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A Father/Son Walk-Off Memory

About a year ago, John Buccigross penned a column for ESPN.com that told the story of how his son kept him updated on an important hockey game by sending text messages, as the elder Buccigross was on a lengthy drive, with limited access to radio updates.

I really liked that piece and it reminded me of something that my dad used to do with me. When I was a young Mets-fan pup in 1984, 85, and 86, I had the misfortune of having to go to bed before many games were over. I was not a kicker and a screamer about this, because I understood the importance of a good night's sleep at an early age, but I think my dad sensed that I was eager to know the results of games as soon as I possibly could. So, he took to leaving notes scotch-taped on my bedroom door. Usually they just had the final score with a one or two-line summary. I remember two in particular. One was a Mets-Dodgers classic pitching duel between Dwight Gooden and Fernando Valenzuela that went extra-innings on the West Coast. The other took place on May 30, 1986.

The season of the Mets second championship will be a popular topic in this blog, simply because I remember many of the walk-offs this season. Here's one I missed.

The Mets were rolling along pretty well to that point in the season, with a 30-11 record as the Giants came to town for a three-game series. New York grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but veteran pitcher Bruce Berenyi struggled and was unable to hold the lead. Neither starter made it deep into the contest and the Giants rallied from a 6-4 deficit, scoring in the eighth to tie it on Will Clark's RBI double.

In the 10th inning, the Giants took the lead on rookie second baseman Robby Thompson's home run off Jesse Orosco, but the advantage would not last for long.

The bottom half of that inning requires much more of a description than my dad could have written on a single sheet of paper. That's why I recall it necessitating a lengthy explanation once we both woke up that morning.

Keith Hernandez led off with a single against Giants reliever Greg Minton, who then got Gary Carter to fly out for the first out of the inning. With Darryl Strawberry due up, Giants manager Roger Craig made a pitching change, bringing in Mark Davis. Mets manager Davey Johnson countered by doing something unthinkable at the time, but understandable after the fact. He pinch-hit for Strawberry, who had a thumb injury, with rookie Kevin Mitchell, who promptly singled to left field. The managerial chess match continued with Johnson sending up Tim Teufel, then countering with Howard Johnson after Craig brought in Juan Berenguer, who walked Johnson after wild-pitching the runners to second and third (following all that?).

That brought up Ray Knight, who was probably, for that season, the best clutch hitter on a team of great clutch hitters. Knight delivered, bringing in the tying run with a sacrifice fly.

Having nothing to lose at this point and having used up virtually his entire bench, Johnson (Davey, not Howard) let weak-hitting shortstop Rafael Santana bat for himself and Santana hit what appeared to be a harmless pop up in the direction of second base.

You probably know where this is going. Thompson (previously the hero) turned into the goat, colliding with shortstop Jose Uribe, as both attempted to make the catch.

As Bob Murphy said on the radio. "The ball drops! The game is over! The Mets win! The Mets win! They collided, and the ball landed on the ground between them. Uribe (who was charged with the error) and Rob Thompson, on the easiest pop up you'll ever see. They rammed together. The ball hits the ground. The game is over. The Mets win the darn (not damn) ball game!"

I don't remember my dad writing me too many notes on the door after that game because I think I grew out of needing them. I'm 30 now and I'm allowed to stay up a little later. The postgame notes have been replaced by in-game e-mails, IMs, and phone calls. He's pretty optimistic about the Mets this season, so the exchanges have been pretty frequent.

So I guess what I'm getting at, is that this Sunday is as good a day as any to say: Thanks for the updates, dad.

Happy Father's Day, everybody...Back with more on Monday.

True Metethists know...Well, actually none of you are going to know this, unless you know my dad. On Father's Day, 1964 (June 21), he went to a game between the Mets and Phillies that made baseball history. It was Hall of Famer Jim Bunning's perfect game against the Mets. Yes, I know this is not walk-off related , but it falls into the category of "Other Minutiae" and is appropriate for this weekend.

Comments

TheCzar said…
Great story, and very well placed for Father's Day.

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