Keith Hernandez got of to a very slow start in 1988, hitting just .158/.222/.323 through the first three weeks of the season, but he broke out in a big way 25 years ago today. Facing Braves rookie Tom Glavine in the fifth inning of a 4-2 affair, Keith performed a reverse act of Glavotage by taking the future Met deep for a game-tying two-run shot. He drove in another with a ground out in the seventh, then capped his night with a grand slam off reliever Charlie Puleo one inning later. That gave Hernandez seven ribbies on the evening (including the all-important GWRBI) and, more impressively, put him over the 1,000 RBI mark for his career.
Eighteen years later, it was Mike Piazza's turn to have fun with round numbers. On April 26, 2006, Piazza, by that point a Padre, became the 41st player in MLB history (and only catcher) to join the 400 home run club by rocketing an offering from Diamondbacks closer Jose Valverde over Petco Park's distant outfield wall. Mike would call it a career one year later with 427 round trippers to his name, 51 percent of which he hit as a member of the New York Mets.
- Amos Otis turns 66. If weren't for the Nolan Ryan trade, sending Otis and yesterday's birthday celebrant Bob Johnson to the Royals for the desiccated remains of Joe Foy might go down as the worst swap in Mets history. A five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner with Kansas City, Otis certainly would have been an improvement over Don Hahn, Del Unser, and almost every other center fielder the Mets trotted out during the '70s. Here's a less strained connection between the two former New York phenoms: On May 15, 1973, Nolan Ryan got Otis to loft a fly ball to right for the 27th and final out of his first career no-hitter.
- Happy birthday 58th birthday to Mike Scott, another All-Star who got away. Unlike Otis, the Mets gave Scott several chances to cement his place on the roster, but he failed to impress in the 60 starts he made for the team between 1979 and 1982. Traded to the Astros prior to the '83 season, Scott either learned a split-fingered fastball in Houston or started taking something off his existing heater with an emory board. Depends on who you ask. Whatever the case, Scott turned into one of the NL's most dominant pitchers with the 'Stros, won the Cy Young Award in 1986, and nearly bumped his old team from the playoffs in that year's NLCS.
- Reliever Scott Strickland is 37. A member of the Mets bullpen in 2002 and '03, though Tommy John ended his second Flushing campaign after 19 games. The operation all but ended Strickland's MLB career, as he's made just eight appearances in the majors since having his UCL reconstructed.
- Lou Thornton, fleet-footed outfielder with the '89 and '90 Mets, celebrates his semicentennial birthday. A burner in the minors (he swiped 39 bags and was caught just nine times in his best AAA season), Thornton struggled to find success in the majors, a victim of the old adage about not being able to steal first (as his career .291 OBP attests).
- Ricky Trlicek turns 44. Trlicek did nothing memorable as a member of the Mets, though he is the only MLB player to have the unique "trl" consonant combination in his name.
The Mets made a controversial transaction on this date in 1977, acquiring infielder Lenny Randle from the Texas Rangers for minor leaguer Rick Auerbach. At the time of the trade, Randle was serving a 30-day suspension for punching manager Frank Lucchesi in the face, breaking his cheekbone in three places. As a Met, Randle foreswore violence and instead stirred things up with his words. One year after posting a 4+ bWAR season in which he led the team in several offensive categories, Randle announced he was retiring because GM Joe McDonald didn't extend his contract. He later recanted, but slumped badly in '78, and wound up getting released the following year.
Game of Note
The Mets played their first regular season game in over eight months on this date in 1995, as Major League Baseball returned to action after losing the better part of the past year to a strike. Dallas Green's squad opened the season in Denver against the Colorado Rockies, helping the young team christen Coors Field. Unfortunately for New Yorkers who stayed up to watch the entire extra-inning, snow delayed affair, the Mets proved too accommodating a guest. John Franco couldn't hold a one-run lead, giving up a game-knotting RBI double to Larry Walker with two outs in the ninth.
Bats for both teams went cold until the 13th. That's when Jose Vizcaino put the Mets back on top with a ribeye single, but lefty Mike Remlinger did a good Franco impression in the bottom of the frame by allowing a pinch-hit, run-plating double to Jim Tatum. The Mets rallied again in the next inning, scoring one to make Remlinger the pitcher of record and, indeed, that's what he'd be by game's end. Just on the losing end. Five hours and 38 minutes after first pitch, Dante Bichette finally sent whatever remained of the home crowd home happy by hitting a walk-off three-run homer into the empty seats behind Coors Field's left field fence. Rockies 11, Mets 9.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Lucille Ball passed away on this date in 1989 at the age of 77. Ball, of course, became an adored American television icon thanks to her starring role as Lucy Ricardo on I Love Lucy. When not taping the fictionalized version of their lives, she and husband/co-star Desi Arnaz raised their real-life family in Palm Springs, California where they were neighbors with Ralph Kiner. In 1962, Lucy and Ralph both started new TV ventures: Ball launched The Lucy Show while Kiner was hired to be a Mets broadcaster. Who could have guessed that, between the two, Ralph would have the longer-running gig?