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Tomahawk Mock

The Braves 86'd the Mets out of town and on to St. Louis on Wednesday night, laughing merrily as they did so on Wednesday night as the Flushing 9 gagged up some good ole' southern tomahawk slop. The good game giveth and the good game taketh away and this was one of those occasions where the latter came to fruition in a manner that most fans probably found ugly and disgusting.

We told you on Tuesday that it wasn't always this way, of how the Braves were once the punchline to their own baseball joke. Today we'll tell you to feel better because baseball tends to be cyclical. What goes around, comes around.

How appropriate then that we reminisce about a game about which Joseph Durso of the New York Times wrote "In another chapter of their life and struggles against the Atlanta Braves..." The date was Saturday May 22, 1971 and the meeting of the two squads at Shea Stadium turned into one of those crazy see-saw flip-flops that feel awfully good when you win and awfully awful when you lose.

Tom Seaver started and was uncharacteristically wild, walking six, which partly explains how the Braves took a 3-1 advantage into the bottom of the fifth. It should be noted that in Seaver's previous start, against Atlanta, coincidentally, the Mets had gakked away leads in the ninth and 10th innings before losing. This time around would be different, though they didn't know it at the time.

The Mets countered in this game in the home fifth with three runs, one on an RBI by Seaver and the other two on a home run by Tommie Agee, to take a 4-3 lead against future Met George Stone. That was all the scoring until the ninth inning, when the game made a significant shift. There were more runs scored the rest of the contest than there were in the first two hours or so.

Gil Hodges turned the responsibility for closure to Tug McGraw, who bailed the Mets out of trouble in the eighth, but then threw the Mets for a loop (or perhaps a Looper) in the ninth, loading the bases after a single, a double, and then an intentional walk to Hank Aaron. Next in came Danny Frisella, faced with a Takatsu-esque task that he couldn't fulfill. Orlando Cepeda singled home two runs and Clete Boyer brought home another with a hit. So now, after Frisella escaped a bases-loaded scenario, the Mets came up for their last licks, trailing, 6-4.

My dad has a saying that in situations such as these, all you ask for is the chance to get back in the game. A leadoff walk to Ken Boswell gave the Mets that hope. He advanced to third base with one out on Ed Kranepool's double and scored on Art Shamsky's groundout. That made it a 6-5 game, but the Mets were down to their last out against Cecil Upshaw, and had only weak-hitting Bud Harrelson at the plate. Harrelson was clutch, tying this one with a single to centerfield.

Come the 10th, the Mets went to Charlie "Traded for Willie Mays" Williams and he ran into some immediate trouble. This time, the Mets would not let Cepeda (or Aaron before him) beat them, as both walked, loading the bases, for future Met Felix Millan, who brought home the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly. Again the Braves had a chance for more, but couldn't add to their lead, as Clete Boyer lined to left to end the frame, stranding two more. This was familiar territory as they left 14 men on base in the game.

Upshaw came back out for the 10th and the Mets rallied, again. With one out, Donn Clendenon singled, advancing to second on an error on the play. Cleon Jones advanced him to third with a hit and Boswell brought Clendenon home with a single to right. The Mets loaded the bases, but neither Duffy Dyer nor Ken Singleton could plate the winning run, sending this one into the 11th.
Hodges finally found a reliever who could shut the Braves down in Ron Taylor, who set the side down in order. Apparently a glutton for punishment, Harris sent Upshaw back out for the home half. Upshaw was a frisbee thrower, akin to Shingo Takatsu, who according to the good folks at Baseball Library had returned this season from a fresk injury in which he nearly severed a finger dunking a basketball.

The conclusion to this one was rather quick and painless as Upshaw's previous ineffectiveness came back to haunt him. With one out, rookie Tim Foli singled. With two outs and two strikes on Clendenon he stole second and then Clendenon brought him home, with a game-winning single. The win put the Mets in first place, albeit temporarily. Payback has come since then, although apparently the debt was not fully dismissed, as evidenced by the results of Wednesday's Mets-Braves game.

True Metsochists know...Among the Mets immortals with a walk-off RBI against the Braves are Tim Bogar, Alberto Castillo, Bob Johnson, and Elliott Maddox.


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