The MLB All-Star Game returns to the borough of Queens for the first time in 49 years this summer and with any luck, the support of fans, and the help of Cougar Club a modicum of justice, David Wright will represent the host team as the starting third baseman. If so, he'll follow the precedent set by Ron Hunt, the former Mets second sacker who received word on this date in 1964 that he'd start at the keystone for the National Leaguers during the 1964 Midsummer Classic at Shea Stadium.
At the time of the selection, Hunt was in the midst of his best season as a pro and building upon a solid inaugural campaign that saw him finish second to Pete Rose in Rookie of the Year voting. Obviously, it was the right choice in the long run, but through June 1964, Hunt did a good job making sportswriters seem foolish for picking Charlie Hustle. While Rose mired in a sophomore slump that dragged his batting line down to .216/.281/.257, Hunt paced the Mets offense by hitting .320/.379/.433. He carried a hot stick into the All-Star Game as well, going one-for-three with a single off of Dean Chance, the man who'd go on to win the A.L. Cy Young Award that fall.
Hunt missed out on the most exciting part of the exhibition, however. With one out a and the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, manager Walter Alston pulled Hunt in favor of pinch hitter Hank Aaron, likely (and rightly) figuring the future home run king had a better chance of ending the game with one swing. Hammerin' Hank took three cuts against Red Sox reliever Dick Radatz and came up empty on each. No matter, as Johnny Callison followed by blasting a pitch over the right field wall to give the Senior Circuit a walk-off win.
Juan Castillo turns 43. In 1994, Castillo racked up an 11-2 record in 18 starts for Double-A Binghamton, which helped him leapfrog fellow B-Mets rotation mates Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Robert Person when it came time to replace the struggling Pete Smith on the big league staff. Castillo flopped his audition, however, allowing 17 hits in eleven-plus innings across two starts. He'd return to the minors shortly thereafter, never to return.
Game of Note
The June 23, 2008 matchup between Venezuelan aces Johan Santana and Felix Hernandez was advertised as a pitching duel for the ages. Neither hurler lived up to the hype, though Hernandez put on a display of power...hitting. With the bases loaded in the top of the second, King Felix got on top of a high fastball from Johan and drove it deep into the right-center power alley for an opposite field grand slam. For Hernandez, it was the first home run of his major league career, as well as the first homer ever by a Mariners pitcher. In a weird twist, Felix wound up getting the day's GWRBI, but not the victory. He left due to injury one out shy of pitching the five innings required to qualify for a win.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Happy birthday to Glenn Danzig, who turns 58 today. The former Misfit turned solo artist has written many awesome songs throughout the years, though a personal favorite of the author is Thirteen, which he penned for Johnny Cash. Much like the song's unnamed narrator, the Mets who've sported jersey #13 must have, on occasion, felt like a bad luck wind has been blowing at their backs. Specifically, Edgardo Alfonzo and Lee Mazzilli, who both wore the number at some point during their respective Mets tenures and both saw their productivity sapped by back injuries. Less dire and more unlucky was pitcher Roger Craig, who donned the number in 1963, the year he lost a then-Mets record 18 decision in a row.