Here’s a trip down my top 5 favorite Mets moments memory lane. I hope you enjoy it.
5. Robin Ventura’s Home Run single
It was 1999. The Atlanta Braves had been dominating the NL East since its realignment (when the Braves, Mets, Phillies, Marlins and Expos joined the division) in 1994. The Mets were coming off a much improved previous season winning 88 games and finishing in second place. Not bad, but still not good enough as the Braves went on to win the East again, just one of their record 14 straight division titles spanning from 1991 through 2005.
Yet the Mets won the field and game 6 of the 99′ NLCS on one night in October. When Keith Lockhart hit an RBI triple for Atlanta in the top of the 15th inning to go up 3-2 Mets fans were in shock but not surprised. It would happen again, the Braves do this to us every year. But in the bottom of the 15th the Mets showed life. They loaded the bases before Todd Pratt tied it up on a bases loaded walk by Kevin McGlinchy. Up strolled Robin Ventura. Ventura crushed a 2-1 pitch over the right center field wall for a game winning home run. Well not according to the record books. After Roger Cedeno crossed the plate Todd Pratt ran back across the 2nd base to celebrate with Ventura. Even though Robin was waving him to keep running the excitement was to much for Pratt and Ventura was technically out. Since he didnt cross the plate it was scored as a game winning single. Good enough for the win and for a great story Ventura and Pratt can tell for the rest of their lives.
4. The day we traded for Mike Piazza
I swear I can remember the exact moment in my life that I heard we traded for Mike Piazza. I was hanging out with friends at the Boardwalk in my town, Keansburg, New Jersey. Someone said something about the Mets having him and I thought they were kidding. I was like yeah imagine that. Then they said no really the Mets just traded for Mike Piazza. I was floored, it was surreal. He was the first real superstar since Daryl Strawberry to play on the Mets in my life. Mike would go on to lead the Mets to the playoffs in 1999 and 2000, playing in the historic Subway Series in 2000. He also also hit the most iconic home run in Mets history, which we will talk about later.
3. The David Wright and Jose Reyes call ups
If you are near my age then you felt the sting of never enjoying home grown talent playing at a high level for the Mets since the 80’s. A lot of players had hype, including “Generation K”, which was suppose to be our version of the Braves dominate rotation, just younger. It was Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson. All 3 highly ranked prospects coming up around the same time. Yet for different reasons they all failed.
So when Jose Reyes and David Wright were close to coming up Mets fans had that nervous excitment that you might get asking out a girl after being rejected many times before. You know it could lead to good things even though it hasn’t before. Reyes struggled with leg issues in his first couple of seasons so much that they tinkered with his running style. Yet even the Mets couldn’t screw up what was one of the most dynamic young player pairs I have ever seen play together on the Mets. Like all good things it didn’t last. Unfortunately David struggled with injuries and Jose left in free agency never to be the same. Nonetheless it was amazing watching those 2 play together for the time they did.
2. Mike Piazza’s Post 9/11 Home Run
Again I remember this moment like it was yesterday. The country had just gone through a horrible tragedy. Obviously on September 11th 2001 our country changed forever. The American pastime had been canceled while people struggled to cope. Security was now a huge concern for large events which played a part in postponing baseball as well. But on September 21st games began again.
The Mets were playing the Braves at home. Players came out wearing hats of various first responders. It gave people something to take their minds off of recent events. From a baseball perspective for the Mets and their fans though it was shaping up as just another night where we lose to Atlanta. That was until Mike Piazza stepped to the plate in the 8th inning. Down 2-1 against right hander Steve Karsay Mike blasted a long drive over the fence in right center. It was a mamouth blast and it forever immortalized Piazza in New York sports history.
1. The 2006 Season
You’re probably thinking right now something along the lines of “what!?”. Its understandable. First of all its an entire season not a moment. More then that I bet you are saying how can it be better then the things that came before it on this list. Ill tell you. The 2006 season was by far the most fun I had as a Mets fan.
After the Subway Series the Mets had struggled. Under Steve Phillips there had been a lot of misses and we went from a perennial playoff (well 2 years at least) team to what most people think the Mets are, losers. So after the 2004 season the Wilpons brought on Omar Minaya and things started to look up. He hired Willie Randolph as manager and signed the biggest free agent in years Carlos Beltran as well as signing future Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez. In the 05′ season the Mets won their last game to finish at exactly .500.
Needless to say going in the 2006 season there was tons of optimism. Minaya also added Carlos Delgado plus what turned out to be very important role players in Julio Franco and John Valentin. Not to mention two huge pieces in closer Billy Wagner and Catcher Paul Lo Duca. Add on a young Wright and Reyes combo and you have maybe one of the best Met teams ever assembled.
Not only was that team talented but it performed on the diamond. The Mets ran away with the Division winning it by 12 games. They made quick work of the Dodgers in the 1st round. No easy feat considering they had Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke anchoring their staff. Unfortunately the NLCS was as far as they would go. Playing a 7 game series vs the eventual World Series winning Cardinals (I was at game 2 at Shea, a loss). Still it was an iconic series. Game 7 alone was filled with so much drama I watched most of it standing up in my living room. Endy Chavez robbed Scott Rolen of a 6th inning home run in dramatic and spectacular fashion to keep the game tied 1-1. Not enough of course as Yader Molina would hit a 2 run home run in the top of the 9th to put St. Louis up for good.
It be hard to imagine a Yankee or even modern Red Sox considering a non-championship season one of the greatest. Though in baseball as in life you have to have realistic expectations and be grateful for what you have. Lets face it, we’re Mets fans, it comes with the territory.
Ventura video courtesy of MLB.com, Wright/Reyes photo courtesy SBNation.com, Piazza photo courtesy cbssports.com, Piazza video courtesy MLB.com, Minaya SI photo courtesy SI.com 2006 Mets group photo courtesy centerfieldmaz.com