Saturday, August 27, 2022

Mets Old Timers' Day: Catching Up With Ron Swoboda


Ron Swoboda (right) chats with (from left) Jesse Orosco, Bobby Ojeda, and Howard Johnson. Photo by Jason Schott.

Mets Old Timers Day was on Saturday afternoon, and one of the key members of the 1969 World Championship team, Ron Swoboda, came up from New Orleans to play in the game.

Swoboda, an outfielder, played six seasons with the Mets, and is most known for his diving catch of a hit to right field by Baltimore's Brooks Robinson to right field in the ninth inning of the fourth game of the 1969 World Series, which the Mets went on to win in the tenth inning. The Amazin' Mets won the title the next day.

I caught up with Swoboda on the field ahead of batting practice for the Mets legends, and here's what he had to say:

On watching the current team from his home in New Orleans: I do, I'm a fan, on MLB Extra Innings, I watch every inning I can watch if I'm available and it works for my schedule; my schedule's not that crowded, so I'm a fan of this team. It kind of started last year in the first half of the year, they were in first place and you're questioning, what are they doing in first place, then they weren't, and that answered the question, they weren't good enough, but this year, it's more compelling baseball and I've enjoyed it a lot more. 

What qualities do you see in them that they could go all the way? Well, they've got some pitching, probably the biggest question is getting the game to (closer Edwin) Diaz and keeping him fresh as you can, but they've got enough starting pitching, I think. They're interesting hitters, they put the ball in play, they make a pitcher work, they hit the ball all over the place, and every once I a while they stick a home run on ya. You know, they're not going to live or die by the bomb, but they've got a couple of guys, so it's been kind of fun. They've gone through a period here where they had a bunch of injuries to the pitching staff and a couple of position players, but they're cruising through it.

What are your thoughts on their Manager, Buck Showalter? Showalter has changed the whole entire culture. They look like a team that's going out there having fun and wants to play the game the right way - that's what it looks like to me.

Your were here for last night's comeback victory, are those the kind of games championship teams pull out? Well, you coughed up a couple of leads, that's not what you want to do, and you were in trouble late, but you know, Mark Canha, you know, he played with the minor league team in New Orleans when I was there (calling games on radio), when he was in the Marlins organization, he always looked like a guy who could play a little, and he went away to the A's and whatnot, and he turned himself into a pretty smart hitter. He's organized up there, you know, and God, he's gotten a bunch of clutch knocks lately.

What do you think of the designated hitter now being used in the National League? It's here, and it's here to stay. I feel badly because I think it takes an element of managing away from the Manager and you don't need 25 guys on the roster if you're using the DH, but it's here to stay and nobody's gonna miss pitchers hitting. I like the element it added, just the question mark, you know when you got a (Jacob) deGrom who can hit, and a (Max) Scherzer who swings the bat a little bit, kind of like to see that pitcher hit a little, but most guys you don't.

Note on Swoboda's Personal Connection To the DH: Swoboda mentioned in a prior interview for his book Here's the Catch that he could have been the first designated hitter in baseball history when it was introduced in 1973 while he was with the Yankees, as he explained, "I would have been the first DH if the Boston Red Sox had started a left-handed pitcher instead of a right-handed pitcher, which gave it to Ron Blomberg,and he was the first DH in Major League history. I was the DH the next day when they started a left-handed pitcher."

To read the full interview from April 2021, click here for Part 1, which was on his career with the Mets, and click here for the second part, on more current topics, and see where Ron was 100 percent right about someone the Mets didn't sign at that time.

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