“ Home runs are over-rated. You don’t have to hit home runs to win. If I don’t get a home run all year, and the team wins, I’ll be more than satisfied.” – Steve Henderson
The Reccoppa family piled into Dad’s burnt orange 1970 Plymouth Duster for the short ride across the bridge on Route 37 to Seaside Heights. A visit to grandma’s summer house, a sure sign school would be out soon.
Anthony, 10, the youngest of three boys and the lone New York Met fan, suffered through his share of summers. “In school, in New Jersey, there were three teams: Mets, Yankee and Phillies,” Reccoppa remembers. “In the late-70’s, early 80’s there weren’t many Met fans and here I was with my Lee Mazzilli t-shirt.”
But this was the summer the misery and suffering would end. This was 1980, the year the Magic was Back in Flushing.
The season lived up to its catch phrase on the night of June 14, 1980, when Pete Falcone hooked up with John Montefusco at Shea Stadium. Playing in front of 22,918, the Mets were in mid-summer form, falling behind early and often.
Falcone couldn’t finish the second inning, allowing five runs, five hits and two walks. He retired four batters. By the sixth inning, the Giants had built a 6-0 lead and the Mets were held hitless through 5 1/3 innings when light-hitting second baseman Doug Flynn singled. Anthony and his father kept one eye on the game as they wandered “in and out of the house” through the evening, preparing for the trip to Seaside. The Mets scratched out two runs to cut the Giants lead to 6-2 as the Reccoppa family climbed into the Duster at sunset.
“It was the first new car my father ever bought,” remembers Anthony Reccoppa. “It was red-orange, black interior, no air conditioning and an AM radio,” but good enough to pick up the Mets flagship station WMCA-AM, where sports director Art Rust Jr. boldly guaranteed the 1980 Mets would be playing October baseball at “Flushing by the Bay.”
Any hope for magic was almost snuffed out, when Mets outfielder Elliot Maddox grounded to short to lead off the ninth. Then, Flynn delivered a bunt single but Jose Cardenal grounded out, advancing Flynn to second base. The Mets were down to their final out, trailing by four runs.
Then, Lee Mazzilli singled, scoring Flynn. Frank Taveras walked. Claudell Washington singled, scoring Mazzilli. With the Giants white-knuckling a 6-4 lead, manager Dave Bristol relieved Greg Minton with Allen Ripley, needing one … more … out.