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Don't call him "Iron Mike"

Basically I'm looking for a little filler material here, because I plan to write about another Mets walk-off that involves Mike Piazza, but I don't want to be accused of writing too often about recent events rather than nostalgia.

That prompted a "What looks interesting here?" search through my database, and "This Date in New York Mets History" and the walk-off win that caught my eye took place on September 16, 1975. It was a 4-3, 18-inning triumph, tied in the ninth and won in the 18th, by the same man, outfielder Del Unser. Unser capped a two-out rally in the ninth with an RBI single to even the score, than won the contest nine innings later by walking on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs.

Other than that it was the year I was born, 1975 doesn't stand out in any particular way for the Mets, save for one or two statistical measurements. One was that for a stretch of three weeks or so, a rookie outfielder named Mike Vail "went DiMaggio," mustering hits in 23 consecutive games. Vail set a precedent for future Mets rookies, like Gregg Jefferies with an impressive run that began just five games into his major-league career.

The odds were in Vail's favor that day. He had eight shots to break NL mark for longest hitting streak by a rookie (done previously by Joe Rapp in 1921 and Richie Ashburn in 1948, both with the Phillies) and break what was then the Mets mark for longest hitting streak by any player (set by Cleon Jones in 1970), but came up empty. He went 0-for-7 after walking in his first at bat and was left in the on-deck circle when Unser's walk won the game. Alas, September 16 was an unlucky day for 23-game hitting streaks, as coincidentally, Jones' hitting streak was snapped that day in 1970 as well.

The future was promising for Vail, until he "went Aaron Boone", and broke his ankle playing basketball in February, 1976. He played two more unimpressive seasons for the Mets before being waived. The only other significant trivia I could find from his career was that he was thereafter traded four different times for a hodgepodge of mediocrity (the combination of Joe Wallis, Hector Cruz, Rich Gale and Wallace Johnson) in an injury-bugged career that lasted until 1984. His next-longest hitting streak, by my checking, was 10 games, with the 1980 Cubs.

Vail and Jones shared the record for longest Mets hitting streak until Hubie Brooks broke it in 1984 and Mike Piazza tied his mark in 1999. Yes, I know that I was looking to avoid referencing Piazza here, but circumstances dictated that I must.

True Metstreaks know...The Mets have had three 18-inning walk-off wins, but have never had a walk-off win in a game that went longer than 18 innings (though they did have a 19-inning road win on July 4, 1985).


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