The 1983 New York Mets were on the precipice of something amazing. Although they would finish only 68-94, it was clear the team was heading in the right direction with some talented youngsters and the first of many quality trades when they landed Keith Hernandez midseason.
But that’s not what caught my eye when randomly surveilling the team recently. Catcher Ron Hodges and his 305 plate appearances with a big fat goose egg in the home run column is what I noticed first. Then I got to digging a little more. Sorting through the catchers, I found they had a surprising one home run all year long.
Mets catchers on the 1983 team combined to hit only one home run
Want to know something more amazing? This was the year when pitcher Walt Terrell hit three home runs in only 48 plate appearances. The primary catcher for the team didn’t go deep once!
Only one of the catchers did. It wasn’t Junior Ortiz, the backstop with the 190 plate appearances. It wasn’t Ronn Reynolds either in any of his 75 trips to the plate. Mike Fitzgerald, a rookie in 1983, hit the only home run all year for a Mets catcher.
The dinger was an especially notable one in Mets history, too. Fitzgerald was a September call-up who got his first start for the Mets on September 13 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Batting eighth in front of batterymate Terrell (who would not hit a home run on this day), Fitzgerald had the rare home run in his first ever major league at-bat.
He became the second player in franchise history to accomplish this feat. In 1974, Benny Ayala was the first.
The home run was Fitzgerald’s only of the season and one of two hits he would have in his 23 plate appearances. If it hadn’t been for him, Mets catchers would have gone the entire year without ever going yard.
Clearly, something had to eventually get done. You can’t always expect your catchers to be like Mike Piazza. However, you do want to have the potential to go deep every once in a while.
The Mets saw this and would actually package Fitzgerald in a deal with the Montreal Expos to solve their weakness behind the plate. They brought in Gary Carter at the start of 1985.
In 1983, it took the Mets until game 144 on the schedule to get a home run from their catcher. In 1985, with Carter now on the roster, he wasted no time. On Opening Day, Carter hit a walk-off home run in the tenth. For at least a few more years, there were no more concerns about this position.