On November 6, 1997, the Milwaukee Brewers switched to the NL in order to maintain an even number of teams in each league. For once, Mets fans had something to thank Bud Selig for. The move turns out to be the greatest gift from a commissioner since Spike Eckert pulled the Mets’ name out of hat and awarded us Tom Seaver.
For the first time since the halcyon days of the expansion Expos and Padres, the Amazin’s had a patsy. After losing their first bout in Milwaukee (sorry, Mr. Mlicki, your 15 minutes of fame are up), the Mets won the remaining eight contests, outscoring the Brew Crew 42-21. They continued to dominate for the next four years, the only blip being a 3-3 season in 2001--and that merits an asterisk because it included the infamous Brett Hinchliffe start.
Then the bubble burst in 2003 when our boys’ 3-6 record vs. the Brews should have been reason enough to send Art Howe packing a year ahead of schedule. Since then the two teams have played each other even. Well, it was fun while it lasted.
One memorable game for me during that five-year, 28-9 stretch was on April 20, 2000. It was a typically cold April night at Shea made worse by a steady drizzle and an unsteady Al Leiter, who yielded three home runs. Two of those were socked by Charlie Hayes, extracting a bit of revenge against the team that signed him in January only to release him in March.
The Mets were down 4-1 after six, their only hit off the immortal Steve Woodard a solo blast by Mike Piazza. The only thing colder than the Mets’ bats is yours truly, contemplating breaking my sacred 38-season oath to never leave before the last out is made. But I stick it out and my faith is rewarded with a three-run rally in the seventh. Then my faith is tested again: it’s positively freezing now, so of course we must have extra innings. Thankfully, after Jon Nunnally whiffed to start the bottom of the 10th, Melvin Mora hit the next pitch from Curt Leskanic over the fence—happy recap!
On July 30, 2000, Bubba Trammell, who turns 41 today, homered in his first Mets at-bat, which was also the third consecutive home run of that inning, following Todd Zeile and Jay Payton. The serviceable outfielder was traded that off season for Donne Wall, the 109th Padre pitcher who would crash and burn in Flushing.
Happy 59th birthday to John Candelaria, the last of 12 different starters used by the Mets in 1987. The lanky lefty got lit up in his first start, then pitched well and won twice. The Mets wanted him back, but The Candy Man saw a better opportunity to be a full-time starter with the Yankees, with whom he would have one of his sweetest seasons in 1989.
Jim Gosger, briefly a ’69 Met, hits the big 7-0 today. Fearing they might run short of light-hitting outfielders, the Mets re-acquired him by trading four players to the Expos on December 3, 1971. Although the quartet comprised non-prospect minor leaguers, the move eerily foreshadows their dispatching Nolan Ryan plus three other players for an over-the-hill Jim Fregosi exactly one week later.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On this date in 1973, Abraham D. Beame was elected mayor of New York City. It was Beame who, as the city’s budget director in 1960, requested nearly half a million dollars for architects to draw up the final designs for a new Mets ballpark in Flushing, Queens. The stadium that would ultimately be named for William A. Shea , who was instrumental in bringing National League baseball back to New York and who would help manage one of Beame’s earlier mayoral campaigns.