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14 For 14

Glavine looked good. Then he looked bad. Wagner was a little shaky but all right in the end. In between, Bradford, Mota and Heilman got the job done [1]. None of the Mets’ pitchers, however, was as effective as that kid from the Caribbean League, Ernesto. He blanked the Phillies, but that didn’t help us because he also whitewashed the Braves.

Our bullpen and bats got our magic number down to 14. A tropical storm ensured that’s as far as it would get.

Add Houston to the growing list of teams I don’t want to win the Wild Card. Part of that is a longstanding distaste for the Astros on many levels. Part of that is the disgust associated with anything associated with Roger Clemens. But most of that is I don’t want to listen to that bush bzzzzzzzzz crap and hear those yahoos whoop it up under that unnaturally closed roof [2]. We fear no team, but I’d prefer to not start getting nervous over competitive environs. I don’t like Minute Maid Park. I don’t like Minute Maid juice.

Willie, no doubt ignoring the milestone the Mets reached Friday night (last year 83-79, this year 83-50), is using these games to see what he’s got. Glavine didn’t have it after the third, but the skipper wanted to see him handle a fifth after being out for more than two weeks. With a lead in the stratosphere, why not? Same with Perez last night. Seeing Glavine, no doubt needing to build his endurance, is humongously vital these days. Still, I’d have hated to have lost to the Astros and hated to have missed a chance to lop off another digit.

No worries. One more is gone. 14 remain.

14.01: Gil. To have been around for any of Gil Hodges [3]‘ Mets managerial tenure, to have a tangible memory of it, you couldn’t be any younger than 41. Yet No. 14 for the Mets continues to be understood by every generation of Mets fan as the manager in Mets history. He was voted the All-Amazin’ manager in 2002 and that was voting that was notoriously short on long-term perspective (witness the election of Lenny Dykstra over Cleon Jones to the outfield). Hodges is, simply, immortal here.

14.02: Inimitable. Every now and then, a manager who comes off as stern but avuncular (or avuncular but stern) is appointed and he is compared to Gil Hodges. I heard it about Roy McMillan in 1975 and I may have even heard it about Art Howe in 2002 (though I may be thinking of a joke I made). Nobody’s allowed to wear 14 anymore because nobody can be compared to 14. My favorite story about him comes from his Washington Senators days. He knew 4 of his players had broken curfew during Spring Training. He called a meeting and announced that he wasn’t going to embarrass anybody in front of the team, but you know who you are and I expect a check for $50 from each of you on my desk in the morning. The next morning, it is said, 7 different Washington Senators paid the fine.

14.03: Pitchers Who Could Hit. On September 12, 1969, Gil Hodges directed his Mets to a doubleheader sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates, 1-0 and 1-0, the famous incidence of Jerry Koosman and Don Cardwell each driving in the only runs in games they won. Koosman won the opener, earning his 14th win of the season. Cardwell’s victory in the nightcap was the Mets’ 87th win…or 14 more than they had the year before.

14.04: He Could Pitch, Too. When I think of living, breathing Gil Hodges, I see him walking through the Mets clubhouse, fully dressed in No. 14, urging us to take our banking business to Manufacturers Hanover Trust.

14.05: Not Bad At All. The other image comes from The Boys Of Summer by Roger Kahn. Gil is managing the Mets. His 19-year-old son, Gil II, brings a friend and gets permission for the two of them to work out at Shea. The friend changes into spikes with white tops, a no-no, the son tells him. “You can’t use them here. My father’s a kind of conservative man.” The friend says that he doesn’t seem so bad. “He isn’t,” says the son. “He’s just kind of conservative.”

14.06: Boys Of Bummer. In addition to permitting Mike Piazza’s 31 to circulate to Brad Penny but not Greg Maddux, the Dodgers let 14 rattle around in their wardrobe. Mike Scioscia wore it when he hit a 9th-inning home run off Doc Gooden in Game 4 of the 1988 NLCS. And Fred Wilpon’s still googly eyed over that franchise?

14.07: They Wouldn’t Have Had They Known He’d Be Back. Two Mets wore 14 between Hodges leaving the Mets as a player and returning as a manager: Ron Swoboda and Ken Boyer. Boyer would have 14 retired on his behalf by the Cardinals. Swoboda switched to 4 in deference to the 1964 MVP and later earned a rather superfluous mention in Frequency. I take that back: No mention of Ron Swoboda is superfluous.

14.08: Context. Gil Hodges, our immortal, our No. 14, our Mets Hall of Famer (inducted 1982), isn’t up to Cooperstown snuff. His numbers look a little pale compared to other immortals. If I was to tell you that when Gil Hodges retired in 1963, his 370 home runs were the 10th-most in baseball history, is that something you might be interested in?

14.09: You Want Quiet? In 1991, Marino Amoruso authored a biography of Gil Hodges called The Quiet Man. Seven years later, a veritable mute named John Olerud was playing Hodges’ old position for Hodges’ old team and reached base 14 times in 14 consecutive plate appearances.

14.10: Another Laugh Barrel. Steve Trachsel has 14 wins. And he’s deserved every last one of them.

14.11: I Remember It Like It Was Four Months Ago. On May 5, 2006, the Mets defeated the Braves 8-7 in 14 fabulous innings. It took 4 hours and 47 minutes. And I adored every last one [4] of them.

14.12: The Longest Time. I’ve been to a pair of 14-inning games. On March 31, 1998, the Mets beat the Phillies 1-0, and yes, that was the Bambi Castillo affair. On June 9, 1999, the Mets beat the Blue Jays 4-3 and yes, that was the Bobby Valentine fake mustache and glasses caper. Gil Hodges would have fined Bobby V a hundred bucks for that stunt, but I revere them both.

14.13: Wayne Manor Was Conveniently Located. When the Batmobile zoomed out of the Batcave, it passed a sign noting Gotham City was 14 miles away.

14.14: Wayne Garrett Was Conveniently Located. Gil Hodges gave Wayne Garrett his first Major League job. In the three seasons Wayne Garrett played for Gil Hodges, he hit 14 home runs.