The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

December 15th, 2010

Lee, Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt.

That may be the best pitching staff I’ve ever seen.

Better than Gooden, Darling, Ojeda, Fernandez

Better than Seaver, Koosman, Gentry, and Ryan (at that point in time)

Probably better than Cuellar, Palmer, McNally, and Phoebus.

Possibly as good as Koufax, Drysdale, Osteen, and Podres.

We’re in trouble. 

There are omens.

Think of it.  Lee Oswalt, a pitcher who last pitched in Dallas, with the other two pitchers on the staff having names beginning with Ha. 

That’s freaky.  Seriously.  And how freaky is it that we can’t even celebrate the fact that he didn’t go to the Yankees?

Mets fans are afraid.  I’m not.  Sometimes I remind myself of Mr. Bean.  Virtually nothing upsets me.  I’m always ready to enjoy my show, as long as I have my teddy bear and my sleeping cap.

Look at it this way.  The pressures off.  The Phillies can only do worse than what we expect.  The Mets can only do better.

They’re awfully good, the Phillies.  But they’re very old.  And for once, we are not.  I like watching young guys develop.  I like hoping for the old guys on the other team to crack.

Nobody knows what will happen.  Sandy Alderson admits that.  We all know that.  I love it like this.

We can’t count on a winning season of course.  But we are at an interesting moment in the life of the Mets.  It hardly gets more interesting.  Am I going to go to Citi Field next year?  You bet.  It will be a year for the die-hards, a year for people who measure their lives by this stuff.  People who aren’t interested in baseball unless the Mets win can stay home.  Who needs them?

 I’m not really afraid.  I’m interested.

Get on the Mailing List for the Mets’ Fiftieth Anniversary Conference at Hofstra

December 6th, 2010

We who are organizing the Fiftieth Anniversary of the New York Mets Conference at Hofstra University expect to be sending out a Save the Dates announcement and a Call for Papers Announcement in the next few months.    Other correspondence will follow in the course of 2011.  The Conference will be held on April 26, 27, and 28 in 2012 and it will be open to the public.   We are currently assembling mailing lists for the conference.  If you would like to receive our announcements, please e-mail me at danaabrand@yahoo.com.  If you’d like to receive the announcements only by snail mail, please give me your name and address.  If you’d only like to receive our announcements by e-mail, please give me your name and e-mail address.  If you’d like to receive our announcements by snail mail and by e-mail, please give me both your snail mail  and your e-mail addresses.

Four announcements:

1)  Billy Joel’s film, The Last Play at Shea, will be released on DVD on February 8.  Here is my review of the film, and here is my account of its premier at Citi Field. 

2)  Here is a recent interview I did with Rich Ackerman of WFAN at the wonderful series of author’s events at the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse in Manhattan.

3)  If you are interested in my holiday special offer, where you can get or give discounted and inscribed copies of either or both of my books, The Last Days of Shea and Mets Fan, please see the blog entry directly below.

4)  You can now buy my first Mets book, Mets Fan, in digital form, readable on any machine with a browser and on I-Pads and most other digital book readers, for only $9.99.  Click here to check it out.   But then I can’t sign it for you.  If you want to give the digital book as a gift, I am willing to send a dedicatory e-mail, if you ask me to at danaabrand@yahoo.com.

The Perfect Holiday Gift for a Mets Fan

November 23rd, 2010
We’re entering the holiday season, and while Christmas is when it usually is, Hanukkah is extremely early this year.  So I am now officially launching my holiday offer, which was extremely popular last year.
 
If you’d like to give very personally inscribed copies of either or both of my books to a Mets fan this holiday season, here’s what you need to do:
 
1)  E-mail me at danaabrand@yahoo.com.  Tell me how many copies of which book you want (The Last Days of Shea or Mets Fan) and tell me the name of the person to whom you’d like me to inscribe the book(s).  If you’d like the inscription to be particularly personal, tell me a little about the fandom of the person to whom I am inscribing the book.  Also please give me the address to which I should send the book(s). 
 
2)  I will get the book(s) in the mail to you immediately.  I will also send you an e-mail telling you how much you owe me and where you can send the check.  The price for one book (either book) will be $17.50 including postage.   If you order more than one book, the price will be less than $17.50 per book, since I can mail several books in a single package.  Please note:  The last day I can accept orders and guarantee delivery by Christmas is December 20.   All orders are sent out on the day they are received, or the day after.  All should get to you within 2 days if you are in the Northeast.  If you are outside the Northeast, please adjust accordingly.
 
3)  As the people who responded to this offer last year can tell you, I write really good inscriptions.  I enjoy doing this.  These books are labors of love and it is a pleasure for me to share them.
 
Happy holidays to everyone in the Mets community!!

First Impressions of Sandy Alderson

October 29th, 2010

I don’t think anyone could have done a better job than Sandy Alderson did at his inaugural press conference.  He came across as formidably intelligent, calm, focused, and diplomatic.  Everything he said was characterized by balance:   We can’t guarantee a winning team by a particular date, but we’re going to improve probabilities.  We’re looking for a manager who has the intellectual requirements for the job and who has the emotional requirements as well.  We’re looking for someone who is analytical, who can also be intuitive.  I will make decisions but sometimes I will offer recommendations.  It is unlikely that we’ll be active in the free agent market this year but it is not inconceivable that we’ll achieve a great deal with what we have.  Alderson was so perfectly diplomatic that he hit a home run with his relatively noncommittal answers to two challenging questions Minaya might have made a royal mess of:  the one about hiring more Asian players and the one about how his style was different from that of his predecessor.   I was also very impressed by the acuity of his observations about the importance of homegrown players to the fans.  Alderson has actually noticed that the fans like to follow players in the minors, see them emerge and become successful with our team.  How wonderful it will be to have a general manager who acknowledges that the psychological experience of fans is worth thinking about and paying attention to.

 By the end of the news conference, I had the impression that the Mets franchise was now in the hands of someone who would never waste our time with a mis-statement, or even a momentary lack of verbal clarity.  I  had the impression that the franchise was now in the hands of someone who is forthright and authoritative.  I don’t know if we’re going to win a lot of games any time soon.  But I am convinced that our probabilities will improve, and that the next few years are going to have a different character than the last decade.

Some Upcoming Appearances

October 26th, 2010

Billy Joel’s film of The Last Play at Shea, in which I make some brief but very enthusiastic appearances, will be showing at several theatres across the country on October 27, and it will be opening for at least one-week runs (from October 29 to November 4) in several theatres in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and California.  You owe it to yourself to see the film.  It’s a moving and a meaningful documentary that deserves a wide audience.  To find out the latest about where it will be appearing, click on the link above.

In the next few weeks, I will be making the following appearances:

October 28 – 7:30 pm     Talk and reading at the Tenafly Public Library, Tenafly, NJ

November 2 – 7 pm        Talk and reading at the Nyack Library, Nyack, NY
 
November 16 – 7 pm      Appearance, Q & A, and live podcast interview with Rich Ackerman of WFAN at the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse, 67 East 11 Street, in Manhattan, NY
 
 November 18 – 7:30 pm  Talk and reading at the Leonia Public Library, Leonia, NJI love to give talks at libraries, social centers, etc.  If you’d like to have me come and talk and read, please feel free to e-mail me at danaabrand@yahoo.com.

 

As the holidays approach, a couple of people have asked me if I am going to have the same holiday deal this year as I had last year.  I am.  In a few weeks, I’m going to announce that if you want to buy a discounted copy or copies of either of my books (The Last Days of Shea or Mets Fan) with a unique and personalized inscription, all you have to do is e-mail me at the e-mail address above, telling me how many copies you want and telling me a little about the Mets fandom of the person the book is for.  You also have to give me the address to which I can send the books and I’ll give you my address to which you can send a check.  The price will be $17.50 including postage for either book, but less per copy if you order more than one (since I can put it all in one package).  There, I’ve already announced it.  One of my favorite things about last holiday season was writing the personal, individualized inscriptions for the people who ordered books.  So if anybody wants to get a head start on the holidays, e-mail me.  I’ll get the inscribed books to you right away. 
 
I’m looking forward to the World Series this year.  I’ll root for the Giants, but I find myself liking both teams.  When was the last time that happened? 

Why I Am Glad the Yankees Lost

October 23rd, 2010

Lots of wonderful people are Yankees fans.  So I’m not going to do this thing with you where I say that Yankees fans are the kind of people who throw junk into the visiting bullpen.  Remember that Red Sox fans tried to do something like that with Mets fans in 1986 when some jerk at Shea threw a beer bottle in the general direction of Roger Clemens.  This sort of stereotyping is never fair.  If you do it with a human group other than a fan base, you deservedly get into trouble.  If you persist in thinking that the people in any one fan base are better than people in any other, my view is that you’re taking all this stuff too seriously.  I am also not going to say that Yankees fans are the kind of people who leave an important game early when their team is losing.  I’ve seen some Mets fans do this plenty of times.  And we all know that a lot of people at playoff games couldn’t care less about which team wins.

While I don’t have anything against Yankees fans, I also don’t have much sympathy for them right now.  Their team lost.  Good.  I say this after respectfully waiting 20 hours.  Yankees fans are undoubtedly healed by now.  They’re already confidently considering how the Yankees are going to get Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford and are therefore not going to have to go into the playoffs next year with a team that has the kind of glaring imperfections that were so evident in this year’s Yankees team.

Yankees fans are annoyed right now with those of us who are doing what they call the Snoopy dance.  A Yankee fan Facebook friend of mine, the estimable Lisa Swan of Subway Squawkers, is perfectly right to observe that we who are doing the Snoopy dance have not won anything.  You’re right, Lisa.  But that doesn’t mean we’re not happy.  We’re not celebrating the fact that we have won.  We’re celebrating the fact that you have lost.

Why are we being so mean?  (Yankees fans ask, plaintively, uncomprehendingly, with their eyes open wide and tearing a little bit.)  Well, guys, you may not deserve our sympathy, but you do deserve an answer to this perfectly legitimate question.

We are celebrating the fact that the Yankees have lost because we are human beings.  Human beings have a tendency to resent other human beings who feel they’re entitled to what everybody else hopes and dreams about.  Yankees fans, you know this.  You call it jealousy and you ask us to rise above it.  But it’s not jealousy.  It’s more complicated.  The way you think devalues what we yearn for.

Baseball is a game whose pleasure comes from hoping and dreaming for something that is unlikely to happen.  It is not a game whose pleasure derives from winning.  If it were a game whose pleasure derived from winning there would no longer be any Texas Rangers fans and there might not be any Mets fans either.  The pleasure is in hoping and dreaming for what is unlikely.  This is what keeps the rest of us going.

Fans who feel that they’re entitled to making it to the World Series, and winning it often, are trying to turn the unlikely into the likely.  This devalues baseball.  It devalues the unlikely thing and in the process it devalues the hopes and the dreams of the rest of us.  If baseball triumph is something that should be had, rather than something that might be had, it is not a big deal.  This is why Yankees World Series tickets on the secondary market were selling for so much less than Giants tickets or Rangers tickets.  What Yankees fans have is not worth much.  This is why, to your infinite annoyance, the rest of us don’t envy you.  This is why the rest of us like to see you lose.  We like to think that losing will remind you of something you no longer believe.

We still believe.  We do not expect.  This doesn’t make us better than you,  But this makes it more fun to be us.  When the Mets win, or the Rangers, or the Giants, our cups runneth over.  Your cups just fill up.

************

I want to give a shout out to all the wonderful people I met at the showing of Billy Joel’s The Last Play at Shea in Rockville Centre on Thursday night.  I enjoyed seeing the film with you and talking with you about it afterwards and I relayed the things you said and the enthusiasm you expressed to the producers.   This is a terrific film and everyone should try to see it.  To find out where it’s playing for a more extended run, and to keep abreast of all the news about future showings and a DVD release, visit thelastplayatshea.com.

Come See “The Last Play at Shea” With Me in Rockville Centre

October 20th, 2010

I’ll be hosting a post-show Shea fest and Q & A after the Thursday, October 21, 7 pm showing of Billy Joel’s “The Last Play at Shea” at the AMC Loews Fantasy 5 at  18 N. Park Ave., Rockville Centre, NY.  If you’re seeing the film in Rockville Centre, please stick around and say hello!

See “The Last Play at Shea” this Thursday, October 21

October 19th, 2010

Billy Joel’s The Last Play at Shea will be showing at theatres all across America this Thursday, October 21.  If you click on the link, you can view the trailer and see a list of the venues nationwide.   You can also order tickets in advance. 

Don’t miss this.  It is a great film, filled with great music, powerful images, and real emotion.    I reviewed it when it was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival and I have described what it was like to see it with a crowd of 25,000 at Citi Field, as we were part of what was probably the largest movie premiere in history.  As you can see from the list of venues, a few theatres in the New York area will be showing the film all through the weekend.  I am hoping and expecting that even more will eventually show it for a full theatrical run. 

See it Thursday.  Let’s show them that there is a huge audience for a fine film about Shea, about the Mets, about New York, about Billy Joel, and about one of the most exciting and meaningful concerts in the history of rock and roll.

Requiem for the 2010 Mets Season

October 9th, 2010

It took me a long time to give up on the 2010 New York Mets.  And after I finally gave up on them in the second half of September, I continued to enjoy them.  I know that most Mets fans did not feel as I did.  The weirdest thing for me about the season was trying to have fun while everyone around me was howling.

Why were they howling?  Who expected the 2010 Mets to make the playoffs?  Remember the consensus at the start of the season:  that the Mets had pretty much done what they could in the offseason, that they had a chance, but probably wouldn’t get very far?  79 wins was not a surprise.  My guess is that if you could average everyone’s predictions, that’s about what you would get.

We know why we were howling.  The Mets’ fan base had its skin scraped off by the cruel final moments of 2007 and 2008.  Skinless, we were dipped into a vat of bile and boredom in 2009.  Then after a 4-8 start, we had a miraculous spring.  Miraculous springs are cruel.  They’re like giving false hope to the fatally ill.  So when the mask fell off in late July, the howling got particularly loud and bitter.  It lasted into the middle of September, when everything settled down to a whimper.  I often hear things that other Mets fans don’t hear.  In the last two weeks, I thought I heard something.  I went to the stadium to see R.A. Dickey pitch, to see the Mets win 9-1.  Hardly anybody was there.  I sat behind the third base dugout for $35.  I marveled at the fact that the guys playing so well in front of nobody were the same guys I had seen earlier in the season.  And I marveled at the way the dozens around me were cheering with great vigor.  When I left the stadium, and would run across some of the millions who were staying away, we would talk about the Mets.  I would hear their regret, and yeah, some disgust, but I was also hearing weak, but sincere expressions of undying love.   At the end of a fourth disappointing season, giving up on the Mets forced each one of us to consider the possibility of giving up on the Mets forever.  We all thought about it, and we passed.  They stunk.  They were a disgrace.  And we would not be ourselves without them.        

As Casey or Yogi or some other primal Met might have said, once we got used to the fact that this was a bad season, it wasn’t such a bad season.

It really wasn’t.  And it wasn’t so bad because it had some of the elements of what I have called “a good rooting situation.”  In my essay “What the Hell Did I Want?” in my book The Last Days of Shea.  I wrote that a good rooting situation is the goal of most baseball fans.  It is not the same thing as winning.  Winning is nice, but it isn’t always.  Under certain circumstances, it can be boring, bland, anxiety-producing, or embarrassing.  Contrary to a lot of what you’ll hear, winning is never the bottom line in baseball.  Winning is the bottom line in wars or elections.  Unlike wars or elections, baseball is about pleasure.  The bottom line in baseball is having pleasure.  A good rooting situation gives you baseball pleasure.

There are certainly fans who get all of their baseball pleasure from winning.  There are people who think they are successes in life because they make a lot of money.  Most people don’t just want to win or make a lot of money.  Most people care how the winning happens and how their lives are lived.  People like this can have baseball pleasure when their team doesn’t win, just as most people can live successful lives without making very much money.   

What gave me pleasure was the fact that Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Reuben Tejada, Angel Pagan, Chris Carter, Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, John Niese, Hisanori Takahashi, Bobby Parnell, Elmer Dessens, and Manny Acosta gave me far more than I could ever have expected of them.  I also saw a lot to hope and dream about in the work of Dillon Gee, Jennry Mejia, Nick Evans, and Lucas Duda, after his first thirty-five at-bats.  There aren’t any Seavers and Koosmans, or Goodens and Strawberrys in this bunch, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a cornucopia of new Mets talent developing in a single year.  Despite their ups and downs, I also saw Wright and Reyes demonstrate that they were basically all right.  Santana was spectacular.  My point is that more than half the roster gave me something, often a lot, to cheer about.  Nobody could have said that about last year.  You can’t say that about most years.  I know it didn’t all come together, but I don’t think it missed by much.  If Bay’s bat had been in there, and if Pelfrey’s arm hadn’t gone dead at just the wrong time, the Mets might have kept their heads above water and I wouldn’t have had to have the sense that I was enjoying all these hopeful developments by myself.   In your mind, turn ten to twelve games from losses to wins.  You can do this with just Bay and Beltran and you don’t even have to reverse any managerial decisions.  The Mets would have been in the thick of it.  They might even have beaten Atlanta for the Wild Card.  If that had happened, we would all have respected the organization, we would have been able to appreciate the team, we would be praising their grit, and we would have had a chance to win.  Are you going to argue that if they had the grit, they would have won?  I’m not convinced.  Call me a fool, but I think that what they needed was Bay’s missing 20 homers and 20 doubles.  Grit, I think, is something in people’s eyes.  People see it in a winning team, but after fifty years of watching baseball, I still need to be convinced that it is actually what makes teams win. 

We were raw.  We had no faith.  And then they tricked us into hoping.  We came forward like a million puppy dogs, our tongues hanging out, happy to be given the treat we had not expected.  We didn’t get the treat.  They hit us with a bat.  We were angry because we had been tricked.  We were angry at ourselves because we fell for it.  We were humiliated.  We wallowed in self-pity.  We liked the new guys.  We knew good stuff was happening.  But we were not in the mood to count our blessings in a year that had a lot of them.  We just wanted to holler until our stupid, pitiful voices were hoarse. 

What happens now?  Who knows?  We all know that there will not be many opportunities for the Mets to become that much better next year by making a trade or signing a free agent.  If they get better, it will be because of further development by the players mentioned above, the possible return to form of Bay and maybe Beltran, or a new atmosphere created by a new manager or general manager.  I think we’ll have a chance to win something, but we’ll still be a long shot in a division with the Phillies.  Will a good, developing team, not quite ready to contend, satisfy a fan base that has worked itself into a state of almost pathological despair and resentment?  Probably not.  The Mets aren’t going to sell many season tickets.  But there will be a season, and another year of our lives to share.  There will be a Hall of Fame and Museum, with some stirring old pictures.  There will be the old Home Run Apple, with its big Cyclops eye and its new coats of paint.  There will be the voices in the fan walk, the words on the bricks about Mets fans in heaven and Mets fans forever.  Someday we won’t just be imagining the voices in the bricks.  Someday, we will hear them, in the thunder of the new stadium.  I don’t know when Citi Field is going to be loud again, but I know that I will have to be there and hear it.

On the Second Anniversary of the Last Game at Shea

September 29th, 2010

          [I know, I know, I owe you all a blog piece on the 2010 Mets season and you're going to get one very soon, in the next few days.  I've been working on it.  In the meantime, on the second anniversary of the Last Game at Shea, here is the piece "The Last Game" from my book The Last Days of Shea.  I'll be giving readings from my book this week at the Tenafly Public Library in Tenafly, NJ on September 30 at 7 pm and at the Warner Public Library in Tarrytown, NY on October 4 at 7 pm.  I will also, of course, be at the big Gary, Keith, and Ron, Pitch In for a Good Cause event at Citi Field this Saturday, October 2.  If you see me, please feel free to say hello.  I look just like the pictures of myself on my website.] 

 

           At eleven o’clock on the morning of September 28, 2008, I walked towards Shea
in the rain from a parking spot out by Flushing Bay.  The other lots were full.  They’d
never been full this early.  As I walked under the Whitestone Expressway, I saw the outer
ramps of the stadium filled with people who were looking down on a stage lit up like a
studio, where Gary, Keith, and Ron were talking to each other.  There were policemen
everywhere.  A big SUV pulled up and the police surrounded it as Yogi Berra shuffled out
and everyone started shouting “Yog –i! Yog -i!”   Yogi waved at the flashes of bright light
coming from hands held high above the press of people.  He walked into the stadium on a
soggy scarlet carpet.

             When I got my ticket to the last game at Shea, I never imagined that it was going
to be the most significant regular season game to be played there in 45 years.  But that’s
what it was.  The Mets could no longer catch the Phillies, but they were tied with
Milwaukee for the Wild Card.  To win it, they would simply have to have a better day than
the Brewers.  If neither team had a better day than the other, there would be a one game
playoff at Shea on Monday.  

             This game was more significant than the last game of 2007, because 2007 had
happened and needed to be redeemed.  It was more significant than any of the regular
season games played in the seasons we had made the playoffs, because whenever we
made the playoffs, we had almost always won our slot by a comfortable margin.  We lost
the close pennant races of 1984, 1985, and 1987.   We won in 1973 but the last game of
that season was not as significant as this game because in 1973 we were winning against
all expectations.  The only regular season game that might have been as significant as this
was the last game of 1999, when Melvin Mora came home on a wild pitch.  But even that
game wasn’t quite as significant because we hadn’t lost the NLCS on the final pitch of the
seventh game two years before and collapsed completely the year before.  This game was
going to be the most significant regular season game in Shea stadium history and it was
today and I was at it and the stadium was getting torn down at the end of the season.  I was
overwhelmed by all this and I wasn’t pleased.  I hadn’t expected this day to be about a do-
or-die baseball game.  I had wanted a day to be alone with Shea and the big crowd and my
memories.

             I didn’t have a choice about any of this.  And I was actually feeling pretty good.  I
was still in the dream-like euphoria produced by Johan Santana’s change-up the day
before.  I figured that there was a 75% chance that there would be a game on Monday.   
And if there was a game on Monday, or if we won it today, the promised ceremony would
not feel like a wake.  It would feel like the mining of a rich vein of collective memory.  It
would propel the Mets, and Shea, into one more month of life.

             I met up with my sister Stefanie, and her friend Terri, who had won the lottery for
four tickets to the last game, and who had let me have this precious ticket.  The stadium
filled, completely.  And everything feels different when every seat is not merely purchased
but filled.  Everything feels different.  And everything about the 2008 season, and
everything about the 45 years the Mets have spent at Shea was going to feel different
depending on the outcome of this one single ballgame.  I hate this kind of thing, even
though it is supposed to be one of the reasons I love baseball.  I love and hate to be
dangled over the pit of possibility.  I love and hate knowing how much of a difference one
game, one inning, one at-bat, one pitch can make.

             The game started off in excruciating fashion, with five scoreless innings.  Then the
Marlins scored a couple of runs in the top of the sixth, one of them on a walk with the
bases loaded, by Joe Smith facing his first batter as he was called in to relieve Ollie
Perez.  I was terrified, but then in the bottom of the sixth, Carlos Beltran tied the game
with a two-run homer.  In the seventh, Endy Chavez made an astounding catch, bouncing
off the wall in left to save a run.  The catch was eerily similar to the catch he had made in
the seventh game of the 2006 NLCS.   And it was eerie that Beltran had hit the home run
he had not hit at the last game of 2006.  

             In the eighth inning, Scott Schoenweis gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Wes
Helms.  Luis Ayala came in to give up a home run to Dan Uggla.  At some point in the
moments after this the scoreboard indicated that the Brewers had taken a 3-1 lead over
the Cubs in the eighth inning.  I heard a hiss of air, and realized that the deep vein had
been found. Nothing would stop the air and the blood.  I could do nothing.  It was all
ruined.  It could not be retrieved.   I clapped and cheered and acted hopeful in the ninth.  
But this was because of a reflex I had developed over 47 years.  I had looked at my palm
and had seen that the life line was short and I didn’t expect anything.  The inning next to
the Brewers-Cubs score on the scoreboard went from 9 to F.  The Brewers won.  The
Mets came up in the bottom of the ninth and heard our loud but dispirited cheering.  David
Wright popped up.  Endy Chavez grounded out.  Damion Easley walked.  Ryan Church
flied out deep to center.

             The Marlins celebrated when it was over.  I have always felt bad for them
because they were a good team and no one came to watch them play.  Now I was glad that
their stadium was always empty, that they were last in the majors in attendance.  I hoped
that they would languish unloved and unnoticed for a very long time to come.

             When it was all over and the Marlins had finally heeded our request to “Get Off
the Field!”  there was an entirely unreal twenty-five minutes as the devastated crowd
stood and faced legions of policemen and security guards in orange shirts as someone
played a dirge-like version of “I Fought the Law and the Law Won.”  The law had won, all
right.  Behind the unnecessary army of mounted policemen, black-suited functionaries with
tape measures positioned blue and white standing posters of great Mets moments.  
Nobody was rushing onto that field.  Nobody was ripping up sod to take it home.  And no
one was comforting us.

             Finally the ceremonies started.  They showed us a movie about Shea, and they
played “New York State of Mind.”  Then there was an old-timey version of “Take Me
Out to the Ballgame” and then with clueless fanfare, Mr. Met took down the number 1 to
reveal the Citifield logo and for the very first time in Mets history the crowd lustily booed
something Mr. Met had done.  Oh Noooo!  Mr. Met, of course, doesn’t talk but I crazily
thought of him as Mr. Bill from the old Saturday Night Live.  My brain was completely
free-associating by this point.  I’m lucky I wasn’t hallucinating.

             Then Howie Rose came out to start the real ceremony.  He read a list of names of
people who had been invited but didn’t come.  And then there was a list of people who were
representing those who had died.  And then Howie slowly read a list of names of men who
emerged from the right and left field fences and walked down the lines to take their places
in an arch that formed from first to third base.   

             Jack Fisher.  Ron Hunt.  Al Jackson.  Frank Thomas.  Jim McAndrew.  Jon
Matlack.  Craig Swan.  George Theodore.  Doug Flynn.  Ed Charles. Art Shamsky.  
Wayne Garrett.  Dave Kingman.  Felix Millan. John Stearns.  George Foster.  Tim
Teufel.  Todd Zeile.  Ron Swoboda.  Lee Mazzilli.  Wally Backman.  Ron Darling.  Sid
Fernandez.  Howard Johnson.  Bobby Ojeda.  Robin Ventura.  Al Leiter.  Ed Kranepool.
Cleon Jones.  Bud Harrelson.  Jesse Orosco.  Edgardo Alfonzo.  John Franco.  Rusty
Staub.  Lenny Dykstra.  Gary Carter.  Jerry Koosman.  Yogi Berra.  Keith Hernandez.  
Darry Strawberry. Dwight Gooden.  Willie Mays.  Mike Piazza.  Tom Seaver.

             There they were, on the basepaths, these deep and close friends I had never met.  
There were the larger than life figures who live in a special dream world in the minds of
millions.  There was a man who made me so happy when he hit a home run as I was
listening to the family car radio during an intermission between features at the Paramus
Drive-In Theatre.  There was someone who had made me cry when he came back after six
years of unforgiveable banishment.  There was someone who played on the Mets from
when I was in the second grade until the year I got married.  There was a man who made
me smile as a kid because he didn’t look, act, or talk like any other ballplayer.  There was
a shy man no one had seen in years, who was the single most exciting player I have ever
seen play.

             There was a chunk of my life down on that field.  There were the artists who made
something that would always be more than a game to me.  They were all lined up and I
watched them through my binoculars.  I saw the old teams come together again,
particularly the great team of the Eighties, the team that is about my age.  I saw the older
team of grown men from the impossibly distant days when I first entered Bob Murphy’s
voice.  And I saw the newer Mets, who were young enough for my daughter to have fallen
in love with.  Each of them stood on the field in a big jersey with the number he had worn.  
And then, as the music changed to the kind of music they play at the victory celebration at
the end of Star Wars, I saw each of them come forward to touch home plate and wave to
the crowd.  The vast concourse of the wounded cheered as if nothing had happened that
afternoon.  All that mattered was a half century of warm and briny love.  All that mattered
was them and us.

             Then there was a ceremony where Tom Seaver threw one last pitch to Mike
Piazza.  There was the last pitch that would be thrown from that mound.  There was the last
pitch caught.  Seaver and Piazza put their arms around each other and waved and then
walked out to deep center.  They stopped before the wall and waved again.  The blue wall
opened up and took them in.  It was over, and our tears of love mixed with our tears of
bitterness.  The Mets were gone, but people stayed, looking, sitting, standing, taking
pictures.  I looked around and I couldn’t believe that I would never see this broad, warm
familiar sight again.  It was not really there anymore.  It was behind the blue wall, with
Tom and Mike.  Yet as I walked down the ramps for the very last time, the stadium felt
eerily alive to me.  It seemed as if it was dying as people actually die:  with love,
generosity, and an uncanny alertness.  When I was finally outside, I looked up at the neon
ghosts on the side of the building, hitting and fielding and pitching.  

             I walked towards the parking lot by the bay, turning around every few seconds.  
After I passed under the Whitestone Expressway, I couldn’t see the stadium anymore
when I turned back towards it.  I walked through the darkness of the nearly empty parking
lot to my car.  Not wanting to get into the car right away, I walked to the promenade along
the bay and sat down on a bench.  I could see the lights of LaGuardia Airport, and their
reflections, shimmering columns in the black water.  To the left I saw the top of the Empire
State Building.  And off to the right in the distance was the Triboro Bridge, with its lights
like the strands of a necklace.  I thought of how we used to drive over the bridge in the
1960s, how I used to look between the backs of my parents’ heads to get my first glimpse
of Shea.  I thought of how I used to show the bridge to my infant daughter.  We could see it
from her very first bedroom, in Astoria.  Standing, with my help, on my lap, she would look
at the bridge as if she could see that something was there, but she didn’t know what it was
or what it meant.  I looked at the lights in the water and against the night sky.  I knew that
Shea was empty, but all of its lights were still on.  I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it behind
me.


©Dana Brand 2009

It Is Too a Market Where You Can Go Young

September 1st, 2010

I can’t believe that Omar Minaya told USA Today that New York is “not a market where you can go young.  You have to bring in players.”

He’s wrong.  And if this is what he thinks, he should be out of here.

Nothing is more boring in baseball than seeing what you can squeeze out of some guy who’s spent his best years elsewhere.

Nothing is more exciting than seeing a young player develop.

Sure, the young player may not develop.  But there’s hope, something to dream about.  That’s more fun than hoping some guy on the way down can just hold it together for a little bit longer.

I’ll take an older guy every once in a while, for his character and leadership, like Pedro.  And I love older guys at the start of their real career, like R.A.

But give me a team of young guys.  Give me a system to develop them.  And give me a general manager committed to that,  a general manager who doesn’t underestimate the fan base.

Parallel Universe

August 26th, 2010

1)      Bloggers and journalists I respect say that the Mets are completely out of the pennant races and players and management should stop insulting our intelligence by saying that we’re still in them.

2)      Bloggers and journalists I respect say that the Mets should either rebuild or go for it now.  They should stop saying that they’re going for it now when they are in fact rebuilding.

3)      Bloggers and journalists I respect say that this season has been a disaster.

4)      Bloggers and journalists I respect say that Minaya’s whole administration has been a disaster.

 

I don’t agree with any of the above statements and to me it is so obvious that none of them are true that I sometimes feel as if I am living in a parallel universe.

 

1)       The Mets are at .500, 9.5 games out in the division, 7 games out in the wild card, with thirty-six games to play.  Although we all know that it is extremely unlikely that the Mets will make the playoffs, I would find it hard to root for a team that WASN’T saying, at this point, “we’re down, but there’s still hope, if only we can get a streak going.”  That would be like giving up when you’re going into the ninth inning 4 runs behind.  And it’s true.  Several teams this decade have made successful runs from this far down with this many games remaining.  Mets teams not any better than this one have won ten in a row or gone 18-3, or even just 12-3.  The Mets right now are finishing the season with the strongest starting pitching they’ve had in twenty years.  It could happen.  It probably won’t.  But I think it is too early for the fans to give up and it is, in my opinion, WAY too early for the Mets to give up.

2)      The Mets are rebuilding AND they’re trying to win now.  What is so hard to understand about that?  The two have never been mutually exclusive.  The rebuilding process has been going well (Niese, Davis, Thole).  If the Mets had gotten a normal season out of Jason Bay and even just a below normal instead of disastrous half season from Carlos Beltran, they would have been in the thick of things.  The winning now strategy didn’t work, but acquiring Bay could have been enough to make it happen, and when the Mets made that move, most of us thought it was a good move that would achieve good results. 

3)      The season wasn’t a disaster.  A great many people thought the Mets were a below .500 team.  Optimists like me thought they’d win in the low 80s.  Optimist’s predictions about how they would reach .500 turned out to be wrong.  If I had told you at the start of the season that Maine and Perez would combine for one win, and Beltran and Bay would combine for 8 home runs, you never would have guessed that we’d be at .500 on August 26.  Too many good things happened this season to allow anyone but the most embittered fan base to call it a disaster.

4)      Everybody points to the insanity of the Perez and Castillo contracts and the trading away of  Heath Bell.  These were all dumb moves but they don’t look to me like more than the average number of dumb moves you can expect from any franchise.  There were also successes like the Santana trade, and the acquisitions of Beltran and Delgado.  Yes, they should spend more on the draft, but they’ve found a decent number of diamonds in the rough (Dickey, Pagan, and even poor John Maine there for a couple of seasons) and some talented players are emerging from the system.

I think the real problem is that we haven’t won.  And I think it is difficult to win because as the history of all sports and baseball indicate, there is no formula for winning.  Sometimes you lose even though you’ve tried hard and have not made decisions that much worse than your competitors.  I agree that Minaya and Manuel must go, and I agree that the Wilpons need to find some way of understanding the psychology of their fans and the psychology of running a baseball franchise better than they have.  The Mets need a new face that will allow the fans to believe.  Jeff’s face won’t do it and I don’t really think the owner’s face should do it anyway.  They need a general manager and a manager who can come in here and inspire confidence, so that the wounded fan base isn’t so thoroughly demoralized that they become ruthless and unforgiving in all of their judgements, to the extent that they are not even willing to stick by a team that still has a ghost of a chance.

*****************

I’ll be at the Fairfield Museum and History Center tonight (8/26 at 7 pm) at 370 Beach Road  in Fairfield, CT, talking about what it means to be a baseball fan.