I got a story I really wanna tell
About R.A. Dickey at the O-K Corral
Now R.A. Dickey didn’t stand no mess
He wore a gun on his hip and a rose on his chest
R.A. Dickey’s a gunslinger (yeah, uh-huh, he must be)
R.A. Dickey’s a gunslinger (yeah, uh-huh, sho nuff)
Apologies to Bo Diddley, but too late: I repurposed that for our intrepid knuckleballer weeks ago, and have since expanded it to include any Met or related figure who does something worthwhile, to the (waning) amusement of my son and the (waxing) annoyance of my wife. David Wright is a GUNSLINGER. Jose Reyes is a GUNSLINGER. Ike Davis is a GUNSLINGER. Gary Cohen is a GUNSLINGER. Mr. Met is a GUNSLINGER. It’s fun the first time you do it, stupid the next nine or 10 times, and then fun again after that, so straight on to infinity.
These are the kind of goofball things you do when you’re in one of those marvelous I’m happy/My team is playing well virtuous circles, bits of doggerel you use to punctuate good moments and stick with because they seem to be working and who knows, maybe your doing them is adding to the luck. (Jason Fry is a GUNSLINGER! Hey, why not?) After that brief hiccup against the vile Yankees, it’s been back to business against the Tigers, who have looked mildly befuddled, and perhaps not just because they’re busy wondering what on earth they have to do with the New York Mets. There was poor Jay Sborz last night, brought into a second-and-third-with-nobody-out situation that could make anyone short of breath, only it was his major-league debut and it was a disaster. There was Phil Coke tonight, looking very 70s porn star with his orange facial hair, baffling Ike Davis for two strikes but then throwing one that got too much plate, allowing Ike to extend his long arms and whip it into right-center for breathing room. There were the rest of the Tigers watching Jose Reyes cause trouble all over the bases. Gunslingers everywhere!
And there was Dickey, spotless except for whatever he did to be denied a shot at the complete game. (A knuckleballer can’t throw more than 97 pitches with a five-run lead? Really, Jerry?) Dickey has climbed the optimal curve for journeyman acquisitions: He battled hard enough to get us to root for him, became a nice surprise, became a nicer surprise and got us intrigued, and now has us expecting good things from him as a matter of course. (Other Met hurlers to go 6-0 in their first seven starts? That would be nobody.) Now, it’s up to us to remember that not even the optimal journeyman curve proceeds in an unbroken arc to Cooperstown. Dickey will lose a game one of these days. (No! Really!) He’ll serve up knuckleballs that don’t knuckle, and they’ll get hit ungodly distances, and we’ll have to remember that baseball’s like that for everybody sometimes — and even more so for knuckleballers, who can only dispatch their pitches plateward and hope they wind up somewhere safe, like paratroopers leaping out into the night.
Those of us watching on TV instead of from the seats mostly missed whatever the Mets were doing to sort of but not really make fun of Lady Gaga, a promotion I’ll choose to call drily witty instead of kind of half-assed since we’re 11 games over .500. Instead we got Jerry Seinfeld spending the middle innings in the SNY booth with Gary and Keith. Seinfeld was genial and amusing, particularly while skewering the various commercials we’re all sick of, and gently but firmly steered the conversation away from his namesake show (save for Keith’s famous cameo) and back to the Mets whenever possible. His best line, in response to a jab from Keith for coming to about 30 games a year: “How often are you here?” He reminisced about Tommie Agee as the Mets’ Willie Mays (though points to Keith for risking sacrilege by observing that Agee must have had a bad read on his famous snow-cone catch), about Gil Hodges’s tip-toe walk from the dugout to the mound, about Endy Chavez’s catch, about how much he likes the 2010 team, and he got Keith and Gary to reveal their favorite Mets and favorite Mets moments. (Gary’s were Buddy Harrelson and Strawberry hitting the Busch Stadium clock in 1985.)
I’m always startled when celebrities turn out to be Mets fans. I assume they’re Yankee fans, which is probably a combination of seeing the entire Fox fall lineup scrunched into field level at Yankee Stadium every damn October in the late 1990s and some form of subconscious class envy. I don’t pay much attention to these things (because who gives a shit), but watching the Mets every night has taught me that there’s Seinfeld, and Chris Rock, and Matthew Broderick, and back in the day there was Glenn Close and Richard Nixon, which I found baffling not for political reasons but because he was from California and 49 when the Mets came into existence, and then there was Pearl Bailey on the old highlight tapes, who I wouldn’t know was a celebrity except I knew she was a Mets fan.
I’m pretty much an anti-magnet when it comes to New York celebrity sightings, but the two that stick in mind do so because they were celebrity Mets fans. Not long after the 2000 World Series, I was walking on 18th Street and passed by a dour-looking Tim Robbins, striding along with his head down. I resisted the urge to thank him for being a Mets fan, which I like to think would have at least been novel as such street encounters go. Then there was the day, when Joshua was one or two, when a man walking towards us down around the West Village tugged slightly at the bill of his cap and gave us a small smile. I realized after a puzzled moment that it was Jon Stewart, and figured the cap tug and smile was his way of acknowledging fans and short-circuiting potential conversations so he could get on with his life. That struck me as clever but also slightly calculating: After all, he’d done it before I’d noticed who he was.
Then I realized that wasn’t it at all, and felt like an asshole. Stewart was wearing a Mets cap. I was wearing a Mets cap. Joshua was wearing a (rather small) Mets cap. He’d saluted us as comrades in an underdog endeavor. Ever since that encounter, the Daily Show host can do no wrong in my book. Because (wait for it) Jon Stewart is a GUNSLINGER.