Jose Mesa

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Jose Ramon Nova Mesa
(Joe Table)

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

With a long black goatee and a limp right arm, Jose Mesa presented an imposing figure on the mound. Brought up as a starter with the Baltimore Orioles, who had acquired him in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays a few days before he made his Major League debut in September 1987, he was converted into a set-up man by the Cleveland Indians in 1994, then served as their closer until 1998, when he was traded to the San Francisco Giants. He had an off-year for the 1997 AL pennant-winning team, saving only 16 games, but is most remembered for blowing a crucial save opportunity in the 9th inning of Game 7 of the World Series, on October 26th. With the Indians leading the Florida Marlins 2-1 in the top of the 9th inning, he gave up two singles and a sacrifice fly to allow the Marlins to tie the game, which they eventually won in the bottom of the 11th inning. It was his fifth appearance of the Series, and he had earned a save the previous day to force a Game 7, but Indians fans blame him to this day for their team's failure to earn the World Championship.

Mesa pitched in two rocky seasons for the Seattle Mariners, losing the closer's job. The Philadelphia Phillies signed him for the 2001 season in what was seen at the time as pulling a player off of the scrap heap, but Mesa wound up saving 42 games that season. He followed that with 45 saves in 2002, but in mid-2003 he lost the closer's job.

Things got so bad that Manager Larry Bowa stopped pitching Mesa in home games at Veterans Stadium due to the booing fans. When Mesa was in the fans' good graces, they cheered him and Mesa even had his own fan club called "Mesa's Faces." Members wore long goatees and did a dance whenever he struck out a hitter or saved a game. In spite of his struggles, he became the Phillies' all-time save leader with 111 when he left following the 2003. He added one more to this total when he came back briefly at the age of 41 in 2007 and kept the record until passed by Jonathan Papelbon in 2015.

Mesa was notorious for keeping the fans on the edge of their seats when he pitches: a typical 9th inning could be a leadoff single, a strike out, a walk, a flyout, and a ground out. Mesa is well known for his "back-door breaking ball," a curve ball that fools hitters because it breaks at the last moment. Mesa is also well known for pitching well only in save situations.

In 2004, Mesa was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates for only $800,000. The Pirates were the only team to take a chance on him, and it paid off. Seen as a "low-risk, high-reward" move, he anchored their bullpen with 43 saves and a 3.25 ERA. The following season, 2005 he started well, with 21 saves before the All-Star break. Afterwards, he finished with only 6 more saves, once again losing the closer's job.

In 2006, he pitched in relief for the Colorado Rockies. Starting off in the back end of the bullpen, he led the team in appearances with 79 and posted an ERA of 3.86, leading observers to wonder if Mesa had figured out a way to tame Coors Field at the (supposed) age of 40?

In 2007, Mesa became the 11th major league pitcher to appear in 1,000 games. In his 1,000th contest, he allowed a crucial three-run homer to Jesus Flores in a 7-6 loss.

Mesa was 6th on the list of active pitchers and 12th on the all-time saves list when he retired; he also had the second most games pitched of any active pitcher, and the 13th highest total of all-time with 1022 appearances. He became eligible for election to the Hall of Fame in 2013 but did not receive any votes and was dropped from the ballot.


Mesa and his wife have six children. His eldest son, Ralph, was born on June 29, 1979. If Jose and his son's birthdays are both accurate, Ralph would have been born when Jose was 13 years old. Another son, Jose Mesa Jr., born in 1993, is a minor league pitcher.

Mesa's younger brother Rafael played in the Cleveland farm system.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time AL All-Star (1995 & 1996)
  • AL Reliever of the Year Award Winner (1995)
  • AL Rolaids Relief Award Winner (1995)
  • AL Saves Leader (1995)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (1993)
  • 30 Saves Seasons: 6 (1995, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2002 & 2004)
  • 40 Saves Seasons: 4 (1995, 2001, 2002 & 2004)

Related Sites[edit]