Nothing makes any Mets fan who spent significant time with Bob Murphy from 1962 through 2003 happier than a Happy Recap. When the Mets would win, Murph would promise the cheerful postgame particulars after this important word from whichever sponsor on the WFAN (or WHN or WMCA, et al) Mets Radio Network. The Happy Recap was simple and fulfilling: a few highlights, the line score and a reminder of when to tune in for the next game. What a great note on which to end any day or night of Mets baseball.
Ideally, every Mets game would contain such a coda. But as we learned as soon as 2011 started, that’s impossible. Play a regulation season, and experience shows we’re eligible for no fewer than 40 Happy Recaps but no more than 108. Thus, logic tells us you can’t have a Happy Recap every day.
Ah, but since when are we as Mets fans captive to logic?
To celebrate this, the fiftieth year of Mets baseball, Faith and Fear is proud to introduce to you The Happiest Recap, a solid gold slate of games from every schedule the Mets have ever played. Think of it as the “best” games in Mets history, but with a rigorous twist. Our version gives you the “best” first game the Mets have ever played in any season; “best” second game the Mets have ever played in any season; “best” third game the Mets have ever played in any season; “best” 28th game; “best” 109th game…you get the idea.
It’s not a countdown but a countahead. We commence with a carefully selected “best” Opening Day and work our way through our Met-iculously crafted season clear to an equally carefully selected “best” Closing Day. The beauty part is it all happened. These are not fantasies. These are games the Mets played between 1962 and 2010. What we’re doing is plucking them from their slots in their original seasons and planting them in our dream season.
Talk about a year to remember!
You’re probably brimming with questions right now, so I’ll make an effort to foresee them and answer them here.
I notice you put “best” in quotes. What’s that all about?
Excellent question. This speaks to subjectivity. Our idea of the “best” 35th game the Mets have ever played might differ with yours. Thus, we use the term “best” loosely. Consider it a catch-all for most memorable, most intriguing, most momentous, most symbolic, most noteworthy, most historic and such.
So how do you determine what’s “best,” or “most” where Mets games are concerned?
Informing construction of The Happiest Recap is a desire for diversity in victory. Walkoff wins are great, but nothing but walkoff wins would get a little repetitive. Same for no-hitter flirtations, dramatic comebacks, offensive explosions, record-setting affairs, endless marathons, key pennant race triumphs, milestone firsts and unforgettable lasts. So we’re looking to mix things up a bit. Believe me, there’s no shortage of fascinating Mets wins. Choosing for a particular game number (i.e. “Best Game No. 57”) was more often a challenge than not, which has made this an incredibly fun project to pursue. By the time this is over, I will have — and this is no exaggeration — examined closely every winning Mets box score in team history.
Is a “best” Mets game necessarily a win?
You’re darn tootin’. While there can be interesting baseball games in which the Mets participate but don’t prevail, the hell with that for celebratory purposes. This is nothing but Mets wins, from first game to final game.
Say, isn’t there already a book out like that? Isn’t this the same thing?
Indeed, there is a book out that offers a “perfect season,” part of a line of books from a sports publisher that uses “162-0” as its hook for multiple teams. They published books for the Red Sox, Twins and Yankees in 2010 and have added the Mets and Phillies this season. But no, this is NOT the same thing. Those books use a different format, choosing best games by date, not by game number.
The idea for The Happiest Recap was born in the depths of 2009 when I got to thinking a) that the 50th Mets season was on the horizon and b) about how everybody has an opinion on their favorite Mets Opening Day, but nobody ever says, “That was the best 44th game in Mets history!” It got me thinking, and that’s always dangerous.
Just to be clear, except for glancing at a few preview pages on Amazon, I haven’t read the 162-0 Mets book that was recently released, primarily because I don’t want to be unduly influenced by it. Perhaps when I’m done with The Happiest Recap I’ll check it out. A friend has gotten hold of it and tells me it’s very good, and I’m glad to hear it; all Mets books should be very good. But it’s got nothing to do with this project.
How come you’re doing this now? Why not wait until next year when the 50th anniversary celebration is official?
We’ll certainly have something going on here in 2012, but I began to focus on 2011 because it occurred to me that by this point on the team-space continuum, the Mets will have played fifty seasons already.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the anomaly of the 1981 split season.
We’re not all as old as you. Refresh our memory, please.
Very well. The 1981 season started like any other, until June 12, when a players strike was called and baseball halted for nearly two months. When a settlement was reached, the powers that be determined getting fans back to the ballpark would be tough enough without telling fans of teams that were lousy prior to June 12 (like the Mets) that they would essentially be playing out the string. So for the only time in modern baseball history, MLB wiped the slate clean, freezing the standings through June 11 as the “first season” of 1981, granting playoff spots to the teams that were in first place when the strike hit. They would play the winners of the “second season” in the first-ever divisional series round. Thus, when the Mets and Cubs returned to the action on August 10, 1981, they weren’t 17-34 New York and 15-37 Chicago — both teams, like all teams, were now 0-0.
How does this anomaly manifest itself in terms of The Happiest Recap?
Per how baseball functioned thirty years ago, each half-season from 1981 is treated here as an individual entity. So when we say “fifty seasons of Mets baseball have already taken place,” that’s what we mean. There were 105 Mets games played in 1981, but there was in no meaningful fashion a “75th” team game. For individual players, all 1981 stats were composite, but for the teams, it was really two discrete campaigns. (Just ask the Cincinnati Reds, who compiled the best record for the entire year but didn’t go to the playoffs because they didn’t have the best record in the first half or the second half.) To treat 1981 any other way would be historically inaccurate.
You’re blowing my mind a little.
Hang in there, you’re gonna be OK. The overall impact on what we’re doing isn’t huge, but it’s true to the contemporary competitive reality of the year in question. I’ve done my research on this and I lived through it. Trust me on this one. There were two 1981s — but just one of every other year, 1962 to 1980 and 1982 to 2010. Taken together, they add up to fifty seasons.
Anything else askew that we need to know?
You know how it’s said there are no ties in baseball? Well, that’s wrong. There are. Or at least there used to be. The Mets have played eight official games to a tie in their history, though none since good old 1981 (one in each half, as it happens). These were incidents of suspended games that had to be made up or weren’t made up. The rules seem to have rendered ties obsolete in recent years, but they did exist, so where they happened, we have to acknowledge them.
Meaning if the 25th game of a given season ended in a tie, it affects the game number going forward. Thus, if the Mets were 12-12 and then they tied, and then they won their next game, their record might have gone to 13-12, but that 13th win came in their 26th game. The tie went in the books. Again, ties are exceedingly rare in Mets history and they won’t make much of a difference in all of this, but I wanted to note that they were facts of baseball life. The bottom line effect is minimal.
How could you possibly leave out that game I love? It was the best!
I take it that’s a pre-emptive question, but I’ll address it anyway. There are games I love that I’ve found myself compelled to omit from The Happiest Recap. Sometimes a personal favorite just couldn’t withstand the historical competition. Furthermore, I wanted a diverse slate of games that reflects all kinds of wins in Mets history. Some will be instantly recognizable, some will jar your memory, some will be news to you, but they’ll all have some genuine Met meaning to them, I assure you. You’ll love every one of them as if you just witnessed it on Channel 9 or SNY, or on WABC or WNEW, or at Shea Stadium, the Polo Grounds or Citi Field.
The Polo Grounds? Citi Field? The Mets sucked in those places! They sucked a lot at Shea, too, but the Mets were total losers when they played at the Polo Grounds and they have been at Citi Field up to now. What gives?
What gives is even in the most grotesque of seasons, there is beauty to be savored. Therefore, an executive decision was made to include at least one game in The Happiest Recap from every Met season the Mets have ever played — kind of like every team being represented on the All-Star squad.
You mean to tell me there’s a “best” game from lousy years like 1965? 1979? 2003?
Yes, we make an allowance for a representative from every Mets season…including each half of 1981.
Any other allowances?
Our research is not 100% complete, but I would expect each National League opponent to be represented (on the losing side, of course). There’s not enough space to pick a game against every Interleague opponent, however.
Oh, but please tell me that you’re going to include…
Don’t worry. Wins against at least one Interleague opponent in particular were given every opportunity to make it onto our schedule.
Say, you just said your research isn’t complete. What happens if something unprecedented happens in 2011, a.k.a. the 51st season of Mets baseball?
By unprecedented, you could mean any number of things.
I mean the holy grail — what if the Mets finally throw a you-know-what in 2011?
We should only have such problems. Let’s leave it at that.
All right, you’ve whetted my appetite. When are we going to see this so-called Happiest Recap?
The plan is to bring it to you twice weekly, likely early in the week (Monday or Tuesday) and Friday (in lieu of the traditional Flashback Friday). They’ll come in virtual series of three: Games 1 through 3; Games 4 through 6; and so on, roughly shadowing the progress of the 2011 season, which we deeply hope will provide its own share of Happy Recaps.
As Bob Murphy himself would have urged as potential prelude to a Happy Recap, fasten your seatbelt.