Posts Tagged ‘New York Mets’

A Beautiful Night for Baseball?

Friday, April 25th, 2014
Daughter Sadie and the author huddle for warmth during Cardinals-Mets game Wednesday night..

Daughter Sadie and the author huddle for warmth during Cardinals–Mets game Wednesday night.

By Michael Kaufman

I knew I’d raised her right when she said, “Did you forget who you’re dealing with here?” Ever since I took her to her first game at Shea when she was seven, my daughter Sadie and I have endured long rain delays, interminable traffic jams, and overcrowded subway cars to be at the ballpark to see the Mets play. She will turn 25 in a few months. Not once have we left the ballpark before the last out of a game.

But Wednesday night, after watching Sadie shiver through the first  two innings as a relentless, bitter-cold wind swirled through the new ballpark I still call Shea even though it now carries the name of a rapacious financial institution, I had asked her if she wanted to leave. “We can look for a warm place to watch the game on TV,” I added when she didn’t answer. That was when she reminded me who I was dealing with.

To be honest I was shivering uncontrollably too and I was better outfitted to withstand the cold. I wore a hooded fall coat while she went hatless and donned a thin summer jacket. Not that I hadn’t been warned: I’d ordered the tickets at a discount before the season started after getting a promotional email from Travel Zoo. “I got great seats in the Caesar’s Promenade section,” I boasted to my wife Eva-Lynne. “And they only cost…”

“April 23?” she interrupted. “A night game? It’ll be freezing.”

And I thought, “What does she know about baseball? Late April evenings are perfect. “ But she was right, as usual, just as she’d been the day before the game when she urged me to take the GPS with me before a drive to Brooklyn. “I’m from New York,” I reminded her before proceeding to make so many wrong turns I lost count by the time I arrived—over an hour late—to my destination in Coney Island.

So Sadie and I were among the 22,000 announced attendees Wednesday night (another 22,000 had paid for tickets but had the good sense to stay home).  By the time it was over there were probably no more than a few thousand besides us two and the Cowbell Man.  How chilly was it?

  • So much garbage was blown onto the field that the grounds crew had to rush to pick it up before the game started and after every inning.
  • Hot chocolate outsold beer.
  • Only two other guys were in the men’s room during the seventh inning stretch.
  • Moments after I finished my hot chocolate and put the empty cup in the holder in front of my seat (did I mention we had great seats in Caesar’s Promenade?) the cup was swept away by a gust of wind.
  • The wind blew the hat off the head of Cardinals’ pitcher Michael Wacha. (Second baseman Mark Ellis made a nice play to keep it from getting through to the outfield.)
  • John Jay came up to bat in the ninth inning  sporting a red bandanna around his neck (a style that may work well for an anarchist at a street demonstration, but which looked peculiar on a big league batsman).

But you know what? We had the time of our lives, tapping our feet and hopping up and down in a vain attempt to keep warm; searching for a hat or warm sweatshirt to buy for Sadie (which she refused when she saw the sticker prices); happily watching the scoreboard as the Yankees were losing to the Red Sox, and most of all, watching the Mets defeat the team that won the whole enchilada last year.  We got to see Wacha strike out 10 batters in the four innings he pitched. But he also walked in two runs with the bases loaded in the fourth and he did not come out to pitch the fifth.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Niese pitched what the late announcer Bob Murphy would have called “a whale of game” for almost seven innings. Niese, who has always seemed on the verge of becoming an outstanding pitcher, may have finally found his niche.  We saw Lucas Duda hit a home run and we saw two batters who have been struggling (to put it mildly)—young catcher Travis d’Arnaud and veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson—deliver solid hits.  We saw sparkling plays in the field in spite of the weather, including the final play of the game when Granderson raced to the right field corner to snare a wicked Molotov cocktail off the bat of Matt Holliday.

“I wouldn’t have changed a thing,” said Sadie before we rushed to the exit, headed for the parking lot and the warmth of the car.

Michael can be reached at michael@zestoforange.com.

 

 

Baseball in Somewhat Later Years

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

By Ken Goldfarb

Unlike a lot of “real” sports fans, I cannot recall many specifics about baseball, the game that I have learned to love more and more as time passed.

Games I have seen, along with major league records or player stats or even who won the World Series in any particular year, are a blur.

Then again, that’s not always the case if it involves the Mets, or the old Brooklyn Dodgers.

As a kid growing up in Brooklyn in the early 50s there was only one team to root for, the hometown Dodgers. How two very famous Brooklyn boys failed in that regard – Joe Torre rooted for the old New York Giants, and Rudy Giuliani went with the Yankees – is beyond me.

For me it was the Duke, Jackie, Pee Wee, Campy, Gil and the rest of the Boys of Summer.

Similar to Mike Kaufman’s experience, which he wrote about in last week’s Zest of Orange, my first view of the unbelievable green of Ebbets Field was awesome to this 5-year old. You have to remember that back then, color television had not yet reached the average viewer. So to watch Dodgers games on WOR-TV in shades of grey, and then to actually see them in person (with the vibrant colors of the field and the players’ sparkling white uniforms), took my breath away.

I have no recollection of who the visiting team was, or who won the game. But, I do remember Roy Campanella, the very talented but ill-fated catcher of the Dodgers, hit a line drive straight at us sitting in the leftfield stands. This wasn’t one of those parabolic home runs with an apogee somewhere high over the grass that then slowly came down into the seats. This was a rocket aimed right at us. The ever enlarging ball seemed at first to have me or my dad as its intended target. But it flew above us and was still going up when a man seated directly behind us stood and tried to catch it in his bare right hand. He failed, and the ball dropped down and wandered under the seats to someone a few rows in front of us. But the man who first put flesh to Campy’s home run shot was now suffering. From the ball’s impact, his hand had swollen to almost twice its normal size.

As for me, I had no baseball skills back in my youth. I was usually chosen last in any of the Brooklyn street games, and my two seasons of Little League ball were un-noteworthy.

Jump ahead a few decades and I got talked into playing in a casual coed softball game. I still didn’t have much success, but enjoyed playing.

Then, six years ago, when I was 62, I had the guts to join a senior men’s baseball team.

Yes, baseball – hard ball – the real game. Now, I have to say my skills are still quite limited. On top of everything else, I am the oldest player on my 55-and-over team. But there are magical moments. Such as when you hit a baseball with a wooden bat and hear and feel the proverbial crack of the bat. It is a sound that enters your entire being with a thrill rarely matched by other experience.

Almost as thrilling was a particular at-bat that stands out as my proudest moment as a ball player. It was in my second year, and I was on a new team after having had an off-season disagreement with the manager of my first team, the Cougars. I was now on the Hawks and we were playing the Cougars.

The game was tied – we were the home team – and I led off in the first extra inning. For the first time in my life I decided to bunt, and a very successful bunt it was. I beat the throw to first base for an infield hit, but the ball couldn’t be handled, and I ended up on second base. Then I got to third on a ground-out.

Our next batter hit a slow ground ball to the third baseman and I was immediately off and running for home, easily scoring the winning run. What a grand moment – and against my old team. It doesn’t get any better.

By the way, I’m still playing, and got a nice hit in the recent brutal heat with a hard ground ball down the foul line that the third baseman couldn’t touch.

Not bad for an old man.

Ken Goldfarb was news director at WVOS in Sullivan County and later a reporter for The Times Herald-Record of Middletown and the Daily Gazette of Schenectady. He now works in public relations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musings on Musial

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

By Michael Kaufman

Gerald Eskenazi described the stance perfectly in the Wall Street Journal. “When Stan Musial stepped into the batter’s box, he was unforgettable: He stood at the plate using a peculiar, corkscrewed stance, untwisting as the ball approached, rifling singles, doubles, triples and home runs in numbers few others ever reached. When this most amiable of men held a bat, he reeked of danger.”

When I was a kid I often tried copying Musial’s unique batting stance. Let’s just say I did not reek of danger. I fared somewhat better when copying the stance of my hero, Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers. So what was a kid who rooted for the Dodgers doing copying Musial’s batting stance in the first place? Musial, who died last month at 92, played for the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Yes, he was St. Louis’s own—there are two statues of him at their ballpark—and he brought fame to his coal-country birthplace in Donora, Pa.,” wrote Eskenazi. “It was in Brooklyn, though, where he was tagged by fans as ‘the Man’ in honor of the way he regularly demolished the Dodgers. How many visiting ballplayers are regarded as a beloved foe?”   Eskenazi noted a certain irony in Musial’s appeal to Dodger fans, known for being emotional and rowdy.  “He was not flashy, or big or particularly fast. He greeted fans at the park with a low-keyed ‘Whattayasay, whattayasay.’” Unless my mind is playing tricks on me that is exactly what he said when he gave me his autograph on Stan Musial Day at the Polo Grounds in 1962. I think he homered in that game too. Musial was 41 at the time but he did the same thing to the Mets that he used to do to the Dodgers. The only difference was that most hitters on the opposing teams also clobbered Mets pitching that first season. (That year the Mets hitters also made most of the opposing pitchers look like Sandy Koufax.) Musial finished the 1962 season with a batting average of .330. He hit so well against the Mets he even decided not to retire for another year.

In 1964 I went with a group of friends to see the Mayor’s Trophy Game—a pre-season exhibition game between the Mets and New York Yankees—at the new Shea Stadium. But the start was delayed by rain and the game was canceled. Just as we left the ballpark to head for the subway a door opened and the entire Yankee team came out and began walking toward a team bus parked nearby. We stopped in our tracks and joined other Mets fans in booing. My friend Mike Saperstein looked Mickey Mantle in the eye and said, “You couldn’t tie Stan Musial’s shoelaces!” Mantle’s jaw dropped and we all laughed and slapped palms with Sap, as he was known to us all except one knucklehead who shall remain nameless who insisted on calling him Max. When finally asked why, he said, “Isn’t his name Max? Max Applestein.” (Ironically, both Mantle and Musial outlived Sap.)

I had no friends who were Yankee fans. Before the Mets came to town we had all rooted for the Dodgers or New York Giants, fierce rivals in the National League. But when it came to the Yankees, we had a united front that even Georgi Dimitrov would have envied. Only later did I come to appreciate Mantle for the great player he was.

But there was no one quite like Stan the Man.

Michael can be reached at michael@zestoforange.com.