Monday, December 26, 2011

Mets ornaments of the day: The best present ever

I opened some wonderful Christmas gifts this year and in the past, but there is one that stands above all others.

You have to understand that I've always loved baseball uniforms. Stores didn't start selling polyester replicas until I was in high school. They were not as close as to the authentic versions as you see today. Everything was polyester, and all the lettering was screen-printed. No buttons, as all the replicas were pull-overs.

I remember running to one of the department stores in the Sunrise Mall – it might have been Gertz – and finding the Astros rainbow replica.

There were no Mets replicas there, but I was thrilled to get a shirt from any team other than the Yankees. I remember a classmate asking, dismissively, why I was wearing an Astros jersey. But I loved all baseball uniforms, and would even get the matching mesh-backed, adjustable caps to go with them. These were prized possessions.

The mall supply exhausted quickly – I'm surprised the store carried them at all – but my parents knew about Gerry Cosby's store in Westbury. It was an amazing place, even though it seemed to be filled mostly with hockey equipment.

But I remember one shelf with the polyester replicas, which soon was to be the source of birthday and Christmas lists. Before long I had acquired the Giants, Phillies, Dodgers, Expos and Padres and, finally, the Mets.

But I the highlight of a Cosby's visit was seeing the authentic jerseys, stored under glass like the treasures they were. It was inconceivable that a mere mortal could walk around in the exact same jersey worn by Major League Baseball players. It was even a thrill to see them up close, looking at how the lettering was stitched on.

These polyester shirts were an essential part of my wardrobe, along with the three-quarter-sleeved, baseball-styled concert shirts purchased by guys with duffel bags hiding from the police in the Nassau Coliseum parking lot after the shows. Find a photograph of me from that era, and I likely will be wearing one or the other.

But one year, I'm pretty sure it was 1985, I unwrapped a box, lifted off the lid and set my eyes on the most beautiful thing it's ever seen. An authentic, pull-over Mets jersey with the new blue-and-orange racing stripes. The Real Thing.

It was just like the one Tom Seaver wore in his homecoming season, and that Dwight Gooden had worn that season. A magical thing – and perhaps the best Christmas present ever.

Naturally, I have a several Mets jersey ornaments. Though none have the 1980s racing stripes, they bring back memories of that special present.

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