Now that David Wright and Matt Harvey are officially heading to the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field as representatives of the home team, it seems like a good time to look back on the last time the best players from both leagues came to Queens. Forty-nine years ago today, Shea Stadium hosted its one and only Midsummer Classic, a back and forth affair that saw the National League surge to a 7-4 victory with two out in the ninth.
Just under 51,000 baseball fans flocked to the ten-week old Flushing Meadows arena on July 7, 1964, the largest All-Star Game crowd since the '59 exhibition in Los Angeles. For a mere eight bucks, a rabid Mets booster could sit in the front row directly behind home plate and root on second baseman Ron Hunt, the lone member of the Amazins to make the squad.
Hunt easily topped Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski in the balloting, getting 172 votes from National League players and coaches, compared to just 52 for runner-up Maz (MLB disenfranchised fans after folks in Cincinnati elected seven Reds to start the 1957 All-Star Game. The commissioner's office wouldn't give the right to vote back to the public until 1970.) Even though Hunt was democratically selected by his peers, NL manager Walter Alston didn't sound too thrilled that he had to stick the Met in the starting lineup. As he told reporters before the game, "What if the score is tied, the bases are loaded, and two out with Hunt up? Would the fans let me pinch hit with Hank Aaron?"
Oddly, that exact scenario nearly came to pass. In the bottom of the ninth, Hunt, was scheduled to bat against Red Sox reliever Dick "The Monster" Radatz with one out, two runners on, and the score deadlocked at four. To the displeasure of the crowd, Alston did indeed pull the hometown favorite for Aaron. Hammerin' Hank couldn't connect with any of Radatz's offerings and went down swinging. The next batter, Johnny Callison of the Phillies, tamed the Monster by cracking a three-run homer over the right field fence for the walk-off win.
- John Buck turns 33. He'd probably prefer to celebrate his special day anywhere but Milwaukee, as he's hit a paltry .152/.282/.333 at Miller Park over the course of his career.
- Bob Gallagher is 65. The grandson of outfielder Shano Collins, a non-implicated member of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox team, Gallagher batted .133/.188/.200 wearing the blue stirrups of the Mets in 1975. Bob's last game for New York was his most memorable. He scored the winning run in the 12th inning of a 3-2 win over the Phillies on the third to last day of the season.
- Two years before becoming a Met in 2009, Andy Green, 36, was lured to Japan by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, where he was expected to fill the gold lamé cleats of the recently retired Tsuyoshi Shinjo. It was a tough job made tougher by the numerous injuries Green suffered over the course of the season. He was hurt most of his time in the Mets organization, too, though he did go one-for-four with a walk in five plate appearances for the big club.
- Tommy Moore, a pitcher who started one game for the Mets in 1972 and another in '73, celebrates his 65th birthday. The first of the pair went much better: seven innings of one-run ball against the Expos compared to a five-run disaster start versus the Giants that saw him get yanked just four outs into the game.
- Also turning 65 is current third base coach Tim Teufel. The Greenwich, Connecticut native gradually became a fan favorite thanks to the "Teufel Shuffle", a gyrating hip motion he employed to get loose in the batter's box. The normally mild-mannered infielder also endeared himself with occasional displays of a feisty side. In 1986 alone, Teufel scrapped it up with teammates (season-long tormentor Darryl Strawberry) and police (he was one of four Mets arrested for brawling with an off-duty cop at a Houston bar called Cooter's).
Game of Note
Shea Stadium also hosted the opposite of an All-Star Game on this date in 1979, as the Mets and Padres, two clubs with a combined 71-94 record, met for a Saturday afternoon contest. Before the game, New York announced that Dolores Mapps of Mercerville, New Jersey had won a fan contest to rename the team's mascot. The mascot in question wasn't Mr. Met, however. He remains without a first name to this day. It was Arthur, a mule adopted by the team at the behest of Bebe de Roulet, daughter of Mets owner Lorinda de Roulet. According to Ms. Mapps's winning submission, Arthur would henceforth be known as Mettle, a name that represented "spirit, ardor, stamina, and courage, all of which the Mets have in abundance."
The team showed none of that on the field against the Padres. Starting pitcher Dock Ellis allowed four first inning runs while relievers Dale Murray and Wayne Twitchell conspired to let six more Friars cross the plate in the game's final three innings to doom the mettle-deprived Mets to an 11-3 loss.
Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
Ringo Starr, the Beatles' elder statesman, turns 73 today. Back when he was a young lad of 25 and Beatlemania was at its peak, Ringo and his bandmates played a somewhat famous set at Shea Stadium, a gig he later described as "very big and very strange." Here's a clip of the birthday boy taking lead vocals on Act Naturally from somewhere in the vicinity of second base.