Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mets Hall Of Fame Players: No.20-The Tommie Agee Story

“The first thing Gil wanted to do was acquire Tommie Agee. He wanted a guy to bat leadoff with speed and that also could hit for power.”~Bob Murphy

Cleon got a 1970 insert booklet. But not Tommie? Come on Topps! I think they picked one player for each team (there were 24 of them), and Cleon did have a hell of a year. Still, they should have made one comic for each team and two for the Mets. They were the champs! I used a lot of stuff from Cleon's 1970 Topps insert booklet (as well as other '70 booklets and comics) to create:
If you're interested in Cleon Jones actual Topps 1970 insert comic you can view some pages here at Centerfield Maz, who has been informing and entertaining Met fans for a long time now. We all appreciate it Mazman.

>The Tommie Agee Story 1970 Topps Insert Booklet was based on an article from the Baseball Biography Project at the S.A.B.R. (The Society For American Baseball Research) written by John Vorperian. Excerpts were also used from the book The Amazin' Mets, 1962-1969 By William J. Ryczek.
> The Ultimate Met Database & Baseball Reference
> Topps 1970 Insert booklets: Cleon Jones, Vida Pinson, & Ernie Banks.
> "The Montgomery Story" a 1956 civil rights pamphlet about Martin Luther King.
> The Crane Pool Forum: Members photographs, information and recollections have been invaluable.
> Cartoonist Bruce Stark (Tommie Agee Poster, Gil Hodges)
> Photographer Sharon Chapman (Agee Mets Hall Of Fame Plaque)
> Markchidc of DEVIANTART for AARON batting (pg15)
> Wikipedia- Tommie Agee page
> Upper Deck (Agee portrait #2)
This comic was made in tribute to Tommie Agee who was my favorite player when I first became a Met fan. Above you can learn about him. Here I want to say what Tommie Agee meant to me.

If Tommie didn't make those two catches in the 1969 World Series it's very possible that I don't become, not even just a Met fan, but a fan of the game of baseball. Before '69 I had gone to some games with my dad, Mets and Yankees, but I wasn't yet really into baseball.
I was more into Batman, Rat Patrol, The Man from Uncle and Star Trek. I played with Hot-Wheels and Major Matt Mason.

The '69 World Series was big news but basically a peripheral event to me. I didn't see any of the games then. I was in school or out playing. But I did see the highlights. Everyone saw the highlights. And the following season I tuned in to as many Met games as I could. Not to watch them play, but to watch the new opening montage of '69 World Series highlights set to the theme of Meet The Mets. Sometimes I'd watch the game but most times just the opening. I could never get enough of seeing that new intro. It was right about this time I started to want to play baseball.

(This is similar to the 1970 Mets WOR-TV opening
but not the same one. Some clips were re-used but this
must be from 1972 or '73 because Willie Mays is in it.)

I started playing ball with a group kids down in the red rink (pictured below), choose-em up games. At first I was always one of the last chosen. I wasn't such a good hitter to start. I really wasn't a good ballplayer at all. But I could field, or so I thought. When they asked me what position I played I feebly said "centerfield". I wanted play center like Tommie Agee. Didn't matter if I knew little about the position. Didn't matter that I really didn't know if I could catch fly balls as well as I had hoped I could. Of course, it did matter to the team captains.

They put me at catcher. It wasn't that first game, but early on there was a big play at the plate. I was catcher and the throw came in and who was barreling down the third base line but the playgrounds biggest bully, Gary Meanie. The throw arrived seconds before he did and I just knew he was going to try and run me down.

 A few months later I would see Pete Rose barrel down Ray Fosse in the All-Star game, but that hadn't happened yet, so I didn't know it would be better to run for the hills as opposed to standing my ground.

This is a recreation of the red rink circa 1970
So I looked up and here's Meanie, easily twice my size, charging right at me. I knew he wouldn't slide. We played on cement. So I stood my ground, braced myself and put my throwing hand into my glove and clenched the ball.

>>>>>>>>>BAM!!!__________________________The Red Rink.^

I remember seeing Gary Meanie grimacing in my direction and then.....the sky. And a group of heads looking down at me. One was holding up some fingers and asking me to count how many he had up. I didn't care. I held up my own hand and the ball was still in it. "He's OUT!" I yelled as I sat up and felt a huge bump on the back of my head where it smacked the pavement.

The guys were laughing but they also had a new found respect for me. I didn't realize this til next game when we chose up new sides. I figured I'm a catcher for life now, so I didn't expect to be asked , but I was. I was also now picked in the middle of the pack. "I got Warren! What position do you want to play?" This time I confidently said "center!". "Okay, you got center."

I ran out to the outfield and I didn't just act like Tommie Agee, I was Tommie Agee for the rest of the summer of 1970. It didn't matter that he was a black man. It didn't even occur to me. I only knew I wanted to play baseball like him.

I made some good catches too. And when I wasn't chasing one down I'd park under a fly ball and tap my glove a few times, just like Tommie did before a catch. And with that bit of confidence and from watching more and more baseball, I began to hit.
 At bat as well as in the field, I was Agee.

I'd lazily swing my bat and tap the plate with it while awaiting the pitch. I wouldn't be switching to an open stance until 1972, when I saw Willie Mays do that. But now, this hot summer, I was Tommie.

Childhood idols can be fleeting things and the following summer of 1971 I became Brooks Robinson and wanted to play third base. But I will never forget the player who spurred my imagination and inspired me to want to play baseball.

Even with Agee's declining performance in 1971 & '72 I enjoyed watching him play. He had a decent year in '71. When the Mets got Willie Mays in '72 that made for an awkward moment for me. My two favorite centerfielders were now on the same team. But, fortunately or unfortunately, that only lasted a moment in baseball time, or so it seems now. New York got Willie in May of '72 and after the season had ended, traded Agee to the Houston Astros. I was bummed, but I didn't complain. I could now go out to Shea and watch Willie Mays play baseball. That softened the blow. A lil' bit.

After that I didn't follow Tommie's career other than what was on his baseball card. I once saw him on T.V. make a nice diving catch for the Cards on a Monday game of the week. It was a lot like his second catch in game 3.

When Agee retired after being released by the L.A. Dodgers in spring training in 1974 I don't even think I was aware of it right away. Over the years I saw Tommie return to the Mets for events and such. I wish I met the man.

From what I've read about him growing up in Mobile he already had the odds stacked against him because of the color of his skin. I'd have him know that it was because of him I saw beyond the color of a mans skin and learned to judge a man by his deeds. And for that one summer in 1970, I was very proud to make believe I was Tommie Lee Agee.


Tommie Agee's Fantazy Met Cards will be added here as they are released.

I don't like to mess with reality and create any alternate universes with my fantasy cards but I'll make an exception for Tommie and have him win game 7 of the 73 World Series.

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