Game Rewind: Pirates vs Mets, June 1, 1980

On June 1, 1980, the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets played a game that had a play in which a Mets player get ejected and it caused the Pirates to protest the game. The son of one baseball legend had a big day at the plate, while the son of a Pirates legend made his Major League debut.

The Pirates had a 25-18 record going into this game, and they were the defending World Series champions. The Mets were 19-23 at the time. It was a Sunday day game at Three Rivers Stadium, with 49,626 fans in attendance. It turned out to be the biggest home attendance for the Pirates that season. Jim Bibby was on the mound for the Pirates, while the Mets went with lefty Pete Falcone. Bibby had a 5-1 record at the time and a 3.11 ERA. Just five days earlier, he pitched 11 innings in a no-decision outing.

In the top of the first, the Mets got a one-out single by Frank Taveras, who was with the Pirates just 14 months earlier. He stole second base, but was stranded there after the next two batters flew out to center field.

The Pirates could only muster a two-out walk in the first inning by Dave Parker. Vance Law, the son of Vern Law, was batting second and playing second base in his first big league game. He flew out to right field in his first career at-bat.

In the second, the Mets got a one-out double by Steve Henderson, followed by a walk to Elliott Maddox. Bibby quickly settled down against the 8-9 hitters, retiring them both to keep the game scoreless. In the bottom of the inning, the Pirates got a one-out single from Lee Lacy, though he was thrown out trying to steal.

In the third, the Mets had another one-out hit, this one from Taveras, who belted a double. Bibby picked up a ground out and a strikeout to end the inning. The Pirates were the first to get on the board in the bottom of the frame. Dale Berra just missed a home run to lead off the inning. He settled for a double. He moved to third on a sacrifice by Bibby, then scored two batters later when Taveras couldn’t handle a grounder by Vance Law.

The Mets picked up a one-out hit for the fourth straight inning in the fourth. Steve Henderson singled, then moved to second base on an error during a pick-off attempt. Henderson would score on a single by Elliot Maddox.

One-out hits were all the rage in this game. In the bottom of the fourth, Bill Madlock doubled to center field. Two batters later, Steve Nicosia made it a 2-1 game with a single. That led us to the top of the fifth inning with the crazy play.

As you may have guessed already, the Mets got a one-out single in the fifth. Joel Youngblood picked up the hit this time, which set up the strange play. Frank Taveras singled off of Bibby’s leg. On the play, Youngblood tried to go to third base, but he was thrown out. At least that was the original call. Youngblood vehemently protested the play and got an early shower. As that was happening, the other umpires gathered and changed the call to interference on Berra, who was charged with an error.

After the game, Berra denied any wrongdoing on the play. The Pirates agreed with Berra and Chuck Tanner played the rest of the game under protest. The next batter hit a ball that looked like a routine double play that would have ended the inning, but Berra threw it away and the game was now tied 2-2. The play at third base with Youngblood looked big at the time.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Pirates got a one-out walk from Omar Moreno. With two outs, Dave Parker reached on an error by Taveras. That turned out to be a huge miscue for the Mets. They would have been out of the inning. Instead, the flood gates opened. Bill Robinson and Bill Madlock each followed with RBI singles. Reliever John Pacella came on and hit Lee Lacy to load the bases. He walked Nicosia to force in a run and it also forced the Mets to bring in reliever Mark Bomback.  Berra came up next and he atoned for his back-to-back errors in the top of the inning by hitting a grand slam. It went from a 2-2 game with drama, to an 9-2 lead in one half inning.

After Bibby had his first 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth, Vance Law doubled off of reliever John Hausman for his first big league hit. As you already know, it was a one-out hit. Two batters later, Bill Robinson made it 10-2 with an RBI single.

The Mets went down in order again in the seventh, then the Pirates went right back to work. The first four batters in the inning reached. John Milner singled, then Nicosia walked. Berra singled home Milner, followed by an RBI single by Bibby. On that play, an error by the center fielder allowed Berra to score. It was now 13-2.

The Mets drew a walk to start the eighth, then it was immediately erased on a double play. That was followed by a solo homer from Mike Jorgensen and they now had a 13-3 game. That’s where it would end. The Pirates had two runners on in the bottom of the eighth, while the Mets went down in the ninth on two ground outs and a strikeout to end the game.

Berra had three hits, three runs scored and he drove in five runs. His double and homer were both the first of the season for him. Nicosia and Robinson each drove in a pair of runs. Robinson moved around in this contest, going from first base to left field to right field. Bibby got the complete game, with one earned run on eight hits and three walks, with five strikeouts. Law’s debut came just under two years to the day he was drafted (June 6, 1978).

Here’s the boxscore and play-by-play from Baseball-Reference.