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.
Before I get into the details of this one, I want to note a couple of home runs that didn’t make the list.
Two days before the Mets played the Cardinals in the series that decided the NL East title they played the finale of a series against a Pirates team that lost 100+ games, but beat the Mets three times in September. The Mets were 4 games out of first place entering the day and really needed to be within three of the Cardinals when they would face off at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals cooperated by losing to the Expos, but the Mets were on the verge of an excruciating defeat. They blew a 6-3 lead, but rallied to tie on Howard Johnson’s home run in the ninth inning and won it on Gary Carter’s home run in the 10th.
I don’t remember that game but it’s a vital piece of the story because it gave the Mets hope, down three games to the Cardinals with six to play.
And I have a very clear memory of what happened in the first game of the Cardinals series.
If you’re ranking pitcher’s duels in Mets history, this one is the best of the best (apologies to the Rob Gardner-Chris Short game in 1965 and Syndergaard-Bumgarner in 2016). Longtime baseball write Jack Lang of the New York Daily News said it invoked memories of the best duels of all-time.
Fans wanted the Mets to start Dwight Gooden against Cardinals ace John Tudor, but Davey Johnson kept his rotation intact and went with Ron Darling.
Yes, Darling won Game 4 of the 1986 World Series and pitched very well in Game 1, but for me, this is his signature performance. He locked zeroes with Tudor, who pitched 10 shutouts that season, for nine innings. Tudor went one more, but Darling yielded to Jesse Orosco, who put up zeroes in the 10th and 11th.
Whitey Herzog finally hooked Tudor for Ken Dayley, who struck out both Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter to start the 11th. But then Dayley, who had allowed only one home run in his last 40 2/3 innings pitched, hung a curveball to Darryl Strawberry.
“My eyes lit up,” Strawberry said afterwards.
Strawberry was in full launch mode on this one. He hit it high, far and gone, off a clock in right center field. The estimate is 450 feet and that seems low. I’d make a case that it’s either the longest Mets home run I’ve ever seen or the second-longest behind the one Strawberry hit off the roof in Montreal (apologies to Mo Vaughn).
“It just kept going and going,” Darling said.
“You cannot hit a ball any harder,” Johnson said.
“Someday Darryl will hit a ball as far as anyone has ever hit one,” said Mets first base coach Bill Robinson.
The 1985 NL East race was my first introduction to final-week-of-the-season excitement (1984 was my first intro to a pennant race) so the home runs hit that year carry added weight to me. I can still picture watching it at home. I always like to say that low-scoring baseball is the best baseball and 0-0 extra-inning battles with high stakes on the line is about as good as it gets.
So was Darryl Strawberry the New York Met.