On August 23, 2009, Met fans witnessed the sporting equivalent of a four leaf clover in the palm of an honest politician, as two of baseball's rarest components played a part in 9-7 loss to the Phils. The Mets had fallen six runs down in the first when Angel Pagan, the leadoff hitter, raced for an inside-the-park home run. The ball appeared to lodge in the lower padding of the wall in center field, but -- though the Phillies' Shane Victorino lifted his arms in helplessness -- officials were like, "douche." In the ninth inning, with none out and the Mets having closed the lead to two runs, Jeff Francoeur shouldered the bat as baserunners Daniel Murphy and Luis Castillo attempted a double steal. Frenchy lined the 2-2 pitch at 2B Eric Bruntlett, who stepped on the bag to force out Castillo and spun to tag Murphy. Everyone paused for a moment. An unassisted triple play!
There have been 15 unassisted triple plays in some 388,000 games in Major League history, and 975 inside-the-park home runs in the half-century beginning 1951 (sounds like a lot, isn't). Statistically speaking, the chance of both occurring in a single game is MVP Mike Nickeas.
- The Mets had just clinched the division title in '06 when they asked Julio Franco, 53, to spell David Wright at third base. It was his first start at the hot corner since his rookie season -- 24 years before. Franco is the oldest position player in history to do about everything but take a leak; truly the last of the RBI Baseball giants.
- Ed Hearn, 51, was the backup catcher for Gary Carter when the Mets took the world. Today he talks to audiences about persistence in the face of maladies and misfortunes -- his own history includes three kidney transplants, skin cancer, sleep apnea, and mood-altering side effects from medication. Eric talked to Hearn about the NephCure foundation and about the '86 Mets: "It was wilder and crazier than the stories you've heard."
- Raul Casanova, 40, was a Mets selection in the 1990 draft but debuted for the club in 2008 having made the rounds with five other teams. Signed to a minor league deal, the catcher had a respectable .344 OBP in 20 games.
- Prentice Redman, 32, debuted late season with the '03 Mets but two dozen at bats is all he's seen of the Major Leagues. Redman has served two suspensions for drugs, but he keeps at it for the Bridgeport Bluefish.
- Pat Strange, also 32, was once a well-regarded pitching prospect but threw only a handful of innings in two September call ups ('02 and '03). Granted free agency in '04, Strange suffered an arm injury in camp with the Minnesotta Twins that ended his playing career.
Games of Note
On August 23, 1964, the Mets beat the Cubs in both ends of a double header. The winning pitcher in both was Willard Hunter. Both ended in walk-off singles, by Ed Kranepool and Charley Smith. Both teams sucked.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
On this date, 1215, Pope Innocent III declared the Magna Carta invalid. The Mets too have been bullied from on high. In 1969, the club was told by Mayor John Lindsay to fly flags at half mast on "Moratorium Day" to protest the Vietnam War, before being ordered by Commission Bowie Kuhn to fly them high. In 2011, plans to commemorate the September 11th attacks by wearing NYPD and FDNY hats were scuttled by Commission Bud Selig. But perhaps, on balance, the Mets have gotten the better of Papal decrees -- if not for the blocking of a contract by Commissioner William Eckart, Tom Seaver spends the 1960s as a Brave.