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Florence 'Met'engale

Those of you that have been regular readers of this blog may recall the mini-obsession that I had with Rodney McCray last season. McCray is forever immortalized with the likes of Ray Searage, Gary Bennett and Dave Liddell as ballplayers whose Mets careers concluded with them sporting batting averages of 1.000. I refer to this rather select group as "Perfect" Mets, and were I ever to create a Mets Minutiae Hall of Fame (a tempting thought), they would be among the first immortalized and McCray, who got a walk-off hit in his only Mets AB would get a personal shrine.

I wanted to look at this from a different perspective, so I thought about other types of Mets perfection. This resulted in using my Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia to find the "Perfect" Mets pitchers. The definition of a "Perfect" Mets pitcher is one whose Mets win-loss percentage is an unblemished 1.000. There are 19 Mets who fit that criteria, including one who could pitch for them this season, and I'll provide the full list at the bottom of this entry.

I want to focus on one in particular, the most perfect Met pitcher of them all, at least by win count. That would be none other than Don Florence, who went 3-0 for the 1995 squad. In Florence's only big league season, he made 14 appearances spanning 12 innings. He allowed 17 hits and six walks, yet posted an admirable ERA of 1.50.

Here's my problem. For the life of me, I can't remember Don Florence ever existing as a baseball player. And as I found out, I'm not the only one.

Now, my memory is very good and dates back a good ways. I can remember such things ranging from my kindergarten graduation ("When people get their diplomas, they make speeches," my mom advised me, and at age 5, I complied, albeit mine was but two sentences) to where I was when Stanley Jefferson made his Mets debut (in the bathtub...though my dad yelled out "You'll regret missing this if he hits a home run.") I can recite the last 50 World Series winners verbatim (in little more than a minute). I've still got the verses memorized to "Chanson D'Automne," ( a poem that gave me fits in freshman year high school french class). But I have no recollection whatsoever of Don Florence.

This troubles me on two counts. For one, as regular readers know, I was a regular attendee of games at Shea Stadium in the early to mid 1990s. I used to "broadcast"into a tape recorder from the upper deck of sections 2 and 3, and I was well acquainted, numerically and phonetically, with every player. (NOTE: I had something different written here originally, but my usually trusty memory caused a faux pas, which I have since corrected).

The other reason that I feel I should remember is this. I had just concluded my sophomore year of college. I can recite the names of almost all of my dorm floormates from my first two years of school. Down the hall from me freshman year, there resided one fellow from southern New Jersey whose roommate got irked when other South Jerseyans would come visit. All these kids came from the same town. When they arrived, the roomie would come down the hall and let us know...

"Florence is here!"

I've been to Florence, New Jersey, and as someone who has never been enamored with South Jersey, I can tell you: The city is unimpressive (I could say worse, but I have a rep for being a nice person that I want to maintain). It is memorable for its imperfecticity as Don Florence is memorable for his perfectitude. Yet, while I can provide a description of Florence, NJ, I cannot do so for Don Florence.

Now, usually when I am in need of information on a particular Met, I stroll the internet until I find what I'm looking for. In this case, the cure for my selective Metnesia would seem to be Ultimatemets.com, where the first post under "Memories of Don Florence" comes from someone named "VIBaseball", whose quandry, posted nearly five years prior to this, is the same as mine. He was convinced that Don Florence is a figment of someones imagimetion, but loves the quirkiness of his being a perfect Met (I give full credit to "VI Baseball" ...I'm basically just picking up where he left off). A friend of Florence's filled in a few blanks in another posting (Don was a great high school football player and a good person) this past November, but left much to our faulty memories. A visit to Google photos yielded nothing baseballwise, but from which I did learn that a man named Don Florence lived in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (apparently a real town) and penned a book "Persona and Humor in Mark Twain's Early Writings" that was published in, none other than 1995. Apparently Don Florence, like myself, was a busy man that summer.

A look at Florence's game-by-game line indicates that he was one of those "blink-and-you-miss-him" Mets. His first appearance was August 8th. His last took place on September 19. He made four appearances during one homestand and other than that, only pitched at Shea once in September (for all of three batters). His first win came in Philadelphia, his last in San Francisco, so we can assume he racked up some nice frequent flyer miles.

The nice thing about Don Florence is that his second win was a walk-off (c'mon, you knew it was coming) and one worth remembering. It came against the San Diego Padres on August 24, 1995. That night, Florence appeared in relief, pitching the ninth inning with the Mets trailing, 4-2. The newspaper accounts mention nothing significant taking place during Florence's mound stint, in which he allowed two hits and no runs. The important stuff took place in the bottom half of the frame.

Trevor Hoffman may become baseball's all-time saves leader this season, but if he comes up one short, this game may linger with him. Sporting a two-run edge, Hoffman couldn't close the door. Carl Everett and Rico Brogna singled to get things going, and with runners on the corners and one out, Hoffman wild pitched in one run to make it 4-3. He then failed to retire Ryan Thompson, whose single to left field (he went to second on an error by leftfielder Bip Roberts)brought home the tying score. That was a sign that Hoffman was toast and after an intentional walk. Padres management ended Hoffman's night by replacing him with Doug Bochtler, who struck out Kelly Stinnett for the second out.

This brought up pinch-hitter extraordinaire Chris Jones, a Mets walk-off legend, who apparently was owed by the baseball gods for the actions of the night before. Jones had been deprived a game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth against the Giants by an umpire who called an apparent fair ball foul, then struck out to end that Mets defeat. In this instance, he left no room for umpire discretion, singling cleanly off Bochtler to drive in the game-winning run. It was the perfect form of revenge for Jones and the perfect means by Florence to make his mark on the Mets.

True Metfectionists know... As promised, a list of Perfect Mets pitchers, in no particular order:

Perfect 1-0 Mets
Bartolome Fortunato, Tyler Walker, Bob McClure, Mike Matthews, Shingo Takatsu, Jason Middlebrook, C.J. Nitkowski, Edwin Nunez, Pete Walker, Ken Greer, Tom Martin, Jose Parra, Mark Dewey, Tony Castillo, and last but not least Ray Searage (1-0 as a Met with a 1.000 batting average!)

Perfect 2-0 Mets

Jim Bethke, John Candelaria, Barry Jones

Perfect 3-0 Mets

Donald Emery Florence

Comments

Anonymous said…
My dad has a habit of latching onto Mets pitchers who pitch decently but are limited to just a handful of appearances. Don Florence is one of those guys my dad liked, along with Reid Cornelius, Tom Filer and Tony Castillo.

I also remember the walk-off win to which you referred.
Anonymous said…
Great post.

Does anyone know what happened to Florence after his brief stint? It was too early and too good for him to be relegated to Norfolk.

Incidentally I enjoy any post that reminds me of Bip Roberts. We need more people named Bip in baseball.

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