As another year nears its end, it’s time once again to tip Oscar’s Cap. That is provided it is not stuck under a sea of petrified tuna.
For the third consecutive year, we salute the New York Herald sportswriter who wore his heart on his head. Oscar Madison was a leading columnist in his day, who also wrote a pretty mean Opening Night review with a little help from his friend, yet he never pulled that “I don’t root for teams, I root for stories” nonsense. Oscar regularly wore a Mets cap around the Central Park West apartment he shared with his best buddy/bête noire Felix Unger (née Ungar), commercial photographer, portraits a specialty.
Oscar’s loyalty to his baseball team did not go unnoticed, not on stage, not in the movies and certainly not on five seasons of television as portrayed by the late, great Jack Klugman. Klugman and the Mets were anything but an odd couple.
If Oscar were still on the beat today, perhaps he’d use his platform to shine a light on another pairing that makes all the sense in the world: the Mets and pop culture. Since regrettably he’s not, we will pick up the slack (if not all his slacks off the floor) and proudly present the Oscar’s Cap Awards to those incidences of the Mets showing up in the arts in 2014, whether it was from something that debuted this year, something older we just got around to noticing during the past twelve months or something we were happy to be informed of long after the fact.
As Oscar himself would say in Broadway mode , “move over Oklahoma,” and make room for the year of…
• Sharknado 2: The Next One. It filmed at Citi Field in February 2014. It aired on SyFy, July 30, 2014. It was the MVP of all pop culture things Metsian.
We see fans wait out a snow delay at Citi Field as the title storm approaches.
We see Richard Kind play an otherwise unnoticed ex-Met manager (15 years) and seven-time All-Star second baseman Harland “The Blaster” McGuiness, who grabs a bat in the deserted stands and slugs a shark into the Citi Field sign atop the scoreboard, thus raising the apple and unleashing the organ. (In a flashback, he strikes out against Fernando Valenzuela “25 years ago” to end his career.)
We see Judah Friedlander say, after pounding a shark with an oversized novelty bat on the subway, “Nobody messes with a Mets fan on the 7 train.”
We see characters sit in Section 112. And a cab pull right up to front entrance. And people rush through Jackie Robinson Rotunda. And did we mention it snows?
• If S2:TNO won the Oscar’s Cap division, the first Wild Card went to a perennial award contender, Mad Men. The series that earlier gave us Ken Cosgrove wooing Jane Siegel to a Mets game in 1962, Lane Pryce conducting business under a Mets pennant in 1965 and Don Draper mocking the Mets to neighbor and cuckold Dr. Arnold Rosen in 1968 converged with the Amazins in a period-appropriate manner in 2014…which in Mad Men terms was 1969.
It’s Season Seven, Episode Four (air date 5/4/2014), “The Monolith”. Don is in the late Lane Pryce’s old office, now his. He finds Lane’s familiar Mets pennant tucked away under the baseboard heater. He first seems to discard it but eventually hangs it up where it used to be displayed. Later he gets drunk, calls recovering alcoholic Freddy Rumsen and creates prestige drama history.
KEY METS DIALOGUE:
“Listen, let’s go to Shea. Let’s go see a game, I mean it. Is there a game today? You shouldn’t’ve told me that, ’cause now we’re really going.”
“There’s someone I want you to meet.”
“I want you to Meet the Mets! [sung] Meet the Mets! [spoken]”
“Great idea. Can you walk?”
“Did the Mets win?”
The game in question was, we have deduced, April 21, 1969, a 2-1, 11-inning loss to the Phillies.
• For the second Wild Card, we go to what we assume was a flight of fancy, even though it was presented as biography. Fact or fiction, kudos to Lena Dunham for the following passage from her 2014 book, Not That Kind Of Girl:
“Randy is my gynecologist. I have had a number of gynecologists over the years, all talented in their own ways, but Randy is the best. He is an older Jewish man who, before deciding to inspect ladies down there for a living, played for the Mets. He still has the can-do determination of a pitcher on an underdog team and, to my mind, that is exactly the kind of man you want delivering babies or rooting around in your vagina.”
Or as Tim McCarver might have exclaimed to partner Ralph Kiner when they starred in the trendiest New York-based show on television, “Oh baby, I love it!”
• Netflix find of the year: Shea Stadium, which hovers like an uncredited actor throughout Chop Shop, the determinedly unsentimental 2007 indie film about life on the other side of 126th Street. Ale, the protagonist, watches one game from the elevated subway extension (that, like Shea, has ceased to exist); swipes a set of hubcaps from the parking lot; and goes about his bleak business in the shadow of the old ballpark. Mets logos are spotted in the lot but the word “Mets” is never uttered and, except for one t-shirt worn by an extra in the Iron Triangle, there is no official merchandise. (We also see a lot of the 7 train, the Roosevelt Avenue bridge and the boardwalk that leads to and from the U.S. Open.) Director Ramin Bahrani said he was inspired by the Banco Popular ad on the back of the scoreboard (2006 season) that hyped the bank as a place “Where Dreams Happen”. For the boy at the center of Chop Shop, the dreams are enmeshed in hustling just to get by.
• As faces in the crowd go, you couldn’t miss Mike DiCenzo on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (and Late Night previously) as Mets Bucket Hat Guy, an audience member who plays word association with whatever the host just said, to the host’s consternation. Backstory? DiCenzo, a writer for Fallon, created the Mets portion of his costume from a Mets giveaway bucket hat with the skyline logo one day when he was running late and grabbed it on his way to work.
• Dillon Gee returns to the Oscar’s Cap circle, hopefully not as prelude to his leaving town. In 2013, he showed up in a hip-hop lyric (“I stay in Flushing like I’m Dillon Gee”). A different realm awaited the righty this year. In his annual year-end poem for the December 22, 2014, edition of the New Yorker, “Greetings, Friends!” Ian Frazier wrote, “Our place is strung with miles of lights/And glittered doves ascend in flights/As from their cabs step Dillon Gee,/Darlene Love, Hermione Lee,/Douglas Preston, Efe Kabba,/And Jack Ma of Alibaba.”
• Another Mets player pop culture double-dipper: Rey Ordoñez. After serving as titular Met for songstress Kate Jacobs a while back, news of normalized relations with Cuba brought forth word of “Ballad of Rey Ordoñez,” a 2011 ditty out of Canada, by the Isotopes, also known as Isotopes Punk Rock Baseball Club. The “Ballad” tells the story of his defection (“Hopped a cyclone fence in Buffalo”), his failure to hit (“They walk the pitcher when I’m on deck”) and his legendary defensive prowess (“Now I’m making highlights like nobody’s ever seen”).
• The Baseball Project paid homage to Lenny Dykstra’s rise and fall in 2014’s “From Nails To Thumbtacks”. They gave the Mets an additional shoutout in “The Baseball Card Song,” wherein the narrator won’t sell his cards but trades them for stock in a startup and now owns the New York Mets. (Oh, if only.)
• Dan Bern put out the CD “Doubleheader,” comprised entirely of songs about baseball. The song “When My Buckner Moment Comes” doesn’t explicitly namecheck the Mets, but their participation is implied.
• Caryn Rose of Metsgrrl fame published the novel A Whole New Ballgame in 2014 and laced it with 2006-2007 references.
• On Maron, May 15, 2014 (Season 2, Episode 2, “Marc’s New Friend”), Marc finds himself in a sports memorabilia store where his showbiz buddy Ray Romano casually purchases a “’68 Seaver” and a “’69 Ryan”. Later Ray shows off an ashtray that once belonged to Casey Stengel, to which sports-challenged Marc asks, “from Casey and the Sunshine Band?”
• Moving from IFC to CBS, in Hawaii Five-O Season 4 Episode 19 (April 11, 2014), “Blood Brothers,” we have been informed Danno (Scott Caan) is pinned under wreckage in the basement of a collapsed building, and to calm his nerves he starts reciting the starting players from the 1986 Mets, listing Backman, Hernandez, Santana, Knight, Foster and Wilson. Later he works his way to 1992, invokes Saberhagen and Bonilla and somehow isn’t soothed.
• An impulsive decision to watch Season 3, Episode 10 of The Patty Duke Show, “Sick In Bed” (11/17/1965) on Antenna TV one day yielded retro gold. A Mets pennant, in which the silhouette of a player is illustrated batting in the middle of the skyline logo, was displayed prominently on the bookshelf of Patty Lane’s bedroom.
• Red Sox überfan Ben Affleck refused his director’s request to wear a Yankees cap in 2014’s Gone Girl. So to signify he was arriving in New York, he went what he called the “Switzerland” route and chose something much better: a black Mets cap…a choice surely worthy of an Oscar’s Cap.
• Mets überfan Jon Stewart wears a black Mets cap in fellow Mets überfan Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, Season 4, Episode 5, posted July 17, 2014.
• “This Monday was Opening Day of the new Major League Baseball season, and the reopening of old wounds day for Mets fans.”
—Colin Jost, Saturday Night Live, Weekend Update, 4/5/2014
• A R Kennedy’s Nathan Miccoli 2013-2014 mystery series includes Lily, “a big Mets fan” and “key scenes” that occur at Citi Field.
• One of the co-authors of the Left Behind book series, Jerry Jenkins has named some of his minor characters Tommy Agee, Donald Clendenon, and George Seaver.
• Retro Recollection One: Shea Stadium appeared in a 1964 commercial in which after a close play at home, the umpire does not yell safe or out but rather “Topkapi” — plugging an upcoming movie release — to the stunned looks of the runner and the catcher.
• Retro Recollection Two: The newspaper headline on the sports page read by a construction worker in the 1965 film “How To Murder Your Wife” referred to the Mets fearing Carl Willey had suffered a broken jaw.
• Did you know that in one episode of Friends Joey and Janice went to a Mets game and Janice made it through Bat Day? You do now.
• “Easy Come Easy Go” by Caught In A Trap (2014) was inspired by the 2006 Mets. The theme is coming close and falling short. “They were CLOSE…then they choked!!!” band member Rich Fie told VENTS magazine. Lyrics include: “I thought we had our eyes on the prize/ We were heading towards the promised land/But then you threw it all away/Yet you expect me just to understand”
• Garland Jeffreys revealed his 1992 song, “Don’t Call Me Buckwheat,” was based on an epithet hurled his way at Shea during a Doc Gooden-Nolan Ryan showdown.
• From the comic books, specifically The New Mutants, April 1987 (Volume 1, No. 50):
“Last I looked the Mets were in first place by miles! I hope they go all the way and win the World Series!”
“Pardon my ignorance, but I’ve been out of touch for a while. Who are these ‘Mets’?”
• From the comic pages, specifically the syndicated Peanuts strip on November 22, 2014, which originally ran in 1967:
LUCY (to Linus, who’s sitting in front of the television): Little brothers should stand when big sisters enter the room.
LINUS (standing): You’re right…I beg your pardon…
[LINUS stands and thinks while sits and watches television)
LINUS: Little brothers are the New York Mets of life!
• “Metropolitans” appears on 45 Adapters’ 2012 album, Collected Works Vol. 1. The track urges “Let’s Go Metropolitans,” samples Gary Cohen’s call of Endy’s catch and namechecks great names and moments in Mets history.
• A kid in a hardware store wears an adjustable Mets cap in Arthur 2: On The Rocks (1988).
• A Mets pennant is visible behind the bar in the 2014 movie The Drop.
• In the 1994 French/American sci-fi film Stargate, Kurt Russell mourns a son he thinks is gone, a young man who appears in a photograph wearing a 1980s-style Mets uniform.
• Dig out your copy of Grand Funk Railroad’s 1971 album E. Plurbus Fun. Turn it over. Look what’s portrayed as if on the back of a silver coin. Why, it’s Shea Stadium!
• “We played Shea more than the Beatles did,” Larry Kirwan of Black 47 told the New York Times. this past November. (Larry meant after Mets games, a half-dozen times, on Irish Night.)
• Playing Shea does eternal wonders for an artist’s reputation. When Supreme Court Justice (and Yankees follower) Sonia Sotomayor presented the Library of Congress George Gershwin Award for Popular Song to Billy Joel, November 19, 2014, she felt compelled to declare, “Tonight we honor Long Island’s favorite son, even if he is a Mets fan.” We forgive Sotomayor her poor off-court judgment considering the heroic save she recorded when she ended the 1994-95 baseball strike. We forgive Joel his pre-2008 indiscretions as well, seeing as how The Last Play At Shea obliterated them.
• Will playing Shea’s successor have the same halo effect? We’ll know someday. In the meantime, consider a photo the Mets recently displayed on their Facebook page. In it the Foo Fighters all hold or wear Mets jerseys numbered 15 to promote their 2015 Citi Field concert.
• “The Mets need speed. The Mets need power. The Mets need pitching. That’s what I’m thinking about right now […] I would take any one of the three: speed, power or pitching.”
—Jim Harper to Maggie Jordan, ignoring her EPA report scoop (as he tended to ignore everything she bothered to say), The Newsroom, “Main Justice,” S3, E3, November 23, 2014.
In the Newsroom universe, the episode took place on April 22, 2013, or three days after Matt Harvey proved the Mets already had pitching.
• And what’s this? In the 1998 sequel The Odd Couple II, a Bruce Stark print of Yogi Berra as Mets manager hangs in Oscar’s apartment. Oscar is also asked if covering minor league ball in Sarasota is comedown after years of writing about “the Yankees and the Mets”.
• And, finally, what could be more appropriate than this? Matthew Perry as Oscar Madison sports a Mr. Met t-shirt in a publicity still promoting the premiere of the rebooted Odd Couple, coming to CBS on February 19, 2015…the very same day pitchers and catchers and perhaps New York Herald columnists report to Port St. Lucie.
A sincere thank you to all Faith and Fear readers, Crane Pool Forum  members and everybody else on the Internet from whom we co-opted select Mets pop culture sightings past and present in 2014. We enthusiastically tip our Oscar’s Cap to you, too! And please — if in 2015 you see something Mets (outside SNY, MLBN, et al), say something to us.