“How Badly did the Mets need a pitching hero? Well, Jerry Koosman hasn’t won a game in 8 weeks, Craig Swan has pitched well but has not won a game in 11 weeks and Mike Bruhert hasn’t won a game in 8 weeks.”
– Joseph Durso, New York Times
The 1978 New York Mets are a team falling off the tail-end of an era. Tom Seaver and “The Midnight Massacre” is a year old and the team is scattered with the likes of Steve Henderson and Doug Flynn, two pieces involved in that trade. Headed by Joe Torre, the Metsies of ’78 end up losing 96 games, but produce a fantastic Mets Yearbook, with highlights such as a Willie Montanez home run trot, a Happy Days softball game at Shea, and a bubble-gum blowing contest. But on this day, another member of the Massacre steps it up to hold the Cubs at bay surrounded by the ivy.
On a sunny, windless day at Wrigley, with temperatures in the 80’s, the 3rd baseman, Lenny Randle, walks up to the plate looking to help the Mets snap a 3-game losing streak. The righty, Dennis Lamp, stands on the mound for the Cubs, looking to keep the winning going after a 10-9 tilt over the Mets the day before. Randle gets the count to 2-2 on 5 pitches. Lamp throws the 6th pitch and Randle hits it passed the 1st baseman, Larry Biittner, for a single. Lamp points to his infielders, getting them in sync for the possible double play. He looks in to the right fielder, Elliott Maddox, who stands at the plate. Lamp sets, glancing back to Randle at 1st. He pitches. Maddox swings and laces a line drive to left field. Randle motors all the way from 1st to score and Maddox slides into 2nd with a double. The left fielder gets the ball back in to Lamp, who looks perturbed. After a walk to Lee Mazzilli, Lamp gets Steve Henderson to line out to 2nd base and Willie Montanez to line out to Center. With 2 out and 1 on, up to the plate walks the catcher, John Stearns. It is said that if the Mets had a team full of Stearns they’d be fantastic. Lamp looks in to his battery mate, sets, checks the runner and pitches. Stearns shows off his value with a swing that drives the ball right over the left field wall. Mazzilli and Maddox come in to score, waiting to greet Stearns at home plate. The shortstop, Tim Foli, arrives at the dish but unfortunately grounds out to Lamp, capping the scoring at 4.
The 26-year-old righty, Pat Zachry, has one of the greatest beards ever. While his pitching has been solid since he joined the Mets in the Trade, he has struggled to live down the Tom Seaver comparisons. On this sunny day, however, with that fur covering his face, he will cruise. The 1st inning is a cinch, getting a ground ball to the shortstop, a ground ball to the 2nd baseman, and a fly ball to left field. He doesn’t give up a single till the 3rd and doesn’t give up a run till the 7th, when the Cubs’ left fielder, Dave Kingman, leads off the inning with a TRIPLE (I can’t believe it either) then scores on a sacrifice fly. Meanwhile, the Mets plate one in each the 3rd, the 4th and the 9th. Pat Zachry heads back out to the mound looking for the complete-game-4-hitter.
Kingman, who had been traded by the Mets on that fateful Midnight, steps up to try to get something off of Zachry. Pat looks in to Stearns, winds up a throws a fastball. Kingman rips one deep, the ball soaring above the left field foul pole. Dave walks a bit towards 1st, then turns around as if conceding it’s foulness. But the 3rd base umpire signals a home run, and Kingman begins his trot. Joe Torre and half the Mets team erupt in protest, but to no avail. Zachry and the Mets march on. He gets a fly ball from Larry Biittner, gives up a single to Steve Ontiveros but induces a double play from Rodney Scott to seal up the 6-hitter.
“It was foul, and you don’t even have to say ‘in my opinion.'”
They would lose the next day in 10, 8-9. The June 27, 1978, 7-2 win was 1 of 66, and was THE highlight of the year outside of Bobby Valentine working the lady judges to beat Ed Kranepool in the Bubble Gum Blowing Contest.
The 1978 New York Mets.
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