Apr 22

Mets List: Mets-Braves Magic Moments

Unlike the Yankees, who always had the Red Sox as a historical sparring partner, the Mets haven’t had what you’d consider a for-the-ages rival. In their infant years, they had the Dodgers and Giants for obvious reasons, then in 1969, they developed a brief rivalry with the Chicago Cubs. Later, it was the Pirates, then the Cardinals, and eventually the Braves.

I have always wanted to run a weekly Mets List feature and plan to do so on Friday.

NO STRANGER GAME

NO STRANGER GAME

With the Mets in Atlanta today for the start of a three-game series, I have come up with five of the most memorable Mets-Braves moments. If you have others, please share.

Post Sept. 11 homer: On Sept. 21, in the first professional sporting event in New York following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the Braves were in town. Emotions ran high, but boiled over when Mike Piazza hit a go-ahead homer off Steve Karsay.

The Mets trailed by a run entering the eighth when Piazza delivered.

The 1969 NLCS: The Mets’ reward for overtaking the Cubs was to face the powerful Braves in the first year of divisional play.

The Braves were loaded with the likes of Hank Aaron, Rico Carty and Orlando Cepeda, but the Mets swept the series, winning 9-5 and 11-6 (at Atlanta) and 7-4 (at Shea Stadium).

Tom Seaver, Ron Taylor and Nolan Ryan were the winning pitchers. From there, the Mets continued to stun the sports universe by beating Baltimore in the World Series.

The Grand Slam single: The Mets trailed in the 1999 NLCS 3-to-1 in games and 3-2 entering the bottom of the 15th inning. The Mets tied it, 3-3, when Todd Pratt drew a bases-loaded walk.

Robin Ventura followed with what appeared to be a grand slam, but was only credited with a single when the Mets stormed the field to congratulate Ventura. In the process, Mets’ runners passed each other on the bases necessitating the call. VIDEO

The Mets would lose Game 6, 10-9, when Kenny Rogers issued a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth.

The Subway Series against the Yankees would have to wait another year.

Late night fireworks: On July 4 and 5, 1985, the Mets had one of those games. The Mets tied it, 8-8, in the top of the ninth on Lenny Dykstra’s RBI single off closer Bruce Sutter.

The teams slogged around for several innings before Howard Johnson’s two-run homer off Terry Forster in the 13th inning. However, Atlanta tied it, 10-10, on Terry Harper’s two-run homer off Tom Gorman. The Mets regained the lead in the 18th on Dykstra’s sacrifice fly off reliever Rick Camp, but the Braves tied it again on Camp’s homer off Gorman.

The Mets seemingly blew open the game with five runs off Camp in the 19th, but pesky Atlanta pulled within 16-13 off Ron Darling.

The game ended shortly before 4 a.m., but the Braves went ahead with their fireworks night. That prompted many calls to police claiming their neighborhood was under attack.

Double-header treat: In a night that might have symbolized the passing of the torch was near, Mets started prize pitching prospects Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler combined for a double-header sweep on June 18 in Atlanta.

Harvey, who would pitch in the All-Star Game that year but eventually wind up on the disabled list and need surgery, won the first game, 4-3. Wheeler, who grew up near Atlanta, won the second game. 6-1.

Rarely had the Mets won in Atlanta, but sweeping a double-header was unfathomable.

ON DECK: Matt Harvey Tinkers With Mechanics

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Apr 21

Put Up Time For Matt Harvey

It’s time Matt Harvey put on his “Big Boy Pants’’ and begins pitching up to all the expectations, from the Mets, the public whose attention he craves, the media whom he disdains, and of course, himself.

After a dismal start to a season many projected would be a breakout year – I even said he’d win 20 – Harvey needs to come up with a performance to change the talk from whispered questions to shouts of adulation.

HARVEY: Walking off the mound dejected. (AP)

HARVEY: Walking off the mound dejected. (AP)

It’s not a stretch to say outside his first start last season following Tommy John surgery Friday’s game in Atlanta will be the most important regular-season start in his still young career.

Harvey shot into our Mets’ consciousness in 2013 with his All-Star caliber pitching and remained there with his elbow injury, how he handled himself in his rehabilitation program and his penchant for the trappings of being the Dark Knight and a New York sports hero.

Then there was the World Series and Game 5 when he pitched like the star we all hoped he’d be, but who morphed into selfishness when he let his ego run wild in the ninth inning that ended the Mets’ season.

Harvey, by his own admission, entered spring training with a chip on his shoulder grew inflamed after a bladder infection and his immature reaction following the expected response from the tabloids. What, he didn’t expect sarcastic headlines? The tabloids aren’t The Player’s Tribune, which grants the free pass of no accountability he knew as a prep star and foolishly demands in the major leagues.

Somebody who professes to be a New York star should understand that; just as should have known of the anticipated concern over his 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA start. It’s one thing to go through a rough stretch, but Harvey’s command and fastball aren’t what they used to be. His valued slider doesn’t have its usual bite.

That’s more than mildly worrisome.

Is Harvey injured? He hasn’t always been forthcoming about health issues, so that can’t be ruled out. He says he’s fine, but his believability index is low.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said after his loss in Cleveland last Saturday Harvey’s confidence was shaky and mechanics were off. Confidence comes from pitching well and winning, but Harvey isn’t doing either. After that game Harvey admitted “nobody is more frustrated than I am.”

Correcting mechanics takes time and rarely are fixed after one session, although manager Terry Collins said this week he had a good one.

“He was very confident,’’ Collins told reporters. “He thought it was the best bullpen he’s had in a long time. So that was really good news.’’

Of course, if Harvey was having poor bullpens why wasn’t this brought out earlier? But, therein lies the complex dilemma that has marked his career. He’s not forthcoming and the Mets go out of their way to protect him.

Just as there are expectations, there is always something with Harvey, always some issue that takes our eyes off the mound. Only this time our eyes remain fixated on the mound and Harvey. And, it will remain that way until he starts pitching.

It’s put up time

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Apr 16

Today In Mets’ History: Shea Stadium Christened

It was all ceremony for the Mets on this day in 1964 when Bill Shea, credited for bringing National League baseball back to New York, christened Shea Stadium.

Shea poured bottles of Holy Water from the Gowanus Canal, which passes near the former sited of Ebbets Field, home of the Dodgers, and the Harlem River, which passes in front of the former sithyof the Polo Grounds, home of the Giants. The Mets also played in the Polo Grounds in the first two years of their existence.

The Mets always honored their combined Dodgers-Giants heritages beginning with their team jersey colors of Dodger blue and Giant orange. Those colors were also incorporated at Shea Stadium with blue outfield walls – most teams used black or green – and the only team in the majors to have orange foul poles.

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Apr 14

Mets Fans Show Passion; Bail Out Franchise In Doing So

Mets manager Terry Collins spoke with passion Wednesday – misguided as it was – and three fans of the franchise spoke with passion today, and backed it up with their checkbooks. And doing so perhaps saved the team further embarrassment over the Mike Piazza jersey fiasco.

piazza-jersey2Mets fans don’t always get the credit they deserve for their passion of their team, but Anthony Scaramucci, Tony Lauto and a third business partner proved that when they combined to reach an agreement in principle to purchase Piazza’s game-worn jersey worn in the first post 9-11 game for $365,000.

For the record, the major league minimum is $507,500, the cost of a reserve infielder. This is something the Wilpons could have done by themselves. Or David Wright. Or Matt Harvey. Or hell, even Piazza could have coughed up the money.

Such celebrity Mets fans like Jerry Seinfeld or Kevin James could have ponied up the bucks to show their colors. By far, the coolest thing would have been for today’s Mets’ players to pass the hat in the clubhouse.

Considering the cost, I wouldn’t consider these guys typical Mets fans, because, after all, you couldn’t recognize them if you passed them on the street.

But, they did what most of us would have wanted to do if we had the money. They backed up their passion in other ways than calling up talk-radio and saying, “I’m Tony from Queens, first time, long time.”Scaramucci told The Post the jersey will make the rounds at Citi Field, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Its final destination is not known, although it is presumed to will be In the Mets Museum at Citi Field.

Scaramucci told The Post the jersey will make the rounds at Citi Field, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Its final destination is not known, although it is presumed to will be In the Mets Museum at Citi Field.

Their love for the Mets is only one reason for wanting to do this.

“We had too many friends die in those buildings to let that jersey go anywhere else,” Scaramucci, founder of Skybridge Capital, told The Post. “Tony and I wanted to make sure that jersey stays in New York. We talked to Mike, he’s happy. We talked to [Mike’s father,] Vince [Piazza], he’s happy.”

The Mets hosted the first professional sporting event following the terrorist attacks, when the Braves came in on Sept. 21, 2001. There were emotional pre-game ceremonies, but it was a listless crowd for much of the night until Piazza’s game-winning homer off Steve Karsay.

It is arguably one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history.

“What Mike did on that night was something we’ll all never forget and what it symbolizes,” Scaramucci said. “This jersey represents so much. There is tremendous artistic symbolism to this thing. This is about picking yourself up, no matter what happens in life, and going back into life and hitting home runs.”

Reportedly, the Mets sold the jersey in a private sale several years ago, when the Wilpons were in financial distress following the Madoff scandal. The Mets attempted to buy back the jersey after it became known the new owner was going to put the jersey for sale at Goldin Auctions, but The Post reported they backed out once the price reached $90,000.

It’s embarrassing the Mets:  1) sold the jersey in the first place, 2) dropped out of the initial bidding when the on-line price reached a paltry $90,00, and 3) never told Goldin they would beat the highest bid at auction.

The Mets should be significantly embarrassed this happened because they took for granted and didn’t appreciate their own history and underestimated the passion of their fan base.

The Mets have been around for half as long as the Yankees, so they can’t match them in championships, Hall of Famers or retired jerseys, but their history is rich to their fanbase. There have been too many times when ownership underestimated the fans and this is the most recent.

If nothing else, let us hope this fiasco sent a message ownership and management will be more cognizant of its fans, many of us who long followed the team ahead of the bandwagon jumpers who leaped on last year.

This was the right thing to do, so kudos to Scaramucci, Tony Lauto and their partner. They deserve a salute from us.

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Apr 13

Today In Mets’ History: Lose First Home Opener

National League baseball returned to New York on this date in 1962 in front of 12,447 freezing fans on a blustery day at the Polo Grounds. The Mets lost 4-3 to Pittsburgh.

Can you believe it? The Mets only drew 12,447 people in the first home in their history.

Frank Thomas hit the first home homer. Pitcher Sherman Jones – who took the loss – had the first home hit in franchise history.

The opened the first season two days earlier with an 11-4 loss in St. Louis.

The Mets would lose their first nine games before their first victory in franchise history at Pittsburgh. They would finish April at 3-13, 9.5 games out of first place.

The Mets finished in last place that season with a 40-120 record, only 60.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants.

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