The Mets Are in First Place

SCROLL DOWN FOR MY REVIEW OF THE NEW FILM:  “LAST PLAY AT SHEA”

Yesterday, 4/27, I went to Citi Field for the third time this year.  I enjoyed the long walk through the parking lot, seeing the back of the Apple’s head, and noticing that there no longer seem to be an excessive number of ads on the outside of the building.  Is this really true, or am I just getting into a more tolerant mood?   I think it’s true.  My impression certainly remained with me when I got inside the stadium.  The ads on the scoreboard and elsewhere seemed less bright and tacky than they were last year and there seemed to be fewer of them?  Maybe they were able to sell less billboard space.  Maybe they decided that there had been too many ads.   Whatever accounts for it, you certainly now get a greater sense of the beauty of the stadium, from the inside and the outside.  I went up the escalators, taking note of the museum.  This feels like a different place this year.  All of the good stuff is adding up. 

Anyway, I got there just in time to see the last inning of the first game of the double header.  I got to see the crowd celebrate the Mets’ seventh victory out of eight, a shutout, which now doesn’t seem to be quite as unlikely an event as it once did.  When the first game was over, I went and got a combo taco platter from the Taqueria and some of that unbearably delicious cheese-coated corn.  I went up to my seat, in the first row of 508 and ate a wonderful meal in the absolutely freezing cold wind. 

It’s all right, I think.  This place is on my way home from work.  I like being here.  Of course I love to come here with people, but I really do love to go to a game by myself.  One thing is that the food tastes a lot better, or rather, you pay it more attention.  There’s something intrinsically wonderful about solitude in a bright, loud place.  There’s just you and the river of your impressions.  The food was so good.  The wind was so cold.  The sun was setting and the lights came on.  I like the lights, I decided.  I didn’t at first because they didn’t make the evening grass as brilliant as it was as Shea.  But the new lights have a nice silvery glow.  I’m getting to like this place.  The Mets have won seven out of eight.  Let the game begin.

The game begins and the noisy, happy freezing little crowd enjoys a three-run first inning.  They enjoy Jason Bay tumbling to catch a ball and the new vivid presence of Jose Reyes.  They cheer the loudest for the new favorite, the young man whose arrival seems to have brought the resurgence, a wind like the one we were sitting in, strong and filling everybody up and bringing the team back from the shame and despair with which we all began the season.  “I Like Ike!  I Like Ike!” everybody cheers, and for the first time in my life I regret that my parents voted for Stevenson and we don’t have any old buttons around.  How many delights there were to savor in the freezing cold!  There was reliable Takehashi, and Bay with his triple, and the hitting of Henry Blanco and Luis Castillo.  Everybody is good.  Everybody contributes.  This is how it’s done.  But most important of course was seeing again the swift, sure strokes of David Wright and especially the triple that, with the bases loaded,  ran to the wall in the triples gulch and brought everybody home.  Everybody’s home.  The Mets are home.  We’re home.  As Steve Somers would say, “What was there not to like?”  There was nothing not to like, I felt, as with the happy few that toughed out the whole ballgame, I danced from foot to foot to keep warm in my empty section.   When the game was finally, thank God, over, I walked back through the parking lot and saw the 7 train rattling beautifully under the full moon.  We had won eight out of nine, and the Phillies were later to lose and then today, we won the ninth out of ten.  We stand, 13-9, in first place near the end of April.

Oh we all know it is only the end of April.  But isn’t it extraordinary how the absolute shock of this team doing well has sucked all the cynicism out of our universe?  Isn’t it wonderful, as Steve said, to kvell, to once again, as we did on a few historic occasions, just think about the Mets in vacant moments and smile and savor?  This is the joy of Mets fandom.  Finding you’re alive when you thought you were going to die.  Finding yourself pardoned when you were facing a long sentence.  Finding joy, but never expecting it.  Looking around you and saying “Who me?”  “Who us?”  This feeling, which Billy Joel expressed in “Last Play at Shea,” the film I on Sunday and have reviewed below, a film I hope every Mets fan will have a chance to see soon, is rare and precious and good.  Let us enjoy it.  Even Francesa, this afternoon, after the game, could not deny that he was impressed.  No “it’s only April!” from him even though we still know it is only April.  He said that he hadn’t seen a turnaround like this since 1969.  Okay, let’s believe this.  (How sad that everyone has so soon forgotten the sustained turnaround of the summer of 2008!)  It’s ’69, friends.  A team that doesn’t look as if it’s all that good is playing as if it really is good, and most importantly, as if everybody else is bad.  This makes it look like magic.  Maybe it is again.  It is certainly fun to see people making so much out of something so early.  This series against Philadelphia could even feel like that series in early July against the Cubs.  Everybody paying attention really early because it really does mean something.  Ah hope.  But remember too, that in 1969, after it seemed as if it was all turning around, the Mets fell down to earth in late July and early August.  They fell as far as 9 ½ game out and people were already talking about the 1969 Mets as a mirage.  But then the mirage came back, and stayed.  It’s still there, fluttering in the cold night air between the moon and the tracks of the 7 train.

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I just want to remind people of my Mother’s Day deal.  Buy one of my books for your mom and I’ll write a very personal inscription in it.  You can read about it at thelastdaysofshea.com

And Brooklynites!  PLEASE NOTE:  My reading in Brooklyn has been POSTPONED!  It will be held at 7 pm on Monday, June 14, (NOT Monday, May 3 at 7pm) at The East 4th Street Kensington-Windsor Terrace Veterans’ Memorial Garden, located on East 4th Street between Ft. Hamilton Parkway and Caton Avenue.

And if you’re interested in the Brooklyn Dodgers or the New York Giants or the Mets or baseball in general, you may enjoy meeting me at 7 pm on Thursday, May 6 at the Rye Public Library in Rye, NY, where I will be introducing and moderating  a program with  Joshua Prager, the author of the wonderful book The Echoing Green, and Ralph Branca, the great Brooklyn Dodger pitcher who threw the pitch that Bobby Thompson hit into the echoing green imagination of baseball fans everywhere and New York baseball fans in particular.

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