Things Happen For A Reason|
The True Story Of An Itinerant Life In Baseball
by Terry Leach with Tom Clark
Frog Ltd., 2000 | Buy the book
from Part 6 | THE RING I ALMOST GOT (1986)
At the end of the Triple-A season in September  I was due to be recalled. I’d had a real good year at Tidewater, pitching in every different kind of role -- long man, short man, closer, starter. Had four wins, seven saves, a complete game, a 2.41 e.r.a. in eighty innings down there. Bob Schaeffer was still managing the Tides, and now John Cumberland was the pitching coach. They kept encouraging me to work hard and pushing to get me brought back up, telling the people upstairs I was doing a better job than anybody else they had down there. By that time the Mets were running away with their division and headed for what promised to be a great post season, so I was dying to get back up, but nobody had given me the word.
I pitched the next-to-last game of the Triple-A season for Tidewater. The Tides needed to win one of those last two games to get into the playoffs. Two of their starting pitchers were hurt, so they asked me to make the start. I figured I had no place to go, and I’m always ready for anything.
Now I hadn’t had an at-bat all season, but in that game, as fate would have it, I had to come up and hit. I’d set down the first six batters I’d faced and was feeling pretty good about things by the time it came to my turn to step up there. I was going to stand in and try to do my best, because we needed to win that game. I drew a walk, and then with two out Stanley Jefferson drove a ball out between the outfielders. I made up my mind right then and there to try to score from first. I thought the third base coach, Sam Perlozzo, would probably hold me at third, but he surprised me and sent me. Well, we needed that run. I came barreling around third in high gear and started bearing down on home plate. At that point I saw I had a little problem. The catcher was standing there with the ball, blocking the plate. I figured if I tried a last-minute slide, I’d slam into his shinguards and break my leg. So I decided to try the old gung-ho maneuver and dive over him. That was bad decision number two. The impact of the collision knocked me up in the air and I landed on home plate right on my pitching shoulder. Next thing that happened, I was standing in front of an x-ray machine, holding a five-pound weight while they took a picture of the gap I’d just created in my shoulder. I’d dislocated and separated it, the team doctor told me. Then he hit me with some news that was even worse. "I heard you were supposed to be going back up to New York the day after tomorrow," he said. "Oh man," I said, "I wish somebody had told me that about three hours ago, before I got talked into going out and pitching that game!"
The Mets, as most everybody knows, went on and beat Houston in the league playoffs and then beat Boston in the World Series. I wouldn’t have been eligible to play but I’d at least have been traveling with the team and sitting on the bench with them, if I hadn’t been hurt. And then, I didn’t get a World Series ring. The organization made the decision on who’d get rings. It came down to a judgment call, and it was decided I hadn’t contributed enough. There was a little bit of inequity there. Ed Lynch, who’d pitched one inning in the regular season and then got hurt, and then when he could pitch again was traded to the Cubs -- Ed got a ring. (One little irony there was the fact that Ed had got hurt in the fifth game of the season, and the guy who’d come up to fill his spot for a week was me.) And there were several of us who’d played more than Ed Lynch, yet had not gotten rings. Since they’d given rings to people all through the organization, from the trainers all the way down to Single-A, the secretaries and office people, just about everybody, those of us who’d played a little and didn’t get one, we just didn’t understand.
Now when the players on the team came to dividing up shares of the World Series prize money at the end of the year, it was a different story altogether. The players voted me a quarter share, and that turned out to be worth $25,000. The players thought it was fair to cut me in, but the organization, which was making the decision on the rings, just didn’t see it the same way. It took me almost ten years to collect that ring. This wasn’t just a small thing to me, either. Anybody who’s seen a major league World Series ring will understand why. We’re talking about a big heavy ring here, with a lot of diamonds in it. Those rings are so heavy you have to take them off when you’re driving any distance at all, because they’ll put your hands to sleep.
The way it happened was pretty funny. Ed Lynch went on after his playing career to be an assistant general manager with the Mets and then later became general manager in Chicago. In 1995 the Cubs came in to play the Mets one time, and somebody in the Mets’ office decided to mess with Ed a little bit by having a trivia question put up on the scoreboard: "Name the 1986 Met pitcher who worked only one inning in the regular season, yet was awarded a World Series ring." Randy Myers, who by then had gone over to play with the Cubs, was sitting out in the bullpen. Randy looked up and saw that sign on the scoreboard. Randy had got in just about as many innings in ’86 as I had, maybe ten, and he also hadn’t got a ring. It was still a sore point with him. When Randy saw the trivia question go up there, the whole ring business ticked him off all over again, and this time he just about went ballistic.
Next day he stormed up into the Mets’ office and demanded those rings for us. Joe McIlvaine, the vice president of the team, was up there. Joe agreed to ask the company to re-open the mold and make more rings. The company said all right. But Randy was going to have to pay for it, and the prices had gone up. Randy said that was okay, he’d buy rings for all of us. But in the meantime, Mr. Wilpon, the owner of the Mets, came into this. I guess Randy had embarrassed him a little. Mr. Wilpon finally put in the cost of the original rings, Randy chipped in the balance, and those of us who were cheated out of them back then have now got our ’86 World Series rings at last.
Copyright © 2000 by Terry Leach and Tom Clark. Excerpted with permission.
Book cover designed by Carolina de Bartolo.