This Date in Mets History: May 4 — Highs and lows galore during the Swingin' 60s

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Much like the '60s-era Mets, May 4th began as a bad day in team history, but got good by decade's end.

Something notable happened to the New York Mets just about every time the calendar read May 4th during the franchise's first decade. For starters, one player from the inaugural team got off the schneid on this date while another hopped on it. In 1962, third baseman Don Zimmer snapped a season-opening 0-for-34 slump by doubling off of future Mets manager Dallas Green in a 6-5 loss to nem Phillies. One year later, Roger Craig allowed four different San Francisco Giants batters (twice in the case of Orlando Cepeda) to touch 'em all in a 17-4 shellacking at the Polo Grounds. For Craig, the defeat marked the start of a three month slide that saw him lose 18 games in a row. That stood as the club mark for most consecutive decisions dropped until Anthony Young surpassed it 30 years later.

Rookie Ron Hunt gave the '64 Mets a much-needed jolt of energy, but on May 4th of that year, his youthful exuberance cost New York a game and nearly their manager. With the Mets trailing the Braves 2-1 in the top of the ninth, Hunt tried to tie things up by scoring from second on a slow tapper toward the hot corner. Milwaukee third baseman Eddie Mathews fielded the ball and decided to go around the horn for a game-ending double play. However, after recording the first out at the keystone, Braves second baseman Frank Bolling noticed Hunt making the turn for home and fired the ball to the plate. Dead to rights, Ron unsuccessfully tried to bowl over the catcher. Backstop Ed Bailey took offense, leading the benches to clear. Presaging the aforementioned Don Zimmer's run in with Pedro Martinez four decades later, 73-year old Casey Stengel charged Braves shortstop Dennis Menke and wound up getting wrestled to the ground via the neck. Remarkably, the only person hurt was Gene Oliver, the Old Perfessor's junior by 45 years, who emerged from the fracas with a bloody nose.

Wes Westrum was at the helm when the Mets finally put forth a positive effort on May 4, 1966. Starter Jack Hamilton completely shut down the St. Louis Cardinals, facing just two batters over the minimum in a masterful one-hit, 8-0 shutout. The lone safety came off the bat of Hamilton's opposing number, Ray Sadecki, who bunted for a single in the third.

However, the best showing by the Mets on a May 4th during the '60s came, unsurprisingly, in 1969. Per Ernie Banks's request, the visiting New Yorkers played two at Wrigley that day and the confines proved quite friendly to the East Coast interlopers. Tom Seaver went the distance in game one, striking out seven and establishing the tone for a season-long rivalry between the two teams by drilling Cubs starter Bill Hands with some molto fortissimo chin music after he'd taken one in his own back the previous inning. Cooler heads ultimately prevailed, as did the hotter bats of the Mets, who took the contest 3-2. They won the nightcap by the same score thanks to the great pitching of Tug McGraw. Pressed into emergency starting duties, the relief ace tossed a complete game while topping Seaver by one in both Ks (nine) and game score (67 to 66).

Birthdays

  • The well-traveled Manny Aybar is 41. A veteran of six different MLB teams before coming to the Mets in 2005, Aybar didn't last long in Flushing. Dude racked up a 6.04 ERA in 25-plus innings, which earned him a one-way ticket to Triple-A Norfolk just two months after breaking camp with the team. He hasn't been seen in a major league uniform since.
  • If Manny Aybar is an optimist, he can look to Robinson Cancel, 37, as a beacon of hope. Cancel made his debut with the Brewers in 1999, then didn't make another appearance until nine years later with the Mets. One of the few heroes for New York in September 2008, Robinson helped the aforementioned Pedro Martinez avoid taking the loss in his last Met start by singling home the tying run of this game.
  • Baseball Reference claims that today is Miguel Cairo's 39th birthday, but that's impossible because the infielder had to be collecting Social Security during his one year as a Met. At the very least, he hit and fielded like a sexagenarian in 2005. Still, Willie Randolph let Cairo man second base more frequently than any other player, though in his defense, Omar Minaya didn't give the manager much to work with. #OmarsTeam
  • Longtime Mets minor league manager Ken Oberkfell turns 57. The always-adventurously bewhiskered Oberkfell took over the Single-A Capital City Bombers in 2001 and worked his way up the organizational ladder with alacrity. From 2005 until 2010, he lead New York's Triple-A affiliates, though that tenure was interrupted by two cameos as a bench coach for the big league team.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys passed away one year ago today. Always more of a Knicks fan, MCA never lyrically stated a preference for one New York baseball team over the other. Still, we'll claim him as an honorary fan, as the Mets pop up in Beastie Boy iconography from time to time. Ad Rock has donned the orange and blue, while Shea Stadium gets name dropped in The Sounds of Science.

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