Lenny Dykstra is not the only ex-teammate former with Ron Darling brushed back in his latest memoir.
In "108 Stitches," which the Mets author-announcer co-wrote with Daniel Paisner, Darling sets out to unspool the funny and unlikely yarns that crisscross the MLB generations, like the 108 threads of a baseball.
Captivate fans, Darling's fellow ballplayers – who thought their secrets were better left in the dugout, bar or bar – might be more inclined to rush the mound (or wherever Darling is signing books this week).
Among those Darling nailed:
– Kevin Elster, the shortstop with matinee-idol looks on the With teams of the '80s, "like to think of himself as a ladies' man, and he was," Darling writes. “He was always talking about his exploits… in a way that would probably come back to bite him in today's #MeToo environment.” Darling makes sure that at alleging Elster would travel with a collection of white cotton panties that he would insist his conquests "wear.
– Frank Howard, the 6-foot-7 manager with muscles of steel, was terrifying and ferocious, according to Darling. In September 1983, Howard was angling to keep his job, so he was much more interested in winning meaningless games than in nurturing talented young ballplayers, Darling writes. Howard pinch-hit for the light-hitting but promising shortstop Jose Oquendo in the third inning of a tight game. "It was a whiteless, heartless, gutless move," Darling recalls, and it left Oquendo sobbing. "I don't think Jose ever recovered from that moment," Darling concludes.
– Mets longtime backup catcher Ron Hodges was the first person Darling encountered on his first day as a Met. "This a -hole didn't say a word, didn't crack a smile … he just shot this wad of tobacco juice [on my pants leg] and turned away – a spit-and-run that left me feeling like a humiliated piece of sh-t. ”
– Gary Carter, one of the most beloved of the 1986 Mets, had an ego. But Darling reveals just how big it was in a story he "sacrifices in admiration." As Darling headed for the ballpark one day, he noticed Carter's kids sitting on the catcher's car in the parking lot with a pile of thousands of paper All- Star ballots. They told him their dad had paid them his punch on each ballot. Carter, the best catcher in baseball, "would leave nothing to chance."
– Everyone remembers the miracle comeback in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series came mostly against Red Sox reliever Calvin Schiraldi. But Darling says that he knew that the reliever would collapse, because they knew he was a loser from his days as a Met. During a game in Philadelphia, Schiraldi came on and refused to battle when he was hit hard. "There was a give-up in him that came through in his body language, in his effort, in the look on his face, that was us he wanted to be anyplace in the world but out there on the mound." He came out of the game, the score was 16-0. But during the 1986 playoffs in Houston, Darling reveals how the team filmed into the clubhouse in the Astrodome before a game to find Murphy passed-out drunk on the trainer's table. He was so sloshed, the team had a meeting around his body, as if he were in the middle of a buffet table.
– Darling says many of his teammates with the Oakland A's, for whom he played from August 1991-95, seemed to lose weight or energy during the grueling six-month season, a dead giveaway that they were using banned substances. "I should have realized the straightaway, but I was a little slow to see what was right in front of me," he says.
– Billy Beane, the failed No. 1 Mets draft pick who went to become the industry-shaping "Moneyball" GM of the Oakland A's, was Darling's wingman in the minors as they tried to pick up women. Bean's M.O .: "He would be someone else else." Sometimes his adopted persona would be a Cincinnati MD or a Canadian football player, and Darling would play along.