Ahh, the spring of 1989. The Mets had won a World Series just 3 seasons earlier. The team had won a division title the prior season, before losing in heart-breaking fashion to the Dodgers.
That was okay though, because the team had great veterans such as Gary Carter behind the plate and Keith Hernandez at first, supplemented with future stars such as Dave Magadan and Gregg Jefferies. Present sluggers such as Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds (would anyone ever throw him out trying to steal?) drove the offense while Gooden, Ron Darling, and David Cone, fresh from a 20-win season, would keep the Mets in the playoffs for years to come.
The card above, card number 291 from the 1989 Topps set, shows three Mets stars of the time, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez and Kevin McReynolds.
The back of the card showed that in 1988 Darryl Strawberry led the team in runs and RBIs (both 101) and home runs (39) while Kevin McReynolds led the team in hits (159), doubles (30) and batting average (.288).
Let’s see if we can put our Sherlock Holmes hat on and determine when and where the action shown was taken, and perhaps see if the Mets won the game pictured:
- Note that the picture shows the Mets road uniform from 1988. As reflected in Sports Logos, the Mets road uniform was changed prior to the 1988 season, to include a simple “New York” in Sans-Serif font arched on road jerseys. This is important to note as Topps often used pictures from prior seasons, so this tells us the game is from 1988.
- The action reflects Darryl Strawberry celebrating with Keith Hernandez, apparently after hitting a 2-run home run on the road, based on the uniforms being used and that no other runners are shown.
- Referencing box scores from 1988 on Baseball Reference, Strawberry hit 18 of his 39 home runs on the road.
- Of those 18 road home runs, 10 were solo shots and eight were 2-run home runs. In 1988 Strawberry did not hit a single 3-run shot or a grand slam on the road. The eight 2-run homers were hit on April 8 against Montreal, April 30 in Cincinnati, May 11 against Houston, May 22 in Los Angeles, June 6 in St. Louis, June 28 against Pittsburgh, August 16 against the Giants, and September 8 against the Cubs.
- Of these eight home runs, the August 16 game against the Giants can be ruled out as a possibility as Tim Teufel scored ahead of Strawberry, and the June 28 game against the Pirates can be eliminated as Wally Backman was on when Strawberry hit his homer.
- Note that the card reflects an outside day game where the weather was warm enough so that all three players shown were wearing short sleeve shirts. With this observation, of the remaining six games, we can safely remove April 7 against the Expos (played in a dome); April 30 against the Reds (night game); May 11 in Houston (dome); June 6 in St. Louis (night game). This leaves the May 22 game against the Dodgers and the September 8 game against the Cubs.
- Now note the blue dugout roof on the third base side shown in between the players. Wrigley Field had then (and still does) a cement roof (and cement colored roof) on the dugouts. This leaves us to believe the game was against the Dodgers (which had, and has, blue-colored dugout roofs) on May 22.
A double-check of that day’s box score on Baseball Reference shows that in the top of the first (note how clean all three player’s uniforms are) clean-up hitter Darryl Strawberry hit a 2-run homer off Fernando Valenzuela, scoring Keith Hernandez and that Kevin McReynolds batted behind Strawberry. The weather was recorded as 80 degrees Fahrenheit with no precipitation, which certainly fits the picture shown.
The Mets won the game 5 – 2 as David Cone won his sixth game of the year without a loss.