The Mets wrapped up a dismal four-game series against the Rockies this afternoon. But before we put the Colorado bunch out of our heads for the next eight months, let’s offer some appreciation for a man who pitched for both teams over his long big league career. Today on “Glory Days,” we profile a key starting pitcher from New York’s most recent National League pennant winner: Mike Hampton.
Dateline: October 16, 2000. Shea Stadium played host to Game 5 of the National League Championship Series as the Wild Card Mets looked to clinch the National League Pennant over the Central Division champion St. Louis Cardinals. Pat Hentgen was on the hill for the visitors, while Bobby Valentine’s ball club sent out Mike Hampton, their off-season acquisition from Houston who won 15 games on the year. The first batter of the game was Fernando Vina, who slapped a single up the middle on Hampton’s third pitch. Not the best of starts, but this is as close to victory as the Cardinals got all night. Hampton retired Placido Polanco, Jim Edmonds, and Eric Davis in succession to end the 1st.
Almost immediately New York’s bats got Hampton some run support: Timo Perez singled, stole second, went to third on a throwing error, and came home on Edgardo Alfonso’s single. Two more runs came home before the inning ended and the Mets had an early 3-0 lead. In the 4th the team loaded the bases against Hentgen and sent Todd Zeile up looking to break the game open. Mr. Zeile obliged, blasting a double that cleared the bases to score Perez, Mike Piazza, and Robin Ventura. 6-0 Mets. The way the man on the mound was delivering, ballgame over. The team would add one more in the 7th against an embattled Rick Ankiel when he was undergoing his bout with Steve Blass Disease.
Not that Mike Hampton needed anything more than Alfonso’s RBI single in the 1st. The team’s co-ace finished the evening in stellar fashion, completing the shutout after allowing only 3 hits and a walk while striking out 8. And when Jay Payton caught Rick Wilkins’s flyball to center for that 27th out, the 55,695 wet Shea faithful erupted in magnificent applause. Hampton’s teammates came out to mob the series MVP on the mound, and the Mets were National League champions.
The magic would run out in the next round, however, as the Yankees would take the World Series 4 games to 1. As for Hampton, his spectacular season in Flushing would be his only one: he signed a massive contract with the Colorado Rockies in the offseason, and while his power numbers adjusted accordingly to Coors Field (10 of his 16 career home runs), so did his ERA for those two years. He then went to Atlanta for the next three seasons before Tommy John surgery sidelined him until 2008. After a brief stint with the Braves that year he returned to Houston in 2009 and closed out his 16-year career as a lefty specialist in Arizona the next season. Hampton finished with a 148-115 record, 4.06 ERA, and 22 complete games, none as big as the one that clinched the NL pennant in 2000.
October 16. A good day for the Miracle Mets in 1969 (won Game 5 to clinch the World Series) and Cleveland Indians fans in 1964 (Board of Directors decided not to move the franchise). Also a good day for George Washington in 1781 (captured Yorktown, Virginia, effectively winning the American Revolution). A bad day for Marie Antoinette in 1793 (executed via guillotine during the French Revolution) and the future of the human race in 1962 (beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis). A great day for Mike Hampton in 2000.