Jul 30

Today in Mets’ History: Hodges pulls Cleon.

Every team’s evolution from doormat to contender has that defining moment when somebody grabs the team by the scruff of the neck and shakes it awake.

That moment for the 1969 Mets came on this date when manager Gil Hodges walked out of the dugout and strolled out to left field, where he removed Cleon Jones.

The Mets lost the first game of a doubleheader, 16-3, and were getting pasted in the second, 8-0, when Johnny Edwards doubled past Jones.

It was reported at the time Jones had sustained a leg injury, but it later surfaced Hodges was angry at Jones for not hustling.

On the 40th Anniversary of that team, Jones recalled the incident as a galvanizing moment. Jones also said Hodges was his favorite manager.

Does anybody remember anything about that day?

 

May 19

Today in Mets History: Agee goes deep twice.

I remember when Shea closed going up to the higher reaches of the upper deck where the No. 20 was painted in recognition of Tommie Agee’s monstrous homer.

AGEE: Had big day vs. Expos.

Agee first popped into my consciousness when he played for the Chicago White Sox in the mid-1960’s, when I rooted for the Cleveland Indians.

Agee was a tremendous fielder and will always be remembered for making two game-saving catches in Game 3 of the 1969 World Series to save a potential five runs. What people forget, however, is Agee also homered to lead off that game.

On this date in 1970, Agee homered twice in a 7-4 victory at Montreal. Agee had a 20-game hitting streak, April 16-May 9 of that season.

BOX SCORE

Unfortunately, chronic knee pain slowed Agee’s career in 1971 and 1972, and he was traded to Houston after the 1972 season. The Astros traded Agee to St. Louis in August of the 1973.

After the season, the Cardinals dealt Agee to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In one of those twists, Agee was released by the Dodgers in spring training and never played for the team. However, his final baseball card showed him as a Dodger.

Agee relished being a part of the 1969 Mets and appeared as himself in a 1999 episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond.’’

He suffered a heart attack, Jan. 22, 2001, and died at Bellevue Hospital Center. He was posthumously inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame the following summer.

CAREER NUMBERS

If you have any Agee memories, I’d like for you to share them. Thanks.

 

May 12

Mets History Today: Sweeping the Braves behind Hobie and Gil

It was one of the few times when the Mets had their way with the Braves. On this date in 1962 in the Polo Grounds, the Mets got ninth-inning homers from Hobie Landrith and Gil Hodges for their first-ever doubleheader sweep of the Braves.

Landrith’s homer won the first game, 3-2, and Hodges’ homer won the nightcap, 8-7.

LANDRITH: A shining moment.

Landrith hit a two-run pinch homer on the first pitch, but it was almost voided with runner Rod Kanehl nearly missed touching third base.

Landrith was a journeyman reserve catcher who played for Cincinnati, the Cubs, Cardinals, Giants, Mets, Orioles and Senators. However, he’ll always be a trivia question answer to Mets fans for being the first pick of the team in the 1961 expansion draft.

It was after Landrith’s selection that then manager Casey Stengel said, “You gotta have a catcher or you’re going to have a lot of passed balls.’’

Landrith earned $75,000 that year. He returned his initial contract to team president George Weiss, saying it was a $3,000 paycut. Weiss sent that same contract back to Landrith three times before the catcher releneted.

Landrith was the Mets’ Opening Day catcher in 1962, but went 0-for-4, made an error and had the Cardinals steal three bases on him. He was replaced after that game by Joe Ginsberg.

Hodges, of course, was a New York legend, first as a player with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and then as manager of the 1969 Mets.

Hodges had his No. 14 retired by the Mets, and to this day it is a mystery to me why he isn’t in the Hall of Fame.

GAME ONE BOX

GAME TWO BOX

 

Aug 24

About yesterday …. no moral victories.

An unassisted triple play is rarer than a perfect game, and rarer still is for one to end a game.

Somehow, it was the perfect way to end a game in this imperfect season.

Before we get carried away about the Mets’ character in coming back from a 6-0 first-inning deficit – and it was an important aspect of the game – we must first acknowledge the game was a microcosm of this season, and to some degree their off-season and this weekend.

On a grand scale, the Mets had high expectations heading into the season, and this was supposed to a magical weekend with the honoring of the 1969 Mets. However, injuries and poor play sabotaged the season, and the grandest team in franchise history was treated to the spectacle of bad baseball. Does anybody really expect Bobby Parnell to out-pitch Cliff Lee to salvage a split.

As injuries have sidetracked this season, there is no telling what might have happened had the Mets even had one of their core bats in the game let alone for. Mets fans will forever be haunted by the what could have beens from this season.

Even still, there are 25 professional players on the team, but despite their spirited comeback, they played to the themes that really have cost the Mets this season: poor starting pitching and situational hitting, and overuse of the bullpen. There was also a questionable managerial decision or two.

Oliver Perez gave up six runs and didn’t get out of the first in another dismal performance that brought to questions of whether he’ll ever tap into his potential, and why the Mets bothered to re-sign him in the first place. As the home runs flew it was a reminder of the organization’s inability to fix its greatest need in the off-season.

Yes, it was an exciting comeback and excruciating ending, but let’s not forget the Mets twice had a runner on third with less than two outs and couldn’t score and they were hitless in their first eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Perez’s inexcusable outing piled 8 1/3 innings onto a bullpen that needs the rest. Three runs in that span is acceptable, but not when one of them is on a wild pitch. Sean Green, an off-season acquisition that was supposed to bolster the pen, has had a terrible season.

One thing preyed on my mind as Perez’s pitch count mounted to Jason Werth: This guy is going to hit a home run.

How could Jerry Manuel not be thinking the same thing? And, as Perez continued to struggle, it became apparent he wasn’t going to turn it around, so why keep him in to give up a second three-run homer?

Kind of makes you wonder what Manuel saw on the ball-three pitch to Pedro Martinez that he missed earlier.

Yes, the Mets showed some degree of pride yesterday in coming back. Perhaps they were so fed up and embarrassed about Perez. Whatever the reason, what’s left of this team has to maintain what’s left of this season.

It’s not impossible, but .500 or even a winning record is attainable and should be the goal. Reaching it would mean an improvement in play, including fundamentals, which have been sorely lacking.

Let’s face it, the Mets are playing for next year, and that begins now.

Aug 21

The Summer of ’69

The Mets are honoring the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Miracle Mets this weekend. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan are back, bringing with them glorious memories.

It was truly an amazing year, with man landing on the moon, the Vietnam War raging and unrest on college campuses throughout the country. Still, baseball captivated us and helped heal the wounds from the civil rights riots from the previous summer.

SEAVER: Tom was Terrific

SEAVER: Tom was Terrific

In the American League, powerful Baltimore rolled, and for much of the summer the Chicago Cubs seemed poised to shed years of frustration and mediocrity. Then, there were the Mets, who, were picked to finish third. Considering the early years of the franchise that was pretty good.

But, the Mets amazed with great pitching.

Offensively, this was not an awesome team. Cleon Jones was the best hitter and there was Tommie Agee. But, Ron Swoboda, Al Weis, Buddy Harrelson, Jerry Grote, Art Shamsky, Ken Boswell didn’t strike fear among opposing pitchers.

A late-season trade acquired slugger Donn Clendenon (click for video) provided the Mets with an offensive identity they lacked. In 202 at-bats, Clendenon had 51 hits, but 12 of them were homers and he drove in 37 runs.

“When we got him, we became a different team,” Harrelson said. “We never had a three-run homer type of guy. He was always humble, never cocky. We were still young kids in that era. He was a veteran that came in and made us better. When you threw him into the mix with the rest of us, we became a dangerous force.

“We knew we had a good team with him, but we didn’t know quite how good. Gil (Hodges) thought we were better than we were. He was the MVP — a very dangerous player.”

While Clendenon gave the Mets pop, they won on a pitching staff that threw an incredible 28 shutouts. Seaver won 25 games.

That season the Mets got off to a slow start, but even after winning two series against the Cubs, they were still in Leo Durocher’s rear view mirror.

On August 13, the Mets were in third place, 9.5 games behind the Cubs, but overtook them with a 38-11 stretch. Included in that was a double-header sweep of Pittsburgh, winning each game 1-0 with the pitchers (Koosman and Don Cardwell) driving in the winning runs.

On Sept. 10, after a double-header sweep of the Expos and the Cubs losing that day to Philadelphia, the Mets moved into first place for the first time in franchise history.

The Mets swept Atlanta in the NLCS, and Seaver was beaten in Game 1 of the World Series at Baltimore. The Mets were about to come back to earth, but reeled off four straight wins … the final out coming on Davey Johnson’s lazy fly to Jones.

I remember a lot from that season: Seaver’s near perfect game; the July series with the Cubs; the black cat; all those shutouts; Steve Carlton striking out 19 Mets but Swoboda hitting a pair of homers for the win; the shoe polish incident in the Series; those catches by Agee and Swoboda; and the luck of J.C. Martin being ruled safe when he clearly ran inside the baseline.

What’s your favorite memory from that season?