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Let's Hear It For Mr. D'Agostino

I believe it was in the winter of 1982, that for my seventh birthday, my dad gave me two books. One was called "Baseball's 100," and its author, Maury Allen, ranked the best players in baseball history to that point. The other was "This Date in New York Mets History" by Dennis D'Agostino.

If you wanted to measure the impact that "This Date in New York Mets History" had on me, the closest thing I could equate it to would be that which L Ron Hubbard's "Dianetics" had on Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes (except I'm not jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey's sofa anytime soon).

"This Date in Mets History" is 222 pages long and I have read every word on every page, probably 222 times. It was there that I learned such valuable lessons like that I share a birthday with Bob Apodaca (January 31), that Bill Sudakis was known to his Metsmates as "Suds," that one series sweep by the Phillies in 1980 was known as "The Lost Weekend" and that trading Tom Seaver to the Reds was, at least when the book was published, one of the best and worst trades in Mets history. I literally devoured this book. The closest descriptive word I have for it is "gross." It is dog-eared, torn up, and missing the cover page, but that is part of its charm.

It is also from this book that I greatly increased my vocabulary. I picked up words such as "riotous" (used to describe a series between the Mets and Expos that featured a lot of beanball), "fortitude" (used to explain the choice of the name change of the Mets mascot from "Arthur" to "Mettle" and "squander" (as in, "The Mets squandered a four-run lead"). No wonder I did so well in school.

On page 42, there is an entry for June 4, 1969, and that is our walk-off focus for today. The Mets and Dodgers (yes, the Dodgers again) played an extra-inning classic that day, featuring a great pitchers duel between Bill Singer and Mets rookie Jack DiLauro. The two teams matched zeroes as Singer flirted with a perfect game for six innings and DiLauro escaped a couple of early jams. The contest went into extra-innings and both teams went to their bullpens.

In the top of the 15th, the Dodgers threatened, putting runners at the corners with one out. Wille Davis was the hitter and he hit a grounder off pitcher Ron Taylor that caromed towards second base. Al Weis charged the ball, made a barehand play and threw home just in time for catcher Jerry Grote to get incoming baserunner Billy Grabarkewitz at home plate. On the Mets highlight album that season, "Miracle Mets," that moment is re-created by Bob Murphy, who states "Oh what a play by Al Weis! I've never seen a better one by an infielder." (as a side note, I'm guessing that the real play took about 3 seconds to unfold. The cheesy re-created version takes about 30 seconds, allowing Murph to provide every detail).

The Mets stole the game in the bottom of the 15th, when with one out, Tommie Agee scored all the way from first when Davis misplayed Wayne Garrett's single to center. That gave the Mets a sweep of the Dodgers and matched a team record with their seventh straight win.

That's basically exactly how D'Agostino described it, with one exception. For emphasis regarding Weis's play, he writes "True Metophiles will recall..." It is from there that I got the inspiration for the use of trivia (IE: "True Metegists know...") at the end of each of these essays.

I got to meet D'Agostino about 10 years ago, when I was interning for MSG Network, and he was working in public relations for the Knicks (about whom he's produced a great book, "Garden Glory"), and I told him how much influence the book had on my life. He shared with me a secret. "This Date..." sold so few copies, that it was part of the reason that the publishing company, Stein and Day, went out of business. He also signed the copy of my book, a little while after I let him know that I planned to write the sequel. As a young writer, he once told Mets book author, Leonard Koppett, the same thing.

D'Agostino's inscription reads: "Mark- Thanks so much for keeping the faith. But you really do need to get a life..."

True Metinetics know...Two of the players rated in Maury Allen's book "Baseball's 100," had walk-off hits for the Mets. They are No. 72, George Foster (remember, this book was published in 1981) and No. 1, Willie Mays.


metswalkoffs said…

If you saw what the book looked like, you'd understand. The book looks like I chomped on it a little bit. I think I used the term appropriately :)

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