Mets Memories

Post-Traumatic Mets Disorder: Coopie Drinks Because You Torture Her

I wasn’t always a big drinker.  In fact, I probably can’t even classify myself as one anymore, since I’m no longer in my 20s, and don’t like being hungover ever since it takes me like three days to recover from ONE bad night of drinking.

But there was a period of time that made me drink, and it correlated to a time period with being a Mets fan.  And it was during some of the best of times too, as a fan.

It is one name, though, one name in particular that makes Coopie reach for the bottle.

Or one time, actually.

And that’s Jose Lima Time.

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The game that actually Coop associates with drinking heavily is a game with positive memories, one that certainly gives the warm fuzzies.  And that’s late 2005, the Mets are pushing for what was to be an elusive wild card.  Ramon Castro hits a home run against Ugueth Urbina, sailing into the old Pepsi Porch in Shea Stadium.

I drank very heavily for two reasons.  One is that I didn’t have to work the next day.  Two is that the game was so close, and I really wanted them to win.

Yes, I convinced myself I was taking one for the team, by drinking.  Heavily.

I didn’t leave drunk, but I felt like I did something for the common good, by switching that energy.

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Turn the clock to almost a year later.  It’s 2006, and the New York Mets are enjoying a bit of a renaissance or a Metaissance.

While the Mets offense seemed to be gellin’ like Magellan, the pitching left a bit to be desired.  Besides Tom Glavine having himself a bit of a Glavinaissance (see what I did there?), the rest seemed to be chosen by the method of seeing what shit stuck to the wall.  Oh, but except for Steve Trachsel who this chick has some sort of Stockholm Syndrome associations.

Oh and did I mention Trachsel, at that point, was the longest tenured Met?

A brighter spot was John Maine, who came to the team via trade.  Then there was El Duque Hernandez, the oldest 37 year old alive.  (Seriously, the guy does not age).

In no particular order, the Mets threw the likes of Glavine, Trachsel, Maine, Duque, Brian Bannister, Alay Soler, Geremi Gonzalez, Mike Pelfrey, Dave Williams, Victor Zambrano, and Pedro Martinez into the starter role.

Did I forget someone?  I feel like I did.  After all, there were so many starters who took one for the proverbial team that season.

Oh wait, now I remember.

Jose Lima!

…….

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The date is July 7, 2006.  The Mets prove to not be fluky, and they have a strong hold in the NL East.  Yet, the pitching continually is a question mark, with some questionables being thrown into the mix.

At this point, I had attended probably the most Mets games I had in my adult life.  In fact, due to all the money I was spending on one-off games (plus my dad’s weekend plan), it was that weekend that I decided to take the plunge and take a closer look at full season tickets.

Not sure why that specific weekend.  It must have been the alcohol talking.

Jose Lima made four starts for the Mets that season, and subsequently four losses with 17 1/3 innings pitched.

On 7-7, I was in attendance.  I went directly after work, and went to my seat in Field Level.  Dontrelle Willis made the start for the then-Florida Marlins.

It’s a wonder I can even remember **that** much.  Believe you me, there’s not much I remember of that night.

In fact, when Dontrelle Willis (remember? The starting pitcher for the Marlins) hit a GRAND SLAM in the third inning…that was when the beer guy became my best friend.  When I was still talking about Lima in the seventh inning, still convinced it was HE who was out there, and not Darren Oliver (who apparently did not give up another run, which should have been my first clue that Lima was no longer in the game), I learned something.

That beer was the solution to all things bad in baseball.   It certainly made my memories of Lima more appealing.  Well, my lack of memories.  Because I had wiped it out mostly.

I kept drinking.  And drinking, and drinking, and drinking.   Oh, I ate something.  Drinking.  More drinking.  The people in the box next to us offered me some cookies.  I declined.  I kept drinking.

I remember saying something to the effect that, “Jose Lima is awful, why is he still out there?” And to which my box-mates in the field level said, “Uh, you do know he was taken out after the third?”  I was not convinced.

Ah, the beauty of alcohol.

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But with my drinking game that goes along with baseball, I can’t do it as much as I used to.  I guess my liver is starting to balk.  But that night Lima made that start was the be-all end-all of all drinking nights at baseball games.  I still think it’s funny that it took me till the seventh inning to realize he was no longer in the game.

The last time I threatened to up my drinking was in 2007, probably after a particularly bad game (take your pick).  I lamented the fact that when I drove to Miller Park, I couldn’t drink at a stadium named after a beer, because I drove.  Now, I can barely remember the last time I got hammered at a game.

But for awhile my drinking problem was centered around the Mets.  It was fun.  It was social.  But now I just mostly have a social drink or two at each game.  And mostly not even beer, now that they have mixed drinks available.

But I was definitely doing my part to keep alcohol companies in business during the Mets’ hey days.

Post-Traumatic Mets Disorder: We Remember

tom_lasordaDid you know that all-time great Dodger manager Tom Lasorda is, like, BFFs with Mike Piazza’s dad, and serves as godfather to one of Piazza’s brothers? True story.

When Piazza broke the catching home run record in 2004, Lasorda came to Shea Stadium to say a few words for his BFF’s son, on a night the Mets honored him.

When Lasorda wobbled his way (he didn’t walk) to the podium, I clapped.  I mean, he’s not a former Met or even a manager for the team, but show some respect for the guy.

Not to Uncle Gene.  He bellows a big BOOOOO and yells in cupped hands, “WE REMEMBER EIGHTY-EIGHT!!”

I probably cringed.  But 1988 was the first known chain of events that led to my chronic post-traumatic Mets disorder.

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The year was 1988.  I was in my fifth year of being a Mets fan.  I first started to pay attention to baseball in 1983, when my dad couldn’t stop talking about some guy named Keith.  In 1984, I had attended my first three games.  In 1985, I felt like I went to Shea every Sunday game.

By 1986, I had punched my Mets loyalist card, by attending game seven of the 1986 World Series.

In 1987, the Mets had become a form of escapism.  I had talked about that year in a previous series, when I realized that the end was nigh for my parents as a couple.

If 1987 was the test for me learning that the Mets wouldn’t win the World Series (or even win the division) every year, 1988 renewed my faith in being a Mets fan.  They were not just good, they were dominant.  Again.  So dominant that Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds canceled votes from each other in the MVP voting that year.  A budding young pitcher by the name of David Cone won 20 games.

Their opponent in the NLCS that year was the Los Angeles Dodgers.  A Dodger team, I’d like to add, they beat 10 out of 11 times that year.

This was the first playoff series that I remember watching mostly with my dad.  I do have some warm fuzzies associated with it, mostly, namely when my hero Bart Giamatti tossed Jay Howell out of Game Three for his tar-ball.

There was no doubt in my mind that the Mets would win the series and go onto the World Series again.

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I often wonder what it would have been like had the Mets won that series and went to the World Series.  I wonder if they would have dropped to the Oakland A’s, like they did in 1973, or would they be a two-time champion in the 1980s?

Alas, that would have meant a series win in the NLCS.  Just one more win in the series would have made the difference.

And to that I say, FUCK MIKE SCIOSCIA.

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I begged my dad to take me to Game Four.  I truly believed they would win the National League Championship in Game Five.  But I wanted to be there for a playoff game.  We went, with just one ticket.  Not sure what we would have done had I not been able to get in.  But I did.  It was, of course, the ’80s.

Who knew that a home run would be not just a game changer, but a series changer?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Davey Johnson’s Mets management legacy, is that he was a very emotional manager.  He was emotionally attached to his “guys.”  Guys like Doc and Darryl, Keith and Ronnie.  Mostly, these same guys would call Davey a “player’s manager.”  Yet, sometimes the manager needs to be the grown-up, the adult in the room, and make the big boy decisions.  That wasn’t done in this instance.

True, Doc looked good.  He had only given up two runs at that point.  Pitch counts weren’t nearly as critical as they are in today’s game.  Yet he had thrown well over 100 pitches by the time he faced Mike Scioscia, with one runner on.

I guess it’s sort of like the captain of the Titanic.  Years of experience would trump all.  Whatever fate was for the Mets, Johnson as manager was certain to face in due time.

In a way, I wonder if 1986 World Series Game Six was somehow a blessing and a curse.  A blessing in that the Mets won and they lived to play another day, and ended up winning the series.  A curse in that, I guess they truly believed that somehow, they’d always emerge victorious.

But Doc was Davey’s “guy.”  Doc, up to that point, hadn’t a win in any postseason game as a Met.  Probably against reasonable judgment, there Doc stayed.

I was diligently taking score during the game, as I was wont to do in those days.  I was so excited…two outs away from being up 3-1 in the series!!  This was gonna be awe….

Shit.

Mike Scioscia hits a game tying home run.  TWO FUCKING OUTS AWAY FROM WINNING GAME FOUR.  Unfuckingbelievable.

And yes, I believe at age 12, I was saying those exact words.

When you are a Mets fan, you have nothing else but to believe.  I think we all believed, at that point, the Mets would not win that game.

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I sometimes like to imagine a world where Scioscia didn’t hit his home run.  Maybe Doc had pulled through and officially won his first postseason game, or maybe Davey put in a reliever for the 9th inning who went 1-2-3.  Mike Scioscia was never a huge home run hitter.  This was easily the most clutch in his career.

That home run doesn’t get hit, they go up in the series 3-1.  They win Game Five on the momentum at home.

kirk_gibsonKevin McReynolds has his Kirk Gibson Moment during the World Series, endearing himself to Mets fans forever.  But then, we would never know a Kirk Gibson Moment.  Because had the Mets won that series against the Dodgers, we’d never see him limping around the bases.

Shit.  The Mike Scioscia home run changed baseball COMPLETELY.

Perhaps he would have struck out in embarrassing fashion.  Never to be seen again after this series.  Scioscia would then never get the tutelage of Lasorda and wouldn’t have become a well-respected manager for the “I’m Calling Them California” Angels.

Perhaps Kirk Gibson wouldn’t be the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

You just don’t know.  Baseball is a game of chances and odds.  What are the odds that Scioscia doesn’t hit that home run?  The odds were against him for sure.

And this has led to several years of post-traumatic Mets disorder for not just this Mets fan, but several.  Metstradamus still shudders when he hears Scioscia’s name.

I think to that night.  I was a pre-teen taking score at a game that I was sure the Mets would win.  It was the first time I learned that my team could break my heart.  Sure, I lived through 1987.  The team wasn’t the same.  The 1988 team though looked like a rebirth.  Like they would rise from the ashes and be the dominant team that Frank Cashen had set out to make.

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As a baseball fan second, I will always respect and admire both Tom Lasorda and Mike Scioscia for what they’ve done and accomplished as major league managers.  But as Uncle Gene said at that game in 2004, we’ll always remember what happened in 1988.

A little part of me died that night, as a fan.  I’m sure most Mets fans in attendance thought that, still think it.  The Mets after that night were never the same.   They never quite rebounded.

I learned what it truly meant to be a Mets fan.

Post-Traumatic Mets Disorder: It’s ALL Mike Bordick’s Fault

I went away to school in the mid 1990s.  Since there was a baseball strike in 1994, I lost interest for a little bit, even when it returned.  But also since I was a poor college student, I didn’t have funds to go up to Queens at a moment’s notice like I would as a carefree child (oh, and that whole thing of being paid for by my parents).

It wasn’t till around 1996 that I started to go to games again, and be interested in baseball and most importantly the Mets.  I saw Fuckin’ Franco give up late inning saves.  I saw Bobby Valentine bring the Mets back to a semblance of respectability, just by showing up and bringing a new aura.  I saw the league’s best hitting catcher come via a trade in 1998.

Perhaps 1999 was the most fun I’d had as a Mets fan.  Most of it was so unexpected that I didn’t care how they got there.  They just got there.

Post-traumatic Mets disorder officially set in for me in 1988.  I’m sure Metstradamus would agree, with the name Mike Scioscia.  Tom Lasorda (whom I always loved, in a self-flagellating way), Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser…oh em gee.  Just the names make my skin crawl.

Funny though that Hershiser was a critical component in 1999 for the New York Mets.

He was not, though, in 2000.

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Mets fans had some high expectations in 2000.  They put up a good fight in 1999, and anything less than a trip to the World Series would be uncivilized.

Not to say there weren’t several holes on that team.  Take for example, the outfield.  See, it’s the leaning on the past that makes Mets fans like myself rationalize the abysmal looking outfield going into 2013.  Usually the whole “Agbayani, Payton and Perez” argument is backed up whenever we look at a future outfield of well, whatever shit the Mets decide to stick to the wall.

Another perceived black hole was the shortstop role that year.  See, Rey Ordoñez was a great defensive shortstop.  His glaring weakness was his failure to hit out of the infield most of the time.

Again, this is an argument that Mets fans generally lean on when we want to justify keeping a guy we like.  “Oh, but his DEFENSE!”  Which is BS.  That was the argument used to keeping a guy like Jeff Francoeur around, who could barely hit his weight, free swinging hitting into a double play, and couldn’t take a walk if his life depended on it.  Actually, wasn’t it he who hit into the triple play against the Phillies in 2009?  (I’m too lazy to look it up – this is not a rant against Francoeur, whom I’m sure is quite nice once you get to know him).

True to form though, once Ordoñez stopped making defensive gems in the infield, his uselessness transcended to the fanbase.  In fact, he called the Mets fans “Too stupid,” once they started to boo him.  THEN the offense is what matters.

But Ordoñez, in a way, is indirectly responsible for one of my biggest sources of post-traumatic Mets disorder.  After all, it was his season-ending injury that made the Mets make a panic move for then-Baltimore Oriole Mike Bordick.

The PTMD stands out in more than one way.  What has made me think about this source of PTMD came up in my household, recently, because my husband who is head nut over at Studious Metsimus, has been writing a series on certain Mets players that got away.  Last week’s topic was on Melvin Mora, who became not only a fan favorite but almost a cult-like hero during the late parts of the 1999 season.  Again, a team that fought tooth and nail, one of the most entertaining Mets teams I’ve had the pleasure of watching.

We had an argument while he was writing it though (an intellectual disagreement, not of the type of slamming doors, we never have fights like that).  When I started to complain that Bordick sucked, he’s the reason why I hate the “half-year rental” moves, he must have hated playing in New York so much because the second his contract was up, he high-tailed it back to Charm City, where he is now immortalized in the Orioles Hall of Fame (and so is Brady Anderson, which speaks volumes to the rich history of Baltimore…and the not-so-rich recent history).

Hubby says, “Yes, but where would Melvin Mora have been put?  David Wright was the third baseman, he would have had to move anyway.”

To say I blew a gasket would be an understatement.

“DAVID WRIGHT WAS A COMPENSATORY PICK FOR MIKE HAMPTON!!! REMEMBER HIM???? THE NLCS MVP IN 2000!!????!!! PERHAPS IF BORDICK OR ANYONE ELSE HIT OVER A BUCK-TWENTY FIVE IN THE WORLD SERIES, HAMPTON WOULD HAVE FOUND REDEEMING QUALITIES IN NEW YORK SCHOOLS TOO!!!!”

Someone needs to take her meds.

There’s an element of truth in trying not to justify regrets.  If you regret something, then maybe your life would be completely different.  Sometimes I miss living in Hoboken.  Had I not moved, however, I may not have met my husband.  I say the benefits of that move certainly outweighed the risks.

But by trading Mora, the Mets might have indeed changed their history.  Perhaps he would have taken to playing shortstop during the 2000 season.  Perhaps he would have been more of a threat at the plate than Bordick, who really DID hit .125 in the World Series.  IT WAS ALL HIS FAULT!

Okay, maybe it was the questionable pitching.  Maybe it was Timo Perez not running full-out in game one.  Yet, there was no margin of error in that series.  The difference between someone hitting .125 to, I dunno, hitting over .200 could have meant the difference in winning more games.

You just don’t know.

But most of all, in 2000, there was no David Wright in the Mets organization.  When Mike Hampton decided to go where the schools were in Colorado and signed with the Rockies prior to the 2001 season, the “sandwich pick” that year was a guy named David Allen Wright, who recently signed his long-term contract with the Mets.

Mike Hampton Poker FaceYet think about if the Mets won the World Series in 2000.  Perhaps Hampton would have stayed to win again.  (And maybe he would have cracked a smile during the celebrations then).

Perhaps there would have been no David Wright in that offseason.  Let’s say Mora wasn’t traded away.  Let’s say Mora became a fan favorite and was a leader in the Mets organization, as opposed to one in the history books with Baltimore (which, by the way, he is).

Mets history would be completely different.

But I ask you this.  Sometimes, when we talk about 2006, and the post-years of 2007 and 2008, we wonder what would have happened had the Mets gone to the World Series, had won, or even weren’t eliminated in such humiliating fashion in 2007 and 2008.

Would 2009 – 2012 (and going into 2013) be a different feeling?  Would we be more accepting of it?

Perhaps if the Mets won in 2000, and beaten the Yankees, this would all be moot.

Yet, I can’t help but think how Mike Bordick is singularly responsible for fucking up Mets history.

Am I being irrational?  Don’t answer that.  But the blowing up earlier that I had with my husband was not exaggerated.  I even did a Rafael Palmeiro point in the face while arguing.

Rey Ordoñez gets injured.  Steve Phillips trades Melvin Mora, along with several others, to Baltimore for Mike Bordick.  Mora was hitting .260 when he left Queens; Bordick was hitting .297.  Certainly seemed like a decent move on paper.  Yet, Bordick was a free agent after 2000.  Perhaps Phillips should have learned something with thinking with his dick back then, as it got him into trouble in subsequent years in his personal life.

Mora was 28 and made his debut the year prior; Bordick was 35, had 12 years under his belt.  Theoretically, Mora had his career in front of him; Bordick was in the twilight and at best, a few okay years, good but not great.

But it was true.  Mora did have his career in front of him; Bordick went wee-wee-wee all the way back to Baltimore as soon as the season wrapped up.  Yes, the Orioles weren’t exactly world beaters (2012 was the first year they made the playoffs since 1997) during Mora’s time and after Bordick returned.  Yet, don’t you see, the Mets’ history could be completely different.  Of course, it could be similar or the same, without a 2000 World Series win.  But let’s think of the alternate universe for a second.

Ordoñez gets hurt.  Mora transitions to shortstop, not without growing pains, but he overperforms, and the Mets go on to the postseason.  Perhaps Mora makes such an impression at shortstop that the Mets actually do the right thing and trade Ordoñez or better yet, when he returns, Mora makes the move back to third base.

Maybe Mike Hampton stays; maybe he goes.  I know that his career wasn’t exactly noteworthy post-Mets.  In fact, I may be cringing at the thought of him being tied to a long-term contract from which he kept trying to make some kind of triumphant return.  What we wouldn’t have known wouldn’t have hurt us, re: David Wright.  Maybe in 2004, the Mets would have had a higher draft pick (one slot higher, actually) and got Justin Verlander instead of Phil Humber.  Yes, Phil Humber got us Johan Santana, who got the Mets their first no-hitter.  According to Coop vision, however, Verlander has had two.

A stretch?  Oh, certainly, I freely admit that.  It’s fun though, to play 20/20 hindsight GM.

In the grand scheme of things though, my hatred for the time Mike Bordick spent on the Mets, albeit short, transcends rationality, history, and regret.

It’s post-traumatic Mets disorder to the nth degree.  No sense makes sense.  But the sense of it all is that I blame, directly and indirectly, the Mets not winning the 2000 World Series and their floundering in subsequent years on the Mike Bordick trade.  Perhaps he’s a nice guy.  Perhaps we can argue that it was Steve Phillips’ fault.

I prefer to blame the guy who was traded and an empty uniform on the field.

Post-Traumatic Mets Disorder: The Origins

I’m sure many of you find it hard to believe that in my household — in which resides two Mets bloggers and fans — there is a lot of baseball talk.  Not just Mets talk, but all of baseball.  From the Hall of Fame Snubs of 2013 to Breaking the Color Barrier to Babe Ruth, baseball talk around here is like, “So what would you like for dinner?”  It’s just natural.

But all baseball talk makes Coop and Ed a very dull girl and boy.  So we spice it up a bit.

Like each year since 2011, Ed has done a weekly post on a theme that brings us from the dawn of the New Year to Opening Day (which is like the New Year for baseball fans…the only date on the calendar that signifies the beginning of “something”).  I tried my hand at doing a column on how I was Married to the Mets last year.  That was fun, but I like to write about stuff that makes people laugh or smile.  Because if we know anything as Mets fans, if an event is painful, we sometimes just have to laugh it off.

If you follow me on Twitter, or anywhere else really, you’ll know that I have a catch phrase called “Post-Traumatic Mets Disorder.”  This is just as it sounds.  Many Mets fans have great memories, but then there are the memories that have a lot of heartache attached to it.  We can only but laugh at them.

But it’s not necessarily attached to the Mets nor a player.  It can be an outside force.  It can even be a player we LIKED or loved.  There’s typically a circumstance around why we suffer post-traumatic Mets disorder, but one thing is for sure: it has to do with an event or tied somehow into Mets history.

Starting this Friday, I’m going to go over some of the names or moments that make Mets fans cringe, cry, barf or smack their heads — sometimes, all four. Maybe more emotions if I can think about it.

The point is, I’ll be writing about some of my most famous interactions with post-traumatic Mets disorder, or PTMD, and the inspirations behind it.  And hopefully we can cringe, cry, barf and smack our heads collectively at the memories.

A New Era

Something about the chill in the air in September that gets me wistful.  I think about baseball season coming to an end which is always sad.  I think about when I was a kid and school would start, which meant that leaves would change, plant life would die, and birds go south for winter.  Growing up at the shore it meant the bennies would all go home and make it enjoyable again.

Now that I’m older it reminds me not only of that piece of information (that I’m not getting any younger that’s for sure), but as sure as death and taxes, the Mets leave me wishing for more.

What’s more: I was also reminded of better days.  I remember watching Mets games in October as a child.  I remember watching Mets in the playoffs as an adult in October.

But ultimately, I was reminded of Chipper Jones not only in my youth but in his youth.  And though I rode him mercilessly, it brings me back.  To the simpler days.  To when I watched Mets postseason games at Uncle Gene and Aunt Melissa’s house.  How when my dad told me when we were leaving San Francisco one year that Chipper Jones won the MVP award, I muttered, “Larry Fine.”

Some things will remind me that I’m getting older.  Like the fact that when I drink a milkshake my ass jiggles for a week. Like that I’m training for the marathon, and I’m not recovering from harsh workouts like I used to.  That I might need to invest in plastic surgery because gravity is taking toll.

But mostly that something weird is that I was sad to see Chipper Jones leave us at Not Shea for the last time.  Not that I’ll miss him kick our ass.  That part I won’t miss.

It means I’m no longer young.  The retirement of Chipper Jones means part of my youth is also gone.  Gone are the days of watching the Mets and Braves in the playoffs.  Yes, I know those were long gone.  But those memories I hold near and dear to my heart. The Mets will always be around, testing the very limits of futility.

I first learned about him in my 20s during the Braves hey-day in the late 1990s.  I got to know him intimately during the late season runs with those lovable black jersey wearing Mets in those years.  As sure as death and taxes, like the Mets leaving me to wish for something more, Chipper was going to stick it to us no matter what.

And yesterday we got to show some respect to the man who probably played the game the right way.  His name was never tarnished with PEDs.  His team was always in the thick of things late in the season.

As the pre-autumn chill hit the air, and the first football games were played for the 2012 season…I saw Chipper Jones take his last at-bat in Flushing.

And I was actually sad about it.

Like I said, it’s mostly for selfish reasons.  Most people know my slight obsession with Cal Ripken from the Baltimore Orioles.  When he retired, I was in my 20s still.  I drove down to Baltimore to see him play at home one last time for this retirement game.  I was sad to see him go but in a different way.  I never saw him intimately involved with killing my team personally.  I was sad for baseball that a great was leaving.

This time around is different.  It’s really the end of an era, for me as a Mets fan.

A generation has passed.  A generation of futility.  The one person to remind us of it was Larry Wayne Jones.  Now he’s no longer around to do it.

The only person reminding us of our futility is ourselves.

That’s no fun.

Let’s face it.  For years and year, Larry Jones made it a habit to kick our ass when it counted.  Now we just kick our own ass when we’re down and it doesn’t even count.  That’s no fun.  At least there was an element of collaboration there.  Now it’s simply self-defeatist.

A wise man once sang that “Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes,” and it’s time for goodbye again.  This time it means something.

It means we’re getting older.  It means another fall is going to pass, and turn into winter.  It also means that spring and summer will be around the corner once again.

It means that we’ll never see Chipper Jones play against the Mets anymore.  Some people are happy about it, but I’m sad.

It means that I have to acknowledge that I, too, am getting older.  And that’s no fun at all.

Fitting In With The Misfits

“Dear Ma,  You might find it hard to believe…But I think I finally found a home.  The weather’s lovely, there’s so much to see, and people who know what I know.  Now I’ve got friends that do want me and take me as I am.  Now I’ve got friends that do love me.  I’m all right with them.  Fittin’ in with the misfits.”

A Man Called E!, “Fitting In With the Misfits”

I know you might find someone like me who talks and drinks like a sailor surprised to find that growing up, I was very much a loner.  I didn’t have many friends and the shit I liked was NOTHING like what anyone else liked.  I was into New Wave and Brit Pop bands way before it was ever cool or emo.  I listened to music no one else was listening to.  I was a baseball fan when girls weren’t supposed to like it.

Instead of encouraging it, I feel that I was made to feel like there was something wrong with me as a result.  Kids thought I was weird and well, I guess I sort of agreed with them.

So I kept to myself mostly.  But being an only child, it wasn’t that difficult, especially an only child of divorced parents where both worked.  I had a lot of downtime for sure.

But the funny thing was, as I got older and met more people, I found that baseball was a connecting fiber for communities of people.  I remember during the Brooklyn Dodgers documentary “Ghosts of Flatbush” that was on HBO a few years ago, Louis Gossett Jr. said that when the Dodgers left Brooklyn, there was nothing to homogeneously identify with being in Brooklyn.  Baseball brought different races, creeds, characters from different parts of Brooklyn together, and nobody questioned it!

My baseball community started small, with my dad and his best friend and their family.  Then it grew when I started going to more games.  Then it blew up really during the era of social media.  I started my blog and met some amazing people, and even got a husband out of it.

But mostly, this was my happy place.  It’s sometimes not easy being a Mets fan.  It was the fans and the people who drew me in.

These days, I rarely go to games alone.  I’ve had no problem doing it, but usually just traveling to the game is a joint effort, with myself and Ed and the bears that usually come in tow.  There were two games recently that I traveled to CitiField all by myself, though, which is odd.  I’m used to traveling on trains and around the city by myself.  So I had my iPod queued up and ready to take the 7 train on Monday night.

I was invited to the game by a friend who was able to get four seats together.  Our friend Ray Stilwell, aka Metphistopheles, was joining us from the north and we got the Grand Poobah of Mets blogging to join us too, Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing.

You may remember my misadventures with Metphistopheles in May, when I got stranded in Buffalo, and he volunteered to drive me across the border.  To this day, I’m still grateful (though my trip didn’t exactly pan out the way I wanted it to).  Ray doesn’t make it down here all that often, so to take in a game with him is a treat.  Three out of the four of us made to the Hofstra conference in April.  This was the first time we got the band back together since then.

 

(Photo to the right was taken by Sharon Chapman)

The game itself was uneventful.  R.A. Dickey was masterful again, and deserved better from his offense as per usual.  Yet, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a song as I sat there with my friends.  Mostly me banishing Greg to the Caesar’s Club corner (for reasons I won’t disclose here, but it was pretty funny).  We talked about my husband and I almost got divorced over Angel Pagan (he’s Pro-Pagan, I’m Anti-Angel).  Talked about the previous game where our friend Sharon’s son was celebrating a birthday and he got the Carvel gift card they give out in the birthday inning.

On the way to the park that day, I had some time to kill on the train.  And I found an old album (gosh, it’s 20 years old at this point) that I once upon a time had on a cassette tape.  Ouch.  The artist was “A Man Called E!” and the song was “Fitting in the with Misfits.”  It’s interesting listening to that song 20 years after the fact.  At the time in my life, I was very alone.  I was a sophomore in high school.  I never fit in really anywhere.  That song always kind of struck a nerve with me.  I never quite liked it as one of my favorites, but I did like it enough. It was fresh in my mind as I sat at the game Monday.

Mets fans are an interesting lot.  We stick with the team, when sanity could reason that we should not be.  We root for a perfect game each day, knowing that our team is far from perfect.  And yet, CitiField and the Mets is where I belong.

Thanks to Sharon Chapman for the great photo!

This was us on Monday night.  At some point our Mets fandom and baseball fascination has brought us ridicule from others, but we found each other, in the “lost and found” as A Man Called E! sang about his misfit friends 20 years ago.

Later on that night, I went to go visit a friend of a friend…the infamous Darth Marc, from Metstradamus fame.  Turns out, he and I have a larger connection than Metstradamus…we know a lot of the same Blondie’s gang who hang in the Brooklyn Met Fan forum.  Talk about a bunch of “misfits” right there.  These are the guys who encouraged me to be myself and to blog, and were my very first supporters in the blogosphere.

More irony is when he posted this pic on Facebook, a mutual friend from Blondie’s and Brooklyn Met Fan, IrishMike, commented.  I never knew his last name.  We were only friends in Blondie’s name only.  Regardless, I was surprised to him friends with Darthy, though I dunno, I probably shouldn’t have been.

“Coop’s a brunette, Marc is at a Met game – I don’t know what’s going on. Well the Mets sucked again so there is some normalcy.” – IrishMike

The game sucked balls.  There’s no nice way to put it.  But hanging out with some of the misfits I know makes the games more enjoyable.

I was asked last night on a podcast why I was still watching games.  It has nothing to do with “believing” or thinking something might happen.  It’s not even about being mathematically alive or dead at this point.  But I’ll say this:  I watch because I know in a few months, there will be no baseball.  I may have hockey.  I may have football.  But baseball is my heart and soul and comprises so much of my personality.

I watch because it’s finite.  If you don’t stop and take a look once in a while, you might just miss it.

But on Monday night, I got to hang out with mostly Mets folks (disclaimer: Darth is an “Evil Empire” fan – figuratively and literally.  Or literally and literally.  Whatever).  People who are like me.  People who get it.  “For lost souls don’t know where they’re bound,” as E! once sang.

But we’re only lost when baseball isn’t around.

Married to the Mets: We Never Met

CitiField hasn’t had a lot of good moments in its short history.

I can think of maybe a handful.  Yet in its short history, we haven’t had a defining moment.

No Piazza bringing-baseball-back-to-New-York home run.

No seven-run-deficit-in-8th-inning comebacks versus the Atlanta Braves in the middle of a heated rivalry on Fireworks Night.

No Game 7 of the 1986 World Series to get over.

No Game 6.

No Jerry Koosman leaping into Jerry Grote’s arms.

No Grand-Slam-Singles.

No Hendu Candu walk off.

Most generations of Mets fans have that defining moment from Shea Stadium.  Yet, not from CitiField.

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We discussed the games we’d been to.  The last game at Shea was a bittersweet memory in 2008.  The John Maine game in 2007.  The Mets NL East clincher in 2006.  Fireworks Night in 2000.  Several home openers.

We never met.

I sat in the Mezzanine at Shea Stadium for nearly eight years.  I was on the third base side, he was on the first base side.

We never met.

I was on MySpace and Facebook, but gravitated towards Facebook.  I had a built-in network of bloggers I was friends with, and was a fixture there pretty quickly.  He was a MySpace fixture.  We became friends on Facebook, but neither one of us could pinpoint when we became friends.  Suddenly, it seemed, we appeared on each others feeds.

We never met.

I had blogged on the Mets for a few years, and it gave me not only an outlet but a new network of people I had never dreamed of meeting.  Sure, I went to many Mets games, and I had a close-knit community in the sections I sat.  But the new network went to new people, close and far.  I was visiting friends on the west coast, and recognized people at games in the midwest.  He was distinct.  He carried bears around, and took pictures of them and wrote stories on them.

We never met.

You know where we met?

Ironically, it was Build-A-Bear Day, August 1, 2009.  I was sitting in the Promenade that day, as was he.  He was sweet, a little shy.  But we bonded over our new bears.

I wouldn’t say there was love at sight.  But we were friends.  And three weeks later, I had completed my West Coast road trip, and we attended our first game together.

As irony would have it, that was the 1969 Mets reunion game.  That same night, a friend of ours was hosting her son’s bar mitzvah.  I had missed the “cut off,” but truth be told, it wasn’t a huge deal.  I had met the child once, maybe twice, although later on that very friend who held that bar mitzvah that night later was a witness at our wedding.

We talked more than Mets that night.  After all, it was a game against the Phillies, and they kicked our ass as often as we changed our clothes.  We talked about comic books and Kevin Smith.  I told him a joke about Chase Utley and Taco Bell.  He told me there was such a thing as raspberry Pop-Tarts.  We also discovered that neither one of us heated up Pop-Tarts.  Mine were room temp; his were frozen.

The next day was a Sunday game, and I ended up going at the last minute.  He told me to come visit him.  So I did, and he had a gift for me.

It was a box of raspberry Pop-Tarts.

Looking back, it was sort of like when Lloyd Dobler gave Diane Court a box of Bavarian pretzels on their first date.

I can’t say that it was love at second sight.  But I do know it was sincerity at first sight.

As the season ended in 2009, he asked, “Well, what do you do in the offseason?”  That’s the first sign of a baseball fan: you classify the calendar year as “Season/Offseason.”  I kind of shrugged and said that I usually just go to the gym more, drink less and go to the movies.  I said that I usually go to movies by myself.  I wasn’t trying to elicit sympathy, because I actually kind of enjoy it.  I still don’t know if it was under the guise of “friends” or a “date” or if he felt bad for me, but he asked me to a movie.  It was a zombie flick.  I said, hell-to-the-no.

But I realized I could speak my mind with him.  I couldn’t do that with a significant other in the past without it blowing up in my face.

As time went on, we spent more time together.  As “friends.”  I’m not sure where the switch turned on from friends to lovers.  But I can tell you when I realized he was a keeper.

In the offseason leading to 2010, I needed to have routine outpatient surgery.  My doctor and his staff had prepared me, and I’d be out later that day.  He offered to stay with me.  I said no.  He said he’d be happy to take me back home.  I live about 12 blocks from the hospital.  I said no, thank you, I would be fine.

Till the nurse on staff said she wouldn’t let me sign my liability forms till I had someone there who agreed to escort me home.  A friend, a parent, a relative, anybody.

He had stayed in the waiting room with me, till he was given the okay that I was good to go.  I asked him for his work number that I hadn’t yet memorized and apologized for being so stubborn.

I equate that day to the time on Sex and the City, when Miranda needed help after her LASIK surgery, and she kept telling Steve she didn’t want to rescued.  “NO RESCUE!” she screamed at him as he tried to get her ready for bed.  That was me.  I didn’t feel like I needed to be rescued.  Till I realized, I could be in a partnership, and be in it together.

I looked at him differently after that.

By Opening Day, we knew we wanted to get married.  Four weeks later, we were.

He wore a Mets tie.  I wore a blue ring that was also “borrowed.”  Our friends and witnesses were Mets fans and we all had one goal that day.  After the ceremony, we needed to find the Mets game on a TV somewhere.  See, they had a weekday day-game against the Reds in Cincinnati.  The Mets lost that day.

Our one year anniversary was celebrated at another weekday day-game, against the San Francisco Giants.  He surprised me by getting our names on the scoreboard.

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Maybe our marriage isn’t perfect, but whose is?

We make it work, and the crux of our relationship is making each laugh and talking baseball.  In my life, as I had relationships with significant others, maybe a piece might have lacked.  I was always the bigger sports fan and had to make concessions to not watching games or talking baseball all the time.  That’s probably why I became a blog groupie when I did.  He understands that it’s not only a part of my life, but that I need someone who is just as passionate about them as I am.

I might not have needed to marry a Ranger or a Jets fan.  But I did need someone who was just as devoted to baseball as I was.  I was lucky enough to find a guy who loved the Mets just as much as I did.

It takes a special person to be a baseball fan.  I’m not talking about a Johnny-Come-Lately person who goes to games occasionally.   I’m talking about a fan who lives, breathes and eats baseball, is connected to their teams’ games 162 games a year, from April to September.  If your team is lucky enough to make the playoffs, you’re preoccupied till November.  Factor in pitchers and catchers and spring training, we’re talking eight months of the year, that there are some kind of game being played.  Even when there is no Major League Baseball, you’ve then got hot stove, and trades, and free agency…chances are, from February until December, it’s baseball season for you.  And then some.

If you’re lucky enough to have a friend or family who is just as knowledgeable and passionate as you are, baseball is your passion, your religion for lack of a better term.  It’s a religion that preoccupies you 365 days of the year, and 366 in a leap year.  The only difference between an organized religion and baseball is that we worship 162 games per year.

We get older.  We get married.  We have kids.  At least, that’s what the greatest romance novels of all time have told us.   Baseball isn’t supposed to be as “important” as it once was.  Yet, in the Mets community, those who are in committed relationships are in just as much as committed relationship with the team as with their significant other.  Furthermore, a non-negotiable for many Mets fans is that they find someone who understands, or is as passionate as they are about their team.  (And most of all, not a Yankees fan).

I met my Mets soul mate in the summer of 2009.  Yet, despite all the commonalities we had over the years, our childhood memories being so similar and centered around baseball, we never met.

We met the Mets, then we met each other.

If you are a couple, and you’re fans, chances are, you’ll understand.

Married to the Mets: The Blog Groupie

It was really the Red Sox that got me into blogging and following sports blogs.

True story.  Though it was inspired by the Mets a bit.

In 2004, I needed an outlet.  A place to read, discuss and muse on the Mets.  I was working full time on Wall Street at the time, and the Mets were disappointing me.  It was the Art Howe years, and the Mets were just boring.  A state of ennui.   These years were really the true test of the fans, to go to Shea Stadium at times like those.  Looking back, it was the hey day of baseball games.  You went to games with real fans and not frontrunners like they were in the Bronx.

The Mets had made one of their most famous deadline deals that same year.  Kris Benson joined the team, and then-projected pitching phenom Scott Kazmir was traded for Victor Zambrano in what was called “Black Friday.”  In the previous season, I had become engrossed in New York National League baseball history.  The New York Giants.  Brooklyn Dodgers.  I had devoured Boys of Summer and Bums.   Later in 2003, the Rangers had opened their home season at Madison Square Garden.  That same night, I ran into a friend at the game who wanted to watch the baseball game.

You might know of it.  It’s known in the Yankee (and Red Sox) lexicon as “The Aaron Boone Game.”

I sat at the bar as I was outnumbered by Yankees fans, for sure.  I was told because of my New York National League roots that I was the “Coolest chick in the bar.”  Too bad, because I felt like I was being left alone at the lunch table, while my friend celebrated that Yankee walk-off victory that night.

So fast forward a few months later.  July 31, 2004, came and went, and I was upset.  My team had failed me, again.  Bob Ojeda was on the FAN, talking about how he believed that the Mets organization just had “bad information,” when Zambrano blew his arm out just a few days after the trade.  While Kazmir went on to stupify the Red Sox, who were on their way to making the playoffs a second year in a row.

I spent many hours in the office that year.  Yet, I couldn’t get on chat rooms or forums.  Most of them were blocked in corporate America.  I did find something a bit unusual, while clicking on some story links following the fall out of the Mets season, and following how the Red Sox were doing.

It was called a “blog.”

I found one called Metsblog, and NJ.com had its own called Always Amazin’.  While clicking on those sites, it brought me to other blogs.  SellTheMets.com.  FireArtHowe.com.  Kranepool Society.  The Metropolitans (where I frequented and probably made my mark as a “blog groupie”).  Metsgeek.  Y2K: Promote the Curse.   Some of these links exist to this day.  Others have gone by the wayside.  Many others have expanded or rebranded.

During the 2004 post season, I found many Red Sox blogs.  Sons of Sam Horn.  Surviving Grady.  Misery Loves Company, which was a Mets/Red Sox joint blog.  I loved the self-deprecating and dark humor of the Old Towne Team’s fans.  The Mets fans were just funny though.  The blogging community was easier to follow, simply because there were fewer blogs to follow. When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it was special.  It was not only special to see the evolution from walking off the field, defeated, just one year prior, but special to see all these blogs serve as a community for these fans to congregate and make the large world smaller and closer.

I was pretty useless at work.  I spent most of the days trying to feed my lust for Mets information, and trying to craft writing styles, and even stealing some jokes that I found at these forums.  Like how I have borrowed “Just Forfeit” or “Fuck these guys, I’m going to Donovan’s” from other fans, some people think they are my own.  I don’t make a habit of stealing material.  But I found that people weren’t hiding behind the screen of the computer by saying daring things that they would never say in the face of these people (though, truth be told, I see plenty of those people now).  I found that sports and especially baseball fans really wore their heart on their sleeves, and bared their souls in the comments and in response to the blogs that were objective in some ways, but came from the fan experience, so there was a lot of soul to the posts.

The Metropolitans was a place I congregated.  From there spawned many spin off blogs, like Frasier to Cheers.  Ed’s Blue & Orange Cafe.  Yes, Joe, It’s Toasted!  The Metropolitans invited me to join my first ever Fantasy Baseball team.  I was the token female, but it took them awhile to realize I was a girl.

In fact, I had chosen the moniker “Coop” so I wouldn’t be “the girl” in the forums.  Most of you follow me or became friends with me because of my writing style, which is how I talk, really.  When I was throwing certain players under the bus or screaming about Willie Randolph, they got me.  There was no male/female dynamic or even worrying that they would think of me different or that I was after a player because he was hot.

In mid-2005, I had gone to a game by myself and had taken score.  Some were surprised that I had been a fan just for the game.  Some were surprised I knew how to keep score.  Nobody would have paid me any mind if I was there with a man, like my dad or my boyfriend.  Meanwhile, my dad had taught me to keep score, and I had gotten my boyfriend into baseball.

I didn’t have to explain myself.  Till I did.

One day, in mid-2006, during the Mets tear on the NL East and baseball, I had been a frequent visitor to the site Yankees 2000: Promote the Curse, which was a Mets blog claiming that the Yankees win of the World Series in 2000 on Mets home field was the reason why they hadn’t won since.  (Makes sense, with 20/20 hindsight, since Shea no longer exists).  One of the bloggers called me “Man” or “Hey dude” or “My man Coop.”  I got a kick out of it, but I had to come clean.  I said, “Hey, I’m a chick, for the record.”  The next day, I got a marriage proposal, sight unseen, from one of the co-bloggers.

That same year, Brooklyn Met Fan gave me a whole new family.  There was not only BMF, there was Matt the Met Fan, Blondies Jake, Irish Mike, USMF, Bill L, El Duderino, Ft. Greene Met Fan.  Plenty of women in the forums, and could keep up with the Mets and baseball talk with the boys.  Gender mattered, but it didn’t.  They were always so open and friendly and treated me as an equal.

The Metropolitans was my second home though.  I felt like I was friends with everyone on there.  Toasty Joe’s blog was fun too.  Sort of a Metstradamus-lite, whom I had become friendly with as well.

I had commented so many times on these sites that I thought…maybe I could do a blog of my own.  I had opened an account on Blogger, and I could name it anything that I wanted.  The name, the name, the name…

Since people had told me since I was very young that I looked like Drew Barrymore, I had watched many of her movies.  My favorite around that time was Fever Pitch, the movie centered around the character played by Jimmy Fallon’s fandom of the Red Sox.  I loved the banter between Red Sox fans, I loved how he changed during the baseball season, when he saw all his friends that he missed in the offseason.  And how when after years of darkness, comes light.  As a Mets fan, though we had taken care of some of that dark period by beating the Sox in 1986, Red Sox Nation got over it by slaying the dragon of 1918.

Jimmy Fallon’s character said something at the beginning of the movie.  “This is my summer family.”

And I had my name.  I had reached out to the Mets blogging community in 2007.  They had saved me that year, from myself really.  My long-term relationship had fallen apart, and I had custody of 81 Mets home games in the form of tickets.  I had to find people to go with me.  Bloggers came to my rescue.  I had met Metsgrrl, who saved my Masters completion gift of going to see the Mets play in Milwaukee and Chicago that summer.

I had run into Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing several times at Shea, and we had become fast friends.  Irony was that the very first time I met him, I was wearing the FAFIF shirt to a game.  It was also the beginning of the end in 2007, against the Phillies.  I met Dana Brand through my work at Flushing University, and I had met a whole new world where people actually asked to see my writing.  Joe D of Metsmerized Online compared me to a cross between Alanis Morrisette and Courtney Love, if they were Mets bloggers.

The bloggers became a secondary family to me, people I enjoyed seeing.  My network expanded and expanded where I was recognized in other cities, like Philly in 2008.  Or when I was at Dodgertown in 2008, and Metstradamus introduced himself to me.   The expansion went into Facebook and Twitter, where I had taken like a fish to water.  With how big the world wide web had expanded, I’ve gotten many haters.  The haters make it worth it for me to love my new friends, my secondary family that the blogging community has provided me.

By the time I retired My Summer Family in 2010, every schmoe had their own blogger or WordPress account, claiming rights to the once tight knit community.  Hey, more power to them.  I stepped away because I wanted to find my most authentic voice again, which was what made My Summer Family special back in 2007.   Maybe it was special to some of the people who followed me.  For me, it became work, tedious and wasn’t unique anymore.

I do sometimes like to look at the site, like it’s a relic from a former era.  It takes me back to how much I loved having my own blog at the beginning, and how I was feeling back then.  Much like a diary or photos from a year gone by, my thoughts on the Mets still appear from time to time.  Much like listening to a song from my childhood, the years 2007 and 2010 on my Mets fandom are still catalogued for me to review.

And if anyone knows what happened to Mike and Benny and everyone else from the Metropolitans, tell them I miss them and wish they’d reappear.

Married to the Mets: There’s No Crying In Baseball

Years after the fact, my dad told me a story entitled “The Midnight Massacre.”  He said that on June 15, 1977, while I was asleep in my crib, he cried while watching the nightly news.

If you are a Mets fan, I won’t insult your intelligence about what that night was.

Yet, when he told me this, I couldn’t help but giggle.  A grown man crying at another grown man getting traded to play for another baseball team?  Concept seemed foreign to me.

Until a while later, the Mets won the 1986 World Series, and I was blubbering like an idiot.  I was ten.  I still haven’t forgotten that feeling.  Probably the closest I felt to that at Shea Stadium was when it shut down in 2008.

So I guess Jimmy Dugan was wrong.  There IS crying in baseball…but with shades of grey.

Fast forward to 1988.  The date was July 24, and it was a Sunday.  “The Franchise” Tom Seaver came back to Shea Stadium, if only to be honored one day for his induction to the Mets Hall of Fame, a precursor to his ultimate induction to the big house, Cooperstown (the name, however ironic, is merely coincidental).  I’ll never forget how I never saw him pitch for the Mets, but I saw him take the mound one last time.  I thought he was gonna throw, but instead he bowed to the edges of the stadium.

Wow.  It was chilling.  And I cried.  I never saw the guy pitch for my team, but I cried.  Of course, this was no different from the water works my dad supposedly shed in 1977.  He partook in that ritual too.

I didn’t just cry for the moment.  I cried for what I missed.  I cried that because of selfish reasons, for me and for the selfish reasons why Seaver was cast away several years before I became a fan.  I cried because so many Mets fans were able to see the greatness of Tom Terrific, in person and all those special years, and I missed it all.

Yet, this was also the power of the story of Mets fans.  I could listen to the old days from the fans’ perspective, any fan, about the past.

One story I liked to hear was when Uncle Gene and Dad would talk about when Keith Hernandez was traded to the Mets in 1983.  I can’t really think of something similar that was so game-changing in my generation.  Johan Santana kind of shut down the blogsosphere when the trade went down, but given how the team has performed (and not to mention his unlucky injury history since then), it’s vastly different from how Mex changed the landscape of the 1980s Mets.

I heard stories about Tommie Agee’s Upper Deck home run, I heard stories about the Polo Grounds, I heard about the black cat at Shea Stadium that ran behind Ron Santo in 1969.  I’d only heard stories about 1973, as I was only minus two years old.  Yet it was Tom Seaver’s retirement ceremony that got me thinking that I missed something very special, and I didn’t have to.  I was certainly old enough to appreciate what he would have been had he never been traded and retired around the time I was starting to be a Mets fan.

Selfish reasons, natch.

By 1992, we had word that George Thomas Seaver was going into the Hall of Fame.  My dad was pretty much on the horn arranging our pilgrimage to the place of baseball worship.  I was there once as a child.  I was simply “okay” with baseball at that time and didn’t appreciate it.  This time, baseball and I were totally cool with each other, and I appreciated its part in my life a lot more.

That same year, the song “This Used to Be My Playground” by Madonna was on top of the charts, the theme song for A League Of Their Own.  I remember telling Dad that we should see that movie, about the All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League and their triumphs during a time when the world was at war.  Yet, I don’t remember seeing it in the movie theaters with him, but I do know we both ended liking it a lot.  Anyway, the song by Madonna, along with countless other baseball-themed songs like “Centerfield” by John Fogerty, was played on a loop during the pre-ceremony.

It’s funny what my dad remembers about that weekend that I don’t.  I remember driving up during basically a monsoon.  I remember we ate like the best wings I ever had in my life, at a place called Burger Heaven, go figure.  I remember spending a long time at the Museum, but what I didn’t remember is why we had to go to a field in the middle of nowhere to see the ceremonies.  I thought maybe that’s the way they did things.  Dad reminded me there was some construction at the museum, otherwise it would have been held there.  Heh.

I do remember it was warm out, and like a moron, I had decided to wear jeans.  I was fine with it though.  We sat for a long time, as we had staked our spot out hours before.  A gentleman with a flag that simply said “41″ was next to us.  I remember seeing some highlights on ESPN later, and saw the “41″ flag flapping around (but I didn’t see us).   I remember someone telling us that he felt bad for Rollie Fingers, who was also inducted that same day.  The crowd was clearly blue and orange.  (I might have seen a few Reds 41 in the crowd, though.  Dad might remember better than me.)

I remember Rollie Fingers talked about his mother in the middle of his speech, who was deceased.  Seaver, in a later interview, said that he could have never done that, whose mother was also no longer with us.  Seaver did mention her, however, at the end of his speech.  His voice cracking as he ended with the two words, “My mom.”  It was touching, to see these players that most of the crowd considered heroes to show that they, themselves, were capable of showing emotion.  Certainly, it wasn’t the only time fans had seen Seaver overcome with emotion.

They had seen it live on June 15, 1977.  He admonished himself.  “Come on, George.”  He allowed himself this one break, though.

In my lifetime, the Mets haven’t done a good job of developing their own players or keeping them around.  Case in point: Seaver, George T.   I certainly had favorites on my teams, I had projected to other lifer players on other teams — you know, those quintessential players who defined a team as much as the team defined him.  Cal Ripken.  Tony Gwynn.  (Sad to tell Montreal that we shared Le Kid, though.)  I started to follow the Iron Man around 1987, though I was aware of his existence prior to then.  I loved Ripken.  I was a Mets fan first, and a baseball fan second ultimately.  And ultimately, as a baseball fan, you had to love Cal Ripken.

He was born to be an Oriole, growing up in a suburb of Baltimore.  His daddy was a baseball lifer too.  I loved that he called his dad “Senior” instead of “Skip.”  It certainly helped too that in my 11 year old eyes, he was easy on them (yeah, I said it).  I remember I begged my dad to draft him in his fantasy league when he used to participate in that.  I was intrigued in 1987 when his father managed his two sons on the same team, when little brother Billy joined the Orioles.

Though I had kept an eye on the Orioles, I hadn’t gone to a game at Camden Yards (or any Baltimore stadium for that matter) until 1997.  I make it a point to visit there at least every other year.  Mostly as an homage to my favorite player.  Also, as a way to get me out of New York sometimes.  It happens, as New York City can wear thin on your patience at times.   Possibly my road trips to Camden Yards led me to give in to my wanderlust for baseball stadiums.  At current date, I’ve been to 18 stadiums, some still with us, some dearly departed, like our Shea.

Keeping with the trend of road trips and baseball worship, in 2001, Iron Man had gone on his farewell tour.  Many cities showed their respects for one of the last great heroes in baseball.  I’m sure there will be others.  Yet between Ripken and Gwynn, I’ve yet to see any other class acts that could have measured up to those gentlemen.  However, I had a great idea.  Sort of.

Dad said, hey how about we go see Cal Ripken’s last games at Yankee Stadium?  I had a better idea.  “How about we see his last game in BALTIMORE?”

That year was odd.  Baseball was shut down because of the terrorist attacks on the United States.  We banded together like no other time.  Mike Piazza for the Mets might have ushered baseball back to New York City with his home run, but Cal Ripken’s retirement ceremony befitting an all-American hero was postponed.  The last game in Baltimore was no longer.  It was now in October.

I traded in my tickets for others.  I mean, this is how SURE I was that I needed to be there to see him retire and his last game.  The opening ceremony was special.  They officially retired his number, and brought his family in.  Senior was long gone by then.  I only found out recently that his #7 was taken out of circulation with the Orioles, but not officially retired, after he passed away.  Mrs. Ripken, his wife, his kids, his brothers and sister.  The whole family.  Jim Palmer said a few words, a lifer Oriole himself.

The game ended with Ripken on deck.  The postgame ceremony showed him walking into the outfield, with Orioles greats such as Brooks Robinson.  It was a touching and moving ceremony, befitting a man how transcended the sport.  I got choked up only when Dad told me that we’ve seen a lot of these type of games together.  Like Seaver’s ceremony.  Cooperstown.  Ripken was my favorite though, because selfishly, I wanted a player like him on MY team.  Seaver may be the closest thing, but for me, it’s just not the same.  I never saw him play or when he was on the team, I didn’t know him from Adam.

I can see now, that crying does happen in baseball.  When Mike Piazza played his last game in a Mets uniform, I teared up.  I often admit to people that I didn’t truly appreciate what Piazza did for the team until his last season.  When we lost Shea Stadium, it was dusty for sure.  I was verklempt at the ceremony in 2010 when Doc, Darryl, Davey and Cashen were inducted in the Mets Hall of Fame.  I don’t know if I’ll get choked up at John Franco’s ceremony.  Unless, of course, the Mets give him a video remembrance and the good and fun memories I have of Franco are highlighted.

I never made it to Cooperstown for Cal Ripken’s and Tony Gwynn’s induction.  I don’t remember why I didn’t go.  Perhaps I didn’t think it was appropriate.  Maybe let my space go to other fans.  I remember what Gwynn said in his speech to his home crowd when they sent him off to Cooperstown.  He said, “You’ll all be there with me.”

Baseball players may come off as dumb jocks sometimes.  Yet, they can say things that are so poetic and carry so much meaning in our lives.  Or a simple self-admonishment like “Come on, George,” can speak to the frustration of a fan base for a lifetime.

Married to the Mets: Hey Blondie

“HEYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!! BLONDIE!!!!!!!” They chanted as they ran up the stairs after a Mets/Cubs game in 2005.

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Rumor has it that I didn’t get a full head of hair till I was about two years old. I had peach fuzz to the extent that my parents were afraid I might never grow hair. I did though, grow hair, that is. I was a nice flaxen blonde in my youth. Nowadays, I need to buy it.

There’s a rumor, also, that somewhere someone once said that blondes have more fun. Since the only time I’ve ever been a true brunette (I have no idea what color my hair is), I can’t attest to it. What I can say is, though, that being a Mets fan has made things more fun in my life. No matter how they perform, I can guarantee that most of the time, I am having fun.

Also, when you have some semblance of blonde hair, you get called “Blondie.” A lot.

I stood out like a sore thumb because I was a tomboy growing up. Along with my long hair, usually pulled back in a ponytail, I wore a hat, usually of the Mets type. Dad would go to Cap Day, and I’d often inherit the cap. The standard uniform was jeans, some kind of sports shirt and my cap. Kind of like when you see me at CitiField these days too.

When I was 12 years old, I had big hair. Like big-Aqua-Net-extra-hold-supported-Jersey-hair hair. My mother spent a lot of money on my hair being permed, and I spent a lot of time in the bathroom styling my hair. When the Mets had bucket cap day in 1988, I was thrilled, because it complimented my hair style so well. (More than I can say about the actual style. I mean, seriously, did we really think we looked good??)

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By the time I was out of high school and in college, my hair was straight as a pin. Save some stints where I would just go to those walk-in places in the mall and ask them to chop my hair short, it had lots of long periods. In Mezzanine 22, I once wore a cap with a ponytail sticking out, and Richie (the yeeeeee haw! guy who sat behind us in Row C) yanked on the tail. The temptation, he said, was too great to do so.

This was 2002. At that point, I was in a relationship with the guy I call the “Big Ex” in my lexicon. We had lived together at that point, and to say he wasn’t a big baseball fan was an understatement. At first, he had a whole self-righteous attitude towards organized sports, but once he saw there was alcohol and usually a food bribe from me, we went to a few games. That was when we had met Frank, Tommy and Kim from the Woodside Crew. The infamous crew that gave us the famous saying, “Fuck these guys, I’m going to Donovan’s” when the Mets are doing particularly bad.

We went to a lot of games back then, probably because my dad and I had our Saturday plan at that point, and my dad was off doing other things on the weekends. Not to mention the Mets were just horrible then. Not just bad in the traditional sense. Boring beyond belief. The only thing that kept us going then was the relationship with the folks in 22. They made the games more fun.

I was going through a lot back then too. Stuff at work, where I was very unhappy. But also stuff in my relationship. We ended up together for almost seven years, but it was still relatively new then. My hair ended up getting a brunt of the frustration. Short. Blunt. Bangs. Grow it back. Cut so short to barely to put back. Blonde. Blonde streaks. Brown. Brunette. Straight color. It wasn’t nearly as bad as when I was in college: I had been a redhead at some points (and let’s not talk about when I went nuts and dyed it blue).

Being a blonde was part of my identity. But like many chapters of my life, I was constantly reinventing and trying to find myself. It’s difficult to do that when you’re in a relationship with someone. Especially when there’s not a lot of compromise. So my hair took a lot of the hits to the experimentation.

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But there was compromise when we went to Shea. We started out driving there, but ultimately, the train won out. We discovered the Long Island Rail Road that dropped you off behind the 7 train, closer to the park. I think this was 2005, and I was blonde again.

Things were going south in the relationship. The Mets, though, were finally looking up. Carlos Beltran was new, and while the Scott Kazmir trade the year before had left us Victor Zambrano, new General Manager Omar Minaya had made a splash with Pedro Martinez, future Hall of Fame pitcher fresh off an improbable championship run with the Boston Red Sox the year before.

It was fun going to Mets games, but I can’t say I went to many that season. I know that I went to a lot, and I still had the Saturday plan with Dad. The Ex and I went to games, but I remember going to many by myself. I had no problem doing things by myself, but looking back, it was really the beginning of the end when I started doing my own thing over the weekends, and he was more than happy to give me my space.

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By the 2006 All-Star Break, it was evident the Mets were running away with the division. Adding big bat first baseman Carlos Delgado, the emergence of Beltran (who had a very quiet debut year in 2005), and lightning in a bottle help from Jose Valentin, the Mets were the toast of New York. I had no problem getting him to the games, since we were having a lot of fun. He had given up drinking, but at that time, drinking was part of my boisterous fan persona. I guess I had retained the attitude of Mezzanine 22, though my Saturday seats were in Section 10 at that point (the “family-friendly” section). When we found ourselves at games midweek, we thought, hey maybe we should look into season seats. Those turned in Mezzanine 14 Box, with Diamond Club access, which ultimately translated into CitiField seats.

I kept the tickets. He got the TV in the breakup in 2007.

I didn’t cut my hair off till 2008, though, when I found out he got married without my knowledge. Never thought it should have been me, but definitely thought I should have known.

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The year 2005 was the turning point. Things were miserable, just as the Mets were getting good. They were a distraction. I went to games by myself, and he let me. One day, I wanted to go to a game. He was cranky. I told him I wanted to leave him. We talked it over.

We decided to try to make it work. In all honesty, when I look back at that day, it should have ended. Yet, what did we do? We went to see the Mets play the Cubs on a Friday night. They won that game. It was fun to watch. I believe we sat in the Mezzanine. I had blonde streaks. But I was also tan, so my blondeness stuck out like a sore thumb.

This was a night we took the Long Island Rail Road in. One of the drawbacks to the service was it left every hour, even after the games let out, which was difficult to time (even though the travel time was 15 minutes from midtown, a distinct discount from the nearly 30 the 7 train took).

Back then, remember the old set up at the 7 train? There was that weird platform, and you had little crowd control. There would be bottlenecks after every game. This was no exception. Yet, we had about four minutes to make a train, and an ocean of people to swim through to get there.

Seemed impossible.

We tried to cross the street, and there was still a little wait on the stairs. The time was ticking.

Till one of the loudmouths started yelling at his friend in front of us. Apparently, it seemed, there was a trivia question to which his friend didn’t know the answer.

“TODD HUNDLEY!!!! HIS DAD!!! THE CUBS CATCHER – CUBS CATCHER!!!! THOUGHT HE TAGGED AGEE AT THE PLATE!!! HIS NAME!!!”

It looked as though he forgot former Met Todd Hundley’s dad’s name.

I knew it. I thought someone else would chime in.

Till I found myself yelling out, “Yo!! It was Randy! RANDY!! HUNDLEY!!!”

The guys did the double-finger point and yelled, “HEYYYYYYY!!!! BLONDIE!!!! AHHHHHHH!!! MOVE!!! MOVE!!! MOVE!!!!!!!”

Holy cow. I think I started a riot.

The crowd all of a sudden busted up the stairs. We had about a minute to spare. Running across the wooden almost-boardwalk to the LIRR platform, we just beat the train by a hair.

Probably the first time we smiled the whole day.

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In 2009, I was talking to one of my coworkers on an elevator. I was on my way to a hockey game. Everyone in the office knew me as the resident Mets fan, but the hockey thing caught him by surprise. I shrugged and said, yeah, I’ve liked the Rangers since I was 12.

My coworker asked, “So let me get this straight. You have baseball season tickets. You have hockey season tickets?”

I shook my head. “No, I just buy a few games from my friend during the year.”

“But still, you willingly go.”

I nodded.

“Why are you still single?”

I brushed it off, laughed. Truth was, I wondered that myself. We hear that women who like sports are, like, the most desirable and least attainable prime mate out there. I had been seen as “the friend” for a long time, or the buddy who was fun to go to sporting events. Truth be told, even with the Big Ex, I had a tough time imagining myself ever getting married. The irony was I had more of a relationship with my teams than I did with any man.

I guess my point is never say never. But I also wondered why people just can’t be content with a woman choosing to be single.

I had an ear-length bob then. In 2009, I was also a brunette.