September 22, 1959 |
|September 2, 1980, for the New York Mets|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 14, 1993, for the Seattle Mariners|
|Runs batted in||240|
|Career highlights and awards|
Walter Wayne Backman (born September 22, 1959) is a former Major League Baseball second baseman. He is best known for his time with the New York Mets from 1980-1988 and was a member of their 1986 World Series-winning team. Backman currently is the Manager for the Las Vegas 51s, the Mets' AAA minor league team (beginning in 2013 season).
New York Mets
First round pick
Backman was the Mets' first round pick in the 1977 Major League Baseball Draft (sixteenth overall). He was assigned to the New York-Penn League's Little Falls Mets upon signing, and batted .325 with six home runs in his first professional season. After batting .293 for the triple A Tidewater Tides in 1980, Backman received a September call up to the Mets. Making his major league debut starting at second base against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on September 2, Backman got a single in his first at-bat, driving in Claudell Washington for his first major league run batted in. 
After battling for three seasons to earn a starting job, Backman finally emerged as the Mets' starting second baseman in 1984. He batted .280, and finished second on the club to Mookie Wilson (46) with 32 stolen bases.
Prior to the start of the 1986 season, general manager Frank Cashen brought in Tim Teufel, a right-handed hitting infielder from the Minnesota Twins for Billy Beane, Joe Klink and Bill Latham. He and Backman formed a platoon at second base, and along with Wilson and Lenny Dykstra, provided a "spark" at the top of the Mets' line up, and set the table for the heavy hitters who batted behind them.
For his own part, Backman scored 67 runs, stole 13 bases and batted over .300 (.320) for the first time in his career for the team that won 108 games and took the National League East by 21.5 games. He batted .333 in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox and led off for the Mets in the now famous tenth inning of Game 6 with a fly out to Jim Rice.
Backman and Teufel were still platooning at second base in 1988 when the Mets won their division for the second time during Backman's tenure with the team. Backman batted .303 for the division winners, and the Mets won 100 games that season, taking the NL East by fifteen games over the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, the heavily favored Mets lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1988 National League Championship Series. Backman played respectably in the division series (.273 avg., 2 runs, 2 RBIs). However, following the season, the Mets sent him and Mike Santiago to the Minnesota Twins for Jeff Bumgarner, Steve Gasser and Toby Nivens, none of whom emerged as a major leaguer.
Backman under-performed with the Twins, batting only .231 with one home run and 33 runs scored while driving in only 26 in 1989. After only one season in Minnesota, Backman signed as a free agent with the Mets' division rivals, the Pittsburgh Pirates. With slick fielder José Lind already at second base for the Pirates, Backman received most of his playing time backing up Jeff King at third.
The Pirates opened the 1990 against the Mets at Shea Stadium. In front of his former home crowd, Backman went two for five with a single and triple and scored two runs in the Pirates' 12-3 victory over the Mets. Against the San Diego Padres on April 27, Backman accomplished the rare feat of six hits in a nine inning game. For the season, Backman batted .292 and scored 62 runs for a Pirates team that went 95-67, and took the division by four games over the Mets.
Backman spent 1991 and 1992 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He signed with the 1992 National League Champion Atlanta Braves, for 1993, but failed to make the team out of Spring training. He joined the Seattle Mariners, but was released 38 games into the season with a .138 batting average with only two runs scored in 31 plate appearances.
Backman had a career .980 fielding percentage at second base.
After retiring as a player, Backman was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. Backman led the 2002 Birmingham Barons (Chicago White Sox double A Southern League affiliate) to a 79–61 record. In 2004, he led the Lancaster Jethawks, the Arizona Diamondbacks High A team, to an 86–54 record and was named Sporting News "Minor League Manager of the Year".
On November 1, 2004, Backman was promoted to manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks' major league squad. However, in its story about Backman's hire, The New York Times reported that Backman had serious legal and financial problems. He had also been arrested in 1999 for DUI in Kennewick, Washington as documented on HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. A year later, he was arrested in connection with an altercation in his home in Prineville, Oregon. In addition, Backman declared bankruptcy to avoid paying over twenty creditors, including the IRS. The Diamondbacks initially stood by him, but fired him on November 5 before ever managing a game. Managing partner Ken Kendrick said that Backman had lied about his past, and only learned about the extent of Backman's problems when the Times report prompted the team to conduct its own investigation.
Backman began his managerial comeback with the South Georgia Peanuts of the independent South Coast League. His return to managing was documented by the TV series Playing for Peanuts. The Peanuts won their league with a 59–28 record. On June 26, 2007, during a game in Anderson, South Carolina, Backman was involved in a profanity-laced tirade. After outfielder Doc Brooks was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, Backman confronted the home plate umpire to ask why his player had been ejected from the game before being ejected himself as well. Backman then covered home plate with dirt while awaiting an answer to the question of why he was being ejected, which was never given by the umpire. Backman argued with the umpire again before returning to the dugout, where he tossed bats onto the field as well as a bucket full of baseballs. During this, Backman repeatedly asked players on the field to move out of the way before tossing the bats and he did so in a calm fashion. As a result of the incident, the home plate umpire who had ejected Backman and Brooks was issued a fine by the league, while Backman and his player who were ejected (Brooks) received no further penalties or fines stemming from this event. The South Georgia Peanuts then went on to win the league championship that season under Backman's lead.
In December 2007, Backman became manager of the Joliet JackHammers. With the team in sixth place in the Northern League with a 24–42 record, he was fired on July 30, 2009. In October 2009, Backman's name circulated as a likely candidate for the Mets' double A managerial job with the Binghamton Mets; however, the Mets decided instead to promote Teufel from the St. Lucie Mets, and Backman was given the St. Lucie job. Two weeks later, the Mets changed their minds, and Backman was handed the reins to the Brooklyn Cyclones instead. Backman went on to lead the Cyclones to a league-best 51-24 record, winning the McNamara Division of the New York-Penn League by 12 games. However, the Cyclones were ultimately swept by the Tri-City ValleyCats in the league championship series.
Backman was a candidate to replace Jerry Manuel as the New York Mets' major league manager in 2011, having interviewed for the position with new General Manager Sandy Alderson. After a second round of interviews in which Backman was a finalist, however, the position went to Terry Collins. Backman was subsequently named manager of the Mets' double A affiliate, the Binghamton Mets.
In Backman's first season in Binghamton, the club had a 65-76 record. Backman remains highly regarded in the Mets organization, and was promoted to manager of their AAA affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons for the 2012 season.
In 2013, Backman managed the Mets' new AAA affiliate, the Las Vegas 51s, leading them to an 81-63 record and winning the Pacific Coast League's Pacific South Division title. Las Vegas lost to Salt Lake three-games-to-one in the Conference Championship Series. Backman returned to the 51s for the 2014 season, and the team once again advanced to the playoffs. On August 29, 2014, Backman was announced as the PCL Manager of the Year.
Backman has been described as a players' manager and noted for his "old school" style, as well as for his frequent use of humor when delivering news of a promotion to the major leagues.
- "Los Angeles Dodgers 6, New York Mets 5". Baseball-reference.com. 1980-09-02.
- "Pittsburgh Pirates 12, New York Mets 3". Baseball-reference.com. 1990-04-09.
- "Pittsburgh Pirates 9, San Diego Padres 4". Baseball-reference.com. 1990-04-27.
- "Backman takes D-Backs' helm". Steve Gilbert / MLB.com. Retrieved 2004-11-02.
- Curry, Jack (2004-11-04). "Backman Named Arizona's Manager". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-06-30.
- Harris, Craig (2004-11-05). "Backman's past won't affect job with D'backs". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-11-05.
- "D-Backs stand behind Backman". Steve Gilbert / MLB.com. Retrieved 2004-11-03.
- "Backman done in by legal troubles". ESPN. 2004-11-05. Retrieved 2014-09-25.
- JackHammers ink new Manager at jackhammerbaseball.com
- JackHammers change managers at oursportscentral.com
- "Mets to make decision on coaches". Marty Noble / MLB.com. Retrieved 2009-10-28.
- "Backman tapped to manage Cyclones: Fiery second baseman energized Mets teams of the 1980s". Marty Noble / MLB.com. Retrieved 2009-11-13.
- Puma, Mike (2010-11-17). "Backman one of four getting second interview with Mets". New York Post. Retrieved 2010-11-24.
- Martin, Dan. "Backman makes minor adjustments for new Mets job". NY Post. Retrieved 2011-02-14.
- "Klapisch: Backman shows loyalty to Mets". ESPN (Bergen Record). 2011-11-06. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- Rohan, Tim (June 27, 2015). "Wally Backman Serves Up Good News With an Appetizer of Humor". New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)