The Angels made a World Series push this afternoon by signing Josh Hamilton to a $125 million deal over five years. So today on “Glory Days,” we take a look at a New York lynchpin from the last time the team was in the World Series: Edgardo Alfonzo.
Dateline: August 30, 1999. The Mets were 79-52, 2.5 games out of first place in the NL East but also in the Wild Card hunt. One of the teams they were up for the spot against was the 78-54 Houston Astros, who they were kicking off a three-game set against. The Astrodome was rocking as New York’s Masato Yoshii and Houston’s Shane Reynolds took the mound in this late-season shootout. It would turn out to be a shootout for just one of the teams.
Edgardo Alfonzo, hitting second behind Rickey Henderson, wasted no time getting the Mets on the board, crushing the second pitch he saw from Reynolds into the power alley in left-center. 1-0 Mets before Astros fans could stop marveling at the Astrodome’s roof in time to watch the game. But the floodgates opened up in the 2nd when Darryl Hamilton led off with a home run of his own. Single by Roger Cedeno. Strikeout by Ray Ordonez. Sac bunt by Yoshii. Cedeno steals third. Henderson singles in Cedeno. Alfonzo singles. John Olerud doubles and plates both runners. Mike Piazza launches his 32nd homer of the season. Six runs later, the Mets were up 7-0, and what was supposed to be a punch-for-punch bout became a first-round knockout.
But New York was playing by MMA rules tonight. Instead of letting Houston lay there on the mat and try to recover, it pounced on the home team and made sure it was finished. And it was Alfonzo who was leading the way with a two-run home run in the 4th that made it 9-0. Up 10-0 in the 6th, the Fonz took the third pitch from Sean Bergman and turned it into his third big fly of the day to make it like Spinal Tap.
The Astros finally got on the board with a Lance Berkman home run in the 7th. So eager to keep the home side from getting the deficit to single digits, Alfonso led off the top of the 8th with a line drive single. Olerud walked and Shawon Dunston, hitting in Piazza’s old spot, singled in the 12th run. Hamilton would pick up his third RBI of the day two batters later to make it 14-1, all but ensuring a Met victory.
But Alfonzo was still hungry for more…growing boy, after all. One-out singles in the top of the 9th by Todd Pratt and Benny Agbayani prompted Fonzie to say, “’eyyy!” and double in one more run. Dunston would clean up two batters later to provide the final margin at 17-1. It was a Texas-sized night for Alfonzo deep in the heart of Texas. He set club records by going 6-6 with 6 runs and 16 total bases to go along with his 3 HRs, double, and 5 RBIs. Happy Days indeed.
The Mets would need every single one of their 96 regular-season wins in 1999: they finished in a tie with the Cincinnati Reds for the NL Wild Card. A 163rd game was needed on October 4 at Riverfront Stadium, and who else but Edgardo Alfonzo got the visitors going with a two-run homer in the 1st. Behind a complete-game two-hit shutout from Al Leiter (perhaps we’ve got another “Glory Day” to profile soon?), the Mets would win 5-0 and advance to the playoffs at 97-66. They would beat the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS to set up a date with the Atlanta Braves, and even though they fell in the NLCS 4 games to 2, that series produced one of the greatest moments in Mets history (and another “Glory Day”): Robin Ventura’s Grand Slam Single in the bottom of the 15th in Game 5.
Alfonzo finished 1999 batting .304 with 27 home runs and 108 RBIs. The next year he would hit .324, and that improvement was one of the recalibrations that helped the Mets get over the hump and reach the 2000 World Series. Edgardo left the Mets via free agency after the 2002 season after spending eight seasons with the club. His many accomplishments were honored this summer when he was named the Mets’ greatest second baseman of all-time by SNY. In a few short years expect him to join the ranks of the Mets Hall of Fame…he’ll certainly be one of its coolest members.
August 30. A good day for Ty Cobb in 1905 (first major league hit, a double off Jack Chesbro) and Bob Friend in 1966 (West Lafayette, IN native helps Mets pick up only their second victory over Sandy Koufax in his last decision against the ball club). Also a good day for racial progress in the U.S. in 1967 (Thurgood Marshall becomes first African-American Supreme Court Justice). A bad day for victims of Bolshevik fury in 1918 (V.I. Lenin survives an assassination attempt, prompting the start of the Red Terror) and anyone rooting for nuclear war in 1963 (hotline installed between White House and Kremlin as a way of avoiding another Cuban Missile Crisis). A great day for Edgardo Alfonzo in 1999.