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This Date In Mets History: July 23 — Miracle Met All-Stars, Kenny Rogers Roasted

You got to know when to hold 'em / Know when to fold 'em / Know when  a walk / Will force in a run.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
You got to know when to hold 'em / Know when to fold 'em / Know when a walk / Will force in a run. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Miracle Mets sent three representatives to the 40th annual Midsummer Classic, which was played on this date in 1969. Cleon Jones got the start in left for the NL All-Stars and he proved a worthy choice, going 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored. On the pitching side of the ledger, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman were both selected to fill out the Senior Circuit's staff. Seaver did not make an appearance, but Jerry Koosman tossed one and two-thirds scoreless innings of relief in the NL's 9-3 win.

Five years later, Mets manager Yogi Berra helmed the National League team at the 1974 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. Joining Yogi at Three Rivers Stadium was a Mets-centric battery of Jon Matlack and Jerry Grote. Making the first of three consecutive All-Star appearances, Matlack impressed by pitching an uneventful sixth inning. Grote, on the other hand, rode the pine until the ninth, when he subbed in as defensive replacement for Johnny Bench. Considering Grote's OPS in 1974 was .661, it's safe to say fans were not disappointed that he missed the chance to take a few cuts.

GM Steve Phillips tended to be busy around the trade deadline regardless of whether or not the Mets were actually in contention. The team was in the thick of things in 1999 and 2000, and Phillips engineered deals on July 23 both years. Neither worked out especially well.

In 1999, Phillips sent Terrence Long and Leo Vasquez to the Oakland Athletics for Kenny Rogers. The Gambler pitched decently enough down the stretch, going 5-1 with a 4.01 ERA, but got shelled in the postseason, starting and losing Game 2 of both the Division and League Championship Series. The less said about his final appearance in a Mets uniform, the better.

The next year, Phillips and Reds GM Jim Bowden agreed to a trade that would bring new Hall of Famer Barry Larkin to the Mets in exchange for a package built around former phenom Paul Wilson. Larkin, exercising his 10-and-5 rights, said he would veto the deal unless New York agreed to grant him a three-year, $27.9 million extension. Mets ownership balked at the demand and Larkin remained a Reds lifer. Spurned, Phillips kept his cool and executed plan B, sending Melvin Mora and others to the Baltimore Orioles for Mike Bordick, which wasn't a panic move in the least.

Game of Note
The 1988 Mets were a juggernaut, running roughshod over the National League en route to the third (and, to date, last) 100 win season in team history. The 1988 Braves, meanwhile, were on pace to lose 106 games, the most since the franchise relocated to Atlanta. On July 23, however, the tables would turn, due mainly to a promising young rookie making his debut for the Bravos. In his first big league start, and facing the NL's top offense no less, a 21-year old John Smoltz was masterful, hurling eight innings of one-run ball to earn a 6-1 victory. At the time, the loss dropped the Mets to a mere 20 games over .500, so it's doubtful anyone lost too much sleep over it. In retrospect, though, the contest seems like an early sign that the balance of power in the NL was starting to shift .

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On this date in 1885, former president and Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant passed away. Twelve years later, on what would have been his 75th birthday, the general was interred in Grant's Tomb on Manhattan's Upper West Side. During the late 70's, when the Mets were perennial basement dwellers and the fans stayed away in droves, Shea Stadium was mockingly referred to as Grant's Tomb, a reference to team chairman M. Donald Grant.