As David pointed out earlier in the week, the Yankees defeated the Mets decisively in a turf war over home fields back on March 20, 1961. Three hundred and sixty-seven days later, the two teams squared off against each other in the first-ever spring training game between New York's two MLB franchises. This time, the upstart Mets would prove victorious.
The battle took place on March 22, 1962 at St. Petersburg's Al Lang Field before a just-about sold out crowd. The 6,000-plus fans present were treated to a see-saw affair that the visiting Yankees knotted at three apiece by plating a run in the top of the ninth. Undaunted, the Mets stormed back in their half of the frame. Outfielder Joe Christopher lashed a triple against reliever Gary Blalock. One batter later, pinch hitter Richie Ashburn brought the Virgin Islander home with a walk-off single.
- Danny Boitano, a pitcher who is of no known relation to the figure skater with the same surname, turns 60. That said, what did Danny Boitano do as a member of the Mets? Not much. He appeared in 15 games during the 1981 season, posting an ERA of 5.51 and walking nearly as many batters as he struck out.
- Ike Davis, who last September was voted by unnamed "baseball sources" as the Met most likely to heed the advice of Andrew W.K., certainly doesn't need a reason to party all night, but he'll have one this evening. It's his 26th birthday. In honor of Ike's big day, enjoy this clip of the first baseman blasting three home runs against the Diamondbacks and presenting Arizona fans with an impressive display of power. The second of the trio traveled an estimated 445 feet according to Hittracker, making it the longest bomb hit by a Met in 2012.
- Former coach Matt Galante is 69. The Brooklyn native filled various spots on the Mets staff from 2002 to 2004, serving as the infield, third base, and bench coach. In 2006, he graduated to managerial duties, albeit for Italy in the inaugural World Baseball Classic.
- Pitcher Jeremy Griffiths turns 35. The tall right-hander made six starts for the 2003 Mets. In all but two, he was knocked out before completing five innings. The following season, he was packaged with reliever David Weathers and shipped to the Houston Astros for Richard Hidalgo.
- Cory Lidle would have been 41 today. Lidle broke into the big leagues as a long reliever for the 1997 Mets, compiling a 7-2 record in 54 appearances and two starts. On October 11, 2006, Lidle and flight instructor Tyler Stanger were killed when the small aircraft Lidle was piloting crashed into the Belaire Apartments building on Manhattan's Upper East Side. In an odd coincidence, Mets third base coach Manny Acta was a resident of the Belaire at the time.
- Finally, sidearmer Joe Smith celebrates his 29th birthday. Drafted by the Mets in the third round of the 2006 amateur draft, Smith made his debut with New York one year later, tossing 44 and third innings of relief and striking out just over a a batter per. Sent to the Indians in the three-way J.J. Putz deal, Smith has been a solid, cost controlled contributor to Cleveland's bullpen for the past four seasons. While WAR isn't the best statistic for ranking relievers, Smith has been just about equal to Putz in value (3.8 WAR for the sidearmer to 4.2 for the fireballer in an nearly identical number of innings pitched, according to Baseball Reference) since the trade.
The 1963 Mets picked up their best pitcher on this date, as GM George Weiss bought righty Carl Willey from the Braves. A former top prospect blocked at the major league level by Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette, et al. in Milwaukee's rotation, Willey took the ball 28 times for the second-year Mets and was the only starter to post a better than league average ERA+ (a team-best 112). He also became the first Mets pitcher to connect for a grand slam, taking Ken Johnson of the Colt .45s deep on July 15 as part of a 14-5 victory. Unfortunately, Willey's career ended almost as soon as it got started. While facing the Tigers in an exhibition match prior to the '64 season, he was struck in the jaw by a liner off the bat of Gates Brown. Though he'd recover well enough to appear in 28 games over the next two years, he was never quite the same. Injuries aside, Willy remembered his time with the Mets fondly. As he told SABR's Will Anderson:
Oh, God, I loved 'em. I lived the Mets. It was a great club to play for. I didn't want to be traded to New York. But now I'm glad I was, because it's the best place to play in the world.
Game of Note
Before No-han, there were Gary Kroll and Gordie Richardson. On March 22, 1965, the two combined to keep the Pittsburgh Pirates hitless for nine innings in a 6-0 spring training tilt. Kroll got the start and walked the first three of the first five batters he faced. From that point on, though, he retired the Buccos in order. Richardson took over in the seventh and closed things out with three innings of hitless relief that would have been perfect had the normally smooth-fielding Roy McMillan not botched a routine grounder in the eighth. Little did the 1,686 people in attendance realize that it would be nearly 50 years before a Mets pitcher would replicated the feat in a regular season game.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
While Pirates had an offensive brownout against Gary Kroll and Gordie Richardson on this date in 1965, back in New York, Dylan was going electric. Forty-eight years ago today, Bob Dylan released Bringing It All Back Home, his first album to feature the Pete Seeger-seething sound of electric guitar. It's doubtful that Dylan was paying much attention to the Mets at the time, though he certainly summed up the experience of being a fan of the team on "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" when he sang that "there's no success like failure and that failure's no success at all."