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On This Date in Sports July 4, 1985: Stranger Things in Atlanta

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A baseball game between the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves on the 4th of July turns into one of baseball’s Stranger Games. The game was interrupted several times by rain and ended at 3:55 in the morning. In many of the game’s Stranger Moments, it was pitcher Rick Camp tying it with an 18th inning homer. Eventually, the Mets would win 16-13 in 19 innings.

The New York Mets entered the 1985 season with high expectations thanks to the acquisition of Gary Carter, who’s opening day home run propelled them to the best start in team history. Through 30 games, the Mets were riding high at 21-9 with Davey Johnson at the helm, but injuries in May especially one to Darryl Strawberry threatened to put their team in peril. By the start of July, they had dropped to fourth place at 38-35. As the fourth of July arrived the Mets were four and a half games out of first at 40-35. The Braves managed by Eddie Haas were scuffling, sitting fifth in the NL West with a record of 34-41.

The Mets felt confident as they began a long road trip in Atlanta, like Dwight Gooden in the midst of one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. Gooden and the Mets would have to wait to start on a rainy night in Georgia. Rick Mahler would get the start for the Braves when the game began 90 minutes later than scheduled at 9 pm. Wally Backman reached base but was picked off taking away an RBI chance for Keith Hernandez. Hernandez doubled and later scored on a single by Gary Carter. The Braves would answer as Claudell Washington led off with a triple and scored on a Rafael Ramirez grounder. Gooden had trouble warming up due to a band performing in the Mets bullpen area. In the third, the rains came again, following a one-out single by Bob Horner. When the game resumed, Roger McDowell came on to pitch for New York and got in immediate trouble as Terry Harper reached on a single and scored with Horner on double by Ken Oberkfell. Gooden angered at the weather went back to the hotel and watched on television.

Rick Mahler returned to the mound after the delay and was clearly not effective, as he allowed singles to Rafael Santana and Lenny Dykstra, before being lifted for Jeff Dedmon. Backman singled in Santana, while Keith Hernandez tripled to give the Mets a 4-3 lead. Hernandez would later score on a single by Carter to make it 5-3. With Terry Leach on the mound, the Braves got a run back in the fifth as Rick Cerrone drove in Terry Harper. In the sixth, Darryl Strawberry recently returning from a thumb injury singled in Backman to make it 6-4. In the eighth, Keith Hernandez made it 7-4 with his fifth home run of the year.

The game would turn upside down for the Mets in the eighth inning, as Jesse Orosco as he loaded the bases and walked in a run. Looking for relief, the Mets called on Doug Sisk who gave up double to Dale Murphy that cleared the bases and gave Atlanta an 8-7 lead. With Bruce Sutter on to close out the game, the Mets fought back and tied the game as Lenny Dykstra singled home Howard Johnson. Sisk, who was greeted with a double eventually settled down and gave the Mets four solid innings, allowing just three hits. While Terry Forster kept the game tied for Atlanta. In the 12th inning, Keith Hernandez made personal history as he completed the cycle with a single but was erased quickly on a double play.

In the 13th Inning, Howard Johnson homered to give the Mets a 10-8 lead. However, Tom Gorman could not close it out as Terry Harper homered to tie the game. Gene Garber came on in relief and shut down the Mets, while Gorman pitched in and out of trouble. Back in his hotel, Gooden awoke from a sleep shift and turned on his tv to see the game, thinking initially it was a replay he was surprised to find out the game was still going on well past midnight. After three scoreless innings, by Garber, the Braves turned to start pitcher Rick Camp in the 17th. The 17th would be the last inning for Darryl Strawberry as he was ejected along with Davey Johnson for arguing a called strike. Now playing a doubleheader, the Mets regained the lead 11-10 as Dykstra drove in HoJo with a sacrifice fly. Gorman to try to close the game out was still on the mound after getting the first two batters, the Braves had no choice but to send Rick Camp to the plate. Camp proceeded to hit the only home run of his career and it was 11 across the board.

The Mets shaken had to show their resolve as Gary Carter, playing all 19 innings singled to start a new rally. Carter would advance to second on a bunt by John Christensen, as Rusty Staub was intentionally walked. Ray Knight came up and put the Mets back in front 12-11 with a double. Howard Johnson was walked to load the bases, while Danny Heap singled as the bases were cleared due to sloppy Braves fielding to make it 15-11. He would later score on a single by Backman to give the Mets a 16-11 lead.

Not wanting to play around, Ron Darling came on to pitch in the 19th, however, a rare error by Keith Hernandez opened the door for Atlanta to answer. After getting two outs, Darling loaded the bases with walks as Terry Harper drove across two runs to bring up Rick Camp, that noted slugger with the tying run. Darling made his first relief appearance would not falter as he struck out Camp to end the game 16-13.

Despite the game ending at five to four in the morning the Braves decided to still hold fireworks night and began shooting them off, causing local residents to think Atlanta was under attack. The Mets meanwhile took off like a firework and went 21-7 in July to get back in the race as they battled the St. Louis Cardinals all season for Eastern Division.