Wayne Garrett: Justin Turner of 1973?

As camp opens in Port St. Lucie, there are many storylines emerging for the New York Mets. Who will play the outfield? Will Bobby Parnell be an effective closer? When will Zack Wheeler make an impact in Queens? Another storyline involves the growth, literally the growth, of facial hair on the faces of many of the players. Some of the epic beards adorn the faces of Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Shaun Marcum, and Justin Turner.

Of all of them, Turner’s probably stands out the most. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t the fullest beard on the team, but Turner’s certainly is unique. One of the most distinguishing features about Justin Turner isn’t his power, speed, or defensive prowess. It’s his red hair. On the 1973 Mets team that shocked the world by winning the pennant and taking the mighty As to a seventh game, the Mets had another red-headed infielder, Wayne Garrett.

Garrett’s role in 1973 was similar to the role Turner played for the Mets in 2011 and 2012. Garrett was a utility infielder, who primarily played third base, but also filled in at shortstop and second base. Garrett started more often than Turner has in his tenure with the Mets. Garrett was a solid defender, with surprising pop in his bat. In 1973, Garrett hit 16 HRs in 504 at-bats. He hit .256 and drove in 58 runs. While Garrett contributed in many ways to the amazin’ 1973 stretch run, he was involved in a play that many feel magically vaulted the Mets into the post season. The date was September 20th, 1973, and first place was on the line. The game was tied in the top of the 13th inning. Take a look below at one of the most iconic plays in New York Mets history.

Garrett was the relay man in that play. He had moved to shortstop to replace Bud Harrelson, and delivered a strike to Ron Hodges to nail Richie Zisk at the plate. The Mets won the game in the bottom of the 13th, and went on to win the division with an 82-79 record. They proceeded to defeat the heavily-favored Reds in the NLCS, before succumbing to Oakland in the World Series.

Garrett played 7.5 of his 10 major-league seasons with the Mets. His career numbers were very “utility-man like”. He hit .239 with 61 career home runs. Garrett was traded to the Expos in 1976, and finished his career with the Cardinals. Wayne Garrett is now 65 years old. For those of us who remember 1973, Garrett (who was also on the 1969 team) will always be fondly remembered. Let’s hope Justin Turner (bearded or clean-shaved) can etch a similar place in Mets’ history.

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