My New York Mets are doing something cool this weekend. They’re honoring the last squad to bring a World Series title to the fans who started that little cheer of “Let’s Go Mets” when they were born as lovable losers in 1962 and the generations since who haven’t stopped reciting that phrase, if not on their lips than surely in their hearts, every day from April 1 through Oct. 1 since.
That’s the poetic definition of a Mets fan, anyhow.
There’s been a lot of losing to endure through these decades, you know. Surely some muttering of other phrases along the way.
As I described in my gone-to-Citi-Field series last summer, the Mets have only won the World Series twice, been there five times, in that history now in its 54th season.
But we’re good again. One of those World Series trips was a losing battle to the Kansas City Royals last year. And this season we’re still stacked, battling the Washington Nationals for first place in the National League East.
And so this three-game Memorial Day Weekend series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team that left Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn to pave the way for the birth of the Mets, was the perfect choice to celebrate the Mets of Doc Gooden, Keith Hernandez, Tim Teufel — who’s this team’s third-base coach, to connect the dots on the field.
They’ve even dressed today’s players in the uniforms of that 1986 team.
And that’s made me feel as if that World Series win against the Boston Red Sox was, oh, a year or two ago. Or just yesterday. I remember Game Six, Mookie Wilson’s ground ball that somehow made its way through Bill Buckner’s legs at first base and dribbled down the line at Shea, allowing Ray Knight to score, giving the Mets that Game Seven to win next when all seemed lost, so fresh in my mind still. Thirty years ago? No way, Jesse Orosco. Has your mitt landed yet from the victory toss on the mound?
My, how sports can freeze certain moments in your life forever.
And Friday night, the Mets and the Dodgers gave the packed house at Citi Field — and those of us watching on regional network SNY and whatever the LA cable station might be — a pretty good one for the vault.
I thought maybe starting pitcher Jake deGrom would make an inside statement to Dodgers second baseman and lead off hitter Chase Utley for last season’s playoff slide that broke then-shortstop Ruben Tejada’s leg. But, no, nothing. (More on that later.)
The squads whittled away at each other with their bats and gloves, all the way to 5-5 in the bottom of the night, when Mets right fielder and leadoff man Curtis Granderson took another turn at the plate.
Oh, he looked so good up there in that 1986 uniform on the 2016 widescreen hanging on the living room wall of the Little Bitty I share with my dear wife Karen in the Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood. In 1986, I had a 22-inch portable on a rickety stand in a basement-level apartment in an even more rickety building, a lonely spot I found in a one-day search when I moved here from Maryland three years earlier and was too wound up in my work at the big daily to bother looking for anyplace different yet.
Curtis is going to win it with one swing, I said to Karen.
Oh, how he did. What a glorious moon shot to right field it was.
The Mets fans partied like it was 1986.
Granderson’s smile approaching home plate said so much. Mets win, 6-5. It’s not yet June, but this could be another one of those special seasons for Mets fans.
Back to Utley. Saturday night, Noah “Thor” Syndergaard threw behind the steadfast second baseman his second time up. The pitch sailed harmlessly past Utley’s rear end, but the home plate umpire reared up and ejected the Mets’ star pitcher from the game. That set off a wild protest from Mets manager Terry Collins, who was also thrown out. The scoreless game was eventually easily taken over by the Dodgers, 9-1. And Utley hit a solo homer and then a grand slam off two Mets relief pitchers. The rubber match is tonight.
What sort of moments in your life are frozen in time? Do you look back years, decades, and feel as if it were yesterday? Mets or Dodgers tonight?