Remembering Mets History: (1975) Mike Vail Ties Rookie Hitting Streak Record At 23 Games

Monday September 15th, 1975: In a crazy year for the New York Mets, the club was at 76-74 in fourth place, 9 1/2 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

The Manager was Roy McMillan who had taken over after Yogi Berra was released. That year the Mets had also parted ways with long time outfielder Cleon Jones. On a brighter note, that season Tom Seaver would win his third Cy Young Award as well.

In August the Mets brought up a young outfielder who was named the AAA International League Player of the Year; Mike Vail. Vail debuted with the Mets on a Western road trip on August 18th, getting a hit in his first career at bat. He got a start the next night but went 0-5 in Houston in a 5-4 loss to the Astros.

On August 22nd, Vail was inserted as the Mets left fielder in San Francisco, getting two hits in a 6-4 Mets win over the San Francisco Giants. On August 25th, Vail had himself a big night in San Diego, while starting on a record setting feat. That night he had four hits, including a pair of doubles with an RBI, in a 4-0 Mets win over the Padres. 

The next night he collected three hits & then two more the next night, which was the final night of the San Diego series. Vail had nine hits in three games & was batting .480. The Mets organization smiled & everyone felt good about the kids future.

Vail stayed in the line up & continued to hit, on September 1st, he hit his first career HR & the next day his first career triple. He then drove in runs in five straight games, hitting two more HRs in that span as well. By the time the Mets homestand was over, Vail had a 13 game hit streak & was still batting .353

As the road trip went along, Vail kept hitting. He hit safely in all three games at Montreal against the Expos, including another HR. He then hit in two games at Pittsburgh, against the Pirates & then hit safely in three straight games against the Cardinals in St. Louis.

By now Vail was getting national attention with his hitting, he had hit safely in 22 straight games & was just one game away from tying a rookie hitting streak record, last done by (former Met) Richie Ashburn in 1948 while with the Phillies.

On September 15th, 1975 the Mets hosted the last place Montreal Expos (65-84) as Jerry Koosman (12-13) went against Steve Rogers (10-11) in front of a small crowd of 7,259 at Shea Stadium.
In the 1st inning, Vail came up to nice ovation & grounded out. In the 4th he hit a screaming liner that was snagged by Expo third baseman, Larry Parrish. Vail thought, if he hit it that hard & it's an out, his chances of tying a record were slim.

But in the 6th inning, with the Mets down 2-0, Vail came up with Del Unser on second base. Vail took Steve Rogers' pitch up the middle for a base hit, bringing in the run & setting his mark at 23 consecutive games with a hit.

Vail was now in the record books, as a Met, with a rookie consecutive game hit streak record. The ball Vail hit was even sent to Coopestown to be displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Quotes: Vail said: "I never thought something like this would happen. It's unreal. I hope to get in there someday myself."

To top off his night, he singled again in the 8th inning bringing in Gene Clines with the games winning run. Quite a night for the youngster. The hitting streak was also the best of the year in major league baseball, Boston's Denny Doyle had hit in 22 straight games earlier.

"I was lucky I did it in my first year," he said to the media, but then laughed after he realized the way he had said it.

Vail hit .305 that year & was penciled in as the Mets outfielder of the future. So much so the team traded away one of their best hitters, Rusty Staub in the off season. But that off season Vail injured himself at hoe & missed most of the 1976 season. He was never the same player.

After hitting .262 in 1977 he was traded to the Cleveland Indians. In a ten year career he hit .279 life time.


Remembering Rookies said…
The prototype for the September Phenom, or Late Season Sensation. The following year, it was Lee Mazzilli. In 1988,Gregg Jeffries. Other teams can furnish examples, some with glorious consequences: Marty Bystrom for the 1980 Phillies (including a shutout against the Mets at Shea) en route to their first WS victory. In 2016, “Sanchino” for the Bronx team.Vail’s foot injury aside,his 23G hit streak was stopped by an 0-for-7 drought in which the Mets ironically won in 18 innings at Shea vs. Mtl.That marked the “never the same since “ moment. Still, a decent 10yr career, qualifying him for the HallofFame.I think Mazzilli & Jeffries are slightly ahead of him for that possibility.

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