Welcome to Flashback Friday: I Saw The Decade End, a milestone-anniversary salute to the New York Mets of 1969, 1979, 1989 and 1999. Each week, we immerse ourselves in or at least touch upon something that transpired within the Metsian realm 40, 30, 20 or 10 years ago. Amazin’ or not, here it comes.
The greatest moment in the history of Citi Field is yet to come. When the first pitch is thrown, that will be No. 1. When something of a substantive Met nature occurs, that will take its place. And then we’ll be off to the races.
You’ll recall there was a vote to determine the greatest moment in the history of Shea Stadium last year. Ten legitimately great moments were chosen from a flawed ballot of 75 and from there they were ranked ten to one, announced to relatively light fanfare the last week of last season. From No. 10 to No. 6, I thought the fans (I was one of them) did a fine job:
10. Todd Pratt’s homer to beat the Diamondbacks, 10/9/99
9. Tom Seaver’s Imperfect Game, 7/9/69
8. The Ten-Run Inning, 6/30/00
7. Beatles’ first concert, 8/15/65
6. Robin Ventura’s Grand Slam Single, 10/17/99
You could have tossed them into an empty coffee can, shaken them up and spilled them out and, in whatever order they fell, that would have been fine, too. It was from No. 5 to No. 2 where I was left a little stunned.
5. Mets win World Series, 10/27/86
4. Endy Chavez’s catch, 10/19/06
3. Mets win World Series, 10/16/69
2. Mike Piazza’s post-9/11 homer, 9/21/01
No. 1 was Mookie and Buckner, which was my choice, so I’ll just say I believe it was the right call. I’d rank it behind only The Shot Heard ‘Round the World in all of baseball history, actually.
But those other four make me wonder what kind of moment junkies Mets fans are.
Even as I rationalize away modernity, chronology, technology, demography and what have you to explain why more recent events that have been shown repeatedly in recent years get voted higher via online mechanisms that inevitably skew younger, I think it says something about how the Mets fan would opt for an unforgettable snapshot over a more rewarding big picture.
Endy over winning the 1986 World Series? Really? You do realize we lost that game in which the Chavez grab was made, don’t you? That that catch saved two runs in the sixth inning, two runs given back three innings later (the latter moment appearing on the cover of a book you might have seen lately)? The Endy Catch was two outs. Jesse Orosco striking out Marty Barrett was the championship of the world, the only one we’ve had since the end of the Age of Aquarius. The clinching wasn’t as seismic as the thing with Mookie and Buckner two nights earlier, but it did make the whole thing official. You’re good with that order, Endy over the championship of the world attained by the flat-out best team this franchise ever produced?
And Nos. 3 and 2…the first world championship, the most fabled world championship, the world championship used routinely by people outside the Met orbit as a touchstone for unlikely world championships, the world championship that represents the dot over the “i” of the signature season in the history of Shea Stadium and the New York Mets — not as great as that home run Piazza hit? That home run that was hit in the eighth inning of a regular-season game?
I don’t want to give up the Easter Bunny at this time of year, but really? Piazza’s homer, all its emotion and power notwithstanding, greater than the 1969 Mets completing their rise from the absolute depths of baseball to its pinnacle? Like I said, I voted for the ball going through Buckner’s legs, yet I did so feeling almost guilty about passing on 1969, because 1969 was the year of the Mets in every spiritual sense. The ’86 team was better all-around but ’69 should be considered the undisputed face of this franchise, what we stand for at our best. Other franchises have had 1986es. Nobody else has ever had a 1969.
One supposes Piazza’s home run, for which I was present in the Mezzanine, is without exact precedent and peer (and let’s be steadfast in our hope that its context will never befall any other people ever again), and one wishes to not detract from the dual rush of relief and adrenaline it gave an entire stadium and parts of its city…but the 1969 Mets are the 1969 Mets. They were kings of a world no one gave them any kind of shot in. They are the stuff of legend for forty years and I will bet that their broad strokes will live on another forty years at least.
But only the third-greatest moment in the just-departed stadium’s history? Really? If you say so. Just wanted to confirm that choice before pushing forward.
As for what lies ahead, may moments great, small and largely victorious bless this next home of ours starting Monday. No need to wait until my first game Thursday. Start winning and being memorable as soon as you can.
A fan’s lifetime of baseball moments add up to Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.