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Moonlight Mets Minutiae

Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the major-league debut of Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, the player who served as the inspiration for a character bearing that name in the movie "Field of Dreams." Graham's big league career consisted of one game, but no plate appearances for the 1905 world champion Giants. He retired not long afterwards and became a highly-regarded doctor in Minnesota.

Graham is the most famous of many moonlight players, whose careers consisted of one game and no plate apperances. The Associated Press did a really nice piece on the subject over the weekend and got quotes from one Mets moonlighter, Kevin Morgan, who now works as the Mets Director of Minor League Operations after a career that consisted of one plate appearance.

For the purpose of that story, the definition of a "Moonlight" player was expanded slightly, to cover those players whose careers consisted of one game. We'll further broaden it to define a Mets "Moonlighter" as someone who either a) played only one game for the Mets (entering 2005) or b)a non-pitchers whose Mets career consisted of one plate appearance.

The full list of Mets "Moonlighters" consists of 20 names, from second baseman Luis Alvarado to pitcher Mac Scarce, the latter of whose Mets career consisted of one batter faced (he gave up a walk-off hit to Richie Hebner and was traded shortly thereafter).

The lone true "Moonlighter" in the group may not be so for very long. Joe Hietpas, currently with the Binghamton Mets caught one inning of one game in 2004 for an all-too-brief introduction to the major leagues. Hietpas is presently with the Binghamton Mets and has struggled offensively, but his rifle arm behind the plate may make him useful to the Mets when rosters expand in September.

Two Mets Moonlighters- Rodney McCray and Kenny Greer were directly involved in walk-off wins and you really have to be a diehard fan to remember their Mets stints.

The 1992 Mets were viewed at year's end as a vastly overpriced and overhyped squad, but it didn't look that way in early May when the Mets were playing well at home, and entered their game on May 8 with an eight-game home win streak and a 16-13 overall mark. It was a rainy Friday night, one that sent many fans home after a delay spanning more than two hours, even though the pitching matchup featured aces David Cone for the Mets and Orel Hershiser for the Dodgers.

New York trailed 3-0 going into the bottom of the seventh but rallied. They got a run in the seventh on Chico Walker's bases-loaded walk (they could have had more, but a Willie Randolph strikeout helped kill the comeback), then tied the game in the eighth on a sacrifice fly and another bases-loaded walks, this one yielded by ex-Mets closer Roger McDowell.

In the ninth, the Mets loaded the bases on a single, a sacrifice and two more walks (Dodgers pitchers walked 12 Mets) with one out, giving them the possibility of hitting into a bases-loaded double play to end three straight innings. McCray, used exclusively as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement in his first 15 games, was up because he had pinch run for Eddie Murray earlier and stayed in the game. Just after 1:15 a.m., McCray punched a single to left center field and the Mets had their win. In May of 1991, McCray crashed through an outfield fence trying to make a catch in a minor league game, his best-remembered moment. He also holds a fairly unique claim to fame of getting a walk-off hit in his last big league at-bat.

Many felt that the 1993 Mets disgraced the uniforms they wore with their performance on and off the field that season, but on September 29, 1993, they did their fans proud (more or less). The 158th game of a 59-103 was a 1-0, 17-inning struggle of a win over the Cardinals. As Joe Sexton wrote in the New York Times: "The Mets don't have much talent. They don't have many triumphs. Mercy isn't anything they come by easily, either."

The two teams combined for 12 hits and the Mets got the last one, a long double to center field by Jeff Kent, plating Murray with the winning run just after the clock struck midnight. Bobby Jones was the other story of the night, as he pitched 10 scoreless innings of four-hit, five-walk ball, striking out nine. Some might even call it one of his best Mets outings ever (we presume you'll rate Game 4 of the 2000 NLDS as #1). Jones finished the season as a bright spot- 2-4 with a 3.65 ERA- but the Mets didn't score in their last 34 2/3 innings with him on the mound.

Dallas Green had a short bullpen that night, and after using Jeff Innis and Mauro Gozzo for three innings each, Green turned to rookie Kenny Greer, who hadn't pitched in a month (he wasn't even in the Mets system until the Yankees dealt him over for veteran Frank Tanana on September 17). Greer struck out two in the 17th, earning the win. The moonlight shone brightly on Greer that night, but his outing couldn't have been all that impressive. The Mets never used him in the majors again and after an eight-game stint with the Giants in 1995, he was out of the big leagues for good.

True Metlighters know...That this is the list of Mets "Moonlighters"

One-Game Mets
Luis Alvarado (1977, second base, 0-2 in last of 463 MLB games)
Gary Bennett (2001, catcher, 1-for-1)
Francisco Estrada (1971, catcher, Mexican League superstar)
Bob Gibson (1987, pitcher, last game of 98-game MLB career was attended by this writer)
Kenny Greer (1993, 1-0, 1 IP, 2 K, only win was a walk-off win)
Joe Hietpas (2004, only Mets position player- one game, no AB)
Manny Hernandez (1989, pitcher, tossed 1 IP in final game of 14-game career)
Brett Hinchliffe (2001, pitcher, 36.00 ERA over 2 IP, last of 14 MLB games)
Jesse Hudson (1969, pitcher, only MLB appearance)
Dave Liddell (1990, catcher, 1-for-1 in only MLB at-bat)
Ryan McGuire (2000, 1 game in RF)
Doc Medich (1977, pitcher, took loss in only start)
Kevin Morgan (1997, third baseman, 0-for-1, now works in Mets front office)
Dan Murray (1999, pitcher 2 IP, 13.50 ERA)
Don Rose (1971, pitcher, traded with Estrada in Nolan Ryan/Jim Fregosi dea, subject of a feature I wrote on "Mets for a Minute" for New York Mets Inside Pitch magazine)
Mac Scarce (1975, pitcher, allowed walk-off hit to Richie Hebner, only batter faced with Mets)

More than One Game, Only one plate appearance (non-pitchers)
Charlie Greene (1996, catcher, 2 games, 0-for-1)
Gary Matthews Jr. (2002, OF, 2 games, 0-for-1)
Rodney McCray (1992, OF, 1-for-1, 18 games. Only AB, his last MLB AB, was a walk-off hit)
Ralph Milliard (1998, second base, 10 games, 0-for-1, 3 runs scored)


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