Archive for February, 2010

I Am So Excited

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

This Saturday, I am going to do something that, as far as I know, no one has ever done before.  I am going to be on a panel discussion with William Corbett and Mr. Met.  The real one.  I know what you’re thinking.  But he actually has a translator!   Like Kaz Matsui used to.

Read about it here

If you want to be there too, get yourself over to the Cyber Cafe just within the gates of Long Island University – Brooklyn Campus at the corner of De Kalb and Flatbush Avenue in downtown Brooklyn.  It’s easy to get to by subway from Manhattan and there’s a Long Island Railroad stop just a few blocks away.  The event starts at 3:30 and the panel discussion starts at 4.  Doors open at 3.  

That’s Saturday, 2/27.  Be there or be square.  Or round.

I can’t wait to write about this.  It will be real.  A break from all of this completely baseless speculation with which we busy our brains in February and March. 

******

If Brooklyn is too far, I will be on Long Island next week:

March 4, 7:30pm, The Friedberg Jewish Community Center, Oceanside, NY

March 5, 8pm, The Library of Long Island University, C.W. Post Campus, Brookville, NY

Getting in the Mood

Friday, February 19th, 2010

There are certain pleasures you can only enjoy when you’re in the mood.  There are certain pleasures that never lose their appeal, no matter how much disappointment has been involved in your pursuit of them.  There are certain pleasures that are much richer and deeper when love is involved.  There are certain pleasures for which your desire is supposed to increase in the middle of February.  Such are the pleasures that come from following the fortunes of a baseball team.

Am I in the mood?  I’m getting there.  What I’m telling myself now is that the stage has been set for something wonderful.   No one expects us to win, and so if we win, how great would that be?  And it isn’t so far-fetched to think that we could do it.  If everything  …  Oh, if everything …

Has baseball lost its appeal for me, after all this disappointment?  No.  This is the deepest wonder of baseball fandom.  Disappointment doesn’t kill hope.  It feeds it.

Do I feel love?  Why should I?  They tear down my home and build me a stadium that I still don’t like.  They could screw up a two-car funeral.  The team is harder for me to embrace than the Mets teams I have embraced in the past.  Many of my fellow fans seem to have been driven insane.  I am braced for despair and humiliation.  Yes I feel love.

Do I desire baseball now that it is the middle of February?  The season isn’t starting for six more weeks and already I am bored with the analysis, which is either stupid or just the same thing over and over again.  Exhibition games make me want to tear my hair out.  If you feel hope, you know it could just be an illusion.  If you feel despair, you know it may not mean anything.  Yet people will watch meaningless games and talk about it and talk about it and talk about it.  Yes I desire baseball now that it is the middle of February.

Pity me.  I am a simple, foolish being, programmed to feel the equinoctial frenzy.  The days lengthen.  I will soon smell the ground.   I will fall in love.  I will be in the crowd.   I am a fucking idiot.  But I cannot help myself.

*******

I’ll be reading at the Rye Library at 7 pm on Tuesday, February 24.

And attention all Brooklynites!  At 3:30 pm on Saturday, February 27, I will be making a joint appearance with Mr. Met at the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University, at One University Place, at the corner of De Kalb and Flatbush, at the Cyber Cafe just inside the campus gates.  We’ll have a lot to talk about!  The event is free and open to all members of the public.  I hope to see you there!

And speaking of Brooklyn, members of the Gary, Keith, and Ron family will be receiving a cookbook in the mail that contains a lokschen kugel recipe I contributed in honor of my two Brooklyn grandmothers, each of whom could make a killer kugel.  If you make the recipe, let me know how it turns out.  The title of the cookbook is “Let’s Go Meals!”  Oy.

Pitchers and Catchers

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Tomorrow, I’ll post my thoughts about this year’s “Pitchers and Catchers.”  But first, here’s my general take on the whole ceremony of “Pitchers and Catchers,” taken from my book The Last Days of Shea

When a baseball season ends, it is a tradition for baseball fans to comfort each other by observing that there are “only three and a half months until pitchers and catchers.”  At holiday time, people say “only a month and a half until pitchers and catchers.”  Not “until pitchers and catchers report to camp ahead of everybody else.”  Just “pitchers and catchers.”  It’s a magic catchphrase, an incantation, with its own poetic rhythm.  Pitchers and catchers.  Butchers and bakers.

You know how when you’re waiting on line outside a building and you think, “once I get inside the building, I’ll be almost there” and you get inside the building and see that you’re not almost there because there’s this big waiting area where the line is compressed into a tight coil that you’re going to have to snake through for the next god-knows-how-long?  Well, pitchers and catchers is like when you just get into the building. 

When pitchers and catchers arrives, you see pictures in the paper of guys in uniform in warm sunny Florida.   You read articles about some players not going to dinner with each other as often as they used to, or about some manager wearing a World Series ring in order to fire up his players, or about some general manager announcing that the goal of the team is to win the World Series this year.  Somebody scoops the big story that the owner agrees with the general manager that the team ought to win the World Series.   The players will eventually be asked to weigh in on this.  You can’t wait.  Maybe someone will disagree?

 So you’ve waited so long for pitchers and catchers and this is what you have to read about.  Well, at least there’s some news, sort of.  A couple of guys played winter ball and you hear how they did.  Some young player who hit .270 last year did really well in winter ball.  So would it be fair to expect him to hit .290 this year?  Sure.  Why not? 

 What are you doing?  Well, pitchers and catchers are here.  So it’s time to predict and speculate about the season that will start in another month and a half.   You look over and over at the stats of the guys we’ve got.  You look over and over at the stats of the guys we don’t have.   You make little adjustments on the basis of people’s age, temperament, and that article about the guy in winter ball.  You try to determine, with the maximum amount of precision, just how much hope it is reasonable for you to have. 

 How much hope it is reasonable for you to have?  Are you crazy?  You know, don’t you, that even if you read every scouting report, every newspaper article, every blog entry, and every statistical breakdown, you still will not have any idea of how well the Mets will do in a coming season.  You know that many things will happen that you cannot possibly anticipate in February.  But, you think, this is okay.  You like unpredictability.  This is part of the reason you’re a baseball fan.  You assume unpredictability.  And yet here you are trying to determine how much fear and hope you have a right to have, even though once the season starts, you will hope and fear as much as you goddamn want to, no matter what all the statistics and scouting reports have told you. 

 What you do during the offseason is a waste of your time.  In this respect, it is exactly like what you do during the season.   For even if things turn out well and your team wins 100 games and is way ahead, nothing you have seen in the season, nothing you know about any of the other teams, nothing you know about anything, will give you any way to even begin to guess what is going to happen in the World Series. 

 So pitchers and catchers arrives and your brain becomes a little command center, absorbing and interpreting information.  You read, think, calculate, and compare.  You may even buy some of those expensive baseball prediction magazines in the supermarket.  You have something fun to do as you move slowly in the line in the lobby of the building.   And to whet your appetite for the big show you’ll eventually be seated for, the people who run things have set up a little television in the lobby on which you can watch that most tempting yet annoying of all spectacles:  the exhibition game. 

 

In Celebration of the 1969 Mets

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Please consider tuning in to Mark Rosenman and A.J. Carter’s terrific TV show SportsTalkNY this Sunday, February 14, from 9 to 11.

This Sunday’s show is produced in conjunction with the publication of The Miracle Has Landed:  The Amazing Story of How the 1969 Mets Shocked the World, ed. by Matt Silverman and Ken Samuelson  (Maple Street Press).  The book is a tribute to the Mets miracle of 1969 and the show will feature the participation of 1969 Mets Ron Swoboda, Jerry Koosman, and Jack Di Lauro.  I will also be part of the program, along with John Coppinger (the great Metstradamus), as an in-studio guest.   I wasn’t on the 1969 Mets, but in 1969 I paid a LOT of attention to them, as you can read in my essay 1969, from my book Mets Fan

If you want to be brought back to a season in which the Mets confounded everyone’s expectations, if you want to know why the ‘69 team will always have a privileged place in the hearts of millions, please join us on Sunday.

And you know what?  You were considered a cock-eyed optimist if you predicted, at the start of the 1969 season, that the Mets were going to reach .500.

The Saturday SABR Meeting and February Appearances

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I’d like to thank all of my blog and book readers and SABR members who came up to me after my talk at the meeting of the SABR  Casey Stengel chapter at the New York Public Library this Saturday.   It was a real pleasure to meet you and I am very grateful for your kind words.  Ernestine Miller, David Lippman, Evelyn Begley and all of the others who put together the Saturday program did a terrific job.  The whole program was wonderful.   I have never enjoyed a more interesting and informative day of baseball.    

I will be doing a number of readings in the northern end of the Mets homeland in February and I’ll have some Long Island readings in early March.  Stay tuned to this blog for more information.

Anyway, here’s where I’ll be in February.

February 9, 7 pm. Greenwich (CT) Library.

February 11, 7 pm Ridgefield (CT) Library

February 23, 7 pm Rye (NY) Library (The Rye Free Reading Room)

Thoughts on the Passing of Jane Jarvis

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Millions of us can recall perfectly the sound of Shea’s organ as Jane Jarvis played it.  It was a very distinctive sound:  muffled, carnival-like, perfectly-timed, and filled with generous flourishes.  To hear a stadium organ played with such virtuosity is a privilege, and it is a privilege Mets fans have not had for thirty-one years.

Why not?  You know why not.  The sound of baseball has changed. 

I’m not going to tell you that the world was better in the past because it wasn’t.  Baseball wasn’t either, for reasons we don’t have to rehash.  But certain things about the past were really really nice.  And the sound of Jane Jarvis, Shea’s Queen of Melody, playing the Thomas organ was one of the nicest things I knew as I listened to her between the ages of 9 and 24.

That’s what Shea was, back in the day.  It was nice.  It wasn’t wow or whatever.  For all of its World’s Fair novelty back then, it was, by current standards, simple, rickety and low-tech.  It was like a permanent circus had come to town and that’s what Jane’s organ made it sound like.  A permanent circus.  Or a picnic.  My second favorite of all of the songs she played was a song called “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic.”  You’d know it if you heard it.  It’s an old song about Teddy Bears having a picnic while the children who are their “mommies and daddies” are off doing something else.  It’s a fun goofy song that gives an organist a real chance to show off.  Jane played it with relish.  Can you imagine a song like that being played at Citi Field for any reason?  It was a family song.  A picnic song.  A teddy bear song for the kids.

My favorite song of hers is a song that Jane composed.  It’s called “Lets Go Mets” and if things were different, it would be something you’d hear all the time at Citi Field.  I think they may have played it for the 1969 reunion.  When I was a kid I didn’t know it had a name.  It was just “Da dum da dum da dum dad um, DUM DUM DUM! (Let’s Go Mets), da dum da dum da dum da dum, DADADA DADADA DUM!”  and then on and on with the same organ-grindery curlicues and arabesques.    

How I wish that could all come back.  You see, back before there were clubs and suites, there were carnivals and picnics.  And everybody at the ballgame was a kid.  Even the grownups, for those three hours, weren’t grown up.  And when the game was over, Jane would play something nice for us to file out to, as our mommies and daddies took us home to bed.   Because we were tired little teddy bears.  Not an alienated fan base.  Not bitching and moaning pains in the asses.  Tired little teddy bears with tummies filled with cotton candy, hot dogs, and ice cream. 

When Jane died last week, I could not help but think of the fact that Karl Ehrhardt, the Sign Man, died almost exactly two years ago.  It was a similar Mets death in a similar dark winter, of someone beloved who had fallen out of our lives too long ago.  It was a death that made me wonder, what are we now?  Where are the Mets?  Where is the picnic?  What time does the circus start?  How did time go so fast?  How could it have been so long ago that these wonderful people were part of our lives?  I never knew them, of course.  I never even saw Jane with my own eyes.  And I knew nothing about the Sign Man except that he held up wonderful signs. 

But I loved these complete strangers because I loved the circus so much.  Anything that was part of the magic island of time at the ballgame was holy, and loved, and now it is painfully missed. 

Jane had to move out of her apartment a little over a year ago because a crane fell on it.  When this happened, I remember having the surreal thought that cranes were coming after her, just as cranes were tearing down Shea.  Jane dodged the wrecker’s ball.  Shea couldn’t.  So weird.

I will miss Jane, even though I haven’t heard her play in thirty years.  I hadn’t seen Karl’s signs in just about the same amount of time.  I hear her though.  I hear “Lets Go Mets.”  I can always hear it whenever I like, exactly as it really was, as I will always remember it.  And the circus and the picnic are still with me even when I sit in Citi Field, even if they are only in my mind.