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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Joura: Reviewing my 33-year-old grudge against Richie Hebner

or…I Used To Spit on Your Grave Digger (mere zarchasm).

So then why all the disdain, from me and countless others, for poor Richie Hebner? If you were there, no explanation is needed but if you weren’t it’s not really that much of a mystery. Hebner committed the one Cardinal Sin of a ballplayer, one that if he was playing in the 21st Century, either he or his agent would have had the required media savvy to prevent from happening.

When the Mets traded for him, he made no secret that he didn’t want to be on the team.

...And then to the average fan, it seemed like Hebner just gave up. In retrospect, I have no doubt that it was merely a slump. But in 52 games and 194 PA, Hebner posted a .190/.281/.256 line. The Mets went 13-39 in that span and it should be pointed out that they won the first three games of Hebner’s slide. Over the previous two seasons, fans had been accustomed to seeing some rotten, uninspired play. But that stretch right after the All-Star break seemed even worse than what had become accepted as normal.

...Today is Richie Hebner’s birthday and he’s now 64 years old. Maybe it’s the influence of the McCartney song that references Hebner’s current age – “Indicate precisely what you mean to say…” – but it’s time to bury the hatchet and not directly in his back, either. I’ve hated this man I’ve never met for over 30 years now and I don’t want to do it anymore.

As my birthday present to this senior citizen, I’m taking Richie Hebner off of my personal “On Notice” board. Happy Birthday, Mr. Hebner – let’s both pretend that the 1979 baseball season never happened.

Repoz Posted: November 27, 2011 at 12:19 PM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, mets, phillies, pirates, sabermetrics

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   1. AndrewJ Posted: November 27, 2011 at 12:57 PM (#4001549)
And Nino Espinosa (whom Richie was traded for) has been dead nearly 24 years. Boy, do I feel old.
   2. RMc accompanies the Griffmen to Augusta Posted: November 27, 2011 at 01:08 PM (#4001552)
Boy, do I feel old.

When Richie Hebner played his first major league game, the leagues were undivided into divisions, Lyndon Johnson was president, the Beatles were still together (and working on the White Album), and man had not yet landed on the moon.

Yeah. Old.
   3. Darren Posted: November 27, 2011 at 02:18 PM (#4001560)
Why didn't the hatred wear off after Hebner finished out the year very well? It seems weird to hold a grudge for a 1/3 of a season slump.
   4. Bruce Markusen Posted: November 27, 2011 at 02:33 PM (#4001566)
I think Mets fans still resent Hebner because his dislike of New York remained constant throughout his tenure there. When he was traded away, he didn't have much good to say about his New York experience. He simply was not a guy who fit in with the city. It's a shame there is such a division between Hebner and Mets fans because he is really a good guy, down to earth and funny, not to mention his alter-ego as "The Gravedigger." He's the kind of character that New York would have embraced under other circumstances.
   5. ray james Posted: November 27, 2011 at 02:39 PM (#4001568)
Did it ever occur to the author that he might have been playing hurt?
   6. Rafael Bellylard: The Grinch of Orlando. Posted: November 27, 2011 at 03:07 PM (#4001572)
Did it ever occur to the author that he might have been playing hurt?


If you are going to carry a grudge against a baseball player for decades, why should rational thinking be figured into the mix?
   7. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: November 27, 2011 at 04:01 PM (#4001590)
was he a referee in the WWF?
   8. Benji Posted: November 27, 2011 at 04:11 PM (#4001594)
I always forget Hebner when I do my "most hated Met" list. Like Bruce said, it was his non-stop moaning that soured the fans on him. Plus it was still another lousy 3B. But he hadn't played it in Philly, so it wasn't his fault he could no longer do the job defensively. M. Donald must still be advising the Wilpons from beyond the grave.
   9. Spahn Insane Posted: November 27, 2011 at 06:02 PM (#4001636)
I like Hebner, only because he apparently lived in the same neighborhood as my folks when they were in grad school in Pittsburgh in the early '70s; my dad's told stories of occasionally seeing him at the grocery store and whatnot. Also, he had a real nice season as a pinch hitter for the '84 Cubs.
   10. TVerik. Old Java Rodney. Posted: November 27, 2011 at 06:16 PM (#4001640)
What's the best modern analog of Hebner and the 1979 season? What kind of playoff odds were the Mets in before he arrived?
   11. LionoftheSenate Posted: November 27, 2011 at 06:18 PM (#4001641)
I had an encounter with Richie Hebner, I had to drive him somewhere, ride lasted maybe 10 min, but I heard at least 10 F-bombs. All were delivered in a very kind and approachable manner. From what I understand, he is indeed a solid guy, too bad someone holds a grudge.

*I have observed that NY sports fans will write off any athlete, HOF or not, merely if they got off to a poor start in NY. I'm convinced NY baseball fans think Randy Johnson is one of the most overrated players of all time.
   12. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: November 27, 2011 at 08:53 PM (#4001726)
Yeah, I don't really get it. Hebner had a solid first half and the team still wasn't any good. Then he really slumped in July and August and the team got worse. Then he picked it up in September and the team continued to suck. He was an above-average player on a bad team, so I don't get the hatred, but I guess the author acknowledges that it was irrational.

Yikes, the '79 Mets got a 65 OPS+ out of Willie Montanez at 1B. And I thought the Jason Phillips-Doug Eyechart years were bad...
   13. Srul Itza At Home Posted: November 27, 2011 at 09:36 PM (#4001748)
He was an above-average player on a bad team,


bad? try terrible.
   14. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: November 27, 2011 at 09:40 PM (#4001750)
was he a referee in the WWF?


Maybe it was his evil twin brother that went into that slump in '79.
   15. Joe Bivens, Slack Rumped Rutabaga Head Posted: November 27, 2011 at 09:43 PM (#4001752)
7... No, that was Dave Hebner.

Richie Hebner was from Norwood, MA (20 minutes or so from Boston). That may explain why he didn't want to play in NY. Or not. Other local guys played their with no apparent problems. Pagliarulo is one. I'm sure there were others.
   16. Joe Bivens, Slack Rumped Rutabaga Head Posted: November 28, 2011 at 12:52 AM (#4001819)
There. God ####### dammit.
   17. dejarouehg Posted: November 28, 2011 at 01:27 AM (#4001835)
My first game ever, Mets v Pirates, 9/19/72. Sat 3 rows behind home plate at Shea on a very cold night. Aside from Bob Robertson hitting a moon shot home run and Clemente getting his 2991st hit, I distinctly remember my mother declaring she had a crush on Richie Hebner.

A short seven years later he's renting a house one block over from our house in Long Island.
   18. ray james Posted: November 28, 2011 at 01:40 AM (#4001837)

Richie Hebner was from Norwood, MA (20 minutes or so from Boston). That may explain why he didn't want to play in NY. Or not. Other local guys played their with no apparent problems. Pagliarulo is one. I'm sure there were others.


Hell, if Bloomberg can be GD mayor, I guess Hebner can play baseball there.
   19. PreservedFish Posted: November 28, 2011 at 02:12 AM (#4001848)
A short seven years later he's renting a house one block over from our house in Long Island.


I'm surprised he moved out of the hotel.
   20. Adam Starblind Posted: November 28, 2011 at 02:56 AM (#4001866)
You're from Long Island and you say "in" Long Island? Something doesn't add up.
   21. Adam Starblind Posted: November 29, 2011 at 12:24 AM (#4002564)
I knew it! Liar!

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