Number Eleven

Tim Teufel with the New York MetsIt would have been easier if the magic number were 12, because we could talk about Ron Darling, John Stearns, Ken Boswell, Tommy Davis, and oh yeah — Willie Randolph (he wore it in ’92, right before Jeff Kent).

But you know, I’ll take eleven — even if the best we can come up with is Tim Teufel.

Honoring Teufel was a “teuf” choice, as the other considerations included old-time greats such as Duke Snider, Gene Woodling, Roy McMillan, and Wayne Garrett. But Snider was at the end of his rope by the time he returned to New York — was was Woodling — and McMillan was neither around long enough nor as special as Teufel. And then there was Lenny Randle, who I mention only because if I don’t, he may hunt me down and punch me in the nose. Garrett had a strong case, mostly because he was the starting third baseman for both the 1969 World Series Champs and the ’73 NL Champs. But let’s face it: he never appeared in a rap song.

Teufel did, as well as a music video (“Lets Go Mets Go“), and he even found time to be a part-time player for the Mets over six seasons (longer than I remember). For a guy who was basically a nondescript platoon player, Teufel managed to be remembered for many reasons. Interestingly, he came to the Mets in a deal that sent Billy Beane to Minnesota — though back then no one cared about Beane. And though many fans resented his presence because it meant less playing time for the beloved, scrappy smurf Wally Backman, Teufel did eventually drive the ladies crazy with the “Teufel Shuffle”. And despite a sickly batting average through most of 1986, he did come up with some big hits throughout the Championship season — most notably, his 11th-inning, pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam against the Phillies (though, back then, no one called them “walk-off” homers).

Despite his love for Jesus and a personality that was clearly opposite of the rest of the rowdy 1986 Mets, he managed to find himself in the middle of a bar fight at Cooter’s nightclub in Houston after a July game, and was arrested along with teammates Ron Darling and Bobby Ojeda. Somehow, he was also recruited by George Foster to appear on the Get Metsmerized rap single, alongside LA street tough Kevin Mitchell (“the season’s rook …”). Timmy Two Step’s lines (song lines, not coke lines … those were for the other singers) were:

“I’m Tim Teufel, let me begin by saying I was once a Twin
I made the move and it feels just right
I’ve been Metsmerized and I see the light.”

Ironically, “Teufel” is German for “devil”, which announcers Bob Murphy and Tim McCarver would remind us every other time Timmy came to bat. I also remember Murphy mentioning his hope that he’d face Jim Gott, because “Gott” means “God” in German, and … oh … it was all so cheesy.

Unfortunately for Teufel, he’s probably best remembered for booting a ball in the first game of the ’86 World Series, allowing the only run of the game to score. Actually, he didn’t boot it — it went right through his legs like a croquet ball through the wickets. But luckily Billy Buckner was watching the play astutely and copied it precisely a week later.

In 1987, Teufel had the best year of his career, batting .308 with 14 HRs and 61 RBI — in only 399 at-bats. Those eye-popping numbers earned him the everyday second-base job in 1988, but injuries, slumps, and Backman’s .300 hitting caused a quick return to the platoon system. Before the ’89 season, Backman was dealt to the Twins, but to clear the way for Gregg Jefferies — and not Teufel — at the second sack. He did have one highlight that year — and another all-time Met moment — when he beat the crap out of 6’4″ 230-lb. “Nasty Boy” Rob Dibble after a beanball. At 6′, 175-lb., Teufel was overmatched, but he had fun rearranging the hated Dibble’s face — in turn earning a newfound respect from New York fans.

Personally, I was always a big Tim Teufel fan, and hoped he’d get more chances to play — but the Mets were high on kids like Jefferies and Keith Miller so Teufel was eventually shipped out to San Diego for former all-world shortstop Garry Templeton. Eventually, Teufel returned to the organization as a minor league coach, and was the Savannah Sand Gnats manager in 2007.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.