For a team with a checkered past when it comes to offensive production, it's not surprising that the Mets have had some long droughts when it comes to hitting grand slams. Rod Kanehl ended the first such stretch in franchise history on this date in 1962, becoming the first Met to connect for a homer with the bases loaded in the team's 79th game.With the Amazins leading St. Louis 6-1 in the bottom of the eighth, Hot Rod added four insurance runs by socking a slam into the stands at the Polo Grounds. Also homering that day was Gil Hodges. In the second, he hit the 370th and final round tripper of his fine career, which pushed him past Ralph Kiner and into sole possession of tenth place on the all-time home run leader board. As of this writing, Hodges sits at the number 72 slot, though teammates Lance Berkman (366) and Adrian Beltre (362) are closing in.
In more recent Mets history, two-time All-Star Jesse Orosco made his only actual appearance in a Midsummer Classic on this date in 1983 (he was selected again the follow season, but didn't pitch). With the National League trailing 11-3 in the bottom of the seventh, manager Whitey Herzog called on the lefty to keep the game close. Orosco rose to the challenge, fanning Milwaukee's Ben Ogilvie to end the frame and strand Willie Wilson and Lou Whitaker on second and third respectively. Johnny Bench pinch hit for Jesse in the top of the eighth and popped out, while his mound replacement, Lee Smith gave up the final two runs of a 13-3 Junior Circuit blowout.
- Lance Johnson, a All-Star Met in 1996, is 50. One Dog batted leadoff in all but two games New York played that season, pacing the National League in plate appearances (724), hits (227) and triples (21). All are current Mets records. At the Midsummer Classic in Philadelphia, Bobby Cox penciled Johnson in at the top of the NL order and Johnson responded by going three-for-four with a double and a stolen base.
- Willie Randolph, no stranger to the All-Star Game either, turns 59. As a player, the Browsnville-born second baseman represented the Yankees in five exhibitions and the Dodgers in one. He was also one of five Mets at the 2007 game in San Francisco, having been asked to join manager Tony LaRussa's coaching staff. That seems to be where Randolph's future in baseball is. Since the Mets gave him the axe, he's served as bench coach for Ken Macha in Milwaukee (2009-2010) and Buck Showalter in Baltimore (2011).
Game of Note
On May 7, 1970, Wes Parker of the Los Angeles Dodgers broke a 4-4 tie in the tenth inning by lacing a triple over the head of center fielder Tommie Agee. The three-bagger plated two, saddled Jim McAndrew with a loss, and made Parker the fourth Dodgers player in history to hit for the cycle. Almost exactly two months later, Agee made it up to McAndrew by hitting for the cycle himself in the pitcher's July 6 start against St. Louis. The man from Magnolia, Alabama tapped a seeing-eye single in the third and then came around to score on Ken Singleton's homer. One inning later, Agee himself went deep himself, knocking a three-run shot out of the park. He picked up another RBI in the fifth by pulling a grounder that skipped down the left field line for a double. Saving the toughest part for last, Agee punched a fly into Shea Stadium's right field corner. The ball rattled around long enough for the fleet-footed Agee to make it three-fourths of the way around the bases. Final score: Mets 10, Cardinals 3.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Today is Jan Hus Day in the Czech Republic. It's an annual public holiday that celebrates the religious reformer Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake in 1415 for speaking out against the Crusades and the practice of papal indulgences. In the six centuries since Hus's unfortunate demise, there have been just two Czech-born players to make it to the major leagues. The most recent, Elmer Valo, retired after the 1961 season to accept a scouting job with the Mets organization. He doesn't appear to have signed any prospects of note, though he does have another tie to the club. In 1999, Matt Franco ended 19 pinch hit appearances by coaxing a free pass to break Valo's 39-year old record for most pinch hit walks in a season.