The New York Mets have had a history of strong catchers. The Mets have had six different catchers make the All Star team in their 50+ year history, and the lineage of great Mets catchers seemed to be passed from one generation to another. After Jerry Grote and John Stearns, Gary Carter took up the mantle of Mets' backstop in the 1980's and thrived. Carter left Queens after the 1989 season, and the mantle was passed to another young catcher, Todd Hundley. Hundley started off slowly at the plate, but he exploded onto the scene in the mid 1990's. Hundley quickly became the next Mets' All Star catcher, earning invitations to the mid-summer classic in 1996 and 1997.
1996: 1996 was a banner year for Hundley, who established himself as one of the game's top young catchers. After hitting .280 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI's in 1995, few expected Hundley to turn into an elite offensive performer. That changed in 1996, when Hundley smashed 41 home runs and drove in 112 runs for the Mets. The 41 home runs set a major league record for catchers in a single season and also established a new team record for the Mets. Hundley's strong season was rewarded with his first career All Star appearance. Hundley was selected to the All Star team as future Met Mike Piazza's backup, and went 0 for 1 in the National League's 6-0 victory. The game, which was played at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium, saw Piazza be named the MVP.
1997: Hundley followed through his breakout 1996 campaign with a strong 1997 season as well, batting .273 with 30 home runs and 86 RBI's. Hundley was again named to the All Star team as a backup for Piazza. Hundley suffered an injury prior to the game and was unable to play in the game, which was held at Cleveland's Jacobs Field. The American League would go on to win 3-1.
Hundley's Mets' future was called into question in 1998, when he suffered an elbow injury that doctors called career threatening at the time. With Hundley's future up in the air, the Mets made a bold move and traded for All Star catcher Mike Piazza in exchange for three prospects. With Piazza established behind the plate, Hundley tried to transition to left field upon his return from injury. The move did not work out, and the Mets had a choice in the winter to either re-sign Piazza or return Hundley behind the plate. The Mets chose to re-sign Piazza, making Hundley expendable.
Hundley ended up getting dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three team trade following the 1998 season. The deal netted the Mets Armando Benitez and Roger Cedeno, two key cogs to their 1999 playoff run. Hundley was productive for the Dodgers the next two seasons, but injuries began to take their toll on the former All Star. After a stop with the Chicago Cubs and a return to the Dodgers in 2003, Hundley retired during the 2004 season due to chronic injuries. Hundley's single season home run record for catchers was broken by Atlanta Braves' backstop Javy Lopez in 2003, while his Mets' single season record was tied by Carlos Beltran in 2006.
Check back next week as Mets 101's All Star Memories series continues!
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- Mets 101 All Star Memories: Gary Carter (1985-1988)
- Mets 101 All Star Memories: John Stearns (1977, 1979-1980, 1982)
- Mets 101 All Star Memories: Dwight Gooden
- Mets 101 All Star Memories: John Franco (1990)
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