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The Shea Countdown: 40-35

Posted By Greg Prince On April 4, 2008 @ 7:23 am In Main Page | Comments Disabled

40: Tuesday, July 8 vs Giants

Ladies and gentlemen, as we welcome the team formerly known as the New York Baseball Giants into Shea Stadium, we are reminded of the links the Mets share with their forebear whose history is all too often overlooked when discussing the development of baseball as our national pastime and our Metropolitan passion. Look no further than the orange NY the Mets wear on their caps to understand that the road to Shea Stadium truly wound through the Polo Grounds, and that road began to take shape long before 1962. It dates to the 19th century and wraps around names like John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, Bill Terry, Carl Hubbell, Mel Ott and Monte Irvin to name just a few of the New York Giant greats.

Yes, the Mets and Giants, as the only two National League entries to explicitly represent the City of New York on a going basis, can be said to have sprouted from the same family tree. Yet it is just as true that they have grown apart over the years. Mets management looks forward to rectifying this historical oversight at Citi Field with the opening of the William A. Shea New York Mets Hall of Fame and National League Museum, an institution that will celebrate the rich heritage of the Mets, the Giants, the Dodgers, the Cubans, the Bushwicks, the Bridegrooms and almost every team that made a mark on Big Apple baseball. It will, in fact, be home to our own beloved Home Run Apple, on display forever more for fans to reach out and touch. It will stand as a symbol that where New York baseball heritage is concerned, the Apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

That said, the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants are clearly separate entities and their shared history is that of opponents. And at no time in the 46 seasons that they have played each other has their competition cut so close as it did in October of 2000, when the Mets played and defeated the Giants in the National League Division Series, going ahead and clinching those playoffs right here at Shea Stadium.

To recall that most memorable of Mets-Giants showdowns, we have the two standout players from eight autumns ago.

• An instant fan favorite, he inscribed his name into New York postseason baseball history with a 13th-inning home run that turned the tide in that series. It was one of many dramatic hits he collected in four seasons as a Met, but none was bigger. Please welcome the outfielder from Honolulu, Hawaii and the inspiration for Benny Bean coffee, Benny Agbayani.

• Joining Benny to peel number 40 from the right field wall was a solid, occasionally spectacular starting pitcher for the Mets for eight years, including an All-Star season in 1997. The game with which he is indelibly associated, however, is Game Four of the 2000 NLDS when he threw a one-hit shutout against the Giants and secured the Mets a berth in that year's league championship series. A pretty fair righthanded pitcher from Fresno, California in his own right, say hello to Bobby Jones.

39: Wednesday, July 9 vs Giants

A great tradition at Shea Stadium in its first two decades, ladies and gentlemen, was the annual celebration of Old Timers Day. As the Mets were too new for too many Old Timers of their own, it always gave the club great pleasure to welcome back great baseball stars of the past, no matter what uniform they wore in their previous lives. In that sense, no ballpark in America could claim a better appreciation of baseball history than Shea Stadium.

One of those Old Timers Days in particular was a very special occasion. On July 16, 1977, the Mets crowned their ceremonies with a salute to New York baseball royalty, the four centerfielders who defined the position in the city before the Mets were born. It was a breathtaking moment to watch these four men, legends all, enter the field of play through — where else? — the center field fence.

Two of those centerfielders, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, sadly are no longer with us. But two are and both grace us with their presence today to remove number 39 one position over, in right field. One was a Giant, one was a Dodger, both were Mets and both mean the world to millions of baseball fans. With them is the songwriter who was inspired by a photograph of their appearance that Saturday afternoon to compose a tribute that turned into one of baseball's most famous musical odes.

Ladies and gentlemen, give a great big Shea Stadium welcome as they enter once more through the centerfield fence to the Say Hey Kid, Willie Mays, the Duke of Flatbush, Duke Snider and the author of “Willie, Mickey and the Duke,” Terry Cashman.

38: Thursday, July 10 vs Giants

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this break in the action at Shea Stadium. There will be no additional fee should this game go into extra innings, but we will have to go a long way to match the bargain the fans at Shea Stadium received when the Mets and Giants matched up on May 31, 1964.

That was a Sunday and, as was the custom in those days, there was a doubleheader. One game ended. Another game began. And it continued. And continued. And continued some more.

Thirty-two innings of baseball were played at Shea that afternoon, evening and night, twenty-three of them in the second game. A day of baseball that began shortly after 1 P.M. ended at nearly 11:30. Another half-hour or so, and the Mets and Giants would have finished off May and played into June.

Needless to say, a lot of players saw action on May 31, 1964. We have several of them here today to remove number 38 from the right field wall.

The starter and winner for the San Francisco Giants in the opener, he's a Hall of Famer and has many friends and admirers here in New York. Ladies and gentlemen, the Dominican Dandy, Juan Marichal.

From the nightcap, the starter for the Mets, a pitcher who appeared in 62 games that season, setting a workload record that would stand for quite some time, Bill Wakefield.

An outfielder who hit .300 for the Mets in '64, his three-run homer in the seventh tied the score at six all and was the reason so many Sunday dinners went uneaten in the Metropolitan area that night. Say hi to Joe Christopher.

When a game goes long, plenty of pitchers take the ball, but usually one has to stay in and take one for the team. That job in this marathon went to the righty who gave manager Casey Stengel nine innings of relief. It was experience like this that helped make him such a valuable pitching coach in later years. Welcome home to Shea Stadium Galen Cisco.

If you think a day of baseball that lasts 32 innings can take it out of you, you're probably right. For one man who played that very long day, it would be his final day in the majors. Give a nice round of applause to one of the Mets' pitchers from the nightcap, an original Met, Craig Anderson.

And finally, as a bookend, we have another Hall of Fame pitcher, the winner in Game Two. He contributed ten innings in relief and though he might have had a little help from under the bill of his cap in settling matters that Sunday night, it was getting late and nobody complained. Please greet one of the greats of his time, Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.

37: Friday, July 11 vs Rockies

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We hope you're enjoying the opener of this final series before baseball's All-Star break. The National League squad this year will be managed by Rockies skipper and former Met Clint Hurdle and we wish Hondo luck in securing home field advantage for the senior circuit in the 2008 World Series, wherever it happens to be played.

The All-Star Game has always held a certain magical spell over fans, particularly the young ones who thrill to see, for one night, all the greats of the game on the same field, especially the players from his or her favorite team on such a big stage.

To remove number 37 from the right field wall, we've assembled a galaxy made up of some of the All-Stars who have represented the Mets through the years. Joining us tonight:

• Twice the Mets' representative at midsummer classics, he rejoins the Mets payroll in 2011: Bobby Bonilla.

• Ten wins by the Fourth of July made him too good for Tommy Lasorda to ignore, welcome back 1978 National League All-Star Pat Zachry.

• He was the last Met to win 20 games in one season and, en route to that total, was called on to join the N.L. stars in Wrigley Field. Say hi to 1990 Mets All-Star, Long Island's own Frank Viola.

• A two-time Cy Young winner in the American League, he came to the Mets and demonstrated some of the best control the game had ever seen in 1994, winning 14 while walking only 13. No wonder he was an All-Star that season, Bret Saberhagen.

• He is co-holder of the Met record for most home runs in a single season and was named to the National League All-Star team in 1996 and again in 1997. One of the most popular Mets of the '90s, give a warm welcome to Todd Hundley.

• And closing out our All-Star salute is one of the great closers in Mets history. Best known for closing out the last Mets world championship, he held onto his glove in the 1983 and 1984 midsummer classics. Let's hear it for the southpaw who pitched forever. Ladies and gentlemen, Jesse Orosco.

36: Saturday, July 12 vs Rockies

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, on this late Saturday afternoon, scheduled as it was to accommodate our friends at Fox television. Because the Mets and Rockies are their Game of the Week, we are able to welcome back to Shea an announcer who honed his craft and became one of the best in the business during his sixteen years as a Mets broadcaster, a tenure highlighted by his work during the 1986 championship run.

A popular voice in New York and eventually everywhere — you might even say that oh baby, they love him — we have asked Tim McCarver to step out of the Ralph Kiner Television Booth for a few moments to remove number 36 from the right field wall. And to accompany him, we have three of his fellow announcers from that golden era of Mets baseball:

• He was Tim's and Ralph's partner in the Channel 9 booth from 1983 to 1989 and described the last out of the '86 division-clincher. Give a warm Shea Stadium welcome to Steve Zabriskie.

• He called one thrilling moment after another from the WHN radio booth alongside Bob Murphy in 1986 and later worked with Timmy on TV. One of the most recognizable voices in all of sportscasting, Gary Thorne.

• And a longtime colleague of Tim's who became known to Mets fans over SportsChannel, Fox Sports New York and MSG. Won't you make Shea Stadium rock one more time for Fran Healy?

35: Sunday, July 13 vs Rockies

It was 31 years ago this evening, ladies and gentlemen, that New York experienced a night like no other in modern times, a night literally and figuratively darker than any other. It was the night of the 1977 blackout and, wouldn't you know it, it plunged Shea Stadium into darkness smack in the middle of a game between the Mets and the Cubs.

To commemorate that most unusual event in Shea Stadium history, we've gathered some eyewitnesses…well, they'd have been eyewitnesses if they could have seen what was going on.

From the Mets bullpen, he was as in the dark as anyone else a little after nine o'clock that night, but his pitching always brought a little light to the situation. A terrific reliever and longtime member of the Mets organization, he helped engineer the Colorado Rockies' amazing pennant drive last season as their pitching coach, please give a warm hand to Bob Apodaca.

Umpiring from behind home plate and with no choice but to suspend the game after an hour-and-a-half when it became obvious the lights were not coming back on anytime soon, say hi to longtime National League ump Harry Wendlestedt.

On the mound and in his windup in the bottom of the sixth, he actually completed the July 13 game when the action was picked up again in September. Talk about a complete game: he went nine innings over two months! The Chicago Cubs' pitcher on the night of the great blackout of 1977 and a future Met, Ray Burris.

And leading our contingent of blackout veterans to the rightfield wall in broad daylight to peel number 35 from the wall, he was the Mets third baseman enjoying a banner season in '77 but had the misfortune of being at the plate when Shea went dark. His thoughts, he later related, were, “God, I'm gone. I thought for sure He was calling me. I thought it was my last at-bat.” Obviously, he had some more at-bats and plenty of life left. Please welcome home to Shea Stadium, Lenny Randle.

Numbers 46-41 were revealed here [1].


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