Howard Johnson, Al Leiter headline Mets hall of fame class

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Sunday, June 4, 2023

NEW YORK -- Howard Johnson and Al Leiter were inducted into the New York Metshall of fame prior to the team's game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.

Johnson played for New York from 1985 through 1993. He ranks third in team history with 202 stolen bases and fourth in homers (192) and RBIs (629). Leiter grew up a Mets fan in New Jersey before pitching for the team from 1998 through 2004.

The 62-year-old Johnson played his first big league game in 1982 for theDetroit Tigersand his last one with the Chicago Cubs in 1995.

"There's probably not a day goes by that you don't think about that -- being able to play the game that we did when we were 25, play at that level," Johnson said. "Every time you get out of bed is a reminder that was a long time ago. It's almost like two different people. And the older we get, that person goes further and further away."

Johnson and Leiter were joined in the 2023 class by broadcasters Gary Cohen and Howie Rose, who have called the team's games on radio and television since 1989 and 1995, respectively. Longtime media relations executive Jay Horwitz also was honored with a hall of fame achievement award.

Johnson had three seasons with the Mets with at least 30 homers and 30 steals, fourth-most all time behind Bobby Bonds, Barry Bonds and Alfonso Soriano.

"There are very few players in the history of the game who have been switch hitters with the power and speed that HoJo brought to the table," Cohen said. "To be a three-time 30/30 player is an extraordinary feat."

Leiter ranks sixth on the team lists for wins (95) and starts (213) and eighth in strikeouts (1,106). He started Games 1 and 5 of the 2000 Subway Series, throwing 142 pitches in the latter game and taking the loss when Luis Sojo hit a two-run single in the eighth inning to give the Yankees their third straight championship.

"I truly gave everything on every pitch," said Leiter, who ended his acceptance speech by referencing "Meet The Mets," the team's famous rally song. "I wasn't the best, but I gave you my best."

Rose and Cohen each grew up in Queens as Mets fans attending games at Shea Stadium and watching and listening to the team's original broadcasters -- Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner.

"Well, the whole thing is more than just a little bit surreal," Rose said.

Cohen was Murphy's radio partner from 1989 through 2003, when Murphy retired and was replaced by Rose, who moved over from the television booth.

"I am just a kid from Queens," Cohen said during his acceptance speech. "I got lucky. I am one of you."