The Rodney McCray clip earlier prompted me to look up Rodney McCray’s brief stint with the Mets, which included 18 games but only one plate appearance — an RBI single — during the miserable 1992 season.
Then I looked up and down that team’s roster and realized there’s something funny to say about nearly every single guy who played from that team. Todd Hundley posted a .572 OPS. Howard Johnson played center field. Bill “wait ’til you see” Pecota was on the squad, as were Jeff McKnight, Willie Randolph and two-sport non-star D.J. Dozier.
But the name that really jumped out at me was Pat Howell, a center fielder who put up a .418 OPS over 31 games late that season, his only Major League stint. Howell couldn’t hit at all; he finished his career with a .603 Minor League OPS over 14 seasons.
He stuck around that long, presumably, because he played a great center field. And my lasting — nay, only — memory of Howell is that he made perhaps the best catch I’ve ever seen in person.
Don’t ask me the game, the day, the situation or the hitter. I don’t remember any of it. All I remember is a deep fly ball to dead center field and Pat Howell, running full tilt — and he could fly — making a leaping, over-the-shoulder grab.
When I think back on it and the mechanics of everything, it’s a bit unclear why he had to jump the way he did — it wasn’t a dive, just a leap, and he took off like it was a long-jump attempt. Howell wound up catching the ball in mid-flight just before both of his spikes hit the center field wall — just to the right of Shea’s 410 mark, if I recall correctly.
His momentum pushed his body forward but his spikes stayed attached the wall. He managed to stumble off the fence without falling, but the spikes made two small rips in the center field wall so a little bit of white padding showed through for the remainder of the game. It was cool.