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DeMerit Badge

Before we begin, I must admit to pilfering this idea from the website Bleed Cubbie Blue, which went on a similar venture in search of the Best Cub Ever. That website is worth a visit when you finish here.

A fellow blogger is doing a rather comprehensive analysis of the 50 greatest Mets of all-time at the website Amazin Avenue (also recommended for visitation), and my friends at Faith and Fear did a wonderful job with something similar not long ago. I must admit that I don't have the time or patience to attack that cumbersome a project at the moment, so I prefer to cut right to the chase. I have a write-in candidate whom I feel is as worthy as the likes of Seaver, Strawberry, Hernandez, and Piazza. His name is John DeMerit.

John DeMerit, an outfielder from Wisconsin played 93 major league games, mostly for the Milwaukee Braves and hit .174. He raised his average over the final 14 games of his career by going 3-16 (.188) for the 1962 Mets. In those contests he had one home run, one RBI, two singles, four strikeouts and two walks.

So what merits the inclusion of Mr. DeMerit?

Well, thanks to fine new tools available at BaseballMusings.com and Baseball-Reference.com I uncovered the following piece of statistical minutiae. Of the 14 games in which DeMerit appeared, the Mets won 11. In fact, John DeMerit's presence enabled that team to win the last 11 games in which he played.

The Mets had a .786 win percentage when DeMerit was utilized and a .199 win percentage when he was not. That's a pretty significant difference, wouldn't you say? And yet DeMerit's final game as a Met came on May 20th. To that point, the Mets were that 11-3 with DeMerit and 1-16 without him. I'm sure that to this day, DeMerit must be wondering how those Mets were so mediocre.

It seems rather bothersome 45 years hence that Casey Stengel and George Weiss made such detrimental decisions for this club's future. They never gave DeMerit much of a chance. Of his 14 appearances, DeMerit only made it through an entire game twice.

The last contest in which DeMerit managed to play from beginning to conclusion came on May 16, 1962, his final appearance at the Polo Grounds. DeMerit had made a cameo appearance the day prior and the Mets won (by walk-off), and something similar had happened three days prior to that. Stengel had only previously started once, on April 15 and the Mets lost to the Pirates, 7-2, the last of the three DeMerit defeats. We can just imagine DeMerit in the clubhouse after the game proclaiming "From now on, if I play, we shall win." A month later against the Cubs, he made the most of his opportunity.

The hero of our story provided the spark that enabled the Mets to rally from a 4-1 deficit. DeMerit's only Met home run leading off the last of the 5th sliced the Cubs edge to two runs. A two-run single by Frank Thomas knotted things up and set up some late-game dramatics.

The Cubs took the lead in the top of the 8th, but it didn't last. In the bottom of the frame, Gil Hodges hit a drive to the far reaches of centerfield at the giant ballpark, which turned into a game-tying inside-the-park home run. New York Times writer John Drebinger described the 38-year-old Hodges baserunning feat with humor, calling it "one of the great foot-racing feats of the ages."

The teams ended up playing some bonus baseball and starter Jay Hook did yeomens work out of the bullpen, striking out four in two innings to send the game even into the last of the 11th.

DeMerit led off the home half and Stengel was wise not to call for a replacement, likely because he didn't have any left. That became evident when, after DeMerit walked, Hook was allowed to bat for himself and came through with a single to center. With two on and nobody out, Jim Hickman was called upon to bunt and his sacrifice advanced the runners to second and third.

The Cubs chose to walk Elio Chacon to load the bases and set up force plays everywhere but that strategy was rendered moot by Felix Mantilla, whose single to left plated DeMerit with the game-winning run.

That would be DeMerit's last moment of glory in the major leagues as his final game would come just a few days later. The book Tales from the 1962 Mets by Janet Paskin includes comments from DeMerit, who went on to get his masters degree and worked 26 years for the Wisconsin Parks and Recreation Department. He says he doesn't get what all the fuss is about in regards to the fascination with the 1962 Mets and now, given a little bit more perspective on the situation, I can understand why he feels that way.

True DeMetrits know...The best w-l record by the Mets for a particular players appearances is 8-0, by John Gibbons, who appeared in those games in 1986. But the team also went 100-54 without him.

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