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The Shea Countdown: 15
Posted By Greg Prince On April 21, 2008 @ 9:06 am In Main Page | Comments Disabled
15: Friday, September 5 vs Phillies
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we pay tribute to one of the seven Mets teams whose identity is inscribed above the right field wall where we are revealing the numbers that indicate how many games remain in the life of Shea Stadium. This one, however, is not easily summarized by the titles to its credit.
True enough the 1999 New York Mets won a Wild Card and true enough they won a division series. But as we approach a decade's worth of retrospection on that one-of-a-kind Mets season and postseason, we begin to appreciate what a unique club that was. It clawed, it scratched, it never gave up and more times than maybe any other edition of this beloved franchise, it recovered its bearings and lived to fight one more day when no sane observer would have given it the chance to remain on its feet.
The 1999 Mets won a Wild Card and won a division series. It also won a place in the hearts of Mets fans who lived through that season and won't ever forget it.
To commemorate the achievements and the amazement engendered by the '99 Mets, we have brought eleven of them back tonight to remove number 15 as part of our Countdown Like It Oughta Be.
First up, he was often the last man standing in manager Bobby Valentine's bullpen, putting the length in long relief. You couldn't play extra innings without him, please welcome Pat Mahomes.
He was the starting pitcher for the first Mets postseason game in eleven years and the starter at the beginning of the Mets' longest October night. A real stalwart for Bobby V in the late '90s, how about a nice hand, all the way from Japan, for Masato Yoshii.
Even the long games moved fast when this outfielder was in the lineup because he brought as much speed to the top of the order as any Met in team history, setting a standard for stolen bases that endured for eight seasons. Give a big hand to the sparkplug of those 1999 Mets, Roger Cedeño.
Speaking of the top of the order, no baseball player in the history of the game has led off the way this Hall of Famer to be did across a career that spanned 25 seasons. Only one-and-change was spent in a Met uniform, but he made the most of it, hitting .315 in 1999 and continually building on his all-time Major League stolen base mark. We're thrilled to see him at Shea one more time, the immortal Rickey Henderson.
Like Rickey, this next '99 alumnus is more famous for what he did in the garb of another organization, but we're not here to talk about that part of his past. Instead, we are delighted to recall the yeoman work he put in throughout the regular season as a dependable starter and how he threw himself into the role of reliever when called on in the playoffs. Ladies and gentlemen, the Bulldog, Orel Hershiser.
Orel and every pitcher who pitched in front of him would tell you there was nothing more comforting than knowing that if you threw a ground ball, this next Met was there to track it down. He made all the plays, including not a few unbelievable ones, in setting a Major League record for consecutive errorless games as a shortstop in 1999. The winner of three Gold Gloves and someone who lit up Shea Stadium with his defense, let's remember the good times and say hello to Rey Ordoñez.
He was a Met ever so briefly in 1999, but boy did he make an impact. As the hour grew late and the circumstances grew dire, this battle-tested veteran fouled off pitch after pitch until he found one to his liking and singled. In doing so, he set up one of the most mind-boggling rallies in the history of this ballpark. He was gone by 2000, but he's back now and we couldn't be happier to greet Brooklyn's own Shawon Dunston.
Every successful team needs someone to emerge from nowhere and this utilityman was just that mystery guest in 1999. His clutch hitting and heads-up baserunning on the final scheduled date of the regular season pushed the Mets toward the playoffs, and once they arrived, he was literally all over the place, showing off an arm that registered crucial assists from all three outfield positions. He even waited for the NLCS to launch his very first big league homer. We thank the Baltimore Orioles for giving him the night off to join us back where it all started for him. Give a great big Shea Stadium welcome home to Melvin Mora.
Think ice cream. Think cotton candy. Think the sweetest treat you've ever tasted. Now think of the sweetest swing you ever laid eyes on and you have some idea of what our next guest was like to watch in the batter's box. The architect of some of the biggest moments of the late 1990s, this three-year Met made the most of his time at Shea, ringing up the highest single-season batting average in team history in 1998 and driving in key run after key run in the 1999 postseason. He left New York to be closer to his family across the continent but he returns to us tonight, still loving the city that never stopped missing him. Ladies and gentlemen, the first baseman, John Olerud.
In a town where every Broadway understudy dreams of that one big break, our next 1999 alumnus lived the dream. Called on to substitute for a matinee idol, this so-called backup catcher hit the only home run to ever win a postseason series at Shea Stadium. His power display may have been a surprise, but the fact that he'd “roll” to the occasion shouldn't have been because, after all, isn't rolling what a Tank does? The one and only…Todd Pratt.
Todd, as fate would have it, would have to share the 1999 postseason spotlight where Amazin' dramatics were concerned with a teammate who also hit a ball over the Shea wall. Funny, though, it wasn't a home run, thanks mainly to Tank himself who maybe couldn't bear the thought that anyone else would be credited with as dazzling a four-bagger as his. Or maybe it was just that trademark Met exuberance that was such a big part of the '99 campaign. At any rate, our final 1999 Met, the man who will take down 15 — as in 15 innings — was the Gold Glove cornerstone of the infield recognized by many as the best in the history of the game; the heart of perhaps the best batting order the Mets have ever sent to the plate day in and day out; the clubhouse leader who made the Mojo rise; and, of course, the batter who came up with the bases loaded and walloped the longest single anyone has ever seen. Leading his teammates to the right field wall — and accompanied by Red Foley, the official scorer from Game Five of that unforgettable 1999 National League Championship Series…he was just doing his job — ladies and gentlemen, Robin Ventura.
Numbers 19-16 were revealed here .
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