Was It Football? Not to Mets and Phillies
Philadelphia 26, New York 7.
NFL fan: Who missed the extra points?
NBA fan: Doug Moe get the 76ers job?
NHL fan: Flyers trade for Gretzky?
Mets fan: Whoa! Time warp. It’s 1962 again.
Bet the Mets, gave 18, still lost. Brutal. I knew they shouldn’t have let Marv Throneberry make those commercials.
Hi there, Mets fans. Welcome to rock, roll and remember. Let’s go way back to 1962 and dedicate this true story to Elio Chacon and Choo Choo Coleman. The Amazing Mets--on their way to the record 120 losses--had just finished playing a game with the Cubs when a fan called the press box, and the following dialogue ensued.
Fan: How many runs the Mets score?
Fan: Did they win?
The good news for Met fans last Tuesday night was that the Mets’ total of 13 hits equaled their season’s best.
The bad news was, 13 wasn’t half what the Phillies got.
The Phillies got 26 runs (24 earned!) on 27 hits.
That’s a career for Lenn Sakata.
You see the pitching line on Calvin Schiraldi? One and one-third, 10 hits, 10 runs, 10 earned runs. Who did they think he was, Mary Lou Retton?
Since 1900, only four teams--the White Sox, Red Sox, Indians and Cardinals--have scored more than 26 runs in a game. Three others--the Reds, Cubs and Giants--got 26; the last time it was done in the National League was 1944.
“I went to the game to do a story on why no one in the National League can score,” Jayson Stark of the Philadelphia Inquirer said. “I guess that story is dead.”
The Phillies scored more runs in this one game than they had throughout the whole month of June.
Philadelphia led, 9-0, after the first, as Von Hayes hit two homers, and 16-0 after the second, when the scoreboard operator shifted to generator power. They batted around four separate times.
Stark’s scorebook looked like the menu at a Chinese restaurant.
“Most of the time I couldn’t even tell what inning it was,” he said.
In slo-pitch softball, where an official game is stopped should a team lead by 10 or more runs, this game would have been over in the bottom of the fifth.
In pinball, it would have been a tilt.
In bullfighting, Hayes would have been given the ears and the tail.
(Then again, in Ulan Bator, nobody would have cared.)
“A lot of times you get amused by things that happen in a game,” said Clint Hurdle, the Mets’ right fielder. “But at no time did this game humor me. As the score continued to escalate, the game got ridiculous. It got to the point where it crossed the line and it became upsetting. You’re not just embarrassed to get beat so badly, you’re angry. I told someone it was like getting slapped by your girlfriend in front of your mother--you know you ought to do something about it, but you don’t know what.”
Up in the press box, the rival publicity directors, Jay Horwitz of the Mets and Larry Shenk of the Phillies, spent most of the game with their noses buried in their record books.
“I found out about lots of crazy records, ones I never knew existed,” Shenk said. “Like: ‘Most Hits By Infield In One Game.’ Who ever heard of that before? We missed it. We had 13. The Pirates’ infield had 16 in 1975.”
“At least he was looking up positive records,” Horwitz said. “Everything I looked up was negative: club records for most runs allowed, most hits allowed, greatest margin of defeat. We beat them all. It was embarrassing. On the other hand, now I won’t have to look them up again.”
Shenk said he’d never seen anything like a 16-0 lead before.
Horwitz had. In 1972, he was doing sports PR at Fairleigh-Dickinson when his team lost in the NCAA baseball tournament to Delaware, 32-1. “Believe it or not we were ahead, 1-0, after the top of the first,” he said. “We probably got overconfident.”
After the game, the Mets’ clubhouse cleared quickly. “No one even bothered making jokes about it, and this is usually a real loose team,” said Bob Klapisch of the New York Post. “It was like a morgue in there.”
Hurdle expected the Phillies would “laugh” at the Mets. But Larry Andersen, who pitched the ninth inning, said, “At first you got real excited, because the hitters were going so crazy. Then after a while you began to feel sorry for the Mets.”
Normally in a game like this the gallows humor would come from the writers. But according to Marty Noble of Newsday, “There were no classically funny lines in the press box. It got ridiculous so quickly that most of the night was spent constantly updating statistics like ‘most runs since; most hits since.’ Driving home after the game we were astonished at how unfunny the game was.”
With 33 runs to account for, Noble didn’t even attempt to write the typical “running story,” which details each score. “That’s why God created agate type,” he said.
But Klapisch did.
“The first 23 anyway,” he said.
Klapisch, who usually writes a 700-word game story, began writing “running” in the top of the first. “I gave it the full ride,” he said. “I gave the count; I talked about fouling pitches off; I wrote what the hits looked like. Then by the second, when it was 16-0, I was down to writing two word sentences: ‘Hayes singles. Schmidt doubles.’ I was over 1,000 words after two innings. I said to myself, ‘If this keeps up, I’ll have a book.’ ”
Mets fans probably gave up early. But one writer who gave them a chance to pull the game out--particularly when they got to 16-7 in the fifth--was Stark.
He covered the Phillies’ 10-inning 23-22 victory over the Cubs in 1979. He remembered the Phillies were up, 20-9, in the fifth: “Pete Rose was on second. Del Unser hit a long fly, and Rose tagged--up 11, and he tagged ! Next ball was a sac fly, and Rose scores for 21-9. Incredibly, Chicago comes back and tie it at 22 in the eighth. So Rose’s tag play, in retrospect, may be the difference between winning and losing.
“After the game Rose says with a straight face, ‘I knew 20 wouldn’t be enough.’ ”