On Thursday’s broadcast of the Mets game, Gary Cohen mentioned former Mets pitcher Pete Falcone and it got me thinking of one of the stranger moments in Mets history; a story that is not told very often. It involves Falcone losing a complete game shutout because Ed Kranepool walked off the field, and needing a second day to officially end the game.
It was August 21, 1979, with fewer than 10,000 fans in attendance at Shea Stadium. Let’s say it was a hot and steamy day. The Mets, riding a record of 52-70 and on their way to 99 losses (that’s the year they famously won their last six games to avoid losing 100), were taking on the Astros, who would eventually finish second in the NL West.
The Mets were up 5-0 going into the ninth, with the Brooklyn-born Falcone aiming for his second shutout of the season. He retired the first two batters, then got Jeffrey Leonard to hit a fly ball to Lee Mazzilli in center that seemed to end the game. Except the third base umpire had called time before the pitch and ordered the at bat to resume.
The problem was, Ed Kranepool dashed off the field after that false final out, perhaps hoping to begin his retirement as soon as possible (1979 was Kranepool’s last season). Somehow nobody noticed and Falcone pitched to Leonard without a first baseman. Leonard singled to keep the game alive.
It was only then that someone realized Kranepool was not on the field. He came running out of the dugout, but so did Mets manager Joe Torre to protest Leonard’s hit. He argued that Leonard’s single should not count since it came with only eight players on the field. The umpires agreed and Leonard was ordered back to the plate (again), and he flew out to end the game to give Falcone his complete game shutout.
Not so fast! Astros manager Bill Virdon protested the game, and just an hour later NL president Chub Feeney upheld the protest, saying Leonard’s hit was indeed legal. He ordered the game to resume the next day, with Leonard on first with two outs.
So on August 22 before the regularly scheduled Mets-Astros game, the two teams picked up the game. Pete Falcone, of course, could not pitch again, so Kevin Kobel took the mound. It was over in seconds — Jose Cruz grounded out.
But poor Falcone lost his shutout, all because Ed Kranepool could not wait for his post-game beer.
Just another moment in the always colorful history of the New York Mets.
Thanks to The Mets Wiki for the details on the game.