Saturday, June 28, 2008

Shea Quest '08: Tom takes a bow for top memory

Tom, before making his dash to the mound.

Shea Memory Countdown No. 1: July 24, 1988, Braves 4, Mets 2

I suppose it’s fitting that the Mets didn’t even win the games that make up my top two Shea Stadium memories.

That must mean that my glass is half-full when it comes to the Mets, and that our happiness doesn’t necessarily depend on the final score. I think anyone who stuck by this team through the 1970s and early 1980s has to feel that way.

What transpires Saturday could change everything, but it would be hard to top what happened on Tom Seaver Day.

My whole family has endured my passion for the Mets and Seaver, and they were all present when Tom won that magical 300th win at Yankee Stadium three years earlier.

We decided to make the day when Seaver was honored by the Mets a family affair as well. Six of us – including my fair bride of less than a year – went to Shea to watch Tom enshrined in the Mets Hall of Fame and have his No. 41 retired.

I’m not much for bringing signs to games, but we spent the day before preparing two pieces of poster board for a sign reading “41 FOREVER” and tape to hang in from the rail.

I remember Tom and Nancy waving from a convertible, entering through the centerfield gates and driving to the home plate area, where Tom was presented with the usual gifts and his now-retired jersey.

Then, with great drama, the plywood was removed from the fence to show a huge 41 in a white circle with pinstripes. Seaver was the first – and still only – Mets player to have the honor.

Tom’s speech wasn’t anything especially memorable, until the very end.

''To those on the field and in the stands and at home watching on television, I'd like to say thank you. If you'll just allow me to say it in my own special way. And if you know me, and you know how much I love pitching, this is a special way.''
Seaver then ran out to the mound, stood on the pitching rubber. I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. I didn’t see a ball, and noone was behind the plate with a glove.

Then, as Shea erupted in cheers, Tom bowed, like an actor at center stage to a rousing hose after a great performance. First he moved to face right field, then to those behind the plate and, finally, to those of us in left field.

It was brilliant and classy and said so much without saying anything at all. In other words, vintage Seaver.

The Mets did a decent job on their end. There were special t-shirts and caps to buy, and WFAN handed out “I was there” stickers, all of which are on display in the baseball room.

Alas, there were two blemishes on the day.

First, after the bowing the team directed attention to a special video tribute on the Diamondvision. It started with footage of Shea and Tom and tinkling piano playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Then came the unmistakable voice of WFAN’s Suzyn Waldman, who at that point was not exposed as the hysterical, weepy Yankee freak that we know today.

What follows is possibly the most cringe-worthy two minutes, 37 seconds even captured on tape. It’s embarrassingly bad, the kind of thing that makes mothers cup their hands over their children’s ears. I think some of the crowd was cheering for the sentiments that were intended to be expressed, some cheered to be polite and others, like me, cheered that the song was over.

Here's the video tribute from the game. But don't say I didn't warn you.
And if Waldman went all Broadway on Seaver, can you imagine what she’d do for Clemens or another Yankee?

The team will have another chance when a Mike Piazza Day is finally scheduled. Please, guys, no more “tributes” from Yankee hacks.

The other blemish was the game itself. A day after rookie John Smoltz slapped down the Mets, they were set to face another Braves rookie pitcher.

Let’s just say German Jimenez will always remember Tom Seaver Day. It was the only win of his one-year major-league career.

He held the Mets to one run on four hits in five innings and gave way to Charlie Puleo, who was traded by the Mets to the Reds with Lloyd McClendon for one Tom Seaver back in 1983.

Tim Teufel had a good day, with three hits and four at-bats, but he was pretty much the only one. The Braves tacked on a run in the ninth to make the score 4-1, which I thought was appropriate considering the number of the day..

But then Darryl Strawberry ruined that, too with a home run in the bottom of the ninth, making it just another loss to the stinking Braves.

Hopefully we have a magic day today. But if the Mets lose to the vile Yanks, it’s still going to be a special afternoon. You have to think that way when you root for this team.


G-Fafif said...

I'm thinking No. 1 is still safe.

G-Fafif said...

Just back from Sunday's game. Started it off with a knish in your honor and dedicated the win to your Shea Quest. You were with the winning side in spirit this afternoon.

Mets Guy in Michigan said...

Oh man, that knish must have been good! I thank you for keeping me in spirit!

Even though we were on the wrong side of the score, the Shea Quest was memory of a lifetime!