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’.I was fortunate to work on the TV show Baseball Tonight from 2004 to 2011 and one year our producer recruited members of the Baseball Hall of Fame to appear on the show. I got to meet and have brief interactions with people like Wade Boggs and Rod Carew.
One week, we got Juan Marichal to come on our show. Marichal was a star pitcher in the era of Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson, so he never won a Cy Young Award or pitched and only pitched in one World Series. But he was a great of the game. And he was great against the Mets.
Marichal won his first 19 decisions against the Mets – a run finally broken in 1967. Marichal was 21-2 against the Mets when he faced them for the first time in 1969. The Mets would not let him get to 22-2.
But nor would he let the Mets push him to 21-3, at least not for the first 3 hours and 43 minutes of one of the best pitcher’s duels in Mets history.
The Mets and Giants went scoreless for the first 13 innings on that Tuesday night. Rookie Gary Gentry was tall to the task, matching zeroes with Marichal for the first 10 innings. Tug McGraw came on and held the Giants scoreless for the next four frames (and did that without a strikeout). We should note that the first four Giants hitters – Bobby Bonds, Ron Hunt, Willie Mays, and Willie McCovey – were a combined 0-for-23 with a walk.
McCovey came close to a hit, one that could have changed the outcome of the game, against the rarely-used 4-man outfield. But Cleon Jones, playing in left center, made a leaping catch at the top of the fence to pull back a potential home run.
There’s a great quote from Jones in the San Francisco Examiner the next day that explains that Tommie Agee told Jones “You keep us in the game and I’ll think of something.”
The Mets had one chance to win in the 12th but Ron Hunt threw Cleon Jones out at the plate moments after suffering an injured elbow in a collision with pitcher Tug McGraw after McGraw’s bunt.
In the 14th inning, Agee came through on his promise. With Marichal still in the game (he’d once gone pitch-for-pitch for 16 innings with Warren Spahn), Agee got a hanging screwball and hit it over the fence for a walk-off home run. The Mets won, 1-0 and it was the hardest of hard-luck losses for Marichal.
Remember how I brought up that I got to meet Marichal on Baseball Tonight? I don’t remember how it came up, but somehow that home run became a momentary topic of conversation.
“I can still see the ball going over the fence,” Marichal said, and I remember him being somewhat wistful for a moment.
I had one other encounter with Marichal. The morning of Game 5 of the 2010 World Series between the soon-to-clinch Giants and Rangers, I saw him eating breakfast in the lobby of our hotel. I don’t usually do this sort of thing, but I went up to him and said simply “I hope the Giants win it tonight … for you.”
That got a nice smile as I walked away. And the Giants did win that night to win their first World Series since 2010..
My favorite stat: I feel like I’ve shortchanged Agee a bit in this post, so let’s make up for it by looking at him with a more modern lens.
Agee is the first position player in Mets history to record back-to-back seasons of 5 Wins Above Replacement (1969 and 1970). For those unfamiliar, 5-WAR is generally considered All-Star level.