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Mets Top 100 Home Runs: From No. 21 (Darryl Strawberry) to No. 25 (Keith Hernandez)

In 2009, I did a project for my website, Mets Walk-Offs and Other Minutiae, celebrating the best home runs in Mets history. I selected the top 60 regular season home runs and the top 15 postseason home runs. The reason I picked 60 was because it represented the top 1% of home runs in Mets history (and 15 just felt right for postseason).

This was fun to do, but it was imperfect. I had one egregious omission. I tended to favor oddities.

It’s time to give that project an update. And why not do it as a top 100?

The Mets have hit 7,671 regular season home runs. The top 80 represent about the top 1%. And the top 20 postseason home runs get us to an even 100 to celebrate.

Come along for the ride. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the reminiscing. Hopefully you’ll find it Amazin’. 


25. Keith Hernandez ends his slump 
(September 1, 1985)
Keith Hernandez likes to reference this game as a key moment in his career. It was a day in which Hernandez was given the day off, even with the Mets in the thick of the NL East race with the Cardinals. But Hernandez was 1-for-17 in his last four games, and with a lefty, Dave LaPoint on the mound for the Giants, Davey Johnson gave Hernandez a day off.

That day off ended with the Mets trailing by a run in the ninth inning with one out, the tying run on second base (after Larry Bowa was thrown out overrunning third base), and another lefty on the mound, Mark Davis.

Hernandez broke out of his slump with a go-ahead two-run home run to right field. The Mets held on for a 4-3 win.

“It’s truly victories like these that take place when you’re a championship club,” said Rusty Staub.

Said Hernandez: “The swing today may be the best I’ve ever executed.”

Hernandez went 5-for-5 in his next game. So much for slumps.

My favorite stat: That home run was the first of two instances in which Hernandez hit a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning or later for the Mets. The other was a walk-off in 1987 against Phillies reliever Kent Tekulve.

24. Mookie Wilson gives the Mets hope 
(September 20, 1981 vs Cardinals)
I wish I’d experienced this win, which isn’t quite as fondly remembered as the Steve Henderson game from 1980 by the people I talk to (that one’s coming soon). Perhaps it’s because it came in the second half of that oddly-setup 1981 season – two halves with a strike in between.

The Mets were 5½ games out of first place with 16 to play, but built a little hope by taking two straight from the first-place Cardinals. In the series finale, they overcame a 5-0 deficit, scoring twice in the sixth and three times in the seventh inning to tie. Then things got a little goofy.

With two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Tito Landrum circled the bases when his fly ball eluded center fielder Mookie Wilson, whose bobble upon catching up with the ball allowed Landrum to score. Great stat in the newspapers: That ended a scoreless streak of 22 innings by Mets relievers.

This would have been a crushing way to lose. But as we know from patron saint Bob Murphy, baseball is a game of redeeming features. After Frank Taveras hit a two-out double, Wilson came to the plate, wishing and hoping.

“A little prayer never hurt,” Wilson told reporters. 

Mookie’s prayers were answered when he hit a game-winning two-run home run.

“Even bigger than Hendu’s,” manager Joe Torre said afterwards.

I don’t think that holds true, but it was pretty cool nonetheless.

Postscript: After another Amazin win the next day (13 innings vs the Pirates), the Mets fell off and finished in fourth place.
 
My favorite stat: Bruce Sutter allowed 10 walk-off home runs in his career. He allowed two to two teams – the Dodgers and Mets. Steve Henderson had the other Mets walk-off homer vs Sutter, in 1980.

23. A Good Knight 
(July 3, 1986 vs Astros)
This is one of my all-time favorite regular season games, so much so that I procured a copy of it through clandestine means (one year at ESPN, each researcher was granted a free DVD of any game in the company library. By some miracle a copy of this game existed).

This was a preview of the 1986 NLCS between the Mets and Astros, albeit with weakened lineups. Ed Hearn might take issue with calling them weak. Filling in for Gary Carter, he hit an early home run. So did Darryl Strawberry. Ron Darling and Jim Deshaies were very good but not untouchable and the game went to the 10th inning, tied 3-3.

The Astros took the lead quickly on Phil Garner’s two-run home run. But the Mets had an answer. Two batters into the 10th, Darryl Strawberry tied the game with what Bob Murphy called a “majestic” home run. 

Two batters later, Ray Knight, who had been fanned four times in a row, won the game with a home run. It was the Mets seventh win in a row. They were spreading the news (as Tim McCarver said) that they were the dominant team in this game.

“I’m a contact hitter,” Knight informed reporters afterwards. “I don’t strike out that much.”

My favorite stat: This game foreshadowed Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Each ended with the Mets trailing 5-3, then winning 6-5, and Ray Knight scoring the winning run.

22. The record 
(May 3, 1988 vs Braves)
The expectations were always as big for Darryl Strawberry as the 6-foot-6 frame he carried. They came from watching his best swings and his ability to seemingly homer on demand. This was the day that he hit the 155th of his career. It set the franchise record, surpassing the mark held by Dave Kingman. Strawberry’s 252 homers still stands as the most by a Met.

This one came against Juan Eichelberger on a day in which David Cone got the headlines for his first career shutout, an 8-0 win over the Braves.

“Everybody expects me to hit 50 home runs every year, but it’s nice to know that I’ve established myself in the Mets’ organization,” Strawberry said.

As Strawberry home runs go, there are a few others that I prefer to this one … such as the next home run on this list and another he hit a few days later. J

My favorite stat: Darryl Strawberry’s 252 home runs from 1983 to 1990 were the most in MLB in that span, two more than Dale Murphy.

Bonus favorite stat: Thank you, D.B. Firstman for this one! The 22 combined letters in the last names of Darryl Strawberry and Juan Eichelberger are THE MOST by a Mets batter-opposing pitcher combo in team history.

21. Darryl Strawberry hits the roof 
(April 4, 1988 vs Expos)
I feel like gargantuan home runs are somewhat routine now, and we don’t get excited anymore by the 450-foot home run. But Darryl Strawberry homering off the roof of Olympic Stadium on Opening Day in 1988 is ridiculous. It was the most memorable of a then club-record six home runs hit in the game. And it just misses my list of the 20 most memorable regular season homers.

The New York Times did a story on Strawberry’s home run distances later that season and got a physicist to estimate the home run distance as 525 feet (that presumes the ball continued to travel rather than getting knocked down.

“You can get anywhere you want to with that kind of swing,” said Mets broadcaster Tim McCarver. He later offered a one-word analysis of the home run – “Inconceivable.”

My favorite stat: The Mets club record for home runs on Opening Day is 4, shared by Darryl Strawberry and Todd Hundley. David Wright, Mike Piazza, Cleon Jones and Bobby Bonilla each have 3.

The rest of the list can be found here.


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Cliff Notes

Alright, so it's 2 days later and the challenge for me now, after reading through about a dozen game stories and listening to talk radio, is to provide a fresh perspective on walk-off #324. If you're going to be a serious reader of this blog, you know what happened already, so let's look at what made this particular walk-off stand out. It would seem that the place to start is with the idea that everything broke just right on both sides of the ball. Particularly, I'm talking about Carlos Beltran's catch in the 7th inning, where he went over the center field fence to rob Jose Molina of a home run. Every no-hitter seems to have one defensive gem that makes it possible and perhaps that's true of great walk-off moments as well (We'll be looking into that!) Marlon Anderson's home run required a remarkable combination of events. It was only the sixth inside-the-park home run at Shea Stadium by a Met and the first since Darryl Strawberry in 1989. It required t