Is it just me or did every member of the 1986 Mets eventually wind up on either the Yankees or the Dodgers? A few, like Darryl Strawberry, Kevin Elster and Bobby Ojeda wound up on both.
My earliest memories of Bob Ojeda (pronounced Oh HAY dah, not Oh HEE dah as I said for most of my childhood) was with the Red Sox. Along with Bruce Hurst and John Tudor, he was supposed to be part of the great left handed rotation that would bring the Red Sox to glory in the 1980’s.
Ojeda had some decent years with the Sox, leading the league with 4 shutouts in 1984 and by 1985, the LA native looked ready to turn the corner. He didn’t and took a step back and into the bullpen. The Red Sox traded him to the Mets, hoping Calvin Schraldi and Wes Gardner would give them a deep bullpen.
Ojeda would pitch like an ace on a Mets staff that was staggeringly deep. He had the best winning percentage in the league, throwing 7 complete games and pitched to a 2.57 ERA over a career high 217 1/3 innings. And to add insult to injury, he won the critical Game 3 of the World Series in Fenway Park against his former team while Schraldi, whom he was traded for, lost Games 6 and 7.
When asked if he had any regrets about beating his former team after the World Series, Ojeda pointed to the NY on his warmup jacket and reminded everyone that THAT was the team he played for.
Injuries caught up with him in 1987 and he hurt his finger in a gardening accident and could not pitch in the 1988 post season. After the 1990 season, Ojeda was traded to the Dodgers in a deal that involved Hubie Brooks. There he was reunited with another former Met, Darryl Strawberry.
The 1991 Dodgers were a strange mish mosh of stars better known on other teams, like John Candelaria, Eddie Murray, Brett Butler and Juan Samuel along with holdovers from the 1988 champs, Orel Hershiser, Tim Belcher, Mike Scioscia, Ramon Martinez and Alfredo Griffin.
Plus there were the representatives of the 1986 Mets. Ojeda joined Strawberry, Gary Carter and Roger McDowell on the team. For most of 1991, Tom Lasorda’s squad looked like they were going to be the NL West Champs. Ojeda contributed with 189 1/3 strong innings.
The Dodgers had a 6 game lead as late as July 28th. But the upstart Braves made a run at them. By August 29th, LA had fallen 2 games back. On September 7th, Ojeda won a key game against the eventual Eastern champion Pirates. The Dodgers stormed back to take a 2 game lead on September 24th.
On October 1, the 158th game of the season, Ojeda pitched into the 8th, striking out 8 and earning the 3-1 victory over the Padres. The Dodgers had a 1 game lead with 4 games to play. They would go 1-3 and lose the division by a single game, never having the lead alone again after Ojeda’s win.
In 1992, the Dodgers were terrible and Ojeda suffered with a 6-9 record despite pitching relatively well. In 1993 he found himself with a rebuilding Cleveland team. However he was on the boat with Steve Olin and Tim Crews when it crashed, taking his two teammates and severely injuring him.
He tried a comeback with the 1994 Yankees, thus making Ojeda a former 1986 Met who played for both the Dodgers and the Yankees, before retiring.
Despite playing for those other teams, Ojeda will always be beloved by the Mets and their fans. I guess when he pointed to his chest after the World Series game, he meant it.