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The Shea Countdown: 25-23

Posted By Greg Prince On April 10, 2008 @ 7:12 pm In Main Page | Comments Disabled

25: Friday, August 8 vs Marlins

Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, is Faith Night at Shea Stadium where our Countdown Like It Oughta Be is concerned.

It's a chance for us to salute the players who came to Shea on the wings of high hopes and a prayer. They were touted to the heavens and flew momentarily close to the sun, giving Mets fans every reason to believe at often less than ideal junctures in team history that they would lead the way to a brighter tomorrow. For an instant or two upon introduction, anything seemed possible. And as the Mets and Shea Stadium have always stood as one in conveying a sense of optimism about the future, these men, no matter how brief their tenures or limited their résumés, surely deserve to be remembered for giving us something to grow on.

Representing hope at Shea in the 1960s, he was introduced to Mets fans as a defensive centerfielder the potential equal of Willie Mays. In his very first at-bat, leading off the 1967 home season, he singled against the Pirates. It was an auspicious start for Don Bosch.

Representing hope at Shea in the 1970s, he came up in late August of 1975 and started hitting, not stopping until the middle of September, reaching safely in 23 consecutive games — a rookie record. Say hello to Mike Vail.

Representing hope at Shea in the 1980s, he was a minor league sensation who tore the cover off the ball in August and September of 1988, stirring visions of an endless Met dynasty. He would have some fine seasons down the road, albeit away from Shea, but boy could he hit. Welcome back Gregg Jefferies.

Representing hope at Shea in the 1990s, this lefty is inextricably tied to two righties in the public imagination, forming the core of a rotation of dreams that would carry the Mets into the next century. It didn't work out that way for the trio, but our guest today enjoyed every minute of his promotion to the big leagues in 1995 and so did his many fans. Give it up for the portside third of Generation K, Bill Pulsipher.

Finally, representing hope at Shea in the 2000s, and leading our Faith Night contingent down the right field line to remove number 25, is an outfielder who became more than a name in the transaction agate on the afternoon of September 25, 2004 when with one swing he tied a seemingly untieable game in the ninth inning. With that ninth-inning, two-out, three-run shot off the Cubs' LaTroy Hawkins, he became a bulwark of hope for thousands of Mets believers. Ladies and gentlemen, the kid from Chicago, Victor Diaz.

24: Saturday, August 9 vs Marlins

In the history of the New York Mets, ladies and gentlemen, only three editions of the club have put up one hundred wins in the course of a regular season. Two of them, from 1969 and 1986, are famous for reasons beyond their win total. The third we salute tonight.

The 1988 Mets are considered by many the most talented team in the annals of the franchise. That they fell short of another World Series appearance by a single game should not diminish the thrills they gave Shea Stadium in the course of the season that preceded the National League playoffs as they set a record for most home wins in a year at Shea, 56. The Mets have won five division titles. Theirs, like the others, is emblazoned proudly above the right field wall, above where we will ask several members of that team to remove the number 24.

He finished third in the 1988 National League Most Valuable Player balloting, a left fielder always on the hunt for another assist, stolen base or big hit, say hi to Kevin McReynolds.

1988 was his first full season in the bigs and he fit right into the infield with some of the surest hands Shea has ever seen. Welcome home Kevin Elster.

A catcher by trade, his talent shone most brightly at the plate when he had a bat in his hand. One of the most dangerous lefties off Davey Johnson's bench, how about a nice round of applause for Mackey Sasser?

Proprietor of one of the sweetest swings you'll ever see, he spent 1988 as understudy to one of the best at his position and proved himself worthy of an eventual starting role at first base. Give a big Shea Stadium greeting to Dave Magadan.

Up from Mississippi, delighted to have him just as the Mets were in the late '80s whenever they needed a dependable backstop or a determined at-bat. He's the catcher, Barry Lyons.

Many different types of vessels of dock at the World's Fair Marina, but in 1988, Flushing Bay was home to not one but two kinds of submarines…well, submarine deliveries. One was fashioned by the man who bewildered hitters as a starter and reliever during his frequent stays with the Mets in the 1980s — nobody will ever forget how he rescued the rotation in 1987 — Terry Leach. The other submariner holds the distinction of pitching in more games for the Mets than any Met who never pitched for another team. Say hello to Jeff Innis.

In the Met bullpen in 1988, the sight of this lefty warming up was generally a sign to opposing lineups that the game was about to end, and not well for them. Twenty-six saves in '88, all of them with a little extra on the fastball. It's Randy Myers.

Finally, leading the pack from 1988, one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball from that or any season during his 17-year career. He went 20-3 in '88 and won forever the affection of Coneheads everywhere. Ladies and gentlemen, David Cone.

23: Sunday, August 10 vs Marlins

Today, ladies and gentlemen, it gives the New York Mets special pride to turn our countdown attention toward two gentlemen who never played a single game in Shea Stadium yet inform in so many ways why Shea had to be built and the Mets had to be founded.

Generations removed, one may not automatically appreciate what it meant for New York to be left bereft of National League baseball in 1958 or to have it return in 1962. The phrase “National League town” was not a marketing slogan. The fabric of this city was almost literally intertwined by the deep and abiding allegiances to and sometimes against the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers. To say their triumphs and heartbreaks represented life and death to millions of New Yorkers is to accurately state their impact on the pulse of a metropolis that was beating at its peak in the middle of the 20th century.

Those Giants and those Dodgers, no matter the westward direction their respective ownerships took, bequeathed a legacy of loyalty and passions to their successors, the New York Mets, and it is a legacy that the Mets, to this day, take very seriously. That is why we have invited back, to remove number 23 from the right field wall, the living embodiments of the twin traditions that gave way to this team and this ballpark.

One man threw a pitch. The other swung a bat. The result is talked about still, as is the friendship, the sportsmanship and the quality of the both of them as individuals. It is irony that the one who grew up rooting for the Giants would pitch for the Dodgers and that the one who grew up rooting for the Dodgers would hit for the Giants. That they would converge as they did on October 3, 1951 and create history that echoed from the green of the Polo Grounds to the field they take today to that which rises next door was, when all is said and done, a very good stroke of fortune for us all.

Ladies and gentlemen, the New York Mets are proud to welcome back to the National League town where both starred, the Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca and the Giant hitter Bobby Thomson.

Numbers 28-26 were revealed here [1].


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