In his first game against the Mets, on May 9, 1995, Atlanta Braves rookie Chipper Jones did what you’d expect him to do: he hit a ninth-inning game-winning home run, setting the stage for that which tormented Mets fans for years to come.
Jones is passing the torch along to impressive rookie outfielder Jason Heyward, whose first scheduled appearance against the Mets comes on Friday at Citi Field. The 20-year-old phenom has been compared favorably to the likes of Hank Aaron, who had plenty of good things to say about Heyward as well.
If Heyward were to homer on Friday, he’d join 137 others who have hit a home run in their first game against the Mets (so says the Elias Sports Bureau). While it’s not an ultra-exclusive club, there are some fun names on the list, such as ...
Willie Mays, who didn't just hit one home run in his first game against the expansion Mets, on May 26, 1962. He hit two, the second being a walk-off two-run shot to give the Giants a 7-6 win in 10 innings. Mays, unlike Heyward, was well established as a mega-star by that point, but this was his first shot against the new NL squad. Another Hall of Famer would join Mays that July 8 when Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson homered in a 15-1 rout at the Polo Grounds.
Mike Piazza, who made his first Shea Stadium appearance as part of a Dwight Gooden-Orel Hershiser duel on April 27, 1993. Hitting seventh, Piazza homered off Gooden in the third inning. The only other Dodger to get a hit in the game was Hershiser, but it was enough, as his three-hitter and some bumbling Mets defense earned him a 4-1 victory.
Pat Burrell, and that makes sense, since every list of prolific homer-hitters against the Mets includes him. Burrell’s first game against them came on June 20, 2000. He went the Jones route, making the first home run a significant one: a game-tying shot in the ninth inning against Armando Benitez in an eventual 3-2 Phillies win. The Mets would get the last laugh that season, going to the World Series. Burrell would get the last laugh on many other occasions, hitting 41 more home runs against the Mets.
Heyward could have a heck of a game on Friday, but it probably won’t qualify as the best opening-act performance against the Mets. For that, the likely answer is then-Rockies starter Jason Jennings, who not only homered in a 10-0 rout of the Mets on August 23, 2001, he pitched a shutout as well in his big-league debut.
If Heyward does anything like that, it would seem like Hank Aaron wouldn’t be a worthy comparison anymore. We’d have to start thinking of him more like Babe Ruth.