With 24 Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report, we will label this day with Kelvin Torve, who briefly wore #24 for the Mets in 1990. What? No Willie Mays?
Willie was probably the reason I became a Mets fan. The “Say Hey Kid” was my dad’s all-time favorite player, having watched him play in the Polo Grounds for the New York Giants. When Mays returned to New York as a Met in 1972 and 1973, my father instantly became a diehard Mets fan (after the Giants went to the Left Coast, he became an anti-Yankees fan). I was just a toddler, and while my dad was watching the Mets games, he would pick me up from my coloring book (or Lincoln Logs, or Legos, or whatever toddler-type thing I was doing) and set me in front of the TV every time Mays came to bat — so I could see “the greatest player who ever lived”. I was only three years old, but the images of blue and orange were forever burned in my brain as a result of those weekend afternoon “Mays breaks” from kiddie activities.
Of course, Mays was the greatest ever to wear #24 as a Met — even if he was only a shell of himself during his Flushing experience. The number was never officially retired, but in respect to his greatness, it wasn’t worn by a Met ever again … until 1990, when the immortal Kelvin Torve adorned it in a late-summer game against the Phillies.
Somehow, some way, someone screwed up; Torve was never supposed to be issued a jersey with #24 on the back, and he himself didn’t realize the enormity of this snafu until clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels approached him two days later to let him know there would have to be a change. The entire story can be read in detail via an interview with Torve on the Mets By the Numbers website, which, along with the MBTN book, is the inspiration for this countdown.
Interestingly, much is made of the fact that Torve hit .500 while wearing #24 … but people don’t mention that he went 4-for-5 (.800) immediately after switching to #39; though, I guess that’s because it was all downhill after that.
Other #24s that deserved consideration included Art Shamsky, Rickey Henderson, and Bob L. Miller (not to be confused with Bob G. Miller).
The countdown thus far: