It was the most anticipated day of the New York Mets’ season. Sixty-five former Mets came back for Old Timers’ Day to celebrate the team’s 60th anniversary.
After a 28-year hiatus, Jay Horowitz, the team’s VP of alumni public relations, brought back six decades of players and managers before the Aug. 27 game against the Colorado Rockies. Fans were introduced to original Mets like Ed Kranepool, Frank Thomas and Jay Hook, who pitched the team to its first win after it lost nine straight games to start the 1962 season.
The original Mets were joined by world champions from the 1969 and 1986 teams, along with modern-day stars like Pedro Martinez, Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile.
But the biggest honor of the night turned out to be a surprise. At the end of the player introductions, Mets owner Steve Cohen retired Willie Mays’ No. 24. Kranepool and Jon Matlack, two of Mays’ teammates from 1972-73, unveiled the retired number.
It was explained that when the original Mets owner Joan Payson brought Mays back to New York from San Francisco to play out the end of his career, it had always been her unfulfilled wish to retire his number in New York, where he stared his career with the New York Giants in 1951.
Standing in the dugout with the former Mets as they waited to be introduced was wide-eyed rookie Brett Baty, who had a whirlwind introduction to the Mets’ legacy players as they took their places on the baselines.
Baty, the 22-year-old third baseman from Austin, Texas, had just completed two successful weeks on the road with the Mets after hitting .315 with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs in 95 games across Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse. After the Mets lost two third basemen to injuries, Baty debuted against Atlanta on Aug. 17. The former Brooklyn Cyclone blasted a two-run home run to right field with the first swing of his big-league career to help the Mets beat the Braves for a much-needed win.
The Mets’ 2019 first-round draft pick revealed after the game that it was former Cyclone Brandon Nimmo who welcomed him to the team and encouraged him to relax since the rest of the team had his back. Even in 2019, former Cyclones manager Edgardo Alfonso was impressed with Baty’s presence at the plate, saying, “It’s rare to see a kid this young have a major league swing, but he really does have one.”