Todd Pratt had just two career hits in the postseason, but he still had quite an impact.
His home run in Game 4 of the 1999 NLDS beat the Diamondbacks and sent the Mets to the NLCS. Filling in for Mike Piazza, who was out with a sore left thumb, Pratt started two straight games in the series.
In Game 3, he went 0-for-2 and was held hitless again in Game 4 before he came to the plate against Arizona closer Matt Mantei with one out in the bottom of the 10th.
Pratt then blasted a shot to dead center, where Gold Glover Steve Finley raced back to the wall. But instead of making a leaping catch to prolong the game and the series, Finley jumped awkwardly, hardly left the ground and looked down with disgust at his glove as the ball cleared the fence.
Unsure if the ball would be caught, Pratt jogged toward first before celebrating when he realized he’d hit one of the biggest homers in Mets history in a 4-3 win that kept them from having to face Randy Johnson in a Game 5.
“When I saw him go up,” Pratt said, “my heart stopped.”
He expected to be disappointed.
“I saw Steve starting to plant for his jump and we’ve all seen it a million times on the highlight films, Steve bringing back balls,” Pratt said afterwards. “I didn’t know if he had it. I couldn’t see the ball.”
In fact, the next time Pratt saw the ball, it was being handed to him outside the Mets clubhouse by Charlie Rappa, a fireworks technician whose job it was to set off the pyrotechnics in the event the home team won the game.
Pratt started just 29 games that season and was only three years removed from not playing in 1996, when he worked for Domino’s pizza and as an instructor at Bucky Dent’s baseball school.
The Mets signed him to a minor-league contract in 1997 and he returned to the majors that season, and will always be remembered for the blast against Arizona.
“I knew I hit it good,” Pratt said at the time. “Obviously, as you see the highlight, I’m not quite 100-percent sure… As soon as I saw him look down at his glove and put his head down, I knew he didn’t have it. That was just ecstasy right there.”
Piazza returned for the 1997 NLCS, when the Mets lost to Atlanta. Pratt stayed with the Mets until 2001 and also started Game 1 of the 2000 World Series against the Yankees, with Piazza as the DH.
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