George Theodore

By John Basil

October 16, 2011

For a city known to be demanding of its sports figures, it was highly atypical of New York to embrace a career .219 hitter with just two lifetime home runs. Then again, former New York Mets outfielder George Theodore was anything but a typical professional baseball player.

With off the field interests that stretched as far as his defensive range and colorful quotes and antics (he once won a bet with team General Manager Joe McDonald that the club executive couldn’t name the poet – it was Dylan Thomas – who penned “The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower”), Theodore endeared himself to a legion of Mets fans during his two seasons in Flushing, New York.

“It’s a mystery to me why I was so well received, but maybe it’s because I always gave good effort and sportswriters seemed to like me, so I got good press,” said Theodore, who earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Utah, a month before being selected by the Mets in the 31st round of the 1969 amateur draft. “In college, I developed a number of well-rounded pursuits, such as astrology, philosophy and poetry, so I’d have fun and tell the sportswriters ‘I missed that ball because Saturn was too close to Mars.’” 

Nicknamed the “Stork” for his gangly 6’4” frame, Theodore’s rookie season coincided with the Mets’ World Series appearance of 1973. Theodore was at the wrong place at the wrong time later that summer, however, when he suffered a dislocated hip in a violent  collision with the left-center field wall at Shea Stadium. The injury left Theodore in traction for a month. He spent another month on crutches, before being added to the active roster in September.

“That was very nice of the Mets, they didn’t have to do that,” said Theodore, who appeared in two World Series games, recording one putout in left field and going zero for two at the plate. “I was ready to be a cheerleader – not at all expecting to play in the postseason.”

Theodore returned to the Mets the following year, but – still suffering the aftereffects of his hip injury – batted just .158 in limited play.

“I just couldn’t run like I did before the injury,” said Theodore, who was released by the organization after spending the 1975 season at AAA Tidewater.

Upon his retirement from the game, Theodore moved back to his native Salt Lake City and embarked on his second career – one that’s currently in its 34th season – as a counselor and social worker for Utah’s Granite School District. 

“I really like it,” said Theodore. “Seeing the hope and spontaneity in young children’s eyes and how they make changes is very rewarding.”

In his off hours, the 64-year-old Theodore enjoys playing golf and spending time with his wife, Sabrina, and son, Alexander, who is attempting to earn his tour card at the PGA Qualifying School.

Despite his abbreviated baseball career, Theodore has no regrets about his time in the majors. He’s still invited back to New York for Mets’ special events – such as Shea’s closing ceremony in 2008, receives autograph requests in the mail and is currently ranked the 75th most popular player in team history on ultimatemetsdatabase.com.

“I hit the first of back-to-back-to-back homers in San Diego versus the Padres my last year, along with Rusty Staub and Cleon Jones, so that was a thrill, but my biggest thrill in the game was just getting to play in New York,” said Theodore, who still keeps in touch with former teammates Jerry Koosman and George Stone. “Yogi Berra was my manager, I got to play with Willie Mays in his last year and I met my wife of 34 years there, too.”

John Basil is a corporate communications writer based in Milwaukee, WI and the author of Let Me Wear Your Coat, a baseball-themed novel. He can be reached by email at johnbasil1@yahoo.com.



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