If it’s exactly 20 years since the night your life changed forever for the better, then it’s Flashback Friday at Faith and Fear in Flushing.
On that May 11 as on this May 11, the Mets were of paramount importance to me. But on that May 11 as on this May 11, some things were more important to me than the Mets.
Correction: One thing…one person.
The Mets of 1987 were off to a shambling start. How could that be? How could the defending World Champions be anything but triumphant? 1987 was the first year we could look forward to a season with not just expectations of dominance (like in ’86) but certainty. It was a lock.
But there are no guarantees in this life, not in baseball, not in any endeavor.
So my team was 13-15 through the contests of May 10. And I was 0-0 in love.
On May 11, 1987, the Mets lost to the Reds 12-2. It was their fourth consecutive defeat, their seventh in eight games. Failure was becoming the 1987 Mets and the 1987 Mets were becoming failures. Usually when they hit, they couldn’t pitch (evidence included recent losses of 11-7 and 8-7) and when they pitched, they couldn’t hit (2-0, 2-0, 4-3 and 5-4, all gone to L the previous week). In Cincinnati, there was nothing to recommend the Mets on either side of the ledger.
But there was something better that Monday night. Better than baseball. Better than Mets baseball. Better than defending World Champion Mets baseball.
On Monday night May 11, 1987, I quite unexpectedly — no guarantees doesn’t always mean bad news — met the woman I would marry. Suddenly, 13-15 didn’t matter. Dwight Gooden’s rehab from cocaine didn’t matter. The pigeon Rafael Santana had to collect after Dion James killed it with a fly ball didn’t matter. Bobby Ojeda’s bum left elbow didn’t matter. Ron Darling’s ERA of 6.31 through seven outings didn’t matter. Tim Raines emerging from collusion without a minute of spring training and socking a grand slam off Jesse Orosco in the tenth didn’t matter. The Mets wallowing four back in fourth place five weeks into the season didn’t matter. The Mets didn’t mat…
No, let’s not go that far. The Mets still mattered. My head wasn’t so far in the clouds that Monday night that I couldn’t tune in WINS on a late train home to get the final score from Riverfront. I wasn’t so far gone that I accepted 12-2 as the little rain that must fall into each suddenly sunny life. I wasn’t figuratively whistling (I can’t whistle) so joyful a tune that it drowned out a brief and predictable curse word directed at Aguilera, Myers, Sisk and the enormously useless Gene Walter for surrendering a dozen runs.
The Mets, 13-16 through the contests of May 11, 1987, mattered. But now they had company. And I was 1-0 in love.
Twenty years later, I still am.
I know I’ve told the story of how Stephanie and I met at least once, probably a couple of times on this blog. I know I’ve mentioned our first official date was four nights later in Flushing, Queens, an 8-3 beating of the Giants, memorable on its own terms for Sid Fernandez leaving his mound assignment despite carrying a no-hitter through five (I’ve just been reminded El Sid tripled in the fourth despite carrying some extra weight, thus spurring his early departure). And I will repeat, because it gives me great pleasure, this anecdote from June 10, 1987:
[W]e spoke on the phone. She asked me how my day had been.
“Great,” I said. “Dwight Gooden beat the Cubs. But you probably don’t care.”
“If it’s important to you,” she said. “It’s important to me.”
Doc’s victory pushed the fourth-place Mets a game over .500, keeping them within 6-1/2 of the front-running Cardinals. But in the only terms that mattered, they and my new girlfriend were tied for first.
Twenty years later, they still are…though the girlfriend-turned-wife definitely leads in the winning percentage column. 1-0, after all, equals a perfect 1.000.
Stephanie and I were in close geographic proximity for only five weeks in the spring of 1987. She was a college freshman visiting New York for a summer arts program. It was dumb luck and kind fate that had us cross paths in the same hotel lobby on the Upper West Side that Monday night when Aguilera got rocked. By the time she had to head back to Florida, we were set. Long distance would be a hassle but not an obstacle. The three years she needed to complete her degree would loom as an eternity, but eternities have a funny way of eventually clocking out. Come 1989, we would be engaged. In 1990, we would move in together. On November 10, 1991, we would wed. It’s been 15-1/2 years of matrimonial bliss since and exactly 20 years that I’ve been blessed with two loves of a lifetime.
May 11, 1987. The Mets lost by 10 runs. What a great night.
Next Friday: The debut and proposed finale of 24.