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Presidential Walk-Off

I don't really have any memories of Gerald Ford's presidency, since for the portion of it for which I was alive, I was a toddler. So I can't reminisce like others might today, the day after his death.

I do know that Gerald Ford was both sportsman (he aspired to be a pro baseball player but was better in football) and sports fan (he used to take his future wife on dates to see All-American Girls Professional Baseball League games, and his presidential library once hosted a baseball-themed exhibit), so I don't feel it inappropriate to share how his life and this blog intertwine. So I shall tell, in brief, the tale of August 8, 1974.

The Mets were playing the Pirates in Pittsburgh, but of extraordinarily greater significance, the reign of President Richard Nixon was coming to an end. More than 130 million people watched on television as Nixon announced his resignation. WOR-TV interrupted its telecast of the Mets game in the sixth inning because it felt this news was of greater importance than a baseball contest involving the mediocre Mets.

They might as well not have returned. The 3-3 deadlock, a matchup between southpaws Jerry Reuss and Jon Matlack, concluded in the last of the 9th when Pirates slugger Richie Zisk hit a game-winning home run.

Parton Keese, in his game story in the New York Times the next day, described the reaction to Nixon's announcement as mild cheering, particularly when compared to the crowd's roar at Zisk's home run. Apparently there was greater significance for this transfer of power than the one taking place in Washington D.C.

The presidency of Gerald Ford began the next day, lasting slightly more than two years before he lost the next election to Jimmy Carter in November, 1976. I don't have the date sourced for the following quote, but I imagine it came shortly after this defeat.

"In baseball when they say you're out, you're out. It's the same way in politics."

True Metsidents know...Here's a list of the number of Mets walk-offs by presidential administration

Bill Clinton 65
Ronald Reagan 64
Richard Nixon 46
George W Bush 46
Lyndon Johnson 31
George HW Bush 28
Jimmy Carter 26
John F. Kennedy 20
Gerald Ford 15


Anonymous said…
The table at the end of your column gives only the "career" stats for Presidential Administrations. If you divide by the length of their administration, you get a better view of the president/walk-off relationship. By my quick calculations, Nixon was the best president for the Mets on a walkoffs-per-year basis. (Even had I known this at the time, I would still have cheered his resignation.)
Zisk was of course involved in the Ball on the Wall Play on Sept. 20, 1973, one of the most famous of all walkoff Met wins, which they won in the bottom of the 13th on Ron Hodges' RBI single. That day is remembered by the rest of the world as the night Billy Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes. Zisk later went on to sign a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers, who of course later were owned by George W. Bush.
Anonymous said…
The Ball off the Wall is one of the greatest plays in Mets history and yet, as Barry points out, wouldn't be remembered as the premiere sporting event of its date (except by us). The same can be said of another great walkoff, the Matt Franco Game versus some other New York team. It came on the same date, 7/10/99, as the U.S. Women's Soccer team winning the World Cup (if that is indeed what they won; I wasn't paying attention).

I ask the resident blogger: Are there other momentous walkoff wins in Mets history that are overshadowed by other less significant (to us) sporting events?

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