Davey Johnson made an inauspicious debut as a major league manager on this date in 1984, as his Mets lost to the Reds in Cincinnati, 8–1. That game snapped New York’s 14-year Opening Day win streak. Most of the damage was done against starter Mike Torrez, who failed to make it through the second inning. The crushing blow was a three-run homer by Eddie Milner, cousin of former Mets slugger John Milner. Darryl Strawberry accounted for the Mets’ lone tally with a solo home run off Mario Soto.
Davey’s men shook off that loss and won the next six straight, with the pitching staff surrendering only seven runs during that stretch. The Mets, who were dead last in the NL East the year before, went on to have their best April since 1976, were in first place at the All-Star break, and finished the season a strong second to the equally surprising Chicago Cubs. The 1984 Mets’ 90 wins were, at that time, the second most in club history, and a 22-win improvement over 1983.
Left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, currently in the employ of the Chicago Cubs, was born in Tokyo 38 years ago today. A starter for 10 years with the Yomiuri Giants, he was 4–4 with a 5.01 ERA in that role with the 2010 Mets, but excelled coming out of the bullpen, going 6–2 with a 2.04 ERA, 2.7 K/BB, and 1.13 WHIP. He also successfully converted all eight of his save opportunities and finished the year with a WAR of 1.3. Sandy Alderson was unwilling, however, to give Takahashi more than a one-year contract that winter, which in hindsight may have been a wise decision.
After a couple of cups of coffee with the Mets in 1981 and 1982, Mike Howard, turning 55 today, was their Opening Day right fielder in 1983. In that game at Shea Stadium, which marked Tom Seaver’s return from exile, Howard drove in what proved to be the winning run against Steve Carlton. He was rewarded the next day with a ticket to Tidewater, never to return to the majors again.
We extend a very special happy 75th birthday salute to Miracle Met Al Weis. The slick-fielding infielder, who began the 1969 season having amassed all of four home runs in 1,200 career at-bats, homered in back-to-back Mets wins against the Cubs in a crucial July series that year. For an encore, he shocked Dave McNally and the Orioles by clubbing a game-tying home run in the seventh inning of Game Five of the World Series. Two innings later, the Mets were World Champions. Weis had also victimized McNally in Game Two by singling home the game-winning run in the ninth inning. He finished the series with a gaudy 1.290 OPS, well over twice his lifetime mark.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
La lariula! The late Italian-American singer Lou Monte, who specialized in novelty songs, was born on this date in 1917. For well over a decade now, his bouncy 1958 Top 20 hit “Lazy Mary” has been a seventh inning staple at Shea Stadium, Citi Field, and the Brooklyn Cyclones’ MCU Park. Following as it does “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” the song usually fades out early in the second of its “Eye-talian” (Lou’s pronunciation, not mine) stanzas and only on rare occasions are fans treated to the third verse, which Monte sings “in British.”
Come on, everybody, sing along with Lou: “C’e ‘na luna mezzo mare…”