Archive for August, 2009

“The Last Days of Shea” is now available

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

100_4027 by you.

I am very happy to announce that my new book, The Last Days of Shea: Delight and Despair in the Life of a Mets Fan has been officially released. It is in stock and can be purchased right now at Amazon (for $11.53) and Barnes and Noble and it will be at all other online sources and in bookstores in the next few days.

If you visit my website (clink on the link above), you can learn about the book, read samples, and see enthusiastic blurbs from Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, Howie Rose, Jerry Koosman, Jonathan Lethem, and Phillip Lopate . I know that right now the Mets are pretty roughed up, but my book may bring you back in contact with the eternal Mets, the bizarre baseball franchise that continues to receive the passionate loyalty of millions. I hope the book also brings you back to the sounds, sights, and cramped seats of Shea, a place that we will always miss and mourn, however much we enjoy the better food, legroom, and architecture of the new place.

If you want to hear me read or be interviewed, please keep an eye on my Bulletin Board.  Please also keep your ears open for the upcoming official announcement of a  conference  I will chair in April 2012, along with Professor Richard Puerzer and under the auspices of the Hofstra Cultural Center, to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the New York Mets.

I also look forward to meeting many of you at the Gary, Keith, and Ron Main Event on October 3, sponsored by the announcers’ charitable foundation “Pitch In for a Good Cause,” run by Lynn Cohen. This end-of-the-year bash (which includes a trip to the warning track) promises to be the best and biggest gathering of the truest Mets diehards ever. If you still care deeply about the Mets, you owe it to yourself to be there.

If you’d like to contact me for any reason (to do an interview, get a signed and inscribed book for somebody, just say hi, etc.) please feel free to e-mail me at danaabrand@cs.com.

Thank you and, in spite of everything, Let’s Go Mets,

Dana

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

untitled by you.

Sorrow, Despair, and Defiance

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Is the original title of this blog piece which I am not finished writing.  But I don’t have time to finish it because as soon as my wife and daughter get home I’m driving down to the city to have some fun tonight.  I’m getting together with any Mets fan who feels like it at Two Boots Tavern on the Lower East Side at 384 Grand St., between Norfolk and Suffolk for AMAZIN’ TUESDAY tonight at 7.  This is an event hosted by Greg and Jason of Faith and Fear in Flushing.  I’ll be reading from The Last Days of Shea and Greg, Jason, and Caryn (Metsgrrl) will be at the mike with me, as we prove that even if the Mets are right now the lousiest team in baseball, they undoubtedly have the most literate fan base. 

The very first copies of The Last Days of Shea arrived at my house UPS Overnight yesterday evening.  It is not yet available from online sources or bookstores but it will be available in the next few days (it can be pre-ordered at Amazon).  In the meantime, I’ll bring down some copies if anyone would like to have one ($12) signed by me with love. 

I will have to write about sorrow, despair, and defiance because that is the story of this season.  But right now, it’s time for pizza, beer, and the eccentric love of a remarkable community.  Please come down to Two Boots Tavern tonight.  I’d love to meet you.

Commemorating the 1969 New York Mets

Friday, August 21st, 2009

BE021028 by you.

On my Facebook newsfeed, the famous Mets blogger Coop wrote that she had an extra ticket to the 1969 New York Mets commemoration this Saturday, August 22.  Did anyone want to go with her?  Unfortunately, I can’t go to this event because I have another obligation.  But what interested me was that somebody responded that they wished it was a reunion of the 1999 team, which was this person’s favorite team of all time.  I understand what this person is saying.

I know from my own experience that it takes some inner work to get really excited about commemorating things that happened before you were born, or before you can remember.   With respect to the 1969 New York Mets, the big wave hit me with full force, when I was perfectly prepared for it.  I was a pure baseball geek who turned 15 the week the 1969 Mets clinched the Eastern Division and I had rooted for the Mets, with everything in me, since their very first game.  If you do not remember the 1969 Mets, you should envy me.  You can be a baseball fan for the rest of your days, into the second half of the twenty-first century for all I care, and you will never experience anything like what I experienced.

You younger people don’t like it when older people say stuff like this.  And you are perfectly right to resent us.  After experiencing fifty-four years, however, my own sense is that there really were some things in the past that you should regret having missed.  But, as you know, there are also things you are experiencing now and that you will experience in the future that older folks should envy. 

This is why we have or should have commemorations.  We didn’t want you to miss the 1969 New York Mets.  It just happened that way.  We always wanted you to share it, even though you weren’t born when it happened.  And we want you to share it because we want you to have the opportunity to make it a part of you.  We don’t just want you to know about it so that you will envy us.  We have all these memories and you have no idea yet how much having a lot of memories enriches the texture of experience.  We can’t zap these memories into your brain, but there are ways in which we can get them into your head in some form.  We can have commemorations and Old-Timer’s Days, we can write books for you, and set up museums that will give you some idea of what happened.  We’re not just doing all this so that we can get all teary-eyed and insufferably obnoxious.  This is as much for you as it is for us.  When you can’t have a memory of something, you can have a heritage.  With a heritage, you’re not totally out of the loop.  You’re a human being, and this entitles you to be able to have some of the treasures of the past, even though the past is all gone. 

I know about this.  I teach literature for a living.  And there are few things as wonderful to me as helping a bunch of people born after the Mets’ last world championship become excited or moved by something written before they were born, before I was born, or even before anyone who has ever spoken English was born.  Don’t tell me this stuff is not for me or for them.  We can read it.  This is what the imagination is for.

The Miracle of the 1969 Mets happened.  I saw it with my own eyes.  I heard the people screaming, I saw the city gripped by Mets love, by the sense that the downtrodden could triumph, by the sense that the impossible was possible.  If you are a Mets fan, you are entitled to know this and you are entitled to imagine that you were there even if you weren’t.  This is what it means to be a Mets fan.  Being a Mets fan is not just being stuck in a lousy little pocket of time in which there is no hope, there are no prospects, and there’s only an endless cascade of disappointments and disasters.  Being a Mets fan also means getting out of this for a moment, getting beyond even the limits of your own lifetime, becoming part of something that has been around a long time and will continue for a long time.  This weekend is a good time to make this leap.  As Mets fans, we have no more pressing concerns at this moment.

So enjoy the commemoration of the 1969 New York Mets this Saturday.  Pay attention.  Close your eyes and imagine.  You may not have actually been there.  But we were thinking of you, and we were waiting for you to join us. 

For those of you who may not have read it, here is the essay “1969” from my book Mets Fan (2007).   
 

      The 1969 season will never go away.  It gives a particular
flavor to life, and it will be taken as a treasure to the end.  No one
could have foreseen what we saw.  It stands apart from all other
sports miracles.  Baseball historians can point to a few examples
of teams leaping from terrible to great in a single year.  But
none of these are comparable to the 1969 Mets because no other
suddenly great team had spent so long in the cellar, and no other
team had ever become such a symbol of futility.
        

      1969 began like all of our other seasons, with a loss on
opening day.  We lost to an expansion team.  Nothing was
surprising in April or May.  Our pitching was good and our hitting
was weak, just as they had been in 1968, when we poked our
heads into ninth place.   The Mets seemed to be headed for the
fifth place finish everyone had predicted, in the first year of
divisional play, the first year of the Expos.  But around Memorial
Day, something happened that at the time seemed as weird as the
discovery of crop circles or a story of an alien abduction.  
The New York Mets won eleven games in a row. 

      I remember how this felt.  Something had cracked.  The Mets
had never done anything like this.  When a team wins eleven
games in a row, it alters your sense of what is possible.  At the
end of that eleven game streak, the Mets were five games above .
500.  It was June, and my eye didn’t need to look for my team
at the bottom of the list.  They were in second place.  And for the
very first time in my eight years of looking at the standings, the
two-digit number on the left was larger than the two-digit number
on the right.  

      

      Suddenly the Mets could imagine that they were in a pennant
race, with the Chicago Cubs of all people, another Cinderella team
emerging from years of mediocrity to dominate a division that
everyone thought should have been dominated by the Cardinals.  
The Mets held steady.  The Cardinals slept.  And then in July, the
Mets played the Cubs in the first series they ever played that
actually mattered.  They played it for all it was worth.  In the first
game, they came from behind in the bottom of the ninth.  Seaver
almost pitched a perfect game in the second.  Then the Mets
flubbed the third game with fielding errors, prompting Cubs
manager Leo Durocher to call the clumsy team of the third game
“the real Mets.”   

      This crack, from Durocher’s notorious lip, opened the
floodgates.  The worried Cubs despised us, and we would hate
them back.  Here were America’s two biggest and oldest baseball
cities.  Here were two teams of great character, and no history of
success.  Only one could win.  It was a shame.  But boy it was
fun.  It was tense and it was wild, and as the season progressed it
turned into a full scale carnival, with brushback pitches, black
cats, and taunting cheers.  It was hand-to-hand combat between
two desperate and deserving dreams.  In the second Cubs series
in July, at Wrigley, the Mets once again won two out of three.  
They were only three and a half games out of first place.   In mid-
July.

      Then it all collapsed.  It had to.  How could it possibly have
happened?  How could we have dared to hope for this?  By mid-
August, after a rough month, the Mets were nine and a half games
behind the Cubs.  They were in third place, as the Cardinals had
finally woken up.  And the Pirates were gaining.  We would
probably finish fourth.  It was okay.  It had been more fun than any
Mets season had ever been.  I wasn’t crushed.  I was only 14, but
I knew something about how the world worked.

      I don’t know how to describe what happened next.  It is the
best baseball memory I have.  Imagine lightning.  Imagine the
silence after the flash.  Imagine a swell of sustained thunder.  
Imagine the heavens opening and the rain loud and sweeping and
drenching the earth.  Imagine a baseball team winning thirty-eight
of its last forty-nine games.  Imagining all of the other teams
crumbling with fear, dissolving into irrelevance.  Imagine two
young aces winning eighteen of their last nineteen starts.  
Imagine a team that has always been bad suddenly playing
as no team ever has.  Imagine the largest city in the world fully in
its thrall.  There are no words adequate to this.  There are not
even numbers.

      There is only the bursting of all boundaries.  There is only
the image of thousands of fans spilling over the line that had kept
them off the field on which the miracle has happened.  There are
flying corks and foam on the camera lens.  There is the emotion of
millions watching the Mets in their wet dugout singing all
of the baseball songs they can think of.  There is the memory of
the hung-over Mets recording the songs in a studio the  next day
and all of us rushing out to buy the quickly-pressed record.  There
was a pure and powerful happiness that waved a wand over the
last seven years.  The bad years would no longer be laughed at,
or cried about.  They were lifted up out of the gutter and given a
place of honor at the table.  They gave the moment of triumph its
luster.  They were the preparation for the launch. They had been
worth it.  But you only knew it now.  Everything had happened as
it was supposed to happen.  This was the real meaning of the
Mets.

      After the Mets won the NL East and celebrated, you needed
to remind yourself that, for the first time in history, the team that
had won more games than any other in the league still had to win
a few more to claim the pennant.  After the way they had played,
the Mets were still not favored to win the National League
Championship Series.  It was as if nothing they could do could
render what they had done believable.  But they beat the Braves
quickly and easily, in three games.  Even that didn’t make them
the favorites to win the World Series.  The 1969 Orioles were one
of the best teams of all time.  I wasn’t in a mood to be greedy.  I
was happy with the pennant.  

      In those days, the World Series was played in the daytime.  
This made it a public event.  You could see what it really meant
to people.  There were radios in every classroom and every
office.  You could hear the game in every street and every
shopping center.  It seemed to me that the Mets were all that
anyone anywhere was talking or thinking about.   

      Seaver lost the first game.  Seaver lost.  Our team did not
look frightening.  None of them could hit like Frank Robinson and
none of them could field like Brooks Robinson.  Some of them
could pitch as well as Mike Cuellar, but not this time.  How had
the Mets managed to win so many games?  I felt, at the end of
the glum and sobering first game, as if I was beginning to forget.

      But the second game reminded me.  The Mets won by
scoring more runs than the other team.  But just barely.  To do
this with their lineup, they had to have spectacular pitching.  They
got it this time.  Koosman almost pitched a no-hitter.  Clendenon
hit a home run.  The Orioles tied the game.  But the Mets, with
three little singles, went ahead in the ninth, and held it.  

      In the third game, the Mets win was decisive, the only
decisive win of the Series.  Gentry and Ryan combined for a
shutout.  Tommy Agee made two catches that have changed my
understanding of how the human body can move.  The Mets won, 5-
0.  They had the momentum again, and the rumbling sound you
had heard all season long was back and it seemed as if it had
never gone away.  It swelled as Seaver returned to form in the
fourth game, as Clendenon hit another home run, and as Swoboda,
stinky fielding Swoboda, made a tumbling catch as great as either
of Agee’s the day before.  In the tenth inning, a fated and
probably wrong base running call gave the game to the Mets.

      The Orioles struggled mightily in the fifth game.  They knew
they did not deserve to lose.  They could not understand what was
happening.  Surely, the Orioles must have thought, this thing
could be prevented.   They had eyes and minds and arms.  They
had will.  And so they scored three runs before the Mets
could do anything.  Then in the bottom of the sixth, Cleon Jones
reached first because Gil Hodges convinced an umpire that the
shoe polish on a ball belonged to him.  Clendenon hit another
home run.  Al Weis, who could not hit home runs, hit one to tie the
game in the seventh.  A wave came out of the crowd and pushed
the Mets in front in the eighth.  Human beings could not stop this,
or anything else that had to happen.  Davey Johnson would some
day become the most successful manager in Mets history.  But
now, with two outs in the ninth, the Orioles second baseman hit a
line drive to left.

      In what seemed like slow motion, Cleon brought the dying
ball into his glove.  He squeezed it tightly.  He dropped to his
knees.

   
 44-15132-F by you.

 ********* 

My new book, The Last Days of Shea is in the publisher’s warehouses (as of August 20) and it will be in the Amazon and Barnes and Noble warehouses very soon after that, and in bookstores very soon after that.  If you want to pre-order the book for $11.53 from Amazon, you can do so here and you will certainly have it by the end of the month. 

I will first see my book on Monday and on Tuesday I will be reading a few pieces from it at the MetsStock event at at 7pm on Tuesday, August 25 at Two Boots Tavern at 384 Grand Street between Norfolk and Suffolk Streets on the Lower East Side.  Sharing the stage with me will be my distinguished fellow authors and bloggers Greg and Jason from Faith and Fear in Flushing and Caryn from Metsgrrl, so this will really be a spectacular event for Mets fans.  I will have copies of the book for sale at Two Boots and will be happy to inscribe them personally.  Even if you don’t want the book, please come up and introduce yourself to me.  You know what I look like. 

 

Watching the Mets on a Hot Humid Night

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

 Aug17 by you.

I went to the game on August 17.  The first thing I did was walk around the stadium to check out the vaunted “new additions,” which did not particularly impress me (see the blog entry below).  I went to the game with my daughter Sonia and her boyfriend Chris.  We had $25 Promenade tickets I bought on StubHub for $9.93 each.  This is really the way to buy tickets now.  Help your fellow Mets fans stuck with tickets they don’t expect to be able to get rid of. 

It was very hot and humid and there I was up in the Promenade eating my Blue Smoke Kansas City Ribs, which I’ve decided are probably the best thing to eat in the stadium.  Although it wasn’t physically pleasant, I was enjoying the feeling of a hot humid night up in the Promenade.  The crowd around us had a kind of languid restlessness and I felt as if I was back in unairconditioned ‘30s or ‘40s summer New York, sitting on the rooftop or the fire escapes of my apartment building with all of my neighbors and all of their families.  You saw all kinds of people, of all ages.  There was a family that kept passing around a truly adorable little baby for everybody to kiss, there were several couples in their seventies in our section, there was a five-year old boy with his dad next to me who was a truly gifted dancer, and there was my daughter and her boyfriend who were doing some timid and decorous adolescent kanoodling.  Everybody was relaxed and sweating but enjoying the breezes you got so high up, just under the moths that flit through the bright black stadium-lit sky.  I liked this whole scene.  Here was some real old-time Brooklyn, Mr. Wilpon.

The game was eh, you know what the game was.  There were a couple of moments of baseball pleasure.  I liked Cory Sullivan getting some hits and seeing Gary Sheffield drive in our daily run.  Daniel Murphy made a couple a fine plays and grabs which kind of shocked me.  And although he didn’t get anybody out with either of his throws, I got to see just how strong Jeff Francoeur’s arm actually is.  Most of the game, however, was depressing and lousy, but in the peculiarly festive heat, no one acted as if they particularly minded.  A couple of times, when batters came to the plate, I got a little nostalgic looking at their statistics.  I thought of how there were periods in Mets history when I was impressed by someone hitting above .270, with more than 10 home runs for the season.  I could call that the Joel Youngblood line.  We have a few guys in that range.  It’s funny how it has now become almost impossible to remember or imagine having four players as good as Beltran, Reyes, Delgado, and Wright in your line up. 

As the game wore on, I wanted my “Lazy Mary” and my “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” but I was in no mood for the Arpielle race to Citi Field and they must have sensed that no one was in the mood for an eighth inning sing-a-long.  So they just played that “She’s a Native New Yorker” song from back in the Son of Sam Days.  It was nice to hear it, even if I’ve never thought it was much of a song.  Sitting up on the roof with my neighbors, I felt that we were all native New Yorkers and how what that sometimes involves is having a philosophical attitude towards a hopefully temporary surrounding lousiness.

One nice thing that happened near the end of the game, and something that I think typifies that rooftop philosophical attitude, was that there was somebody named Andy Green who came to the plate as a pinch hitter making his debut with the Mets.  Boy did we give it up for that kid.  We cheered every ball in the way that people used to make fun of Mets fans for doing back in the early sixties when the team was no good.  When he walked, you might have thought he hit a grand slam home run if you were listening to the 10,000 people who remained.  It was wonderful.  We lost, 10-1.  Atlanta and Philadelphia were about to come into town.  I felt as if we were deer in the middle of the road.  I don’t like the sense of just not wanting to be embarrassed.  But I also don’t want the Mets to be embarrassed.  I want this absurd season to end without a massacre, without the thumbs coming off of our backup shortstop.  I want harmony and equanimity.  And next year I want something different.  But for the time being, for this evening that was here and will never come back, I was content with the heat and the lights and the human warmth.

 *******

Along with my distinguished fellow bloggers Greg and Jason from Faith and Fear in Flushing and Caryn from Metsgrrl, I’ll be reading at the MetStock event at Two Boots Tavern on the Lower East Side on Tuesday, August 25 at 7.  You can read about this terrific event here.

I’ll be reading from my new book The Last Days of Shea which will be in the publisher’s warehouses on August 19 and in the Amazon and Barnes and Noble warehouses very soon after that, and in bookstores very soon after that.  If you want to pre-order the book for $11.53 from Amazon, you can do so here and you’ll have it next week.  I’ll also have copies for sale at Two Boots and will be happy to inscribe them personally. 

There are No Words

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

 Newstuff by you.

I went to the ballgame last night (8/17).  My main purpose was to check out the new Mets stuff, which the Mets say they’ve put up because they’re listening to the fans and, according to David Howard, because they originally underestimated the fans’ attachment to the symbols and history of the Mets.  I wonder what methods they used to arrive at their original estimate of how attached we were to this kind of stuff.  Anyway, they put up a few things.  They say that there is going to be more.  There had better be.

I’m not very impressed by what they have put up.  There is, first of all, the Hodges, Seaver, Koosman, Grote mural you see at the top of this post.  It’s stuck on the side of the Ebbets Excelsior Suites of Excellence under the overhang.  The mural even frames a view of a hallway with the doors of some of the suites of Excellence.  The hallway kind of spoils the emotion.  But at least the mural is something. 

What it is is a Nikon ad.  That’s what all the new pictures they’ve put up are.  They’re Nikon ads.  If you go up to the Promenade level, you’ll see little murals of Dykstra, Wilson, and Carter, then Beltran, Wright, Reyes, and Santana, then Staub, Agee, and McGraw, then the ’86 celebration with Lee Mazzilli at the center, then Alfonso, Franco, and Leiter.  (Piazza is commemorated over the left field entrance in that smush of black and white sheets that keep the sun off the ramps).   At the bottom right of each of these relatively small black-and-white collages is a prominent Nikon insignia, so that it really isn’t clear at all whether or not the Mets have put this up to honor our heritage or Nikon put this up to sell their cameras.    

Why black and white, I wonder?  Why no familar heart-warming Mets blue and orange anywhere?  Why just heart-chilling commercial Citi Bank blue and orange?  Why just pictures of a few prominent players?  Why no words here or there to explain or identify something to people who may not be old enough to remember any of it?  Why nothing interesting or funky to convey a sense of the uniqueness of the Mets’ heritage?  Why, once again, so little imagination?

I went into the main gift store in the Robinson rotunda, hoping to check on the progress of the first little book section in a Mets stadium.  A month ago, they had Ron Darling’s book, Keith Hernandez and Matt Silverman’s book, Rusty Staub and Phil Pepe’s book, and Alyssa Milano’s book.  The little book section was gone, replaced by even more souvenirs.  They still had the Alyssa Milano book.  I thought of getting a new one because I’ve read my old copy so many times it’s falling apart.  But the other books, the supervisor told me, had been sent back to the publisher.  I said that was a shame and I hoped they had books in the future.  He thanked me for the suggestion with that new eerie Citi Field politeness. 

You know, “souvenir” means to remember.  People are buying souvenirs at that store by the armload.  They are still showing up at the stadium.  I saw all these family groups and on people’s backs there were many signs that people had memories (I saw jerseys saying Seaver, Hernandez, Piazza, and Shea) and hopes (there was a couple near me, both wearing Perez shirts, Oliver or Timo?).  Isn’t there room in this enormous place with many remaining empty walls and spaces, for a few words?  Words in the form of captions and identifications.  Words in the form of books?  Words for the sake of preserving memories, and for the young, turning other people’s memories into heritage?  Or is it the case that people don’t want to read books, or even captions?  They just want to look at pictures, but they want the pictures small and to the side and in black-and-white so that it won’t intrude upon the vivid color of the present.  Maybe people just want a winning team right now, and that’s all they care about, nothing else.  Well they don’t have a winning team right now.  Is it too much to ask for words and memories and heritage to take us through these dark moments when there is no winning team, to remind us why we might still want to be paying attention?  What a nice time this would be to have a museum or pictures that weren’t ads, or decorations and icons with meaning.  If anybody has any doubt about how important words and memories are to Mets fans, let them spend a few minutes watching people reading and finding the inscribed bricks at the entrance to the rotunda.  People always care about words, memories, and memorials.  Everybody knows that.  There’s no excuse for underestimating how much they care. 

I’ve said nothing about the game yet.  I’ll write about the game tonight.

 *******

I’ll be reading at the MetStock event at Two Boots Tavern on the Lower East Side on Tuesday, August 25 at 7.  You can read about this terrific event here.

I’ll be reading from my new book The Last Days of Shea which will be in the warehouses tomorrow and in the Amazon and Barnes and Noble warehouses very soon after that and in bookstores very soon after that.  If you want to pre-order the book for $11.53 from Amazon, you can do so here and you’ll have it next week.  I’ll also have copies for sale at Two Boots and will be happy to inscribe them personally. 

 

A Visit to Cooperstown

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

 hof by you.

I went to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on Friday.  We took my father-in-law, Charlie, for his 78th birthday.  Charlie has been a baseball (Red Sox) fan for over 70 years and he hadn’t been to the Hall of Fame before.  Charlie and I and my daughter Sonia went through the whole museum and spent a while in the Hall of Fame itself.

Let me say first of all that like all baseball fans, I love the Hall of Fame.  I am so grateful that there is a shrine to baseball, a place that teaches people about baseball, and that serves as a pilgrimage site for baseball fans.  I wish there was a museum of Broadway in New York, of American film in Los Angeles, of opera in New York, of American architecture in Chicago.  None of these things exist.  But thanks to the Clark family, there is a place that serves as the center of the baseball universe, a place dedicated to honoring an extraordinary sport.  I love going to the Hall to see people who are fans of every team.  I love seeing sacred objects and some well-designed exhibits.  I love Cooperstown, a lovely town on an extremely beautiful lake.  I love Doubleday Field, which looks like and serves as a field of dreams to several sets of teams every day.  Cooperstown is done right.  It’s not where baseball began.  But if it wants to claim to be the spiritual home of baseball, I will honor its claim.  It’s good to have a place that can serve this kind of function.

Every baseball fan who visits the Hall of Fame says how wonderful it is.  You don’t need me to say the usual things.  If you’ll just indulge me, and if you’ll remember that I really do like it, I want to talk about a few things that make a visit to the Hall of Fame a little disappointing, for me at least.

Let me first of all gently whine about the fact that if you go through the exhibits as a Mets fan, you can’t help but wonder why no one seems to think that the Mets have been all that important a part of the history of the sport.  We are a fan base that is used to the strange feeling that we may have dreamt the past 47 years, because what we remember so fondly is noted, marked, recorded, and honored almost nowhere.  There is one little cubbie hole where there is a Tom Seaver cutout, a Tom Seaver jersey, some shoes, a hat, and a glove, and a little picture of Gil Hodges (hey, does anyone remember that Tom Seaver spent almost half of his career in exile from the team that makes such a deal out of him?).  The text of our little window next to the Pirates window says something about us winning the World Championship in 1969.  The Eighties team isn’t represented, although there is a nice little exhibit that suggests that the Cardinals were the dominant National League team of the Eighties.  And there’s an exhibit of the late ‘70s Dodgers teams which weren’t as good as the Mets of the Eighties and yet they get pictures of Garvey, Lopes, Russel, and Cey (big deal!) while Seaver and Hodges the only photographed faces of Mets.  The late ‘90s team is nowhere.  And then we get a little locker at the end like all the other teams.  Now maybe a lot of teams can complain about not being sufficiently represented.  But I guess I feel like whining because this is just another sign of how little our experience has been noted anywhere.

Another thing that bothers me is that the experience of the fan is not represented very well.  There’s an undistinguished opening film about “The Baseball Experience” that doesn’t have much to say about the baseball experience but does have a lot of pretty pictures like a commercial.   And then, the exhibits seem to focus mainly on the achievements of the players who have made it to the Hall, and the teams that have enjoyed particular success winning World Championships.  The most compelling moments of baseball history receive relatively short shrift (which leaves the Mets out in the cold) and there’s nothing about either the general experience of the fan or the unique fan cultures and mythologies of individual teams.  I would have liked to have seen more attention paid to the enormous sociological, historical, and cultural importance of baseball, about the psychological importance of following baseball to millions.  There was a nice “baseball in the movies” exhibit and an exhibit that sort of honored reporters and announcers, but there wasn’t much mention of baseball in literature, art, music, and life.  I guess it makes sense for the Hall of Fame to focus on the way in which baseball has a bunch of heroes.  But baseball is, as they know of course, much more than the heroes.  I was very moved to walk down the nave lined with plaques.  Here is the place.  Here is the belly button of the baseball universe.  There is the one Met.  I stand in front of him and have Sonia take my picture. 

Needless to say, they can’t do everything.  And given space limitations and the limitation of an average fan’s attention span, they do a lot.  But I can’t help but feel, when I leave the Hall, as though I’ve gotten a very incomplete picture.  Perhaps I’ve just been so disappointed lately.  And today, poor David.  Remarkable, young, and wonderful David.  Sometimes I don’t know what to say.  I’m glad Tom Seaver is in the Hall of Fame,  I know that Mike Piazza will be there soon.  I know that David will be in there one day.  I had a nice trip to Cooperstown.  And I hope David is all right. 

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My new book, The Last Days of Shea:  Delight and Despair in the Life of a Mets Fan can be pre-ordered on Amazon for $11.53.  It will be in the warehouses next week and available for shipping very soon after that.   In the meantime, you can read samples and blurbs here.

 

Come to the GKR party on October 3

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Anybody who was at last year’s GaryKeithandRon September 27 big event knows what an extraordinary experience it was. (Watch it here.)  We saw Johan Santana almost save our season, we got to walk out onto the warning track of our doomed and beloved field, and although we didn’t know it at the time, we got to see the last Mets win ever at Shea.  The most moving part of the event is that we all got to be in a crowd of over 1000 people, all wearing the same kinds of t-shirts, all doing honor to the best broadcasting team in baseball, and all affirming our unconditional love for our bizarre baseball team. 

That event last year was such an enormous success, that Lynn Cohen, who organized it, had the idea of doing it again at the new place.  Once again about 1000 people would sit together in the t-shirts, eat together, go out on the warning track, honor the broadcasters, and enjoy an orgy of Mets love in the new stadium, kicking off a magical October of baseball.

Well, as you know, the magical October got moved to another year.  But the 800 tickets Lynn bought are non-returnable (are your Mets tickets returnable?).  Still the stadium is there.  The food will be arriving.  And we are still here.

Lets all get together and celebrate the fact that we’re still here, that we’re still Mets fans, that we’re not going over to the other side.  Come to what Lynn is calling the New Beginning party.  I’ll be there, and so will a lot of the most diehard Mets fans and bloggers on the planet.  You can get your tickets here 

And please note that readers of this and other Mets blogs are entitled to special discounts this week at Pitch In For A Good Cause.  Get 15% off tickets and all GKR merchandise for blog readers only now through August 15th. Use coupon code “blogger”

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You can read about last year’s GKR big event in my new book, which will be out in the next couple of weeks and can be pre-ordered for $11.53 on Amazon.  In the book, you can read about all the Last Days of Shea, and many of the earlier days of Shea as well.    

What Now?

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

 d059003d8c by you.

The Mets are 52-60.  To win 90 games, which is what a team would probably need to win the Wild Card, they must win 38 and lose 12 of their remaining 50 games.  The 1969 Mets, in their spectacular final 49 games of the season, were 38-11.  We’d have to see something like that again.  Who would do it for us?  We don’t have Seaver, Koosman, Gentry, Ryan, Cardwell, McGraw, and Taylor.  We have a player hitting as well as Cleon Jones did that year.  But we don’t have an Agee, Clendenon, or Shamsky.  We don’t have spectacular defense up the middle.  We don’t have the Northern Lights or the dimensional rupture or the visitation of divine Grace or whatever the hell happened that summer that human beings landed on the moon.  The Phillies are unlikely to crumble like the Cubs did.  It isn’t happening.  To win 38 of 50 is just barely within the realm of baseball possibility.  But you know and I know that it is not possible with the team we have on the field right now.

There was some hope eleven games ago, when the Mets were 49-52 and needed to win 41 and lose 20 to make it to 90.  But it would be hard even for the most extreme optimist (and I am pretty extreme) to have hope at this point.  For all intents and purposes, I surrender my hopes for this season.  I am very sad to do this. 

What do we do now?  Well, we don’t root for the Yankees, that much is certain.  And now that the Red Sox have lost their tragic grandeur and have merely become the best organization in baseball, I don’t feel like rooting for them.  I am resentful enough of the Dodgers for being all over my team’s new stadium that I cannot wish them well.  Oh, I don’t care who makes it to the playoffs or who wins it.

I care about my Mets.  My sorry shambles of the Mets.  I know all the stuff that people are saying about bad talent decisions and an indifference to baseball fundamentals.  Maybe.  Maybe.  But I’m still skeptical.  As I see it, if the Mets hadn’t lost Reyes, Delgado, Beltran, Maine, and Putz, they’d have ten more games in the win column (is it unreasonable to see two games turned around for each one of these players?).  If the Mets were 62-49, you wouldn’t hear so much about how badly the organization is run.  They’d be in the thick of everything and we would all be happy people.

But now, of course, we’re not happy people.  And many of us are bitter, and resentful.  After two seasons that just ended the way they did, and after the opening of an attractive new stadium that takes too much of our money for the best seats, and pays too little attention to who we are and what we’ve been through, there’s a lot of bile in our system.  We deserved better.  We deserved more.  We aren’t going to get it this year.  Whose fault is that?

As I’ve said before, I will criticize what I feel I can criticize.  But I honestly do not blame the Mets for the disappointments of this season.  Our season has not come.  I don’t know when it is coming. 

And I’m not interested in blaming anybody.  Blame them for what?  For not signing Raul Ibanez, for not signing Derek Lowe?  They lost last year because of a bad bullpen.  Everything else was pretty good.  There was plenty of offense and a lot of good starting pitching.  So they addressed the biggest weakness and signed Frankie Rodriguez and J.J Putz.  Where was the dumbness in that?  What do we expect of the people who run the team?  Where is the evidence that they don’t care enough about winning?  Who cares enough about winning?  The Steinbrenners? 

Baseball is a game.  It is maddeningly unpredictable.  Chance plays an enormous role.  It’s not like chess.  The smarter player doesn’t always win.  It’s hard to tell good moves from bad ones in any objective sense.  Fans are good at criticizing results that don’t conform to their expectations.  But sometimes the most reasonable response to a bad result is not criticism but lamentation.

I am lamenting.  I wish this hadn’t happened.  But it happened.  And I will follow the rest of the season as closely as I followed the first two-thirds.  Following the Mets is an epic journey.  You have to be there for all of it or else you are missing some really important stuff.  It is not enough to just show up for the good times.  It is not enough to just have the obvious fun of victory.

There is also the fun of still being around when the rest of the world is ignoring them, the fun of watching to see if players like Pelfrey and Perez find the stability to become the superstars you still think they have the potential to be, the fun of finding out if there really is anything to Daniel Murphy, the fun of wondering how the presence of a personality like Jeff Francoeur is going to affect the team.  There is the wonder of watching David Wright, the greatest hitter ever to come out of the Mets organization, as he battles for a batting crown and the team’s dignity alone and unprotected in the lineup.  There is the pure intellectual pleasure of listening to Gary Cohen and Ron Darling talk to each other about baseball after midnight when the Mets are in the West and the rest of the house is quiet.  There is something interesting, at least, about rooting for a team that isn’t in it, that will have to struggle to clear .500.

There has to be fun like this in baseball.  It is wrong to think you deserve to be in contention just because you have the second highest payroll in baseball.  The average team is a .500 team.  The average franchise spends half its life below that mark.  When I hear all the anger of Mets fans now, I can’t help but wonder.  Given the current economics of baseball, are there any circumstances now in which Mets fans would be willing to accept a mediocre or a below .500 season?  Are there any circumstances in which Mets fans would be willing to accept not being in contention?  Is a shrug still possible, or a bittersweet smile?   Or can we only be below .500 for reasons that are simply not acceptable in this town!  

I don’t want to appear to be tolerant of bad management or corporate complacency.  There are ways in which I am bitter about all the loyalty I gave to the horrific management of the Mets in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.  I don’t want to go there again.  But I want to find a way of being able to resent bad management without feeling that merely being below .500 is proof of bad management.

This is all part of the story.  And the definition of a bad story is that it gives you what you were expecting exactly when you were expecting it.  Good stories involve hope and surprise, neither of which are meaningful without the possibility of failure.  I’m sorry, guys.  I don’t like failure any more than you do.  But it is part of the texture of reality and baseball, and if it isn’t then there’s something wrong.  This was not our year.  But it’s still happening.  They’re still playing.  There’s still this year and there’s still next year.  And there was last year and the year before.

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My new book, The Last Days of Shea:  Delight and Despair in the Life of a Mets Fan can be pre-ordered on Amazon for $11.53.  You will have it in your hands before the end of August.  In the meantime, you can read samples and blurbs here.

 

Shea Didn’t Have Much History?

Friday, August 7th, 2009

 stengel-132x167 by you.

In this week’s New Yorker, Paul Goldberger, an architectural critic for whom I have great respect, has a piece in the “Talk of the Town” section entitled “Cathedrals:  The Park That Ruth Built.”  It’s about the old Yankee stadium and what the city should do with it.  The article begins: 

“When Shea Stadium was torn down and its site turned into a parking lot for the Mets’ new Citi Field earlier this year, nobody seemed to care, least of all historic preservationists.  It didn’t have that much history, and it was ugly besides.  Shea was no Yankee Stadium.”

Why does this always happen?  Why does anyone think or say this?  Did nobody care?   Not that much history?  The first stadium concert ever?  The Miracle Season of 1969?  The Miracle Decade of the Eighties?  The preferred stadium of MORE THAN HALF of everyone who attended a major league baseball game in New York from 1962-1995?  More than 100 million afternoons and evenings filled with the warmth of family, friends, or the solitary delights of a genuinely beautiful game?

Ebbets Field was home to the Dodgers for 45 years.  Shea was home to the Mets for 45 years.  Would anyone ever say that Ebbets Field didn’t have much history?  Do you know much about the Dodgers before 1947?  Are their 45 years worth so much more than our 45 years?  Apparently there are people who think so.
 

I wasn’t alive for the Dodgers and I never liked the Yankees.  But my 47 years with the Mets have meant a lot to me.  And unless I am a psychotic and have imagined it all, there are millions of people who have been there with me.  I am not sure why people often don’t respect us, or even see us, but I’m pretty certain we’ve actually been there and that our experiences deserve to be considered history as much as the experiences of anyone else. 

Shea may not have been beautiful.  A lot of wonderful and meaningful things aren’t, strictly speaking, beautiful.  But it’s funny, sometimes, how people define beauty.  Greenwich Village and Soho were almost torn down by developers who wanted to make it easier to get from the Holland Tunnel to the Manhattan Bridge.  They wanted to get Federal slum clearance money to tear down what they considered to be ugly old buildings, which they wanted to replace with hi-rise towers filled with air and light.  Jane Jacobs and a few local residents had to stand up and say that their neighborhood might not be beautiful, but it had vitality, and besides they lived there.  We didn’t make that kind of argument to preserve Shea.  We knew it wasn’t as worth preserving as the Village and Soho.  But it had vitality and it was our old neighborhood.  It felt a lot more like an old neighborhood in New York than Citi Field ever will.  Even if it wasn’t worthy of being preserved, wasn’t it worthy of being spoken of with respect? 

Paul:  There were people who cared when Shea went down.  It’s true that Shea Stadium was no Yankee Stadium.  But that’s why we went there.

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My new book, The Last Days of Shea:  Delight and Despair in the Life of a Mets Fan can be pre-ordered on Amazon for $11.53.  You will have it in your hands before the end of August.  In the meantime, you can read samples and blurbs here.

Going to the Game on August 5

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

 5770_242955505412_744855412_8099230_8368346_n by you.

I went to the ballgame with my daughter Sonia today.  I did this on the spur of the moment, out of a kind of morbid curiosity.  I wanted to see what Citi Field felt like on the day after a loss that felt like the proverbial fork entering the roasting flesh.  Here we are trying to hopeful, trying to be happy with our crumbs of hope.  And our relievers, a day after holding the fort so valiantly and keeping us in another ballgame we could have won, give up the ghost and a grand slam besides.  And Luis Castillo, one of the few left standing, one of the few reasons to celebrate this season, falls down the stairs.  Other people can fall down a few steps and not be grievously hurt.  But Luis is a member of a baseball team called the New York Mets and this is the year 2009.

It was a hot humid day, the kind we used to have in New York until this summer.  There were a lot of people at the ballpark.  I tried to take their temperature.  They were hot.  And they were happy.

This surprised me.  I went to Shea a lot in its last two seasons and I could tell when people were happy and hopeful and I could really tell when they weren’t.  I’m not saying that the people at Citi Field today were hopeful.  But they were happy to be at the ballpark.  Everybody was eating food, and taking pictures, and wearing their Mets regalia and their Mets tattoos.  It was a day game and that generally means more than the usual number of old people and more than the usual number of kids.  Old people and kids are always just happy to be at a ballpark.  Watch them.  They don’t need as much to make them happy.  We can learn from them. 

Today, of course, had its share of disasters.  We are used to this, as Londoners were used to bombardment in the Blitz.  Today Jon Niese, an extremely exciting and very young pitcher I was looking forward to following for the rest of the season, went down.  Today we learned that Jose Reyes has all this scar tissue behind his knee and won’t come back this season.  Gary Sheffield, who just came back, is now hurt again.  It continues. 

But marvelous things can happen.  Except for the daily disasters, the game was filled with wonders and marvels from the beginning to the end.  David Wright hit a home run into the bullpen.  Nelson Figueroa, whom we gave up for dead just two days before, pitched magnificently, saving, for a little while more, his sad, sweet, fragile career.  And he hit a triple!  All day long Mets hitters were hitting balls far into the immense gaps of the outfield.  And we were scoring runs in these satisfying little rallies and giving none up.  Bobby Parnell even contributed and raised his career average to three times that of Babe Ruth or Ted Williams.  Hey, if he doesn’t come up again this season that means that …  Now I’m just being silly.  But the game was enough to make you giddy and the crowd I was with enjoyed every minute of it.  I sat in the shade high up under the overhang at the top of the Promenade and we were all having a ball.  The ancient gentleman in front of us, in kibbutznik shorts and a hat that said Mets in Hebrew, stood up when Angel Pagan hit his home run and waved his arms as if he was conducting an orchestra.  Two home runs in a game!   Whoever is in charge of the Home Run Apple was caught by surprise and the Apple only rose as Pagan crossed the plate, and it just stood there as if it couldn’t believe it had been woken up again.  When it was all over, the score was 9-0, as if the Cardinals had forfeited.  And as we walked out of the stadium you saw the victory bounce in the walk of the fans. 

We got into the hot car and inched out of the parking lot.  I turned on WFAN as I normally do because I like to listen to the recap of a game I just saw because I kind of feel like I own it.  I also need to listen because there’s always a lot you couldn’t understand (what happened to Niese and Sheffield, what was that bit about trying to hit Wright?).  They had Benigno and Roberts on, because the regular guy, Mike Francesa, has his summers off, like a professor (to write and do research?).  I have to admit that I find listening to Benigno and Roberts as trying as listening to Francesa, even though they’re Mets fans.  They talked about the game as if it was such a joke because it didn’t mean anything, the Mets were still done, and all anybody was going to pay attention to in “this town” was the Yankees for the next few months.  Even though they’re Mets fans, they apparently have the same view of Mets fans as Chipper Jones did a few years ago when he said that when the Mets were out of it, they would just go put their Yankee stuff on.  Yeah, uh huh.  Mine is all the way in the back of my closet.  They didn’t have anything much to say about what the crowd felt for Jon Niese, what it felt like to see a Wright home run.  They weren’t impressed with the drama of Figgy’s miraculous resurrection.  They didn’t feel as I felt or as the people around me felt.  They just offered people in air-conditioned cars the bland, unimaginative, (and they think) manly cynicism that has become the stock in trade of WFAN.  The beauty and uniqueness of the game?  The fascinating drama of guys trying to save their careers and show us something worth watching even though the team is nine and a half games out?  The way that the bullpen came through as it did the night before last and not last night?  Were they going to talk about any of that?  Nah.  Who do you think these guys are, Gary Cohen or Howie Rose?

Fuck that shit, I say, as I turn off the stupid radio so we can listen to Sonia’s I-pod.  I enjoyed that ballgame.  I enjoyed rooting for my team.  I enjoyed being in that crowd.  Sonia enjoyed finding exactly the right Mets blue headband to wear with her vintage orange Mets shirt.  How often do you see a relief pitcher get a hit and then score a run in his first major league at-bat?  How often do you see a pitcher hit a triple and pitch four shutout innings two days after he gives up six runs in less than two innings.  How often do you see a team so decimated by injuries dominate an old foe so completely in a ballgame?  I loved the little rallies and the balls hit into the gaps.  Even Brian Schneider got a hit.  The afternoon was magic.  The game was filled with pleasure.

And now they go on a Western trip, playing two teams they often beat on the road.  Hey, where will we be if we win six out of seven?  I’m not an idiot.  I know we have almost no chance, but as a matter of pride, a Mets fan, after the 2007 season, cannot consider the Mets completely done for if they are nine and a half games out, with fifty-five games to play. 

So is the season a disaster?  Is it a debacle?  No.  It’s fun.  It’s still fun.  This is almost certainly not the year for a championship or for playoffs, but all kinds of things can happen that will be worth paying attention to.  And for me and millions of others, anything they do will be more interesting than whatever happens to the Yankees. 

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The truck in the picture says “Young Jewish Farmers Changing the World, One Pickle at a Time.”  Sonia took this picture with her phone as we were driving back from the ballgame on 684.

My new book, The Last Days of Shea:  Delight and Despair in the Life of a Mets Fan can be pre-ordered on Amazon for $11.53.  You will have it in your hands before the end of August.  In the meantime, you can read samples and blurbs here.

 

The 2009 Mets: Going Into August

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

A week and a half ago, I asked for a few days to decide what I wanted to say about the 2009 New York Mets. I’m sorry, it’s taken me longer than that. Blame the Mets. Although I have been very busy with some other things, the Mets are mainly to blame for the fact that I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say about them. I was writing a blog piece just before I turned on the TV to watch the Omar Minaya news conference that was supposed to be about firing Tony Bernazard. But that news conference invalidated a few of the things I was saying. So I had to see how the Rubin storm played out in order to make my revisions and then in the meantime the Mets won five games in a row, which invalidated some other things I was planning to say.

In order to write about the Mets, you just have to jump into the river. The river is capable of changing its flow and its general character every single day. What you feel changes just as frequently. You see it flowing and you know that there are all kinds of invisible currents going in different directions under the surface. Plus there’s all this junk at the bottom creating whirlpools and obstacles and snags. Plus it’s really cold. So here I am jumping in. I don’t honestly have even a guess about what will happen to the Mets this year. I don’t know what is happening now or what has happened in the past few months. I don’t know what I think or feel. But I’m jumping in the river. Maybe if I write, something will get clearer.

Well, one thing that has happened in the past week and a half is that my view of Omar Minaya has changed dramatically. I’ve always had a high opinion of him. I don’t know if I can regain that. What he did in the news conference was unforgiveably stupid. Smart and effective people can sometimes do stupid things when they get upset. But they rarely do anything this stupid. And if Omar Minaya was so upset over having to fire Tony Bernazard that he couldn’t help but say something dumb, then that’s even worse. After what Omar found in his own investigation of Bernazard, this news conference should have been an unemotional announcement of the obvious and necessary. It was an easy task. But somehow, as the official who is supposed to be the brains, the leader, and the spokesman of the New York Mets, Omar Minaya made three spectacular errors on a single routine play. Given my formerly high opinion of Omar, I’ve been struggling a lot with my new feelings about him (I’ve never scuffled with something intangible). Let’s just say that he’s got a long way to go before I can have as much faith in him as I had before.

Many Mets fans are angry at team ownership because they believe that the weak showing of the Mets this year is due to their cheapness and possibly to the fact that they’ve lost almost a billion dollars to Bernie Madoff’s swindle. If only, some fans have argued, the Wilpons had given the go-ahead for a pursuit of Ibanez or Hudson or Lowe, we wouldn’t be in this shape. If only the Mets had more depth and a minor league system capable of filling in for our injured players, we wouldn’t be in this shape.

I don’t agree with these criticisms, even though a lot of people I respect make them. I don’t think the Wilpons are cheap. We have the second highest payroll in baseball and I don’t want it to get any higher. It’s possible that they’re broke because of Madoff (in which case they should admit it and sell the team) but I doubt that they are. The Wilpons probably have a lot of money left and the Mets are perfectly capable of paying for themselves. Until I know of solid proof that there are financial difficulties that will affect the Mets, I am not going to believe what is at this point only speculation. I agree that it would be great to have Ibanez or Hudson or Lowe, given what they’re doing this season, but it would be hypocritical of me to criticize the Mets for not getting them, because before the season started I was really excited to see what Daniel Murphy could do and I was loyal to Ollie Perez, whom I’ve always really liked. This may be dumb of me, but it is part of the configuration of my fandom. I’m one of the fools who would hope and nod with excitement when Bob Murphy used to say that there was a feeling on the team that this could very well be the Year of the Hammer.

As for not enough depth, what are we talking about? To me, the saving graces of this season have been the way in which Sheffield, Pagan, Santos, Cora, Hernandez, Nieve, and Stokes have played. Do other teams have more depth than this, pluckable out if thin air or pullable up from the minors? From what I’ve been reading, the Mets farm system is hardly decimated. The best players are just not near ready. That’s okay. I mean, give them a break. If someone had told me that the Mets were going to lose Beltran, Delgado, Reyes, Putz, and Maine for most of the season, I would not have guessed that the team would have a record as good as 50-55 by this point. I don’t believe that any team in the majors could suffer a hit of this magnitude, in terms of injuries, and play anywhere near their expected level. As for whether or not there was medical mismanagement: I don’t know. I’m not a doctor.

What I will criticize about management is that they don’t take sufficiently seriously their obligation to serve as the custodians of the Mets’ identity and heritage. It is shameful for an executive of a team to dismiss the idea of an “Old-Timers’ Day” game because it is not sufficiently profitable. We all know that baseball is a business, but management has to know that fans don’t love baseball because it’s a business. We don’t give a flying f— how much money the owners make. The owners have been entrusted with our faith, our personal identities, and our family histories. This game is about our souls and our community, not their bucks. Owning a baseball team is a privilege, a public trust. So if your fans want an “Old Timers’ Day” game or a “Banner Day,” a Mets museum, a visible Mets Hall of Fame, Mets banners, Mets logos, Mets colors, in a stadium that feels like the home of the Mets, if your fans want to stand behind the dugouts and see the players up close in batting practice two hours before the game the way they used to in their old stadium, you give it to them! Do you hear me?! It DOESN’T MATTER whether or not any of these things increase profitability (they do in the long run, but American business doesn’t usually take the long run into account). None of this would cost you more than a backup shortstop. To make Citi Field a true home for the Mets fan is your moral responsibility. You owe us this. And we would appreciate enormously having some sign from you that you understand this obligation.

The Mets played a good game last night. They fell behind 6-0 and I felt so bad for Nelson Figueroa, a fine man who was watching his life pass before his eyes. But then the Mets struggled to come back. They scored 5 runs, and the relievers gave up nothing. They didn’t win. But they played. I hate doing this kind of thing, but this game may have been a metaphor for our season. Here were good players who cared, doing their best to come from behind. They didn’t make it all the way, but still … They probably won’t make up the space between them and a playoff berth. But they’ll play. And there will be a grand slam here and there. And we’ll believe something at least. If the Mets could do 40-17, not at all likely but not impossible, they will have won 90 games. That might be good enough for something. It would have been the last two years.

Look, maybe everything’s rotten to the core in ways we don’t know about. Maybe it would be the smartest thing to hate the Mets and their management and their organization and all of it. Maybe it would be best to forget about them and wait until next year. But they’re only 5 games under .500. And guys are coming back. And I need them. You do too. Baseball may be an ugly thing behind the scenes. But it is beautiful out here out front, where we are, listening to Gary, Keith, and Ron, or Howie and Wayne, or screaming ourselves hoarse in the Promenade or on the Pepsi Porch. This game is not about all the bullshit.  It is about us and how we can dupe ourselves into hoping.

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The Last Days of Shea:  Delight and Despair in the Life of a Mets Fan will be available later this month.  In the meantime, you can read samples from it here.