Day-night doubleheader Saturday. Day portion was somewhere in the middle of Connecticut. Nightcap was where it usually is.
Dana Brand’s family organized a public memorial to their husband/father/brother in Newtown, Conn., to which hundreds showed up. Where’s Newtown? Somewhere that adds to my admiration of Dana. He commuted daily to Hempstead from up there? He drove regularly to games in Flushing from there? Newtown, Conn., sits on the outskirts of a Metropolitan Area, I’m sure, yet I rather doubt it’s New York’s.
But somewhere in the middle of Connecticut is where the Brands put down roots, so that’s where the memorial was and that was where I was going to be no matter that getting there presented as many challenges as certain teams face lately holding seventh-inning leads. My sincere gratitude, then, to a thoughtful and convivial trio of Hofstra University colleagues of Dana’s for making room in their ride for a highway-challenged stranger. And my thanks to Sheila, Dana’s wife; Sonia, Dana’s daughter; and Stefanie and Jennifer, Dana’s sisters, for inviting me to say a few words on behalf of Mets bloggers everywhere regarding Dana’s essential place among us. I wouldn’t dare be presumptuous enough to suggest any one person can speak for a diverse community of chroniclers, but I doubt I’d receive any substantial flak for the conclusion I reached:
Given the angle from which he came to our subculture, Dana couldn’t help but be a little anthropological in his writing. “Who are these Mets fans and what is this Mets thing?” was a recurring theme of his. But being that he was present at the creation of the Mets and found himself immediately ensnared by the charms of the Mets, he subjected himself as much as anybody to his quest to understand this strange tribe of which he was a charter citizen. “What’s with me being a Mets fan and why does this Mets thing mean so much to me?” was just as constant a theme in his writing.
Dana could put distance between his heartfelt passion for the Mets and his intellectual curiosity about the Mets, yet he never, ever condescended regarding what the Mets meant: not to others, not to himself. That Dana was an accomplished academic — and the rest of us weren’t — meant nothing to him in this context. That Dana was a Mets fan who wished Carlos Beltran had connected off Adam Wainwright and won us a pennant meant everything to him — that and that there were so many in our blogging community who clung to those kinds of Metsian desires as deeply as he did; and that there were so many who joined him in aching to put those kinds of Metsian emotions into words; and that we all came back to the Mets with him, spring after spring, season after season, to love out loud alongside him.
Dana loved that. Dana loved being a Mets fan among Mets fans, a Mets blogger among Mets bloggers, a Mets writer writing for Mets readers. We loved that he loved it and we flat out loved him.
Like one of those long-running TV series that loses a singular cast member, the show will go on. We’ll still have our enjoyable episodes, we’ll still churn out quality entertainment, we’ll still present all the high drama and low comedy that New York Mets baseball has to offer. But I gotta tell ya: every one of us who remains in the cast will know something’s missing.
Yet thanks to our time with Dana Brand, we’ll also know something Amazin’, Amazin’, Amazin’ will always be with us.
What a splendid celebration of a rich life this memorial was, with friends, relations and comrades of Dana’s, going back to his childhood, testifying to his distinctiveness and his decency and his thousand other enchanting attributes. More than once I had to edit thoughts like, “I have to remember to send Dana Brand an e-mail about this — he’d really enjoying hearing all this stuff.” I’m pretty certain I wasn’t the only one in that frame of mind.
On the other hand, I think I was the only one determined to make a day-night of this particular event, with the second half unfolding at the other place I will probably repeatedly find myself thinking, “I wish Dana were here to take all this in.” I surely thought it on Thursday when the Mets came back from oblivion to beat the Pirates, and I thought it again Saturday night as Dillon Gee dueled Jair Jurrjens. I’d love to tell you I’d planned it this way, the Newtown Meeting House in the afternoon, the Flushing Meeting House in the evening, but the truth is the ticket for the game was secured before Dana’s passing. And at the risk of playing the “he would have wanted it this way” card, I didn’t think myself too terribly rude or callous to inform the fellas from Hofstra that, uh, I kind of need you to drop me off at Citi Field after we’re done in Connecticut.
They’re good guys, the Hofstra Three, and they did just as I requested, getting me down I-684, over the Whitestone and to the cusp of the left field parking lot gate by 6:50. It left just enough time for me to pass through security; absorb positive feedback from the wand man regarding the t-shirt I’d worn special to Newtown (“Shea Stadium — good old Shea Stadium!”); accept one of 25,000 complimentary festive orange (mostly) caps; load up on Daruma and Mama’s at World’s Fare; and land in my Section 404 seat next to old friend Joe just as Martin Prado was fouling off Gee’s first pitch.
It can be done, but I wouldn’t want to commute from Newtown, Conn., to Flushing, N.Y., as a matter of course. No wonder Dana grew a beard. Who had time to shave with all that driving?
Dana Brand’s beard came to mind in the bottom of the seventh, after Gee had pitched seven scoreless frames; after Alex Gonzalez made the kind of play on Jason Bay’s predictably routine grounder that the other Alex Gonzalez once made on a Miguel Cabrera grounder to make Steve Bartman unfairly infamous; after Josh Thole doubled; and after Ruben Tejada took one for the team. The bases were loaded, nobody was out and, in Gee’s place, Terry Collins called on Jason Pridie to pinch-hit.
Pridie has a beard. Dana had a beard. Was it unfair to now play the “it sure would be appropriate…” card? A bearded Mets player should come through with a hirsute hit just because a revered Mets writer was spoken of in glowing terms approximately 69.2 miles to the north and east six or so hours earlier? Would it have been inappropriate had Tejada, instead of getting hit, gotten a hit? Would have I had to have checked Ruben’s high school transcripts to decide his literature curriculum would have met with Prof. Brand’s approval? You’ve got to be careful with this line of thinking. On the day we learned that our friend died, somebody on a board I frequent suggested it would be nice if the Mets could stage a comeback and win one for Dana. The Mets lost 9-3 to the Cubs.
An intense internal debate ensued over the ethics attached to invoking the spirit of the departed in order to gain a desired sporting result on this mortal coil and how dirty I should feel about really wanting exactly that to happen, but — unlike a pair of Metsian beards — it was cut mercifully short when Pridie lashed Jurrjens’s final pitch of the night into right to score Bay and put the Mets up 1-0. “Yeah! The guy with the beard did it!”
Is that so wrong?
Jurrjens exited. Scott Proctor entered. Jose Reyes tripled. Everybody scored. Scholarly beards gave way to flying dreadlocks. Mets up 4-0. The dreads flew home on Justin Turner’s bright red sac fly. 5-0 Mets. Between innings, the big screen played its classy Get Well Kid video for Gary Carter, the man who wore his perm as proudly as he did his chest protector. A spontaneous GA-REE CAR-TER! chant broke out in a distant section. And the Mets held on to shut out the Braves .
No, nothing wrong with that at all.
Dana Brand photo by Sharon Chapman.