This Date in Mets History: July 26 — Mookie makes the Mets walk-off winners

Chris Trotman / Getty Images

Mookie Wilson came into play on July 26, 1983 with ten career home runs to his name. Career blast #11 came at an opportune time for the Mike Torrez and the Mets.

The 1962 Mets set the bar for excellence in losing very high. So high that not even the most inept New York teams, of which there have been many, have been able to surpass it. That said, the '63 squad was pretty horrid, too, finishing the year 51-111 and, on this date 50 years ago, setting a record for futility that not even the lovable losers from one season prior could achieve. On July 26, Casey Stengel's New Breed fell to their expansion brothers, the Colt .45s, in Houston by a 7-3 score. That loss, the Mets' 20th in a row one when playing away from the Polo Grounds, established a new National League mark for most consecutive road defeats.

Tracy Stallard, best known for giving up homer number 61 to Roger Maris, got the start for New York and was done in by the long ball. Two walks and a single in the first inning loaded the bases for Houston third baseman Bob Aspromonte, who drilled a liner into the left field stands for a grand slam. Oddly, the homer failed to kill the rally. The Colt .45s promptly reloaded the bases, this time on a hit batsman and a pair of singles, the last of which finally earned Stallard the hook. Reliever Galen Cisco allowed all three inherited runners to score, but was otherwise flawless in seven-plus innings of relief. The Mets offense couldn't solve Houston pitcher Turk Farrell, however, and that was that.

Birthdays
No mother has ever popped out a future Met on this date, though former NBA player Joe Smith can claim today as his birthday. Eleven years after the Golden State Warriors expended the first overall pick in the 1995 draft on Smith, the Mets selected a similarly named sidearmer from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. That Joe Smith had two pretty good years as a ROOGY in the Mets pen before being shipped back to the Buckeye State in the three-team J.J. Putz deal. He's done stalwart work for the Cleveland Indians ever since.

Game of Note
The Mets made Mike Torrez work overtime for a victory 30 years ago today. The craft right-hander rebounded from a start in which he issued a team record ten free passes over three-plus innings to walk just three Braves while tossing ten innings of one-run ball. Mookie Wilson made the effort stand up by slugging a walk-off homer against Atlanta reliever Ken Dayley in the first frame of bonus baseball. Said Wilson in a quote the author has shamelessly stolen from the excellently named Youngstown Vindicator, "It's time that I do a little more for this club than catch fly balls." Also of note: Part of the more Mookie did for the Mets on this day was instigate a bench-clearing brawl. The center fielder was the first victim in a beanball war that escalated into some on-field shouting and chest-thumping, but ultimately claimed no victims. Four innings later, Wilson delivered what was likely a very satisfying decisive blow.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Though Winston Churchill swore that the United Kingdom would never surrender to the Nazis, the British Bulldog was forced to step down as prime minister after his Conservative Party suffered a resounding defeat at the polls on this date in 1945. Named the Greatest Briton of all-time by the BBC in 2002, Churchill was actually half-American, born the son of the Lord Randolph, the 7th Duke of Marlborough, and Jennie Jerome, a New York socialite. Winston's maternal grandfather, Leonard W. Jerome, namesake of Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, was an Anglophile who built an eponymous horse track at the end of his titular thoroughfare. That's where the very first outdoor polo match played in the United States was held. The game caught on with the city's elite and other wealthy New Yorkers rushed to open similar facilities, starting a boom that produced the Polo Grounds that the Mets called home for the first two years of their existence.

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