Aaron Homers, but Mets Win 5-4

I had to look up the details of my first-ever professional baseball game. I didn’t remember it, as I hadn’t quite reached my 6th birthday.

It was Sunday 9-Jul-1967 at Shea Stadium, Flushing, N.Y., the last game before the All-Star break. The Atlanta Braves, transplanted from Milwaukee the year before, were the opposition. “Fat Jack” Fisher went for the Mets (my mother remembered that; she wasn’t a baseball fan, and after sitting in the mezzanine at Shea for this game, she swore she’d never go to another one, and she kept her promise).

Hank Aaron hit his 22d homer of the season for the Braves in the eighth inning, the 464th of his illustrious career, to give Atlanta a 4-3 lead, but his blast was not decisive. With two out in the last of the ninth, Mets manager Wes Westrum sent Jerry Buchek (who?) up to pinch-hit for Bud Harrelson, who was 4-for-4 but still had no home runs on the year. The crowd of 17,730 booed lustily, but Buchek slammed a homer to right center off Dick Kelley, his eighth of the year, to knot the score. It was the first pinch homer for the Mets all year.

Kelley then walked Tommy Reynolds, and reliever Claude Raymond gave up a soft single to Tommy Davis and intentionally walked Ed Kranepool to set up the force. That brought up Ron Swoboda, who had been hitless in the Braves series. Raymond promptly fell behind 3-0, got a strike over, and then issued ball four to send the Shea faithful home happy.

Hal Reniff (3-0) earned the victory; Kelley, who had relieved Ken Johnson in the 7th, fell to 1-8. Felipe Alou also homered for the Braves, his ninth, while Ed Charles hit his third of the year for the Mets.

Leonard Koppett, writing for The New York Times the next morning, mentioned that the Mets remained in last place (31-47), a percentage point behind the Houston Astros, who managed to shut out the Cubs and improve to 33-50, half a game behind the Mets. “But if Westrum’s strategy can continue to click so fabulously,” Koppett continued, “not only will the Mets be sure to rise, but Wes also will become known as the Moshe Dayan of Flushing Meadow.”

Box Score and Play-by-Play (thank you, Retrosheet – I was too young to keep score then)
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Copyright © 2000, 2004 Charles O’Reilly. All rights reserved.
This page updated 14-Feb-2010 (link to box score added)