Sep 22, 2018

Remembering the 1973 N.L. Champion Mets: '73 Mets Take Over First Place

Friday September 21st, 1973: With the Mets now almost tasting first place, for the first time all season, over 51,000 fans packed into Shea Stadium to see their ace, the 1973 Cy Young Award Winner; Tom Sever (17-10) go up against Steve Blass (3-8).

Blass was a hero of the 1971 World Series & a 19 games winner in 1972 but he was having a rough season and would end his career after just one game the next year.

If there was one guy the Mets would want pitching on a night like this, it was Seaver. He is in the Hall of Fame for many reasons, stepping up in big games like this is one of them.

Seaver would go the distance, strike out eight batters, allow two runs on just five hits, while walking two. He earned his 18th win of the year & lowered his ERA to 1.88.

Tonight was a night the Mets gave him a lot of run support, something he did not always have the benefit of getting. The hot hitting club belted out ten runs on thirteen hits. The Mets exploded in the 1st inning, revving up the loud, excited Shea Stadium crowd.

Wayne Garrett led off with a base hit & then Rusty Staub also singled with one out. Blass got John Milner for the second out, but then the roof caved in on him. The hot hitting Cleon Jones doubled to right field bringing in Staub & Garrett.

Rookie Dave Schneck ( a power hitting prospect) was given an intentional walk. Next catcher; Jerry Grote doubled to the left center field alley scoring both Jones & Schneck & it was 4-0 New York.

The Pirates answered with two runs in the top of the 2nd, although they only had one hit off Seaver. Seaver walked Willie Stargell & then a Richie Zisk triple brought him home. Then Milt May hit a sac fly but that would be it for Pittsburgh all night.

In the Mets 3rd, "the hammer" John Milner blasted a Chris Zachary pitch over the fence for his team leading 23rd HR of the year. Cleon Jones then singled, Jerry Grote singled & Bud Harrelson delivered with an RBI base hit making it 6-2.

In the bottom of the 6th, Wayne Garrett this his 16th HR of the year off former Met Bob Johnson, making it 7-2. In the 8th the Mets added two more run, Seaver walked & advanced on a Jack Lamb wild pitch.

John Milner Congratulates Rusty Staub
Felix Millan brought him home & then Rusty Staub hit his 15th HR of the year sealing the 10-2 victory. All of a sudden the Amazing Mets of 1973 were now on top of the N.L. East at .500. (77-77) "You Gotta Believe" indeed.

The fans were dancing in the aisles & jumping on top of the dugout chanting "we're number one". The Mets locker room was just as wild, with smiles on every ones faces. Jerry Koosman told the press "It brings back memories of 1969 but it's as though it's the first time all over again".

But there were still seven games left to play & four teams right behind the Mets.

The NL East Standings on September 21st, 1973:

New York Mets -
Pittsburgh Pirates 0.5
St. Louis Cardinals 1.0
Montreal Expos 1.5
Chicago Cubs 2.5
Philadelphia Phillies 9.0

Remembering Mets History: (1991) David Cone Tosses His Third Mets One Hitter

Friday September 20th 1991: Bud Harrelson's Mets (71-76) certainly were a huge disappointment this season. It was the start of another losing era for the New York Mets who had just come off seven years of finishing either first or second in the N.L. East. As that era was ending this game was one of the few highlights of the 1991 season.

David Cone went up against Joe Torre's St. Louis Cardinals (7671) 12 1/2 games back in second place, in a pre wild card era.

Torre sent Rheal Cormier to the mound. 15,683 fans came out to Shea for the two hour & twelve minute contest.

Starting Lineups

For Cone it was another fine outing he was to pitch as a New York Met. Cone sailed along in the game, he struck out one batter in the 1st inning & then two more in the 3rd. In the 5th inning he walked Milt Thompson ending any early thoughts of a perfect game. He ended that inning striking out Ray Lankford.

Until this point the game was still scoreless as the offensive weak Mets weren't supporting Cone. In the home 6th, Kevin Elster led off with a walk. With two outs Greg Jefferies reached on an error, after a balk got Elster to third. Mark Carreon then delivered with a base hit that proved to be the only run of the game, making it 1-0.

Cone came back after an inning where no one was talking to him in the dug out & got Ozzy Smith out trying to bunt his way on, but Greg Jefferies threw him out. Then Cone struck out Todd Zeile & Pedro Guerrero to end the 7th with a no hitter still in tact.

It was in the 8th inning that Felix Jose led off with a double to deep left centerfield ending the no hit bid. Jose did have a fine year that year batting .305 in 154 games.

This was the 20th one hitter thrown in Mets history & the third by Mets pitching that month. The second from David Cone who combined with Jeff Innis (one inning) a six days earlier.

In this one Cone struck out 11 in the game & walked just one. He would lead the NL in strike outs that year for the second year in a row with 241. He went 14-14 winning 14 games for the second straight year as well.

Sep 21, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (1988) Mets Clinch NL East Title

Thursday September 22, 1988: Davey Johnson's Mets (94-57) were on a roll counting down toward winning the 1988 NL Eastern title. They come on strong down the stretch, to overtake the Pittsburgh Pirates. The win onthis evening, was their eighth in a row, 13 out of their last 14 and 18 out of their last 22.

45,274 came out to Shea Stadium, to see the Mets clinch their second NL Eastern Title in three years. The Shea Faithful, cheered loudly from the first pitch onward through the night.

NYPD had 80 mounted policeman on horses & over 800 Police officers in total were on hand to make sure no one got onto the field. Shea was not about to repeat the 1986 clinching celebration, where the fans stormed the & ripped up the field. The public address announcer welcomed their presence in the 8th inning as the crowd greeted them with boos. The fans of course wanted to repeat with an '86  type like celebration.

Starting Lineups

Ron Darling (15-9) got the start tonight and became the fourth Mets pitcher to celebrate on the mound as the Mets won an Eastern title. Darling found a little extra in his arm that night and was going to finish the game no matter what.

Darling went the distance allowing only one run, on six hits, with one walk and struck out four. It was his 16th win of the year, he would end up third on the '88 team with 17 wins and third with a 3.25 ERA.

The Mets only scored three runs off Philadelphia's Don Carman, but it was all they needed. Mookie Wilson led  with three hits on the night & a run scored.

In the home 5th, down 1-0, Kevin Elster led off with a double. Mookie followed with a one out single, Elster going to third.  Greg Jeffries then grounded out to third, scoring Kevin Elster tying the game 1-1.

 In the 6th inning, Daryl Strawberry sigled & reached third on a Kevin McReynolds single. Straw then scored when Don Carman thre a wild pitch. In the 7th, Mookie singled & advanced to second & then scored when Kevin McReynolds had an infield single himself.

In the 9th inning, Darling struck out Von Hayes, then got Juan Samuel to ground out to the mound. Darling then struck out Lance Parrish to end the game. Darling was met on the mound by catcher Gary Carter in celebration.

The rest of the team joined them with no pressure from the fans, as the mounted police stopped anyone from storming the field. The Mets celebration moved on to the clubhouse.

Trivia: The night before, the Mets recieved  bad news when pitcher; Bobby Ojeda injured himself at home trimming his hedges. Ojeda had severed his left index finger and had to under go nearly five hours of surgery to repair it. He was lost for the rest of the year & more importantly, the post season.

His absence was certainly missed as the Mets lost the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling & David Cone the Mets were still looking good in the pitching department heading to the playoffs.

1986 World Champion Mets Second Baseman: Wally Backman (1980-1988)

Walter Wayne Backman was born September 22, 1959 in Hillsboro, Oregon. Wally Backman's dad played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization during the sixties.

Wally was drafted in the first round (16th pick overall) of the 1977 draft by the New York Mets. He hit over .280 every season in the minors and his defense improved, making him a fine defensive second baseman.

His scrappy style of play is what made him so desirable. He would do anything to get on a base, a slap hitter who could bunt well, draw walks & get hit by pitches. His uniform usually got dirty from sliding and being a pest on the base paths.

He began as a September call up in 1980, getting a base hit driving in a run in his first career at bat. He would hit.323 (30-93) with 9 RBIs in 27 games. Backman’s early years as a Met were filled with drama at times & it was tough for him to get a starting job. At the start of his career, Doug Flynn was the Mets Gold Glove second baseman & a favorite of manager Joe Torre.

Backman got sent to Triple A- Tidewater in June 1981, becoming irritated that the Mets were trying to turn him into a utility infielder. He refused to report for six days, giving him a bad reputation with the organization. But in the winter of 1981 the Mets traded Flynn and Backman was the 1982 Opening Day second baseman.

Then, more drama as he fell off a bicycle ending his season, and soon losing his job to Brian Giles in 1983. At AAA Tidewater he had impressed his manager Davey Johnson with his style of play and his hitting, batting .316. When Johnson took over as the Mets manager, he made Backman his 1984 second baseman.

On April 18th with the Mets down to the Montreal Expos 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th Backman came to bat with two men on. He doubled home Daryl Strawberry & John Gibbons with an exciting walk off Mets win. 

On July 2nd in a game at Shea against the Houston Astros he had three hits & drove in three of the Mets four runs in their 4-2 victory. On July 23rd Backman had another walk off game winning hit, this one against the Cardinals off former Met Neil Allen.

On July 27th he helped Dwight Gooden to a four hit win, when he singled home what was the game winning run in the 7th inning against Dick Ruthven & the Chicago Cubs. On July 31st he peaked out with a .300 batting average.

On August 17th Dwight Gooden & the Giants Mike Krukow had a classic shut out pitcher's duel going through nine innings in San Francisco. In the top of the tenth Backman hit his only HR of the season, a two run shot winning it for New York.

In 1984, Backman was the Mets leadoff hitter for most of the year, batting .280 with a career high 32 stolen bases, only getting thrown out nine times. He posted a .339 on base percentage with 122 hits, 56 walks,19 doubles 68 runs scored and 21 RBIs. 

Backman still wasn't sure if he would remain on the team the next season. In his personal life he spent the year living in a mobile home with his wife & daughter at a campsite in West Milford, NJ.

By 1985 Backman was having a real problem hitting left-handers, so manager Davey Johnson platooned him with Kelvin Chapman. Chapman didn’t hit at all, so Backman got his job back at second base, playing in 145 games hitting .273 with a career high 142 hits, 24 doubles, five triples & 38 RBIs.

He was still batting leadoff at the beginning of the year, but as the season went on he settled into the two spot. He posted a .320 on base percentage and drew fewer walks (36) but still stole 30 bases. Backman hit real well over the summer, starting out in July with a ten game hit streak.

That August he posted a 14 game hit streak. During that stretch he hit safely in 23 of 25 games. His problem was hitting left hand pitchers, that season against left-handers he only hit .155. So for the 1986 season, Tim Teufel was brought in from Minnesota to platoon with him at second base.

In the 1986 Championship season, Backman had a great start to the season & never looked back. Backman was platooned with Tim Teufel most of the season, but the second base spot seemed to be more effective when Backman played. He proved to be a perfect #2 hitter, usually behind the leadoff man Lenny Dykstra .

The two gritty players became known as the "Wild Boys", always playing in dirty uniforms & spitting out chewing tobacco. But most importantly, they were always getting on base setting the table for the big bats in the mighty line up.

On July 17th in Houston, Backman had a huge day, gathering up three hits while driving in five runs in the Mets 13-2 rout over the Astros. It was on this road trip to Houston, that Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, Rick Aguilera & Tim Teufel got arrested after a night club altercation with off duty Houston Police officers posing as bouncers.

On August 10th Backman broke a 2-2 tie in Montreal with a 7th inning single off Dennis Martinez. He later drove in a 9th inning run as well in the Mets 7-2 win over the Expos.

 On September 27th, his 27th birthday, Backman hit his only HR of the season. It came off the St. Louis Cardinals Bob Forsch in a 5-2 Mets win.

Backman led the 1986 Mets team in hitting with a .320 batting average, & was the only other player besides Keith Hernandez to hit over .300. Backman posted a .376 on base percentage, scoring 67 runs, while stealing 13 bases. He hit one HR with 18 doubles & 27 RBIs playing in 124 games. His 14 sac hits were third best in the National League, Wally was a very dangerous bunter as well. At second base he posted a .966 fielding % & helped turn over 56 double plays.

Post Season: Backman had a fantastic 1986 NLCS, and was in the middle of a lot of important moments. 

In Game #2 at the Houston Astro Dome he singled off Nolan Ryan in the 4th inning & then scored on Gary Carter's RBI double. It was the Mets first run of the Series. 

In the 5th he singled home Bobby Ojeda with a base hit advancing to second base putting New York up 3-0 in the 5-1 win.

With the series tied at one game a piece, the Mets were losing Game #3 by a score of 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Backman led off the inning and dragged a bunt down the first-base line As Astros first baseman Glenn Davis fielded it, Backman lunged past him into foul territory and slid safely into first base. 

Astros manager Hal Lanier argued that Backman had run out of the base path, but to no avail, he was ruled safe. Two batters later, Lenny Dykstra hit a now famous Mets walk off, game-winning HR to give the Mets the big victory.

In the great Game #5, Backman led off the bottom of the 12th with an infield hit, and then advanced to second on an errant pick-off attempt by Astro pitcher Charlie Kerfeld.

 Backman then came around to score the winning run on a single by Gary Carter, who had been in a slump since his game #2 double. It was another classic '86 Mets come back. (centerfieldmaz was in attendance at Shea that day).

In the classic Game #6, Backman did not start the game, but entered in the 9th inning as a pinch hitter for Tim Teufel. In the top of the 14th inning with two men on, he singled off Aurelio Lopez bringing home Daryl Strawberry with the go ahead run. Jesse Orosco would serve up a HR to Billy Hatcher in the bottom of the inning to tie it.

In the top of the 16th the Mets regained the lead on a Daryl Strawberry double & a Ray Knight single. Backman reached base on a walk, & later scored on Len Dykstra's single. Backmans run prove to be the game winner as the Astros scored two runs in the bottom of the inning. Overall in the NLCS Wally was 5-21 with a pair of walks, five runs scored & two RBIs. 

In the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, he got his first start in Game #2 and had a hit off both Roger Clemens & Bob Stanley.

 In Game #3 at Fenway Park he singled to right field in the 1st inning & scored on a Gary Carter double putting the Mets up 2-0 in the first series game they would win that year. The next night Backman had two more hits & did not play in Game #5.

In Game #6 Backman had an early hit, then he made the first out of the 10th inning before the famous Mets comeback rally. He came in as a pinch runner for Tim Teufel in the 6th inning of Game #7 and scored the go ahead run at the time on Gary Carters RBI force out. 

Overall in the 1986 World Series he batted .33 (6-18) with an RBI & a stolen base, scoring four runs.

Backman slumped in 1987, hitting just .250 as he battled lingering hamstring injuries. Meanwhile, Tim Teufel was playing very well at second base, hitting .308 with 14 HRs 29 doubles & 61 RBIs.

Drama: During the season Backman had a run-in with Mets All Star, Darryl Strawberry. Strawberry claimed he had a virus & pulled himself out of a crucial game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Meanwhile he had spent the earlier part of the day recording a rap song.

Quotes: Backman said "Nobody I know gets sick 25 times a year." Strawberry's response to Backman's remark was "I'll bust that little redneck in the face." So was the drama of the mid to late eighties Mets.

The Mets finished second to the St. Louis Cardinals that year & Backman hit .250 with one HR six doubles a .307 on base % & 23 RBIs in 94 games.

By 1988 manager Davey Johnson was questioning Backman's spirit & commitment to the team. He made Tim Teufel the regular second baseman during spring training. Backman accepted his role and set out to prove something to his manger & his team. After struggling to get above the .200 mark in mid May, he went on a hitting tear in June. 

He hit safely in 15 of 17 games winning back his position by midsummer. In July he had six multi hit games & was batting .300 by August. He began the month with a six game hit streak where he had ten hits in 17 at bats.

He missed two weeks of action in early September but returned for the Mets NL Eastern clinching. He ended the regular season by driving in runs in three straight games he played in the last week.

He finished the season batting .303 with his best on base percentage since his first season (.388%) playing in 99 games, with 12 doubles, nine stolen bases & 44 runs scored.

Post Season: In the 1988 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he went hit-less in the first two games. In Game #3 at Shea Stadium, Backman tied the game with a 6th inning single off Orel Hershiser. In the Mets 8-4 win, Backman went 2-4 with a run scored & two RBIs.

Backman had one hit in Game #5 & two hits in Game #6. In Game #7 he had one of the five Mets hits off Orel Hershiser in the Mets 6-0 upset loss. Overall Backman hit .273 going 6-22 against Dodger pitching in the NLCS. 

 In December 1988 with Greg Jeffries & Keith Miller waiting in the wings, Backman was traded to the Minnesota Twins for three minor league prospects who never quite made it.

Backman injured his shoulder having two stints on the disabled list, and hit just .231 that season. He signed as a free agent with the 1990 Pirates and platooned at third base with Jeff King.

On April 27, 1990, ina game against the San Diego Padres, he became the first player since 1975, to gather six hits in a game. In Pittsburgh he enjoyed beating his old Mets team mates, as the Pirates won the 1990 Eastern Division. He went 1-7 in the NLCS against the eventual World Champion Cincinnati Reds.

Backman then bounced to the Philadelphia Phillies as a reserve player (1991-1992) & Atlanta Braves for Spring Training 1993 but then got released. He was signed by the Seattle Mariners for ten games in 1993, before being released that May. In a 14 year career Backman hit .275 with 893 hits 10 HRs, 138 doubles, 19 triples, 240 RBIs stole 117 bases 482 runs scored & a .349 on base %..

Honors: Backman was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. He was at the 20th Anniversary for the 1986 Mets, as well as the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008.

Retirement: Backman was a successful manager for seven years in the minor leagues. His managing style was similar to his playing style- fiery and combustible, with a history of ejections, on-field tantrums, and suspensions.

He was the top candidate to take over Jerry Manuel's job with the Chicago White Sox, but when the team discovered he openly rooted against them so Manuel would be fired, they cut ties with him.

In 2004 he was hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, getting named The Sporting News' Minor League Manager of the Year. The Arizona organization liked what he had done so much, On November 1, 2004, they hired him as the Diamondbacks new manager.

The next day reports became public that he was convicted of DUI in 2000, pleaded guilty to harassing a female friend, beat his ex-wife & had filed for bankruptcy. The job fell through as the Diamondbacks cut ties with him as well.

In 2010 he got a chance in Mets organization & did a great job as manager of their A ball team, the Brooklyn Cyclones. Backman even coached third base to be involved in the action. He had his players on the edge of the dugout cheering on the team.

Backman went on to lead the Cyclones to a league-best 51-24 record, winning the McNamara Division of the New York-Penn League by 12 games. He lead them to the NY/ Penn. League championship series but got swept in the final series. In 2011 he was a candidate for the Mets managers job replacing Jerry Manuel but Terry Collins got the position instead.

Backman went on to manage the AA Binghamton Mets & then got promoted to the AAA Buffalo Bisons in 2012. That year his club went 67-76, the next year they became the AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

In 2013 Backman moved over to the Mets new AAA affiliate, the Las Vegas 51's. 

Trivia: The Las Vegas 51's take there name from the famous "Area 51" which is a US Military base located 80 miles from Las Vegas. The secrecy of its affairs has created folklore having to do with aliens & UFO's.

Backman along with pitching coach Frank Viola tool the 51's to a first place finish. 

 Backman was once again highly regarded within the Mets organization & in baseball. Many of the players he managed & helped develop, joined the ranks of the Mets big league club with high praises of their former manager.

In late September of 2014 Backman joined the Mets big league staff as a guest coach in the dugout. The Mets announced Terry Collins will be the teams manager in 2015 but possible a position as third base coach would go to Backman. It never happened & Backman remained at AA Las Vegas as manger through the 2016 season. He was then let go in the off season.

Backman claims that Sandy Alderson is blackballing from the Mets as well as other big league managerial positions. He managed in Mexico in 2017. 

Sep 20, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (2001) Mike Piazza's Post 911 HR

Friday September 21st, 2001: On this now legendary night, baseball returned to New York City for the first time since the tragic attacks of 911.

41, 235  fans came out to Shea Stadium on a very emotional night of baseball & support for both New York City as well as America. Before the game there was a very moving  ceremony honoring the victims of 911.

The New York Mets hosted their rivals, the Atlanta Braves. Both teams lined up from home plate down the baselines, during an emotional National Anthem sung by singer Mark Anthony. Also during that evenings ceromonies, Diana Ross sang "God Bless America" & Liza Minelli sang "New York, New York".

There were special honored guests on hand; New York City firemen, policemen & other emergency workers. On this night, New York City attempted to get back to some kind of normal routine & it began with the playing of baseball. After the ceromonies, the two teams shook hands, hugged each other & proceeded to play ball.

The Mets (75-73) entered the game in third place on a hot streak, just 4 1/2 games back of the Braves (79-68). The reigning N.L. Champion Mets, were indeed back in the pennant race. It was their best stretch of the season. They had won ten out of their last twelve games, and twenty of their last twenty six games.

Bobby Valentine sent pitcher; Bruce Chen to the mound against native New Yorker, Atlanta's Jason Marquis.

Leadoff batter Marcus Giles drew a walk, but was erased on a line drive double off the bat of Julio Franco. In the bottom of the 1st, Mike Piazza fittingly got the first hit of the game, a double to left field.

In the visiting 4th, Chipper Jones singled & scored on a Ken Caminiti double, 1-0 Braves. But the Mets came right back in the bottom of the inning. Mike Piazza doubled for the second time, Robin Ventura then singled. Tsuyoshi Shinjo hit a sac fly, scoring Piazza to tie it at one.

The two pitchers  allowed just one run each before both getting relieved in the 7th inning.

The Mets native New Yorker, John Franco came in & retired the first two batters in the 8th inning. But then he gave up a walk to Julio Franco & a single to Chipper Jones. Franco was then relieved by Armando Benitez. Benitez surrendered the go ahead run on a double to Brian Jordan.

In the bottom of the 8th inning, Atlanta's Steve Karsay came in to pitch. Karsay was born in Flushing, Queens just a baseball throw over to Shea Stadium. He then attended high school in Middle Village, Queens New York.

Matt Lawton led off with a ground out to short. Karsay then walked Edgardo Alfonzo. Desi Relaford came in to pinch run and the Mets best hitter, Mike Piazza came to bat.

In the most dramatic fashion, Piazza blasted a long HR over the Shea Stadium fence, bringing the crowd into a frenzy. As a matter of fact for a brief moment, all of New York city went into to a frenzy. It was one of the most important HRs in Piazza's career, one of the most important HRs in Mets history, as well as in baseball history.
It was more than just a HR, more than just putting the Mets ahead. The HR meant so much to the city of New York & America as a nation.

 Mets broadcaster Howie Rose may have put it best, he said he saw fire fighters smile as Piazza rounded the bases. There is no doubt that that man lost friends, colleges & maybe even family members on that tragic day of 911. But some how this HR in a game of baseball made him happy & forget his troubles for at least a moment. Thats when he realized it was good that baseball was back on the field again.

As the years have gone by, the legend of this HR has even grown larger than life itself. It will never be forgotten.

It some how symbolized that New York City as well as America was back & moving forward. It was Piazza's 34th HR of the year, he had three hits on the night, bringing his average up to just under the .300 mark.

Armando Benitez came back in the 9th inning with the fans on their feet & still excited. Javier Lopez led off with a single & everyone held their breath as Armando was at it again. But on this night, even he came through. He struck out BJ Surhoff & closed out the 9th inning by striking out Gary Mathews Jr. 

The Mets had a dramatic 3-2 vctory and pulled even closer to the Braves. The Mets won five straight & got to within three games of Atlanta.  Then they eventually lost six of nine & fell out of the race.

Trivia: Even one of the most hated Mets opponents of that era; Chipper Jones, admitted it was the only time that he didn't mind losing a game, because of what it meant for New York City, baseball & the Country in the wake of tragedy.

Remembering Mets History: (1965) Casey Stengel Retires From Managing

 August 30th 1965: Casey Stengel was to turn 75 years old on July 30th, 1965. The Mets were having a ceremony for him between games of a double header on July 25th.

The previous night, Stengel was getting out of a friend’s car after a party; he fell & broke his hip. Two days later he needed surgery & had a metal ball inserted in the hip to reduce the fracture.

Due to his health issues & his age the long baseball career of Casey Stengel on the field, came to an end on July 30th 1965. In a press conference at Shea Stadium, Stengel announced his retirement, stepping down as Mets manager. He was to be named vice president of Mets West Coast operations. More a title than anything else, so he could be near his home in Glendale, California.

The Mets new manager was to be Wes Westrum. Westrum who had been a Mets coach, had taken over when Stengel broke his hip. He would now assume the role of full time manager, the second skipper in team history. On September 2nd, 1965 the Mets retired Stengel’s uniform #37, the first Mets number to be retired.

Sep 19, 2018

Remembering Mets History: (1973) The Ball On The Wall Game & The Mets Take Over First Place

Jerry Koosman
Thursday, September 20th 1973:  Yogi Berra's Mets were now just  one & 1/2 games out of first place in the tight NL East.

Tonight's game between the Mets & Danny Murtaugh's Pittsburgh Pirates was certainly one of the most important games of the 1973 season & one of the most remembered games in Mets history. 24,855 fans filled Shea Stadium that night to see Jerry Koosman (12-15) go up against the Pirates Jim Rooker (9-5). 

Starting Lineups

In the 4th inning the Pirates scored the first run, Koos walked Willie Stargell & Many Sanguillen singled. Then sloppy play led to a run, when Bud Harrelson threw wildly to first base on a Dal Maxvill groundball, the error scored Willie Stargell.

The Pirates Jim Rooker, rolled along to the 6th inning, when he walked Jerry Koosman to start the inning. Kooz was forced at second by Wayne Garrett's grounder, then Felix Millan continued his hot hitting & got a base hit. With two outs, one of the hottest months of September; Cleon Jones came through with a single to left field scoring Garrett. The game was tied 1-1 & as Bob Murphy would say was "getting to be a real nail bitter".

In the 7th Richie Hebner took a Koosman curve ball over the fence for a 2-1 lead. Rooker kept the Mets down until the 8th, pinch hitter Jim Beauchamp came through for manager Yogi Berra once again, with a base hit. Teddy Martinez came in to pinch run & Wayne Garrett laid down a successful sacrifice bunt.

Once again it was Felix Millan coming through with a base hit to tie the game. Rooker got out of the inning with two men on getting John Milner to pop out to short. 

In the 9th Harry Parker came in to pitch for the Mets. Parker had been a solid reliever throughout the year out of the bull pen.

 In the top of the 9th tonight, he walked Bob Robertson to lead off the inning. Pinch runner Dave Augustine was brought in to run. Dal Maxvill sacrificed him over to second. 

Harry Parker then fanned rookie slugger Dave Parker for the second out. With Hebner up again, after homering earlier, Berra wasn't taking any chances, he was given an intentional pass. But Dave Cash. an All Star himself, then doubled past Cleon Jones in left field bringing in Augustine with the go ahead run 3-2.

The return of "the Stork"
George Theodore
In the bottom of the 9th inning, the Pirates made three defensive changes & brought in Bob Johnson to pitch. Yogi Berra sent another one of his top pinch hitters in the '73 season up, veteran of the 1969 Amazing Mets; Kenny Boswell. Boswell delivered with a base hit to right field. Dohn Hahn then laid down a beauty of a bunt, advancing Boswell.

The Shea Faithful were now on their feet chanting "Lets Go Mets". As Ed Kranepool was announced as a pinch hitter, Pirates Manager Danny Murtaugh changed his pitcher, bringing in Ramon Hernandez.

George the Stork Theodore was brought in to pinch hit, it was The Stork's first appearance since early July, after going on the DL after his outfield collision with Don Hahn. Stork was still not at his best & went down swinging.

The Shea crowd still cheered Theodore for his bravery of coming back. He would remain a folk hero in Mets history forever & was honored in the Last Game at Shea in 2009.

Duffy Dyer
Now with two outs & the tying run on second base, Berra put up Duffy Dyer to pinch hit for the pitcher Parker. Dyer doubled to left field scoring Boswell, as the Mets dug out went wild, the Shea fans went wild & Yogi Berra once again made another right move.

Into the 10th inning & it was a whole new ball game. Ken Boswell stayed in the game & took over third base, as Wayne Garrett moved to short replacing Harrelson. 

The new catcher brought in was rookie Ron Hodges & what a key figure he would turn out to be in this classic game.

Pinch Hitter Ken Boswell
Ray Sadecki was brought in to pitch for New York & Jim McKee for the Pirates. Sadecki was fired up & struck out the side in the top of the 11th. He would pitch four innings, through the 13th, strike out six, allow no runs & two hits. In the bottom half of the 11th, the Mets threatened, John Milner walked & Boswell sacrificed him over to second.

Luke Walker was brought in to pitch & gave Don Hahn an intentional walk. But Walker got catcher Ron Hodges & Sadecki to both ground out.

In the op of the 13th inning, Richie Zisk singled with one out. Catcher Manny Sanguillen flew out to right field for the second out. Then, with the next play, the Mets fans really started to "believe" in Tug McGraw's mantra "You Gotta Believe".

Dave Augustine drilled a fly ball over the head of Cleon Jones in deep left field, the ball was headed to be a HR. But miraculously, it bounced off the top of the wall into Cleon Jones' glove. Jones played it perfectly, he then turned & fired to short stop Wayne Garrett.

From the moment the ball was hit, Pirates runner Richie Zisk took off from first & was rounding the bases. Wayne Garrett took the relay & made a perfect throw to home plate to catcher Ron Hodges. 

Hodges took the throw, blocked the plate held his ground & tagged out Zisk who was trying to score on the play. "Out at home plate". This play became known as "the Ball off the Wall Play".

The fans still amazed at the great play they witnessed were on their feet shouting "Lets Go Mets". 

Pirates pitcher; Luke Walker walked John Milner to lead off the inning. Next Ken Boswell walked as well, sending Danny Murtaugh to the mound to replace Walker with Dave Giusti. Giusti got Don Hahn to pop out for out number one.

Then Ron Hodges came through with a base hit to left field, scoring Milner with the walk off Mets win in dramatic fashion.

The win brought the Mets to within a half of game of first place of the Pirates. The Pirates fell to .500 which was the best record in the NL East. The Mets were now 76-77 & had one more game against the Pirates tomorrow night.

Friday September 21st, 1973: On this night the Mets were going for first place & 51,381 came out to Shea to watch that years Cy Young Award winner; Tom Sever (17-10) go against Steve Blass (3-8). 
It was all Mets tonight as the offense provided Seaver with ten runs. Seaver pitched the complete game allowing two runs on six hits while striking out eight.
The Mets showed they meant business right away. Wayne Garrett & Rusty Staub both singled & Cleon Jones doubled bringing in both runners. Jerry Grote followed with a base hit bringing in Cleon, 3-0 Mets. 

In the 3rd, John Milner "the hammer" hit his 23rd HR of the year off a young Pat

Zachary. Cleon Jones, Grote & Bud Harrelson all singled making it 6-2 Mets.

Wayne Garrett & Rusty Staub both hit HRs later in the game & Felix Millan added an RBI single to cap off the 10-2 win. The Mets were now in first place. They would hold on to their lead & win the Eastern Division on the last day of the season.