The AP has a nice update today on Joe Nelson.
You may win a bar bet with that name. Nelson was the last pitcher to win a game at Shea Stadium. He pitched a scoreless 7th for the Marlins on Sept. 28, 2008 and got the victory
(I just re-read my memory of that last game at Shea
...man, what a rough day).
It is fitting that the guy with the last victory at Shea only has seven wins total in a nine year career.
Here's the story:
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joe Nelson won the last game ever played at Shea
Stadium. He received a World Series ring for pitching just three games
with the Boston Red Sox.
The reliever's other career milestones
are less joyous -- four serious surgeries, seven major league
organizations and too many grueling days of rehabilitation for him to
Now Nelson faces another challenge. He's one of about a
half dozen pitchers competing for the lone vacancy in Boston's bullpen,
a hurdle his history of dealing with adversity may help him overcome.
thrive in situations like that," the right-hander said Sunday. "I love
the game. I'm 35 and I still get to play a game I've been playing since
I was 4 years old. I can't think of anything I'd rather do."
That passion has kept him going through all the trips to operating rooms and different baseball clubhouses.
had Tommy John surgery in 1999. Operations on his right labrum, a cuff
of cartilage that stabilizes the shoulder, followed in 2001, 2002 and
2007. He missed almost four full seasons.
And he's been with
nearly twice as many organizations. After six seasons in the Atlanta
system, he moved to Boston, the New York Mets, Tampa Bay, St. Louis,
Kansas City, Florida and Tampa Bay again.
And, now, back to Boston.
wife and family have always said, 'play as long as you want, as long as
you're able to, but once you quit, you're done. You're not going to
come back,' " Nelson said. "I had a lot of nights where I said, 'I
don't know if this is going to work out.' I called my friends and
they'd be like, 'Don't quit. 9-to-5 gigs are not as fun as they're
cracked up to be.' "
He gains confidence from the success he's had when healthy.
his last surgery sidelined him for all of 2007, he went 3-1 with a 2.00
ERA in 59 appearances for Florida in 2008 and 3-0 with a 4.02 ERA in 42
games for Tampa Bay in 2009.
Nelson's brief stint with the Red
Sox in 2004 was far less productive. He was promoted from Triple-A
Pawtucket on July 9 and sent back there 12 days later after posting a
16.88 ERA in 2 2-3 innings.
But, just like Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez, he received a World Series ring.
a prized possession," Nelson said. "I wasn't on the postseason roster
and I only threw in a few games but I was a part of that team and they
can look in the books if they want to and go, 'yeah, he actually did
The most memorable accomplishment of his career came four years later with the Marlins.
were at Shea Stadium on Sept. 28, 2008, the last day of the regular
season, for the final game in the 44-year-old ballpark. The Mets and
Milwaukee Brewers were tied for the NL wild-card berth. If both won or
both lost, they would meet in a one-game playoff.
beat the Chicago Cubs 3-1, and Florida beat New York 4-2, breaking a
tie in the eighth inning on a homer by Wes Helms. The next batter, Dan
Uggla, also homered. Nelson pitched just one inning, striking out two
in a perfect seventh, to earn the last win at Shea.
something I'll hold onto," he said. "I have a good friend that's a Mets
fan and I went up to home plate after the game and scooped up some dirt
and I had it authenticated by Major League Baseball and I gave it to
him for Christmas."
Nelson has won only six other major league games. He has two losses and a 4.07 ERA with 13 saves in 149 outings.
shown a lot of perseverance, both from a physical standpoint and what's
he's come back from and never being a guy who was guaranteed anything,"
Boston pitching coach John Farrell said. "We're looking for that second
lefty in the bullpen or a right-hander that can attack left-handers
efficiently. He's going to get a long look here in camp."
That's all Nelson wants.
don't take any days for granted," he said. "Every day I get to put on a
uniform is special. I know one day I'm going to have to give it up, but
who knows when that will be? I've had a weird career. Maybe I'll last a
If he must start the season at Pawtucket, he's
willing. After all, he didn't make a major-league opening day roster
until last year, his 14th in pro baseball. He said his arm has felt
"spectacular" in spring training but knows that could change at any
"Today when I go out and play catch if it feels good then
I'll make it through another day," Nelson said. "I've already lived
every kid's fantasy and if it ended today I could walk away from this
game completely satisfied because all I ever wanted to do since I was 4
years old was play in the big leagues.
"I'm lucky to be doing what I'm doing."