"It's Father's Day today at Shea. So to all you fathers out there, happy birthday." -Ralph Kiner
Father's Day at Shea fell on June 21 in 1964 and the Mets gave the perfect birthday gift to one dad in particular: pitcher Jim Bunning of the Phillies. Before an announced crowd of 32,904, a number that included his wife and a handful of their seven children, Bunning tossed the fifth perfect game of baseball's modern era.
Utilizing a heavy fastball and a never-better curve, the hard-throwing right-hander racked up Ks by the bunch. Four Mets whiffed against Bunning in the first four innings and the lineup barely even made Philadelphia's defenders move until the bottom of the fifth. In the game's most difficult play, catcher Jesse Gonder pounded a ground ball deep into the hole on the right side, but Phillies second baseman Tony Taylor made a diving stop and threw to first from his knees in time to nip the sluggish backstop. Bunning later confessed to reporters "I told 'em to dive for everything."
The remaining thirteen outs came much easier. Charley Smith, Amado Samuel, and pinch hitter Hot Rod Kanehl all failed to hit it where they ain't in the sixth, which marked the last time all game that two consecutive Mets were even able to put the ball in play. Bunning retired six of the nine remaining batters, including final out John Stephenson, via swinging strikeout to complete his second career no-hitter and the first National League first perfect game in 84 years. That elicited a roar from an appreciative Shea Stadium crowd and earned Bunning pecks on the cheek from wife Mary and 12-year old daughter Barbara.
As incredible as Bunning's feat was, it was only the day's opening act. The Mets and Phillies retook the field minutes later for game two of a scheduled doubleheader. A second-inning walk drawn by Jesse Gonder gave New York its first baserunner of the afternoon, while Joe Christopher laced a clean single to center one frame later to ensure the team wouldn't be kept hitless two games in a row. Just mostly hitless. Philadelphia pitcher Rick Wise, an 18-year old phenom making his MLB debut, allowed just two more safeties and cruised to his first big league win by an 8-2 score.
Reliever Jeff Musselman, who the Mets acquired from the Blue Jays in exchange for Mookie Wilson, turns 50. The lefty pitched well for his new team in what remained of the 1989 season, posting a 3-2 record and 3.08 ERA despite subpar peripherals. Musselman wasn't as lucky the following year and he washed out of baseball by 1992. Luckily, his agent quickly found him a new line of work: representing other athletes. For the past two decades, Musselman's been an employee of the Boras Corporation.
The Mets officially parted ways with Jose Valentin on this date five years ago. A key contributor to the 2006 pennant winners, the 36-year old Valentin provided a combination offense and defense the keystone not seen since the days of Edgardo Alfonzo. Unfortunately, age and injuries caught up with him (and the rest of bench) in 2007. Stashed away at Triple-A New Orleans to start the 2008 season, Valentin mustered just a .182/.229/.333 after ten games and opted to call it a career.
Game of Note
Speaking of pennant winners, the 1973 Mets played a tense game against the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium 40 years ago today. Tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Pittsburgh loaded the bases with no one out against Buzz Capra. That prompted pitching coach Rube Walker, filling for ejected Mets manager Yogi Berra, to summon Tug McGraw from the 'pen. Tug did his job, getting Bucs cleanup Bob Robertson to tap a weak grounder. Second baseman Felix Millan pounced on it and fired home to catcher Duffy Dyer for the force out. Hoping to double up Robertson, Dyer rifled a throw to first. Or, more accurately, the general vicinity of first base. The ball sailed so high over the target that right fielder Rusty Staub charged in, caught it on the fly, and whipped it to shortstop Jim Fregosi, who slapped a tag on Al Oliver before he could advance from first to second.
Meanwhile, the speedy Dave Cash, who was standing on second for Pittsburgh at the beginning of this crazy play, decided to make a dash for the plate. Fregosi relayed the ball back to Dyer, but not quite quickly enough. A nifty slide helped Cash avoid the 4-2-9-6-2 triple play and gave the Pirates a 2-1 victory.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On June 21, 2006, the International Astronomical Union bestowed names upon two recently-discovered moons of Pluto: Hydra and Nix. The latter satellite takes its name from the Greek goddess of darkness and light, not baseball-playing brothers Jayson and Laynce Nix. Those two have done plenty to darken the mood of Mets fans over the years, however. Jayson sports a career .500/.529/.500 line against New York pitching, while Laynce launched an eleventh-inning Manny Acosta offering into orbit on May 3, 2010 to make the Reds 3-2 walk-off winners.