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Past Lives Pavilion

Posted By Greg Prince On March 14, 2005 @ 9:29 pm In Main Page | Comments Disabled

A ballplayer would have to have committed some awful, irredeemable transgression in his past baseball life to not be accepted into at least a temporary state of grace for the period in which he has chosen to embrace the light, a.k.a., the uniform of the New York Mets. Manny Aybar can get guys out for us? All is forgiven. (Just don't linger on cold nights, OK?)

Tom Glavine continues to operate under a cloud of karmic suspicion, due to not only his mega-Braveness, but because of his continued prickliness toward former replacement players (one in particular who pitched his heart out for us) long after everybody else in baseball had put that stuff behind them. I've tried to forget all that as he stands on our mound and does his best to earn us victories, but I can't quite shake the disdain. Paramount among the thousand or so reasons I desperately wanted us to prevail in Game Six was to set up a Game Seven in which the matchup would've been Reed vs. Glavine. I know who would've won that. I just know.

He's said all the right things, he's evaded the bait every time he's asked “Tom, do you regret…?” and he's pitched not altogether horribly. But peel away his civilized mien and, I'm pretty sure Tom Glavine is still a Brave and still an ass. He's never been Glavo or Tommy or, God forbid, Tom since he's been here.

When the no-hitter got away from him while I sat in the Broadway Theatre manipulating my Walkman during the first act of a Sunday matinee of Bombay Dreams last May, I was 99% shattered and 1% relieved that Kit Pellow saved the honor of the first Mets' no-hitter for somebody, anybody else.

Generally speaking, though, who you were in a past baseball life, as long as you are now a Met, doesn't concern me. Chris Woodward was a Blue Jay. Chris Woodward started at short and got two hits at Shea against the Mets on June 9, 1999, one of the wildest nights I ever spent in the confines of what John Kruk once referred to (in giving directions to a lost cabdriver) as the big blue thing. That was when David Wells returned to New York for the first time since he was traded by the other team that plays nearby and he shut us out for eight innings. He had his own cheering section of female David Wells wannabes, which is as frightening as it sounds. Leading 3-0, however, he couldn't get out of the ninth and the Mets rallied to tie it, going on to win in 14.

Aside from staying past midnight, rising for a fourteenth-inning stretch and witnessing Rey Ordoñez collect a game-winning hit, the game was marked for eternity by the infamous Bobby Valentine mustache-and-glasses disguise. Didn't know that until I saw the highlights later. But in the heat of battle, I hated the Blue Jays and by extension must've wished only bad things on Chris Woodward. But Sunday afternoon, as he emerged as superer than Joe McEwing, I heard myself call out to him, “WOODY!”

I assume that's his nickname. He was a Blue Jay, after all.

Pedro Martinez' past lives aren't going to be held against him either. Yeah, I remember the inside pitch to Mike and certainly held it against Martinez for the balance of that weekend, but Luis Lopez taking him deep seemed like swift and suitable retribution. Hey, we owned Pedro Martinez, he says with a chuckle. Before he was an icon, he was merely an awesome Expo with an awesome whammy on us, so it was quite a milestone in the coming-out party that was the 1997 Mets when Matt Franco took him deep in the eighth to secure a 2-1 win for Bobby Jones over him in early June.

We won't hold his failure to hold a lead against us in a past life against him either.

As for the beginning of this present life, you asked about my first game. It was July 11, 1973 versus the Astros. It was a 7-1 loss. Here are 10 things you don't really need to know about it:

1. I'd been watching games on TV since 1969 but as my parents weren't big fans, nobody acted to take me to a game.

2. They relented and got us tickets for the previous September but I got sick and my pediatrician, whom I've never forgiven, said I couldn't go. The Mets beat the Phillies that day while I watched and sulked in bed.

3. The kosher Camp Avnet of Long Beach was my ticket to ride. They piled us all into buses and took us to Shea on a gloomy summer morning. I didn't want to go to day camp, but the record clearly indicates that if I hadn't, I'd never have gone to my first game.

4. Our counselor, Marvin, saw a bunch of us waiting for the bus with our gloves and told us to go put them back in our cubby holes. “You'll just lose 'em,” he said. To this day, I've never brought my glove to a game because Marvin said I'd just lose it.

5. When we got to the big blue thing (then the big speckled thing), the first thing I did was buy a yearbook. That was my assignment, having heard Lindsey, Ralph and Bob urge me three times every game to add one to my baseball library. The cover featured every 1973 Met who had ever been an All-Star. One of the All-Stars was Jim Fregosi. I looked up from the yearbook at the scoreboard where it was announced Jim Fregosi had just been sold to the Texas Rangers. I wondered if they'd put a revised edition on sale immediately. They didn't.

6. Tommie Agee hit a home run for the Astros. Jerry Koosman took the loss for the Mets. Willie Mays played first for us.

7. To beat traffic, we left before the game was over. That rubbed me the wrong way.

8. As our camp was kosher, we could only eat the box lunches that we brought along. I ate Camp Avnet salami on what turned out to be a very warm, very humid day. When I got home, I threw up. That rubbed me the wronger way.

9. More times than I would have imagined, I've been at midweek afternoon games in the heat of summer to find that among the many Metropolitan Area day camps welcomed on the big board is a contingent from good old Camp Avnet. I always applaud when I see the name.

10. On July 11, 1993, the 20th anniversary of my first game, I went with Rob Emproto to my only regular-season Sunday night affair. It was Mets vs. Dodgers, Gooden vs. Candiotti. The Mets held an early 1-0 lead and were threatening for more. The Dodgers brought in a rookie of whom I snidely remarked he's probably only on the team because of his brother. The ever-aware Rob told me “this guy's probably better than his brother.” And with that, young Pedro Martinez slammed the door shut on the Mets and Gooden, with the Dodgers winning 2-1.

The way things are suddenly going for him, no past-life heroics are going to save Doc Gooden now. I'm thinking his Mets HOF induction just got lost in the mail.


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