Sunday, March 29, 2020

I love the 80s - 1981 New York Mets

This is a series of posts on a 1980's Frankenset. Each page features a different team, with 9 of my personal favorite cards from that year's team. You might find players repeated, you'll definitely see brands repeated, but hopefully you'll agree that there are some interesting selections from the 1980s!

In 1980, The Mets finished 5th in the NL East, narrowly avoiding 100 losses. The following season they would come out flat, again finishing in 5th place in the first half. They came sputtering out of the gate in the second half of the season following the strike, with a 24-28 record which was 4th best in the division. Manager Joe Torre would be let go following the '81 season, moving on quickly to become the Braves' new manager.

The team changed ownership in 1980, with Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon leading a new group. They would install Frank Cashen as the new GM, who was the architect of the Orioles' 1960s dynasty. Their poor performance in 1979 also gave them the #1 Overall pick in the 1980 draft, and they selected Darryl Strawberry. In the 1981 draft they added Lenny Dykstra in the 13th round, and just missed Roger Clemens (he was picked by the Mets in the 12th Round, but he opted not to sign.). The motto for the team in 1980 was "The Magic Is Back!" but it unfortunately went missing in the second half. They flirted with the .500 mark but tumbled to their 4th straight losing season, 24 games out of first place. They did see the debuts of Hubie Brooks and Mookie Wilson as September call-ups.

Here are the cards:

Topps #377 Jerry Morales - Morales came to the Mets in an offseason trade, and spent 1980 as the regular centerfielder for a team waiting for their young phenom Mookie Wilson to develop. Morales was an All-Star with the Cubs in 1977, and was coming off a season in Detroit that was less than stellar. Though he had a career high in stolen bases and hit 14 homers for the Tigers, he only hit .211 and had an OPS+ of 65. For the Mets, Morales fared a little better, but was not intended to be a long term solution, and was released following the 1980 season. He would play a few more seasons for the Cubs as a 4th outfielder.

Donruss #276 Neil Allen - Allen was the Mets' closer in 1980, 81, and 82. He saved 22 games for the Mets in 1980, and fared even better in 81 and 82, lowering his ERA and striking out more batters each year. He was the key piece in the trade that netted the Mets Keith Hernandez from the Cardinals.

Fleer #325 Joe Torre - Joe Torre had been the Mets Manager since 1977, starting as a Player/Manager. He was widely regarded as a smart coach, but not a particularly successful one. When he was finally let go from his tenure with the Mets, he had endured 5 consecutive losing seasons. He would go on to more challenges in Atlanta and St. Louis, though he did start to have some success at the end of his Cardinals' run, which led to his being hired to take over that other New York team in 1996. Of course he found quite a bit of success with that team, and was named to the Hall of Fame as a manager in 2014.

Fleer #330 Doug Flynn - Flynn came to the Mets in the Tom Seaver trade, going from being a backup to Joe Morgan in Cincy, to getting the everyday job in New York. Flynn was a glove first middle infielder, in fact winning the 1980 Gold Glove for 2nd base. He was a member of the '76 Reds championship team, and just missed out on the 1986 Mets run, going to Texas in a trade that brought Jim Kern to New York.

Topps #259 Mets Future Stars Juan Berenguer, Hubie Brooks, and Mookie Wilson - The 1980 Mets team had several everyday starters that were 30+, and the lineup was cobbled together with aging players and inexperienced once. Juan Berenguer was 25, still primarily a starting pitcher. He appeared sparingly in the 1980 season, just 9 innings pitched in the big leagues. He was a key part of the 1984 Tigers team, though he did not pitch in the postseason. He was also a big part of the 87 Twins World Series team. Hubie Brooks had a cup of coffee with the Mets in September of 1980, and would become a fan favorite following his 3rd place finish in the 1981 ROY balloting. Brooks of course, would be part of the Gary Carter trade with the Expos.

Donruss #575 Mookie Wilson - Wilson was a very highly touted prospect for the Mets in 1980, like Brooks he was a September Call-up. Wilson quickly became the igniter of the Mets' offense as a lead-off man and base stealer. In 1981, Wilson stole 24 bases in the strike shortened season, then reeled off a pair of 50+ stolen base campaigns. His best offensive season in New York came in 1984 when he had 10 Triples and 10 homers to go with 46 steals. Wilson had big moments in the playoffs as well for the Mets in 86.

Topps #414 John Pacella - Topps had several good shots of Mets' pitchers in the 1981 set, but this one with Pacella's cap on the mound is my favorite. Pacella was a spot starter for the 1980 Mets, starting 15 games and appearing 17 more in relief. He was still getting his legs under him, and would spend 1981 and most of 82 in the Yankees' minor league system.

Donruss #36 Roy Lee Jackson - Jackson like Pacella had a dual role for the 1980 Mets, as he started 8 games but appeared in 24 games overall. He was traded to the Blue Jays following the 1980 season, where he would spend the bulk of his MLB career in the Toronto bullpen. He had a pair of strikeout crowns in college for the Tuskegee Institute and yet still went undrafted. The Mets signed him as a free agent following his college career.

Fleer #321 Steve Henderson - Henderson also came to the Mets with Doug Flynn in the Seaver trade, and was the trade chip that brought Dave Kingman over to the Mets from the Cubs. He had several good years in New York, making his MLB debut in 1977. His 1980 season featured his career high with 23 stolen bases. He was in the top ten in the NL with OBP and Triples. In his 12 MLB seasons, Henderson was a career .280 hitter.


  1. That John Pacella card is great. I didn't know Mookie was a shortstop. And I noticed you chose three cards for each set. Was that intentional?

    1. Intentional? Yes and no, it depends on what I have in my collection already, but I do prefer to have a mix of the major brands.

  2. Yeah. Mookie as a shortstop is a good get.

    Of course, the Phillies won the World Series in 1980 with former Met Tug McGraw as their closer and would win the pennant in 1993 with Dykstra as their CF.

  3. The Pacella is one of my all-time favorite cards. Note that his hat isn't actually ON the mound--it's about to land! He hated wearing a cap, so he developed a pitching motion which would knock it off during his windup.

  4. Glad to see the Pacella card included. I had some fun with it on my old blog

  5. I'd love to look back at older issues of Beckett back in the 80's to see if either of these Mookie Wilson rookie cards were worth decent money (which back then would have been a $1 to $5 card). I feel like I treasured both of my copies of those cards back then.