Thursday, April 25, 2013

R.I.P. Rick Camp (15 Minutes of Fame For A 19-Inning Game)

If you're a long-time Mets fan, you know who Rick Camp is, and you know him for one thing.  Camp was the relief pitcher who hit a home run off Mets' reliever Tom Gorman in the bottom of the 18th inning to extend an already epic Fourth of July battle between the Braves and Mets into a 19th inning in 1985.

Camp's home run over the head of a disbelieving Danny Heep tied the seemingly never-ending game at 11-11.  The unexpected jog around the bases must have sapped Camp of all his strength, as the Mets scored five runs off the slugger in the 19th inning and held on for a 16-13 victory in a game that ended five minutes before a 4 A.M. fireworks show.

Rick Camp never hit another home run in the major leagues.  In fact, the blast was one of only 13 hits collected by Camp in his nine-year major league career.  But to this day, it is still talked about by Mets fans as being one of the most unlikely home runs ever hit against their favorite team.

After receiving his 15 minutes of fame in 1985, Camp remained out of the spotlight, retiring from baseball a few short months after hitting his highlight-reel home run.  But today, Rick Camp's name is back in the news, and for sad reasons.

Rick Camp has passed away at the age of 60.

Earlier today, the Bartow County (Georgia) coroner's office confirmed that Camp passed away in his home, indicating that although the autopsy has not yet been performed, Camp more than likely died of natural causes.

Rick Camp had himself a nice career as a starter and reliever for Atlanta, going 56-49 with a 3.37 ERA in nine seasons with the Braves.  He even received national recognition in the strike-shortened 1981 season, going 9-3 with a 1.78 ERA to receive MVP consideration.  (Interestingly enough, Camp finished tied for 20th place in the 1981 NL MVP race with Keith Hernandez, who hit for the cycle in the same game Camp hit his only home run.)  But nothing gave Camp more recognition than one long fly ball he hit at 3:30 in the morning in a game that began on the Fourth of July.

On a night that ended with rockets red glare, it was Rick Camp's bomb that burst in the air.  His shot gave proof through many nights that his legacy would remain there.  Camp earned his 15 minutes of fame by extending a memorable game into the 19th inning.  It is a moment that is etched in the memories of many Mets fans.  And that moment will keep Rick Camp alive, even now after his death.

R.I.P. Rick Camp (June 10, 1952 - April 25, 2013).  You may have moved on, but your memory (and your homer) lingers on.

Chief Noc-A-Homa and a Camp who knocked a homer.

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