Best Mets Of All Time: No 24 Art Shamsky
Joan Payson, the original Mets owner, loved Willie Mays so much that not only did she have the Mets trade to get him in 1972, she unofficially retired the number. In fact, since Mays retired after the 1973 World Series, the number has only been worn by Kelvin Torve (who switched his number in-season), Rickey Henderson, and now Robinson Cano.
Beyond that group, there were Mets players who wore the number briefly. Ed Charles wore it for one season before switching to 5. Ken Boswell switched from that number to 12. Jim Beauchamp gave up his 24 to Mays. Then, there was Art Shamsky who wore it throughout his three year Mets career.
Shamsky first came to the Mets in the same offseason as Gil Hodges. Things could not have been worse for Shamsky. He was leaving a good Reds team who already had Tony Perez and Pete Rose, and he was going to what was the worst baseball franchise in the history of baseball.
In his first year with the Mets, he was little more than a league average hitter, but this was an improved Mets team who seemed to pull off the impossible by not losing 90 games for the first time in their history. To that end, things seemed to be improving for Shamsky and the Mets, but that was only momentary.
Shamsky hurt his back entering the 1969 season, and he started late. What he couldn’t have known at the time was he was about to embark on the best season of his life. That 1969 season would prove not only to be his most memorable but also his best individual season.
While being platooned with Ron Swoboda, Shamsky hit .300/.375/.488 with nine doubles, three triples, 14 homers, and 47 RBI in 100 games. Nearly each of those marks were a career best for him including the 139 OPS+. Included in those 47 RBI were game winners.
Where Shamsky would really shine that season was the postseason. In the NLCS against the Braves, he was a difficult out hitting .538 in the series. When he reached base in his final NLCS at-bat, that would be the final time he would reach base in that postseason. Even if he didn’t get another hit, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have an impact.
Never known for his defense, it was a terrific diving play. It was one of the miraculous diving defensive plays from the Mets in that series which helped them pull off the miracle that was the 1969 World Series. Like the rest of his teammates, he would become a World Series champion.
Shamsky would play two more years with the Mets after that 1969 World Series with him having another good year in 1970 before being released in 1971. Through his career, he is the 50th best Mets position player by WAR putting him ahead of any other Mets player who wore the number 24. Overall, even if legends like Mays and Henderson wore the number 24 with the Mets, it was Shamsky who was the best Mets player to wear that number.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
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