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The Torre Story

If the rest of Joe Torre's reign had gone half as well as the first eight games did, perhaps Mets history would be a little different.

After a 15-30 start to the 1977 season, and much dissension between players and ownership, Mets management axed manager Joe Frazier and named Torre, still an active player, to his first managerial gig. The 1977 Mets were not a happy bunch and couldn't carry over the late season success of the previous year, other than in Torre's first week on the job.

"We're not as as bad a team as the record indicates," Torre said at his first press conference, and for a few happy days, he was right. Torre decided to play an aggressive style of baseball and that seemed to wake the Mets out of their doldrums. They swept a series at Montreal, than took three of four from the defending NL East champion Phillies. The last two wins of that series came on June 5, in a doubleheader sweep, one that included the first of many walk-off wins in Joe Torre's managerial career.

In the opener of the double dip, the Mets trailed 4-1 through four innings, after the Phillies beat up rookie starter Jackson Todd, but rallied with one run in the fifth and three in the seventh, taking the lead on a two-run triple by Lenny Randle. Some good middle relief allowed the 5-4 edge to stand up until two were out in the ninth, and then the game took a weird twist.

Future Mets broadcaster Tim McCarver homered off future Mets pitching coach Bob Apodaca, evening a game the Mets thought they had won. Apodaca escaped further damage in the ninth, and pitched a scoreless 10th after the Mets failed to score.

John Milner singled with one out in the Mets 10th against reliever Tom Underwood. Dave Kingman followed with a single and when the throw from centerfielder Gary Maddox came into third base, Kingman tried, for no apparent reason, to go to second. Kingman smashed his elbow into the nose of a future Mets manager, Phillies second baseman Davey Johnson and Johnson came out much worse for wear. Not only was Kingman safe (the Phillies disagreed), but Johnson broke his nose on the play (he remained in the contest).

With runners on second and third, Torre sent himself up to pinch-hit, but the Phillies decided not to let the manager win his own game, and walked him intentionally to load the bases. John Stearns was up next but he never really got a chance to hit. Underwood's first pitch was a wild pitch and Milner sprinted home with the winning run.

The Mets won a nailbiter in Game 2 and then Seaver shut out the Reds on June 7, beating Pat Zachry, to make Torre seven for eight as Mets manager. That was about as good as it got. The front office decided it couldn't keep unhappy veterans, so Seaver and Kingman were both dealt on June 15, a dark day in Mets history (Zachry actually came to the Mets in the Seaver deal.

The 1977 team went 42-67 after that initial surge and finished at 64-98. Torre made it through four more seasons with ugly records before being fired at the end of the 1981 campaign. His first managerial stint concluded with a record of 286-420, and a winning percentage of .405, not even half of the .875 he mustered in that opening eight games.

True Metzones know... The Mets had 29 walk-off wins during Joe Torre's tenure as Mets manager. He is one of three Mets managers to have had a walk-off hit with the Mets, along with Bud Harrelson and Gil Hodges.


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