2002-08-17 / Sports

Agee Earns Rightful

Spot in Mets HallBaseball Columnist
By Bryan Hoch
Agee Earns Rightful Spot in Mets Hall By Bryan Hoch Baseball Columnist

Spot in Mets Hall
Baseball Columnist

Tommie Lee Agee never put up the numbers that might tag him for eventual induction into Cooperstown, nor was he even a standout player of his generation. He was a relatively average player, putting up a career batting average of .255 over 12 big-league seasons from 1962-1973.

But it was Agee's two incredible, unforgettable fielding catches in Game Three of the 1969 World Series to rob Baltimore's Elrod Hendricks and Paul Blair that helped the Mets steam toward an Amazin' upset victory that magical year. For fans that are lucky enough to have witnessed and lived it, that one autumn afternoon will live on forever in Mets lore.

Agee passed away last January at the age of 58, but his efforts as an athlete and later as a humanitarian in the community certainly weren't forgotten at Shea. In honor of Agee's five seasons of service with the Mets from 1968-1972, with a special nod toward his achievements in helping the '69 squad pull off a miracle, Agee will become the latest member of the Mets Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon.

"This is a wonderful honor," Agee's widow, Maxine, said. "Tommie would have been so proud. If only it could have happened a little over a year ago so that he could have enjoyed this. He played for several teams after he left here, but he always felt he was a Met more than anything else."

"Tommie would have loved to have been here to see this," said teammate and best friend Cleon Jones. "It's great when you're honored by your organization, your hometown and the fans. There's nothing an athlete appreciates more."

Agee's stellar diving catches in Game Three of the 1969 World Series saved a grand total of five runs, and he also homered, helping the Mets to a 5-0 victory over the Orioles in the first championship game ever played at Shea Stadium.

Some have suggested that Ron Swoboda's miraculous diving grab in Game Four - miraculous only because Swoboda was a poor outfielder, at best - was the real highlight of the Series, but he deferred all claim to that.

"He had five guys on base with two outs cumulative. One's two runs, one's three runs," said Swoboda, now employed as a part-time broadcaster for the New Orleans Zephyrs in the Astros organization. "Mine, Boog Powell is on first base. A Ford pickup truck with four flat tires has a better chance of scoring on that play than Boog."

Back in 1969, the Mets shared Shea Stadium as a multi-purpose facility with Joe Namath and the Jets. As NFL kickers will attest, the swirling winds coming off of Flushing Bay made Shea a miserable place to ply their trade, and the same was true for outfielders attempting to track fly balls. But those who played with him say that nobody did it better than Agee.

"I hated it. Every guy before me hated it," Jones recalled. "But Tommie never complained. I watched Willie Mays, Curt Flood, Vada Pinson - a lot of guys came into this Shea Stadium outfield.

"Nobody played it better than Tommie Agee."

Strike Three? With a potential strike still lingering on the horizon, certain promising signs are beginning to emerge. The Players Association elected not to set a strike date on Monday, giving hope that some compromise could be hammered out that would allow baseball to finish the 2002 season.

"I think (Atlanta's) Tom Glavine said it best, there's still some bumps in the road," said Mets catcher Vance Wilson, who sat in on a players meeting Tuesday. "We'll keep working and sitting at the table and hopefully get a deal done."

Wilson said that the owners and players had made some progress on smaller issues, but that the two sides are still struggling with economic issues. "My emotions keep switching from optimistic to pessimistic," he said, "but it's not the same condition as 1994. All sides are talking."

Cheap Save: Thanks to a technicality in baseball's rulebook, Padres closer Trevor Hoffman picked up one of the cheapest saves in the game's history Tuesday night at Shea Stadium.

Leading 7-1, Padres rookie Jake Peavy started the inning bidding for a complete game four-hitter, but allowed a single to Mo Vaughn and walked Jeromy Burnitz with one out. Reliever Tom Davey came on and got Ty Wigginton to fly out, but hit Wilson and walked Rey Ordonez to force in a run.

So, here's the situation: Padres leading 7-2, bases loaded, two out, bottom of the ninth, and here comes Hoffman to face pinch-hitter John Valentin. Even if Valentin hits Hoffman's first pitch onto the 7 train, the Padres still lead this game 7-6 with one out to go.

But since the potential tying run was now on deck, apparently in the form of Mike Piazza to pinch-hit, Hoffman is eligible to earn a save. The righthander threw two pitches and got Valentin to bounce to shortstop Deivi Cruz to work out a save in a game that was never really that close.

Bryan Hoch covers the New York Mets for FOXSports.com and appears weekly in the Wave. He can be contacted at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.

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