This Date in Mets History: June 29 — Seaver becomes Mets all-time wins leader, John Rocker returns

Malcolm Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

There likely isn't a bigger gulf in how Mets fans feel about players than the one that exists between the beloved Tom Seaver and the bemoaned John Rocker.

Al Jackson's reign as the Mets all-time wins leader was as short as the little lefty's stature. Jackson won 43 games for New York between 1962 and 1965, assuming the title of the young team's winningest pitcher in June 1963 only to lose it on this date in 1969 to Tom Seaver, the man who's held it ever since. Tom picked up his twelfth victory of the year and his 44th career triumph by tossing a complete game against the Pirates, striking out ten in the process.

Exactly two years later, Seaver reached another milestone. Facing Philadelphia on June 29, 1971, the Franchise fanned 13 unlucky Phils, including Willie Montanez in the bottom of the seventh for his 1,000th career K. Amazingly, the four-hit, 4-0 blanking was only Seaver's fourth-best start of the '71 season according to game score. Dude could pitch.

That said, the best pitching performance turned by a member of the New York Mets organization on this date belongs to James Popoff. On June 29, 1992, the 21-year right-hander for Low-A Pittsfield, drafted out of Cal State Fullerton earlier in the month, whiffed 19 Batavia Clippers to earn his first professional victory. That remained the Pittsfield record for most strikeouts in a game until 2001 when the team folded. Popoff's feat wasn't a New York-Penn League record, however. That honor belongs to another Amazins farmhand, Paul Alspach, who rang up 24 batters in a 1963 start for the Auburn Mets. Oddly, neither hurler made it to the majors. Alspach topped out at Triple-A because of control issues, while Popoff retired after his lone season in professional baseball. Said Steve Phillips, then the Mets minor league director, "It was very surprising. [Popoff] had what we thought was a very good first year."


Birthdays

  • Pitcher Bob Shaw would have been 80 today. Shaw picked up two MVP votes during his 11-year career. One came in 1959 when he compiled an 18-6 record for the American League champion Chicago White Sox. The second came seven years later when he was a member of the 1966 Mets. While he was one of the better pitchers in the team's rotation that season (not like that's not saying much), he wasn't anywhere elite. Based solely on the 0.9 bWAR he amassed for the Mets, Shaw was the 45th most valuable hurler in the National League. That said, he started the '66 campaign with the San Francisco and was so bad that he cost the Giants half a win in just over 30 innings. Clearly, BBWAA voters were pulling some kind of down ballot shenanigans that year.
  • Larry Stahl, briefly a teammate of Bob Shaw on the 1967 Mets, is 72. Twice Tom Seaver carried no-hitters into the ninth inning against the Cubs only to see them broken up by punch-and-judy batsmen. Stahl, never much of a hitter himself, got a modicum of revenge for Seaver in 1972 when he was a member of the Padres. On September 2, Milt Pappas of the Cubs was just one strike away from completing a perfect game, but Stahl took two borderline pitches to work a two-out walk. To date, it's the only perfect game in MLB history ruined in such a manner.

Game of Note
John Rocker returned to Shea Stadium on June 29, 2000 for the first time since uttering several moronic comments regarding the 7 train and its multicultural ridership in a Sports Illustrated profile. Much to the relief of the NYPD, Rocker backed down on his promise to take the International Express to the game, choosing instead to commute via an unmarked police van. The heavy law enforcement presence carried over to Shea, where the majority of the 700 officers Police Commissioner Howard Safir put on Rocker detail were stationed.

By mid-game, most had gone home. Despite the threat of a D battery hailstorm, the Shea faithful was mostly on its best behavior. Police only perp-walked one person out of the stadium, a Long Island man who chucked a beer bottle in Rocker's direction while he was warming up. Lest you think New York is losing its edge, while just one arrest was made, according to the New York Times, the NYPD did issue 63 open container citations.

As for Rocker, he tossed a one-two-three eighth, striking out Robin Ventura and inducing wormburners from Todd Zeile and Jay Payton to successfully protect a two-run Braves lead. Righty Kerry Ligtenberg, granted closing duties during the two-week unpaid vacation MLB forced Rocker to take for his comments, pitched a scoreless ninth to secure a 6-4 Braves victory. It'd be one of the few triumphs left in Rocker's sad, unlamented career.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner celebrates his 48th birthday today. Mad Men, of course, takes place in 1960s New York, so there have been more than a few Mets references woven into the narrative. Transplanted Brit/doomed CFO Lane Pryce sports a Mets pennant in his office, a piece of memorabilia that [SPOILER ALERT] gets a surprising amount of screen time during the character's lowest moment.

Then, in this past season, Don Draper had the following exchange with his cuckolded downstairs neighbor:

Arnold: I've been meaning to knock on your door anyway. You know, catch a game or something. I get baseball tickets. Mostly the Mets.

Don: Well, I'm glad you didn't.

Joke's on Don. When the show's calendar flips to 1969 in a few short months, those Shea seats are going to be the hottest ticket in town.

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