The first 10 days of baseball season brought with it some local debuts, all with varying degrees of success. We had Curtis Granderson hitting a home run in his first at-bat as a Yankee, and Jason Bay and Rod Barajas making their first appearances with the Mets. Through the years, Tino Martinez was memorably booed, Jason Giambi had to hit a game-winning grand slam in the rain to be accepted by Yankee fans (until his body pretty much crumbled into dust from all that pesky steroid use) and Willie Mays homered in his first game with the Mets. Here are some other notable players acquired via free agency or trade throughout New York history and how they did in their first week or so with their new teams:
Babe Ruth (1920): The Bambino went 2 for 4 in his first game with the Yankees, a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia A’s. In his first 10 games with the team, he batted .257 (9 for 35) and drove in five runs. He didn’t hit his first home run until May 1 against the Red Sox (though that was only the 12th game of the year). He ended up having one of the greatest seasons ever in baseball history, though, batting .376, with a .532 OBP and .847 slugging percentage, hitting 54 home runs and driving in 137 runs.
Roger Maris (1960): Talk about getting off to a good start with your new team – Maris went 4 for 5, and belted two homers with four ribbies in an 8-4 win over Boston – and he batted leadoff! He hit .428 (12 for 28), with three long balls and 10 RBI’s in his first seven games with the Yankees (he was moved to the cleanup spot the third game of the season). He of course went on to win the AL MVP, with 39 home runs and 112 RBI’s.
Rusty Staub (1972): Le Grand Orange went 1 for 3 in a 4-0 win over Pittsburgh in his Met debut. The team got off to a quick 8-2 start, as Staub batted .282 (11 for 39) with a home run in that first stretch of the season. He only played in 66 games that year because of a broken hand, but he hit .293 (.372 OBP), with nine home runs and 38 RBI’s.
Catfish Hunter (1975): After coming over to the Yankees due to a contract snafu with A’s owner Charles Finley, Hunter lost to the Tigers, 5-3, in his first start with the team, though he went the full nine innings. In his first four games with the Bombers, he went 0-3 and gave up at least five runs each time out. He finally won in his fifth start, a complete game effort against Milwaukee, giving up one run on three hits. He went on to lead the league in wins with 23 that year (while losing 14), sported a 2.58 ERA and finished second in the Cy Young voting to Jim Palmer.
Reggie Jackson (1977): Reggie went 2-4 in a 3-0 loss to Brewers on opening day, and only batted .222 (6 for 27), with one homer and an RBI in his first week with the Yankees. The end of the season would go a lot better, though, when he blasted a record five home runs in the World Series (and hit 32 for the season while driving in 110 runs).
Dave Winfield (1981): Mr. May went 2 for 3 in his Yankee debut, in a 10-3 win over Texas. In his first week he batted .269 (7 for 26) with 3 RBI’s. His first home run came in the team’s 17th game on April 29. In the strike-shortened season (107 games), he hit .294, with 13 dingers and 68 RBI’s.
George Foster (1982): The 1977 NL MVP came to the Mets with much fanfare but left in controversy after being released from the team in 1986. In his first game with the Mets, he went 1 for 3 with an RBI in the team’s 7-2 win over the Phillies. He only hit .240 in his first seven games, but smashed two homers and drove in five runs. For the season, he hit a lowly .247, with 13 home runs and 70 RBI’s.
Keith Hernandez (1983): After being traded by the Cardinals, Hernandez made his Met debut on June 17, 1983 (that should be a local holiday, shouldn’t it?), going 2 for 4 in a 7-2 loss to Montreal (Tom Seaver started that game, by the way). Much like his Met career, his first week was a success, hitting .367 (11 for 30), with one home run and four RBI’s. In 95 games with the Mets that year, he batted .306, with a .424 OBP, and hit nine homers with 37 RBI’s.
Rickey Henderson (1985 Yanks; 1999 Mets): The zany Hall-of-Famer went 1 for 6 in his first game with the Yanks (a 5-4 loss to Boston). He got off to a slow start, only batting .200 in his first seven games, but he did swipe three bases and drove in four runs. For the year, he batted .314, had an OBP of .419, led the league in runs scored (146) and stolen bases (80), hit 24 home runs and drove in 72. Oh, that’s why he’s the greatest leadoff hitter in major league history. He came to the Mets in 1999, and went 1 for 4 in his first game (a 6-2 loss to Florida). He got off to a fast start in his first week with his new team, batting .375 (9 for 24), scoring nine runs, stealing a base, hitting a homer and driving in four runs. In his only full season with the Mets, he hit .315, had an OBP of .423, scored 89 runs, stole 37 bases, hit 12 home runs and drove in 42 runs.
Gary Carter (1985): The Hall-of-Fame catcher was an instant success with the Mets, hitting a walk-off home run in the 10th inning on opening day to beat the archrival Cards, 6-5 (he went 2 for 4 for the game). After that auspicious beginning, it didn’t matter what he did the next few weeks (though he continued his hot hitting, batting.320, with three home runs and four RBI’s, as the Mets got off to a 6-1 start). In his first year in New York, he batted .281, hit 32 homers and drove in 100 runs.
Bobby Bonilla (1992): The Mets’ big-name acquisition in 1992, Bonilla got off to a rousing start by going 3 for 5 and blasting two homers with three RBI’s in a 4-2 win over the Cards on opening day. He hit .296 (8 for 27), with two home runs and seven RBI’s in his first week with the Mets. But the surly slugger only hit .249 in his first season in New York, with 19 homers and 70 RBI’s, and his time with the Mets proved to be a marriage made in hell.
Paul O’Neill (1993): In one of the great Yankee trades, O’Neill came to the Bronx from Cincinnati, and he went 2 for 5 in a 9-1 opening-day win over Cleveland. He didn’t stop there, as he hit a scorching .444 (12 for 27), with a home run and eight RBI’s in his first seven games with the Yanks. In his first season, O’Neill batted .311 with 20 homers and 75 RBI’s.
Mike Piazza (1998): The Mets practically threw a parade for Piazza when he debuted on May 23, 1998. In his first game he went 1 for 4, with an RBI double, in a 3-0 win over the Brewers (which you can watch on SNY about once a week). He hit his first Met home run in his eighth game with the team, and batted .400 with three RBI’s in those first eight games. In 109 games with the Mets that year, he put up a .348/.417/.607 line, with 23 long balls and 76 runs batted in.