It was a very sad day for the Mets organization on this date in 2001. Tommie Agee, who manned center field for the 1969 Miracle Mets and made two game-saving catches in Game 3 against the Baltimore Orioles, died of cardiac arrest in Manhattan at the young age of 58. This post will end up sounding like an early edition of the Off-Season Player of the Week, but Agee was a special player in Mets history, and deserves the spotlight.
The pride of Magnolia, Alabama, the right-handed hitting outfielder was signed as an amateur free agent by the Cleveland Indians in 1961, when Agee was only 19-years-old. He made his MLB debut as a September call-up with Cleveland that next year, and only saw the field in the Bigs in that same capacity the next two years, before he was sent packing with Tommy John in a trade that landed them with the Chicago White Sox. After another season of struggling in the minors and briefly in the majors, Agee finally got his chance in 1966 when he won the starting center field job out of Spring Training, and he hit .273/.326/.447 with 22 homers, 86 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 44 stolen bases in 160 games played. The stellar season netted Agee the AL Rookie of the Year honors, his first Gold Glove, and first of two selections to the All-Star Game.
Although he earned his last All-Star Game selection the next year in 1967, his production fell off considerably compared to the year prior, prompting the White Sox to ship him off to Flushing to play the outfield for the Mets. His first season with New York was even worse than his last with Chicago, as he hit .217/.255/.307 with 5 homers and 17 RBI in 132 games played. Following a year in which was likely the worst and most frustrating of his career, he then enjoyed a three-year period with the Mets that were his best.
It started in 1969 with him winning NL Comeback Player of the Year honors. He captured that award by compiling a .271/.342/.464 line with 26 home runs, 76 RBI, and 97 runs scored for the Mets, who were playoff bound for the first time since their inception in 1962. He tore apart Atlanta pitching in the NLCS that year, as he hit .357 with 2 homers and 4 RBI in 3 games, but struggled at the plate in the five games New York lined up against the powerful Baltimore Orioles (.167/.250/.333). However, it was what he did with his glove that made all the difference.
With the series tied at one game a piece going into Game 3, Agee got the Mets off to a good start with a leadoff home run. Meanwhile, as the offense continued to pile on runs to make it a 5-0 victory, Agee made two fantastic catches that potentially saved five runs. That gave New York a 2-1 series lead, and they would go on to win the next two and shock the World by winning their first championship.
He started 1970 where he left off in ’69, as he began the season with a 20-game hit streak, and would hit at a .285 clip over the next two seasons. After having a trying 1973 season, the Mets dealt him to the Houston Astros, where he split time there and with the St. Louis Cardinals before calling it a career. In his five seasons with the Amazins, Agee put together a triple slash of .262/.329/.419 with 82 homers, 265 RBI, 92 stolen bases, 344 runs scored, and two of the biggest catches in Mets history.
Once he retired, Agee stayed active with the organization in which he experienced the most success, volunteering time for clinics and charitable events in both the New York area and down in Alabama. The center fielder was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 2002, one year after his untimely death.
It’s always tough to lose someone suddenly and sooner than anticipated, especially when they were as good of a person as Agee was. He will always be missed, but I’m thankful for the time he spent with the Mets during his playing career and after he hung up his spikes.