Mike Piazza, Gary Carter and Jerry Grote are probably the three most popular catchers in Mets history. It will be awhile before I add Piazza’s autograph to my collection, but I do have Carter and Grote. I don’t want to focus on them today; I want to showcase a different pair of former Mets catchers.
Joe Pignatano was a career backup who played most of his career with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. He finished his playing career with the 1962 New York Mets. In his last Major Leauge at-bat, Pignatano hit into a triple play.
Pignatano went on to become a coach for the New York Mets, a role he held from 1968-1981. He was famous for growing tomatoes in the bullpen. He was also one of the last people to see Gil Hodges before the Mets manager suffered a fatal heart attack in 1972.
Phil Lombardi‘s Mets playing career was even shorter than Pignatano’s. The Mets acquired Lombardi in a five-player trade that sent shortstop Rafael Santana to the Bronx to clear the way for Kevin Elster. The 1987 deal was the first transaction between the two teams in eight years.
Thanks to a shortened spring training caused by the 1990 lockout, it appeared that teams would go with a 27-man roster for the first month of the season and Lombardi appeared to have the third-string catcher’s job sewn up. When a dispute between the MLB clubs and the players union wiped out those extra three roster spots, Lombardi found himself on the outside looking in.
A few days later, he was cut and claimed on waivers by Atlanta. He decided to call it a career. That decision opened the way for former Mets farmhand Greg Olson to make his mark on the early 1990s Braves.
I got both of these cards signed through the mail.