Welcome to The Happiest Recap, a solid gold slate of New York Mets games culled from every schedule the Mets have ever played en route to this, their fiftieth year in baseball. We’ve created a dream season consisting of the “best” 55th game in any Mets season, the “best” 56th game in any Mets season, the “best” 57th game in any Mets season…and we keep going from there until we have a completed schedule worthy of Bob Murphy coming back with the Happy Recap after this word from our sponsor on the WFAN Mets Radio Network.
GAME 055: June 14, 1980 — METS 7 Giants 6
(Mets All-Time Game 055 Record: 25-24; Mets 1980 Record: 27-28)
An advertising campaign can only do so much if the product being sold is objectively judged subpar. But when public perception turns on the availability of fresh evidence, then you’re not just advertising. You’re telling the truth.
“The Magic Is Back” couldn’t have been farther from the truth when Della Femina, Travisano & Partners pitched it to the Mets as a slogan to lure fans back to deserted Shea Stadium as the 1980 season dawned. The Mets had been unquestionably unmagical across the three previous years, and there was no hocus-pocus performed on the roster that would convince any sane observer this year would be any different. What Della Femina was going for was more mood than substance. New owners had taken over the Mets. The Doubleday Publishing-backed group was going to levitate the franchise, not so much with sleight of hand but solid, down-to-earth rebuilding, led by an experienced and successful general manager, Frank Cashen.
But that would take a while. In the interim, Della Femina’s nostalgia-tinged ads suggested, the “New Mets” would at least feel improved…or feel like they would be trying to improve. The Magic, such as it was, was more about a sense of what could be than what actually was. It was about an ideal for Mets baseball, one whose precedent was set in 1969, one whose emotions were embedded in the sepia-toned pre-Mets era of 1950s New York.
One of the print ads used an image of a dejected Ralph Branca and said the New Mets and their magic were somehow “dedicated to the guys who cried when Thompson [sic] connected with Branca’s 0 and 1 pitch.” A New York Times advertising column noted, “Fred Wilpon, the new president of the team, approved the advertising for the team over the weekend.” A television spot, meanwhile, evoked the Mets’ eleven-year-old world championship through audio clips of the ’69 Series, but ran it over film of an empty, almost haunted contemporary Shea Stadium and mixed the sounds of triumph with an eerie, whistled version of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”
“The truth about the Mets is that they and their fans really want to win,” ad man Ron Travisano told the Times, though it’s interesting (and not just in hindsight) to note Wilpon signed off on this campaign without thinking to link his New Mets to a photo of a jubilant Bobby Thomson or relate them wholeheartedly to some moment of uplift and triumph. “You’ve got to make them believe they can win,” Della Femina, Travisano executive vice president Arnold Wechter said in the Times, but the Mets seemed to be sending mixed messages through their advertising.
They were much clearer about their intentions on the field once the 1980 season started. The New Mets apparently intended to hark back to the not so old Mets of 1977, 1978 and 1979, stumbling to a 9-18 mark and eliciting snide comments at every turn about the thudding lack of magic and patrons at Shea Stadium. When the Mets barely drew 2,000 for an afternoon game against Montreal in April, the Post delighted in printing a picture of a nearly empty ballpark under the headline, MAGIC GARDEN.
No kidding, the 1980 Mets weren’t very good or magical. But slowly, almost imperceptibly, their fortunes began to turn. On May 14 in Cincinnati, Craig Swan and Jeff Reardon surrendered a four-run lead to the Reds in the bottom of the ninth. Forced to extra innings, Jerry Morales singled home John Stearns with two out, and the Mets won 7-6 in ten. This was a turnabout from the night before when the Mets were demolished 15-4 as Ray Knight homered twice in one inning. That was the game that sent them to their 9-18 start. The Morales hit (and Reardon’s subsequent recovery) brought them to 10-18.
Not magic. Not yet, but a start. Something was happening with these cellar-dwelling Mets. For one, they escaped the cellar on May 21 when Pete Falcone beat the Astros at Shea, 5-1. Shortly thereafter, they experienced a week of almost uninterrupted success, taking six of seven games. On the eve of the season opener, Frank Cashen volunteered to the Times’s Dave Anderson that he agreed with his manager Joe Torre that, “I think this club could play .500 ball if everything goes right.” It was lip service in early April. As June got rolling, it was pure prophecy. After taking four straight from St. Louis and defending world champion Pittsburgh at Shea, the Mets crept to within three games of the break-even point. And when the Dodgers came to town, something more happened.
The Mets swept Los Angeles out of first place in the West. Two of the wins were of the one-run variety (one of those featuring bench-clearing hostilities touched off when Ron Cey took exception to a Pat Zachry knockdown pitch). The other was taken in ten innings when Mike Jorgensen, in his second term as a Met, blasted a two-out grand slam off L.A. reliever Rick Sutcliffe. With the sweep, the Mets had remade themselves into a fourth-place club, sitting just one game from a .500 record.
And one word was on everybody’s lips: Magic. Headlines now allowed that it might be real. Banner Day entries on June 8 extolled its properties. And Torre? He took it in stride when reporters asked if something a little otherworldly was going on at Shea:
“Magic? I’ve told you all before that’s just public relations. I don’t care what they do upstairs. If we keep playing like this, that’s all I care about.”
Improved fundamentals and dogged determination are fine in explaining why a terrible team with few prospects for improving suddenly improves, but a little romance doesn’t hurt. Fans, seeing the Magic advertising backed up by an unlikely reality on the field, suddenly remembered where Shea Stadium was. The final game of the Dodger series, for example, was an unscheduled makeup from a rainout earlier in the week, yet drew 19,501 — or almost 10 times as many people who showed up on April 16 to see the Mets and Expos. Torre didn’t mind that at all. “The fans help,” the manager said. “I haven’t seen crowds like this since I came in here with another club.”
At the same time, though, he wasn’t seeing a whole lot of power out of his charges. When Jorgensen launched that grand slam off Sutcliffe, it was only the Mets twelfth home run of 1980, an incredibly lightweight total for one-third of a season. Typical of their attack was the second inning of their June 6 win over the Pirates: 6 singles, 4 walks, 2 steals…and 8 runs. Steve Henderson, who was batting .340 through 54 games, yet had confined his slugging thus far to doubles and triples, dismissed the notion that this was a Met drawback.
“Home runs,” Hendu declared, “are overrated.”
On Saturday night, June 14, the Mets tested their offensive theories against John Montefusco and the Giants before 22,918 at Shea. If anything appeared provable, it was that maybe Mets Magic was overrated. The night before, on Friday the 13th, San Francisco lefty Vida Blue stopped the Dodger-sweepers cold, 3-1. “I didn’t encounter any Mets magic,” sniffed the former phenom. Montefusco was having just as easy a go of things. The Mets’ hit count versus the Count was easy to count through five innings. They had zero…which is just about what Mets starter Falcone had in the way of stuff. The Giants jumped the Brooklynite for four in the first (three on a Rennie Stennett home run) and another in the second before Torre pulled Pete in favor of rookie Mark Bomback. The man they called Boom-Boom — an unflattering reference to his penchant for surrendering the long ball — mostly tamed the Giants, but did give up an additional run in the fifth, deepening the Mets’ deficit to 6-0 by the time they batted in the home sixth.
The Mets guaranteed they’d avoid being no-hit when Doug Flynn led off with a single. They guaranteed they wouldn’t be shut out when Claudell Washington, acquired a week earlier from the White Sox for minor leaguer Jesse Anderson, in Cashen’s first trade, drove in Flynn from third to make it Giants 6 Mets 1. Doug had arrived on third after a one-out error by Stennett and a bunt base hit by Frank Taveras. That’s how the Mets were building runs in June 1980.
Ed Glynn replaced Bomback in the seventh and kept the Giants off the board for another two innings. In the bottom of the eighth, it was another Met rally of 1980 vintage. Lee Mazzilli singled to center. Frank Taveras scratched out an infield hit. A Washington grounder forced Frankie at second, but moved Mazz to third. Henderson hit one to short and beat the play at first as Lee scored. Another homerless uprising, another run. Giants 6 Mets 2. Jeff Reardon pitched a scoreless ninth, giving the Mets one last chance in the bottom of the inning.
With Greg Minton having replaced Montefusco, the Mets didn’t get off to an auspicious start when Elliott Maddox grounded out to shortstop Johnnie LeMaster. But Flynn bunted his way on. Another grounder to LeMaster, this one by Jose Cardenal, moved Flynn to second. Doug was in scoring position, but there were two out. Mazzilli singled up the middle to score Flynn and cut the Giants’ lead to three runs. Minton then walked Taveras before allowing a single to Washington (so new to the Mets that his No. 15 uniform conspicuously lacked his last name) that drove home Mazz. Suddenly, it was a 6-4 game.
Giants manager Dave Bristol had seen enough of Minton and brought in Allen Ripley, the former Red Sock. Ripley was essentially the sixth starter in Don Zimmer’s five-man rotation during the 1978 season when Boston held such a large lead in the American League East that Zimmer bemoaned having little opportunity to use the rookie righty. Despite some flashes of promise, Ripley was sent down midsummer and wasn’t around for the Sox’ epic collapse. After not impressing in the second half of ’79, Boston sold him to the Giants just before the 1980 season commenced. A 5-0 record at Phoenix of the Pacific Coast League won him a promotion to the big club in late May. Bristol had used him out of the bullpen three times in the previous three weeks before calling on him to face the next Met batter, Steve Henderson.
Henderson became a Met almost exactly three years before this game, on June 15, 1977. He had come over from Cincinnati with Flynn, Pat Zachry and Dan Norman in exchange for only the best player the Mets ever had, Tom Seaver. It was the Seaver trade as much as anything that depleted all remaining reserves of magic from Shea’s confines. The breach of faith in trading a pitcher known as The Franchise is what drove attendance to historic lows in the late ’70s, though the undeniably dismal play of the home team didn’t provide any great advertisement for rushing to Flushing. Nevertheless, there was no guilt by association for Henderson, who earned the admiration of Mets loyalists with an outstanding partial rookie campaign in ’77 (he finished second to Andre Dawson in N.L. Rookie of the Year balloting despite playing only 3½ months) and his all-around hustle. The fans may have still missed Tom Terrific, but neither that fact — nor Hendu’s complete and total lack of home runs through a third of the 1980 season (none since July 13, 1979) — stopped them from embracing Stevie Wonder.
Henderson, who had struck out three times against Montefusco before singling to LeMaster in the eighth, stepped in against Ripley. Ripley started him off with a curve, which fooled Steve for strike one. Hendu called time to gather his thoughts. He was looking fastball and berated himself for feeling “tight” and not concentrating properly.
Ripley gave him something to concentrate on: a fastball under his chin, one that knocked him off his stride, but focused his energies completely. “I try to keep my temper,” the left fielder said, “but when somebody does something like that to me, throwing too close, I sort of turn into a monster.”
Sort of? One can judge by the results just how monstrous Steve Henderson could get when two pitches later, on a 2-1 fastball, he unleashed the fury within.
Or was it Magic?
Bob Murphy, on WMCA:
“Steve Henderson takes a deep breath, trying to relax himself in a very tense spot. Ripley makes the one-second stop at the belt. And the pitch. And a high fly, to right field, it’s very deep, going back…it may go…”
Steve Albert, on Channel 9:
“It is going…it iiiissss…”
“GONE! THE METS WIN! The Mets have won! Unbelievable!”
“The Mets have won the ballgame!”
“What an incredible finish! The Mets win seven to six on a three-run homer with two out in the bottom of the ninth by Steve Henderson! Here’s another look, off Allen Ripley, to right-center field! And into the bullpen!”
“Listen to the crowd!” Murph would advise after a 21-second pause to let the mass ecstasy pour through the AM speakers.
“They’re carrying Steve Henderson off the field on their shoulders. Five runs in the last of the ninth inning. A three-run homer by Steve Henderson landing in the right field bullpen. The Mets defeat the Giants seven to six. They were behind six to nothing!”
Albert, delighted to note Henderson’s opposite-field home run was caught by reliever Tom Hausman, added that the Mets “have come from behind once again, for the seventh time on this homestand to win a ballgame!”
Noise still surrounded Murphy on the radio:
“Crowd clamoring for Steve Henderson! They’re demanding Henderson come out and take a bow! The crowd standing and clamoring. They want Steve Henderson. They want him to come out for a bow. Steve did not have a home run all year long. Playing in his forty-fifth ballgame of the year, two outs in the last of the ninth inning, the tying runs on first and second, the pitch by Allen Ripley, Henderson hit it, high into the air, deep to right field, it just kept carrying, over the right field wall and into the bullpen. The most dramatic win of the year for the amazing New York Mets. Yes, the Magic is Back.”
They stood. They clamored. “They’re waiting for Steve Henderson to come back out,” Albert reported as the WOR-TV cameras focused on the Mets’ dugout. “Fred Wilpon, the president, just went into the clubhouse. It is delirium, pandemonium…here he comes!”
Henderson, that was. Not Wilpon. The slugger took his curtain call, high-fiving the team president at its conclusion.
“Another magical moment here at Shea Stadium.”
Thanks to Stevie Wonder, everything was alright, uptight, out of sight, just like that 2-1 fastball from Ripley.
“I knew it was out,” Henderson said after belting the Mets’ 13th home run of the season, “and I loved it.”
“The ones over the Pirates and Dodgers were nice,” Flynn appraised the recent run of dramatic wins, “but this one was unbelievable.” And as for the crowd and all their clamor, Torre said, “It’s really revving people up. Nobody left the park, even when they’re behind by six runs.”
Nobody left Saturday night, but seemingly everybody in town showed up Sunday afternoon. Mets Magic, after that 7-6 startler, was contagious. Because of ongoing stadium refurbishments, large chunks of seating were unavailable to potential paying customers. The homestand finale (a 3-0 loss to Bob Knepper) was played to a sellout crowd of “only” 44,910. So compelling were the Mets that management issued a public apology to the more than 6,000 people who had to be turned away from Shea’s gates because there were simply no more tickets to sell.
“We have a long way still to go,” Wilpon said, “but two months ago I never anticipated that we’d get the public’s attention to this degree.”
Fred must not have thought much of the very marketing campaign he OK’d, but after Steve Henderson’s walkoff wizardry, nobody dared bring suit against the Mets for false advertising.
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On June 7, 1963, the old guy from Brooklyn transformed himself into a new hero in Manhattan. Such a role for prematurely gray, seventeen-season veteran outfielder Duke Snider would have been unimaginable as recently as six years earlier, but so would have been the Mets in 1957. The longtime Dodger star glimmered at the even longer-time home of the Giants, socking a one-out, bottom-of-the-ninth, three-run homer off Diomedes Olivo of the Cardinals to pull out a 3-2 Mets win at the raucous Polo Grounds. Prior to the ninth this Friday night, the Mets had collected only two hits against St. Louis starter Ron Taylor and appeared on their way to wasting a complete game effort from Al Jackson. But after retiring Jim Hickman to start the ninth, Taylor gave up a single to Frank Thomas (pinch-run for by Rod Kanehl) and walked Ron Hunt. Johnny Keane opted to replace Taylor with Olivo, whose work for the evening consisted of a passed ball that moved the baserunners up to second and third and the 399th home run of Snider’s illustrious, multiborough career.
GAME 056: June 12, 1979 — METS 12 Reds 6
(Mets All-Time Game 056 Record: 22-27; Mets 1979 Record: 23-32-1)
Onslaughts are tough to predict accurately in weather forecasting. You might know it’s going to snow, but who can say for sure how much will fall? It’s even more of a guessing game in baseball.
When will the Mets score ten runs in one inning? It’s a question that might not have been asked much in 1979, but it’s likely had one attempted to divine an answer, it would not have included “sometime this year”. These Mets would wind up third from last in the National League in team batting average; second from the bottom in home runs and runs scored; and playing 99 games when they didn’t score as many runs as their opponents, the worst sum in the N.L. by five losses. Except for stealing some bases when they managed to get to first to begin with, the 1979 Mets had just about nothing going for them as an offensive unit.
Yet the ’79 Mets answered that question about scoring ten runs in one inning by doing just than in the bottom of the sixth on an unassuming Tuesday night at Shea. It was an absolute onslaught — an avalanche for the ages.
And it was preceded by a pretty impressive rockslide in the top of the sixth. The Cincinnati Reds piled four runs on the ledger of hapless southpaw Pete Falcone and another on that of righty reliever Mike Scott to take a 5-2 lead. Cincy may not have any longer been home to the classic Big Red Machine by the tail end of the 1970s (Tony Perez and Pete Rose were gone, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan weren’t playing), but with a lineup that included Davey Concepcion, Dan Driessen, Ray Knight and George Foster, they were still a pretty formidable force when they batted. Hence, the Reds scoring five runs in an inning was hardly unfathomable.
But the Mets responding with ten runs in an inning was. Yet it happened.
It really did.
Staked to a three-run lead, Reds starter Bill Bonham gave up a leadoff double to John Stearns and then walked Steve Henderson. Cincinnati skipper John McNamara removed Bonham in favor of Manny Sarmiento, which seemed the right move as Sarmiento induced Doug Flynn, a .215 batter entering the evening, to ground to Junior Kennedy at second. But a potential double ball play turned into an E-4, loading the bases. Sarmiento then walked pinch-hitter Ron Hodges to make the score Reds 5 Mets 3. Sergio Ferrer came in to run for Hodges and stood on first watching Joel Youngblood pop up to Kennedy for first out of the inning.
Still Reds 5 Mets 3. But not for long. Frank Taveras doubled to plate Henderson and Flynn and send Ferrer to third. It was 5-5. Lee Mazzilli, who drove in one of two New York first-inning runs (and began the night batting .343), was intentionally walked by McNamara’s latest relief solution, Dave Tomlin. Maybe another double play grounder would present itself and the Reds could get out of things with the score tied.
Didn’t happen. Richie Hebner singled in Ferrer and Taveras as Mazzilli zipped to third. Mets led 7-5. Willie Montañez flied to Foster in left, but Foster didn’t bother to catch the ball. Mazz raced home from third on what was scored a sacrifice fly and an error. Hebner went to second as Montañez took first. It was the Mets’ eighth run of the game and sixth run of the inning.
The Reds had batted around in the top of the sixth, and now the Mets had done the same. John Stearns came up for his second plate appearance of the frame, only to fly to Cesar Geronimo in center. Geronimo actually caught it. With two out and the end in sight, Tomlin reared back and fired to Henderson. Henderson fired back with a single to center. Hebner scored from second, Montañez ran to third. Mets 9 Reds 6.
Flynn, who had tripled in the fourth (but was left stranded) and hit the grounder Kennedy couldn’t handle earlier in the sixth, belted one to deep center. Geronimo, a four-time Gold Glove winner who had just come into the game this inning as defensive replacement for Paul Blair (who had won eight Gold Gloves as an Oriole), found himself out of position in right-center. He caught up with the ball, but couldn’t actually put it away. It fell in for an inside-the-park three-run home run, the first ITPHR by a Met at Shea since Ron Hunt turned the four-base trick in 1966.
The Mets cleared the bases as they scored their record-tying eighth, record-setting ninth and record-extending tenth runs of the inning. And they were still batting. Ferrer, the least-used player on the worst team in the league, rapped a Tomlin delivery down the third base line, and it looked like McNamara’s misery would continue into eternity — Channel 9 announcer Steve Albert marveled that “even little Sergio” was about to get a hit — but Knight made a nice diving stab and threw Ferrer out by less than a step at first.
Sergio Ferrer would finish 1979 batting .000 in seven at-bats and the New York Mets would finish 1979 seventeen games out of fifth place, but the ten-run sixth they posted en route to a 12-6 win over the Reds proved enduring. The Mets wouldn’t match it for 21 years and wouldn’t exceed it for 27. It also proved stunning to all involved.
“It’s amazing that no ball left the park during all that scoring in the sixth,” said George Foster, who hit a cosmetic conventional solo home run in the eighth inning. “But the Mets have a lot of singles hitters. They never emptied the bases [except for Flynn’s inside-the-parker], and they always had something going. It takes some wind out of you when a team does that to you, especially the Mets.”
Especially the 1979 Mets.
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On June 2, 2011, Terry Collins was likely still fuming from the Mets’ inability to put away the Pittsburgh Pirates the night before. “I’m running out of ideas here,” the manager vented after a 2-0 seventh-inning lead crumbled into a ghastly 9-3 loss. “Do we play hard? Absolutely. That’s not the issue. The issue is not effort. That’s not it. It’s about execution. We have to add on some points when we get the lead. And I’m not looking for home runs. I’m looking for quality at-bats. We can’t make careless mistakes. We do. We give up at-bats. We can’t do that. We don’t have that kind of team.” He also didn’t have the kind of team that looked prepared to overcome the 7-0 hole starter Mike Pelfrey dug the Mets by the third inning of the next afternoon’s game.
Yet it turns out he did. That Thursday, despite injuries to Ike Davis and David Wright — and all kinds of ownership-related controversy swirling about Citi Field — the Mets came back. A three-run homer by Carlos Beltran (one of the players Fred Wilpon sideswiped in an ill-advised New Yorker interview) in the bottom of the third; four runs (on three hits, two walks, an error and a passed ball) in the home sixth; and a pair of scores (aided by a balk, a wild pitch, an intentional walk, three unintentional walks and a go-ahead sacrifice fly off the bat of Ruben Tejada) in the eighth erased Pelfrey’s self-inflicted damage and the lingering bad taste from Wednesday night’s loss.
Thus, a Thursday that began so drearily wound featuring the second-largest comeback in Mets history and a 9-8 victory over Pittsburgh. It marked the third time in a half-century of Mets baseball that the club had wiped out a margin of seven or more runs and the first time they had done so in eleven years. The winning pitcher was Jason Isringhausen, who had last tacked a “W” next to his already many-lettered name for the Mets in 1999. “You’ve got to play nine innings,” Pirate manager Clint Hurdle complained. “We weren’t able to do that. We scored early, they scored late. We weren’t able to answer them.” Must have been nice for Collins not to be the manager obligated to give that speech.
GAME 057: June 13, 1990 (2nd) — Mets 9 CUBS 6
(Mets All-Time Game 057 Record: 21-28; Mets 1990 Record: 29-28)
Wrigley Field isn’t Gold’s Gym, but the Mets flexed their muscles and gave their bats the most thorough of workouts during an extended iron-pumping session on the North Side of Chicago, one that encompassed two days, three games and 25 sets of bulging biceps. Certainly Met self-esteem had to grow when the team looked in the mirror and liked what it saw.
Under Davey Johnson, the 1990 Mets played roughly a quarter of the season like proverbial 98-lb. weaklings. Johnson was dismissed from his post after six generally muscular seasons because the contenders he was supposed to be training suddenly couldn’t hit (or pitch or field) their own weight. At 20-23, they were getting sand kicked in their face. Enter unto the manager’s office, someone who would never be mistaken for Charles Atlas: Bud Harrelson, 160 pounds soaking wet when he played. Diminutive in size, Harrelson nonetheless lifted the burden of pumping up the Mets onto his slender shoulders and the players soon discovered strength they had forgotten they possessed.
“The change was needed,” Ron Darling said. “Not because of Davey, but because a change was needed.” Good ballplayer logic there, but Darling explained further: “Buddy’s a real friend to the players. He defines your role better. With Davey, the guys had to figure it out for themselves. But the bottom line is winning. I still don’t know my own role, but I’m not going to argue with success.”
Following Johnson’s firing (which occurred despite his never guiding the Mets home any lower than second in six full seasons), Dave Magadan told Sports Illustrated, “We more or less had the attitude that we’re too talented, and the season’s too long, for us to give up after 50 games.” So the Mets stopped giving up. Once they got rolling under Harrelson, their play fell in line. “We don’t think there’s a team in the league that can beat us,” said Mackey Sasser.
Among those who tried and failed in June was the Cubs, defending National League East Champions on paper, but a team that spent a trio of contests in full retreat from the rampaging Mets. After Magadan drove in six runs to key a 19-8 whooping in the opener (and send previous first baseman Mike Marshall heading for the bench and, ultimately, the hills as the Mets jettisoned the grumpy, unproductive veteran), the Mets opened a windy Wednesday Windy City doubleheader by slotting nearly as many runs into Wrigley’s hand-operated scoreboard, good for a 15-10 pasting of the home team, with Howard Johnson’s top-of-the-ninth grand slam sounding the final note of the Cubs’ death knell.
Sadly for Chicago, they still had another game to play that day…and sadder still, it was against these same white-hot Mets.
The team that had such a hard time getting out of the gate in 1990 was now packed with bona fide closers. Clinging to a 4-3 lead heading to the ninth, the Mets poured it on once more. With Gregg Jefferies on first and two out, here came the visitors, as rude as could be to righty reliever Dean Wilkins. Daryl Boston doubled home Jefferies. Kevin Elster doubled home Boston. Orlando Mercado singled home Elster (it was the backup catcher’s third hit of the game). Harrelson sent up lefty Tom O’Malley to pinch-hit. Cubs skipper Don Zimmer countered with lefty Joe Kraemer. OK, said Buddy, try righty Mark Carreon on for size.
Carreon fit the Mets’ purposes just fine, belting a two-run homer to left and putting the Mets up 9-3. Some characteristically poor relief work by Jeff Musselman allowed the Cubs some meaningless tallies, but John Franco slammed the door for a 9-6 win, a doubleheader sweep and a series that played more like pinball than baseball for the Mets’ offense. In three wins, the Mets scored 43 runs while banging out 57 hits. The Mets batted in 27 innings and scored in 16 of them — totaling four or more runs in six of those frames. Even better, the Mets had won of eight of their last ten and leapt over the .500 mark for the first time in a month…and showed absolutely no signs of looking back.
“I don’t want the credit,” Harrelson said after the Mets put away their smoking bats. “I think it would have happened eventually. Maybe it happened sooner. Sooner than what? All right, sooner than if we hadn’t made a change and brought in somebody the players know.”
It was happening now, and with more than a run-and-a-half crossing the plate every inning in Chicago, that’s all that mattered to the 1990 Mets.
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On June 9, 1963, the Mets couldn’t give away a ballgame no matter how they hard tried, so after a fashion, they just stopped trying. The Mets made four errors in this Sunday twinbill opener at the Polo Grounds, accounting for four unearned St. Louis runs in addition to three the Cardinals gained on their own steam. Mets fans (and pitchers) were used to watching their defense spring leaks, but they weren’t used to emerging from the flood of mistakes unscathed. Yet it happened. Despite three first-inning miscues (one on a pickoff attempt by starter Carlton Willey and two more by first baseman Cliff Cook) and a ninth inning boot by shortstop Chico Fernandez, the Mets prevailed over St. Loo, 8-7. It seems the Redbirds were no great shakes on fundamentals, either. With the game tied 5-5 in the bottom of the seventh, the visitors were kind enough to bestow upon the Metsies a bases-laded walk by Bob Humphreys, a bases-loaded error on a ground ball to first baseman Bill White and a bases-loaded wild pitch from Diomedes Olivo, who had replaced Humphreys after the aforementioned bases on balls. The Cardinals had the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first in the ninth, but Galen Cisco grounded Julian Javier to third for the final out, and the 1963 Mets accepted their regifted win in their usual gracious fashion…by dropping the nightcap, 10-4.
Thanks to FAFIF reader LarryDC and old friend Mark Simon for providing video and audio, respectively, from the game of June 14, 1980.