Saturday, March 25, 2017

30 Years As a Mets Fan – Part 5

30 Years As a Mets Fan – Part 5

My first visit Spring Training

For those of you that know me, or have been following for a long time, you know that every March, I make the trip down to Port St. Lucie, Florida, to see Mets Spring Training. It’s something that I’ve been doing every year since 2004. But the first time I set foot at the ballpark in Port St. Lucie (then known as Thomas J. White Stadium) was in March of 1995.

Yes, THAT 1995. The one with the infamous replacement players.

1995 was the first year in which I had a break from school in March, and my dad decided it would be a good opportunity for the two of us to go to Florida to visit his parents (outside Ft. Lauderdale). I think he convinced me to go by promising me we could go see a couple baseball games. One was a Yankees-Red Sox game at old Ft. Lauderdale Stadium. This was during a time when Yankees-Red Sox games weren’t always must-see. It was also the last season for the Yankees in Ft. Lauderdale after almost 35 years. And the other game, with my 80-something year old grandparents in tow, was 90 minutes north in Port St. Lucie to see the Mets.

Getting there was one of those adventures from hell. Without thinking of the back fields or batting practice (like I do every day that I’m there now), I wanted to get there early because I just wanted to get there, like the little kid who just wanted to be at the ballpark just because it was there. But we got off to a slow start to the morning. And it was a long ride to get there. And I misread the map and had my dad move to Route 1 because that’s where the dot for “Port St. Lucie” was located. In case you don’t know the geography of the area, Route 1 is a road with traffic lights and is located about 8 miles away from the ballpark, while I-95 is an expressway and located in the ballpark’s shadow that also goes down to Ft. Lauderdale. So that little detour to Route 1 in Port St. Lucie added about 45 minutes to the ride to the ballpark. Then everybody walked slowly through the parking field/lot to the ticket office. It was torture.

But inside, it was pure joy. Here’s this ballpark which I’ve watched on TV every March since the Mets moved there in 1988, as the spring home of the Mets and the portal into the baseball season, right in front of me in living color. I have no memories of the game. That part doesn’t matter. It was an exhibition game between teams made up of scabs. Somewhere, I have the program and ticket stub, because I always have a program and ticket stub. And I have a few pictures. It was the only time I got to see old Thomas J. White Stadium before the first round of upgrades (which launched in 2004).

Friday, February 24, 2017

30 Years As a Mets Fan – Part 4

30 Years As a Mets Fan – Part 4

The start of Spring Training

“People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Rogers Hornsby, Baseball Hall of Famer and original Mets coach
And then one day each year, spring would slowly but surely arrive at my window. It would start with the first live local news reports from Port St. Lucie, seen on channel 4 or on channel 2. Nowadays, SNY is there 5 nights a week. But this is just practice. It’s a mirage. And then one day you turn on your radio and “Meet the Mets” is playing at the top of a broadcast. And you know that meant Bob Murphy’s voice would soon follow.

“Well hi everybody. This is Bob Murphy with Gary Cohen. Baseball has been asleep for a while. Welcome, the game is coming back.” – Bob Murphy, Mets Hall of Fame broadcaster, introducing the first Spring Training game in 1998
The way I remember it as a kid, it was always the first Friday in March that the Mets would take the field for the first time in the new season, and that WFAN would usually be there to cover it. I would set the clock radio in my bedroom to turn on at 1pm, even though I was in school. I didn’t want to waste any time, or even simply forget when I got home from school, even though the game might be in the 7th or 8th inning. I longed to hear the voices. And that was just in case I didn’t have my Walkman to listen to the game while I was walking home from school.

The years have blended together. I have one generic memory of this day which was probably the same every year growing up. I lost it a few years years when I was away at school. WFAN in the daytime didn’t have reception in New England and the Internet hadn’t been invented yet. In college, and as an adult, it became a bit harder because things like classes and work got in the way of that first spring game. But even if it’s for only 5 minutes, I make sure to listen to that first broadcast, now anchored by Howie Rose on WOR radio, and usually played through my computer. It’s not enough for me to join that broadcast in progress or catch it archived later in the day. I need the feeling of hearing Meet the Mets and Howie Rose live.

Same thing for the first spring TV broadcast. Seeing the Mets for the first time might have to wait until Saturday or Sunday, depending on the WWOR (or later, MSG/FSNY) schedule. I couldn’t wait until it was time when I could hear Ralph Kiner’s voice or that “Fresh from Florida” intro that Channel 9 had at one point. Now, it’s Gary Cohen on SNY and PIX11, but it’s the same idea.

There is a different sound to a Spring Training broadcast. It sounds a bit more relaxed in those smaller ballparks. There isn’t as much crowd noise. I swear at times I could hear a conversation from the stands. The games don’t mean anything, and the players and fans seem to know it. So do the broadcasters. Even they sound more relaxed. It’s just a warm up, forgotten at the end of the day. But it’s the sounds of summer while the calendar is technically still on winter.

I managed to grab the 3 audio files in this story from my Walkman during Spring Training 1998. The second one is just a few minutes of Bob Murphy and Gary Cohen calling most of a half inning from a game against the Cardinals in Jupiter. The third is just more Bob Murphy, this time throwing it to a commercial break.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

30 Years As a Mets Fan - Part 3

30 Years As a Mets Fan – Part 3

October 27, 1986

I sat down, probably after doing my homework for 3rd grade, to watch a Mets game for the first time as a fan. I’ve watched so many more in the 30 years since, but the first time always sticks with you. I remember watching in my parents’ bedroom. I couldn’t tell you why I wasn’t watching in the den. But I wanted to watch. I had been hooked 2 nights before.

The events of the game and words of the TV broadcast don’t stand out in my head now. But I will tell you they once did (which is in contrast with Game 6). About 10 years later, I watched the game on ESPN Classic, and it was the first time I watched the game (and not just the ending) since it was happening. And I remember watching that replay, hearing or seeing things, and thinking to myself “I remember that” several times over the first 7 innings. Those memories were unlocked then and have faded away since.

Well, I watched until the point in Game 7 when I had to go to bed. It was played on a Monday night, and being in 3rd grade, I couldn’t stay up late to watch the whole game. It was the bottom of the 7th when I had to go to bed. My dad had the brilliant idea to tape the end of the game. I can tell you that the tape started as Gary Carter was grounding out to end the 7th inning. Honestly, having a tape of the end of the game might have been the best thing to ever happen to me. I watched that tape, maybe an hour long going through the post-game coverage, over and over and over, probably until the tape wore out. I really don’t know what happened to it. I have no idea where it is now. In a way it’s okay, because in the past 30 years, I’ve memorized it. And I have the DVD box set now.

There was one play in the later portion of the game which stands out to me, simply working with my few memories of 1986. Mookie Wilson was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the 8th inning. It was a similar pitch and a similar effort of his to the famous Wild Pitch in the 10th inning of Game 6. NBC showed replays and still frames of the two, speaking like the Wild Pitch was already famous, and it was completely foreign to me. Even after so many times watching that tape of Game 7.

And in that last 1 ½ innings, plus a few post-game words, was my introduction to the great voice of baseball, Vin Scully. “Sharks at feeding time” to describe the scene of the Mets fans celebrating the division clincher, talking about what wouldn’t happen that night when the Mets won because of all the police officers on horseback. “Joe, you just lost your house”, to partner Joe Garagiola, who jokingly bet his house that Jesse Orosco would bunt when Davey Johnson had him swing away for an RBI in the bottom of the 8th. “Got him!” on the final out, with a very long roar from the crowd following, similar to what Vin Scully let me hear after Game 6 two nights before, similar to what hooked Vin Scully as a kid.

It was my 2nd day as a Mets fan, and the Mets won the World Series. I’ve now been waiting 30 years for another one.

“He struck him out! Struck him out! The Mets have WON the World Series!” – Bob Murphy

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN198610270.shtml

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

30 Years As a Mets Fan - Part 2

30 years as a Mets fan

Prelude

I don’t remember the playoffs against Houston. I think I was aware of it at the time, but it wasn’t grabbing my attention. And I don’t remember the first week of games against the Red Sox. It wasn’t tugging at my curiosity.

October 25, 1986

I’m sorry that I can’t share memories of the actual game. Everything that I know about the Red Sox early lead, the Mets comeback and the 10th inning comes from having watched the DVD, tape, or televised replay several times over the past 30 years, or from history lessons, such as the Mets “How to keep score” page in their game day program/scorecard, which featured the bottom of the 10th inning from the time I could remember. I don’t remember the parachuting fan that opened Game 6, or the Red Sox jumping to an early lead, or the Mets making a mid-game comeback, a late-game comeback, and then the epic 10th inning comeback.

What I do remember is that my parents had friends over to watch Game 6. I can almost picture the scene in our den with the TV and the chairs. It’s funny how things like that stick with you. I remember that it was the night we changed the clocks back (ending Daylight Savings Time for 1986). I think that meant more to me at the time than the game did. And as the game kept going, past midnight and then a minute or two past 12:30 am, I was still awake (a novelty for an 8 ½ year old kid), watching the game with everyone else who was over at the house that night.

But something stuck with me about how the game ended. I don’t know what it was about the ball going through Buckner’s legs that drew me in. It’s something I’ve tried to figure out for the last 30 years. But I was hooked. I was a Mets fan from that moment forward.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN198610250.shtml

Sunday, September 18, 2016

30 Years As a Mets Fan - Part 1

This is the first post in a longer series that I hope to launch in late October about my 30 years as a Mets fan.

30 years as a Mets fan

Intro

The Mets won the World Series on my second day as a fan, and I’ve been waiting 30 years for another one. It was October 25, 1986. This is my story of the past 30 years.

September 18, 1986

I went to my first Mets game on September 18, 1986. I was 8 years old at the time. My dad pulled me out of school to take me to a Thursday afternoon game at Shea. I still don’t know why he took me to the game, especially at that point in the season and school year. I don’t remember following the Mets before that day. I can’t say I remember following them after that day, at least not right away.

I only have a few vague memories of the game, some of which have been enhanced by some light research. Rick Anderson was the starting pitcher for the Mets. He went 5 innings. A rookie pitcher named Greg Maddux started for the Cubs. Howard Johnson hit a 3-run homerun. The Mets won the game 5-0. The image in my head of the game is the “green Band-Aids”, as my dad called them, all over the outfield grass.

If the date sort of rings a bell for Mets fans, it’s because the night before, the Mets finally clinched the division, formally setting the stage for an eventual world championship. I didn’t really know any of what was going on at the time. The “green Band-Aids” were the patchwork on the grass created by Pete Flynn’s Shea Stadium grounds crew after 50,000 fans tore up the field celebrating the division title about 14 hours earlier (a scene which Vin Scully described during the World Series as “sharks at feeding time”).

I don’t credit that game with making me a fan. That event came later.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN198609180.shtml

Friday, April 8, 2016

Home Opening Day

This is another re-post, this one from 2011. I always like to celebrate Opening Day. Today, I'm heading to it for the 4th time (twice for real Opening Day - both in March; twice now for the home opener - both times after winning the division). This, as always, includes Bob Murphy sound bytes.
It's Opening Day at Shea. I can just hear Howie "Dr. Metropolitan" Rose saying that as he walks into Citi Field on Thursday morning (if he's not camping out there overnight).

I've been to Opening Day in person only twice in 25 years. I was at Shea for the home opener in 2007 when the Mets were coming off of an NL East championship and all was right in Mets-land. And I was at a real Opening Day in 2003 (Bob Murphy's last and Art Howe's first). Tom Glavine started for the Mets and got trounced by the Cubbies, 15-2 (though Glavine wasn't the worst that the Mets threw out there).


I remember cutting class during my sophomore year in college to watch Opening Day 1998 (like 2003, also a March 31 opener, and like 2007, against the Phillies) when Bobby Jones started for the Mets.

Here's how the game started.


And this is how that game ended.



And who can forget Opening Day from 25 years ago, when the Mets were called out one-by-one and received really big rings
<insert video here> - ok, you can actually see the ring ceremony on the 1986 World Series DVD box set bonus disc.


Or Opening Day 1985 when Gary Carter made an impression on New York (or to be more literal, he made an impression on a baseball that went over the LF bleachers in the bottom of the 10th inning) and Opening Day 1983 when George Thomas Seaver came home.


And of course, the first Opening Day for the New York Mets, 50 years ago...



Happy Opening Day!


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Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Pennant Winning Call

Just getting my mindset ready for Opening Day, I present a breakdown of Howie Rose's (first) Pennant Winning call. I should note that Bob Murphy only got one of these and Gary Cohen only got one of these. I think Lindsey Nelson was lucky to have two. You never know how things will turn out, and Howie might only ever get this one.

Here it is, courtesy of wor710.com:

You can read WOR's recap of Game 4 against the Cubs and hear other highlights of the game here:

Let's break it down line-by-line. I tried to capture the inflections in Howie Rose's call with larger text and bold/bolder text.

Here's the payoff pitch from Familia...to Fowler. On the way.
So far, as basic radio call of a pitch. You can sense something in his voice that this is bigger than a 3rd inning pitch.

And it's...in there, strike three called!
The pause at the start of this line is because the umpire made a delayed call, thus not allowing Howie to say something right away. His voice rose quite a bit. But it's the nuts and bolts of a good radio call, to say what happened with the pitch.

The Mets win the Pennant!!!
Okay, this is getting serious. These are words that Howie Rose has probably dreamed of saying ever since he went into broadcasting. Punctuate the word "Pennant".

The New York Mets have won the National League Pennant!!
Clarify the situation. Probably a good idea. Just in case what he said before wasn't clear. Or just say it again because he can. And again, punctuate the word "Pennant".

Put it in the books!
His trademark phrase after a Mets victory. The moment was so big, it was the third thing he said after calling the final pitch. I wasn't sure if his inflection of this line was because he almost forgot to say it or he was questioning if what he's just seen and described was real.

The New York Mets, for the first time in 15 years, are champions of the National League. And they are mobbing each other out behind the pitchers mound. They have completed a 4 game sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series. They win Game 4 eight-to-three. And now the disappointed crowd here at Wrigley Field begin to salute their Cubs, whose long streak, 70 years without a Pennant, and back to 1908 without a World Series, will continue. But all of the focus now on the New York Mets. They're headed to the World Series, against either Toronto or Kansas City, we won't know until at least Friday, and right now, Josh, I guarantee you, New York Mets don't care.
This is all good radio. There are no pictures and no graphics to show the final score, the series standings, the celebrations of both the Mets players and Cubs fans, or the upcoming schedule. So Howie needs to describe it all. Josh, who he refers to at the end, is his broadcast partner Josh Lewin.


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