Carr wore it without distinction two summer earlier. ... Bobby Wine, a Mickey Mantle devotee, wore it as a coach for three years. ... Todd Pratt was No. 7 when he won the 1999 National League Division Series with that home run. ... Kevin Mitchell was a most productive No. 7 in 1986 and Juan Samuel's No. 7 was a wrong number in 1989. ... And Hubie Brooks -- nicknamed Hubcap -- was a personal favorite.
Of course, no No. 7 in franchise history has produced seasons comparable to those of Jose Reyes. But he will have to play for considerably more years to approach what Ed Kranepool did as No. 7 for the Mets. Initially No. 21, Kranepoool gave his number to the great Warren Spahn in 1965 and took the lower digit. His 18-year, Mets-only career produced the most games (1,853), at-bats (5,436), hits (1,418), doubles (225), total bases (2,047), pinch-hits (90) and sacrifice flies (58) in franchise history. And he is still fourth in RBIs (614). One of the cranes at Citi Field should have been given a Mets' No. 7 to honor Kranepool.
For such a low number, the Mets' No. 6 has relatively little noteworthy history. Mike Vail wore it as a rookie when he hit and hit and hit some more. ... Joe Orsulak was a pro's pro who played the game right. ... Melvin Mora was a force in the 1999 playoffs, like Timo Perez was in the 2000 NL Championship Series. ... Darren Reed could hit in March, but not in months in which breaking balls were thrown. ... Jim Hickman was more identified with the Mets' No. 9. ... And, of couse, Al Weis was the No. 6 for the 1969 Mets. ... But in my mind, there is one No. 6 that is most prominent. No Mets player wore No. 6 longer (1981-1988) or better than Wally Backman.
It almost belongs to David Wright already, but he will be Citi Field's No. 5. And would anyone be surprised if no one else wears the Mets' No. 5? But the franchise was in business for more than 42 years before Wright graced the number. Hobie Landrith was the first Met, and he wore No. 5, but Shea was just an idea when he wore it. ... John Olerud was an absolute joy to cover and a wonderful player. ... Steve Henderson over-played "Ring My Bell" in the clubhouse, but he under stayed his time with the Mets. A good guy. ... These days when he writes moving poetry, Ed Charles, the Glider, makes me wish I had covered him with the '69 Mets. ... But I did cover the Mets throughout the Johnson administration, and Davey Johnson was a sensational manager -- the most successful in club history -- and he had respect for newspapers.
Most of the guys who wore the Mets' No. 4 should have worn it longer -- Bobby Bailor, Bruce Boisclair, John Valentin, Chris Woodward and coaches Cookie Rojas, Mike Cubbage and Matt Galante. Three others stand out -- Robin Ventura (three years), Lenny Dykstra (four) and Ron Swoboda (five). Each was a go-to guy for reporters. Each has a prominent place in the club's postseaon history. Swoboda's two two-run home runs in a 4-2 victory against Steve Carlton -- when Lefty struck out 19 that September night in 1969 -- remains an inexplicable feat. Lenny was Nails and Ventura was such a skilled, competitive player and an admirable man. He's the No. 4.
I like Damion Easley and always appreciated everything about Rafael Santana, but even those gentlemen don't warrant an apology for what follows: Buddy Harrelson, Buddy Harrelson, Buddy Harrelson, Buddy Harrelson, Buddy Harrelson, Buddy Harrelson, Buddy Harrelson, Buddy Harrelson, Buddy Harrelson, Buddy Harrelson, Buddy Harrelson. Buddy is to the Mets' No. 3 what Tom Seaver is to their 41.
I've come to know Jim Fregosi since he was the Mets' No. 2, and he likes doo-wop. So does Tom Grieve, another Mets' No. 2. ... Sandy Alomar, the current No. 2, is a good man. ... And it was good to have Larry Bowa around in '85. ... But Kevin Elster could play shortstop with anyone (ask Stick). I enjoyed his irreverence and how his mind worked. A pleasure to cover.
With a nod to Fernando Vina, Mookie Wilson is the No. 1 numero uno.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.