Skip to main content

I Was A Walk-Off Baby (another tale of self-indulgence)

I'm going to interrupt my Mets-related chatter to tell a brief story and perhaps it explains my interest in all things walk-off and buzzer beater. Basketball is a hot topic in New York City with the Knicks hiring Larry Brown as their head coach earlier this week, so we'll tell a hoops-related tale for this weekends entry.

The date was January 30, 1975 and the Knicks were on the road, taking on the Atlanta Hawks. My mom and dad were big basketball fans during the glory days of New York's basketball franchise. My dad was at Madison Square Garden when Willis Reed limped on to the court for Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals and not long after that he met my mom. They got married on November 8, 1970, better known as the day that a New Orleans Saints kicker named Tom Dempsey set an NFL record by kicking a 63-yard field goal to beat the Detroit Lions. My dad's job on Wall Street enabled him easy access to Knicks tickets and I've been told the story on more than one occasion of how my mom had to practically carry him out of the Garden the day the Knicks came back from 18 down in the final minutes to beat Lew Alcindor and the Bucks in 1973.

The 1974-75 Knicks season was kind of the equivalent of 1991 for the New York Mets, the season that began optimistically but instead found the team headed on a long road to mediocrity. The 1973-74 squad was an aging group that lost in the Eastern Conference Finals, basically the last hurrah for the likes of Reed, Dave Debusschere and company. A six-game win streak put them at 17-8 after 25 games, but reality set in, as it became clear that big men Phil Jackson and John Gianelli could not match the production of their predecessors. On January 30, when they were scheduled to conclude a three-game, three-night stretch, the record slipped to 25-23.

It makes sense that my parents were at home following the game that night. After all, my mom was nine months pregnant so it's not like they were going to be out and about..

What they heard in listening to WNEW-AM was that the Knicks got out to a comfortable 18-point lead and proceeded to fritter it away, despite solid play from Jackson, Gianelli and Earl Monroe. The lead was still 11 with six minutes to play and six points with 1:40 but Atlanta mounted a furious comeback. The Hawks tied the score at 115 when Tom Henderson drove past Jesse Dark for a layup with two seconds remaining. Red Holzman called timeout right as I apparently started to get a little restless in the womb. Apparently I had a sense, even then, that something important was going on.

Holzman called a play the Knicks had tried unsuccessfully in the past, a lob play from Walt Frazier to Gianelli. This time, everything worked very well. Gianelli (referred to in the New York Times the next day as "much-maligned") got free off a screen. Frazier made a perfect pass and the result was a buzzer-beating hoop and a Knicks walk-off win.

I'm going to guess that my dad got pretty excited by the victory, even in that season of false hope (the Knicks finished 40-42 and lost in the first round of the playoffs). Having watched him for as long as I have, that seems like a safe bet. My mom got excited too, a few minutes later, when she realized her water broke. They quickly cabbed it over to Mount Sinai Hospital on Manhattan's Upper East Side, not too far from their residence. I'm happy to admit I wasn't an overwhelmingly lengthy labor. I was born the next morning, enabling me to share a January 31 birthday with the Hall of Fame trio of Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks and Nolan Ryan).

I bring this up partly because I wanted to write something a little different this weekend, and partly because I turn 30 1/2 on Sunday. That's significant, because I've officially crossed an important, unfortunate border. I can no longer say "I just turned 30" now that we've reached the midpoint. Instead, according to proper Metiquette, I must go with the "I turn 31 in January," which to be honest, isn't something I'm looking forward to doing.

True followers of Metiquette know...The Mets have had 3 walk-off wins on July 31 and all three came against the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Richard Simon said…
I do remember the night very, very well.

His Dad.

Popular posts from this blog

Cliff Notes

Alright, so it's 2 days later and the challenge for me now, after reading through about a dozen game stories and listening to talk radio, is to provide a fresh perspective on walk-off #324. If you're going to be a serious reader of this blog, you know what happened already, so let's look at what made this particular walk-off stand out. It would seem that the place to start is with the idea that everything broke just right on both sides of the ball. Particularly, I'm talking about Carlos Beltran's catch in the 7th inning, where he went over the center field fence to rob Jose Molina of a home run. Every no-hitter seems to have one defensive gem that makes it possible and perhaps that's true of great walk-off moments as well (We'll be looking into that!) Marlon Anderson's home run required a remarkable combination of events. It was only the sixth inside-the-park home run at Shea Stadium by a Met and the first since Darryl Strawberry in 1989. It required t

The greatness and the frustration of Nolan Ryan the Met

I was looking over dominant pitching versus opponents and over various stretches in Mets history and came upon one I found interesting. In his first six starts in 1971, Nolan Ryan went 5-1 with an 0.77 ERA. In 46 2/3 innings, he allowed 19 hits and struck out 47. Opponents hit .121 and slugged .172 against him. And oh yes, he walked 37 batters (!), or more than 7 per 9 innings. As you go back through those six starts, you can see both the brilliance and the frustration that eventually led to Ryan’s departure in one of the worst trades in baseball history. April 29 at Cardinals – 6 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 5 K, 8 BB Ryan’s first start of the season was 7-0 win over the Cardinals that completed a four-game sweep, though it wasn’t the most artful of efforts. Ryan walked eight, but held the Cardinals to only two hits. That included the thwarting of Joe Torre’s season-opening 22-game hitting streak. Torre would go on to win the MVP. The big moment in the game came with the score 1-0 in the

Mets Top Postseason Home Runs - The Top 5

No. 5 – Todd Pratt (1999 NLDS Game 4 vs Diamondbacks) Matt Mantei got it right. Watch the Diamondbacks pitcher as soon as Todd Pratt hits the ball in the 10 th inning. Significant chagrin is probably the best way to describe it. The funny thing is that Todd Pratt didn’t know. The fans didn’t know. Steve Finley had a reputation for being a great defensive center fielder who could pull back would-be home runs. He looked like he had a pretty good chance at this one, but for a leap that wasn’t quite Finley-caliber. Much like Finley, I missed Pratt’s home run. I was at a football game in Schenectady N.Y. between my alma mater, The College of New Jersey and Union College. I was TCNJ’s broadcaster then and I errantly didn’t pack a Walkman to keep tabs. I found out what happened when I went to the Sports Information Director’s office and I popped up on my Netscape Navigator browser. My screams of delight were met with the SID running back into the office to ask what was goi