Saturday, March 28, 2015

March is Mostly Mets Reading Month: 'New York Mets, The First Quarter Century' as one author but many writers

Some books start out great and get even better. Today's March is Mostly Mets Reading Month entry in a way features many, many writers.

“The New York Mets, the First Quarter Century” by Donald Honig
Published in 1986.

I’m not sure which autograph came second. But the first came from my Mom.

“The New York Mets, the First Quarter Century” was a Christmas present from my parents in 1986, and Mom inscribed the first page.

In the nearly 30 years since, the book has been a constant companion to ballparks, spring training complexes and anywhere else I might encounter a current or former Mets.

It started with when we lived in Connecticut in the late 1980s, when baseball card shows started popping up with regularity and players appeared to sign autographs for a fee.  It was pretty reasonable at the time. For a couple dollars, you had the opportunity to meet Keith Hernandez, or Tommie Agee and have them sign a ball or photo.

I figured it would be neat to have players sign the book, which, as you can guess from the title, is the story of the team’s history, released during the 1986 season.  It’s branded the “official 25th anniversary book” and has lots of nice photos.

I started asking players to sign some of the title pages in the front, and it’s filled up over the years. Tom Seaver has a place of honor, and was the only one asked to personalize the signature.
Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, HoJo and other many others
are in the book.
Some pages have been reserved for special events. Members of the 1969 championship team appeared at a show on a pier in Manhattan, and a large number of players from the 1962 original Mets were at a show in a New York hotel.

After seeing the behavior of some of the professional autograph hounds at the ballgames, I liked bringing the book with me to spring training, when it seemed less imposing to approach players.

I actually met one of the former players in the stands in St. Lucie.

I noticed a gentleman standing behind the dugout during batting practice. I noticed that several coaches and team execs would come to the dugout, shake hands and chat with the guy.

I suspected he might be someone important, and slinked over with my Mets history book. I slipped a peek at the credential hanging around his neck, and saw this name.

"Are you Jay Hook, as in first-Mets-win Jay Hook?" I asked.

His face lit up, seemingly pleased that someone recognized him. He said he’d be happy to sign my book. We found a spot to sign, and I recalled that show with the 1962 team and wondered if he was there.

Hook said he didn’t recall such a show, and together we turned to the page and he went down the list, reading the names and talking about his former teammates.

When he realized for sure that his name wasn’t on that page, he said, "Well, we’d better take care of that!" and signed that one, too.
The 1962 page with both Bob Millers, "Marvelous Marv" and
other heroes from that inaugural year.
I’d guess there are more than 200 signatures in it now, from Hall of Famers like Gary Carter, Warren Spahn, Duke Snider and Richie Ashburn. It’s got owners Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon – met at a spring game in Vero Beach – and general managers, managers, coaches and broadcasters.

But some of my favorite signatures are the players whose time in the Mets universe was brief, Brent Mayne, Eric Cammack, Jorge Sosa and Scott Hairston. They’re all a part of our Mets history and in the book.

The rest of your reading list:

March 5: "Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century" by Marc Okkenon
March 4: "Clemente! The Enduring Legacy" by Kal Wagenheim 
March 3: "Mets by the Numbers" by Jon Springer and Matthew Silverman
March 2: "Faith and Fear in Flushing" by Greg W. Prince

No comments: