Just in time for the New Year, Mets 101's Seven in Sevenseries returns as our gift to you. Each week, the Mets 101 staff will begin a countdown of topics related to the New YorkMets (i.e. best third baseman, worst defeat, etc.). We will begin our countdowns with the number seven and work all the way to number one. This week's Seven in Sevenlist takes a look at some of the strangest characters in Mets franchise history, as we take a look at the second most offbeat character in team history, former manager Bobby Valentine.
The second skipper to make the list, Bobby Valentine was beloved by New York Mets fans throughout his seven year tenure in Queens. Valentine's charismatic attitude helped him mold a unique squad of youngsters and scrappy veterans into a contender. Valentine also brought a bit of fire and brimstone to the job, making him a natural fit for the Mets and their blue collar fan base.
Valentine made his mark as an offbeat character on June 9, 1999. Valentine was ejected from a game after arguing a catcher's interference called against Mike Piazza in the 12th inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Valentine then went to the clubhouse, changed into a T-shirt and donned a fake mustache and sunglasses. After donning his disguise, Valentine returned to the Mets dugout and managed the game incognito. The Mets went on to win the game 4-3, but the league was not thrilled and suspended Valentine for two games for the defiant act.
Valentine was beloved by the team's fans, but his relationship with the Mets' front office was far from stable. Valentine and then GM Steve Phillips repeatedly clashed about personnel and coaching matters, one of which came to a head when Phillips fired three of Valentine's coaches in the midst of a losing streak. The streak came in the middle of the 1999 season, on the eve of a Subway Series game. Valentine addressed the media prior to the game, saying "I believe in the next 55 games. If we're not better, I shouldn't be the manager." Valentine's gamble paid off handsomely, as the team went 40-15 over their next 55 games to put the Mets right in the thick of the wild card chase.
Valentine continued to make his mark in New York, leading the Mets to the 1999 NLCS and back to the World Series in the following year. The Mets had high expectations in 2001, and struggled to find their way through most of the season. After the September 11th terrorist attacks, however, another side of Valentine emerged. Valentine showed off his humanitarian side by helping to lead relief efforts from the Shea Stadium parking lot. Valentine and several Mets players worked along side rescue workers to deliver food and supplies to those in need, and these efforts earned Valentine the 2002 Branch Rickey award for his charitable work.
Valentine's Mets staged a comeback that fell just short in 2001, and the 2002 Mets marked the end of Valentine's tenure in New York. After being saddled with a bunch of underachieving stars by Phillips, Valentine and Phillips' rivalry came to a head at the end of a disappointing season. Ownership sided with Phillips, and Valentine was fired despite suffering only one losing season as manager. Many Mets fans were upset by the move, and every managerial vacancy for the Mets since 2002 has led to Mets fans calling for Valentine's return.
Be sure to check back tomorrow as we reveal the most offbeat character in Mets history!
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