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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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Piazza

I got into the Mets in the mid-80s. 1987 was my first full season. That group represented my youngest youth. Turn the page into the 1990s and both the Mets and I were finding our respective ways. They sucked, and I was in those awkward early pre-teen and teenage years. There was a player strike just weeks before I left for boarding school. Sounds about right.

There was a resurgence in the team when I was back in the neighborhood and in college. Seems right, doesn't it? They were having fun on the field and I was having fun in college. Games were also more accessible to me, both in person and on TV. 8 games at Shea in 1999 for me was a record back then. It might not seem like much to some of you now (and seems low to me today). They swooned as I left college and entered the real world. Then as I was establishing myself as an adult on my own, they bounced back too. These were the Mike Piazza years.

He's a bridge into the modern era for me. I started vacationing in Port St. Lucie every March in 2004, and Piazza was still with the team. That autograph before my last game that trip was the highlight. I started going to games about once a month, on and off with ticket plans, in 2006. He wasn't there for the payoff though, marking a new era in Mets history. And a new era for me, growing with the Mets again.

In 2016, he's a Hall of Famer.


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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Winning In Spite Of Things

A real baseball historian will need to tell me if other pennant winning teams (there's 2 of these per season) are able to win in spite of the things that the Mets won the 2015 NL Pennant in spite of.

They won the Pennant in spite of their owners. Their owners who mismanaged their money outside of giving money to an enormous ponzi scheme, have enormous debt against the team, the ballpark, and their team-majority-owned television network. Debt so big that they need to spend a MLB payroll paying off that debt each season before they can spend a dime on payroll. In spite of their owners who don't get that the only way for the team to be successful (or maybe I'm now wrong) is for them to sell and move aside.

They won the Pennant in spite of their manager. Their manager, who despite being in consideration for Manager of the Year, has made some truly bonehead decisions. To be fair, he's also rolled the dice and had critical decisions pay off. But I wouldn't trust him to manage a bullpen and an OF platoon to win a championship. Playing the players who got you there doesn't work when they're not playing well at all. Or sometimes it does. He flips a coin.

They won the Pennant in spite of having no consistent offense. Offense that was so dead at times that they got no-hit twice (including once in the same calendar month as most of the postseason), and there were many other times during the season, including Game 2 of the World Series, where it almost happened again. I get that a good pitcher, or even an average one, can be dominant in any single game, but the No Hitter is still such a rare feat because even a dominant pitcher will give up one or two hits per game. There were so many games, and even stretches of games, where so much of the lineup had an 0-fer. Most of these players are the players that a team would upgrade to make themselves a Pennant winning or Championship winning team.

They won the Pennant in spite of having no bench. Really, no bench or no backup plans. So much so that trading for 2 non-starters and calling up a kid from AA a week before the trade deadline were considered to be "a catalyst" for this club because it meant they wouldn't have to ride with never-should-be players filling in on a makeshift infield and outfield. There was no protection, players moving around, and just no coverage for injured players for almost 4 months of the season. Looking at what the team looks like on the first of November, I'm not sure if it's much better than it was in late July, or if it just seems that way.

They won the Pennant in spite of having a highly inconsistent bullpen. Outside of the closer (who, remember, was never supposed to be the closer and probably should be regular season team MVP for what he did), was there anyone the Mets could rely on? There were some injuries early in the season that set the path, along with the Mejia suspension, but look at who they're riding now and remember that these guys weren't Mets for most of the season. And one of them, the 8th inning guy (who remember got skipped over in favor of Familia so many times recently), was one of the goats in the game that turned the World Series. I don't even remember who was in the bullpen (which I think was considered a strength early on, but that's such a long time ago) for most of the season besides Familia.

They won the Pennant in spite of big injuries. I don't mean Murphy being on the DL for a couple of weeks. A young, highly regarded starting pitcher, a returning (and maybe even proven) lefty reliever both went down in the same week in Spring Training for Tommy John surgery. The veteran leader in the lineup and on the field was out for most of the season for, basically, a new chronic and debilitating ailment. Other injuries along the way, including an early-season ultimately season-ending injury for a new lefty reliever, arm issues for the former Gold Glove CF, the catcher going down twice during the season. I get that every team has injuries, and that usually makes every Pennant winner look even more impressive because there are a lot of teams who faced similar (in at least some cases) issues that didn't win the Pennant.

It's truly amazin' that they won the NL Pennant in spite of all of these things. This was a team that had 3 hot stretches - a homestand in April, the month of August, and about 2 weeks of October, where it might be fair to say they had good matchups in most of theses games - and basically played like a .500 team for the rest of the season. They had so many problems that they had no business winning 90 games, the division, and the NL Pennant. But somehow, they did. They have the starting pitching to give them 100 wins. Maybe even more. And knowing all of their faults, I predicted 81 wins based on what I saw in Spring Training (and that was with Wheeler and Edgin as factors).


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