If the “Married to the Mets” series was ever put into a book, this chapter would be a postscript, an epilogue if you will, a footnote to the series. See, I hadn’t planned on writing this yet, or at all. This week I had planned to write on some of my Shea memories but as John Lennon once said, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
It was April 9, 1985. My dad couldn’t go to Opening Day that year for whatever reason. This was the time before smartphones, spoiler alerts and simply by staying away from the TV or radio for a few hours. We had set our VCR to tape for the few hours on WOR-9. “Catch the rising stars…” That was the slogan that year and the silly jingle before the games.
For the next few years, that VHS would be my closest friend and confidant. It knew what I wanted when I got home from school (soap operas), when my mom would take me to the mall (one of my least favorite activities at that age…trust me, I’d have rather been making mud pies) and there was a show that was on, or when my dad and I couldn’t watch a game.
The VHS was there for us on Opening Day 1985, when Dad couldn’t go to the game. So we watched and learned that not only the Mets won that day, but that their new catcher, Gary Carter, hit the game-winning home run in the 10th inning. I didn’t know it at the time, but after the game I certainly learned about how Neil Allen, the pitcher who gave up the home, was one of the pieces in the deal that brought one of Dad’s favorite players over to the Mets: Keith Hernandez.
See, the story behind Opening Day 1985 was one that Mets fans geek out over, the type of thing that I call “Mets porn.” The type of story that lasts and takes a life of itself in Mets folklore. One of those moments that we had at Shea Stadium, whether you were physically present or not, you could have that connective factor with another fan.
The VHS was a substitute, an absentee parenting tool for me. If I couldn’t watch games, I could catch them later. If I just wanted to tape games, I could watch them over and over.
That contraption in the living room (where I also sat on the floor watching many Mets games as a kid) was also one that allowed to relive these moments. Have us recapture former glories, for better or for worse.
In 1986, I probably sat my ass in front of the television, cued up the VCR and had it play games over and over. Dad attended the NL East clincher game in 1986 with Uncle Gene, I had to tape it, just in case he said, he was on TV. I didn’t get those two tearing up the field or standing on second base, as per Gene-oh’s wishes.
The entire National League Championship Series was taped as was the World Series. Dad was also at a few of those games, most importantly, he was at Game Six (which ultimately got us tickets to the definitive and final Game Seven). We had to tape Game Seven, after all, we were going to be there. No, we did not see ourselves on TV.
But when the Mets had failed glories in the ’80s and missed chances, I was able to watch those tapes and reminisce. I was getting a crash course in the idea that being a Mets fan wasn’t always about domination, it was about ennui and falling just short of it. I was led to believe that 1986 was the beginning of an era…turns out, it was the climax, with the denouement happening shortly after.
Those tapes allowed me to shape my Mets story, to shape my Mets fandom. I was able to pop in a tape and remember how cool it was, and how young I was to not fully grasp everything that was happening around me. I may have been in the stands on Game Seven…but I really couldn’t tell you what it meant to me until I was much older.
I remember having the Making of the Let’s Go Mets video…that video played on a constant loop almost. I used to love the beginning of it, when Gary Carter would give the kid a packet of Mets baseball cards, which started the song. Ah, the age of innocence, as it was in Jeff Pearlman’s book The Bad Guys Won told us about how the Mets behaving badly in the making of the video. After the “First” Game Six against the Astros, I read about how they tore up an airplane. I guess I could see how that would happen. When I watch that game, I, too, have a primal energy to swim across the ocean or run a marathon.
We bought the 1986: A Year To Remember video too. I was heartbroken when the VCR got hungry one night and chewed it up.
Prior to the ’86 season, we had bought An Amazin’ Era, about the Mets first 25 years of existence. That tape actually taught me a lot about the history of National League baseball in New York. I still have that somewhere, and bought a VCR just so I could watch it again. Now I think there’s a DVD on it. I especially loved watching the build up to the ’80s years, which only covered up to and including the 1985 season, my first visibly remembered season. I especially loved the emphasis on Gary Carter.
I loved watching those VHS tapes when the Mets weren’t that great and when they weren’t quite worth watching. That was quite a bit. I also taped the 1988 NLCS. Perhaps not surprisingly, I didn’t watch those games over again. Except for maybe Game Three.
I have no idea if those tapes even exist. Several moves and my mother having a penchant for throwing stuff that bothers her out may mean they no longer exist. Luckily for us, there are those who wish to make a profit by packaging these games in DVD sets.
That VHS player would keep me company and give me hope for the Mets when I didn’t have much hope or interest in the team. It brought me back to a simpler time, when I was young, and sometimes seeing them makes me think of a time gone past, not so much of when the games actually occurred, but what I might have been thinking one night when I was left to my own devices, and wanted to see a game. I could think back to cold winter nights when I didn’t want to watch anything on television, and perhaps wished baseball season was closer. I could think back to when I was feeling lonely and wanted to recapture a fonder time in my life. I could be sad and just wanted to put a smile on my face and watch the films, and remember just how good it was.
It’s funny because I’ve been watching a lot of old videos on the Mets recently, due to Gary Carter’s passing, and I love hearing the old broadcasts, and having the smile on my face because I know what to anticipate.
These games have shaped the narrative of my life, and much of it was sitting in front of a VCR with a remote control and recapturing the past and perhaps part of my youth by keeping them around as long as I did.
I remember coming home from high school and catching the last inning or two of that home opener. After that poke, Gary sprinted around the bases, no lolly gagging, no hot doggin’ or staring at his blast, just plain hustle and respect for his new team, the opponent, and the game. Welcome to NY Gary Carter. Mike Fitzgerald who?
Neil Allen – how do you spell relief?
Of course then there was the Braden Looper opening day yin and yang of that event…
We’ll miss you Gary.