The debut of Mets Yearbook: 1977 somehow eluded me last week, but luckily I noticed it was coming on after Sunday’s game and learned it will be repeated Tuesday afternoon at 1:30, so consider this your DVR alert.
Sadly, the 1977 season itself did not elude me, and even less fortunately, it was repeated in spirit throughout 1978 and 1979, so be warned that if you watch this particular edition of the best show on television, you will (especially if you lived sentiently through 1977 as a Mets fan) require the latest the pharmaceutical industry has to offer in the way of antidepressant medication.
Ohmigod, Wes Westrum might have muttered had he been paying attention to his old posting, wasn’t 1977 awful? I’ll assume you, as a FAFIF reader and therefore de facto intermediate student of Mets history, understand why. Yet you’ll want to watch Mets Yearbook: 1977 anyway. You will want to see propaganda take off in new and unpredictable directions. You’ll want to hear new manager Joe Torre explain (from a horse farm in an undisclosed location) how he’s stopped thinking of the atrocity that was committed on June 15 of that year as the Tom Seaver trade and has begun to think of it as the Steve Henderson trade.
Kudos to anyone who can think of it at all and look forward to coming to work the following year, but Torre is upbeat about his “new look pitching staff”. Ed Kranepool (whose reams of service time is featured early, a dead giveaway as regards how few actual highlights a particular highlight film encompasses) visits his old high school ballfield in the Bronx and is as upbeat as Ed Kranepool can possibly be, which is to say reassuringly grim. We also meet Lee Mazzilli and Steve Henderson, even if neither of them can enunciate worth a damn (and these were my favorite post-Seaver players). We are treated to a festival of leather jackets and out-of-control coiffure and a general late-1970s vibe of Shea despair.
Elliott Maddox is coming! Willie Montañez is coming! Tim Foli is coming back! Jerry Koosman isn’t going anywhere (yet)! And, in a moment of genuinely inspirational reportage, Jackson Todd survives a cancer scare. Plus there’s the great blackout of ’77; Doug Flynn complaining about the high cost of Big Apple living; the four great center fielders of New York lore alighting for Old Timers Day and inspiring Terry Cashman to write a song about three of them; Met wives playing softball; Jon Matlack’s kid running in circles before Dad is traded to Texas; Lenny Randle solving the third base problem (somebody’s always solving the third base problem on Mets Yearbook); and a parade of banners that the miserable management of this miserable team still had the good grace to permit on the field, making us wonder yet again why a beloved tradition that survived arguably the worst year in Mets history isn’t immediately revived by the club’s current cup-happy marketers. (Afraid the fans’ feet will ruin the grass for soccer?)
Mets Yearbook: 1977 is, either in spite of or because of its content, a triumph of the highlight film genre. You’ll never want to live through a 1977-style season again, but you won’t want to miss evidence that it actually occurred.
Image courtesy of “Mario Mendoza…HOF lock” at Baseball-Fever.