Mets Moonlight Graham
With the second Field of Dreams game, we get to revisit all the things and the people who made that movie special. At least this year, chief among them was the late, great Ray Liotta.
It was Liotta who brought Shoeless Joe Jackson to life. Of course, the story revolves around Shoeless Joe, but he wasn’t the only player key to the plot.
The other famous player was Moonlight Graham.
Graham was the player JD Salinger, sorry Terence Mann, saw on the scoreboard at Fenway Park. He got his one wish to get a plate appearance, but then he had to abandon the dream to save the girl choking.
Ray Kinsella did a masterful job learning who the real Moonlight Graham was and incorporating him into the tale. Sadly, the real Moonlight Graham wasn’t really rewarded did the great post-baseball life he led by getting that plate appearance.
Moonlight Graham’s special or unique. Rather, it just happened to be the one highlighted in a novel and a major motion picture. Really, every franchise has their own Moonlight Graham.
For the New York Mets, that’s Joe Heitpas.
Hietpas made his Major League debut on October 3. 2004. He replaced Todd Zeile, who was playing in his last ever game, and he caught one inning. He’s never bat in that game or any subsequent game.
Of course, that season, the Mets finished 20 games under .500 nowhere near the pennant race. They let Zeile catch but couldn’t get Hietpas even one at-bat or start. Part of the reason was an abdominal muscle strain, but still, the Mets were terrible.
After the season, the Mets hired Omar Minaya and revamped the roster. Between his minor league hitting and there now being more depth, Hietpas never would get a chance to be called up as a catcher again.
The Mets did want to try him at pitcher. Initially, he wanted to make it as a catcher and demurred. He eventually relented, but he had no control, and he would finally be released ending his professional baseball career.
According to SABR, as of September 2018, Hietpas was the last position player to make his Major League debut in the field and never get a plate appearance. Per Hietpas, he doesn’t regret not getting that at-bat.
He’s put together a good life since raising a family. Still, to this day, you have to wonder just how much he really wanted to just wink at the pitcher as he went into his windup.