Podcast: Pete Mandlekern

Mets Rewind presents Blue and Orange, a baseball podcast for Mets fans, by Mets fans. Today we introduce you to Pete Mandlekern, a Mets fan since 1964.

The Mets-Mariano Rivera Walkoff Trilogy

With Mariano Rivera’s well-deserved election to the Hall of Fame, let us remember that he was surprisingly mortal against his rivals from Queens. Rivera was 4-4 with a 3.53 ERA against the Mets in 34 regular-season appearances. He did have 20 saves, (plus two more in the 2000 World Series), but the Mets did walkoff against him three times. Each of the walkoff victories were seven years apart, from 1999 to 2013. Let’s rewind to those special days.

July 10, 1999

It was the second game of a three-game series at Shea Stadium. The game is commonly known as the Matt Franco Game in Mets’ lore, so named for pinch-hitter Matt Franco’s game-winning ninth-inning single off Mariano to win the game for the Mets 9-8. The starting pitching matchup featured Rick Reed for the Mets, and Andy Pettitte for the Yanks.

The game was a thrilling back-and-forth contest with five lead changes. The Yankees hit six home runs in defeat. Mike Piazza’s mammoth three-run homer off Ramiro Mendoza in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Mets a 7-6 lead, but the Yanks reclaimed the lead, 8-7, in the eighth.

 

That was the score heading into the bottom of the ninth against Rivera. Rickey Henderson started a rally with a one-out walk, followed by a double by Edgardo Alfonzo. Bernie Williams had a chance to catch Alfonzo’s ball at the left center field wall, but missed it. After John Olerud grounded out to first, Mike Piazza was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Mets manager Bobby Valentine sent up the left-handed hitting Matt Franco to pinch-hit for Melvin Mora with the game on the line. After Franco took a borderline 0-2 pitch called low for a ball, he lined the next pitch into right field for a single. Henderson and Alfonzo scored to give the Mets the victory. Pat Mahomes was the winning pitcher for the Mets.

 

May 19, 2006

It was a Friday night, the first game of a three-game weekend series at Shea. The Yankees started Randy Johnson, while the Mets countered with Geremi Gonzalez. Gonzalez was a journeyman pitcher from Venezuela in the last year of a six-season major league career. He made only three career starts the Mets, and this was the worst of them. He surrendered six runs on nine hits in 3+ innings before being removed from the game after a leadoff double in the top of the fourth.

Despite the bad start, the Mets stayed in the game against Johnson. The key blows were a three-run homer by Carlos Beltran in the bottom of the first, and a two-run shot by Xavier Nady in the bottom of the third. Kaz Matsui tied the game at 6-6 with a single to left in the bottom of the fifth scoring David Wright.

 

The score stayed the same until the bottom of the ninth, when Rivera came into a tie game for the Yanks. Paul Lo Duca hit a one-out double, and Carlos Delgado was intentionally walked with two outs to bring up David Wright with runners on first and second. Wright hit it a 2-2 pitch over Johnny Damon’s head and onto the centerfield warning track to drive in Lo Duca for the win.

May 28, 2013

The Mets have by now moved into Citi Field, and this was the second of four straight games the Mets would sweep from the Bombers that season. Unlike the first two games in our trilogy, this one was a pitching duel. Matt Harvey, who was in prime form during his All-Star year, started for the Mets, opposed by Hiroki Kuroda for the Yankees.

Harvey held the Yanks to one run on six hits while striking out 10 in eight innings. However, the Mets trailed 1-0 entering the bottom of the ninth. Rivera, who was in the final year of his career, entered the game looking for the save. This time, Rivera was unable to even record an out before the Mets rallied for the victory.

Daniel Murphy led off with a ground-rule double to left. David Wright followed with a line-drive single to left center to drive in Murphy to tie the game. Then, Lucas Duda ended the contest with a single to right to score Wright and give the Mets a 2-1 win. The Amazin’s had walked off against Mariano Rivera for the third time in his glorious career.

In addition, the Mets defeated Mariano 3-0 in the 10th inning of a game at Yankee Stadium on July 7, 2001. Mike Piazza, Timo Perez and Todd Zeile all had RBI singles against him that day. So, he really was quite human against the Mets, which we are happy to remind you of on this great occasion.

Congratulations Mariano!

Podcast: Jacob Resnick

Mets Rewind presents Blue and Orange, a baseball podcast for Mets fans, by Mets fans. In our debut show we introduce you to Jacob Resnick, who has one of the most unique Mets fan experiences.

5 Subway Series We’ll Never Forget

The New York Mets and New York Yankees celebrate the 21st season of the Subway Series, beginning Friday at Citi Field in Queens.

Since Dave Mlicki’s memorable first game the Mets and Yankees have played 112 regular season games. The Yankees have won 66 and the Mets have won 46 games (the Yankees also won the 2000 World Series, 4-1).

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Lasting(s) Impression

Potential. That’s the word that eventually haunts Lastings Milledge most.

Potential has two definitions in sports: one, for a prospect, rookie or young professional like Milledge, potential is a hopeful, optimistic word. The second definition is reserved for mostly former first-round draft picks, ballplayers well into their thirties, lingering on a bench in Peoria, Syracuse or Las Vegas, hoping for one last opportunity. The latter is an ugly word, often shadowed by a question mark.

Milledge has the talent to be great but, based on his history, also has a greater risk of playing out his final years somewhere between Durham, Memphis and September on a major league bench somewhere. If Milledge isn’t careful the opportunity, the one thing that is keeping him on a major league roster in 2010 – potential – will rear its ugly head and become Mr. Hyde.

Potential is fleeting. It has a short shelf life in professional sports. How fleeting? Just how short is the life expectancy of potential? Four years ago today Milledge was considered a wunderkind. He was sprinting around the outfield in Port St. Lucie as a member of the New York Mets. He is the top prospect in the Mets’ organization, and one of the best in baseball, and Mets officials view him as an essential part of the team’s outfield for years to come wrote the New York Times.

Selected 12th overall in the 2003 June Draft by the Mets, Milledge’s future began almost immediately.

“It’s always good to start out your career on the chill, instead of being compared to David Wright, (Carlos) Delgado and guys like that,” Milledge, now a Pittsburgh Pirate, told the Bradenton Chronicle. “I was moving through the system so fast, I was on different teams so fast, that I kind of missed out on instruction.”

Fast? Milledge went from being “an essential part of the [Mets] outfield for years to come” to outcast. Met fans can hardly remember the 20-year old that wore No. 65 in his first spring games. Milledge was fresh, exciting, the future. He was running down fly balls and going from first to third on a single.

By June 2006 Milledge was wearing No. 44 and playing in the major leagues. He was 21 years old when he smashed a game-tying home run off former Met Armando Benetiz at Shea Stadium.

Then, the wheels fell off.

Milledge took the field for the 11th inning. He detoured to give Mets fans in the box seats along the right field line a series of high-fives. The act resulted in a public humiliation for then manager Willie Randolph and, in the blink of an eye, a media scrum.

The Mets eventually lost the game in 12 innings, 7-6. Milledge tumbled too, going 0-for-13 at the plate, misplaying a fly ball at Fenway Park and, finally, a ticket back to Triple-A. Milledge didn’t resurface until later that year, finding himself in the middle of more controversy in late September when a teammate taped a sign reading “Know your place, Rook” to his locker in Washington.

In 2007, Milledge broke camp with the Mets but was back in Triple-A within days. He eventually rapped his way out of New York. But the change of scenery didn’t help. He angered the Nationals by twice being late for meetings and he took casual routes to fly balls. Milledge was labeled “cocky” and “lazy.” His teammates privately said he wouldn’t succeed.

His days in Flushing may be over, but Milledge hasn’t forgotten them. “I was basically 20 years old, and maybe it was a little too much for me to handle, but being in New York really helped my career, learning about the game and what is expected of you and understanding people,” he said.

Milledge’s personal character and poor choices have collided with his baseball life since high school. In 2002, Milledge was expelled from Northside Christian High in Florida for alleged “inappropriate behavior.” But, throughout his career, managers and coaches have consistently given Milledge the benefit of the doubt, because he was always so young for his level and so remarkably gifted in so many aspects of the game suggested MLB.com.

Pittsburgh farm director Kyle Stark is taking the Extreme Makeover route with Milledge.

“I sat him down and told him our rules: wearing pants up (high stirrups), no facial hair, clean locker and how we go through each day,” he told the USA Today. “He jumped right in and took accountability with it. As he started to get stronger and started to show more discipline in different things, it started to carry over onto the field.”

For Milledge, every day in 2010 is carpe diem.

The potential tag is beginning to fade, even at the tender age of 24. Milledge has already been in professional baseball seven years, the last four between the major leagues, the disabled list and Triple-A. Since the day he signed a professional contract he has played for 17 different teams in nine leagues. Last season, Milledge batted .291 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 58 games for the Pirates.

Potential. That’s all it is — for now.

“I have a lot of expectations,” he said. “I could set up myself for a long career … The biggest difference in me is that I take the game more seriously. I don’t take the game for granted. This is probably the biggest year I’m going to have.”

“He’s got all the potential in the world,” former teammate Joel Hanrahan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s just got to prove it.”

There’s that word again – potential.