With total props to tasty Toasty Joe (his next 6″ tuna sub is on me, especially if my Shea ticket stub really does entitle me to buy one, get one relatively free as it states on the back) and his inspirational, intermittent salute to the ever-burgeoning Met win total on his excellent blog, I’d like to share 18 facts about the Mets’ current magic number, 18.
18.01: Straw. 18 never looked better than two Saturday nights ago when it reappeared on the body it was born for. Could have you imagined it would not be withdrawn from circulation after Darryl spent his entire career with the Mets, hit those 600 homers and led the team to those eight World Series?
18.02: Howe. 18 never looked worse than on the manager two dark years ago. Art’s still cashing checks from his four-year deal. Maybe we should keep paying him to stay away.
18.03: Cheaper By The Dozen. That headscratcher of a trivia answer (to “who was the Mets manager between Bobby Valentine and Willie Randolph?—hint: he’s the only one of the three to not take the team to the playoffs”) is one of twelve Mets to wear 18 since Darryl Strawberry.
18.04: No, Not You Takashi. Though Bret Saberhagen put up a notably control-friendly 1994 and Marlon Anderson got his pinch-hit on in 2005, the best 18 since Darryl Strawberry is the current rights holder, Jose Valentin. The hardest 18? Finding 18 Mets fans who saw him becoming our everyday second baseman and us loving it.
18.05: The Franchise. Tom Seaver was 16-5 midway though 1970 and was put on a four-day regimen to give him a shot at 30 wins. It was only two years after Denny McLain won 31. Can you imagine? Anyway, Tom Terrific was a creature of the five-man rotation and it backfired in a big way. Still led the league in strikeouts and ERA, but finishing 18-12 cost him yet another Cy Young. Despite youthful exuberance in the pursuit of unlikely statistical milestones, here’s to Tom!
18.06: The Other Franchise. I marched down to the Board of Elections and registered as soon I was constitutionally permitted. Despite 18-year-olds’ failure to appreciate the right to cast a ballot, here’s to the 26th Amendment!
18.07: Here’s To Toasting! But with what? When I turned 18, you could drink in New York. When I got to college in Florida, the drinking age was 19. Soon it was 21 just about everywhere. Eighteen struck me as the right one, but I don’t remember any of those restrictions getting in anybody’s way when I was at those awkward ages (as opposed to my current awkward age).
18.08: Personal Numeric Palindrome. I was 18 in ’81.
18.09: Our Lone Star Then. Joel Youngblood wore 18 in ’81.
18.10: Good Thing It Was Split. If you combine the first and second halves of strike-sundered ’81, the Mets finished 18-1/2 games behind the Cardinals. But the joke’s on the Cardinals — they neglected to win either half and stayed home for the playoffs. So did the Mets, but the joke’s still on the Cardinals.
18.11: Played In Pain. Cliff Floyd ratcheted up his slugging right before leaving for right Achilles tendon surgery in August 2003. Finishing with 18 homers and 68 RBI, he received one ovation after another from a beaten down Shea crowd that had nothing else to cheer way back then.
18.12: Played In More Pain. Cliff’s 2004 ended shy of the finish line again after straining his right oblique. Managed another 18 dingers despite his dings. He could use more cheers real soon.
18.13: Pete Wingfield. On November 22, 1975, “Eighteen With A Bullet” actually climbed to No. 18 on Billboard‘s Hot 100. And his record indeed had a bullet. No truth to the rumor that Pete had his finger on the trigger…or was gonna pull it.
18.14: Sailcat. “Motorcycle Mama” was the one hit by this one-hit wonder in 1972. “You’re 18/You can do what you like” was a lyric that tickled my parents no end. I’m still not sure why. I was 9.
18.15: Alice Cooper. He’s a boy and he’s a man. He’s “Eighteen,” and he don’t know what he wants…except to be known by a girl’s name. That a fellow (Vincent Furnier by birth) called himself Alice and became a rock star even bigger than Sailcat in 1972 also amused Mom and Dad. Me too, I guess. I was half of 18.
18.16: Good Luck With That. In Jewish tradition, chai, the Hebrew letter expression of 18, is considered fortunate. Give $36 as a bar mitzvah present, and it will be translated as rockin’ the double chai. Depending on your relationship to the thirteen-year-old’s family, it will be seen as thoughtfully appropriate or a little on the cheap side. I once gave a Mets fan whose wedding I couldn’t make a gift of $69.86.
18.17: Very Good Luck With That. On January 8, 2005 — or 1/8 almost 1 year and 8 months ago — Drayton McLane failed to re-sign Carlos Beltran to the Houston Astros. Instead, the future should-be National League MVP decided to accept $118 million from the New York Mets. Plus $1 million for good measure.
18.18: An Eternity. It’s been 18 years since the Mets had a magic number countdown for a divisional title. Let’s not wait ’til 2024 to do this again.