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Fog-off

We wrote earlier about "The Walk-off that wasn't" and it turns out that game has a counterpart in Mets annals. On May 25, 1979, the Mets hosted the eventual world champion Pittsburgh Pirates in what amounted to a rather bizarre contest in which the Mets invoked the doctrine of fair play in lieu of a potential victory.

The 1979 season was a rather ugly one for the Mets and this happened to be a particularly ugly night weather-wise, such that barely more than 6,600 bought a ticket. The weather worked well for the two pitchers, Jim Rooker for the Pirates and Craig Swan for the Mets

Rooker allowed only one run on three hits through seven innings and Swan, the staff ace, entered the eighth with a two-hit shutout, but that would fall apart rather abruptly. With a runner on first and two outs, Mike Easler cracked his second home run of the season, both in a pinch-hitting role and both against the Mets (his only two homers of the season), to give the Pirates the lead. They would pad that one batter later when Omar Moreno tripled, then scored when Willie Montanez botched a potential relay.

Those who have been to Shea Stadium recently may have noticed that the Mets have set off fireworks after home runs, leaving a cloud of smoke to hover over the field. On this night, a bad puff of air began to make its presence felt in the late innings. The Mets were able to stage a rally to beat the incoming fog, as Lee Mazzilli's one-out double off Grant Jackson plated one run and John Stearns' two-out single off Bruce Kison brought home the tying run.

Mets relievers Dale Murray and Skip Lockwood set the Pirates down in the 10th and 11th and the Mets. By the time the bottom of the 11th started, the fog enveloped the playing field. Joel Youngblood led off by tripling to left, albeit significantly aided by the fog. Pirates left fielder Bill Robinson never saw the ball while it was in the air because the cloud was that thick. That prompted the umpiring crew to take the players off the field and delay the game. After a 78-minute wait, the contest was called.

To show you how much times have changed, consider this newspaper quote from Mets manager Joe Torre, agreeing with Pirates manager Chuck Tanner that the umpires made the right decision.

"Fair enough. Youngblood would not have been on third if it hadn't been for the fog."

Fair enough??? When's the last time you ever heard that from a major-league manager. Players and coaches scratch and claw and fight (and sometimes cheat) for every little advantage. You don't think, if the Pirates had scored in the 11th inning, that they would have demanded that the game be finished up? They've played football playoff games in the fog and lived to tell about it. Shouldn't the Mets have been given a chance to win the game? Nowadays, the idea of home-field advantage would be used as justification for trying to finish the game out. Back then, Joe Torre was acknowledged as having a conscience. It is rare that we offer praise to someone for being a good sportsman, but Torre was probably a better one than most of us would be under the circumstances.

Rules dictated that the contest had to be replayed, which it was as part of a doubleheader on June 25 (which the teams split). So basically, the game was lost to the fog and to the fog of time, except for our purposes. I'm not counting this among my 325 walk-offs (by definition, a walk-off must have a winner), but it did at least deserve acknowledgement, so not to be wiped out of the memory bank. Telling someone to fog-off sounds rather derogatory (perhaps Mike Stanton said something of the kind after his balk-off, walk-off, stalk-off in his Washington debut a few weeks ago), but for our purposes, it now has meaning.

True Metofamers know...Gary Carter, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray and Duke Snider are the Baseball Hall of Fame members who have had a walk-off hit for the Mets.

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