The 1962 Mets played patsy for pretty much all National League pitchers in the team's inaugural season, hitting a league-worst .240 and relying on the utter offensive ineptitude of their fellow expansion mates, the Colt .45s, to avoid finishing as the lowest scoring team in the Senior Circuit. The '62 season also happened to be the one in which Sandy Koufax really started to develop into the otherworldly hurler he'd remain until his injury-induced retirement four years later. Given Koufax's no-hit stuff and the Mets' no-hit offense, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that on June 30, 1962, the lefty kept the Amazins hitless for his first career no-no.
Koufax was dealing from the start. He needed just nine pitches to strike out the side in the first and fanned seven total his first time through the lineup. The Mets made more contact against Koufax the second and third times through, though not much more. He struck 13 in total and only four batters (Chris Cannizzaro, Cliff Cook, Richie Ashburn, and Jim Hickman) managed to hit the ball out of the infield.
Since getting good wood on Koufax's offerings wasn't an option, Mets third base coach Solly Hemus tried to give the team a psychological advantage by reminding Koufax that he had a no-hitter at the start of every inning. The Man with the Golden Arm won the mind game, too, barking at Hemus: "Hey Solly, I've still got it. I wonder how long I'll keep it." Through out number 27, as it turned out, plus three more times before calling it a career at age 30.
The Mets exacted a small measure of revenge against the Dodgers 50 years later, however. The team cruised to a 5-0 win on this date last year ago today behind the pitching of another lefty with no-hit stuff: Johan Santana. Johan held Los Angeles to just three singles and two walks in eight shutout innings. Unfortunately, it'd be his last solid start of the season and maybe his career.
- Tony Fernandez turns 51. The smooth fielding Dominican shortstop had one of the only truly bad stretches of his long career while he was with the Mets. Hampered by kidney stones for most of his Flushing tenure, the four-time All-Star posted an OPS+ under 70 and was uncharacteristically tentative in the field. Freed from the pressures of playing in a big market city by dint of a trade to the Blue Jays midway through 1993, Fernandez promptly reverted back to his All-Star form and was worth three wins above replacement in just 100 games for the eventual World Series champs.
- Chan Ho Park, the winningest Asian-born pitcher in major league history, is 40. None of Park's 124 career victories came with the Mets, however. Signed before the 2007 to provide pitching depth, Park replaced an injured Orlando Hernandez for one start. It didn't go well. He allowed the Marlins to score seven runs in just four innings. That earned him a demotion to Triple-A New Orleans days later and his eventual release a month later.
- In an article he penned for the Daily News on the 40th anniversary of his diving World Series stab, Ron Swoboda, 69 today, said, "I've always felt that if you play nine years in the big leagues you should leave with at least ten seconds of highlight footage." Swoboda picked up the bulk of his ten-second quota with the aforementioned catch, sprawling out on the Shea Stadium sod to snare a sinking Brooks Robinson line drive in the ninth inning of Game Four. Rocky, as he was nicknamed thanks to his normally bad defense, also had a highlight-worthy day on September 15, 1969 against the Cardinals. St. Louis starter Steve Carlton fanned an then-record 19 batters, but got tagged with a 4-3 loss because Swoboda took him deep for two two-run homers.
Game of Note
For all the torture the Braves have inflicted upon New York teams when visiting Turner Field, the Mets haven't reciprocally turned their home field into a house of horrors for Atlanta very often. That said, Bobby Valentine's crew handed their NL East rivals a great "WTF just happened?" loss on this date in 2000. The Mets trailed 5-1 in the top of the eighth, due mainly to the wildness of starter Mike Hampton (seven innings pitched, six walks). Reliever Eric Cammack, brought on to keep things close, couldn't find the zone either, as he issued two base on balls in his lone inning of work. Worse still, both those walked batters came around to score on a long Brian Jordan homer that made the score 8-1 by the time it was the Mets turn to bat again.
Derek Bell led off the home eighth with a single off of the Braves' Don Wengert. After an Edgardo Alfonzo fly out, Mike Piazza singled, too, then moved to second on a throwing error by Rafael Furcal. As such, the Braves were forced to trade an out for a run on what likely would have been an inning-ending double play ball off the bat of Robin Ventura. Furcal's errant toss cost Atlanta another run when Todd Zeile plated Piazza from third with a single of his own. Manager Bobby Cox's patience with Wengert ran out one batter later when the reliever allowed Jay Payton to join the two-out hit parade with yet another single.
Cox summoned from the pen Kerry Ligtenberg, the reliever who closed out the previous night's game by fanning the final two batters. The hard-throwing right-handed again kept the Mets from making contact, only this time it was because his pitches weren't in the strike zone. Ligtenberg walked Benny Agbayani on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases, then forced in a pair of runs with consecutive full count free passes to pinch hitter Mark Johnson and Melvin Mora.
That display brought Bobby Cox out for a second trip to the mound. Exit Ligtenberg, enter Terry Mulholland. It made no difference. The veteran left-handed delivered wide to Derek Bell on a 3-1 count, putting the carousel in motion again. 8-6 Braves. Mulholland rallied to get Atlanta within a strike of finally ending the inning, only to float a fat pitch that Edgardo Alfonzo slapped through the hole on the left side of the infield for a game tying, two-run single.
From over the roar of the near-capacity Shea crowd came the sound of Jimi Hendrix strumming with a muted palm. For whatever reason, perhaps he was shellshocked into submission by the six two-out runs scored by the Mets, Cox opted to let Mulholland face Mike Piazza, who now stood like a mountain at the plate. Taking a cue from Hendrix, Mike took one chop and downed the Braves with a swing of his bat. Mets 11, Braves 8.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Warren G. Harding appointed former president William Howard Taft as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on this date in 1921. Taft, who served in the Oval Office from 1909 to 1913, was America's heaviest president, weighing in at 290 pounds. The Mets have had only one player approach Taft's tonnage and that's reliever Jon Rauch. According to his Baseball Reference page, Rauch's playing weight also rests at 290 pounds. Of course, Rauch wears his bulk a little better than Taft. At 6' 11" tall, he's got exactly one foot on the corpulent chief exec-turned-chief justice.