Rick Camp and Rick Mahler: Santurce Crabbers Imports and Atlanta Braves Teammates (Part II)

Rick Camp

Rick Camp hit one big-league homer, at 3:30 a.m., July 5, 1985, bottom of the 18th inning at Fulton County Stadium to tie the game, 11-11, but the New York Mets iced it with five tallies in the 19th off Camp and held on for a 16-13 win. This blog focuses on that game on July 4th which concluded at 3:55 a.m. the next morning. Two rain delays—90 minutes preceding the game and another 40 minutes in the home third—resulted in its official duration of six hours and 10 minutes. Part of the blog covers selected Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL), Dominican Winter League (LIDOM), Colombian Winter League, and Venezuelan Winter League (LVBP) items and statistics of some July 4-5 Mets and Braves players.

Seth Gaines was at the Game

Both teams combined for 29 runs, 46 hits, and five errors. Thirty-seven runners were left on base. Paid attendance was 44,497 but it dropped drastically after midnight. Seth Gaines, current Executive Director, Oxford (Mississippi) Parks Commission, was at this game with his parents, having made the trek from north Mississippi. Gaines, via his January 2, 2024 e-mail, recalled: “For years the only game we could go to as a family was the July 4th game because of holidays and my parents were off work. We stayed for the entire game. There were a couple of rain delays mixed in that game. We started the game sitting in the upper deck in left field and by the 18th inning, we were sitting right behind the Braves dugout. I vividly remember Rick Camp hitting the home run from behind the dugout.”

Linescore: July 4-5, 1985 New York Mets at Atlanta Braves


Rick Mahler

Delayed July 4, 1985 Fireworks at Fulton County Stadium

The visiting Mets, who finished 98-64, were managed by Davey Johnson, some 15 months before he led a 108-54 Mets team to 1986 post-season glory. Atlanta’s skipper was Eddie Haas, fired by Ted Turner in late August with the Braves at 50-71. Bobby Wine (16-25) took over the club’s managing duties on August 26. Wine was well known in Caribbean and PRWL circles for leading the Caguas Criollos to the February 1974 Caribbean Series crown. Rick Mahler, Atlanta’s ace, started for Atlanta. He was 17-15 for the 66-96 Braves, who finished last in the NL West. Mahler was the last pitcher in PRWL history to win 10 and hurl over 100 innings when he was 10-2 for the 1983-84 Santurce Crabbers with 113 innings, equaling a 27-5 mark and 305.1 innings for a 162-game campaign. Dwight Gooden, the July 4 Mets starter, went 24-4, 1.53 ERA in winning the 1985 NL Cy Young. He completed 16 of his 35 starts but only went 2.1 innings in the “Rick Camp Game” due to a second 41-minute rain delay with one out in the home third. Gooden, a decade later, started three games for the 1995-96 San Juan Senators in the PRWL, in his successful comeback attempt.

                                                                                   Dwight Gooden, 1985 NL Cy Young Winner


The Mets starting line-up was: Lenny Dykstra (CF), Wally Backman (2B), Keith Hernández (1B), Gary Carter (C), Darryl Strawberry (RF), George Foster (LF), Ray Knight (3B), Rafael Santana (SS), and Gooden. Atlanta countered with Claudell Washington (RF), Rafael Ramírez (SS), Dale Murphy (CF), Bob Horner (1B), Terry Harper (LF), Ken Oberkfell (3B), Rick Cerone (C), Glenn Hubbard (2B), and Mahler. Gary Carter’s first-inning single scored Keith Hernández but Atlanta responded with a Washington triple and Rafael Ramírez’s groundout to tie it. Carter jump-started his Cooperstown Hall of Fame career with two seasons (1973-75) for Caguas, helping the Criollos win the February 1974 Caribbean Series in Mazatlán. With Caguas, Carter enjoyed a seventh-inning stretch tune mentioning: “Que te parece Cholito.” Renowned Caguas broadcaster Héctor Rafael Vázquez called Carter “Cholito” at times. Hernández played part of the 1975-76 PRWL season with the Ponce Lions, managed by Ken Boyer. Game umpires were: Terry Tata (home), Jerry Crawford (first), Gerry Davis (second), and Lanny Harris (third).

Davey Johnson was ejected in the home third in a dispute about the rain delay. Oberkfell’s two-run double in that inning off reliever Roger McDowell gave the Braves a 3-1 lead. Oberkfell etched his name in LIDOM and Caribbean Series history when he managed the Escogido Lions to the 2010 and 2012 Caribbean Series crowns. The Mets scored four in the fourth on Backman’s run-scoring hit, Keith Hernandez’s two-run triple, and Carter’s single. Mahler, charged with three earned runs in his 3.1 innings, was relieved by Jeff Dedmon with one out. Rick Cerone’s hit scored Terry Harper in the home fifth followed by another Mets run in the sixth when Strawberry singled in Backman, to make it 6-4, Mets. (Strawberry played the first part of the 1995-96 season with Santurce.) Keith Hernández’s eighth-inning homer off Steve Shields gave New York a 7-4 lead. Terry Leach pitched effectively for the Mets, innings four-seven, scattering four hits and allowing one run. He reinforced the PRWL Arecibo Wolves at the 1984-85 season’s end. Leach, a graduate of Auburn University, also pitched in Colombia and the LIDOM. Mets teammates called him “Jack” for “Jack of all Trades” since Leach had a rubber arm and could start or relieve. When Johnson managed the 1981 Jackson (Mississippi) Mets, Leach recorded a 5-1 record and 1.71 ERA, mostly as a starter, before his (Leach’s) promotion to Class-AAA Tidewater. (Leach’s sister-in-law, Janet Leach, was a former co-worker of the author with Visit Mississippi.)

Lefty Jesse Orosco could not preserve the Mets’ 7-4 edge in the home eighth when Atlanta tallied four runs to take an 8-7 lead. Orosco gave up a hit and three walks before giving way to Doug Sisk. Rafael Ramírez—the last batter Orosco faced—coaxed a bases-loaded walk off him. Sisk then allowed a bases-clearing double to Dale Murphy, Seth Gaines’s favorite Major Leaguer. Murphy, at age 21, caught 57 games in a 60-game LIDOM season for the 1977-78 Estrellas Orientales (EO). He caught Rick and Mickey Mahler that winter, as mentioned in Part I, but later became a 2x NL MVP, playing center field.

Atlanta closer Bruce Sutter blew the save when Backman’s single drove in Howard Johnson to tie it, 8-8. “HoJo” starred for the 1982-83 Águilas Cibaeñas and 1983-84 Licey Tigers in LIDOM. Moreover, he had stellar back-to-back 1983 and 1984 Caribbean Series for Licey, in Venezuela (1983) and Puerto Rico (1984). Licey player-manager Manny Mota thought highly of HoJo’s attitude and hitting skills.

Innings 10-12 were scoreless thanks to the pitching of lefty Terry Forster (Braves) and Sisk (Mets). A Ray Knight single in the 13th followed by HoJo’s two-run homer off Forster gave New York a 10-8 lead. Knight played third for the 1977-78 EO, as a teammate of Dale Murphy, Rick, and Mickey Mahler. Tom Gorman had a save chance for the Mets but Terry Harper’s two-run blast with Rafael Ramírez on deadlocked it, 10-10. Gene Garber hurled three scoreless frames for Atlanta, 14th through 16th, permitting one hit, fanning two, and walking two. Garber pitched for the 1980-81 Santurce Crabbers, managed by Cookie Rojas. Gorman kept Atlanta scoreless. Rick Camp pitched a scoreless 17th as did Gorman. Dykstra’s 18th-inning sacrifice fly scored HoJo before Camp’s dramatic solo shot at 3:30 a.m. Table I summarizes Camp’s NL career-hitting stats.

Table I: Rick Camp’s Atlanta Career Hitting Stats

Total (9)414175613401785.

Source: Baseball Reference.

The Mets scored five in the 19th, propelled by Knight’s double bringing in Carter. Danny Heep’s single coupled with Claudell Washington’s miscue brought in three more. Heep scored the Mets’ 16th run on Backman’s single. Ron Darling relieved Gorman in the 19th. He allowed a two-run single to Terry Harper, scoring Washington and Dale Murphy, but fanned Camp for the last out. Keith Hernández hit for the cycle. Backman and Strawberry stole a base. Gorman (4-3) got the win, and Camp (2-4), the loss. https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/july-4-1985-fireworks-and-rain-mets-braves-engage-in-a-holiday-epic/  

Gerry Davis, who umpired the 19-inning game at second base, July 4-5, 1985, was in his fourth year as an NL ump. On May 18, 2004, he was the second base umpire in the perfect game pitched by Arizona’s Randy Johnson. His 39-year big-league umpiring career included working in a record 151 post-season games, with the last one on October 2, 2018, an AL Wild Card Game between Oakland and the New York Yankees, as second base umpire. Davis worked in six World Series—1996, 1999, 2004, 2009, 2012, and 2017. He benefitted from umpiring in the PRWL and may have most clearly articulated the benefits of umpiring in Puerto Rico. The different environments and potential hazards on the playing field, he said, turned out to be long-term assets. “The experience is one I feel all umpires should see. It’s like the service. You don’t know what a good experience it is until you’re done.” Table II lists the most regular season big-league games umpired by 15 arbiters. Gerry Davis ranks fourth.

Table II: Major League Umpires Ranked by Most Regular Season Games

UmpireLeagues and SeasonsGames
Joe West#NL, 1976-1999, MLB, 2002-20215460
Bill KlemNL, 1905-19415369
Bruce FroemmingNL, 1971-1999, MLB 2000-20215163
Gerry Davis#NL, 1982-1999, MLB 2000-2019, 20214849
Tommy ConnollyNL, 1898-1900, AL, 1901-19324770
Doug Harvey#NL, 1962-19924673
Joe BrinkmanAL, 1972-1999, MLB, 2000-20064505
Harry WendelstedtNL, 1966-19984500
Derryl CousinsAL, 1979-1999, MLB 2000-20124496
Mike ReillyAL, 1977-1999, MLB 2000-20104491
Jerry CrawfordNL, 1976-1999, MLB 2000-20104371
Ed Montague#NL, 1974, 1976-1999, MLB, 2000-20094369
Larry BarnettAL, 1969-19994290
Tim McClelland#AL, 1981-1999, MLB, 2000-20134236

#Umpired in PRWL. Source: MLB.com, Information on Umpires.


Gary Carter was inducted in Cooperstown in 2003. Bruce Sutter was 1985 Atlanta’s only Cooperstown inductee, Class of 2006. Both had one World Series ring: Sutter, 1982 St. Louis Cardinals; and, Carter, 1986 Mets. In 1992, Rick Camp (1953-2013) was inducted into West Georgia University’s (formerly West Georgia College) Sports Hall of Fame. Rick Mahler (1953-2005) and his brother, Mickey, were inducted into the Trinity University (San Antonio, Texas) Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. Brian Snitker, Atlanta’s 1985 bullpen coach, led the Braves to the 2021 World Series title over Houston, 26 years after Bobby Cox managed Atlanta to their 1995 World Series crown versus Cleveland. Snitker was inducted into the (Class-AA) Southern League of Professional Baseball Clubs Hall of Fame in 2020. He also managed the 2005 Mississippi Braves in the Southern League, during that club’s inaugural season.

Seth Gaines, via a follow-up e-mail, noted: “What I didn’t mention to you in the previous email, is that we had tickets the next day and we went and were pulled in to be interviewed about being at the game the night before. I don’t know if it was local news or TBS. I remember them asking my dad where we were from and they asked me who my favorite player was. Of course, in the mid-1980s it was Dale Murphy. After the interview we didn’t stay for the game; we all left to go home to see us on TV.”

Special thanks to Seth Gaines, for his recollections. Thanks to Gerry Davis, Howard Johnson, Rick Mahler, and Manny Mota. Jorge Colón Delgado edited and did photo placements.

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