The 1971 New York Mets are a team looking for 2nd half consistency. They started off strong, hitting their high water mark of 16 games over on June 30. A terrible July, however, has them double digits out of the division lead, after they go 9-20 in the month. They’ve been hovering around .500 ever since, and are 56-54 going into action against the Braves at Atlanta Stadium.
On the mound for the Braves is Ron Reed, the 28-year-old, 6’6″ right-hander from LaPorte HS in Indiana. He will face shortstop Bud Harrelson to lead off the gamewhogrounds the 1st pitch to short. Marty Perez fields it, but bobbles to put Bud on with no out. Up walks 3rd baseman Wayne Garrett, looking to put a charge into this Mets team early. Unfortunately, he flies to center for the 1st out of the ball game. That brings up World Series Hero, center fielder Tommie Agee. He singles to center, sending Harrelson all the way to 3rd. Now it’s up to left fielder Cleon Jones. Agee takes the ground ball double play away by stealing 2nd, putting 2 runners in scoring position as well. Jones then comes through with a single to center, plating Bud for the 1st run of the ball game. Tommy goes to 3rd. Lifelong Met, 1st baseman Ed Kranepool, is next up, and he puts a charge into one, sending it to center for a sacrifice fly. Agee scores and the Mets are up 2-0. It is now time for 2nd baseman Ken Boswell to come through with 2 out. Setting a pattern for the day, Boswell doubles to right field to score Jones for the 3rd early run of the day. Right fielder Ken Singleton strikes out, though, and the Mets threat is done in the 1st.
On the mound for the Mets is Nolan Ryan, the 24-year-old, 6’2″ right-hander from Alvin HS in TX. While he gets 2nd baseman Felix Millan to ground to short, he exhibits what he has struggled with so far in his young career: his wildness. He walks left fielder Ralph Garr, and then catcher Jerry Grote lets one get away while facing Hank Aaron. The Hammer fouls out to 3rd, but right fielder Mike Lum singles to right, and the Braves score their 1st run of the game. Though Nolan hits catcher Earl Williams and walks center fielder Sonny Jackson, 3rd baseman Zoilo Versalles strikes out and the Out-Of-Control Ryan Express is done with the threat.
The Mets take off from there. Grote singles to center and reaches 2nd on Nolan’s sac bunt. Harrelson bunts as well, but this one gets down for a single and the bases are loaded with Metsies. Garrett hits a sacrifice fly, plating Grote for the 4th run of the game. Agee is intentionally walked to get to Jones, who makes Reed pay with a single to right to plate Mr. Ryan. That’s it for Ron Reed, who is yanked by Manager Lum Harris and replaced by Mike McQueen. Wanting to press the issue, Manager Gil Hodges pinch hits Donn Clendenon for Kranepool, and he immediately delivers with a bases loaded walk to plate the 6th run. Back up is Boswell, looking to do Somethin’ Amazin’. If nothing yet has quieted down the 20,827 Braves’ fans, the Grand Slam that Boswell hits surely does. It is now 10-1 Mets, and the crowd is stunned, except for the scattered Orange and Blue fans having a blast. Singleton and Grote each fly out, and the inning mercifully comes to an end.
They continue through 9 to add to the much-needed laugher. The 11th and 12th runs score on a Wayne Garrett single in the 5th, along with the 13th run on a Tommy Agee single. The 14th run scores in the 6th on a Grote single, along with the 15th and 16th run on new shortstop Tim Foli’s single. Clendenon hits a 2-run blast in the top of the 7th to plate the 17th and 18th runs, and the 19th and 20th score in the 9th on an error by the Braves 3rd baseman.
Nolan Ryan pitches poorly, but is able to go 8 because of the run differential. The Braves score 4 in the 5th and 1 in the 6th to increase the damage to 6. His line includes 8 hits, 5 walks and 7 strikeouts. He exits the game 9-9 with a 2.98 ERA. Ron Taylor saves the 20-6 Mets win.
Ken Boswell goes 4-5 with 3 runs scored, 5 batted in, and a walk.
The Mets use a couple September winning streaks to stay above .500, finishing the year 83-79, 14 games back of the division-winning Pittsburgh Pirates.
The 1971 New York Mets.
Topics: 1971 New York Mets, Bud Harrelson, Cleon Jones, Converted Mets Fan, Don Clendenon, Ed Kranepool, Felix Millan, Gil Hodges, Hank Aaron, Jerry Grote, Ken Boswell, Ken Singleton, Nolan Ryan, Tom Foli, Tommy Agee, Wayne Garrett