Syracuse Mets Part Of Most Exciting Baseball Game Of All-Time
The most exciting professional baseball game in my lifetime took place six miles south of downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania.
During my almost 64 years on earth, I've watched all-star games, World Series championshiops won, home run records shattered, perfect games thrown, no-hitters thrown, and extra-innings marathons played. This is all part of the joy baseball brings to me and millions of other fans of the game.
But, as we welcome in 2023, and I, like so many others, eagerly await pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training camps next month, I keep going back to thinking of one specific baseball memory.
September 3, 2019. Game time - 1:05 PM. PNC Field in Moosic, Pennsylvania.
You see, as Minor League Baseball's Triple-A International League season came to an end after a 140 game schedule, the North Division had a tie. Both the Syracuse Mets (affilliate of the New York Mets) and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders ( New York Yankees affiliate) had identical 75-65 records. A one-game playoff was scheduled on a late summer Tuesday in Lackawanna County.
The winner of this abruptly scheduled game turned out to be an epic battle of bats. The box score attendance listed is 2,857. Throughout the game's nine innings, right up until the final out registered after 3 hours-plus of play, it didn't appear to have half that many fans in seats. But, the most important seat, for me, was being "glued" to my radio listening to Syracuse play-by-play radio voice Michael Tricarico.
Tricarico didn't miss a pitch, run, or hit of the action. For me, I could only equate the Syracuse broadcaster's work to listening to that of New York Giants' radio man Russ Hodges calling in 1951 Bobby TThomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" or hall of fame broadcaster Bob Wolff calling the last pitch on national radio of Game 5 of the 1956 World Series when Yankees pitcher Don Larsen threw a perfect game.
I'm dead serious. This game was that thrilling. A roller coaster of emotions for sure.
How exciting was the game? In just the seventh and eighth innings alone, 20 runs were scored. At the conclusion of seven innings, the score was 7-6, with Syracuse just two innings away from heading down to Durham, North Carolina to face the Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays Triple-A affiliate).
With sunshine and temperatures in the mid-70's, a more ideal day for a baseball game couldn 't have been ordered.
This playoff game came to be with the Mets winning on the final day of the regular season over the Rochester Red Wings, and the RailRiders losing at home to the Buffalo Bisons.
The bats, for both teams, couldn't have been more alive. 27 runs, 24 hits (only 1 error), the dozen pitchers combined called upon in this game were shelled!
At one point, Syracuse led 13-6 late in the game. Mets fans listening to Tricarico's call on The Score 1260 WSKO-AM , like me, had to be fixated on each pitch hurled, and every connection of bat to ball. Scranton clubbed 8 runs on the bottom of the eighth inning. Yankees catching prospect Kyle Higashioka slugged his second home run in consecutive innings, in the eighth.
There was so much to be excited about Syracuse's chances at prevailing, when the last pitch would be made in this game. The Mets were 33-19 since the Triple-A All-Star Game played in July, in El Paso, Texas. They were winners of 16 of their last 21 regular season games. Destiny was on Syracuse's side - no?
Mets manager Tony DeFrancesco was quoted as saying this one-game playoff was the most exciting contest he experienced during his decades in pro ball.
Unfortunately, for Syracuse fans, the Mets were edged out 14-13 by Scranton, when the final out was registered.
As Syracuse boarded buses for the drive back to Central New York, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre took off for Durham. The RailRiders lost to Durham in their series. The Columbus Clippers swept the Bulls in three games to win the International League championship.
As a die-hard Syracuse Mets fan, like so many others, I was devistated with the game's outcome. Probably because I was listening rather than watching the September 3, 2019 game from Moosic I was even more dejected. There would no more Syracuse Mets games for two years, the COVID pandemic would wipe out the 2020 season. In my mind, everycatch made, every lead change, and every run scored, with Tricarico telling me the story, what memories I will always have.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.