Of course it was Greg who sent me the link, from the awesomer-than-awesome Crane Pool forum: A Met fan's first-ever game, preserved in New York Times prose and baseball cards, a card for each of the men who'd played in it, the whole shebang beautifully framed by this Mets fan. How cool is that?
So cool that my immediate thought, as a father trying to raise his son as a member in good standing of the Church of Baseball, Orange and Blue denomination, was that Joshua needed one of these posthaste, to commemorate his own initiation into the finest art form to ever spring from the mind of man. (And I'm not kidding. I'm sure the Sistine Chapel's great and all, but has it ever moved you to hug total strangers while screaming with joy? In the dead of winter, are you comforted by old DVDs about the Taj Mahal? Didn't think so.)
There was just one small problem with my new plan, as I noted to Emily in my exploratory email: “Joshua's first game was a hideous loss and involved Kris Benson.” Which is what I remembered of it off-hand.
My wife is not the type for a leisurely fly-by when there's a target on the ground that needs obliterating. “How much therapy are you trying to sink your child for?” she shot back. “And do we need to have a card for the wife?” (That threw me for a minute. Then I realized she meant Anna. Remember Anna?)
Just how hideous a loss had August 29, 2004 been, anyway? I tried to remember more dispassionately. Surely there must have been something transformative, some lyrical something or other to stir the soul in all the ways Greg and I like to celebrate here. So I started clicking.
And yes, there was something: Let the record show that in Joshua's first game Robin Ventura, forever beloved in these parts for his dry wit and his Grand Slam Single, hit his 17th career grand slam, putting him ahead of two players named Aaron and Ruth and alongside two players named Williams and Foxx. Ventura, being Ventura, said simply that “it’s nice to even be mentioned in any category whatsoever with those guys.” (He would hit one more — a pinch-hit job, no less — as a capper for a dignified, admirable career.)
So OK, that is nice. There's just one problem: Ventura was a Los Angeles Dodger at the time.
Dodgers 10, Mets 2. It was hot as hell, the Mets made two errors in the fourth to hand the Dodgers three runs, and Benson gave up eight in four innings to fall to 2-3 since he'd arrived from Pittsburgh on the same infamous night that saw Scott Kazmir turn into Victor Zambrano.
But now go back and look at that box score again.
The Mets' starting lineup was Gerald Williams, Jeff Keppinger, Cliff Floyd, Richard Hidalgo, David Wright, Brian Buchanan, Jason Phillips, Wilson Delgado and Kris Benson, an assemblage so bad that after seeing it on the scoreboard, you would have been forgiven for expecting to see Lorinda de Roulet and Mettle the Mule. The pitchers were Benson, Pedro Feliciano and a rapidly putrefying John Franco. Met cameos were made by Danny Garcia, Eric Valent, Vance Wilson and a nearing-the-end Todd Zeile.
I subjected an innocent child to 10 at-bats from Gerald Williams, Brian Buchanan and Wilson Delgado, which is 10 more than any sane baseball team would have given them in 2004. Yes, I know — David Wright. Agreed, he's the accidental dab of ointment in this jar of flies. He was also double-switched out in the fifth after going 0 for 2.
Oh, on the Dodgers' side? The winning pitcher was Kaz Ishii, who scattered four hits over six innings and somehow scored a run. And Shawn Green scored two. Perhaps those performances convinced members of the Shea brass that one day those two fine players would put the Mets over the top.
And the home-plate umpire? It was Angel Hernandez.
So while I love the idea of the framed first game in theory, given how it turned out for Joshua, I'm passing. If I want my son to grow up as a Met fan, it's in my interest not to have him stare up at a 10-2 box score, examine baseball cards of Wilson Delgado, Kris Benson and Kaz Ishii, or even know about the existence of Gerald Williams. The other day, during the final minutes of a fairly stirring NFL game with playoff implications, I sighed deeply and told whomever was listening (which was probably nobody) that I'd trade watching this fourth-quarter comeback for a single inning of a meaningless Brewers-Rockies game. And I meant it. But the Met defeat on Aug. 29, 2004? I wouldn't watch that in January with three feet of snow outside. I wouldn't watch that after five baseball-less years in prison.
Emily's much more sensible suggestion was, of course, to frame a record of Joshua's first win. Which was this game. Angel Hernandez called the balls and strikes again, but that was just about the only thing not to like: The Mets rallied for three in the eighth, Billy Wagner collected his 300th career save, and the starting lineup included not only Wright (and the blameless Cliff Floyd) but also Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and a very different player named Delgado. Now that's worth having on your wall.
OK, so the starting pitcher was T@m G!avine. You can't have everything.
A more direct look at Chris D'Orso's handiwork right here.