Friday, July 2, 2010
Remembering the wackiest game ever
By Mark Simon
The winner of the wackiest, wildest, most improbable game in history remembers it rather fondly 25 years later.
"How could that not be in your list of the best Mets pitching performances?" said chuckling former Mets pitcher Tom Gorman, the victor of the 19-inning, 4 a.m-ending, 16-13 Mets victory over the Braves on July 4, 1985.
"Goose Koufax," as the lefty was known to his teammates, had a knack for being a part of memorable Mets moments.
Gorman, now 53, was the winning pitcher on Opening Day in 1985 when Gary Carter hit a walk-off home run in his first Mets game.
He was the winning pitcher in an 18-inning game against the Pirates a couple of weeks later.
He was the losing pitcher in a 26-7, loss to the Phillies on June 11.
And he was the winning pitcher, essentially by default, in that marathon game against the Braves. Gorman isn't remembered for winning that one, but for something else.
With the Mets leading 11-10 with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the 18th, the Braves had no one left on the bench, so they let their relief pitcher, Rick Camp hit. Keep in mind that this was at around 3 a.m., thanks to delays necessitated by a nasty rain.
Camp may rank as one of the worst hitting pitchers in the history of baseball. At the time of the at-bat, he was 10-for-167 (an .060 batting average) with 83 strikeouts.
Gorman got ahead 0-2 and then grooved his best pitch, a forkball over the middle of the plate. Camp took a big cut with all his might and somehow made contact.
"He hit the (heck) out of it," Gorman said. "It wasn't a cheapie."
Mets left fielder Danny Heep put his hands on his head. First baseman Keith Hernandez (who hit for the cycle) couldn't return Gorman's stare. Camp had just hit a game-tying home run, the second game-tying extra-inning homer Gorman allowed in the game.
"That certifies this game as the wackiest, wildest, most improbable game in history!" yelled then-TBS announcer John Sterling.
Undaunted, the Mets scored five runs in the top of the 19th, and Ron Darling finished things up, striking out Camp to end the game after the Braves rallied for two runs.
The Braves shot off fireworks to honor the holiday and some local residents panicked, thinking Atlanta was under attack. Gorman, who pitched six innings in the game, and the team saw the sun come up on the bus ride back to the hotel at 4:30 a.m.
"I think this was one of the few games in major league history where teams were rooting both for and against their pitchers to give up a run," Gorman said with a laugh.
It was one of a number of highlights in Gorman's seven-year, 126-game career. Among the others.
• He won eight straight decisions for the Mets from 1983 to 1985, including correctly predicting to manager Davey Johnson that he'd win in relief on Opening Day, 1985 ("You won't even sniff this game," Johnson told him prior to the contest).
• He correctly picked Heep as Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan's 4,000th strikeout victim, winning a contest with his teammates (Heep was not amused). Earlier in his career, he made Ryan and fellow Hall of Famer Don Sutton laugh when the three of them met in the ballpark "We've got a lot of wins on this elevator," said Gorman, noting he had one at the time.
• He struck out Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt four times in their first seven meetings, though he was nearly decapitated by a Schmidt line drive in one turn ("When I joined the Phillies, Schmidt said 'I know you ...you own me!' Gorman said). He also held Dale Murphy, than one of the best hitters in baseball, to 1-for-13 for his career.
• He was a member of the 1986 Mets...in spring training. Gorman had the misfortune of being cut on April 1. His big league days ended after brief stints with the Phillies and Padres.
"I didn't have a long career, but I played with some awesome guys," Gorman said. "I got to see the Mets go from being pretty bad when I got there to being really good when I left."
Now a salesman of Nike apparel to high schools, Gorman, a former pitching coach for Portland State who also gives pitching lessons part-time, lives with his wife, Peggy and three children in Canby, Oregon, a suburb of Portland.
Gorman is eagerly seeking a video tape from the game, though he admits that sometimes when he used to see the Camp home run on highlight flashbacks, he'd hide his eyes.
"My wife says to me, boy I'm tired of seeing that one," he said.
But now he's happy he was a part of the game. It made him a part of history -- one of only two pitchers to win a pair of 18-inning games in a season. Ed Reulbach of the Cubs is the other, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (Gorman, Reulbach and Hall of Famer Walter Johnson are among those who have twice won 18-inning affairs in their careers).
"I want to watch it from start to finish again to get the full flavor of it," Gorman said. "It was a game for the ages."