Sometimes baseball follows the Hollywood script, as it did on this date in 1972, when Willie Mays played his first game as a New York Met. Of course, the Mets that day were playing the Giants, the team Mays played 21 years for in both New York and San Francisco. It was almost inevitable, therefore, that his first hit as a Met would be a home run to beat his former mates.
Flashback to the top of the first: A crowd of 35,505 cheered Mays as he trotted out to play first base. Then in the bottom of the inning, he led off with a walk and scored the game’s first run courtesy of Rusty Staub’s grand slam. After the Giants tied it with a four-spot in the fifth, Mays led off the bottom of the frame with his first home run of the season, making it 5–4 Mets, which would be the final score.
Okay, a better script would have called for a walk-off in the ninth, Mays’s seventh inning stolen base attempt would have been a successful one, and more might have been made of the fact that his home run tied him with Mel Ott for third place on the NL’s all-time RBI list. But overall, The Say Hey Kid’s Mets debut rated several thousand thumbs up.
The Mets might have made the postseason in 2007 if Brian Lawrence, 37 today, had pitched more like his pre-surgically-repaired-shoulder self. The Mets were 1–4 in his four August starts and he took an early shower in his lone September start, amid the team’s horrific slide. That was Lawrence’s last major league game, as he finished his career in New York with a 6.83 ERA.
Happy 42nd “tanjoubi” to left-hander Takashi Kashiwada, the first of 11 players from Japan to see action with the Amazins. By 1997 Mets bullpen standards his 4.31 ERA and –0.1 WAR were practically Cy Young Award-worthy. He was also helped out by his teammates’ generous support. In his first win, after he yielded a solo home run to Andres Galaragga that gave Colorado the lead, the Mets scored eight times for him in the bottom of the inning. On two other occasions it was a three-spot that made him victorious, and a four-run inning put him in line for a fourth win, but his pen mates couldn’t hold the lead.
Dave LaRoche, 65 today, was only the bullpen coach during the 1992 and 1993 seasons, so he is among the least to blame for the team’s 131–193 record over that span.
Dick Tidrow turns 66 today. His nickname was “Dirt”—and that’s what he was treated like by opponents during his brief, career-ending stint with the Mets. In just 15.2 innings they scored 16 earned runs off him, collecting five home runs and 20 other hits along the way.
Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
The independent state of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948. In 2007, Art Shamsky, an integral member of the 1969 Miracle Mets, managed the Modi’in Miracle in the short-lived Israeli Baseball League. Last August, as Israel’s Baseball Ambassador, Shamsky worked to get the country’s national team as far as the qualifying round of the World Baseball Classic, and just two months ago was in Israel to promote the sport and raise money to build new ball fields there.