02/29/08 11:30 AM ET
Leap year shines light on Mets' feats
History of Mets franchise packed full of special 'extras'
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
To celebrate the extra day we are living today, the day that makes a leap year longer than its three-out-of-four cousins, Mets.com provides a look at some of the extras in the history of the Mets franchise.
The 162-game schedule was introduced to the National League in 1962, the year after Roger Maris hit 61 in '61, the year of the Mets' inception. In 46 seasons that began in '62, the team has had its share of extra games, playing 163 games four times and 164 games once, in 1965.
In every instance but one, the extra game was necessitated by a tie game. At least one of the ties was remarkable; the Mets and Phillies played without scoring for 18 innings in the second game a doubleheader on Oct. 1, 1965. That all-for-naught game followed a nine-inning game in which the Mets didn't score and preceded a season-ending doubleheader -- a second game was necessitated by the tie the previous day -- during which the Mets totaled two runs in 22 innings.
But, of course, the extra game of greatest consequence in Mets franchise history happened on Oct. 4, 1999, when the Mets defeated the Reds in a one-game Wild Card playoff in Cincinnati.
Al Leiter had something extra that night. He pitched a two-hitter in the 5-0 victory that put the Mets in the postseason for the first time in 11 years. The shutout was Leiter's only complete game of the season and one of two two-hitters he pitched in 213 regular-season starts with the Mets.
Incidentally, the Mets nearly played their extra game without an extra man. Melvin Mora replaced Rickey Henderson in left field in the ninth inning. The other eight starters played nine innings, a rarity.
The early Mets would go to any length to win -- or lose, or as noted above, to tie. They seemed bent on playing into the wee hours. They played at least 17 innings six times in the first 1,100 games in franchise history, including games of 23, 24 and 25 innings. In the subsequent 6,212 games, they have played at least 17 innings 14 more times, including once last season.
Certain games with "bonus frames" stand out, and not only because of their length.
25 innings: Sept. 11, 1974; Cardinals 4, Mets 3 (Shea Stadium) -- Fleet Bake McBride scored the decisive run from first base when Hank Webb made an errant pickoff throw. The game lasted seven hours, four minutes. It might have ended in 12 innings, but Dave Schneck, shifted to right field after playing left and center that night, climbed the wall in right to take a home run away from Cardinals rookie Keith Hernandez for the first out of the 12th.
Wayne Garrett went hitless in 10 at-bats. Ed Sudol was the plate umpire. Incidentally, the Yankees played 26 innings that night -- in a twinight doubleheader in Baltimore.
24 innings: April 15, 1968; Astros 1, Mets 0 (Astrodome) -- This was a six-hour, six-minute game that set the tone for "The Year of the Pitcher." An error by Al Weis on the game's final play allowed Norm Miller to score with one out. Tom Seaver had started for the Mets and allowed two hits in 10 innings. Astros reliever Jim Ray struck out 11 in seven innings. Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda were the only hitless batters with at least 10 at-bats. Jerry Grote (Mets) and Hal King were the only catchers. And, not surprisingly, Sudol was the only plate umpire. The teams had identical totals other than runs -- 11 hits, one error, 16 left on base.
There was little extra about this game except the innings. Each team had one extra-base hit.
23 innings: May 31, 1964; Giants 8, Mets 6 (Shea Stadium) -- The second game of a Sunday doubleheader lasted seven hours, 23 minutes. Sudol was the plate umpire, of course. Gaylord Perry, in his third season, pitched 10 innings in relief. Years later, he claimed he introduced the big leagues to his spit ball in this game. Galen Cisco was the losing pitcher, allowing two runs in his ninth inning of relief. Willie Mays had one hit in 10 at-bats and played some shortstop.
19 innings: July 4, 1985; Mets 16, Braves 13 (Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium) -- With Sudol retired for eight seasons, the Mets and Braves still spent eight hours, 21 minutes at the park. The game, delayed 90 minutes before the first pitch and again for 41 minutes in the fourth inning because of rain, ended at 3:55 a.m. ET. A postgame fireworks display promised to the fans, many of whom arrived during the ninth inning, prompted calls to the police from nearby residents who believed Atlanta was under attack.
Hernandez hit for the cycle by the 12th inning. Braves reliever Rick Camp, batting .060 at the time, hit a two-out home run against eventual winning pitcher Tom Gorman to tie the score in the 18th inning. The Mets scored five times in the 19th and allowed two runs before Ron Darling struck out Camp with two runners on base to end the game.
The Mets' all-time record in extra-inning games is 345-376-2.
Jim Hickman batted .229 -- today's date -- in 494 at-bats with the 1963 Mets, and Phil Mankowski did likewise in 35 at-bats with the '83 Mets.
It happens mostly on the road. With the Mets, it usually begins at 2:30. Extra hitting is nothing more than more batting practice.
Happy eighth birthday
Terrence Long, who appeared in three games with the Mets in 1999, is the only player in franchise history born on Leap Year Day. The 20th player selected in the 1994 First-Year Player Draft, Long played most of his career with the A's after the Mets traded him during the 1999 season for Kenny Rogers. He was born in 1976.
Wally Backman and Howard Johnson collected more than a dozen baseballs, all similarly scuffed on opposite sides, during Game 4 of the 1986 NL Championship Series. They alleged each had been defaced either by or for Astros pitcher Mike Scott. They found balls similarly scuffed the following day when Nolan Ryan pitched, but never complained about it. "You don't want to tick off Nolie," Backman said.
|The most games played in a season without a single start:|
|1. Rusty Staub||1985|
|2. Mike Jorgensen||1983|
|3. Bob Gallagher||1975|
|4. Sergio Ferrer||1979|
|5. Jeff McKnight||1994|
|6. Ced Landrum||1993|
|7. Wayne Housie||1993|
|9. Ross Jones||1984|
|10. Jeff Barry||1995|
Lineup cards have a spot on which the extra men are listed. Extra man is a designation few players embrace. But most players get to start a game here and there. Not so for Rusty Staub in 1985, the last of his 23 seasons in the big leagues. Staub appeared in 54 games that year, none as a starter and the most ever by a Mets player who made no starts.
That may make him the ultimate extra man in Mets history?
The Elias Sports Bureau has provided a list that begins with Staub and includes the players with the other nine highest totals of appearances in Mets games in a season without a start.
"Reaching back for a little extra"
Pitchers say it all the time. They mean adding velocity to their pitches at critical moments. Few pitchers do it as well as Pedro Martinez. Jerry Koosman was special in that regard, too. When asked what he found when he reached back, Matt Wise, a Met for the first time this spring, said straight-faced, "Not too much."
"Extra, extra, read all about it"
A subjective list of the 10 biggest stories in the history of the Mets, with judicious use of hindsight.
1. Mets win 1969 World Series. If the 4-1 series victory against the Orioles wasn't the foremost upset in World Series, it's one of the two primary upsets. The improbable rise of the Miracle Mets, with their fresh young faces and personalities, gave the franchise an identity diametrically opposed to what had existed.
2. Mets win 1986 World Series. Though some folks still associate the seven-game series more readily with Bill E. Buckner's error, the Mets did win three other games and had tied the score before Mookie Wilson's ground ball went through those bowlegged wickets. The city belonged to those Mets at that point.
3. Seaver traded. The June 15, 1977, deal that moved "The Franchise" to the Reds for four players is the darkest day in the club's history. To many, the deal was made for all the wrong reasons, and that it exiled the most important figure in franchise history made it all the worse.
4. Mets trade for Hernandez. The emergence of Darryl Strawberry in 1983 and Dwight Gooden the following year provided the Mets a level of talent unmatched in the National League. But all the talent assembled by the combined genius of Joe McIlvaine and Frank Cashen and given to Davey Johnson wouldn't have been enough without Hernandez's intensity, savvy and leadership.
5. Ya Gotta Believe. In 1973, Tug McGraw took the words of chairman of the board M. Donald Grant and turned them into a battle cry that brought the Mets to within one victory of a second World Series championship in five years.
6. Mets trade for Mike Piazza. While the Piazza trade didn't have the same kind or level of impact the Hernandez trade had, Piazza did emerge as the critical force in the Mets' run of quality from 1998 through the Subway Series in 2000.
7. Mets sign Martinez. The credibility of the franchise was restored when Martinez's presence fueled an abrupt about-face that still has the club moving in the right direction. A World Series ring won during Martinez' Mets tenure -- depending on how much effect he had -- might push this up on the list.
8. The Mets are born. The National League returns to New York City with a team that became beloved because it was comically inept. When the first Mets team reached 120 losses -- it played only 160 games -- manager Casey Stengel captured the sense of that season when he said, "I couldn't have done it without my players."
9. Gooden reigns. Even Seaver at his peak didn't fascinate the fans to quite the degree Gooden did in 1984 and 1985. Friday night games at Shea with Gooden pitching were celebrations. His strikeout acumen launched the K Corner and added to baseball's tradition. His tragic baseball afterlife adds an uncomfortable coat of taint to shooting star career.
10. (With a possible bullet) Mets acquire Johan Santana. Can the four-for-one exchange with the Twins be the Seaver deal is reverse? The impact of his acquisition is a story in the making. But his presence has allowed the Mets to focus on the future and turn away from their 2007 collapse.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.