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 that includes the “best” 109th game in any Mets season, the “best” 110th game in any Mets season, the “best” 111th 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 109: August 6, 1983 — Mets 4 CUBS 1
(Mets All-Time Game 109 Record: 19-30; Mets 1983 Record: 43-66)
The designated hitter be damned. A pitcher should be capable of helping his own cause. One Met moundsman demonstrated that capability like none before or after him.
In the first two decades and change of Mets baseball, eighteen home runs had been hit by Mets pitchers. A couple of those swingin’ hurlers were more prolific than others. Don Cardwell, for example, hit one home run per year from 1967 through 1969. Tom Seaver homered every year between 1970 and 1973, producing three round-trippers in 1972 alone. Jack Hamilton once blasted a grand slam, albeit in a loss. Tug McGraw and Skip Lockwood came in from the bullpen to pitch before going over the fence from the batter’s box. Pete Falcone enjoyed a truly complete game in 1981, going the distance to throw a shutout and going yard to increase his winning margin.
But nobody did what Walt Terrell did this Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field. It bears repeating: Nobody did what Walt Terrell did this Saturday afternoon at Wrigley field.
Walt Terrell, after all, repeated his feat.
Terrell, a rookie righty who was half of what the Mets got back from Texas for Lee Mazzilli the year before (Ron Darling was the other half), matched up with 40-year-old Ferguson Jenkins. The career gap between them on the mound was a mere 279 wins entering play — and Fergie, despite an eight-year exile in the DH league, led Walt 16-0 when it came to home runs hit. Jenkins once slugged six in one season, 1971.
If Walt wanted to start making up ground on a likely Hall of Famer, he’d better get going on all fronts.
So he did, in the top of the third of a scoreless game. After Ron Hodges singled to lead off the inning, Terrell whacked a Jenkins delivery clear over Wrigley’s ivy to help himself to a 2-0 lead. A pitcher hitting a home run — always a thrill, especially to the pitcher who hit it. The 25-year-old Terrell liked the feeling so much, he decided to experience it again.
One inning later, Jenkins hit Brian Giles, who stole second. With two out, Terrell came up and, just as he had in the third, Terrell went deep. The Mets’ starting pitcher hit his second home run of the game, another two-run shot. Terrell now led Jenkins 4-0 and trailed him homerwise by only fourteen.
Terrell’s fame was instantly slugging but his cause, like that of all baseball players who conducted their business sixty feet and sixty inches from home plate, was pitching. Walt remembered that and concentrated on making his lead stand up. He did it well, surrendering only a sacrifice fly to Ryne Sandberg before departing with one out in the eighth. Carlos Diaz finished the game for him, a 4-1 victory in which the starter drove in all four Met runs.
Only eight National League pitchers have matched Terrell’s single-game, two-homer performance since 1983, including one ex-Met, Mike Hampton, and two who did it against the Mets: Derek Lilliquist and Dontrelle Willis. No Mets among the fifteen pitchers who have homered since Terrell — not even Dwight Gooden, author of a franchise-best seven career pitcher home runs — has concentrated his power so effectively inside of one game.
For Jenkins, the role of the opposing batter might have been relatively novel — he also gave up a dinger to Craig Swan, in 1982 — but the result wasn’t. Fergie allowed 484 home runs in his 19-season career, third most in baseball history. He also totaled 284 wins when he retired after the 1983 campaign. Jenkins, like the pitcher just ahead of him on the home runs given up chart (Robin Roberts) is enshrined in Cooperstown. You have to be a pretty good pitcher for a very long time to give up that many homers.
And Terrell? He had to be a pretty good hitter to take that good a pitcher, even one in his twilight, over the wall twice in one game. Mets fans giddily expecting to go on a power trip every time Walt batted were sated soon enough when, three starts later, the kid tagged San Diego reliever Gary Lucas for a three-run shot. That gave Terrell three home runs in one season, tying Seaver’s team record.
It also marked Walt Terrell’s final major league home run. He pitched until 1992, but mostly in the American League, where pitchers haven’t been asked to help their own cause with a bat since 1972. Thus, Walt’s true home run legacy where the Mets are concerned isn’t so much the two in one game or three in one year, but the 192 smacked by Howard Johnson between 1985 and 1993. The Mets acquired Johnson for Terrell in December 1984, and HoJo ranks third on the franchise’s all-time home run list, behind only Darryl Strawberry (252) and Mike Piazza (220)…and 189 ahead of Walt Terrell.
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On August 6, 1989, two sluggers bookended the extraordinary efforts of one workhorse middleman. The Mets were in this Sunday afternoon marathon at Shea versus the Expos because Darryl Strawberry belted a leadoff home run in the seventh inning off Kevin Gross to knot the score at one and didn’t let Sid Fernandez’s eight stellar innings (1 ER, 5 H, 10 SO) go to waste. They won it because Kevin McReynolds hit a leadoff home run seven innings later off former Mets farmhand Steve Frey. But the 2-1, 14-inning victory owes something big to Jeff Innis, who inherited a one-out, bases-loaded mess from Randy Myers in the top of the tenth. With no margin for error, Innis popped up Tim Wallach and grounded Andres Gallaraga to short, keeping the game tied. Fellow unsung relievers Don Aase and Jeff Musselman held the fort over the next four innings, making possible McReynolds’ walkoff exploits.
The nearly five-hour triumph gave the Mets a three-game sweep of the first-place Expos and was their fifth win in the six games they’d played since acquiring Frank Viola at the trading deadline. With the 1988 American League Cy Young winner on board, the Mets had moved from seven to four out in less than a week.
GAME 110: August 4, 1998 — METS 7 Giants 6 (10)
(Mets All-Time Game 110 Record: 25-24; Mets 1998 Record: 59-51)
Sometimes it’s not enough to hope for a Mets win. Sometimes you have to remind the Mets not to lose, particularly on a night when their worst instincts seem destined to get the best of them.
Take this Tuesday night at Shea, against the Giants, a game in which the Mets battled from behind and came close to blowing one from ahead with apparently equal gusto.
First, the charge uphill: Down 4-0 in the sixth, the Mets loaded the bases against Mark Gardner. Dusty Baker replaced his starter with lefty specialist Rich Rodriguez, a move Mets fans would come to dread when Rodriguez materialized in a Mets uniform, but that wouldn’t happen for another two years. For now, it was great news, as attested to by a two-run Todd Pratt single, a Tony Phillips RBI base hit and an Edgardo Alfonzo groundout that tied the score at four.
On came Turk Wendell, who was just beginning to climb the Mets bullpen food chain. After pitching in mostly low-leverage situations through the season’s first four months, Bobby Valentine handed Turk the tie and Wendell won over a crowd that was conditioned to grow antsy any time it saw a Met reliever. Turk retired Shawon Dunston, Ellis Burks and Barry Bonds in order in the seventh, and — after Carlos Baerga and Luis Lopez drove in runs off the downtrodden Rodriguez — did the same with Jeff Kent, Charlie Hayes and Joe Carter in the eighth. Wendell left the game with two perfect innings strung onto his animal-teeth necklace, a prospective win on his record and emerging cult-hero status as everybody seemed to notice at once the way he slammed the rosin bag down before taking on each batter.
A win would have been a great reward for an outstanding middle-relief performance, but Turk was going to have to settle for being the reliever at whom Mets fans didn’t snarl their discontent. By the time Wendell’s line was in the books, the usual suspect was eliciting the usual Shea reaction.
John Franco…as much a part of the Shea scenery by 1998 as the Home Run Apple and puddles in the parking lot. And just that afternoon, the Bensonhurst boy was rewarded for his long and mostly meritorious service with a two-year contract extension worth $6.15 million…or about $6.15 million more than anyone with any kind of short-term memory in Flushing would have fronted him at that moment in time. Johnny was enduring a tough summer, having blown three saves and taken five losses in July as the Mets were scratching and clawing for every possible win in their quest for the National League Wild Card.
Nobody’s perfect, but when you’re a closer who’s noticeably imperfect, and your team’s every game carries pennant race implications, your imperfections tend to get noticed. Franco’s sure were. At the press conference announcing his new deal, the longest tenured Met, per Steve Popper of the Times, “had talked of his ability to withstand the boos”. Hours later, in the ninth, Brooklyn’s favorite son found himself with a chance to avoid eliciting more of them.
Franco retired his first batter but gave up a double to fellow Brooklynite Rich Aurilia. J.T. Snow drove him home with a single, and now it was 6-5. Dunston (also of Brooklyn) forced Snow at second for the second out. Then Franco finally got some good luck, picking Dunston off first base. John Olerud fired to Rey Ordoñez to complete what was about to be the third out and…as previously reported, no dice. The best defensive shortstop in the National League dropped the throw, keeping Dunston on the basepaths. After walking Ellis Burks, Franco gave up a bloop single to Bonds, and the game was retied.
“It’s a tough city,” Franco reasoned. “They only want the best.” But for Franco, lucrative contract extension or not, his fortune was the worst: “You pick a guy off, and your Gold Glove shortstop makes an error. What else can go wrong?”
One might mention there was that leadoff double, the succeeding single and the walk to Burks to bring up Barry Bonds, but closers who aren’t closing have to create their own logic. Or as Franco put it, “It’s almost to the point that I’ve got to laugh about it.”
The Mets didn’t score in their half of the ninth, and southpaw Dennis Cook — unlike lefties Rodriguez and Franco — was impenetrable for as extra innings began. The home team then took its best shot against another accomplished reliever who’d suffered his brushes with infamy: Jose Mesa, he who, as an Indian, gave up the tying run in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the previous fall’s World Series against the Marlins.
If Mesa and Franco could empathize with one another out of professional courtesy, who could blame them? Still, it seemed Mets hitters were showing their opponent a bit too much sympathy in the way they seemed to go out of their way to try and avoid adding to Mesa’s misery.
Phillips singled to lead off the Mets’ tenth and took second on a wild pitch. Fonzie walked. Olerud managed an infield single to load the bases. Nobody was out. Surely, the Mets were poised to win.
Except Mike Piazza grounded to Aurilia at short, who threw to Doug Mirabelli at home to nail Phillips for the first out.
And Brian McRae grounded to Snow at first, who threw home to Mirabelli to nail Alfonzo for the second out.
Two batters. Two bases-loaded situations. Two force plays at the plate. It was almost to the point where you had to laugh about it.
Lenny Harris was the Mets’ last hope for immediate redemption. If he didn’t come through against Mesa here, there’d be an eleventh inning, but, honestly, if he didn’t come through against Mesa here, it would mean the Mets blew the most golden opportunity this side of “plastics” in The Graduate. And lord knew John Franco wasn’t going to be alone among the booed at Shea Stadium.
Mesa and Harris extended this comic drama as far as they could. Three balls to Lenny. Then two strikes. Then?
Fastball. Inside. Ball four. Harris goes to first and everybody else moves up a base — most notably Olerud, who trots home to make the final 7-6 Mets.
“I sure am proud of that group,” Valentine said in the euphoria attendant to any kind of walkoff success. “That was a heck of a win.”
Even better, it wasn’t a heck of a loss. Or something begging far worse adjectives.
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On August 6, 1975, the luck of a legendary baseball man considered — Lou Gehrig notwithstanding — as lucky as they came had finally run out. Yogi Berra’s nearly four-season tenure as Mets manager came to an end when the Mets were swept a doubleheader by Montreal, both by scores of 7-0. Tabbed to replace him in the short term was well-regarded first base coach and former Met shortstop Roy McMillan, looked to as just the leader to guide the team from its dog days dismay and back into the N.L. East race. Given that the Mets were mired in third place, 9½ behind front-running Pittsburgh, McMillan could use all the luck he could get.
That and some scoring this soggy Wednesday evening at Shea. The Mets trailed Montreal 4-2 in McMillan’s debut as skipper when they exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the sixth. The first big blow was a three-run triple from Del Unser, with Felix Millan and Ed Kranepool contributing run-scoring doubles immediately thereafter. The Mets went up 9-4 and appeared headed toward giving Roy a 1-0 record when the same relief pitching that undermined Berra reared its inconsistent head in the top of the ninth. Bob Apodaca came on to protect the five-run lead and allowed two singles, a ground ball mishandled by shortstop Mike Phillips and consecutive walks, the second of them to Pepe Mangual with the bases loaded. All of a sudden, it was 9-6, there were Expos on every bag, there was nobody out and…
…and the rain the teams were playing through grew too steady to ignore. The tarp was ordered onto the field, the players retreated to their clubhouses, and, when the weather didn’t clear up after an hour and fifteen minutes of mandatory waiting, the game was called a 9-6 final in favor of the Mets. Shea may have been all wet, but Roy was undefeated. Yogi himself on his best days couldn’t have been more soaked in serendipity.
GAME 111: August 7, 1971 — Mets 20 BRAVES 6
(Mets All-Time Game 111 Record: 17-32; Mets 1971 Record: 57-54)
They called Atlanta Stadium — later Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium — the Launching Pad. On this Saturday night in Dixie, there was an obvious reason for the nickname: it was the ballpark that launched the 1971 Mets into the record books.
In an era when NASA still counted down to moon launches at Cape Kennedy (née Canaveral), the Mets took the reverse tack in the first inning: not so much 3-2-1…but lifting off with 1…2…3 runs to get their exploration of line score space going against Braves righty Ron Reed. An error by Brave shortstop Marty Perez on Bud Harrelson’s leadoff grounder was just the nudge the Mets needed to start soaring. Agee singled, sending Harrelson to third. Agee stole second. And then the Mets orbited their average 1971 per-game run total of 3.6 via a Cleon Jones single, an Ed Kranepool sac fly and a Ken Boswell double that right fielder Mike Lum leapt and batted down at the fence before it could shed its booster rocket and become a two-run homer.
Nice effort, though one is tempted to say Mike needn’t have bothered.
Because of the right fielder’s effort, the Mets were limited to three runs — not an inauspicious start, but not necessarily ostentatious. And once Lum nicked Nolan Ryan for an RBI single in the bottom of the first, you would have guessed both teams would avail themselves of the offensive amenability of the Launching Pad.
You would have guessed wrong. The top of the second proved the only glare rockets would give off at Atlanta Stadium would be of the blue and orange variety.
This is how the Mets blasted off toward double-digits:
Jerry Grote singled.
Nolan Ryan bunted him to second and was safe at first.
Harrelson bunted them over and was also safe at first.
Wayne Garrett lifted a fly ball to Sonny Jackson in center to make it Mets 4 Braves 1, as Grote scored and the other baserunners moved up.
Jones was intentionally walked to set up a double play. Except it set up an RBI single for Cleon, increasing the Mets’ lead to 5-1.
Ron Reed handed the ball to manager Lum Harris who handed it to lefty reliever Mike McQueen who threw it four times out of the strike zone past the righthanded Donn Clendenon, inserted by a run-ravenous Gil Hodges to pinch-hit (or, technically, pinch-walk) for lefty Kranepool..
That made it 6-1 Mets. And that was as close as the Braves would be until Sunday, because McQueen didn’t miss the strike zone with the next batter, Boswell. Didn’t miss his bat, either. The only thing McQueen’s pitch of greatest consequence missed was a landing spot within the chummy confines of Atlanta Stadium. Ken struck it but good, blasting it off the right field foul pole for a grand slam that brought the moon, the stars and the heavens down on the Atlanta Braves.
Mets 10 Braves 1 in the top of the second. A long night was at hand for at least one of those teams.
Sometimes somebody gets that big a lead and things settle down. Sure enough, a combination of Ryan, McQueen and complacency transpired to keep the score unchanged through the fourth. But come the fifth, the Mets’ bats grew restless once more. After two outs, Grote singled, Ryan singled, Harrelson walked and Garrett singled to drive in two. 12-1, Mets. Mike McQueen’s evening ended and Steve Barber’s began…but not happily, as Agee singled home another to make it 13-1, Mets.
Nolan Ryan needed just three outs to qualify for the win, assuming the Mets didn’t blow a twelve-run lead. Only the most nervous Mets fan would have considered that a possibility, but Ryan wasn’t sharp. Earl Williams singled in Hank Aaron and Zolio Versalles belted a three-run homer to cut the Braves’ deficit to 13-5. Under just about any other circumstance imaginable, Hodges would have pulled Ryan, but Nolan had some cushion with which to work. He got the next two outs and would go eight.
Besides, the Mets got back most of what their pitcher gave up when they batted in the top of the sixth. Grote drove in one and Tim Foli, having taken over short for Harrelson, singled in two more. The Mets finished their half of the inning up 16-5. Ryan gave up another run in the bottom of the sixth, but Clendenon answered with a two-run homer in the top of the seventh to give the Mets a comfortable 18-6 lead.
Comfortable? More like luxurious. But what about historic? A record was at hand if the Mets could grab it. Seven years earlier in Chicago, the Mets famously put 19 runs on the Wrigley Field scoreboard. If it wasn’t famous enough for simply being 19 runs or for the notion of the perpetually cellar-dwelling 1964 Mets of all people scoring 19 runs, it took on the stuff of legend when the story got out that somebody called a newspaper somewhere and asked a) if it was true the Mets had scored 19 runs that day and — once that was confirmed as fact — b) did the Mets win?
The Mets were futile enough to be funny back then. By 1971, however, they weren’t particularly amusing or terribly exciting. They offered generally superb pitching and reliable defense most nights, but rarely the kind of hitting that would send fans scurrying to their phones to verify their run totals — or, for that matter, enough hitting to make large run totals seem not all that newsworthy. A 9-20 July knocked the Mets out of contention for the first time in three years, making them, by objective standards as they groped about the .500 mark, a fairly run-of-the-mill operation.
“Everything considered,” Leonard Koppett would write just a couple of years later, “1971 was probably the least satisfying year the Mets had ever experienced. Not only were the mini-rewards of the pre-championship days no longer possible, but also the status of champion was officially gone.” By Koppett’s reckoning, “The Mets moved into complete ordinariness.”
Against this drab backdrop, the Mets aimed for the extraordinary, just as they had done for more than six months two seasons before; just as the U.S. space program had done that very same season. The Mets and man landed on the moon in 1969. For this one night in Atlanta, the Mets were shooting for it again.
In the ninth inning, it was still 18-6 when the Braves’ Bob Priddy got two quick outs. But then mission control transmitted word of one final rally to make this Metropolitan score truly astronomical. Clendenon walked. Boswell singled. Ken Singleton singled. The bases were loaded and the stage was set.
Grote grounded to Versalles at third…and the former American League MVP booted it. In came Boswell. In came Clendenon. The Mets had their 20th run — their most ever. The 20-6 win went into the Mets record book and, like Neil Armstrong’s American flag, stayed planted there long after NASA stopped scheduling lunar excursions.
One big night for the Mets. One giant leap for Ken Boswell.
ALSO QUITE HAPPY: On August 5, 2007, the Mets’ starting pitcher was aiming to win his 58th game in a New York Mets uniform. Doing so would pull him to within one victory of tying Rick Reed and Craig Swan for eleventh place on the all-time franchise win chart. That alone probably wouldn’t have motivated this lefthanded hurler as he prepared for his Sunday night start against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. What really stoked T#m Gl@v!ne was the 242 wins he piled up as an Atlanta Brave between 1987 and 2002 (16 of them against the Mets) when added to the 57 he’d accumulated while under contract to New York since 2003. Put them together in the 21st season of an illustrious career, and you could figure out T#m Gl@v!ne was going for his 300th win.
Warren Spahn, also known best as a Brave, already had more than 300 wins on his résumé when he joined the Mets for a short stint in 1965. Homegrown Mets Tom Seaver (White Sox) and Nolan Ryan (Rangers) would each attain a 300th win after departing their original club. Gl@v!ne, then, became the first man destined to try to reach 300 while collecting a paycheck from the Mets.
T#m missed out in his first attempt, in Milwaukee — when Gl@v!ne’s reliever successors couldn’t hold a 2-1 lead on his behalf — but accomplished his personal goal in Chicago, when he left with one out in the seventh, ahead 5-1, and the Mets’ bullpen overcame its self-destructive tendencies. Spahn and Seaver threw complete games for their 300th wins, while Ryan went 7⅔, exiting with a big lead in Texas. The record will show Gl@v!ne’s milestone victory was earned on 6⅓ innings of six-hit pitching, and that he required Guillermo Mota, Pedro Feliciano, Aaron Heilman, Jorge Sosa and Billy Wagner to finish up for him.
But a decision is a decision, and when Wagner got Mike Fontenot to ground to Ruben Gotay for the final out, the Mets prevailed, 8-3, and T#m Gl@v!ne indeed notched his 300th win. The 23rd 300-game winner in baseball history would add three more Met wins to his bottom line in 2007 — the last of them on September 8 — before returning to Atlanta to finish his career with a lifetime mark of 305-203.