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Minutiae Break: The Gak-Offs (Part I)

We're going to break a rule here, one we stated early on in our blogdom, of how we would speak only of triumph rather than heartache, because in looking back to Saturday's contest, we felt it would be rather cathartic to produce another of our famous lists.

I was irked enough yesterday to yell at a number of personalities through my television set, not limited to Jon Miller, Joe Morgan, Tom Glavine and Billy Wagner. I was peeved, miffed, annoyed, bothered, flummoxed and angry, and although much of that washed away after Sunday's victory, there is still some residue resting in chip form on my shoulder. It comes from "The Gak-Off."

A Gak-Off, in case you were wondering, is a Mets loss that fits the criteria of absurdity (as opposed to one that is bothersome, a category filled to the brim with varying degrees of devastation that we'll probably approach at a later date). It is a group of games from which the Hollywood screenwriter may someday borrow, to conjure up plots so unbelievable that an audience will walk away proclaiming them to be fictitious. But they are not. A Gak-Off, to borrow from other sports, is John Hall kicking a potential game-tying field goal attempt against the Lions sideways, is Reggie Miller scoring eight points in 15 seconds, is Ron Francis scoring from center ice. Gak-Offs are painful, and the Gak-Off, like Gak, does not come off quickly.

In baseball, a Walk-Off can be a Gak-Off, but not all Gak-Offs are Walk-Offs, though many turn out to be. In fact, most of the Gak-Offs coming to mind have been of the walk-off variety.

How many examples of a Gak-Off can I provide before you go away retching in disgust? Let us count...

The most recent prior to Saturday had to be July 8, 2005, a well-documented gagging of a four-run ninth inning lead (with two outs) against the Pirates in which Braden Looper made like Billy Wagner, Tike Redman morphed into a combination of Paul O'Neill and Melky Cabrera, and Miguel Cairo made a throw that may have inspired Aaron Heilman's pathetic first-base chuck a couple of weeks ago. The final score that day, Pirates 6, Mets 5.

Opening Day 2003 foreshadowed The Error of Good Feeling that pervaded Flushing over the next two summers and demonstrates that a Gak-Off does not have to be a close game, but could also be an afternoon of prolonged misery from start to finish, in the form of a 15-2 defeat.

The Gak-Offs of 1998, 1999 and 2001 are slightly tempered by the accomplishments of that season, but I say only slightly because the stains are still present. We're of course referring to the back-to-back September defeats to the pathetic Expos, Mike Thurman and Carl Pavano, the pennant-wretching walk-off walk by Andruw Jones off he who cannot be named, and the two game-winning home runs by Brian Jordan respectively. Granted you're probably quite familiar enough with those, but I wanted to share some that perhaps only the diehardest of diehards would be able to recall.

May 6, 1995 may be remembered by recently released Edgardo Alfonzo as the date of his first major-league home run, but I remember it as the day of Contagious Gak. May you never, ever have to suffer from a case of Contagious Gak because it is as unpleasant as any of your basic illnesses. The Mets led the Reds 11-4 in the eighth inning that day when someone must have either coughed, sneezed, or otherwise exchanged bodily fluids in a rather gruesome manner. Cincinnati scored six in the eighth to get within a run, than won the game in the last of the ninth on a Gak-Off home run by Jerome Walton. The Gak spread to Quebec, where the Rangers blew a two-goal third-period lead in a playoff loss, than transmuted overnight to West 33rd Street where the Knicks spit up a six-point lead in the final moments to the afforementioned Mr. Miller and the Indiana Pacers. This was some nasty Gak, borne in some Colorado laboratory on Opening Day (Dante Bichette was the first carrier), carrying a rather foul-smelling malaise.

August 13, 1993 was an unlucky Friday for an unwatchable team though Phillies fans remember it best for the day of Kim Batiste's game-winning grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. This Gak-Off was made possible by the fine work of the Kevin Baez Foundation, an errant throw on a game-ending grounder that immediately preceded the long ball. The sponsorship had long expired from its previous Philadelphian usage, when Bo Diaz parked a Gak-Off grand slam off Neil Allen in a 1983 game in which the Mets led by four with two outs in the last of the ninth.

Perhaps the present Mets manager was wearing the same Gak-infested shoes on Saturday that he inhabited in Atlanta on July 8, 1992, on a day in which our hotel for the National Baseball Card Convention was a block from Fulton County Stadium. You could almost see the ballpark glowing with Gak, when with the bases loaded, nobody out and the Mets trailing by a run, Howard Johnson popped meekly to third and Willie Randolph hit into a game-ending 5-4-3 double play off ex-Mets stiff Alejandro Pena. Randolph's days as an Everlasting Gakstopper date back to August 20, 1989 when his first home run of the season for the Dodgers was a three run clout that stunned Don Aase and the Mets, 5-4.

In getting back to the 1992 season, the worst loss that money could buy didn't come until its conclusion, when on September 24, the Mets JV team pitched a shutout for 13 innings, then blew a 3-0 advantage by yielding four in the bottom of the 14th in St. Louis. That defeat was constituted with some leftover Gak from June 1, 1991, when Dave Magadan sidestepped Milt Thompson's broken bat to watch a gak-off single scoot right past the vacated spot, into right field in the last of the 10th.

For those masochists still reading, I'm halting the proceedings for now. Amazingly, I've only made it through two decades. Perhaps we'll get to some of the others another time.


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