Mets ’86 hero Orosco tells great story on Old-Timer’s Day, Zibanejad ranked in top 10 centers by NHL Network


On a warm August day in Flushing, the Mets held their first Old-Timer’s Day since 1994 ironically, one ’86 hero had a great story to tell. As it turned out, he shared a unique connection to the Rangers.

During the game that brought together Mets from all different eras back out to Citi Field, it was former closer Jesse Orosco -who after showing even now he can still pitch- discussed what it was like to be back with former World Series teammates and other close friends he played with. 

After indicating how much fun it was to see everyone, Orosco was asked the question everyone wanted to know.  After he got Marty Barrett swinging for the final out in Game Seven to beat the Red Sox, what happened to the glove he tossed high up in the air in jubilation? He gave a surprising response to SNY Mets reporter Steve Gelbs.

Instead of the memorable glove that held the pitched ball before the final out for the Mets’ second World Championship being in either Cooperstown or the New York Mets Hall of Fame, Orosco actually told Gelbs he gave it to former NYPD detective Steven McDonald. His explanation was great. He spoke about how it could help McDonald pay medical expenses after he got shot in the line of duty. 

What a noble thing to do. As has been well documented over the years, Steven McDonald was paralyzed after sustaining serious injuries that made him quadriplegic and on a respirator the rest of his life. An inspirational figure, he became a symbol of the New York Rangers when they started the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award in 1987-88.

Ever since, the Rangers have presented the Steven McDonald Award to the one player who goes above and beyond the call of duty. Chris Kreider won the prestigious award in ’21-22. He beat out a competitive field that included Team MVP and Vezina winner Igor Shestyorkin, Adam Fox, Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Lindgren.

Since his father passed away on Jan. 10, 2017, son Conor has presented the award along with Mom Patti. For three decades, Steven McDonald lived on and showed this city what it was like to be a New Yorker. He always had a smile on his face and gave great speeches that always had The Garden cheering loudly. Now a NYPD lieutenant, Conor continues to make his father proud.

It’s nice to be able to tie in a classic baseball team with the Rangers. All in all, a very cool story Orosco shared 36 years since the Mets won the World Series. These days, the 2022 Mets are atop the NL East on pace for over 100 wins. Their best team since ’86, maybe they can get back to their first World Series since 2015. Winning it would be the ultimate for the Amazin’s.

With the Yankees finally winning again, might there be a Subway Series in October? We’ll have to wait and see. While hockey hasn’t been around, the NYC baseball teams have provided sports fans with an exciting summer. It could keep baseball fans preoccupied until Halloween.

It’s this blogger’s opinion that Mets and Yankees fans sure wouldn’t mind. Even if it distracts us from a long hockey season. As much as I can’t wait for October 11th against the Lightning, if the Yankees and Mets reach the World Series, that would be the ultimate.

Earlier this month, NHL Network presented their top 20 centers. Mika Zibanejad made the top 10. I also tweeted out a list for comparison. Here are my top 10:

10. Patrice Bergeron

9. Sebastian Aho

8. Mika Zibanejad

7. Aleksander Barkov

6. Steven Stamkos

5. Sidney Crosby

4. Auston Matthews

3. Leon Draisaitl

2. Nathan MacKinnon

1. Connor McDavid

My list was a little different than theirs. They had Auston Matthews higher following his memorable Hart Trophy season where he hit 60 goals and topped 100 points. I moved Nathan MacKinnon up to two following his great postseason in which he led the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup.

I put more emphasis on postseason over regular season. No disrespect towards Matthews, who was amazing for the Maple Leafs. But unfortunately, the Leafs couldn’t escape the first round again. The pressure is mounting in Toronto.

I split up McDavid and Leon Draisaitl with MacKinnon in the middle. So, I have Matthews fourth. The legendary Sidney Crosby is number five. Even at 35, he still belongs in the conversation. That’s how special a player he is. What if he didn’t lose almost two seasons? There’s no telling how many more goals, assists and points he’d have.

In terms of 6-10, I went Steven Stamkos, Aleksander Barkov, Mika Zibanejad, Sebastian Aho and Patrice Bergeron. On the NHL Network list, they had Bergeron higher and put Aho ahead of Zibanejad. I decided Zibanejad deserves to be ahead of Aho. Both are very good overall centers. But Zibanejad outplayed Aho in the Rangers’ second round win over the Hurricanes.

As for Bergeron, he’s an outstanding player. The best two-way center to ever play the game, which says a lot considering some of the past legends, Bergeron is remarkable to watch. Even now, he still can get it done at 37. That’s why he returned for one more shot in Beantown. He continues to center Brad Marchand and sometimes David Pastrnak for the Perfection Line.

You can’t go wrong with the 10 centers listed. It all depends on your preference. If I did an 11-20, it would look like:

11. J.T. Miller

12. Ryan O’Reilly

13. Mat Barzal

14. Nazem Kadri

15. Brayden Point

16. Elias Lindholm

17. Jack Hughes

18. Evgeni Malkin

19. Jack Eichel

20. Dylan Larkin

Forty-four days until the season opener at MSG.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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