Flushing, NY – In a belated attempt to address criticism from fans that the New York Mets have ignored the team’s history since moving into Citi Field in 2009, the Mets inducted four new members on Sunday, August 1. Frank Cashen, Dwight Gooden, Davey Johnson and Darryl Strawberry, into its Hall of Fame. The four all represent the resurgence of the team in the 1980’s and the club’s world championship in 1986.
This season marks the 30th anniversary of the Mets Hall of Fame. During the thirty years, the Mets have only inducted 25, including this week’s foursome, into the Hall. The most recent ceremony took place in 2002, when outfielder Tommy Agee was added. The group of four inducted on Sunday was the largest contingent added in an individual season.
A plaque of each of the newest members was added to the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, located in the Rotunda area of Citi Field. The plaques were unveiled during the ceremony, and fans were able to view them during the regularly scheduled game that afternoon. The Mets museum was opened this April in another action designed to recognize the history of the organization and salute its past heroes.
The ceremony was ably emceed by the radio voice of the Mets, Howie Rose. He began his introductions by stating, “We honor four truly iconic figures in the history of the New York Mets, men who played pivotal roles in the Mets second world championship in 1986.”
Rose introduced each who came onto the field from the outfield to receive his plaque from a previous member of the Mets HOF. A short film of the highlight of each recipient’s experiences with the Mets was shown, and then each responded with a short acceptance speech.
Although his name may be the least familiar to current Mets fans, Frank Cashen is the most responsible of the four honored guests for the success of the Mets in the 1980’s. Cashen was hired as general manager in 1980 by the team’s new owner, Nelson Doubleday.
Cashen brought success to the Mets as he previously did as an executive of the Baltimore Orioles from 1965-1975. The other three inductees were brought to the Mets through Cashen’s efforts. Godden and Strawberry were drafted by the club and Johnson was hired as manager in 1984. Cashen also obtained catcher Gary Carter, first baseman Keith Hernandez, third baseman Ray Knight and pitcher Ron Darling, all instrumental in the Mets achieving a World Series championship.
The Mets next won a division title in 1988, were competitive for several seasons, but did not become a dynasty. Cashen summarized the success of the team during his decade as general manager in a press conference at Citi Field on Saturday, “We drew three million people before anybody on the East Coast did it, did it twice. We had a great run. I appreciate it, and I appreciate going into the Mets Hall of Fame with all these distinguished gentlemen.”
After receiving his plaque from Rusty Staub, Cashen thanked all who helped him with emphasis on his wife, “The real Hall of Famer is my wife, Jean. She was the Most Valuable Player in my house.” The 88 year-old and his wife are the parents of seven children and nine grandchildren.
Distinguished was not a word often, if ever, used to describe the 1986 Mets. The team was ranked 13th in a poll published by SI.com on Saturday of the most hated individual teams. The unpopularity reflected on many factors including the club’s success and arrogance on the field.
Davey Johnson, who Cashen knew as an outstanding second baseman in Baltimore was hired as manager in 1984. Johnson, who remained as Mets skipper throughout the decade, compiled the most wins, 595, as a manager of the team. Of 1986, he said, “I thought we really had a perfect team. We had big egos, big personalities on this ballclub, but they all loved to play baseball.” One of the 1986 Mets, Gary Carter, presented his plaque to him.
The two players enshrined, Gooden and Strawberry, have always been linked. Both began their careers in the majors with the Mets in the early 1980’s after being drafted by the organization; each earned the Rookie of the Year award in his first season in the bigs with the Mets; both showed outstanding talent on the field, and appeared to be sure bets to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame when their playing careers ended; both played with the Yankees successfully later in their careers; both were embroiled in controversies involving substance abuse and marital difficulties. Finally, both entered the Mets Hall of Fame together on Sunday.
Each of the two Mets stars spoke glowingly of entering the Mets HOF on Sunday. Strawberry dismissed the disappointment of many fans of his for never having lived up to his initial expectations as a player and not being elected into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, “We’re going into the Mets Hall of Fame, and that’s what’s important. That’s all I really care about.”
Gooden, who later played on four other teams, admitted, “When I played on other clubs, I always called the Mets first and tried to come back here.” Gooden expressed his gratitude to the fans, “It wouldn’t have been possible without all of you [fans].”
The first Hall of Fame Achievement Award was presented to Bob Mandt. The recipient has worked for the Mets since 1962 in a variety of positions.
On a day the four men were honored for their contributions to the Mats 1985 championship, the 2010 Mets players showed how much improvement would be needed to reach that pinnacle. In describing the 14-1 drubbing by the Arizona Diamondbacks, manager Jerry Manuel remarked, “We didn’t pitch; we didn’t hit; we didn’t catch the ball.” That has been the story during too many games during the 2010 season.