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Happy Talk

Welcome to Flashback Friday: Tales From The Log [1], a final-season tribute to Shea Stadium as viewed primarily through the prism of what I have seen there for myself, namely 367 regular-season and 13 postseason games to date. The Log records the numbers. The Tales tell the stories.

8/24/06 Th St. Louis 12-8 Williams 2 174-142 W 6-2

Win or lose, I’ve been happy at Shea Stadium far more often than I’ve not been. I’ve been happy amid playoff games and playoff runs, next to loved ones and liked ones, simply happy to be at a Mets game.

But putting aside stimuli like an enormous comeback win or a series-clinching home run, I don’t know that I’ve ever been happier there than I was on a Thursday night two Augusts ago.

I was positively giddy that night. Internally giddy, I suppose, but that’s what counts.

It was a nice win, not spectacular or death-defying. The Mets clearly outplayed the Cardinals. The 2006 Mets clearly outplayed everybody.

On the 7 in, a fellow from Holland asked me for directions to the park, and took off his cheapo knockoff Yankees cap to do so when he felt my disapproving glare.

Before it started, I went to the advance window and bought some tickets to a future game, just a for the hell of it Monday night in September.

On my way to my seat, I stopped off in Loge to pick up something from my friend Dan, detoured in Mezz to give something to my friend Jim and then rejoined Jace at our seats.

It had rained a bit and the game got underway late, but it wasn’t a deluge or anything. It was pleasantly cool for August. (A stiff breezed kicked up when Brian Bannister loosened in the pen.) One of us got fries and they did get a little damp, but that probably improved them.

Between Mets runs and Cardinal outs, we took turns spotting retro jerseys down below in Field Level and tried to figure out why people would choose to buy and wear these in particular. The top three:

3) Jose Oquendo, 11, Cardinals

2) Gary Carter, 8, Expos

1) O.J. Simpson, 32, Bills

Leaving the park, I spied the Holland guy. He appeared to have ditched his offensive headgear altogether.

And I went home and wrote about it [2] some.

What I think stays with me beyond Dave Williams’ yeoman 6-1/3 innings (Gary Bennett’s homer his only trivial blemish), Shawn Green’s maiden Met appearance (and RBI single, no less) and Carlos Delgado’s two-run blast is the talk Jason and I had en route to the El — we didn’t realize the outfield parking lot had been cordoned off for then-unnamed New Ballpark, so it took a while to walk — and on the 7 thereafter.

We dissected our roster, suggested to each other who would or wouldn’t be ideal to have around for the NLDS, sized up potential October opponents and didn’t think twice (as he noted then [3]) that we were jinxing anybody. That wasn’t 2006 thinking. In 2006, we looked forward to good things. In 2006, our planning was for us to burnish our standing in the game, not to overhaul our organization.

Hanging with Jace and saying hi to Dan and Jim and maybe intimidating Dutch out of his cheapo knockoff Yankees cap was of course wonderful. The Mets sweeping the Cardinals (this was two nights after Beltran whacked that joyous [4] ninth-inning winner off Isringhausen), it goes without saying, was fantastic. Knowing we were heading to the postseason was intoxicating; those random tickets I bought beforehand wound up being for the division-clincher [5]. But the best part…the goddamn absolute best part…was the security I felt regarding the Mets.

This blog was built on nights in which Jason and I sat at Shea Stadium and talked over the Mets’ fortunes and the Mets’ status and the Mets’ chances and the Mets’ future. There was always something more they had to do to make us happy. On this night, sure we plotted their route to the 2006 World Series, sure we wanted that, but we knew they’d arrived as much as any team could arrive in late August. This was what we, individually and together (and implicitly in conjunction with millions like us), had been waiting for. Not the championship, but the knowledge that we were right there competing for it, favored for it, needing no more than a little of our amateur GM fine-tuning to capture it. We anticipated the next month and the next month after that, but not for what the Mets had to do to finally get better. They were better.

That feeling, I tell you…it was the best.