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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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On the 1s

Pete Alonso homered Saturday night in St. Louis. We know that’s not a first. DJ Stewart homered Saturday night in St. Louis. We know from his no longer wholly unexpected production that that wasn’t a first. Daniel Vogelbach launched a grand slam to pretty much bury St. Louis on Saturday night. We can pretend Daniel Vogelbach has never done nothin’ for nobody Metwise, but we also know he’s hit a home run before while draped in orange and blue. On the pitching side, we know Kodai Senga has won a decent amount of games. This one, Saturday night in St. Louis, he won by quite a decent margin, 13-2. As that romp of a score would indicate, no save opportunity emerged.

A lovely win for the Metsies, their sixth in seven games. But not much in the way of firsts. That’s OK, though, because there was quite a spate of firsts from two nights earlier that call for sipping, savoring and digesting slowly.

They were big.

How big?

Bigger than the surprise of Stewart belting five home runs for the Mets this year.

Bigger than Alonso’s heart in making right Friday night’s faux pas vis-à-vis flinging the ball from Masyn Winn’s first career hit into the Busch Stadium crowd (Pete ponied up for a bottle of high-end tequila and provided a souvenir for anybody who happened to be sitting 466 feet from home plate).

Bigger than Senga performing as the rock of a rotation that was rocked to its core at the trading deadline.

Bigger than Vogelbach, even.

When Trevor Gott closed out Thursday night’s game on behalf of Jose Quintana, defending a 4-2 lead that been buttressed by a Tim Locastro shot over the center field fence, three 1’s lined up to shake hands:

Quintana had his 1st win as a Met.
Gott had his 1st save as a Met.
Locastro had his 1st home run as a Met.

Jose Quintana, pitching as if he really were acquired to bolster a rotation grinding its way toward the playoffs, had been a notable victim of hard luck ever since making his long-delayed debut in July. In his first five starts, once he was fully recovered from the rib surgery that derailed his Spring Training, the Mets scored three runs for Jose while he was pitcher of record, leaving that record 0-4 despite an ERA barely a tick above three. We may have dismissed for all time the efficacy of the pitcher win during the reign of deGrom, but c’mon. Jose Quintana pitched winning baseball. The least his teammates could have given him was enough offense to facilitate a win.

Trevor Gott also came into this season as a second-act character. The Mets traded for him during that brief interregnum when they couldn’t decide whether or not they were a contender, and maybe it would be nice to have an extra proven arm on call in the bullpen. The trade that brought him here from Seattle for Zack Muckenhirn was most noteworthy for the guy who accompanied him partway on the trip. The Mets were also taking Chris Flexen off Seattle’s hands, with no intention of using Flexen to pitch because all the Mariners wanted was to be rid of Flexen’s salary, and who better to launder an unwanted contract than Steve Cohen? (Flexen got good in Korea after floundering for us for a couple of years, kept it up upon returning to America, then reverted to form, Darin Ruf-style.) Flexen moved on to Colorado. Gott faded into Met middle innings. Of the six runners he inherited between July 18 and August 6, he allowed five of them to score. Leverage for Trevor understandably diminished. He’s seemed to pitch better lately than he did initially. On this team, when middle innings can begin alarmingly early, who can tell?

Tim Locastro was never a Met for his bat. His legs were his stock in trade. “One of the things we looked at, analytically, over the weekend,” Billy Eppler explained regarding the topic of “building the diversity of the bench” as Spring Training ended, “was just how often do situations happen in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth inning, where somebody that we might pinch-run for would get on first base with second base open, and how many times that occurs, and being able to give Buck that bullet to fire as he sees fit, we just felt that was important.” The translation to all that is incumbent Daniel Vogelbach was viewed as inert as a tree trunk when he’s not connecting for grand slams. From March 31 to April 16, Locastro was sent to bat ten times (0-for-7, 3 HBP) and used as a pinch-runner on five occasions, thrice for Vogelbach. Nice work if you can get it, except injuries — back spasms, then a torn UCL in his right thumb — prevented Tim from keeping it. When he returned a week ago, three months removed from making himself familiar to us, the overriding impulse was to tell him, hey, I think we used to have a guy with your name here. (One also imagines Vogelbach crying tears of joy to have somebody take off for second in his stead on those intermittent occasions when Daniel draws a walk or makes successful contact.)

“Journeyman” isn’t the most flattering phrase in baseball, and it might not exactly apply to Quintana, a 2016 All-Star and a postseason starter as recently as last October, but Jose is on his seventh major league team since debuting in 2012 (putting aside the Mets signed him to his very first professional contract — and proceeded to release him not that long after — while Shea Stadium still stood). The Mets are Trevor’s sixth club dating back to his first trip to the mound from the pen in 2015. Tim, around since 2017, is a Met after having worn three other uniforms. Locastro turned 31 while rehabbing last month. Gott will turn the same next weekend. Quintana is 34. All these guys have their stripes, their hashmarks, their roles. They’ve all had their journeys.

It struck an attentive fan as remarkable that their journeys would converge in the same box score in an almost virginal manner. One win for Quintana. One save for Gott. One home run for Locastro. Not just one of each of these feats in the season already in progress, but one total in their careers as Mets. Granted, those careers as Mets haven’t been as lengthy as their overall CVs. Jose was making his sixth start as a Met, Trevor was making his 19th appearance as a Met and Tim was playing in his seventeenth game as a Met. Quintana was run-deprived. Gott’s responsibilities didn’t usually include ninth innings — and the Mets didn’t usually have leads by then — and Locastro was rarely asked to hit (and obliged as such, going 0-for-4 after his IL exile until going deep Thursday…as a pinch-hitter for the decidedly more power-oriented Stewart, no less). Still, these are categories we notice. Who got the win? Who got the save? Did anybody homer? And if there was a win, a save and/or a home run, how many is that for that/those guy(s)?

W — Quintana (1)
S — Gott (1)
HR — Locastro (1)

That, the attentive fan decided, had to be unusual. The fan couldn’t remember seeing that particular row of 1s at a game’s end since…well, he couldn’t remember that, either. Not just firsts in a particular season, but firsts as Mets. It must have happened, though…right? Maybe not with veterans in the middle of August, veterans who weren’t just the day before acquired in one trade deadline spasm. Certainly in April, it had to have happened. New Mets notching accomplishments for the first time as Mets. Surely some combination of offseason arrivals and promising rookies had converged with their first Met win, their first Met save and their first Met home run.

410 Met pitchers have recorded a first win as a Met.
193 Met pitchers have recorded a first save as a Met.
468 Met hitters have recorded a first home run as a Met.

What were the odds the three events hadn’t coincided before August 17, 2023 on a ballclub that had existed since April 11, 1962?

This was a job for curiosity, aided by a feel for Baseball-Reference. The curious fan figured out what to do:

• Go to good ol’ BB-Ref’s 1962 Mets schedule page;

• Align it by the W/L column (which would thus display Met wins chronologically before listing all those pesky losses);

• Shift focus to the Save column;

• And then be discerning.

When you see a name you haven’t seen before, such as Roger Craig’s, move your eyeballs to the Win column. Who had the win? Craig Anderson? It’s May 6, 1962. The Mets are new. They’ve had very few wins let alone saves. You already know Roger Craig’s is the very first save in Met history and therefore it has to be his first Met save. Roger is the ace of the staff, but the game goes 12 innings and Casey Stengel isn’t fooling around, given the Mets’ 3-16 record entering this particular Sunday in Philadelphia. You’re also already cognizant that Craig Anderson doesn’t have one of the Original Mets’ original three wins, but you confirm it because you don’t want to assume anything. It is indeed Craig Anderson’s first Met win (achieved in relief), setting up the opportunity for Roger Craig’s first Met save, which Roger cashed in.

Great! We’re two-thirds of the way there! Now all you have to do is click on the May 6 box score and check to see if any Met has hit his very first home run as a Met against the Phillies. You click, and…nope. No Met home runs in the 7-5 Met victory. Oh well, that’s all right, we have an entire first season of Mets baseball ahead of us to optically scan, so there has to be at least one instance of a first Mets win, a first Mets save and a first Mets home run all coming in the same game. There are only 40 Met wins overall, but everybody is new this year. It had to happen.

Yet it didn’t.

• On May 19, Anderson’s first Met save protected Ken MacKenzie’s first Mets win, but the only Met homer was Frank Thomas’s tenth.

• Dave Hillman’s first and only Met save on June 9 backed up Willard Hunter’s first Mets win, but Cliff Cook had to go and spoil it all by having his home run in that game be his second as a Met. (Imagine getting mad at a Met for homering too much 61 years ago.)

• When on June 10 MacKenzie joined the corps of relievers to earn a save in these non-closer days, Roger Craig was the winner, and Roger was already in the win column, so no need to check on the home run situation.

• The next time a Met pulled down a save, it was luckless starter Bob L. Miller (1-12 by year’s end) doing the honors on July 2, but the pitcher of record on the long side was MacKenzie, who we’ve already established had previously won (Ken was famously the only Met with a record over .500, finishing 5-4).

The Mets collected precisely two more saves in 1962, and they were recorded by Anderson (Craig) and Craig (Roger), and we’ve already seen their names, so if there was a first Met homer hit in those games, the homer is moot.

You’ve just gone through a season of Mets baseball, the very first one, but you can’t find an episode that serves as precedent for the Quintana-Gott-Locastro Trifecta.

Fine. You’ll just go through the next 61 seasons of Mets baseball and keep looking until you find every example of a first Mets win, a first Mets save and a first Mets home run all coming in the same game.

Well, you won’t. But I did. That’s what I did late Thursday night, and it’s what I did first chance I got Friday morning. And this is what I found:

What Quintana, Gott and Locastro combined to do is very rare.

It didn’t happen in 1963.
It didn’t happen in 1964.
It didn’t happen in 1965.

It wasn’t as daunting to look up as it might sound, especially when there weren’t many entries in the Save column. The Mets weren’t winning much more in their toddler years than they were as infants, and saves simply weren’t a thing. They were coming — instituted as an official statistic in 1969 after a growing sense that relief pitchers’ contributions were undervalued (Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference apply them retroactively for games before then, yet like sacks in the NFL prior to 1982, they existed in common practice before they were fully recognized by powers that be) — but these were still the halcyon days of starters being expected to go nine. In 1968, when Bob Gibson won 22 games, there were no saves registered in any of them. Gibby may present the most stark example (he completed 28 games, or six more than he won), but it’s not like those Cardinals didn’t strategically employ relievers. Joe Hoerner posted 17 saves for the NL champions. in the aptly named Year of the Pitcher. Late-inning relieving was on the rise, but it wasn’t baked into the equation as it is today.

When examining the Mets’ schedule pages from their first few years, I had to be extra diligent because the proto-modern reliever had yet to be invented. I don’t know those guys from first-hand spectating experience, so I can’t speak to their usage patterns without looking them up. Not that there was a lot to look up. Craig Anderson led the Mets with four saves in 1962, same number as Larry Bearnarth led the pen with in 1963. Willard Hunter set the pace with five in 1964, then it’s Dennis Ribant with three in 1965. None of them corresponded his first Met save with both somebody else’s first Met win and another player’s first Met home run.

It’s not until Jack Hamilton collects 13 saves in 1966 that we get a taste of what would become the relied-upon fireman, forerunner to the closer. Hamilton was a staple of the Met rotation until the middle of June. Jack lasted a single ugly inning on June 9 before pitching what looks, in 21st-century terms, very solidly four days later, going seven innings, giving up two runs and retiring his final 15 batters, which, per Gabe Buonauro of the Bergen Record constituted “a shaky start” (men were men). “Right now,” manager Wes Westrum said after Jack’s 4-1 loss to the Cardinals on June 13 as he sorted among a rare surfeit of starting pitching candidates, “I’m contemplating putting Hamilton in the bullpen. He’s just right in our situation now.” When asked about Jack coming into games with men on base, Wes replied, “If you give him room to work, he’ll be all right.”

Such an endorsement! The skipper amplified it a bit a few days later, as reported by Dick Young in the Daily News: “I need somebody out there I can depend on. I need somebody who can come in often and hold them at the end, and it looks like Hamilton is my best bet. He’s the strongest son of a gun in the world.” The Mets had recently brought in veterans Bob Shaw and Bob Friend, while rookie Dick Rusteck shocked the world by shutting out the Reds in his very first major league outing. “I have enough starters right now,” Westrum said. “What we have to beef up is the relief. Hamilton can save a lot of games.”

Young went on to opine, “Hamilton is no different than any other man who plays baseball for a living. He would prefer to start. That’s where the money is, and the big glory, and the good life. Starters take a night on the town after they work, and they know they won’t be working again until four days later. You adjust your social calendar to that sort of thing. A reliever does the town at his own risk. He might be in there on short sleep the next day, and with a head doesn’t quite squeeze into the batting helmet.”

Times were different, huh? But Hamilton had a timeless quote for Young. “I don’t care,” he said about his role. “Whenever Wes wants to use me, that’s fine. Where I can help most.” Players still say they just want to help the team, whether they absolutely mean it or not. Transferred to the bullpen, Jack was assigned the ninth inning on June 15 in Atlanta with the Mets ahead by one. He popped out Joe Torre and Gene Oliver before surrendering a single and a pair of walks. The bases were loaded and Hank Aaron strode to the plate. Bad Henry — at the time leading the majors in homers and RBIs — flied out to Cleon Jones in center to end the game. Hamilton had his first Met save, and an even better quote for Young:

“Never in doubt.”

But also never denting the First Met Win/First Met Save/First Met Home Run column, because although reliever Bill Hepler notched his first Met win in the very same game that Jack Hamilton earned his first Met save, the only Met homer of the night flew off the bat of Eddie Bressoud…his fourth as a Met.

So, no, no Quintana/Gott/Locastro forebears in 1966, either.

To do a little chase-cutting here, as complete games became increasingly rarer birds until they grew practically extinct, and relief pitchers began to find the money and the glory (one wonders how Dick Young would processed Edwin Diaz and Timmy Trumpet), sussing out First Met Saves became both easier and somehow less fruitful. Beginning with Hamilton’s transformation in 1966, one combing Baseball-Reference’s Mets schedule pages knew he’d see only a handful of names notching saves in a given year. Those names tended to gain incumbent status, meaning one save begat many and you weren’t getting too many chances to link First Met Saves to First Met Wins, let alone First Met Home Runs. You’ve seen one “Franco,” you’ve seen them all for the purposes of this pursuit. (John Franco’s first Met save was for Frank Viola, who’d safely tucked his first Met win away the year before.)

You still had to keep an eagle eye open for the newcomers — like Francisco Rodriguez in 2009 (first Met save for Johan Santana, who, like Viola, had started winning as a Met a year earlier) and, more keenly, for Circumstantial Savers, like bona fide journeyman Raul Valdes — a 32-year-old rookie from Cuba who had been pitching professionally since he was 19 — on the night in 2010 when Valdes was asked to pick up for R.A. Dickey — whose journeyman bona fides need no introduction in this room. R.A., ND’d in his first Met start six days earlier, went six before Jerry Manuel lifted him for a pinch-hitter while Dickey held a 4-0 lead over the Phillies at Citi Field. PH Chris Carter made it a comfy 5-0. Raul was trusted to finish up for a three-inning save once the Mets blew the game open to 8-0; no need to wake Francisco Rodriguez for that one.

This game…it was all coming back to me now…

I was at this game!

R.A.’s first home start!

R.A.’s first home postgame quote!

“I feel like I’m 27 in knuckleball years because I started throwing it in ’05. It’s been a nice journey for me with this pitch.”

The first full-on indicator that R.A. Dickey was a revelation during and after his outings!

And R.A.’s first win as a Met!

Valdez did not give it up, thus it was Raul’s first Met save!

This was part of the legendary (for about five minutes) Goose Egg Sweep, when Mets pitching posted 27 consecutive zeros versus the reigning National League champs and persistent Met nemeses!

Fine, fine. But did some Met his first Met homer in this game?

No, no Met did. Jose Reyes tripled and David Wright doubled, but neither of those were novel events by 2010. Valdes doubled and scored, too, which he never did before in the majors and would never do again. That’s also fine, but that’s not what we’re looking for.

What Quintana, Gott and Locastro did in tri-cornered tandem did not happen in any Mets game in 2010 any more than it happened in any Mets game between 1962 and 1966. It didn’t happen on any nights Franco took off during the decade he strangleheld the closer’s role, not even when John was out with an elbow injury in 1992 and redeployed starter Anthony Young came along and nailed his first Met save, with Lee Guetterman grabbing his first Met win on July 1. Hey, ya think somebody hit his first Met homer in the same game?

Nope. Bobby Bonilla did go yard for his ninth of the year, however. Bobby Bonilla always did have a predilection for July 1.

Did I say I was cutting to the chase? OK, let’s do it, really. Before Jose Quintana, Trevor Gott and Tim Locastro got their respective first Met win, save and home run in the same game, it happened exactly twice in Mets history. The reason I couldn’t remember any of it is because it happened before I began watching the Mets, which was in 1969. Imagine that: what we witnessed the other night hadn’t occurred for at least 54 years.

Longer, actually. You have to go back to 1967 for the last time a Met pitcher recorded his first Met win, a Met reliever registered his first save and a Met batter whacked his first Met home run. And there are a few kickers besides.

1) It not only happened last in 1967, it happened twice in 1967.

2) It not only happened twice in 1967, it happened a week apart in 1967.

3) Involved in each game was only the greatest player in Mets history.

As kickers go, Adam Vinatieri can take a back seat. Lionel Messi can take a back seat, too. Hell, Paul O’Neill can take a back seat, and he once kicked a ball from right field directly to his first baseman (it happened when he was with the Reds; John Franco was pitching and wound up with the loss).

It’s April 13, 1967. Tom Seaver is making his very first major league start, at Shea Stadium. But, no, it’s not Tom Seaver who fills the First Win as a Met bucket. That would have been something, considering it was the second game of the season, and Westrum trusted a mere rookie with only one year in the minor leagues to take the ball so soon. “I’ll admit he doesn’t have much experience,” Wes said of the 22-year-old from Fresno. “But he gets people out.” He got Oriole people out over five shutout innings in Spring, and those were defending world champion people. He gave up only one run in the Grapefruit League. Westrum probably didn’t have to explain himself, but nobody had yet seen Tom Seaver navigate a regular-season contest.

Tom did OK, if not yet Terrific. Five-and-a-third versus Pittsburgh, six hits and four walks, but only two runs, burnished by eight strikeouts. When he gave up a double to opposing pitcher Vern Law and hit Matty Alou, Westrum decided it was time to pull the freshman who was barely a year removed from USC. In came another product of Central California, former Oriole Chuck Estrada to extricate the Mets from the sixth and keep the game a 2-2 tie. Like Quintana, Estrada had an All-Star selection in his past, though, like Quintana, Estrada’s was a while ago by the time he got to the Mets. Chuck won 18 games that year, 1960, though he’d lose 17 in 1962 and, after injuries had taken their toll on his career trajectory, no longer be among the Birds by the time they flew to their highest heights in ’66. After Estrada alighted with the Cubs for half a season, the Mets signed him and invited him to the same camp where Seaver impressed.

With no guarantee of a roster spot, Chuck made the team. Now he was following none other than Tom Seaver to the mound, though on April 13, 1967, all that meant was trying to hold the score even at two after some rookie ran out of gas. The Mets’ two runs to that point came as a result of a two-run homer by second baseman Jerry Buchek. Buchek was also not on any kind of depth chart entering Spring Training. The Mets traded for him with ten days to go before Opening Day, sending the unusually powerful shortstop Bressoud to St. Louis along with Danny “Vive la France!” Napoleon to get him. Bressoud, whose ten home runs as a shortstop would be a Met record for a long time, wound up a part of the Orioles’ successors as world champs in ’67. Buchek settled in as a Met and showed his own pop, belting 14 homers for the Mets, ten more than he’d totaled in any previous season.

His first came in his second game as a Met, the same game that marked the major league debut of Seaver and the Met debut of Estrada. Estrada stayed out there for Westrum in the seventh and eighth, allowing only a single, maintaining that tie. In the home eighth, Buchek continued to shine, singling, taking second on a Jerry Grote sac bunt and moving to third on a right-side groundout from Larry Stahl. Westrum proceeded to remove Estrada in favor of pinch-hitter Chuck Hiller and was rewarded for his decision, as Hiller doubled and Buchek crossed the plate. Chuck Estrada was now the pitcher of record. All he needed was the next arm out of the bullpen to work as well as his had.

That arm belonged to righthander Ron Taylor, a veteran reliever the Mets purchased from the Astros in February. Ron had pitched one very big game in New York previously. It was in the World Series, in the Bronx, in 1964. Ron entered Game Four in the sixth inning, asked to ensure safe passage of a one-run lead clear through the ninth. Now that’s a save situation. The future doctor operated successfully on Yankee bats for four scoreless innings, and the 4-3 advantage became a 4-3 win, and Ron Taylor indeed had himself a World Series save. The World Series win in Game Four, pivotal toward the Cards capturing the title in seven, went to none other than the first Met who ever got himself a save: Roger Craig, who started 19 games for the National League champs but also came out of the bullpen 20 times. Craig relieved another pitcher with Met connections, one who didn’t get out of the first and wouldn’t get to the Mets until 1970, Ray Sadecki.

The year before Sadecki joined the Mets, Ron Taylor was the primary fireman for another world champion, teaming with converted lefty starter Tug McGraw to shut down ninth innings that weren’t being steered to the finish line by the formidable young starters nurtured by Gil Hodges and Rube Walker. The Mets staff posted 51 complete games and 35 saves in 1969. Good luck finding that ratio in 2023.

There was good luck in finding Taylor at Shea. If he fell from grace in St. Louis, and if Houston didn’t know what to do with him, the Mets were happy to have him serve as the foundation of a bullpen that would sprout save opportunities as much as did tomatoes once Joe Pignatano came to town with Hodges, Walker and Eddie Yost. But that was a little later. Yet it really all started on April 13, 1967, when Ron came in to nurse this one-run lead. Or would that be doctor a one-run lead in light of Taylor’s ultimate profession? Doctor, nurse…it was all in the name of wellness, and Taylor provided excellent preventive care. Ron induced Maury Wills to line out, struck out Roberto Clemente looking and threw a pitch that Willie Stargell grounded to third. Scary lineup those Pirates had, but in the words of Jack Hamilton, never in doubt.

First Met save for Taylor.
First Met win for Estrada.
First Met home run for Buchek.

Jackpot!!! We have a winner!!! We also have Tom Seaver becoming a major leaguer on the same day!!! We really had a winner!!!

In one week’s time, we’d do it all over again, and this time, it would be Seaver posting his first Met (and major league) win in a game whose scoring included Tommy Davis’s first Met home run. Davis was another former World Series champion who came to the Mets on the downside of a distinguished career — a tradition started in 1962 by 1955 Brooklyn Dodger Roger Craig, among others — and sought revival in Queens. That first home run on April 20 would send Davis, a perennial MVP candidate until a broken ankle dimmed his stardom, on the comeback trail. He’d lead the 1967 Mets in home runs (16) and runs batted in (73) and reset a path that would see him keep playing until 1976.

But did we mention this was Tom Seaver’s first win? It probably bears repeating, given that he’s Tom Seaver. He might not have yet been TOM SEAVER, but this was his first marker, obtained by seven-and-a-third innings of one-run ball versus the Cubs, with no walks allowed and eight hits scattered. Most telling was the rookie admitting to Westrum in the eighth that he was again out of gas, as much a sign of maturity as fatigue. Ahead, 3-1 and with Don Kessinger standing on first base, Tom couldn’t finish what he started. Somebody else would have to.

That somebody was another rookie, reliever Don Shaw. Don Shaw, a southpaw, was not to be confused with Bob Shaw, who came from the right side. Bob had been on the scene since 1957 and started more than 200 games in the previous decade. Bob held a spot in Westrum’s rotation. Don not only accepted his relief role, he embraced it as a vocation rather than a comedown from starting, no matter what Dick Young had to say about starters living the life. “It used to be,” Bob Rubin wrote in Newsday, “that young pitchers automatically wanted to be starters. But this is an era of specialization.” It was about to be, at any rate.

Like fellow reliever Estrada, Don had to impress management in order to trek north from St. Petersburg. Mission accomplished. His first appearance came on Opening Day, in relief of Don Cardwell. It wasn’t pretty, leaving him with a lifetime ERA of 9.00. But it was just one outing. His next two chances went better, earning him the opportunity no other pitcher can ever claim.

Don Shaw was going to try to save Tom Seaver’s first win.

It was likely no reflection of Tom’s faith in his teammate that he couldn’t bear to watch. Seaver preferred to pitch his own game. If stamina was an issue on the mound, nerves were an issue in the dugout. Tom took to the clubhouse and listened on the radio.

What he heard was mighty pleasing. Shaw, possessor of a sinker coach Yogi Berra referred to as a “worm killer,” teased a ground ball from Billy Williams, who had earlier tripled in the only run off Seaver. This time Billy rapped the pitch to Buchek at second, who started a 4-3 double play to calm Seaver’s nerves. The Mets added three runs to their lead in the bottom of the eighth, making everybody breathe easier. Don returned to the mound and set down Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Randy Hundley in order for his first Met (and major league) save. “What a job Don did,” Tom told reporters after hearing all about it over flagship station WJRZ, before reiterating, “of course, I’d rather finish myself.”

Seaver’s attitude toward handling his business, evident as he rued for reporters that he had dared to let his tank run dry, echoed eighteen years later, when at age 39, he took care of all 27 outs en route to his 300th career win. By then, he’d figured out how to preserve his petroleum. His third career start, on April 25, 1967, was a complete game win that required ten innings. Yeah, Tom was a fast learner. Tom would complete 18 games in his Rookie of the Year campaign and 231 across twenty seasons. Westrum, demonstrating astounding mastery of the obvious, said of the kid wearing No. 41, “I think we’ve found a good one.”

Shaw’s numbers wouldn’t pile up more than a fraction as high as Seaver’s. There’d be military service, injuries, a move to Montreal with the expansion draft and only six saves in a career that ended in 1972 with a cameo on the eventual world champion A’s, but the first of those saves couldn’t have come in support of a more portentous victory. Don Shaw saved Tom Seaver’s first win. And Don did it when his accomplishment still required a bit of an explanation, at least in the Daily News, where Norm Miller informed readers, “Since the score was 3-1 when Shaw came on and he faced the potential tying run with Williams at the plate with a man on base, the 23-year-old lefty earned himself the save.” The accompanying box score did not denote the stat, but the agate in The Sporting News was more thorough, as “(Save 1)” sat adjacent to the name “D. Shaw”.

So to recap:

First Met win for Seaver.
First Met save for Shaw.
First Met home run for Davis.

Three fairly glamorous Met firsts on April 20, just like on April 13. If it was going to be a weekly occurrence, it probably didn’t merit exclamation points, but if it was known nothing quite like this synchronization of firsts would happen for a trio of Mets for another 56 years, you might have said WOW!!!

The short version of the story, as shared with and featured in the Mets’ game notes the other night.

Trust me, I kept looking for evidence that it had happened between 1967 and 2023. I got momentarily excited when I arrived in the first week of 1968 and found Danny Frisella posted his first Met/career save in the same game that Nolan Ryan posted his first Met/career win, a 4-0 shutout in the Astrodome. I clicked hopefully on the box score. Tommie Agee was new to the team in 1968. So was Art Shamsky. So was J.C. Martin. So was Al Weis, though I knew Al held off on power displays until 1969. Maybe one of the others, though…nah. The Mets scored their four runs on April 14, 1968, without benefit of a home run. They also exhausted their offensive supply for the series, because the next night, they played 24 innings and lost, 1-0. Seaver went ten, but got no-decisioned for his trouble. Year of the Pitcher indeed.

I don’t know what this is the year of, but if it included the harmonic convergence of Quintana’s first Met win, Gott’s first Met save and Locastro’s first Met homer amid a week when the Mets were winning six of seven, this can’t be the year of all bad.

Knock wood, 2023 won’t be confused with 2003. You can relive that year of mostly not great (with a few leavening moments) as part of the It Happens in Threes series on the newest episode of National League Town.

13 comments to On the 1s

  • John Farrell

    Always enjoy you guys. Interesting takes, actual insights, wonderful writing

  • ToBeDetermined

    Amazing. I would never even think to check this kind of thing.

    Actually, since saves weren’t official in 1967, you could say that this was the first time it ever “really” happened.

    Obligatory: “Well, if they had played like this before the trade deadline…” Now nobody else has to say it.

    • Eric

      If the Mets had played like this before the trade deadline, I doubt they would have kept pace with the Braves. But well enough to have a hold on a wildcard? I think so. At least be in the scrum.

      At this point, I’ll take the win streak and the momentary thrill of the distance to the 3rd wildcard shrinking to 6 games. If the Mets win today, they’ll pull even with the Padres and they can set their sights on the scrum for the 2nd and 3rd wildcards. The Cardinals are a bad team right now, though, and the Mets schedule jumps in difficulty after today. We can look forward to the Mets playing some of the teams they need to overtake for a wildcard but only if they’re hot enough to beat the Braves, Rangers, and Mariners, with the Mets-level Angels mixed in, coming up. I don’t expect it.

    • A save in 1967 as kind of “you get a lollipop for a job well done” versus the recognized stat it grew into crossed my mind in terms of it being a goal of a reliever in the ninth inning 56 years ago as it is now. Gott going for the save when he’s not piling them up as a matter of course as a regular closer would might hit different in his mind, “I’ve just gotta get outs and maintain the coaching staff’s trust,” as opposed to It’s Save Time for Johnny Franco!

  • Joe D

    Great post Greg…. All of us oddity stat nerds here eat this stuff up.

    Maybe we’ll get some 56-yr statistical symmetry next week with an Ortega jack backing a Bickford win locked down by Hartwig?

  • Eric

    I echo ToBeDetermined. Leave it to Greg and FaFiF to seize on a quirk in an ordinary game in the midst of a disappointing season and use it to dive in the well of Mets history.

    Quintana’s 1st Mets win and Gott’s 1st Mets save coming together isn’t too unlikely: They’re both pitching well. Locastro pinch-hitting at all for Stewart in a close game was unexpected, and then hitting a home run in his 1 AB in that game was more unexpected.

  • Daniel.

    What an epic post! Fantastic. Thanks

  • JerseyJack

    Wow ! Great work, Greg ! Wondering how long it actually took u to do this research ?