Ex-Met Dave Mlicki still feels ‘relevant’ after signature Subway Series moment

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As the 1997 Mets marched forth in their surprisingly competitive season, Bobby Valentine delivered the news to Dave Mlicki: He would start the very first regular-season contest between his club and its intra-city rival, the Yankees.

“I thought, ‘Holy crap, this is going to be fun,’ ” Mlicki said last week in a telephone interview.

Wednesday marks the 24th anniversary of that assignment, and for the right-hander, now 53, the fun has never stopped. The complete-game, 6-0 shutout he threw against the defending World Series champions keeps paying dividends for Mlicki, who spent 10 years in the major leagues and undoubtedly gets remembered most for that night at Yankee Stadium.

“I’ll be at a golf tournament and some Mets fan will come to me and say, ‘Oh my God, I was at that game! I still have the ticket stub!’ ” Mlicki said. “All New York fans are so passionate about their sports. It’s what makes it so great.

“It’s nice to still be relevant sometimes.”

It’s fun just to look at the box score and play-by-play from that game, let alone watch it, as Mlicki has done a few times over the years. There is simply no way that Mlicki’s pitching line that night — 119 pitches, nine hits and two walks over his nine innings — would occur today. He’d be long gone, replaced by an army of relievers. Shoot, in the bottom of the ninth, Mlicki gave up three hits, and Valentine allowed him to hang around so that he could strike out Derek Jeter, looking, for the final out.

Mlicki credited his catcher Todd Hundley for working in near-perfect sync — Joe Girardi, who knocked three hits for the Yankees while no one else recorded more than one, should have received more curveballs, the pitcher said with a laugh — and thanked third baseman Matt Franco and left fielder Bernard Gilkey in particular for coming up with big defensive plays. And, of course, his offense helped him out by scoring three runs in the first inning off Yankees starter Andy Pettitte.

In all, it marked a pretty memorable first visit to the Stadium for Mlicki, who currently splits his time between Ohio and Colorado. He began that day visiting Monument Park — an activity he normally would never do on the day he pitched, but he couldn’t resist — and he ended it blowing off the team bus so he could answer his many interview requests. He and the Mets’ media-relations head honcho Jay Horwitz shared a taxi back to Shea Stadium, where their cars were parked.

In the basement of his Ohio home, Mlicki has the ball from the last out as well as a handful of dirt from the old Stadium’s mound that he scooped upon the game’s conclusion. So he owns the tangible souvenirs as well as the constant fan and media reminders. 

“It was one of those days where everything was working,” Mlicki said. “I had confidence in my stuff. The fans were into it. It was such a big deal.”

Never, thanks to the beast that the Subway Series is, will it stop being a big deal.

Let’s catch up on Pop Quiz questions:

A few months ago, I published a story featuring interviews with old-time Yankees, Jack Reed and Gene Locklear, who enjoyed relatively brief stays with the team at different periods. Reader John Eagleson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania wrote to share a song he wrote about Reed as well as one about legendary Yankees captain Thurman Munson. Pretty cool. 

Your Pop Quiz answers:

If you have a tidbit that connects baseball to popular culture, please send it to me at [email protected]

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