NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, October 27, 2015, 12:32 AM
KANSAS CITY — Ed Hearn still hears it all the time, even if being told he was part of “the worst trade the Royals have ever made” means something entirely different all these years later to the backup catcher from the Mets’ 1986 championship team.
Hearn, now 55 and still living in Kansas City for nearly 30 years, was dealt for David Cone not too long after the Mets’ last parade down Canyon of Heroes that October.
The personal travails and triumphs he has endured thereafter — which Hearn repeatedly refers to “going from the penthouse to the outside and back” — will make this Fall Classic between his two former teams “all the more special” for him.
“I still am asked about that trade a lot,” Hearn told the Daily News by telephone on Monday. “David Cone went on to have a tremendous career, even came back to Kansas City (and won a Cy Young award in 1994). Great, great pitcher.
“But now, I thank God for that trade. Because without that trade, who knows? I can almost guarantee you I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do what I’ve done the last 20 years. I’ve had people come up to me after making a speech, saying ‘that was the worst trade the Royals ever made. But after listening to you today, I think it was the best trade they ever made.’ That makes it all worthwhile to me. Maybe my playing career didn’t go as I planned it, but I’m trying to use everything that’s happened to me to make a difference.”
Hearn, who batted .265 in 49 games with the Mets as a rookie in ’86, appeared in just 13 games for Kansas City over the next two seasons before his career ended due to a torn rotator cuff. He spent a few more years bouncing around the minors, but soon after forced retirement in 1991, he was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a kidney illness that required immediate dialysis treatments and eventually three separate transplants in the ensuing years.
The pain was so unrelenting, he says, that he even nearly committed suicide, staring at a loaded .357 Magnum in his basement.
Instead, Hearn thought of his wife, Tricia, a Long Island girl he met during his one Amazin’ season with the Mets. And he since has made a life’s work out of writing an inspiring autobiography, “Conquering Life’s Curves,” and traveling the country discussing his story.
“In ’86, my rookie year, that was probably the penthouse of my life in regards to what the world calls success,” Hearn said. “It doesn’t get any better when you go to a place for one summer of your life and you walk away with what you hoped and dreamed about, not only winning the World Series with the greatest group of guys, but meeting a mate for life.”
The bespectacled Hearn was more straight-laced than many of his worldly and carousing Mets teammates.
After all, his nickname was Ward, named after the father on “Leave it to Beaver.” He claims that a few former Mets staffers and teammates have reached out to him in recent days, calling this The Ward World Series.
Hearn battles injuries and plays just 13 games for the Royals after he is traded away from the Mets.
“I was thinking, that year was such a small piece of time in my life, this one summer, and when I compare it to Kansas City, I’ve been here 28 years, and of course, when I came here I went from the penthouse to the outhouse,” Hearn said. “You can’t control injuries, but I was being counted on here, I was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle, the offensive catcher.
“But in ’86, very few players have the opportunity to be a part of such a wild and crazy and tremendous team as that one was. It was absolutely bizarre. It was full of characters. I didn’t say ‘character,’ I say characters. I mean, I was a rookie, and I was like ‘is this really what the big leagues are like?’ The reality was, that organization, you don’t see that kind of craziness everywhere. But for one year, those characters, we pulled it all together.”
Of the ’86 Mets, Hearn also described it as “still one of those weird kind of families where you don’t talk to guys for a long time and then we pick right up like no time has passed, like we haven’t missed a beat.”
Hearn got to apprentice under Gary Carter, and the late Hall of Fame backstop clearly made a lasting impression. Hearn became choked up on Monday recalling his former teammate.
“We have one child, his name is Cody. He’s 21 and he’s also been battling the effects of chemo from cancer that he began 3½ years ago. His name is Cody Carter Hearn,” Hearn said. “He was named after Gary Carter for a reason, because Gary Carter was the kind of man that I wanted to be. Yes, I wanted to be a ballplayer, but I wanted to be one that was not like so many others. He was a role model, and not only for me, but for countless people. I’m not saying that Gary Carter was a perfect human being, but they just don’t make them like that anymore.”
Ed and Tricia Hearn, back from visiting their son in Minnesota over the weekend, will be in attendance at Game 1 at Kauffman Stadium. Forget about rooting for the Royals or the Mets, this is a man deserving of your rooting interest. Indeed, Hearn wouldn’t trade his experiences for anything or anyone, not even David Cone.