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...

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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.




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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.

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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










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