Coming off a doubleheader loss that snapped a six-game winning streak, the Mets on this date in 1969 proved their mettle with a hard-fought, 14-inning, 6-4 victory in St. Louis that began another run of six straight wins. Lefty Jerry Koosman was "cruise man" that night, sailing into the eighth inning with a 4-0 lead until a wave of wildness threw him off course. After retiring the first two Cardinal batters, he walked three straight, prompting manager Gil Hodges to summon his right-handed bullpen ace Ron Taylor to pitch to the right-handed batting Julian Javier. Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst countered with left-swinging Vic Davalillo, who hit a 1-0 pitch over the right-field fence for a game-tying pinch grand slam.
After the Mets failed to capitalize on a lead-off error in their half of the ninth, on came Tug McGraw, who performed a six-inning high-wire act, shutting down the Cardinals despite allowing 11 men to reach base. With two out in the bottom of the ninth, the speedy Curt Flood tried to score from first on Vada Pinson's double to right-center, but was cut down at the plate by a strong throw from center-fielder Tommie Agee. In the 10th, McGraw pitched out of a bases loaded, no out jam, and the 13th inning ended with Tim McCarver popping out, also with the bases loaded.
In the top of the 14th, Ron Willis retired the first two Mets to face him. Then Agee singled, stole second and scored on a single by Ken Boswell. Next, Willis hit Cleon Jones with a pitch and walked Rod Gaspar to load the bases. Up stepped the hitting star of the game for the Mets, Wayne Garrett, who worked out a walk to force in an insurance run. It was his fourth RBI of the night, the previous three coming on a double and a pair of two-out singles. The game ended with McGraw fanning Lou Brock, the potential tying run at the plate.
San Francisco Giants center-fielder Angel Pagan is spending his 32nd birthday in an all-too-familiar place for him: the disabled list. That's where he spent most of 2008 after making a sensational catch of a pop fly that landed him in the left-field seats at Dodger Stadium. It was that kind of effort and enthusiasm that would make him a fan favorite, despite occasional lapses in the field and on the base paths. Over three-plus seasons he compiled a 10.8 WAR before being sent west in an ill-fated trade for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez.
Journeyman catcher Tim Spehr, turning 47 today, looked like the perfect placeholder for the injured Todd Hundley in March of 1998. Spehr hit five home runs in spring training, but did next to nothing once the season started, posting a .424 OPS and three RBI in 60 plate appearances. This may have been a blessing in disguise; had he continued his March prowess until Hundley was healthy, the Mets may never have pulled the trigger on the Mike Piazza deal.
The late Hal Reniff would have been 75 today. He looked like a steal when he came to the Mets from the Yankees on his 29th birthday in 1967. The righty reliever's pitching line over his first 11 appearances in orange and blue: 21 IP, 0 ER 9 H, 12K, 2 BB, resulting in three wins (all deserved), four saves and one blown save (allowing an inherited runner to score). He came down to earth quickly, however, gaining a full run on his ERA over the rest of the season.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
The first U.S. elevated railroad service began in New York City on this date in 1867. It was more like an overhead cable car system, but it was the progenitor of today's elevated trains, including the No. 7 line that stops at Cit Field. The 7 became nationally famous thanks to nasty, racist, anti-New York comments by Atlanta closer John Rocker in the December 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated, remarks that made the already despised Rocker even more villainous in the hearts of Mets fans. Coincidentally, on July 2, 2000, at Shea Stadium, a ball Rocker casually tossed into the stands was thrown back onto the field by Gregory Sweeney, who was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment. Justice prevailed, however, as Sweeney was exonerated by Queens DA Richard Brown, who ruled that the fan was guilty only of following baseball tradition by "returning the unsolicited and unwanted souvenir."