Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Yankees-Mets All-Star Game: Play Ball


(Note: I wanted to post a picture of Reggie Jackson and Tom Seaver together, but the only one I could find on the Internet was of a baseball card commemorating the 1973 World Series, when Reggie took Tom deep in Game 6 -- while Reggie was still with Oakland. So, instead, I put up this picture of Reggie with Derek Jeter. It is stunning for those of us who remember Reggie as the big man in New York baseball -- and he is a full 6 feet tall, and was 200 pounds at his physical peak -- to realize that Jeter is 3 inches taller.)

It's a beautiful summer night at Citi Field in Flushing Meadow, Queens. The temperature is 77 degrees, with a slight wind -- not the swirling kind that sometimes caused problems at Shea Stadium. The air smells like peanuts, shake from Shake Shack, and, of course, jet fuel.

The Mets take the field to begin the game, wearing the uniforms they regularly wore from 1980 to 1992, with Mets in script and the uniform number beneath on he front, and blue & orange stripes down the sleeves. On their left sleeve, they wear the 2012 50th Anniversary patch. On their right sleeve, they wear the S patch they wore in memory of Bill Shea in 1992. The caps are the traditional bright blue with the orange "curlicue" interlocking NY previously worn by the baseball edition of the New York Giants. There is no black anywhere on the uniform. Names on the back.

Their outfield has Cleon Jones in left, Carlos Beltran in center and Darryl Strawberry in right. The infield is David Wright at 3rd, Jose Reyes at short, Edgardo Alfonzo at 2nd and Keith Hernandez at 1st. The catcher is Gary Carter, and the starting pitcher, naturally, is Tom Seaver.

Derek Jeter comes up to lead off for the Yankees, and home plate umpire Doug Harvey points to Seaver, and says, "Play ball!"

*

Jeter fouls off several pitches, before Seaver strikes him out. Bernie Williams flies out to center. Thurman Munson cracks a single up the middle, but Seaver strikes out Reggie Jackson.

The Yankees take the field for the bottom of the 1st. They are wearing the road gray uniforms they have worn since the 1973 season, with NEW YORK across the front. Numbers on the back, but no names. The caps are navy blue with the traditional white interlocking NY.

Their outfield has Hideki Matsui in left, Williams in center and Jackson in right. The infield is Alex Rodriguez at 3rd, Jeter at short, Robinson Cano at 2nd and Tino Martinez at 1st. Clearly, manager Joe Torre is saving Don Mattingly as a defensive replacement -- much as Met manager Davey Johnson is saving Mike Piazza as a pinch-hitter, because there's no DH, and he can't catch.

Munson is catching Ron Guidry. Torre didn't select Guidry because he was the best Yankee starter from 1969 onward, as was the case with Johnson starting Seaver; but because he wanted to neutralize the lefthanded bats of Hernandez and Strawberry, and turn the switch-hitting Beltran around to his weaker right side.

Reyes leads off against Guidry, and hits a grounder in the hole. His great speed is neutralized by a fantastic Jeter play and throw. Jones flies to left. Hernandez hits a drive to right-center, but Williams drifts over to catch it. End of 1 inning: Yankees 0, Mets 0.

Martinez leads off against Seaver, and slices a single into left field. A-Rod grounds into a 4-6-3 double play. Matsui slices a double down the left-field line, but Seaver ends the threat by striking out Cano.

Guidry strikes out Strawberry. Carter slaps a single over Jeter's head. Guidry catches Beltran looking. Wright draws a walk. Alfonzo can only pop up, an easy catch for Munson. End of 2 innings: Yankees 0, Mets 0.

The pitcher's spot is coming up in the order, and, between them, Guidry and Seaver have allowed just 2 baserunners each. Should Torre put in a pinch-hitter for Guidry, whose entire career came between the institution of the DH and the arrival of Interleague play, and never once came to bat in 14 seasons? Looking at his list of lefthanded bench players to face the righthanded Seaver, he sends up Bobby Murcer. Murcer hits a drive to right field, but Strawberry catches it at the warning track. Jeter grounds to 2nd. Williams flies to center.

With the next 3 Met hitters being righthanders, Torre brings Catfish Hunter in. Seaver was a good hitter for a pitcher, but Catfish gets him to ground to 3rd. Reyes singles up the middle, and Jones singles to left. Now, the 2 big lefties are up next. Torre panics, and brings in CC Sabathia. He walks Hernandez, but busts Strawberry inside. But Carter singles to left, and Reyes scores. He manages to get Beltran to ground to 1st to end the threat. End of 3 innings: Mets 1, Yankees 0.

*

Seaver gets Munson to fly to center. Jackson hits a dribbler up the middle that Reyes bobbles. The Mets put the defensive shift on Martinez, but it doesn't work: He singles to left. Now it's Tom Terrific vs. A-Rod. Seaver gets him to pop up to 1st. Matsui draws a walk, but Cano strikes out. The Yankees had 2 men on, and got nothing out of it.

Torre leaves Sabathia in to start the 4th inning. He seems to find a groove, striking out Wright, getting a grounder to 3rd from Alfonzo, and inducing a fly to short center by Seaver. End of 4 innings: Mets 1, Yankees 0.

The pitcher's spot is up again for the Yankees to lead off the 5th inning. Torre sends up Dave Winfield, who hits a long fly to left field, but Jones catches it at the wall. Jeter strikes out. Williams drops a single into short center, but Munson grounds to 1st.

Andy Pettitte is the new pitcher for the Yankees. Four innings and change, and Torre has already used 5 pitchers. At least he doesn't have to worry about a pitch count.

Pettitte strikes out Reyes on a nasty cutter. But Jones singles to right. Now comes the reason Pettitte is in the game: Lefties Hernandez and Strawberry. He gets Hernandez to fly to left. But Strawberry blasts one to deep right-center. Home run. The Apple goes up in center field. Pettitte jams Carter and strikes him out, at which point Phil Rizzuto, broadcasting the game on television, says, "But the damage is done. I tell ya, Bob Murphy, this is unbelievable. Did you see that ball that Darryl hit? Holy cow." End of 5 innings: Mets 3, Yankees 0.

Jackson leads off the top of the 6th. If Billy Martin were managing the Yankees, he might pinch-hit for Reggie. But Torre is the manager, and he trusts Reggie. Seaver tries to sneak a slider past him. It doesn't work: Reggie cranks it, over the Home Run Apple. That puts the Yankees on the board. As Reggie rounds 1st, he looks at Darryl, shooting him a dirty look, as if to say, "You ain't seen a home run trot yet, but it's comin'."

Seaver strikes out Tino, gets a fly to right from Matsui, and strikes out Cano. 3-1 Mets.

Torre trusts Pettitte with another inning. He strikes out Beltran, but Wright singles up the middle. He gets Alfonzo to fly to left. That means 2 outs, and Seaver can't bunt Wright over. With a 2-run lead, Johnson decides to leave Seaver in to hit for himself, but Pettitte gets him to ground to short, where Jeter flips to Cano for the force. End of 6 innings: Mets 3, Yankees 1.

*

Johnson leaves Seaver in for the 7th. By now, Terry Collins might have sent in a reliever.

The pitcher's spot is up, and Torre sends Mark Teixeira to pinch-hit. Seaver strikes him out. But Jeter laces a single into right field, and now Johnson gets the Met bullpen going. Bernie singles to left. Munson strikes out, and reinjures his shoulder. Seaver strikes Reggie out to end the threat.

The 7th inning stretch features a moment of silence for the troops, Kate Smith's recording of "God Bless America," and a singalong of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," with Mr. Met standing on the Met dugout and conducting the fans.

A pinstriped 1977 Toyota Celica comes out of the visitors's bullpen, and stops in front of the 3rd base dugout. Out comes Sparky Lyle, mustache blazing, cheek full of tobacco. Torre's 6th pitcher. He'll be pitching to a new catcher, Jorge Posada.

Reyes has never seen a pitch quite like Lyle's slider, and strikes out on 3 pitches. Jones flies to center. Hernandez pops to short. End of 7 innings: Mets 3, Yankees 1.

Johnson notes that Reggie, the Yankees' most dangerous lefty hitter, ended the last inning. So instead of Al Leiter, the new Met pitcher is going to be Dwight Gooden.

Doctor K strikes out Tino and A-Rod. Matsui singles to left. No matter, as Gooden strikes out Cano. Going to the bottom of the 8th: Mets 3, Yankees 1.

Sparky vs. Darryl. Not to worry, Darryl can't hit Sparky's slider, and strikes out. But as, he so often has (and Joe Girardi so often still does), Torre pulls the lefty pitcher after facing the lefty batter. Out comes the pinstriped Celica, and in comes the Goose. Gossage strikes out Carter. Beltran drives a double to left-center. But Gossage jams Wright, who pops to 3rd. End of 8 innings: Mets 3, Yankees 1.

Top of the 9th. The Yankees need 2 runs just to keep it alive, and they're facing Dwight Gooden, with his 2015 judgment and his 1985 pitching ability.

The pitcher's spot is up. Naturally, Gossage isn't going to be allowed to hit for himself. Torre sends up Paul O'Neill to pinch-hit. Gooden gets 2 quick strikes, but O'Neill fouls off 5 straight pitches before singling to left.

Jeter comes up, and singles to right. Bernie singles to center, and O'Neill scores. Mets 3, Yankees 2.

Jeter on 3rd, Williams on 1st, 1 out. The batter is Posada, a switch-hitter, who would be batting from his stronger left side against the righthanded Gooden. Should Johnson pull Doc for the lefty reliever John Franco, to turn Posada to his weaker right side? He does. Franco gets Posada to ground to 3rd, and the runners have to hold.

Now, it's Reggie Jackson, lefty, against John Franco, lefty. Tying run on 3rd, potential winning run on 1st, 2 outs. Billy Martin would pinch-hit for Reggie, but he's not here.

Torre plays a hunch, and leaves Reggie in.

Franco induces Reggie to hit a ground ball to short. Reyes calmly picks it up...

No he doesn't! He drops it! Everybody's safe! Tie ballgame, 3-3!

Bernie on 2nd, Reggie on 1st, 2 out. The batter is Tino Martinez. Johnson leaves Franco in. Torre leaves Tino in.

Franco strikes Tino out. Going to the bottom of the 9th, Mets 3, Yankees 3.

Tie game. Torre refuses to bring in his closer in a tie game. Will that come back to haunt him?

His pitcher will be David Cone. He gets Alfonzo to ground to 2nd.

The pitcher's spot is up. Johnson sends Mike Piazza up to pinch-hit.

Torre goes to the bullpen again, and brings in... Mel Stottlemyre.

Piazza hits a long drive to center. But it's all height and no distance, and Bernie settles under it.

Then Stottlemyre strikes out Reyes to end it. End of 9 innings: Mets 3, Yankees 3. "Free baseball!"

*

For the 10th inning, Johnson makes not a double-switch, but a triple-switch. Since Piazza batted for the pitching, he would stay in the game as the catcher and bat 9th. Concerned over Reyes' fielding, Johnson pulls Reyes from the shortstop position, and replaces him with Bud Harrelson. Then, since he doesn't want the pitcher's spot coming up in Carter's former place in the order so soon in the bottom of the 10th, he moves Harrelson into the 5th spot, and makes the pitcher the leadoff hitter.

Wanting a lefthander to face Reggie, Matsui and Cano, and to turn Posada to his weaker right side, and not knowing how long the game will last, he brings in a lefty who usually started, Al Leiter.

A-Rod leads off the top of the 10th. No one on base, but a clutch situation. He drives Leiter's first pitch -- his 1st, not his 142nd like in Game 5 of the 2000 World Series -- into the gap in right-center field. Agee gets to it before Strawberry, and fires in to hold A-Rod to a double.

Matsui accepts Torre's sign to not swing for the fences, and bunts A-Rod over to 3rd. Potential winning run on 3rd with less than 2 out. But Leiter strikes out Cano. And now -- curse you, National League -- the pitcher's spot is up again.

Who's left to pinch-hit? Graig Nettles? Has good power, but a lefty, so no. Don Mattingly? As good a pure hitter as the Yankees have had since Joe DiMaggio, and with power, but also a lefty. Wade Boggs?As good a pure hitter as anybody's had since Ted Williams, but also a lefty. Bucky Dent? Righty, but not much of a hitter, and this isn't Fenway Park with that nice close left field wall. Willie Randolph? Righty, decent hitter with good plate discipline.

Torre sends up Randolph. Johnson considers his bullpen options, and the only remaining righthanders are Ron Darling and the young David Cone -- meaning that, if he brings in Cone, both versions of him will be the current pitchers.

Johnson decides that 1988 David Cone is a better choice than 1999 Al Leiter to face 1978 Willie Randolph.

Randolph works the count full, and then Cone just misses with a curve. The home plate umpire, Doug Harvey, who is, at the moment, the only living umpire in the Hall of Fame, calls ball four. Johnson, knowing that Harvey is so well-respected in baseball that he is nicknamed "God," doesn't argue.

A-Rod on 3rd, Randolph on 1st, 2 out. And who's up? Captain Clutch, Derek Jeter.

Young Coney strikes him out. End of threat.

Torre makes a double switch, keeping Randolph in at 2nd base, and moving the pitcher's spot to 8th in the order. With Hernandez and Strawberry coming up in the inning, he brings in his last lefthanded pitcher, David Wells.

Cleon Jones singles up the middle. Hernandez singles to right. Now the Mets have the winning run on 2nd with nobody out, and Strawberry at the plate.

Mariano Rivera is warming up, but he's not ready. For now, it's Boomer or nobody.

Wells strikes Strawberry out on 3 nasty breaking balls. Then he gets Harrelson to ground into an around-the-horn double play, A-Rod to Willie to Tino. Whew. End of 10 innings: Mets 3, Yankees 3.

*

We go to the 11th. Bernie leads off against Cone, batting lefty. He punches a single to right. Posada is up. Bernie decides to test Piazza's arm. He steals 2nd. Then he steals 3rd.

Posada flies to center. Agee makes the catch, and throws home, but Piazza's positioning is so bad that he can't tag Bernie out. For the first time in the game, the Yankees lead.

Cone strikes Reggie out, and gets Tino to pop up to short. Going to the bottom of the 11th: Yankees 4, Mets 3.

Of course, Torre brings Mariano Rivera in to pitch. He strikes out Beltran. But Wright singles to center. Tying run on 1st, winning run at the plate, 1 out. Alfonzo hits one down the 3rd base line. A-Rod can stop it, but there's no chance of a throw.

Tying run on 2nd, winning run on 1st, 1 out. The batter is Mike Piazza. One of the great fastball hitters of all time. The pitcher is Mariano Rivera. One of the hardest pitchers of all time.

Piazza hits the ball deep to left, but it's just foul.

Then Rivera tries to pitch him outside. Piazza sends the ball deep to right field. Reggie is backed up against the wall, but it sinks into his glove. The runners move up to 2nd & 3rd, but now there's 2 outs.

And now, it's the Mets who must accept the fact that the pitcher's spot is up. Johnson sends Rusty Staub up to pinch-hit for Cone.

The Sandman tries to bust Rusty inside with a hellacious cut fastball. Le Grand Orange swings, but can only pop it up between 3rd and short. A-Rod yells, "Ha!" Jeter says, "Yours!" Alex catches it.

Ballgame over. Yankees win. Theeeeeeee Yankees win! Holy cow! How about that!

*

YANKEES  0 0 0  0 0 1  0 0 2  0 1 - 4 13 0
METS        0 0 1  0 2 0  0 0 0  0 0 - 3 12 1

The totals on the ballgame:

* For the Yankees, 4 runs, 13 hits, no errors, and 12 men left on base.

* For the Mets, 3 runs, 12 hits, 1 errors, and 8 men left on base.

* The winning pitcher is David Wells. Mariano Rivera is credited with a save. The losing pitcher is David Cone -- even though he also pitched for the Yankees in this game.

* The Most Valuable Player of the game is Bernie Williams, 3-for-5, and manufacturer of the winning run.

* The attendance at Citi Field, 41,922.

* And the time of the game, an unmanageable, but thoroughly enjoyable, 4 hours and 47 minutes.

Of course, the Mets couldn't "take back New York." Not even with the home-field and no-DH advantages.

Maybe if Gil Hodges had been their manager. Davey Johnson made some boneheaded decisions.

Maybe it wasn't the 1969 title, but the 1986 one, that was the true "miracle." The Mets didn't win that World Series because of Johnson, but in spite of him. His later experience managing in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Washington, where he's never added to his Met total of 1 Pennant, certainly suggests that.

Or maybe the Yankees, cumulatively over the last 46 years, have simply been better.

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