Skip to main content

One Small Step for Mets, One Giant Leap for Metkind

If I were going to catalog my Barry Bonds memories, I think the earliest may come from a game relevant given Tuesday's events, particularly Bonds' futile 3-inch vertical try for Xavier Nady's go-ahead home run.

In July of 1988 the Mets were locked in a race for the NL East title with the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates, whose squad featured a host of young up-and-comers like Bonds, then a thin leadoff hitter with both pop and speed, and a Bronx-born power hitter named Bobby Bonilla. Pittsburgh came to town on July 29 with a little confidence, trailing in the standings by only two games, and sending talented southpaw John Smiley to the hill against Mets lefty Bob Ojeda.

I remember attending this game. I went with my uncle Zachary and my friend David Cooper. Our seats were really good, box seats along the left field line, which gave us a nice vantage point for long fly balls. There weren't too many of those on this particular Friday evening because the two starters got involved in one of the best pitching duels I've ever seen in person.

Kevin McReynolds singled to lead off the Mets second but that was the last hit the Mets would record for about the next 90 minutes. Smiley was basically flawless (think Bobby Jones, Game 4 2000 NLDS dominant). The Mets stranded two baserunners in the second inning and that was the extent of their offensive threats. Thankfully for them, Ojeda was equally brilliant. Bonilla got a hit in the second but was erased on a double play. A Bonds walk gave Pittsburgh two on with two out in the third, but a force play ended that frame. A Bonds single in the sixth was Pittsburgh's third and final hit of this contest. The score remained deadlocked at zero.

From the second until one was down in the eighth, Smiley was perfect. He retired 19 consecutive Mets until the No. 8 hitter, shortstop Kevin Elster stepped to the plate. I'd be hard pressed to remember any Met hitting the ball hard in this game until Elster did. He timed a changeup well and pulled it high and far down the left field line. The newspaper stories reference how Elster flipped his bat, but I don't recall that. I remember watching the ball soar past us, with good height and distance. It was one of those that had a chance, but required an extra push from a breath of air to carry far enough.

Barry Bonds has a history, not just of hitting home runs, but of taking them away. When Bonds was young and spry, he had the ability to stretch out his body a bit, and reach out with his glove to snatch away four-base hits. I've talked to those who have been robbed by such a Bonds catch and they rued the missed opportunity.

On this occasion, Bonds got back to the fence and gave it some pretty good ups, getting his glove just over the top of the wall. It was a lot better than the effort that his aging legs offered on Tuesday night. Ball cleared glove by inches. Elster had himself a Nadyesque home run. Mets 1, Pirates 0.

Ojeda made the lead stand with a 1-2-3 ninth and the Mets had their third consecutive shutout of the Pirates at Shea Stadium. It was, what the folks at "Faith and Fear in Flushing" have encouraged me to call a "walk-up" win (game decided in the last of the eighth inning) The Mets would get another shutout the next day, behind the pitching of Sid Fernandez, and take three of four games in the series. That would begin the stretch by which the Mets would pull away from the Pirates en route to the NL East title.

That night at Uncle Zachary's house, David Cooper and I mimicked the effort over and over again because it was rather impressive. The memory is strong enough that it lasts to this day and stands out over a lot of Bonds home runs that I've since seen. It was a great way to be introduced to the talent that was Barry Bonds and a great way for that particular Mets game to be decided.

True Metonds know...Bonds hit .191 with 1 HR and no intentional walks in 68 AB against the Mets in 1988.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Walk-Offs in Movies, TV, and Other Places

Note: I'm leaving this post up through the end of the week, a) because I don't have time to pump out something new and b)because I was hoping to build a really good list of entertainment industry walk-offs...so if you're looking for something new, check back on Monday or so... Of course, if there's a major trade or move, I'll adjust and try to post something... In the meantime, click on the "Table of Contents" link as well. It has been updated. SPOILER ALERT: Read at your own risk Caught the ending of "A League of Their Own" on one of the movie channels the other day and it got me to thinking that it would be fun to compile a list of walk-offs from movies, television, and other forms of entertainment. Here's the start, and only the start, as I spent about 30 minutes or so thinking it over Help me fill in the blanks by filling out the comments section. "A League of Their Own"-- Racine beats Rockford for the All-American Girls

The 'Duca of Earl (and walk-offs)

If I told you that the Mets had just obtained a guy who is a career .316 hitter with runners in scoring position? How about if I told you that the Mets just traded for a hitter who has consistently ranked among the toughest in baseball to strike out? Or if I mentioned that the Mets just dealt for a player who was selected to the NL All-Star team the last three seasons, with the last honor coming via a vote by his peers? So, although he's on the down side age wise, his throwing arm isn't as good as it used to be, and he doesn't provide much power, there are a lot of good things that Paul Lo Duca brings to the New York Mets. For example: He'll sacrifice his body for the good of the team The Dodgers and Braves squared off on August 23, 2002 and Lo Duca made an impact both on the start and finish of this game. Three pitches after being dusted by Greg Maddux, Lo Duca made him pay with a first-inning home run. The Braves rallied to tie the game, 3-3 in the ninth, but thei

Minutiae Break: Worst Mets Relievers

It occurs to me after 79 straight walk-off related posts and some fatigue still remaining from Saturday's finish that I did promise to bring Metspective on other issues related to the Flushing 9, so I offer this posting up as a "Minutiae Break." This came about after several discussions related to the offhand Dick Tidrow/Danny Graves remark the other day , the conclusion of which indicated that it would be fun to create a list of the worst Mets relievers of all-time. I don't want to step on the territory of other bloggers, like " Faith and Fear in Flushing ," Mets Guy in Michigan " and " Metstradamus ," so I'll tread carefully here, aided by their influence. Should any friends, family members, or fans of these pitchers visit this site, I mean no harm. I'm just here to have a little fun with this topic. The ground rules are as follows: The pitcher must have had a Mets stint as long as Dick Tidrow's (11 games, 15 2/3 innings), for