I expected to attend my the 25th-anniversary reunion of my high school class Saturday night. I followed the directions until I saw the sign outside that said WELCOME CLASS OF 1981. I went inside, grabbed my nametag and affixed it to my lapel.
Talk about embarrassing. Like in one of those sitcoms, the first guy who comes up to me is someone I don’t recognize.
“Hey…Greg!” He was squinting at my nametag. I didn’t bring my reading glasses (yet another sign of aging) so I couldn’t easily read his.
“Don’t tell me you don’t remember me?”
“Ha! That’s OK! I didn’t come into the class of ’81 until late in the year. I moved to New York from Milwaukee, remember?”
I couldn’t say I did.
“Aw, come on! Dan…Danny!”
“Oh yeah. Dan Boitano.”
“Aw, c’mon Greg! You can call me Danny!”
I zipped through the high school yearbook in my head but I couldn’t remember any Dan or Danny Boitano. But the name rang a bell. Wait a sec…
“You didn’t go to high school with me, did you?”
“Uh, not unless you’re from Sacramento and were born in 1953.”
“Then, no, we didn’t go to high school together…kidder!”
I wasn’t kidding.
“Call me Danny.”
I hate when people call me that.
“Um, if you weren’t in the Long Beach High School Class of 1981 what are you doing here?”
“Gregster, you always did have the sense of humor. I don’t get the joke, but I’ll go along. What are you doing here?”
That didn’t make any sense. But neither did much of high school.
“Dan, am I in the right place?”
“Well, this is where the Class of ’81 is meeting. See, look at the banner?”
And there it was. NEW YORK METS CLASS OF 1981 25TH REUNION.
“I think I’m in the wrong room.”
“Why do you say that? You’re a Mets fan, right?”
“And you were a Mets fan in 1981, right?”
“Then you’re in the right room!”
“The ’81 Mets are having a class reunion?”
“All teams do. Didn’t you know that?”
I didn’t know that.
“To be honest, Dan, no. I didn’t know. I’m a little surprised.”
“Don’t know why. If high school classes can reconvene in awkward, uncomfortable, possibly pointless fashion every five or ten years into seeming perpetuity, why shouldn’t baseball teams?”
“Well, I know the Mets are having the ’86 champions back…”
“That? Oh, that’s Old Timers Night. That’s the official stuff. I’m not talking about that. You think the Mets could sell ten tickets to a 25th anniversary 1981 reunion?”
“I’d buy one.”
“I know ya would, Greg. That’s why we fixed it so you’d be here tonight.”
“Sure! Some editions of the Mets — most editions of the Mets, actually — don’t get those fancy Old Timers Days, don’t get Dunkin’ Donuts quarters and commemorative logo t-shirts…”
“I was supposed to get one of those Friday night, but they ran out.”
“See? What’s the point?”
The point was I bought the ’86-pack in part so I’d get goodies like the t-shirt, but I wasn’t going to start arguing with Dan Boitano, possibly the most obscure of the 1981 Mets. So far he was still the only one at the reunion talking to me.
“What I mean, Greg, is there’s the 1969 team and they got all sorts of sanctioned reunions and there’s 1973 and now there’s 1986. You think the Mets are going to do anything for anybody else?”
“I hadn’t really thought about it.”
“Yes you have.”
“Yes I have.”
“Yes you have, and you’ve figured out that the Mets are almost surely going to ignore 1988 and 1999 and maybe they’ll do something for 2000 and, if things go well, 2006, but that they’ll never do it the way you want them to and, worse yet to your way of thinking, they’ll never, ever honor the Mets teams that you remember so fondly, the teams whose only mistake was not making the playoffs.”
“Y’know, Danny, you’re right.”
He was. It’s great that the Mets are doing the 20th anniversary of 1986 all year, but where was any acknowledgement of 1985 last year? Will there be even the slightest note about 1997 next year? Those are two of my favorite years, but because they never made it into the postseason, they just pass into the mists of history.
“I am right, Greg. It’s up to fans like you to keep teams like the 1981 Mets alive. You’re the only way we keep getting together.”
“Gee, Dan, I didn’t realize it.”
“You should! Especially after all the good times you and me had, huh?”
Talk about awkward. As much as I appreciated being invited in a roundabout way to the 1981 Mets class reunion, Dan Boitano was the guy I least remembered. Naturally that didn’t stop him from assuming different.
“Hey, what about Pete Rose?”
“Um, what about him?”
“Gregster, you and that sense of humor of yours! You’re killin’ me here!”
Dan was laughing. I was confused.
“You’re pretending you don’t remember how in my first Mets appearance I walked Greg Gross but then got a double play ball out of Mister Hit King himself. C’mon, you remember that!”
“Uh, I guess. It’s been a good 25 years.”
“Yeah, that was a good game. Gave up just the one run in two innings. Zachry got the win and Allen got the save, but I got the hold.”
“Is the hold even a real statistic?”
Dan Boitano turned a little defensive.
“Man, some people!”
“Dan, I meant no offense. I just didn’t know.”
“Geez, Greg, don’t tell me you’re one of those fans who thinks the closers are so great. This is just like back in the Mets cafeteria where Swan and Zachry and Randy Jones and Dave Roberts that quiff would sit at one table and Allen and Reardon would sit at another. Guys like me and Ray Searage and Dyar Miller were treated like outcasts. It wasn’t fair!”
Wow. I didn’t know baseball was just like high school. I wanted to get away from Dan Boitano, but he was being kind of clingy, so I figured maybe I could just change the subject.
“So, who else is here?”
“Well, look around. Lee’s over there chatting up the cheerleaders. What else is new? Big man on campus…hmmph. Doug’s by the bar looking a whiskey sour into his glove hand — right next to Dude, crushing that beer can against his forehead. Oh, and there’s Frankie T, acting all bored. Like usual.”
“Dave Kingman coming?”
“That beatnik who used to sulk by himself in the back row of the auditorium? Nobody here’s heard from him since like 1983.”
“He was here at the beginning, but said his elbow ached and left. Pussy.”
“Won’t come out of the kitchen.”
“Mookie? Jesse? Wally?”
“Eff them. They all act like they weren’t even in the class of ’81. But I think Eddie Lynch will be coming by later.”
What Dan Boitano said earlier was true, to a point. I mean, sure, I liked the Mets in 1981. I guess I loved the Mets in 1981. But the guys who really made something of themselves, especially those who became 1986 Mets, aren’t guys you’d associate with that team. Either way, we were joined by one of Dan’s classmates.
It was Greg Harris, the ambidextrous pitcher.
“Hey, both you guys are Gregs. That’s hilarious!”
I didn’t laugh. Greg Harris chuckled.
“Hey Dan! Remember this?”
Greg Harris dug three baseballs out of his pockets and started juggling. “I can do it with either hand!”
Dan Boitano doubled over in laughter. A fourth joined our little circle and he wasn’t at all amused.
“Dyarrhea! What’s up?”
“Cut that shit out, Boitano. My name’s Dyar.”
I had a vague recollection that Dyar Miller as being angry. I guess he still was.
“Chill out Dyar! I was just hangin’ with the Gregs.”
“Harris, you I remember. Who’s this?”
“He’s a big Mets fan. He’s cool.”
“Yeah? Ya wanna be cool? Where’s Coach Pignatano? I want another shot at that old coot!”
The only thing I remembered for sure about Dyar Miller was he got into a fight in a hotel bar with Piggy. I assumed guys get over gripes like that a quarter-century after the fact, but I guess not.
“What about Torre? He owes me!”
“Mr. Torre had to work tonight, Dyar.”
“He had to work? After 25 years he still has to work Saturday nights? HA! What a loser! Well, Screw him, and you can tell him I said that, Harris. Torre used me only 23 times all year. And not at all after September 2. No wonder we didn’t win the division.”
“Yeah, you, the fan?”
“Listen, I was as optimistic as anybody that you guys were going to pull out that split-season thing, but you can’t be serious that Joe Torre not using you in September is the reason we didn’t win.”
“Who the…who let you in? What are you, some kind of Mike Marshall? I see he’s not here. Probably thinks he’s too smart for us with all that kinesiology crap. I need a Schlitz!”
Dyar Miller stalked off. Greg A. Harris took his juggling act over to Bob Bailor’s table, where he and Cubbage and Jorgensen were sitting and nursing their vodka tonics, seemingly not in the mood for any parlor tricks. Once more, I was left alone with Boitano.
“Crazy, Greg, huh?”
“Yeah, Dan. Sure is.”
Uncomfortable silence. I groped for conversation.
“Um…is Mark Bomback coming?”
“Bomback? Oh, that’s hilarious! Bomback was Mets Class of ’80! Man, that’s priceless. Bomback! I gotta go find Gardenhire and tell him you said that!”
With that, Dan Boitano was off to find Ron Gardenhire. I assumed that like Joe Torre he was probably working, but I didn’t tell Dan. It was the clean break I was looking for.
Still, I was tempted to hang around. The DJ was cueing up “Bette Davis Eyes” and I was hoping to say hi to Hubie Brooks or even Charlie Puleo, but their nametags sat on the registration table unaccounted for. Meanwhile, I could hear Dyar getting into an argument with Searage, telling Ray he wasn’t “such a big man for batting a thousand and going one-and-fucking oh!” Not ten feet away, Pete Falcone started giving his “testimony” to Ellis Valentine, who didn’t look quite right. Then I found out the pickup in the parking lot with the bumpersticker I DON’T BRAKE FOR ANIMALS AND OTHER LIVING THINGS belonged to Joel Youngblood and Youngblood didn’t look much happier than Miller. Besides, I couldn’t believe he wore camo to this affair. Trouble was brewing.
As if that weren’t enough, Boitano was fast reapproaching, this time waving a clipping of a box score and yelling something about how he “struck out Dave Concepcion and got the win.” That did it. I fished out my valet stub as fast as I could, before a tipsy Ron Hodges told the Dave Augustine story again. I’d had enough of the New York Mets Class of 1981 to last me another 25 years.
Remind me not to RSVP for any more of these.