Sip it, savor it, cup it, photostat it, underline it in red, press it in a book, put it in an album, hang it on the wall, Dan Rather might have reported — the Mets won all three games they played against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in 2008. Yet somehow it came to pass that on the very day our beloved New York Mets crushed the despised New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium and swept, in however delayed a fashion, their entire season’s slate of games in The House That Uncouth Built, I concluded the night more anguished than ebullient.
Timing is everything.
No denying the beauty and wonder of the afternoon game nor the enormous accomplishment inherent, considering the ten previous attempts since the inauguration of Interleague play, in Metaphorically blowing up Monument Park not once, not twice but thrice in the same year, the third time with an offensive explosion as astounding as they come. It took eleven tries to go three-and-oh on the wrong side of the Triborough, but it happened; it happened at the end of a week that began as Mariner mulch and it happened at the beginning of a day no Mets fan with any sense of history could have anticipated with anything but pathos. The two-ballpark precedent was too strong to ignore, too daunting to embrace and too horrible to contemplate. But the first half of the obstacle course was nothing more than a child’s jungle gym, Carlos Delgado rising up as the righteous kid who put a stop to all the bullying at that playground your mother warned you against wandering into.
Delightful. Absolutely delightful it was to sit on a Long Island Rail Road train en route to a Mets game listening to a Mets game, one whose pinball score was soaring to TILT. Delgado hit another homer? Delgado set an RBI record? Delgado, for the moment, was no longer playing like Delgado? Let me emit satisfied noises from under my earbuds. Let me smile and clap without outward elaboration. Let me make sure to catch several Yankees fans’ eyes with my expressions of satisfaction. Let me make sure to start spreading the news, I’m leaving the train.
“Hey,” I helpfully related with a hearty pat on the shoulder to a total stranger at Woodside, “fifteen-five!”
“Yeah, I know. But thanks!”
The 7 from Woodside was just as nice. An express came immediately and it wasn’t overly crowded. I could stand by a door for maximum AM reception, hear Howie Rose and Wayne Hagin charitably devote half-an-inning to their wistful memories of the doomed Yankee Stadium (funny, neither of them mentioned Mlicki). The proceedings uptown dawdled on just long enough so I could get a “put it in the books!” at the precise second I descended the final step from the back staircase that leads one onto Roosevelt Avenue and off toward sacred ground. I listened to the Mets win a game as I prepared to watch the Mets win a game.
My preparation for the nightcap was sound as it was sudden. Tickets I had no notion of holding magically appeared hours earlier, FedExed into the palms of my hands by someone looking out for my best interests. Jim and I joined forces just after six and secured Subway Series pins before they could sell out. We then beelined to the table where you trade in unwanted old caps on shiny orange Mets models. These are our annual priorities and we took care of them immediately (fretting over hats and pins…we’re like ladies shopping, I said). Through the good corporate graces of a great old friend who joined us a bit later, we had nine-inning access to the usually restricted Field Level. When you’re not down there often, it’s a culinary and souvenir wonderland. Jim had to restrain himself from purchasing a $65 bat. My gastric judgment notwithstanding, I bought from the Broadway Brew House a hot dog the approximate size and price of a Louisville Slugger, a wiener I’m still digesting as of this morning.
What the hell? Everything seemed to be going down so beautifully Friday evening. The Mets mysteriously didn’t play a loop of afternoon highlights or even post a Game One score where anybody could revel in it, but like the fellow with whom I shared bonhomie on the platform at Woodside, everybody knew what had been achieved in the Bronx. From far right field, a ripple of applause went up when the Mets’ bus pulled in to the lot behind the bullpen. The travel team is back! And they’ve got the trophy! The ripple extended around the sparsely populated ballpark as our kids, our Mets, tromped into the clubhouse to change for the nightcap. Boy, did we love our Mets.
What was not to love?
What a day it had been. What a night it would be, Pedro versus Ponson, Monumental momentum arriving in Queens with a police escort, an in-progress sunrise/sunset shutdown operation so effective it would do Derek Bell proud. It was all set up so beautifully…
Too beautifully. Pedro had nothing. Ponson had Reyes swinging at the first pitch and popping it up with the bases loaded and one out in the second, a sign as sure as any bogus vacation-ump interference call that all Subway Series day-night doubleheaders eventually run off the tracks. Sure enough, those who should have been wallowing in deserved misery were granted obnoxious salvation for Friday. We who should have been basking in the cool of the evening were suffering from a case of the cold nine-nothing sweats. As the hour neared eleven o’clock, even Jim’s vaunted impression of Walter Matthau couldn’t turn us back into the Sunshine Boys we’d been before 8:10.
You won 15-6 this afternoon? That was this afternoon. This is tonight. What have you done for us lately?
On June 27 — all of it — it should have been enough that Carlos Delgado drove in nine runs and the Mets smashed the Yankees at Yankee Stadium the way they stomped them there on May 17, savaged them there on May 18 and swept them there for 2008. It should have been enough that we won all three games we played at Yankee Stadium this year. By the end of June 27, however, it wasn’t. There was hardly enough time to sip it, savor it, cup it, photostat it, underline it in red, press it in a book, put it in an album and hang it on the wall before the split felt as if it had been spun into a loss.
I demand a recount.