The New York Mets have had quite a cast of characters over the years. The very early Mets had to have some drawing card since they were struggling with aging stars and young players who were not quite ready for the big time. The “Old Professor” Casey Stengel kept the fans and media entertained with his unique drivel that usually went nowhere.
One-time star Jimmy Piersall was a Met when he hit his 100th career home run when he decided to run the bases…backwards. Of course there would be Tug McGraw who would come off the mound frantically tapping his glove on his leg and screaming out “Ya Gotta Beelieve!” on his way to leading the Mets out of the cellar and to a National League championship. Another reliever, Roger McDowell, the practical joker, giver of the “hot foot,” and second spitter, whose clubhouse antics eventually got him traded away. There would be others who would have some qualities or idiosyncrasies that would create a love affair with the fans…guys like the Stork, George Theodore; Turk Wendell who wore a necklace with teeth and claws from animals he had hunted and killed; and “Hawaiian Punch” Benny Agbayani.
Given the elevation of Edwin Diaz and his intro music to Mets cult hero in 2022, I thought back to three players who really did seem to rise to the level of cult status while playing for the New York Mets.
1) Bartolo Colon had already had a successful Major League career long before he joined the Mets
Colon was 41 years old when he joined the Mets, really as an insurance policy, while the young studs – Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard – were still making their way into the rotation. Colon provided innings, stability, and tutelage to the young staff.
He was quite a different pitcher from when he broke into the Bigs with the Cleveland Indians at the age of 24. A lot heavier and a lot wiser…and he truly seemed to be enjoying himself every minute he was out on the field. Colon quickly became a fan favorite…and it didn’t hurt that he won 15, 14, and 15 games the three seasons from 2014-2016.
His stature was more of a typical “Sunday softball player” and he lived up to that bill…as he hit a home run against the San Diego Padres on May 7, 2016, becoming the oldest person – at age 43 - in Major League history to hit his first ever dinger.
The fans already loved Colon, but they became infatuated with him after displaying his hitting prowess. Mets fans still clamor for his return, even at the age of 49.