Tonight, San Diego hosts Major League Baseball’s 87th All-Star Game, and three Mets will be at the festivities alongside skipper Terry Collins and his coaching staff. Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes were both replaced due to injury, but Collins has said Jeurys Familia will be ready to close out the game. And, of course, there will be Bartolo.
Perhaps if Familia does finish off a National League victory, he can mark another awesome Mets All-Star moment. The team only has one All-Star MVP in its history, but their players have sure made strong impressions. With a hat tip to Tug McGraw’s heroic two-inning relief effort in 1972 and David Wright’s smashing All-Star debut in 2006, these are the Mets’ finest All-Star highlights.
Tom Seaver – 1970
Where else would a retrospective on any of the Mets’ top moments begin other than on Seaver? Fresh off a Cy Young Award-winning championship season in 1969, the game’s best pitcher was handed the ball at the start of the 1970 All-Star Game in Cincinnati. Four of the American League’s first five hitters were Hall of Famers: Luis Aparicio, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, and Harmon Killebrew.
No matter—Seaver blew the AL away with three dominant innings. He surrendered just one baserunner on a Yaz single that barely went past the diving attempt of shortstop Don Kessinger. Seaver’s strikeouts were on brand names, too, as Aparicio, Robinson, Killebrew, and slugger Frank Howard all whiffed. Meanwhile, Jim Palmer matched Seaver with three scoreless innings of his own, but they were far from as dominant as Seaver’s effort. Although the game went 12 innings and the story was Pete Rose’s controversial take-down of Ray Fosse with the winning run, Seaver’s tremendous start will go down in the Mets’ record books.
Jon Matlack – 1975
The Mets’ lone All-Star MVP didn’t even get to keep the award for himself. 1975 was the only occasion in the 44-year history of the award that it was shared by two players. Matlack can safely say that he did his part first though. The former Rookie of the Year winner entered a tight 3-3 game in the bottom of the seventh inning. His teammate Seaver actually had a poor outing for once, giving up a booming two-run homer by Yastrzemski into the Milwaukee night that tied it up in the sixth.
Tasked with stemming the tide, Matlack did just that. He struck out Hall of Famer Rod Carew, picked off Claudell Washington after a single, and then fanned Bucky Dent. The southpaw worked a scoreless eighth as well, yielding just an infield single. Thanks to Matlack’s performance, Cubs third baseman Bill Madlock was in the position to break up the tie in the top of the ninth. He singled off Goose Gossage to score Reggie Smith with the go-ahead run, and Randy Jones closed out the victory with a perfect frame. Matlack and Madlock shared the All-Star MVP honors, no doubt inspiring the future TV series Matlock.
Lee Mazzilli – 1979
Mazzilli is the lone Mets hitter to make this post, with all due respect to Wright and Lance Johnson’s three-hit showing in ’96. However, neither of them were the primary reasons for a NL victory. The center fielder pinch-hit for Gary Matthews, Sr. in the top of the eighth inning with the NL trailing by one run in Seattle. Facing the Rangers’ Jim Kern, Mazzilli smoked one the other way down the left field line just over the wall for a game-tying solo homer. He became the first Met to ever homer in an All-Star Game.
That would have been a fine day anyway, but Mazzilli wasn’t done yet. By the ninth inning, the NL had gone through the order to send Mazzilli back up to the plate. The bases were loaded with two outs and the game still tied from his earlier blast. Facing defending Cy Young Award winner Ron Guidry, Mazzilli patiently waited out a walk that scored Joe Morgan with the go-ahead run. One vintage Bruce Sutter inning later, the NL clinched another victory. Perhaps dazzled by Dave Parker’s amazing throw, the MVP went to him, but it really seems like it should have gone to Mazzilli. Alas.
Dwight Gooden – 1984
It is still almost unfathomable to consider how good Doc Gooden was at such a young age. Selected fifth overall in the 1982 draft, Gooden stormed through the system and made his MLB debut at age 19 on April 7, 1984. Despite being a mere teenager, Gooden showed no sign at all of his age and became the youngest All-Star in MLB history when he was selected for the NL squad in San Francisco. Fernando Valenzuela struck out the side in the top of the fourth inning and handed the slim 2-1 lead off to Gooden.
The precocious right-hander led the majors in strikeouts, and he was up to the task of matching the famous Fernando. Down went eight-time All-Star Larry Parrish. Down went Chet Lemon and his 215 career homers. Down went Alvin Davis, his future AL counterpart for 1984 Rookie of the Year. All three batters flailed at Gooden’s preposterous arsenal. He followed it up with another scoreless inning, the lone blemish coming on a weird pop-fly double by Eddie Murray. No matter—Gooden retired Hall of Famers Cal Ripken, Jr. and Dave Winfield to escape the threat. The man was a wunderkind.
Matt Harvey – 2013
No Mets fan will ever forget the excitement that came with Matt Harvey’s 2013 first half. After a promising showing in his 2012 debut, Harvey broke out as perhaps the new face of New York baseball with a dominant showing. He had a 2.35 ERA, 147 strikeouts in 130 innings, a 0.915 WHIP, and a mere .542 OPS against. With the All-Star Game right in Queens at Citi Field, NL skipper Bruce Bochy granted Harvey the starting assignment, much to the home crowd’s delight.
The incomparable Mike Trout welcomed Harvey to the All-Star stage with a leadoff double on the first pitch, and the amped-up righty then accidentally drilled Robinson Cano. He faced a daunting task with Miguel Cabrera up next. Harvey returned to form with a strikeout on a diving 92 mph pitch that the Triple Crown winner chased out of the zone. He then retired Chris Davis on a routine fly to center and Jose Bautista on another strikeout. The NL went down in order against Max Scherzer, but Harvey returned the favor in the second with a perfect frame, fanning Adam Jones in the process. Two innings, one hit, no runs, and three strikeouts. If the national audience didn’t know who Harvey was before the game, they did now.
Jacob deGrom – 2015
It would have been enough to write about five memorable Mets All-Star memories, but the list simply would not be complete without mentioning deGrom’s mastery from last year in Cincinnati. Fortunately, BP Mets’ own Brian Duricy already recounted deGrom’s outstanding All-Star effort last week in the group post on our favorite Mets highlights, so I’ll turn it over to him:
The word “highlight” often connotes one event, a flash-in-the-pan occurrence that exists as a singular exemplar of excellence. But pitching has the ability to stretch highlights so that they encompass a series of events, to show that repetition can be brilliant in its own right. When Jacob deGrom began the sixth inning of the 2015 All-Star Game, 74 pitchers had compiled an immaculate inning.
None had ever done so in an All-Star Game, against a three-man stretch of some of the best hitters the game has to offer. In deGrom’s 2015 All-Star performance, he fired eight straight fastballs — the velocity of which increased from 96 to 98 mph between the first and eighth pitch — seven for strikes, and finished with two nasty cutters low for swinging strikes. Though he missed immaculate status by one errant fastball, and though this highlight came in a Mets jersey but not in a Mets game, it’s imperfect; but dominance like that is its own form of perfection.
Photo Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports