Monday, September 12, 2011

Postcard tour: Cincinnati, where Mets win when they absolutely have to

Riverfront Stadium was a nice enough ballpark in a multi-purpose concrete donut kind of way. But it was a bit of a house of horrors for the Mets over the years.

During the park's existence from 1970 to 2002, the Mets had 77 wins and 100 losses.
But the team won in Cincy when it counted. The team split the first two games of the 1973 playoffs there, which was important. But the Oct. 4, 1999 game was a winner-take-all affair.

The Mets and Reds were tied for the wild card, and the game at Riverfront was the tie-breaker. Al Leiter was on the mound for the Mets, and rose to the occasion, throwing a complete game, 2-hit shutout. Edgardo went nuts, going 3 for 4 with a homer and a double, scoring two runs. The Mets won, 5-0, propelling the team into the postseason for the first time since 1988.

I've had some exciting moments at Riverfront, including my first time in a Mets clubhouse. I was to interview Mickey Weston in 1993, and we spoke at his locker about his return to the major leagues with the team that drafted him originally. I also interviewed pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, and Doc Gooden came over to chat.

Later I sat in the Mets dugout as the team took the field for batting practice, talking to General Manager Al Harazin, who had a connection to Flint and was very generous with his time. I treasured every moment.

Riverfront also hosted a memorable Baseball Truth Executive Game in its final season, and, of course, gets points for being Tom Seaver's home in exile for five years.

But the Reds' new ballpark hosted one of my most glorious baseball memories.
The BaseballTruth crew returned to Great American Ballpark in 2008 to see the Mets, and I had been dragging my 17-year streak of shame.

The Mets got thumped 7-2 in the July 27 game, as was the custom with me in attendance. I returned the next day, by myself. Sunday, July 28 was an amazing back-and-forth game that headed into extra innings.

Robinson Cancel, our pudgy third-string catcher and pinch-hitter of last resort, lashed a double. He moved to third on a Jose Reyes bunt then scored when the Reds threw away an Argenis Reyes grounder – and he later came around to score an insurance run.

Shaky Mets close Billy Wagner came in to try and finish the game – and struck out the side. I remember cheering, tears, friends calling and trying to snap photos of the first Mets post game celebrated I could witness in person in 17 years.
I've been able to find several postcards of Riverfront over the years, but I haven't had much luck with Great American, coming across only this funky foil card in the team gift shop.

No comments: