Tuesday, July 05, 2005

July 5th, 1985

Mets at Braves Game Ends

This one is cheating a little bit, since the game technically began on July Fourth, but it is worth a bit of cheating on my part to hear the story. The game was supposed to be begin as a standard evening start on the Fourth of July, and to end with a fireworks display. As it happened, both of those would be altered, but we'll get to the fireworks later. The game start was delayed ninety minutes by rain, and when the game finally began it is safe to say the field wasn't exactly in brilliantly playable condition. In the first inning, against Braves' starter Rick Mahler, after Lenny Dykstra grounded out and Wally Backman's single was erased on a pick off, Keith Hernandez doubled. He was driven in on a single by Gary Carter and Hernandez was easily safe at home because Carter's single ran into a puddle in the outfield and stopped dead. This was followed by a Darryl Strawberry single and George Foster walk but Ray Knight struck out to leave the bases loaded. At the time the Mets may not have thought much of the run that could've scored had Backman not been picked off, but they would later regret it.

The Braves answered in their half of the first off Dwight Gooden with a Claudell Washington triple and Rafael Ramirez RBI groundout. The next two innings were relatively quiet, at least until the third when after a Bob Horner single, the sky once again opened and the game was interrupted for a forty-one minute rain delay. When the game resumed Davey Johnson was forced to remove Gooden; the only start below six innings Doc would make in his otherwise sublime (24-4, 1.53) 1985 season. Roger McDowell replaced Gooden and allowed the Braves to take a 3-1 lead on a Ken Oberkfell double that plated two runs.

The Mets would answer in the top of the fourth as Rafael Santana singled. After Clint Hurdle flied out to left batting for McDowell Dykstra singled and Jeff Dedmon came in relief of Mahler. Dedmon immediately allowed a Wally Backman single which scored Santana and moved Dykstra to third after it hit the same puddle in the outfield, which was now deeper for having been rained on for an additional three quarters of an hour. Keith Hernandez, who had good wheels in his youth but was thirty-one at this point, then tripled although this too carries the watermark (stop groaning) of the game, as the two runs that scored and the triple itself came when centerfielder Washington fell down among the wet of the Fulton-County Stadium outfield. Gary Carter then singled, scoring Hernandez and putting the Mets up 5-3, but Strawberry and Foster made out, snuffing the rally.

The game continued on with the Braves picking up a run in the fifth but the Mets scoring in the sixth to preserve their two-run lead, and they added to it with a Keith Hernandez eighth inning homer. The Braves would come storming back however, pulling within two runs on a bases loaded walk by Ramirez and then taking the lead on a bases clearing double by Dale Murphy. The Mets refused to go quietly however, and in the ninth they strung three singles together off Bruce Sutter and tied the score.

The teams then played several scoreless innings highlighted only by Keith Hernandez's single in the twelfth which gave him the cycle for the evening. In the thirteenth Ray Knight singled and Howard Johnson, who had entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the ninth but was on his third at-bat, homered, putting the Mets up 10-8. Johnson then called on Tom Gorman to close out the game. Gorman allowed a single to Ramirez but then struck out Murphy and Gerald Perry, leaving the Mets with a two-run lead and just one out to record. It would never happen however, as Terry Harper would launch a two-run, game-tying home run, which incredibly, struck the foul pole, saving the Braves by mere inches. Oberkfell then popped out, but the game would continue, tied 10-10.

The game went on for four more scoreless, fairly uneventful innings, notable only for by the ejection of Strawberry and Davey Johnson for arguing balls-and-strikes on a Strawberry seventeenth inning K. The umpire would later tell a reporter that he ran the pair because "at
three AM, there are no bad calls." In the eighteenth, Howard Johnson led off with a single. Danny Heep then hit a double play ball back to pitcher Rick Camp but he threw it into center field instead, allowing Johnson to go to third. This would come back to bite him as Dykstra, in his ninth plate appearance of the game, hit a sac fly to put the Mets ahead by a run. Camp would escape the inning with no further damage.

In the bottom of the eighteenth Perry and Harper made out, bringing Camp to the plate. Normally Camp would have been pinch-hit for, but the Braves were out of position players. Rick Camp was, even for a pitcher, an abominable hitter. His career line was .074/.109/.114, and to that point, he had hit just .060. He had played eight Major League seasonst and never once hit a home run, and his career high in hits for a season was five, corresponding to a .111 batting average. He was, as you can probably tell, a truly terrible hitter with no power. To compound matters, he got himself down in the count 0-2 to Gorman. It was also
half past three in the morning and he had already pitched two innings. All Gorman had to do was throw one more strike past a man who struck out eighty-five times in his career.

Well, you can probably tell where this is going. Gorman delivered his next pitch and Camp lifted a fly ball that fell over the Fulton-County fence for a game-tying home run as Mets' left fielder John Christensen dropped his glove and pounded the ground in frustration. In the nineteenth, evidently determined to put the game out of reach for good, the Mets scored five runs, taking a 16-11 lead. Predictably however, things weren't over yet. The Braves managed to score two runs in their half of the inning and Camp came up again, this time with runners on the corners and himself once more the tying run. Camp couldn't repeat his previous heroics, however, and struck out, pounding his bat on the plate in frustration that I find hard to understand after a game that lasted--with rain delays, six hours and ten minutes and ended five minutes before four in the morning.

That's very nearly the end of the story, except for the rather crucial fact that the game had started on the Fourth of July. And as you might remember I mentioned earlier, the crowd had been promised a fireworks show. Although only a handful remained--I like to think I would have been one of them--the Braves nevertheless began to the launch the fireworks at approximately four in the morning. The reaction was predictable. Everyone in Fulton County Stadium enjoyed them, while everyone else in
Fulton County found them terrifying. Several called the police thinking there was a massive shootout on the streets while others retreated to their basements on the theory that the Soviets were bombing. It was a fittingly crazy end to an all-around crazy night in Atlanta.

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