The stars aligned for the Mets in the middle 1980s, and in his way, nobody did more to display them than Bill Webb. He caught the rising stars so we could watch them shine on Channel 9. He did for this franchise what Jason Lee as Jeff Bebe as more or less Glenn Frey asked Patrick Fugit as Cameron Crowe stand-in William Miller to do for Stillwater in Almost Famous. Bill Webb made the Mets look cool.
The Mets of the middle 1980s, in turn, made baseball look irresistible, and Bill Webb, who directed their WOR telecasts, was the man behind that sex appeal. Frank Cashen provided the substance. Webb made it sizzle. Bill took an effective product and turned it into a smoking hot brand. Hot, cool, however you choose to identify it, the Mets of those days had it. I know they did because Webb showed it to us that way.
The consensus all-time great director who died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer could also imbue a lukewarm product with genuine heat. He did it for SNY in the years between Shea’s demise and Citi’s coming of age when the Mets never stopped being must-see television despite their failure to play consistently compelling baseball. That was as much Webb’s doing as it was the announcers we regularly praise. The sense of event that came across the screen from the moment SNY infiltrated our cable systems and redefined our viewing habits in 2006 was recognizable to anybody who tuned in two decades before. The names changed. The voices changed. The results weren’t always as sparkling. But the common denominator was Bill Webb’s direction, and he always conducted an unparalleled symphony of sound and vision.
Bill Webb’s name filtered into the Mets fan consciousness while the Mets’ fortunes, like those stars in the Channel 9 jingle, commenced to rise. Tim McCarver regularly told us who Bill Webb was, which was good, since we learned who was responsible for taking us out to so many Mets games without us ever having to buy a ticket. He took us out and he took us into the world the Mets of 1985 and 1986 inhabited. From a television standpoint, he created it for us. We didn’t just see Doc and Straw and Kid and Mex. We sat right down next to them in the dugout. We sensed we were meeting them as Mets and then some. We followed them to the plate and to the mound and wherever the ball was headed. Our front row seat floated all over the field and into the stands thanks to Webb. He crafted the modern visual vocabulary of the sport we embrace. He enhanced it all over again in the new century. The Mets on SNY, from first pitch to last, constitute a first-class production. That’s Bill Webb’s doing and legacy.
I’m so glad we had his time together.