This Date In Mets History: April 17—New York hosts Pittsburgh in first Shea Stadium home opener

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And during its inaugural week, Citi Field witnesses a milestone home run.

Willie Stargell hit the first home run, and thereby drove in and scored the first run, in the history of Shea Stadium on this date in 1964. That second inning blast off of Jack Fisher was only the start of his day as the Pirates would hand the Mets their first Shea loss, 4–3.

After the Amazins put up a three-spot in the fourth inning, Stargell singled home Roberto Clemente to close the gap to 3–2. In the 7th, his single sent Clemente from first to third, setting it up for Donn Clendenon to drive in the tying run. And in the ninth, he singled and later scored what proved to be the deciding run.

New York blew their best chance in the fourth. After Amado Samuel’s two-run double made it 3–1, the Mets had runners at second and third with none out but failed to push across another run.

Shea firsts for the Mets: batter, Tim Harkness; base runner (walk), Jim Hickman; hit, Harkness; RBI, Jesse Gonder; double, Ron Hunt; run, Hunt; pitch and strikeout, Jack Fisher; loss, Ed Bauta.

Other Game of Note
At Citi Field on April 17, 2009, Gary Sheffield slammed the 500th home run of his career. Of greater importance to the Mets and their fans, Sheff’s pinch round-tripper tied the score at 4–4 in the seventh inning, setting it up for the Mets to win 5–4 on a walk-off RBI single by Luis Castillo. The home run is the fifth hit by the Mets in their first four games at their new, power-hitter-unfriendly ballpark.

Birthdays
Gary “1.000” Bennett, turning 41 today, stopped in Miami en route from Philadelphia to Colorado just long enough to deliver a pinch single for the Mets on July 24, 2001. The Mets acquired the catcher from the Phillies for Todd Pratt in one of those head-scratching deals and then traded him to the Rockies for Ender Chavez, Endy’s kid brother.

Denny Walling, hitting coach during the Art Howe years, is 59 today. Howe was not a Moneyball disciple and apparently neither was Walling. The Mets finished next to last and third from the bottom in on-base percentage in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

Happy 90th birthday to Solly Hemus. As Mets third-base coach in 1962 and 1963 he had it easy—the team averaged less than 3.5 runs per game those years. In 1966 he managed the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, the Jacksonville Suns, where he mentored and championed a young Tom Seaver, who he said had “a 35-year-old head on top of a 21-year-old body."

Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
Alexander Cartwright was born on this date in 1820. Though his contributions to the creation of baseball and its rules are disputed, he is generally given more credit than the man long thought to be the inventor of the game, Abner Doubleday. This, however, in no way diminishes the work of Abner’s great-great-grandnephew Nelson Doubleday who, with Fred Wilpon, helped re-invent and re-invigorate the Mets franchise in the wake of the “Grant’s Tomb” era.

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