Gary Carter

Doing It For David

If you remember, back in 2012, I trained for the New York City Marathon and raised funds for the Tug McGraw Foundation, a cancer charity that supports brain cancer survivors and those with traumatic brain injuries to have a better quality of life.  I chose this charity because not only did I have a good friend who also raised funds for them and spoke very highly of them, I wanted to mix my Mets fandom in there somewhere.

Of course, I knew many who were afflicted by brain cancer and traumatic injuries to the brain as well.  I had a friend who was running the marathon because her father had a traumatic brain injury.  Not only did my uncle pass away from a malignant brain tumor, my friend’s nephew passed away just a few days before the non-marathon (which was never run, because of a bitch named Sandy).  And my hero Gary Carter passed away earlier that year due to brain cancer.

When Gary Carter was alive, and playing with the Mets, I remember I made my mother donate something like 75 cents to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation, to get the signed Gary Carter poster I coveted.  Carter’s mother had died when he was a child of leukemia, and he made it his life’s mission to support and promote a cure by being active in the charity. He even had his own fundraisers, mostly golf tournaments, and I remember reading about these tournaments each year in the Mets Yearbooks when Opening Day would come around.

We know there have been many technological advances to treating cancers since Carter’s mother passed away.  But there is no cure. Whether we like to think about it or not, it impacts every single one of us.

And cancer sucks, big time.

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Leukemia impacted my family as well.  My dad had an older brother (half-brother, technically, but no one worried about those semantics while they were growing up.  They were brothers, period) who passed away several years before I was born.  So technically, my dad wasn’t my *dad* then, so I’ll just refer to him as Mr. E periodically for these purposes.

This was my Uncle Larry.  I didn’t have the opportunity or the pleasure to know him.  I’ve seen enough pictures of him to know what he looked like.  I also knew his wife Mary Lou, who is still close with the Cooper side of the family to this day, and his only child, David Alan Hicks, whose name I believe honored not only Larry’s best friend but my Pop Pop, who looked after Larry like he was his own.

I am a Mets fan because my dad introduced me to baseball as a very young age.  I was about seven years old, and I sat down and watched a Mets game, or what I found out was to be a Mets game.  I was in first grade.  I decided to root for the guys with the big blue letters on their uniforms because D-Man was.  That night, I had to write a “theme” (think: A Christmas Story) about what my likes and dislikes were (I believe likes included: cats and chocolate, dislikes included: spinach probably – but only because my mother force fed the frozen watery stuff to me. I’m a big fan of spinach salads, as an adult who works in wellness).  I also had to include what likes and dislikes my parents had.  A big “like” for D-Man was the New York Mets.  I had no idea what baseball actually was.  But my first grade teacher did.  And she wrote on my paper that her dad was also a Mets fan.

Back then, the Mets were bringing people together, even before social media did it, or made it easier to that end.

My dad took me to my first game on May 6, 1984, versus the Houston Astros.  It was a Sunday, and I got to see Dwight Gooden pitch against Nolan Ryan.  Of course, I have no idea how significant that match up until MUCH later.  But I also knew that I loved Gooden, just the few times I watched him on TV.  And begged my dad to take me to a game, which he was more than happy to oblige.  I guess he lucked out with me, that he was able to enjoy a pastime such as this with his only child, a daughter, whose mother would rather she take ballet classes and comb her hair properly and go shopping.

The Mets lost that game.  A score of 10-1.  But hey, 30 something years later, I am still attending games, usually with the Mets on the blow out bad end of the game.  So I guess it didn’t mar my decision to be a Mets fan one way or another.

And I’m sure my husband, Ed, whom I met in 2009 after meeting the Mets 26 years prior, will appreciate that this game was 25 years and 364 days prior to us getting married.

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What I do know about my Uncle Larry and Mr. E is that they had an incredible bond.  They were about 10 or 11 years apart in age, but that didn’t stop them from hanging out together.  When Mr. E was six years old, the Dodgers and the Giants both left town for the west coast.  For the next five years, there was no National League baseball close by, and my Pop Pop would not STAND for rooting for an American League team (according to Pop, New York was a “National League city,” end of story).  When the Mets came around, and they went to the Polo Grounds, though Larry was a St. Louis Cardinals fan like my grandmother.  Shea Stadium opened was considered “state of the art” and all that jazz.  Mr. E was 10 years old when the Mets came into existence, and was 12 when they moved to the home we know now, in Flushing.

As I write that, I find it ironic that I became a baseball fan when I was seven, and my dad didn’t even HAVE a team to root FOR when he was that age.  He became a fan at the same age I was when I went to game seven of the 1986 World Series.  That’s something we’ll never get over.

But in the Kevin Bacon six degrees of life scenario, I am a Mets fan because my grandfather and Uncle Larry took Mr. E to baseball games and really got him to understand the nuances of the game.

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So I guess that I have Uncle Larry to thank for my baseball affiliation, since he got my dad into baseball, and I highly doubt I’d be the crazed lunatic fan of this sport if he was not one himself.  Yet, like my Pop Pop who passed away when I was three years old, he serves as a ghost in my life, someone I’ve heard so much about and would have liked to have known, but sadly did not get the opportunity to do that.

Larry and Mary Lou’s son, David, was himself about five years old when Larry passed away.  I never got to talk with David about his memories about his old man, basically because I didn’t know David all that well.  That is truly my loss.  But as many people who read my site or know me personally, my parents split up when I was in middle school.  And as things usually happen in a divorce, some familial relationships suffer as a result.  For years, it was my relationship with the Cooper side of the family.  There were literally cousins and family members that I did not know at all.  It wasn’t until I was in college, and after I graduated that I got really curious about my family.  I started asking questions, and got to know Mary Lou and my Aunt Babe and started a relationship with my cousins.

Christmas Time, 2007. One of the last times all the cousins were in the same room.

Christmas Time, 2007. One of the last times all the cousins were in the same room.

David was 10 years older than me.  I remember him when I was old enough to start having memories.  There’s a picture somewhere in my mother’s scrap book in Jackson, NJ, that has a pic of David, Michael and me.  I’m guessing I wasn’t quite a year old.  Michael is three months older than me.  David was 10 years older than both of us.  So I guess David was about 11, and Michael and I were roughly a year old.  I have a close relationship with our mutual cousin Michael and his sister Chrissy, then there’s my dad’s brother’s kids whom I also have a relationship with now.  David was married and lived pretty far from me, and I didn’t know him as an adult.

If I remember correctly, my dad stayed in David’s life to the extent that they themselves went to baseball games at Shea Stadium (I know that my dad did that to bond with my mom’s little brother, my Uncle Mike, around the time they got married).  I also know that David was a huge Nascar fan.  So is Mr. E.  I went to a race once in Dover, Delaware, just to say I went to one.  The next year, I had a big final to do for my masters, and decided it wasn’t in my best interests to go.  David took my ticket instead.  He was a huge Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, like I am.

 

 

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Michael’s sister and my beautiful cousin Chrissy took up running and decided to run a marathon a few months ago.  Like many who run races, there’s an emotional meaning behind it, and it keeps one focused while they train.  Chrissy ran to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation.

She decided to do so after David, our cousin, was diagnosed with a very aggressive yet treatable form of leukemia.  The same type of cancer that had taken his father from us over forty years prior.  Chrissy kept her running journal on a blog called Do It For David!

Chrissy was able to finish her race and raised a respectable amount of funds for the foundation.

Training for a marathon is incredibly emotional (not to mention physical, of course).  Believe me when I tell you, it consumes your life, everything you eat, drink or think about.  To tie that training into a family member who is diagnosed with a scary disease is something unfathomable to even me.

My family lost David Alan Hicks on Tuesday, December 23, 2014.  Chrissy has closer memories with David in her life than I did, and she was able to craft a very meaningful and heartfelt tribute to our cousin, who unfortunately was just too weakened to fight the blood cancer anymore.

I didn’t know much about David except that he was truly a decent man, a good person, who loved his wife, Lori, his daughter, Courtney and his mother, Mary Lou, who is just about one of the nicest people you will ever want to meet.  Please keep them in your thoughts this holiday season.  He also loved his Nascar, but I also know that my family loved him very much.

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When George Harrison (you know, the Beatle) passed away, the first person I called was my dad when I found out.  I left him a message.  Mr. E, who had taken up the guitar again that year after probably a 30 year hiatus, would tell you that Harrison was his favorite Beatle.  He would also tell anyone who wanted to hear about how he first heard the song, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” on his transistor radio, and the energy from the radio parted his hair down the middle.  When he watched the Beatles make it to the Ed Sullivan show, he sat in front of the TV, wanting like millions of teenage boys did who also watched that night to play the guitar like George, bang a drum like Ringo or have a hair cut like John or Paul.

When D-Man called me back several hours later, he left a long message about how George was at peace now, he wasn’t suffering anymore, and that he was a spiritual guy.  If anyone was going to find peace in the afterworld, if there was one, it would be George Harrison.  But in the middle of all this, my dad said, he felt like part of his youth was gone.

I know that when my favorite Mets player from the 80s era, Gary Carter, had died, I had a podcast the next night, and I cried on the air. (There’s no crying in baseball, Coop!!)  I also know that I thought of my dad and what he said about his youth being gone with the passing of George Harrison.  I knew what it meant because when Kid died, a part of me did too.

I can’t be with my family today, physically, but I can understand the loss they are all feeling today as they say goodbye to David for the last time.  My dad was very young when David’s father, his brother Larry, passed.  I also remember him telling me that because they were so young, it was sad, and they had their lives to live.  Five years later, my cousin Michael and I were born within months of each other, my aunt got remarried, Chrissy was born, and my parents got divorced.  We went to college, got married, had kids, and honored lost family members along the way.

We all know that death is a part of life.  That doesn’t make it easier with the loss of a loved one.

Yet, we also know that life does indeed go on.  David may be gone, but we have our memories of him, no matter how close or far apart we may be.

In a world full of coincidences, fate, sliding doors, six degrees and other minutiae, he may not have known it, but David is in part responsible for helping me be the person I am today.  So thank you for that, David.  And as my dad once told me, we have our lives to live, and our own battles to face even with the loss of a loved one, no matter how hard that loss is.  It’s all right to be sad, and our loved ones are never truly gone when we have their memory to honor.

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The Pain Is Only Temporary

Over two years ago, my friend Phil and I went to cheer our mutual friend Sharon on during the New York City Marathon.  While we cheered her on around Mile 23, I remembered two things.  One was that she seemed so happy to see familiar faces to give her enough of a boost to carry her to the finish, about 3.2 miles from that point.  The other was that Phil and I had both chatted about the thought of doing the marathon.

I was captain of the cross country team in high school.  And I was always knew that the New York City Marathon was something I always wanted to do.

Being in New York or close to it, the marathon is a large part of our identity, it’s a large part of the culture here.  Some people might look at 26.2 miles as a steep hill to climb.  When you’re here, though, it’s something that you consider doing without question.

I don’t know if it’s like that in any other city.  But to have enough clout to shut New York City down essentially for one Sunday a year so people could run the streets freely, I’d say that’s a pretty big event.  More so than say the Thanksgiving Macy’s Parade that just shuts down one avenue in midtown.

To give you an idea of what we did in those last two years to get in wasn’t short of challenging.  I’ve run three half-marathons.  I developed arthritis in my foot.  I hurt my back a number of times.  I managed to finish a 10K after busting my ankle two weeks prior.  I also was invited to several sports shows and podcasts to talk about my fundraising efforts, and was featured prominently at several websites for the fundraising efforts of Team McGraw.

As part of the New York Road Runners “9+1” program, you run nine races and volunteer for one.  That’s how Phil got in.  I decided to get in how Sharon did, and that was run with the Tug McGraw Foundation, a charity that supports brain cancer survivors, victims and those suffering from neurological disorders a better quality of life.

It was not only me.  My oldest childhood friend, Kara, had brain cancer directly affect people in her life.  She also volunteered for Team McGraw.  My friend from high school, Jay, decided to run for a children’s charity.  Between the three of us, we raised over $13,000 for these respective charities.  We are far from the only folks who did such a thing in conjunction with setting a personal challenge goal of completing 26.2 miles.  In fact, most runners get in via charity.

But it was more than that. When you are running in excess of 30 miles per week (but it’s not even running five miles per day six days a week, it’s more 8 miles one day, 12 miles another then two five mile runs), it’s easy to let the mental more than physical part get to you.

To have that taken away from you after putting so much of your life into it…and when I tell you how much I put into it…I couldn’t take a part time job for fear of losing it ANYWAY because I needed time off for the race and training.  I missed two family weddings.  I’ve missed even more family gatherings.  I had to put off seeing friends for months because of the grueling training schedule.  I didn’t drink (that’s not a bad thing for me, but bad for the liquor stocks).  I ran in heat and humidity that would make a Navy SEAL cry.  When I made friends with a slight Romanian woman who did her daily walks at Central Park, she told me I was doing a great thing and to keep it up.  I lost my short term memory and common sense. All I knew was my training schedule.  I knew, when November 4th came, that it would have been all worth it.

I guess this is where we say there are no guarantees in life.  Sure, I paid a $250 entry fee to cover the costs of fluids, nutrition, safety, police presence, road closures, loss of revenue, bib technology, that were already allocated to the race.   I know $250 doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but multiply that by 50,000 runners or so and that’s a large amount of revenue to the city and New York Road Runners.  Not to mention the businesses that generate a lot of revenue because of spectators.

That’s not to say I don’t agree with the decision to cancel the New York City Marathon in 2012.  I did agree with it.  I wish they had done it SOONER, as I know several people who came in on Thursday, from outside areas, in order to fulfill their charitable obligations.  In fact, the only reason I was so defiant is that if the city and NYRR TRULY BELIEVED that it would be a good thing for the city and that it wouldn’t impact recovery efforts, well, goddammit I wasn’t going to apologize for working my ass off this year and putting MY life on hold for a few hours of running a road race that in the grand scheme of things is small change.  Especially with the devastation in my home state (New Jersey) and my adopted state (New York).

This was my story.  Thousands of other runners shared the same or similar stories.  I was shocked by the amount of scapegoating involved in the race itself.  I understand it needed to be cancelled or postponed (the reason for cancelling outright was due to city logistics, getting the elite runners back here and even weather conditions outside of, you know, a fucking hurricane at the end of October).  What I didn’t get was the scapegoating.  There were people and things to demonize.  Don’t demonize the runners.

So now, I have to rethink my philosophy on life.  My philosophy has been to help others.  To put a cause or a mission ahead of myself in order to help those less fortunate.

It hit close to home this week too.

I had been running for a brain cancer charity.  The Mets lost two icons to brain cancer, one they honored all 2012 season.

For me, it got personal.  My friend Kara, whom I’ve known since three years old, has lost two family members to brain cancer, and her father suffers from a neurological disorder.  My uncle passed away from a brain tumor.

Then I found out my friends Colleen and Jamie lost their 16 year old nephew to brain cancer this week.

Take that in for a second.  A 16 year old child (and I remember when he was friggin born) lost his life to brain cancer.  He wasn’t living in a storm-affected region, but it was still in the midst of chaos in our world, a 16 year old lost his life.

If there was a chance I could run, you goddamn better bet I was going to do it.

So now, four and a half months of hard work, three half marathons, tons of carbs later, a mission I’ve had since I was 16 (to run the marathon) was taken away from me by nature.  It is what it is, and I can’t do anything about it.

But what you can do – what we all can do – is volunteer. Get on lists, go to your local Red Cross, no matter what your denomination is, go to your local churches or synagogues.

Several of us did our part.  Don’t demonize people who were going to run to do their part for the spirit of the city.

I told one of my friends that 2012 hasn’t exactly been a great year for me.  From a sports fan perspective, it’s sucked.  The Mets are irrelevant, the Rangers lost to the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals, now there’s a hockey lockout (and the Rangers are the closest team I have to ever winning a championship in my lifetime), the Jets suck, and now the Marathon can’t be held.  This one stings because it was the year I had looked forward to.  I also couldn’t find a full time job and had to start my own business.  I was so not ready for that (that’s actually been a bright spot for me, the business).  I left an apartment I loved because my husband and I needed to cut down on home expenses.  Now Hurricane Sandy has trashed the shore line I grew up in and has damaged a city that I have adopted as my own.

What’s next? Are the Mayans right?

The one thing I had to look forward to was the marathon.  And now that was taken away.

I’ve spent my life looking at the bigger picture of things, and have always taken things well even if they haven’t worked to my advantage.  I realize that the world isn’t all about me.  That’s something I learned early on, actually.

But this one, this one is going to sting for awhile.  I spent over 20 years getting mentally prepared for this, and I’m not doing this again.  I don’t have it in me.  I will have a big part of my life that’s unfulfilled because of it.  That may be hard for some of you to get and may tell me to get over myself.  Those who know me and love me will understand that about me.  I don’t really care.  I’ve spent most of my life looking at the larger picture, and now I’m allowing myself to grieve for everything that I’ve lost (not just from the marathon, but my memories of the shore and childhood) but for something that was out of my control.

Yet while I thought I had broken my foot (it was arthritis), while I was chugging along at mile 16 of 20 on some training runs, one thing I kept telling myself is that it was all temporary.  The pain is temporary.

With the craziness going on all around us, we’ll learn that we’re resilient, and that the pain will be temporary.

The pain will be temporary, even if we have to tell ourselves this every day for awhile.

Married to the Mets: The Beginnings

My dad took me to my first ever game in 1984.  Technically, he tried to take me in June of 1980, the day after Steve Henderson hit his infamous walk-off home run (The “Hendu Cando” game).  As legend has it, Mom and Dad got lost in Chinatown, got into an argument, and we ended up back at home…not before a compensatory trip to McDonald’s.  I was four.  I didn’t know the difference.  Mets, McDonald’s.  Either way, I was going to eat junk food.

I guess I started to get the baseball itch when I was seven, also the same year I discovered Duran Duran and Brit New Wave pop.  Both things helped shape a lot of my personality, and you see a lot of those qualities in me today.  I remember writing a paper (if one can even call it that, at seven years old) on what my dad and my mom liked to do.  My mom liked to bake and shop, while my dad like baseball, and is a New York Mets fan.  I remember my teacher gave me an A, and said that her dad, too, was a Mets fan.  I started watching more games and asking my dad about guys like Tom Seaver (whom he went to see his first Opening Day back with the team since 1977 that year) and Keith Hernandez (who was some guy that was traded midseason, but I had no idea what that meant).

In 1984, I saw Dwight Gooden lose a few times live at Shea Stadium.  But I still bought the hype, drank the Kool-Aid, and was a full-fledged Mets nut.  And I wished that I had known about Strawberry Sundae night in 1984.  I would have been ALL over that game.

By 1985, my dad had invested in a Sunday game pack with his best friend and his wife, my beloved Uncle Gene and Aunt Melissa.  When Melissa couldn’t go, I’d often go in her place.  This became more prominent in 1986, as she had given birth to their first child in the year after, my “cousin” Paul Gene.  I saw something interesting.  My dad became friendly with these guys who sat next to us in Loge Section 22.  I’ll never forget their names: Dominic, Rob and Mike.  Dominic was a typical Brooklynite, who had an accent that I loved.  Rob was a quiet and subdued guy, but treated me like an adult when I talked to him.  I don’t remember much about Mike except that my child’s memory has drawn him into a big oaf.

We have places like McFadden’s at CitiField these days, and the Caesar’s Club and what not to go to if you’re lucky enough to have access to on some level.  Back then, there was Casey’s on the Loge level.  I remember taking many walks with my dad to Casey’s as he went to get his rounds of beers for the guys.  That was something else I remember.  That everyone bought everyone rounds of beer.  The big foamy cups dedicated to Bacchus, and so I wouldn’t feel left out, I got many RC Cola cups in return, still my favorite soda.  Sometimes, we’d take walks down to Field Level for the old Frusen Gladje stand, where I swear still was the best cookies n’ cream ice cream I’d ever had in my life.  I was also partial to the pizza roll (which was this deep fried egg roll loveliness of pizza sauce and cheese and dough) and the old French fries (screw Nathan’s and Box Frites), all served to us by the ever present Harry M. Stevens attendant.

I am a Capricorn and rumor has it we’re an observant astrological sign.  When I wasn’t paying attention to the game at hand (in 1985, there wasn’t a whole lot of reasons to pay attention, since the Mets were winning a lot more that year so it was a lot of standing up for home runs, especially from my favorite Met ever, Gary Carter), I was paying attention to the relationships unfolding next to me.  I was too young to understand, but I did see my dad and my uncle forming relationships with these guys next to him in Section 22.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but it seemed to me that when you had the common bond of a sports team, you had a friend for life.

This may come as a surprise to some people who know me in real life, but I was a pretty shy kid.  I didn’t have many friends, and it was hard for me to relate to kids my own age.  I blamed a lot of it by being socialized with adults growing up, being an only child and all.   As I grew up, when people found out I was a baseball fan (and most importantly, a sports fan and liked many different teams), it was a common thread, a bond which we could all agree upon and talk about.

I always went back to those relationships that my dad formed in the stands with those guys he’d met, simply by accident since they all had Sunday plans and sat in the same row of Loge 22.  It was present in my mind when I met Frank, Tommy and Kim — the “Woodside Crew” — in 2002 sitting in Mezzanine 22.  There was Richie and Roger and the Bensonhurst crew.  There was Julie and Ben and Mark and Eddie in Section 10 of the Mezzanine for Saturday games.  There was Drew and the Bayside crew in Mezzanine Section 14.

Being a Mets fan has shaped a lot of my personality as an adult; but the memories I made by sitting with these folks, simply by chance, really had an impact on my life.  I guess I’m writing this as a way to let them know, if there’s any way they can know about it.

The last we heard of Dominic, Rob and Mike was in 1994.  Opening Day that year, I went with the usual suspects — Dad, Uncle Gene, Aunt Melissa and their two kids Paul and little Kyle (who isn’t so little anymore) — and we had seats in Upper Deck.  I believe this was the year we sat in the second to last row in those sky boxes, to which Uncle Gene said his famous, “I specifically asked for the last row!”  Walking up the ramp, Dad spotted Dominic and Rob.  There was a lot of hugs, hand shakes and “How are the kids?”  Et cetera, et cetera.  I was about to graduate high school that year, and it made them feel old I’m sure.  Dominic was living in Connecticut and had two kids of his own.  Mike was up to the same BS.   We never saw them after that day.  I doubt I would even recognize them now.

Times change, people change.  One of the fringe benefits of being a fan is sharing a moment that’s bigger than you with tens of thousands of other people.  Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to find those special someones who become important to you outside of the baseball game.  Mets fans may be the geekiest fans out there, but we also share more of a common thread than I think any fan base.  This fan base was born of Brooklyn Dodger and New York Giant fans, and both of those teams skipped town over 50 years ago.  There was pain, and baseball died in a lot of people’s hearts when that happened.  But as James Earl Jones said in Field of Dreams, the one constant throughout the years has been baseball.  Baseball has marked the time of America as it’s been rebuilt, erased and rebuilt again.

The one constant in my life has been being a Mets fan.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.  I also wouldn’t trade meeting those three goons in Loge 22.  I doubt they remember me, but they left an indelible mark on my heart inadvertently.  Those friendships formed led me to open my heart to many Mets fans, and caused me to write about them and expand my network of friends.

A lot has changed since I was nine years old.  But the constant in my life has been the Mets.  I’m married to them, in a way.  And whoever is my friend or acquaintance has to understand that.  Everyone has their quirks.  My quirk is being a Mets fan.

The Unsung Hero

In baseball, some positions often are called “premium” or positions that can easily be “platooned.”  As an example, the 1986 Mets had a “platoon” at second base between Tim Teufel and Wally Backman (now, ironically, coaches within the Mets system).  It’s easy to get away with platoons at positions up the middle of the infield, and yet at catcher, a so-called “premium position,” there’s less guesswork.  Gary Carter was possibly one of the best defensive (not to mention offensive) catchers of his generation, and the Mets were lucky enough to have him.  At a premium position, it’s tougher to platoon since you technically need that strong play at every moment you can.  When Carter was hurt for a spell in ’86, Ed Hearn jumped in.  Hearn, though, was purely a “backup” catcher.  And there was technically enough offense to cover where he lacked in it.  Same goes for Barry Lyons the next season.  Or Todd Pratt and Jason Phillips when they, at one point or another, backed-up starter and All-Star Mike Piazza.

Hockey is different.  The elite goaltenders are few and far between, and more of the game hinges on their spectacular play.  They need to be smart, they need to be agile, and furthermore they need to combine all that to stand on their heads at times to make saves.  We’ve been fortunate that in the past, Mike Richter was one of those guys for the New York Rangers.  His back-up in the 1993-94 Stanley Cup run was Glenn Healy — a guy who could have by most standards been a starter someplace else.  As lucky as we Ranger fans are to have Henrik Lundqvist as our starter, it was a foregone conclusion that he needed a break every now and then, since a majority of the success of the team in 2010-11 was based on his performance.

Yes, hockey folks, a backup is just as a important for the goaltender spot on teams as their starter.  And luckily, the unsung hero of this 2011-12 team is none other than Marty Biron.  It’s comforting when your #1 goalie isn’t in the game that the backup can do a hell of a job not only filling in, but winning.

In baseball, the pitcher gets the stress of the whole win-loss thing, but some will argue that the W/L stat is one of the most overrated, while WHIP or ERA can provide a better picture.  In hockey though, much rides on the success and bulletproofness of a goalie.  Our King Henrik may be the guy we want starting every night, but John Tortorella has the right idea to give Biron the starts since theoretically, we’d rather save those crucial starts for the star goalie when it’s truly critical (like later in the season and in the playoffs).

The number of games Biron has started may skew the sample set a bit, but right now he’s sporting a 2.06 Goals-Against-Average (GAA), very respectable in its own right.  Our own Henke is according to the leaderboards fourth with 1.92 (the gold standard seems to be right around 1.90).  True Biron’s only played in 11 games, but it’s better to not give up many goals in those small amount of games, am I right?  As for others in this same position, the Boston Bruins have Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask in almost a straight platoon, and very similar numbers.

I’m the only one who has thought that Marty Biron’s performance has gone above and beyond the call of duty.  Blueshirt Banter believes the Rangers are doing right with Henke and Biron. Tortorella gave his vote of confidence by starting Biron three out of seven games as late as last month, not only spelling the rumors of giving Henke regular rest, but to give Biron some credit that he’s doing a good job.  Lastly, the Rangers have a lot of depth — at many positions.  NHL.com has eight reasons why the Rangers are in first — depth is one of them, Marian Gaborik’s performance is another, but Biron’s performance has given them a comfort level that they can still lean on Lundqvist, but it’s not as evident as it has been.

It seems the recipe for a good hockey team is to have a strong net minder.  This much is true.  I make no bones that I watch this team with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, and they portray that on the ice each night, even on crappy nights.   To me, though, Marty Biron is one of the reasons why they are performing the way they are.  Perhaps the stepping up of Ryan Callahan as the “true” captain of the team, the pressure of free agent signing Bradley Richards is nonexistent, and likewise the pressure off Henrik Lundqvist having to be on this A-game every single night is out the window.  Marty Biron deserves a lot of credit for why the Rangers are where they are right now, and hopefully it’s the base for the future of this team for the year as well.