9: Saturday, September 13 vs Braves
Ladies and gentlemen, we direct your attention to the centerfield flagpoles where you will note the presence of four flags, each representing a Mets championship: two world championships, two National League championships. Today, as our Countdown Like It Oughta Be descends into single-digits, we pay homage to the last of those four flags to be raised over Shea Stadium, the final pennant of which we can say with clarity was earned right here in this ballpark.
Today we recognize the 2000 National League champion New York Mets, the only Mets team to win both a division and league championship series — both clinched at Shea — and the last Mets team to bring a World Series to 123-01 Roosevelt Avenue…pending the unknown events of the next several weeks.
As we hold out hope for that elusive fifth flag, there is no denying that whenever it is earned, even if it is this October, it will eventually fly above another centerfield fence. Thus, we hold a special place in our hearts for the last Mets team to ascend the Shea Stadium flagpole even as we sort out our emotions regarding the paths the various individuals took in the wake of their team success. Yet given what they ran up that flagpole, it only seems fitting to salute them now.
First up, two sparkplugs from Bobby Valentine's bench, utilitymen who would play anywhere and would do anything to help their mates. Let's hear it for Super Joe McEwing and the all-time pinch-hit king Lenny Harris.
The Mets might not have come back to Shea in a position to clinch their second consecutive LDS had these next two men not combined to bury San Francisco in the tenth inning of Game Two. One doubled, the other singled him in and, before you knew it, it was a brand new series. Welcome back two key outfielders from the 2000 champs, Darryl Hamilton and one of the great glove men from the turn of the century, joining us from Baltimore, Jay Payton.
Let's say hello to several members of the 2000 bullpen, men who kept the Mets in tight game after tight game and the man who closed out the last World Series game the Mets won in Shea Stadium. That flag wouldn't be flying if not for the efforts of Rick White, Dennis Cook, Turk Wendell and the record-holder for most saves in a season by a Met, Armando Benitez.
He was the fifth starter on a staff that needed every arm it could get and, in the postseason, became a key long man for the Mets. All the way from San Diego, there's no mistaking Glendon Rusch.
His injection of speed was just what the Mets needed to zoom past the Giants and the Cardinals in the 2000 playoffs. There would have been no pennant if not for the fleet feet and scalding bat of the one and only Timo Perez.
You can't recall autumn in New York eight years ago without remembering the contributions of the first baseman, a team leader with a hot bat who hit .400 in the Fall Classic. He would eventually come back and finish his career in style, homering in the very last at-bat of his career, right here at Shea. Ladies and gentlemen, a warm Flushing welcome for Todd Zeile.
Only three Mets have won postseason Most Valuable Player awards. There was Donn Clendenon in the 1969 World Series; there was Ray Knight in the 1986; and there was the southpaw who came to the Mets from Houston in 2000 and pitched brilliantly in the National League Championship Series, winning twice and capping off matters by twirling a three-hit shutout against St. Louis in Game Five. That makes him the last home pitcher to celebrate a pennant-clincher on the mound of Shea Stadium as far as can we can infer. And as our special guest would tell, you only know what you know unless you find a good school somewhere to learn a whole lot more. Coming off the Atlanta DL to join us tonight…is that a mortarboard he's wearing?…your 2000 NLCS MVP, Mike Hampton.
Finally, to lead our 2000 champs down the right field line to remove number 9 from the wall, we have a pair of aces, the rocks who formed the foundation of Bobby Valentine's rotation for the nearly four seasons they pitched together as Mets. One was a righty who came out of nowhere and pitched gem after gem, including the start in the last World Series game the Mets would win at Shea, and one is a lefty who grew up to live the dream of every Mets fan, pitching long and successfully for his favorite team. Few will forget the grittiness he displayed across 8-2/3 innings in the last World Series game the Mets played at Shea. Please welcome Rick Reed and Al Leiter.
Number 10 was revealed here.