With the 2012 season about to get underway, I thought this might be a good time to go back and revisit one of the more notorious incidents in recent Mets history — the 1999 playoff poker game between Bobby Bonilla and Ricky Henderson.
Let me set the scene — it was Game 6 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, the Mets down three games to two. The Braves jumped to an early lead when starter Al Leiter failed to even record an out while giving up five runs in the first inning. The Mets began to claw their way back with three runs in the sixth, but the Braves answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning to make it 7-3. The Mets then scored four runs in the seventh to tie the game at seven, then added a run in the eighth to take the lead. But the Braves scored in the bottom of the frame to tie the score again.
Pretty good game, huh? Well it was at this point that Bonilla and Henderson reportedly repaired to the clubhouse for a little poker tournament. Was it Texas Hold ’em? No one knows for sure. What is sure is that they stayed inside for the final three innings, missing the Mets taking the lead in the 10th, only to see the Braves tie it yet again. They also missed Kenny Rogers walking in the game-winning run in the 11th (that might be a good thing, however; that horrible memory is burned in my mind!).
When the rest of the team found out, they were none too happy.
“Guys who saw (the card game) wanted to take a bat to their heads after the game,” an unidentified person “affiliated” with the Mets said at the time. “There were players crying and screaming in the dugout (after the loss). Then they walk in the clubhouse and see that?
It is speculated that it was done in revenge for manager Bobby Valentine’s handling of both players. Henderson was reportedly steamed that Valentine removed him from Game 4 after he had already taken his spot in left field. Bonilla was said to be angry that he was hardly used in the playoffs, appearing only as a pinch hitter.
Neither player has ever confirmed that the card game ever actually took place. Still though, it will be part of New York Mets lore forever.