I know the intonations in Gary Cohen's voice better than I know my own father's. Then again, despite my affection for the man whose DNA I share, I don't hang on Dad's every word for three hours at a clip most every night for six months.
Given that it was Father's Day in the United States on Sunday, our family got together for one of its infrequent lovefests. Us, Dad and his longtime ladyfriend and my sister and her husband met at an Italian joint of universal convenience. Time: 6 PM. Inning: The sixth, as it turned out. The top of it. The Mets' rally was in progress as we parked, an event unknowable no more than 20, 25 minutes earlier when we left home.
In our party of six, I was the biggest Mets fan. Stephanie was the second-biggest Mets fan. There was no third-place finisher. This is what makes my family an enigma wrapped in obliviousness where I'm concerned. Nobody else likes baseball. I do. It doesn't matter 158, 159 times a year, but here it did. There was a decision to be made.
Do I bring my tiny radio to dinner?
Usually, the answer is simple. Yes. Of course. What are you, insane? There's a game in progress. It would be rude for me not to listen.
But this is my family. There's one member, I won't say who, who makes a face when I pull out my earbuds to catch a score. It can be for the briefest moment, but I wind up on the receiving end of what in Yiddish is called the punim. It refers to a certain kind of face that one makes to reflect a certain kind of mood. I will leave it to your deductive powers to ascertain what kind of mood is involved and the effect the face has on one's ability to endure an evening of it.
Being caught up in the Mets, even a lousy Mets team in an increasingly lousy Mets season (also known as being caught up in the Mets), I don't generally care. Well, I do but I don't, not really. Make all the punim you want, I've got a game to follow. Except last year's Father's Day was an utter and total disaster. It had nothing to do with the Mets who had polished off a sweep of Detroit well in advance of the family affair, but the horror show still lurked in my mind. I spent much of Sunday afternoon cursing out Tom Glavine, but when I wasn't doing that, I was imagining what would go wrong this year for Father's Day and what it would take to set things off.
So I made a decision: Leave the tiny radio home. Live without knowing for an hour-and-a-half what's happening. Get through this family obligation in one piece and then turn on the car radio and get the score. The way the Mets have been playing, I should've viewed it as a reprieve.
Except that at the exact moment we were parking, Woodward was getting hit with the bases loaded and Wright was scoring on a wild pitch and suddenly it went from 6-1 to 6-3 with two on and one out and Victor Diaz (so damn due) up. Earlier, when Heilman had come on to relieve The Manchurian Brave, I was thinking one of my rare positive thoughts, that this would be the Foxwoods Resort & Casino Turning Point of the Game because Aaron would shut the door on the Mariners and the Mets would begin to chip away.
I didn't exactly buy it, but now it showed signs of happening. Aaron was untouchable. The offense was simmering, if you could call an HBP and a WP a simmering offense. I left the tiny radio home and now had to get out of the car. I would be completely uninformed, unless…the restaurant! Restaurants have bars and bars have TVs and TVs over bars show important sporting events on weekends.
Ya mean like the U.S. Open? Nobody seemed to be watching the golf and I was tempted to ask for a quick channel change during a commercial or something but I decided that such a request would violate the spirit of the punim. No Mets information readily available, I gave myself over to small talk. As was, our sextet had to wait a good fifteen minutes for a table. There was time to pull an “oh, I left something in the car” to find out if Diaz had indeed blasted the triple I anticipated on his behalf and then how he scored the tying run on a daring steal of home.
But I didn't. In fact, I put it out of my mind as best as I could. Given the Mets-Mariners dynamic of Friday and Saturday, that wasn't as difficult as I'd forecast.
We got our table. Everybody was cordial to everybody else. Several subjects were discussed. Baseball was barely one of them. (My god, am I related to these people? I was born in Brooklyn. Maybe I was switched with the Hodges baby.) Food came. Food went. Tolerable time was had by all. Hugs and kisses and, essentially, see you in December. For this family at this stage of its development, that's about as heartwarming as it gets.
All right then, it's a couple of minutes before 7:40. There's likely a 20:20 update on the way. Just give me the score. Tell me what happened and I'll be satisfied, win or lose.
But the string of commercials I heard when I turned on the radio didn't sound FANnish. It sounded Metsish. Hey, Mets Extra must still be on. And it was! Gary came on to introduce the highlights. Hey, maybe he's only getting to them now because the Mets blew by the Mariners and the bottom of the ninth had to be played (Looper saving Heilman's win). Yeah, that's probably it.
But in Cohen's voice, I could tell it wasn't good. Damn familiarity. He recapped the parts I knew about right up to the sixth when the Mets scored their third run.
Diaz didn't do squat, but Reyes, Gary said, somehow managed to get on base and make it 6-4. Oh?
Then he told me that Beltran had his best at-bat in ages and poked a single through the infield and made it 6-5. Oh?
Now, he told me, Floyd was coming up. Maybe I don't know Gary's voice that well after all. Maybe he's going to surprise me and tell me that Cliff brought home the tying run. The go-ahead runs, too, with his second homer of the day.
But Floyd popped out to end the inning.
At least Heilman had kept us in the game and must've continued to do so, right? Except, according to Gary, DeJean came on to pitch the bottom of the sixth.
WHAT? DeJean? Mike DeTorch? What on earth? I know Aaron hasn't stretched it out in recent weeks, but this is A.L. rules, Willie. What on earth are you thinking? I mean what on earth were you thinking? This game, mind you, had already taken place.
Gary's tone betrayed nothing, but he was giving a few too many details about the Mariners' sixth. Hmmm, why is he going on with such exposition about a three-and-two count to Adrian Beltre with two out and the bases loaded? Is it to heighten the tension regarding DeJean's heroic performance in this tightrope of a spot? Did our beleaguered, roleless middle reliever do a job and strike this guy out?
No, of course not. I knew that. I knew Gary's even bringing it up meant Beltre did something good for Beltre — like stand still and get walked. By DeJean. Now I was all “NO!” and “C'MON!” and “NO!” some more. I continued to absorb the recap as if it were actual in-progress action. Worse yet, I couldn't change the outcome no matter how hard I retrorooted. Not that I can change the outcome in real time either.
Mariners 11 Mets 5. Before Gary Cohen had said three words, I knew the score if not the totals.