It was a much bigger night for Carlos Delgado and Mike Pelfrey than it was for yours truly, but I'm going to grab third star from Monday's contest for myself.
Delgado: Two homers, six RBI, beautiful first base defense, a drama-free curtain call.
Pelfrey: A second consecutive complete game masterpiece.
Me: My 400th game that counted* at Shea Stadium.
I have to share this bronze with my friend Ben (you know him, perhaps, as Student of the Game) who provided my passage to another Log milestone in 2008. Ben has committed to memory every high and low of the past three seasons, all the way back to Opening Day 2006, so he can appreciate a numerical obsession.
Did I know, Ben asked, that the Mets have started 12 different leftfielders this season? I did not. Could I name them now that I knew there were an even dozen? Alas, I could come up with only 11/12ths of them**.
But I can count to 400.
• No. 100 was May 24, 1996. It was a loss to the Padres. Fernando Valenzuela cruised for San Diego 15 years and a couple of weeks after I saw him cruise for the Dodgers. Fernando cruised Shea a lot in his day.
• No. 200 was October 1, 2000. It was a win over the Expos, the last day of the season. We required 13 innings and three Geoff Blum errors, including a bad throw to score Benny Agbayani to end it. I'd be back six days later for another cup of Benny Bean heroics.
• No. 300 was July 24, 2005, a win over the Dodgers and the first-ever game for young Alex Wolf. I suspect Alex, whom I failed to convert to the church of baseball, is stuck on 1, but I haven't checked lately.
• No. 400 was August 25, 2008. We handily beat the Astros, the same franchise that beat us on July 11, 1973, the Wednesday afternoon I sputtered to an 0-1 start, never daring to dream I could someday grow up to be 221-179 (211-176 regular-season, 10-3 postseason), never imagining anything beyond the hope that someday I'd get to Shea a second time and maybe see my first win.
You'll notice, if I haven't put you to sleep with my salute to numerology, that the time between milestones keeps shortening. I've been to 110 games at Shea since the dawn of Faith and Fear. I was actually fading a bit as a Sheagoer during the Art Howe era, but this blog revived me. The team got better, sure, and the urgency kicked up a notch once Shea had an expiration date affixed to its left field wall, but having somewhere to write about going to Shea, besides a ledger, proved the all-time spur for my personal attendance. And starting in 2005, I really stumbled into a pot of gold in terms of meeting Mets fans, a second wave akin to my early online days when Jason, then Laurie, then other wonderful folks proved themselves friends I hadn't yet met. Since '05, there've been people like Ben; people whose names could fill a few paragraphs right here and now; people who didn't exist for me before this blog took flight. They've become a big part of my baseball life and they're people I'm privileged to know, at Mets games and elsewhere. The pleasure is always mine.
Lots of pleasure for everybody Monday night, for No. 400. How could anyone with a home team-rooting interest not find pleasure in Pelfrey's lightning-quick transition from question mark to exclamation point?! From Delgado shedding his albatross status and picking up the mantle of team MVP? Who couldn't laugh a little, given the nine-run lead, that the primary culprit who kept this from being a complete game shutout was (Christ Almighty) David Newhan? Who would deny after where the Mets were in April and May and June that this has been a helluva summer to spend at Shea, that this has been — as a wonderful book about 1969 was called — a magic summer?
I'm a happy Mets fan these days. The happiness is tempered by who's on the DL (if not by who's finally off it). The happiness could be tapered by Wednesday night should the next August trip to Philadelphia take the course the last August trip to Philadelphia did. It's a tough row to hoe at the Cit and the Dolph and the Mill and I have no idea whether a Maineless rotation and a Castillo-laden infield will maintain the magic this summer has conjured at Shea. I'm far from saying “I don't care,” but…no, I do care. We've gotten too close to September not to. But this Mets club, this Redeem Team II if you will, has given us more than we could have expected amid the swirl of swill we were hopelessly stuck in back in late Randolph. They've given me a helluva ride going back to June 29, the final game of the final Subway Series at Shea Stadium. The Mets are 20-7 at Shea since then, with me on hand for 10-4 of that.
They look like numbers to you. They represent experiences to me. The numbers are etched into The Log for all time, no matter that the binding cracks and the pages start to yellow. The experiences loom as my Tennessee sippin' whiskey. Tonight I caught a buzz because we won 9-1. Someday I'll pour myself a taste of these 400 nights and days and every drop, I'm betting, will go down pretty damn smooth.
Ben and I talked about a lot of Mets matters Monday night, but the one note I think I hit as squarely as Delgado hammered Wesley Wright came after Reyes tripled and Pelfrey scampered home to make it 9-0 and all who remained stood and cheered. This place, I said, is so much better when everyone is happy.
Happy Shea Stadium.
Happy first place.
*There were two exhibitions and one intrasquad affair way back when, but if they're not written down, they didn't “officially” happen.
**I came up with Pagan, Clark, Chavez, Alou, Anderson, Evans, Tatis, Easley, Nixon, Aguila, Murphy; the one I didn't get was one-game starter Andy Phillips. But hey, even Mike Pelfrey can't throw a shutout every turn.