This Date in Mets History: March 31 - A long Opening Day's journey into Opening Night

Ezra Shaw /Getty Images

The 1998 Mets home opener could have easily won a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Baseball Season.

The Mets and Phillies put in some serious overtime on the first day of work back in 1998. The two teams tied the National League record for longest Opening Day contest on March 31, 1998 by playing 14 innings of mostly scoreless baseball. Six Met pitchers, led by starter Bobby Jones, kept Philadelphia off the board for over four and a half hours, buying time for the offense. Ultimately, the job of breaking the stalemate came down to the very last man on manager Bobby Valentine's bench: backup catcher Alberto Castillo. Pinch hitting for Turk Wendell in the bottom of the 14th with two outs and the bases loaded, Castillo coaxed a full count out of Phillies closer Ricky Bottalico. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Castillo dropped a short line drive into right-center for a walk-off hit. Final score: Mets 1, Phillies 0.

Birthdays

  • Bill Denehy is 67. A bonus baby signed out of high school in 1965, Denehy never quite lived up to the expectations set by his contract. He made 15 appearances (eight of them being starts) for the Mets during the '67 season, running up a 4.70 ERA and a 1-7 win-loss record. Denehy would prove his worth that offseason, however, as New York traded him to the Washington Senators for the rights to manager Gil Hodges.
  • Pitcher Tom Hausman, the first free agent signed by the Mets in the post-reserve clause era, turns 60. Following the 1977 season, New York pried Hausman away from the Milwaukee Brewers with a three-year, $175,000 deal. He wound up spending five seasons with the Mets, though he was only healthy enough to stay on the roster from Opening Day through Game 162 once. That happened in 1980 and it coincided with a move to the bullpen. Two injury plagued years later, the Mets traded him to the Braves for reliever Carlos Diaz.

Transactions
The Mets have made quite a few transactions on this date as various incarnations of the team have shed/added players from/to the 25-man roster in advance of Opening Day. In 1971, New York and Montreal swapped outfielders. Miracle Met hero Ron Swoboda went north to the city of a hundred steeples, while Don Hahn came to the Big Apple. That trade didn't work for either side. Swoboda played just 39 games for the Expos before they shipped him to the Yankees, while Hahn was a sub-replacement level player in three of his four seasons as a Met.

Twenty-three years later, the Mets sent former first round pick Alan Zinter to the Tigers for Rico Brogna. That trade worked well for one side and luckily the Mets were the prosperous party. Brogna had a sensational rookie campaign in 1994, hitting .351/.380/.626 across 138 pre-strike plate appearances. Zinter, meanwhile, didn't make his MLB debut until 2002 and that was as a member of the Astros.

The most recent trade of note happened in 1996. That transaction made Mark Clark a Met at the cost of Ryan Thompson and Reid Cornelius, which turned out being a minor, low-cost upgrade. The two ex-Mets toiled away in Cleveland's farm system before remerging at the major league level with different organizations. As for Clark, he amassed 2.0 rWAR over 54 starts before being used as trade bait to land Brian McRae and Turk Wendell.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
President Lyndon Johnson addressed the nation via a televised speech on March 31, 1968 and announced that he had chosen not to run for re-election that fall. In the team's 50-plus year history, twenty different Mets have pulled an LBJ, a feat I'm describing as having appeared in at least 100 games without making a single stolen base attempt. Of the twenty, John Olerud chose not to run most often. In 1998, he reached base in exactly 40% of his 630 plate appearances and was never tempted to pilfer a bag. Josh Thole is the most recent Met to achieve the dishonor, as he went all of last season without trying to swipe one.

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