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A Perfect Walk-Off

There was one walk-off I was saving for a special occasion, and much to the dismay of Mets fans, the ideal circumstances for such an entry came up with Sunday's Mets-Dodgers game, in which Pedro Martinez lost his no-hitter and then the ballgame in the eighth inning of a 2-1 loss to the Dodgers.

The diehard Mets fan is probably with some similar such games. Ron Darling had a no-hitter against the Phillies for seven innings before the Mets blew a 4-0 lead in horrific fashion. The folks at Faith and Fear in Flushing recalled seven innings of glory for Randy Tate against the Expos in 1975 before he too lost no-hitter and game. The Mets have been on the winning end of blown no-hitters, most notably one by Jim Maloney in 1965 that went 10 innings, before Johnny Lewis homered to beat him in the top of the 11th. The Mets have a history in regards to no-hitters on both ends of the spectrum, of famous breakups and near no-nos (I've been to a few), and while they've been no-hit, (most recently by Darryl Kile in 1993), they never have had a no-hitter of their own. There are lots of good near no-hitter stories in both wins and losses and that's where I come in to fill in a few blanks.

There is one game that seems to have been forgotten in Mets annals, a near perfecto against the Mets turned into a walk-off win. There aren't any references to it in my library of books (not even "This Date in New York Mets History") or Mets videos in my possession. There is a reference, albeit a brief, barely noticeable one on "The Ultimate Mets Database" website. A few weeks ago, I bought a collection of Mets audio clips from the Miley Collection and was greatly pleased to discover that he had the highlights from this contest available.

The game I'm referring to took place on September 30, 1966 against the Astros, the third-to-last game of the season, thus rendering it pretty insignificant for two teams considerably under the .500 mark. The Astros started righthander Larry Dierker, who was concluding his second season having just turned 20 eight days previous. The Mets countered with veteran Jack Fisher, who had pitched his first shutout of the season against the Astros 10 days ago, against future stars Joe Morgan and Rusty Staub.

Brock Davis led off the game with a base hit for Houston, thus taking any suspense away from Fisher's performance, but Dierker was locked in right from the start. He fanned Bud Harrelson to start things, got Chuck Hiller to pop to short and retired Cleon Jones on a comebacker. The Astros threatened in both the second and third innings but Fisher held them in check. Meanwhile the Mets didn't get many good swings against Dierker as only one of the next six hitters put the ball into the outfield, and all were retired.

Fisher settled into a nice groove in the fourth and fifth, getting the side in order, an effort that Dierker matched by retiring six straight and again allowing only one ball beyond the infield. Houston's best scoring chance came in the sixth, when it had runners on second and third with two out, but Staub grounded out to second base to end that. Dierker didn't overpower anyone in the sixth or seventh, striking out only Harrelson, but his bid for perfection remained intact. The only hard-hit ball so far was a line drive by Hiller to second baseman Morgan.

So this one was scoreless into the eighth and the Astros had a sense of urgency in trying to get their starter a run with which to work. Dierker walked to lead off the inning and it looked like Fisher was in trouble. He walked the tightrope to escape, sandwiching two groundouts around an infield single, putting runners on the corners for cleanup hitter Chuck Harrison, whose foul popup to first baseman Ed Kranepool ended that scoring attempt. The Mets went meeky in their half on a groundout and two flyouts, and Dierker, with six strikeouts to his credit, took the hope of a perfect game into the ninth inning. Fisher got the Astros without issue in the top of the ninth, so the Mets had a free shot at Dierker in their last regularly scheduled at-bat, with the bottom of the order up.

Third baseman Ed Bressoud, who entered the day hitting .225, led things off and looked at a ball outside. On Dierker's next pitch, Bressoud hit a line drive to left field. Lee Maye, came racing in and toward the line from his position and tried to make the catch. Maye came close, very close to coming up with the baseball, but it glanced off his glove as he tried to snare it before it hit the grass, and Bressoud raced into second base safely. After a slight pause, Bob Murphy revealed to radio listeners that it was indeed a double for Bressoud, ending the no-hitter.

"That ball could have been caught. It would have been a good play (insert whatever comments you like in regards to Gerald Williams and Pedro Martinez here)...Down in the Houston dugout, a number of the players glancing up at the press box with the feeling that that should have been scored as an error instead of a double...I wanna tell you: That was a tough one to score. I would not have wanted to be the official scorer. There was nothing easy about it. You could certainly see where the ball could have been caught but by the same token, it was a mighty tough chance."

With the Mets getting their first and only shot at a run, manager Wes Westrum played small ball, sending up Ron Hunt to hit for Dan Napoleon. Dierker, perhaps a bit flustered and disheartened by the way things got away, overthrew his catcher, one pitch after Hunt fouled away a bunt attempt. Bressoud raced to third without a throw. Murphy, just prior to the wild pitch, got a look at the "videotape replay in the next booth" and declared the official scorer's decision on the hit to be correct.

Manager Grady Hatton visited the mound and the decision was made to bring the infield in on the grass and outfield in tight as well, and go after Hunt. Dierker's next pitch was a curveball, and Hunt flailed at it, throwing his bat at the ball as he missed it. Third base coach White Herzog handed the bat back to Hunt, who took ball two inside, but got a good rip at the next pitch, as Murphy described.

"And it's a line drive (one-second pause) off the glove of Joe Morgan!! Racing home is Ed Bressoud. The game is over. The Mets win it, 1-0!...With the infield in, that line drive was almost caught by Joe Morgan. He made a leaping try, got his glove on it, couldn't hold it. It trickled out towards second base. That was all Ed Bressoud needed. It'll be a base hit for Ron Hunt, to drive home the only run of the night."

Shed no tears for Larry Dierker over this game. He got his no-hitter (albeit not a perfecto) 10 years later. As for the Mets, it's 39 years later, and they're still waiting.

True No-No-NoMets fans know...Mets pitchers have thrown 28 one-hitters, includine one in the postseason by Bobby Jones. None of those games was decided in walk-off fashion.


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