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Best Mets Of All Time: No. 55 Orel Hershiser

Before the 1999 season, Orel Hershiser was reviled by Mets fans. His 1988 NLCS MVP performance is what stood between them and what Mets fans believed was a rightfully the Mets second World Series in three seasons. Instead, Hershiser earned a save in Game 4 while picking the win in a masterful Game 7 performance.

A decade later, the Mets made the somewhat controversial move to sign Hershiser during Spring Training. It turned out to be a great move for the franchise.

It didn’t look like it in the beginning as Hershiser got knocked around in April and May. To make matters worse, the Mets were unperforming leading to Steve Phillips firing three of Bobby Valentine‘s coaches on June 6th. At that point in the season, the Mets were a .500 team after getting it handed to them by the Yankees.

n June 7th, Hershiser got the ball, and he made the first step towards salvaging the Mets season. In that start, Hershiser picked up the win after allowing two earned over six innings. This was part of a terrific stretch where both the Mets and Hershiser turned their seasons around.

From May 21 – June 29, Hershiser was 7-1 with a 2.94 ERA. Over that time frame, the Mets went from firing coaches to 11 games over .500 and in the thick of the postseason races. That’s where the Mets were all season, and as luck would have it, the Mets found themselves tied with the Cincinnati Reds on the final day of the regular season, and the Mets handed the ball to Hershiser.

Hershiser allowed a run in the first before shutting down the Pirates over the next five innings. He would pick up a no decision in a game the Mets eventually won on a wild pitch scoring Melvin Mora in the bottom of the ninth. Despite pitching this big game, the Mets opted to put this battled tested veteran who had a number of huge postseason starts in the bullpen.

In that postseason, Hershiser would make only two appearances. The first was a scoreless inning locking up a Mets victory in Game 3 of the NLDS. The next was a huge relief appearance in Game 5 of the NLCS to help keep the Mets alive in the series.

Up until that Game 5, Hershiser’s big contribution in that series was pointing out to Eddie Coleman and Steve Somers just how much Chipper Jones hated being called by his given”Larry.” With that, Hershiser improbably gave birth to the Larry chants which would fill Shea Stadium for its final days.

In Game 5, the Mets were fighting off elimination. The early 2-0 lead went by the wayside with Masato Yoshii giving up two runs with no outs in the fourth. Hershiser entered the game in an almost impossible situation with runners on first and second with no outs.

He responded by striking out Andruw Jones and Eddie Perez back-to-back before getting Walt Weiss to ground out back to him. Hershiser then followed that up by shutting out the Braves for an additional 2.1 innings. It was those 3.1 scoreless innings which would keep the game and the Mets alive long enough for Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam single many innings later.

Surprisingly, Hershiser was not done in that series. Despite being a 40 year old starter, he found himself back on the mound two days later in Game 6. He pitched a scoreless seventh before the Mets took the lead in the top of the eighth on a Mora RBI single. In another universe, Hershiser would have gotten the win there, but the Mets would lose that game, and Hershiser’s one year tenure with the Mets was over.

During that year, Hershiser had an eventful season which included him being the starting pitcher for the Mercury Mets and giving Mets fans their favorite jeer. He put together a good year, and he had some postseason glory for the Mets instead of against the Mets in what was a near Hall of Fame career. As he was an integral part of that 1999 team, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 55.

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1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
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
24. Art Shamsky

25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy

29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza

32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey

34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver

42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw

46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Armando Benitez
50. Sid Fernandez
51. Rick White
52. Yoenis Cespedes
53. Chad Bradford
54. T.J. Rivera

 

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