Born: August 16, 1948
Town: Passaic, New Jersey
Michael Jorgensen was born August 16, 1948 in Passaic. Mike’s father helped build the Verrazano Bridge. The Jorgensens moved to New York City when Mike was a boy. He grew up in the Bayside section of Queens. Mike was long and lean, with a sweet left-handed swing. He also had tremendous speed. Nicknamed “Spider,” he led his Boys Club teams to several youth league championships.
Mike continued his baseball career at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows. Besides his jaw-dropping baseball skills, he was a fine basketball and football player. He lived across the street from a playground and spent endless hours on the basketball court. As a teenager he was able to dunk from a standing jump.
By the time Mike graduated, the Major League Baseball Draft had been instituted. He was thrilled when he was taken by his “neighborhood” team, the Mets, with the first pick in the 4th round. Mike was just 17 when he started his pro career in 1966. He hit well his first two years in the minors. In 1968, he spent the bulk of the year with the Mets’ top farm club, the Tidewater Tides. The team called him up to the big leagues in September and he got into 8 games.
Mike spent the entire Miracle 1969 season in the minor leagues, missing his chance to play in a World Series. He spent all of 1970 with the Mets, but then split the 1971 season between New York and Tidewater. The Mets loved Mike’s glove, but they wanted more power at first base. During his time in the organization they cycled through a number of options, including Ed Kranepool, Donn Clendenon and John Milner.
Just before the start of the 1972 season, the Mets made a blockbuster deal with the Expos. They sent Mike, Tim Foli and Ken Singleton to Montreal for All-Star Rusty Staub. The trade worked out well for both clubs. Staub helped the Mets win the pennant in 1973. Singleton and Foli became stars, and Mike won a Gold Glove in 1973. Mike’s best season at the plate came in 1975. That year he batted .261 with 18 homers, 79 walks and 67 RBIs.
After a lackluster 1976 season, Mike became a glove-toting journeyman. He played for the A’s, Rangers, Mets, Braves and Cardinals. During the 1979 season, Mike was beaned by Andy Hassler and suffered a near-fatal seizure. He wore a specially padded helmet after that. During Mike’s second stint with the Mets, Bill Gullickson threw at his head during a game. Catcher John Stearns stormed out of the dugout and body-slammed the Montreal rookie.
Mike retired as an active player with a .243 lifetime average, 95 home runs and .991 fielding percentage in parts of 17 major-league seasons. In his final year, with the Cardinals, Mike finally got to play in a World Series.
Mike managed in the Cardinals’ minor-league system in the 1980s and the joined the big-league club as part of Joe Torre’s staff. He became the answer to a St. Louis trivia question when he served as the interim manager between Torre and Tony LaRussa. Mike still works for the Cardinals in their front office.