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Sixty, Count Em, Sixty! (The Most Metmorable Regular Season Home Runs, Part I)

Go figure that it was Anderson Hernandez that hit the Mets 6,000th regular season home run, probably the least likely source to hit the milestone marker in a season in which lunacy has become normalcy.

We wanted to commemorate that number and figured that the appropriate way to do so would be to rate the favorites of the bunch. But how many to count in our top grouping?

We settled on honoring the top 1 percent, which comes out to 60, and rather than say they're the greatest, let's just say they're the "most Metmorable," which seems like the right way to put it.

We'll present them, in reverse order here, 10 at a time and each Monday for the next 6 weeks, we'll continue the list along. Here is our inaugural compilation, from 60 to 51.

If you're wondering about the title, when you're talking home runs, there's no better person to reference than Babe Ruth. When Ruth hit 60 in 1927, he was quoted after his last as saying

"Sixty, count em, 60! Let's see some son-of-a-bitch match that."

We'll try to do the Babe proud here.

The Most Metmorable Regular Season Home Runs

60- Gil Hodges, April 11, 1962 (#1)

The Mets best leader was also their first home run leader. There's something appropriate about Gil Hodges hitting the first home run in Mets history, given what happened both to Hodges and the Mets, after the fact.

As for the details on this one, it was admittedly of little consequence to the game itself. It came leading off the fourth inning of the Mets first game, with the visitors trailing the host Cardinals, 5-2 (they would lose, 11-4). With his 362nd career home run, Hodges passed Joe DiMaggio on the career home run list.

True Mets home run historians know...The first Met to have more than one home run: Jim Marshall, who hit his first home run on April 14 and then hit another one on April 15, also making him the first Met to homer on consecutive days.

59- Jimmy Piersall, June 23, 1963 (#182)

This was a home run that was Metmorable for its silliness, and we like silly, so it earns a spot here.With the Mets leading the Phillies, 1-0 in the fifth inning, Piersall clubbed his only Mets home run off future manager Dallas Green. In order to ensure that the 100th home run of his career would be thought of historically, Piersall did something unique. He ran backwards around the bases (he touched the bases in order, but jogged backwards as he did so).

Lost in the humor: This was actually one of the finest pitched games in Mets history- a two-hit, no-walk shutout by Carlton Willey. And of course, the pronunciation of that last name rhymes with “silly.”

True Mets home run historians know...Entering play on September 14, 346 different Mets had hit at least one home run. The man who hit the 6,000th, Anderson Hernandez, has hit two.

58- Benny Ayala, August 27, 1974 (#1,307)

The 1974 Mets Media Guide describes Benny Ayala rather lustily: “Signed out of third Puerto Rico winter league campagign and into first major league training camp with label of superstar potential … his mid-December chart represented an eye-popping sweep of offensive stats ...defensively he earned respect for “a throwing arm that compares with Clemente's.”

Ayala would make headlines again on August 27, 1974, superseding the first start by Tug McGraw in more than a year, when he became the first Met to homer in his first at-bat. That surely was a sign of big things ahead.

On second thought...Benny Ayala's best minor league season consisted of 19 home runs. His best in the majors was just more than half of that. Don't believe everything you read.

True Mets home run historians know... The other three Mets to homer in their first major league at-bat are Mike Fitzgerald (1983), Kaz Matsui (2004) and Mike Jacobs (2005).

57- Cleon Jones, July 25, 1971 (#1,000)

I decided to include one “round-number” home run on this list, and picked the 1,000th since it was the first of the bunch. It was also a difference-maker. Leading off the bottom of the fourth inning, with the Mets trailing the Astros, 1-0, Jones homered against Astros starter Ken Forsch. That began a four-run inning, and held up in a big way, as the Mets won, 7-6.

True Mets home run historians know...Dave Kingman hit the 2,000th Mets home run, Howard Johnson the 3,000th,, Bernard Gilkey the 4,000th and Jason Phillips the 5,000th.

56- Dave Kingman, June 4, 1976 (#1,464, 1465, 1,467)

I don't like Dave Kingman very much, even though he's the first baseball player I ever got an autograph from. I was actually surprised at Kingman's popularity at Shea-Closing day last season, as I only remember him as the over-the-hill strikeout king who preceded Keith Hernandez.

Those who are a little older appreciate days like these, when it looked like Kingman had an outside shot at a 60-home run season. On this day, he hit three home runs on three swings in an 11-0 rout of the Dodgers.

True Mets home run historians know...The eight Mets to hit 3 HR in a game (Jose Reyes, Edgardo Alfonzo, Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Claudell Washington, Dave Kingman, and Jim Hickman) all did so on the road.

55- Dwight Gooden, September 21, 1985 (#2,328)

This is the beginning of the pitchers home run section of this blog, and I like starting with Dwight Gooden's first major league home run. I was at the game against the Pirates when he hit it (in the first inning, as part of a seven-run burst against Rick Rhoden), and it was one of those moments that brought about the Superman myth that preceded Gooden at that time.

Everything he touched seemed to turn to gold, and that held true even for those who batted in his spot. Rusty Staub pinch-hit for Gooden later in the game and notched his 100th career pinch-hit.

This quote, from the next day's Bergen Record made me laugh:

“I think I'd take a home run even over a no-hitter,” Gooden said.

True Mets home run historians know...Twenty five Mets pitchers have homered in a game. Dwight Gooden is the team leader with seven.

54- Jack Hamilton, May 20, 1967 (#564)

This is the way it was for those early Mets. Their pitcher could hit a grand slam, as Jack Hamilton did against the Cardinals, and former Met hurler Al Jackson, and they'd still find a way to lose (for the record, a pitcher hasn't had his team lose a game in which he hit a grand slam in 32 years- since Don Stanhouse in 1977). In this one, they blew a 9-4 lead. Hamilton, a reliable reliever for the Mets in 1966, relied on his bullpen for help and didn't get it.

The good news: The Mets haven't lost a game in which their pitcher hit a grand slam since. The bad news: A Mets pitcher hasn't hit a grand slam since.

Sadly Hamilton is better known for something else he did in 1967. Hamilton was traded to the Angels and on August 18, he beaned the great young slugger, Tony Conigliaro, greatly limiting the prospect's capabilities for the rest of his career. Conigliaro would struggle to recover and so would Hamilton. He was done with major league baseball two years later.

True Mets home run historians know...Jack Hamilton hit .140 as a Met. The lowest Mets batting average by a Mets pitcher who homered is .045 by Mark (5-for-112) Clark.

53- Walt Terrell, August 6, 1983 (#2,061, 2,062)

The only pitcher in Mets history to hit two home runs in a game did so against a Hall of Famer, Ferguson Jenkins. He admits to being a little lucky.

“It was a fluke,” Walt Terrell said in a story in Inside Pitch a couple of years ago, acknowledging that the wind was blowing out at Chicago's Wrigley Field that day.

For someone who was only with the team for three seasons, Terrell has a lot of claims to fame. Besides the home run, he was the first Met pitcher to get a win against Nolan Ryan, and was involved in two of the most important trades the team made in the last 30 years (Ron Darling and Terrell from the Rangers for Lee Mazzilli; Terrell to the Tigers for Howard Johnson).

True Mets home run historians know...Walt Terrell hit more home runs against Ferguson Jenkins then, among others, Jim Rice, Joe Morgan, Keith Hernandez, and Gary Carter.

52- Carlton Willey, July 15, 1963 (#194)

Carlton Willey actually makes Jack Hamilton look like a pretty good hitter. Willey hit .099 in his major league career. To hit .099 isn't easy. Willey pulled off the mathematically difficult feat by going 26-for- 263 with 143 strikeouts (helped by a 1-for-54 in 1961).

This Willey was no Mays. His grand slam against Houston barely cleared the fence, according to newspaper accounts. But it was heralded by fans who not only got to see the first home run by a Mets pitcher, but to watch the home team snap a 15-game losing streak.

True Mets home run historians know..Willey, Jack Hamilton, George Stone, Walt Terrell and Dwight Gooden share the Mets record for most RBI in a game by a pitcher, with four.

51- Ron Hunt, April 23, 1964 (#237)

The 1964 Mets hit 58 home runs in their first season in the place they would call home for the next 44 years. In fact, that team had more home runs at Shea Stadium than they did on the road (58-45), which doesn't seem like a likely accomplishment.

The first of the Mets home runs there was hit by Ron Hunt, in the eighth inning of a rather unimpressive, 5-1 loss to the Cubs. It was rather non-descript, so we'll keep it that way as well, though we honor it here for being No. 1. Two thousand, seven hundred fifty seven more would follow. A few others will be on this list.

True Mets home run historians know...The 2nd Mets home run at Shea Stadium was hit by George Altman on May 6, 1964.

Next Monday, We reveal numbers 41-50.


Anonymous said…
Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

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