08/25/2020 6:08 AM
Hyannis pitcher John Farrell
Article By: Mike Richard
Cape League Flashback – Hyannis 1980-84
After playing their initial games at the Barnstable High School baseball diamond when they first entered the league in 1976, the Hyannis Mets would later move their ballpark to the old Barnstable High School grounds.
Located at the end of High School Road and behind the current St. John Paul II High School, McKeon Park was first inaugurated in the summer of 1979 after it took two years for construction on the field.
According to Christopher Price’s book “Baseball by the Beach,” the building of the new field “was a long and arduous process.”
“In the 20s, a WPA project had cleared away some of the Hyannis forest near the harbor. The land had been filled in and used as a ballfield during the Depression, but was virtually unplayable in the late 70s.”
The complex was named for the late John McKeon, who died in 1978. He had figured prominently in the athletic annals of local sports and served on the Barnstable School Committee.
After several years without lights at the field, a major drive was held to allow the park to have night baseball games and the lights were installed in 1983 at a cost of $75,000.
Despite some early success with Cape Cod League playoff championships in 1978 and 79, the early 80s did not see the same run. In fact, the Mets would make a few playoff appearances but would not capture another title until 1991.
As we spend a summer without Cape Cod League baseball, The Barnstable Patriot will continue take a look back at the Hyannis team, this time during the 1980-84 era.
Year W-L Place Playoffs
1980 18-23-1 6th Did not qualify
1981 20-22 5th Did not qualify
1982 22-19-1 3rd Lost in finals to Chatham, 3-0
1983 20-17-4 4th Lost in semifinals to Harwich, 2-1
1984 16-25-1 7th Did not qualify
After winning the 1979 championship, the Mets failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 1977. One of the few highlights of the season came on July 1 when Jeff Ledbetter belted a grand slam home run and added a three-run shot for seven RBI in a 19-9 win over Falmouth.
The Mets wound up with a sixth-place finish for the season.
First baseman Brick Smith (yes, that’s his real first name), was the lone Hyannis player who later went on to a pro baseball career, appearing with the Yankees and Seattle in 1987-88.
The Mets had another difficult season with a fifth-place finish but, ironically, had more victories (20) than fourth place Cotuit which had 19. The standings for the two teams read:
As it turned out, Cotuit would go on to win the playoffs this season. Had the Mets captured a few wins here and there, one would wonder if they could have turned the same track as the Kettleers.
Hyannis pitcher Don Gordon went on to be selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 1982 MLB Draft and later hurled for Toronto (1986-87) and Cleveland (1987-88).
The Mets finished in third place during the regular season and qualified for the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. There, Hyannis outlasted rival Cotuit in a three game semifinal series.
From there, they went on to face Chatham in the finals. For the first time in playoff finals history, the first two games became extra inning affairs. Unfortunately for Hyannis, it was Chatham that prevailed in both games – 5-4 in an eleven-inning first game, and then 5-4 in a 12-inning affair.
The third and final game became anticlimactic as Peter Mueller’s two-run triple in the first inning led to a Chatham rout in the final, 9-0.
Many years later, Hyannis pitcher John Farrell – who led the Red Sox to the 2013 World Series title – recalled pitching for the Hyannis Mets this season.
“It was such a great opportunity to get an understanding of how your talents matched up to some of the better players around the country,” Farrell noted. “Looking back, this was an integral part of my baseball journey to gain the exposure and the experience in this league.”
Following his sophomore season at Oklahoma State, Farrell came to Hyannis to pitch with the Mets in the summer of 1982. Despite a sub-par 0-6 record on the mound, he still earned a start in a playoff game for manager Rich Magner’s squad.
Hyannis finished fourth and advanced to the semifinals against Harwich before losing in the three-game series.
Down 1-0 in the semifinals, Greg Karpak tossed a five-hitter and Jim Howard homered in a 4-1 win. In the third game, the Mets took a 1-0 lead when Scott Jordan singled and scored in the third inning. Harwich scored a pair of runs in the eighth inning when Steve Iannini doubled, and singles by Rob Ralston and Pat Pacillo drove in the tying and winning runs in a 2-1 series-clinching victory.
The Mets finished seventh for the season with a squad that boasted three future major leaguers: Scott Hemond (Oakland 1989–92, 93-94; White Sox 1992; Cardinals 1995); Chris Jelic (Mets 1990) and Scott Jordan (Cleveland 1988).
Mike Richard is the official historian of the Cape Cod Baseball League and can be contacted by email at [email protected].