Click here for an intro/manifesto on The 1999 Project.
The opener of the Mets’ second series of the year at the former Riverfront Stadium (then called Cinergi Field) was notable mostly for an odd attempt at gamesmanship by Reds manager Jack McKeon. When reliever Pat Mahomes came on to pitch the bottom of the seventh, McKeon protested to the umpires that the lefty was wearing an orange undershirt, technically not part of the Mets’ uniform. Mahomes was forced to change his undershirt to the standard issue black (lacking quick access to a black tee of his own, he borrowed one from a trainer).
Bobby Valentine bristled after the game. He recalled how, when the two teams met at Shea earlier in the year, McKeon made Jason Isringhausen darken some white lettering on his glove. “When I do it, it’s ridiculous acts of something and when he does it, it’s one-upmanship?” Valentine told reporters after the game. “I think it’s ridiculous, personally. It’s nonsense. I haven’t seen it do any good yet. It’s just a waste of time.”
McKeon needn’t have bothered. By the time he tried his sartorial distraction, Turk Wendell had already given up a three-run homer to Aaron Boone that put the game away for Cincinnati.
This game saw the Mets put on their biggest power display in 11 years. Rickey Henderson, John Olerud, and Mike Piazza all homered off of Brett Tomko in the first inning before an out was recorded to give themselves a 4-0 lead. New York clubbed six homers in total (including shots by Edgardo Alfonzo, Matt Franco, and one more from Henderson) and cruised to an easy victory.
The six homers tied a team record set on Opening Day 1988 in Montreal, when Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds each went deep twice, and Lenny Dykstra and Kevin Elster hit solo shots. Henderson’s leadoff shot was the 74th of his career, a major league record Rickey had extended yet again. “It’s brilliant, isn’t it?” he rhetorically asked reporters after the game.
Rick Reed made sure the offense held up, pitching eight innings, allowing only two runs, and striking out five. The performance was even more remarkable after Reed reported blood in his urine the day before (he felt like he was “pissing razor blades”, according to a surprisingly graphic report in the Daily News). Whatever had troubled Reed in the bathroom, it didn’t bother him on the mound.
Valentine wished the offensive explosion had waited one day. After the game, he found out the appeal of his two-game suspension for costumed hi-jinks was shot down by MLB officials. His enforced absence would begin the next day.
Coach Bruce Benedict piloted the Mets in Valentine’s absence and oversaw a mostly drama-free victory. Masato Yoshii pitched six solid innings, the offense notched six doubles (two each for Piazza and Henderson), Robin Ventura hit a solo homer, and John Franco pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixteenth save.
Valentine watched the game from the press level, wearing a checkered jacket and tie that reminded Piazza of old Philadelphia A’s manager Connie Mack. Though he felt helpless away from the dugout, he had little to worry about, save for when Brian McRae tried to stretch a single into a double and banged his knee on the bag. Despite the slight injury, McRae stayed in the game.
Meanwhile, the Daily News continued its weirdly detailed coverage of Rick Reed’s urinary trouble. Reed reported passing a small stone and said he felt much better.
Back in New York, Community Board 13 told the Mets they could build a minor league stadium in Coney Island if city officials also okayed a long-promised “Sportsplex” arena for the neighborhood, which would provide more year-round jobs than a ballpark. Hardy Adasko, president of the Economic Development Corp., stressed there was no “package deal” for a stadium-slash-Sportsplex.