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The Impossible Has Happened

The writer at "Them Mets" has intrigued me on several occasions, both with the on-site "Kudos Board" (definitely worth checking out) and with a series of queries in the comments section of a couple of different postings on this site.

This rather inquisitive person asked a dandy of a question a few days ago: Has there ever been a game that featured a walk-off double play?

Now, via my memorization of the Shakespearian work "This Date in New York Mets History" I was able to recall one possibility and sure enough, hit paydirt with the entry listed for June 21, 1973.

For those familiar with the "Ball on the Wall" classic against the Pirates later that season, think of this contest as its polar opposite. It came during a period in which the Mets were struggling, finding improbable ways to lose at every turn.

The gory details take us to the last of the 9th at Three Rivers Stadium, of a pitchers duel between since-removed Jerry Koosman and Luke Walker. Pittsburgh had scored its only run to that point on a disputed play at the plate, which resulted in the ejection of Mets skipper Yogi Berra. The Mets responded in the top of the 8th, tying the score on a double play.

In the last of the 9th, Mets reliever Buzz Capra made the mistake of walking Gene Clines to start the inning. Dave Cash followed with a single to centerfield, with Clines holding at third. An intentional walk to Al Oliver loaded the bases and necessitated the appearance of Tug McGraw as the Mets tried desperately to keep the game tied.

It's important here to note where each baserunner was, so you can follow along.
1st base- Al Oliver
2nd base- Dave Cash
3rd base- Gene Clines

Here's where the game entered the theater of the bizarre. Slugging first baseman Bob Robertson hit a grounder to second baseman Felix Millan for what looked to be a potential double play. Millan threw home to retire Clines, but Duffy Dyer, hit by Clines' slide, proceeded to throw the ball into right field, where Rusty Staub happened to be. Staub threw to second base, where shortstop Jim Fregosi was waiting. Fregosi chased Oliver, who had rounded second, and tagged him out for the second out.

Meanwhile, Cash had kept on going after he hit third base and decided to try to score. Fregosi pegged the ball home, and, depending on the source, the play was either close ("This Date..." says the Mets missed a triple play by "an eyelash") or it wasn't (The New York Times game story says "It wasn't close.") Cash was safe with the winning run and the Mets were losers for the fourth straight game, dropping them to 28-33.

For those keeping track at home, the scoring was: DP 4-2-9-6 (No RBI)

It was confirmed for us that there was no more improbable form of defeat than this one, by Retrosheet guru David Smith, who says that the game on this date is the only one in his entire database to conclude in this manner.

The Truly Metquisitive Know...That the 1973 Mets had some of the worst walk-off losses in the history of the franchise. The game referenced here was one of 10 walk-off losses that season and the first of 5 to take place within a 2-week span in late June/early July.


It is important to remember games like these when one ponders what happened later. Call them the Nietzsche Mets of '73: That which didn't destroy them, only made them stronger.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for answering my question... and in such great detail! I've added a brief response on my blog, too.
londonmetfan said…
I remembered that game! But, I thought Rusty actually caught Duffy's mis-throw on the fly, because he was playing shallow. Bang, bang play, it was.
metswalkoffs said…

You might be right. I went back and re-read the game story, and discovered that I presumed that Staub "scooped the ball up." I went back and rewrote the entry slightly.

Did you see the game on TV? Any recollection as to whether the play at home was close?

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