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.
One of the most significant pitches of the 1969 pennant race wasn’t swung at and wasn’t close to the strike zone.
It’s the one that Cubs pitcher Bill Hands threw to leadoff hitter Tommie Agee for the first pitch of the game in the first inning of the first game of a two-game series with the Cubs in September. It came with the Mets surging, only 2 ½ games out of first place and apparently it came close enough to hitting Agee that the Mets center fielder had to drop in the batter’s box to avoid it.
It wasn’t a good idea to make Agee mad.
“It’s an honor to be knocked down,” Agee said at the time. “It shows that they’re concerned about you.”
Hands won the battle, getting Agee to ground out. But Agee won the game. His two-run home run in the third inning put the Mets ahead 2-0. Then after the Cubs tied the game in the top of the sixth, Agee doubled and scored on Wayne Garrett’s base hit. This is an oft-shown highlight because Agee just beat the tag from Cubs catcher Randy Hundley, who along with manager Leo Durocher vehemently argued the call.
“I didn’t feel him touch me,” Agee said. “I skinned my right leg on his shin guards when I slid past him and he didn’t even have the ball. I was surprised he argued so much.”
Said Hundley “I can’t believe he called him safe. The ball was square in my mitt and I tagged him, and he all but knocked the ball out of my glove.”
Agee vs Hundley would have made an interesting legal case, but in the end, the only judge and jury needed was home plate umpire Dave Davidson.
The Mets survived an eighth-inning scare when Jerry Koosman got Ron Santo to ground into a double play (he hit Santo with a pitch to avenge Agee’s HBP earlier) and then struck out Ernie Banks with the tying run on third base. Koosman allowed one hit in the ninth, but struck out three to end the game.
I realize that Agee’s home run may be a little more highly ranked than most people would have it. But it gives me a chance to voice something that I’m still a little bitter about.
The Mets Hall of Fame is in good hands now with Jay Horwitz running the team’s alumni affairs. But Agee’s case for induction is one that slipped through the cracks of his predecessors.
The Mets Hall of Fame inducted Bud Harrelson in 1986, Tom Seaver in 1988, Jerry Koosman in 1989, Ed Kranepool in 1990, Cleon Jones in 1991, Jerry Grote in 1992, and Tug McGraw in 1993. Agee could have been elected in any of those years. It certainly would have been cool to have him go in with Jones, since the two were friends and both from Alabama. He also could have been elected in 1998, 1999, and 2000, when the Mets didn’t elect anyone to their Hall of Fame.
Tommie Agee died unexpectedly at age 58 in 2001. He was posthumously elected to the Mets Hall of Fame in 2002. It’s wonderful that we were able to celebrate his enshrinement and highly unfortunate that he was not able to celebrate. Though his career with the team spanned only five seasons, Agee has two of the most notable regular season home runs in Mets history and two of the best defensive plays in World Series history. All in the same season.
He deserved better.
My favorite stat: Hopefully that didn’t come off too bitter. Agee’s inclusion here should be a cause for celebration. The 1969 Mets have 5 entrants in the top 20 regular season home runs in Mets history. No other season has more than 2. As noted, Agee has 2 … in the top 7.