I’m a Met fan!
I’m not ashamed
to say it.
I’m a Met fan!
There I said it again…
It’s not like it’s my choice.
No…there’s no choice involved.
Who would choose to go through what a Met fan goes through in a lifetime?
No…it’s not a choice. It’s a way of life. It’s who we are; how we were born.
It’s genetically pre-determined.
Like other traits that wrap around our DNA: loyalty, truthfulness, trustfulness, kindness, grumpiness, pragmatist, fatalist, pessimist…even how we tie our shoes.
None of it’s our choice; it’s just who we are.
For those of my particular generation, we’ve been there from the beginning, since 1962.
Witnesses to the birth of a team…even if we were really too young to appreciate what that meant at the time.
Much too young to know, let alone understand, anything about Brooklyn Dodgers or NY Giants.
Only that our dads, and sometimes moms, were rabid fans of either one or the other…never both. Impossible to root for both. Not a “real fan”. Not even if they were playing the Yankees in the “series”. Not even then.
I began to come of baseball age around 1961. And you know what that means.
The M & M boys, battling it out for the Home Run title. To Bust the Babe, as it were on the march to 61 homers.
In 61, the Yankees were the only game in town, and not that I was really all that interested, but a lot of the older kids were and I thought I'd better be too.
One day I actually snuck out to the car, so my dad wouldn’t know of the sacrilege about to unfold, and turned on the radio to listen to a game...a frickin Yankee game!
If you have a good imagination, like I have, listening to a baseball game—any baseball game— on the radio is the greatest experience in the world. There was, of course, Mel Allen, with his Alabama twang, announcing Ballantine blasts, the roar of the crowd, bats knocking on balls, even the sound of the peanut guys yelling, “Peanuts here! Get your fresh roasted peanuts here!” and back then, they were fresh roasted.
Suddenly, the driver side door springs open and there is my dad….
“What are you doing?
“Doesn’t look like nothing.”
The expression on his face was as if he had found me in the back seat with a fifth of scotch, smoking cigars…and I hadn’t offered him any.
“I was just...listening to see if Mickey Mantle hit another homer.
“Mantles a bum. Willie runs circles around Mantle…that bum!”
Which struck me as very odd since I didn’t think that was part of the game, or else I hadn’t heard of it until then, this circle running around.
“Maris is a communist!”
I was pretty sure he wasn't. Though I had no idea what a communist was other than they liked all things pink.
“Next year, real baseball comes back to New York. Next year we have a brand new team to root for …the Mets!”
An honest question, I thought. I knew what a Yankee was, a Pirate, a Giant, A Tiger….
What the heck was a met?
“It stands for Metropolitans, which means people who live in the city. And New York is the most famous city in the world so….”
“The Mets,” I finished.
“Yep, and they’ll wear blue like the Dodgers, the real bums, and orange like the Giants…and pinstripes like the Yankees, “he added reluctantly.
And so in 1962 the Mets were born, and so was my life as a Met fan, whether I wanted it or not. Again…it wasn’t a choice.
In those very early years, we spent, my dad and I, countless summer nights, sitting on the front porch with our old black & white 19 inch portable TV propped up next to the window screen, listening to Bob and Ralph and Lindsey.
There was a funny old man in a baggy uniform who spoke in a language all his own. The players, mostly old Giants and Dodgers, well past their prime, would hit and field, mostly like other teams, except rarely did they win.
My dad had a bunch of homemade score sheets printed up and taught me how to keep score, mostly so I would pay attention, instead of counting the number of chocolate chips in my cookies.
Like I said, they rarely won, but when they did, like on the sticky humid night in August when a skinny, jug eared guy named Jim Hickman…number 9, stepped up to the plate with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, worked a 3-2 count, then hit a game winning home run, just barely, into the left field stands of the Polo Grounds, that broke newly numbered 13, Roger Craig’s 4 million game losing streak, it felt as if we had won the world series, all in that one game!
And my first time in that ancient, narrow horseshoe of a place called “The Polo Grounds”—for no reason other than it always was—sitting in the first row, field level, directly behind 3rd base, I witnessed a very “grey” 36 year old Duke Snyder leg out a triple, slide in to 3rd and pop up huffing and puffing as if he had just run a marathon. We sat close enough that the cloud of infield dust that Duke had kicked up, settled on our clothes, and I could see every line of sweat, that dripped from his weathered face, onto his uniform.
And that uniform…I will never forget the brightness of the Duke’s royal blue sleeves and Orange trim around that shiny satin “METS” heaving across his chest.
And after the game—I had no idea if we won or lost, but you could probably guess—they opened up the gates, and actually let us run onto the field, stand on 2nd base and marvel at the breadth and height of the stands rising all around.
Shortly after the start of the 1967 season, the front porch, summer nights came to a sudden end. My dad never got to see the magic of 69 or dominance of 86…I watched those on my own. He never got to experience the absolute joy of all those nickel losses finally turned to gold.
But somehow I think, throughout those much too few, front porch summers, he knew. And he wanted me to know too.
And that’s why I’m a Met fan.
I’m not ashamed to say it.
I’m a Met fan!
I’m a Met fan!