Three hundred twenty-three regular-season games. Six National League Division Series games. Seven National League Championship Series games. Two exhibition games. One intrasquad game. Two games rained out after I sat down. One baseball card show.
I’ve been inside Shea Stadium quite a bit. But never was I as cold as I was Tuesday night. And never did I care less.
It was gloves and ski caps and blankets and every thermal underthing I could steel myself in. It was still freezing. It’s taken me this long to thaw my fingers lest they shatter on contact with a computer keyboard.
But you endure a few inconveniences for your first World Series game. Given the choice between the warm and comfy couch and the laughingly labeled “Fall” Classic (correct only in the chronological sense — assuming it’s still October), I’ll take going out to meet Jack Frost in Flushing every time.
Jack Frost? How about Jack Delgado? Let’s call him that from now on for his one, no two jacks that made Jim Leyland presumably the warmest soul in Flushing. Yeah, I’d be lighting up in the runway, too, if I saw my clean-handed lefty starter go down in flames, so to speak, when Delgado went the other way on him not once but twice. Two two-run homers to left for our Roberto Clemente Award winner. Throw in the deuce by his lefty buddy Shawn Green, the stab and throw by Wright on Polanco and six good ones by leading man John Maine with best supporting action from Mota, Feliciano and Hernandez (take the night off, Billy) and you’ve got the Mets’ first home World Series win in exactly six years.
We should really be in these things more often.
I’m 1-0 in World Series play, dammit. That’s almost as special as the Mets being 2-1 in this particular set of games. Almost.
We (Laurie and me — nice birthday present, don’t you think?) got there early to get our shivering underway ahead of the rush. But when you’ve been waiting a lifetime to see the Mets in a World Series at Shea Stadium, you don’t mind. We got our silly towels and waved them for warmth. OK, so they only contributed to the breeze, but at our altitude, we lost the ability to think clearly.
They say a World Series congregation is calmer than your average, regular-fan crowd. I don’t know about that, seeing as how I have only one World Series game under my belt and we were far from the corporate swells of urban field level myth. It was plenty loud in the upper deck, just as it was in the NLDS and NLCS. It was pretty savvy at times, too, not just sticking it to Kenny Rogers when he was introduced — Piiiine Taaaar has replaced Laaaarrrreeee in the Shea arsenal of insults — but resurrecting, of all things, the ol’ “everybody say Rey-O!” in spots for Magglio Ordoñez (who quite fortunately hit like our erstwhile Gold Glove shortstop and goodwill ambassador).
Not that there weren’t dollops of stupidity. For example, I came upon a gent I noticed during Game Six of the Cardinal series, a fellow with a blue and orange Mohawk, a black Mets jersey (the buttons of which were no use to him) and, apparently, a tab with his local Anheuser-Busch distributor. He was imploring us, the whole of Section 22, to let loose. We didn’t really need his help, which irked him when one of his exhortations fell flat. “You sons of bitches,” he grumbled before moving onto UD 24.
I’ll miss that guy next week, but enough of him for now. I didn’t come to see him. I came to see the World Bleeping Series. I wondered if it would be tangibly different from any other postseason game. It was. Besides being colder, it’s longer. The between-innings stuff takes forever. But you put up with it because a) it’s the World Series; b) the Mets are in it; c) would you rather this be going on in St. Louis?
Don’t know what they showed on TV — I don’t dare record these things — but I loved that the Mets brought back everybody who played with them this year for the introductions, at least everybody who isn’t with another team. I’m thrilled to report for Laurie’s sake that Victor Zambrano got a nice hand. Even Jose Lima was cheered. The coolest was when they stuck a familiar face from behind the home dugout on the DiamondVision. It was Pittsburgh Pirate rightfielder Xavier Nady. He went without official comment (is there a rule against it?) but a big round of applause ensued and swelled.
Bringing back Davey Johnson to throw out the first ball, alongside Joan Hodges, was what brought me to my feet the longest. I was there the night in 1992 when Davey first came back for an Old Timers event (then known as the Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball). The Mets were playing Pittsburgh that night. Leyland was the opposing manager then and trotted out seven pitchers in nine innings to beat us 3-2. Willie Randolph played second for us and went 0-for-5. This was by far the happier homecoming.
I loved when they unfurled the giant American flag (where do they put it when they’re not using it — Yosemite?) and really loved it when Simon & Garfunkel came out to do not the national anthem but their own “America,” as in having gone to look for. I guess they were our hometown answer to Bob Seger singing “America The Beautiful” at Comerica the other night (up 2-1 in Series games, up 2-1 in area legends). The mere mention of “Michigan” as “a dream to me now” rated a boo, while the Use Mass Transit pleas must have filtered up to Paul and Artie because I swear I heard them say they were “counting the cars on the Long Island Rail Road”. That, however, could be my commuter’s imagination.
How do you top a performance like that? How about Tim McGraw ending the actual “Star Spangled Banner” by shouting “New York, You Gotta Believe!”? Well, that gave me more chills than the wind. Believe we did and rewarded we were from there.
Going to see the Mets in the World Series at Shea Stadium is about exactly the way I pictured it when I dared to imagine it in the middle of the playoffs. We got a win, we took the lead, there was once-in-my-lifetime pageantry, I dropped a pretty penny on programs, pennants and pins and, quite self-absorbedly, I can say I saw the World Series at Shea Stadium. By attending Game Three, my final 2006 record, regular & post, was elevated to a blessed .500 at 14-14.
Yes, that’s my final game for this World Series. Next year I’ll want to do it again, but for now — at last — I’m no longer out in the cold.