Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hark(ness), The Herald Davis Swings

If you were at Citi Field today as I was, you witnessed a thrilling conclusion to the Mets-Reds affair.  With the Mets trailing, 3-2, going into the bottom of the ninth, Juan Lagares, Anthony Recker and Ruben Tejada all reached base to start the inning.

Up stepped Ike Davis, needing a long fly ball to tie the game and a base hit to perhaps win it.  What he did was even more exciting.

Slam!  Let the boys be boys!  (Photo by Howard Simmons/NY Daily News)

Davis' long blast off the Subway sign in right-center turned a potential heartbreaking one-run loss into a scream-until-you-lose-your-voice three-run victory.  The walk-off grand slam gave the Mets a 6-3 win over the Reds and put them in position to sweep Cincinnati on Sunday.

But Ike Davis' game-ending homer was more than just a fantastic moment in this young season.  It also was one of the rarest moments in the 53-year history of the team.  Please allow me to elaborate.

Davis' walk-off grand slam was only the seventh such home run hit by a Mets player in franchise history.  Tim Harkness was the first Met to smoke a game-ending salami, accomplishing the feat against the Chicago Cubs at the Polo Grounds on June 26, 1963.  Just forty-four days later, Jim Hickman also victimized the Cubs for a walk-off grand slam at the Polo Grounds.  The killer H's were the only two players in team history to end games with four-run homers until 1980, when Mike Jorgensen took the Dodgers' Rick Sutcliffe deep at Shea Stadium.  Six years later, Tim Teufel hit a grand slam against Tom Hume of the Phillies at Shea, a feat that wasn't seen again at the Mets' former home until 1991, when Kevin McReynolds blasted a bases-clearing shot over the wall versus the Montreal Expos.  It took another 22 years before Jordany Valdespin became the sixth Met to end a game with a grand slam, taking the Dodgers' Josh Wall over the wall at Citi Field on April 24, 2013.  Less than 365 days after Jordany took a spin around the bases, Ike Davis became the seventh slammer.

Obviously, becoming the seventh player to hit a walk-off grand slam in Mets history puts Davis in select company, but four of the other six players who ended games by putting a four-spot up on the scoreboard did so when their respective games were tied.

Hickman, Jorgensen, Teufel and Valdespin each turned tie games into four-run victories with their powerful swings.  That means Harkness, McReynolds and now Ike Davis are the only players who can claim snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat by walking off with a grand slam home run.  And each player did so at a different home park, with Harkness turning a 6-4 deficit into an 8-6 win at the Polo Grounds, McReynolds blasting away at a potential 5-4 loss by slamming the Mets to an 8-5 victory at Shea Stadium and Ike Davis erasing a 3-2 Reds lead with one swing of the bat, giving the Mets a 6-3 win at Citi Field.

Harkness.  McReynolds.  Davis.  Three very different players playing in three very different eras.  But all produced one very similar result with three well-timed swings of the bat.  And it was a result that made Mets fans across the generations leave the ballpark feeling slam-tastic.

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