June 05, 2011; Flushing, NY, USA; The New York Mets logo behind home plate before a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. The Mets defeated the Braves 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Andrew B. Fielding-USA TODAY Sports

Ya Gotta Believe 40th Anniversary Player Profile: Wayne Garrett


Our Ya Gotta Believe 40th Anniversary Player Profile continues with a look at 1973′s other resident redhead, and the 1,372nd best player of all time (according to baseball reference), Wayne Garrett.

Wayne Garrett was born on December 3, 1947, in Sarasota, FL. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Braves in the 6th round of the 1965 Amateur Draft. A day before his 21st birthday, the Mets selected Wayne from the now Atlanta Braves in the Rule 5 Draft. When Garrett made his debut against Bob Gibson and the Cardinals on April 12, 1969, he was the 40th 3rd baseman in the Mets’ 1st eight years (a problem that would not be solved until David Wright was drafted in 2001). In the championship year of 1969, he got 454 plate appearances with 400 of those ABs, splitting time at 3rd base with Ed Charles. In those PAs and ABs, he collected 87 hits for a .218 AVG, with 1 HR, 39 RBI, a .290 OBP and an eye-popping .268 SLG. With such little power, it made for quite the unlikely hero when Garrett homered in the Mets’ 1st ever postseason game at Shea. He went 5 for 13 in the NLCS against the Braves, and got on base twice in 4 trips to the World Series plate.

In the same amount of Plate Appearances as received in ’69, Garrett had a relatively breakout season in ’70, hitting .254 with 12 HR and 45 RBI. The biggest jump made other than his power numbers was how good he was at getting on base, finishing the season with a .390 OBP, a trend that continued through the rest of his Major League career. You talk to folks who saw Wayne Garrett play and most of them say that getting on base was his biggest strength.

When reviewing history, one would think the Mets might have given a chance to Wayne Garrett to take a hold and erase the fickleness of the Mets 3rd base position, but a couple of factors most likely led to this not occurring. In 1971, Wayne only played in 56 games due to Military service, hitting .213 with only a .310 OBP, and not nearly as high of an OPS (.548) as in 1970 when it stood at .811 in 114 games. Another factor was most likely the Mets’ need for a serious veteran impact bat, and though the Angels had soured on 3B Jim Fregosi, they decided to work the Mets’ need into their favor and needs, trading for Nolan Ryan in the process. Jim’s career went immediately south in Flushing, leading to Wayne collecting 377 PAs in 111 games in 1972, and though the average and power weren’t there, he still got on base at a .374 clip.

For 1973, I yield the floor to Rich Sparago, who had these words to say when comparing Wayne Garrett to another red-headed utility player, Justin Turner:

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 postseason. 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.

Wayne Garrett played for the Mets until the middle of 1976 when he was traded to the Montreal Expos with Del Unser for Pepe Mangual and Jim Dwyer. He retired after the 1978 season at age 30. He got on base, never hit higher than .270 (1977 MON) and helped deliver the Mets 2 pennants and a World Series.

One could argue, though, that this ‘stache is his biggest legacy in the Orange and Blue.

Whaddya say workin’ on THAT style, Justin Turner?

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