Skip to main content

Fat Albert(o)

It was thought that the Mets were bringing back one of their good-luck charms when it was announced last week that they had signed Alberto Castillo to a minor-league contract. Alas, Castillo backed out of the deal at the last moment (after it had already appeared in your newspaper's transactions section) and instead inked on with the Oakland Athletics.

Somewhere, a Phillies fan with a good memory breathed a sigh of relief.

It was March 31, 1998, an Opening Day in which the feeling in the air was optimism rather than chills (game time temperature was in the 80s), even though the starting lineup for the Flushing 9 featured Tim Spehr as the starting catcher (stump your friends with that one!) in the pre-Piazza era.

It was a catcher who would make the biggest impact in this game, but that would take a little while to develop- four-and-a-half hours, in fact- because Mets starter Bobby Jones was busy matching zeroes with Phillies ace Curt Schilling. The bats were weak on this day, as this was a game bereft of extra-base hits.

The game was devoid of serious scoring threats due to both the weakness of the Mets lineup and the surprising strength of the Mets bullpen, which tossed eight scoreless innings behind Jones. Schilling, to no surprise, was his usual brilliant self for Philadelphia (8 innings, 2 hits, 9 strikeouts).

The longest scoreless opener in NL history was good to the last man, which in this case for the Mets was Castillo, since they had already used Luis Lopez, Jim Tatum, Rich Becker and Matt Franco (bench depth was not a strength). Castillo had gone into the clubhouse as the last of the 14th inning began to fetch some hot chocolate (!), but returned when needed.

Matt Franco led off the frame against future Met Ricky Bottalico with a single and went to second on a walk by Brian McRae. Edgardo Alfonzo bunted, but the Phillies were able to get a force play on Franco at third, making McRae the lead runner. McRae killed a lot of rallies in his time with the Mets (note to self: next 'Minutiae Break' subject is rally killers of Mets past) and nearly succeeded in turning a happy day into a crappy day, when he stumbled rounding third base on Bernard Gilkey's apparent game-winning single to left field and had to retreat to the bag. Bottalico got Lopez to pop out, meaning the game came down to the Phillies reliever against the unimpressive Castillo, who had one Mets walk-off hit to his credit, having beaten the Braves with a double on September 27, 1997.

Naturally the count went to 3-2 and this looked like it might be another of those ugly at bats that explained why Castillo's batting average was below the Mendoza line. Bottalico tried a fastball and Castillo punched it to right field on a line for the game-winning hit. McRae was able to stagger home without an issue this time, giving the Mets the 1-0 win.

It should be noted that Castillo was 0-for-9 for his career against the Phillies prior to that at-bat, but he has since been quite good against them. Including the Opening Day single, Castillo is 7-for-his-last-24 against Philadelphia with eight RBI. He might have come in handy this week, or perhaps a month from now, had he signed on as was believed.


True Metillos know...Tim Spehr, the only player with two hits that day, got to play in 20 more games with the Mets, as one of Mike Piazza's plate predecessors. His fortunes were better than the last player to start an opener in right field prior to Darryl Strawberry. Poor Mike Howard suited up on Opening Day, 1983, had a hit and an RBI, then never played a major-league game again.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Walk-Offs in Movies, TV, and Other Places

Note: I'm leaving this post up through the end of the week, a) because I don't have time to pump out something new and b)because I was hoping to build a really good list of entertainment industry walk-offs...so if you're looking for something new, check back on Monday or so... Of course, if there's a major trade or move, I'll adjust and try to post something... In the meantime, click on the "Table of Contents" link as well. It has been updated. SPOILER ALERT: Read at your own risk Caught the ending of "A League of Their Own" on one of the movie channels the other day and it got me to thinking that it would be fun to compile a list of walk-offs from movies, television, and other forms of entertainment. Here's the start, and only the start, as I spent about 30 minutes or so thinking it over Help me fill in the blanks by filling out the comments section. "A League of Their Own"-- Racine beats Rockford for the All-American Girls Profess

They Don't Make Em Like The Mook Any More

"There are certain things that stay with you, your whole life in sports. Mookie flying is one of those things." -- Blogger's father, 1:10pm on Feb 9. During the 1987 season, Mookie Wilson was on first base in seven instances in which the batter at the plate hit a double. How many times do you think Mookie scored? I'll give you a hint: Every time. According to some recent reading I've done, The average runner scores from first base on a double around 40-45 percent of the time. Mookie's career percentage: 65 percent (45 of 69) The average runner goes first to third on about 27 percent of singles hit. Mookie's percentage: 50 percent (120 of 240) The average runner scores from second base on about 58 percent of singles hit. Mookie's percentage: 75 percent (162 of 215) How good was Mookie Wilson? Let me put it to you this way. The guy turns 54 years old today (and got an early present by being re-hired by the Mets as a minor league instructor). I'd take

The best Mets ejections I know

When you think of the Mets and famous ejections, I'm guessing you first think of the famous Bobby Valentine mustache game, when after Valentine got tossed, he returned to the dugout in disguise. You know it. You love it. I remember being amused when I asked Bobby V about it while we were working on Baseball Tonight, how he simply said "It worked. We won the game." (true) But the Bobby V mustache game of June 9, 1999 is one of many, many memorable Mets ejection stories. And now thanks to Retrosheet and the magic of Newspapers.com , we have a convenient means for being able to share them. Ever since Retrosheet's David Smith recently announced that the Retrosheet ejection database was posted online , I've been a kid in a candy store. I've organized the data and done some lookups of media coverage around the games that interested me post. Those newspaper accounts fill in a lot of blanks. Without further ado (and with more work to do), here are some of my findings