QUEENS, N.Y. – Ron Gardenhire used to roam these parts, across the street from Citi Field, where the circus tents fill the space that used to be the Shea Stadium.
"My hamstrings are somewhere around here," he said. "And my groin." My groin was in left field.
Thirty three years ago, the Detroit The veteran manager of the Tigers put on a uniform for the New York Mets. It was a mistake, the team made a mistake to finish their list before the spring training and had to load with the injured frame player to start the regular season, and came out and sat in the bullpen.
Ron Gardenhire discusses a call on Saturday at Citi Field. (Photo: Mike Stobe, Getty Images)
"I told (manager) Davey Johnson," I'll never go to the game, even if you try to put me in the game, "Gardenhire said.
He was on the 1986 Mets list for two games, did not play either, and was his last two as a player in the major leagues. In five seasons, Gardenhire, who often has fun in his playing career by calling himself a "useless player," hit .232 with four homers in 285 games.
"How was I?" He said. "When I was healthy, I was a very aggressive type of person."
[ Sign up for our new Detroit Tigers newsletter. It’s free! ]
Remembering his playing career, he played in the majors with only the Mets, Gardenhire said returning to Queens is always special, even if it's a different stadium.
There were not many highlights in his career: he started 122 games at New York shortstop in 1982 and played sparingly during his other four seasons, but I came up with two.
Pete Rose of the Philadelphia Phillies wobbles after crashing into shortstop New York Mets Ron Gardenhire on the way to the base at Shea Stadium on September 17, 1981, New York. (Photo: Ray Stubblebine, AP)
The first was his first home run in his career, knocking Ray Burris down at the Montreal Olympic Stadium on June 29, 1982.
"Hanging slider," Gardenhire said. "But what I remember most was that Ellis Valentine told me:" You still have not hit one in the United States. "That was his line for me." You have not hit one in the US yet. "My first home run in an important league, I'll never forget that line, that's a good line."
The second was a painful memory, one that, slowly but surely, sent him on his way back to the majors as manager.
"In 1984, I was playing my best baseball," Gardenhire said. "Playing every day and doing it very well, then I hit a ball in the gap in Cincinnati, in the Astroturf against Mario Soto, and actually raised my average from .210 to .242 or almost .250. I hit a Soto gap and I took out my hammy. "
It was the first pain in the hamstring of Gardenhire.
"I got to the bag, I was looking at the ball to see if he was going through it and I remember looking over and then I stretched my toe to make sure I got to first base and when I did, I got it here. like a cannon, it's gone, it's not good. "
Ron Gardenhire of the New York Mets is safe at home after a sacrifice fly brought him from third base during the second inning against San Diego Padres receiver Terry Kennedy on May 28, 1984. New York. (Photo: G. Paul Burnett, AP)
The hamstring injuries would continue. "After that, it was all the hamstrings," he said, and limited his stays in the big leagues. In September of 1985, with the Mets fighting for the title of the Eastern Division of the National League, Gardenhire retaliated.
"I left it pretty good there," he said. "I stuck a needle in my groin because it was playoff time, so instead of going on the disabled list, I injected cortisone and hit it."
He and former manager Larry Bowa were the service men of the Mets.
"We both used to sit on the bench and discuss who came in," Gardenhire said. "I said, 'Larry, I can move almost as much as you can & # 39;'".
With the Mets, Gardenhire played with other future managers, such as Bowa, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and Giants manager Bruce Bochy. They had more hits in the big leagues, and after the Mets traded Gardenhire to the Minnesota Twins in 1987, they were soon on the administrative track.
After deciding he was retiring after his 1987 season with the Triple-A Portland Beavers – "The funniest year I've had in baseball and the most losses I've ever participated in," he said, the Twins wanted him to manage.
"I said: No, I'll do it inside the box but I will not make it," Gardenhire said. "That did not work very well."
Gardenhire is an infield nut. He likes to teach defense in the field more than anything else. So the Twins sent him to the instructional league after the season, where he could watch the infielders and have a ball.
But when he arrived at spring training the following year, the Twins persisted.
"We had a work meeting and they came and they said, 'You're going to manage,'" he said.
"I do not want to handle it," Gardenhire said.
"You are going to administer," said the administration of the twins. "We know you're a manager."
So that season, less than a year after retiring from playing the most ruthless way, Gardenhire's managerial career began in Class A in Kenosha, Wisc. He is now in his 15th season as manager in the majors.
He hung his picks definitively on the last day of the 1987 season with Portland. They were on the road in Edmonton, he and the Beavers pitching coach, and the Twins, who were going to beat one of the Tigers in the ALCS and the Cardinals in the World Series, had just announced their September calls.
"I said, 'How can you not call me from this group?'" He said. "I know I can go there and help those guys, something I really could not, and the old man says:" Because you're a horse (garbage)! You're a horse (garbage)! " What do you really think?
Contact Anthony Fenech at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Read more about the Detroit Tigers and subscribe to our Tigers newsletter.