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New York Mets History

Mets History: Meet Joe Hietpas the Moonlight Graham of Queens

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 24: A general view of a swing weight used by the New York Mets during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on April 24, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 24: A general view of a swing weight used by the New York Mets during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on April 24, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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In 2004, New York Mets catcher Joe Hietpas went behind the plate for the final inning of the last game of the season. It was the only MLB experience he ever had.

In the classic baseball film Field of Dreams, one of the characters featured is based on a real baseball player named Moonlight Graham. His role in the film is based on the fact that Graham played only one inning in Major League Baseball in the final game of the 1905 season for the New York Giants. A member in New York Mets history had a similar career.

Graham played the field and never had a chance to bat. Unfortunately, he was on deck for the final out of the game. He famously became a doctor once he hung up his cleats.

In 2004, one of many Mets promoted to the big leagues in September was catcher Joe Hietpas. In game 162 of the season, Hietpas entered the first and only MLB game of his career.

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The Mets were leading the Montreal Expos 8-1 and needed a defensive replacement for pinch-hitter Wilson Delgado. Hietpas was called upon to catch pitcher Bartolome Fortunato for the final half-inning.

Hietpas watched from behind the plate as two Expos reached base to start the inning. An error and a walk put two on base in a game between a pair of teams distant from a playoff spot.

Two straight strikeouts and a groundout concluded the inning and ended the game. Hietpas never had a chance to even put on a batting helmet. The Mets won and he would have to wait for another shot at playing in a big league game the following year.

Unlike Graham, Hietpas did get to touch the baseball. He was credited with a pair of putouts thanks to the two strikeouts by Fortunato.

In 2005, Hietpas played in Double-A and Triple-A. His .210 batting average across the two levels didn’t warrant another promotion to the big leagues. The .169 batting average posted in 2006 gave little faith he would ever reach the big leagues again.

There was a reason why he hit so poorly, though. Hietpas had transitioned from behind the plate to the mound. He made his first pitching appearance in 2006 and put together a pretty solid season in High-A during the 2007 campaign. Hietpas went 4-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 27 relief appearances for St. Lucie. The following season, Hietpas was hit much harder at Double-A. He ended the year 3-5 with a 6.34 ERA.

After his playing days were over, Hietpas didn’t get into the medical field. Instead, he became a real estate lawyer in St. Louis, Missouri.

Next. Top five catchers in Mets history

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Hietpas never got his one at-bat every baseball player dreams of. Though he’s far from alone among those who only had a sip of coffee in the major leagues, his story is about as close to Moonlight Graham as you can get.

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