Wally Backman

Backman’s speed and high on-base percentage made him a valuable number-two hitter. The switch-hitter teamed with leadoff hitter Len Dykstra (both used against right handers) to become known as the “Partners in Grime” for their hustling, dirty-uniform style of play for the 1986 World Champions.

Backman hit .320 that season and led the Mets with five runs in the LCS against the Astros. In Game Three he led off the ninth inning with a bunt single and scored on Dykstra’s homer as the Mets won 6-5, and in Game Five he led off the 12th with an infield hit, advanced to second on a wild pickoff throw, and scored the winning run on Gary Carter‘s single. In the climactic Game Six, his 14th-inning single drove in a go-ahead run in the seesaw finale, and he scored the Mets’ third and final run in the game-winning 16th-inning rally.

Backman was the Mets’ first-round pick in the June 1977 draft, but although he hit .323, .278, and .272 in his first three trials with the club (1980-82), his mediocre fielding kept him from winning the second-base job. He impressed Tidewater (International League) manager Davey Johnson in 1983, and when Johnson became the Mets’ manager in 1984 he brought Backman with him and was rewarded with 68 runs and 32 stolen bases. In 1985, Backman’s only year as a regular, he led NL second basemen in fielding.

The Mets traded Backman to Minnesota after Gregg Jefferies hit .321 in the final months of 1988, and the following year he played regularly at second base when not sidelined by a shoulder injury.

In 1990, Backman signed with Pittsburgh, where he was used primarily as a third baseman and helped the Pirates to an NL East title by batting .292 in 104 games. The highlight of his season was a six-hit performance on April 27th. He spent two years in Philadelphia as a utility infielder and pinch-hitter before ending his career with 10 games for Seattle in 1993.