The Mets set a club record and made baseball history in Montreal on April 4, 1988. It was the first time the Amazins had ever his six home runs in one game and also the first time that any team went yard half a dozen times on opening day. Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds slugged two each and Kevin Elster and Lenny Dykstra chipped in one apiece.
Straw’s second blast struck the rim of lights just below the Olympic Stadium roof, an estimated 160 feet above field level. No fair ball had ever been hit there before and Darryl initially thought his monster blast was a ground rule double, until umpire Randy Marsh indicated that he was entitled to trot the remaining 180 feet to the plate.
''It was the longest home run I ever saw. Longer than any I saw playing with Henry Aaron or Frank Robinson or Sadaharu Oh in Japan.'' –Manager Davey Johnson
The grateful recipient of this barrage of four-baggers was Dwight Gooden, who did not have his best stuff that day, yielding a personal worst 11 hits and leaving the game after five innings with the score tied 4-4. Dave Magadan pinch hit for him and walked, moving Gary Carter to second and setting it up for the biggest, though not longest, shot of the day--Lenny Dykstra’s two-out, three-homer over the center field fence.
For old time’s sake, former Met Hubie Brooks joined the parade in the eighth with a two-run jack off of David Cone. Happy recap: Mets 10, Expos 6.
Outfielder Eric Valent, turning 36 today, posted an OPS of .818 (OPS+ 111) and an offensive WAR of 0.9 for the Mets in 2004. In only 270 at-bats he hit 13 home runs and drove in 34, not bad considering that in most of his 56 game starts he batted leadoff, seventh or eighth. Whether it was because of diminished playing time or the pitchers getting wise to him, Valent’s numbers plummeted in 2005 and by the end of May his big league career was over.
Tom Herr is 57 today. When he came to the Mets on September 1, 1990, he knew the club’s first choice to take over at second base was Bill Doran, who wound up on the Reds instead. Herr talked a good game, assuring the Mets and their fans that they got the better player, but it turned out to be well-intentioned bravado. His slant line as a Met (through August 4, 1991): .216/.286/.333. Bill Doran’s first year-plus in Cincinnati: .293/.392/.400.
Jim Fregosi didn’t ask to be traded for Nolan Ryan, so we can, without irony, wish him a happy 71st birthday. In October of 2004, he was reportedly one of the candidates considered by GM Omar Minaya to succeed At Howe as manager. Can you say "bad karma"?
Another new 71-year-old, lefty Ron Locke, made a splash in his pro-ball debut, going 18-8 with a 2.94 ERA in 26 A-ball starts. In the only big league season, he led the 1964 Mets in ERA (3.48) albeit in only 41 innings pitched. His 0.77 K/BB ratio and 1.65 WHIP, however, may explain his ultimate fate as an eight-year minor leaguer.
The late Gil Hodges, an original Met and manager of the 1969 World Champion Miracle Mets, was born on this date in 1924. Many players have good things to say about Davey Johnson and Bobby Valentine, and Willie Randolph, Yogi Berra, and even Joe Torre were also well liked by some of their troops, but among Mets managers only Gil Hodges is spoken about with reverence and affection by almost all who played for him. Among other accolades, Tom Seaver called him "the most important man in my career" and Bud Harrelson said, "I loved the man, I really did. He made us all better."
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Making it to number one on the Billboard pop singles chart on this date in 1987 was Starship’s "Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now," seemingly a fitting song for the World Champion Mets as they prepared to head north to defend their title. But a decimated starting rotation, among other factors, did stop them from repeating. When the Mets were eliminated from contention at the end of September, the number one song was Whitney Houston’s "Didn’t We Almost Have It All."