On July 9, 1969, the surging Mets beat the first-place Chicago Cubs 4-0 for their seventh straight win, pulling within 3.5 games of the division leaders (and only one down in the loss column). They did it on the strength of Tom Seaver's 14th victory as the Amazins' ace lowered his ERA to 2.46. Still, the 50,000-plus fans at Shea Stadium that night went home disappointed, having witnessed Tom Terrific take a perfect game into the ninth inning only to lose it on a clean single to left-center by the hitherto unknown rookie Jimmy Qualls. Seaver and the fans settled for a one-hitter.
Qualls, who entered the game with a paltry .261 on-base percentage, was the number-eight batter in a lineup that featured three future Hall-of-Famers and three other players who would see action in the All-Star Game that following Tuesday. It should be noted that Qualls was not among Seaver's 11 strikeout victims that night. As catcher Jerry Grote pointed out after the game, "We didn't know exactly how to pitch Qualls since we haven't seen him at all this year." One other Cub who made contact in all three at-bats was catcher Randy Hundley, who earned a round of loud boos when he attempted to bunt his way on leading off the ninth.
Other Game of Note
On the first anniversary of his near-perfect game, Tom Seaver hit his first major league home run. On the mound, he settled for a complete game three-hitter that day as the Mets beat Montreal 7-1.
Happy 67th birthday to George Stone, who played a pivotal role in the Mets' "Little Miracle" of 1973. His 3.0 WAR was impressive enough for a fourth starter, but it was huge for a team that won the NL East in their 161st game with the worst record (82-79) for a first-place finisher in baseball history. (The San Diego Padres eclipsed that mark by going 82-20 in 2005.) After pitching to an 0.60 ERA in seven relief appearances, Stone joined the rotation on June 2 and, in 20 starts, went 11-3 with a 3.05 ERA, 1.3 WHIP, and 2.4 K/BB. Despite a sterling outing versus the Reds in the NLCS that year, he was relegated to the bullpen for the World Series, leading to one of the most-debated topics in the history of Metdom: Should manager Yogi Berra have started Stone against the Oakland A's in Game Game Six, thereby enabling Tom Seaver, if needed, to pitch Game Seven on his normal four days rest? As it turned out, Tom was terrific in Game Six, but lost 2-1, while Jon Matlack, also pitching on three days' rest, was not up to the task, yielding four earned runs in 2.2 innings as the Amazins dropped the deciding game 5-2.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On this date in 1878, Henry Tibbe patented the corncob pipe. Such a pipe is an iconic, if somewhat incongruous, part of the costume worn by Coffee, the panhandling pooch who poses for pics (and tips) outside Citi Field before most Mets home games wearing a Mets cap, David Wright jersey, neckerchief, and sunglasses. Owner Norberto Fernandez, who rescued Coffee from the streets several years ago, has had to fend off accusations of abuse by animal rights activists, but thus far has been exonerated by the ASPCA. If you pose for a photo, don't abuse the privilege: please pay up. As the sign, purportedly written by Coffee herself, says, "I love everyone except cheap people."