I can’t tell you how many nights, days, weekends were spent sitting on the floor of my living room as a child, watching Mets games on the old WOR. Remember that? It’s funny watching the commercials pilfered from YouTube.
Catch the rising stars…watch them shine on Channel 9!
Baseball like it oughta be! Bring it home, Mets! TV-9, bring it home!
There were many more, mostly celebrating championships past (1987) and less bravado as the steam came down. One of the common threads in those boisterous Mets years of the 1980s was that my dad and I spent countless hours watching games in the old place we lived at while my folks were still together. During the playoffs in 1988, we spent most of the NLCS watching them at Uncle Gene and Aunt Melissa’s old house in North Middletown, New Jersey, with their then-toddler Paul. (He’s 25 years old now. Ugh.)
During the amazin’ 1986 run, I remember hearing raucous stories of my dad and his friends at Gene and Melissa’s, doing the pogo hops as the Mets rolled over Houston, and wishing I was there. My mom, for whatever reason, wished to keep me away from that atmosphere. Try as she might, I had a lot more fun with my dad. He was a permissive parent, and my mom was stricter, though she let me get away with a lot more than most parents I suppose. I was lucky to watch Mets games when I got home from school. But I was a good student, so I could be trusted to finish my homework during the games or afterwards.
In 1988, we watched Game Three of the NLCS over at Gene and Melissa’s house. It was a chilly Saturday afternoon, and I remember seeing my hero, A. Bartlett Giamatti, toss Dodgers starting pitcher Jay Howell out of the game for a tar ball. (The headline the next day my mother actually saved for me: “Tar-Rific,” a play on my first name).
But I remember that day for other reasons. I remember participating in the passing-Paul-around-celebrations that took place after the Mets scored runs. (Another item of note I’d heard about during the ’86 run). Afterwards, Gene fired up the barbecue grill and made burgers. Melissa sent me down the street to the local corner store for some soda, chips and said to get something for myself with the ten-spot she gave me. I chose a Chocodile. It was one of the best memories of my childhood (up to that point), that day.
The next night, my dad had tickets to the game. ONE ticket, for himself. Yes, my puppy dog eyes worked, and I went. I wished I didn’t. This was the infamous Mike Scioscia game. We sat in the Mezzanine on the third base side. I started a chant inspired by the big ladies we met in Philadelphia in September of that year. “ONE DOWN! TWO TO GO! ONE DOWN! TWO TO GO!” The Mets promptly got the Dodgers to hit into a double play.
By 1989, my dad had moved out and whenever I stayed at his place, I’d watch the old SportsChannel on game nights. In 1990, I made my mother cancel our HBO account so I could watch the Mets games that were on SportsChannel (we couldn’t afford both, but HBO was back on in the offseason).
In 1994, I went off to college. We didn’t have cable in our rooms on campus, but it didn’t matter. This also coincided with the “Strike,” you know, the one that cancelled the World Series that year. I know there was a year or two I didn’t go to Opening Day. Honestly, I have no recollection. But I do know for a fact that I didn’t go in 1998. I was working two internships and finishing up my independent studies. I had more on my mind than just baseball. It was a move later that year, the trade for Mike Piazza, that got me going to more games.
Then 1999 came around. I was living in Red Bank at the time, with a roommate, but with adult responsibilities and my first “real” job. My dad and I were going to more games, and it was a fun time to be a Mets fan. In fact, it was the first Opening Day I had been to in at least two years. From 1999 onward, it set the most consecutive string of Opening Days since for me. We went with Uncle Gene, Aunt Melissa, Paul, his brother Kyle and their little three-year old brother, Brett. I remember watching Robin Ventura. Uncle Gene liked him. Dad called him, “Ace” after one of our favorite movies. I responded with, “All righty then.”
We laughed. A lot. That’s something Dad and Gene do. They laugh. A LOT.
That year was a special year, 1999. For obvious reasons for most Mets fans, that I won’t insult your intelligence by detailing. It was special for me for a few reasons. One was I spent more of my time sitting on the living room floor of my own apartment, watching Mets games again. I was going to more games, mostly with my dad, but I also attended games with my mom’s two brothers, my “real” uncles, Mike and Scott. Then I watched Game 163 that year over at my then-boyfriend’s house. The relationship didn’t last; but my memories of that postseason did for certain.
The NLDS was special. We made it a point to watch Game Four (the “Todd Pratt game”) over at my new place. Melissa wanted to see my new place anyway, and to get an idea of what she could charge in rent for her house. See, they were looking to sell the old grey lady of a house. I didn’t think I’d actually believe it, till it actually happened.
But the little one, Brett, got sick during the first inning, and Melissa took him home. Kyle and Paul stayed behind, along with my dad and Gene-oh. We watched, and watched and watched. I probably bit my nails to the nub. We didn’t really say much. There wasn’t much to say. They were going into extra innings, and the prospect of going to Arizona to face Randy Johnson was almost as bad as the idea of facing Mike Scott in a forced Game Seven in Houston during the ’86 playoffs. Almost.
But then…could it…is it…could is possibly be…Hineys cautiously lifted up from the couch or lounge chair, as we watched Steve Finley’s puppy dog face, when he realized the ball he was certain was caught was not.
Thus the celebrations. The pogo hops. Zorba the Greek-like dances. This time, though, we couldn’t toss Paul around like a football in celebration. In fact, he was 13 years old, he probably could have tossed US around. This meant that we were facing the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.
It also meant we were back at the old house in North Middletown for the NLCS. It turned out it was the last time, as Melissa was serious about selling it. They would be out by the year 2000.
We may have watched the NLCS of 1999 in the same living room we watched the 1986 and 1988 playoffs. Yet, so much had changed in that time period. Kyle and Brett hadn’t been born until after 1988. And while Paul was born in 1986, he had no visible memories of the 1986 championship. This was for all intents and purposes their first run as Mets fans. I had gone to high school and college, graduated from both, and was living on my own and doing adult things like drive and pay bills. Yet, it was like nothing had changed. The neighborhood had stayed the same, with the same corner store that I had bought my Chocodile 11 years before.
Something else curious happened. There was a computer in the old living room. Computers were not so mainstream at the time, and the Internet was fairly a new phenomenon. During the playoffs, I helped Paul with his English homework. By the end of the night, I was crafting an email to NBC about how horrible Bob Costas was during the game. “Bob Costas is the winter of our discontent” got many laughs from the peanut gallery at Bray Avenue. Aunt Melissa started to lament how much she missed Tim McCarver. I wonder if she says that now watching him on FOX.
During Game Five, the infamous grand slam single game, we had ordered dinner early in the evening…till the game went on forever and a day. Melissa swore that if they went to a Game Six, she’d make dinner and dessert, so that we wouldn’t be starving. The kids begged to stay up to watch the end. Both Paul and Kyle had vested interests in the game. Paul was a Mets fan, Kyle for some reason was a Braves fan. Of course, this was another game that had there been a toddler, we’d have tossed him or her around the round while the Mets won that game in dramatic fashion. Instead, we did our pogo hops and Zorba the Greek dances.
For Game Six though, I remember Al Leiter starting off skittish. I remember screaming at the TV. I remember Paul and Kyle being sent to bed since they had school the next day. Oh please, when you were that age, were YOU sleeping? I was standing at the edge of the room where the living room and their bedroom door met, and Paul kept opening the door to see what the score was. The Mets were slowly chipping away at the lead, but 1999 was demised that evening.
I wasn’t so much sad that the season had ended. I was very proud of that team. What I was mostly sad about was the prospect of Gene and Melissa moving. Yes, I know I didn’t grow up there. Yes, I know it was very selfish to think that way. So many of my early Mets memories were formed there. I had sat on the living room floor in front of the television during many baseball seasons, but the times we watched the games over at Gene and Melissa’s house was an event. There were so many fond memories formed over there during the years. I didn’t grow up there specifically, but I did grow up there in a sense. So did my Mets fandom.
A year later, when the Mets were in the World Series, we watched Game One in the living room of the new house. We sang The Star Spangled Banner before the game. Infamously, we sent my dad to the kitchen when he got up to use the bathroom and the Mets led off the inning with a base runner. He chanted “Lets go Mets” from the other room, while we chanted in the living room.
The vibe was different, but the family stayed the same.
It was only fitting that we saw Gene and Melissa at the last game at Shea. Eight years had passed, but so much had changed in those years. I’d started blogging on the Mets almost two years prior. The Mets had gone on an improbable run in 2006, only to fall in disappointment in 2007 and 2008.
Shea Stadium was coming down soon after the Mets finished up 2008.
There were many different ways to watch games with the advent of smartphones, Internet TV and streaming videos, among others. I preferred to watch Mets games on their pretty new network, SportsNet NY, the old fashioned way: on the floor of my living room. Oh, all right, I probably sat on my couch or lounge chair during games too. Okay, fine, in a bar too.
I texted a lot too during games; Twitter wasn’t exactly in fashion yet. My phone served as sort of a command post during games. I had met a whole new group of family members through my blogging and newfangled media such as Facebook.
Prior to the Internet’s existence, my personality was shaped by being a Mets fan, but watching the games with so many memorable characters I’ve ever known in my life.
When the last “pitch” was thrown at Shea by Tom Seaver to Mike Piazza, my dad hugged me and said, “You grew up here.” It got dusty for a bit. Funny, they didn’t start to tear down Shea till a few days later. Perhaps they got a head start on it during the closing ceremonies.
Maybe I grew up at Shea Stadium, but I became a Mets fan watching games the best way that I possibly could: with family and loved ones.
Some of the best memories are simple ones.