Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Jesse Orosco, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Al Leiter.
All-Star pitchers! Superstars of their time! Superstar Mets of their time! And yet...none achieved what Johan Santana achieved in the uniform of the New York Mets.
My grandfather was Albert "Rube" Walker. He was the pitching coach of the New York Mets from 1968 to 1981. During his tenure as pitching coach, the Mets possessed a number of very talented young pitchers.
The legendary 1969 "Amazin' Mets" featured two phenomenal aces, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, and the 22-year-old sensation Nolan Ryan. That season, the Mets won their first division title and eventually won the World Series, upsetting the Baltimore Orioles in five games.
That same season, Seaver captured his first of three eventual Cy Young Awards in his pitching career (all with the Mets). He also finished the 1969 season with 25 wins, the first of five 20-win seasons in his Major League career (four of them with the Mets, one partially with the Mets and Reds in the 1977 season when he was traded to Cincinnati).
Koosman was a sensational pitcher in the Mets' rotation during those glory years, often throwing the game after Seaver had pitched. He only had one 20-game winning season in contrast to Seaver's five; however, his overall World Series record with the Mets was 3-0 in four starts (occurring in the 1969 and 1973 World Series). In fact, in Game 2 of the 1969 World Series against the Orioles, Koosman took a perfect game into the bottom of the seventh inning, when Paul Blair singled to start off the inning.
Ryan had control issues on the mound while pitching for the Mets, but he was a delight to watch just to witness the firepower of his fastball. In 1969, he earned a World Series save in the only appearance he made in any Fall Classic.
Even after this glorious era in Mets history where the young franchise managed to capture two National League pennants, two division titles and a World Series championship, other great pitchers blessed this franchise in the years ahead.
These were also phenomenal pitchers earning accolades and awards for their pitching talents. Their big burst into Major League Baseball came courtesy of the New York Mets.
In the case of Orosco and Gooden, they were instrumental in helping the Mets capture the 1986 World Series. In the case of Cone, he was instrumental along with Gooden in getting the Mets one game away from the 1988 National League pennant. As for Leiter, he was a key element in the 2000 Mets, who succeeded in capturing the team's fourth National League pennant.
And yet...Seaver, Koosman, Ryan, Orosco, Cone, Gooden and Leiter had one thing in common besides playing effectively for the Mets. They never threw a no-hitter with the franchise. Heck, no one else until June 1, 2012 had done so in a Mets uniform.
Tom Seaver did throw a no-hitter...but it was in 1978, when he was pitching for the Cincinnati Reds.
David Cone threw a perfect game! But it was with the New York Yankees in 1999.
And until 2012, this was the hard luck for the Mets. They were one of only two teams in all of baseball not to have had one no-hitter pitched in their uniform. The only other team was the San Diego Padres. But the drought for the Mets was worse given the fact that as a franchise, they were seven years older than the Padres.
When Santana struck out David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals to end the game on June 1, 2012, he not only achieved a personal triumph for himself but also for the franchise. And how poetic it was against the Cardinals, the team "Tom Terrific" had blanked to record his only no-hitter in 1978.
But, all in all, what a historic and remarkable triumph for the New York Mets!
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