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The Walk-Off That Wasn't

There are 324 Mets walk-off wins in my database. There might have been one more, had things broke right on June 30, 1974, 31 years to the date of this post.

Little went right for the Mets in their defense of the NL championship in 1974, starting on Opening Day, when the No. 8 hitter in the Phillies lineup (a second-year man by the name of Mike Schmidt) hit a walk-off home run off Tug McGraw. Injuries and poor play resulted in a miserable season and a final record of 71-91. The Mets were never contenders for the NL East title and limped through June at 30-42 entering a doubleheader on the final day of the month.

Jerry Koosman lost the opening game of the double dip, and the Mets trailed the second game, 3-1, in the ninth inning when things suddenly got very interesting. The Mets loaded the bases on singles by Don Hahn, Ron Hodges and George Theodore, scored on a force play and subsequent RBI single by Teddy Martinez to tie the game. After Rusty Staub flied out, Cleon Jones hit a line drive to right field. Cardinals rightfielder Reggie Smith dove for the ball and rolled over as he tried to grab it. Smith got up claiming he caught it, but the initial reaction from first base umpire Chris Peledoukas was that he trapped it. Wayne Garrett trotted home with the winning run, and the Mets thought they had a very Metsian comeback and a 4-3 win.

The Cardinals sent a committee out to argue the call and the umpires convened to discuss it. Second base umpire Paul Pryor overruled Peledoukas, calling it a catch. The Mets argued, but had no success. In the book "This Date in New York Mets History," Dennis D'Agostino wrote that the initial call appeared to be the correct one, based on televised replays. Nonetheless, Smith told reporters after the game that he caught the ball.

"I'd swear on the Bible I did," was the quote that ran in the New York Times.

Bake McBride's two-run homer in the 10th stood up as the game-winner for the Cardinals. It was wins like this one, one in a September 11 game at Shea that went 25 innings (with Ken Reitz's two-run homer tying it in the ninth and McBride's dash from first to home on a botched pickoff throw making the difference), and a four-run extra-inning rally against Pittsburgh on September 25th that kept the Cardinals in the NL East race until the final days of the campaign. They eventually fell 1 1/2 games short of the Pirates, but enjoyed one heck of a season. The Mets endured nothing but misery, for the most part. That June 30th loss epitomized a season of frustration.

With that in mind, we shall hereby refer to that June 30th game as "The Walk-Off That Wasn't"

True Metkabobs know... That the fewest walk-off wins the Mets have had in a non-strike season is 3 (1968 and 1974). The strike-shortened season of 1981 featured only 2 walk-off wins. The 2005 team has 3 entering the final day of June.

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Alright, so it's 2 days later and the challenge for me now, after reading through about a dozen game stories and listening to talk radio, is to provide a fresh perspective on walk-off #324. If you're going to be a serious reader of this blog, you know what happened already, so let's look at what made this particular walk-off stand out.

It would seem that the place to start is with the idea that everything broke just right on both sides of the ball. Particularly, I'm talking about Carlos Beltran's catch in the 7th inning, where he went over the center field fence to rob Jose Molina of a home run. Every no-hitter seems to have one defensive gem that makes it possible and perhaps that's true of great walk-off moments as well (We'll be looking into that!)

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