When Fantasy Park at Delusional Place is finally built, I imagine the Mets will copy what the Phillies did and what the Cardinals are doing by having somebody reasonably appropriate go out to right field and remove a number from the wall to count down how many games remain at Shea in its final season. This past Saturday night guaranteed that one of the 81 VIPs who gets that honor must be Marlon Anderson.
A nice ovation for Marlon Anderson, Gary. Mets fans will always remember Marlon as the man who ran out that inside-the-park pinch-hit home run against the Angels on a Saturday night in 2005 that tied that incredible game in the ninth, later won in the tenth on an equally memorable, more conventional home run by Cliff Floyd, who we understand will be back later in the season to take down a number of his own.
2005? Was it that long ago already? Seems like yesterday, Howie.
Doesn’t it, Gary? Your call, of course, was a classic. Our younger fans who didn’t get to experience the play first-hand should be familiar with it by now, whether through repeated airings on the Mets Network or right here on Shea’s DiamondVision.
I appreciate that, Howie, but it was Marlon who did the heavy lifting. Remember how surprised he looked when third base coach Manny Acta waved him around?
He was surprised? I know I nearly fell down when I watched the replay and saw Marlon was blowing a bubble between first and second. That must’ve been manager Willie Randolph’s secret advice to his pinch-hitters in 2005: Always make sure you bring your Bazooka to the plate. In Marlon’s case, he brought two kinds of Bazooka, his bubble gum and his bat.
I’ll tell you who had the bazooka that night and it was Vlad Guerrero, the Angels’ right fielder who of course had the best right field throwing arm in baseball in those days. If he were in his position when the Angel center fielder Steve Finley inadvertently kicked Anderson’s ball to right, no way Marlon scores because Vlad would have gunned him down at third. No way he tries to go to third either.
Of course if Finley, a great outfielder in his own right, plays it safe and opts to take that ball on one bounce, Anderson’s on second and the Mets probably don’t win that game. For that matter, if Acta had played it safe, Anderson’s on third and the Mets, facing perennial all-star closer Francisco Rodriguez, may leave him on third. The Mets, if you’ll recall, Gary, simply weren’t hitting with men on base in 2005. At least not at that juncture of the season.
The funny thing, Howie, is everybody was doing the right thing on that play and it just happened to go the Mets’ way. Finley went all out but couldn’t come up with what would’ve been a great catch. Guerrero was out of position because he was backing up Finley and couldn’t possibly anticipate that Finley would kick the ball right by him. And Anderson, whether it was the bubble gum or just a good, solid work ethic, ran hard right out of the box, something you didn’t always see Mets do until 2005, something you don’t necessarily see today.
Agreed, Gary. If you watch the play again, even all these years after, you have to be impressed that everybody did his job. Finley recovered the ball; Adam Kennedy, the Angels’ second baseman who, if memory serves, had robbed Jose Reyes of a big hit earlier that night, got the relay and got rid of it in a timely fashion; and the Angels’ catcher, Jose Molina did his best to tag Anderson out. But Marlon kept running and gave us that great moment we celebrate tonight if just for a moment as we continue to say goodbye to Shea.
Amen to that, Howie, and thanks for the memories, Marlon Anderson. He has left the field to another nice ovation and we prepare to go to the bottom of the fifth, David Wright leading off for the Mets in a 2-2 game…
Well, that’s how I’d like to imagine it being remembered. Whatever the future holds, there has to be room for Saturday night’s game to stand out. It was that good. Unfortunately, you can’t make reservations for memories. It’s hard to fathom that any Mets fan who watched or listened to Marlon’s scamper to glory, let alone Cliff’s at-bat to end all at-bats to end all games, will ever forget it, but things get forgotten. Great things. I could sit here and bring up any number of games that were breathtaking in their time only to get a blank cyberstare from some serious Mets fans — and chances are I could be stumped here and there by somebody else’s unforgettable moment.
Yet I think this one will live on. I think for the generation of Mets fans coming of age now, this becomes The Marlon Anderson Game, the night and the moment that defines why they are such staunch Mets fans and will continue to be if they’re worth their Aramark pretzel salt. I hope Marlon continues to get big hits so there are more Marlon Anderson Games, but it’s hard to believe anything can be quite as amazing as an inside-the-park pinch-hit home run off Frankie Rodriguez to tie what had already been a terrific game in the ninth. It’s also hard to believe Cliff Floyd’s walk-off, three-run shot that capped nine pitches and seven minutes against Brendan Donnelly could be relegated to footnote status, but as great and significant and technically definitive as the Monsta mash was, it’s Anderson’s feat that made the night of June 11, 2005 likely indelible in Mets history.
Not that three days provides much in the way of context, but I’m willing to hand out two provisional honors to this game.
1) Let’s call June 11, 2005 the greatest Interleague (non-Subway Series) game the Mets have ever played. That’s tough for me to do since I was at what I’d consider the previous champ, June 9, 1999 . That was Mets vs. Blue Jays, a 4-3 win in 14 innings. We trailed 3-0 entering the ninth on David Wells’ (boooooo) return to New York, hitting as feebly then as we are now. But Robin drove in a couple and Brian McRae tied it up and Pat Mahomes threw three scoreless innings and Rey Ordoñez of all people brought home Luis Lopez (the two of them would slug it out on the team bus later in the season) with the winner in the 14th. I’m particularly partial to that game because I spent the entire affair in the company of, among others, Richie the Electrician, one of my true baseball mentors. RTE stuck it out past midnight and gave me a ride home even though he had to go wire a building at like five in the morning. It was also the night Bobby V resorted to the mustache and glasses, though from where we were sitting, we couldn’t tell.
2) June 11, 2005 was the most singular Saturday night regular-season win at Shea in 25 years (Saturday night being, in my opinion, a dopey time to schedule a ballgame, but never mind that). No Flushing Saturday night was bigger than the one that ended on a ground ball through a certain first baseman’s legs, of course, but that was the World Series. For significance, you can’t beat October 2, 1999  when with everything on the line, Rick Reed shut out the Pirates and struck out 12. It’s a pity that this accomplishment gets a bit lost in the rush of events surrounding the Mets’ flameout and resurrection (an entire narrative of a run that is underappreciated by the baseball world at large) but it was indeed huge. It was also a component of a larger story, not the story unto itself.
For a Saturday night at Shea to be more dramatic than the most recent one, you’d have to reach back almost exactly a quarter of a century to June 14, 1980 , the silver anniversary of which happens to be today. That was, for the generation of Mets fans coming of age then, The Steve Henderson Game, the night and the moment that defined why I was such a staunch Mets fan at 17 and why I would continue to be such a staunch Mets fan at 42. The parallels between then and now are more than a little startling.
THEN: Mets coming off a bunch of lousy seasons, improving noticeably, striving for respect, generating some buzz.
NOW: Mets coming off a bunch of lousy seasons, improving noticeably, striving for respect, generating some buzz.
THEN: Team still capable of going into offensive funk.
NOW: Team still capable of going into offensive funk.
THEN: Mets down 6-0 to team from California and fight their way back in the ninth.
NOW: Mets down 2-1 to team from California and fight their way back in the ninth.
THEN: It was left fielder Steve Henderson, with two out and two strikes, who ends the game with a three-run homer, his first of the year, the Mets winning, somehow, 7-6.
NOW: It was left fielder Cliff Floyd, with two out and two strikes, who ends the game with a three-run homer, the Mets winning somehow, 7-6. Not Floyd’s first of the year, but it was Anderson’s first in the ninth that set up Floyd. And Anderson and Henderson sound alike if you say them real fast.
THEN: Teammates mob Henderson at home plate as fans go crazy. Claudell Washington, just acquired, catches my eye as he’s the only Met who’s wearing a uniform (15) without his name on the back.
NOW: Teammates mob Floyd at home plate as fans go crazy. Steve Trachsel, disabled all year, catches my eye as he’s been almost invisible since the injury to his back.
THEN: I’m watching the game alone and when the big hit is delivered, I come running into another room to tell my sister and her boyfriend/eventual husband about it. They tell me they don’t care. I go back to exulting on my own.
NOW: I’m watching the game alone and when the big hit is delivered, I come running into another room to tell my cold-addled wife about it. Her reaction: I can’t high-five you because I’m sick. And you’re scaring the cat. (Sorry, Hozzie. You can unwrap your tail from your legs and come out from the table already.) I go back to exulting on my own.
THEN: The Mets move to within a game of .500, six games behind first-place Montreal.
NOW: The Mets move two games over .500, four games behind first-place Washington (formerly Montreal).
THEN: The belief that the Magic is Back permeates most of Metsdom. Some 44,000 show up at Shea Sunday afternoon, and even though the Mets lose to the Giants before embarking on a long road trip, there is something different about this season, you can just feel it.
NOW: The belief that these are the New Mets permeates most of Metsdom. Some 44,000 show up at Shea Sunday afternoon, and even though the Mets lose to the Angels before embarking on a long road trip, there is something different about this season, you can just feel it.
THEN: Mets flirt with contending for another two months until the bottom drops out of 1980 and they finish with 95 losses. Yet The Steve Henderson Game on that Saturday night echoes a quarter-century down the pike.
NOW: Who knows? But I’m betting The Marlon Anderson Game on this Saturday night packs some staying power of its own.