Thursday, April 27, 2006

Every signature tells a story: Jay Hook, the mumps and the first win

There’s a lot of fear out here in the Midwest about mumps, with more than 1,000 case diagnosed — more than 600 in Iowa alone.

But how many people know that the disease played a role in the Mets’ first-ever win?

Pitcher Jay Hook was a bonus baby signed by the Cincinnati Reds out of Northwestern University, making his big league debut in 1957.

He became a starter in 1960, showing some promise with an 11-18 record and 4.50 ERA, hurling a two-hitter against the Braves.

Then the next year, Hook came down with the mumps.

Mumps is caused by a virus that spreads like the flu. Symptoms include a sore throat, body aches, fever and a swelling of glands in the jaw. Most people recover in a week, but rare cases can result in deafness and meningitis, a dangerous swelling in the brain and covering of the spinal cord. Pretty nasty stuff, and it wasn’t until 1967 that a vaccine became available.

Hook apparently had a pretty bad case, because it complete threw him off his game, going just 1-3 with a nasty 7.76 ERA.

The Reds apparently thought Hook was done, because they exposed him in the 1961 expansion draft. The Mets picked him to join Roger Craig, Al Jackson and one of the Bob Millers — we had two — in the rotation.

The Mets had lost their first nine games when Hook took the hill at Forbes Field on April 23, pitching a five-hit, 9-1 victory over the Pirates to claim the milestone win.

Hook finished the year with an 8-19 record and 4.84 ERA, leading the team in complete games, starts, and hit batsmen.

He took a step back in 1963, going 4-14 with a 5.48 ERA and played in just two games the following year.

But Hook was no dummy. Remember he was signed out of Northwestern. He earned a master’s degree thermodynamics and retired at age 28 to take a job with Chrysler Corporation.

I ran into Hook at a Mets spring training game. I didn’t know who he was on sight. But I saw an 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, and I remembered that I met a bunch of the 1962 Mets at a card show in Manhattan in the late 1980s, and wondered if he was there.

Hook said he didn’t recall such a show, and together we turned to the page — I had everyone there sign the same page in the book — 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.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

New Mets song: It could be worse

If Lady Liberty sang, we'd hear "Meet the Mets..."

Now that my iPod lives — more accurately, has been reincarnated — I can happily skip down to the playlist where I keep my collection of Mets songs and highlights.

This development comes just in time for the new Mets song, which debuted during the series against the Braves.

And given the hostile reaction, you’d think the thing was a duet between Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter.

I’m not saying the ditty is going to make anyone forget a classic like "Teenage Lobotomy," but I didn’t think it was all that bad.

The song, "Our Team. Our Time" was created by TJS Marketing Group of Smithtown, N.Y. and Breakthru Productions of Orange, N.J. And it sounds like a bunch of guys from the Island and Jersey trying to be rappers.

We can’t bash them for being who they are. Heck, the Beastie Boys are a bunch of Long Island kids pretending to be rappers and they sold a bunch of records. Bad records, but that’s not the point.

Would it have been nice to have actual famous songwriters come up with a tune? Sure. But it’s not like they’re going to let Billy Joel out of rehab to write stuff and three out of the four Ramones are dead. Had they been purchased at Costco they’d be back, but that’s another story.

Anyway, the suburban guys came up with a song that drops names of seemingly every one on the team except Ramon Castro and coach Jerry Manuel over some pretty simple beats.

"Our Team. Our Time" is hardly the first time the Mets have been saluted musically.

Since I’m an obsessive collector, I’ve rounded up as many Mets songs as I could. I’m always one the prowl for others. Here are some of the tunes on your Mets hit parade.

"Meet the Mets"

The first is still the best! I recently found a downloadable version on a Mets site somewhere, and it brought back memories of watching games on WOR in my youth. The station started each broadcast by playing the song while showing clips of spectacular Mets catches and hits.

The song itself as a Mummer-like quality — that’s an over-costumed banjo band that seemed like it was in every single parade when I was a kid — and lifts a line from "Sidewalks of New York."

And you’ve got to love those un-PC lyrics from the 1960s:

"Bring the kiddies
Bring the wife
Guaranteed to have
the time of your life."

I found a download of this on a blog, and I've never been able to find it again. I have no idea if it's ever been released commercially.

UPDATE: I found the song on this site. They have both the long and short versions, as well as some other neat things. Great job, guys!

"Talkin’ Baseball" by Terry Cashman

As you know, Cashman wrote "Willie, Mickey and the Duke," then used the same tune to pen songs about every baseball team. I had the 1982 version on vinyl and always thought it was pretty cool. I used to get goosebumps hearing:
"‘Goodbye America’ when Say Hey said ‘So long.’
But Rusty kept us more than even, McGraw he never stopped believing
And that’s the way a race is often run, and pennant flags are won."

He even does a decent job with some of down years. Remember, this came out in 1982, before the return of Seaver and the debuts of Doc and Straw.

"We long to see them rushing to the stadium in Flushing
Joe’s gone south and Bambi’s got the call
New names join the team to start another dream
Is this the year ‘cause Foster’s here? Well let’s play ball!"

I thought it was really neat until I recently got my hands on the rest of the National League versions and discovered that Cashman operated pretty much with a fill-in-the-blank system. There are numerous examples of the "new names join the team to start another dream" line. But it’s still worthwhile.

"Talkin’ Baseball" 2000 version by Terry Cashman

This starts the same as the 1982 version, but jumps from the Willie Mays farewell to the 1986 champs then the Subway Series.

I have some minor gripes. Cashman really forces some of the rhymes, like trying to follow "Mex" with "86." It like trying on a pair of shoes that are a size too small. You get it on, but it makes you wince.

And you can tell it was written before the 2000 series, because Timo Perez is referred to as "the ignitor" and not "the dumbass who didn’t look to see if Zeile’s blast actually cleared the wall before breaking into his home run trot and getting nailed at the plate by a weak but lucky throw from Derek Jeter giving the Yankee hacks yet another opportunity to claim his greatness."

Not that I’m bitter.

The CD contains this song, the Yankees version (which is why you have a fast-forward button), a Subway Series song using the "Talkin' Baseball" tune and the original "Willie, Mickey and the Duke" plus an October baseball song that is just OK.

"We’ll Remember Rusty" by Terry Cashman

Cashman’s a New Yorker and a Mets fan, so we have several offerings from him.

I like Rusty Staub. We all do. He’s a very well-respected member of the Mets family. And he falls just short of Cooperstown as a player.

But this is a little over the top.

Some might call it a tribute. Others might call it a love song. It’s actually a little creepy. Even Rusty’s grandma would have heard this and said "He’s not that good."

Cashman, whose real name is Dennis Minogue, has had some success outside of baseball songs. He co-wrote a No. 1 hit for Spanky and Our Gang, "Sunday Will Never Be the Same."

"Let’s Go Mets" by Shelly Palmer

The official theme song of the 1986 World Champion New York Mets. I remember playing this in my college apartment, and Tony walked in for the last bit of the song, which has a crowd yelling:

"Lets go Mets! go!
Lets go Mets! go!
Lets go Mets! go!

"Well," he said, trying to be polite. "That’s, um, loud."

Keep in mind, poor Tony had already been subjected to heavy doses of Twisted Sister, Kiss and Rush.

The song is pure ‘80s with bubbling synths. And it’s kind of a generic "rah-rah" fight song, mentioning no players by name. And the lyrics don't get too much more indepth that this:

"Where there's a met man, you'll find a Mets fan, let's go!

It’s about as subtle as an anvil, but then again so was that 1986 team. Somehow it works. There’s even a longer, dance version.

Speaking of Kiss, the drummer is Alan Schwartzberg, famous for playing on Gene Simmons’ solo album.

"Meet the Mets (1990s version)" Alphabet City All-Stars

This is part of an odd little disc, a collection of songs allegedly played at Shea as well as audio of milestones and other great Mets moments.

I think it’s worth it just to hear some of Bob Murphy’s famous calls. And we get some great stuff, like the lineup for the first game and the press conference introducing Mike Piazza. That’s in addition to the expected calls, such the Mookie/Buckner and the final outs of all the deciding games.

The song selection is unusual, including Long Islanders Pat Benatar and Stray Cats, Red Rider’s "Lunatic Fringe," and EMF’s "Unbelievable." There must have been some issues getting the rights to some songs because we get the Alphabet City All-Stars performing "Centerfield" and "We are the Champions."

A nice surprise was the Audio Adrenaline version of "Free Ride."

“God’s Not a Mets Fan” by Phil Coley

I can’t figure this guy out. He claims to be a Red Sox fan, which makes him a Yankee-hater. And I realize that the enemy of my enemy is my friend and all. But deep down I think he’s a closet Yankee fan. Look at these lyrics.

“Oh Red Sox fans suffer from Babe Ruth’s Curse
But our New York Mets have it much, much worse
Worse than being haunted by old Babe Ruth
God’s not a Mets fan, and that’s the hellish truth

God loves the Yankees, I wish it wasn’t true
But look at all that we went through
Throughout this series I cried with our Mets
The Yankees robbed us without regrets

Our Mets played their hearts out, but Yankee pride
Turned close games into wins for their side
Why Roger threw a bat faster than his ball
How could our Mets have any chance at all?”

“God loves the Yankees?” “Yankee pride?” What, did Tom Verducci help with the lyrics? A real Yankee-hater knows that the former is just not true and the latter is a hype, spin and the results of spending more on one hurt pitcher than the Marlins are spending on their entire team this year. Look it up.

Plus, he does the whole thing in some country twang. It’s just not my kind of thing.

"Miracle Drive (The Ballad of the '69 Mets)" by Peter Prince

I like my baseball songs to be peppy, along the lines of John Fogerty’s classic "Centerfied." But "Miracle Drive" is about as peppy as Steve Trachsel between pitches. I guess the word "ballad" in the title should have tipped me off.

It’s not horrible by any means. He’s sincere, if nothing else. It’s just not going to get anybody fired up. And when Prince starts reading off the roster, well, I’m sure Al Weis’ kids are glad that Dad is mentioned in a song. The rest of us, not so much.

This song was set to video by the Mets and presented on Diamond Vision at Shea in 1994 and 1999. I suppose if I were at a game, I’d rather see that than the "guess the attendance" competition, especially since the listed attendance has been fiction ever since they switched to tickets sold instead of actual fannies in the seats.

There you go, an official Mets hit parade. Let me know if I've missed any.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Living without my iPod

Apparently I’m famous in the local Costco now.

This sordid tale begins last Thursday night when my 20-gig iPod died.

It had been acting up for the last couple months, freezing up and not connecting with the iTunes program. I’ve been making quick fixes after begrudgingly reading the owner’s manual at my wife’s insistence.

Then Thursday night the little screen turned pitch black. I was plunged into mourning.

I admit it. I’ve become too close to my iPod, a proud member of the cult in our newsroom. My family has relented, throwing an iPod-themed birthday party where new accessories were bestowed, such as the speaker set that allows me to spread iPod-induced joy around the house.

My son is a cult member. He dressed as an iPod for Halloween.

Life without the iPod is just inconceivable, and by early the next morning I realized drastic action was needed.

Our local mall has an Apple store, and I thought surely the people there could resuscitate it. I was there when the doors opened at 10:30 a.m. and ran to the first clerk I spotted, waving my darkened pod and calling for help.

She kind of rolled her eyes and told me to sign in and a "genius" would be out to help me.

Apparently that’s what they call their tech support people. I suppose it’s better than being on Best Buy’s Geek Squad.

Sure enough, the store has a bar that looks like a trendy saloon without the booze. I hopped up on a stool and out came a kid with spiky hair who might have been all of 22. I sensed some attitude.

What he said: "OK, who’s my first victim of the day?"

What he was probably thinking: "Belly up, geezers. Who can’t figure out how to turn on their computer?"

Me, emotionally: "It’s dead."

What he said, looking at the black screen: "Yeah, it is."

What he was probably thinking: "Thank goodness — the world will be spared a dose of Flock of Seagulls and whatever other kind of crap this guy has crammed on there. I bet he’s got all the Twisted Sister CDs on here. I’d be doing a public service by stomping in the thing."

My helpful friend slipped the iPod from its plastic case, then discovered it’s an HP+iPod — I had no idea there was a difference — and said he couldn’t do anything with it, and that I’d have to contact Hewlett Packard.

Can’t say I was thrilled with that prospect, because tech support over the phone is next to impossible.

Even Tug is a member of the iPod cult.

But Monday I found the phone number buried deep, deep, deep on the HP Website and spoke to a guy named Carlos who confirmed that a pitch black screen is a "very bad thing." He took my information and referred me to HP’s warranty department, which e-mailed back that unless I had a receipt, I was pretty much out of luck.

Naturally, that receipt is looooong gone, like a Carlos Delgado blast.

I was glumly contemplating life without the iPod — unthinkable! — as I saved up for a new one, since $300 is not something I can justify tossing around. I even jumped around the iTunes program on the computer, listening to songs that used to be on my iPod.

And the clerk was wrong, by the way. I do not have every single Twisted Sister song on there. There are a couple tracks here and there that just didn’t hold up over time that I had to delete. At least five of them. Maybe six. So there.

My clever mother suggested checking with Costco, the glorious warehouse store where the iPod was obtained. She said the store probably saves such information on its computer. It was worth a shot.

I headed right over, told the clerk about my issue and she went right to the computer and confirmed that I did indeed purchase an iPod last March.

"Do you have the manual, the installation disk and the wires and stuff?" she asked.

"Sure, everything but the box," I replied. "But all HP wants is a receipt."

"No, bring all those things back here and you can return it."

Say what? I was confused. Did she mean that they would send the deadPod to HP for me?

No. She said I could bring the remains back to Costco and they would give me a new one.

"Hold on," I said. "You know it’s dead. El iPodo es muerto. Are you saying that you would take it back and give me money to buy a new one?"

"No, we’ll give you store credit, since you don’t have the receipt. But yes, you could get a new one with store credit."

Suddenly it sunk in. The sad, un-iPodless portion of my life was going to be short. Emotion took over.

"Yes!" "I apparently said while jumping with fists pumped in the air. If I had a glove in my hand, it would have gone Orosco. "I love this store!"

I was back at the counter in less than an hour, the departedPod and all its possessions gathered in a Ziploc bag. A new, gleaming 30-gig iPod was there in sight.

"We were all talking about you," the bemused clerk said with a smile. "We’ve never seen anybody so enthusiastic about a return before."

I guess they’ve never seen someone forcibly detached from their iPod.

Today, the sun came up, bunnies frolicked on the lawn in the morning dew, and Twisted Sister was once again heard bouncing through the speakers as I drove to work. It is a good day.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A million marching moms and me

So Los Mets are in Washington, D.C., where they likely encountered several hundred thousand or so protesters, not counting members of the Nationals whining about their suspensions.

I’ve been to an event like the immigration protest, and it included one of the longest, strangest bus rides in my entire life.

I was assigned to cover the Million Mom March in 2000, and would stick with a contingent of moms from our area as they marched in support of gun control.

We boarded the bus on a Saturday evening with the promise that we could grab a meal somewhere along the way, sleep on the bus as it rolled through Ohio and Pennsylvania and reach the National Mall by the next morning.

I was the only male on the bus, and much was made of this. Every time the driver announced something over the loud speaker, he would start with "Attention ladies...and Dave," with much chuckling. It was funny for the first hundred miles or so.

I spent the time trading seats around the bus, listening to stories about what motivated people to make the trip. Many had a story of a loved one killed or injured by someone with a gun.

After about three hours we were getting pretty hungry. Some of the newly renovated rest stops on the Ohio Turnpike are pretty nice with large food courts. And there was some grumbling when the bus sped past the stop near Maumee...and the one after that...and the one after that. The ladies were getting louder and louder expressing their displeasure, but the driver kept going.

Finally, around 11 p.m. or so, he pulled into a rest stop — one of the few that had not been renovated.

There was no sparkling food court with Sabarro, Panera Bread and Wendy’s.

Instead, there were rolling hot dogs and old sandwiches wrapped in plastic.

Had these not been ladies on their way to a peace protest, there would have been violence committed right then and there. I’m sure of it.

Of course, it’s virtually impossible to get decent sleep on the bus, and I remember lots of twisting and contorting to get comfortable before exhaustion finally set in — just in time to stop for breakfast.

Around 6 a.m. we pulled into Breezewood, Pa., a community that nicknames itself "The Town of Motels." But a more accurate name would have been "The Town of Noisy, Crowded Bus Stops Filled With Junior High School Kids on Field Trips."

We stopped at a place that clearly is aimed at bus tours. I opened the door to the men’s room, and with no exaggeration, every inch of the place was filled with junior high kids in their underwear changing from sleeping clothes into whatever they were going to wear to Washington.

And I was lucky, the line for the ladies room stretched all the way through the restaurant.

The breakfast buffet was nasty, offering those really thin, crusty pancakes that you can’t even cut with a fork and flat bacon that may or may not have once been part of a pig.

By now, the ladies on the bus were over-tried, over-hungry and really needed to use a rest room. Adding to their issues was this revelation: Apparently in the few moments I was able to sleep, I snored. And had the bus actually stopped at any point, I might have been left by the side of the road.

I swear the experience was testing the ladies' opposition to guns. In fact, I suspect some were pooling their money to go buy one. I am only somewhat comforted that they would have shot the bus driver first, giving me time to flee.

We finally got to the district, and it’s an amazingly inspiring place.

At events like this, there are speakers on stage, though not a lot of people are listening. There’s a lot of sign and T-shirt reading, shouting and cheering. Not a lot gets done, other than making a statement by showing up and being a part of the masses.

There’s a lot of energy and a lot of emotion. Reporters have to remember we’re there to be the eyes and ears for the people who can't be there. We're not supposed to get wrapped up in the excitement.

Sometimes that’s hard. You fight back tears when a mother shows you photos and tell you about her slain son, but it's not OK to applaud when a speaker makes a point you agree with. It’s like being in the press box at Shea. You can be awed by David Wright’s clutch hitting, but you can’t cheer as it happens.

The celeb-watching was fun. Melissa Etheridge was holding court outside the press tent then sang on stage. Rose O’Donnell was the mistress of ceremonies. Hilllary Rodham Clinton touched hands from within a wedge of Secret Service agents. Susan Sarandon gave a speech surrounded by fellow entertainers Bette Midler and Melissa Manchester.

Some of it was strange. Courtney Love, whose husband, Kurt Cobain of the rock band Nirvana, killed himself, was up on stage in an outfit that wasn’t all the way on, makeup running down her face as she sobbed and spoke about Cobain and how easy it was for him to obtain a gun.

At the end of the day, the ladies boarded the bus again for a long drive back, and I happily caught a plane so we could get the story in the next day’s newspaper.

I caught up with the group leader later that week, and she said there was a near revolt when the bus driver stopped at the same place in Breezewood, this time for dinner. The junior high kids were gone, but the food was just as awful.

She said they passengers confronted the driver about why he would stop at such a terrible place when there were so many better places.

The answer? Drivers eat free when they bring a bus load of passengers.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Pedro's a head-hunter? Good!

Apparently Nationals outfielder Jose Guillen is all worked up because our man Pedro Martinez plunked him a couple times Thursday night. It appeared that way because Guillen headed toward the mound with his bat after dusting himself off.

As if that’s a bad thing.

Sure, Pedro’s inching up on the all-time chart for hit-batsmen. But he's just sixth among active players, with 119. Make that 122, because he nailed Nick Johnson on Thursday, too. He’ll need a similar performance in his next start to catch Greg Maddux, who is next on the list with 125.

Blogger Ryan O’Connell of Always Amazin' might be saying this with tongue in cheek: "Pretty funny how Pedro has drilled Guillen five times in 40 appearances over their careers. I've been a fan of Pedro's since he entered the league, so it's difficult for me to imagine disliking him. But he must just enrage players and fans of other teams. How can a guy with such pinpoint control drill so many hitters (30th all-time)."

Ryan, who does an excellent job, is either being funny or missed the point. Pedro drills these guys because he has pin-point control. I suspect he knows exactly where he is throwing. You crowd the plate, and Pedro’s going to let you know that’s his turf.

I got excited about hit-batsmen when I was part of a simulated league on What If Sports. In the league, you get to pick players from any era to form a team, even multiple seasons from the same player. The computer then simulates games.

Naturally, I had an entire rotation of Tom Seavers from various years. And I grew frustrated when the cyber-Seavers kept drilling batters in the simulations, usually multiple times in a game. Sometimes he’d even get ejected.

I objected, because it’s not like Seaver had a rep for being a head-hunter. But after a while we relented and began to appreciate the noggin-knockers, even cheered for such things when they happened in games, both virtual and in real life.

Of course, Dodger Hall-of-Famer Don Drysdale is the patron saint of head-hunters. Double-D’s 154 hit-batsmen doesn’t even put him in the top 10 all-time. But while some of these modern guys grumble that it’s a part of their job, Drysdale seemed to actually enjoy sending batters into the dirt.

"Don Drysdale would consider an intentional walk a waste of three pitches," Mike Shannon once said. "If he wants to put you on base, he can hit you with one pitch."

And Hall-of-Famer Orlando Cepeda said, "The trick against Drysdale is to hit him before he hits you."

Sadly, we can’t root for the active leaders in the category. Randy Johnson, who was cool before he went Yankee, leads with 168 batters drilled and several photographers.

Roger O’Batchucker is next with 150, with about 148 of them being Mike Piazza. Another Yankee, Kevin Brown in next with 139, though I’m not sure if he should even be on the active list.

Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield is next, and he’s no fun because he’s not actually trying to hit people — he just can’t control where the knuckleball is going. And Maddux, well, he doesn’t throw hard enough anymore to cause a bruise.

So that leaves Pedro as the defacto active leader.

As far as Mets go, Al Leiter leads all-time with 63, followed by Seaver, 52; Jerry Koosman, 49; and Doc Gooden, 41.

Sadly, our single-season leaders owe more to control issues than menace. Gimpy armed Pedro Astacio nailed 16 people in 2002, and there’s a three-way tie for second place. Kevin Appier drilled 15 guys in 2001, Nolan Ryan nailed 15 in 1971, and it must have smarted to be on the receiving end of one of those bullets.

Then we have Victor Zambrano hitting 15 batters last year in an attempt to win our hearts.

As for batters wearing targets, our man Carlos Delgado is third among active players, getting bonked 139 times. Poor Carlos. Curious, however, that the top 10 also includes three Yankees — Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter. Now why would anybody want to hit them?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Let's help the Yankees find some new songs

Not only do the Yankees and their apologists in the media think they are entitled to all the best players, now they are apparently claiming the best songs, too.

Withness this tantrum from WFAN's Mike Francesa after new Mets closer Billy Wagner dared to enter the game accompanied by Metallica's "Enter Sandman." Wagner's been using the song for years. But Mike, the radio version of Bob Klapisch and Tom Verducci, thinks it's off-limits because, gasp! Yankee closer/cyborg Mariano Rivera's been using it.

"I don't care if Billy Wagner did it in Houston and did it in Philly. Nobody knew he did it. The Mets announcers didn't know it. No one in the stadium knew this was his song. Nobody in America knew this was his song. I know he has a relationship with Metallica, but i don't care if he grew up and he was in the band. When you come to this town you cannot co-opt something, now that you're a Met sometimes you're gonna have to do a little changing, because you're coming to a town where a guy has turned that song into an event. Point is, at Yankee Stadium this is a huge deal, this is symbolic, it's known around baseball that this is a big deal. You can'tco-opt it. It's lame. Find something else."

I didn't hear this personally, but it was posted on my Mets listserv, and people there swear it's true. Apparently Mike was serious. Because you know, closer entrance songs are a big deal. Whatever.

Somebody go and get Mike a paper bag to breathe into. Meanwhile, I've taken the liberty of making sure this crisis doesn't happen again. I've found songs that assorted Yankee players can play when they take the mound or come to the plate.

“That Smell” by Lynyrd Skynyrd: Jason Giambi
Yup, that would be the smell of shame, a smell that Giambi knows well. This is a guy who came back from spring training a year ago and lost a bunch of weight, coincidently after he testified before a grand jury about steroid use. But Jason told us yoga – not a forced de-juicing – made him so slender.

“American Idiot” by Green Day: Gary Sheffield
Gary’s another guy linked to the steroid scandal. He said he took the stuff, but he thought he was taking flaxseed oil. Idiot.

“Money (That’s What I want)” by the Flying Lizards: Alex Rodriguez
Alex left a very solid Seattle Mariners team for the off-the-radar Texas Rangers for 225 million reasons. Then Alex had the stones to complain that the team lost early and often. Of course, the mid-market Rangers had to skim the waiver wire for players because they were playing one guy $25 million a year. Can you guess who that guy was? Alex showed his appreciation by demanding a trade.

“Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” by Aerosmith: Derek Jeter
I don’t think we need to explain this one too much.

“Money Changes Everything” by Cyndi Lauper: Johnny Damon
Here is another guy chasing the bucks. But unlike SlapRod, Damon sold his soul by going from the Red Sox, where he was adored by the Chowds, to the devil.

“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” By Elton John: Bernie Williams
OK, I realize as far as Yankees go, Bernie’s a classy guy. But Bern, it’s over. You were overrated to begin with, and now you lost your job to a traitor.

“Hound Dog” By Elvis Presley: Jorge Posada
I realize Jorge can’t help the way he looks. But he might be the ugliest player in baseball in the post-Willie McGee era. Dude is homely, and breaking his beak at the end of spring training isn’t going to help. Good thing he wears a mask on the field.

“Fool on the Hill” by the Beatles: Randy Johnson
The Unit used to be cool. Now he’s a he’s a photographer-bashing jerk. Kenny Rogers roughed up a shooter and was suspended and booed at the All-Star Game just for showing up. Unit did pretty much the same thing on his way to a physical and all we got is a lame forced apology? Fool. Sorry Kenny, the rules are different for Yankees.

“What Have I Done to Deserve This?” by the Pet Shop Boys: Carl Pavano
Pavano had a career year, got lured to the Skanks and promptly blew out his arm. It’s karma, Carl. You should have stayed with the Fish. Well, they would have traded you last season anyway, but at least you’d still have your pride.

OK now, Mets. Don't take these songs! We don't want Mike and the Mad Dog to get all worked up.

The best part of his little tantrum was the notion that America didn't know that Wagner used the song, but of course all the nation knows that Rivera used it because, well, he's a Yankee and everybody follows them. Typical arrogance.

The best part was that this tirade came after the Skanks beat the daylights out of Oakland in the first game of the season. You'd think the Yankee apologists would be enjoying the moment. Instead, they're getting all hot and bothered about what's playing on the Shea PA system.

Guess we're winning.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Celebrating the Jackie Robinson birthday

Opening Day is of course a glorious day every year, but today it’s a little more special — it’s what I’m calling the Jackie Robinson Birthday.

Last year was my Tom Seaver Birthday, so you can probably figure out how this works.

Why Jackie? He’s a hero, and Mets with that uniform number were Butch Huskey, Mo Vaughn, Ron Taylor, Ron Hodges and Roger McDowell. Fine people, well some of them. But asking people to shower me in Butch Huskey gifts is never a good idea.

Next year’s going be a bit of a challenge. The highest-profile Met with No. 43 was Jim McAndrew, and he shared it with a bunch of pitchers whose mound tenure at Shea was only slightly longer than mine (and I have none).

I’m very OK with this middle age stuff. For one thing, reporters write about a lot of people who don’t get to be 42. We see how fragile life is and hopefully realize that each and every day is a gift to be treasured. I’m blessed.

I’ve been around for all four Mets World Series appearances, got to see both Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden in their primes and was lucky enough to come of age in that magical time known as the ‘80s.

I share a birthday with former Met Rod Gaspar and former Mets coach Gary Pettis as well as Juan Guzman and Wally Moon. Non-baseball celebrants include fellow Long Islanders Eddie Murphy and Alec Baldwin, who went to my high school, although it was several years before me. I did serve on student council with his sister, though.

And I can’t possibly be old when there is someone on the Mets roster who is older — considerably older, I might add — than me. Hooray for Julio Franco!

And, like today, Opening Day sometimes falls on my birthday, which everyone says is appropriate. Opening Day also has provided for some pretty wonderful birthdays, which you can read about here and here if you like.

So like the Mets, I’m pretty optimistic about this year. I'm sure there will be highs and lows. But we can sure it will be an interesting ride.