With the Mets up 7-5, I began to think in terms of The Record, the one that had stood unsurpassed for 27 seasons. It's so rare you get to see that kind of history made. We're still waiting on a 12-game winning streak to say nothing of a hitless shutout victory. Yes, we saw the ten-run inning matched live, but here was our chance, albeit from our homes, to experience something established anew.
There we were, bases loaded, Beltran up and…POW!
ELEVEN RUNS! I started jumping around like an idiot. “TWO GRAND SLAMS!” I told Stephanie. “TWO GRAND SLAMS! AND ELEVEN RUNS! ELEVEN RUNS IN AN INNING! THAT'S A NEW METS RECORD! THAT'S HISTORY!”
I was smart enough after a couple of innings to have turned down the sound on the national broadcasters and turned up Howie Rose and his relentlessly generic partner. Everything I had seen — seen and not heard — on ESPN leading into this rally was Cubs this, Cubs that. I swear I'd stared at Dusty Baker's face for an hour more than I had my cat Hozzie's all weekend. (Cubs must be doing great to merit such coverage.) Thank goodness I had that all-important presence of mind to put the FAN on and hear familiar voice pronounce this moment of Mets history for what it was.
But they weren't doing that, Howie and his colleague. Sure, two grand slams, that was remarked upon. But why didn't they mention that this was the historic eleven-run inning? We were down 5-0. Now it was 11-5! Maybe the boring guy needed notes handed him by The Immortal Chris Majkowski, but not Howie. Where was the Rose benediction to make this official? (And, by the way, how do we sneak Gary into the radio booth for postseason?)
The Mets, one of our guys finally reported, had now scored nine runs in the sixth inning. NINE? What were they talking about? Do the math! It was 5-0 and now it's 11-5!
Then I remembered: It had been 5-0 much earlier. It was 5-2 when the sixth started. Funny, it seemed like it had been 5-0 all night. It hadn't been.
Having patted myself heartily for my brilliance at listening to the radio instead of Jon Miller and for being on top of a potential milestone in the making, I realized that the Mets had set no record in the sixth inning, at least not the one I was focused on. I slunk back onto the couch and recanted my celebration. “We haven't scored eleven in this inning,” I told Stephanie. “We scored nine. That's great, but that's not a record.”
Then two batters later, I recanted my recant. “NOW IT'S ELEVEN RUNS! NOW IT'S A RECORD!” I jumped around some more. I felt a little silly getting it up all over again, but I can't think of a better reason for a mulligan. Now we had eleven in the inning and thirteen in the game. I'll suffer personal embarrassment every single time in service of that kind of correction.
No problem, none at all. Following the first and only eleven-run inning in New York Mets history, my only concern was the game wouldn't be over in time for Entourage. But it was.
Y'know what was even more impressive than the obvious in the sixth? That after the third home run, two more Mets walked and Ramon Castro lifted a fly to the centerfield warning track. It wasn't particularly close to going out, but imagine if it had. Fourteen runs (let me doublecheck…eleven plus three…yup, fourteen). When it was caught, I actually felt more than a little relieved. Because I felt bad for the Cubs…NOT!
Quick word on the Cubs: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
No, I was unsorry that the inning ended because breaking the record by one was satisfying. Breaking the record by four would mean there would be almost no chance that we'd ever see it broken again. It took 18 years for the Mets to throw down a tenspot, 21 years thereafter to do it again, six years beyond that to make it eleven. Maybe, just maybe, we'll live long enough for a twelve-run inning. We can at least get to eight some night and then imagine a grand slam and think, “Wow, we could get the record!” But hang fifteen in one frame? We'll be debating which Mets no-hitter was the most scintillating before we live through that.
Funny thing about the three times the Mets have scored ten or more runs in an inning. None of those games — 12-6, 11-8, 13-7 finals — was a blowout in the strictest sense of the word. In fact, each ten- or eleven-run inning was a come-from-behind situation. We have the Atlanta game tattooed on our respective synapses: behind 8-1; ahead 11-8. Cincinnati was like Chicago in that we were down 5-2 in the sixth. While I won't cop to remembering June 12, 1979 like it was yesterday, I do recall thinking we were going to win that game.
We had a two-nil lead for five innings. We had few leads of such enormity in 1979, let alone instances of scoring multiple tallies in the very first inning. When the Reds went out in front in the top of the sixth, it didn't really register. I didn't think it was possible that the Mets could score in the first and not win. Once the Mets started putting hits together, it seemed perfectly natural that they'd regain the lead and never relinquish it.
Since you got two-thirds of the way home, let's complete the set:
Stearns double. Henderson walk. Flynn safe on error. Hodges walk. (5-3.) Ferrer pinch-ran. Youngblood popup. Taveras double. (5-5.) Mazzilli intentional walk. Hebner single. (7-5.) Montañez safe on sacrifice fly and error. (8-5.) Stearns flyout. Henderson single. (9-5.) Flynn inside-the-park home run. (12-5.) Ferrer groundout.
I don't remember at what point Steve Albert made it clear that an old record had been broken, but he drilled it home that ten was the new mark. It was so unbelievably many runs, how could it have not been an all-time high? The only thing that would have made it dreamier would have been had Sergio Ferrer had actually gotten a hit to extend the inning. It may have been mentioned in this space that he was 0-for-1979.
They weren't quite the Big Red Machine any longer, but Cincinnati went on to win the NL West that year. The Atlanta Braves of 2000 would also become division champs (again). Not only was Sunday night the first time the Mets ever scored eleven runs in one inning, it was the first time they did it against a team that is a lock to lose more games than it will win in the course of the season in question. I think it's also safe to say that the 2006 Met lineup edges the 2000 edition. They may even be better than 1979's.
Take a phenomenally great Mets offense and typically Cubbie Cubs, and this was bound to happen, no? By that logic, it should have happened at least twice against the Pirates already, but you can't score eleven in every inning.
During the home run chase of 1998, everybody was congratulating one another for evoking the spirit of Roger Maris (Billy Crystal even pleasured himself a movie out of it). The recurring line was, “The record may be shattered, but it's got everybody talking about Maris again and that's a good thing.”
I got it then but I really get it now. I'm a little sad, to tell you the truth. Every time we tell the ten-run inning story from June 30, 2000, we'll have to qualify it with “that was the record then.” I loved being there that night, chewing on that cup, us craning our necks in unison to see what 10 looked like on the Shea scoreboard. I loved, too, being outside for gym class the morning of June 13, 1979, the tail end of tenth grade, recounting every walk, error, hit, inside-the-park home run and run from the sixth inning the night before with one of the few other Mets fans in school. There was never anything happy to mull Metwise in 1979. Setting the record was something to talk about.
Those innings at Shea were great and always will be. This inning at Wrigley with the three homers, the two grand slams, the seven or eight outs permitted by the Cubs and the one brand new record for most runs ever scored by the New York Mets in one inning? It's that much greater.
And it always will be.