The other kid from Long Island came up to Morrisville a year later than I did, but we hit it off pretty quickly that late August of 1978.
Jimmy Johnson was a journalism major at the little two-year college in the State University of New York system tucked into the Cherry Valley of Central New York, and he joined the campus radio station, where I already worked as a DJ. That allowed me to hear him talk with a familiar LawnGuyland accent.
I discovered he lived across the quad in West Hall, near my good friend and fellow journalism classmate Greg Ten Eyck. He became close with another of my good friends and J-mates, Nancy Cardillo. Soon enough I found out he was into sports. He liked the Jets in football. He liked the Islanders in hockey. And he liked the closest to my heart of all, the New York Mets in baseball.
The cult of journalism is well documented here on my blog.
Yes, Jimmy and I have kept in touch. He went to work for the Islanders after graduation, writing their newsletter. After that, he’s championed the charity of former NHL star Pat LaFontaine. A good man, Jimmy Johnson is.
Last week he sent an email about the glorious run of our Mets to a handful of us that consider their fortune integral to our lives, including his Morrisville classmate and our fellow friend and Long Island native Frank Eltman, as well as our beloved professor from those days, Neal Bandlow and subsequent prof and friend Brian McDowell. But I thought it really speaks to the world at large.
I asked Jimmy if I could publish that essay as a guest post today, as the Mets begin their fifth World Series in Kansas City against the Royals. He readily agreed.
Take it away, Mr. JJ.
By Jimmy Johnson
The events in Mets-ville from the last two weeks are finally starting to set in. But we really need to keep things in perspective as we revel in the success during this amazing post-season. This team was in the depths of disaster as recently as mid-July. Case-in-point? Here was the starting lineup for a Saturday game played on July 11th against the D-backs (The Mets actually WON this game with the following line-up).
Lagares CF .256
Tejada SS .236
Cuddyer LF .244
Flores 2B .253
Duda 1B .243
Mayberry,Jr. RF .188
Plawecki C .231
Campbell 3B .174
Harvey P .118
I remember watching this game with my buddy – a Yankees fan. He said, “Who the hell ARE these guys?” That was a good question. This wasn’t the back-end of a meaningless doubleheader. THIS WAS THEIR LINE-UP! Just two short months ago, they really were the New York MUTTS. They had a bunch of young, mostly unproven pitchers dealing with “innings-pitched” issues. There was speculation that David Wright might have to retire. Wilmer Flores was their clean-up hitter, for Christ’s sake!
That’s what is making this run so incredible. Hats off to Sandy Alderson for convincing the Wilpons that if they took on salary (Cespedes, Reed, Clippard, Uribe, etc.) it might pay off with a run like this. And can I please get a huge AMEN for the job that Terry Collins did this year? I developed a renewed appreciation for him when I watched the team celebrate clinching a spot in the NLDS. As they shot champagne and Budweiser in the clubhouse, I got my first inside look at the real composition of the club. There is a group of Hispanics (Colon, Cespedes, Tejada) who speak almost no English. They have the surfer dudes (Syndegaard, DeGrom, Murphy) who don’t have a care in the world. There is one prima donna (Harvey) who needs to be handled with kid gloves. There are hillbillies (Clippard and Cuddyer) who somehow fit in with the rest.
If Collins isn’t MLB’s Manager of the Year for pulling this all together, there should be an inquiry.
But most importantly for me (remember, it IS all about me… Ha!), I am getting to share all this with my die-hard Mets-fan son. They’ve only been in one other World Series (2000) in his lifetime – and he was only 10 years old at the time. There have been many times over the years when I’ve cursed myself for rearing him with an orange-and-blue cap as disappointment-after-disappointment ended another crushing Mutts campaign.
Was it parental cruelty that I raised a kid who defined the term “long-suffering?” At least I had the warm memory of being at Shea for the pennant-clinching game in 1973. I sat in the mezzanine with old Brooklyn American sportswriter Barney Kremenko (the man who dubbed Willie Mays, “The Say Hey Kid”) at Game 7 in the ‘86 series. I cursed Michigan’s Derek Jeter when his lead-off homer in Game 4 of the 2000 series signaled the Mets’ death-knell in that series.
But times have changed. Unfortunately, Brad and I only get to 2 or 3 regular season games now. Affordable seats are no longer available (the broker market is asking north of $1K for Games 3-5 next week). So I’ve been trained by my son in the “modern” ways of watching a ballgame. He watches these post-season games from a noisy gin mill near his apartment in Manhattan, while I recline on my La-Z-Boy, at home on Long Island. He’ll send simple texts after big plays, “MURPH,” “GRANDY-MAN,” “DeBOMB!” And when the last out is recorded, he’ll call my cell and we’ll go over turning points, managerial decisions and anticipate what might happen in the next game. I appreciate whatever I can get, but it’s just not the same as being together.
So last night, with a Mets sweep a distinct possibility, I took the train to NYC so Brad and I could watch one more important game in the same room. Before we could even open our second bottle of beer, the Mets already had built that healthy lead. Having seen this movie too many times we looked at each other and asked, “Did we score too many, too early?” And that’s the way it went for nine glorious and electrifying innings. When Jeurys Familia caught Dexter Fowler looking at that high heat for the final out, Brad and I high-fived and hugged. He said, “Dad, we have to do this again…” As the clock struck midnight last night, young Brad turned 25-years-old. He could not have had a better birthday present, and neither could I.
And that, gentlemen, is why baseball is the greatest game ever invented.
On to Tuesday night… Let’s go Mets!
Well said, Jimmy. I think your father-and-son time all these years was well spent.
Of course I will be watching the game tonight with my dear wife Karen, a native of Los Angeles who’s converted from the Dodgers to the Mets because of watching games together in the Little Bitty. We’ll be recording on the DVR, too, because T-Mobile sent me a notice that they might use the photo of me and Mr. Met Karen took this season at Citi Field previously sent in for their DataStrong fan of the game feature and shown on a Mets telecast this season during the telecast tonight. I had to sign a release, but they included no promises that it would be on the air. For all I know, it’s one of a thousand releases sent out around the country, and a dozen photos will make the cut. I’ll have the first game of the World Series on the DVR for posterity regardless. Let’s Go Mets indeed.
Upon further notice, I saw the note from the T-Mobile folks said their special fans commercial will air during Game Four. There’s still a chance for Mr. Met and Mr. Mark to make their national TV debut.
What activity did you teach your child when they were young that you still share now, and are you glad that you got them into it? What have you stayed with most in your life even though you consider it long-suffering? Who are you rooting for in the World Series, and why?