Sep 16, 2021

Remembering Mets History: (1986) Mets Clinch NL Eastern Title

Wednesday September 17th, 1986: The 1986 Mets had been in first place all season long. They ran away with the division back in the summer & magic number countdowns to the clinching of the NL East began in August.

 On this night they had a 19 game lead over the second place; Philadelphia Phillies. It seemed kind of funny, but us fans were actually happy that the Mets got swept in a weekend series at Philadelphia, then split a two game series in St. Louis, putting them on a streak of six losses in eight games. 

All it meant was that they would have the chance to clinch the NL East title at home in Shea Stadium. I got my ticket & centerfieldmaz was on hand with 47,823 crazy, excited Mets fans.

How fitting Dwight Gooden (14-6) was on the mound that night to face Gene Michael's Chicago Cubs & starting pitcher; Dennis Eckersley (6-9).

Starting Lineups

Doctor K went on to have a good night, going the distance, pitching his 12th complete game of the season, while earning his 15th win (15-6). Gooden allowed two runs on six hits while striking out eight & walking five.

 In the Mets 3rd, Len Dykstra & Wally Backman both singled. Then rookie Dave Magadan, who was making his first MLB start (his third game overall) singled bringing in the first run of the night. Magadan was playing for an injured Keith Hernandez.

Daryl Strawberry followed, with an RBI single of his own making it 2-0 in a very loud Shea Stadium. 

In the 5th inning the crowd roared again, Dykstra doubled & Wally Backman reached on an error. Next rookie Dave Magadan singled home Dykstra making it a 3-0 Mets lead. 

In the 7th Magadan got his third hit of the night, then gave way to pinch runner Stanley Jefferson. He would come home on Strawberry's base hit, for his second RBI of the night. That was all Gooden & the Mets needed for the 4-2 win.

The Cubs scored their only runs in the 8th inning, on a two run HR by Rafael Palmeiro.

Keith Hernandez, who was out of the line up due to injury begged Davey Johnson to put him on the field for the final outs of the 9th inning. The Manager agreed.

In the 9th, Gooden who may have appeared to be tiring, walked Jody Davis. The fans were on their feet awaiting the clinching, and were ready to storm the field. The walk just seemed to prolong things.

Next Shawon Dunston grounded into a force for the first out. Then Jerry Mumphrey struck out looking. The crowd erupted & the anticipation grew even more.

Then, Chicago's Chico Walker grounded to Wally Backman, he threw to Keith Hernandez at first base and the Mets clinched their third NL Eastern title. Gooden jumped for joy & was greeted by is team mates. Then they ran for safety.

The fans went wild. In a flashback of 1969 & 1973 they stormed the field. It was a wild scene once again, as they tore up the infield. 

from centerfield: I was in the upper deck & made my way down the ramps to the infield seats. There was a cop trying to coral people trying to get by him. I waited for him to grab some one & ran around him. I remember the feeling I had when I jumped onto the field; it was like "This is where They play". 

I ripped up some grass & milled about with all the happy Mets fans. We were all escorted out through the center field gates into the parking lot. On my way out I got my piece of infield grass & a piece of the original wooden, center field wall. Quite a souvenir, I may not be able to prove it's authenticity but I know what it is!

It was to be the last time in Shea Stadium history that the fans would storm the field. As after this game, the NYPD got involved, with mounted police, making sure no damage would ever occur on a baseball field in New York City.

Remembering Mets History: (2001) The Mets & MLB Return One Week After 911

Monday September 17th, 2001: After the tragic attacks of 911, MLB stopped play for one week as New York City & the rest of the country tried to recover best it could. 

The New York Mets players worked at various relief efforts & points around the City. Shea Stadium's parking lot was used as a supply drop off point & as well as other various areas of support. Players like Bobby Valentine, Mike Piazza, John Franco, Al Leiter, Robin Ventura & Todd Zeile visited victim's families, fire houses & Ground Zero at the World Trade Center site.

A dark blue NYFD cap was sent to Mets player Rep. at the time; Todd Zeile by a widow of a rescue worker who died at World Trade Center on 911. Zeile began wearing the hat to work outs & around town at the various events he visited. 

Other Mets players asked where they could get similar hats. Next thing you knew caps of NYPD & FDNY were coming for all the players. Each player chose a hat to wear in support of the various New York City departments. The team wore the hats at works outs & when play was to resume a week later, they wore them at batting practice.

MLB told the club they could not wear them during the game, because they were not officially licensed. The team held a meeting & decided they were going to wear them no matter what. Manager Bobby Valentine agreed, telling the club sarcastically: "we cant wear the hats.... Right!".

Todd Zeile was credited saying at the time that MLB officials "are going to have to pry these hats off our heads,'' but he later said that the actual quote was "The voice of all our players. We were all in this together. It was so symbolic. It was so representative of New York. Major League Baseball knew they were fighting a losing battle. They saw the value in what we were doing. They considered it futile to fight us on it.''

Robin Ventura said with a smile, "We're wearing the hats. If they [MLB] didn't want us to play the game, fine, but we're wearing the hats.''

Starting Lineups

 September 17th, 2001: Bobby Valentines third place Mets (77-73) were seven games back of the Atlanta Braves & still alive in the wild card race as play resumed after the 911 attacks. 

On this night the Mets were in Pittsburgh playing Loyd McClendon's sixth place Pirates (55-89) in front of 25,902 at PNC Park.

New York's Al Leiter took the mound against the Pirates Todd Ritchie, as baseball life began to carry on. In the Mets top of the third inning, Rey Ordonez walked & Matt Lawton was hit by a pitch. With two outs, Mike Piazza was intentionally walked & then Todd Ritchie allowed a bases loaded walk to Tsuyoshi Shinjo scoring the Mets first run. The Pirates eventually tied the game & it remained that way until the 9th inning. 

 Tsuyoshi Shinjo was hit by a pitch by Pirates reliever; Mike Fetters to start out the inning. Shinjo then stole second base. Fetters go the next two outs  but walked Jay Payton. Rey Ordonez then came through & singled, scoring Shinjo with the lead run 2-1 Mets. Next up, pinch hitter; Mark Johnson doubled, bringing home Payton & Ordonez, putting New York up 4-1. 

In the bottom of the 9th, Armando Benitez got Aramis Ramirez to ground out then served up a single to Jason Kendall. Bemnitez then struck out Kevin Young & Gary Mathews Jr. to end the game.

John Franco earned the victory after he had pitched a perfect 8th inning for a very happy Bobby Valentine. They Mets went on to sweep the Pirates in that series and then returned to Shea Stadium for a Friday night game against the Atlanta Braves on September 23rd. It was to be the first game played in New York City since the 911 attacks.

Orel Hershiser: 1999 N.L. Wild Card Mets Pitcher (1999)

Orel Leonard Hershiser was born September 16, 1958 in Buffalo, New York. Hershiser became a star pitcher in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in high school & then moved on to Bowling Green University in Ohio.

There he was part of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity & got signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, in 1979 in the 17th round. 

The tall thin six foot three right hander was not an over powering pitcher, but had great control with a great sinking action on his pitches. After four minor league seasons the Dodgers brought him up briefly in 1983 for eight games of relief work.

In 1984 he started out in the bullpen but was pitching so well he made the starting staff by June. He finished the year at 11-8 with a 2.66 ERA, leading the league in shut outs (4) while pitching eight complete games.

In 1985 he became one of the NL’s top pitchers overshadowed by only the Mets Dwight Gooden. Hershiser led the league in winning percentage (.864) going an incredible 19-3 with nine complete games, five shut outs & posting a 2.03 ERA (all 3RD best in the league). 

 The next two seasons he posted .500 records winning 14 games & then 16 games respectively. In 1987 he began a three year stretch where he led the league in innings pitched.

In 1988 he was the best pitcher in baseball, winning the Cy Young Award, the NLCS & World Series MVP Awards as well as a Gold Glove on the mound. 

Orel was the winningest pitcher in the league going 23-8 with a 2.26 ERA, leading the league in complete games (15) shut outs (8) & innings (267) put outs (32) & assists (60) while posting 190 strike outs.

At the plate he led the league with 18 sacrifice hits, batted .129 while driving in six run as well. He finished the season with a record 59 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings pitched, breaking the mark held by Dodger great Don Drysdale.

1988 Post Season: NLCS: If the season wasn’t incredible enough, his post season may have been even better.

In Game #1 of the 1988 NLCS he & Dwight Gooden had a classic pitching duel, going into the 9th inning with a 1-1 tie. The Mets would score three runs beating Jay Howell for the win. 

He returned in Game #3 and left in 3-3 tie dueling this time with Ron Darling, the Mets won this game as well beating Alejandro Pena.

In Game #4 he came on in the 12th inning with the bases loaded & two out relieving former Met Jesse Orosco with the Dodgers clinging to a one run lead.

This was the classic game where Mike Scioscia hit a 9th inning game tying HR off Dwight Gooden, then Kirk Gibson hit the go ahead HR off Roger McDowell in the 12th. Orel who earned the name Bull Dog got Kevin McReynolds to pop up ending the game & evened the Series at two games each.

He returned in Game #7 to throw a complete game five hit shutout shocking the Mets & advancing to the World Series.

1988 World Series: In the 1988 World Series Orel was 2-0 allowing only two runs & seven hits over 18 innings against the mighty A’s of Mark McGwire & Jose Canseco. He would throw two complete games pitching a three hit shutout in Game #3 & winning the last Series game (Game #5) 5-2 winning the Championship. The devout Christian was seen singing hymns in the dugout between innings to stay relaxed. When he appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, he was coaxed by Carson into singing one.

The next year he pitched well again posting a 2.31 ERA but his record fell to 15-15 as the Dodgers struggled. In 1990 Hershiser needed rotator cuff surgery & it was feared his career was over.

He missed 13 moths of action and was never the same dominant pitcher he was. But he did make a good comeback; in 1995 he signed with the Cleveland Indians and revived his career.

Post Season: There he got to three straight post seasons, including a World Series berth in 1997.

In 1995 he was 16-6 (5th most wins in the AL) with a .727 winning % (3rd best in the AL) posting a 3.87 ERA while tossing one shut out.

1995 Post Season: In the 1995 ALCS he was 2-0 against Seattle, posting a 1.29 ERA over 14 innings. He was the winning pitcher in Game #2 beating former Dodger team mate Tim Belcher while pitching eight innings.

In Game #5 he went into the 7th inning beating Chris Bosio at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, getting the Indians within one game of the team’s first World Series since 1954.

1995 World Series: In the World Series against the Atlanta Braves He took the loss in Game #1 to Greg Maddox. 

But Orel came back to pitch eight innings & beat Maddox 5-4 in Game #5. He is still a folk hero in Cleveland, famous for his shouting “take that” at the Braves dugout during the Game #5 victory at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium.

Hershiser returned to win 15 games (15-9) in 1996. In 1997 the Indians got to another World Series, on the regular season Hershiser was 14-6 posting a .700 winning % (5th in the AL). He was the teams number two starter & second to Charles Nagy (15 wins). In the post season he earned no decisions pitching in two ALDS games & one ALCS game.

1997 World Series: In the 1997 World Series he took the opening game loss to the Livan Hernandez & the Marlins in Florida.

In Game #5 he held a 3-2 lead going into the 6th inning when the Marlins broke it open, giving Hershiser his second Series loss. He went 0-2 against the Marlins in the World Series allowing 15 runs in 10.2 innings pitched.

New York Mets Career: In 1999 he signed with the New York Mets as a free agent. The Mets took a chance on him being the second oldest player in the league & it worked out well.

His first Mets start was in the fourth game of the season in Montreal. He was knocked out by the 4th inning after allowing four runs to the Expos in 1 5-1 loss. He got his first Mets victory in his next start which was at Shea Stadium against The Florida Marlins. 

He pitched into the 6th inning allowing two runs on three hits. He was 2-4 in mid May but then went on to win six of next seven decisions through the early summer.

From June 7th through July 11th he was 5-0; wining two inter league matchups with Toronto & Boston at Shea Stadium. He then went on the road earning victories in St. Louis & Florida.

On June 29th he pitched into the 9th inning allowing just one run on five hits, as the Mets beat the Marlins 8-5. He then shut out the Expos over five innings in a 10-0 Mets win. He just missing earning a victory back on June 24th, as he left the game in a 1-1 tie in the 6th inning.

Hershiser would have three outings where he pitched into the 7th inning over July & August winning two of those decisions. The rest of the way he was at best .500 but put in quality starts often enough when he was given the ball.

On September 9th he beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing only one run & two hits over eight innings pitched. The win that night brought the Mets within three games of the first place Braves & put them atop the Wild Card heap. It was possible Orel's best performance of the season.

He finished the year at 13-12, tied with Al Leiter for most wins on the Mets staff. Hershiser pitched in 179 innings, striking out 89 batters, walking 77 while posting a 4.58 ERA.

1999 Post Season: In the post season he was only used in relief, making one appearance with one inning of action against the Arizona Diamond Backs in the NLDS.

1999 NLCS: In the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, he came in relief of Masato Yoshi in the classic Game #5. Hershiser entered the game with two men on & no one out, after the Braves had just tied the game.

He was spectacular, first striking out Andru Jones & then Eddie Perez. He then got veteran Walt Weis to ground out, electrifying the Shea Stadium crowd.

In the 5th inning, he allowed a double & an intentional walk before getting Brian Jordan to strike out to end the threat.

In the 6th the Braves loaded the bases on an error, an intentional walk & yet another walk. But then the man they called “Bull dog” got the good hitting pitcher Greg Maddox, to ground into a double play. Hershiser pitched into the 7th inning, giving way to Turk Wendell.

The Mets went on to win the game on Robin Ventura's grand slam single & forced a game #6 back in Atlanta. He made one more appearance pitching a scoreless 7th inning in that Game #6 loss to the Braves.

Post Season Career: In his career he pitched in six different post seasons, making three World Series winning one title. He posted a 8-3 record with one save, and a 2.59 ERA in post season action. He allowed 103 hits in 132 innings of work, striking out 97 batters.

Orel went on to finish his career back in Los Angeles in 2000, going 1-5 in ten games pitched.

In his 14 season career he won a Cy Young Award, a Gold Glove & made three All Star teams. He was 204-150 (106th all time in career victories) with a 3.48 ERA.

He pitched in 3130 innings (117th all time) striking out 2014 batters (79th all time) with 1007 walks (113th all time).

He has thrown 25 shut outs (173rd all time) 68 complete games, 121 wild pitches (64th all time) & earned five saves.

Retirement: Orel has worked as a pitching coach for the Texas Rangers as well as serving in their front office.

He then joined on the ESPN network, serving as an analyst on ESPN TV games & Baseball Tonight.

In 2010 he joined Jon Miller & Joe Morgan on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. Hershiser remained in that role with new Dan Shulman & John Kruk from 2011-2014.

He then chose to return to the Dodgers booth, working on road games with Nomar Garciapara & Charlie Steiner. After the legendary Vin Scully retired, Hershiser joined with Joe Davis as the primary Dodger broadcast team.

He was written two books & is a competitive poker player as well.

Family: He has been married twice & has two grown children.

He is & has always been a an active Christian. When he shutdown the Oakland Athletics in the 1988 World Series, SI reported Who Killed the A's- The Choirboy Did. On the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Johnny convinced Hershiser to sing hymns.

Sep 15, 2021

John Franco: Italian/ American Mets Hall of Fame Pitcher (Part Two 1999 - 2012)

In the 1999 New York Mets Wild Card season,  Franco started out the month of April with eight saves and an ERA of 0.96.

 He continued to pitch well converting his first 14 straight save opportunities, going into early June.

He would earn 19 saves with an 0-2 record & only one blown save by July 2nd. He then missed two months of action due to a thumb injury. Manager Bobby Valentine gave the closers role to Armando Benitez as the Mets went into the pennant & wild card race. 

When Franco returned he found himself in a new role, as the teams set up man. He went out accepted his new role & did his job helping the Mets tie for the wild card title at the end of the season. 

The Mets went on to beat Franco's old team the Cincinnati Reds in a one game playoff to advance to their first post season in eleven years.

He finished the year at 0-2 with 19 saves & a 2.88 ERA in 46 appearances, Armando Benitez saved 22 games. Franco struck out 41 batters 40.2 innings of work while walking 19. 

Post Season- 1999 NLDS: In the 1999 NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks Franco made his first appearance finishing out the Mets 7-1 loss at Arizona. He made another appearance pitching a scoreless 8th inning in Game #3, in the Mets 9-2 win at Shea Stadium.

He then got the win in the final Game #4, as he pitched a perfect 10th inning before Todd Pratt hit the famous walk off series winning HR. 

1999 NLCS: Franco appeared in three games of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves giving up one run in 2.2 innings pitched, with three strike outs.

In the classic 15 inning Game #5 at Shea Stadium, he pitched a scoreless 8th & 9th innings, leading up to Robin Ventura's walk off grand slam single.

In the 2000 Mets NL Pennant season, Franco turned 40 years old & was now in the set up man role. 

On April 14th he pitched two innings at Pittsburgh earning his first win of the year when Melvin Mora singled in the 8th, to break a tie game & Mike Piazza blasted a two run HR.

In May he earned save in Florida & then another at Shea Stadium on May 17th against the Colorado Rockies. At Dodger Stadium he earned a win on May 30th pitching just 0.1 innings as the Mets scored six runs in the top of the 9th inning.

In June he took a loss at Wrigley Field after allowing two singles & then an infield error forced the unearned winning run to score. He took one other loss that month but then would not have another losing decision for two & a half months. That loss came on September 6th, being his final decision on the year.

Franco went 5-4 with three saves and twenty holds credited to his record as he appeared in 62 games, the most in his Mets career. He posted a 3.40 ERA striking out 56 batters in 55 innings making him one of the leagues best set up men.

Post Season 2000 NLDS: In the 2000 NLDS against the Giants, he came into the 10th inning of Game #2 in San Francisco, after Armando Benitez had given up a leadoff single. Jay Payton had singled home the Mets go ahead run in the top of the inning. 

Franco retired the side in order including getting slugger Barry Bonds to go down looking at a third strike. 

The Mets won the game & evened the series at one game apiece. He made one more appearance in the extra inning Mets win in game #3 at Shea Stadium.

2000 NLCS: In the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals he made his first appearance in the 8th inning of game #1, in relief of Mike Hampton. Franco got credit for a hold as the Mets won 6-2. In Game #2 he gave up two runs in 2/3 of an inning at Shea Stadium. After putting two runners on he allowed a wild pitch & then an RBI double to JD Drew.

He made one more appearance pitching a scoreless 8th inning, in the Mets 10-6 Game #4 win at Shea. Overall Franco appeared in three NLCS games allowing two runs on three hits while striking out three in 2.2 innings pitched.

2000 World Series: In the 2000 Subway World Series he made his first World Series appearance in Game #1 pitching a scoreless 8th inning. In Game #3 at Shea Stadium, he pitched a scoreless top of the 8th inning leaving the mound with in a 2-2 tie. 

In the bottom of the inning Benny Agbayani doubled to score Todd Zeile breaking the tie, putting the Mets ahead. Next Bubba Trammell added an RBI sac fly for a Mets insurance run. The Mets went on to a 4-2 win as Franco earned his only World Series victory.

Overall Franco appeared in four Series games, allowing no runs on three hits in 3.1 innings of work, getting the win in the only Mets victory. He finished his post season career at 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA appearing in 15 games striking out 10 batters with three walks in 14 innings pitched. 

In 2001 Franco recorded a 4.05 ERA going 6-2 and with two saves. He pitched 53 innings in 58 appearances striking out 50 batters although he walked 19 & gave up 55 hits. After the 911 tragedies he helped in the relief efforts at Shea Stadium with loading trucks with supplies and reaching out into the community.

The events really hit home for the New Yorker, besides his own ties to the city, his father was a NY Sanitation worker & his uncle was a Firefighter. The native New Yorker became a highly public Mets figure once again.

In the first game played after the September 11th tragedies, Franco was the winning pitcher at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. In the top of the 9th inning Rey Ordonez singled in a run & Mark Johnson drove in two more with a double. 

In the famous first game played after the 911 tragedy, Franco pitched a perfect 8th inning at Pittsburgh earning the New York victory.

In the first game played back in New York after 911, Franco came in the 8th inning against the Atlanta Braves. He got the first two outs but then surrendered a walk to Julio Franco & a hit to Chipper Jones. Bobby Valentine yanked, Franco & gave the ball to Armando Benitez who allowed a double to Brian Jordan, breaking the tie. 

Mike Piazza blasted his famous game winning HR in the bottom of the inning, giving New York the exciting win.

The next season it seemed Franco’s career was over when he had to get Tommy John surgery & missed the entire season. But on May 30th 2003 at age 42, he returned to the mound at Shea Stadium pitching one inning against the Atlanta Braves. 

On July 21st he earned a save at Philadelphia against the Phillies. He made 38 appearances on the year, posting a 2.62 ERA while going 0-3 with a 2.62 ERA.

In 2004 he hung on as long as he could to pitch his final season with Mets. He earned his final Met win in the July 3rd subway series game, when Shane Spencer drove in the winning run on a fielder’s choice scoring Kaz Matsui. 

From there he dropped his last three decisions & only appeared in seven games over the final two months of the season. He pitched the 8th inning on the final day of the season. He went 2-7 with 11 holds on the year, posting a 5.28 ERA in 56 appearances.

His 15 year Mets career ended on November 1st when he was granted free agency. In his Mets career he is the clubs all time saves leader with 276 career saves. He is also first in Mets appearances with 695 games pitched & 15th on the Mets all time list with 48 wins.

Franco is 14th on the Mets list with a career 3.10 ERA. He has pitched 702 innings, posting a 48-56 record, with 592 strikeouts. He posted ERAs under two twice with the Mets (1992 & 1996) & ERAs under three, nine different times. He signed with the Houston Astros in 2005 and retired that July after appearing in 31 games.

John Franco is the all time left handed save leader (424) & fourth all time over all in saves. His is first among National League pitchers all time in appearances with 1119 games pitched, the third highest total ever in the majors behind former Mets Jesse Orosco & Mike Stanton.

In his 21 year career Franco went 90-87 with 975 strikeouts & 495 walks in 1245 innings pitched finishing off 774 games (4th all time) posting an overall 2.89 ERA.

Honors: John was on hand for Bob Murphy Night, Ralph Kiner Night & Mike Piazza Night at Shea Stadium. He attended the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008 as well.

 He had the honor of throwing out the first pitch at the first game ever played at the new Citi Field in March 2009. It was a college game between his old St. Johns school & Georgetown University. 

Franco is a member of the Italian American Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Staten Island Hall of Fame. 

On June 12th 2012 he was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame at Citi Field. In attendance was his family, friends & many old pals from his St. John's days. Former Mets players included Al Leiter who did the introduction, Frank Viola, Daryl Strawberry & Dwight Gooden.

Quotes- John Franco:  “For those 14 years that I played here, I gave it my best, It wasn’t always easy, and I’m sure I kept a lot of you on the edge of your seats. But I had it under control all the time.” 

Franco was on hand for festivities around the 2013 All Star Game held at Citi Field. He is involved in many area charities & appears at many Mets celebrity functions.

Franco is the Mets all time save leader (276) & leader in games pitched (695). 
Family: Franco has been married to his high school sweetheart Rose for many years. They have three children, daughters Ella & Nicole & a son J.J.

His son J.J. Franco attended Brown University where he was an infielder. He was also drafted by the New York Mets out of high school.