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Didja Ever Notice: The Other Guy in the Picture

Pause your DVD player at the point just after the ground ball goes through Bill Buckner's legs (or find a photo of the moment and take a glance at it).

Within the frame are the key figures, but also two others. There's Mets first base coach Bill Robinson, along with an older, anonymous gentleman, both gesturing vociferously in different manners. Robinson's is one of celebration. The other guy is in the midst of making a ruling.

There was no doubt that Mookie Wilson's ground ball was a fair one, but first base umpire John Kibler is the one who ruled it so.

Kibler was background dressing for the two most picturesque moments of the series, the ground ball through Buckner's legs on that Saturday night. And then, he's there again as the home plate ump when Jesse Orosco struck out Marty Barrett to end the 1986 World Series.

We mention this because John Kibler died last week and his role in the most famous of Mets moments was briefly acknowledged in his obituary.

Not mentioned, but equally notable was that Kibler was the second base ump for the first-ever clinching in Mets history, meaning he called the initial out on Joe Torre's double-play ground ball on September 21, 1969.

Those are games of which you're familiar, but lets complete the Kibler Mets umpiring cycle (we've covered the most noteworthy games for which he's had home plate, first base, and second base) by finding the most Metmorable game in which he was a third base ump.

As it turns out, we don't have to look very far to find a good one. The very first Mets game that John Kibler officiated was in San Francisco on April 23, 1965.

News accounts describe the night as cold and windy, but I'm guessing that Kibler thought it was a good one, since he was nine games into his first season as a full-time NL arbiter.

Most Mets fans didn't stick around for the conclusion of this one, nor should they have, considering the teams hapless history. There didn't appear to be much reason to, since the visitors trailed, 8-2 through seven innings.

But the Mets made this one interesting, with a pair in the eighth and an amazin' rally in the ninth. Much like they would on October 25, 1986, opponent miscues would play a critical role.

Back-to-back homers by Ron Swoboda and Jesse Gonder to start the ninth made it 8-6. A Jim Ray Hart error at third base set up the rest of the rally, which resulted in the tying run scoring when Jim Davenport threw away the potential final out, while trying to complete a double play.

The Mets would win in the 11th when Joe Christopher knocked over Giants catcher Tom Haller while trying to score on a sacrifice fly by Charley Smith. The last out came at 3:10 am eastern time. The rally from six down marked one of the biggest comebacks in Mets history.

That may have been the most Amazin' Mets game that John Kibler ever got to see. The man umped 3,685 games in a major league career that lasted until 1989 and included four trips to the World Series. The Mets certainly gave him his moneys worth.


Unser said…
Great post.

Is Kibler's son umpiring anywhere? The Mets could use some more of that Kibler mojo these days.
Unknown said…
OK. On Mets Walkoffs I've come to expect everything under the sun on any Met doing anything at anytime with numbers I can't even begin to figure out how you found unless you're using an Abacus and a stack of old Inside Pitches and some of Jack Lang's reporter's notebooks. Now you can toss off umps' most significant Mets games. You, my friend, are truly Amazin'.

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