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Hendu Can Do

Before there was Cliff Floyd, there was Steve Henderson.It was 25 years ago today, June 14, 1980, that the Mets staged one of their most remarkable comebacks, in a history lined with improbable comebacks. Trailing the Giants 6-0 after 4 1/2 innings and 6-2 with two outs in the ninth, the Mets rallied for another amazing win.During the relatively dismal 10-year period that was 1974 to 1983, this was probably the win that left fans with the most hope.

The Mets, newly purchased by owners Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon a little more than five months previous, were coming off taking 3 of 4 from the defending champion Pirates, and a sweep of the Dodgers. The slogan that year was "The Magic is Back!" and it was particularly fitting on this homestand, one filled with big hits in key spots.

Still, the Mets found themselves down four runs against Giants closer Greg Minton, with two outs and a runner on second base. Two singles and a walk got the Mets two runs and got Minton out of the game in favor of Allen Ripley.

Like Floyd on Saturday night, Henderson had struck out three times in this game, but after getting dusted inside on Ripley's second pitch, Henderson crushed the next one over the right field fence. The video "An Amazin' Era" shows Mets reliever Tom Hausman racing in to make a triumphant shoestring catch of the ball in the bullpen, Henderson, being lifted up by his teammates after touching home plate, and then getting a high-five from Wilpon (outfitted in very bizarre-looking checkered pants) who raced down to the field to congratulate him.

It was Henderson's first home run in more than 11 months and got the Mets back to within a game of .500. at 27-28. Joe Torre thought it was a win to build upon, telling the media after the game.

''It's a phenomenal thing. What makes it better is that it happened again.They don't quit. They didn't even get a hit until the sixth inning. The starting pitching was bad, but the relief men were sensational. What can you say? They believe they can win.''

Alas, the Mets would drop their next seven games (so much for wins catapaulting a team to great things). They would climb back to .500 a couple of times during the season, but a dismal finish left them with a 67-95 final mark and another season of disappointment. But on this one night, the magic was back, and it is one worth remembering.

True Metasticians know...Steve Henderson's three 3-run walk-off homers are the most in Mets history.

(one other thing: I have a call out to Steve Henderson and am hopeful that he will get in touch with me, so you might want to check back later today or tomorrow morning for a possible update.)


MagicIsBack said…
I remember that day and game well. I was a Junior in high school and went to that game with a bunch of friends. If I remember correctly, we had gone in for another game sometime earlier that week or the prior weekend when they came from behind and beat the Dodgers in dramatic fashion. I remember a number of the details of this Stevie H. game. As usual, no one was at Shea so we bought $4 nose bleed seats and sat in a first base box along the field just past the Mets dugout. Before the game we got to talk to Joel Youngblood and then Joe Pignatano, who was the Mets longtime pitching coach. Somehow while talking to him, he came to the realization that he grew up in the same building in Brooklyn as one of my friend's parents and knew their whole family. The beauty of the Mets being so bad back then was that players and coaches were always quick to come talk to fans because there were so few of us in attendence.

My friends and I were able to cut a deal for the second time in a row with one of the beer vendors to buy an entire tray of beers for his cost plus $5 or $10 bucks. After having stopped in Manhattan to pick up some tough to find albums (Springsteen bootlegs if I remember correctly), it seemed like a perfect day: Mets, nice weather, a tray of beer, great seats and we got to meet a player and a coach.

Then the game started and it quickly looked like all of our highlights for the day would have occurred prior to the game itself. The Mets looked pitiful at the plate. When they finally got their first 2 runs to break up the shutout, it still felt like there was little chance of a comeback. But with the beer still flowing and memories of the Dodger game still in our minds, we decided to stay, even though it meant we were going to miss the bus from the Port Authority we were scheduled to take to get back home to NJ.

The couple of thousand people left in the stadium when Stevie H. came to bat were all on their feet. When the ball cleared the wall in right, the game was won but our albums were toast. One of my friends and I had both jumped up on to our seats in celebration; the only problem was the albums were lying on the seats and were now just shards of their former selves.

All in all, a memory I wouldn't trade for much of anything, including a working version of the Springsteen bootleg "Live from the Fillmore".
Scott B. said…
Saturday, May 9, 1992 - I take a girl to her first ever baseball game and she gets to see Dave Magadan hit a three run homer to win it in a walkoff...she wasn't to bright about baseball, so I guess some things are wasted on certain people...I thought it was da bomb to bring someone to their first game and see such a thing, but she was somewhat unfazed..go figure!
VP81955 said…
I remember the game, too. The Mets handed out small U.S. flags at the gate (June 14 being Flag Day and all), and sat in the loge level on the first-base side. The place went bananas after Henderson's home run, and the auxiliary message board in left (it was green and basically constructed for the Jets in those pre-DiamondVision days) flashed "Hendu Can Do." (What was peculiar about that day was that the Yankees played in Oakland that afternoon and also rallied to win on a ninth-inning homer -- Bobby Murcer, I believe.)

The next day, the Mets had a huge walkup crowd, due in part to the win and also the day's giveaway, and had to turn away a lot of people (some parts of the upper deck were unavailable because new seats were being installed, the red ones still used to this day).
Anonymous said…
I watched that game on TV - I was home from my first year of college. I remember jumping up and down in my parent's den. I always watched those miserable losing games to the finish for some reason, but this one was different. My sisters had gone to it, and they called me up the next day to tell me how incredible it was. Back in those days, we would bring thermoses of "funny lemonade" to the game - no one checked anything back then - spiked with vodka. You'd always get to move your seat, because the stands were pretty empty. When they won a game like that, it was really special, because of all the suffering you had to endure the rest of the time.

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