After a day of trudging through the snow, slush and ice of the sidewalks of Lower Manhattan, little did I know what a wonderful reward was waiting for me when I got home, SNY was showing the 1975 Mets Yearbook and a name from the past that only Mets fans of a certain era would know, Randy Tate was the star of the show.
What you don’t remember or never heard of Randy Tate? Don’t worry you’re not alone. I vaguely remember Tate and for good reason, he not only had just one season in Flushing but that one year been the extend of his big league career.
On the night of August 4, 1975, Randall Lee Tate of Florence Alabama came close to becoming the first Mets pitcher to hurl a no hitter. As we all know, the Mets have not had a pitcher throw a no hitter in their history, but Randy Tate joins the ranks of those who came close, as Tate held the Montreal Expos hitless for 7 innings and the Mets held a 3-0 lead. Tate was dominating through 7 as he K’d 10 and walked 4 which for Tate was a great ratio as his season tally of BB/K was 86/99 in 137.2 IP. Tate came into the game with a 4-9 record after his last start against the Cardinals that lasted just 1.2 innings and got his tits lit for 5 runs on 5 hits and 5 walks. Tate was a back end of the rotation guy, along with Hank Webb. The front end of the staff by the way was 22 game winner Tom Seaver along with Jerry Koosman and Jonathan Trumpbour Matlack.
The Mets scored all of their runs in the 5th inning of this game as Jerry Grote singled and went to second base on a wild pitch by Expos starter Dan Warthen (Yes, our own pitching coach Old School Dan Warthen) The 8 hole batter, Jack Heidemann (what a head of hair Heidemann had back then) walked. Randy Tate then tried to lay down a sac bunt but he bunted right at Old School Warthen who wheeled and threw to Larry Parrish at third to force out Grote. Gene Clines the Mets centerfielder and lead off man stepped up and hit a triple down the right field line that scored Heidemann and Tate. Second baseman Felix Milan hit a ball down to first base that Mike Jorgensen misplayed and Milan was safe and Clines scored the third run of the inning and the game. Jesus Alou flied out to left field and the inning was over.
Tate was strong through six but in the seventh inning he started to show signs of fatigue. He walked rookie catcher Gary Carter and Parrish but was helped out by two force plays and a key strikeout of 2B Pete Mackanin .
Now remember, the manager of the Mets at this time was one Lawrence Peter Berra, who was hanging on to his job by a bare thread. Berra was not very popular in the clubhouse especially by his pitchers as he had never lived down not going with a rested George Stone in Game 6 of the 1973 World Series with the Mets up 3game to 2 over the A’s but making a bad move by going with Tom Seaver on 3 days rest and then going with Jon Matlack on 3 days rest when he could have had both his pitchers on 4 days rest in case of a game 7.
The Mets go down in order in the bottom of the 7th with Tate making the last out. On to the top of the 8th.
Expos manager, Gene Mauch goes right to his bench as he sends up Jose Morales to hit for Pepe Frias. Tate K’s Morales. Jim Lyttle now comes up to bat for pitcher, the pride of Glen Cove LI, Don DeMola. You’d have to figure that Tate was getting a bit weary on the mound. I don’t know what the weather was that night but August nights in NYC are usually warm and humid and Tate had thrown just an average of 4.2 IP in his last five starts but Tate was just 5 outs away from becoming the first Mets pitcher to toss a no hitter, but first he would have to get Lyttle out.
There weren’t many people at Shea that night as the paid attendance of 10, 720 shows but you can bet they were making as much noise as if the place were packed. That was one thing about Shea when the die hards hung around they were a noisy bunch. I can imagine the clapping and cheering as Lyttle stepped into the batters box to face Tate.
All the clapping and cheering turn to moans and groans on one pitch that Lyttle connected with to singled to left field to break up the no-hitter and spoil the greatest day Randy Tate ever had as a major league pitcher. Now that the no hitter was by the boards, it was time to concentrate on winning the game.
You’d have to think that Yogi Berra would have his bullpen up and have a fresh arm ready to close out the last five outs and preserve the win. Well, Tate stayed in the game and then walked the next batter Pepe Mangual to bring the tying run to the plate and still no movement from the manager. Tate then gave Berra a false sense of security by striking out Jim Dwyer, so with two out and one on up stepped Gary Carter, rookie Gary Carter. Again no change in pitcher and Tate is now up into the high 120’s in his pitch count as he gives up a single to Carter that plates Lyttle to make it 3-1 Mets. So the no-no and the shutout are gone and the go ahead run in former Met Mike Jorgensen is strolling to home plate. Still no pitching change by Yogi Berra.
I would love to know what was being said in the Mets dugout as this was playing out on the field. Rube Walker was still on staff as pitching coach and of course Tom Seaver was there as well. I can’t believe that Walker wasn’t looking to get his pitcher out of the game and get a new arm in the game, just from reading the play by play of this game I’m breaking out in a cold sweat.
Now remember Jorgensen was shipped out by the Mets to Montreal along with Ken Singleton and Crazy Horse Foli for Rusty Staub , no doubt he wanted to make his ex-team suffer and sure enough he did by hitting a 3 run home run to put the Expos ahead 4-3.
What in the world was Yogi thinking of not going to the bullpen? Tate had to be on fumes at this point in the game so it seems unless his arm fell off Tate was not coming out this game. Thankfully he got Larry Bitinger ot ground out to end this excruciatingly painful inning. Tate lost his no hitter, shutout and game and maybe his career in this 8th inning. Sad.
The Mets went down without a fight in the 8th and 9th and what could you expect as their manager showed no leadership in this game.
The next day the Mets and Expos played a twi-night double header and the Expos won both games by identical 7-0 scores, after the game, GM Joe McDonald (on orders I’d imagine from M .Donald Grant ) fired Yogi Berra and named Roy McMillan the interim manager. For Randy Tate, the change of manager came a day to late.