From the sounds of it, the metal plate fatigued and just broke away. Must of been a beotch to shift right toward the very end. Did you wife notice any binding in the linkage on either the forward or aft throws before this went? Hindsight is always 20/20 but it sounds like you could have taken it to a weld shop and had them weld it back together or even tried wire lashing using the bushing bolt on one end for your loop and and then lashing everything together back along the shift rod itself. I've gotten home with worse jury-rigs but sounds like time and resources were not on your side. Glad you've got your baby home though. Let me know when you get it back up and running. I'm interested to see if there was some other "binding" going on that might have caused this.