Houston Astros

…And Strawberry Sundaes For All

My Halloween costume from 1983, the year I became a Mets fan

My Halloween costume from 1983, the year I became a Mets fan

I’m guessing it was around June 1983.  The school year was winding down.  It was first grade, for me.  One of our parting assignments was to write about our favorite things (mine included: cats and chocolate and English muffins…still true to this very day, actually).  I forget what my mom’s were (probably chocolate as well…one thing she and I were agreeable on).  My dad was simple: he liked the Mets.

Being seven, I can’t say I knew what “Mets” actually were.  But I’m guessing that it must have been around or just after June 15, 1983.  Because all of a sudden the Mets were on ALL THE TIME.  And Dad couldn’t stop talking about a guy named “Keith.”  (Note: Keith Hernandez was traded to the Mets on June 15, 1983…ironically, my husband’s first Mets game was the day he was traded).  I think I was also aware of the Mets that year because my parents had gone to Opening Day (Tom Seaver returned), and my grandma told me she watched the game to see if she could see my mom.

My dad was rooting for the guys with METS written in script on the front of their uniform.  Well, then, that’s who I was rooting for too.

I started to ask my dad questions about baseball.  Mostly, how to play.  I was an awkward kid, and had two left feet when it came to anything physical.  I never took dance lessons, and I certainly wasn’t picked for sporting teams.  I wanted to learn something, and baseball looked kinda easy.  I guess.

So he’d pitch me meatballs, and I’d practice swinging.  All with him yelling, “KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL!!!!”  (As he took a swig of a Budweiser).

As history has told us, my parents tried to take me to my first Mets game on June 15, 1980.  You may remember the date as the day game after what became the legendary “Hendu Cando walkoff” game.  It was, as history remembered, an unmitigated disaster.  We never made it to the park that day.  And as Matt Silverman has told us in many write ups on the day after, that walkups were discouraged because there were literally no seats in the Upper Deck of Shea Stadium to sit, due to renovations.

Less than four years later, I would be heading back to Shea.  This time, I suppose, with better directions than in 1980.

I wasn’t sure what to expect.  My dad kept calling it, “Shea,” yet in my head, since I was in second grade in 1984, I was learning about phonics and shit, and I kept thinking of the Long “A” that we’d use to pronounce.  But I was surprised, for some reason, that it was spelled the way it is.

I remember the way it looked.  So colorful.  So tall.  I think this was also the age that I discovered that I was indeed afraid of heights.  I asked my dad to not get me the “red seats.”  We sat in what I found out was the Loge, the blue seats.  I was mesmerized by the colors.  I was also wondering just what the hell that smell was (yes, I can still smell Shea Stadium).

The day was a blur.  The date was May 6, 1984.  It was a Sunday game against the Houston Astros, who wore those putrid orange/red/yellow colored uniforms.

The starting pitcher for the Astros that day was a gentleman by the name of Nolan Ryan.  I’m trying to remember if Dad told me that he used to be a Met, or if I found that out later.  I would bet on “later,” because I also was not entirely schooled on the whole “World Series” and “1969” thing either.

nolan-ryan-astros

The starting pitcher for the Mets that day, ironically, was a young phenom named Dwight Gooden.

My dad bought a program.  It turns out that I spent a lot of time reading it because the Astros scored EIGHT RUNS in the third inning. Looking at the box score, it was a bunch of singles.  Single after single after single turned into run after run after run.

I read the program cover to cover.  Had nothing better to do after that inning , I remember the Pabst Blue Ribbon advertisement.  The hot dogs that looked plump and delicious.  Cigarette ads, which I don’t think I thought much about as an eight year old, but find them so odd now.

I also memorized the Shea diagram. Though I sat in them in later years, and I decided to never ever sit in Upper Deck that year

I also memorized the Shea diagram. Though I sat in them in later years, and I decided to never ever sit in Upper Deck that year

The program had write ups on the visiting teams.  I remember asking why Jose Cruz’s name was pronounced “Hoe-ZAY” as opposed to “Josie.”  I may still call him that (and anyone else named “Jose”).  I also remember weird stuff from that day.  The smell of the hot dogs from the vendors.  The taste of the RC Cola.  The awful bathrooms.  My mom agreeing to get me Crunch N Munch, then “forgetting.”  The ginormous Budweiser ad that beckoned fans to drink.

This is the Bud ad I remember from 1984, though I'm sure some Shea historian will tell me otherwise

This is the Bud ad I remember from 1984, though I’m sure this pic is from 1988 or thereabouts (the bigger scoreboard)

Awestruck by the enormity of it all, really.

While going through the program, I also noticed that just a few days prior, had been a date called “Strawberry Sundae.”  A promotion sponsored by Carvel, fans attending a game honoring 1983 Rookie of the Year Darryl Strawberry received a strawberry sundae.  Well, dadgummit.

I don’t remember there being a lot of excitement.  Besides the barrage of singles and subsequent runs scored by the Astros, Doctor K had barely recorded an out in the third before being relieved by Craig Swan.  Swan didn’t yield a run.  Of course he didn’t.

docgoodensheaBut Doc Gooden ultimately became the reason why I was a Mets fan, or rather became one.

I take pride in having gone to one of his very few losses in his rookie year campaign, one where he ultimately won the ROY.

But I had no idea what rookies were or what an award was at that point.  All I know is…I was pretty pissed off that I missed free ice cream at Strawberry Sundae Night.

I still am.

So when I read the upcoming giveaways at that horrific game on May 6, I saw that sports bag day was on Memorial Day (which was Monday, May 28, an afternoon game).  Though the Mets were losing pretty bad, I knew I wanted to come back.  I asked Dad if we could go.  I think we got our tickets that day.

I also remember what it was like to leave before the game ended.  It was a blowout, and we had to go back to Jersey.  It was a long day already.  I do remember that I had dozed off in the car, and there was traffic heading out of the stadium.  That part has not changed, even if Shea is no longer around.  The radio was on, and I suppose the postgame was on too.  I asked if the Mets had won.  (I even knew that ya gotta believe, at such a young age).  No.  The Astros had tacked on two more runs.

10-1 Astros was the final score that day.

 

Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 9.40.34 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 9.40.49 PM

I’ll always remember Shea in all her majesty. At Closing Day in 2008, my dad turned to me after the ceremony and said, “You grew up here.” Now, at that point, I hadn’t shed a tear. I had let Shea go in my mind. I was ready for a new stadium, and mostly ready to embrace change (something the Mets desperately needed to do after 2007 and 2008…though I didn’t think it would be, “GET WORSE”).

But my one regret with Shea Stadium is that I never got a strawberry sundae.  Now, that shit still pisses me off.

The irony of the Mets is that I always expected friends in the deal, but I never thought I’d gain a husband out of it.  He went to his first game on June 15, 1983, and that was probably when I first started paying attention to the Mets.  I was also supposed to have had a link to June 15, 1980, and was supposed to go to the game originally on June 16, 1980.

And I got married on May 5, 2010.  And my first game May 6, 1984.

How about that for some shit?

Advertisements

Must Be The Season Of The Pitch(er)

There is a big story in baseball this season, and it’s not the long ball, it’s the pitcher’s duel.

It’s the season of the pitcher, folks, and to me, baseball is only as good as its pitchers are.

Think about it.  On a team, there’s often the old school adage of “pitching wins championships.”  Mostly, of the starting pitching variety. Even the bullpen figures in, occasionally, since a strong bullpen is depended upon during the long postseason if your team should be lucky enough to participate.

Look at my team.  The Mets have been blessed with great starting pitching, from Seaver and Koosman, to Doc, Sid, Bobby O and Ronnie, Al Leiter, even Fresno Bobby Jones.   But for years and years, it was always about the no-hitter.  The goddamn NO no-hitter, I should say.

But forget about Johan Santana’s no-hitter two weeks ago.  Okay.  Remember it.  But that’s not the point.  Clearly, the story this year has been the knuckleball and most importantly, R.A. Dickey’s renaissance surge to not only make his case to start the All-Star Game this year, but quietly mounting a strong campaign for the NL’s best pitcher hardware.  Time will tell, but although Santana’s no-hitter will christen the Mets’ books as the historic one, if you saw R.A. Dickey’s start on June 13th against the Tampa Bay Rays, clearly, that was the more dominant pitching performance…BJ Upton bedamned.

The funniest part of that story is that the Mets actually put in an appeal with MLB to get the first hit (an infield variety by Upton) charged as an error by David Wright.  So let’s see — go 50 years without a no-hitter, than two in two weeks!  Okay, gotcha.  I doubt that MLB will reverse it, but hey.  Goes to show just how dominant pitching has been.

Jered Weaver started the trend in Anaheim with his no-hitter.  I remember my friend Sully, from Sully Baseball, telling everyone to turn the game on, as the 9th inning approached.  He was so excited, Weaver had to pee between innings!

Then came a potentially cruel joke, with former Mets pitching prospect Phil Humber pitching a PERFECT GAME for the Chicago White Sox.  While he’s been lackluster (at best) since, the guy who was traded to get Johan Santana was pitching a perfect game, and the Mets didn’t even have a stinkin’ no-hitter.  Point is he can suck for the rest of his natural born life, and he pitched a perfect game.

Then came Johan.  Then came the Seattle Mariners’ combined no-hitter effort of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Really?  What is fascinating about those two no-hitters is that they were against strong offensive teams.

Lastly, Matt Cain of the San Francisco pitched a perfect game on June 13.  MATT CAIN who walks, like, everybody.

Some pessimists may say that the achievement isn’t as notable now.  Other say that the change in data sharing in baseball has improved for the defensive side of the game, and not the offense.  Yet at the same time, fans dig the pitchers duel.

It’s true.  A home run derby in the most literal sense is a reason to drink at games because you really don’t need to pay attention.  Great pitching performances leave you on the edge of your seat.

Give me a call when the San Diego Padres break their no-no-hitter drought, but in the meantime, I think the season of the pitcher is about friggin time.  It’s more than just the stats, with Dickey leading the NL in wins.  The pitching landscape is just so interesting right now, and the pitching performance is back.

I love it.

Larry’s Fine

I leave town for a few days and the shit hits the fans with some of my teams doings in play and outside of the box.  The Mets made a kerfuffle though, when there was news that hit that they would honor Chipper Jones on his retirement tour.

I can’t really find anything sourcing it for sure (the announcement certainly didn’t come from the Mets directly), but the reaction to it was quite strong.  Mostly of the “let’s not do it” variety from the Mets fans population.

Let me tell you something.  I’ve spent a good amount of time in my Mets fandom dreading when Chipper Jones comes up to bat at a critical time against the Mets, and I cringe usually because the story seems to set itself.  Perhaps we dread him though being a Mets killer because we would see his team 18 times a year.  And let’s be fair, the Mets usually beat themselves at those times, not the other way around (Sorry to bring that up, but ’tis true).

But let me go on record to say how much this rumored honoring actually doesn’t bother me.

1.)  Larry Jones didn’t just kill the Mets.  Did you know he had better career numbers against the Phillies?  It’s just that when it counted, Larry would come up huge against the Mets.  But as I said before, those Mets teams generally beat themselves with shitty bullpens and bad thought processes.  Also, let’s be real the Braves were really really good in the 1990s.  I always felt that rivalry was more of a big brother/little brother variety, like “Why are you guys always picking on meeeeeee?”

2.) Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn.  These guys were not only baseball legends while they played, but were lifers with one team.  Those guys are hard to find nowadays. When they retired, every single baseball park practically gave them a send off that would rival any of their own players I’m sure.  It’s a respect thing.  And Larry Jones is Hall of Fame material, with or without the Mets killing.

3.) It’s not like the Mets haven’t done shit like this before.  They’ve honored Bobby Cox with a bottle of GTS wine, and Craig Biggio with a video montage prior to his retirement.  It’s a respect thing.

4.) It’s a respect thing.  Hey, you don’t have to like Larry.  But you have to respect him.  Kind of like the Yankees.  Okay, maybe not.  The Rangers fan base still uses “Potvin Sucks” as a chant for a guy that hasn’t played in like 30 years.  It’s a RESPECT thing at this point.  But at least Larry didn’t use PEDs or steroids or anything like that.  He doesn’t beat his wife, use drugs or drive drunk.  He just likes H00ters waitresses and sex.  Nascar too probably.

5.) He gets it.  Larry gets the rivalry.  We talked about this on the KinersKorner.com podcast, and that there was some awards ceremony and Larry had to give a speech.  He thanked the New York fans for reminding him what his real name was.  Though I hated him for his “Put on their Yankee gear” quote in 1999, he came around and gave the fans here a nod in the rivalry.

6.) They’re not giving a statue, people.  If they do honor him, it will be a video clip montage and his GTS wine.  Some have pointed out that the Mets never properly honored Gary Carter, but they’d honor Larry.  I disagree.  The Mets have always done right by him.  They didn’t retire his number, so what?  He had two good years and helped win a championship.  I get that.  He also had admittedly better years outside of a Mets uniform.

Let’s be fair folks: maybe the Mets have a tough time honoring their history because some of the players just weren’t good enough.  I mean, who will we put on a pedestal?  Tom Seaver is the only player wearing a Mets cap in the Hall of Fame, and potentially Mike Piazza will be too.  I guarantee his number will be retired one day, so what’s the harm in waiting another year to officially do so?  My point is, we need to take a reality check here and realize that we’ve honored the players we could with our version of the ring of honor in the Mets Hall of Fame.  For me, that’s good enough for the players who were good enough as Mets but not Hall of Fame material.

I have done my fair share of Larry Jones mocking, but he gets the rivalry and realizes his place.  He’s comfortable with it.  I’m comfortable with some kind of send off.  Let’s be nice and give him his due, but also never let him forget his name again.