“I guess it looks as if you’re reorganizing your records. What is this though? Chronological?”
“No fucking way.”
—Dick, amazed by Rob, in High Fidelity
For my 46th birthday today, which coincides with the end of the final calendar year in which baseball was played at Shea Stadium, I am giving myself the gift of one more season there. What follows are 162 games. All of them took place at Shea. All of them had me in attendance. Together, for better and occasionally worse, they represent how I will remember Shea.
Seasons go from 1 to 162. This goes the other way. It’s New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Eve, we count down. I do anyway.
Join me, won’t you, for this final farewell of mine to Shea Stadium…
162. September 13, 2008 (2)
Mets 5 Braves 0. They wouldn’t sell me a goddamn pretzel.
161. August 21, 2008
Mets 5 Braves 4. Endured jerks all evening. Didn’t care about them when Delgado’s fifth hit of the night delivered the walkoff win.
160. June 23, 2007
Mets 1 A’s 0. Scoreless duel broken up in ninth as Ramon Castro chugged around the bases. I started in the Upper Deck with Jason and Ray from Metphistopheles. Went down to Field Level to say hi to Larry. Then a celebration broke out and I never made it back upstairs.
159. June 25, 2007
Mets 2 Cardinals 1 (11). Shawn Green’s only no-doubt blast wins it. Surely the only thing Shawn Green did with a bat besides fly out.
158. August 25, 2008
Mets 9 Astros 1. My 400th game ever at Shea. The first of the final sixteen, all of which I attended. Delgado and Pelfrey beloved throughout.
157. July 2, 2000
Braves 10 Mets 2. First time in a Diamond View Suite. Totally unappointed. Not that great a view, actually.
156. August 6, 1999
Mets 2 Dodgers 1. Never sat in closer proximity to home plate. Watched Dotel and Park trade zeroes. Swear I saw a curveball curve. Mets entered a home game in first place for the first time in a long while. A lot of buzz the second I got off the LIRR. A lot.
155. May 20, 1999 (2)
Mets 10 Brewers 1. The nightcap in which Ventura hit his second grand slam. Everybody asked everybody, “Is that the first time…?” Then we learned it was. One guy I invited told me the next day he’d treasure that ticket stub. I somehow doubt he still has it.
154. August 4, 1987
Mets 5 Phillies 3. Prior to the game, I gained access to a press event at the far end of Loge (the Terrace, I think they called it) to cover the introduction of the astoundingly awful Think Big video. Gary Carter and Mookie Wilson showed up for it late in the proceedings in full uniform. Nice buffet. It convinced my friends whom I brought (had tickets for this game anyway) that I was slightly more of a big shot than they would have guessed.
153. May 17, 1983
Mets 6 Padres 4. Darryl’s first Shea HR. First time I saw Seaver pitch in his second go-round. I left when he left, not out of disinterest, but from a miserable headache. From there on out, I carried a pain reliever.
152. July 28, 1979
Mets 6 Cubs 4. The only win for me in a six-year span. Dave Kingman hit three homers for the Cubs. Taveras stole three bases for the Mets. Suzan takes picture of grounds crew. Thinks they’re the Mets.
151. August 24, 2006
Mets 6 Cardinals 2. Mets at their 2006 reliable best. Jason and I walked out through the parking lot and discovered we couldn’t cut across because of construction. Hence, my first up-close exposure to Citi Field.
150. August 12, 2004
Mets 2 Astros 1. One of the LIRR discount day games I managed to work in to my schedule my first summer as a self-employed consultant. Zambrano, first Shea start, looked very sharp and was cheered heartily. Honest he was.
149. April 26, 2002
Mets 1 Brewers 0. Shawn Estes fires a one-hitter. High up on the list of “this is gonna be it…”
148. May 15, 2008
Nationals 1 Mets 0. Another no-hit bid gone awry. Everything had to go just perfectly wrong for the Mets to lose this. And it did.
147. May 19, 2007
Mets 10 Yankees 7. It was going very swimmingly. Wright hit a ball clear into the construction site. Yankees were flummoxed for relievers. Then it started to turn. Jim and I, cocky as hell early, literally held each other for dear life as the last out was made.
146. July 24, 2005
Mets 6 Dodgers 0. I take my baseball-challenged friend Alan and his family to his sons’ first game. One sleeps through it with an ear infection. The other is not converted. Alan still knows nothing. But I found out his wife was a big Tug McGraw fan.
145. August 7, 2001
Mets 3 Brewers 0. On the way there, at Queensboro Plaza, some lady pulls a Marge Schott and insults every ethnic group she can think of. At the game, some kid tries to get me and Jason to join him in a “TRADE TODD ZEILE” chant. We decline.
144. August 9, 2001
Mets 4 Brewers 3. 104 degrees. Vendors give out cups of water. I assume it was to prevent a lawsuit.
143. September 28, 1999
Braves 9 Mets 3. The night I wore no Mets gear so as, Jason put it, to fool the gods. It didn’t work. Orel was shelled, Cook was ejected and things looked bleak.
142. September 2, 1997
Mets 8 Blue Jays 5. Roger Clemens’ first Shea appearance since ’86 World Series. We boo every step he takes, every move he makes. He doubles, which we may have grudgingly applauded while booing. Ordoñez homered, but not off Clemens. Jose Cruz, Jr. hit the essence of a ball that is still going.
141. July 8, 1983
Astros 6 Mets 3. Nolan Ryan toys with Mets. Mike Torrez is useless. Nobody’s there on a lovely Friday night. Last game Suzan and I attend, just the two of us. She reads while I root in vain.
140. April 17, 1990
Cubs 7 Mets 6 (13). The night I learned that you always bring gloves to Shea Stadium for night games in April. Too cold to tough it out into extras. I get home to find Mackey Sasser emerging in the dugout. Mackey had been in Alabama when the day started. He flew in and saw the lights were still on. So he came by and Davey used him…to no avail.
139. April 17, 2002
Braves 2 Mets 1. Same date, a dozen years after a brutally cold night. Daytime. Temps in the 90s. Go figure. I’m convinced the season ended this day when Mets threatened and Jeff D’Amico hit a ball to right that B.J. Surhoff picked up and threw to first for the force. I met Dan, whom I’d know by e-mail since 1999, for the first time in the middle innings.
138. September 20, 1998
Mets 5 Marlins 0. Saturn Day. Joe has a Saturn. Joe has tickets. The tickets are in Row V. Only time I sat in the top row. Leiter cruises, Olerud’s on fire, Turk is encouraged to slam that rosin bag. Nothing can possibligh go wrong for the Wild Card-bound Mets.
137. September 23, 1998
Expos 3 Mets 0. Mets have stopped hitting. Everything possible is going wrong. Wild Card slipping away. I’m one of about eight people to stick around for the incongruous year-end highlight video this Wednesday night. The climax is Hundley homering in Houston and greeting Piazza at home plate. Mets fly to Atlanta and get swept to end their horrifyingly ambiguous season: a lot of playoff race tension, but no playoff spot.
136. May 13, 1995
Expos 6 Mets 1. First game for me at Shea since strike ended. Steph and I had been in Baltimore and took tour of Camden Yards while O’s were away. It had the effect of whetting her appetite for baseball, which never happened before or again. All core concessions were half-price. Seemed not a bargain but reasonable. Mets aren’t appealing to watch when they’re desperate but they sure are a lot more likable to deal with.
135. September 25, 1989
Phillies 2 Mets 1. Steph’s and my second game ever, first since getting engaged 48 hours earlier. Mets are eliminated. I sit and sulk and make us almost miss our train. One wonders why my wife doesn’t really get a whetted appetite for baseball.
134. May 1, 1979
Padres 10 Mets 5. High school newspaper night. I’m the only sophomore in our group of eight, a total outcast. Gaylord Perry bewilders Mets. Frank Taveras strikes out five times. Rangers beat Islanders in the playoff game everybody is following. Sucks to be a Mets fan at that moment in time.
133. April 15, 1998
Mets 2 Cubs 1. The night after the afternoon the Yankees borrowed Shea. Guy sitting near me said the stink needed to be removed. Sammy Sosa homers, which is not yet a phenomenon to anybody. Rick Reed homers, which is phenomenal.
132. May 25, 2001
Mets 4 Marlins 3 (10). Ugly 1998 Merengue Night loss is avenged by Timo Perez of the Dominican Republic. Timo waves a Dominican flag in jubilation. We are all Dominicans for a fleeting instant. Timo Perez, Jason declares, is the King of Merengue.
131. July 18, 2001
Mets 4 Marlins 3 (11). Bobby Valentine comes out and talks some umpire into reversing a call based on some obscure rule only Bobby Valentine seems to know about. “Abandoning the base,” I believe. Bobby Valentine really is smarter than everybody else.
130. August 29, 2004
Dodgers 10 Mets 2. Joshua Fry’s first game. He picked not a great one. Memorable before the kid showed for Shea’s Byzantine security system blocking Steph and me from our beloved sushi stand like five feet from where we were standing.
129. April 30, 2008
Pirates 13 Mets 1. Largest loss I ever saw. Very cold, very awful, kind of fun somehow.
128. July 11, 1993
Dodgers 2 Mets 1. Twentieth anniversary of my first game. First Sunday night game I ever attended. Dodgers brought in rookie reliever Pedro Martinez. Oh, I snort, he’s only here because his brother Ramon is a star. Actually, Rob informs me, he’s better than Ramon. Much better.
127. September 9, 2007
Mets 4 Astros 1. Pedro Martinez, long established as one of the best in the game, makes his return to Shea after having been away for a year injured. He pitches guttily, he doubles and he connects with the crowd in a way I’ve never seen another Met pitcher — not Seaver, not Gooden — connect. I so love that man in a Met uniform.
126. August 12, 1993
Braves 8 Mets 4. Only game I go to with my father, just the two of us. He couldn’t wait to leave. Neither could I, really.
125. June 2, 1982
Braves 3 Mets 1. Phil Niekro carries a no-hitter into the eighth. George Foster comes up with huge opportunity in the ninth. Does not convert. Foster’s reign as boobird target begins in earnest.
124. May 15, 1982
Mets 6 Dodgers 4. First game back for me after my first year of college. Guy sitting near me and Joel harasses Rick Monday by telling him it’s Saturday. I mean without pause, except to curse out Islanders goalie Billy Smith, who, you might guess, wasn’t actually there.
123. May 7, 1985
Mets 5 Braves 3. My first game at Shea as a college graduate. Gary Carter wallops a grand slam. Joel and I are in the very first row of Field Level down the third base line.
122. August 11, 1992
Mets 2 Pirates 0. Tom Seaver Hall of Fame Night. LeRoy Neiman posters are given out. Murderous thunderstorms keep crowd down to 20,000 despite 40,000 tickets reportedly sold. Seaver kind of rushes through his speech. Then he leaves not to return to Shea until 1999.
121. April 12, 1999
Mets 8 Marlins 1. Tom Seaver throws out first ball on Opening Day. Bobby Jones homers. Bobby Bonilla returns and is greeted warmly. In our row, in the family section (the Dee Reed connection in action), we are wedged in by several Bonillas, so Laurie and I kind of have to greet Bobby Bo warmly. We also have to hope we don’t have to get up to use the restroom.
120. October 14, 2000
Cardinals 8 Mets 2. Warm weather, good friends, the wife, a playoff game, the Agee seats. We lost and still had a series lead. Can’t believe I wasn’t hot and bothered from it.
119. September 27, 2002 (2)
Braves 7 Mets 3. The final game of our two-year Tuesday/Friday Night Plan. Very empty. 40th anniversary Mets highlight CDs given out.
118. September 29, 2002
Mets 6 Braves 1. Nice do-over from two nights earlier. Many more CDs handed out as they were left over. The Princes joined by the Dubins for the game, the Haineses at Bobby V’s thereafter. Fonzie’s last Mets AB. Bobby Cox uses Jung Bong as the smoke cleared from the Grant Roberts pot fiasco. Bobby V’s final game, too, come to think of it.
117. June 18, 2004
Mets 3 Tigers 2. Piazza Catcher Home Run Record Salute Night. He’s presented with the Big Gay Chevy (seriously, that’s what it was called). Mike Cameron sends us home with a walkoff wallop. We were supposed to be excited that we’d just acquired Richard Hidalgo. We weren’t.
116. May 11, 2008
Mets 8 Reds 3. Stephanie and I at Shea on our 21st anniversary of first meeting. Players use pink bats for Mother’s Day. It’s the last time Shea would see Griffey, who’s finally no longer booed for not accepting a trade. So windy, so cold, consensus has us leaving in the sixth. Batting order foulup in the ninth extends game long enough for us to see it end at home.
115. April 25, 2000
Mets 6 Reds 5. Junior’s first Shea game. He is booed a lot for not becoming a Met in the offseason. He’s also the last out, struck out by Armando who’s wearing 1969-themed pajamas on Frequency-inspired Turn Back The Clock night. Cold as a bastard. Future Met Manny Aybar earns my lifelong enmity for pitching like molasses.
114. July 14, 1995
Mets 13 Rockies 4. I break eight-game losing streak thanks to Mets’ offensive outburst off future Met hurlers Reynoso and Acevedo. We had living room furniture delivered that day. Sometimes I look at the remaining pieces and think “losing streak over…”
113. June 28, 1975
Mets 5 Phillies 2. The Randy Tate Game, with an invisible asterisk next to it for years because Suzan and I Ieft during a rain delay (not my idea) and I was led to believe we left during the Old Timers game, not the real one. But we didn’t, so it’s all good. I saw Randy Tate pitch, damn it.
112. August 15, 1981
Mets 3 Phillies 1. Last game before I leave for college. First win in two years, snapping a seven-game losing streak. First game to be live-Logged.
111. September 30, 1999
Braves 4 Mets 3. Game that buries us in the Wild Card race. Dunston can’t handle a fly ball to right. It becomes a triple. Laurie and I run into Jason and Emily on the 7 platform, which seems too random an encounter to actually happen.
110. October 12, 2006
Mets 2 Cardinals 0. Beltran and Gl@v!ne quell Cards. Mets take 1-0 NLCS lead. I am whapped in the mouth by a flying bag of peanuts. It all seems so easy.
109. October 5, 2006
Mets 4 Dodgers 1. High spirits way the hell up in the Upper Deck for a Gl@v!ne masterpiece over the Dodgers. Actually, some drunk guys behind us couldn’t be more annoying, but as Jason put it, they drank like Vikings but were as harmless as puppies. I don’t let things roll as easily off my back. Ralph Kiner throws out the first ball in a very bright yellow sweater.
108. October 13, 2006
Cardinals 9 Mets 6. I approach Shea thinking the Mets could be the first 11-0 team in postseason history. First of many mistakes committed by those in orange and blue. It’s a little chilly at the game. By the time I get home, it feels like winter.
107. August 6, 2005
Mets 2 Cubs 0. Seo outduels Maddux. Entire day feels surreal in that “this seems more like I’m dreaming this” fashion. Too many Cubs fans. Always too many Cubs fans.
106. May 8, 1981
Dodgers 1 Mets 0. Almost 40,000 at Shea, which is a shock to the 1981 system. They’re here for Fernandomania. Mike Scott matches him but Mets don’t hit. Tortilla chips are given away as the “This Magic Moment” prize. I like that there’s a crowd. I hate that they’re not here to see the Mets.
105. September 15, 2007
Phillies 5 Mets 3. We now join The Collapse, already in progress. Charlie and I yell every clever thing we can at the Phillies and their fans. It doesn’t help. It’s the day the Phillies surpass the Braves in my animus. They’re still there.
104. June 29, 2008
Mets 3 Yankees 1. Final Subway Series game. Final game with Richie and Rob. Big Game Ollie shows up. Wilson Betemit hits one a thousand miles. A-Rod almost does, but it dies at the track. Intensity has diminished since 1998, but winning these never gets old.
103. July 9, 1999
Mets 5 Yankees 2. Piazza takes Clemens to school and locks him in detention. Laurie and I sit near Mrs. Agbayani and Mrs. Lopez. Yankees suck.
102. September 21, 2002
Mets 6 Expos 3 (11). The Esix Snead Game. Every franchise could use one.
101. September 7, 2008 (N)
Mets 6 Phillies 3. Santana and Delgado star in a statement game, stating no collapse this year. A premature statement, but at the end of a very long day-night day, it seemed profound. My last game with my longtime Shea companion Joe, star of the Esix Snead Game and so many more. It kind of got to me up there in Row Q.
100. August 11, 1984
Mets 3 Pirates 1. My first Doc start. He breaks Jerry Koosman’s team rookie strikeout record. Every Doc start breaks a record in 1984 and 1985. Guy behind me asks me to sit down because I’m getting up and cheering with two strikes on every batter.
99. July 17, 1976
Astros 1 Mets 0. My first Tom start. He strikes out eleven but is unsupported. Only run a cheapie 341.1-foot Cesar Cedeño homer. Third Old Timers Day in a row for Suzan and me. Ziggy and his family give us a ride to the game, which was not anticipated. Ziggy’s dad worked for Nabisco. They offered us a box of Ritz to take in. Suzan declined on our behalf.
98. August 6, 1995
Mets 7 Marlins 3. Stephanie and I attend with Rob Costa who used his customer tickets to take us. Last game I see with Rob who dies three years later.
97. September 8, 1986
Expos 9 Mets 1. Not many games like this in ’86. Last game I see with my parents. Mets are in magic number single digits. Nobody’s too bothered. We hit Lenny’s Clam Bar in Rockville Centre on the way home. It’s almost like I’m hanging out with these people.
96. June 25, 1978
Pirates 4 Mets 0. Suzan’s boyfriend the former Shea vendor uses his connections to get us inside the big souvenir closet. I fail to take advantage, but Mark fills a bag of awesome crap for me anyway.
95. June 22, 2006
Mets 6 Reds 2. Seniors Day (the elderly, not twelfth-graders). Stephanie and I lead a group from her center on a bus. Hot day, just enough shade to preclude her fair-skinned wariness. Everybody was happy. I don’t think I ever saw Stephanie enjoy a day at Shea as much. Wright homered twice. Pedro gutted out not-great stuff and struck out the side when he had to. I’ll take this one in a 2006 time capsule.
94. July 14, 2005
Mets 6 Braves 3. One of those pleasing nights when the Mets do everything right and slightly spectacularly. I meet the Other Jason for the first time, which is the first time I’ve met a FAFIF reader in person.
93. June 20, 1997
Mets 1 Pirates 0. Bobby Jones at the height of his All-Star powers. Some dude I encounter as I head for the men’s room high-fives me about eight times and blurts, “BOBBYJONES! BOBBY JONES! BOBBY JONES!” The sentiment is mutual.
92. June 22, 1997
Mets 12 Pirates 9 (10). Bobby V uses nothing but relievers, including Cory Lidle to start. Leads are blown and recovered. Carl Everett can’t be stopped. Brief rain delay came from nowhere and didn’t cool things off one bit.
91. July 6, 1997
Mets 3 Marlins 2 (12). Mets take third in a row from their competition for the Wild Card. Gary Sheffield lazes after the winning base hit. We head into the All-Star break giddy. I park under an underpass and am glad I don’t get a ticket. On the way home, we pick up frozen pierogies for dinner.
90. September 1, 2001
Mets 3 Marlins 2 (11). Miserable headache. Sign up for a credit card towel because I’m cold. The chemicals that compose the Met logo make the headache worse. Jorge Toca slides home with the winning run. Significance of this game would grow in retrospect given the date. It’s the last game I ever attended where there was no discernible security out front.
89. August 29, 1979
Braves 5 Mets 4. The game I use as my go-to “boy, the Mets sucked back then” example. A Richie Hebner festival of indifference. First game for Joel, Larry and me together. We pushed the attendance just over 6,000.
88. April 29, 1981
Pirates 10 Mets 0. Mets were still sucking. Scoreboard went out for a while and we were entertained by “Thank God I’m A Country Boy”. Nobody sang along. Frank Cashen may have noticed we weren’t Baltimore. John Stearns played badly at third and was relentlessly harassed by one fan who could be heard clearly throughout the largely unoccupied facility.
87. July 26, 1980
Reds 5 Mets 1. Only thing we won’t be able to see, Joel and I agreed, is a ball that goes into the right field corner. A ball goes into the right field corner. The ball comes out. Jerry Morales doesn’t, at least not on the heels of the ball. For a while thereafter, the right field corner was known as Jerry Morales territory. I lead us down a staircase at Woodside we didn’t need to take.
86. July 2, 1975
Mets 7 Cubs 2. A Jon Matlack classic, more notable for being the only Mets game attended by all four original Princes. If a Jon Matlack classic couldn’t lure back our nuclear family, what would?
85. June 6, 2003
Mets 3 Mariners 2. We’re there to see John Olerud in a Seattle uniform. He’s the last out versus Armando. I’d been pissy toward the Mets all year but found myself rooting for our villain versus our former hero. A matter of laundry and Log, I suppose.
84. August 12, 2003
Mets 5 Giants 4. We’re there to see Edgardo Alfonzo in a San Francisco uniform…if that’s what he’s gonna insist on wearing. My first Heilman start. He doesn’t look good but perseveres. Barry Bonds hits one very high home run and one “DUCK!” laser. How’d we win?
83. July 31, 1998
Dodgers 4 Mets 3. Last time my sister steps foot inside Shea Stadium. She’s there for Fireworks Night but begs off after the last out because of a headache brought on by all the noise (go figure). Game blown by Franco in that trademark game blown by Franco manner.
82. July 10, 1998
Expos 8 Mets 6. For a very long time considered the Worst Loss I Ever Saw. Another Francofest, accented by Merengue Night crowd that couldn’t have cared less about the home team. I found a half-consumed bottle of Pepsi in the concourse and smashed it against a wall. Stunned Joe into ten minutes of absolute silence.
81. May 1, 1994
Mets 7 Dodgers 4. New York Nostalgia Cap Day, your choice of NY Giants and Bklyn Dodgers. I wanted one of each so dragged along Stephanie. Wore the Giants’ one. Notable also for it being the first game I saw at Shea after seeing Camden Yards and finding myself thinking, “Why don’t we have a new ballpark?” at least a little.
80. August 3, 2002 (2)
Diamondbacks 9 Mets 2. Vacated Shea second-game blues. Even Joe agreed to leave in like the sixth, and Joe would almost never leave early. I wander aimlessly and almost get a foul ball that shot into the Mezzanine concourse near the home plate food court. It clanked off a trash can I had been standing by a moment earlier. But I moved. Ordoñez hit it. Who said he had no power?
79. August 3, 2002 (1)
Diamondbacks 8 Mets 5 (10). This was the game that cleared out the joint, and the game that ended all illusions that the 2002 Mets would compete for the Wild Card. Fonzie hit a big homer in the eighth and things looked swell, but Craig Counsell reached Armando in the ninth and there went an era.
78. August 21, 1998 (1)
Cardinals 10 Mets 5. I join Laurie in the player family seats for the first time. We chat with Dave Wallace’s nephew. I keep excusing myself to meet Jason and Emily in Mezzanine, where my real ticket is, but I can’t quite drag myself away from this kind of proximity until the opener concludes.
77. August 21, 1998 (2)
Mets 1 Cardinals 0. I make my apologies for sitting way the hell downstairs in the first game. Temporary Cardinal fans are everywhere, rooting for McGwire. Only Fonzie homers.
76. September 27, 2000
Mets 6 Braves 2. Mets calmly, competently clinch Wild Card. Forced frivolity ensues since Braves clinched division here the night before. Kind of exciting, I guess. First time I discover Cow-Bell Man.
75. April 8, 2008
Phillies 5 Mets 2. Last Opening Day in Shea Stadium history. First tailgating I’ve ever participated in, courtesy of the Chapmans. Last game I see with Dan. It would all be more poignant except the Mets keep playing like it’s the end of 2007.
74. April 9, 2007
Mets 11 Phillies 5. Long before 2007 carries a whole different meaning, Mets kick off the home season by embarrassing Jimmy Rollins and storming from behind. Bitterly cold but hellaciously fun. I’m there courtesy of a woman who read I wasn’t going to be there and decided I should be. We’ve got the best readers in the world.
73. April 15, 1997
Mets 5 Dodgers 0. Jackie Robinson Night. 42 is retired. President Clinton shows up on crutches. Security is everywhere except at the gate. Toby Borland is brilliant. Really cold. Shea is jammed. Except for the cold part, it couldn’t have gone better.
72. June 13, 1992
Pirates 3 Mets 2. Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball Night, which used to be Old Timers Day. Davey gets a big reception, as does Buddy; first time each is back as ex-Mets manager. Keith’s first appearance in this capacity. He gets the biggest cheer, or at least it’s up there with Davey’s. The good feelings dissipate as the Mets are beaten in the most drip-drip-drippable game I ever sat through. Jim Leyland used seven bleeping pitchers in a nine-inning affair. I hate Jeff Torborg. First real inkling that the Mets were no longer good as a rule.
71. June 27, 1993
Cardinals 5 Mets 3. Poor old Anthony Young. He broke the record for consecutive losses. The program was a hot seller for its historical overtones, which is a pretty ghoulish thing considering this was a home game. Long past the point of requiring confirmation that the Mets were no longer good as a rule. Their record dropped to 21-52.
70. October 7, 2001
Expos 5 Mets 0. As Glendon Rusch finishes his warmups, George Bush comes on WFAN and declares bombing to begin in Afghanistan. Mookie and Lenny Harris lead players in “God Bless America”. It’s really cold. My last Shea Stadium hot chocolate. The season that lasted well into October for all the wrong reasons.
69. October 1, 1995
Mets 1 Braves 0 (11). Season ends on a bases-loaded walk as Braves wait for their ride to the airport and the playoffs. I’m elated to finish the season 7-7 in The Log and tied for second in real life. DiamondVision announces we’ll be back and we’ll be better, starting in exactly six months. Joe Orsulak’s Met swan song. He tripled. I loved Joe Orsulak.
68. April 5, 1993
Mets 3 Rockies 0. My first Opening Day. First-ever game for Colorado. Doc shuts them out. Bonilla makes a nice catch in right. Dennis Byrd, on his feet, is declared a Met For Life. 1993 shapes up beautifully.
67. June 29, 1974
Mets 4 Cardinals 0. My first win, a Matlack one-hitter. First Old Timers Day. Suzan’s boyfriend buys me a Shea Stadium pennant featuring Mr. Met, Lady Met and another Mr. Met. Of course I still have it.
66. August 29, 1993
Rockies 6 Mets 1. My only Banner Day, pregame style. Can’t believe how many people are willing to express any affection for the worst team in baseball. Kind of renews my faith in Metkind. Stephanie and I find our seats all grossed out by last night’s rainstorm. For a finder’s fee, an usher repositions us in Loge 1, Row G. Perfect view. Perfect day, except for Frank Tanana remaining under contract to the Mets.
65. September 5, 1998
Mets 5 Braves 4. Tony Phillips hits come-from-behind homer in eighth. Mets take lead in Wild Card race. Gratifying pennant race drama! Chuck Schumer shakes hands outside. North Shore Animal League giving away puppies and kittens, though I imagine that’s a little inconvenient. A Pepsi Party Patrol shirt comes right at me but somebody slams his elbow down on my shoulder, giving me a bruise but no shirt.
64. September 14, 1997
Mets 1 Expos 0. Keith Hernandez inducted into Mets Hall of Fame (only two have joined him since…geez). Luis Lopez, in Keith’s 17, hits homer for only run, giving Mets three of four in an awesome series the barely contending Mets need to hang on. We’re aided greatly by a lousy call at the plate wherein Todd Pratt pretends he held the ball and tagged out the tying run.
63. July 20, 1997
Mets 10 Reds 1. Hundley homers twice, Gilkey once, Mlicki cruises, Deion Sanders says Shea is filled with sad people and he will pray for us. It’s SportsChannel Classic sunglasses day, promoting a channel that will never air. Perfect effing day when your team, only recently bad, is now good and beating up on someone else. Joe is annoyed that he couldn’t score a shutout.
62. July 8, 2003
Braves 5 Mets 3. Joel, visiting from California, gets us attached to his friend’s Diamond View Suite party. This one is fully appointed. Amazingly good food. Free-flowing booze. And, oh, the desserts! And the air conditioning. The Mets’ suckitude behind Jason Roach, including my first-ever in-person glimpse of Jose Reyes, is barely noticed.
61. April 23, 2003
Mets 4 Astros 2. Office field trip, sort of. We’re all working for a company owned by the owner of the visiting club. We get tickets in the cushy blue seats next to the Astro dugout. Astro batboy gives one of us a packet of sunflower seeds. Jose Vizcaino won’t give me a ball even as I pretend he never turned evil in his Yankee incarnation. In a little over a year, none of us is working for the guy who got us the tickets.
60. June 8, 1998
Mets 3 Devil Rays 0. Of all the no-hitters that weren’t, this was the one that I truly thought would be. Rick Reed had the Rays on a string, until Wade Boggs doubled in the seventh. It had been a perfect game, actually. Ah, close enough.
59. October 15, 1999
Braves 1 Mets 0. The one-nothing blowout, I’m fond of calling it. Atlanta scored in the first and seemed more than one run ahead the whole night. A great outburst of “ROCKER SUCKS!” which figured since there was a “SUCKS!” tacked onto every Brave in the pregame intros. My only ’99 NLCS game. My brother-in-law fought hard to get me this ticket from his family’s stash. I thanked him profusely. I’d may as well forget about a Chanukah or birthday present, I was told. But Mark was too generous to make good on the threat.
58. July 6, 1980
Expos 9 Mets 4 (10). First game I attended in 1980, first game in The Magic Is Back summer, first game I sat in seats that had been converted from wood to plastic. Everything but the score felt like an upswing.
57. August 10, 1977
Cardinals 3 Mets 1. First game I went to without adult supervision, using my Newsday route money. In oft-told tale, a vendor who took pity on me for walking away without my change from an adjustable batting helmet purchase (he called me back and gave me the seven bucks) turned up in our living room the following winter and turned out to be my sister’s future husband.
56. August 2, 2000
Mets 2 Reds 1. Leiter outduels Elmer Dessens who was dizzy from the heat. This midweek afternoon game was the fourth game in five days for me, and they had all been wins. Two nights later I’d be at Jacobs Field in Cleveland and deep in a baseball-tinged vacation. It was the best of times.
55. July 30, 2000
Mets 4 Cardinals 2. Ten Greatest Moments Day. Dignitaries include Willie Mays and Rafael Santana. Mets, in their 38th season, seemed mature. Bubba Trammell, just acquired, homers. Bobby Jones goes all the way. Who knew he could do that?
54. July 29, 2000
Mets 4 Cardinals 3. My hundredth regular-season win at Shea. We’re forced to applaud a great Edmonds catch. Bordick homers right away. Later I meet Steph in the city for a Liberty game, and they win, too. Nice doubleheader.
53. October 2, 2005
Rockies 11 Mets 3. Mike Piazza’s final game as a Met. The applause went on for…actually it hasn’t stopped.
52. August 8, 2006
Mets 3 Padres 2. Mike Piazza’s first game back at Shea as a something else. Pretty good applause for this one, and a silly debate on how much he should have been rooted for considering he was hitting the ball pretty well. Baseball sure is a long season.
51. August 19, 2006
Mets 7 Rockies 4. The 1986 club comes home. What took them so long? Best ceremonial event the Mets ever held, I’m thinking, except for running out of baseball cards early. That “first 25,000” bit was jive. But quite a thrill watching the old boys come out of the stands…and the new boys win.
50. July 11, 1973
Astros 7 Mets 1. It’s only the beginning — my first game at Shea. Lousy game, but it didn’t have to be good. It (and I) just had to be there. Bought me a 1973 Yearbook and began building my baseball library immediately.
49. September 26, 2007
Nationals 9 Mets 6. I met up with author Dana Brand at his Long Beach Public Library appearance and then we two Mets fans went to Shea and experienced something from a horror novel: up 5-0, rookie Philip Humber on the mound…it was a dark and stormy night, at least in the soul. For good measure, we toured the Citi Field Preview Center, which was World Class.
48. June 2, 1989
Mets 3 Pirates 2 (11). My first game with my best friend Chuck, who always tries to play off his Mets allegiances as slight. So why was he the one screaming “FUCK YOU PIRATES!” when Dave Magadan ended the game with one long and effective swing?
47. August 17, 1986 (2)
Mets 9 Cardinals 2. As Rob Costa and I chilled way out in the left field Upper Deck, the Mets pounded out another 1986-style win while Murph and Thorne discussed clinching dates as if deciding when to go boat shopping. It wasn’t really that easy in 1986, but sometimes…yeah, it was.
46. August 3, 1986
Mets 4 Expos 3 (10). Fred, Larry and I, a big crowd, a near no-hit bid, a tenth-inning Ray Knight single to put it away. But what I really remember: Larry miffed that he missed the winning hit because he was distracted by a paper airplane. It is, to my mind, The Paper Airplane Game.
45. June 26, 1998
Yankees 8 Mets 4. First Subway Series game at Shea. Dumbest idea ever, too.
44. September 29, 1999
Mets 9 Braves 2. Oh how the Mets’ bats woke up and pounded a future Hall of Famer. About a million consecutive singles off Greg Maddux and then…BLAM! A grand slam from Oly. We were alive, not just on the field but in the stands. Pre-empted my favorite Jace line of all time upon his reintroduction of his father-in-law and I, who had not joined him and Emily at a game together in a year: “You remember each other from collapses of seasons past…”
43. October 15, 2000
Mets 10 Cardinals 6. JUMP! JUMP! One double after another off Darryl Kile, thousands of jumpers not leaping from the Upper Deck, but shaking it to its municipal core. Put us up 3-1 in the NLCS. No doubt, none, that we’d be going to the World Series. No wonder we jumped for joy.
42. April 1, 2002
Mets 6 Pirates 2. If I had a posse, this was it: Jason, Laurie, Richie, Rob…and comped box seats. That all our hope on this Opening Day would prove ill-advised detracts not at all how happy I was to start another season at Shea and how happy I was to be with my friends.
41. March 31, 1998
Mets 1 Phillies 0 (14). I do tend to recall the weather more than what happened in a given game, but this was weather worth recalling. It was 87 degrees in March. But I recall that in the game Schilling and Jones dueled in the sun and Bambi Castillo made it an awesome dusk. This one had a real “1 down, 161 to go” feel to it.
40. April 1, 1996
Mets 7 Cardinals 6. Spritzy, gray day with a game to match early. Weather sucked all day. Mets didn’t. Huge comeback, almost incidental in light of the debut of the greatest-fielding baseball player I ever saw, Rey Ordoñez, in his debut, throwing out Royce Clayton at the plate on a relay from left. He threw from his knees. It was not an April Fool’s trick. Too bad his bat was, but get off his back. He was on his knees.
39. September 25, 2008
Mets 7 Cubs 6. For my final game with Laurie, an epic. The Mets strained to come back once, the bullpen (Ricardo Rincon, specifically) coughed it up, the Mets battled some more, the unlikely duo of Ramon Martinez and Robinson Cancel excelled, Ryan Church slid home like he invented the art form and Beltran drove in Reyes in the rain to give us a little more rope in our season’s dying moments. Months later, however, what I remember most is there we were, waving Pedro Martinez goodbye.
38. April 11, 2005
Mets 8 Astros 4. The modern era began under Willie Randolph and with Carlos Beltran plus a general sense that this was no longer the dark ages. The score helped, but the X factor was Pedro, not playing but surely the biggest thing in Flushing that day. The batter’s eye got stuck on the MSG ad with his face, which annoyed some, delighted most. Pedro emerged from the dugout during the insane delay and connected with us even more. Have I mentioned how I loved seeing him in a Mets uniform?
37. April 16, 2005
Mets 4 Marlins 3. As if the guard still needed changing, this was it. Pedro Martinez starting for the Mets, Al Leiter for the Marlins. Al was yesterday’s news. Pedro was our guy. Not a seat to be had, not an impulse to shout was suppressed. Damn it felt good to be a Mets fan.
36. October 8, 1999
Mets 9 Diamondbacks 2. This is what I’d been waiting, oh, forever for: a playoff game at Shea. It was decided early and often. Not every great Shea October moment was about the drama. Sometimes it was just enough to be there.
35. September 29, 2007
Mets 13 Marlins 0. The grand illusion. John Maine flirts hard with a no-hitter. The Mets show some literal fight. They can’t be stopped. The Phillies lose. First place is a joint affair again. Maybe this is going to work out after all.
34. September 27, 2008
Mets 2 Marlins 0. This was no illusion. It was no salve for what ailed the Collapse II Mets of 2008, but it almost…almost didn’t matter. Johan Santana posted maybe the clutchest of clutch pitching performances. A short-rest start when there was no serious alternative. A complete game when the bullpen was flammable. A shutout when the Mets weren’t hitting. A thing to behold. Shea’s final Mets win. My final game with Jason, who always said he wanted to blow the place up when the time came. His detonator-pushing finger didn’t seem all that twitchy that Saturday.
33. May 29, 2007
Mets 5 Giants 4 (12). Sometimes you walk away and know you’ve seen baseball like it oughta be. This was that. A home run by a Giant on the first pitch. A home run by a Met on the last pitch. Fantastic pitching in between. Daring baserunning. Spunky fielding. I was with my old friend Richie and my newer friend Rich. This night was an embarrassment of baseball riches.
32. September 18, 1998
Marlins 7 Mets 6. What a horrible loss at a terrible time. But what an incredible afterparty! This was my night in the Rick Reed entourage. Laurie, her brother, his friend, Dee Reed and two friends of hers from Buffalo all awaited Rick’s emergence from the clubhouse right outside the clubhouse. Every single Met passed by as we waited for our pitcher to get dressed. Because Rick took his sweet time, I saw everybody in civilian clothes. Hideo Nomo on a cell phone. Bobby Jones schlepping what appeared to be a bedboard for his bad back. Mike Piazza with a very unimposing bodyguard. Al Leiter looking pissed a game had been lost to his old club. John Olerud was surrounded by the wives and congratulated. I thought it was for his great hitting. He was a new father. That’s nice, too. So was Rick when he showed up, despite having just witnessed his closer turning a win of his to dust. We walked out through the bullpen, even. All these guys were doing was leaving work. And I’m still kvelling.
31. June 17, 1995
Astros 7 Mets 3. This blog wouldn’t be here today if not for this game. It was the first in-person meeting of Jason and me. Well, we could have gone the next day, I suppose, but you know what I mean. First time I met somebody who I only knew from computers. We pointed to Shea and clicked. Less destined for success: the Major League career of Bill Pulsipher, which began badly that day. Who knew we’d last longer than the advance party of Generation K?
30. July 27, 2003
Reds 8 Mets 5. I had to be here to get my Murph & Kiner bobblehead. But I had to leave early because I also had Cyclones tickets. Well, it was a comedy of errors that rerouted me from Coney Island to going home, but it became no laughing matter when I turned the Mets game on on the LIRR and discovered that, after I left, it was announced Bob Murphy was retiring. The crowd gave him a huge ovation. At least those who stayed did.
29. September 25, 2003
Pirates 3 Mets 1. You weren’t dragging me from Bob Murphy Night, honoring our announcer of 42 years on the occasion of his final game. Lousy attendance for a hastily arranged affair by a team that was nowhere in the standings. Yet love for Murph was at capacity. Maybe it was my deepeningly acute bronchitis, but I was never sadder at Shea.
28. July 26, 2008
Cardinals 10 Mets 8 (14). A night so endless and so goofy, its final score could be forgiven. Sharon and I showed up like two hours before first pitch and we saw every damn one that followed, except when we were changing seats in extras in an effort to gain egress toward the exit should we ever actually use the exit. It got later and later and more and more NJ Transit trains were pulling out of Penn Station and the Mets refused to lose but were stubborn about winning and she was worried about getting home…but we’re not leaving until this thing is over. It ended not well but just in time for the last train to the Garden State. Loads of fun; we were both back the next afternoon.
27. June 9, 1999
Mets 4 Blue Jays 3 (14). On TV, this was the Bobby Valentine mustache game. In the stands, it was everything but. Didn’t see Bobby’s intrepid disguise, but we did see David Wells run out of gas in the ninth, his tribute band of girls who looked just like him leave and the Mets even things up. Then, as fourteen-inning contests have been known to do, it just went on. A good night for Pat Mahomes and his three innings of scoreless relief and a better night for me who was quite amused that Richie told Yuri from my office that he was a state trooper. Richie’s not a state trooper, but Yuri thinking he was tickled me no end. Ah, ya had to be there. (I said that a lot in 1999.)
26. October 6, 1985
Expos 2 Mets 1. First time I ever saw Shea end its season. The final swing was Rusty Staub’s. Also the final swing of his 23-year career. Mets finished 98-64 but out of the playoffs. We cheered them lustily anyway. That sort of thing used to happen.
25. October 2, 1988
Mets 7 Cardinals 5. The regular season ended. The postseason awaited. Fresh from having our 100th win of the year secured, we urged the Mets to BEAT L.A.! and never dreamed they wouldn’t take us up on our suggestion. The kind of afternoon from which you’d awake twenty years later and immediately ask in your Rip Van Winkle state, “So, how was the parade?”
24. August 7, 2008
Mets 5 Padres 3. I rarely looked forward to a specific game the way I looked forward to this one, a reunion of Joel, Fred, Larry and myself. I figured I’d be disappointed from having invested so much anticipation in it. I figured wrong. What a great day to be with my three oldest friends in the world. Also, David Wright hit a walkoff homer. But mostly it was the friends piece.
23. September 25, 2004
Mets 4 Cubs 3. Outnumbered by Cubs fans, including the two I was with; outplayed by the Cubs; and on the clock because of a previous commitment to meet my wife in the city, Victor Diaz blasts a two-out, two-strike, three-run homer that ties it at three in the ninth. So of course I’m thrilled to stick it to the Cubs who need this badly in their playoff hunt. I’m thrilled the Mets are for once playing the spoiler role exquisitely. But I feel bad for one of the Cubs fans I’m with, who’s a sweetheart of a man. And I can’t do anything about leaving after nine innings. Strangely enough, it felt right to bolt. Win, and I’d just have to rein in my gloating. Lose, and it’s a crappy loss. I hear Craig Brazell has won the game in the eleventh with another homer when I get off my train. I am about fifty feet off the ground when I meet Stephanie. We go to dinner and I discover the place has Rheingold on tap. You know what I’m drinking.
22. October 3, 2004
Mets 8 Expos 1. Two teams entered the game. One wouldn’t exist when it was over. How bizarre. Sidebar to the extinction of the Expos: last game ever for Todd Zeile, last Met game ever for sure for Art Howe, last Met game ever almost certainly for John Franco. Bonus: first and only appearance by Joe Hietpas, brought in to catch the bottom of the ninth; he’s so Moonlight and he doesn’t even know it. Zeile homers on his final swing. Franco gets an out in his farewell. Howe finishes a winner. The Expos just go away. Au revoir, nos amours.
21. July 24, 1984
Mets 9 Cardinals 8 (10). A night for Mex (four RBI opportunities, four RBI, including the winner) and a night to chant (WE’RE NUMBER ONE! STEINBRENNER SUCKS!). It was the first time I ever saw the first-place Mets. A fella could get used to such a sensation.
20. April 9, 2001
Mets 9 Braves 4. How do you start a home season? By raising — not waving — a white flag. The Mets ran their 2000 N.L. Championship banner up a pole beyond center. It looked so good draped there against that blue sky. The Mets looked good, too. Perfect day. Really.
19. May 3, 1997
Mets 5 Cardinals 1. The first game of the rest of my life. It was. I never left what was no more than a nice win in early May so convinced that the enterprise I had seen disintegrate for the balance of the decade had righted itself. It was the Ground Floor Game. Laurie and I were there with probably 2,000 lost souls on a murky Saturday. But it was the ground floor of the revival that would make the late ’90s and early ’00s such a hot time to be a Mets fan. I wouldn’t reach this conclusion without the resulting proof, that the Mets would keep winning in 1997. But if you were listening to what I was thinking that day, you’d have heard it here first.
18. September 6, 1998
Braves 4 Mets 0. The 1998 season was action-packed and drama-flecked, but it was this bland whitewashing at the hands of a much better team that stands taller in the memory from that year than any other game. It took place on the day I first stepped foot on Shea Stadium soil. A friend knew a Met employee and she got us on the field after the game to take part in the DynaMets Dash. That’s for kids. We weren’t kids, not chronologically. In all other ways, absolutely. My time from first to home was a mite slower than Brian McRae’s or even John Olerud’s. Of course it was. I didn’t want it to end.
17. September 21, 2001
Mets 3 Braves 2. Mike Piazza hit a much-remembered home run in the eighth inning that gave New York the lead and ultimately the win. That was pretty good, but the most Amazin’ thing about that night, ten days after September 11, 2001, was that they opened the gates and that tens of thousands people entered. That was the win right there.
16. September 23, 2001
Braves 5 Mets 4 (11). Forget that this was, in baseball terms, one of the most heartbreaking losses the Mets ever experienced at Shea Stadium. I’m pretty sure I was never more disgusted, not even on Merengue Night 1998, with the way the Mets blew a lead. I can’t see the name Brian Jordan (two homers, in the ninth and in the eleventh) and not grow a grimace. Yet…this was the game that told me the world would go on. The Piazza homer two nights earlier was beautiful, of course, but this pissed me off. I was pissed off about a baseball game. I knew I shouldn’t have cared about Piazza’s homer helping the Mets gain ground on the Braves Friday night. So I didn’t care all that much. I knew I shouldn’t have been pissed off about Jordan’s homers pushing the Mets back in the standings Sunday afternoon, but I was. I couldn’t help it. It was who I was. 9/11 changed way too much for way too many people, but it didn’t change that.
15. September 30, 2007
Marlins 8 Mets 1. Single worst loss I ever sat through at Shea Stadium. And it was a loss one sat through because it was lost right away. It wasn’t lost late. It was lost on the opposing offense’s first possession. It was one long clock-killing exercise from there. The season was being lost for weeks, maybe months. Now it was being obliterated. More than a year has passed since it happened. I obsessed on it for quite a while. Then I stopped. But all it takes is the briefest contemplation of it and it’s back in all its infamy. I will not forget it, and not for not wishing it hadn’t occurred.
14. September 28, 2008
Marlins 4 Mets 2. The Mets surrendering at the end of their schedule for the second year in a row didn’t bother me nearly as much as their doing it the first time. That they did it on the occasion of the final game ever at Shea Stadium, as a warmup act to the forever goodbye to Shea Stadium…cripes, what losers. If only we could count the 43 Mets who came to the plate and what they did after the ninth inning — and the 45 seasons they represented in doing so. Now that was championship play right there. It doesn’t get you into the playoffs, but some things, even in a results-oriented business, transcend the bottom line. Saying goodbye to the competitive aspirations of 2008 was a chore. Saying goodbye to Shea Stadium was a privilege.
13. May 15, 1987
Mets 8 Giants 3. Every reminder I’ll ever need of the magic inherent in Shea Stadium I can find at the other end of the couch when I peek over and see the girl I took there on our first date and later married. Also, El Sid had a no-hitter going before leaving with a bum knee.
12. October 7, 2000
Mets 3 Giants 2 (13). This is the Benny Agbayani Home Run Game, colloquially, and that’s fine. But I know I always gloss over the rest of it. Reed pitched very effectively. The bullpen was magnificent for seven scoreless innings. Fonzie was at his Fonziest, driving in Lenny Harris for the tying run in the eighth off the formidable Robb Nen. Mike Bordick, Darryl Hamilton and Timo Perez, a trio I’d instinctively consign to the bin of non-entities, built the first run when Russ Ortiz was untouchable. This was a team effort to gasp along to for thirteen innings in the Upper Deck. Also, Benny hit a home run to win it and unleash the Baha Men and push San Fran to the brink. Hence, WOOF! to Benny.
11. October 8, 2000
Mets 4 Giants 0. This is the Bobby Jones Game. Robin hit a homer and Edgardo drove home a couple, but there’s no clouding the coffee here. Bobby Jones is who we thrilled to in the last row of Mezzanine in left (where, by the way, the wind whipped up my spine despite about ten layers of jackets under my winter coat). Do you have any idea how hard it is to chant for a most unchantable personality? No offense to Bobby J, but his favorite color had to be blank. Yet he had the charisma and everything else going in his clinching Game Four one-hitter and we knew it. BOB-BY JONES! we yelled. And we meant it.
10. May 17, 2007
Mets 6 Cubs 5. I wasn’t at the Steve Henderson Game. I wasn’t at the Carl Everett Game. I wasn’t at the Curt Schilling Game. I was all over them on TV, but I wasn’t there. This, the last time the Mets scored at least five runs in a bottom of the ninth inning and went on to win from way behind, I was there for. And I was there alone. It was almost a dare: It’s a day game on a Thursday, you work for yourself technically, you think it would be fun…go ahead, do it! So I did it. For 8½ innings it wasn’t fun. It was, What am I doing here by myself on a Thursday afternoon? I should be doing something more productive than hanging out at a baseball game. Each Met, most not used to being in a starting lineup, played as if he were thinking the exact same thing. But then, in the ninth, something started to crackle. Baserunners…and an inability of Cub relievers to prevent more of them. You watch a game in the ninth with your team down a bunch with the idea that it would be great if they’d win, but almost always with the realization that it is highly unlikely they will. But when it happens — and before May 17, 2007, I could only tell from television — you have to admit to yourself that this is becoming a possibility. It got possible that afternoon against the Cubs. It never got probable. It simply occurred. The Mets trailed 5-1 with three outs to go. They won 6-5. I can confirm that it was sublime because I was there.
9. June 30, 2000
Mets 11 Braves 8. To trail 8-1 in the eighth, it’s pretty obvious your team is doing nothing. But the Mets built a monumental rally on doing not a lot more than nothing. A few singles was something, I’ll give them that. But then, four walks — all they did was stand there! Yet the Mets’ passive approach toward shaky Brave relief was quite appropriate. It was 8-6 when I got the sense the Mets were really going to get to work now: a Fonzie two-RBI single to tie it, a Mike three-run homer to carve it in stone as the stunner of the new century. All my superstitious tendencies prevented me from really enjoying it until it was over (Armando brought the tying Brave run to the plate in the ninth, I wasn’t going to take anything for granted), but when it was over, the suppression of expression really paid off. See, ecstasy delayed was not ecstasy denied. I was ecstatic. I floated home on a ten-run cloud.
8. September 18, 2006
Mets 4 Marlins 0. There was little suspense from April on, none whatsoever by mid-June, that the Mets would at some point clinch the National League Eastern Division title in 2006. But for it to actually happen right in front of you? To see for yourself that your team has spent the season being better than all its direct competitors? To witness and partake of a 162-game celebration? To be not the best second-place team in the league but the best in the division, which is the most you can be before October kicks in? I think I was surprised at how much it meant to me to be a part of it all.
7. October 4, 2006
Mets 6 Dodgers 5. This would be way up the list anyway for the Lo Duca double tag and the Delgado 4-for-5 and the shocking Maine start and for the Billy escape act, but it’s as high as it is for the decibel level. Shea Stadium, in my experience, was never louder on a sustained basis than it was for Game One of the 2006 NLDS. We’d waited six years for another postseason chance. It was like we had waited sixty. We were loud at every reasonable provocation. We were loud and we were without pause. The Mets gave it back to us, playing at a high pitch all day. Living out loud was definitely the way to go through life at Shea.
6. October 18, 2006
Mets 4 Cardinals 2. My final postseason game at Shea. The Mets’ final postseason win there. I still can’t believe either is true, but if I shake out the part about winning and the part about being on hand, it was a fairly fulfilling farewell to that particular aspect of my Sheagoing. We were still very loud after two weeks of October combat, no mean feat seeing as how our team came home from St. Louis in a very muted state. But we weren’t about to be shut up, not from Ho-ZAY!ing, not from Let’s Go Mets!ing, not from nothing the Cardinals could hand us. I thought there’d be more. I wouldn’t be at Game Seven; I knew that. But there would be a World Series at Shea the next week. Maybe I’d be back for that. When that didn’t work out, there’d be NLDS games in 2007; and 2008; and whatever waited beyond those surefire series. But no, this was it. Game Six ’06: Not the worst way to go out if one has to go out.
5. September 28, 1997
Mets 8 Braves 2. Exactly eleven years before Shea would close its gates forever, I experienced the ultimate final day of a season. This was the game that brought tears to my eyes. That’s not a metaphor. I cried as the 1997 season ended. I didn’t know what else to do. It was the season that so cemented me with the Mets in a place I hadn’t been maybe ever. I’m still there, basically. It blew me away for 161 games and then for eight innings more. In the top of the ninth that final Sunday, the cement dried and I produced ocular moisture. It froze for me how I would forever remember a season in which I expected to starve and came out sated. The Mets had been so bad for so long. Now they were good. Not great, just real good and showing every sign of potentially getting better. Now that was ending. And now they were showing highlights on the big screen. And now they were waving their caps. And now I was crying even more. And now I was looking around and seeing I wasn’t alone in this posture. And now…I mean now…let’s just say that’s the way you close out a season at Shea Stadium.
4. July 10, 1999
Mets 9 Yankees 8. If they had dragged me to jail afterwards, what could I say? That I hadn’t started wailing on every Yankees fan I saw? That I didn’t take their fucking 24 rings and shove them up their fucking ass just as definitively as Matt Franco stuck Mariano Rivera’s last pitch in right field to score Rickey Henderson and Edgardo Alfonzo? That I regretted getting so worked up over a baseball game that I was ready to throw hands in Row T of Upper Deck Section 36? No, your honor, I did all that, or at least I thought about it. We beat the fucking Yankees 9-8. You and the law this particular Saturday, you can’t touch me.
3. October 16, 2000
Mets 7 Cardinals 0. At one point, up 6-0, Rob, Jason and I sidetracked into a discussion on a recently aired VH-1 series on what were supposed to be the greatest dance songs ever. Rob, not much of a pop culture hound, was surprised to learn “Time Warp” from Rocky Horror wasn’t No. 1. I had to break it to him that actually it wasn’t even mentioned, probably because it wasn’t actually a chart hit. This conversation took place as the Mets were lopping off out after out en route to reaching the World Series for the first time since 1986, mere innings from their fourth National League championship, the first to be clinched at Shea Stadium since 1973. And we were talking about dance songs and VH-1 and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It wasn’t a lengthy diversion of our attention, but there it was. The Mets were winning so big a prize so easily that three hardcore fans could drift. I’d be focused like a laser at the end and immersed in hugs and marveling at the scene outside Shea later, but I love that on the night I saw the Mets achieve the most immense thing I ever saw them achieve, my friends and I were permitted to let our minds wander. Let’s do that time warp again.
2. October 9, 1999
Mets 4 Diamondbacks 3 (10). Once his homer eluded Steve Finley’s glove, you knew this would be known forever after as the Todd Pratt Game, and you knew you’d dine out on it just as long. Every time somebody said to you anything remotely connected to the 1999 National League Division Series being won on an extra-innings walkoff home run that barely cleared the fence off the bat of a backup catcher pressed into emergency service by injury to the superstar for whom he normally caddied, your first response, internally or aloud, would be “I was there.” You watched the Mets win a World Series in 1969, a pennant in 1973, another Series in 1986 and a division title in 1988. You weren’t there. It never occurred to you at any of those junctures that, realistically, you could be there. Being at a big game was for other people. You didn’t explore it. You couldn’t explain it. It wasn’t something you could do. Except after a while, you stopped viewing Shea that way. Shea wasn’t just to gaze at from afar. Shea wasn’t just for cameos in July. Shea could be yours every bit as much as it was those whom the cameras found. You could form your own picture of Shea. You could and you would. And now you were at Shea for what was an apogee, a peak. You were there for the Todd Pratt Game, the Todd Pratt homer, the clincher, the moment it was certified that the Mets’ season would live on for another round of baseball. You were there for it. Where else would you rather be?
1. October 3, 1999
Mets 2 Pirates 1. What I love more than anything else about this game, and why I love this game more than any of the 415 games I attended at Shea Stadium between 1973 and 2008, is the Mets did what they had to do. I woke up that Sunday morning and was overcome by the realization that this was it. Lose and the season is over. Win and the season will continue. Hindsight indicates that wasn’t quite true. The Mets and Reds were tied for the Wild Card going into Sunday. Theoretically, if they both lost, then they’d still be tied after 162 games. But that was a lousy theory to test after where the 1999 Mets had been of late, namely to hell and almost back. So this was it in the most finely tuned sense of the phrase. Win this game and make 1999, the most absorbing season I’d ever lived through, immortal. Make its ride not just a pleasing anecdote but part of the public record. Win and give 1999 the notary’s stamp of legitimacy. See to it that 1999 won’t go into the annals as just our intriguing little secret. Lose, and it was just another 1998, but worse. In 1998, we went to hell and neglected to book the return flight. Here at the very end of ’99, we were almost home. Just needed that one more win to land safely. Do that and we could exist on a higher plane. C’mon, I thought that Sunday morning, just win, Mets. Just do that. Do what you have to do to do it, but just do it. Just win, Mets. And the damndest thing is, once Melvin Mora crossed home plate on a wild pitch in the ninth inning, they did. They did exactly what they had to do. They won. They kept 1999 going. Can you think of a better way to end a season than to extend it into perpetuity? Or at least a one-game playoff? Me neither.