Monday, March 31, 2014

1973 Mets Fantazy Card Focus: George Theodore / The STORK

Born November 13, 1947 in Salt Lake City, Utah, George Basil Theodore was the New York Mets 31st pick in the 1969 draft. A roster filler, he was never expected to make the big club but his minor league hitting performances could not be ignored.

Playing for the Visalia Mets in single A ball Theodore won the California League MVP award in 1971. He batted .333 and showed surprising power with 28 H.R.s.

George worked his way up to triple A, hitting very well at every level. He led the AAA Tidewater team with a .296 batting average, 9 home runs and 78 RBI in 1972. Primarily playing first base Theodore excelled in the field leading the International league in put-outs.

He was given the nickname "Stork" by teammate Jim Gosger
due to his tall lanky frame. That coupled with his strange stride, big honker, crazy hair, thick eye glasses and hunched back made Theodore a standout player with New York fans. Basically because of the way he stood out.

The "Stork" moniker stuck and passed the test of time but George had a few nicknames in his playing days, some only known by other players. He was called ""The Masher" as well as "Othello". One name that didn't stick, and good thing too, was "The Volga Boatsman". I don't even know what that means.

Theodore was an intelligent and well educated man. He majored in psychology at the University of Utah. His quirky demeanor made for some great quotes.

>"I'm not a gifted athlete, so I have to perform up to what I think I can."

>"I've been trying transcendental meditation, and that helps me be passive and wait on the curve. I've got to find something else to hit the slider."

>In a letter to with Mets farm director Joe McDonald during negotiations over his minor league contract Theodore wrote:
"I am embedded in boredom, stagnation and regression, and I am thinking of returning to Mexico, where I played winter ball for vacation and cultural investigation."

It sounded like a letter in a Ken Burns documentary.

George also proceeded to make some demands. He didn't want more money. That was settled before the ink dried. He wanted six bats, athletic eye glasses, an introduction to Yogi Berra, and (I kid you not), Mets stickers.

This is why we loved this guy. He was more like one of us fans than a player.

He was paid $15,000 to play in 1973 but if he could have afforded it he would have played for nothing.

Theodore made the 1973 Mets team out of Spring Training in a utility role. It was supposed to be a two week vat of coffee as the team waited on another pitching arm, but like his nickname Stork, he stuck.

Early injuries to key players helped him hang on and he filled in for John Milner, Willie Mays and Cleon Jones. He heated up at the end of April and in late May he loved L.A., going 7 for 15 in three games on a west coast road trip. He was batting an impressive .295, tops on the team for a regular or bench player.

Theodore wore number 18 to start his career, and it was right around this point of the season (research is hazy on this) he requested a number change. He said as a tribute to the great Ted Williams he wanted to don the number 9, and the switch was granted. In an interview by Jon Springer of Mets By The Numbers The Stork said,"I thought it would help my batting."

Then on June 3rd the Mets were wrapping up a shellacking of the San Diego Padres in the stadium that would soon be named after Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy's brother Jack.

Theodore, for reasons I can only imagine, was batting third, and having a good night with 2 hits and an RBI.

With New York up 7-2 he led off the 9th inning. Padres relief pitcher Gary Ross had a touch of wildness and he hit George with a pitch, right in the eye, breaking his glasses, knocking him down and out.
The Mets as well as we fans feared the worst, hearing reports of possible blindness. But The Stork was a flexible fellow. He returned able to play only five days later.
Theodore was a very good fielder even thought he didn't look the part. Running, he looked like the unknown Marx brother on stilts. Odds were if he got close enough to get leather on a ball he caught it. Oh, there was one he got to but didn't catch...

1973 Mets Fantazy Card Microscopic Focus: >>>>>>THE COLLISION

The Mets were hounded by injuries to key players for much of the season in 1973. Most injuries were inflicted by the opposition but one was self inflicted and knocked two players out of one game.

When any Mets fan hears the name George Theodore a few things come to mind, but one stands above the rest. George was weird, wild and wacky and made a number of contributions during 1973. Had some nice hot streaks, some big hits. But there's one incident that has burned The Storks name in our skulls for all time.

The Collision.

All seasoned Mets fans know the play. Is there a Met fan blog that hasn't touched on it? I think not. If you don't know the tale, or if you want to hear it again, pull up a chair.

July 7, 1973.
New York was caught up in a 3-3 tie against the Atlanta Braves at Shea. The Mets had just tied it in the 6th inning on a Don Hahn double that drove in Theodore, who had drawn a walk to open the frame. Starter Ray Sadecki gave way to Mets reliever Phil Hennigan to start the 7th.

Things went south right away as Hennigan walked Mike Lum leading off. Then pinch hitter Johnny Oats layed down a bunt that didn't look like a sacrifice. It went past Hennigan coming off the mound and dribbled towards New York 2nd baseman Felix Millan for a perfect bunt single.

With runners on first and second Ralph Garr came to the plate. The Braves speedster hit a shot deep towards the gap in left center field. Both Mets left fielder George Theodore and center fielder Don Hahn took off after the drive. The Stork was determined to catch it.

He should have cleared that with Hahn, who was running at full tilt, both players heedless of their proximity to each other. Fans in the stands saw it in their mind before it happened because it was obvious that they would converge. It wasn't as obvious to folks at home watching on T.V., but even we had time to brace ourselves for contact as both players came into frame.
The two sprinters passed onto the warning track at the same time, reaching up for the ball, and met just as they were approaching the outfield wall. They collided with a thud and a mash of body parts, crashing into the wall while locked in a spinning dance that looked like two puppets whose strings had become tangled. The ball, which Theodore got plenty of leather on, popped up and out hitting the wall and bouncing back towards the outfield grass. Hahn and The Stork went down in a heap as dust rose around them.

Theodore lay crunched, hunched and motionless. He looked dead. Hahn was down, but showing signs of life. He tried to get up and retrieve the ball, clutching his rib cage in pain. He began to crawl toward it as it rolled away, then collapsed.
The two Braves base runners, who were half way, took off in earnest and headed home. The batter Ralph Garr was running like he does (very, very fast) but as he rounded second he could see that both players were seriously hurt and he slowed down to a jog, watching the two over his shoulder as he rounded third and completed his inside the park home run. No one seemed to notice that Atlanta had taken a 6-3 lead.
Rusty Staub and Bud Harrelson were the first to reach the pair, more concerned with the players than the play. The game was halted as more players and both team physicians ran out to left center to aid the fallen duo. You could hear a pin drop at Shea it was so hushed.

Theodore took most of the damage, dislocating his hip. Hahn was hurtin' for certain but suffered no broken bones. He had the wind knocked out of him, and if you've ever had that happen, you know it can be debilitating. Both were loaded on to stretchers and carried from the field. The crowd was still very somber, at least until they saw the two players who would replace Theodore and Hahn. Willie Mays, always a fan favorite stepped from the dugout, and New York fans had not seen Cleon Jones play since June 1st when an errant pitch broke his wrist. Now the stadium came alive again as the two jogged into the outfield and play resumed.

The Mets rallied to score 4 runs and take the lead back in the 8th inning. Mays and Wayne Garrett both drove in a pair of runs. Unfortunately Tug McGraw, who was having a hard time finding his groove in 73, and Harry Parker combined to give the lead back to the Braves in the 9th and the Mets eventually lost the game 9-8.

On a side note, a month before, at the end of May during the teams west coast road trip, Theodore had a nightmare in which he was being carried off the field on a stretcher. The Stork recalled:"I woke up in a cold sweat, like a bad dream. Somebody was carrying me off the field and I could see Tug McGraw and Jerry Koosman while I'm on the stretcher. It was just one of those anxiety dreams or something." A very prescient dream. This didn't surprise Mets fans. We knew The Stork existed on a different level of reality.

Don Hahn was back in a few days, but Theodore was out til September 8th. He returned for the pennant chase at seasons end but he got only one at bat in September, and he didn't see any action in the National League Championship Series. He pinched hit twice in the World Series (Theodore predicted the Mets would win it in 7 games) against the Oakland A's, grounding out to short and lining out to third.

The Stork had a healthier 1974, playing in 60 games. But he was never same after the collision. He only batted .158. The entire season he hit one long ball and that was his lone RBI. On the bright side his homer was the first of back to back to back home runs New York launched on July 20th in San Diego. After Theodores' four bagger both Rusty Staub and Cleon Jones went yard in a 10-2 beat down on the Padres.

From an article by Anthony McCarron, NY Daily News:
The injury (from the collision)probably hastened Theodore's departure from baseball and the former 31st-round pick only spent parts of two seasons in the majors, recording a .219 lifetime average and two homers in 105 games. After spending 1975 with Tidewater, Theodore got a master's degree in social work. He is a counselor and social worker in public elementary schools in his native Salt Lake City, a job he finds so rewarding that even though he planned to do it for only a little while, he's now in his 33rd year.

The Stork only had one Topps baseball card issued for him, in the 1974 set. Here in Mets Fantazyland he gets a 73 Rook, 73 INJURIES, 73 reg, 74, & 1975 (Front and back)Mets Fantazy Card.

Much to the joy of Metropolitan fans Theodore returned to Shea Stadium for the stadium's closing ceremony on September 28, 2008.

"Fans, they don't seem to forget, I always appreciated them and the attention they gave me. It never was a business to me. Maybe they realized that. There will always be a soft spot in my heart for New York and the Mets. My wife (Sabrina) is from Jackson Heights and we met at the end of my career, had a long-distance courtship and we've been married for 33 years. The Mets have always treated me like family and I appreciate that family."

We appreciate your transcendental existence Mr. Theodore.


If I can't confirm at some point the following will be removed. If I can confirm I will insert it in the appropriate spot.

I wanted to include this bit in the post (well, looks like I have) but I am looking for confirmation on this. I can't say for sure this is true because I had never heard of this until researching details for this post.

This is from the comments section for George Theodore's page at the UMDB. I have crossed checked with box scores and scorecards and I have to ask for confirmation from Mets fans & historians out there because some of the comment has already proven to be incorrect. To the best of my research the story goes:

Theodores debut with the big club was notable.
On April 14th The Stork reported to Shea Stadium late, during the ballgame. In the 6th inning Willie Mays drew a walk and Theodore was sent in to pinch run for him. George ran out to first wearing a pitchers warm-up jacket. The first base umpire told him he would not be allowed to wear the jacket on the bases so The Stork took it off. Only one problem. Theodore did not have a jersey on. He hadn't received his yet. He stood there on first bare chested.

The comment said he never officially entered the game and returned to the dugout. As far as I can see the 14th was his debut. He entered the game for Willie but at the UMDB there is no indication how or why. This was the second pinch running appearance by any Met for the 1973 season (T Martinez-gm 2 easy enough to check just one week in). Martinez ran for pinch hitter Ed Kranepool so that doesn't match up.

The Stork then made his first appearance on the 14th and stayed in the game. So is this true? A legendary myth? Was he allowed to stay in the game with the jacket? Did someone go find his jersey? It's a great tale to include if it's true. Any help or additional information will be appreciated.


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Coming up next: 1973 Mets Fantazy Cards Series TWO

Coming April 18th: Mets vs. Pirates season series Fantazy cards: September 17th to 21st 1973

Thursday, March 27, 2014

1973 Mets Fantazy Cards Series One

Lets rip open a pack of 1973 Mets Fantazy Cards!

What are the odds that Yogi would be the first card?

Well, one out of twelve since series one of the 1973 Mets Fantazy Card set consists of these twelve cards.

Nope, you don't get doubles in fantazypacks.

Yogi Berra was now in his second year managing the New York Mets. It was during this season that Yogi spoke what may be his most famous Yogiism.

Mid season he was asked if the Mets were out of the race for the pennant. The team was dead in last place, 11 games out of first. Berra replied " It ain't over til it's over." One of those simple observations that only Yogi could find a way to immortalize in words. But if the '73 Mets didn't make it to the big dance would the saying be as well remembered?

Fans still loved him but his managerial honeymoon with the media was over. At least when the New York Post ran a poll to see who Mets fans thought should be fired Berra came in third place behind Bob Scheffing and M. Donald Grant.

Yogi would have the last laugh in 1973. At the end of the third year of his managerial career ( the 1963 Yankees- '72 & '73 with Mets) Berra had won 2 pennants, one in each league.

Jon Matlack, just coming off winning the Rookie Of The Year award, hit a few bumps in early 1973, and that included a bump to his forehead.

He was 2-5 when he was struck by a line drive off the bat of Atlanta's Marty Perez on May 8th. Upon his return he went 7-14 before turning it around at the end of July. Going down the stretch in August and September Matlack won seven out of eight decisions.
>More on Jon and his thick skull here< ________
Rusty bounced back from his hurtin' year in 1972 and was one of the constants in the lineup. He had a solid season at .279 with 36 doubles, 15 homers and 76 RBI in 152 games. The 36 doubles were a new Met team record at the time.

I used to dig how sometimes Rusty would try and get something extra on a throw by throwing himself with the ball. I'd emulate this playing baseball throughout my limited career in the C.Y.O. league (and years later playing softball) and it did feel like I was getting some additional giddy-up on the throw.
More so, it just looked cool.

The only other regular starting player who was as solid as Rusty, if not more so, was Felix Millan.

The Mets got Millan before the 1973 season for two established Metropolitans, Gary Gentry and Dan Frisella.

It was one of the better trades the Mets ever made. Felix played in 153 games, establishing new Met records in at-bats (638) and hits (185). And Millan would be a productive second baseman for New York for another five years.

Millan had this funky batting stance where he choked half way up on the bat and held it up and back behind his shoulder. I had seen batters choke up but not like this. It was extreme and seemed to serve him well. And if you were a kid playing down in the playground in the early seventies I'm sure there was a day when you came up to bat and said "Hey look, I'm Felix Millan!" and choked up like Felix did. Everyone had to try that once.

Jim Fregosi started the season with the team but soon would be gone. When he was sold to the Texas Rangers on July 11th he was batting .232 with no homers and 11 RBI. He sucked at this point of his playing career and one thing I'll give him credit for is he knew it.

In 1978 Fregosi would be Nolan Ryans manager with the California Angels. Yep, with Jim ( & Mets fans) it always comes back to Nolan. Did I mention that Ryan threw his first two no-hitters in 1973? I probably shouldn't. Yeeeeaa.

Fregosi was out and Wayne Garrett, finally, was in. Wayne was in the prime of his career. He stepped up in '73 and played 140 games, 129 of them at third base. He knocked 16 dingers and drove home 58. He only batted .256 but if New York needed a big hit in a big game Mets fans would be glad to have had Wayne Garrett at the dish.

Steady Eddy was a good all around bench and back up guy in 1973. Mostly due to injuries he played 51 games at first for John Milner and 30+ games relieving Cleon Jones in left. Kranepool was thirty years old now and had played for the team for 12 years. He would play for us for seven more.
Jerry Grote was out of the line-up due to Dyer injuries (broken forearm) early on. He would return from his break in August and to his role as starting catcher as the season wore on.

And, as a matter of fact, when he returned to be the everyday catcher the Mets began to win in earnest and make a run for the pennant that nobody seemed to want.

Jim Beauchamp was a power hitting slugger who dominated in the minor leagues during the early 1960's. In 1963 & '64 he had 31 and 34 home run seasons. Jim won the 1963 Texas League MVP Award, and a large billboard showing him batting stood outside Tulsa's Oiler Park until the stadium was demolished in 1980.
He was called up a few times in the early sixties but never could getting it going at the major league level. When he would be sent down, once again he would rip up the minors. In both 1966 and '67 he hit 25 long balls for the Richmond Braves. He floated around between the Cardinals, Astros, Reds, and Braves and would never be more than a light hitting replacement.

Beauchamp was a very good fielder whether manning first base or roaming the outfield. Coincidentally, "beau champ" in French translates as "beautiful field."

For the Mets he was what he was. A good light hitting pinch hitter and bench back-up guy. The five round trippers we got from him in 1972 was a nice blip (he totaled 14 career HRs over 11 seasons), but in 1973 he showed no power. He did bat a healthy .279 with some big & important pinch hits.

Beauchamp came to New York through a 7 player trade with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards got Art Shamsky, Rich Folkers, Jim Bibby and Charlie Hudson from the Mets. We received Beauchamp, Tom Coulter and Chuck Taylor. Beauchamp was issued Art Shamsky's old number, 24, which he wore until mid 1972 when Willie Mays came home to New York. Jim switched to #5.

We also got Harry Parker in the deal, who would play a small yet vital role on the '73 team as a spot starter and reliever. While Tug McGraw was struggling to find his groove Harry plugged the gap. Parker won eight games in a season we needed every win we could get. He also saved five games in '73, second on the team only to Tug McGraw's 25.

Here Harry takes the pose that would become the Topps symbol for right handed pitchers on the '73 Topps cards.

The 1973 Mets rookie pitching crop. Two of those would be ripe for the picking pretty soon.

I can never see Tommy Moore and not be reminded of the Monty Python Dennis Moore sketch.

"Stand and deliver!"


Krantzbucks of the OOTBD for making the Jim Beauchamp photo presentable for his fantazy card.

Much information regarding Jim Beauchamp is from his Wiki page.

Hey! You forgot your gum!