Archive for New York Mets

My New York Mets Hat

As a diehard New York Mets fan, I’d first like to say this . . .

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Also: I sometimes wear baseball caps. Not always, but it happens.

I might throw it on because I haven’t washed my hair in a few days. Okay, in six days. Or because I’m a Mets fan, expressing my allegiance to the team.

But this week, I’m wearing my cap as a signal. I am saying to the world: “Be gentle with me. I’m fragile right now.”

My author photo for the book SIX INNINGS. I still own the same cap. Admittedly, both the cap and my face have experienced a little wear and tear over the years.

My author photo for the book SIX INNINGS. I still own the same cap. Admittedly, both the cap and my face have experienced a little wear and tear over the years, but we’re still hanging out together.

Quick Link: Baseball, Childhood Cancer, and a Family Comes Full Circle

This is a story I’ve told before, 4-5 years back, but recently retold over at my other blog, 2 Guys Talking Mets Baseball. The name pretty much says it all.

So I’ll direct you to it. Right this way, people —> Click on this link right here.

A sample of what you’ll find there, my oldest boy, my beautiful wife  . . .

Standing within the gray, concrete hallways of Shea Stadium, I couldn’t help but think of my mother, and how our love of baseball had brought us to this singular moment. My boy, sick with cancer, smiling weakly into the camera, a Sharpie and a signed baseball in his hand. All those games we had watched together, our spirits dashed by defeat and lifted in victory. All of that time and energy invested, all of that life we poured into the game — all of it, truth be told, a little absurd. After all it is just a game. Not life, not death, and certainly not childhood cancer. But standing in that basement of old Shea Stadium, I knew with certainty that it all had been worth it. We will always be grateful to the Mets organization for the kindness of that day.

My New Mets Blog: 2 Guys Talking Mets Baseball

I have a friend whose mother is a huge fan of the New York Mets. Sadly, she’s been losing the battle with Alzheimer’s, can no longer live on her own, and often doesn’t even recognize the face of her own son. This is familiar territory for people my age. We’re watching our parents get old, get sick, get terribly confused, and pass from our lives.

Anyway, my buddy tells me, “You know what’s funny? She still asks about the Mets. She may have forgotten most of her life, but there’s some part of her that still knows the Mets are important.”

And I get that, I get it completely. For starters, my mother is the same way. And I’m the same way, because I’m my mother’s son. In 1969, at age 8, I attended Game 5 of the 1969 World Series — the day the Mets won it all in that miracle year. It remains a central, vivid, defining event for me, a North Star in the constellation of my life.

As I posted on our Mets blog yesterday, I even remember going into school the next day with a knot in my stomach, fearful of my poor excuse for an absence. I missed school for a baseball game? I didn’t think that would fly.

“The following day in class I tried to appear as sickly as possible. But unbeknownst to me, my mother had sent in a note explaining my truancy. Mrs. Thompson came to me and said, “I heard you were at the baseball game!” I confessed that, alas, it was true, figuring myself for a dead man. But to my relief, Mrs. Thompson smiled wide and told me that I was a lucky fellow. And I was lucky, even I knew as much, but I had never expected a teacher to realize it, too. It’s like when you are a kid and ASTONISHED to see a teacher at, say, the supermarket. You’re like, “You’re a human being? That eats . . . food?!” You just didn’t see them as people, exactly. That’s how I felt about Mrs. Thompson. I never figured her for a fan.

The simple truth is, I’m still a huge Mets fan and, down to my bones, “a baseball guy.” Which is a long way of telling you that I’ve cooked up a new side project, a blog about the New York Mets. I’m partnering it with my friend, Michael, mentioned above. It’s called 2 Guys Talking Mets Baseball.

If you’re a fan, come on by and check us out.

What’s that great quote from Jim Bouton?

“You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball

and in the end it turns out

that it was the other way around all the time.”

Celebrating 4 Years of Bloggy Goodness: Baseball, This Invisible Thread

NOTE: I originally posted this back in August, 2008 — before I knew how to insert photos.

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I love baseball. It’s kind of ridiculous, I know. But it’s not like I had a choice.

As the youngest of seven children, I remember lying sprawled on the tiles of our playroom floor, the television turned to a ballgame, my mother moving from the washing machine to the dryer, bending, lifting, hauling, then over to the ironing board, then back, again and again.

At one point in her life, before I came along, before preschool was in vogue – this was the 1950s, deep in the post-war suburban dream – my mother had five children below the age of seven. It kept her busy. She was busy still in the 1960s, back when I was a pup.

So there she was, that white-haired mother of mine, rooting for her “Metsies.” I learned their names – Cleon Jones, Tom Terrific, Cool Koos and Eddie Kranepool. My mother, a good Irishwoman, showed a decided preference for Wayne “Red” Garrett, the young third baseman who was an average player on his best days, but handsome in that freckled, honest, Irish way. (It was only in later years, as baseball changed, when her crushes shifted to undersized Spanish-speaking shortstops like “little” Jose Oquendo and Raphael Santana.)

Before my mom went Latino, she always

favored the Irish boys.

I also learned the names of the players on the other side, those Mets-killers who broke our hearts. Their names were Shannon and Perez, Clemente and McCovey, Banks and Aaron.

Today I still repeat my mother’s line, inherited and ingrained, whenever a tough batter steps to the plate: “Uh-oh, he’s trouble.”

In my heart, my mother is linked to the New York Mets, and there are times when I don’t know if my love for one is a confusion for the other; or if, in my affection for the Mets, I am only expressing that childlike love I once carried – and still carry – for my mother, the soft lap I once rested my head upon, her hand in my hair. There she is at the end of the couch, a glass of crushed ice on the table, from which she constantly bites and chews. And the game is on the screen, the announcers’ voices in my ears. I am content, I am at home: the game is on and I’m with my mom.

She taught me how to catch, my mother, how to play. That wasn’t Dad’s department. Blithely indifferent, or just otherwise occupied, he didn’t care about sports. We never played catch, or hardly ever. That’s okay, because Mom did. And I liked Mom, plenty. She had a good arm and soft hands.

My mother taught me how to catch and throw.

But I crushed her at ping pong. No mercy.

I remember as a Little Leaguer asking, “Mom, am I graceful?”

She liked grace, my mother, the smoothness that certain outfielders had when they drifted back to the warning track, glove stretched out, eyes in the clouds, finally cradling that ball to the dull, soft slap of leather.

“Yes,” she’d answer. “Very graceful.”

And today, like her, like then, I still snap off the television in despair when the Mets play poorly. “I can’t watch anymore!” we’ll both exclaim across the years and miles, attached by an invisible thread.

Ten minutes later, both of us will again reach for the clicker, filled with the unquenchable hope that is at the heart of every game.

Now I can see that same sweet dynamic in my own children, particularly the two boys. They follow the game, just as they once obsessed over dinosaurs and super heroes, books and guitars. Now it’s baseball. All mixed up and confused with their love for me, I know.

After all, I should, I helped weave the blanket of baseball that wraps around us.

Sometimes I even hear them say it, when certain sluggers step to the plate, Chipper Jones perhaps, or the redoubtable Albert Pujols:

“Uh-oh, he’s trouble.”

By the late 60’s, my mother most feared

RBI-men Mike Shannon and Tony Perez.

But Mom would agree: this guy broke the hearts

of more Mets fans than any other player.

So How About Dem Mets?

I’m off again to another couple of hotels, and more schools to visit. The trips always turn out nice, and I’m grateful for them, but I’m such a homebody.

And also: I miss my desk, my work, my wife, my kids, my brain.

On a different note, it’s almost baseball season and I’m not optimistic about my New York Mets. I laughed at this piece from The Onion, “Carlos Beltran Has Impressive Day of Not Falling Apart and Dying.

Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, whose past several seasons have been hampered by nagging injuries, had a successful outing Monday, managing to get through a spring training workout without crumbling into a pile of dust and dying. “It was one of his best days in years, because he was still breathing and alive by the end,” Mets manager Terry Collins said during a press conference, adding that he was amazed with Beltran’s ability to pump blood from his heart to other parts of his body for a whole session of batting practice.