Here is one man’s opinion of the biggest wins in Mets history, ranked in order. The Mets are looking to make some more history beginning tonight when they face the Royals in the World Series.
1. The Amazins: Perhaps the most improbable champions ever, the Miracle Mets overcome a 3-0 deficit and defeat the Orioles 5-3 to take the 1969 World Series in five games. Series MVP Donn Clendenon and Al Weis homer and Jerry Koosman hurls a complete game as the Mets go from the outhouse to the penthouse.
2. Gets past Buckner: The heavily favored Mets, 108-game winners, are a strike away from elimination in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Then base hits by Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight, a wild pitch that plates the tying run, and a Mookie Wilson grounder that eludes Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner lead the Mets to a 6-5 win over the stunned Red Sox.
3. Seventh heaven: Two nights later, after a rainout, the Mets win their second World Series with an 8-5 win over the Red Sox in Game 7. Series MVP Ray Knight and Darryl Strawberry hit home runs to rally the Mets, who trailed 3-0 in the sixth inning.
4. You gotta believe: In 1973, the Mets languished in last place as late as August 30, then won 21 of their last 29 games and beat the Cubs 6-4 to take the NL East. Buoyed by reliever Tug McGraw, who coined the rallying cry “You gotta believe,” and manager Yogi Berra, who said “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over,” the Mets beat the Reds for the NL pennant, but lost a seven-game World Series to the A’s.
5. 16 innings: The Mets were down 3-0 entering the ninth inning (detect a theme here) before coming back and eventually prevailing 7-6 over the Astros in 16 innings in a dramatic showdown at the Astrodome to win the 1986 NLCS in six games. Celebration above.
6. Daniel Boom: Daniel Murphy turns into Babe Ruth right in front of our very eyes, homering in a playoff game for a record sixth consecutive game. Murphy’s blast earns the Mets an 8-3 win and a four-game sweep over the Cubs and this year’s NL pennant. Murphy takes NLCS MVP honors.
7. Wild night: This 1985 classic started as a July 4 game and finally ended at nearly 4 am the next morning. The Mets beat the hometown Braves 16-13 in 19 innings, after Atlanta pitcher Rick Camp tied it with an unlikely 18th-inning home run.
8. Yes, Yes: The date was June 1, 2012. After more than half a century and 8,020 games, left-hander Johan Santana pitches the first no-hitter in franchise history in a victory over the Cardinals at Citi Field. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 8-0.
9. 9/11/2001: As New York and all America grieves over the the 9/11 attacks, Mike Piazza, left, gives us something to smile about. Piazza belts a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Mets to a 3-2 win over the Braves. “A small miracle,” is how Mets’ manager Bobby Valentine described the blast.
10. First win: After nine straight losses to open their inaugural 1962 season, the Mets finally won their first game on April 23. They beat the Pirates 9-1 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh behind the five-hit pitching of left-hander Jay Hook. Felix Mantilla and Elio Chacon each had three hits, and Chacon, Bobby Smith and Hook each knocked in a pair of runs to pace the attack The Mets won just 40 games the whole year.
10 honorable mentions in chronological order
Jim Hickman becomes the first Met to hit for the cycle (a natural cycle at that) as the Mets beat the Cardinals 7-3 in this 1963 game at the Polo Grounds…Tom Seaver retires the first 25 Cubs before Jimmy Qualls singles with one out in the ninth. Seaver finishes with a one-hitter in the Mets 4-0 win which set the tone for the 1969 season…Center fielder Tommy Agee makes a pair of stunning catches and Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan combine to blank the Orioles 5-0 in Game 3 of the 1969 World Series… Lenny Dykstra’s two-run, walk-off homer leads the Mets to a 5-4 win in Game 3 of the 1986 ALCS…Dave Milicki hurls a nine-hit shutout as the Mets beat in the Yankees 6-0 in their first inter-league meeting in 1997… Al Leiter pitches a brilliant two-hitter as the Mets beat the Reds 5-0 in a 1999 playoff tiebreaker game in Cincinnati…Todd Pratt homers in the 10th inning as the Mets beat the Diamondbacks 4-3 and wrap up the NLDS in four games…Robin Ventura hits a grand slam single as the Mets beat the Braves 4-3 in Gave 5 of the 1999 NLCS…Trailing 8-1 going into the bottom of the eighth, the Mets score 10 runs, capped by a Mike Piazza three-run homer, and beat the Braves in this 2000 contest at Shea Stadium…Mike Hampton pitches a three-hitter and the Mets advance to the first Subway Series in 44 years with a 7-0 win over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the 2000 NLCS.
Willie, Mickey and the Duke.
With the passing of Duke Snider, now only Willie Mays survives from the great triumvirate that patrolled center field in New York in the 1950s. And the Boys of Summer are down a man.
In his New York Times obituary, Edwin Donald Snider’s career was summed up this way: “Playing for 18 seasons, he had 407 home runs, 2,116 hits, batted at least .300 seven times, had a lifetime batting average of .295 and was generally among the league leaders in runs batted in and runs scored.” And he was renowned for his superb defensive play as well.
The Duke will always be known as a Dodger – he spent a combined 16 years in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. But Snider was purchased by the Mets for $40.000 in 1963, played one season in New York, and finished his career with the San Francisco Giants in 1964.
Through the information found on sources like baseball reference and retrosheet, the SportsLifer (in 1963 a SportsKid) was able to determine that he saw Snider play once, on a sticky, hot summer afternoon in New York.
The Duke was a Met then, batting cleanup and playing right field, when the Metropolitans hosted the St. Louis Cardinals at the old Polo Grounds in Manhattan.
Hickman’s Natural Cycle
That was the same game where Jim Hickman hit for the only natural cycle in Mets history, powering them to a 7-3 victory. Snider had a big day that afternoon as well, with three singles and a pair of RBIs in four at-bats.
The Duke spent just one season with the Mets, but collected both both his 400th homer and 2,000th hit in a Met uniform.
Clearly near the end, he hit just .243 in 1965 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs. Several other players — some famous, some not so famous — appeared in that Mets-Cards game on August 7, 1963.
Stan Musial, playing in his final season, pinch hit for Dal Maxvill in the eighth inning and grounded to first base.
Ernie Broglio started the game and was the losing pitcher for the Cardinals. The following June, he was traded to the Cubs for Lou Brock.
Broglio Traded for Brock
That trade would propel the Cards to a World Series victory over the Yankees in 1964. Bill White, Ken Boyer and Tim McCarver, mainstays on that 1964 club, all played in the Polo Grounds that day.
Broglio was relieved by Lew Burdette, who beat the Yankees three times to lead the Milwaukee Braves to a World Series win against the Yankees in 1957.
For the Mets, Tracey Stallard pitched a complete game and got the win. That’s right, the same Tracy Stallard who surrendered Roger Maris’ 61st home run on the final day of the 1961 season.
The Mets lineup featured several originals — including catcher Clarence “Choo Choo” Coleman and Frank Thomas — along with rookie second baseman Ron Hunt. Hunt was once hit by 50 pitches in a single season and led the National League in HBPs for seven straight seasons.
You never know what you’re going to see when you go to the ballpark, right kid. The 9,977 fans who showed up at the Polo Grounds on 8/7/63 saw a lot.
The SportsLifer countdown of momentous events attended continues this week with the fourth installment, numbers 11-20. Baseball dominates the top 50 more than any other sport, and this segment includes record-setting moments by Barry Bonds, Jim Hickman, Roger Clemens and Eric Young.
We’ll conclude next week with the SportsLifer Top Ten. Don’t miss it.
And readers, it would be great to hear your own lists.
20. Yankees hit 8 home runs to equal team record for one game, beat White Sox 16-3, Yankee Stadium, 2007
19. Yankees and Tigers play to 3-3, 19-inning tie, second game of twi-night doubleheader, 1968
18. Rockies outscore Dodgers 16-15, 10 home runs, Eric Young steals 6 bases, Coors Field, 1996
17. Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk brawl at home plate, Red Sox edge Yankees 3-2, Fenway Park, 1973
16. El Duque Hernandez tames Padres 9-3, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada homer, game 2, 1998 World Series
15. Roger Clemens beats Cardinals 5-2 for 300th win, also gets 4,000th career strikeout, 2003
14. Follow Tiger Woods, others, at first round of U.S. Open Golf tournament, Winged Foot, 2006
13. Dolphins defeat Patriots 16-13 in overtime at Miami’s Orange Bowl on night John Lennon is shot, 1980
12. Outfielder Jim Hickman hits for natural cycle for Mets who defeat Cardinals 7-3 at Polo Grounds, 1963
11. Giants’ Barry Bonds hits home run #756, breaks Hank Aaron’s record, San Francisco, 2007
Ran a press conference on IBM scouting technology called “Advance Scout” at NBA All-Star game in Oakland, 2000
First installment: 41-50. includes the St. Louis Hawks, Holy Cross, and a Ranger rout.
Second installment: 31-40. stars Lew Alcindor, The Mick, and the Boston Marathon.
Third installment: (21-30), recalls the play of Willie Mays, Joe Namath and Lawrence Taylor and others.
The cycle and the no-hitter are strange baseball companions, like Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, “The Odd Couple.”
Throughout baseball history, there have been 276 occurrences (30 before the turn of the 20th Century where batters have hit for the cycle — single, double, triple, home run — in the same game.
Over the same period, there have been 255 no-hitters (42 before the turn of the century). Of those no-hitters, only 17 were perfect games, 15 since 1900. Cy Young and Sandy Koufax are in this exclusive club
A natural cycle — single, double, triple and home run in order — is even more unusual than a perfect game. Only 14 batters in major league history have gone for the natural cycle, including Hall of Famers Tony Lazzeri, (right) Charlie Gehringer and Billy Williams
Lazzeri is the only player ever to finish a natural cycle with a grand slam on June 3, 1932. However, this achievement was overshadowed by his popular Yankees teammate Lou Gehrig, who picked that same day to become the first player in the American League to hit four home runs in the same game. But the headlines the next day went to New York Giants manager John McGraw, who decided to announce his retirement after a 31-year career.
Personal Note: I’ve been lucky enough to witness both a natural cycle and a perfect game. Jim Hickman (left) did the honors for the Mets in 1963 in a game against the Cardinals at the Polo Grounds. And Yankees left-hander David Wells threw a perfect game against the Twins in 1998, 27 men up, 27 men down, baseball immortality.