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This Date In Mets History: February 27 — The Sacrifice Fly Is Introduced; Wright, Carter, And Hojo Excel At It

The team struggled mightily in these situations until the 1980s.

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One hundred and five years ago today the sacrifice fly rule was adopted. Over the years it would be repealed, revived, and tinkered with until it became a permanent fixture in 1954.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the Mets were less than adept at hitting run-scoring fly balls, far more often than not finishing in the bottom third (and sometimes last) of the league in that offensive category. In fact, no Mets player would reach double digits in sac flies until Keith Hernandez showed them how it’s done, collecting 10 in 1985. Not to be outdone, Gary Carter amassed 15 the following season. That’s still a club record, matched only by Howard Johnson in 1991. Bernard Gilkey fell three short in 1997.

David Wright’s first sac fly of 2013 will be his 59th, giving him the Mets’ club career mark, eclipsing yet another Ed Kranepool record. He passed Hojo two seasons ago. Having signed a long-term deal with the Mets this winter, Wright appears to have a lock on this, and most other Mets offensive records, in perpetuity.

That said, some of us will never understand why the batter isn’t charged with a time at bat the way another player would be if he drove in the runner from third with a ground out to deep short. It’s not a true sacrifice because the batter is trying for a hit, not giving himself up (although he may alter his approach in hopes of lifting the ball into the air). A player gets credit for a sac fly and no at-bat even if he makes the second out in the ninth inning with his team trailing by 10 runs. You would never give up an out on a sac bunt in a similar situation, although, as Mets fans, we’ve seen stranger things.

The players’ strike in 1994 was a blessing in disguise for right-hander Pete Smith, who turns 47 today. His league-leading 25 home runs allowed plus a 1.42 WHIP contributed to a 4–10 record and a then career-high 5.55 ERA. Two years earlier, Smith looked like he would become a permanent part of a dominating Braves rotation, posting an anomalous 7–0, 2.05 record, but he slipped down in 1993 and was traded to New York for future Brooklyn Cyclones color commentator Dave Gallagher. Somehow, Smith managed to carve out an 11-year big league career.

A very special 80th birthday shout-out to Sammy Taylor, who caught both ends of doubleheader at the Polo Grounds on July 7, 1962. He also homered in each game, accounting for two-thirds of his long-ball output that season. He was upstaged by Marv Throneberry, whose two-run, walk-off pinch home run gave the Amazins a 5–4 win in the opener. I remember it all very well because it was the first baseball game(s) I ever attended.

Amazin’-ly Tenuous Connection
When the Grammy Awards were handed out on this date in 1980, two winning songs in particular expressed sentiments that explain why fans like me have managed to stick with our team over the years. These are: “What a Fool Believes,” which speaks to our unfounded optimism as we construct unlikely how-we-can-win-the-pennant scenarios, and “I Will Survive,” which rang especially true in 1980 following three awful seasons that comprised the “Grant’s Tomb” era.

Billy Joel won for his album “52nd Street,” although it was his performance on Roosevelt Avenue in 2008 that would leave a lasting impression on Mets fans. And just for fun we would like to note that “Best New Artist” Rickie Lee Jones shares initials and a middle name with then Mets pitcher Roy Lee Jackson.