What do Kevin Appier, Ken Boyer and Ellis Valentine each have in common?  They all made their names in baseball on other teams and ended up spending time on the Mets.  See how many of the following Hall of Famers and All-Stars you remember on the team.

Every franchise has players that came up in their farm system that went on to find success elsewhere.  Not many people think of Lou Brock on the Cubs or Dennis Eckersley on the Indians or Ferguson Jenkins on the Phillies.  But this list is a different sort of thing.  Here I have 10 players – six Hall of Famers and four All-Stars – who spent time with the Mets while most baseball fans would be surprised to hear that.  So, let’s see if I can stump you with any of these 10 famous players.

Richie Ashburn

He was a Hall of Fame center fielder for the Phillies.  Overshadowed most of his career by Willie, Mickey and the Duke, Ashburn was noted for his excellent defensive play.  A member of the 1950 Whiz Kids that made it to the World Series, Ashburn was the Mets starting center fielder on the 1962 Expansion Team.  He batted .306 with a .424 on-base percentage and was the team’s representative on the All-Star team.  Ashburn retired following the ’62 season rather than endure another year with the Mets.

Yogi Berra

Many people have no problems associating Berra with the Mets.  He was a coach under Gil Hodges and took over the team’s managerial spot after Hodges’ death.  But did you know that he played four games with the Mets in 1965?  This was following the 1964 season, when he managed the Yankees to the World Series.  There may have been other people in MLB history who returned to playing after a stint as manager, but certainly no one has done it since Berra.

Dock Ellis

The starting pitcher in the 1971 All-Star game, Ellis won 119 games from 1969-1977.  His teams made the playoffs five times in seven years and he was a member of the 1971 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates.  Despite all that, Ellis is probably best known for pitching a no-hitter while tripping on LSD in 1970.  He apparently gave up hallucinogens by the time he pitched for the Mets in 1979, when he went 3-7 with a 6.04 ERA.

Mike Marshall

Marshall played for nine teams in his career but if he was to be associated with one club, it would probably be the Dodgers, the team he won the Cy Young Award for in 1974 when he pitched in a major league record 106 games.  That year he won 15 games, notched 21 saves and made the first of his two All-Star teams.  He joined the Mets in the second half of the 1981 season, as baseball came up with the idea of splitting the season in halves to combat the strike.  Believe it or not, there was actually a week or two in the second half of 1981 where the Mets thought they had a shot at the 2nd half NL East crown.  It didn’t work out, but it wasn’t really Marshall’s fault.  He posted a 2.61 ERA in 20 games for the club in his final year in the majors.

Willie Mays

I talked about Mays’ appearance with the Mets in my Charlie Williams piece.  But here’s a couple of quotes from teammates on the ’72-73 Mets about Mays.  Tug McGraw: “Even though a lot of people thought he was over the hill at that time, I think Willie Mays still brought more to the ballpark than most human beings ever thought of.”  Jon Matlack: “There was an air of professionalism he brought with him, knowledge from his years of experience playing. Even though he was no longer the fastest guy on the field, he was probably the best I’ve seen in terms of first-step quickness in terms of taking an extra base. Those things, younger guys were having trouble doing and he was doing them on a regular basis.”

Eddie Murray

One of four members of baseball’s 500 HR-3,000 hits club, Murray played two seasons for the Mets in the early 1990s and was a member of “The Worst Team Money Could Buy”.  Most fans will immediately tick off Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman and Brett Saberhagen from that team, but forget that Murray was there, too.  Perhaps that’s because he drove in 193 runs his two years with the team.  His performance was good enough not to get lumped in with the bad guys but not good enough for everyone to remember.

Hideo Nomo

These days it’s pretty common for a player to come over to MLB from Japan.  But it was a big deal when Nomo did it in 1995.  It certainly helped that he was both entertaining to watch with that funky windup and he had pretty good results his first two years, too.  Things started to go sour in 1997 and the following year he was 2-7 before he was dealt to the Mets.  He did okay in New York, going 4-5 in 17 games but the club released him at the end of the 1998 season.  Nomo pitched eight more years after that, even putting up back-to-back 16-win seasons for the Dodgers in 2002 and 2003.

Duke Snider

The early Mets figured if they couldn’t be good, at least they could bring back some old Dodgers and Giants to help keep the fans entertained.  Sinder, who regularly hit 40 HRs and drove in 100+ runs for Brooklyn, found it a tougher go out in Los Angeles and the odd configuration of the Coliseum.  After hitting just five home runs in 1962, Snider was purchased by the Mets in April of 1963.  He was solid in his return to New York, as he posted a 115 OPS+ in 354 at-bats and made the All-Star team.  The Mets turned around and sold him to the Giants and the Duke of Flatbush ended his career with the Giants.

Warren Spahn

Two years after winning 23 games, Spahn found himself on the 1965 Mets.  Needless to say he didn’t win 20 games on that team.  Spahn went 4-12 in 20 games with the Mets before being released by the club.  He hooked up with the Giants and pitched well down the stretch for a team in the pennant race.  Spahn allowed two runs in a route-going performance on September 12th but spent most of the remainder of the year in the bullpen.  The Giants were two games up after Spahn’s outing on the 12th but finished the year in second place, two games behind the eventual World Series champs.

Frank Tanana

Between 1974 and 1978, Tanana won 82 games and combined with Nolan Ryan to provide a one-two punch of smoke-throwing pitchers for the Angels.  But then he hurt his arm and reinvented himself as a soft-tossing lefty.  It’s a credit to Tanana that he was able to carve out a 21-year career, with most of it spent throwing slop that made Jamie Moyer look like a fireballer.  Tanana was a teammate of Murray’s on the 1993 Mets, where he went 7-15 before being traded late in the year to the Yankees.

*****

In a few years, we’ll be able to add Robbie Alomar and Mo Vaughn to this list.  But right now the memories of them bumbling around in a Mets uniform are still a little too strong.

So, leave a comment and let me know if you had forgotten or never realized that any of these guys played with the Mets.

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