I'm reading a pretty good book called A Great Day in Cooperstown about how the Hall of Fame came to be and the festive occasion its opening was. All the immortals who were still alive in 1939 — Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Tris Speaker, a recently retired Babe Ruth — came to Upstate New York and caused quite the commotion. I wondered what it must have been like to have witnessed modern baseball in its formative years, to have seen these players create the game as we know it, to possibly bump into one of them on Main Street when they showed up to get enshrined.
It must have been tremendous, I decided, but it's all right that I wasn't there then because if I had been, I wouldn't be around now. And if I weren't around now, I wouldn't be seeing Lastings Milledge in his formative years recreating the game we will know in the 21st century.
That's how far gone I am over this kid who's been a Met for a week and change. I had held it in check until last night, but by this morning, as I savored the back page of the late edition of the Daily News which documented his ARM & HAMMER…well, WOO! as the scoreboard often says. I'm head over heels for Lastings Milledge.
Yes, he's to be mentioned with the residents of Pantheon Row. Of course I'm searching my mental database for whether we've ever had anybody like him (we haven't) or whether we've produced and employed a trio of homegrowners like Reyes, Wright and him simultaneously (we also haven't). I've skipped over the ifs in record time, slid around the ands, and slammed the buts over the leftfield wall. No ifs, ands or buts, Lastings Milledge is as awesome a Met as I could imagine.
Xavier Nady? Swell fella. I hope Willie finds him some at-bats.
I've flipped through all the obvious precedents. He's not Ron Swoboda. He's not Mike Vail. He's not Alex Ochoa. He's not Benny Agbayani. He's not Victor Diaz or Craig Brazell or Mike Jacobs even. I have no evidence, only intuition, and I'm likin' what I'm feelin'. He's not Darryl Strawberry, either, though after watching him do everything right last night, I no longer mean that in the “don't compare him to a superstar yet,” but rather “Darryl was no Lastings, not at this stage of his career”…career meaning, if I'm not mistaken, eight games to date.
It's not much of a sample, but what sample it is makes me want to order the complete set right now. Lastings Milledge has filled up my senses like a night in the forest, like the mountains in springtime, like a walk in the rain.
Holy Honus Wagner! He's hitting, he's running, he's throwing, he's got me channeling John Denver.
I'm gone, baby. Waaaaaaaay gone.