History can sneak up on you sometimes. Just ask Jose Oquendo.

Consider …

On May 2, 1983, the New York Mets entered the bottom of the ninth inning down 3-2 against the Houston Astros at Shea Stadium.

The Mets had a fighting chance, and manager George Bamberger was determined to make the most of it.

So … the skipper pulled catcher Ronn Reynolds, due up first, in favor of another receiver — Ron Hodges.

Hodges promptly singled to right field, which brought up the pitcher’s spot.

Now, Mike Torrez had tossed nine strong innings, and he was a decent hitter as pitchers went (lifetime batting average of .172 entering 1983).

But no way could Bamberger leave the chance for a tie, or a win, in the hands of a hurler.

So in came a pinch hitter — specifically, young Jose Oquendo, just called up from the Triple-A Tidewater Tides.

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Interestingly, Oquendo was the typical light-hitting, slick-fielding middle infielder so en vogue through the 1980s. He fit the mold so well that he had struggled to hit .200 in nearly every one of his minor league stops.

Still and all, he was the man of the moment … that moment being a nascent rally that converged precisely with his Major League debut.

Against Astros reliever Frank LaCorte, who had spelled starter Nolan Ryan in the eighth, the rookie managed a grounder to the left side of the infield, good enough to force Hodges at second.

At least Oquendo was fast enough to beat the throw to first.

He wasn’t fast enough to get back to first when Mookie Wilson lined a pitch to ‘Stros third baseman Phil Garner, though, and Scrap Iron started the double play that ended the Mets’ day.

By that point, however, the history had already been made.

What history was there to be had in a fizzled ninth-inning rally by a terrible Mets team, you ask?

Well … Oquendo was just 19 years old when he made his debut, born on July 4, 1963, in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.

In case you forgot your Amazin’s history, the Mets played their first ever game on April 11, 1962.

Doing the math, Oquendo was younger than the Mets’ franchise when he dug in against LaCorte, and he was the first player who could ever make that claim.

Oquendo would hold sole membership in that club for awhile, too.

Darryl Strawberry, who would debut four days after Oquendo, came close … Straw is about a month older than the Mets themselves.

It wasn’t until the next season, when 19-year-old Dwight Gooden and 21-year-old Sid Fernandez helped the Mets vault into contention that Oquendo finally had some company.

And, by that point, he was making cardboard history, too — Oquendo’s rookie cards in the 1984 Topps, Fleer, and Donruss sets are the first cards to show a Mets player who was younger than the team itself.

Maybe this powerful bit of trivia is where Oquendo got his “Secret Weapon” moniker?

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