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Sixty, Count Em Sixty (Part VI)

The final part in our series on the top 60 regular season home runs in Mets history. To read the full series, click here, or on the "Best Mets HR" label at the bottom of this post.

10- Carl Everett, September 13, 1997 (#4,040)

I know that there are home runs that ranked lower on the list for which you could make a good argument that they belong higher, but I really, really, really like this home run.

To reset the circumstances: The Mets were trailing the Expos 6-0 with two outs and two men on base in the ninth inning. Roberto Petagine scored two runs with a single, and then hits by Luis Lopez and Matt Franco loaded the bases with two outs.

The odds against a comeback when you're down 6-0 with two outs in the ninth inning are astronomical, but given that Everett is a man with significant doubts about the astronomical (he believes the moon landing was faked), I'm guessing that he neither cared nor realized that the chances of success were minimal.

On a 3-2 pitch, Everett defied the odds with a grand slam-- described by Howie Rose as “a brand new shiny one!” The Mets would win in the 13th on a walk-off home run by Bernard Gilkey.

True Mets home run historians know...The game-tying bottom-of-the-ninth grand slam became nearly extinct after that one. The next one wasn't hit until 2005, by Khalil Greene.

9- Steve Henderson, June 14, 1980 (#1,782)

When I e-mailed word of this project to “This Date in Mets History” author Dennis D'Agostino, he noted that his primary curiosity was to see where I'd rank the Steve Henderson home run. It's amazing to me how many lives this home run touched.

Any time I talk to a Mets fan old enough to remember this game, one in which the Mets rallied for five runs in the ninth inning to beat the Giants, 7-6 (capped by Henderson's first home run of the year, a three-run shot), they recall it with such excitement.

As does Henderson, and it was one of this blog's early coups to score an interview with him right around the date of the 25th anniversary. It was one of those games that gave a lot of people hope at a time when the Mets were thought to be hopeless. The magic was back.

“I could just feel that the guys in the dugout were waiting for me to hit a home run,” Henderson said. “I was known for ending games and they were counting on me to deliver.”

True Mets home run historians know...Steve Henderson specialized in hitting home runs against game closers. He had three home runs apiece vs Kent Tekulve and Bruce Sutter.

8- Edgardo Alfonzo, October 4, 1999 (#4,374)
After sweeping the Pirates in three excruciating games to force the one-game playoff with the Reds, the Mets needed to make an early statement in Cincinnati. There was no better hitter to do that in 1999 than Edgardo Alfonzo.

The Mets second baseman homered on a line to straightaway centerfield, putting the Mets up 2-0. It felt like it was 10-0, and that a huge weight had been lifted off the team. The rest of the 5-0 win, putting the Mets into the postseason for the first time since 1988, was easy, relatively speaking.

True Mets home run historians know...Edgardo Alfonzo's first career home run came in Cincinnati, an inside-the-park home run on May 6, 1995.

7- Tommie Agee, September 8, 1969 (#803)

Tommie Agee finished a distant sixth in the 1969 NL MVP voting, but given the games that he basically won, by himself, that season, a higher presence would be justifiable.

This was one of those games, probably as important as any for the 1969 Mets, a 3-2 win over the Cubs to move within 1 ½ games of the NL East lead. Agee got brushed back by a pair of Bill Hands pitches in the first, but then got revenge with a home run in the third. In the sixth, he'd snap a 2-2 tie by scoring the win on an extraordinarily close play at the plate.

This is the play with the famous video you've probably seen of Cubs catcher Randy Hundley leaping in the air to argue. We don't think he and the ump were discussing Agee's MVP candidacy. But they should have been.

True Mets home run historians know...Tommie Agee is the Mets single-season leader for most home runs out of the No. 1 slot in the lineup. He had 24 in 1970, and ranks second with his 22 in 1969.

6- Ron Swoboda, September 15, 1969 (#807, 808)

Ralph Kiner was not just a fine broadcaster during the 1960s. Apparently he dispensed some good advice to the Mets players as well.

“I knew I was swinging the bat well at the time,” Swoboda told Stanley Cohen in the book “A Magic Summer” after he homered twice to beat Steve Carolton and the Cardinals, on a day in which Carlton whiffed 19. “Ralph Kiner had been working with me in the batting cage, and I was in a good groove.”

The win widened the Mets lead to 4 ½ games in the NL East, though psychologically, it had to be worth more than one game for opposing teams to see that the Mets beat a pitcher who had fanned that many. These are the kinds of games you win when it's meant to be your year.

Howard Blatt had a great quote in his book: “Amazin Met Memories” from former Tigers manager Mayo Smith, who said “Swoboda is what happens when a team wins a pennant.”

True Mets home run historians know...Three other Mets have homered twice against a pitcher who struck out at least a dozen batters in a game...Joe Torre in 1976 (vs John Candelaria), and both Marv Throneberry and Frank Thomas in 1962 (vs Art Mahaffey...the Mets hit 4 HR and lost, 9-4).

5- Mike Piazza, June 30, 2000 (#4,477)

It's very rare that you would equate wins in June with those in October, but if you want to have a discussion about all-time great Mets wins, the comeback from 8-1 down in the eighth inning against the Braves deserves inclusion in conversation. In the annals of Mets victory stories, this one was one of the most ridiculously absurd.

Two hits and four straight walks with two outs in the eighth (including three walks on 3-2 counts) set the stage for Edgardo Alfonzo's game-tying hit, followed by Piazza's at-bat.

The turn was brief, and was over as quick as the ball cleared the fence on a line, down the left field line (actually very resemblant to Mark McGwire's 62nd home run in 1998). It was not your typical Piazza home run, but as most of the media wrote the next day, this was a Mets win that would be known as far from typical.

True Mets home run historians know...Mike Piazza's 16 go-ahead home runs in 2000 tied the Mets club record, which he now shares with Gary Carter (16 in 1985).

4- Tommie Agee, August 19, 1969 (#784)

If you didn't think it was going to be a special year for the 1969 Mets, after their 1-0 14-inning victory over the Giants on Tommie Agee's game-ending home run against Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, then maybe you were following the wrong team.

Agee got his 500th career hit, a home run on pitch number 151 (details we know thanks to the account from Times writer Joe Durso) over the Giants bullpen in left field.

Forgive the name-drop, but I once had the opportunity to eavesdrop on a conversation in which Marichal talked about that home run. “I can still see it today,” he said wistfully.

This game should be known not just for the home run that was, but the one that wasn't as well. In the visitors 13th, with Willie McCovey up, manager Gil Hodges must have had some sort of premonition, because he alligned his defense with a four-man outfield. That allowed left fielder Cleon Jones just enough time to get back to the fence and rob McCovey with a leaping catch.

True Mets home run historians know...In the last 55 years, only three times has a team won a game, 1-0 on a solo walk-off home run in the 14th inning or later. Agee's was the first since Willie Mays hit one for the Giants against Warren Spahn and the Braves, in the 16th inning on July 2, 1963. The only one since Agee was hit by the Mets Dave Kingman against Charlie Hough and the Dodgers, in the 14th inning on June 17, 1976.

3- Gary Carter, April 9, 1985 (#2,205)

“There aren't enough words to describe what I felt,” Carter told the media after his walk-off home run beat the Cardinals in his Mets debut on Opening Day, 1985.

We've got two-- pleasure-- obviously-- and pain. Carter is the only player in Mets history to twice be hit by pitches in an Opening Day game. On a 42 degree day, Carter took one pitch off his left elbow and another in his lower back, not to mention the beating he took behind the plate. But there was enough good, in the form of a home run off a Neil Allen curveball, to shake off the discomfort. It was somewhat symbolic of all that Carter would endure during his tenure with the Mets.

True Mets home run historians know...The Mets have hit 51 Opening Day home runs. Darryl Strawberry and Todd Hundley each have the most with four.

2- Darryl Strawberry, October 1, 1985 (#2,334)

When we say a player really clocked one, we are paying tribute to one particular moment in Mets history. If you were going to rate Mets games by tension level, this one would exceed any other I know from my nearly 30 years as a fan, and I would imagine it would rate at the top of the list for anyone who has lived longer than I.

This stomach-knotter between the Mets and Cardinals in the final days of the NL East race was a battle of mental stamina between Cardinals ace John Tudor and Mets upstart Ron Darling, who rose to the challenge by pitching nine shutout innings.

So did Darryl Strawberry. It was common for Strawberry, during his Mets tenure, to go into funks against left-handed pitchers. Some days he'd look fantastic. Others, he'd look lost.
Strawberry was in the midst of one of those bad stretches when he came to bat against lefty Ken Dayley, in a scoreless game in the top of the 11th.

In his last 16 at-bats against southpaws, Strawberry had only one hit. He'd match that with a humongous swing at a hanging curveball. The ball would soar to the highest heights, until it hit a clock, way, way up in the right field stands. The Mets were 1-0 winners and the clock had not yet struck on their pennant hopes.

True Mets home run historians know...The Mets have nine 1-0 road wins, in which the only run of the game scored on a home run. Strawberry's was the first in 12 years, the first since Wayne Garrett led off with a home run in a 1-0 win in Montreal in the first game of a doubleheader, on September 7, 1973. Also of note: Of those nine 1-0 road wins, in which the only run of the game came on a home run, four have come since 2004.

1- Mike Piazza, September 21, 2001 (#4,705)

I remember being really nervous about going to the ballpark for this game, the first baseball game back in New York since the World Trade Center attacks on September 11. But looking back, I'm really glad that I was at Shea Stadium that night. It was important to be a part of the moment.

Afterwards, I remember telling my mother that I thought that while the night was very dramatic and touching, that I thought Liza Minelli's rendition of “New York, New York” was a bit over-the-top. My mom explained to me that Minelli had to do it that way, because that was her style. It wouldn't have been right to do it any other way.

Just like it wouldn't have been right for the Mets to have won any other way than they did-- in come-from-behind fashion on a home run in the eighth by Piazza, best described as over-the-top.

True Mets home run historians know...The Mets enter the 2010 season with 6,010 home runs, and each one is special and worth remembering in its own way.


MetFanMac said…
You could not have made a better choice for #1. Marvelous.
Anonymous said…
nice post. thanks.

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