There’s no question that Al Leiter was a bulldog on the mound, especially during his Mets tenure. The same can’t be said of his at-bats. With a lifetime .085 batting average, at least his ‘butcher boy’ hacks were entertaining.
And that’s one of two reasons why being at Shea Stadium on June 19, 2002, is memorable to me.
The other reason is because I purchased two Field level tickets as a Father’s Day gift. As a soon-to-be college junior – working at the Gap for the summer – splurging on two seats in the “orange” section of Shea was definitely a “stretch” expense. But the experience was absolutely worth it. In fact, my dad and I even made it on the “Diamond Vision” scoreboard in-between innings, as we waved our arms like lunatics.
Heading into this game, I was bummed that we missed seeing Johan Santana pitch by one night. Back then, seeing an American League team from the Central in action wasn’t as easy as it is today. Fortunately, it wouldn’t be the last opportunity I would get to see his greatness either in person or on TV.
At this point in the season, the Mets hovered around the .500 mark and on their way to ending the Bobby Valentine era. It was a somewhat surprising result considering they entered the season with high expectations after making significant off-season trades to bring in Roberto Alomar Jr., Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz and Jeff D’Amico.
Actually, the more I think about it, the more I realize the ‘19 Mets feel like the ’02 Mets, sans the reported rampant marijuana use.
Did That Really Happen?
I had to look at the boxscore to refresh my memory of this game because most of the action was nondescript. In the fifth, the Twins broke the scoreless tie when Leiter forced in a run with a HBP. And then in the bottom of the fifth, the seemingly impossible happened.
With no one on base, Al Leiter hit an absolute rope of a high line-drive to the right center field gap for a double. I remember standing as soon as I saw the velocity and height of this hit from our box seats, thinking it was a home run. I also remember my dad yelling, “F’N Leiter is our offense tonight.”
Leiter would score the first of two runs in that inning. But his offensive contributions weren’t done. In the sixth, Leiter had a single. It was the fifth – and final time in his career – that he had a multi-hit game. How about that for useless trivia?!
The Bottom Line
The Mets would go on to win this game 4-2 behind Leiter’s 7.1 inning performance on the mound and 2-3 performance at the plate. Tony Tarasco – of Jeffrey Maier 1996 ALCS fame – hit a pinch hit two-run homer to seal the deal on this evening.
Do you have any memories of this game or seeing Al Leiter at the plate?