It’s feels right that the Mets and Dodgers are meeting tonight at Citi Field, I wish, and perhaps, they will wish a happy 88th birthday to Joe Pignatano, who played a role in momentous events for both of these teams.

Former Dodger and former Met Joe Pignatano 

  • Born: August 4, 1929 in Brooklyn, NY
  • Pignatano, a catcher, started his career with Brooklyn in 1957 and ended it with the Mets in 1962.
  • Pignatano caught the last five innings of a Danny McDevitt shutout in the last game played at Ebbets Field.
  • He was the backup catcher to John Roseboro on the 1959 Cinderella Dodgers team that upset the Braves in a playoff and knocked off the White Sox in the World Series. Pignatano told Marty Lurie about his favorite moment in baseball:”Well, I tell you what. The greatest moment for me, you know, I played sparingly, but in 1959 we’re playing the Braves for the pennant, the playoff games, and I come up in the bottom of the 11th inning, after Hodges. We had two out, Hodges walked, and I singled. And then Furillo singled. And we won the pennant. That was my greatest moment in the big leagues. Even getting the base hit my first time at bat. But that day, my hit helped us get to a World Series.”
  • He was also the bullpen coach for the 1969 Miracle Mets (and grew tomatoes in the bullpen).
  • On April 2, 1972, Gil Hodges had just finished 27 holes of golf with his Mets coaches Joe Pignatano, Rube Walker and Eddie Yost. They were playing golf because the Mets’ scheduled exhibition game with the Montreal Expos had been canceled as a result of the player strike. On their way back to the hotel, Joe Pignatano asked Hodges, “Gillie, what time should we meet for dinner?” Hodges responded 7:30 and then suffered a fatal heart attack. Pignatano was the last person to speak to Hodges.
  • Piggy is a personal favorite of mine. In my book, “Walkoffs, Last Licks, and Final Outs” (which I will send you a personalized autographed copy for $15 including shipping and handling – just contact me) I described his final at bat in the bigs.
    • It’s September 30, 1962, the final game of the first season of the New York Mets (loss #120). Backup catcher Joe Pignatano is closing out his career and Piggy hadn’t played in eight days, but Casey Stengel inserts him into this final game against the Cubs in the 6th replacing the immortal Choo-Choo Coleman behind the plate.
    • In the Mets’ 8th inning facing Bob Buhl, Sammy Drake in his last major league at bat singles.
    • Then Richie Ashburn, in his major league grand finale, also singles.
    • Up to the plate steps Joe Pignatano who in his last major league at bat hit a liner to the Ken Hubbs at second, who threw to Ernie Banks at first and then over to shortstop Andre Rodgers at second…triple play.

Happy birthday, Joe.

Here’s Vin on Piggy’s MLB catching debut