Monday, June 1, 2009
Where Are They Now? Joel Youngblood
Joel Youngblood, 57, played for the Mets from 1977 – 1981. The Mets acquired him from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for SS Mike Phillips on June 15, 1977...the same day they traded Tom Seaver to the Reds.
Youngblood, born in Houston, TX, was a jack of all trades. Although during that era, it seemed to me he played mostly RF. After taking a gander at his career with the Mets, he did play a lot of 2B and 3B, as well as LF and CF.
His versatility helped him reach the pro ranks in 1976 with the Cincinnati Reds, but Youngblood believes it might also have hurt him saying, "From a manager's standpoint, I gave him an insurance policy on the bench that could go in and play anywhere," Youngblood says. "But it took away some of the opportunities for me to play regularly at one position because I was so valuable I could play all positions quite well."
Youngblood cites while in NY, he played for his favorite manager, current LA Dodger Manager, Joe Torre.
"Joe's always been my favorite manager and I've had great managers - Sparky Anderson, Frank Robinson," Youngblood said. "I always felt he was fair, he was open and listened. It was great in New York."
Youngblood had a very strong arm, and never seemed to lack hustle. He was selected as an All Star in 1981, where he was leading the league in hitting. He finished that year with a .350, but didn't figure in the batting title due to only playing 43 games and having 161AB's. In his lone All Star AB, if memory serves, he popped out to 1B.
Youngblood, whose career ended in 1989, is still involved with baseball. This year during Spring Training he was employed by the Arizona Diamondbacks, as a “roving OF, base-running, and bunting instructor.” He has also served as the teams hitting instructor over the last two seasons. With Arizona, it is believed he will travel about 70% of the time, making visits to such thriving metropolis' as: Reno, NV., Mobile, AL, South Bend, IN, and Visalia, CA, Arizona's minor league affiliates.
Once his career ended, his coaching career began, with stints in Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati.
When asked of his most memorable moment as a Met, Youngblood said it was when he made a game saving catch against the Cubs on opening day in 1980 by climbing the wall to steal a HR. Youngblood still gets excited when reminiscing about it, "I will never ever forget that as long as I live. That to me is my best memory."
Joel Youngblood is a part of baseball history. It was back on August 4, 1982 and the Mets were in Chicago to play the Cubs. Youngblood became the first player to get two hits; one for two different teams, on the same day, and against two Hall Of Fame pitchers. The Mets beat the Cubs during the afternoon with Youngblood delivering the game winning hit off Hall Of Famer Ferguson Jenkins. He was traded to Montreal later that day, and after the game, he flew to Philadelphia to to join his new team, the Expos. During the nightcap, Youngblood came off the bench in the seventh inning, and got a hit off another Hall Of Famer, Steve Carlton.
Youngblood on his hectic day: "It was a very, very long day. It started off probably at 9 in the morning, going to Wrigley Field for batting practice, and it ended probably 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time in Philadelphia. With a flight, two games … it was a really long day."
Joel Youngblood was my favorite Met after the Mets traded both Jerry Grote and Jerry Koosman away. It was the first 'Mets Jersey' I owned with a bold #18 and YOUNGBLOOD emblazoned on the back. After 1982, I could no longer wear the jersey. Another player donned #18. You might have heard of him. His name is Darryl Strawberry.
Youngblood played with the Mets during their embarrassing era of the mid-late 1970's, and early 1980's. He was fun to watch, and for such a poor team, he was, for me, that shining hope of seeing something special happen.
Sources: Ultimate Mets Database, Mark Lelinwalla - NY Daily News