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Best Games I Know: Cubs

Better late than never, right?

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#10 (March 30, 2000) Benny And The Mets

The Mets were perilously close to starting the season off in Japan with a pair of losses when Benny Agbayani, on the roster only because the two teams were allowed to carry a couple extra players for the start of the season, came to the rescue. With two outs and nobody on in the 11th inning of a 1-1 tie, a single by Todd Zeile and back-to-back walks for Rey Ordonez and Melvin Mora, loaded the bases. Pinch-hitting for Dennis Cook, who had escaped bases-loaded trouble in the 10th inning, Agbayani crushed a grand slam to put the Mets ahead for good. Though we and he didn't know it at the time, it served as a nice foreshadowing for the happy Hawaiian's ability to come through in big spots later in the season.
True Metophiles know...Three Mets have hit extra-inning pinch-hit grand slams: Agbayani, Todd Hundley (1995) and Tim Teufel (1986)

#9 (June 2, 1988) The Zen Of Zim

I had a tough time choosing between this game or the August 11th contest in which Gary Carter's 300th home run ("Finally!!" exclaimed Ralph Kiner after Carter snapped a ridiculously long homerless drought) was overshadowed by Kevin McReynolds go-ahead 9th-inning grand slam, as the representative from the '88 season. In the end, the June 2nd game won out because I believe the other took place on a day that I had teeth pulled, and I don't appreciate the memories of that moment.

This game was an exciting affair, more appropriate for 1986 than 1988, and is referenced in greater detail here. It featured the most bizarre play I have seen in more than a quarter-century, a bases-loaded, one-out hit and run, in which Manny Trillo struck out and Vance Law was tagged out to end a Cubs extra-inning threat. It was basically a guarantee after that that the Mets would win, and Howard Johnson made it so with a walk-off home run.

True Metophiles know... Vance Law's father, Vern threw shutouts in four straight starts against the Mets in one span from 1965-66.

#8 (May 26, 1964 & August 16, 1987) Downright Offensive

There is the famous story from the early years of the franchise, of how after hearing that the Mets beat the Cubs 19-1 on May 26, 1964, one fan called a local newspaper believing it was not so. When informed that the Mets indeed scored 19 runs, he had an obvious follow-up question: Did they win?

The 1987 game is one that stands out for me because of a comment my dad made during the 23-10 conquest (a game in which a young Greg Maddux, after a 2-week stint in the minors, startedand yielded 7 runs)- something to the effect of 'if they lose, i'll never go to (or perhaps it was watch) another game.'

That might explain why I got a little skittish watching the Cubs rally for four runs after the Mets built a 20-5 lead by the 7th inning, and why I always get a little antsy when the Mets have a big lead. Fortunately Jesse Orosco was able to survive the rally and there was no further major trouble. Darryl Strawberry was the hitting star, with 2 doubles, a triple and a home run

True Metophiles know... The club record for hits in a 9-inning game is the 23 the Mets had in that 1964 contest, as well as in a 13-6 victory over the Rockies in Coors Field on April 29, 2000. The closest the Mets have come to matching 23 runs since setting that scoring record is with the 19 they scored against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on June 12, 1990.

#7 (September 7, 1984) This Land is Moreland

We told you how Sid Fernandez would have had a no-hitter against the Giants if fat(e) hadn't intervened. Dwight Gooden could have had 4 or 5 no-hitters in his first couple of seasons if not for a dink here or there. The closest Gooden came, prior to getting one for the other NY team, was this contest in 1984, in which the only blemish was a soft dribbler to third by Keith Moreland in the 5th inning that Ray Knight couldn't handle well enough to prevent Moreland from reaching, scored a hit. Undaunted, Gooden finished a well-polished gem, striking out 11 as the Mets won in a rout, 10-0.

True Metophiles know... That's the most recent of the four one-hitters the Mets have thrown against the Cubs. The others came in 1977 (Tom Seaver), 1970 (Gary Gentry no-hitter for 7 2/3 broken up by Ernie Banks) and 1969 (Tom Seaver, see below). One other near no-no worth mentioning: Gooden had one for seven innings against the Cubs on June 5, 1988, and ended up pitching a five-hitter.

#6 (June 17, 18, 19, 20, 1985) Four-Gone Conclusion

This was the 1985 version of what the Mets did to the Cardinals in the first week of 2007. This series was a frustration taker-outer regarding the conclusion to 1984, in which the Cubs sprinted past the upstart Mets to take the East title. It was a four-game sweep in which the Mets allowed only four runs and the Cubs never led at the close of any inning. The series was a statement and part of a 9-game losing streak for the Cubs, ensuring that their past success was in the past.

True Metophiles know... The Mets record for longest win streak against the Cubs is 8 games, set during that 1985 season. In addition to a four-game sweep, they had a five-game sweep in Chicago from June 22-25, 1970.

#5 (September 16, 1973) Squeeze This One In

Before there was Endy Chavez and before there was Bill Spiers, there was Jerry Grote, whose reasonably decent bunting skills gave the Mets an important victory in their pennant chase.

With every win vital at this time of the season, the Mets battled to a 3-3 tie with the Cubs through 7 1/2 innings. Needing to score to go ahead, the team went for a "walk-up" win in the 8th rather than taking their chances with the 9th inning. With runners on first and third and one out, Grote pushed a bunt past the mound. John Milner, running on the pitch, scored easily from third, and after Tug McGraw set the side down in order in the 9th, the Mets had a win.

True Metophiles know... Jerry Grote had 44 sacrifices in his Mets career, fifth-most among Mets position players (trailing Bud Harrelson, Felix Millan, Rey Ordonez and Wally Backman) and nearly double the next-closest person whose primary position was catcher (John Stearns, 23).

#4 (July 8, September 8, 1969) Remember These Too

My original intent was to pick a slew of Mets/Cubs games from 1969 and group them into one, but in looking those contests over, it occurred to me that two stood out above the rest, even though they can be a little overshadowed by other events.

The July 8th 4-3 victory is often overlooked because of what happened the following day (see below), but the impact it had was extremely signficant. Trailing 3-1 in the 9th inning against future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins, the Mets rallied, with the aid of a couple misplays by beleagured centerfielder Don Young, who incurred significant wrath from Cubs manager Leo Durocher afterwards. Cleon Jones added a big, unblemished hit, the game-tying double. Jones then scored the winning run on a single by Ed Kranepool. This was the biggest win in franchise history (until July 9th), as it moved them to within 4 1/2 games of the first-place Cubs and was the first Mets win to be reported on the front page of the New York Times since 1962. (Greatly recounted in the Dick Schaap/Paul Zimmerman book "The Year the Mets Lost Last Place.")

The September 8th game was the Tommie Agee show, though perhaps just a little less than Game 3 of the World Series. After getting dusted by Cubs pitcher Bill Hands in the first inning, Agee recovered and took out any anger he felt on his opponents. He clubbed a two-run home run to give the Mets the lead in the third inning, then after the Cubs tied it with two in the top of the sixth, Agee doubled and scored the go-ahead run with a nifty slide just around the tag of catcher Randy Hundley. Jerry Koosman held the lead and struck out the side in the 9th in one of his finest performances as a Met, moving the team within 1 1/2 games of the lead.

True Metophiles know...The Mets played 8 one-run games against the Cubs in 1969, winning 6. The Mets were 41-23 in one-run games in 1969, the best record in baseball. No major league team has had more than 40 one-run wins since.

#3 (September 17, 1986) Clinching Memories

The inevitable finally became reality on this date, in which the Mets clinched the NL East. I was at this game as an 11-year old and the memories still ring true, from watching my dad my $65 for 2 loge seats, to asking "Who's Dave Madigan?" to the guy sitting next to us putting too much zest into a high-5, to the final out (Chico Walker grounder to Wally Backman) to the fellow at the subway waving his chunk of grass at the incoming train. Fun stuff.

True Metophiles know...Dave Magadan had three hits and reached on an error in that game, the third game of his MLB career. He's one of seven Mets to have had three hits in a game by the time he'd played three major league games. The others are Jim Hickman, Ron Hunt, Dave Schneck, Keith Miller, Preston Wilson (who had 3 hits in each of his first 2 games), and Kaz Matsui. No Met has ever had a four-hit game within his first three MLB games.

#2 (July 9, 1969) Tom Terrific

The comeback victory from the day before (see #4) may have had a significant impact on this game. How many times have you seen it where a team comes out flat, albeit against a Hall-of-Fame caliber pitcher, the day after a crushing defeat? Nonetheless, let's give credit where it's due and that's foremost accolades for Tom Seaver for retiring the first 25 Cubs, yielding only a soft single to Jimmy Qualls in a 4-0 victory, the Mets 7th straight win and the Cubs 5th straight loss. It was only July, but how's this for an accurate prophesizing from sportswriter Joseph Durso, in a column written after the game, witnessed by more than 59,000 fans: "...they will probably go down in history as one of the youngest and most engrossing bunch of ballplayers around."
True Metophiles know...The hit was the only one in six career at-bats for Jimmy Qualls against Tom Seaver

#1 (October 1, 1973) Believe!

I had a difficult time trying to come up with the No. 1 ranked game for this list, when it occurred to me that I should probably pick the one that was most important to the players. And when you look at it that way, this game, the final one of the regular season and the one that clinched the most improbable of improbable success stories, makes for the best choice. For those short on details, the Mets worst-to-first triumph necessitated a win in one of the final two games of the season (the second would be rained out) to clinch the division. A Cleon Jones second-inning home run gave Tom Seaver a lead he would not lose, one that eventually ballooned to 5-0. The Cubs rallied to within 6-4 and the Mets staggered to the end, with Tug McGraw getting the final outs on Glenn Beckert's popup double play.

If you've read this far, you probably know, at minimum, the basics of what 1973 means in Mets history, and if you haven't, find the proper reading material and educate yourself. In the meantime, consider this quote given to the press from reliever Bob Miller (who went 1-12 for the 1962 Mets), who joined the team for the season's final days.

"I've been on 7 pennant or division winners since I left here, and I've only been here 10 days, but I found myself rooting harder in the dugout today than I ever had in my life. I really can't explain it."

True Metophiles know...That getting a ticket stub from this game would be an incredible feat. The attendance for this contest was a paltry 1,913.


metswalkoffs said…
Greg from FAFIF submitted the following list a couple of weeks ago, though I think he wants to amend it to include last Thursday's win, which I left off as well.

1) July 8-9, 1969 (didn't need much brainpower for that one)
2) September 8-9, 1969 (meow!)
3) July 15-16, 1969 (do we really need any other years?)
4) October 1, 1973 (D-Day as the '74 yearbook called it)
5) May 26, 1964 (19-1 and the greatest question ever asked)
6) September 24, 1975 (Jimmy Qualls meet Joe Wallis)
7) April 15, 1976 (the legend of Sky King and Waveland Avenue)
8) July 27, 1984 (Doc rises and the Mets peak)
9) June 17-20, 1985 (A Ghost Is Swept)
10) April 23 & July 30/August 1, 1999 (Bizarre Wrigley bookends in terms of endings and temperatures; April 23 was 45 degrees with winds of 20MPH; July 31 was 98 degrees; each was prelude -- if I had to choose -- the steamiest game of them all in terms of tension)

This of course leaves out perhaps the best Met performances by Octavio Dotel (7/24/ the Sosa era, no less) and Jae Seo (besting Maddux on 8/605), big deals in their time; the 23-10 "harmonic convergence" in 1987; Doc's no-hit bids in 1984 (Moreland) and 1988 ( a Gooden homer); George Foster's goodbye in '86; Mazzilli's HR debut in '76; a huge doubleheader sweep at Wrigley to tighten the '98 Wild Card race; the blackout game (July 13, 1977); clinching in '86 for goodness sake; Magadan's breakout doubleheader in '90; Bonilla revealing himself to be who he was with the earplugs thus saving us the trouble of rooting for him in '92; Doc overcoming Tuffy Rhodes in '94; the five-game sweep at Wrigley in '70; Seaver's first win in April '67; the eleven-run inning in July '06 also for goodness sake; the Valentin walkoff at the end of the Zambrano-Maine duel like a week later in '06; Orosco's, Hebner's and Chapman's wild Opening Day debut in '79, the craziest 11th inning ever featuring Mike Vail as the enemy in June '79; Dave Kingman's three-homer homecoming in July of '79...god only knows what I'm leaving out
metswalkoffs said…
Regular contributor Barry Federovitch also weighed in

. July 9, 1969 Seaver's Near Perfecto
2. Sept. 8, 1969 The Tommie Agee Show
3. July 8, 1969 Kranepool vs. Jenkins
4. Sept. 7, 1984 Gooden 1-Hitter
5. Aug. 16, 1987 23 runs!
6. July 16, 2006 11 runs in the 6th.
7. July 15-16, 1969 The Al Weis Show
8. June 17-20, 1985 The Four-Game Sweep that Buried the Cubs
9. Oct. 1, 1973 Division Clincher I
10. Sept. 17, 1986 Division Clincher II
11. Sept. 30, 1973 (Game 2) Koosman, in the wind
12. May 26, 1964 The Famous 19 runs, but did they win game
Anonymous said…
Looking over my list again, I'd have to insert The Miracle of May 17 -- I'm in need of a clever name for it -- probably in fifth place, though I am biased toward having sat glued to my ninth-inning seat (changed from where I sat for eight listless innings). We've been through a Subway Series and one-third of a Braves staredown (albeit blinkingly) and I'm still high from that five-run ninth.

Mets Walkoff readers should note that I called the proprietor of this blog from the 7 train after that ninth inning of ninth innings and left the following message: "I've got a new No. 1 for the Cubs list." But No. 5 seems about right.

Japan was a good call. Completely forgot about it.
Stormy said…
The attendance for Game #1 is amazing!

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