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G(r)eek Chorus, Part VII

Posted By Jason Fry On March 24, 2005 @ 6:15 am In Main Page | Comments Disabled

Well, I'm in midseason form — somehow I thought the season started

next week. Along with the time change. This extended winter is

destroying my brain.

Quick question: When you hear “partially herniated disk,” do you think,

“Well, that's no big deal”? Me neither. Not with Trachsel on the shelf.

Not with the ghost of Edgardo Alfonzo hovering over both of us. Some

good news on Matsui would be most welcome.

On to the 30's.

I admit to branding Bobby Jones

a cancer once he replaced Jose Vizcaino as my scapegoat for Everything

That Was Wrong With the Mets. He was so … average. Except for the

famous Steve Avery/Jose V. game, in which he was … Estesian. And, of

course, for the clincher against the Giants, in which he was …

Koufaxian? Johnsonian? Fellerite? Whatever he was, no one's timing has

ever been so good. You'd think a one-hitter to clinch a postseason

series would make even the most jaded New York fan regret saying all

those bad things, and I did regret them … until about next June. For

which I'm not as ashamed as I probably should be. I guess it's that in

my eyes, most of the time he was neither Estesian or Koufaxian, but

right exactly between them, embodying the quietly soul-killing

mediocrity one sometimes fears is the natural state of existence. By

the way, that thing with the other Bobby Jones on the roster at the

same time was just ridiculous. Once per franchise was enough, thanks.

(Memo to Pedro A. Martinez: Stay retired.)

On the other hand, I loved Todd Hundley

for so much less. All that piss and vinegar, sometimes even channeled

into the game of baseball. I loved that he was Randy's kid in the wrong

uniform as far as Chicagoans were concerned. I loved that he was blunt

to a fault, in the fine old Backman tradition, that he snuck cigarettes

like Mex, that he stayed out too late like the whole '86 squad. It

wasn't quite so cool that the other side of midnight ate up a lot of

his potential, in the not-so-fine old Elster tradition, but that's a

risk one runs liking that kind of player. And in this age of chemical

suspicion, I don't like to revisit my astonishment that the twiglike

Double-A catcher who announced himself with his shockingly unlikely

double off Dibble in '90 soon transformed into a hulking backstop.

Regardless, Hot Rod stayed Hot Rod — I saw him in Candlestick near the

end, looking bewildered and unhappy out in left field, but still egging

on the frat boys in the bleachers by cupping his hand to his ear as

they gave him the business. And when the Dodgers wound up going into

the stands at Wrigley, I immediately looked for him, confident he'd

been in the scrum throwing hands, as Lenny Harris liked to say. And

indeed he was.

I was standing next to you for Rey Ordonez's famous debut, and what sticks with me is the sound.

Remember that? It was this sort of rolling murmur that went on and on,

rising and falling, of a sort that I'd never heard 50,000-odd people

make. That's because 50,000-odd people don't generally turn to their

neighbors and quietly ask, “Did he really just do that?” Later, we'd discover

he couldn't hit at all, had a habit of collecting wives, was on a

first-name basis but not a last-name basis with his trainers, and was

too self-centered to even feign interest in his own highlight video.

But that's mostly forgotten. The memory of that sound remains.

Every team needs a Lee Mazzilli.

He was the capstone of the '86 team, the piece that made you happy in a

way anyone with a heart would be happy, because when he came back it meant that it wasn't too late for Lee Mazzilli after all

– his faith had been rewarded, his struggles would get to mean

something. “You gotta excuse me, I've been smiling for two months now,”

he told some reporter or other before the World Series, and so had we

all. When he was shipped out again, this time to Toronto, I wasn't

surprised he was done almost immediately. I liked to think he'd left

everything he had with us.

About Armando Benitez, all I

can say is this: One day in December 2001 I'd tracked in something or

other and found myself vaccuuming an annoyingly large portion of our

downstairs hall. No one else was home, and my various chores had led

me into the kind of meditative state in which you aren't 100% aware of

your own thoughts anymore. Except suddenly I realized I was fuming. Goddamn Armando, I realized I was subvocalizing repeatedly. Goddamn Armando.

And I wasn't thinking about Brian Jordan; I was thinking about Paul

O'Neill and his fatal at-bat, which had transpired 14 months ago. And had been thinking

about it, in increasing agitation, for a good 20 or 30 minutes. Goddamn Armando.

When I was an intern in New Orleans, Ron Swoboda

was a sportscaster for a local TV station. He'd occasionally come down

to Molly's at the Market, the Decatur Street hangout for journalistas,

and the woman I'd started dating knew him and spoke of him with amused

familiarity. All of this terrified me, because I seemed to be the only

one who understood that this was no local sportscaster — this was Ron

Swoboda. Ron Swoboda who made The Catch. The woman I'd started dating

didn't know anything about The Catch, which shocked and appalled me at

the time, and, come to think of it, still does. I never did meet

Swoboda that summer, for which I'm grateful, because I would have made

an idiot of myself even by the low standards of my usual behavior. I

don't know when he left broadcasting, but now he's the only

Met old-timer who looks cool on those fantasy-camp TV spots. He says

his pitch and tilts his head at the camera a little bit and kind of

smirks. If I'd made The Catch, I'd be on my 36th year of kind of

smirking and looking cool, too.


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