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Then Dreidel I Shall Play

Regular readers may recall that I got a little prematurely excited during the season regarding the religious status of former Met Mike Jacobs, thinking initially that he, like me, was Jewish before learning that he was not.

While Jacobs won't be lighting the menorah or spinning the dreidel this Sunday (yes, the first night of Hanukkah coincides with Christmas), six other former Mets will. Two had walk-off hits for the Flushing 9. As it turns out, we've already written about one, but we'll give the other recognition today.

Elliott Maddox, a native of East Orange, New Jersey, was a baseball star at the University of Michigan, whose baseball claims to fame are varied. You can read more about them here

http://jewsinsports.org/profile.asp?sport=baseball&ID=121

but to summarize, Maddox played on the 1971 Washington Senators (the final season of baseball in D.C. until 2005), finished as high as eighth in the AL MVP voting while with the Yankees, and, before joining the Mets, sued New York City regarding a baseball-related knee injury and his issues with the Shea Stadium field.

Maddox was a decent major-league player, particularly adept afoot (stole as many as 20 bases in a season) and at drawing walks (he finished his career with more walks than whiffs), but by the time he became a Met in 1978, his speed, or lack thereof (six stolen bases in 28 attempts over three seasons!), sabotaged his ability to get on base.

In 1980, manager Joe Torre made Maddox a regular at third base, moving him from the outfield after getting brief looks at Maddox on the hot corner the previous two seasons. Maddox had a really good April (unlike the Mets), but fizzled a bit in May and was in the midst of a 1-for-17 funk in his previous six games heading into a May 24 contest against the Braves.

The Mets started Pat Zachry, recently recovered from elbow surgery, that day and he put the Mets in an early 2-0 hole by surrendering a first-inning homer to Gary Matthews. The Mets hung in, but this one looked like a lost cause after Matthews singled in a run in the eighth to give the Braves a 4-2 edge.

We've previously referenced the fighting spirit of the 1980 Mets and this was one contest in which it was on display. Back-to-back doubles in the eighth inning by Joel Youngblood and Frank Taveras produced a run and a sacrifice fly by John Stearns tied the game.

The game went the Bonus Baseball route after the Mets failed on a scoring chance in the last of the ninth. Neil Allen held the Braves off in the 10th and in the bottom of the frame they went to work against Rick Camp. The Braves righthander would become both famous (for his game-winning home run in the crazy July 4, 1985 game) and infamous (he received a prison sentence for a conspiracy conviction in September) later in his career but that's another matter for another time.

What mattered here was the Mets game-winning effort. Lee Mazzilli singled and was bunted to second by Stearns. The Braves intentionally walked Steve Henderson (a wise move, given Henderson's walk-off penchant) but Jose Morales kept the inning alive, beating out the relay throw on a potential double-play grounder. So with the score even and runners on the corners, Maddox came up, partly annoyed at Camp, who hit him with a pitch in the ninth inning. This time, he lined a pitch off the glove of first baseman Chris Chambliss, for a game-winning walk-off single.

When Jacobs got his walk-off hit against the Marlins in September, I researched the history of Jewish Mets and I know I surprised some people when I told them about Maddox, the most recent Jewish Mets position player.

Maddox, an African-American, converted to Judaism in 1974, after learning about the religion while growing up, in college, and during his baseball career. It's a rather interesting story, best told in a piece that ran last year in the magazine, New Jersey Jewish News (for which I unfortunately can't find a link).

"The more I studied about different religions,the more I found I had more interest in Judaic history and moved further away from the Christian faith," Maddox told writer Ron Kaplan of his initial studies at Michigan, adding later that "My parents were religious people, especially my mother. They thought it was great that I finally believed in something."

True Metukkah Celebrators know...The other Jewish Mets are Joe Ginsberg, Greg Goossen, Dave Roberts, Art Shamsky, and Norm Sherry.

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