Round numbers are all the rage these days. Tuesday night, the Mets put their 4,000th win in the books. Wednesday night, I scribbled my 600th game in the Log.
That’s 600 official Mets games that have counted: regular-season and postseason, whether at Shea, Citi Field or one of eleven ballparks where I’ve rendezvoused with them on the road. It’s taken 42 seasons for me to reach 600 but only three-and-a-half to dash there from 500. I remember No. 500 very well, thanks to someone other than me paying it homage.
This is from my old friend who I wished could have become my even older friend, the late Dana Brand, reflecting on our chance meeting of April 10, 2011:
I walk out of the store and run into Greg Prince…he tells me that this is his 500th game. I don’t know what it was for me. But this is one of the things that makes Greg Greg. He knows this, and has a record of it.
Well, yeah, I did. It was early enough in the season so that whatever statistical studying I did to get me through winter and Spring Training was still fresh enough for me to know No. 500 was on tap. I’m glad I got to share a bit of that milestone game with Dana. I wish I could be sharing more with him.
Then 99 more Mets games come and go between April 11, 2011, and July 5, 2014, so I know No. 600 is coming fast. I know because I have a record of it. I have the Log. Technically, Log I, which covered Shea, and Log II, which covers Citi (with the road games on the spare pages in between). Not that all ballgames with all Mets fans aren’t special events, but No. 600 looms serendipitously. On July 9, 2014, I’ll be taking in No. 600 with somebody who was with me way back on August 29, 1979.
That was No. 11, if you’re scoring at home. Or even if you’re alone.
Joel Lugo and I were the biggest Mets fans each other knew as New York was rapidly losing its healthy blue-and-orange hue and turning a grim shade of pinstripe blue. We were also, more or less, the only Mets fans each other knew. Our first game together was a Wednesday matinee loss versus the Braves for which we bought swell Field Level seats from the box office probably a half-hour before first pitch. There’d be a game or two a year every year deep into the next decade, some going better than others, many when the Metropolitan Area was at last showing its true colors. You could tell that the Mets had gotten better in the 1980s by how far away the market compelled us to sit from the action.
Joel moved out west in the early ’90s and left me to fend for myself and find other Met company. Every now and then he conjured a reason to swing back to his native habitat, and if it was summer, we’d make a dual cameo at Shea. The last one was August 7, 2008, or Game No. 413. It was against the Padres and it served splendidly for a stadium farewell.
Six years later, Joel somehow hadn’t been to Citi Field. “Somehow” is a synonym for 3,000 miles, but still. Also yet to see the not-so-new park was Max Lugo, Joel’s son who also happens to be a 15-year-old Mets fan from Northern California. That situation, obviously, couldn’t be allowed to stand.
So Wednesday night was not only my 600th in broad terms, but their first in specific environs. As debuts, sequels and continuations went, I’d have to say it hit the spot.
The game itself was the kind you want the Mets to have against the Braves. If we couldn’t beat them in 1979 behind Ray Burris, it was imperative to take it to them in 2014 behind Dillon Gee. Gee emerged from the disabled list working quickly and throwing strikes. The Braves seemed demoralized from the moment Max’s pinpoint control plunged the unlucky Atlanta-jerseyed employee into the icy waters of the Send In The Clowns Dunk Tank. (You get the feeling the Mets would take sponsorship money from a company called Mets Suck as long as the check cleared.) We sat down the right field line — decent seats for what had been, until this week, an indecent season — and watched one enemy baserunner after another basically give up on his way to first. Which was fine with us.
Credit to Gee for takin’ care of Braveness and props to Ervin Santana for surrendering a run in the first and then keeping rapid pace with Dillon. The innings didn’t linger. I probably should’ve wanted them to, considering I see Joel only every few years and hadn’t met up with Max since he was in diapers (strangely enough, he doesn’t recall the episode), but baseball is so much more appealing when it doesn’t dawdle. Seems we were rousing Lazy Mary from her slumber approximately twenty minutes after proudly hailing the twilight’s last gleaming.
Snappily conducted affair, this No. 600, but I tried not to think about that. Congratulating a game for moving along briskly seems a pretty good way to bring a 19th inning on yourself. (Joel and I watched most of the Mets and Braves playing 19 innings once upon a time, albeit on television in a bar.) Fortunately Travis d’Arnaud didn’t feel like sticking around all night and put the score out of reach when he unleashed his Wallyfied power stroke and launched a ball over the left field fence to establish a 4-1 lead. Jenrry Mejia’s attempt to summon the ghosts of Franco and Benitez failed and nary a Brian Jordan was in sight. Mejia secured the last out at approximately 9:35 PM and we had ourselves as crisp a win as one could relish in the age of replay review.
I’m 330-270 overall. Joel and Max are 1-0 at Citi Field. I tried to convince them to stay put on a permanent basis or at least the rest of this modestly crucial homestand, seeing as how they are clearly the Mets’ heretofore missing ingredient (one more win and we’re no worse than eight out with 70 to play), but no, they need to fly back from whence they came.
Maybe quitting while they’re ahead is advisable. They already got to find out what all the Shake Shack fuss was about (there is zero as in no line if you arrive before 6 PM) and Max experienced a first that didn’t show up in the box score. Looking around as I led the Lugos on my own custom tour of Citi Field, the kid marveled that all around him he was witnessing more Mets fans up close than he had in his entire life to date. Not more Mets fans than he had been with at any given moment, mind you, but more Mets fans total than he had been in the vicinity of from birth forward.
Being around Mets fans, going to Mets games, enmeshment in all things Mets is not to be taken for granted. Or even M. Donald Granted. Grant, discourager of millions, ordered Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman traded away from us when Joel and I were finishing eighth grade, our first year of talking Mets before, during and after class. We returned for ninth grade, still Mets fans. We headed to Shea to watch the Mets and Braves on the eve of eleventh grade. We went to Citi Field to watch the Mets and Braves a matter of weeks before Max commences eleventh grade for himself.
Joel rented a car for his and Max’s stay, so I bummed a ride back to Long Island with them. We talked Mets on the ride home. We talked about whatever. We stopped for pizza. Then he dropped me off where I had parked by the LIRR and I wished them well for the duration of their trip and their flight to California. The rhythm about the whole evening seemed so natural, so essentially unchanged since Game No. 11 from 1979, that it caught me by surprise when I realized I have no idea when our next game will be.