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Sock day at Dodger Stadium, 30 years later

The 1985 Dodgers media guide

It was 30 years ago today that I attended a baseball game at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers beat the Mets, 7-6. It wasn't the first game I even attended, but it was the first one I remember the details of attending, so today ranks as a special anniversary of sorts for me.

I was nine years old in 1985, in my first full season of following baseball as a passion. Prior to that, it was just sort of something that happened in the background. There were a few other games I attended, including one in 1983 or 1984 where my main memory was of me and my cousin crying laughing over the idea that a toilet might explode any time a player would step on one of the bases.

My humor has not changed much in three decades.

But those few games were forgettable events, quite literally, as I have no ticket stub, no specific memory of any details of those games. That all changed in 1985, when baseball came calling and I willingly jumped in with both feet.

What made this game memorable for me was going to the game with my older brothers, Kelly, then 24, and Greg, 19. Any time I got to hang out with them was like heaven, so I was more than happy to tag along to the Saturday day game.

But first we stopped at Tommy's, long before I made the decision that chili on burgers was gross. Once we got to Dodger Stadium, Greg was still drinking his can of Coca-Cola in the parking lot when a bee, who had somehow found a place to hide along the rim of the can, stung him in the lip..

I know I said I remembered the details of this game, but in reality only a few stuck around all these years. I knew the date, and I knew it was sock day (see the promotional giveaways from 1985 above, per that year's media guide), and I remembered that Jose Gonzalez scored the winning run on a walk-off single in the ninth.

That, and the bee, and Tommy's.

Mike Marshall hit the single to score Gonzalez, a highly-touted prospect at the time who was pinch-running for Franklin Stubbs, another highly-touted prospect who singled as a pinch hitter. Gonzalez stole second before Marshall singled him home.

But there was quite a bit more that happened before that ninth inning.

New York scored two in the first inning then two more in the fifth for a 4-0 lead against Jerry Reuss, but Greg Brock cut that in half with a two-run home run in the fifth. Marshall homered in the sixth to pull the Dodgers within one, then a three-run rally in the seventh gave the Dodgers a 6-4 lead.

The game, which was an NBC Game of the Week that Saturday afternoon, also featured a dust-up in the sixth inning when rookie second baseman Mariano Duncan charged the mound after striking out against Mets starter Ed Lynch. Per Gordon Edes' game story in the Los Angeles Times:

"I could feel it building earlier," Met third baseman Ray Knight said. "Duncan had told Ed to come out and start throwing the ball, and (Pedro) Guerrero yelled the same thing at him when he struck out (in the fifth).

"When Ed finally struck out Duncan, he said, 'Take that.' Duncan said something back, and Ed finally said to come on out."

As even a novice lip-reader watching the game on national TV could attest, Knight offered a sanitized version of the conversation between Lynch and Duncan.

The Mets scored a run against closer Tom Niedenfuer in the eighth inning, then Darryl Strawberry tied the game with a home run off Niedenfuer in the top of the ninth, necessitating the walk-off heroics a half-inning later.

Digging through old game stories can be fun for some of the minutiae, as I found when researching the 1988 season day by day two years ago.

For one, baseball was in the midst of a drug-trafficking scandal, with Dodger Enos Cabell and Met Keith Hernandez both a part of the trial. Per Edes:

Enos Cabell, who must return to Pittsburgh to testify Monday in a drug-trafficking trial there, said: "There's nothing you can do but tell the truth and hope they let you go home." . . . Met first baseman Keith Hernandez, who completed his testimony Friday and admitted to heavy cocaine use, issued a statement Saturday that said he was "sorry if I caused any embarrassment to the Mets or St. Louis Cardinals and to baseball fans in general, particularly Mets fans." Hernandez also said, "It's a chapter in my life that's closed, one I'm not proud of," and called cocaine "a dead-end street. My advice to anybody out there is to stay away from drugs."

Not that Reuss vs. Lynch was a bad matchup, but the bread was the star of that weekend sandwich, with Orel Hershiser and Sid Fernandez set to face off Sunday, and the premiere matchup came Friday with Fernando Valenzuela matching zeroes with Dwight Gooden.

Friday's game was a 2-0 Mets win in 13 innings, but featured two stars at the peak of their powers on the mound. Gooden struck out 10 and pitched nine scoreless innings, while Valenzuela went all the way through the 11th.

More Edes:

Manager Tom Lasorda, on Friday night's pitching duel between Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden: "That was one of the greatest games I've seen in a long time. The fans left completely satisfied. They got to see what they came to see: two great pitchers performing up to their capabilities." . . . Bill Madlock, who had four hits in that game, two off Gooden: "I'd never want to make my living hitting off either one of them, let me put it that way."

Gooden was just 20 years old that season, and his start that Friday lowered his ERA on the season to 1.74 (Valenzuela was at 2.26; Hershiser would finish the season at 2.03, third in the NL). For comparison, Zack Greinke carries a 1.59 ERA into Monday night's start against the Angels, 30 years later.

Gooden finished his masterpiece season with a 1.53 ERA, and a 24-4 record.

That Sept. 6 game was the seventh time in Dodger Stadium history that both starting pitchers throwing scoreless ball for nine or more innings. There are some fun names on that list, including Don Sutton vs. Tom Seaver in 1970, and Don Drysdale and George Culver both going 10 innings in 1968.

Such a game at Dodger Stadium hasn't happened since Sept. 6, 1985.

But I was all about Sept. 7, and thanks to Kelly and Greg for one of my earliest and best baseball memories. I just wish I still had those socks.