December 12, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Friday, February 15, 2013
5,000 days ago, one of the greatest stunts any manager ever pulled occurred. It was Fake Mustache Night in the Mets dugout—at least it was for manager Bobby Valentine.
It was June 9, 1999 and Valentine’s Mets hosted the Toronto Blue Jays in an interleague game. It was a close game—in fact it went into extra innings, tied 3-3.
In the 12th the fun began. With one out and a runner on first, home plate umpire Randy Marsh awarded Toronto infielder Craig Grebeck first base via catcher’s interference on star Mets backstop Mike Piazza. Well, of course an odd call like catcher’s interference will get a manager’s attention, and when it comes in a tied game in extra innings, it really gets the juices flowing.
Valentine came out and protested, and Marsh gave Valentine the heave-ho. Normally the story would end there. But of course this would not be a normal night.
How often do people ignore an ejection and stay in the dugout? I can’t think of any time it’s happened in the last 4,999 days, but Valentine sure did it that night.
Valentine initially went to the clubhouse, sure. But only to don a disguise. While the Mets retired the next two Toronto hitters to end the inning. Valentine put on a pair of dark sunglasses to hide his eyes, a hat to shield his face, and best of all a tacky fake mustache to change his overall appearance.
The mustache was literally tacky—it was a collection of those eye black stickers players wear beneath their eyes to block the sunlight. That gave Valentine his memorable look. I suppose it was Valentine’s way of sticking it to the umpire and motivating his team. Whatever his thought process, it sure was fun.
Initially, it didn’t do much for either team. But in the bottom of the 14th, the Mets took advantage of two leadoff walks to begin the inning. The key moment was quite possibly a move by not-supposed-to-be-there manager Bobby Valentine. With runners on first and second and no outs, he ordered a sacrifice bunt that successfully advanced the runners. A few minutes later, a single brought home the run.
Though the umpires didn’t catch Valentine, clearly the cameras did and it was all over the media. The league suspended Valentine three games and fined him $5,000. But I’m sure Valentine was willing to take that penalty, especially since that night’s victory began a 18-5 run for the squad. The Mets ended the year tied for the Wild Card, and they beat the Reds in a play-in game. The Mets would ultimately fight their way into the NLCS, losing in six incredibly hard fought games to the Braves.
Maybe it’s a coincidence that the Mets began their best stretch with Valentine’s fake mustache. But if so, it’s a mighty fun coincidence to build a narrative around —and it happened 5,000 days ago.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary.” Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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