June 26 hasn't always been kind to the Mets, especially in recent seasons, but some left-handed hitters have had memorable games for the Amazins on this date over the years.
2000: Mark Johnson's two-run pinch home run in the 6th inning put the Mets up 6-3. That would have been enough to beat the Marlins who only scored two more runs, but Johnson's moment in the sun was upstaged by righty swingers Jay Payton, Melvin Mora, and Benny Agbayani, who all homered in the following inning. For Agbayani, it was his second round-tripper of the day.
1983: In the first game of a doubleheader against Philadelphia, Rusty Staub delivered his eighth straight pinch hit. That tied the major league record set 25 years earlier by the Phillies' Dave Philley. The Mets lost that game 8-4, but won the nightcap 5-1 on the strength of Darryl Strawberry's game-tying home run and go-head two-run triple.
1978: With the Mets trailing the Cubs 4-1 in the fifth inning, Ed Kranepool smacked a game-tying, three-run pinch home run. Fellow lefty-swinging first-baseman Willie Montanez capped the six-run inning with a two-run blast. Alas, the Cubs immediately answered with six runs of their own and went on to beat the Amazins 10-9.
1976: John Milner's third-inning grand slam put the Mets ahead to stay as they routed the Cubs 10-2.
1963: At the Polo Grounds, first-baseman Tim Harkness's fourth hit of the afternoon was a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 14th inning to beat the Cubs, 8-6. Spoiler alert: On September 1 that year, Harkness hit a two-run walk-off homer to end a 16-inning marathon versus the Braves.
Current Columbus Clippers second baseman Luis Hernandez celebrates his 29th birthday today. In late 2010 he became the seventh Hernandez to play for he Mets. Seven was not a lucky number for Luis, as he failed his audition to be a backup infielder (his .298 on-base percentage didn't help) and was granted free agency that October.
The third time was not quite the charm the Mets were hoping for when they traded for Jason Middlebrook, who turns 38 today, on July 31, 2002. New York had drafted him in 1993, but he did not sign, and in October 2000 they selected him off waivers from San Diego, who snatched him back a month later when the Mets couldn't find room for him on their 40-man roster. When they finally landed Middlebrook, in the aforementioned deal that sent Double-A outfielder Jason Bay to the Padres, he had three promising starts that September but failed to impress as a reliever in a brief stint in 2003.
The late Bill Robinson would have been 70 today. After five years as Davey Johnson's first base and hitting coach, he was let go after the 1989 season even though the Mets that season finished first in the league in home runs, third in runs per game and OPS, and second in OPS+. His firing and that of third base coach Sam Perlozzo were generally perceived as a warning to Johnson, who himself would be gone after 42 games in 1990.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Coney Island's landmark roller-coaster, The Cyclone, opened for business on this date in 1927. The iconic thrill ride was the inspiration for the nickname of the Mets short-season A-level farm club, the Brooklyn Cyclones. The Cyclones, who play at MCU Park, a few blocks west of the coaster on Surf Avenue, made their debut on the eve of The Cyclone's 74th anniversary. In the first pro baseball game played in Brooklyn since the Dodgers departed after the 1957 season, the Cyclones beat the Mahoning Valley Scrappers 3-2 in 10 innings on a sacrifice fly by Mike Jacobs, one of 19 Brooklyn players who would eventually join the big league club. There are eight Cyclones alumni on the current active roster, plus two on the disabled list and one slugging first baseman who is expected to rejoin the team shortly.