Thursday, October 25, 2012

And the Mets Win It

In honor of the 26th anniversary of the greatest game in New York Mets history (and if you don't know, I mean Game 6 of the 1986 World Series), I present to you, my local readers, 2 sound bytes never before heard on this blog.

I found these on the internet one day. I can't take credit for creating them myself. They are the Boston Red Sox radio broadcast of the 2 memorable moments during Mookie Wilson's 10th inning at-bat.

First, the Wild Pitch

Second, the Buckner error

The tone of the broadcast and certainly the style are a lot different from what I posted last year from Mets announcers Bob Murphy and Gary Thorne.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Mets Announcers at the Olympics

This is an udpated post from one I did in 2010.

With this Summer Olympics starting this weekend, I decided to take a look anad see which past and present Mets broadcasters have worked at the Olympics. I found a few more than I had expected. It wouldn't surprise me if there was an omission from this list. If you don't want to do all that reading, head down to the bottom of the post for a few sound bytes from a current Mets announcer calling an Olympic sport.

  • Jiggs McDonald - Best known as a Hall of Fame Hockey broadcaster and voice of the Islanders on TV from 1980-81 through 1994-95, he called Mets games on SportsChannel in 1982.
    He called Ice Hockey at the 1998 Calgary Winter Games for ABC and at the 1992 Albertville and 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games for TNT, and also Basketball for CTV in Canada at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games.
  • Don Criqui - Known for his work calling NFL and College Football and College Basketball for NBC and CBS TV and Radio, he was listed as a fill in announcer for the Mets in 1991 (which I don't really remember, but have seen his name listed in some announcer lineups and it was noted in the NY Times).
    He called play-by-play for Swimming at the 1988 Seoul Summer Games and Water Polo at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games for NBC and hosted NBC's Olympics Triplecast PPV broadcast at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games.
  • Kenny Albert - Best known for his work with the NFL and MLB on FOX and Rangers on the radio, he was a fill-in announcer for Bob Murphy during the summer of 2001 on WFAN.
    He's called play-by-play for NBC's Olympic Ice Hockey coverage at the 2002 Salt Lake City, 2006 Turino, and he will reprise that roll at 2010 Vancouver Winter Games for NBC.
  • Ed Coleman, Mets fill-in announcer and host of Mets Extra on WFAN.
    He "did some radio work" at the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Summer Games for NBC Radio and the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games for CBS Radio.
  • Howard Cosell - best known from his work on Monday Night Football and Boxing on ABC, he was actually the first pre-game host for the Mets Radio broadcasts in 1962 on WABC Radio.
    He was part of ABC TV's Olympic coverage in the 1972 Munich Summer Games and called Boxing at the 1976 Montreal and 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games
  • Tim McCarver - Known at one point as the best analyst in Baseball, he's been a lead analyst for ABC, CBS, ABC again, and FOX and was a Mets broadcaster on WOR/WWOR and SportsChannel from 1983 to 1998.
    As part of ABC Sports in the late '80s, he called Freestyle Skiing and served as a reporter at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, and as part of CBS Sports the early '90s, he was a co-host of CBS's primetime coverage of the 1992 Albertville Winter Games
  • Gary Thorne - Best known as ESPN and ABC's lead NHL announcer, he was a Mets Radio announcer from 1985 to 1988 on WHN/WFAN and a Mets TV announcer on WWOR, WPIX, and FSN New York from 1994 to 2002.
    He called Speed Skating for CBS at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, Canoeing and Rowing for NBC at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games, and Ice Hockey for NBC at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.
  • Ted Robinson - Best known as the lead Tennis commentator for NBC and the Tennis Channel, he was a TV and Radio announcer for the Mets from 2002 to 2005 on WPIX, FSN New York, and WFAN.
    He holds the record for past/present Mets broadcasters making his 7th Olympic broadcast appearance, having called Short Track Speed Skating, Freestyle Skiing, and Giant Slalom Snowboarding for CBS at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, and for NBC, he called Baseball at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games, Short Track Speed Skating at the 2002 Salt Lake City, 2006 Turino, and 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Diving and Canoeing at the 2004 Athens Summer Games, Diving again at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games.
  • Gary Cohen - Best known for his work calling New York Mets baseball, he's been the TV voice of the Mets on SNY and WPIX since 2006 and was a voice of the Mets on WFAN from 1989 to 2005.
    He called Ice Hockey for CBS Radio at the 1992 Albertville, 1994 Lillehammer, and 1998 Nagano Winter Games, including all 3 Gold Medal contests

Here are some sound bytes of Gary Cohen at the 1998 Winter Olympics.
A disclaimer. These broadcasts are probably the copyright of the IOC, USOC, CBS Radio and/or WFAN. I recorded them using an old fashioned walkman plugged into my computer in 1998, live, as the events happened.

Gary Cohen at the 1998 Olympics Men's Ice Hockey tournament (CBS Radio):
Czech Republic wins the Men's Ice Hockey Gold Medal

Czech goalie Dominik Hasek with 3 great saves against the U.S.

Mike Modano scores for Team USA

Mikhail Shtalenkov with a save for Russia

Petr Svoboda with a goal for the Czech Republic

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hall of Fame Mets Broadcaster

I feel somewhat obligated to write about former Mets broadcaster Tim McCarver being inducted into the broadcaster's wing in the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend. So congratulations to Tim McCarver.

As a broadcaster, currently, I think he's past his prime, and has been for at least a few years. But it's hard for me to judge because I can't remember the last time I listened to an MLB on FOX broadcast that wasn't on mute, and that's the only place to hear him these days. But as a younger broadcaster (being earlier in his career, which started over 30 years ago), he was a good listen.

His broadcasting career started in Philadelphia where his playing career ended in 1980 (I'm trying to figure this one out because Wikipedia says he both played and broadcasted in 1980, including playing in early October). He moved to the Mets where he was a fixture on Mets broadcasts for 16 seasons on Channel 9 and SportsChannel. He moved to the Yankees for 3 seasons and the Giants for a final season in local broadcasting in 2002. He's been a network broadcaster for almost his entire broadcasting career, staring with NBC's b-games in 1980, then re-joining the network TV landscape in 1984 as part of ABC's b-games before moving to their top crew for the 1985 World Series (working with Jim Palmer and Al Michaels, and with Keith Jackson in the 1986 NLCS), continuing until 1989. He became the top baseball analyst at CBS with the new TV contract in 1990, moved back to ABC with the 2 year Baseball Network contract in 1994, and then became FOX's top baseball analyst with the next new contract in 1996. He's been paired with Joe Buck on FOX's top team ever since. With all that, he's been part of post-season TV coverage since 1984.

He also appeared on ABC's coverage of the 1988 Winter Olympics (Calgary) and was even a prime-time co-host for CBS's 1992 Winter Olympics (Albertville) coverage.

But back to his days with the Mets (the connection to this blog). He worked with Fran Healy, Steve Zabriskie, Rusty Staub, Gary Thorne, Bob Carpenter, and of course, Ralph Kiner. The days of Kiner and McCarver on Channel 9 were a fun time for Mets broadcasts, and I actually thought the trio of Gary Thorne, Ralph Kiner, and Tim McCarver (from 1994 through 1998) was the best TV team the Mets had (at least until 2006). We have to remember the younger, more vibrant Tim McCarver, along with a younger (and still calling play-by-play) Ralph Kiner and a more tolerable Gary Thorne. They were a good trio, even though their broadcasts were becoming more and more limited by the gradual shift from Channel 9 to SportsChannel on cable.

McCarver was a good broadcaster back in his day, and this weekend's induction is certainly well deserved, and maybe a few years overdue. I also don't think this will be the last time we celebrate a Mets broadcaster being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stick a fork in them they're done

Ya, I said it. The Mets are done. 2 weeks before the non-waiver trade deadline. The team is toast. They don't have the depth to overcome the injury to Dillon Gee. The bullpen is falling apart (heck, I forgot that the closer is out and has been for what seems like forever now). They're a bit weak in the outfield with Bay (welcome back to Jason Bay, btw) and Duda. Hairston really isn't the answer.

I think the team has run out of gas. They've done this for a couple years now, giving us the illusion that this year will be different until sometime in July and then they come back down to earth. But with the 2nd Wild Card now, it changes the dynamic of the trade deadline and playing "hard" in September, and the Mets are part of that equation, but the Mets really really don't look like a playoff team, and I don't think they're built like on.

And the attitude around the Mets really is different with Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson. There could be a trade in the next 2 weeks to change things, but I think they'd have to give up the future in order to play for now, and I don't think that's wise (and I'll be anything that Alderson agrees with that).

Scrap it. Valdespin puts the Mets ahead with a 3-run PH HR in the top of the 9th.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

All-Farce Game

I didn't watch the All-Star Game last night. Nor did I watch the Home Run Derby the night before. I stopped caring a long time ago.

But 2 thoughts.

  1. I heard that MLB Owners Association president Bud Selig might overreact to the Kansas City fans' booing of A.L. HR Derby captain Robinson Cano for leaving out of Kansas City's top slugger from the HR Derby team (apparently, these events took place in Kansas City) by making a rule that the home team has to have an entrant in the HR Derby. Could you imagine if such a rule had been in place in a fantasy world in which the Mets hosted the HR Derby in 2009, in a season when, in reality, Gary Sheffield led the team with 10 Home Runs (move over Home Run Baker)?
  2. One extra thought...when the hell did the HR Derby have player-captains choosing the squads? That sounds almost as ridiculous as having fans choose the starters for the actual All-Star Game.
  3. The other thought, as promised, is actually the tweet of the night, that I had in reply to something that MLB said after the game last night...

    I heard the NL won last night. I think I heard that it's now 3 in a row. But please, for the love of God, don't make this game actually mean something in the grand scheme of the season.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It's startin' to come together

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

All-Time Mets Team

I couldn't go to be there for the suspense last Sunday. I couldn't even watch it as it first aired tonight (Thursday). But I'm watching it now. It's the Mets 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. And I'm sharing a few comments about it.

First off, I like, and more importantly trust any panel that includes the "voices of the Mets" Howie Rose and Gary Cohen. I don't know who made up the rest of the selection panel, but those two were there. Howie and Gary were on the TV program with host Kevin Burkhardt. I like when Howie and Gary are working together like this panel. They did it on the radio for 2 years, and they did it again for a few minutes after the Mets first no-hitter 3 weeks ago tomorrow.

As I watch this program on "tape", I will break it down position-by-position. I also want to include my all-time first and second team. I hate to call it a "bench".

First Base
Ed Kranepool, Dave Kingman, Keith Hernandez, John Olerud
It went to Keith Hernandez. I think the nominees were a little thin here. I wouldn't have considered Dave Kingman with the other 3, but he was also before my time. I really liked Olerud (the only one I saw at an age that I was old enough to appreciate). But Mex was the leader and the piece that turned the franchise around. He's the all-time first baseman.

Second Base
Felix Milan, Doug Flynn, Wally Backman, Edgardo Alfonzo
It went to Edgardo Alfonzo. I never saw Milan or Flynn, so I can't say much about them. Backman was a gritty player, but Fonzie was was the best among them, but he was also a third baseman with the Mets. I'd have to think that counts against him just a little bit. Those couple of years when the Mets had Olerud, Fonzie, and Ordonez were a lot of fun to watch.

Bud Harrelson, Rafael Santana, Rey Ordonez, Jose Reyes
It went to Jose Reyes. I think it should have gone to Buddy. And I never saw him play. Reyes was dynamic, Rey Ordonez was a defensive wizard, but from what I've heard about Buddy Harrelson, I think he was better. I think the injuries have to count against Reyes. I also have a bit of a problem including players of the modern day under the label "All-Time".

Third Base
Hubie Brooks, Howard Johnson, Robin Ventura, David Wright
It went to David Wright. Ventura wasn't with the Mets long enough. Really, neither was Hubie Brooks. HoJo was a great player. Wright, another modern day player, and one who I've been down on at times, I think takes it because of being the "leader" and having the longevity at a position that I remember the Mets used to count the number of people who played it as it kept changing. But he's put up the numbers to back it up.

Right Handed Relief Pitcher
Skip Lockwood, Neil Allen, Roger McDowell, Armando Benitez
It went to Roger McDowell. I never saw Skip Lockwood pitch. I don't necessarily agree with including Neil Allen in this list. Benitez was just too scary for my taste. And I can't think of anyone off hand who should be on this list. McDowell was the best at this special position.

Left Handed Relief Pitcher
Tug McGraw, Jesse Orosco, Randy Myers, John Franco
It went to Tug McGraw. Left handed relief pitchers, at least at the top of the list, was much better than the top of the right handed relief pitcher list. Franco was with the Mets forever. He was the closer for some bad teams. And he's a Mets Hall of Famer. Myers was actually traded for Franco, and was the kid to replace Orosco/McDowell. I think Billy Wagner should have been on this list instead of Myers. Orosco was the guy who grew up with the 1980s Mets and of course was there for the last outs against Houston and Boston in 1986. I never saw Tug pitch, but I've heard a lot about him. He was a cut above the rest.

Jerry Grote, Gary Carter, Todd Hundley, Mike Piazza
It went to Mike Piazza. This may have been the most competitive position in 50 years of the Mets. Grote was the backstop of the 1969 Miracle Mets. Hundley was my favorite player growing up in the 1990s. Piazza was the piece that put the late '90s Mets on the next level. Piazza was the guy with the big HR in the first home game after 9/11. But there were times when I was down on Mike Piazza. Sorry. Gary Carter, for my money, was the best catcher in Mets history. His stay was shorter, but he was the last piece of the puzzle for the 1980s Mets championship team (should have been teams).

Despite Carter not winning at his position, I like that SNY had a Gary Carter tribute in the middle of their program tonight.

Left Field
Cleon Jones, George Foster, Kevin McReynolds, Cliff Floyd
It went to Cleon Jones. Foster was another one I never saw play, and I really never heard good things about him. McReynolds came to the Mets when I was just beginning as a Mets fan, but I always thought he was a blah player, despite the numbers he put up. Floyd was a modern-day player who was good, but not a "best". Cleon Jones was the best LF in Mets history.

Center Field
Tommie Agee, Mookie Wilson, Lenny Dykstra, Carlos Beltran
It went to Carlos Beltran. I never saw Agee, but I've heard lots of good things about him. Mookie was always a favorite. Lenny was "nails". Beltran was good. I have trouble with this one, only because Beltran was a modern day player, a Met until last year, and I have trouble with that in general just because it's too fresh in my mind. There's a part of me that wants to say that Mookie was better.

Right Field
Ron Swoboda, Rusty Staub, Darryl Strawberry, Bobby Bonilla
It went to Darryl Strawberry. Ok, Bobby Bonilla? Seriously? Straw was the best. Hands down. Rusty is my guy off the bench to pinch hit. But I never saw Rusty play in 1973 with the Mets. Rocky Swoboda was another one from well before my time. But Straw is the best. He was my favorite Met growing up in the late 1980s.

Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges, Davey Johnson, Bobby Valentine
It went to Davey Johnson. Casey Stengel and the 3 managers who took the Mets to the World Series. Gil turned the team around for the first time. Davey turned the team around the second time. Bobby V turned the team around the third time. And Casey was just fun to listen to (so I've heard). Davey had a more talented team for a longer period of time than Gil Hodges or Bobby Valentine. But I've never heard players so emotional when talking about a manager than when the 1969 Mets talked about Gil Hodges. This may be the toughest call to make, but I agree with Davey Johnson. But Gil Hodges is right there next to Davey on the all-time Mets roster.

Left Handed Starting Pitcher
Jerry Koosman, John Matlack, Sid Fernandez, Al Leiter
It went to Jerry Koosman. Koos and Matlack were both before my time. I've always heard about Seaver (a righty) and Koosman. Leiter was the ace of the Mets teams I enjoyed around the turn of the century. Fernandez was the best lefty when I was first coming up as a Mets fan. But I can't disagree with Koosman.

Right Handed Starting Pitcher
Tom Seaver, Ron Darling, Dwight Gooden, David Cone
It went to Tom Seaver. Of course it did. He was "The Franchise". And the other 3 were in the same pitching rotation. How didn't they win a World Series (at least in the time Cone was there). Doc was electric. I wasn't around in 1985 or really in 1986. But Doc was my other favorite player from the late 1980s teams. Oh what he could have been. Maybe what Tom Seaver was.

So to recap...
1B: Keith Hernandez
2B: Edgardo Alfonzo
SS: Jose Reyes
3B: David Wright
LF: Cleon Jones
CF: Carlos Beltran
RF: Darryl Strawberry
C: Mike Pizza
LH RP: Tug McGraw
RH RP: Roger McDowell
LH SP: Jerry Koosman
RH SP: Tom Seaver
MGR: Davey Johnson

4 from the 1986 Mets
2 from the 2000 Mets
3 from the 2006 Mets
4 from the 1969 Mets

I will give honorable mention to a 7 Mets that didn't make the at their positions, because they certainly deserve to be part of the All-Time Mets team.
1B: Ed Kranepool
SS: Bud Harrelson
3B: Howard Johnson
RF/PH: Rusty Staub
C: Gary Carter
RH SP: Dwight Gooden
MGR: Gil Hodges

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bob Murphy and the No Hitter

A thought went through my head in the few days since Johan Santana pitched the first No Hitter in Mets history. We heard Howie Rose's call on WFAN. We heard Gary Cohen's call on SNY. They are holding down the fort as the voices of the Mets.

Howie Rose's call on WFAN with Jim Duquette

Gary Cohen's call on SNY with Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez

On Monday, I suggested that Santana appear on Kiner's Korner.

And today, I want to think about the man that I call "forever the voice of the Mets", Bob Murphy. Bob Murphy was an original Mets broadcaster in 1962. He wasn't the "network guy". He wasn't the "All-Star Player". He was the voice of the Mets for a couple of generations, until his retirement after the 2003 season. We lost him in August 2004. He was known as a "homer", a broadcaster (in fact, a Hall of Fame broadcaster), but one who rooted for the team which he called.

So how would Bob Murhpy have called the last out of Santana's no hitter? For argument's sake, let's put him on WFAN with his old partner Gary Cohen. That's how I grew up listening to the Mets, and that's where he was when he retired. This is how I think it would have sounded (you'll have to meet me half way and imagine his voice and emphasis saying these words). If you remember Bob Murphy, you remember the emphasis that he put on certain words and certain parts of words, so I am attempting to capture that with capital letters and extra letters.

now the crowd standing, roaring as loud as they can.
three and two, here's the pitch.
it's all over, the mets win it!
the first one by a METS pitcher.
they're all racing towards the mound, MOBBING Johan Santana.
they had gone over fifty years without one, and now a mets pitcher has thrown a NO hitter.
and we'll be back with the very happy recap in just a moment!

Especially here, feedback and alternate suggestions are welcome.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Kiner's Korner

Let me throw this idea out for the Mets and SNY to consider...

Johan Santana should appear on Kiner's Korner, and it's not for whatever the gift is up to these days.

Hopefully I don't have to tell you about Kiner's Korner, that we're all old enough to either remember it or have heard enough about it. But where did the player of the game always end up after a WOR/WWOR Mets TV broadcast from 1962 through 1997? Kiner's Korner with Ralph Kiner. Johan Santana had a feat worthy enough in the realm of Mets history that warrants an appearance on the ultimate Mets postgame show. Next time Ralph Kiner is calling a Mets game, SNY should set aside 15 minutes (or 30 if they want to go that long) on either the postgame show to do an old fashioned Kiner's Korner with Johan Santana as the guest. He's earned it.

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hitting the Chalk

I wrote this piece 3 years ago, and after the bad call on the left field foul line during Friday night's no hitter, and while watching the French Open on TV (which does not have replay), I thought of re-posting this piece.

I like watching the big Tennis tournaments, so here's a thought with that in mind.

Imagine baseball's replay system (or even football's) if they used the technology and speed used for replays at Wimbledon & the US Open?

(Gary) "A pop up down the line. Sheffield over. It falls in fair territory. Utley to second standing. And Sheffield raises his hands asking for a review. Let's take a look Keith."
(replay system shows the ball landing just outside from the line, in foul territory, calling it "FOUL".)
(Keith) "It's called out, Gar. Good eyes by Sheffield out there in left."
(Gary) "So they'll replay the pitch."
(Keith) "Mets caught a break there, Gar. They didn't have that in my day."
(Gary) "Ronnie, as a pitcher, how does that affect you?"
(Ron) "Uh.... Just treat it like you would if it were called foul in the first place."

A few nights later, Gary and Ronnie on SNY had a play in a game against the Dodgers at was a candidate for this type of replay. Without mentioning this blog, or the specific (joking) example noted here, they did bring up the idea of the tennis replay in passing before having the thought put to bed by the showing of their sponsored replay.

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Some Website Front Pages

I captured these last night.

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Eighty Twenty

I hope this is coherent. After all, a Mets pitcher has thrown a No Hitter.

It had to be Jo(han)! It had to be Jo(han)! He's the ace. He's coming back after more than a year off. He stepped it up tonight. Johan Santana threw a Mets No Hitter. His second straight complete game shutout. He's the guy who led us to the final day in the 2008 season with a win in the penultimate game at Shea...pitching that day with a bum knee and carrying the team on his back. That was known as "The Santana Game". Now he's thrown a No Hitter.

It was something that I could feel around the 7th inning when I put the game back on. I saw periodic updates with no hits, but I learned years ago not to get my hopes up. After the Baxter catch, I could feel it. I've always imagined how I'd react to it (with tears). In reality, I started breathing heavier and heavier starting in the 8th inning. So much that I couldn't take a phone call after the game ended. It was more hyperventilating than tears, but plenty of disbelief.

I thought I had jumped the gun a bit by starting to record on the DVR in the middle of the 7th. I recorded SNY for 2 1/2 hours. I'll record that to the computer later. Maybe I'll re-record the entire game when SNY replays it. That's a DVD for sure. In the 8th, I got out my audio recording equipment to record the broadcast on WFAN (for some reason, I pay for MLB.TV on the internet, and I have some basic wires and plugs in my laptop that lets me record audio). I recorded for about half an hour starting in the middle of the 9th and going until Howie signed off the game broadcast and switched to Mets Extra (when the MLB.TV audio shut off). I hope I can get Mets Extra later, even though I caught part of it on's live stream. I already uploaded the audio of the last batter from my recording. I saw that others have also.

It seems like a dream. Even though I'm watching the re-run of SportsNite on SNY, where they cover this and talk about it and I'm still reading Facebook statuses and tweets.

Howie Rose on WFAN and Gary Cohen on SNY both nailed it with their respective calls of the final out. Both were different. Both were right for their respective media (Howie on radio, Gary on TV). Both, I think, had some level of emotion in their calls. Both are lifetime Mets fans working in what some would call a "dream job" as a Voice of the Mets. I'm glad both were there tonight to make the call.

I can't wait to hear the beginning of tomorrow's respective broadcasts at around 4pm (WFAN for the radio and WPIX for the TV). I can't wait to hear Josh Lewin's remarks when he returns from his family weekend (there was a graduation in his family, so that lifelong Mets fan new to the club's broadcasts missed one of the greatest Mets games ever. I can't wait to hear the first interview with George Thomas Seaver ("The Franchise"), whenever that will be. I dreamed that this moment happened while I was at his winery and I could break the news to him.

I still don't believe it. Let's see what tomorrow brings.


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Friday, June 1, 2012

Classic Howie

No, it's not from tonight, but I thought it's worth listening to once more...

Howie laments the loss of a no hitter in 2011

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A little rule

A few years ago, I came up with a little rule regarding the "Voices of the Mets" and No Hitters. It goes like this...

At any given time in Mets history, there are either 2 or 3 designated "Voices of the Mets", and at least one of them has to be broadcasting every Mets game (not necessarily every batter, but one of them has to be there) just in case there is a No Hitter thrown. It's a very exclusive club.

Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner, and Lindsey Nelson were the original voices of the Mets. Lindsey Nelson left in the late '70s, and there were just 2. When Ralph Kiner stopped doing play-by-play after the 1997 season, Gary Cohen was elevated (yes, he had been there for 9 season's not automatic except for the originals) to that status in 1998. Bob Murphy retired after the 2003 season and Howie Rose was elevated in 2004. There is no real rule that the "voices of the Mets" have to be radio broadcasters, but it's worked out that way. Gary Cohen moved to TV in 2006, but it's still Gary and Howie.

So as it stands today, we can't allow both Gary and Howie to be off for the same game, because what would happen if there was a No Hitter? I don't mind Josh Lewin, but look at last year when a lot of people didn't like Wayne Hagin, and there's a lot of people who don't like FOX announcers, so what if Howie had a weekend off when FOX was broadcasting a game, and a No Hitter was thrown? Neither of the "Voices of the Mets" would be there.

Get the idea? OK.

So now it's happened, and both Gary Cohen (with Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling on SNY) and Howie Rose (with Jim Duquette on WFAN) were broadcasting the game, just like it should be. It would have been a damn shame for either of them to miss it (sorry Josh Lewin).

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No Words

Just listen.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Banner Day

Yesterday was Banner Day at Citi Field. It was the first time the Mets have hosted Banner Day since 1996. As I posted yesterday, I entered a banner into the competition and parade. It did not win.

Let me note a few things about how Banner Day was handled that I did not like. Before I do, I will say that it was entirely positive, save for a few small unnecessary worries.

The Mets announced the return of Banner Day back in November. I believe it was the same day in which the Mets showed off the new uniforms. It was all positive. I actually started getting ideas for my banner that night. Some of those ideas were still in place in my final banner. But the Mets did not actually announce any rules until 2 weeks before the event. I had already started working on my physical banner back in mid-April. One of the rules was about minimum size, which was not of any concern for me (I actually bought poster board at that size - 22x28 - and returned it on Saturday because it was too small for my needs). The other was about the content, in that "Banners must celebrate the Mets 50th Anniversary, expressing fans’ favorite memories or moments in franchise history". For me, that wasn't a concern. But I'm sure for some, it meant having to make last minute changes. The Mets really really could have done better announcing this back in February, March, or even back in November. They didn't need to announce judges or registration process until May, but it would have greatly helped to know the rules before starting.

The other part of the press release that scared me was that "Space is limited". What does "limited" mean? 100 banners? 200? 500? It turned out that about 300 banners were in the parade. I didn't hear of anyone being turned away because of space limitations. The parade started inside the stadium at maybe 11:30am, and lasted just over an hour. If there had been 500 banners, would they have had to turn people away, or let them parade and start the game late? Kind of glad the Mets didn't have to make that decision. Kind of glad for everyone.

A few people asked me about the banner parade. All I knew was what the Mets had in the press release, that registration began at 10am on 126th Street, logically with a line leading into the bullpen gate, and in reality, that line went past the building (I was number 080 and was just inside the limits of the building), back towards the subway and parking lot, and at some point, wrapped around onto the curb of 126th Street and back towards the building. What time did the parade start? I kind of figured that we wouldn't be on the field before 11am at the earliest because it made no sense for us to parade in front of an empty stadium. Like I mentioned earlier, it started at around 11:30am. Good, there were people inside cheering us on, including family and friends of paraders who were out with cameras. But the Mets said nothing about it. I'm glad the 1,000 or so people were in the park cheering us on that early. I wish it could have been more. The other reason why I had to guess about the parade start time was that the SNY TV listings said nothing about the parade. Had it been televised (and seriously, why didn't SNY televise it?), a program guide would have told me and others that the parade starts at 11:30. And if it had been televised, then lots of people could have seen all of the great banners that came out (not just mine), instead of the 1,000 or so people (maybe more by the time it was over) in the ballpark and the couple of banners that made it onto SNY during the pregame, game, and postgame coverage. And yes, mine did, but really only because of the two kids dressed as Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam that were in front of me.

With all that said, it really was a great day and a great show of Mets pride by the 300 groups of fans (some banners had 2 or 3 people involved, so it was maybe 750 people overall in the parade). I only have pictures of the tail end of the parade. I say it like that because I was in the relative-front part of the line, I marched, went upstairs, and then grabbed my camera.

Take a look at my photo album on facebook. Others have posted pictures too, both on facebook and on their blogs. These come from The New York Mets on facebook, and another set from the Mets on facebook is banners lining up outside.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's Banner Day at Shea

That's the title of my banner. Actually, the full title is "It's Banner Day At Shea: A Tribute To Banners and Signs in 50 Years Of the New York Mets". I don't know if the Mets will ask for a title, or just a name.

But if you're watching at the stadium or on TV, look for this (ok, I don't know if it will be broadcast on TV, but I'd have to think there will be highlights during the pregame show or during the game):

I plan on winning. For as much as I wanted this to be fun to be involved with, I've always thought my idea, both the original idea and the one I ended up with, were good enough to win. I'll explain all of that later tonight or tomorrow.

Let me explain the banner.
  • In the bottom left, it says "Met Power!". That is a tribute to Shea Stadium's "sign man", Karl Ehrhardt. That's a recreation of one of his signs, and perhaps his most famous.
  • Moving up is a recreation of the patch created in tribute to Gary Carter.
  • Moving up on the left side is the 3 retired numbers that today are somewhat hidden behind the crowd on the new LF Party Deck in front of the Great Wall of Flushing. They are also recreations, but I removed the black drop-shadow (hint hint).
  • And moving up again is the "K Corner" in tribute not only to Doc Gooden but to the fans who celebrated Doc in the mid 80s. It's another recreation based on a photo from "Mets Yearbook 1985".
  • Above that are recreations of 3 of the neon ballplayers from the exterior of Shea Stadium. And in it unfortunately are some glue spots.
  • At the top left it a tribute to a modern day sign, a twitter hash tag. This one is "#NotTonightBoss", something said (unfortunately) every game by @MetsWFAN producer/engineer Chris Majkowski. He has fun with it, but it's something that started before twitter lamenting about the lack of a no-hitter by a Mets pitcher.
  • Moving to the top right is another one that is a tribute to a great Met figure, Casey Stengel. I have come to learn that there was a sign posted during 1962 Spring Training that said "Stengelese Spoken Here", speaking about the weird language that the new Mets manager spoke. Please tell me I don't have to explain that to you. But it's probably the original sign with regards to the Mets.
  • Moving down on the right side are the other 3 neon figures from Shea.
  • Then is Sid Fernandez's fans' version of the "K Corner", where they counted strikeouts for Sid. That was recreated from a photo in Sid's profile in "50 Greatest Mets".
  • Continuing down the right side are the 2 World Series Championship banners, again recreated from photos. I felt there was only room to include those 2.
  • On the bottom right is a recreation from one of my favorite Banner Day banners, from 1969 (nearly how it was depicted in Mets Yearbook 1969). I changed the colors very slightly.
  • In the middle near the top is a tribute to the Shea Stadium scoreboard and DiamondVision screen - "Welcome to Banner Day at Shea Stadium". That's how those screens would have welcomed us to today in Shea's later days.
  • In the middle of the banner is my "centerpiece", an original piece based on a joking expression that I came up with about 3 years ago on this blog when I was thinking that the Mets should trash and rebuild, and by the 50th anniversary, they'd be better. It didn't work that way, but I liked the expression "Mets 2012: Rejuvenated at 50". The style of it is based on the new uniforms, which were introduced last November on the same day as Banner Day, which was the same day I came up with the first designs for this banner. "Mets 2012" is done in the style of the new blue Mets batting practice jersey as if there was a player wearing the number "2012". It's recreated from a photograph. "Rejuvenated" is in the font seen on the road jerseys (again, the new style because there's no black drop shadow) with the word "At" in the style of the players' name on the back of that jersey (as if there was a player named "At"). And that is an actual 50th Anniversary patch, because I wasn't going to try to draw it.

I hope you enjoy watching my banner as well as all of Banner Day. I will be posting photos on my Facebook page ( this morning, as well as telling you there how you can vote for me should it get that far.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hofstra Mets 50th Anniversary Conference

From April 26 through April 28, I attended a conference presented by the Hofstra University Cultural Center entitled "The 50th Anniversary of the New York Mets", which was held in memory of Hofstra University professor and conference co-director (and great Mets fan, author, and blogger) Dana Brand. Dana Brand passed away suddenly in May of last year at the age of 56.

Now let me mention the format of this conference. It almost resembles a college course schedule with the program resembling a college course book. Most of your time, assuming you didn't take a break from the schedule on your own, was filled in. Each "panel" was 90 minutes long, as were most "plenary sessions". During a 90 minute block of time, there were 2 or 3 concurrent panels, each with 3 papers/presentations that were tied together with a theme. Attendees had to choose which panel to attend (do I listen to people talking about the 1962 Mets or memorabilia and mascots?). Over the course of the 3 days, there were 10 such panels. Each presenter spoke for about 30 minutes and usually there was time for Q&A.

Most plenary sessions would run 90 minutes, and each was basically a roundtable discussion that included recognized names (old Mets sportswriters and sportscasters or former Met players, etc.) and were not in competition with any other panels. Over the course of the 3 days, there were also different book signings (as well as sales of those books), and Mets-themed documentaries were playing in the background in the multipurpose room.

Lunchtime each day was "Brown Bagging In The Bullpen With The Blogosphere", which was basically a 60 minute panel moderated by Faith and Fear in Flushing's Greg Prince that included a question to the bloggers in the audience from Greg and questions that played to a theme and from the audience.
(Greg Prince, left, and Faith and Fear co-blogger Jason Fry, center, with Taryn Cooper of A Gal For All Seasons, right)
(The crowd at a Brown Bagging lunch session. Michael Donato or Optimistic Mets Fan is in the center and Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information is in the blue shirt on the right)

Let me mention that most, if not all of the presenters were Mets fans, as were the co-directors of the conference and probably most of the attendees. There were a few special guests, including Keynote speaker John Thorn, Official Historian of Major League Baseball, and some members of the 1969 New York Mets. I did notice that a lot of the presenters, whether they are professors at other colleges or fans or bloggers or whatever did stay for the entire 3 days and attend other sessions. I really don't know how many people were just there in the audience without presenting and how many in attendance were also presenting something.

With that introduction, let me show you what I saw over the past 3 days. This is EVERY panelist that I saw over the 3 days at Hofstra. There were quite a few concurrent panels which I was not able to attend. If it's not enabled, please click on "Show Info" to see the captions and descriptions of each picture. You may need to view in full screen first.

I know Dana Brand would have loved this conference. Last May, when Dana passed away, I suggested that Dana might be "[s]omewhere, up in heaven or in the great beyond (you know the place, I think it's next to "Iowa")", thinking that he might be part of that mystical setting in the movie Field of Dreams. I'd want to think that during the 3 days that I was at Dana's conference at Hofstra, Dana was director of his own Mets 50th Anniversary Conference up on that magical corn field. I'd want to think that he had panels that included Branch Rickey, Bill Shea, and Mrs. Joan Payson speaking about the origins of the Mets; Sports cartoonist Ray Gatto talking about the Mets logo; Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson talking about the 50 year history of the New York Mets; Gil Hodges talking about coming home in 1962, wining the championship in 1969, and maybe making his own case for being in the Hall of Fame; Shea Stadium itself would share pictures and memorabilia from its 45 years; Tug McGraw and Lindsey Nelson talking about the 1973 "Ya Gotta Believe Mets"; Gary Carter and Bob Murphy talking about the 1986 championship; and the Keynote Address from Casey Stengel.

I know Dana Brand couldn't be with us in person at Hofstra, but he was certainly there in spirit.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Happy Birthday New York Mets

Bob Murphy's intro from the first ever Mets game

And so it began...

The scorecard and box score of the first game, 50 years ago today (both courtesy of The Ultimate Mets Database (

The New York Mets are looking good for 50!

Happy 50th Anniversary New York Mets!

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

It's Opening Day at Shea

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 line 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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76 wins in 2012

I'm going on record saying the Mets will win 76 times this season. That doesn't count the handful of wins in Spring Training.

They have the ability to win 85 games (on paper) with the starting pitching and sluggers that they have, but there are too many flaws in their roster. One of those flaws is the lack of depth. What happens if any of these starting pitchers gets injured or very much under-performs? Possibly nothing, at least until Chris Young is ready to go. What happens if Ike Davis or Lucas Duda get hurt? What happens if the magic outfield wall doesn't help Jason Bay and David Wright? Nothing? What happens if Frank "Armando Benitez, Jr" Francisco or Jon Rauch pitch like they did in Spring Training? They'll lose a lot of leads (but at least it's not the "same" bullpen as before).

Overall, the bad outweighs the good, the flaws outweigh the potential. 76 wins.

Mets 2012! Rejuvenated at 50!

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Dynamic Spring Training

I think it's interesting that I've been reading a book about the history of Spring Training and how a lot of teams found their way to their current location. It's called Under the March Sun: The Story of Spring Training, and as much as it tells stories about figures like Al Lang, it also talks about the economics and politics around towns, counties, and states trying to secure (or walk away from) hosting Spring Training. It's interesting that I'm reading it because the current situation playing out on Florida's east coast could be a new chapter for this book, except that it's not quite done being written.

If you've noticed in the Mets Spring Training schedule, or heard the different broadcasters mention, there are only 4 teams currently playing Spring Training baseball on the Atlantic coast, and the other 3 regular Spring opponents of the Mets are between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 hours away. That's a lot of time on the bus. If you've ever been down there to follow the Mets around (like what I've been doing for the past 9 Marches), you know that the Marlins and Cardinals are about 40 minutes south of Port St. Lucie in Jupiter (just north of West Palm Beach), the Nationals are about an hour north in Viera (just south of Cocoa Beach), the Astros are about 1 1/2 hours away up Florida's Turnpike in eastern Kissimmee, the Braves train at Disney's Wide World of Sports, which is a good 2 hour drive away, and the Tigers, a new regular opponent, are 2 1/2 hours away in Lakeland, about half way between Disney World and Tampa. Outside of the trip to Jupiter, that's a lot of driving. The Mets used to have the Orioles 90 minutes south in Fort Lauderdale (they moved to Sarasota a couple years ago), and the Dodgers were 30 minutes north in Vero Beach going back to the days of Jackie Robinson until 2008 when they moved to Arizona.

Teams move around. The current talk is that the Nationals are looking to move out of their facility in Viera (originally built for the Marlins for Spring Training 1993, the Expos traded spots in Jupiter with the Marlins when Jeffrey Loria sold the Expos to Major League Baseball and bought the Marlins in 2002) and are rumored to be looking in both Fort Myers (very far away from Port St. Lucie) and even in Arizona. The writing is on the wall that the Mets are going to lose another local Spring Training opponent. And the Houston Astros are also looking to move out of their facility in Kissimmee, and their new owner Jim Crane has business interests just south of Port St. Lucie in the name of a golf course in Palm City in Martin County (the next county south of Port St. Lucie). While the Astros have been rumored to be looking at every available baseball field in both Arizona and Florida, I have a strong feeling that the Astros will end up sharing the Mets complex in Port St. Lucie. Jim Crane (as well as the Astros GM) were seen touring the Mets facility in Port St. Lucie on Saturday, reportedly their 3rd visit there this year (based on the information that a local told me). It's also been reported that the Mets are interested in having the Astros as co-tennants so that they can cut down on the travel (even if it's just a little bit) and possibly not have to leave Port St. Lucie entirely.

That last point goes back to the travel. Let's say that a Spring Training season is 30 games - 15 at home and 15 on the road. Let's assume that it's 15 home-and-home series, so that it's balanced and fair. In those 15 road games, 6 will be in Jupiter (3 each against the Marlins and Cardinals), the shortest bus ride away at about 40 minutes. If the Nationals and Astros both move, they're out of the equation. The next shortest trip is 2 hours to Disney, which they may do twice. That's still only half of the road games, and there's just nothing else even remotely close by. The defection of teams from the east coast has been a cause for concern that basically has the Mets, Cardinals, and Marlins each considering at what point do they say that they can't stay there any more, pick up and move, and the whole I-95 baseball corridor comes crumbling down. The Mets are committed to Port St. Lucie (there were some off-season improvements in the stadium) and them welcoming the Astros into town shows that they don't want to be the ones to make the whole thing crumble.

So what the Mets want, really need, is for the Astros (or at least another team, and better the Astros soon to be of the American League, than the Nationals, of the Mets own division) to move to Port St. Lucie. Right away, it brings in probably 3 road games with absolutely zero travel (bringing the total up to 9 games on the I-95 corridor and 2 up at Disney, with 4 more long road trips left to schedule).

The Astros coming to Port St. Lucie would help the travel situation. But I don't think we're really out of the woods until the east coast can secure a 5th team, whether it's someone putting up the money to build for the Nationals (or another team, though no other team is known to be looking), maybe a bit further south, closer to St. Lucie and Jupiter. My idea is to have a new 2 team complex in Martin County along I-95 (there's already hotels at exit 101, and it looks like plenty of space there), but I've been told that Martin County wouldn't allow any new construction, so that idea may not fly. Again, this location would be about half way between Jupiter and Port St. Lucie, so a short bus ride for those 2 teams to each location.

One thing to consider is that in my possible schedule for the Mets, they visit the Tigers and Braves twice, so each of those teams comes to Port St. Lucie twice. If the Astros join the Mets in Port St. Lucie, will the Tigers make that 2 1/2 hour trip down there 4 times now, or the Braves making that 2 hour trip 4 times instead of twice? Somehow, I doubt that. There's still a lot of holes in the schedule without a 5th team on the east coast. I think the Tigers would rather play the Phillies and Blue Jays more (under an hour of travel) to make up for the lost games in Kissimmee than they would coming down to Port St. Lucie more often.

Jim Crane's visit to Port St. Lucie is a telling sign. My fear is that it may not be enough to save Spring Training on the east coast of Florida.

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Ron Darling wins another NY Emmy

Announced last night on for the 55th NY Emmy Awards...
    Summer of '86 – Part 3. March 3, 2011. (MSG). Roman Gackowski, Producer/Director; Hank Ratner, Fran Healy, Executive Producers; Dan Galway, Producer.
    Summer of '86 – Series Composite. March 1, 2011. (MSG). Roman Gackowski, Producer/Director; Hank Ratner, Fran Healy, Executive Producers; Dan Galway, Producer; Lee Umphred, Charles Tabano, Editors.
    Brooklyn Cyclones: Baseball on the Boardwalk. August 24, 2011. (SNY). Curt Gowdy, Jr., Executive Producer; Julie Frahm, Senior Coordinating Producer; Robert A. Frahm, Narrator; Brett Hauze, Producer; Andrew Johnston, Photographer; Ricky Recchia, Associate Producer; Eric Bell, Editor.
    Mets Subway Series Pop Up. May 15, 2011. (WPIX-TV). John Zeigler, VP/Creative Director.
    Ron Darling. May 5, 2011. (SNY).
    John Zeigler. April 10, 2011. (WPIX-TV). "Mets Pop Up."

Congratulations to all the winners.

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Spring Training 2012 - Day 10

Day 10 - March 31, 2012 - Mets-Marlins @ Jupiter

I can't say my trip ended with a bang. I got to see Johan Santana take his much anticipated bullpen session/simulated game by watching from a distance and through a fence from the back fields. I got another R.A. Dickey autograph. I could see Jon Niese and Mike Pelfrey in their bullpen sessions through a fence and a screen. And I got to see the Astros owner and GM riding around the Mets complex on a golf cart. I think that warrants its own post.

And then on to Jupiter for my last stop, to see the Mets game on the Marlins. Jose Reyes started for Florida Miami. He had 1 at bat, and was out of the game by the 3rd inning. The Mets traveling squad didn't look too impressive - only a few starters and a lot of high numbers. I got another Vinny Rottino autograph. It was hot on Saturday. I missed the Mets rally and saw some of our "closer" Frank Francisco blowing a mid-game lead (both because of the need for shade). Then I had to miss the end of the game because I had to be at the airport.

And that was it.

Photos from day 10.

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

A few last items from Spring Training

I addition to seeing the Astros owner and GM touring the Mets facility on Saturday, I did pick up these little items before I left.

Josh Lewin, the new radio broadcaster and noted keyboardest, will be performing dual functions at home games taking over on the Citi Field organ.

WNET (the PBS station in NY for those from out of town) will be taking over for WPIX broadcasting Mets games with a Friday night Mets pledge drive telecast every week.

And I have a few photos from my last day in Mets camp.

Or not...April Fool's.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Training 2012 - Day 9

Day 9 - March 30, 2012 - Mets-Cardinals @ Jupiter

Started out the day in Mets camp (as always). The position players who had off from the game were hitting inside the stadium, and the pitchers, including the 4 other starters, new arrival Chris Young, and a few relievers were playing a batting practice game on field 2. Once they got warmed up, they were hitting the ball hard. Miguel Batista hit a couple out into the woods in deep LF. But none of these guys were willing to sign for the handful of fans on hand watching this.

Out to the game, and there were a lot of minor leaguers there to back up Wright, Duda, and the non-regulars in Jupiter. Dillon Gee got the start and had some good innings, but not an all-over lights out performance. Mets mounted a comeback late (which was only 2 runs, but forced a pitching change) but fell short in the end.

I did notice a lot of Mets fans and a good number of actual kids at the game. Both are good things, especially the number of Mets fans in Cardinals territory. The kids were down at all of the autograph spots near the LF bullpen and on either side of the Mets dugout. With that, I did manage to snag an autograph from Mike Baxter. After I get home, I'm going to have to go through my set of autographs to see how much of the team I got.

Pictures here

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Spring Training 2012 - Day 8

Day 8 - March 29, 2012 - Mets-Astros @ Port St. Lucie

Three headlines of the day. Mike Pelfrey pitched well. David Wright hit a Grand Slam. And David Wright signed my program.

There was no access to the back fields during the day. The team came out to stretch around 2:30 for a 6pm game, and I could see it through the fence, but that was it. In the ballpark, it was a very small crowd at 4pm to watch the Mets finish taking BP. David Wright has been hitting with the last group this week, which means the fans in the ballpark can see him hit (they start around 3:30 and we get in around 4pm). He did stop to sign for some kids over at the other end of the Mets dugout (I usually stand on the OF side of the dugout, which is more accessible, but he was at the HP side, where the steps are lower and there is a glass partition separating the stands from the field, so it's more awkward, but that's where he's been going (they say). I scurried over and managed to get a David Wright autograph. One thing I've noticed in my pictures, there is always some sort of smile on his face with his tongue sticking out a bit.

In the game, Mike Pelfrey pitched really well, into the 7th inning. I don't think he's going to be as bad as people fear. David Wright hit a Grand Slam Home Run as part of a 7 run inning. I don't think he's going to be as bad as people fear. The Mets really didn't pull together any other offense after that inning, and it was an early night for Livan Hernandez, but they didn't do anything to give the game away either.

For me, that's 5 games at Digital Domain Park over the course of 8 days and nights. In some of the pictures, you'll see some of the color imagery that was added before last year's Spring Training that show the now-50 year history of the New York Mets. These are things that I'd like to see at Citi Field. Digital Domain Park has always had a blue OF wall and blue wall padding all the way around the ballpark, and I think has always had blue seats. That color scheme goes very well with the blue Spring Training/BP uniforms of the Mets.

Photos here

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Training 2012 - Day 7

Day 7 - March 28, 2012 - Mets-Nationals @ Port St. Lucie

Before the game, as usual, I spent a good hour on the back fields at the Digital Domain Park complex watching what I call "gym class" as well as players throwing, a bit of infield-outfield, and then I went to stake out the spot in field 7 where the players exit to go back to the clubhouse or into the big stadium (field 7 is the field right behind the LF scoreboard when looking from the stadium itself - one of my pictures caught a minor league game on field 7, looking between the LF scoreboard and the CF batter's eye). Overall in the back, I got autographs from Mets legend Al Jackson, who has been an instructor for the Mets since I can remember, Jason Bay, and R.A. Dickey (he's appearing at a bookstore in Jupiter this Friday night signing his new memoir that just came out - I'm sure you heard about it). With all the moving around that I do back there (hanging by the fence along the RF line of the first practice field they use, standing at the exit in the RF corner of that field for everyone to enter field 7 in the LF corner, and then near the CF exit of field 7, among other places) that I got autographs in multiple locations. As I say, it's all pot-luck each day as to what you can see, who you can get autographs from, and where. One other thing to note is that the players actually are working, even when they're moving between fields. I do have to respect that, even though I have to ask them to stop for me (hey, you never know). Daniel Murphy, while jogging into the stadium from field 7, did give that standard answer, but also thanked the fans within ear-shot for coming out to see the team on the back fields. I like that. More on Daniel Murphy later.

After the back fields, I went to the plaza in front of the stadium (where the box office, media-access elevators, and actual ballpark entrances are, as well as the Booster Club's raffle table) to look for Keith Hernandez. I've heard good things about him stopping to sign this year, something that he hasn't done in the past. I only stood out there for about half an hour before the game and didn't see Keith. I actually had no idea if he'd be working on Wednesday. More on him later.

Inside the stadium, things can be absolutely dead from 11am when the gates open until about 12:45, 25 minutes before first pitch. It's the tail end of the Mets taking BP. Maybe if we're lucky, someone will sign by the outfield corner of the Mets dugout. It's the visiting team's turn to take BP. No Mets in sight. And then players from both teams come out to get ready for the game. And then again, we're lucky if any Mets come over to sign. Wednesday, I got lucky. David Wright signed a few (no, I wasn't that lucky, other than to be witness to such an event). Scott Hairston signed. He was back in the lineup. Prospect Matt den Dekker signed. I heard a lot about him last year from my fields in St. Lucie while he was here at Single-A ball.

Then a game was played, and Jon Niese pitched for the Mets. I'd call it a quality start, especially for Spring Training. There was a long home run, but he pitched really well aside from that. The new Mets closer, Frank Francisco really scares the hell out of me, though he had 0 ER over 2.0 IP. And the offense isn't really clicking, aside from some HRs from Duda and Davis. Mets lost. Oh well.

And again after the game, I decided it was time to stake out the plaza for Keith Hernandez (something I teased on Facebook) figuring that he has to exit the elevator, walk through the plaza, and over to his car in the parking lot. A few others had the same idea. So we waited, even being down there before the game ended (just in case Keith made for a quick exit). And the crowd leaves. Ron Darling comes past. And the place empties out, save for a few others waiting for Keith, and about a dozen people at the Mets player parking lot gate. 90 minutes has passed. The only recognizable figure coming out is Sandy Alderson, after his WFAN interview. He was very nice about signing and thanking us for coming out. After about 2 hours of waiting, I gave up on Keith Hernandez. Over at the player's parking lot gate, I learned that Keith had parked there, snuck out quickly from the game to his car, and left without having to pass through the crowd. That seems to fit his character. By the time I was down at the gate, only a few Mets were left, and only Daniel Murphy stopped to sign (and take a picture with a crazy fan).

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Training 2012 - Day 6

Day 6 - March 27, 2012 - Mets-Braves @ Port St. Lucie

I'm starting to think this is going to be more of the same for the Mets in 2012. Chris Schwinden pitched for the big club and didn't look too good, though the Mets were able to fight out for a couple of runs, including another Duda HR. R.A. Dickey pitched 8 innings and threw over 100 pitches in a minor league game (consisting entirely of Mets minor leaguers) against Jeurys Familia on the back fields. I did catch part of that game where I could see the knuckle ball dance.

As my day 3 photo album suggests, I love the blue and orange colors that surround the Mets. Digital Domain Park holds the blue very well (and always has for the Mets' 25 seasons here). I also got a bit artsy with some of the photos now that I can go out to the berm in RF, and also now that I have a camera with a panorama setting. And aside from the blue as being a dominant theme this spring (and hopefully into the season), Gary Carter shirts/jerseys are another theme. Some of the locals here are even wearing pins from Carter's championship season with St. Lucie (which I believe was 2006).

As for autographs, it is no longer a sport to get them. It's more like a game of survival. I'm happy with Tuesday's haul of SNY's team of Bobby Ojeda on the back fields, Gary Cohen and Ron Darling after the game, but it can be next to impossible to get an autograph from a Mets player sometimes. I always seem to do better on my first day in town and then the well dries up. That said, I have space in my program reserved for the elusive Keith Hernandez, who must have snuck out of the ballpark very quickly after Tuesday's game, and the vacationing Kevin Burkhardt to round out an SNY broadcasters autograph page.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Training 2012 - Day 5

Day 5 - March 26, 2012 - Mets-Cardinals @ Jupiter

After taking a day away from baseball to head to Key Biscayne for the Sony Tennis Open, I was back on Monday in Jupiter for the Mets-Cardinals game.

Where do I begin? Yes, that's right. David Wright made his first Spring Training appearance in 2012 (who needs 30 days of games anyway?). 1 for 2 with a single in the first (good swing) and a couple of chances at 3B, including making a diving stop near the line and a couple of really strong throws (something I've criticized in the past). Oh, and that mystery ace pitcher, Johan Santana, started for the Mets. He had a bad first inning, but bounced back strong. The Mets had a big rally in the 7th to take the lead and eventually win the ballgame.

Photo album.

Before the game, I did manage to snag a couple of autographs over by the Mets dugout. Josh Thole, Vinny Rottino, Lucas May, and 1986 Met champion and new Third Base Coach Tim Teufel. I did miss a few other autographs because of the crowd, including David Wright.

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Spring Training 2012 - Day 3

Day 3 - March 24, 2012 - Mets-Cardinals @ Port St. Lucie

Oops, I missed Saturday's post. Nothing really happened. Here's the photo album. It was my first chance to walk around the ballpark taking pictures instead of sitting in my seat the entire time. And it was my first chance to get into the berm and RF party deck for part of a game. No autographs at all on Saturday. That's a rare but increasing occurrence in Spring Training for me.

I think Saturday's game was the 6-6 tie, where the new Benitez (Frank Francisco) blew the save in the 9th, and the teams left the field after 10 due to lack of pitchers. Mike Pelfrey started for the Mets and really had one bad inning, after the Mets gave him a lead and then bailed him out.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Training 2012 - Day 2

Day 2 - March 23, 2012 - No Game

That is correct. I had no game scheduled on Friday. The Mets were playing 2 hours away at Disney World, and I wasn't making the trip. So I went to the back fields where players not on the bus ride were working out (see photos here).

Basically, it was a small group. Wright, Davis, and Bay stretched and went into the empty stadium to hit. They came back out to the practice field later to run. Neither time did they even acknowledge the few fans that came out to see them work. The 4 starting pitchers that weren't involved in Friday's game (Santana, Dickey, Pelfrey, and Gee - Niese pitched in the game at Disney) did some throwing before moving over to field 7 (the one shaped like Citi Field) to take live bunting practice in a minor league game. I did get Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee's autographs after they got their throwing in. In these situations, much smaller crowds on non-game Day at the stadium/practice fields, the guys are much better about signing for the fans and taking pictures. There were a couple of relief pitchers, but I lost track of them after their light throwing.

One note about the minor league camp. For the most part, these kids appear to be all mixed together and split up among however-many of the 4 full practice fields playing in games. In the past, there were 3 different uniform shirts that the kids wore (Mets white, gray, and black, but not quite looking like the major league uniforms), each with a name and number on the back. Now, they're all in the new Mets blue BP jerseys with their name and number. Even if I could have made any distinction (if there even was one) based on the jersey, that's gone. But everyone and everything is in the new orange and blue, and it looks awesome.

Anyway, as each of the pitchers headed off the field back to the clubhouse (where there is a gate in the CF fence leading them behind another fence over to the clubhouse, so this is a popular path where they can avoid being very close to the fans), I tried and failed to get any autographs. But after waiting for Johan Santana to come out, which he did in the same way as the others, I saw him standing and talking to the lefty great Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax over by the OF fence of the main stadium. Koufax made his way on a golf cart over towards the minor league complex and the small crowd (maybe 5 of us) got him to stop and sign (but no pictures). He was pretty nice about it.

There really wasn't much more to see than that. The minor leaguers were still playing on the different fields. Mookie Wilson, now a roving instructor for the Mets, was watching one of the games and signing for a few fans. Frank Viola, also in the organization, was there too (but no autograph for me).

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring Training 2012 - Day 1

For those of you that have been following me in this forum for a while, I have had daily diaries from my travels at Spring Training. Wednesday was Day 1 of my 2012 Spring Training trip.

I do post small updates during the day on my Facebook page, so please follow me over there. I'm also posting photo albums over there too.

Day 1 - March 22, 2012 - Mets-Astros @ Port St. Lucie

Early morning workouts on the back fields. Biggest thing I noticed was the orange plastic protective coverings over the tops of every fence in the back fields. Those coverings used to be yellow, but they are now orange matching the team's new blue and orange color scheme. Even some of the signage on-field (such as distance markers) look like they fit into that new scheme. I like it.

Inside, I seem to have beginner's luck getting lots of autographs on my first day and then nothing else after it. Today was the first day, and inside the stadium, I got Terry Collins, Danny Herrera, Bobby Parnell, Justin Turner, and MLB Network's Al Leiter. MLB Network was in town filming for 30 Clubs in 30 Days, and T.C. and Leiter were doing live remotes from next to the Mets dugout for the show.

Then I went over to get my first in person look at the new RF party deck and berm. For those who haven't been down to Digital Domain Park before, the berm opened with a 2004 renovation, but was only accessible from an entrance separate from the rest of the ballpark (along with the RF bleachers along the RF line). After the offseason renovations, a new RF party deck was constructed (replacing the bleachers) and part of the berm was re-done, along with connecting the berm/party deck with the rest of the stadium, making all of it accessible from the rest of the stadium for the first time. Since I never had sat in the berm before (I never wanted to give up full stadium admission to access the berm), I had never been out there until today. I'll post more pictures from out there later in my trip.

I actually spent the entire game down by the Mets dugout. Two big highlights. R.A. Dickey took a no-hitter into the 6th, and Sandy Koufax was sitting behind Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz for part of the game behind home plate. Mets won big.

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