1980 was a very transitional year for the New York Metropolitans. The Payson family, who had owned the Mets since their inception, sold the team to the Doubleday Publishing Company, with Nelson Doubleday, Jr. taking the position as Chairman of the Board and minority owner Fred Wilpon inserting himself into the Club President role. Their first move was hiring Frank Cashen, who had overseen the Baltimore Orioles championship teams of the 60’s and 70’s (one of which had come across an unstoppable ’69 Mets club.) Cashen was handed a team who had lost 99 games the year before, and were on their way to losing another 95. On this day in 1980, with a reminder of their club’s recent ineptitude unfortunately on the mound for the Reds and not the Mets in Tom Seaver, the 11,412 people who came out to see a Monday night game at Shea Stadium were given something to smile about with a 3-2 win in 10 innings.
In the 1st inning, the Mets sent to the mound their 27-year-old rookie pitcher Mark Bomback. The game started off on a sour note, with Dave Collins singling to lead off the game for the Reds (although to look on the bright side, the suspense of a possible first Mets no-hitter was done with in the quickest way possible.) Junior Kennedy then bunted Collins over to second. Bomback then walked Ken Griffey to set up 1st and 2nd with only one out. The rookie was able to, however, induce future Met hero Ray Knight to ground into a double play and the Mets were able to wiggle away from the early threat.
Tom Seaver then took the mound in the bottom of the 1st and was promptly hit off of, with Joel Youngblood doubling to right field. The Mets manager, Joe Torre, then followed the Reds’ suit, having Doug Flynn bunt Youngblood over to 3rd. Lee Mazzilli grounded out to 2nd, allowing Youngblood to come home and give the Mets a 1-0 lead.
Bomback was plagued in this game by 6 Base on Balls, and while the Reds were able to score in the 3rd inning to tie the game, he was able to to stave off their base-runners for the most part. His wildness, however, caught up with him in the 6th inning. After giving himself the lead on a double in the bottom of the 5th, he promptly gave up a single to Ray Knight in the top of the 6th. With Dan Driessen at the plate, Bomback unleashed a wild pitch, sending Knight down to 2nd. He then walked Driessen but struck out Johnny Bench. It was looking like Bomback might just get out of this. He then, however, walked Dave Concepcion to load the bases with 1 out. Joe Torre lost patience and he gave Bomback the hook. The southpaw, Ed Glynn, was brought in to provide relief, but unfortunately gave up a sacrifice fly to Cesar Geronimo, plating Knight to knot the score at 2. Driessen got greedy, however, trying to reach 3rd on the play but fortunately did not do so, ending the inning and the threat of the Reds taking the lead.
With Tom Seaver settling down to pitch 8 innings of 6-hit, 2-run ball, the hero of this game for the Mets was the bullpen, particularly Pat Zachry, returning on this day to pitch for the first time since June 10, 1979. He had injured his elbow and required season-ending surgery. On this 5th day in May of 1980, he pitched 2 innings of scoreless baseball, striking out 3 and reporting no pain in his arm. He gave way to Jeff Reardon, who walked 3 but pitched 2 scoreless as well.
Doug Bair came in to pitch for the Reds in the 9th, and after putting up a zero for that first frame, he came back out for the 10th inning. Jose Cardenal greeted him with a single. Alex Trevino grounded to short to force Cardenel out at 2nd, sending up pinch-hitter Ron Hodges. Mario Ramirez had started at short for the Mets on this day but had gone 0 for 3. Joe Torre liked his chances better in ending the game on a good note with Hodges up at the plate, and his intuition proved exceptional in the moment. Hodges doubled to the gap in left-center, and Travino sprinted around the bases for the winning run.
For a young team trying to put the dark ages behind them, this kind of gutsy win was just what the Cashen ordered.