THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE GAMES - VOL. 6 - THE AGEE BLAST OF THE AGES by Tom Brennan
There were so many memories in 1969. Heck I started off my series of articles earlier with 2 miraculous home run games in September by Ron Swoboda that immensely impacted the Mets’ pennant race that year for the better. Pivotal homers if there ever were some.
But the biggest homer of the 1969 season was hit by Tommie Agee. Tommie had a lot to overcome when Hall of Famer Bob Gibson decided to greet Tommie in his very first spring training game with the Mets in 1968 by drilling him in the noggin with 100 MPH heat. I still remember his subsequent 0 for 34 streak that 1968 season as he couldn’t avoid stepping into the bucket repeatedly, and struck out a few dozen times in that painful streak.
He ended that season with a miserable .217 average, 5 homers and 17 RBIs in 368 at bats courtesy of the nasty-dispositioned future Cardinal Hall of Famer. If he’d killed him with that pitch, I wonder if he’d have gotten in the Hall. Hmmm…because he sure could have killed him with that. I lost a ton of respect for Gibson that day.
A side thought – Agee’s beaning-induced 1968 horror results might, without the beaning, have been more like 1969’s fine Agee results, results that landed him high in the MVP voting. If he had been healthy in 1968, do they break .500 or even win 85 that year, instead of 73? Possibly.
Anyway, a Daily News article from several years ago said this game wasn’t televised. Wrong, unless I’m hallucinating. Mets televised everything back then. And I saw it. I watched it in Aunt Mary’s kitchen on her 9 inch fuzzy black and white TV with rabbit ears, in her apartment across from Manny Wolf’s (now Smith and Wolenskys) on 49th and 3rd.
It was Easter recess and I was hanging out with my cousin Gary. We had game time company, too – like a lot of old city flats, their apartment had roaches, probably more roaches that fans that day.
Anyhoo, back to this magnificent early season Agee homer. I’m watching the game, and he hits it into the upper deck off lefty Larry Jaster! Impossible! Impossible! Nah….impossible!
Unfortunately, on that small fuzzy screen, even the replay did not provide a very meaningful view. A few years later, we were sitting in the cheap seats in the upper deck in the same area and Kingman (then with the Giants) launched a bomb down the line. I thought it was coming up to us, but it wasn’t. As hard as Dave hit it, it only made the deck below. Dave, who had virtually unparalleled power, had years after that as a Met to try to reach that upper deck. Even he never could.
Upper deck at Shea was ridiculously high – why someone would not have built Shea fully enclosed, seats all around, and much lower, I’ll never know. I guess the architect liked nosebleeds, or figured fans wanted a close-up look at flights passing overhead from Laguardia.
But it was not just the height that made it so hard to reach – the upper deck was also set back – each Shea deck had set backs so the lowest seats on each level were not covered. So to hit a ball that high and that far – was it even possible? Agee did the impossible that day. No one else back then did – not the great Mays, not Cepeda, not Aaron, no one.
I often wonder if Agee’s shot would have cleared Yankee Stadium, a never-achieved feat. My guess is yes, it would have bone out. Anyone want to weigh in on that? My guess is it was hit high enough, hit incredibly well enough, and down the line enough.
Let me add that Agee was a guy I loved to mimic, I loved his batters’ box routine and his plate tap with the bat. Always to be remembered for his wonderful World Series catches, the HR is one I’ll always remember.
How about you?