I was so excited to chat to my best friend Phil after the Mets beat the Os on a walk-off home run on Monday.
Sure, it’s only spring training and only a handful of people will remember it, but a walk-off is a walk-off, right?
It is still something to get pumped up about and it’s one of the most exciting things to witness live. And so, it got me wondering about the Mets.
With 34 days until the Mets walk into Citi Field, here’s my tribute to those who walked off the field at Shea Stadium with a blast.
Let’s start with some facts to get you in the mood. After hours of research, and I mean hours, here’s 10 facts any Mets fan should enjoy.
- There have been 101 regular season walk-off home runs in Shea Stadium history, including three in the postseason.
- The first walk-off was back on July 1, 1964 – Shea’s inaugural year – when Frank Thomas took St Louis pitcher Curt Simmons deep in front of a 13,804-strong crowd to give the Mets a come-from-behind 3-2 victory in the bottom of the 9th inning.
- The last walk-off at Shea came on August 7, 2008, when David Wright beat Heath Bell and the Padres with a 9th inning blast to break a 3-3 tie.
- There are four Mets who are tied for the most walk-off home runs at Shea Stadium. Mike Piazza, Chris Jones, Cleon Jones and Kevin McReynolds each has four.
- The Mets have beat 16 different teams with walk-off home runs. The most victimised are the Cubbies who have lost a dozen games with a walk-off.
- There have only been three seasons when the Mets have failed to win a game with a walk-off: 1973, 1979 and 1994.
- Spare a thought for Claude Raymond. The Mets beat him with walk-off blasts in 1965 and 1967 when he was with Houston and then again in 1969 when he returned with Atlanta. He must have hated visiting Shea.
- Only three Mets have ever hit a grand slam walk off. Mike Jorgensen did it against Rick Sutcliffe in 1980; Tim Teufel broke an 11th-inning 4-4 tie by taking the Phillies’ Tom Hume deep in 1986; and Kevin McReynolds hit a 3-on, 2-out jack against Scott Ruskin and the Expos to walk off in 1991.
- No Met ever hit a walk-off at Shea when the team was trailing by three runs.
- The most-watched regular-season walk-off at Shea came in 1971 when Donn Clendenon won the game with two men out and nobody on in the 15th inning in front of more than 52,000.
Top 10 Mets walk-off home runs
But that’s not all I have for you today. Let me share the fruits of my labour. Here are my New York Mets top 10 walk-off home runs. Some I have seen a hundred times; others I never knew existed until I began digging through old box scores. Enjoy…
10) July 9, 1977 – The Mets’ 3B and leadoff hitter Len Randle breaks a 5-5 tie in the bottom of the 17th inning by sending Will McEnaney’s pitch into the Saturday sky for a 2-out, 2rbi walk-off home run.The Mets had put up a 4-spot in the 5th inning to take the lead 4-3 but the Expos answered straight back with a run in the top of the 6th. Both sides added a single tun in the 11th and Montreal had a chance to win it in the 12th but they stranded runners on the corners.
Randle brought the 4hr17min marathon to an end with his late heroics and finished with 2/6 with 3rbi, a walk, a stolen base, a sac fly and a pair of strikeouts.
9) July 2001 – The Philadelphia Phillies must have hated the New York Mets by the time they left Queens in July of 2001.
First, 3B Robin Ventura took Turk Wendell’s 2nd pitch of the 9th inning to right-centre field to give the Mets the walk-off win and then Mike Piazza dispatched Rheal Cormier to left-centre field to win the game the following day.
On the Saturday, Wendell had retired the Mets in order in the home half of the 8th, but he was unable to get the better of Ventura who connected for his 18th home run of the year.
Things didn’t get any better for the Phils the very next day. They had tied the next game at 5-5 when Armando Benitez blew the save, but Piazza connected for his 26th home run of the campaign in the bottom of the 9th.
8) October 9, 1999 – Bobby Valentine’s Mets clinched the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks with Todd Pratt’s extra-innings walk-off home run.
Pratt’s 10th inning blast to centre field narrowly cleared a leaping Steve Finley’s glove to give the Mets a 4-3 win and a 3-1 series victory.
Pratt was in the lineup because of an injury to Mike Piazza and he made the most of his chance in the limelight.
Matt Mantei was the villian for the D’Backs, giving up the 2-run shot and ending their chances of post-season glory.
7) July 1996 – See entry 9? Well, the Pittsburgh Pirates can tell the Phillies just how that feels after suffering a near identical fate almost exactly five years earlier.
Here’s the scene. Picture it. The Mets rally from 4-3 behind in the bottom of the 8th inning to win the first game in a day-night doubleheader 5-4 thanks to back-to-back pinch-hit RBIs from Andy Tomberlin and Carlos Baerga.
In the nightcap, Alvaro Espinoza – pinch-hitting for Rey Ordonez – ties the game 4-4 in the bottom of the 9th inning and Todd Hundley – who pinch-hit for pitcher Dough Henry in the 9th inning and remained in the game as the Mets’ catcher – won it with a solo walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th against Jon Lieber.
Think it couldn’t get worse, right? Wrong.
Left fielder Bernard Gilkey snatches victory away from the Pirates in the following day’s game at Shea with a home run to lead off the bottom of the 9th inning. Then, after Jason Kendall had given the Pirates a 2-1 lead with a 2-out RBI in the 10th, Chris Jones hit a walk-off 2-run bomb off of Dan Plesac to win the game after the tying run had reached on an error.
Proof that the Pirates have had bad luck for more than a decade.
6) June 17, 1976 – The first of two pitching duels makes the list at number 6 as the Mets toppled the Dodgers in 14.
Dave Kingman went yard at the expense of Charlie Hough to hand the Mets a narrow 1-0 victory, but the game should be remembered just as much for the pitching.
The Dodgers’ Don Sutton – a 1998 inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame and pitcher who had 58 career shutouts – threw 9 innings of shutout ball, only to be bettered by the Mets’ rightie Craig Swan who struck out eight batters and surrendered just three hits in 10 innings of work.
5) October 7, 2000 – Benny Agbayani is one of only three Mets hitters to have the distinction of a postseason walk-off home run at Shea Stadium.
His came in the 2000 National League Championship Series to see off the San Francisco Giants in Game 3.
With a man down in the 13th, Benny homered to left-centre field off of Aaron Fultz to give the Amazins’ a 3-2 win in front of more than 56,000 fans.
The game lasted 5hrs 22mins, but it could have been very different. Barry Bonds popped out to 2B to strand Ramon Martinez and Bill Mueller in the top of the inning.
Unfortunately, Mets fans know how the rest of this postseason turned out – a 4-1 Subway Series defeat to the Yankees.
4) April 9, 1985 – The 1985 season got off to a bang when Gary Carter drilled an Opening Day extra-inning walk-off home run to see off the Cardinals.
Carter had been hit by two pitches and doubled already in this game, but the most excitement was still to come when he took Neil Allen deep with 1-out in the bottom of the 10th.
What started so promisingly would see the Mets to a 97-64 record, the second best in the National League, behind only the aforementioned cardinals who were the only team to top the 100-win season.
3) August 19, 1969 – The second one for the purists right here – and another mammoth pitching duel.
The Mets won their fifth consecutive game and moved to within eight games of the National League East-leading Chicago Cubs in a memorable game against the San Francisco Giants at Shea.
Leadoff batter Tommie Agee, the Mets starting CF, hit a 1-out walk-off home run against Juan Marichal in the bottom of the 14th inning to win the game 1-0.
Marichal picked up the complete game loss despite only giving up seven baserunners (six singles and a walk) and striking out 13 Mets in 13 1/3 innings of work.
Gary Gentry, incidently, pitched equally as beautifully for the Mets, throwing 10 shutout innings of four-hit ball against a lineup that included Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Bobby Bonds.
2) October 11, 1986 – Remember Mookie ‘s dribbler that famously got through Bill Buckner’s legs to give the Mets the World Series? Of course you do. It’s enshrined in baseballing folklore.
But oh how things could have been different, in many ways than one.
With the Mets and Astros tied in the NLCS series at one game each, the Mets were staring defeat in the face in game three, down 5-4 with a man away in the 9th.
But Lenny Dykstra makes history by becoming the first man in postseason history to hit a walk-off home run for a team which is trailing.
He took Houston reliever Dave Smith’s 0-1 pitch for a 2-run bomb to right field to give the Mets a 6-5 victory and 2-1 NLCS lead.
The Mets would win the series 4-2, but history could easily have been rewritten. The Astros would win game four 3-1 and would have been just one win away from the World Series against the Red Sox had it not been for Lenny. This could be the biggest home run ever hit by a Met. But it is still only enough to make number 2 on my list.
1) October 17, 1999 – The most famous ‘non grand slam’ grand slam of all time: Robin Ventura’s Grand Slam Single which ended game five of the 1999 NLCS against the Braves.
As far as walk-offs go, this is up there with the very finest of the Mets’ collection.
Yes, officially it counted as an RBI single, but take nothing away from what this most memorable of occasions.
The Mets had falled behind 3-2 in the top of the 15th inning when Keith Lockhart hit an RBI-triple off of Octavio Dotel to score Walt Weiss.
With one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the frame – after an incredible 5hrs 46mins of play – catcher Todd Pratt drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game at 3-3.
What followed was incredible. Ventura crushed Kevin McGlinchy’s 2-1 pitch over the wall in right-centre field for a heart-pounding and frenzied victory.
Todd Pratt picked up Ventura as he rounded second and the rest of his team mates mobbed the third baseman in celebration, meaning Ventura would never touch home plate…or even third for that matter. In fact, only Cedeno would come across to score, meaning the ‘home run’ was scored as an RBI single, giving the Mets a 4-3 win.
What is remarkable is that, despite how famous this play has become, there has still never been an actual walk-off grand slam home run in the playoffs. But hey, Robin doesn’t mind. And neither do Mets fans.
For more Mets news and fantasy updates, return to my blog home page here.
Mike was the reason I got
into baseball, into the Mets, so the thought of him being tarnished
with this brush just killed me.
It is so heart-wrenching to
even contemplate the idea of all of the heroes you grew up with being
corrupt. Yeah he’s Italian, but he’s also as much of a stereotypical
All-American as you could hope to find.
For me, I can’t bring
myself to think he was one of those guys. The kind of person who
needs an asterisk next to their name.
When Major League
Baseball started testing for performance-enhancing substances in
2004, Mike was 35 years old.
The common consensus was that he
was never more than an average defensive catcher – Mets fans won’t
argue this point. But at 35 years of age, his best days of swinging
for the fences with his trademark blond Mizuno bat were also behind
But it got me thinking – Assuming Mike was on the juice,
which I maybe naively but categorically believe he wasn’t, how
did his statistics differ?
Lies, damned lies and statistics
When does age really start to have an
effect on a player’s performance? When does age catch up with you?
For some players, you hit your peak at 26 and it is all downhill from
there. For others, maturity comes a little later, while at the other
end of the spectrum a rookie’s hype at age 18 is never realised at
If someone’s performance drops off in their mid-30s, is
it because they have stopped using steroids, or is in just inevitable
that performance will see a noticeable drop off?
between 2004 and 2006, Mike hit 61 home runs in 1,252 ABs – an
average of one every 20 ABs.
This can be compared with when he
was in his prime between 1995 and 1997 when he hit 108 homers in
1,537 ABs (one per 14ABs).
But is it really fair to use the
mid-90s as a fair baseline? The 95-97 seasons were the third, fourth
and fifth full seasons of his career and a time when he received a
pair of second place votes as MVP and started three consecutive All
How about comparing the two pre-testing years of
Major League Baseball (2002 and 2003) with the first two seasons of
drug testing (2004 and 2005).
Firstly, it does need to be
recognised that 2003 was a blip in his career because of injury – it
represented the first time in 11 full seasons that he was not
selected to the All Star Team or pick up the Silver Slugger
But even still, his BA took a plunge, his power numbers
were down and his rbi stats took a 40 per cent nosedive. How much of
this was injury and age and how much was it down to a lack of drugs,
assuming he was ever on them in the first place?
batting average was in almost constant decline from 2000, although it
wasn’t until 2004 when it finally fell in line with the league
average and his OBP saw its worst ever three years in the final three
of his career.
I want to compare Mike
to another famous catcher – Hall of Fame backstop Johnny Bench – and
Chipper Jones at the height and twilight of their careers.
peaked earlier than Piazza or Jones, hitting 112 homes runs during
his three-year peak between the ages of 22 and 24, while Chipper was
more similar to Piazza, coming into his prime in his late 20s.
is the 3-year averages for each man in his prime: Piazza aged 27-29
playing between 1996 and 1998; Chipper Jones (also when he was aged
27-29) playing in the 1999-2001 campaign; and Johnny Bench in
- Piazza: 36HR, 107rbi, 34 per cent extra base hits
- Bench: 37HR, 111rbi, 43 per cent extra base hits
- Jones: 40HR,
108rbi, 44 per cent extra base hits
And here are the averages
for the last three years for each of them…
- Piazza: 16 HR,
58rbi, 37 per cent extra base hits
- Bench: 11 HR, 39 rbi, 26 per
cent extra base hits
- Jones 26HR, 88rbi, 38 per cent extra base hits
Piazza went from a perennial All Star and Silver
Slugger recipient on the verge of an MVP award between the ages of 26
and 28 to a guy seven years later who had seen his average home run
total drop by 56 per cent and his rbi figure drop around 40 per
To put it into perspective, Johnny Bench saw his HR
tally and rbi numbers drop by more than two-thirds and he also hit
around one-third less extra base hits than in his prime. He was
league MVP twice in 1970 and ’72. He did only play 52 games though in
1981 when he had played twice that many the previous year.
Jones’ HR average has dropped by one-third, his rbi total has dropped
by more than 20 per year year and the percentage of extra-base hits
has gone from 44 to 36.
Remember though, he is still playing, so
expect these averages to drop further. That is, unless he
out-performs his 2006 campaign. He has dropped from being an MVP and
regular Silver Slugger to cracking the top 10 MVP ballot just once in
the last three years.
So what does this prove? That Piazza
took steroids? That Chipper Jones is on performance enhancing drugs?
Of course not.
This is based not on physical evidence, inside
information or chemical tests. After all, it is only a look at some
And statistics, as we all know, can
prove anything we want. For me, they scream ‘not guilty‘. We love you
Mike and we always will. No asterisk needed.