By Barry Duchan
Editor's Note: We will publish a post from Barry Duchan every Sunday covering some aspect of Mets history. - M.S.
There are certain names that make Mets fans cringe whenever they hear them. Scott Kazmir is the latest as in "How can the Mets trade Scott Kazmir, maybe the best pitching prospect in all of baseball for Victor Zambrano, a mediocre 30-year old pitcher with arm trouble ?" Then, there's Greg Jefferies who seemed to win Minor League Player Of The Year every season on his way to being fast-tracked to the Major Leagues. Only when he got there, he proved to be a player in search of a position who was despised by most of his teammates for his (alleged) selfishness and immaturity. Despite a fairly productive career with the bat after leaving the Mets, Jefferies fell far short of his goals of surpassing Ty Cobb and Pete Rose for the all-time hits record and has become more of a "whatever happened to...".
But, old-time Met fans will always cringe at the mention of the name Steve Chilcott. For you younger fans who may not be up on early Mets history, let's go back to 1966. The Mets had the number one overall selection in the 2nd annual amateur draft and the choice clearly came down to 2 players. There was the star outfielder at Arizona State University, Reggie Jackson and a high-school catcher out of California by the name of Steve Chilcott. Of course, Reggie Jackson went on to a Hall Of Fame career, while Chilcott never made the Major Leagues. There had been some speculation that the Mets had some question about Jackson's character and associations, but at the time, most big league scouts were divided as to which of the two was a better prospect. Based on a personal scouting report from Casey Stengel, probably combined with Casey's philosophy that "if you don't have a catcher, you're gonna have a lot of passed balls", the Mets went with Chilcott.
That wasn't the first mistake the Mets made and it certainly wasn't the last, but it was definitely among the biggest. Anyway, I can say that I am probably one of the few people who actually saw Steve Chilcott play a professional game in New York City. No, not with the Mets or the Yankees, since Steve never made the big leagues, even though he got as close as AA and maybe a game or two in AAA with the Yankee organization after the Mets released him.
It was a special pre-Yankee game event at Yankee Stadium, a regular season league game between the Auburn Mets and Binghamton Yankees. Binghamton's Mickey Scott outdueled Auburn's Jerry Koosman, 1-0 in front of maybe 1000 fans, most of whom thought they were arriving early for Big League batting practice, although there were a handful of Met diehards like myself who came out to see the Auburn Mets, and more specifically, to see the future of the Mets - Steve Chilcott. Getting to see Jerry Koosman was, of course, a bonus. Koosman dominated NYP League hitters that season and after a quick jump to AAA the next season became a mainstay of the Mets' rotation.
As for Chilcott, he hit a double down the rightfield line, almost a HR into the short rightfield seats of Yankee Stadium, but he also struck out a couple of times and looked bad doing it. I was still sure that Chilcott would be starring for the Mets one day because that's what all the "experts" said. Little did I know that his appearance that day in Yankee Stadium would be the last chance I would get to see him play.