On this Labor Day weekend, baseball bogarts the bold ink. Yet with a 60-game season, sans September call-ups, our eyes are still adjusting to MLB's Twilight Zone motiff, courtesy of the coronavirus.
Still, it can't stop us from strolling down Memory Lane, and gazing at the more notable September call-ups in Mets history. One lovely thing about memories is they are invaluable and inviolable. Here are a few such memories, for the rather young and the pretty old.
5. Jorge Toca
We start with a guy who gets a spot here because he was not a one or a two, yet a three-time September call-up for the Mets. A Cuban defector who was 28 when he made his MLB debut on Sept. 12, 1999, Toca went 1-for-3 in limited action that September, and 3-for-7 with four RBI in his second cup of Joe the following fall. For those counting, that’s 4-for-10 (.400), but the party ended there for Toca; he actually got a call-up in April 2001, going 0-for-5 before being returned to Triple-A, and upon his return that September, he was 3-for-12 with one RBI. And that’s it for Jorge, who spent the next five years in Triple-A with six different organizations and one year in the Mexican League before hanging ‘em up. The ultimate cup of coffee (or three), but he’ll always have that three-run double off Javy Vazquez in 2000.
4. Gregg Jefferies
Following a trifects, we have our first twin call-ups for one player. On September 6, 1987, the highly-touted youngster was summoned for the proverbial cup of coffee. But in six at-bats Gregg Jefferies had three hits, including two RBI and a tidy .500 batting average. The first-round pick was called up more substantially in 1988, on that last great Mets club that was easily the best in the National League – one that went 100-62 and won the NL East by 15 games yet lost to the Dodgers in the NLCS, despite going 10-1 against L.A. during the regular season and outscoring them 49-18.
Jefferies played 29 games starting in late August, and batted .321 with six homers and 17 RBI. The Mets went 24-7 after his arrival, cruising to the NL East title. But Baseball America's two-time Minor League Player of the Year (1986 and 1987) didn't turn into the monster the Mets anticipated, hitting .258 in his first full season of 1989, and he would soon pinball around the sport, playing for six different squads in 13 years. He did reach two All-Star games before he retired in 2000, though – not exactly Darryl Strawberry, but no Sidd Finch, either.
3. Mike Jacobs
In 2005, in his first big-league at-bat, Mike Jacobs smashed a three-run homer off of Nats hurler Esteban Loaiza. (Sure, it was August 21, but close enough.) Jacobs landed like an asteroid, getting going 2-for-3 on August 23, and then the next night went 4-for-5 with two more bombs. In nine August games, Jacobs batted .310 with a .429 on-base percentage, helping the Mets to a 6-3 mark. September was equally fruitful, as the rookie first baseman batted an identical .310, launching seven more homers and posting 14 RBI in 21 games.
In 30 total games, Jacobs belted 11 homers, placing him seventh on the club for the season. Had he hit two more, he would have only trailed Carlos Beltran, Mike Piazza, David Wright, and Cliff Floyd. But unlike some luminaries listed here, who blossomed into stellar careers, Jacobs was literally a great call-up for the time he was called up. He did not mushroom into a superstar, with way too many holes in his strike zone. But for 30 games he was the most lethal hitter on a Wild Card contender with a Hall of Famer (Piazza) and perhaps a future Hall of Famer (Beltran).
2. Mookie Wilson
On September 2, 1980, the second-round pick from the 1977 draft made his debut against the Dodgers. Wilson, instantly plugged into leadoff spot in a lost season, batted .268 with seven steals. His 20.8 WAR over 10 seasons with the Mets is No. 1 all-time among players who made their maiden start in September. Wilson was also a great clubhouse guy and one of those guys who actually loved the game, and his glee for the game was infectious down the dugout. Also, if memory serves, he hit some dribbler down the first base line at Shea Stadium one night in October 1986...at a guy named Buckner.
1. Nolan Ryan
On September 11, 1966, the 19-year-old fireballing rookie fanned his first batter, Braves pitcher Pat Jarvis, in the sixth inning of a 6-1 loss. And from there, Ryan's resume is so astonishing, you'd think he pitched during the dead ball era. He was an eight-time All-Star, won two ERA titles, led his league in strikeouts 11 times, and lapped the competition when he finished with over 5,700 strikeouts (including a record 383 K's in 1973). He's equally ahead of the pack with seven no-hitters, and was still throwing gas into his late-40s. Both his bionic arm and flawless delivery kept him from the trainer's table and surgeon's scalpel for an astonishing 27 tears, and even at 73 he tells us on TV that he still brings it and only needs Advil to ice it. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a career Met, as in the worst trade this side of Seaver, Ryan (plus three other players) got shipped to the California Angels in 1971 for Jim Fregosi.