With apologies to Moonlight Graham awaiting a lifetime for his first at-bat in Field of Dreams; Blue Moon Odom, mainstay of the dynastic 1970s Oakland A’s; Wally Moon’s “Moon shots” down the right field line when the Flatbush-abandoning Dodgers put down temporary stakes at the woefully misshapen L.A. Coliseum; and even Pete Alonso’s shall we say acting  in his current commercial endorsement of CarShield (“it’s an absolute moonblast to the third deck”), when we think of the Moon in the context of baseball, we think of the 1969 Mets, who proved correct the cynical conventional wisdom that man would walk on the Moon before New York’s reliably laughable National League franchise ever won a pennant. The Mets planted their championship flag at Shea Stadium fewer than three months after Neil Armstrong took the stars and stripes to a new frontier, but technically, man did get to the Moon first. If you bet NASA and took the over, you cashed in.
But c’mon. The wonder of Apollo 11’s journey and its temporal proximity to the ’69 Mets conquering disbelief on this here rock was and remains too good a storyline to pass up. You can’t tell the tale of the Miracle Mets without inevitably pausing on July 20 to note the Mets were in Montreal, outlasting the Expos in ten and then enduring mechanical trouble with the aircraft intended to fly them home. Our astronauts could get where they were going, but our suddenly second-place Mets were stuck on the ground, waiting out their delay by witnessing Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the lunar surface via airport bar TV.
“I wondered what was more unusual,” that Sunday afternoon’s hero Bobby Pfeil told Wayne Coffey in 2019’s They Said It Couldn’t Be Done, “Man walking on the Moon or winning a game with a pinch-hit bunt single.” Ron Swoboda had similar thoughts as he looked back for Art Shamsky’s After The Miracle: “Everything was possible in ’69. The ‘man on the Moon’ was a part of that season we could never forget.” Although “We Cherish the Ground the Mets Walk On” was the winning entrant among 3,611 bedsheets and placards on Banner Day come the Sunday of Woodstock weekend August 17 — it encompassed actual grass (maybe not the kind abundant at Yasgur’s farm) — the one that lives on as indication of where fans’ heads were between July and October at Shea is one that pops up on the official 1969 highlight film. It reads…
WILL PUT THE
PENNANT ON THE
And so they did, Met-aphorically speaking, capturing the NL pennant on October 6 and earning the world championship banner ten days later. The Moon, as Robert Morse as Bert Cooper sang to Jon Hamm as Don Draper on July 21, 1969, may belong to everyone , but the Mets things in life are free to be associated with us.
This is why when I very recently noticed a news story on television involving a glimpse of the Mets wordmark and something about artwork going to the Moon, and it had nothing directly to do with the summer of ’69, I had to investigate further. In a sense, it was only tangentially related to the reality-altering events of fifty-three years ago, and then only if you wanted it to be. In another, how could I not see or hear something involving the Mets and the Moon and not discern the intragalactic connection?
Which is to say I wanted it to be.
My conduit to the Mets meeting the Moon anew was someone at least a little touched by the twinned entities at the center of our 1969 consciousness. Like me, Nanette Fluhr was a youngster in the age of Armstrong and Apollo. Her dad woke her up at their New Jersey home to watch Neil take his one small step/giant leap. And like me, Nanette grew up with an affinity for the Mets, though maybe not exactly like me. The Tom Seaver trade kind of turned her off from baseball for a while, she confesses, but she did cotton to the club as a kid, coming as she did from strong National League roots (Grandpa loved Dem Bums in Brooklyn) and raising a son who certainly adored the likes of Reyes and Wright. “And,” Nanette wanted me to know, “we all loved Mike Piazza.”
Now we’re getting somewhere. Now we’re getting to what I saw on News 12 Long Island one lazy Saturday morning. It was a roundup show called On a Positive Note, sharing an array of good-vibes notes from around the Metropolitan Area. The segment in question focused on Nanette and the fact that a representative sampling of her portraiture — she’s a most accomplished painter  — would soon be headed for the Moon on a mission that is admittedly of a lower profile than Apollo’s, but still something literally out of this world.
Step right up, then, and meet the Lunar Codex, an ambitious, artistic project curated by distinguished futurist Samuel Peralta  in which three time capsules will be launched moonward. All the details are here , but the upshot of these moonshots is digitized versions representing some of the beauty we as a people are capable of creating back on Earth are being transferred to a flash drive in anticipation of launching and landing in the next couple of years. Included within this mission will be highlights from Nanette’s portfolio .
That News 12 piece showed a montage of her splendid work, without specifying exactly which paintings were chosen for the Moon. This made me curious because one of the paintings shown was of a pre-adolescent boy wearing a Mets cap and a Mets jersey, staring in from the mound for his catcher’s signal with an expression that could best be described as determination. As you may know if you’re a regular here, I’m on constant vigil for instances of the Mets infiltrating the popular culture. Every December, I endeavor to capture what I’ve seen in the preceding twelve months in an annual feature we call the Oscar’s Caps , named for the Mets cap Oscar Madison wore regularly on The Odd Couple. These sightings usually involve TV shows or movies or perhaps passages from novels. Fine arts, however, rarely come up. And the Moon? When the Mets hit your eye like a big pizza pie in a story about a lunar expedition, that’s amore.
It’s certainly curiosity. Thus, I set out to contact Nanette Fluhr; explain my purpose in bugging her; and ask if that portrait in which the word METS, accompanied by the familiar NY, was visible on television would be heading for the sky.
Before I asked, the answer was nope.
But — get this — because I asked, the answer became yup.
The Mets are going to the Moon! More specifically, “Lonny ” is going to the Moon. Lonny, you see, is Nanette’s son. In 2012, he was nearing Bar Mitzvah age and, having a talented mom, Lonny thought it would be neat to greet his guests not with a standard sign-in poster at the Mets-themed party he was planning but with an appropriate portrait conveniently painted by his in-house artist, who is only an all-star in her professional circles. It’s not like Nanette had nothing else to do (she was due at an exhibition in Beijing) and it’s not like circumstances didn’t conspire against her a bit (maybe you’ve heard of Superstorm Sandy), but how often does your son’s Bar Mitzvah come along? Working off a photograph of her Mets fan son in his preferred garb, she created a portrait that was not only the hit of his coming-of-age celebration, but wound up on display at the Long Island Children’s Museum. It captures a boy on the cusp of manhood taking seriously the one thing we can all relate to taking seriously: baseball.
“He was happy-go-lucky in all his other pictures” from the photo shoot Lonny participated in as prelude to his mother choosing something perfect to paint, Nanette recalls. “But he was so serious” once he got into his Mets-tinged headspace. Initially, she referred to the portrait as “Determination,” though she now simply calls it “Lonny”. It stands today as a reflection of another time. Lonny is 22 today, but Nanette is grateful to have such compelling evidence that he was once 12 going on 13.
When it came time to answer Dr. Peralta’s initial call regarding what works of hers she’d like to see make the Gallerist Collection  of “itinerant art, photographs and poetry” and make their way to the Lunar South Pole in 2023, “Lonny” did not make the cut. Not because she didn’t cherish it. If anything, it was because she cherished it too much. Part of the deal in choosing Moonbound art was, for the most part, it had to be art that was out in public, up for sale. A portrait of her son on the eve of his Bar Mitzvah, was not something a proud and sentimental mother had any intention of selling.
But what are deals without loopholes? Once your correspondent got in touch with Nanette to find out if “Lonny” was going to make that big trip, the query moved her to ask Dr. Peralta if an exception could be made to whatever rule prevented her from adding “Lonny” to her selections. “Let’s get ‘Lonny’ on board,” was his response.
Thus, “Lonny” is going to the Moon — and the real-life Lonny is over the moon about it. Turns out Nanette’s son is “an astronomy nut…obsessed with the vastness of the universe” who was a little disappointed that his likeness wasn’t originally ticketed for liftoff. But now that he, and by extension, the Mets are part of the Lunar Codex, everybody’s happy. I’m thrilled because by watching TV and getting curious, I’ve apparently played some small role in getting the Mets to the Moon, just like that banner in 1969 suggested was franchise destiny. Nanette is delighted not only because she could do this for her son, but because she’s earned an Oscar’s Cap. No kidding. Not that she knew what an Oscar’s Cap was before I told her about them, but she played the one and only cigar-loving Oscar Madison in a junior high sketch, so how perfect is all of this? “Serendipity” is the word Nanette uses to describe this sequence of events. Amazin’ fits the bill, too.