Skip to main content

Trees in the Forest

Today we ponder the question: If a walk-off occurs and no one is there to see it, does it really happen?

That's kind of how I felt watching the ninth inning of Thursday's loss to the Marlins, in a game in which the attendance wasn't announced because it wouldn't jive with the reality of the paltry crowd at Shea Stadium.

In the original Summer of False Hope that was 1980, the crowds dwindled significantly at the conclusion of the season. The finish to the campaign was miserable and heading into the final series against Pittsburgh, the Flushing 9 had won just 8 of their last 43 games.

This was in the day in which crowds were counted by turnstile clicks rather than tickets sold, so the tally was only 1,787 on September 29, an all-time Shea Stadium low that stood until the next day when 1,754 made it through the gates. Particularly poor weather, the kind more typical than that seen at Shea Stadium this September, didn't help matters much.

Anyhow, there was still baseball to be played and the Mets sent rookie Ed Lynch to the mound. Lynch had two good starts and two bad ones to that point, and the thing I remember reading early in Lynch's career is how he nearly had a couple of fingers severed in a childhood accident (can anyone verify this piece of minutiae?) but miraculously recovered. On this day, he didn't have the midas touch and Joe Torre replaced him with Roy Lee Jackson after Lynch faced only four batters, surrendering three hits.

The Pirates had a 2-0 lead and extended that to 3-1 by the seventh inning. The Mets put the first two on base, so the Pirates relieved Rick Rhoden with Enrique Romo. The Mets tied the game in bizarre fashion. Romo walked in one run, giving Lee Mazzilli a free pass with the bases loaded. The other score came home on an 8-5 putout (if you're scoring at home). Another rookie, Wally Backman, had issues making a path from second to third base and an apparent single to center by Claudell Washington was nullified when Backman was forced at third.

The game went extra innings, surely delighting those on hand, but Pittsburgh quickly took the lead in the 10th. Centerfielder Joel Youngblood dropped Dale Berra's fly ball, giving the Bucs a runner on second to start the frame, and Berra came home on a Bernie Carbo single. That gave the Pirates a 4-3 lead.

Bob Murphy liked to say that baseball was a game of redeeming features and the Mets redeemed themselves in the 10th (a brief aside: are football, basketball or hockey games of redeeming features?). Another rookie, Hubie Brooks singled, went to second on a sacrifice bunt, and stayed put when Frank Taveras struck out. That brought up Youngblood, who had failed earlier in the game, but had a penchant for hitting Pirates reliever Grant Jackson, finishing his career 4-for-6 against the Pirates southpaw. Youngblood cracked a 1-0 pitch and deposited it into the Pirates bullpen for a walk-off two-run home run.

"It's just another example of how in baseball a dog can suddenly become a hero," the eloquent Youngblood told reporters, who likely outnumbered remaining witnesses, after the game.

True Metbloods know...The Mets had four walk-off home runs in 1980, two shy of the team record of six set in both 1962 and 1963. All four walk-off home runs in 1980 shared a common bond. They all occurred with men on base.


Anonymous said…
No wonder 1980 seemed so exciting.

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