Sunday, March 29, 2015

March is Mostly Mets Reading Month: 'The Happiest Recap' and shameful streaks

We're running out of days in March is Mostly Mets Reading Month. But today's entry reminds us that even the least-legendary Mets can create a memory of a lifetime.

The Happiest Recap, First Base: 1962-1973 by Greg W. Prince
Published 2012

Every game the Mets win is a treasure to behold.

Some are extra special, like the pennant clinchers or the two historic games that allowed the team to claim the title “World Champions.”

Some are also special, but not for obvious reasons.

Greg, who is celebrating the 10th anniversary the glorious “Faith and Fear in Flushing” blog he co-writes, is telling us about 500 interesting victories in the Mets storied history.

And as Greg explains in the book – the first of four in a series – the games he’s looking for could be highlighted for introducing us to a new character, be marked by an amazing team or individual effort, or “games that left behind images that defy erasure.”

The title, as any veteran Mets fan will recognize, comes legendary broadcaster Bob Murphy’s post-game summary when things went well. And because it’s Greg, you know it will be well-written and enjoyable and hit any true Mets fan right in the heart.

Alas, there was a long, dark stretch where there were no happy recaps for me, at least when I saw the Mets play in person. How long, and how dark, you might ask? Try a 17-year span between the July 21, 1991 victory over to the Dodgers at Shea to a momentous July 20, 2008 win over the Reds in Cincy.

It was heartbreaking and nearly unbearable. I’d watch the Mets lose at Shea and on the road, in Subway Series games at both New York Stadiums and Opening Day in Miami. I saw them get clobbered by the Tigers 14-0 at one Detroit stadium and 15-7 in another.

I saw them lose from a perch in the press box in Cincy and the upper deck at Wrigley.

This became known as “The Streak of Shame,” a period to be debated and chronicled. Pretty much, if I showed up, the Mets lost – for 11 straight games.

Finally, the streak came to its end in an unlikely place at the hands of an unlikely player.

The Baseball Truth gang got together for our annual baseball road trip on July 19, 2008, again in Cincy with the Mets in the house. The Mets lost of course, 7-2.

That was a Saturday night, and the Mets were in town the next day for a Sunday afternoon game. I decided to grab a ticket and attend, then make the six-hour trip home to Grand Rapids.

Unlike nearly all the other games, I didn’t attend with friends or family. This was just me and the Mets.

The team went ahead early, up 4-1 in the fourth inning. Of course the Reds tied it up, and then went ahead in the sixth. The familiar gloom was setting in.

But the Mets tied it up in the seventh, and the game marched into extra innings.

Perhaps few of us remember Robinson Cancel, the Mets pudgy third-string catcher and pinch-hitter of last resort.

He led off with a double.

Jose Reyes dropped a sacrifice bunt to get him to third and beat the throw.

Few of us remember Argenis Reyes, a light-hitting backup infielder. He tapped a grounder that the Reds threw away, allowing Cancel to score. The first and more familiar Reyes later came around to score on another play.

To say I was excited doesn’t do justice to the pacing and weeping that was going on as Billy Wagner stepped to the mound.

Billy struck out the side, lifting his hands in the air and an enormous weight off this fan’s back.

I know the July 20, 2008 7-5 win over the Reds won’t make a future volume of Greg’s book, but it was the happiest recap for this fan.

Streak of Shame 1991-2008
1991 July 21, Mets 9, Dodgers 4
1993 April 18, Reds 3, Mets 2
1995 July 26, Cardinal 3, Mets 2
1995 Sept. 24, Marlins 4, Mets 3
1997 June 17, Yankees 6, Mets 3
1997 June 30 Tiger 14, Mets 0
1999 April 5, Marlins 6, Mets 2
2007 June 10, Tigers 15, Mets 7
2007 Aug. 4, Cubs 6, Mets 0
2008 April 21, Cubs 7, Mets 1
2008 June 28, Yankees 3, Mets 2
2008 July 19, Reds 7, Mets 2

2008 July 20, Mets 7, Reds 5

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

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