These are the managers of my lifetime. There have been 15 men appointed the task of leading the Mets since I was cruelly brought into this world and became a Met Fan.
I never saw him manage the Mets. So why start with Gil Hodges?
Back in the early and mid-70's I lived on a block (a dead-end block as we call it ~ GREAT For Stick Ball!! - I digress..) that bordered Holy Cross Cemetery. I don't remember being there (I was), but my neighbors in the years after 72' told me of the incredible sight of his funeral procession bringing Gil to Holy Cross. It passed our block. I was 5 yrs old when he left us.
Growing up in Brooklyn, I played games at Gil Hodges Little League Field on Shell Road. I used to hang out as a teenager and "actually Bowl" (just because it was close to the house I suppose) at Gil Hodges Lanes when it was still located on Ralph Avenue. Upon entering the Bowling Alley immediately on the left was a display case with some memorabilia including one of Gil's Gold Glove Awards. I still enjoy going to Jacob Riis Park/Beach in the Rockaways. It's just on the other side of the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. That bridge connects Brooklyn with the Rockaways. So, as you see, Gil Hodges still remains a tangible part of our lives in Brooklyn. Drives down Bedford Aveneue, renamed Gil Hodges Way reaffirms that.
Joan Hodges, his wife and still the First Lady of Brooklyn, manages to attend a Brooklyn Cyclones (NYM-A class) game in Coney Island every once in a while. Gil Hodges' number 14 is proudly retired and displayed over the 2nd level boxes at MCU Park along with some other of Dem Bums.
As a 5 year old and a 6,7,8 and 9 year old, quite literally in a sense, I couldn't have been any closer to him or him to me. And he remained a part of my life as I previously explained as is the case with many Brooklyn boys. Growing up here, there is no escaping his impact still felt by the Borough. This will forever be home of
The Quiet Man.
Not so much 1973, but by 1974 and 1975, the images are clearer for me. I remember Little Yogi fairly well. The Met uniforms were a little bluer, a little bit more orange and were a bit more ivory. The Mets' coaching staff was a quick lesson in the city's baseball history back then. With the help from neighbors on the block, I came to learn quickly about them. Lindsay Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner were my teachers and I hung on their every word. ...And then I learned about Yogi Berra's Yankee past. I didn't understand, but I was probably better off. Then I suffered my first bout of anger as a Met fan when Tug McGraw and Rusty Staub were traded away.
Joe Frazier ~ 1976
Joe presided over my first "Most Favorite Years". By 1976, as a baseball fan, I had everything clicking by this time. I was nine years old now. I was collecting and flipping baseball cards in the school yard and reading the newspaper and Baseball Digest. I watched every game on TV and learned how to tune-in out of town games on the radio at night. A third place finish for the Mets that year wasn't necessarily such a bad place to be for me back then. The season was a thrill for me and I was going to a lot of games. The team was still gloriously Amazin' to me. Seaver, Koosman, Buddy, Grote, Garret and Kranepool were still around. Felix Millan, Jon Matlack. John Milner, Dave Kingman and Skip Lockwood were big time favorites of mine. As a Met fan, life was great for me. I loved this team and Big Beautiful Shea with all the colored panels decorating the outside of the Stadium.
Joe Torre ~ 1977-1981
The darnedest thing happened; Joe Torre was named Player/Manager. I didn't know you could do that; not yet anyway.. I remember when he called upon himself to pinch-hit for his last MLB at-bat. I also didn't know why they had to dismantle the team I fell so in love with over the last three years. But who's trying to hear anything when you're 11 years old? If you made it through these years and were one of the 7,000 people there any given game like I was, First ~ I'm sorry; and Second; We should receive medals for our Courage and Loyalty. You have my unyielding respect. From this era, my favorites were of course Lee Mazzilli.., John Stearns and Joel Youngblood. But there was no mistaking these years for anything other than the Dark Years they were. Joe Torre was managing a team mandated to not spend any money on free-agents or make costly trades. The team was stripped bare and being prepared to be sold. Joe Torre did get the team to .500 one mid-summer day. It really was a big deal. Then they fell to the bottom of the division like a rock. That's as far as they got during the Torre years. There was nothing he could do to make those teams better.
George Bamberger ~ 1982-1983..
He was Frank Cashen's bud from their Oriole days together. He was asked to mind the store while the farm worked on growing some players. Bamberger did it more as a favor to Cashen than anything else. He only lasted (less than) two years because he grew too tired of the losing and at his age, who needed it? But from these days, came a great little bunch of back-ups who earned a nickname for themselves; Bamby's Bandits - their Leader was none other than Ron Hodges. However impatient he seemed on the outside, I actually thought Bamberger could be a very good manager for us at the time. But he just wanted to go home and retire so he quit. Health problems didn't help.
Frank Howard ~ ..1983
Hondo was such a big guy, and such an old-time, fun loving but hard-nosed Baseball guy. He actually did a rather good job and garnered much respect for his efforts finishing up the 1983 season for the Mets. Of course by that time, he was penciling Kieth Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry into the line-up and Jesse Oroscoe was emerging. Many of the prospects former GM Joe McDonald left behind were starting to show their worth and some would be used in key transactions. We all knew, for a bad season, 1983 finished off on a good note and things were turning around for us.
Davey Johnson ~ 1984-1990...
He was another one of Frank Cashen's guys from their Baltimore days together. He was down on the farm with the prospects Cashen drafted and acquired, and were all promoted to the big club together in 1984. He was a man of few rules and probably the cockiest of that group; telling his team they would dominate the League before games ever got started in 1986. Other than Gil Hodges, he is the only Mets Manager to guide us to a Title. That being said, his teams also underachieved. The Mets should have plunked down at least one more title during that span. And thank him...! He's one of the people most responsible for the 5-man rotation Baseball employs today.
Bud Harrelson ~ ...1990-1991
BUDDY! He seemed like a natural and I really liked him. 1990 was a fun season, all be it a season that started to change the face of the Mets. They never could over take Pittsburgh that year. But that was in no way Buddy's fault in my opinion. 1991 was another story. Things were starting to go sour in Flushing and Buddy was taking a pounding in the Media. It never did get better for us when the club decided to fire him. I was just happy Buddy didn't have to go through a meat-grinder anymore.
Jeff Torborg ~ 1992-1993...
Jeff Torborg, GM Al Harazin, the team, and these two years were unmitigated disasters! Jeff Torborg was a human study in the Art of The Meltdown. That Cat literally came apart at the seams. Like a cheap sweater, he got snagged once and just unravelled in a continuous Media undressing. He just could not help himself from sticking his foot in his mouth it seemed on a daily basis.
Dallas Green ~ 1994-1996...
I liked Dallas Green. I thought he'd be the right guy for GM Joe McIlvaine's plan to thoroughly rebuild the club through our farm system. This was all hinged on the three pitchers dubbed, Generation-K. I was totally on board with the rebuilding process. I was thrilled Joe McIlvaine instituted a real plan. The plan turned out to be an unabashed failure for numerous reasons, including injury to all members of Generation-K. It turned out to be the last REAL plan any GM (minus Alderson) has had for this team since. Then Joe McIlvaine developed a habit of disappearing during tough times and not returning the Owner's calls. He in essence became a Front Office Rogue. Once, when he actually showed up to the office one day, he was booted out the door, and the crusty and cranky Dallas Green was asked to follow close behind.
Bobby Valentine ~ ...1997-2002
There are few smarter Baseball minds in the Milky Way. He certainly got the very most out of his players for several years before things went rotten for him too. He is every bit Good, Bad, and Ugly. He was even in disguise once. He was as responsible for the Mets winning a N.L. Title as he was responsible his own unemployment. His act wears thin. Just ask Fred Wilpon. The two do not "like" each other; - No secret there. That's why I laughed anytime someone clamoured for his return. Bobby and Steve Phillips forced the Wilpons to decide who gets to keep their job. Initially Phillips won that battle and Valentine was let go. Then the Wilpons re-thunk the situation and told Steve Phillips to beat it too.
Art Howe ~ 2003-2004
WTF?! C'mon!? What was that all about?
Willie Randolph ~ 2005-2008..
Poor Willie. He was too paranoid. Then, he delved too deeply into a racially-tinted opinion he held regarding Fred Wilpon on the Boss' own TV Network. That was his biggest and last mistake. Shortly after his comments, he got axed in the middle of the night, in a hotel room on the West Coast. Michael Kay flat out accuses Carlos Delgado of laying down on Willie over a mutual dislike for each other. Forget what I think. I think those bold words should stand on their own and let Kay deal with that. Many said Willie was wound-up too tightly and it caused friction in the dugout. That is fair. But the tension was never more thicker and snippy than with the Media. Willie always referred to His Guys when speaking of the players. But His Guys apparently didn't always have his back. There came a point when they heard him. They just weren't listening. And no Met Fan will ever forget Willie's decision NOT TO BUNT! You know what I mean!
Jerry Manuel ~ ..2008-2010
The Rodney Dangerfield of Managers; he didn't get no respect and he kept the Media laughing. He more-so than Willie was deprived of a completely healthy team for most of his tenure as manager. His record aside, his future was tethered to Omar Minaya's fate anyway. If Omar was gone, surly Manuel would follow. If Manuel was gone, surly Omar would follow. They were both doomed. The fan uproar and apathy were two forces that caused the Wilpons to enact changes at the conclusion of last season. Jerry had his moments; just not enough of them. He and Willie both are proud owners of Major Chokes, but only Willie brought the Mets to the Playoffs. Jerry Manuel watched the Mets fall and hurt themselves.., but left the Media in stitches.
Terry Collins ~ 2011 -
This guy wasn't exactly my first choice...Or my second choice. It's still hard to gauge how much stock Sandy Alderson puts into managers when you take the MoneyBall aspect into account. Truth is, we just don't know yet. Collins has proven adept at 2nd place finishes and even has a Player Mutiny against him to his credit. That's impressive. His favorite word to describe himself is ENERGY. I wonder if he spells energy with one trouble or two? I can't wait for the first player to not run-out a pop-up or the player who jogs down to first-base. I'm curious to see Terry Collins' Energy at work. And I'm dying to see his Energy wow the Media during Q&A's! For better or worse, it's going to make for some great nights of Head-Butting Mr. Met.
** Roy McMillan, Mike Cubbage. There!
Let's Go Mets!