72: Friday, April 25 vs Braves
Ladies and gentlemen, it took six seasons for Shea Stadium and the Mets to host their first postseason game. When they did, it was a doozy: Game Three, the 1969 National League Championship Series, an exciting, come-from-behind 7-4 win over the Atlanta Braves to clinch the N.L. pennant.
The happy ending should not obscure the efforts of a very special player on the visiting team who put his own mark on what would be the final postseason appearance of his brilliant career. He drove in the very first runs in Shea Stadium postseason history with a two-run homer in the top of the first inning. In fact, he hit a home run in each game of the 1969 NLCS, which should not surprise anybody since he would eventually retire with 755 home runs, for 33 years the standard in Major League Baseball and still recognized as an achievement that towers over the landscape of the sport.
Please welcome back to Shea Stadium, to remove number 72 from the right field wall, one of the greatest opponents this or any ballpark outside Atlanta or Milwaukee has ever known, Hammerin' Hank, Henry Aaron.
71: Saturday, April 26 vs Braves
Today, ladies and gentlemen, the New York Mets are honored to play host to Jack Lang Day, paying tribute to one of the most beloved sportswriters in baseball history. The late Jack Lang covered the Mets on a daily basis for the first-quarter century of their existence and continued to write about them for most of the next twenty years of his life. Proceeds from select ticket sales today are going to benefit the Epilepsy Foundation of Long Island, a cause close to the Lang family's heart. They thank you for your support.
In the spirit of the job men and women like Jack Lang have done throughout the history of the Mets, disseminating the goings-on of a baseball club to a fan base that always wants to know more, we thought it appropriate to invite three of his colleagues to remove number 71 from the right field wall. Each man we call on today has written about and been around the Mets since their beginnings. It is through the efforts of journalists like these that a team becomes more than a logo, that players emerge as more than figures on a stat sheet. Though the relationship is occasionally adversarial, the Mets appreciate the job that writers like these do and wish to salute it.
So please welcome from the Shea Stadium press box to the right field line, a trio of Jack Lang's most distinguished peers: George Vecsey, Vic Ziegel and Roger Angell, and, accompanying them, the Mets longtime vice president of media relations — one of Shea's most famous faces in his own right — Jay Horwitz.
70: Sunday, April 27 vs Braves
Ladies and gentlemen, it was 28 years ago that the New York Mets took their first tentative steps toward the rebirth that would lead them to an eventual world championship. It was then, in 1980, that the Mets tradition was granted new life under a vigorous new ownership group, one committed to growing a winner in Queens.
Though neither of them ever sought the spotlight, it would be impossible to tell the story of the New York Mets since 1980 without acknowledging their individual and collective contributions. That is why we asked them to take part in our Shea Stadium final season countdown together and that is why each of them graciously agreed to take the field this one time.
Please welcome, then, the chairman of the New York Mets until 2002, Nelson Doubleday, and his partner of more than two decades, current chairman and chief executive officer, Fred Wilpon, as they proceed to remove number 70 from the right field wall.
69: Monday, April 28 vs Pirates
No baseball season, ladies and gentlemen, is a static one. Player transactions happen regularly, sometimes frequently. For fans of a given team, it is a boon when a move is made and the payoff, in terms of a postseason appearance, is almost immediate.
There are several episodes in Mets history wherein a player came in and made that kind of impact. Unfortunately, there is a flip side. Somebody ultimately has to move on when someone else is added. And in the years when success lies just down the road for the team, it's a tough break for an individual who contributed to the rising to miss out.
With that equation in mind, we have decided to balance the books just a bit tonight by inviting back to Shea Stadium a quartet of Mets who played on four of our most successful teams but for one reason or another did not make it to October. Think of this, fellas, as our making it up to you.
From the 1969 Mets, traded on June 15 for eventual World Series MVP Donn Clendenon, please welcome a Met who made his debut with the club in 1965, Kevin Collins.
From the 1986 Mets, a victim of roster roulette, a pitcher who gave the Mets several gritty seasons and always his best, say hello again to Ed Lynch.
From the 1999 Mets, the centerfielder traded at the deadline in a deal intended to shore up various other needs, someone popular with his teammates and always a pro, Brian McRae.
And leading our group of would-be October heroes to remove number 69 from the right field wall, this outfielder played a major role on the 2006 National League Eastern Division champions. Circumstances dictated the Mets make a trade two Julys ago and the price was a stiff one. We were sorry to see him go, but we're happy to have him back, if just for three games in a Pirate uniform. Please give a warm hand to, from the 2006 Mets, Xavier Nady.
68: Tuesday, April 29 vs Pirates
We are playing ball, ladies and gentlemen, and we expect to finish playing ball sometime tonight. But there have been evenings in Shea Stadium's colorful history when that wasn't always the case.
One of those nights was May 25, 1979, better known as The Fog Game. It was these same two opponents, the Mets and the eventual world champion Pirates who played to a 3-3 tie. Why a tie? Because in the eleventh inning, the fog rolled in off Flushing Bay and it simply became too tough to see.
Here to relive that soupy night are:
• The Pirates' starter who went seven innings and surrendered only three hits, Jim Rooker.
• The Pirate pinch-hitter who belted a two-run homer in the eighth and was a perennial thorn in the Mets' side, the Hit Man, Mike Easler.
• He pitched a perfect top of the eleventh, striking out Dave Parker and Hall of Famer Willie Stargell to preserve the tie score, one of the Mets' most reliable relievers ever, Skip Lockwood.
• And leading us through the fog to number 68, the man who hit a ball to left that could not be tracked down in the pea soup of that May night and went for a triple. The conditions dictated the game be called right then and there and go into the books as a tie. He hit lots of balls in all kinds of weather that fell in unaided by the elements, however, and he had an arm that could rifle a ball through whatever the atmosphere had to offer. Please welcome back Mets All-Star outfielder, Joel Youngblood.
67: Wednesday, April 30 vs Pirates
This afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, we are please to recall a Pirate legend whose playing career had a funny way of bouncing through the annals of New York baseball.
He came to the big leagues in 1956. A season later, he was the starting second baseman for Pittsburgh in the final game at Ebbets Field and what appeared to be the final game at the Polo Grounds. Of course a few years later, the Polo Grounds would reopen for business with the Mets as the tenant, by which time this master of infield defense had become famous for hitting the first home run to end a World Series, defeating the Yankees and making their manager, Casey Stengel, available soon thereafter to tutor the new kids in town.
It shouldn't surprise you to know that Bill Mazeroski was in the starting lineup on April 17, 1964 for these Pirates when Shea Stadium opened or, given his credentials, that he was Ron Hunt's backup at second base when the All-Star Game took place here took three months later. Yet none of his accomplishments, not even his 2001 induction into the Hall of Fame, is why we asked the man known as Maz to remove number 67 from the right field wall today.
No, we invited Bill Mazeroski to Shea Stadium because he hit into a triple play…but not just any triple play and definitely not one that would show up in any box score. On June 27, 1967, prior to a day game right here at Shea, the director of a movie called The Odd Couple staged a triple play for fictional sportswriter Oscar Madison, portrayed by the great Walter Matthau, to cover…or not cover, as the plot dictated. The player captured forever on film making three outs with one swing? None other than Bill Mazeroski.
Maz, who never hit into a triple play in “real life,” was a good sport then and he's a good sport now. And since The Odd Couple is also something of an icon in Shea Stadium history, joining Bill for his trip up the right field line is the actor who would play Oscar Madison in the television series version of The Odd Couple. He is quite possibly the actor seen more than any other in a Mets cap on screen. Please welcome to Shea Stadium, the incomparable Jack Klugman.
Numbers 78-73 were revealed here.