Monday, October 3, 2011

Bobby Thompson and Me: The Legacy of My Grandfather

Sixty years ago today, Bobby Thompson's 9th-inning home run off Ralph Branca sent the New York Giants into the World Series, completing the ultimate comeback over the Brooklyn Dodgers. (You can find my essay on the buildup to the Shot here) While the rest of baseball will uniformly celebrate the Shot Heard 'Round the World, a yearly schism will divide fans of the New York Mets.

Have you ever really considered the complex relationship Mets fans have with Bobby Thompson's famous home run? New York was given a National League expansion team to fill the void the Giants and Dodgers left when they both moved west after the 1957 season. When the team took the field for the 1962 season, they clad themselves in orange and blue, a compromise between the colors of the past. The Mets were a team both sets of fans could root for.

But when October 3 rolls around, all bets are off. Around half of Mets fans, the ones whose legacies lie with in New York Giants, celebrate the storybook ending that sent their team to the World Series. The other half of Mets fans are rooted in the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and they look back on this day and curse Ralph Branca for trying to go inside on Bobby Thompson. Usually united in their support for one team, brother will turn against brother over a rivalry long past. The closest thing to compare it to would be large, rural high schools feuding over games played before consolidation.

So, as a modern-day Mets fan living in the Midwest, where do my loyalties lie when reminiscing about a home run that happened 40 years before I was born? To answer that question, I must tell the story of a South Dakota man and his first year in New York City.


My grandfather was born in 1927. In 1945, he left the farm in South Dakota for Biblical school in Rochester, New York. After transferring to the University of Rochester, he graduated from there in 1949. He stayed an extra year to earn a Masters in History, and married my grandma, a Rochester native, the same year, 1950. In 1951, Grandpa moved to the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York City, near Columbia University and Grant's Tomb, to pursue his Bachelor of Divinity at Union Theological Seminary. Aside from following the path God had set him on, Grandpa's next biggest task was choosing a baseball team to root for.

Being new to the Big Apple, Grandpa could have chosen any of the three New York teams to follow. He first considered the Yankees. But the Yankees were too successful for his tastes; they were the team of the rich and powerful, the team of corporate America. Being an aspiring minister hoping to help those who corporate America thumbed its nose at, he couldn't root for the Yankees and keep his soul at the same time. So he wouldn't become a Yankees fan.

Grandpa then considered the Dodgers. He went to a few games at Ebbets Field, but he could never really get into the home team. He concluded that in order to be a Dodger fan, you had to be a real Brooklynite; you had to live in that borough and be a real Brooklyn Bum. He was living on Manhattan, too far away from the epicenter of that team. So he wouldn't become a Dodgers fan.

Finally, Grandpa considered the Giants. The Giants were the only New York team based on the island of Manhattan. They played in the Polo Grounds, only a few blocks away from Morningside Heights. They were a working man's team, like the Dodgers, but had an appeal broader than the boundaries of the borough. Finally, in 1951, the Giants brought up a 20-year-old kid named Willie Howard Mays to play center field. Grandpa was a huge fan of Willie Mays (he also shared a birthday with Grandma). So, for him, the choice was clear. Grandpa became a Giants fan.

Luckily for him, he picked one heck of a year to become a Giants fan. And he was in the city for all of it: for 13 back in August, for 16 in a row, for 37-7, for game one at Ebbets Field and game two at the Polo Grounds. And on the afternoon October 3, 1951, he was listening to game three on WMCA-AM radio when Dark and Mueller singled, and when Irvin fouled out and Lockman doubled, when Hartung replaced Mueller and Branca replaced Newcombe. And when Bobby Thompson sent Ralph Branca's 0-1 fastball into the short porch in left, Russ Hodges screamed to Grandpa through his radio:

"THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!"

And Grandpa went crazy, and Grandma heard what happened and she went crazy, and they both ran out to dance in the streets and celebrate with all their neighbors, who were also listening to Hodges on the radio. "...and they're going crazy, they're going crazy! HEEY-OH!!!"

Of course, he was there for the other great moments of the 1950s. For the magical season of 1954, for Willie's greatness that year, The Catch in the World Series, and the four-game sweep of the Indians. He was also there when the Yankees and Dodgers renewed their rivalry year after year. My father was born in 1956, and Grandpa dreamed of passing on the traditions of the orange and black to him when he was old enough.

Of course, after 1957, he didn't know if he'd get that chance. In the blink of an eye, two sets of fans were left with broken hearts when the Giants and Dodgers packed up and moved west. Some of them may have given in and joined the Yankee empire, but Grandpa stood firm and supported his team, even after moving out of the city about a year later. After all, they were still called the Giants, still wore orange and black, and still had Willie Mays patrolling the center field in Candlestick Park. For now, he could still root for a team located 3,000 miles from home.

Then in 1962, the prayers of more than half a city were answered with the arrival of the orange-and-blue-clad New York Mets. It didn't matter that in their early years they were one of the worst teams baseball had ever seen; Grandpa, his fellow Giant fans, and Dodger fans all had a new set of heroes. Dad got into baseball around the time the team moved into Shea Stadium, and he grew up a fan of the New York Mets. After graduating from Ward Melville High School in 1974, he took his team with him when he left for Earlham College in Indiana. After he got his Ph.D. at Syracuse in 1983, he got a job at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where he met my mom. They married in 1984, the year he got a job at Purdue University in West Lafayette. I was born in 1991, and when I was old enough, Dad passed the tradition on to me. Thus, in conclusion, with fandom of the old New York Giants grandfathered into me, I rejoice at the events of sixty years ago today.


Grandpa died early last year at age 82. I have so many wonderful memories of him, but my favorite is one of ten years ago, when he first told me his story of the pennant race of 1951, of dancing in the streets with Grandma and their neighbors on October 3. It's that memory that helped shape my dad's destiny as a baseball fan, and in turn has helped to shape mine. I am a third-generation New York National League baseball fan, and it all started when a 24-year-old divinity student and his wife moved to Morningside Heights the year Bobby Thompson hit the Shot Heard 'Round the World.

MM

1927-2010

Sixty Years Later, Bobby Thompson Stands Alone

Five days ago, Evan Longoria hit the home run that sent the Tampa Bay Rays into the playoffs. Down nine games in the Wild Card at the beginning of September, Joe Maddon's team completed their comeback literally three minutes after the Boston Red Sox completed their collapse. Baseball being a game so rooted in history, the comparisons started flying almost immediately. But the Rays' comeback and Longoria's home run can only be compared to, but cannot be matched with, one particular episode in the sport's grand history. It is the most famous, perhaps, of all baseball legends, and its story came fruition sixty years ago today.

On October 3, 1951, Bobby Thompson of the New York Giants stepped up to the plate against Ralph Branca of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Down 4-1 at the start of the bottom of the 9th, the Giants had already scored one run and had two runners on. Branca's first pitch was a fastball right down the middle, which Thompson took for a strike. Branca's next pitch, a fastball high and in, was supposed to set Thompson up for the third pitch, a curveball low and away. Branca threw his second pitch. Thompson jumped on the fastball...

Everyone knows this part of the story. It has been told and retold a countless number of times over the past sixty years. What often gets glossed over in its retelling is the buildup to Bobby Thompson's famous swing. And while it still makes a great story without the prelude, what makes the Shot Heard 'Round the World the greatest moment in baseball history is the incredible road the Giants and Dodgers took to get to that moment.

Sixty years after the teams reached their destination, let's take a walk down that road.


By Saturday, August 11, the New York Giants had bottomed out. After dropping all three games of a series in Brooklyn, Leo Durocher's team lost 4-0 at home to the Phillies. Across town at Ebbets Field, Chuck Dressen's team split a doubleheader with the Boston Braves. When the newspapers were printed for the next morning, the Giants were 13 games behind the Dodgers in the standings. Remember, in these days there were no divisions, and certainly no wild cards. The team with the best record went to the World Series, and everyone else went home for the winter. So with 48 games left to go for the Dodgers and 44 left for the Giants, it appeared to be over and done. The Brooklyn Dodgers would be the National League champions in 1951 and get the chance to win their first-ever World Series. The only question that remained was who the Dodgers would face in the Fall Classic. In the American League on August 11, the New York Yankees were tied at the top with the Cleveland Indians, and the Boston Red Sox were only five games back. You had to figure the Bums were looking ahead to a match-up with the Yankees, the team that had beaten them for the title in 1941, 1947, and 1949. It might be harder to beat the Yankees, but oh, it would be sweeter to beat the Yankees than the Indians for the world championship.

But there were still those 40-odd games left to play before the Series. And while the Brooklyn Dodgers were looking way down the road, the New York Giants were about to slam on the gas.

Let's take another look at the month that just unfolded in the AL Wild Card race. While the Rays' comeback was indeed spectacular, it took an even more spectacular collapse by the Red Sox to make it happen. At the beginning of September, Boston was actually leading the AL East; the lowly Rays were nine games out. Tampa Bay went 17-10 in the final month of the regular season, while the Red Sox collapsed under pressure and went 7-20. The Rays had a great run to the playoffs, but it would not have happened had the Red Sox not crashed and burned at the finish line.

This is where 2011 deviates from 1951. Over the final month and a half of the regular season, Brooklyn did not collapse the way Boston did. Over their final 48 games, the Dodgers went 26-22. Nothing special, but still solid, and good enough to finish with a record of 96-58.

Their rivals from Manhattan, on the other hand, finished off their regular season with perhaps the most remarkable hot streak in baseball history. Clich├ęd as it may be, there's really no other way to describe it: in their final 44 games, the New York Giants caught fire.

Starting on August 12, immediately after falling 13 games behind the Dodgers, the Giants won 16 in a row, leapfrogging ahead to just five games back. They stalled a bit for the next couple weeks, going 9-6 and seesawing between five and seven back. Before their game on September 14, New York was 84-57. Would lose once more over their final 13 games. When the dust had settled, the Giants had finished on a 37-7 run. That's a winning percentage of .841 in a little over a quarter of a season. They had overcome their 13-game deficit and matched the Dodgers with a 96-58 record. What's more, for a while it appeared that the Giants would win the NL without needing a playoff: it took Brooklyn a three-run comeback and 14th-inning Jackie Robinson home run to beat the Phillies on the final day of the regular season, September 30.

With 154 games played, the two Big Apple teams were dead even in the standings. It would come down to a three-game playoff to decide who would face the Yankees, who finished five games ahead of the Indians, in the World Series.

The Dodgers won a coin toss and elected to play the first game at home, while the next two (if necessary) would be played at the Polo Grounds. The Giants won the first game at Ebbets Field, 3-1. The deciding runs came in the 4th when Bobby Thompson took Ralph Branca deep with two on and two out. The Dodgers won the second game 10-0, setting the stage for October 3, 1951.

In this match-up of aces, the Giants sent out Sal Maglie to face the Dodgers' Don Newcombe. Brooklyn got on the board first when Jackie Robinson singled home a run in the 1st inning. Not much happened until the 7th, when (who else) Bobby Thompson tied the game on a long sac fly to center (keep in mind this was the Polo Grounds, where center field stood around 483 feet from home plate; when I say long sac fly, I mean it). In the 8th, the Bums finally got to Maglie, touching him for three runs on four hits and one wild pitch. The Giants went 1-2-3 in their part of the 8th, and the Dodgers went down in the same fashion in the 9th, leaving Brooklyn with a three-run lead and New York three outs to make a miracle.

Al Dark and Don Mueller led off with singles against Newcombe, who was looking unstoppable, even on short rest (more on that later). After Monte Irvin fouled out to first, Whitey Lockman slashed a double to left, scoring Dark. Mueller broke his ankle on the slide into third base and was pinch-run for by Clint Hartung. The Dodgers met for a conference on the mound. At this point, Don Newcombe had run out of gas. Three days before in Philadelphia, he had pitched 5 2/3 innings in relief in that game the Dodgers had to win. With 8 1/3 innings under his belt in this outing, Newcombe had pitched 14 innings in four days. Even in this era, long before pitch counts and inning limits were on anybody's mind, you knew that Newcombe was spent. So with the tying runs in scoring position and Bobby Thompson due up, manager Dressen went to his bullpen and called for Ralph Branca. If Branca could get Thompson out, the Giants' last chance would be a 20-year-old rookie named Willie Mays.

You know what happens next.

"Branca throws... [crack] There's a long drive... it's gonna be, I believe...THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands! The Giants win the pennant and they're goin' crazy, they're goin' crazy! HEEEY-OH!!!''


Complete with Russ Hodges's call on WMCA-AM radio, the New York Giants had beaten the Brooklyn Dodgers and completed what is still the greatest comeback in the history of baseball. Never mind that they lost the Fall Classic to the Yankees in six games. It's been said that history only remembers champions, but sixty years later, what do you remember more about baseball in the year 1951?

I'll give credit to this year's Tampa Bay Rays. It takes something special to come back from that far back (not to mention the seven-run deficit they overcame in the final game), and they still have a chance to do what the Giants could not: win the World Series. But add to Rays-Red Sox in 2011 all of the above, plus the fact that these were not just divisional foes competing for a playoff spot but cross-town rivals going at it for the playoff spot, and you get Giants-Dodgers in 1951.

Beyond that, only one similarity exists between Evan Longoria and Bobby Thompson. Each of their home runs took around three seconds to send their fans into frenzies.

MM

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Top Mets Games of the Year: #5-1

We've come to the very best of the year that was. A couple days ago we took a look at the 10th through 6th best games of 2011. Now, we'll look back on a handful of games that were even better: the top five Mets games of 2011.

#5: Game #56: Mets 9, Pirates 8
Thursday, June 2. Citi Field, Flushing, NY
With two bad losses and Terry Collins' message of "Things have got to change" still ringing in their ears, the Mets capped a 4-game set with the Pirates on this Thursday afternoon. After falling behind 7-0 in the middle of the 3rd, it looked to be business as usual. Then, after two quick outs in the bottom of the 3rd, the team woke up. Oh, did they wake up.

Carlos Beltran blasted a 3-run homer to get New York on the board, then hit a double that started a rally in the 6th inning that led to a 4-spot and a tie game. The 8th inning brought us one of the more confusing sequences in recent memory (see "Straight Outta the Twilight Zone" in the game summary), which was capped by a Ruben Tejada sac fly (one of his first clutch moments of the year) and a bases loaded walk by, who else, Carlos Beltran. Francisco Rodriguez walked his tightrope in the 9th but ended up with the save. The comeback win broke the team out of its Wilpongate malaise and helped to spark one exciting month of June.


#4: Game #59: Mets 6, Braves 4
Sunday, June 5. Citi Field, Flushing, NY
Just three days after the Pittsburgh comeback, the Mets played host to the Atlanta Braves on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Jose Reyes was already red-hot at this point, but it was with the national spotlight on him that he caught fire.

Like clockwork, Reyes led off the game with a single and came home on Carlos Beltran's double. He drew a walk and scored on a wild pitch in the 2nd. In the 4th he drove home a run by stretching a routine single into a double. It was in the midst of Jose's latest showing that ESPN's Bobby Valentine finally spoke out, calling Wilpon's Bluff on the whole "Keep Reyes or Keep Wright" farce. The former Met manager's prediction eventually came true, as Reyes finished out his record-setting year in the orange and blue, and while it's not yet set in stone, it appears likely that New York will be Jose's home for next year and beyond.

The rest of the game was not nearly as eventful, but quite satisfying for Met fans from Long Island to Long Beach. R.A. Dickey was masterful and the bullpen survived the 9th inning, giving the team a primetime victory that surely surprised a few people. And at 220+ pageviews, the summary from this game registered as Midwestern Met's most widely read post of the year.

#3: Game #84: Mets 3, Yankees 2 (10)
Sunday, July 3. Citi Field, Flushing, NY
It was the day Jose Reyes was named the NL's starting shortstop in the All-Star Game, but nobody was smiling after Jose's injury the day before. The strain of Reyes' left hamstring abruptly ended his other-worldly run at the plate and landed him on the DL for the first time on the year. Add that deflating development to a 2-1 deficit in the bottom of the 9th, and it appeared the Mets were on their way to a sweep at the hands of Mariano Rivera their intra-city rivals. Then Jason Bay caught lightning in a bottle.

It started out innocently enough: Bay took a close 3-2 cutter and drew a two-out walk. Then Lucas Duda came through with a single that sent Bay to third. Ronny Paulino fell behind early, but fought back to ground a base hit into right to tie the game. Duda may have been thrown out at home on the next at-bat, but it didn't matter: the Mets had come back against the greatest closer in baseball history. It was on to extras.

K-Rod got out of trouble in the top of the 10th and Scott Hairston drew a leadoff walk in the bottom half. Angel Pagan sac-bunted him over to second, and Justin Turner was hit by a pitch. After Carlos Beltran struck out, Daniel Murphy hit a weak grounder to short that Ramiro Pena couldn't handle. Up came Jason Bay, the man who started it all in the 9th. If Bay doesn't do anything else in his New York career, he'll be remembered for this: Jason laced a single into right center, and just like that the Mets were winners.

Aside from coming back from the dead against the Yankees, what makes this game one of the best of the year was the way the Mets were able to show resiliency in the face of adversity. Their superstar had been bitten by the injury bug, and yet they refused to go quietly into the good night. It was a common theme for the Mets in 2011, as is demonstrated by these next two games.

#2: Game #104: Mets 8, Reds 2
Wednesday, July 27. Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati, OH
I confess, I'm more than a little partial to this one. First, I was at this game, and second, it was the best time I've ever had at a baseball game. Luckily, it also happened to be one of the more compelling games of the entire season. And one of the greatest.

Hours before, Carlos Beltran was dealt to the Giants. To Reds fans in the stands, this appeared to be New York's throwing in of the towel. After all, they had just traded away one of their best players for, at least on the surface, peanuts. Little did anyone know, those peanuts were San Fran's top pitching prospect. And what's more, Beltran's replacement on the field that night helped the Mets do absolutely everything right on that Wednesday night.

Angel Pagan got things going fast with a 2-run 1st-inning double. In the 5th, new 3-hole hitter Daniel Murphy highlighted a 4-5 night (with his family in the stands, no less) with an RBI double. In the 6th, new right fielder Lucas Duda made an early case for a permanent spot in the lineup, blasting a laser of a solo homer into the right field stands. David Wright's 3-run longball in the 7th capped the scoring night for the Mets, and Mike Pelfrey rode that momentum all the way home for the complete-game victory.

Once again, the Mets showed the baseball world that they would not fold in the face of adversity. Even with one of the franchise's all-time greats on his way out, Terry Collins and his boys were going to keep playing, and keep winning.

So what could possibly top any of these games and take the cake as the Mets' best of 2011? Try the one right after the team's worst of 2011.

#1: Game #114: Mets 9, Padres 8
Monday, August 8. Citi Field, Flushing, NY
The day before, Jose Reyes was placed on the DL for the second time, and the team's other .300 hitter, Daniel Murphy, was knocked out for the year with an MCL injury. There was supposed to be no coming back from this. The experts called it, the fans called it, I called it, much of the baseball universe called it. The season was over. Done. Pack it up, wait till next year.

Except, it wasn't. Baseball has the longest season of any sport: 162 glorious games. The Reyes and Murphy injuries happened in Game #113. The Mets still had 49 more games to play in 2011. With 49 more games, there were still plenty of chances to give the fans a thrill. Oh boy, they didn't make 'em wait long.

Down 8-4 after the Padres broke it open with 4 in the 8th, New York got 2 back after a Mike Baxter double and Ronny Paulino sac fly. But still being down 2 runs and about to face one of the best closers in baseball in Heath Bell, the odds were still stacked against the team making a comeback.

But Jason Pridie led off the 9th with a single. After Angel Pagan struck out, Justin Turner came through in the clutch again with a single, sending Pridie to third. David Wright, not particularly known for his clutch hitting, swung at the first pitch he saw and grounded it through the hole into center, scoring Pridie. Up came Lucas Duda, looking to do something big. After a rare wild pitch from Bell advanced Turner and Wright to second and third, it was the best chance Duda could have asked for. Lucas punched a ground ball past a diving Orlando Hudson at second and into right center. Turner easily raced home, and Wright slid in for the game-winner, getting up to join the frenzy mobbing Duda between first and second. Against all odds, the Mets had come back and won the ballgame.

The reason this particular game tops the other 161 is that, more than any game the whole season, Mets fans needed this win. After what had happened the previous afternoon, they had to have this win. It didn't look like it was ever going to come, but with everything going against them, in the face of their biggest adversity of an adversity-filled year, the New York Mets refused to quit. And they gave their fans that win. And on the back of this win on the night of August 8, Mets fans got through the rest of the 2011 season with their faith in their team as strong as ever.


And that does it for Midwestern Met's top ten New York Mets games of 2011. Here's to the many more great wins coming in 2012.

MM

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bottom Five Mets Games of the Year

Any Mets loss is a bad loss, but amongst the 85 fans had to endure in 2011, these five rise above (sink to the bottom?) of the rest in terms of awfulness. If you can handle the sadness, keep reading for the bottom five Mets games of the 2011 season.

#5: Game #146: Cubs 10, Mets 6 (11)
Sunday, September 11. Citi Field, Flushing, NY
In September 2001, Mike Piazza's legendary homer against the Braves helped to heal New York City after the devastation of 9/11. Ten years later, after an emotional pre-game ceremony honoring the fallen, the Mets looked to further add to the healing legacy. Instead, all it could give fans on this Sunday Night occasion was a broken heart.

After falling behind early, Angel Pagan's score on an error tied the game in the 8th. In the 9th, David Wright had a chance to be the hero with 2 on and none out. He grounded into a fielder's choice, but an intentional walk loaded the bases for Jason Bay. Bay grounded into a force at home, and a Jason Pridie 3-2 strikeout later, New York had squandered a grand opportunity. In the next inning, they did it again, loading the bases with 2 out for Wright, who had a second chance to be a hero. One weak popout later, that chance was gone. Jason Pridie hit a 2-run homer in the 11th, but after 6 Chicago runs preceding it, Pridie's blast was a moot point. The deflating loss was the epicenter of a season-breaking 1-8 homestand that wiped out whatever chance the Mets had of reaching .500 for the year.

#4: Game #69: Braves 9, Mets 8 (10)
Thursday, June 16. Turner Field, Atlanta, GA
A big storyline in the team's first half of the season was its climb back from a 5-13 start to reach the .500 mark. By this Thursday night in Atlanta, they had gotten back. And they were just 2 outs away from their first winning record since they were 3-2. Francisco Rodriguez had not blown a save since game #2, and was entering the 9th with a 2-run lead. You can chalk this one up, right? Wrong.

K-Rod gave up a game-tying 2-run homer to Brooks Conrad, who had homered just one other time in 2011. After failing to score in the top of the 10th, DJ Carrasco got his first two outs after a double play. But he wasn't out of the woods just yet. Diory Hernandez hit his first double of the year, then went to third on a Jordan Schafer infield single. Jason Heyward came up with the chance to be the hero. He wouldn't need to be, as Carrasco balked in the winning run. New York went back into the loss column, and it would take another 10 games before they would get over the peak that was Mount .500.

#3: Brewers 11, Mets 9
Saturday, August 30. Citi Field, Flushing, NY
Talk about your mixed emotions. On this Saturday afternoon in August, the Mets fell behind 7-1 after 6 innings. Then after plating 5 in the 7th, the team had to face its former closer, Francisco Rodriguez, now set-up man for John Axford and Milwaukee. K-Rod's return trip to Flushing revived some old demons, as Josh Thole doubled home the game-tying run with 2 out, and Angel Pagan blasted one to right to give the Mets a 9-7 lead. All then-acting closer Jason Isringhausen needed to do was put away the Brewers' 8-9-1 hitters for the win. He wouldn't get a single out.

After a couple walks and a single, Izzy walked home the first run of the inning. His three other baserunners would score off Manny Acosta, giving the Brewers an 11-9 lead. A lead that superstar closer John Axford would not relinquish in his half of the 9th. And the worst part of it? K-Rod picked up the W. Ouch.


#2: Game #47: Cubs 11, Mets 1
Tuesday, May 24. Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
After a disappointing series loss in the Bronx, New York was looking to get back on track against a pretty bad Chicago team. But the Mets' biggest obstacle on this night wasn't the Cubs. It was their owner.

All the air had been let out of the Mets long before this game begin, thanks to Fred Wilpon's comments in The New Yorker magazine on Carlos Beltran, David Wright, and Jose Reyes. After this latest PR disaster for the team and its already-embattled owner, they had no chance of even being competitive. The low-point of this already-low night was when pitcher Carlos Zambrano was sent up to pinch hit in the 7th inning and singled in two runs. It was in the wake of that at-bat that I went into a rant against Wilpon, which you can read about, if you so choose, in my post from that day.

#1: Game #113: Braves 6, Mets 5
Sunday, August 7. Citi Field, Flushing, NY
So what could possibly rank worse than the immediate fallout of Wilpongate? Try the game in which the team's top two hitters and its season were lost.

Jose Reyes was forced from the game in the 2nd with more trouble in his left hamstring; this strain would land him on the 15-day DL for the second time in a little over a month. Then in the 7th, the Mets were dealt an even more serious injury. Daniel Murphy, a shaky fielder anywhere he plays, was at second base this afternoon. As Jose Constanza attempted to steal second, Murphy got his left leg in an awkward position and right in the path of Constanza's cleat. One cringe-worthy collision later, and Murph was grabbing his left knee in agony. The MCL injury would end Daniel Murphy's season.

Amazingly, New York was able to tie this game in the bottom of the 7th. But in the 9th, the team's meeting with Atlanta ended the way it has far too many times since the 1990s: with a guy named Larry delivering the final blow. Game over, playoff chances over. The Mets would go 21-28 the rest of the year.

Okay, enough with the wallowing in sadness. We're about to get to the good stuff. Check back tomorrow to relive the absolute best moments from the year that was: the top five Mets games of 2011.

MM