“This is one of the great moments in the history of baseball.”
Such hyperbole should be reserved for the breathtaking moments of America’s Pasttime on its largest of stages — something for postseason drama or a World Series walk-off winner.
The sheer statement alone brings baseball fans back to a particular point of reference, whether its Joe Carter’s World Series-winning home run in 1993, Carlton Fisk waving his round-tripper down the left-field line at Fenway Park over the Green Monster in Game 6 of the 1975 Fall Classic, or Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run just a year earlier.
But that’s not what long-time SNY commentator Gary Cohen was referring to when he uttered that phrase four years ago Thursday.
No, Cohen’s exclamation came in the 29th game of the New York Mets’ 2016 season when the club was in San Diego facing the Padres where Petco Park became the backdrop for one of the most unlikely home runs in MLB history.
Yes, even during a seemingly useless early-May game in the baseball season’s infancy for on that day, May 7, 42-year-old Bartolo Colon pitcher Bartolo Colon lumbered to the plate for what was expected to be a colorful — though easy — at-bat against Padres starter James Shields.
Shields had already yielded a first-inning two-run home run to Yoenis Cespedes and found himself in a spot of trouble in the second inning when No. 8 hitter Kevin Plawecki smacked a two-out double.
It was an unnecessary extension of an inning and allowed the Mets to clear the pitcher’s spot in the lineup — though Colon posed no threat.
The out-of-shape hurler spent all but 17 starts in his first 16 MLB seasons in the DH-allowed American League before signing on with the Mets as a 40-year-old in 2014 and his inexperience with the bat was more than apparent.
In 216 at-bats over 18 years in Major League Baseball — including two with the Mets — Colon collected 20 hits for a .093 batting average with no home runs, no RBI, and just two doubles. For those who know Colon, seeing him “leg out” a double was more entertaining than the actual hit itself.
In fact, Colon’s strikeouts while batting were almost worth the price of admission with wild efforts, off-balance swings, helmets flying off, and both dugouts trying to stifle their laughter.
His first four starts of the 2016 season were par for the course as he went 0-for-9 with six strikeouts; the pudgy pitcher often just standing lazily at the plate with his bat never leaving his shoulder, willing the opposing pitcher to zip three strikes through the zone to get him back to the dugout.
Something was different about that Saturday night in San Diego, however. Maybe the stars were aligned or the tides were in or Mercury was in retrograde. To this day, no one is really sure and the world’s greatest minds probably still can’t fathom what happened that day because, on a 1-1 pitch, Colon turned on a Shields fastball and belted it into the left-field stands at Petco Park.
His first-career home run at the age of 42, becoming the fifth-oldest pitcher to go deep in a big-league game
Cohen’s voice squeaked, his color commentator, Ron Darling, cackled, and the Mets bench — reacting like that home run gave them the lead late in a postseason series — hid in the dugout in an extreme variation of teammates nonchalantly playing off a rookie’s first MLB home run.
All the while, Colon took his sweet time rounding the bases with a home-run trot that took 30.5 seconds.
Sure, it might have been because he was out of shape, but why not milk it when both Padres and Mets fans were going ballistic?
Four years ago today, Bartolo Colon made the impossible happen. pic.twitter.com/On5rGpIgSo
— SNY (@SNYtv) May 7, 2020
According to MLB’s Statcast, the ball left his bat at 96.5 miles-per-hour with a launch angle of 35 degrees — good enough to travel 365 feet.
“You knew if he ever made contact in just the right way, he was strong enough to do it,” Cohen opined. “And now Bartolo has brought down the house.”
The Mets went on to win the game 6-3 with Colon pitching 6.2 innings with five strikeouts, but one of his 247 wins was rightly sent to the backburner on that night.
“It means a lot,” Colon said after the game. “It’s something that I still can’t believe until now.”
“You’re just so happy for him,” then-Mets manager Terry Collins said. “He’s such a pro. He’s such a good guy. The time he’s been here, he’s such a leader for everybody. We all know he’s an entertaining guy at home plate, so to have him ambush something like that and hit a homer, it’s pretty special.”
Colon would go 15-8 in 2016 with a 3.43 ERA for the Mets, willing a battered and bruised rotation to an appearance in the National League Wild Card Game, which they would lose to the San Francisco Giants. He would sign with the Atlanta Braves the following season and was out of baseball after the 2018 campaign.
His career batting statistics over his 21-year career:
- 299 At-Bats
- .084 Batting Average
- .092 On-Base Percentage
- .107 Slugging Percentage
- 11 RBI
- 1 Glorious, Memorable Home Run
This story originally appeared on amny.com.