Sunday, May 1, 2016

Broken News: Being in the Right Place at the Right Time

Welcome to another edition of Broken News, where someone else breaks the news and then we break it again.  In today's installment, we're going to look back at Friday night's game between the Mets and Giants, otherwise known as the game in which the bottom of the third inning turned into a matchup between the Gas-House Gorillas and the Tea Totallers.  (Go watch classic Bugs Bunny clips if you don't know what I mean.)

In the third, the Mets sent 15 men to the plate and scored a dozen runs, breaking the franchise record for tallies in a single frame.  Yoenis Céspedes put the icing on the inning by giving his regards to Giants reliever Mike Broadway, lining a grand slam to score the Mets' ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth runs of the frame.  Earlier in the third, Céspedes had driven in two runs with another hit.  His six RBI set a club record for a player in one inning.

The Mets basically did a conga line around the bases in the third, scoring half a dozen runs off starter Jake Peavy and another half dozen against Broadway to set a team mark with 12 runs in one inning, breaking the old record of 11, which was accomplished in 2006 in an inning where the Mets clubbed two grand slams.

I attended Friday night's game and got to witness the third inning in person.  It was the 13th grand slam hit by a Mets player that I've had the pleasure of seeing at Shea Stadium and Citi Field.  I've also had the honor of being at Citi Field for eight of the 12 walk-off homers hit in the park's history, including all six game-ending blasts since 2013 and the only two walk-off grand slams ever hit there.  I've been in the right place at the right time for many of these exciting finishes, which reminds me of the first times I ever saw a grand slam and a walk-off homer.

If you're a long-time reader, then you know about the first walk-off homer I ever saw in person.  It happened in 1996, when Rico Brogna accomplished the feat against the Chicago Cubs in the same game where Mark Grace punched me in the face.  But there were also fisticuffs in the game where I witnessed my first-ever grand slam, and it involved a mighty mite and a future Hall of Famer.

On May 14, 1994, the Mets and Braves hooked up for a Saturday matinee at Shea Stadium.  I got to my seat a little late for first pitch, but realized that I had a celebrity sitting next to me in my field level seat.  It was none other than MTV personality Dan Cortese.  That's right, the bandana enthusiast from MTV Sports and Rock n' Jock fame was my next-seat neighbor for the festivities.  Because I like to rock with the cool kids.

My seat mate for the game in which I witnessed my first grand slam in person.  (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images)

The Mets took a 3-0 lead into the fifth inning and had two outs and no one on base.  It did not appear as if the Mets would be able to extend their lead against Braves starting pitcher John Smoltz in the frame.  But then Smoltz allowed singles to Bobby Bonilla and Jeff Kent and followed that up with a wild pitch that moved Kent into scoring position behind Bonilla, who was already at third.  Smoltz then intentionally walked David Segui to load the bases for Ryan Thompson.  On a 1-2 pitch, Thompson blasted a long home run off Smoltz to give the Mets a 7-0 lead and me my first in-person grand slam hit by a Met.  That brought up Brooklyn-born John Cangelosi to the plate and he made sure to let Smoltz know that he still had a lot of Brooklyn in him.

On the first pitch following Thompson's grand slam, Smoltz nailed Cangelosi in the back.  It was the second consecutive inning Smoltz had hit Cangelosi in the John-on-John crime, as he was plunked by the Braves starter in the fourth inning as well.  Bruised, but not battered, the diminutive Brooklynite then charged at Smoltz, who had seven inches and sixty pounds on the Mets left fielder, and a bench-clearing brawl ensued.  There is no truth to the rumor that I had to hold back Dan Cortese from joining the fracas, but he was throwing air punches in his seat as if he were mentally trying to show Mets players who were 200 feet away from us how to defend themselves against the big bad boys from Atlanta.

After the dust had settled and Smoltz and Cangelosi had been tossed, the game continued without incident and the Mets went on to record an 11-4 victory.  An interesting side note that was overshadowed by the boxing match was that Mauro Gozzo recorded the win for the Mets in the game, a win that was made possible by Thompson's grand slam.  Gozzo was originally drafted by the Mets in 1984, but was traded to Kansas City in 1987 in the deal that brought David Cone to New York.  Five years later, Cone was traded to Toronto for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson - the same Ryan Thompson who helped Gozzo defeat the Braves.  (Gozzo had returned to the Mets as a free agent following the 1992 campaign.)

Since Citi Field opened in 2009, I've had a better than 50-50 chance to be in attendance whenever a grand slam or walk-off home run has been hit by a Mets player, including the grand slam by Yoenis Céspedes on Friday night.  It's gotten to the point where I've kind of gotten used to seeing slams and walk-offs.  But prior to 1994, I had never seen either type of blast in person.  Then Ryan Thompson ended my grand slam drought in 1994, followed by Rico Brogna's walk-off blast two years later.  Both firsts were accompanied by fists.  (Only one was accompanied by Dan Cortese.)  At least both were also accompanied by Mets victories.

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