Tom Seaver

Everybody Wang Chung Tonight

“I’ll drive a million miles, to be with you tonight
So if you’re feeling low, turn on the radio
.” – Everybody Have Fun Tonight, Wang Chung

One of my favorite television shows of all time is Cheers, and also up there is Frasier.  Thus, Frasier Crane is probably one of my favorite characters in television history.  I can watch that video clip above over and over, and laugh every single time.  Certainly a dry humor guy with no interest in pop culture, who loved a good scotch, opera and high art.  Yet, when he deadpans this line, “everybody Wang Chung tonight,” I lose it.  EVERY. TIME.

I felt like a drove a million miles last weekend.  The husband and I do like to take road trips, and we really wanted to get to Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, especially this year since the series was over a weekend.  It just so happened that the games were meaningful in and of themselves.  When we had planned to go, we hadn’t really thought about implications if the Mets were going to be in first place or a potential clinching game.  It was more of a…we really need to get Cincinnati out of the way.

Last year, we had planned on going.  Although there was one glaring condition: I’d have to drive.  Since the hub doesn’t have a license, 10+ hours of driving was all on me.  That’s not very enticing for me.  Plus when we checked out airfares, we couldn’t find any fairly prices nonstop flights.  Moreover, we couldn’t find connections that didn’t take like 10 hours themselves.  I figured, we could just drive.  I live in the city so I don’t have to drive all that often or rely on a car.  Again, not an enticing idea.

So we started to scope out airfares early on.  While we found some fairly priced, once again we were faced with not finding decent connections anywhere.  Some people in that area have recommended flying into Columbus, Indianapolis, Lexington or Louisville, all within a two hour drive.  Again, didn’t make much sense, logistically.  Plus I HATE flying.  So deciding to drive was actually the easy part.  Especially since I’ve done the Pittsburgh trip, once as a passenger, once as a driver.  I figured, if I could do that, what’s another 4 1/2 hours?

Of course, I underestimated it.  We had to stop a few times, naturally, but mostly, by the time we made it to Cincy, I was done. DONE.  And I had to do it again.  Thankfully, we had the thought of mind to book a room in West Virginia, about four hours out.

We would leave after the last out of the Saturday game.

When I drive, I need tunes.  We splurged in the rental car for Sirius XM.  I love 80s and New Wave music, and since I was driving, hubby didn’t mind listening to it (also interspersed with some E Street Radio).  I heard “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” by Wang Chung several times on the ride.  And every time I hear it, I deadpan the line from Cheers in the Frasier voice.  “Everybody…Wang CHUNG tonight.”  (And I also found out recently that Wang Chung actually means “Yellow Bell.”  So they’re telling you to Yellow Bell tonight.  I don’t know what that means.  Wang Chung tonight to the ears of the imagination sounds a lot better and more fun).

But something else.  The song “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” originally came out in the fall of 1986, right before the Mets went on their whirlwind clinching, then historic postseason.  I was 10.  Instead of the hokey “We Are The Champions” or even Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration,” I always thought of “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” as a more appropriate song to describe what it was like to be a New York Mets fan then.  It was crazy.  People kissed and high-fived strangers.  The 1980s were a fun time.  For my birthday this year, I’m going to have a 1980s dance party.  It was just different.  The music is ageless.  And I always think of the 1986 World Series when I hear “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” because I’m certain I listened to it in the Shea parking lot after the Mets won the Series.

Great American Ball Park   Celebrate

I didn’t think much of the concept of the Mets clinching the NL East while I was out there.  Many things had to go right, like the Nationals had to lose a game, and the Mets had to win both games while I was there.  Beating the Reds didn’t seem that hard of a task; seen their record this year?  There have been weirder things to happen to the Mets this year.

Also, this would potentially by the fifth clinching game I have seen the Mets play: 1986 Game 7 of the World Series; 1988 NL East Champs (#PostTraumaticMetsDisorder); 2000 Wild Card; 2006 NL East.  Now 2015 NL East.  Hopefully more.  Which leads me to…

The 2015 Mets have provided one of the zaniest years I care to remember.  If this team were a movie, we’d never believe it, because it would’ve never been true enough for us.  Think about it.  A relatively “okay” first half.  Great pitching.  Not enough offense.  Getting swept by the Cubs and Pirates…series swept, mind you.  Wilmer Flores “traded to the Brewers.”  Wilmer Flores cries.  Wilmer Flores stays and hits a walk off home run two nights later, proud to be a Met.  YOENIS FUCKING CESPEDES is traded to the Mets.  And bonus points: he MAKES A DIFFERENCE.  That shit happens to other teams; NEVER the Mets.  Imagine if the Carlos Gomez trade DID go through.  I’m certain the Mets wouldn’t have won the division with well over a week to spare.  Matt Harvey saying, oh by the way, I have an innings cap.  When he was like 10 away from said arbitrary cap.  Oh and how could I forget, the whole elusive three home runs by one player in a home game.  Happened TWICE within weeks (and Kirk Nieuwenhuis?  Really?).  And above all, a career year for one of my all time favorite Mets, Daniel Murphy.

They were written off on day one.  They would have an “okay” team, but clearly, 2015 would be the Nationals year.  And they were a decent team, with a top flight ace pitcher and a bona fide MVP candidate.  Yet, the Mets treated them this year they way the Phillies treated the Mets in 2007.  IT WAS FUCKING BEAUTIFUL MAN.

When I say “Zany,” if you were around for 1986, you might remember the game against the Reds, which featured an easy fly ball out that was dropped by Dave Parker, that led to extra innings, that led to Ray Knight punching Eric Davis, which led to Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco platooning in the outfield and pitching, AND ultimately led to George Foster (former Red) to be released from the team.

In a year where the impossible was possible, that game pretty much encapsulated what it was like to be a Mets fan and following that great team in 1986.

I’ve seen a lot of the Mets, and the Reds have figured into a lot of their history.  Probably most significant happened before I was born, and that was when Buddy Harrelson and Pete Rose got into a scuffle on the baseball diamond in 1973.  Then the fight in 1986.  Then the one game playoff in 1999.  There were many Reds who became Mets, and vice versa.  Foster, Knight, Steve Henderson, to name a few.  Of course, there was Tom Seaver, Randy Myers.

Tom Seaver Quote

The stadium was pretty nondescript, as far as more of the “recent stadiums” go.  This was stadium number 22 for me.  (Twenty-two is also my lucky number, go figure).  We also didn’t eat at the stadium at either game.  We ended up meeting my godmother before one game, and she bought us dinner.  The area by the stadium was pretty cool, lots of bars and restaurants to hang out at.  The Ohio River was pretty cool to see.  The only thing I really wanted was to try the infamous funnel cake fries at GABP.  But they were up in the 400 levels.  Really?  I was not walking to the upper deck to get funnel cake fries!

The Skyline Chili is supposed to be the bomb…however, our friend Fred “Stradamus” introduced us to Camp Washington and well, we didn’t need to be convinced that Coneys and chili cheese fries were meant to be consumed anywhere else.  (But the chili in Cincy is a ritual, so you must have it if you do visit).

And definitely visit the Reds Hall of Fame beforehand.  It is worth every price of admission to see it.  So much bad assery with Reds history.

We literally stayed to watch baseball.  Which is weird because in recent years while we’ve traveled or even been to home games, we rarely sat in our seats.  The New York Mets are playing can’t miss baseball right now.  It’s insane.  The last six years could have defeated me.  But as I said on Twitter a few weeks back, I’m going to ENJOY this shit.  Good or bad or ugly.  Sometimes all three…

In 1988, I thought the Mets were going to win it all.  I mean, that’s what dominant teams do, right?  After the Mets clinched the NL East on September 22, 1988, Uncle Gene, Aunt Melissa and Mr. E were drinking champagne.  They said I could have some.  I was only 12, you guys.  But I did what the team did: I started spraying it everywhere in the Shea parking lot we were parked.  My dad got upset with me; probably thought I was wasting some good alcohol.  After seeing the 1986 party hearty Mets, I was waiting a LONG ass two years to do that myself, like the big guys did.  But the champagne toasts were halted that year.  We’ve been waiting for the World Series ever since.

I managed to get champagne sprayed on me while the Mets fans who stayed behind after the win were greeted by the team.  This year may have been zany; it’s also been one of the most fun years I’ve had since 2006, when I’d get so drunk after a Jose Lima start, I’d have to be carried out of the stadium.  Hey, none of us are perfect.

But I couldn’t help but think of the song I was listening to several times in the car on the way to, where I’d think of my favorite television show and one of my favorite television characters of all time.

“There was a passage from one of those trifle songs that I feel is the keynote for this evening…

Everybody have fun tonight.

Everybody Wang Chung tonight.”

Just like the show, the 2015 Mets make me smile every time.  Sure, they aggravate me (what love affair of 30+ years doesn’t?).  But so much more to smile about than be angry about.

As someone said a few nights ago, this is the 2015 Mets.  They’ll either get swept out of the first round, or win the whole damn thing.

Tune in to see what’s next…

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The Mets and the Myth of the Milquetoast Good Guy

Matt Harvey takes in Derek Jeter's last ever home game in 2014 .  His hat may as well say, "#ZeroFucksGiven"

Matt Harvey takes in Derek Jeter’s last ever home game in 2014 . His hat may as well say, “#ZeroFucksGiven”

I’m looking forward to the end of the regular baseball season.  Though I’m kind of excited to see teams like the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles play in the postseason, and even more relieved that teams like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are NOT going to be playing, I’m a little sick of the marketing overdrive campaign of Derek Jeter’s retirement tour.  Gosh, any amount of constructive criticism or objective opinions about Jeter, and people act like you kicked their dying dog.  But in all the accolades, all the sensation, one piece of rhetoric gets repeated-repeated-repeated again.  The idea that “Derek Jeter is SUCH a GREAT GUY.”

Now, I don’t have much of a strong opinion either way on that sentiment.  What I will say is that on Thursday, at the last Yankee home game that Jeter played, the Mets own (season-ending injury) Matt Harvey sat in the field box, tweeting and Instagramming the shit out of his #RE2PECT experience at the House that Juice Built.

Once again, you’d have thought Harvey kicked someone’s dying dog or on the other end of the spectrum, malaise.  I was on the end of the malaise spectrum.  Harvey’s team was mathematically eliminated.  Harvey was injured all season.  I’m sure if this was a meaningful game with playoff implications, he’d have been in D.C.  And it wasn’t like Harvey was living out and proud.  If he had never tweeted or Instagrammed, we might not have realized it was him.

Who cares?  Derek Jeter may or may not have given Jessica Biel herpes or gave gift baskets to his conquests.  Matt Harvey has dated supermodels and flashed his middle finger prior to getting Tommy John Surgery and put it on Instagram for all to see.

See, though that is what makes Matt Harvey a “bad guy” in Mets lore.  This is also the same guy who got a quote tattooed on him to honor his aunt who died from cancer several years ago.

Sometimes, things aren’t what they seem.

Horrible, HORRIBLE person, that Matthew Harvey.

But this was what I absolutely love about Harvey, and what I think most fans like about him too.  He has a #ZeroFucksGiven attitude.  He’s a rock and roll bad ass.  And to thrive on a New York Mets team, one has to have that attitude to not only be embraced by the fans, but also to not be afraid to win.

For too many years, the Mets have invested their energy and not to mention money on players who have some kind of milquetoast bland personality, a counterpart to the tenured guy in the Bronx.  But when have Mets fans EVER responded to guys like that?  History has dictated that we like the assholes.

Tom Seaver, the Franchise himself, is revered in Mets culture; yet he is widely known as an insincere douchebag.

Jose Reyes and the Mets parted ways a few years ago, yet most fans loved his “play hard” attitude.  However, I think his play hard and **shock horror** fun attitude towards the game rubbed the highers-up the wrong way.

Mike Piazza loved heavy metal guitars and classic rock.  He was feared when he came to the plate, and had VooDoo Child as his entrance song and you just KNEW he was gonna kick some ass.  I said last year at his Mets Hall of Fame induction ceremony that we needed another rock n roll bad ass like him on the team.  Though in 1999, he was surrounded by characters with whom we could all find someone to identify.

Look no further than the boozing, brawling, drugging 1986 Mets as the most bad-ass of them all.  Shit, four guys got ARRESTED in a barroom brawl, and we fuckin loved it.  Funny how we point to a guy like Kevin McReynolds sucking the personality out of the team, while he was an incredibly underrated player, his lack of an attitude rubbed us the wrong way.

This is what gets me, though.  The Mets have positioned themselves as like this “family friendly alternative” with milquetoast boring guys like David Wright as the “face of the franchise,” when the teams we’ve endeared ourselves to had panache and shitloads of personality.  Much like New York City itself.  The only thing the Mets have failed at is being a poor man’s version of the Yankees.  And it’s an insult to poor men everywhere. Not to mention, an insult to most Mets fans’ collective intelligence.

Here’s my take.  Let’s stop trying to be this milk-drinking-wow-wee-golly-gee-whiz-milquetoast team.  Embrace the weirdness that is being a Mets fan, and let’s love the rock-n-roll bad asses for bringing something different to the table.

Do we really want a lot of boring David Wrights on the team?  Or bad ass Matt Harveys with a “IDGAF” attitude?

You decide.  I like the Zero Fucks Given personality on my sports teams, myself.

The Milquetoast Mets’ Daytime Dilemma

Matt_Harvey_finger You know what?  I’m just gonna come right out and say it: I like Matt Harvey.

I like his attitude.  I like his arrogance.  You know why?  Because he has the goods to back it up.

And I have to laugh when I hear other fans complain about how other players aren’t “fun” and are “boring.”  Because they revere alumni like Tom Seaver, who is universally known as a douchebag.

(But he’s our douche, so it’s all good)

But what’s more is that ever since 1986, the Mets front office has been intent on dismantling any team that has any semblance of a personality.  Anyone who is not milquetoast, the more boring and “family friendly” you are, the better.

Forget if they’re actually, you know, *good* and help the team win.  If they stray from the party line (which is: be bland, always), they’re automatically trouble.

Take the 1986 Mets.  They won a world championship, for crying out loud.  They drank, they did drugs, some even got arrested.  Let me reiterate: THEY WON A CHAMPIONSHIP.  No one micromanaged them.  They did what they had to do.

When Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz wormed their way into Nelson Doubleday’s majority stake in the team after the World Series, all of a sudden, the bad ass personality was a “problem,” and let’s get bland boring “Jay-oh-bee” treating baseball players like Kevin McReynolds.

Perhaps if the PR and image people were less concerned with OMG WHAT WILL WE TELL THE CHILDREN, instead they let players be themselves.  I saw the Matt Harvey instagram where he posted about his surgery, which happened six months ago.  He’s a young guy.  His skyrocketing career came to a screeching halt because (and this is just my opinion), his conditioning by the team of Dr. Death Rey Ramirez led to him getting Tommy John Surgery.  I thought the photo was funny.  My next thought was….Oh, Jay Horwitz isn’t gonna like THIS one.

And what happens?  Harvey is asked to delete his post, and he just deletes his Twitter account instead.

Harvey didn’t apologize for potentially “offending” anyone.

Breaking News: Dick Young is STILL dead, Mets fans

Breaking News: Dick Young is STILL dead, Mets fans

I mean, seriously, what’s next?  Are the Mets going to exhume Dick Young to write a scandalous slam piece on how Matt Harvey’s girlfriend is jealous of Zack Wheeler’s girlfriend, and Harvey demands a trade before a weekday day game start, which will forever be known in Mets lexicon as “The Daytime Dilemma?”

#PTMD

The fact is, this team hasn’t had anyone with a goddamn personality for YEARS.  You want Wonder Bread David Wright?  You got him!  Any flashy players who show an iota of a personality are kicked the curb and chased out of town.

Look at Ike Davis, and he started his career with a bang in Pittsburgh.  Yes, I know it’s a small sample set.  But a change of scenery looks to be helping his Valley Fever or whatever the hell was ailing him.

The truth is, perhaps Davis was suffering what a lot of former Mets players who are kicked the curb or given the slam treatment after leaving town: Walter Mittyitis. And if we’re not careful, that’s exactly what’s gonna happen to Matt Harvey. The Mets are intent on driving away the only talented guy they have on the team, for fear that OMG WHAT WILL WE TELL THE CHILDREN actually matters.

Look at other teams.  Ryan Braun returned to the Brewers with little to no fanfare after a suspension.

His teammate instigated a bench clearing BRAWL, and no one gives a shit.  Except for maybe the “purity of the game” sanctimonious pricks.

And soon, I think Alex Rodriguez will finish his career and people will quiet down about him too.

When you stop having fun, it’s time to quit.  And good for Harvey for recognizing it.  Yet, the same people who forced him into a corner are also the same folks who are trying to make players more accessible and personable to fans.  Something that has been missing for years, decades even.  You can’t have it both ways.  Otherwise, I’m gonna see David Wright and Daniel Murphy sharing cookies and milk and playing checkers instead of the players having fun.

I’ll be talking about this and a lot more on the Mets Lounge podcast tonight at 4 pm ET.  I had to bump the start time a bit earlier, so I could drink at the cocktail hour at the Mets game social hour I’m attending.  I definitely want to be sober for my rants.

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: The Primitive Version of the Internet

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.

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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.

Me with Aunt Melissa, Uncle Gene and Pop on Shea Goodbye Day

Coop and Mr. E in the Coop Box at Shea Mezzanine 14

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.