The 1983 New York Mets are a team on the cusp of legitimacy. Starting 16-30, Frank Cashen lets Manager George Bamberger go, replacing him with Frank Howard after the Mets lose to Pat Zachry and the Dodgers, 4-5, on June 2. Thirteen days later, Cashen makes one of the most important trades in the history of the ball club, sending Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey to St. Louis for 1st baseman Keith Hernandez. Standing at 22-36 the day of the trade, the Mets are 6-7 since the swap going into a doubleheader at Busch Stadium on June 28, the 1st time Hernandez and the Mets have visited St. Louis since the trade.
Going today for the Cardinals in the 1st game is Bob Forsch, the 6’4” right hander from Sacramento, CA. Under the Western Gateway Sun, center fielder Mookie Wilson leads off for the Mets, and promptly singles to right field. Up walks 3rd baseman Hubie Brooks, who follows suit by singling to right field as well. Wilson heads down to 2nd. And to the crescendo of the St. Louis boos walks up the 3-hitter Keith Hernandez. Bob Forsch waits as his old teammate struts up. Forsch looks in, Keith looks out. The crowd continues to egg him on. The pitcher sets and throws. Keith swings, making contact but hitting it right to the center fielder. The runners stay put. The fans jeer Keith. He makes his way back to the dugout to wait for his next chance to crush his former team. The Mets now turn to George Foster to grab themselves a 1st inning run. Foster had disappointed with the bat in his time with the Mets (certainly not with facial hair), but in this particular moment, the left fielder shines. George doubles to left, scoring Mookie and sending Hubie to 3rd. The right fielder, Darryl Strawberry, lines out to 1st base and the 2nd baseman, Bob Bailor, grounds out to 3rd to end the inning and strand 2 runners in scoring position.
Ed Lynch, the 6’6” Brooklyn-born right hander, takes the mound for the Mets in the bottom of the 1st. He breezes through the inning, sending 2 fly balls to the shortstop and inducing a weak grounder back to himself. This starts a trend for the pitcher, leading to a line that reads 8 innings, 1 run (not given up till the 5th) 7 hits and 4 strikeouts.
Though Keith triples in the 3rd inning for his 1st hit against the Redbirds in St. Louis, things are rather quiet for the Mets until the top of the 4th inning, when Strawberry cranks one to right field for a long home run, a sight that Met fans have gotten used to in 1983 and one that leads the right fielder to the Rookie of the Year. Forsch sits the next few batters down smoothly, but it is now 2-0 as Lynch continues to cruise.
The top of the 5th begins with a classic Mookie Wilson triple. Hubie Brooks then wastes an at-bat with a ground out to 3rd. Forsch intentionally walks Keith to get to Foster, who unfortunately pops up to 3rd. But no worries. Even though there are now 2 out, the Mets have their ripe Berry walking up to the plate, and he is ready to crush one to right field for a 3-run home run, scoring Wilson and Hernandez.
The Mets score 2 more in the 6th and 3 more in the 8th, winning the ballgame 10-1. Keith goes 3 for 5 in his return to St. Louis, scoring 2 runs, driving in 1 and walking once.
Unfortunately, the Orange and Blue do not fare as well in the 2nd bill. They keep it scoreless until 4th, when St. Louis plates 3. The Redbirds unfortunately score 5 more, and the Mets lose the game 1-8. The only run to score is on a Dave Kingman double, plating Keith in the top of the 9th.
The Metropolitans of New York exit the day with a 29-44 record. They finish the season 68-94. While it is the franchise’s 7th straight losing season, the fans can feel a contender brewing. Davey Johnson, who wins a Minor League World Series with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, will soon be the parent team’s manager.
Sooner than later, Met fans’ patience will be awarded.
Thanks for reading! You can read Sam Maxwell’s personal Mets Blog here.