The Mets sent four representatives to the 1988 All-Star Game, which was played at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium 25 years ago today. National League manager Whitey Herzog gave Dwight Gooden the starting nod for the second time in three seasons, while Gary Carter made his eighth straight start behind the plate. The pair did New York proud. The Kid went one-for-three with a single and the only blemish on Doc's pitching performance was allowing a solo homer to Terry Steinbach of the Athletics. Unfortunately, future Met Frank Viola and seven relievers held the Senior Circuit to a mere five hits and that wasn't enough to get Gooden off the hook in a 2-1 loss. Rounding out the Mets contingent were Darryl Strawberry, who singled, and David Cone, who struck out Paul Molitor in a scoreless inning of relief.
Seventeen years later and elsewhere in the Rust Belt, Mike Piazza made his final All-Star appearance as part of the 2005 game at Detroit's Comerica Park. The one-time Midsummer Classic MVP struck out swinging and tapped a grounder to second in his two at-bats. Also at the festivities were Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. Pedro didn't pitch, so that means all the blame for the National League's 7-5 defeat falls on Beltran, who only went one-for-three. Blame Beltran. Blame Beltran forever.
- Dick Rusteck turns 72. Of all the fine young pitchers to graduate from the Mets farm system, none had a more impressive major league debut than Dick Rusteck. On June 10, 1966, he shut out the Cincinnati Reds on four hits, walked just one, and didn't allow a single runner to advance farther than first base. That performance was good for a game score of 82, the highest mark in team history for a pitcher making his first start. Rusteck started two more games for the Mets in ‘66. He lost both, got demoted, and spent the next 11 years in the minors without receiving another call up.
- Denny Sommers, bullpen coach from 1977 to ‘78, is 73. During Denny's first spring training with the Mets, he tossed a batting practice pitch that slugger Dave Kingman pounded into home plate. The ball bounced straight up off the dish and directly into Kingman's face, breaking his nose. That incident aside, Sommers's tenure on the coaching staff was without incident.
The Mets divested themselves of closer Francisco Rodriguez and his toxic contract on this date two years ago, shipping the closer to the Milwaukee Brewers for little lefty Danny Herrera and minor league reliever Adrian Rosario. Herrera pitched decently in 16 appearances for the Mets after the trade, but underwent Tommy John surgery early last season and has yet to return. Rosario, meanwhile, seems to have stalled at Double-A Binghamton.
Game of Note
Dock Ellis posted an ERA north of six during his half season as a Met, meaning the team's offense had to average at least a touchdown to have any shot at winning. So when Mets hitters backed Ellis with a team-record eight first inning runs in his July 12, 1979 start versus the Dodgers, there was no guarantee the game would actually turn into a blowout. Thankfully, the offense scored four more times in the game's middle frames to push the lead to 12 - zip. Los Angeles mounted a comeback against Ellis in the the sixth and seventh, plating five runs over a span of four outs, but Mets closer Neil Allen retired the final five batters of the game via four grounders and a weak infield pop out to secure the victory.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Milton Berle, née Mendel Berlinger, was born in New York City 105 years ago today. In April 1979, the comedian returned to his hometown to host an episode of Saturday Night Live that's become infamous for several reasons. Berle set an odd tone for the evening, reportedly whipping out "Uncle Miltie" in front of Gilda Radner and writer Alan Zweibel during rehearsals. The show didn't go much better, as Berle ad-libbed and spit-took his way through the sketches. One of the only bits that Berle didn't ruin with his mugging was a Weekend Update installment about 41-year-old second baseman Chico Escuela (played by Garrett Morris) and his attempt to make a comeback with the Mets. Given that Doug Flynn, New York's incumbent at the keystone for the ‘79 season, posted an OPS+ of 62, Escuela could have been an improvement even at his advanced age. That said, Escuela was the author of the tell-all book, Bad Stuff 'Bout the Mets. Ultimately, New York chose not to give the infielder a second chance, likely realizing that using a roster spot on someone who publicly airs the team's dirty laundry (sample revelation: in the locker room, Ed Kranepool borrowed Chico's soap and never gave it back) would create the kind of clubhouse distraction a 63-99 team is better off avoiding.