- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Everybody Rise!

People ask me what I do during the All-Star break when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for Friday night at 10.

The Mets finished beating the Marlins, 9-1, at approximately 4:30 Sunday afternoon. Remember that? [1] It was so long ago, I can understand if you don’t. Since then we’ve been without baseball. I mean real baseball, not just a prime time tribute to the winner of the First Annual Allan Huber “Bud” Selig Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.

Here’s what I’ve done on my forced baseball-less vacation, besides channeling the wisdom [2] of Rogers Hornsby [3].

• I tried to ignore the real world. Harsh place.

• I shook my head that Gil Hodges isn’t in the Hall of Fame. If you shake your head at that unfortunate fact, too, perhaps you’ll sign this petition [4].

• I paused to appreciate Elaine Stritch [5], who passed away yesterday at age 89, though I’d like to think I’ve always appreciated the consummate showwoman [6]. Here’s to the lady who lunched [7].

• I finished watching Lincoln, which had nothing to do with the Mets. Presidential biopics that might: Washington. Jefferson. Jackson. Taylor. Buchanan. Johnson. Wilson. Another Johnson. Nixon. Carter. Maybe Tyler [8], if we’re not sticklers for format.

• I started watching the Home Run Derby, but never finished. Is it over yet?

• I watched as much of the actual All-Star Game festivities as I could in and around the four-hour salute to a certain shortstop [9]. Applauding Daniel Murphy [10] as he tipped his cap and squealing when he came in to pinch-hit remains my personal highlight and probably yours. Baseball ruins many things about itself if given the chance, yet naming an All-Star from every team remains the right thing to do and they keep doing it. Would we talk about John Stearns [11] as much as we do if not for a generation waving its bona fides? “I remember waiting for John Stearns to be introduced…” is basically the All-Star cue for every Mets fan who came of age in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Swap out Stearns for Pat Zachry [12] or Joel Youngblood [13], if you so choose. All you kids at home can swap out for Daniel Murphy. That’s the stuff dreams are made of when you’re waiting for bigger dreams to coalesce.

• I wondered why MLB and/or Fox couldn’t take a minute from reminding us that this was Derek Jeter [14]’s Final All-Star Game to acknowledge the recent passing of 15-time All-Star Tony Gwynn [15]. Seemed like something that would come up in conversation if not ceremony. (On a related note, Joe Buck’s a sensational baseball announcer, isn’t he?)

• I sensibly feared the San Diego Padres will rally around the Gwynn snub and take their heartfelt anger out on the Mets this weekend. The Mets have only won one series at Petco Park since it came into existence in 2004, thus it’s not a longshot that the Mets might have trouble in San Diego. But that was before the Mets implied to us that they’re not terrible.

• I tried to get used to the idea of the Mets as not terrible, what with their current 7-1 skein, even their 14-10 mark dating back to one month ago today in St. Louis. It wasn’t the first time they’ve exceeded competent in 2014, as they ran a 15-8 stretch after getting swept by the Nationals to start the season. In between not being pretty good for several weeks at a clip, they went 16-29, which is godawful, whatever their run differential. And in between the 7-1 so giddily fresh in our minds and the mostly already forgotten 5-1 from late June, there was that troublesome 2-8 spell that depressed the spit out of us. So now I have to get used to the idea of the not terrible Mets not necessarily reverting to sub-.500 form. Technically, at 45-50, they’re still sub-.500, but in my mind, they’re not. They can’t be. They’re not terrible.

• I viewed the baseball segments of an hourlong C-Span interview with George Will, not my favorite guy by any means, but he was on mostly to talk about his Wrigley Field book [16] and the Mets weren’t playing, so what the hell? Will’s rap wasn’t much different from whatever he’s had to say about his woebegone Cubs in various forums over the years. Still, it was interesting to hear a person who isn’t immersed in baseball step away from what he is immersed in to swoon over what we stubbornly continue to consider the National Pastime. There are days when I think if I were less immersed in the Mets I might like them more — as opposed to intensely loving them and simultaneously getting incredibly irritated by them. But I wouldn’t want to not be immersed in them. Letting their flaws overwhelm me is the collateral damage wrought by my relationship with them. Conversely, a good seven-out-of-eight dash of winning makes me far happier than it could if the Mets were something I processed only tangentially.

• I visited with the New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society last night in the Bronx. The guest speaker was Ed Randall [17], who is as smooth talking to a room of baseball fans as he is to a radio audience of them. Randall’s a truly gracious sort who also took time to promote a very righteous cause [18] (besides banning the DH). One thing I noticed in this gathering in which the nominal common denominator was the eternal torch lit for a beloved baseball team of yore: the beloved baseball team of yore didn’t come up very much. But when it did, I did learn that you could get into the Polo Grounds bleachers, at various junctures and/or memory points, for merely 50 cents, 75 cents or a buck and a quarter.

• I finished reading a book about another beloved baseball team of yore, Jonah Keri’s history and remembrance of the Montreal Expos [19], which deserves its own column in the near future, but I can recommend it if you like recovering memories of both Pepe Mangual [20] and Pepe Frias [21]. OK, maybe not Pepe Mangual, if you were around for the Met version in 1976, but has it been ten years since there were last Expos? Since I first met Bill Kent [22] and began going to those Giants meetings? And could Vladimir Guerrero [23] have thrown out Willie Mays [24] at third if 1954 met 1997?

• I looked at yesterday’s date, July 17, and realized today, July 18, was going to be my late mother’s birthday. She’d be 85. And, I decided, she’d be unimpressed by Jon Niese [25], probably writing him off as a latter-day Danny Heep [26] (she wasn’t impressed by Danny Heep, either; family trait [27]). If Mom were around to read Niese’s mostly harmless yet still unfortunate take on Mets fans in Andrew Marchand’s hack job masquerading as analysis piece [28] — the one in which Niese questions the notion that Mets fans have stuck with their team through Dairylea-style thick and thin — she’d probably tell him what she used to tell me. “Think before you open your mouth.” Except she’d say it in far more colorful terms and she’d work in a far-reaching appraisal of his entire life and values system.

• I exulted in learning there’d be no Long Island Rail Road strike. Sometime after this road trip that finally gets under way at 10 o’clock tonight ends, I can look forward to riding an LIRR train to Woodside so I can board a 7 to the stop the MTA persists in referring to as Mets-Willets Point, but I still think of as Shea. When I arrive, make my way down the stairs, across Mets Plaza and through security, I’ll heartily cheer Niese’s arm if it’s healthy. The rest of him, too — even the part that speaks before it thinks.

• I finished staring out the window. Or at least I will by 10 o’clock tonight.