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The Father’s Days of Our Lives

The Mets work on Father’s Day, so it’s not surprising to look back and find they occasionally did something memorable come the third Sunday in June. Marv Throneberry legendarily didn’t touch first [1] (or second) in 1962. Jim Bunning didn’t allow any Met to touch first in 1964. Somewhere in the middle of the 1980s, Ralph Kiner forever altered Mets fan greetings across the generations by wishing all you fathers out there a happy birthday. At the end of that decade, the Mets sent Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell on a Father’s Day journey to Philadelphia.

Mike Piazza made a late Father’s Day gift out of an immensely whackable Sunday night Carlos Almanzar pitch in 2001. Robinson Cancel arose from astounding obscurity [2] to deliver a doubleheader split in 2008. In 2013, Kirk Nieuwenhuis blasted a three-run homer with two out and the Mets down two to Carlos Marmol and the Cubs in the bottom of the ninth. That touched off a raucous home plate celebration that in turn touched off Bob Costas’s “decline of Western civilization” dig that in turn touched off a reassuring surge of Mets fan indignation (we could make fun of us, but screw that guy).

Then there was Father’s Day 1990, which you might not remember as a milestone — the Mets beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh, Doc’s fastball measuring 100 MPH on the overamped Three Rivers gun — but I sure as hell do, because that was the day that my mother died. In terms of these sorts of Hallmark events, that removed Mother’s Day from my personal calendar forever after. By Father’s Day 1991, however, things were back to fairly normal on a personal level. I wished my dad a Happy Father’s Day and he said thank you.

Twenty-five years later, we continue that particular annual exchange, but it’s not so simple this year. As you might know from reading this blog over the last month, my dad underwent very serious surgery in May. It’s safe to say it pre-emptively saved his life. A month later, he’s still on the comeback trail, so when I see him later today, it will be in a different space than usual, both literally and figuratively. But he continues to come along, so for that I am grateful, just as I am grateful to those of you who continue to inquire into his well-being.

As you know, because the Mets need to play another team whenever they do have a game, other teams work Father’s Day, too. I thought it appropriate to share with you the thoughts of another son, a fellow Long Islander whose father brought him into baseball, albeit not into Mets baseball, but given the geography and the history, a version spiritually close enough.

Gary Mintz is the president of the New York Giants Preservation Society [3] and quite the San Francisco Giants fan (not to mention quite the good guy). He never saw the New York Giants play, but he’s made it one of his life’s priorities to preserve their legacy. It all goes back to his dad.

I’ll let Gary tell the rest of the story in what he calls An Ode to a Real Giant.

Seems to be there are a lot of giants worth wishing well to today.

***

My dad was Louis Mintz. Family man, librarian at the New York Public Library for over 40 years, father, Giants Fan. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of him. He was always upbeat with an infectious smile that stayed with him even as cancer ravaged his body. Nobody ever said a bad word about him, the testament to his greatness. He loved my mom, loved his three boys, my wife, and worshipped the ground of his three granddaughters (his girlies, my daughters) and his grandson.

Then there were the Giants. His love of the New York Giants somehow continued when the orange and black moved to San Francisco. I, wanting to be like him, started following the San Francisco Giants in 1969. Up until 2010, I claimed it was the only wrong thing my father ever did. That all changed of course when Nelson Cruz swung and missed on a Brian Wilson pitch on November 1, 2010. It was the most compelling moment of my sports life as a fan. Forty-one years I waited, forty-one years!! In one night, all the hurt and pain was suddenly gone. Then viola!! The Giants stun the baseball world by winning it all again in 2012. Two World Championships in three years!! UNBELIEVABLE!! Then 2014!! Make it three World Series championships in five years!!

My only regret is that “Sweet Lou” wasn’t around to savor it with me as he passed in 2003. I wish we could have talked about it, laughed about it and reminisced about it. When the World Series Trophy Tour stopped in Manhattan in January 2011, January 2013, and January 2015, he surely would have treasured the moments as I did with my wife and my daughters. To think he would have met and shook hands with his idol Willie Mays. Willie Mays, the GREAT ONE!! How was I allowed to take a photo with him? That was supposed to be something my dad did!!

I became associated with the New York/San Francisco Giants because of my love and admiration for this man. Growing up I would hear him say things that would just pop out of the air for no apparent rhyme or reason. There would be the names that he would spew. Alvin “Blackie” Dark; Monte I“rrrrrrrrr”vin, whom he called at times the “Orange Cutie” (evidently Monte Irvin’s nickname); Bobby Thomson, “The Flying Scot”; Sal “The Barber” Maglie; Bill “The Cricket” Rigney; and just plain “Willie,” no need for any other name as I knew who he meant. Then there were the little sayings, the old “PG’s,” “The June Swoon,” and as Frankie Frisch would say, “Oh those bases on balls.” Occasionally he would sing the Giants theme song, “We’re calling all fans, all you Giants ball fans, come watch the home-team going places, round those bases.” He in fact once wrote a letter to the San Francisco Giants asking them for the recording, unfortunately to no avail. Then there was his mimicking Mel Ott’s leg lift and Hoyt Wilhelm’s grip. Legendary!

Dad would often tell me how the fans had to leave the stadium through the center field gate which meant walking on the field. He told me that he was once spiked by Johnny Beradino near the second base bag. He would also see doubleheaders often going from the Polo Grounds to Yankee Stadium (or the other way around, not sure) via the Macombs Dam Bridge to see both the football and baseball Giants on the same Sunday afternoon. 
My dad left me and his family way too early.

When the Giants finally won in 2010, I planted a little World Series Flag by his grave. It still waves proudly there today along with the 2012 flag and the recently added 2014 flag, a trilogy so to speak. I needed him to know his impact on me and how “we” finally did it. I miss the many times, even as an adult when he would say to me after I was forlorn over a loss, “What are you worried about? Do they worry about you?” Although I am now somehow middle-aged, I still hope I can be half the man he was. There were the Giants from the Polo Grounds, the Giants in San Francisco, and all the legendary players who donned the Giants uniform in both places. For my money though, my dad, Louis Mintz, was the greatest Giant of them all!

Happy Father’s Day to you all!