Glory Days is back after a break, and in honor of John Buck’s outstanding start to the 2013 season, we’re going to profile another Mets backstop who played second fiddle at a key time in the organization’s history: Ed Hearn.
Dateline: June 15, 1986. The Mets are looking to sweep a doubleheader from the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium. Through a domino effect of Keith Hernandez getting the night off and Gary Carter moving to first base to fill in, the roll of “catcher” is being played by 25-year-old former Phillies farmhand Ed Hearn.
A fourth round pick in 1978, Hearn labored in the Philadelphia system for five years, never rising above Double-A before being released in 1983. Frank Cashen picked him up off the free agent market in time for 1984, and again at the end of the season. After starting off the 1986 season in Tidewater, Hearn finally made his big league debut on May 17, going 2-3 with a double in a loss at Dodger Stadium. By the middle of June he is beginning to see more playing time.
New York starter Rick Aguilera made quick work of the Pirates through the first three innings. Pittsburgh’s Bob Kipper did the same through the first two, but his lucky streak was broken when Rafael Santana led off the 3rd with a single. After Aguilera struck out, Mookie Wilson launched a two-run home run to get the scoring started. Gary Carter followed suit in the 4th with a solo homer, his 11th of the season, to make it 3-0 for the home team.
Aguilera got into some trouble in the 5th inning, allowing three straight singles that eventually lead to two runs. Tim Teufel got one of those runs back in the bottom of the frame with a single to score Santana, but Aguilera gave it away again in the top of the 6th when Joe Orsulak singled, went to second and third on groundouts, and scored on a wild pitch by reliever Randy Niemann.
The Mets got a rally going in the bottom of the 6th: George Foster doubled off Cecilio Guante to lead off and Ray Knight singled to put two men on. That brought up Hearn, who rose to the occasion to deliver his first career major league home run. Hearn trotted around the bases with the salute of the Home Run Apple, and his team was back up big, 7-3.
The Pirates stayed in the game though, picking up two more runs off Niemann in the 7th inning. The New Yorkers would need another run to really put it away. They got it in the 8th on a rally started by an Ed Hearn single. Santana and Roger McDowell followed with singles to load the bases. After Wilson grounded into a fielder’s choice, Teufel got a run home with a sac fly to center. That run support was more than enough for McDowell, who completed the six-out save by setting the Bucs down 1-2-3 in the 9th inning. Final score: Mets 8, Pirates 5. And as Ed Hearn caught the final strikeout from McDowell, he kept the game ball after his 2-4 day and three-run homer.
Hearn continued to get the occasional start on days Carter had off, but his shining moment came in August when the Kid went on the disabled list with a torn thumb. Hearn was thrust into the starting role for 11 games, helping the Mets go 8-3 in that time span. He finished the season batting .265 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in 49 games. Ed didn’t see any playing time in that legendary postseason, but as a member of the 1986 New York Mets, he is still afforded all the privileges and benefits of such a title: mainly, our everlasting admiration.
Mere weeks before the start of the 1987 campaign, Hearn was part of a trade that brought David Cone to New York from Kansas City. In line to be the Royals’ starting catcher, Ed suffered a terrible shoulder injury that sunk nearly his entire season. After spending some recovery time in the Florida State League in 1988, he only played in seven major league games during what would be his final season on the big stage. After spending the entire 1989 season in Triple-A Omaha, he bounced around in the Cleveland Indians organization, retiring after the 1990 campaign at the young age of 29.
Hearn’s life took a tragic turn in 1992 when he was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, which would require him to go through a kidney transplant and burying him under an avalanche of different medicine. Hearn was able to overcome this, sleep apnea, and skin cancer twice, and eventually became a highly-skilled motivational speaker, earning the incredibly prestigious Certified Speaking Profession title from the National Speakers Association, a designation that makes him unique amongst professional athletes and one he shares with just 8 percent of speakers worldwide. In addition to penning his own autobiography, Conquering Life’s Curves, he currently works for two charities: NephCure, which works to fight kidney diseases, and his own foundation, Bottom of the 9th. Suffice it to say, a World Series ring is far from the most significant accomplishment in his extraordinary life.
June 15. A good day for Johnny Vander Meer in 1938 (throws his second straight no-hitter at the first-ever Ebbets Field night game) and our New York Mets in 1983 (the Keith Hernandez trade). Also a good day for every future government ever in 1215 (King John signs the Magna Carta). A bad day for the Redcoats in 1775 (George Washington becomes commander-in-chief of the Continental Army) and our New York Mets in 1977 (the unspeakable atrocities of the Midnight Massacre). A great day for Ed Hearn in 1986, but certainly not the only one.