1964 was a bustling time in our nation’s history. With America still reeling from the shock of our president being assassinated on the streets of Dallas, we were under invasion by a group of four long haired lads from Liverpool. New President Lyndon Johnson declared a ‘War on Poverty.’ Average annual income in America was $6000, a new house cost $13,000, a new car $3500. For $1.25 you could purchase a movie ticket, for $4.50 you could fill your car.
Sidney Poitier became the first African-American to win an Oscar for his role in “Lilies of the Field.” Ford unveiled a new sports car called the Mustang, a game show named “Jeopardy” premiered and another group from England, this one calling themselves the Rolling Stones, released their debut album. In New York, a group of twelve young men were arrested for their rebellious act against the establishment. In what is regarded as the first anti-war protest of the decade, they publicly burned their draft cards in protest of our growing involvement in a place half way around the world most Americans could not locate on a map. A place called Vietnam.
People in NY were excited. Not only were we hosting the World’s Fair but with the opening of Shea Stadium, NL baseball was officially back in NY. With this new state-of-the-art modern facility that could be modified for football, Mets fans were ecstatic. In only the 31st game ever played at Shea, Jim Bunning tossed a Perfect Game. It was the seventh perfecto in history and the first in the NL since John Montgomery Ward tossed one against the Buffalo Bisons in 1880.
Now it was time for our home to appear in the National spotlight. 50,850 packed Shea as the Mets hosted the 35th All-Star Game. The 1964 midsummer classic is regarded by historians as one of the best ever. Walt Alston managed the NL club and Al Lopez piloted the AL players. Current Mets manager Casey Stengel and future Mets manager Gil Hodges were coaches. Dean Chance took the mound for the AL, Don Drysdale for the NL. The Mets own Ron Hunt started at second base. Of the 18 starting players, eight wound wind up in Cooperstown.
American League National League
The AL wasted no time taking the lead. Fregosi opened the game with a solid hit to left field, moved to second base on a passed ball and scored two outs later on a rocket to left off the bat of Harmon Killebrew. 1-0 AL.
LA Angels’ Dean Chance baffled the NL for three innings. In the fourth he was replaced by John Wyatt of the Kansas City A’s. Billy Williams welcomed Wyatt to the game by leading off the fourth with a solo home run. Later that inning a solo blast by Ken Boyer put the NL on top, 2-1.
The NL added to the lead in the fifth. With two outs, Clemente singled up the middle off of Camilio Pascual. Cardinals shortstop Dick Groat doubled, Clemente raced home and the NL was up 3-1.
The American League rallied to tie the game in the sixth. After Oliva was fanned, Mantle and Killebrew singled. Brooks Robinson hit a line drive to the power alley in left-center. The ball rolled to the wall, Mantle and Killebrew scored. 3-3.
The AL recaptured the lead in the seventh when Elston Howard was hit by a Turk Farrell pitch. Pinch-hitter Rocky Colavito doubled, making it second and third. Fregosi hit a sac-fly to center that scored Howard and put the AL back on top, 4-3.
Boston’s Dick Radatz came in and once again the NL hitters were baffled. Radatz struck out 4 of the 6 batters he faced in the 7th and 8th. Juan Marichal made quick work of the AL in the top of the 9th. Radatz took the mound in the bottom half of the frame needing only three outs. But he’d have to face the heart of the NL’s potent lineup.
Mays opened the inning with a walk and stole second. With the tying run in scoring position, Mays’ teammate Orlando Cepeda dug in. He hit a pop fly to short right that dropped. Mays scored easily to tie the game at 4-4. Cepeda, who took second on the throw home, was replaced by pinch runner Curt Flood. Ken Boyer popped out for the first out. Reds catcher Johnny Edward was intentionally walked to set up the DP. With runners on first and second and the game knotted at four in the bottom of the ninth, who was due up but none other than our own Ron Hunt, the Mets sole representative.
Manager Alston, however, decided to pinch hit for Hunt with Hank Aaron. The future HR king was fanned and it seemed like Radatz would get out of the jam when Phillies outfielder Johnny Callison stepped to the plate. Callison sent the first pitch high and deep and the ball sailed over the right field wall and gave the NL an improbable come from behind 7-4 victory, scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth. The Phillies outfielder joined Ted Williams and Stan Musial as the only players to win an All-Star Game on a walk-off HR.
It was a great and memorable All Star moment and it happened right here in Flushing, right here at Big Shea.