When you think of the Mets and famous ejections, I’m guessing you first think of the famous Bobby Valentine mustache game, when after Valentine got tossed, he returned to the dugout in disguise.
You know it. You love it. I remember being amused when I asked Bobby V about it while we were working on Baseball Tonight, how he simply said “It worked. We won the game.” (true)
But the Bobby V mustache game of June 9, 1999 is one of many, many memorable Mets ejection stories. And now thanks to Retrosheet and the magic of Newspapers.com, we have a convenient means for being able to share them.
Ever since Retrosheet’s David Smith recently announced that the Retrosheet ejection database was posted online, I’ve been a kid in a candy store. I’ve organized the data and done some lookups of media coverage around the games that interested me post. Those newspaper accounts fill in a lot of blanks.
Without further ado (and with more work to do), here are some of my findings and favorites.
Let’s get the basic details out of the way.
By Retrosheet’s account, there have been 382 documented ejections in Mets history, with at least one in each season since 1962. The 2 seasons with the most ejections are 2 of the most dismal in Mets history – 1979 (18) and 1993 (17). The seasons with the fewest are 1968 and 1972 with one each.
The overall leader is Joe Torre with 25. He had 24 of those as a manager and one as a player. Terry Collins and Valentine rank tied for second with 20. Davey Johnson and Jerry Manuel (13 each) round out the top five.
There have been 201 player ejections. The leader among players is Darryl Strawberry with 7, one more than Todd Hundley. The most among pitchers is John Franco with 3.
Here’s the player leaderboard:
|Paul Lo Duca||4|
There have also been 145 managerial ejections, with Torre leading with those 24. There have also been 34 coach ejections led by original Mets coach Solly Hemus with 4.
The players, coaches and managers add up to 380 ejections … but we told you there have been 382 ejections. We’ll get to the other 2 in a little bit, but we’ll tell you that they’re not the batboy, not the trainer and not the owner.
You probably won’t be surprised by this: The umpire who ejected a Met the most often is Joe West, 14 times. He factors in those two mystery ejections as well.
The first ejection of a Met was coach Hemus on May 6, 1962 against the Phillies, a game the Mets won 7-5 in 12 innings. This was the game I noted in my previous piece on 7-5 Mets wins – it went so long that Philadelphia blue laws didn’t permit Game 2 of the doubleheader to be played.
As the New York Daily News reportedHemus was talking to pitcher Craig Anderson when Anderson came up in the 12th inning. Hall of Fame ump Jocko Conlan broke up the discussion. A few minutes later, the umpires were conferring about the blue-law scenario when Hemus teased them saying “Who’s doing all the talking now?”
Conlan subsequently tossed Hemus.
Hemus was actually ejected from games three times in that inaugural season, the most of any Met. Casey Stengel was tossed only once that year.
The first for a player
The first for a player was more straightforward. Shortstop Elio Chacon thought he had Maury Wills picked off second base in a game between the Mets and Dodgers in Los Angeles. Al Barlick called Wills safe and Chacon argued until Barlick tossed him. Chacon was not around when the game ended at 2:42 AM eastern, a 17-8 Dodgers “schalumping,” as Daily News writer Dick Young called it.
The Mets record for ejections in a game is five in a dramatic win over the Cubs on May 11, 1996.
The five ejections all game as the result of one incident. Cubs reliever Terry Adams threw a pitch behind Mets pitcher Pete Harnisch in the 5th inning. Harnisch and catcher Scott Servais had some unpleasant dialogue, resulting in Harnisch throwing a punch.
This led to a 16-minute brawl after which Frank Pulli ejected Harnisch, Todd Hundley, John Franco, and Blas Minor, along with bullpen coach Steve Swisher. Franco was ejected on John Franco Day! (thanks, Jason Fry!)
Rico Brogna emerged with a bruised elbow but by game’s end that was of no matter. After Doug Henry blew the save, Brogna won the game with a walk-off home run off Doug Jones in the bottom of the 9th.
The latest (by inning)
The Mets and Cardinals played a ridiculous 25-inning game on September 11, 1974.
This was another for the #LOLMets books. The Cardinals tied the game on Ken Reitz’s barely-clearing two-run home run off Jerry Koosman with two outs in the ninth inning. Neither team scored again a good while. The game went 7 hours and 4 minutes, featured a couple of great defensive plays by Cardinals first baseman Joe Torre, and included a 21st-inning stretch.
If Mets manager Yogi Berra was stretching, he was doing so in the clubhouse. He got tossed in the 20th inning for kicking dirt on home plate ump Ed Sudol while arguing a catcher’s interference call. He didn’t last as long as the commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, who sat with his wife in the stands until the last out.
The Cardinals won in the 25th when Bake McBride ran through a stop sign and scored all the way from first base on a pickoff attempt. In true Metsian fashion, the throw home by John Milner was dropped by catcher Ron Hodges, preventing any attempt at a tag.
Honorable mention to the infamous Mets-Braves game of July 4, 1985. Darryl Strawberry and Davey Johnson were ejected from that one for arguing balls and strikes in the 17th inning, an inning before Rick Camp’s home run, two innings before the game ended, and (guessing) 45 minutes to an hour before the 4 a.m. fireworks.
Never Throw In The Towel
Here’s one for the #LOLMets crowd and for those who always worry about having to use an emergency catcher. On July 27, 1967 with the Mets trailing the Dodgers 3-2 in the seventh inning and runners on the corners with two outs, manager Wes Westrum went for broke.
He sent Jerry Grote to pinch-run for starting catcher John Sullivan at first base, then pinch-hit another catcher Greg Goossen for the pitcher. Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale struck Goossen out. So Westrum inserted Grote to catch and brought in a new pitcher, removing Goossen from the game.
Guess what happened.
Grote got ejected in the eighth inning for throwing a towel and a shoe in protest of the home plate umpire’s call in the bottom of the seventh. With no catchers left on the roster, a number of players told Westrum they could catch – Tommy Davis, Ron Swoboda and Ed Kranepool. Westrum plugged in Tommie Reynolds to make his pro catching debut(!) because Reynolds had experience catching in the Mets bullpen.
As fate would have it the game went 11 innings and the Los Angeles Times noted that there were only 1,000 fans left at the end. With Dodgers runners on first and third, Jack Fisher’s pitch appeared to tick Bob Bailey’s bat. The ball went past Reynolds to the backstop, allowing the winning run to score (Retrosheet lists it as a passed ball, newspaper accounts describe it as a wild pitch – it’s possible that call was changed).
The Mets were understandably displeased, though given their history it feels like a very apropos kind of defeat. Grote was fined $100 and got an angry phone call from GM Bing Devine.
This was the next day’s Peanuts comic. Appropriate.
Remember we mentioned that there were two ejectees who didn’t fall under manager, coach or player?
In a game between the Mets and Braves on May 9, 1984, SportsChannel cameramen Al Friedman and Doug Zimmer were ejected after they showed an instant replay of Hubie Brooks being called out at home plate to Bobby Valentine and pitcher Mike Torrez.
Davey Johnson claimed that umpire Joe West (of course) said to watch the replay in the dugout to confirm that West was right. So the Mets did just that. And West’s response was to boot the cameramen claiming he told Johnson to look after the game and that it was illegal to have video equipment in the dugout (West was ahead of his time there).
Zimmer posted a clip from a story about the ejection with CNN on YouTube.
Those two ejections give West 14, as noted the most by an umpire against the Mets. Without them, he’d be tied with Bruce Froemming at 12 apiece.
Another Joe West oddity
July 30 1996 was a good day for the Mets. They swept a doubleheader from the Pirates, winning both games with late rallies. Carlos Baerga’s welcome to New York went great, as he knocked in the winning run in the eighth inning of Game 1. Todd Hundley’s walk-off home run won the nightcap.
Manager Dallas Green and coach Bobby Wine didn’t make it to Game 2. West claimed that Wine turned in his lineup card late, warranting an ejection. Green argued that decision and got sent to the showers as well.
“Just an arrogant display of power and a stupid arrogant display of power,” Green said afterwards.
About Last Night
Some disputes between manager and umpire linger for a pitch, a batter, an inning, or all game. And then there are those disputes that linger into the next game.
On August 25, 1982, Mets manager George Bamberger, with his team riding a nine-game losing streak, decided to take the lineup card to home plate to voice displeasure to umpire Ed Montague about how Montague had grabbed Hubie Brooks during an argument the previous game. Bamberger got angrier as the discussion went on and eventually Montague ejected him.
This didn’t do much to rally the team. A ninth-inning comeback fell short and the Mets lost to the Astros, 5-4.
In a meaningless game between the Mets and Braves on September 30, 1995, Dallas Green brought about some craziness during a jam in the eighth inning. After pitching coach Greg Pavlick visited the mound to talk to Jerry Dipoto. After Dipoto threw two balls to pinch-hitter Mike Kelly, Green tried to make a pitching change. But Braves coach Pat Corrales realized that would be an illegal substitution (a pitcher must complete the at-bat after a mound visit). It turns out that one component of the rule is that the manager gets ejected.
The punchline, as noted by Frank Isola in the Daily News was that Dipoto, who had started to leave the game only to return to the mound, nearly threw a pitch with only seven defenders in the field.
Anticipating the pitching change, outfielder Joe Orsulak had gone to the bullpen bathroom and had yet to return.
The Mets lost to the Padres 5-3 on August 25, 1989 on a Chris James walk-off home run. Davey Johnson didn’t make it to the 11th inning.
In the 6th inning, Ed Whitson hit a double, but the Mets thought he missed first base. Unfortunately for them, Sid Fernandez butchered the appeal – he didn’t properly step off the rubber in throwing to first base.
Johnson came out to argue and was told that the balk negated any attempted appeal. Fernandez gave up home runs to the next two batters. Johnson had already gone out to talk to the umpires, so he couldn’t make a second mound visit. Johnson asked his third baseman Howard Johnson to go to the mound instead. But, and I should note I’ve never heard of this before, the third base umpire, Bill Hohn would not allow Hojo to visit the mound.
Davey Johnson then came out to argue and was ejected by first base umpire Jerry Crawford.
The Mets protested the game because of Hohn’s denying the mound visit, but that was protest was denied.
No mustache and glasses this time
Give Bobby Valentine points for creativity. Valentine was the Mets third base coach on August 13, 1983, when he got a little too clever trying to help Keith Hernandez on third base in the first inning of a game against the Cubs.
Per description from the Chicago Tribune, Valentine tried to dupe Cubs pitcher Rich Bordi into thinking he was the baserunner by breaking down the third base line (an AP description said Valentine was mimicking Cubs pitcher Bordi’s windup – maybe he did both!). Regardless, third base umpire Bruce Froemming told Valentine to cut it out, leading to an argument that ended with Valentine’s ejection and Hernandez being called out due to coaches interference (Rule 7:09 J).
The Mets and Tom Seaver were unbothered by Bobby V’s approach. They won 5-1.
One added note: Perhaps this was foreshadowing for 14 years later when Valentine was managing the Mets when Steve Bieser coaxed a run-producing balk by running down the third base line versus Yankees pitcher David Cone in a Subway Series matchup.
Anyway, I’m still looking into some of the stories behind the other heave-hos. There’s probably more to come in the future.