Tuesday, March 03, 2015

March is Mostly Mets Reading Month: 'Mets by the Numbers' crunches numbers in a whole new way

I've always liked reference books.

My parents bought us a brand new set of World Book encyclopedias when I was a kid. I can only imagine what that must have cost.  It was a fantastic gift.

I would routinely pull a volume off the shelf – any volume, it didn't matter which one -- lie on the floor and flip through the pages, stopping at entries, photos or maps that caught my interest.

I don’t know if this was because I lacked the attention span for longer stories or I just couldn't sit still and watch television. But I learned a lot of things about a lot of things. If there’s a Trivial Pursuit tournament, you want me on your team.

I still am more likely to curl up with a reference book than a story, which leads me to today’s entry for March is Mostly Mets Reading Month.

March 3: “Mets by the Numbers” by Jon Springer and Matthew Silverman

Published in 2008

Jon and Matthew – who also are very nice guys – take us through Mets history through uniform numbers. It's an awesome book, and not just because they asked me to contribute a photo of my Mercury Mets jersey and cap (Page 129).

Pick a uniform number, and they’ll tell you which player wore it and when it was on their back. 

That’s interesting enough. For instance, only pitchers wore No. 41. I was wearing my 1969 Mets jersey to a baseball card show once, and former Dodger great and original Met Clem Labine pointed and said, “You’re wearing my jersey!”

I sheepishly pointed out that my prized flannel was a Tom Seaver jersey. Labine proclaimedthat he wore No. 41 first. 

And the book tells me that Grover Powell, Jim Bethke and Gordon Richardson also had 41 on their backs before Seaver wore it all the way to Cooperstown – and the Citi Field wall, where it is today off-limits to any other player, pitcher or otherwise.

What I like best is that Jon and Matthew use the digits to tell us about the people who wore them, and why they are special in the Mets universe, be they stars like No. 5 David Wright or the people passing through.

I reached for the book this week when I heard the sad news that Jeff McKnight died after battling leukemia for 10 years. McKnight was never a star player, but he was blessed to wear a major league jersey for six years.

He also holds a special place in Mets numeral history: He’s the only player to wear five different numbers. As Jon writes on his essential Mets by the Numbers website:

“While on the one hand his feat is an odd curiosity, five uni numbers is also something else entirely. It’s not the kind of record that a player who is secure in his big-league status can possibly generate, and at the same time, it’s a testament to McKnight’s persistence and versatility, finding a way to be needed even as his teammates were needier.

You can read the whole entry here. Then go grab a book. Sometime next season the Mets will call up a stud prospect like Steven Matz or Noah Syndergaard. You’ll look at their uniform and wonder which exclusive numerical club they just joined. Jon and Matt have the answer.

The rest of your reading list, so far:

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