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Park it Right Here

Saturday, Chan Ho Park, think it was the 4th of July.
--Chicago, circa 1972

I've found that I usually prefer my misheard interpretation of song lyrics to the actual wording, but in this instance I do like the real version of the song referenced above, often played at Shea Stadium for weekend affairs.

It wasn't the 4th of July the last time that Chan Ho Park pitched in the Flushing ballpark, but rather a Sunday, May 20, 2001 and the Mets were seriously sputtering at 16-26 with the Dodgers in town. Park was starting for the visitors against Rick Reed and this was a rare occasion in which things went right for the home team early in the contest.

Back-to-back doubles by Rey Ordonez and Reed brought in two runs and Timo Perez added a single to give the Mets a 3-0 edge on Park and that lead had a long-lasting effect.

While Reed was cruising, Park was dodging bullets. The Mets had at least one baserunner in all six innings that Park worked but produced no further results. In the sixth, the Mets loaded the bases with nobody out and couldn't score due partly to a botched squeeze play. That provided an omen of what was to come.

Reed had retired 17 of 18 hitters entering the eighth inning, which would explain why he was still in the game. His departure came after the first three Dodgers reached in the eighth, producing a run, as Desi Relaford's error commenced a nasty Los Angeles rally. John Franco's entrance made a mess of things as Marquis Grissom followed with a two-run game-tying single and the Dodgers subsequently went ahead, 5-3, scoring on a wild pitch and sacrifice fly.

In the home half, the Mets rallied, as had been their custom the previous season. A timely two-run pinch-hit single by Lenny Harris, set up partly by a nifty Tsuyoshi Shinjo sacrifice tied the game.

After Armando Benitez set the side down in the Dodgers final regulation frame, the Mets went to work to try to win it. Relaford attoned for previous sins with a leadoff walk, went to second on a wild pitch, and to third base on a fly out by Mike Piazza. Robin Ventura was purposely passed, a strategy that initially worked because Joe McEwing followed by striking out. With runners on the corners and two outs, Shinjo came through, with a grounder up the middle for a game-ending single.

Afterwards, Franco was asked when he thought the last time was that the Mets came from behind to win, after the sixth inning. The correct answer, from good reporting in the New York Times, was May 20th, but Franco's reply was "Last year, I think..."

Isn't there something in that Chicago song about "Waiting such a long time?" That's a lyric I know.

True Fans of the New Mets Ball'Park' Know...That of the Mets 341 walk-off wins, 57 have come on Saturday's.


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