“We thought Jay was one of the boys,” Mookie Wilson said, “as crazy as that may sound.”
In baseball, that can mean hazing. Now it takes on tamer forms; Jacob deGrom recently asked to see Horwitz’s swing with a toy bat in the clubhouse, and the players laughed at Horwitz’s feeble, futile hacks. But John Franco, the star closer in the 1990s, could be merciless.
At various points, Franco stuffed ice cream sandwiches in Horwitz’s suit pockets; unscrewed the head of a horse statue in a hotel lobby and hid it in Horwitz’s bed, squirting ketchup around it to look like blood; tied Horwitz to a training table, hauled him to the field and covered him with birdseed; and sliced off his ties while he slept.
“The clubhouse guy in San Diego had a big snake that he used to feed rats,” Franco added. “So I saw this white rat and put it in his bag. When he went to get his papers out of his bag, I’ve never seen him run so fast. And I actually got him twice with that rat.”
Yet Franco choked up at the news conference and said he loved Horwitz, whose quirky genius was his willingness to laugh at himself — and his total devotion to the job. Horwitz, who never married, went more than 22 seasons without missing a Mets game, from a chickenpox episode in 1988 to a broken ankle in 2011.
He has slowed his pace in recent years, but still works every home game, with no plans to stop in his new role.
“I’m glad you’re still here, Jay,” Wilson told him. “We’ve weathered the storm.”
Star-Studded and September Ready
When third baseman Josh Donaldson made his debut for the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday, the team fielded a lineup of nine former All-Stars. Donaldson’s arrival bumped Jose Ramirez to second base and Jason Kipnis to center field. Others in the batting order included designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, outfielders Michael Brantley and Melky Cabrera, infielders Francisco Lindor and Yonder Alonso and catcher Yan Gomes.