- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Feeling Shawon Dunston

I got another asinine question the other day about the Hall of Fame. You think that I played my career because I'm worried about the damn Hall of Fame? I could give a rat's ass about that, also.

—Roger Clemens

Dave Parker: He was a Yes for me last year, but I just wasn't feeling him this year.

—Ken Davidoff

I don't know if Dave Parker is close to getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but I hope someone tells him if he misses by one vote, it's because at least one cavalier baseball columnist [1] entrusted with evaluating the length and breadth of his career “isn't feeling him” for 2008 the way he was for 2007. Nice way to have your stature determined for the ages.

Yup, I'm with Roger Clemens on this one. I don't give a rat's ass about the Hall of Fame either.

I used to. I used to live a little for this day in January when we heard who was deemed immortal and who would have to wait his turn. I got excited on behalf of those I rooted for and found myself gratified for those I admired.

Now I don't much care. I might again someday, but today's announcement will leave me cold one way or the other. After watching year after year the varied machinations evolve so they could effectively conspire to bar Buck O'Neil and continue to keep out Gil Hodges yet welcome Walter O'Malley, I am so over the Hall of Fame.

Except that it's given me an excuse to think about the only former Met on today's ballot, Shawon Dunston [2]. Regarding his Hall of Fame qualifications, I've got them right here.

With his and our team three outs from the saddest of eliminations, Shawon Dunston led off the bottom of the fifteenth inning of the fifth game of the 1999 National League Championship Series, worked Kevin McGlinchy for eleven unsatisfying pitches and, on the dozenth he saw, singled. Then he stole second. He made it to third on an Edgardo Alfonzo sacrifice and scored when Todd Pratt walked with the bases loaded.

That made the score of the fifth game of that NLCS 3-3. Shawon crossed home plate and the Mets weren't losing anymore. The Mets were no longer dead in the water that poured over Shea Stadium on the night of October 17, 1999. With a little help from his friends Fonzie and Tank (and Matt Franco and John Olerud, each of whom walked somewhere in there), Shawon rescued the Mets. Moments before our notion that a grand slam and a single could never be mistaken for a unified entity went the way of “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter,” Shawon Dunston was our miracle in the rain.

Then Robin Ventura completed God's Work and that was marvelously that, at least for a couple more days. But Ventura — and this takes zero away from his own mighty swing — was creating on a fresh canvas of Mets 3 Braves 3. He could have (shudder) grounded into a double play and the Mets would have been alive, if only for the sixteenth, but alive nonetheless. Robin did not have to raise Lazarus. Dunston did the heaviest lifting.

Shawon Dunston's career [3] began long before October 17, 1999 and would go on a few years thereafter. He wasn't a Met for much of it. He was a Met that Sunday, which is all my Hall of Fame needs to know. Shawon between the raindrops, refusing to walk, refusing to strike out, insisting on a hit, demanding another base, snatching for the precious time being from the Atlanta Braves a pennant they were sure was theirs…that's immortal to me. That and the eternally enduring eulogy [4] he delivered for a championship season died young two nights later at Turner Field. The cumulative effect of Shawon Dunston at the climax of Game Five and immediately following Game Six puts him in the Hall of Fame of my mind.

Cooperstown can be somebody else's cause today. The Baseball Writers Association of America surely did not give Shawon Dunston 75% of its support. I'd be surprised if he gets the 5% that would keep him lingering on the ballot another year. And I find myself completely unable to pony up a rat's ass that he will be so lightly dismissed. I saw Shawon Dunston lead off the fifteenth inning. It's been eight years, two months and three weeks. I'm still feeling [5] him.

For every Mets fan who properly cherishes the final glorious throes of 1999, your next move is to click through to The Ballclub's epic nine-part series that recalls that October in gorgeous and expansive detail [6].