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The Duke of Flushing

I never covered Duke Snider. The Dodgers had gone West long before I had a BBWAA card and access to a big league clubhouse. But I had learned to make two subway transfers to get from the Bronx to Flatbush when tokens still cost 15 cents, all quite unbeknownst to my parents. So the Duke hardly was unfamiliar to my eyes before O’Malley’s betrayal.

I didn’t meet Duke until he was working Expos telecasts in the 70’s and I was covering the Mets in Montreal. Years later, after getting to know him a bit — he was quite the gentleman — I posed some questions to him, including this one: “What was your best day as a member of the Mets?” He had played with them in 1963, after his skills had waned and well before they became a reasonable facsimile of big league team.

He immediately spoke of a Mets game played on this date at the late and unlamented Polo Grounds. The Duke had hit two home runs, No. 393 and 394 in his career, and driven in the Mets’ three runs. But — no surprise here — the Mets had lost. Still, it was a rewarding day for their No. 3 hitter and left fielder for he had done the damage against the Giants.

Snider had spent his 16 Dodgers seasons hating the Giants, so much so that he claimed the Dodgers had a group aversion to Halloween because the colors of the day of ghosts and goblins matched those of the Giants. Those feelings hadn’t faded much by the time he hit two off starter Jack Fisher.

He never had another multi-home run game in his career. “But at least my last big day came against them,” he said.

Snider had two more three-RBI games that year, the second in San Francisco.

He hit one more homer in San Francisco the following year after he had left the Mets.  He was a member of the Giants, wearing black and orange, July 4 when he hit a two-run home run off Jim Bunning. “I remember it,” Snider said some 20 years later. “That was the last one of my career.” He paused and smiled. “But it was for the Giants. We don’t talk much about that one.”

E-1 X 2 — A bonehead play by Conehead

 

MLB.com writer Marty Noble covered the Mets for the better part of 40 years and experienced or discovered hundreds of facts and anecdotes about the team. This being the 50th anniversary season of the Mets,  Noble regularly will provide snippets from the club’s history. This one is from 1990.

These installments also mark the resurrection of  Noble’s blog, “Noble Thoughts,” dormant since August, 2010. Reactions and reponses to what appears here are expected and welcome. Other baseball topics also are welcome.

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The player who inspired the first Conehead was guilty of a bonehead play on this date, 22 years ago.

David Cone suffered a mind cramp during a Mets’ game in Atlanta. He held the ball while arguing a call at first base with umpire Charlie Williams. Two runners scored while he disputed Williams’ call.

Cone was pitching with runners on first and second and two out. Mark Lemke hit a ground ball that second baseman Gregg Jefferies handled cleanly. Cone covered first base and took Jefferies’ throw seemingly in time to retire Lemke. But Williams called Lemke safe. Cone erupted. With Jefferies urging him to throw the ball – at one point Jefferies tried to pry the ball from his teammate’s grasp — Cone argued loud and long. Dale Murphy and lumbering Ernie Whitt advanced and finally scored without challenge.

“I’ve seen a lot of strange things in my lifetime,” Mets manager Davey Johnson would say. “This one goes to the top of the list. I’ve seen one guy score on something like that, but never two. It was double-vapor lock.”

The epilogue to this episode was priceless. The official scorer ruled the runners advanced on “player’s indifference,” a term that doesn’t exist in the scoring rules. “Defensive indifference” does, but it didn’t apply.

A word with the scorer had no effect, so I called the Elias Sports Bureau who would stepped in regardless. The ESB convinced the scorer to credit Jefferies with an assist and charge Cone with an error.

After the game, when Cone was done explaining and apologizing for his gaffe, I advised him of the original call. He became angry again. “Indifferent isn’t what I was,” he said. “I was anything but that.”

 

A Terrific day in Mets history

MLB.com writer Marty Noble covered the Mets for the better part of 40 years and experienced or discovered hundreds of facts and anecdotes about the team. This being the 50th anniversary season of the Mets, Mets.com regularly will provide snippets from the club’s history, beginning with this curious set of circumstances involving the Mets’ greatest player, Tom Seaver.

This also marks the resurrection of Noble’s blog, Noble Thoughts, dormant since August, 2010. Reactions and reponses to what appears here are expected and welcome. Other baseball topics are welcome, too.

Tom SeaverThe inexplicable happened during a series of April 26ths in the 70s. Tom Seaver started for the Mets on April 26 in 1970, ’71, ’72 and ’74 — four times in five years. Not only did he win each start – and that was no surprise — Seaver also pitched a complete game in each start, hardly stunning given his prowess and stamina.

It was, however, rather remarkable, that he walked no one in the 36 innings. Imagine that. And though merely coincidental, his work on those days was beyond brilliant for other reasons. Seaver’s composite pitching line for the four starts was 36 innings, 24 hits, four runs, all earned, no walks and 25 strikeouts. His ERA: 1.00.

He happened through the Shea Stadium press box on April 26, 2007. He no longer was working as a color commentator for the Mets. He was just “there.” So I asked him to explain the April 26 phenomenon. His answer was matter-of-fact: “I was a pretty good pitcher.”

Not good enough, I told him, pushing and prodding him for a more expansive explanation. His second response provided more insight. “Okay, I was a damn good pitcher.”

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