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” 61st game in any Mets season, the “best” 62nd game in any Mets season, the “best” 63rd 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 061: June 14, 1965 — Mets 1 REDS 0 (11)
(Mets All-Time Game 061 Record: 21-28; Mets 1965 Record: 21-39-1)
There was rarely a penalty for any pitcher deciding to pitch the game of his life versus the New York Mets in their first four years. Ask Jim Bunning, whose 1964 perfect game at Shea Stadium raised his profile so high that it probably edged him into the Hall of Fame and maybe Congress. Ask Sandy Koufax, who would pitch plenty of his games of his life before he was done but chose the 1962 Mets for his first no-hitter. Ask most every ace moundsman nine National League staffs sent to face the basement babies throughout ’62, ’63, ’64 and well into ’65.
But don’t ask Jim Maloney. He didn’t get to take full advantage of excelling against the Mets, not on this Monday night at Crosley Field. But, oh, did he excel, and oh, was he taking advantage of the generally easily duped Mets.
From striking out Billy Cowan to lead off the game to striking out the side in the third and striking them out again in the eighth, Maloney was untouchable. His only imperfection was walking Ed Kranepool to open the second…and choosing the wrong night to go so long without being touched.
His opposite number on the mound was Frank Lary, known in his American League days as the Yankee Killer, but he was doing an admirable job of snuffing out Reds. He wasn’t as close to flawless as Maloney, but for eight innings, he did what he had to do, holding Cincinnati to five hits, three walks, a hit batsman and — this is key — no runs. In the top of the ninth, Casey Stengel pinch-hit for Lary with Joe Christopher, but Maloney struck him out. He did the same to Cowan for the third time in the evening.
By the middle of the ninth, Jim Maloney had faced 28 Mets batters. One of them walked. Twenty-seven of them made outs. Fifteen of them struck out. But Maloney wasn’t winning. He was only tying because of Lary, also known as the Mule. Frank was at his most mulish in the eighth when after hitting Tommy Harper, Harper stole second and raced to third on Chris Cannizzaro’s bad throw. With the go-ahead run ninety feet away, Lary grounded Pete Rose back to the mound to erase the Red menace.
Met defense had been surprisingly obstinate, too…after a fashion. In the fourth, Vada Pinson made it second on a stolen base attempt in which Cannizzaro’s pitchout worked beautifully until shortstop Roy McMillan dropped the throw. Gordy Coleman (who would later make a dazzling stop on the Mets’ only bid at a hit in regulation) continued his at-bat and struck out, but strike three got by Chris, who chased the passed ball. While he did so, Pinson kept running from second. Cannizzaro found the ball and fired it to Lary, who tagged him at home.
In the bottom of the ninth, it fell to Mets reliever Larry Bearnarth to display a little stubbornness, and he proved plenty recalcitrant. Pinson flied to rookie Johnny Lewis in right before Frank Robinson drew a walk. But Bearnarth bore down, getting Coleman to foul to Gonder (who had replaced Cannizzaro behind the plate) and Deron Johnson to ground to McMillan, forcing Pinson at second.
For Maloney to cash in on his incredible night’s work, he’d have to keep going. So he did. Chuck Hiller lined out to start the tenth. Charley Smith struck out swinging. Kranepool stuck out looking. Maloney had now pitched ten hitless innings and collected seventeen strikeouts. “A catcher’s dream,” Cincy backstop Johnny Edwards would call him.
Yet he still wasn’t winning.
An Edwards single to lead off the bottom of the tenth and a sacrifice of pinch-runner Chico Ruiz by Leo Cardenas got a Red into scoring position for the fourth time all night, but Ruiz never got past third. It was 0-0 heading to the eleventh.
Lewis led off for the Mets. On a 2-1 pitch, he homered to center. There — just like that Maloney was not only not winning, he was losing, 1-0. He’d recover to strike out Swoboda for his 18th K of the game and two batters later, after allowing a single to McMillan, get a double play ball out of Gonder, but the spell was broken. Bearnarth made sure it stayed that way by pitching a scoreless eleventh, and the Mets came away with a 1-0 win.
Despite being no-hit for ten innings. Despite being struck out eighteen times. Despite being the 1965 Mets.
“I can’t help but feel good,” Lewis, who had struck out thrice, said afterwards. “But it was a heartbreaker for Maloney to lose. He threw good, real good. In fact, I never saw a pitcher throw as hard to me as Maloney did.”
What was hard on Maloney was losing the game of his or most pitchers’ lives. “I’d just as soon win ballgames as pitch a no-hitter,” the flamethrowing righty insisted before taking his postgame shower, though he acknowledged he knew the no-no was in progress and that he really wanted it. He may not have felt terribly enriched by the experience of losing a game he judged “by far the best I’ve ever pitched,” but Reds owner Bill DeWitt immediately announced a $1,000 raise for Maloney, big money in those days for the son of a California car dealer.
Not bad for losing to the last-place Mets.
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On June 13, 1988, David Cone was making a habit of not giving up the ball. Eleven days after going 10 innings in an eventual 13-inning win over the Cubs, Coney found himself working overtime once more. Versus St. Louis at Shea, he had given up only one run in nine innings (on a Bob Horner sac fly in the fourth), so Davey Johnson let him ride. Cone gave his manager no cause to regret the decision, retiring Tony Peña, Luis Alicea and pinch-hitter Duane Walker — up for Card starter Larry McWilliams, who had gone nine — in order. The Mets got Kevin McReynolds to third base in their half of the inning and chose to pinch-hit for Cone. Alas, Lee Mazzilli popped to third. The teams kept playing until the twelfth, when Mazz, who stayed in the game at first, made amends by singling home Wally Backman with the decisive run. The bulk of the pitching this Monday night was performed by Cone, but the 2-1 win went to Randy Myers, who hurled two perfect innings of relief. More than just another win for the East-leading Mets, the game marked the last time a Met starting pitcher pitched ten innings twice in the same season, let alone month.
GAME 062: June 11, 2005 — METS 5 Angels 3 (10)
(Mets All-Time Game 062 Record: 25-24; Mets 1965 Record: 32-30)
It wasn’t an easy assignment awaiting Marlon Anderson. He was coming off the bench to pinch-hit against one of the best relievers in baseball, one he had seen only once before. Then again, Marlon Anderson was one of the best pinch-hitters of the National League in 2005, having connected for a dozen pinch-hits since signing as a free agent with the Mets.
Still, he was going to be facing Francisco Rodriguez of the recently redubbed Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the 23-year-old fireballer they didn’t call “K-Rod” for nothing. As if there was some doubt to the kid’s effectiveness in this Saturday night Interleague Shea showdown, Rodriguez had just struck out David Wright to start the bottom of the ninth. The Mets trailed 2-1 and were down to their final two outs when Willie Randolph chose Anderson to hit for fellow utilityman Chris Woodward.
Anderson chose this moment to do something no Met had ever done before, on a 3-1 pitch from K-Rod. We pick up the action from Gary Cohen on WFAN:
Fastball driven in the air toward right-centerfield…chasing back is Finley…on the track, reaches out…
CAN’T GET IT! Kicks it away! It’s rolling toward the corner!
Anderson around second! He’s on his way to third! Finley’s tracked it down! Anderson is being…WAVED AROUND! He’s comin’ to the plate…the relay throw…he slides…
It’s an inside-the-park-home run! And it ties the game!
Marlon Anderson with an inside-the-park home run…he is shaken up…Jose Molina arguing the call, Mike Scioscia out as well, but Marlon Anderson has tied the game at two and two with an inside-the-park home run. Finley tried to field it on the warning track, kicked it toward the corner, and Anderson came all the way around ahead of the relay throw by Adam Kennedy…
Anderson still down on his knees as Mike Herbst and Willie Randolph look after him, but with his FIRST home run as a New York MET, Marlon Anderson has tied the game, and as he gets to his feet, he gets a ROUSING ovation from the crowd at Shea Stadium!
A stunning turn of events, and not just because it was the first pinch-hit inside-the-park home run in New York Mets history. Consider that Anderson was not blessed with great speed, so no wonder he was down on his knees when the play was over. Consider that he hit it between two of the great outfielders of their time, Steve Finley in center and Vladimir Guerrero in right, but the ball eluded them both. Finally, consider what the television replays showed as Anderson huffed and puffed his way around the bases.
He was blowing bubbles. Chewing bubble gum and blowing bubbles from it while tying the score at three.
Marlon was hardly the only star of what became a 5-3, ten-inning Mets win. Kris Benson had pitched seven strong innings, allowing his only two runs on a double play grounder to Bengie Molina (later replaced in a double-switch by his brother Jose) and a Kennedy sac fly. He got his last out when Carlos Beltran robbed Molina (Bengie) of a two-run homer with a leaping grab at the center field wall. Aaron Heilman followed with two scoreless frames. After Anderson’s PHITPHR — and K-Rod’s subsequent strikeouts of Kaz Matsui and Doug Mientkiewicz — Braden Looper was nicked for an unearned run in the tenth. Jose Reyes, turning 22 that Saturday, opened the bottom of the tenth by reaching first base on a pop fly over third that fell into very shallow left. He moved to second on Mike Cameron’s seven-pitch walk against Brendan Donnelly and, after Beltran and Mike Piazza struck out, stole himself a birthday present — third base — with two down.
That little surprise came on the eighth pitch of Donnelly’s battle to the bone versus Cliff Floyd (the Angel reliever thought time had been called). Floyd, healthy and thriving as a Met after two injury-riddled seasons, jumped on the ninth pitch from the rattled Donnelly — who threw 32 pitches in all in the tenth — and sent it soaring into the Flushing night for a three-run game-ending homer.
The win went to Looper, the walkoff mob surrounded Floyd (whose epic at-bat included a drive to right that appeared homerbound before hooking foul), but it was Anderson, 31, who created the indelible image of the Bazooka blast. It may not have been as majestic a shot as Floyd’s, but it sure was something to see. Anderson turned on as many afterburners that were available to him once his ball hit Finley’s knee. Third base coach Manny Acta waved him toward the plate, and Marlon blew bubbles and sucked wind until he was all the way home.
In the annals of New York National League inside-the-parkers, it may have been the most dramatic of the genre since 33-year-old Casey Stengel sped as best he could around the bases to give the Giants a 5-4 lead in the top of the ninth in the opening game of the 1923 World Series at Yankee Stadium. That was a trek Damon Runyon captured it 82 years earlier in prose very much of its time.
With apologies to Mr. Runyon, then…
This is the way old “Marlon” Anderson ran Saturday night, running his home run home.
This is the way old “Marlon” Anderson ran running his home run home in a Met victory by a score of 5 to 3 in the second game of an interleague series in 2005.
This is the way old “Marlon” Anderson ran, running his home run home, when there was one out in the ninth inning and the score was Angels 2 Mets 1 and the ball was still bounding inside the Met yard.
This is the way—
His mouth wide open.
His warped old legs bending beneath him at every stride.
His arms flying back and forth like those of a man swimming with a crawl stroke.
His flanks heaving, his breath whistling, his head far back.
Angel infielders, passed by old “Marlon” Anderson as he was running his home run home, say “Marlon” was muttering to himself, adjuring himself to greater speed as a jockey mutters to his horse in a race, that he was saying: “Go on, Marlon! Go on!”
People generally laugh when they see old “Marlon” Anderson run, but they were not laughing when he was running his home run home last month. People — 34,000 of them, men and women — were standing in the Met stands and bleachers out there in Flushing roaring sympathetically, whether they were for or against the Mets.
“Come on, Marlon!”
The warped old legs, twisted and bent by many a year of baseball campaigns, just barely held out under “Marlon” Anderson until he reached the plate, running his home run home.
Then they collapsed.
They gave out just as old “Marlon” Anderson slid over the plate in his awkward fashion with Jose Molina futilely reaching for him with the ball. “Larry” Young, the Major League umpire, poised over him in a set pose, arms spread wide to indicate that old “Marlon” was safe.
Half a dozen Mets rushed forward to help “Marlon” to his feet, to hammer him on the back, to bawl congratulations in his ears as he limped unsteadily, still panting furiously, to the bench where Willie L. Randolph, the chief of the Mets, relaxed his stern features to smile for the man who had tied the game.
“Marlon” Anderson’s warped old legs, neither of them broken not so long ago, wouldn’t carry him out for the top half of the next inning when the Angels made a dying effort to undo the damage done by “Marlon.” His place in the lineup was taken by “Braden” Looper, whose legs are still unwarped, and “Marlon” sat on the bench with Willie Randolph.
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On June 14, 1963, a Met of great renown achieved a long-in-the-making career milestone. Since the Mets hadn’t been around even two years and they had done little as a unit to earn anything but infamy, it figured that most of what this Met had done before was done as something else altogether. Nevertheless, Duke Snider wore a Mets uniform as he blasted a first-inning, two-out pitch from Bob Purkey out of Crosley Field. When Snider drove himself and Ron Hunt home, it gave the all-time Dodger great the 400th home run of his career, making him the eighth player in big league history to hit that many. The Mets would go on to beat the Reds, 10-3, and sixteen summers later, a plaque would hang in Cooperstown featuring Snider’s likeness and a notation that somewhere between 1947 and 1964, Snider logged time with NEW YORK N.L.
GAME 063: June 21, 1984 — METS 10 Phillies 7
(Mets All-Time Game 063 Record: 27-22; Mets 1984 Record: 36-27)
If Believing with a capital “B” hadn’t been much in vogue at Shea Stadium for the previous ten years, there was a pretty good reason: there had been little to Believe in, certainly not in the vein of when Belief was last in style there.
1973 was a very long time removed from 1984, and it wasn’t just the chronology that made it seem so distant. The Mets had only now and then sniffed contention since the autumn Tug McGraw made the phrase “You Gotta Believe” part of the Mets’ Talmud. They certainly hadn’t made the most of their fleeting acquaintance with success in the ensuing decade, but 1984 was unfolding in a very different, very pleasing manner.
After losing their first Opening Day since 1974, the ’84 Mets won their next six games. Fueled by two sterling rookie pitchers, Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling, and led by first-year manager Davey Johnson, exploded expectations, never fading from contention as April became May and May became June. Once they reached seven games above .500 on June 14, it was as high as they had gone beyond break-even since 1976 ended. As summer dawned, they found themselves in a three-way dogfight for first place with the similarly surprising Chicago Cubs and the perennially contending Philadelphia Phillies. They Mets entered this Thursday Shea matinee against the Phils in second place, a half-game behind their neighbors to the south. Overall, it was as good a position as they’d been in this late in a season since 1975.
Most Met seasons were effectively over by June. This one was just getting to the good part.
A tight 1-1 duel between starters Walt Terrell and Charlie Hudson veered in a completely different direction come the bottom of the fifth as a Juan Samuel error helped the Mets score five times and chase Hudson. Their 6-1 lead, however, began to crumble in the top of the seventh when Terrell walked his first two batters and Jeff Stone beat out a bunt (his third hit of what would be a 4-for-5 day) to load the bases. Terrell left in favor of Jesse Orosco, but Orosco allowed a pair of two-run singles to Mike Schmidt and John Wockenfuss and, before long, the Mets were down 7-6.
It was a familiar script from what life had been like at Shea since 1973, but the Mets called the press box and bellowed, “Get me rewrite!” Or something like that. Phillie reliever Bill Campbell opened the home seventh by allowing back-to-back singles to Danny Heep and Hubie Brooks. Ron Hodges, one of two 1973 Mets still extant in Flushing, grounded to second, resulting in a fielder’s choice to first, scoring Heep from third. Now it was tied. George Foster, getting the day game off, was brought on to pinch-hit for shortstop Jose Oquendo and was intentionally walked to set up a double play.
Orosco was due up, and a pinch-hitter was in order. Usually in a late-game situation, that would be the other 1973 Met on the active roster, Rusty Staub. A cursory glance at Campbell would lead one to infer it would definitely be Staub. He was a righty and Rusty was a lefty. Perfect matchup…except for one thing. Rusty couldn’t hit Campbell. Dating back to 1976, when Staub was with Detroit and Campbell was with Minnesota, he didn’t hit him…at all. Over fourteen at-bats, Rusty was 0-for-14 versus this pitcher. And if any manager in 1984 was aware of matchups, it was statistic-savvy, computer-literate Davey Johnson.
But Johnson also knew Rusty Staub was one of the best pinch-hitters ever and figured he was due. Besides, Rusty, like Ron Hodges, had been around Shea the last time the Mets made a move on first place. Hence, as if 1973 had just been reincarnated, Rusty swung and singled home Hubie with the go-ahead run. And if the ghosts of pennant races past didn’t already seem present, Phillie right fielder Sixto Lezcano misplayed a Wally Backman foul fly, extending the second baseman’s at-bat long enough for him — facing Jim Kern, who had replaced Campbell — to manage a run-scoring grounder that plated Foster. The Mets were up 9-7.
Doug Sisk negotiated a tough top of the eighth and kept the margin at two. In the bottom of the inning, Kern (a Met on paper for two months in 1981-82 before being sent to Cincinnati as part of the Foster deal) loaded the bases for Hodges who, per the prevailing Belief of the day, walked to drive in a tenth New York run. The Mets led 10-7 and Sisk ended it that way.
The Mets leapfrogged the Phillies to take a half-game lead in the N.L. East on the first day of summer. Their ascension occurred sooner than it did in 1973 (when it happened on the first night of fall), but with Hodges and Staub coming through when it counted, it felt a lot like that year of blessed memory. Except that Tug McGraw, in his final season as a player, was languishing on the Philadelphia disabled list.
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On June 20, 1985, the Mets didn’t win that year’s division title but they did everything they could to take care of the previous year’s business, understanding it would pay definite dividends in the present. The Cubs had come into Shea for a midweek quartet of games so big to both team’s fortunes that a stadium attendance record for a four-game series was set: 172,092. Every Mets fan who paid his way into Shea got his money’s worth when the Mets swept all four from their former nemeses from the Windy City. The ’84 division champs came to New York on a five-game losing streak. They left it absolutely reeling, with nine losses in a row. The Mets, on the other hand, were surging in the general direction of first place after Sid Fernandez struck out ten Cubs in six innings and George Foster drove in four runs on one grand slam swing in the third inning to complete the sweep. The good it did the Mets in the standings was plain as day following this matinee — they stood in a flat-footed second-place tie with St. Louis, a half-game back of Montreal for the lead in the East. What it meant to the Mets psychically a year after the Cubs beat them out for first? Let’s just say that when the Shea public address system blared Paper Lace’s 1974 hit “The Night Chicago Died” after this Thursday afternoon capper, nobody in New York questioned the taste behind the musical choice.
Congratulations to David Hurwitz, Mickey Lambert and Ken Mattucci for winning our 1986 World Series DVD Happiest Recap Quiz. And congratulations to you if you order what they won from A&E Home Entertainment.