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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Department of the Interior

We now interrupt the Mets’ first pennant race in seven years to race all the way around the bases for the first time in five years. We won’t pause to do so, however, for this is one of those plays in which you can’t hit pause. You hit and you run, or as Tom Hanks as Mr. White advised the Wonders at the Ohio State Fair in the oft-cited 1996 classic That Thing You Do!, “You unplug and you run, run offstage.”

You don’t stand around. You don’t get to stand around until you’re dying to sit down offstage because you have run, run all the way around the bases, home to home, after hitting the ball: First base; second base; third base; home.

Coach Morris Buttermaker would be so proud of Ruben Tejada, for Wednesday night, around them bases he did roam. Tejada did what Kelly Leake couldn’t do in the climactic scene of Bad News Bears, what Kit Keller could do (rather improbably but impeccably cinematically) in the climactic scene of A League Of Their Own. He, his bat and his feet executed one of the rarest feats in modern baseball, certainly one of the rarest feats in modern Mets baseball.

Ruben Tejada hit an inside-the-park home run.

“You could’ve turned off your sets right there,” Warner Wolf used to suggest when he went to the videotape and showed the Mets falling hopelessly behind. Not that we would then and not that we do now, but once you’ve seen Ruben Tejada lash an inside-the-park home run, you could be forgiven for getting up and walking away, for you probably aren’t going to see anything more remarkable.

But when it comes to the Mets and games in which home runs rattle around inside the park, one never knows.

The Mets surged permanently ahead on the strength — there’s a word you don’t often associate with Ruben — of Tejada’s second-inning handi/footiwork. It increased the Mets’ lead from 1-0 to 3-0 en route to a characteristic 9-4 thrashing of Coach Geno Auriemma’s Phillie Huskies. But there would be more to see and relish, including relatively conventional home runs from Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes; a dehydrated Matt Harvey summoning all available fluids to strike out nine hapless interlopers before departing with one out in the seventh; and Sean Gilmartin handling neatly a little situational leverage by getting out of the slight one-on, one-out jam Harvey bequeathed him when the Mets’ lead had been whittled to three.

It was all very good in its own right. There’s usually plenty to see and relish from our first-place New York Mets, but once you’ve seen Ruben Tejada lash an inside-the-park home run, you can’t reasonably expect to see anything nearly as scintillating.

Aaron Nola was pitching. Kelly Johnson was on second, having doubled in David Wright, who had singled. Tejada was working a full count, as was his wont during his 2012 heyday, when 239 feet of Statcast-measured magic unfurled.

Tejada swung and served a fair ball midway down the right field line. Domonic Brown had a vague idea about backhanding it but instead tumbled into Albert Achievement Awards territory by flipping head over heels over the lethally low nearby side wall. With the right fielder out of commission (he’d later leave to be checked out for concussion and obviously we hope that when they examined his head, they found the proverbial nothing), the ball was free to keep rolling, meaning Ruben was free to keep running. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez scurried into the corner to retrieve the ball, which indicates the ball is probably a lost cause for the defense.

Tejada slid out of habit but scored unchallenged. By crossing the plate on a ball he hit that (unlike Brown) didn’t leave the field of play, Ruben had crafted the 27th inside-the-parker in the 54-year history of the Mets. That averages out to one every two years, though that sounds more frequent than they feel.

They feel like they almost never happen. Perhaps that’s how it feels to me because when I was growing up they didn’t happen. The first five Mets ITPHRs predated my fandom, including three that happened at the Polo Grounds, where center field was vast and distant enough to come under the auspices of the U.S. Forest Service. Gil Hodges, Richie Ashburn and Charlie Neal each went deep without going out of the Polo Grounds, and none was in the young or spry phase of his respective career. (Thirty-eight year-old Hodges on being waved around third with the very first Mets Insider on May 16, 1962: “Everything had gone black.”) A more guessable candidate, Ron Hunt, notched the inaugural Shea ITPHR in 1966.

I started watching the Mets in 1969. I didn’t see an inside-the-parker until 1979. They hit one in my initial decade on the beat, via the bat and legs of Don Hahn in 1971, but I don’t remember it. I do remember Bud Harrelson — who’d inside-the-parked at Forbes Field in 1967 — scoring on some combination of self-generated hit and opposition miscue and I thought it was an inside-the-park home run, but it wasn’t. I also remember myself scoring on what was probably a four-base error in Pee Wee League tee-ball during the same general period as Hahn and Harrelson made their 360-foot trips and deciding to consider it an ITPHR because I was eight and I hit the ball, which in and of itself, considering my track record of swinging and missing at balls sitting on tees, was a fairly monumental accomplishment.

The first Met ITPHR I witnessed on television was Doug Flynn’s during what still ranks in my reckoning as one of the greatest innings in Mets history. The Mets had already hung seven on the Cincinnati Reds at Shea Stadium in the sixth inning of June 12, 1979, when Flynn batted for the second time in the frame, with two on and two out. He belted a Dave Tomlin pitch to deep center, where Gold Gloved Cesar Geronimo couldn’t catch up with it. Willie Montañez scored from third. Steve Henderson scored from first. And Doug Flynn scored from home.

The Mets…the last-place Mets…the last-place Mets who never hit inside-the-park, outside-the-park or anywhere-near-the-park home runs…posted their first 10-run inning en route to a 12-6 romp over the Big Red Machine. Dave Tomlin could have turned off his set right there.

Flynn opened the floodgates on a veritable golden age of Met inside-the-parkers. Gil Flores hit one later in 1979. Lee Mazzilli and Henderson hit one apiece in 1980. Wally Backman and Dave Kingman each hit one in 1982. The lightly recalled Mark Bradley took Fernando Valenzuela internally deep in 1983. Long and lanky Darryl Strawberry did it to Bruce Sutter in 1984, one of four future Hall of Fame pitchers to give up a Mets inside-the-parker; Sandy Koufax, Steve Carlton and Pedro Martinez also reside in that unlikely club. Straw would hit another in 1989, two years after Howard Johnson fashioned one (in the heat of a September pennant race, no less). Darryl and HoJo were 30-30 men, so no wonder they could slug mightily and dash speedily all at once.

The inside-the-parkers of the past quarter-century reverted primarily to the province of guys you wouldn’t expect home runs from otherwise. Less Strawberry, more Harrelson. Kevin Elster took advantage of the Busch Stadium dimensions and turf in 1990. Tim Bogar did the same at the Vet in 1993 (doing a number on the ligaments in his left hand as he slid headfirst into home, a reminder that the number “1993” was rarely kind to the Mets). A rookie infielder expected to maybe help out in a utility role, Edgardo Alfonzo, scored his first major league run ITPHR-style at Riverfront Stadium. Fonzie and friends were having themselves quite the Saturday on May 6, 1995, building an impenetrable 11-4 eighth-inning lead that accuracy compels me to confirm proved incredibly penetrable. The Reds scored six in the eighth and three in the ninth to prevail, 13-11.

Somewhere, perhaps, Dave Tomlin chuckled.

The next inside-the-park job was put in the books by another freshman, late-season callup and prospective postseason sparkplug Timo Perez, against the Phillies, on September 24, 2000. You had to like the way that kid hustled and took nothing for granted.

In the Faith and Fear era, we’ve blogged seven Met ITPHRs, none with more revelry than Marlon Anderson’s acronym-happy PH ITPHR on June 11, 2005, against the geographically disoriented Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Anderson’s perfectly placed ball — it landed in right-center at Shea at exactly the spot where Steve Finley could kick it past Vladimir Guerrero — touched off a chase for the ages. Finley chased the ball. Anderson chased history. Anderson blew a bubble and he chugged around third. Finley relayed the ball to Adam Kennedy, who relayed it to Jose Molina, whose tag of Marlon came a scosh too late. The only pinch-hit inside-the-park home run in Met annals — off Francisco Rodriguez, no less — tied the score in the bottom of the ninth and set the stage for Cliff Floyd’s tenth-inning game-winning blast, which traveled over the fence, which was probably healthier for all concerned if a hair less thrilling.

After an inside-the-parker of a pinch-hitting nature with everything on the line off a decorated closer, it would figure all else would be a little downhill, but we have reserved retrospective kudos for Kaz Matsui commencing his 2006 season (albeit a couple of weeks late) with an ITPHR. Kaz’s four-bagger was particularly noteworthy because it marked the third consecutive year in which Matsui’s first plate appearance resulted in a home run. Five months later, the most logical candidate the Mets ever had for inside-the-park glory came through with a flourish. Jose Reyes launched a ball that completely confounded the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp. Jose flew so fast around Shea’s bases that I remain convinced that if he had made a sharp left at the plate, he could have continued on to first for a five-bagger. (That was also the night I was absolutely convinced the 87-52 Mets were going to win the 2006 World Series; sigh.)

Damion Easley, whose metrics never quite captured his usefulness, went inside-the-Miller Park off future Met Chris Capuano in August of 2007. The next two times ITP happened, the victims were former Mets: Martinez for the Phillies in 2009 at Citi Field and Livàn Hernandez of pre-hype Washington in 2010 at Nationals Park. The progenitor on both occasions was Angel Pagan, and despite his well-intentioned victimizing, the Mets lost on both occasions. If you don’t clearly recall Angel’s ’09 poke to the then-cavernous recesses of the Mets’ new crib (nor Shane Victorino pointing at the ball stuck at the base of the Great Wall of Flushing instead of just picking it up, the big baby), it may be because another rarity that Sunday blotted it out: Jeff Francouer’s line drive that became Eric Bruntlett’s game-ending unassisted triple play. Come to think of it, Pagan’s second ITPHR also transpired in a game with a triple play, one he himself started in R.A. Dickey’s very first Met start.

But what Ruben did was pretty cool, too.

Also cool: going on The Happy Recap Radio Show this week. Listen to a little more Mets history talk here.

34 comments to Department of the Interior

  • mikeski

    Question to all:

    What’s the most unlikely player shirt you’ve actually seen worn by someone?

    I was in Hershey last week, eatin’ chocolate & ridin’ roller coasters, when I saw some guy in a Kaz Matsui (“number one super guy”) t-shirt.

    • Game-worn jersey sales kind of skew the equation, but I’m still shocked somebody who wasn’t Ambiorix Burgos wore Ambiorix Burgos’s jersey to a Mets game.

      • mikeski

        Gotta be a relative.

      • dmg

        at philly last week, i saw a guy wearing a pedro beato jersey. i figured it was for whatever comedic value it carried.

      • DAK442

        I was gonna buy a game-used Dave Racaniello jersey after Closing Day as a goof until I saw the $100 price tag. I was agonizing over the one that said “Ball Boy” until my wife chimed in (aptly): “Really? Why the hell would you actually wear that?”.

        • Now that allows the ordering up of retro jerseys, it’s taken a little of the wow factor out of these sorts of sightings. But if you see somebody strolling around Citi Field showing less than officially licensed allegiance to, say, Mauro “Goose” Gozzo, then tip your cap in appreciation.

    • Left Coast Jerry

      Shortly after the Mets traded Ryan Church to Atlanta for Jeff Francoeur, I was at a Mets-Padres game in San Diego, and I saw two guys in Mets t-shirts walking together. One of the shirts read FRANCOEUR and the other read CHURCH.

  • Nick

    “You had to like the way that kid hustled and took nothing for granted.”


    Truth is, Tejada wasn’t exactly busting it till the guy flipped over the railing….

    • “Cautiously aggressive” would describe Ruben’s approach.

    • Eric

      It worked out.

      As a rule, assuming nothing and running hard down the line is the way to do it.

      But if Tejada busted it hard out of the box, 2 detrimental things could have happened.

      One, he runs hard through the bag, and it would have taken him longer to run around the bases when the ball got by Brown. Though Tejada probably would have made it home anyway.

      Two, he makes a hard turn, but Brown fields the ball and throws out Tejada, who’s not fast, at 2B or throws behind Tejada at 1B.

      The strategic pause by Tejada worked out.

  • argman

    Last night my wife, whose interest in our team has been resuscitated by its recent success, asked me how often ITPHR’s occur. I should have known to wait for Greg’s blog entry…
    Funny, I was at that game that ended with the Francouer/Bruntlett triple play, and you are exactly right, I totally forgot the Pagan inside the park homer and Victorino pointing at the ball. I remember laughing as the game ended because although our guys lost, it was one of the more remarkable games I had ever seen.

    • I clearly remember getting my hopes up with two on and nobody out and then, as that ball was in flight, thinking, “ah, go ahead, this is too perfect an ending and we’re not going anywhere anyway.”

    • mikeski

      Another opportunity to remind everyone that Shane Victorio was, is, and will always be an a**hole.

  • Eric

    Now it begins.

    The Mets are spotted a 6-game lead in the loss column.

    The Nationals have 6 head-to-head games (which can cut either way), an easier schedule, and more games at home the rest of the way.

    The Cardinals were the last Nationals opponent we could look forward to helping the Mets gain ground or at least not lose ground with a loss.

    Meanwhile, the Nationals can look forward to the pennant-racing Yankees helping them.

    I was hoping the Mets would add 2 games to their lead with the Cardinals’ help to push the lead to 7 games in the loss column before the final stretch. But +1 is better than +0, which nearly happened. 6-up at least forces the Nationals to out-win the Mets outside of the head-to-head games.

    The Nationals won their prior 4 series before playing the Cardinals on the road. Although they lost 2 in St. Louis, they had the lead late in both losses. They played the Cardinals tough, and I expect the Nationals will go on a run against their weaker remaining competition.

    The final stretch won’t be about adding to the lead. It’ll be about holding onto the lead against the Nationals’ charge.

    In 2007, the collapse started when the Mets lost 5.5 games of their 7-game lead in less than a week that started with a 3-game sweep loss to the Phillies. The head-to-head series next week is big.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Until last night I never realized (for that matter never even looked closely at it) that the ground beyond that low fence is apparently CEMENT! Yikes, it took almost 7 years of games before somebody got hurt falling into that? I think playground padding is pretty cheap, maybe even the Mets can afford it.

    • Eric

      I guess it hadn’t happened because rightfielders have slid when running at the wall.

      Playground-grade padding with a safety briefing to all Mets and visiting outfielders on how to fall on the padding makes sense to me.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Great headline, great entry. That was fun, reading about all the prior ITPHRs and seeing how many I could remember. The Matsui one is probably the most memorable to me because of how freaky it was that he started 3 straight years off with homers. Of course, everything about that guy’s tenure was bizarre. We did actually start him at SS over prime Reyes right?

  • Fred T

    Thanks for the ITPHR memories. I was at Shea for Harrelson’s Little League ITPHR – beautiful Saturday afternoon in July ’72, with Jim McAndrew on the mound – so I looked up the scoring of the play. Bud did get credit for a bunt single, which Pete Richert then threw down the right field line allowing Mays (who had doubled) to score. Frank Robinson was in right, and he threw it away trying to get Bud at 3rd. Being a little leaguer at the time, I thought it was a HR. The two extra runs gave Danny Frisella a cushion to protect McAndrew’s 4-1 win.

    • Thank you for solving the mystery of when this play was and confirming that I wasn’t imagining it. Slight edit made above to reflect that you’ve helped me know what I’m talking about.

      Willie Mays: 660 home runs.
      Frank Robinson: 586 home runs.
      Bud Harrelson: He’s the one to go around the bases directly after making contact.

  • 9th string catcher

    Is it possible that Tejada is the slowest middle infielder of all time? I think half of MLBs catchers can outrun him. Still, very happy that the guy continues to contribute with the glove, with the bat, and obviously with the power!

    Eric – we all have the scars from 2007, but personally, I’m looking forward to the head to heads against the Nats. If the Mets can’t beat them and end up not making the playoffs, then they simply weren’t good enough. And god knows, if they can’t beat the Nats, they don’t have a prayer against St. Louis, Chicago or Pittsburgh. I would much rather they get to the playoffs because they’re a good team, not because the rest of the division stinks.

    It’s very possible this is going down to the last day. So be it!

    • Eric

      The Mets did well to seize the 6-game lead in the loss column, but didn’t quite push the cushion to 1 more than the head-to-head games in the final stretch.

      While I’d welcome the Nationals giftwrapping the division for the Mets, there is clarity in the need to defeat the Nationals head-to-head. And some symmetry with 2007 because the sweep by the Phillies set the course to losing the division … and the next 7 seasons.

      Winning the division by the head-to-head games with the Nationals would be an expiation. I just hope defeating the Nationals next week will do the job so the season-ending series won’t be needed, too.

      You can never know, though. Baseball. The Cubs and Pirates just lost to the Reds and Brewers – other teams may yet swing the division whatever happens in the head-to-head games.

  • open the gates

    I remember the Backman IPHR. I remember thinking two things: 1) Wally Backman was the most likely Met to hit an inside-the-parker. 2) An inside-the-parker was the most likely home run to be hit by Wally Backman. One of my favorites, but not exactly Strawberry with the stick, as you no doubt remember.

  • Joe B

    I attended the game that Ron Hunt hit the inside-the-parker versus Koufax in ’66. As I recall, it was very late in the game, and the Mets were losing 16-2. For some reason, Wes Parker — normally a first baseman — was playing center. Hunt (my favorite Met) hit a line drive single to center. Parker came in to scoop it up and — presto! — the ball hit a rock or sprinkler head and bounced over Parker’s head. It rolled all the way to the wall, and Hunt made it home easily. I remember it like it was yesterday. Last time I ever saw Koufax pitch.

  • jpb

    I think the Polo Grounds were built for ITPHRs.

    • Eric

      At first, I wondered what the big deal was about Mays’s famous catch because I only saw the close-up photo of it. Then I saw pictures of the Polo Grounds with its unique dimensions and I understood. What a strange place to play baseball.

  • Steven

    My guess is the division will be clarified greatly in the next 6 games. Regardless, I don’t see this Mets team falling apart. They have too many good parts on offense now and with the pitching staff. The Nats are going to have to make a monster run because the Mets aren’t going to lose too many more games down the stretch.

  • vertigone

    I’ve been to somewhere between 175-200 MLB games and last night was the 3rd ITPHR I’ve witnessed in person. I was also on hand to see the one Reyes hit against the Dodgers.

    The first one I saw was at my first game ever, though it was hit by the opponent. July 10, 1982, against the Padres, Gene Richards went 5-5 with an ITPHR but the Mets still won, 9-7.

  • Eric

    First base is running out of guys. Duda’s back, Murphy’s quad, now Cuddyer’s wrist. The position is down to Johnson with Campbell backing him up. I wonder whether Flores will get a crash course at 1B.

    I like the tweaks for the line-up tonight with Wright moved up to 2nd, Cespedes 3rd, Conforto moved up to 4th, d’Arnaud 5th. Uribe 6th, Johnson 7th are proper placement, too. Besides the bats, what speed the Mets have in the line-up is concentrated on top. Let’s see what the rookie can do batting clean-up.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Duda is set to begin rehab assignment, so hopefully he’ll be back soon. Missing his defense and left handed power recently.

    • Steven

      Will be helpful to have the other big slugger back in the lineup.

      Would also help if TC would stop bringing in O’Flaherty. Would also help if TC did bring O’Flaherty in and by a miracle play by the backup to the backup to the backup 1st baseman that he recorded an out, if TC would then remember that righties are hitting .413 against O’Flaherty and he should immediately take him out. Unfortunately, TC is Totally Clueless so it’s another winnable game flushed down the toilet by the manager.

  • eric1973

    Never really ever heard anyone say they missed Lucas Duda. Maybe his Mom and Dad said it once.

    Miss Murphy more.

  • 9th string catcher

    Ugh – tough to watch. TC got it right in the 7th – Marlins got some bloops and bleeders, but he put the right guys in. That walk was horrible, and tda would not stop setting up outside. Travis is not a terrible catcher, but in that situation needed some experience.

    Kelly is pretty scary to watch at 1st base.

    Why the hell is eof still on this team? Steven is exactly right – he can’t be left in for more than a batter especially if he’s right handed.

    Finally – Wright was horrible tonight. It happens, but if he gets one hit, Mets win.

    No time to panic – it’s going to be a wild ride to the finish.