This Date in Mets History: August 21 - Red, White, and Seaver; Bolt v. Reyes

Faster than Cool Papa Bell?

On August 21, 1977, a vintage performance from "The Franchise" set Shea Stadium rockin' -- the only thing that would have made it better? If he was pitching for the Mets.

In the winter of '76-'77, a new animal, the free agent, showed he could command salaries well in excess of the three-year, $675,000 deal Seaver had recently signed. Nolan Ryan, who was locked into a contract with the Angels, received a good-will pay raise from his club, but generosity came difficult to Mets Chairman M. Donald Grant. Grant and his star publicly wrangled over (the lack of) money spent improving a declining team; "How can you not even try?" Seaver asked. The last straw was laid when a Grant media ally suggested Seaver's wife was jealous of the Ryans. Seaver demanded a trade. A deal was worked out in which four young players came from Cincinnati for Seaver alone, details announced minutes before the midnight trade deadline on June 15, 1977.

About nine weeks later and 35 years ago, Seaver, in red and white, allowed one run in nine innings before 46,265 Tom Seaver fans at Shea Stadium.

Birthdays

  • A number two overall pick in the amateur draft, John Stearns, 61, was acquired from the Phillies in 1975 in the deal that sent away Tug McGraw. The Phillies would win division titles and a World Series; the Mets would dispatch Stearns to the All-Star Game (in '77, '79, '80, and '82) to represent the cellar-dwellers proud. In 10 seasons, Stearns was a league-average hitter with speed and decent patience -- and he played catcher.
  • Felix Millan, 69, was "El Gattito," the kitten. Acquired from the Braves, he worked the keystone for New York from '73-'77, before winning a batting title for the Taiyo Whales. El Gattito choked half-way up his bat; he was the first Met to appear in 162 games in a season; he once singled four times onto be erased in four Joe Torre double plays; and his Major League career ended by an injury incurred brawling over the propriety of a take-out slide.
  • Bruce Berenyi, 58, has a World Series ring from '86, but must look at it wistfully. The power right hander lost a full season to injury after pitching well for a renascent club in '84, then was revived as a long man (and sometimes starter) for the eventual world champs. But he hadn't totally recovered, and slipped into the minors before a single postseason game was won. He never resurfaced.
  • The late Jim Beauchamp (would turn 73) pronounced his name "BEE-chum," because French but America. The light-hitting 1B-OF closed his career as a part-time piece with the '72 and '73 Mets.


Game of Note

On This Date, 1979, a protest from the Astros opened the book on what had seemed an easy Met victory. Ahead five runs, the Mets settled under a fly ball for the final out -- until an umpire informed the clubs there was no play; he had called time. Jeff Leonard, the Houston batter, made use of the opportunity by slapping a single. But this too was called back -- Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool had thought the game was over and was not on the field. Houston protested that this was nobody's fault but Kranepool's and the single should stand. But the umpire instead forced a third go-round that resulted in an apparently game-ending out -- until Major League Baseball upheld the protest. So play resumed the following day with 5-0 on the scoreboard and a runner on first with two out. Mets pitcher Kevin Kobel induced the final out immediately before losing his regularly scheduled start 3-1.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection

On August 21, 1986, Usain Bolt first wiggled his toes -- and knowing Bolt, probably pumped his little fist. With the Jamaican looking for new things to dominate, let's consider Bolt the pinch runner. Jose Reyes, probably the speediest Met ever, ran a 6.2 second 60-yard dash at his peak in 2001. This suggest a 60-meter dash time of about 6.78 seconds, while Maurice Green's world track record stands at 6.39 seconds. But. Baseball players and football players are typically (hand) timed from first movement, erasing a gun-reaction time of about 0.2 seconds. But but. The benefit is somewhat offset by the absence of a starting block. Call Reyes's time 6.9ish.

In Bolt's world record 100-meter dash of 2009, he ran a 60 meter split time of 6.31, which would best the world record had Bolt been running the 60. Thing is, he may still have been acellerating. Perhaps the more interesting baseball question (because it's closer to 90 feet) is Bolt's 40 meter time, which for some reason baseball players don't run. After reviewing 20 meter splits from Bolt's runs, ESPN track reporter Larry Rawlson calculates a Bolt 40 at 3.73 seconds -- a ridiculous time annihilating Bo Jackson's hallowed (though unverified and unofficial) football record of 4.12. Others call that impossible and pencil Bolt in at a Deion-beating 4.1 or 4.2.

Whatever your guess for him -- plus plus runner, of the new Cool Papa Bell -- I wouldn't get between Bolt and his bed when the lights go out.

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