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Inspired by Charles Schulz?

Joe Shlabotnik may be the most creative baseball manager I've ever come across. As manager of the Waffletown Syrups of the Greengrass League, Shlabotnik was fired after calling for a squeeze play- albeit with nobody on base.

That was a fictional reference, one coming from a Peanuts comic strip (I believe Lucy once called for a squeeze play as the defensive team, saying she would "Squeeze the catcher"). In real life, the most creative baseball manager I've seen is former Mets third baseman Don Zimmer, and his unusual managerial methods played an integral role in the walk-off we'll discuss today.

The Mets-Cubs game on June 2, 1988 featured a terrific pitchers duel between David Cone and Calvin Schiraldi (better known for his role in another walk-off win). Both pitchers held their opponents scoreless for nine innings, and Davey Johnson, going against his usual approach, sent Cone out for the 10th inning. Damon Berryhill led off with a home run, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead and Cone was done for the night after striking out 10 and allowing only five hits in 10 innings of work. The Mets rallied against Gossage in the 10th, tying the game with two outs on a Lee Mazzilli single that scored Kevin McReynolds.

Neither team scored in the 11th, but in the 12th, the Cubs threatened against Roger McDowell. Vance Law singled, Berryhill doubled him to third and Shawon Dunston was intentionally. walked. McDowell struck out Jody Davis, but then was relieved and Randy Myers ran the count to 3-0 on Manny Trillo before battling back with two strikes.

Zimmer won the NL East title with the Cubs in 1989 with his aggressive maneuvering, but on this occasion, his boldness cost him. Zimmer did something I've never seen before and haven't seen since. He ordered a HIT AND RUN with the bases loaded and one out.

Well, Myers, a strikeout pitcher, blew Trillo away and Law, hung up with nowhere to go, was tagged out by Myers in a rundown to end the inning.

In the 13th inning, Howard Johnson homered to center field off Frank Dipino and the Mets had an unlikely 2-1 walk-off win, made possible by some bizarre decision making. Here's what Zimmer told the media after the game, which ran in the New York Times story from the following day.

''I took a chance. I sent all three runners. I didn't want to hit into a double play. I've done it four times before, and it worked every time. I was 4 for 4. I know Myers is a strikeout pitcher. But I also know Trillo is a contact hitter who doesn't strike out much. All he has to do is hit the ball on the ground. We had every chance to win the game before, but didn't hit at the right time. So, I took a chance."
Joe Shlabotnik would have been proud.

True Metiacs know...Marco Scutaro, who beat the Mets late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning with a walk-off hit, played in four Mets walk-off wins during his 75-game Mets career. That includes the previously mentioned Esix Snead home run. Scutaro also scored the winning run on Tony Clark's walk-off single that beat the Phillies, 5-4, on May 21, 2003.


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