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Dis'Gust'ing Baseball

You may think that this month is among the worst in Mets history, but I don't know that you'd do that if you were familiar with August, 1966.

The Mets were actually midly respectable at 47-55 through the first 4 months of that season and we say that relatively speaking because the previous four campaigns were disastrous. There weren't any delusions of a pennant chase, with the team being 12 1/2 games out but there was the hope of at least avoiding the loveable losers tag. This was a team that was good enough to avoid losing by walk-off at any point during the season. Then came August.

It wasn't so much that the Mets went 11-21 that month that was bothersome. It was how they managed to salvage so many defeats from victory that had to really bug manager Wes Westrum, a man best known for saying after defeats "Oh my gosh, ain't that awful?"

On the first day of the month, the Mets blew a 2-0 lead and lost to the Giants, 4-2. That set the tone. Of the 21 games the Mets lost that month, the Mets blew leads in nine of them, and a good number of them were of the major stinkeroo variety.

The most amazing thing about this run was that a team that hadn't lost by walk-off all season, dropped six games via walk-off in a two-week span. How do you do that?

* On August 11 they led the Pirates 5-4 with one out in the ninth inning, but Pittsburgh won on Roberto Clemente's game-tying single and Willie Stargell's follow-up two-run home run.

* On August 14, they were one out away from sweeping a doubleheader from the Cardinals, with a two-run lead and nobody on base in the home ninth. But the next five Cardinals hitters reached base. Mike Shannon tied the game with a two-run single and ex-Met Charley Smith won it with a walk-off single.

* On August 19, they led the Phillies by a run with two outs in the ninth before Harvey Kuenn's pinch-single tied it in the ninth inning. Dick Allen then won the game in the home 10th with a roof-clearing walk-off home run off Bob Friend.

* On August 20, they couldn't hold a 3-1 seventh-inning edge against the Phillies, then missed two chances to bring in a runner from third after tying the game in the top of the ninth. The Phillies won it in the 11th on Tony Gonzalez's RBI single off Dick Selma.

* On August 24, they had a 5-2 eighth-inning lead against the Cubs before yielding two runs apiece in the last two frames. The tying tally scored on a Ron Santo double. The winner came home on Randy Hundley's bunt single.

* On August 25, they led the Cubs 2-1 in the eighth and, as usual, couldn't hold the lead. Byron Browne tied the game with an eighth-inning home run and then the winning tally crossed on a wild pitch by Bill Hepler with the bases loaded in the home ninth.

The Mets closed out the month in appropriate fashion, blowing a lead and losing to the Giants 2-1 (Juan Marichal's 20th win). Though September opened with a victory, it wouldn't get much better for the Mets, who went 8-19 to close out a 66-95 campaign, the lone highlight of which was this game:

So while you're all morose over the recent goings-on for the Flushing 9, just take a little consolation in that it isn't August, 1966 all over again.

True Metgusts know...The Mets actually had 5 walk-off wins in 1966 before that first walk-off defeat.


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