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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Flashback Friday: 2000 (Part II of III)

Due to the length of our season, the story of 2000 is presented in three parts. Part I appeared in a previous post.

Life would get no better if the Braves and Yankees continued to lurk. Lurk they did and down they could bring us. At the end of June and the beginning of July we got a taste of just what might lie in store for us come October if we got that far…which, all fun aside, was the whole point of 2000. My pastime was business too serious to completely enjoy.

As soon as tickets went on sale, Jason and I zeroed in on the first Braves series which started June 29. It wasn’t only the first rematch of the ’99 NLCS but marked the return of John Rocker to New York. He had superceded Chipper as most bastardly Brave in town. The Mets built a canopy to protect the Atlanta bullpen. Security was everywhere. And I was nowhere in sight. My ticket went by the wayside as I was stranded in Toronto on business. A thunderstorm KO’d my flight and Air Canada didn’t see fit to charter me a new one. The Braves beat the Mets and I slept fitfully if at all, forced onto a 7 AM plane the next morning.

I made it to Shea for the second showdown but I could’ve stayed in bed. Or Canada. Hampton didn’t have it (we’d been warned he didn’t do well versus the Braves) and the Mets trailed 8-1. I thought about going home and burying my face in a pillow. But I stayed for the bottom of the eighth, stayed awake and was rewarded with:

Four Met hits.

Four Met walks.

Three Brave pitchers.

Five Met runs.

One paper cup I chewed on for luck.

Not a word of encouragement between me and Jason even if most of the other 52,831 on hand were going bananas. It just seemed like bad form to display excitement.

A two-run single from Fonzie to tie the game.

One pitch from Terry Mulholland to Mike Piazza. Why just one pitch? Because that’s all The Man would let him have.

In the most electric swing of his brilliant Met tenure, Mike showed Mulholland no mercy. He smashed the ball on a line only as high as it needed to be and far as it could possibly go. If the left field auxiliary scoreboard didn’t get in the way, that distance would be immeasurable. What could be reckoned was Mike had just capped the second 10-run inning in Mets history, and as fast as one could chew through a paper cup, the Mets led (and beat) the Braves 11-8. There was hope for us against them yet.

The Yankee end of the equation was a different story. We’d already seen them twice in 2000 up at (genuflection alert!) The Stadium. On a Friday night, Mike hit a grand slam off the great Roger Clemens who was very human when he faced Piazza. On Saturday, Rob and I ventured into enemy territory to see if we could make it two in a row. We couldn’t. Bobby Jones, who was already five minutes from Norfolk, was battered and bruised and bullied by the Yankees. They could do no wrong and their fans were fucking magicians. Seriously. As the game got worse and worse, one of their loudmouths shouted to callup left fielder Jason Tyner, “TIME FOR YOU TO MAKE AN ERROR, TYNER!” And Jason Tyner made an error. Rob and I suddenly remembered a pressing issue back on Long Island and got the hell out of Dodge.

The third game was rained out, which led to one of the brighter ideas of 2000, the day-night, two-ballpark doubleheader right after the Friday night Shea game (which we lost to some cretin named Orlando Hernandez). Yankees at Mets as scheduled on a Saturday afternoon, Mets at Yankees to make up the postponement on the same Saturday night. What fun! I put on an old Subway Series t-shirt, bought some bagels and tuna and made a day of it.

I learned never to look forward to anything involving the Yankees again after that Saturday. It didn’t matter where the two teams played. Everywhere I looked there was embarrassment. The Shea game couldn’t have started worse. Chuck Knoblauch, the Yankees’ knucklehead second baseman (he threw balls into the stands, though not on purpose) got himself thrown out at second in the top of the first. I cheered. But wait! Lee Mazzilli, an old Met matinee idol and now a Yankee coach (they continue to hire our lame and our halting) told the first base ump, a minor league fill-in named Robb Cook, to call Knoblauch safe on account of Zeile interfering with the runner. That’s not intended to be a cute statement. Mazzilli (Mazz when he was ours) literally shouted “OBSTRUCTION!” at Cook and Cook obeyed. Later on, the two players ran into each other again except this time Zeile was on offense. Guess who didn’t get the call.

Parachuted into the middle of this rivalry was Dwight Gooden. He’d wandered around baseball through the spring, released first by Houston then Tampa Bay, his hometown team. If you can’t pitch for the Devil Rays, then who? Why, the world champion Yankees. Again, Steinbrenner gave an old Met another chance and for the first time since 1994, Doctor K pitched at Shea Stadium. Rusty, out of practice, blisteringly high for all I know, Dwight Gooden outpitched the recently recalled Bobby Jones. Through umpires and apparitions and the usual bullshit, the Yankees won the first game. It was one of the most awful baseball experiences I ever absorbed through a television screen.

Yet it was merely a warmup. For after this exercise in futility, both teams piled on buses (I was sure Giuliani was giving only his Yankees a police escort) and headed to (genuflection alert!) The Stadium for the nightcap. Sending the Mets into the Bronx that night was like a judge ordering the guys who were viciously attacked back to Howard Beach to finish their pizza.

Roger Clemens started for them. He nearly finished our season. His nemesis Mike Piazza faced him in the top of the second. Clemens figured if you can’t beat him, bean him. Down went Piazza. He was…

Dazed? Dead? Damaged?

It looked terrible. Apparently the great Roger Clemens was subhuman when he had to face a tremendous hitter and, by all indications, a superior human being.

Mike lived. The enmity flourished. The Mets lost, of course. Both games were Yankees 4 Mets 2. I could have sworn they were 40-2. It was that bad. Everything went right for those SOBs that Saturday. Even our “retaliation” — Glendon Rusch tickling Tino Martinez’s rear end with a breaking ball — was pacifism in action. The Mets’ “revenge” the next night, when Hampton and Benitez shut them out on seven hits, just underscored the day-late, dollar-short, Us vs. Them nature of things. The only moment that made me happy was when Steve Phillips told Jorge Posada and Mike Stanton that they couldn’t use the Shea weight room before the Sunday game. Take that, you, uh…oh never mind.

Fortunately, Bud Selig didn’t mandate we play the Skanks (yes, that’s what it came down to — childish twists on their name) more than six times a year. The Mets, as one of baseball’s three best teams, recovered and played well through August. Mike got over getting Rogered and went on another tear. It lasted until he made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Fonzie continued to do everything brilliantly. Zeile didn’t make me stop longing for Johnny O (who was succeeding in Seattle), but I’d gotten used to him.

I even found myself defending John Franco. That I didn’t see coming. I was your average Mets fan where Franco was concerned. I dismissed his saves and dwelled on his failures. Just as Zeile couldn’t live up to Olerud, I never shook the image of weightlifting, camo-clad, fireballing Randy Myers, the closer we traded to Cincinnati for Franco 10 years earlier, as a young, flamethrowing Met. Never mind that Myers bounced all over the place through the ’90s and was now retired. He was my idea of a fireman. Franco nibbled and noodged and left himself open to all manner of blooper, bleeder and bleeping, as in OH BLEEP, BLEEPING FRANCO!

But John Franco in all his New Yorkness and his orange Sanitation Department t-shirts he wore in his dad’s memory and his perseverance, spanning the last days of Davey Johnson to these days of Bobby V, grew on us. He was no longer the closer, so it was Armando we couldn’t stand. Franco was a reasonably reliable setup man. That was something we could get behind. After a win against the Astros in late August, Jace and I shared the 7 platform with the U.S. Open crowd. One of the tennis set asked us how the Mets did. They won, I said. Oh, he answered, that must mean John Franco didn’t pitch. I nearly restrung his racket for such ignorant intemperance toward our Johnny.

The Mets got to September in first place. That lasted about 18 hours or until they began what had become their annual autumnal collapse. The Mets cost themselves a playoff berth in 1998 with a five-game losing streak the last week of September (the week I swore I’d never watch baseball again). They came perilously close to doing the same with seven strategically placed losses late in the month (barely rescuing and righting themselves and cutting off my second consecutive “that’s it, I’m done with this” pledge in mid-dive). Natch, the Mets marched into St. Louis at the beginning of September 2000 and the Cardinals crapped all over them with three walkoff wins.

There were a few more displays of ineptitude those first two weeks as the Braves — beep beep! — ran and hid again, but we had mustered enough competence and built enough of a cushion to withstand another visit to the abyss. Atlanta came to Shea to clinch its ninth consecutive division title. Jason, Emily and I left before the final out but were back the next evening to anticlimactically nail down the Wild Card. My spirits were lifted when a man banging a cowbell with a drumstick wandered through the upper deck and brought us all a little lift. He had a mustache and a custom-made black Mets jersey. His name? COW-BELL MAN. His number? 10. I looked closely. It wasn’t the otherwise disabled Rey Ordoñez. This was somebody else altogether. COW-BELL MAN. He shows up and we win the Wild Card. He must know his stuff. When I passed him on the way out, I told him “what you’re doing is great!” He smiled and nodded. He agreed that what he was doing was great.

I had spoken to COW-BELL MAN. I couldn’t say that before 2000, but now I could.

The Mets were playing in their second consecutive post-season, another unprecedented event. First up, the San Francisco Giants. If we could get by them and their 97-win goodness, we could brace ourselves for Atlanta once again. We won 94. The Braves won 95 and were to face St. Louis and their 96 wins. The Mets were only the Wild Card but I didn’t see anybody as particularly better than anybody else. I just assumed the Braves would be waiting for us in the NLCS.

After that, if there was to be an after-that, maybe things wouldn’t be so bad. The Yankees had stumbled severely down the stretch and finished with a record 6-1/2 games worse than us. Yes, we were better than them for the first time since 1991 even with them beating us four out of six in June and July. It was only because the American League East was composed of spineless supplicants that the Yanks/Skanks were granted a bye into the post-season.

There was hope yet. But first there were the Giants and they were an extra large pain in the ass. Mike Hampton, who didn’t much like pitching in Japan or Atlanta also looked bad earlier in the year when he worked in San Francisco. Maybe the only place where he pitched like an ace was the Astrodome and they didn’t play baseball there anymore. I took a vacation day for Game One, good timing in that I also came down with a cold, a stuffed-head affair only compounded by Hampton’s inability to retire Ellis Burks when it mattered. The Mets got stomped on by the Giants 5-1 and looked lost at suddenly not so beautiful Pac Bell Park. Our rightfielder, the slumping Derek Bell, couldn’t handle the Giants’ new field at all, slipping on the grass, spraining his ankle and absenting himself from the Mets for the rest of the post-season. He was replaced in the cauldron of October by swift yet callow rookie Timo Perez.

How lucky could a loss be? D-Bell stopped hitting in May. Timo came up in September and looked like the leadoff hitter that the Mets had been craving since Rickey Henderson played himself out of town (Jason Tyner, you may be surprised to learn, didn’t last). Timo pulled the Mets from their September doldrums with an inside-the-park job at the Vet and he figured to give the Mets a spark. The outfield that would compete to advance deep in the playoffs was going to be, from left to right, Benny Agbayani, Jay Payton and Timoniel Perez. If I had stopped to think about it, I might have taken a few more Tylenol Colds and turned my set off right there.

Al Leiter (16-8) pitched a beauty in Game Two. Fonzie homered. We were up 4-1 in the ninth, ready to fly east with the NLDS knotted at two. All Armando Benitez needed to do was secure three outs.

Yeah, that’s all.

J.T. Snow hit a three-run job that barely cleared the right field wall at Pac Bell. Barely didn’t matter. The Mets and Giants were tied and if I’d had a plug nickel, I wouldn’t have wasted it on the chances that the Mets were going to come home with a win or a prayer of facing the Braves in the next round. But for reasons I’ll never understand, Darryl Hamilton, who’d been injured most of the year, doubled off of Felix Rodriguez. And Payton, in the coda portion of his three-season rookie year, singled him in. The Mets led 5-4. In the bottom of the tenth, fearsome Barry Bonds had a chance to reverse fortune against John Franco. But Franco got the borderest of borderline calls (I guess we could get a few when the Yankees weren’t on the field). It was strike three and a Met win.

The series returned to New York and we were every bit as alive as San Francisco was. For the second consecutive October, I had tickets to the first two post-season games to be played at Shea. This was something I dreamed of going back to childhood, when I began to comprehend that regular people could actually go to playoff and World Series games, that they weren’t reserved for celebrities (not even those starring in new Fox sitcoms). I didn’t have tickets in ’69 or ’73 or ’86 or ’88. 1999 was my first year with that honor. I was there for Todd Pratt’s LDS-winner off Matt Mantei. It wasn’t just an unimaginable moment of bliss in and of itself, but I was there. Do you hear me? I was there! And I was here again. My cold was dragging on but I felt great.

We all — Jason, Emily (it was their dime I was on for this one), their friend Danielle, Laurie and I — felt fantastic before a pitch was thrown in Game Three. The out-of-town scoreboard was the reason. The Cardinals had just finished off the Braves in three straight. The road to the World Series would wind through St. Louis, not Atlanta. 56,269 right arms, safe from karmic consequence, mock-chopped in celebration. There was one dissenter. Laurie refused to join in. Alas, she hadn’t completely wrung all the Braveliking out of her system.

The Giants scored two in the fourth off of Rick Reed. The Mets stayed silent until the sixth when Timo (already better than Bell) brought home Bordick. In the eighth, Fonzie doubled against Robb Nen, scoring Lenny Harris. We were tied at two and we would remain tied at two for what seemed like hours. The game started a little after four on a Saturday afternoon when it was light and seasonably cool. Now it was dark and cold, matching the state of my sinuses this Saturday night. I knew enough to bring gloves. They fought off frostbite and helped me clap louder.

The ninth and tenth and eleventh and twelfth all passed without a score change. The Giants hadn’t tallied since the fourth; our pen was brilliant. By the bottom of the thirteenth, the Giants had run through all their relievers whom I’d heard of. They were down to Aaron Fultz. He faced Benny Agbayani. And Benny set all of our clocks back to March, back to Tokyo time. From the upper deck on the third-base side, we could see his fly ball had wings. It disappeared over the fence and the next sound you heard was barking.

Who let the dogs out?

Who? Who? Who?

Who let the dogs out?

Don’t get me wrong. I was happy. I was ecstatic. I was warm (or perhaps fevered) all over. We now led this best-of-five 2 games to 1. We could win tomorrow. Germ-dissemination be damned, I’m grabbing everybody I know in this row and picking them up with the superhuman strength I gain from Met playoff walkoff home runs.

But Who Let The Dogs Out?. I was more of an L.A. Woman man, myself, remembering how Mis-Ter MO-JO RIS-in’! played underneath every big moment in ’99. The Baha Men were all right, I supposed, but the Cardinals and the Mariners claimed them, too. Was this really our fight song? Our battle cry? Our good-luck charm? Who Let The Dogs Out? What did that even mean?

The only artist less likely than the Baha Men to win me over that weekend was Bobby Jones. When John McGraw managed the Giants (the New York Giants, thank you very much), he referred to his longevity as something akin to the centerfield flagpole. He, like it, had always been there. In that spirit, Bobby Jones was our wallpaper. He came up in 1993 with a touch of fanfare but then faded into the background almost immediately. The most interesting thing about him was he was from Fresno, California, hometown of George Thomas Seaver. That was the only trait Robert Joseph Jones shared with our greatest pitcher. Bobby was OK. He had an All-Star first half in ’97 but just as we came to count on him, he tumbled into mediocrity. 2000 was his worst year of all, so bad that he was sent down to the Tides to get himself fixed.

It worked. Jones was perhaps the Mets’ steadiest pitcher in the second half, starting with the surprise complete game he threw against the Cardinals on Ten Greatest Moments day. That may not have made the list but what we were about to see could have.

I attained tickets for Game Four the old-fashioned way. I called TicketMaster and got through. They weren’t great — last row of the mezzanine in fair territory in left, but they were at Shea. It was colder on Sunday than it was on Saturday but I was prepared. Old down coat over Mets jacket over hooded sweater over, somewhere down there, a Mets t-shirt. Gloves plus wool cap. Even a scarf. And longjohns. It was almost enough, too. This was Jet weather, the wind whipping off Flushing bay, making field-goal kicking a nightmare should it come to that.

Two of my guests were Richie and his son. I hadn’t seen nearly enough of Richie to suit me this year. My other ticket was given to Joe. It felt strange at first because my friendship with Joe had endured outside my various intersecting orbits. I almost had the feeling he preferred it that way. Joe’s scorebook talk was an acquired taste. I’d been listening to it for a decade and I wasn’t used to it. But Joe, this is Rich and Rich Junior; Rich and Rich Junior, this is Joe. They shook hands and Joe filled in his scorebook. Business as usual.

Except that this was Game Four of the playoffs and it was freezing and I still had a cold and every time I blew my nose (which was often), feathers would fly out of my old down coat. There was a Forrest Gump quality to it. You go to a Mets playoff game, you never know what you’re gonna get.

You might, for example, get the first no-hitter in Mets history. Ventura homered immediately to grab us a 2-0 lead and Bobby Jones did the rest. He retired the Giants in order in the first and the second and the third and the fourth. Jeff Kent, nearly everybody’s least-loved ex-Met (and the eventual league MVP), doubled inches over Robin’s glove in the fifth to shatter the no-hit dream but what followed was, if you can believe it, even better. Jones worked around Kent, two flyouts, two unintentional intentional walks and Dusty Baker’s bizarre decision to let pitcher Mark Gardner bat for himself and he wriggled out of the inning with no runs scored. Never mind the baserunners — this was perfection! The old Bobby Jones would have dug a hole. Jones 2.0 had all the bugs removed.

Inspired, the Mets scored two more to take a 4-0 lead. The rest was Jones, back to routine perfection. No Giant runner reached base in the sixth or the seventh or the eighth. Chants of Bah-BEE! And Bah-Bee JONES! went up. Both sounded stilted and I knew why. 1) Shea Stadium had never seen fit to cheer Bobby Jones with any great affection before; and 2) Who knows how to cheer wallpaper anyway?

Our section kept itself warm following the lead of one particular fan, a great supporter of the Anheuser-Busch Companies. The guy drank and yelled at Barry Bonds, theoretically with earshot of his barbs, all of which were, in essence, YOU SUCK BARRY! First, I was annoyed. We’re at a potential clinching game, we’re being treated to the pitching performance of a lifetime and you’re taunting one of the greatest hitters any of us have ever seen? Hey pal, tempt fate much? Have another beer. But as Barry never broke out, it got kind of funny and hard to resist. When Bonds came up for his penultimate turn, we were all doing some variation of YOU SUCK BARRY! All of us except our role model. He was up getting more beer. When he came back, row upon row reminded him that he missed the fun.

Well, not all of it. Bobby was on the mound when the ninth started. Marvin Benard grounded out. Bill Mueller did the same. The final batter was You Suck Barry Bonds. He lined out to Jay Payton.

The New York Mets were winners of the 2000 National League Division Series, three games to one.

I grabbed Richie and did a hug, clean and jerk. I turned to Joe. He inked an 8 for Bonds’ at-bat and then clapped. Joe was Joe to the end, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We embraced for the only time I can remember.

Who Let The Dogs Out? blasted from the Mets trumped-up loudspeakers. It was a great song. The Mets were great. Bobby Jones was great. Winning this series was great. The only thing that wasn’t so hot was what I overheard as I peeled off my layers on the train ride home. The Yankees, playing a do-or-die game in Oakland, scored six runs in the first. They’d win their series that night. I thought we might be rid of them and the Braves in one cathartic swoop. Guess not.

The Mets Express, such as it was, rolled into St. Louis. Mike Hampton found a mound to his liking and flattened the Cardinals in the first game. Game Two was close but we pulled that out, too. Mike Piazza, a notorious October underachiever, was smacking Redbird hurlers all about Busch. Fox had miked third base coach John Stearns who was heard to say “The Monster’s Out of the Cage!” Mike had never really had a nickname. “Mike” said it all. But to the Cardinals, he was a monster. And we were two games from the World Series.

Don’t know how they managed it, but some combination of Jason, Emily and Danielle had secured six tickets for each National League Championship Series game at Shea. Once again, I’d get to go to every one of them. I paid for my share and invited Laurie and, because it was starting in daylight and it wasn’t at all chilly, Stephanie to Game Three. Reeder pitched and, in a rare clutch situation, didn’t have it. The Cardinals flew away with it but the oddest thing was it didn’t feel desperate. It was a lovely fall afternoon in the upper deck and I was with most of my favorite people in the world. Stephanie wore the 2000 PLAYOFFS hoodie I spent a pretty penny on and drew jealous looks from the rest of our crowd. If that was our worst problem, we were in luck.

Sunday night was more like it baseballwise. Emily’s father joined the crew while I brought Andrea from the beverage magazine, one of the Mets-sympathizers who never gave into our office’s Yankee hegemony. We were in the upper deck again.

Really, we almost weren’t. I was convinced the upper deck would soon, like the Cardinals, be history. In the bottom of the first, Timo doubled off Darryl Kile. Then Fonzie doubled. Robin doubled. Mike doubled. Zeile, the piker, grounded out. But Benny doubled. Add it up and the Mets had scored four runs.

For every double, every fan, including Emily’s dad but save for me and Andrea, jumped up and then down. Up and then down. The upper deck itself jumped up, then down. Up and then down. As much as I supposed my life had been mere prelude to a great Met championship, I didn’t think it would literally work out that way, that the Mets would take a 3-1 lead on the Cardinals while I and 20,000 others fell to field level and the mezzanine became the new upper deck.

To my surprise and delight, 1960s municipal architecture was stronger than I had figured. The ballpark stayed in one piece. The Cardinal staff was left in fragments. Even with Timo running wild and Fonzie hitting and Zeile joining in the double barrage and the Monster homering and Glendon Rusch picking up for a diminished-from-perfection Bobby Jones, Shake Stadium withstood its own frenzy.

Up! Down! Up! Down! DiamondVision wasn’t directing this. This was self-taught behavior. Jump! Jump! This is either a Van Halen reunion or a mass suicide pact. Whatever. The Mets won 10-6. There were 55,665 survivors.

As Andrea and I waited for the 7 to take us back to Woodside and then Long Island, who should be on the same platform but COW-BELL MAN? This time he was carrying a birdcage. Guess what was inside it? A stuffed cardinal. He had it rigged so he could make it bob up and down while his associate (even COW-BELL MAN had an entourage now) hit the play button on a boom box.

Who let the dogs out?

Who? Who? Who?

Who let the dogs out?

Every time I’d hear Who Let The Dogs Out? for the rest of my days, no matter how derisive the context (it was usually played as part of some sort of Worst Sports Song ever countdown), I would get goosebumps. Or dogbumps.

The finale almost felt like a formality. How had the Mets gone from edge-of-the-seat to sit-back-and-relax inside a week? These weren’t the same Cardinals who whacked us in early September. Maybe they simply couldn’t equal the majesty of the Big Met Machine.

Game Five had us in the mezzanine. I’d arranged to meet Rob outside Gate E an hour ahead of the first pitch, but we missed each other from a range of 20 feet and barely made it in for the start. That was the only gaffe of what became the single most magical night I’ve ever experienced at Shea Stadium.

Mike Hampton pitched flawlessly.

Timo and Fonzie fueled a three-run first.

Todd Zeile drove in three himself.

And the National League pennant was counted down to, out after out after out.

Matters seemed so settled that I could really notice where I was. To my left was Jason, the Mets fan I met online as if through some jock-obsessed dating service. To my right was Rob, who had worked a desk over from me for a couple of years a long time ago. I met them both when New York’s bout of Mets fever was in remission. That means that no matter how I found them, they were pure of heart. Like me, they never stopped rooting for the Mets. Rob, my friend since 1992, and Jason, my friend since 1994, were the two people with whom I hunkered down most intently during the victory drought of the early and mid-’90s. Maybe I would’ve been pals with each of them if we had met when the Mets were on the upswing, but meeting them when they weren’t made my friendship with each, on this pinnacle night, that much more meaningful.

When Rick Wilkins (an almost-forgotten face from one of our growing pains years) lofted a fly ball to Timo Perez in center to crown the New York Mets champions of the oldest established professional baseball league, I turned left and hugged Jason. Then I turned right and hugged Rob. It was the moment I had waited 14 years for and I was between exactly the two people I would’ve wanted had I ever thought about it.

The Mets win the pennant! The Mets win the pennant!

That’s who let the dogs out.

Gosh, we’d even surpassed my beloved 1999. Long live the new century.

They gave Hampton the MVP of the NLCS. Sure, he pitched 16 shutout innings, but it could’ve gone to Alfonzo (8 hits), Perez (8 runs) or Zeile (8 RBI). But this Mike was a good choice. When they showed the presentation on DiamondVision, a cheer went up. It would be the last time Mike Hampton would be cheered when he pitched at Shea Stadium, but we couldn’t have known that then.

Normally I would take the subway to Woodside or, depending on the vagaries of the LIRR, Penn Station to get home. But Rob had his car, so I parted ways with Jason, Emily and Danielle, my constant companions across two Octobers, and went with him. Rob had parked in the lot across Roosevelt Avenue and given the milling of the sellout crowd, we had to take a long walk to get there. We said almost nothing to each other. Rob was usually quiet. I was just mesmerized by what I was watching.

Did you see ever Avalon? In the opening scene, the old man through whose eyes the story is told is flashing back on arriving in America on the Fourth of July in 1914. In his mind, children are running through the streets of Baltimore waving sparklers. And it’s silent. That’s what the outside of Shea Stadium and Roosevelt Avenue reminded me of on Monday night, October 16, 2000. There was noise to be sure. There was honking and yelling, but it all felt like it was taking place in dreamy slow-motion. People waved instantly bought t-shirts and climbed up on light poles and were just happy. Neither Rob nor I had to say a word. The night said it all to us. The Mets had won the pennant.

Due to the length of our season, the story of 2000 is presented in three parts. The exciting conclusion follows in a separate post.

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