Chuck James is so The Man.
With the help of 1 or 2 vital Braves (it’s the least they can do) taking advantage of a roster of decomposing Phillies — Randall Simon, Jeff Conine, Jose Hernandez, Jamie Moyer…is that Johnny Callison lingering by the bat rack? — the magic number is 1.
1.0020: Perspective. 1 quarter-century ago, on a Sunday afternoon in September 1981, I sat in my dorm room in Tampa, my first month in college, my first month away from the Mets. I twirled my AM tuner up and down the dial searching for some station that gave baseball scores at regular intervals like WINS and WCBS did at home. I also added to my first long-distance bill by calling (516) 976-1313 every 10 minutes. I wanted…needed to know what was going in the Mets-Cardinals game. The Cardinals were in first, but the Mets had taken the first 2 games of their 3-game series. A win would get us within 2-1/2 of the lead with 2 weeks to go in this, baseball’s only split season. After trailing 5-0 in the 3rd when Pat Zachry had nothing, the Mets scored 2 in the 6th and 3 in the 7th off Lary Sorensen, Doug Bair, Jim Kaat (who gave up a pinch single to Rusty Staub, the only batter he faced), Jose DeLeon and Bob Sykes. In the top of the 9th, Neil Allen — following shutout work from Ray Searage, Mike Marshall and Jesse Orosco — allowed a 2-out triple to Tito Landrum, who scored when the Met centerfielder made an error. In the bottom of the 9th, Bruce Sutter, attempting to save the game for Mark Littell, also got the first 2 outs. But then Frank Taveras doubled and the centerfielder whose gaffe resulted in the lead run, No. 1 Mookie Wilson, homered. The Mets, as I learned in a 1-line summation on the CBS radio network rundown of football and other scores, won 7-6. Alone in my room some 1,100 miles south of Shea Stadium, I jumped around for probably a half-hour. The Mets never made it to 1st place, but I never forgot what happened that September day.
1.0040: More Perspective. 1 decade ago, on a Thursday afternoon in September 1996, I sat in my office in Manhattan. I had the radio tuned to WFAN. The Mets were playing the Astros. The Mets were nowhere near 1st place, but I followed every pitch. No. 1 Lance Johnson had made September exciting by toppling 1 Met record after another. That day at the Astrodome, he collected 3 of what would turn out to be 227 base hits, 1 of them his 21st triple of the season. The exploits of Johnson, Todd Hundley (41 homers) and Bernard Gilkey (117 RBI) kept me entranced as an otherwise miserable and typical season wound down. As the game progressed, a salesman in my company who fancied himself a baseball fan wandered by and heard the play-by-play. “What game is this?” he asked. “Mets and Astros,” I said. “Oh,” he decided. “That’s not important.” It was 1 of the most ignorant statements I ever heard anybody say about a baseball game, even 1 Rick Trlicek would lose to Doug Drabek. The Mets finished deep in 4th place, but I never forgot what happened that September day.
1.0060: A Little More Perspective. 1 quadrennium ago, on a Saturday night in September 2002, I sat in the mezzanine at Shea Stadium. I had been doing a lot of sitting in that mezzanine that summer, none of it to any positive effect of late. Starting with a doubleheader defeat at the hands of the defending World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks, I had seen the Mets lose 6 in a row. The Mets simply weren’t winning at home that August and losing a lot in September, too. Long since dropped out of the Wild Card race, the Mets were running out the clock versus the Montreal Expos. Javier Vazquez (7 IP, 2 ER) and Endy Chavez (4 hits) mostly toyed with the home team. I was mostly annoyed by the family sitting to my right. The father thought it very clever when “Tequila” was played during a pitching change to yell “Juice!” at the chorus, which inspired his son to yell “Gatorade!” and they just kept taking turns naming different beverages. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say I sort of wanted to kill myself. In the 9th inning, an inning I hoped would go quickly so I could go quickly, the Mets were down to their last out, trailing 3-2. Edgardo Alfonzo was on 3rd and Marco Scutaro was on 1st when Brady Clark grounded to Andres Galarraga, as surehanded a 1st baseman as there was. Galarraga muffed it and Alfonzo ran home to tie the game. I saw a reason to live. In the bottom of the 11th, with 2 on and 2 out, No. 1 Esix Snead deposited a 3-run homer into the Met bullpen. The Mets won 6-3 and I was as happy as I’d been inside Shea Stadium all year. Last place would prove inescapable, but I never forgot what happened that September night.
1.0080: And Even More Perspective. 1 year ago, across 30 days in September 2005, I spent a month right here at my computer. I, like my partner in this venture, blogged, and much of that blogging reflected the hopes and dreams of a promising season crashed on the rocks of reality. I wrote things after losses like “I know I said I’d care, but I didn’t” and “but really…thrown out at second on a single to center?” and “‘come on out to Shea,’ urged New York Mets eulogist Fran Healy, ‘and watch the Mets lie in state.’” 1 year ago tonight, I pushed myself away from my computer to go to a morose Shea Stadium to pay my respects. The Mets lost a game so futile and so uneventful that I don’t remember a single detail except what I wrote when I got home: “This, I told my companion…is what we will look back on next year, or perhaps the year after that, or some distant year beyond that 1, when the Mets are titlebound. ‘Yeah, remember that game against the Nationals in September ’05, how we went and there was nobody there and the Mets lost? Yeah.’” The Mets would turn it around as the season ended — calling up No. 1 Anderson Hernandez, winning 12 of their last 16 and salvaging an above-.500 record — but mostly I never forgot what I felt that September night, that as fans we put up with lots of sad denouements just so someday we can point back and say, “Yeah, remember?”
1.01: Perspective In Toto You’ll read a lot and hear a lot in the coming days and weeks about who you are and what you think. Those who have no clue what it’s like to be a Mets fan will become authorities. Others who have never spent a single moment in your shoes will be sitting in your seats. People who couldn’t possibly match your track record for getting caught up in a team that has been bringing you down for much of your lives will be talking at you in what sounds like a foreign language, so unfamiliar will they be with the Met dialect. As this September becomes this October, many things will feel different. A lot of them will be great. Some of them will get in the way of your good time. Now that the magic number in this unbelievably magical season is down to 1, now that what we’ve waited 17 years and 145 games for is potentially hours away, now that you and your team will forever be the National League Eastern Division Champions of 2006, never forget this 1 thing.
This 1′s for us.