Tag Archives: New York Mets

A Breather, And Then Some

In 1986 the New York Mets won it all: their division, the league championship, the World Series, and the entire City of New York.  This had as much to do with the success of the team that year as it did with the colorful personalities that made up the ’86 Mets.  I wasn’t quite the baseball fan back then that I am now so my memories of the ’86 Mets are fuzzy at best.  What I remember most about the team are the individual players — their names, positions, and on some level their quirks or trademarks.  Back then there wasn’t much in the way of cable television and most of the Met games were shown on network TV (it was Channel 9, WWOR, when I was watching) so even casual television watchers came to learn something about the Mets.  At school, I recall the teachers combining classes and wheeling in a TV so the kids could watch the Met games although I suspect it was more for the teachers than anyone else.

I don’t know how much the 2015 Mets resemble the ’86 Mets.  I suspect not much although I think that’s more a product of generational differences than any lack of character on the part of today’s team.  Players today are more polished and guarded and it’s hard to tell what they’re really like off-the-field.

On-the-field is a whole different story.  And that’s perhaps where this year’s team is most similar to the one from ’86.  Both had a flair for the dramatic — whether intentional or not.  This year’s baseball dramatics came late for the Mets but it came with a bang, a pop, and most recently, a crunch, as in Utley’s slide/tackle and Tejada’s broken leg.  The ’86 Mets too had their share of on-the-field drama, the most memorable moment from that year being Mookie Wilson’s groundball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs during the 10th inning of Game Six of the World Series.  In describing the misplay afterwards, Buckner said “The ball went skip, skip and didn’t come up. The ball missed my glove. I can’t remember the last time I missed a ball like that, but I’ll remember that one.”

I realize as I am writing this that the season isn’t over for the Mets — not yet at least.  That may change come Thursday when they play the decisive game of the divisional series in LA against the Dodgers.  I wish them well.

In the meantime, here’s some inspirational reading for all those Met fans out there.  It’s a piece by the great sportswriter Roger Angell about Game Six of the 1986 National League Championship series between the Mets and the Astros, a sixteen inning affair that ended with a Met victory and the entire City of New York on the brink of pandemonium.

A Spirit of Prudence

When I was a kid, I had a small, portable radio that looked like a hamburger.  I took it everywhere with me: to the bathroom, in the car, on family outings.  During the summer, I would put it under my pillow as I went to sleep so I could listen to the tail end of Mets games.  Back then, Gary Cohen and Bob Murphy called the games.  Gary Cohen is still calling Mets games but for the team’s flagship television station.  Bob Murphy is dead, whose many years as a smoker finally got the best of him.  I have tried many times to find out where Bob Murphy has been buried so I could tell him how much I miss hearing his voice on the radio but to no avail.  Maybe Gary Cohen wouldn’t mind sharing that information with me.

I used to get excited during Mets games in ways that seem strangely foreign to me now: cursing at opposing players and their fans; mimicking the hitting or pitching motions of various players (Orlando Hernandez a.k.a. El Duque was a popular option); and once, swinging an umbrella — the Mets were up at bat — so hard that its barrel went flying through a wall (good thing I was at a friend’s house without the friend; I don’t’ think I’ve told him to this day about the hole).

As another baseball season is set to begin, I wanted to write about all the things I dislike about baseball today.  And trust me, there’s a lot to say on that subject.  But so what?  No one who is worth a damn in professional baseball is going to change the way the game is presented and played, for me, or anyone else with a gripe.  To most of them, baseball might as well be NASCAR given the way they have turned the game into a slow-motion, ear-splitting, commercial extravaganza.  Of course, I say this without having ever watched a NASCAR race up close and personal, but I’m not sure that really matters.  Who knows, maybe one day I will give up my interest in baseball entirely.  I certainly wouldn’t  be the first one to do so.

But then I would be admitting defeat.  Why should I be the one to abandon the game when it is the game, and its purveyors, that have abandoned me?  As with all things fundamental to one’s way of life, we don’t know what we’ve lost until we’ve lost it.  Tony Judt, the late historian, taught me this in one of his last books.  Of course, there, he was making a case for the defense of social democracy.  But baseball is also an institution deserving of what Judt referred to as “a spirit of prudence”.

If anything needs to change it is the belief that baseball cannot be played in much the same ways that it was played at the turn of the century.  The last time I checked umpires didn’t have  replay machines back then, and I’m not sure the fans would have even stood for such nonsense, given the disruption it creates in the flow of the game.  Not all change is bad, of course.  But, as I again borrow from the Tony Judt playbook,  “incremental improvements upon unsatisfactory circumstances are the best that we can hope for, and probably all we should seek.”  As the famous song goes:

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Just buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.