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By George, He's Done It

I know that historically my weekend traffic is low, but please re-visit on Saturday and Sunday, for details of a new project on which I've been working.

The major league career of George Mason University baseball alumnus Mike Draper encompassed 29 rather unimpressive games, but 29 is a lot better than none and hopefully if Draper's watching the Final Four this weekend, that thought will come to mind

Draper, a transfer from both the Division III (Western Maryland) and JUCO (Hagerstown JC) ranks, toiled for a total of one year for a collegiate program that didn't have any previous history of major leaguers, and was respectable to the point that he still holds the single-season records for innings pitched and starts, and ranks second in strikeouts.

He was a 26th round Yankees draft pick in 1988 and labored through five seasons in the minors. His numbers weren't too shabby. In 1989, he led the Carolina League in wins. In 1990 he tossed a no-hitter and won nine games for the Yankees Florida State League team in Fort Lauderdale. In 1991 he pitched in Double and Triple-A and the process began by which he was converted to a reliever. That paid off in 1992 when he had an International League record 37 saves for the Columbus Clippers, despite averaging only half-a-strikeout per inning.

By this point Draper was 26 years old and basically good enough to pitch in AAAA-Ball, but of course, no such league existed. The next best thing was for him to become a Met. On December 7, he was selected in the Rule V draft, an early wedding gift from the baseball gods as Draper and Monica Aponte tied the knot 10 days later.

Draper's present was a permanent seat in the Mets bullpen. He filled the Doug Simons role of mopper-upper in what was basically the equivalent of a prison bathroom. The 1993 Mets were among the most ill-conceived teams in the history of the sport. In Draper's first three appearances, the Mets won twice. In his next 18 outings, spaced out over two months, the Mets did not win once. I'm sure Draper got a thrill from being in the major leagues but there had to be a significant amount of exasperation as well.

By August 5 the Draper appearance ledger stood at 3 wins and 24 losses and the pitching rotation had him being used at the rate of once every two weeks, so there wasn't much room for improvement.

Those who remember the torturefest that was the Mets/Nationals game on August 20, 2005 would appreciate the Mets/Expos contest that took place on this particular day in Montreal. It was a game that started well, with Jeff Kent smacking a three-run first-inning homer off Dennis Martinez as part of a four-run frame. A fifth-inning grand slam from Jeromy Burnitz made it a 9-1 Mets lead and for once it appeared that the club would romp to victory.

Not so fast. The Expos countered with four runs off Eric Hillman, who prior to that had been doing his best Pedro Martinez impersonation. Hillman didn't get through the fifth and was followed by a reliever parade of Pete Schourek, Jeff Innis, Mike Maddux and Dave Telgheder. The first two whittled away the rest of the cushion., allowing the Expos to knot the score at 9-9. The next two pitched well enough to stretch the game beyond its limits.

In the top of the 12th inning, Dallas Green didn't have much choice because he was almost out of players. He turned the baseball over to Draper, who rewarded the faith with a 1-2-3 inning and gave the team a chance at victory in the lucky 13th. In that turn, the Mets bats awoke from a long slumber. Joe Orsulak brought home the go-ahead run and Jeromy Burnitz, as part of a 7-RBI day, proffered two insurance tallies.

Anthony Young, whose record-setting losing streak was not long in the past, was charged with the task of protecting the advantage and though he injected levity into the proceedings with two walks, was able to do so successfully.

Two days later the Mets had a doubleheader against the Pirates. Draper had impressed enough to earn the start in Game 2, his first start in the majors. He lasted three innings, allowing three runs and five hits in a game the Mets won, 10-8. Less than a week later Draper was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his right arm and his major league career was effectively finished. The August 5 win was his first and last but it represented a nice triumph for him and for George Mason University. It is a symbol of patience and perseverance and does a nice job of representing One Shining Moment.

True Metges know...The four Georges to play for the Mets are Altman, Foster, Stone, and Theodore, with Foster being the only one to record a walk-off RBI.


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