Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A life saved, a life remembered and lives reconnected

Aaron Heilman is either pouting that he's not a starter or hanging his head in shame for the Molina dinger.

I was sitting on AirTran flight 231 as it taxied on the runway for takeoff in Ft. Lauderdale, lamenting the lack of actual baseball news on the on-board XM Radio’s MLB Home Plate station when I noticed a commotion.

Three rows behind me, a man was shaking in his seat and a passenger was shouting "medical emergency!"

The guy sitting directly in front of me said he was a paramedic, and two women from near the front of the cabin rushed back after one of the stewardesses called for a doctor or a nurse.

As the plane turned around and headed back toward the gate, the paramedic, the women and the stewardess took the man out of his seat and laid him in the narrow aisle. A friend brought the man's son — part of a high school hockey team heading to a tournament — to the front of the plane as someone unbuttoned the man’s shirt.

I heard them say the man was not breathing, and they started using the defibullators. The machines make an eerie sound, with a audible instructions — "Do not touch the patient" — before you apply the shock.

They tried this three times before passengers sitting around the activity applauded. He was breathing again.

By this time the plane had made it back to the gate, and airport paramedics rushed down the aisle. More returned with a backboard, slid it under the man and carried him off. I thought walking down the aisle is difficult with walk-on luggage. They asked passengers down the length of the plane to tuck the man's arms in on both sides as they passed.

Apparently they laid the man back down just outside the plane doors on the jetway because the pilot stood outside his door watching, and occasionally reported the progress.

After about an hour, we backed away from the gate a second time and headed to Detroit.

It was an ominous end to the emotional roller coaster that was the Florida trip. As you know from the previous post, we lost my grandmother last week.

Florida proved to be a bittersweet reunion with family — both baseball family and the ones I’m actually related to.

I arrived Friday evening, just ahead of aunts and cousins, thanks to my brother John heading all the way down to Ft. Lauderdale to fetch me. My folks live about 40 minutes south of St. Lucie and Mom asked if Mets were in town during the weekend. I had not even thought to check. Mom always thinks about me.

In fact the Mets were playing. Saturday actually had two games. Half the team was to be in Jupiter — right near my folks — and the rest in St. Lucie. We decided to stick close to home, and Dad and I went in late morning to grab tickets. Shockingly, the sign said "Standing room only." We called ahead to St. Lucie and were told there were tickets available in the bleachers and on the new berm in right field. So we gathered up relatives and sped north, leaving Mom to intercept the steady stream of flowers and fruit baskets.

I was excited because I haven’t seen the Mets in person in years, certainly not in the Wight-Reyes era. And I had heard that the Tradition Field, as it is now called, has been revamped.

We arrived just before game time and were greeted in the parking lot by scalper named Mark who offered us seats in the grandstand for what seemed like a fair price. How open was the scalping? Mark had a business card.

Exposing the relatives to what passes as the criminal element in St. Lucie — not counting Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer at a pizza place — was not what we had intended. But hey, we were not sitting on the berm.

I didn’t know which of the team would be traveling to Jupiter, but I hoped to at least see Jose Reyes or David Wright. As the Mets took the field I grew more excited as I scanned the positions. Wright, yes! Reyes, yes! Beltran, yes! Shawn Green...Moises Alou...Jose Valentin...Paulie...they were all here — except Carlos Delgado, who we knew was in Puerto Rico with his delivering-at-any-minute wife. Chan Ho Park was standing on the hill.

That was a best-case scenario and I was very glad to not be standing in Jupiter.

Alas, while the players were there, the offense apparently was not. The team managed just one hit off the Baltimore B-squad through the seventh inning, eventually losing 2-1. But it was still glorious.

The revamped Tradition Field is a vast improvement.

In fact, it was so glorious that we made plans to return the next day. Once again, all that was available were bleachers and the berm, so we used Mark’s business card and called him. He had just two tickets left — we needed four — so he said to sit tight for a couple minutes. True to his word, he returned with seats in the top row between home and the Mets dugout. It's best not to ask questions at such times.

Again, most of the regular lineup was in the game. And again, much of the offense seemingly took the day off. Surprisingly, so did the defense. Wright and Reyes must have been told to shift into "don’t get hurt" mode, because it sure appeared that they waved at some catcheable balls.

Mike Pelfrey started and seemed OK, and the Astros were up 5-3 when I decided to take a break from scoring and hit the gift shop and snap some photos of the stadium.

I worked my way through the Island Girl Tiki Bar to the Mets bullpen where Jorge Sosa was finishing his warm-ups. Snapped some shots of him, then of Aaron Heilman hanging around.

Then I made it outside to the team store, tried on every cap and contemplated the assortment of T-shirts and pennants. Bought a Diet Pepsi and a big pretzel properly heated over charcoal and snapped some more photos from that side of the stadium — semi-lamenting that I might have missed an entire inning or possibly more.

Shockingly, Sosa was still on the mound and a 6 was tacked on to the score by the time the frame was over.
Jorge Sosa about to punch his ticket to New Orleans.

They lost both games, but I was just thrilled to see my Mets in person once again. It was just exciting to be surrounded in a sea of Mets caps and jerseys. For a change, I didn't seem like an outsider cheering for my team.

Hopefully it's the last we've seen of Sosa for a while. Apparently Willie had seen enough, Sosa moved his gear to the minor league camp the next day.

Our next day was spent saying goodbye to Grandma. It was a brilliantly sunny morning and my Dad performed a beautiful graveside service. My aunt, sister Lisa, cousin Tim and I shared memories.

I wrote mine out — a modified version of the previous post — and thought I could read it without getting too emotional. That lasted for half of the first paragraph. My Mom came and stood by my side to help. She always thinks of me.

Grandma was such a special person. While the formal eulogies were expressed at the cemetery, the informal ones continued throughout the day and into the evening over sandwiches and snacks. My sister Jen compiled a beautiful scrapbook and everybody had stories to tell. There were tears, but there was also a lot of smiles and laughter.

It's some comfort to know that Grandma rests with Grandpa and my nephew James -- and Perry Como, Grandma's favorite singer. Yes, it's really him. Hall of Famer Billy Herman rests nearby as well.

It’s sad that it takes a funeral to bring families together, but it’s true. And it was a treat to reconnect with people not seen in years.

That led to the next day's plane ride from Ft. Lauderdale. It ended in bumpy fashion, too, with the plan rocking from side to side then seeming to drop while lightning flickered out the window. Passengers applauded when we finally touched down. I’ve never, ever been so happy to see Detroit.

It’s more than a two-hour drive home from Metro Airport. I had a lot of time to think about the activity of the flight and the events in Florida.

I decided life is short and life is fragile. I stopped at both Dunkin’ Donuts and White Castle on the way home.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Let me tell you about Helen

Grandpa and Grandma Berg, sometime in the 1980s

Grandparents are important. They hold you in the hospital the day you’re born. They sit with your parents at your wedding. They never, ever miss a birthday. And they forgive everything.

Mine are all gone now. We lost Richard in 1970, his wife, Ella, in 1997, Erich in 1999 and Helen on Thursday at age 90.

Grandma had been in poor health for several years. We knew this day was not far off.

Somehow over the years, I gained the reputation as “the hugger.” I don’t remember how it started, but every time I saw Grandma, the first thing she said was: “Where’s my hug?” It was our special routine.

I decided the mental picture I carry like a wallet snapshot won’t be the way we saw her two weeks ago, when I hugged her tightly one last time.

I will think of Christmas Eve – every Christmas Eve of my childhood. The entire extended family would gather at my grandparents’ large house on West Shore Drive in Massapequa.

There was food and laughing, presents and cousins. It was loud and it was wonderful.

Grandma had a silver foil Christmas tree that came with a spotlight and a rotating lens that would make it appear in different colors. Decades later, we still teased her about it.

My grandparents moved to another large house in North Massapequa, then to a condo in Snug Harbor in Amityville. And I remember my first question was what we would do about Christmas Eve. Grandma still hosted, but it was crowded. Very crowded. And still wonderful.

Our family today is so spread out. But every other Christmas we host Julie’s side of the family. It’s crowded and noisy and I love it because it reminds me of those years at Grandma’s.

Helen was the second oldest of four daughters, mother of five, grandmother to 12.

She loved to get dressed up and go dancing with Erich and spend time with her sisters, the last of which we lost last year.

Grandma always made time to listen to me talk about the Mets, or whatever stories I was working on.

For as long as I knew her, Helen was sacrificing for other people. She cared for my great-grandmother until she died at 97. She raised my cousin – Samantha’s an attorney today -- and took care of my aunt.

We were in Florida visiting on the morning my grandfather died. I sat with Grandma on the couch holding her tight while paramedics worked in the other room. She was worried about me. That’s just the way she was.

She was worried about others again when we saw her this month, concerned my children would be startled by her appearance. We shared our hug when we arrived, and again when we left as I whispered "We love you very much" in her ear.

"Give me one more hug," she said.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Snakes in the pressbox and Hillary, too

The Associated Press reported last week that a 3-foot black snake sent reporters into a tizzy after it appeared in the press box as the Mets were enroute to beating the Indians in a spring training game at Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven.

I was tempted to dismiss this article at first. My experience in press boxes has been that not only would a snake not cause a stir, but he’d we welcomed and probably have his own seat and laptop.

OK, that’s a little harsh. But truth be told, I’ve been in a number of minor league and major league press boxes and the experiences largely have not been fun.

One time I was so repulsed by the behavior that I went and sat in the stands — and found them to be a much better place to enjoy the game.

My first time, in Yankee Stadium, was not reflective of future encounters. That, of course, was the oft-mentioned meeting of Richard Nixon, Dave Winfield and Matthew "Pop" Shortell, which you can read it here if you have not already heard the wild tale. It's gone downhill from there.

Unless they’ve changed with the newest round of stadium construction, press boxes are pretty much the same. There are rows bar-like connected desks, arranged steeply so the head of the writer in front of you is not obstructing your view. There’s usually a hallway along the back, and wipe board for things like the line-ups and other facts of the day.

Usually there piles of copied game notes and stats, assembled to be easily dropped into stories. I’m often envious because school reporters have to work a little harder to get information.

And, usually, not too many steps away is some kind of free food. Nothing that you’d skip dinner for, but it’s free so the sportswriters like it.

The old Tiger Stadium had one of the worst press boxes. Clearly added during one of the old yard’s many renovations, it was up at the level of the upper deck. You had to take the world’s slowest elevator then walk down a hallway added atop the roof to get to it. And the windows were closed every time I was there, so you couldn’t hear the sounds of the ballpark.

But usually it’s the people and not the facilities that make them unpleasant.

Basically there are a lot of openly surly people up there. I got a sense that the athletes don’t treat a lot of these guys all that well, and when you spend all that time in such an environment you tend to pass it on to whomever you come in contact with.

We were at a game in Baltimore’s old Memorial Stadium the year before Camden Yards opened. You need to know that there are semi-assigned seats. Some of the little desks bear the name of the news outlet, and others are just kind of claimed because the same people sit in them every game. Visiting media usually sit in the last couple rows.

So I had my seat in the last row and was enjoying my crab cakes -- seemed like the frozen kind, but they were free -- and about two innings into the game the staff ushered in a dad and his elementary school-aged son.

I think there were contest winners or something, and both were dressed in Orioles gear. The staffer scanned the box, saw a couple open seats in the first row and placed them there. Both seemed thrilled.

It wasn’t too much later when a late-arriving writer -- I didn’t catch who it was or who he worked for -- saw these two in his seat and went nuts. I don’t mean some grumbling, this guy was yelling.

The Orioles media relations guy told him to calm down and pointed him to a spot in the last row, next to me. The guy walked up and slammed -- and I mean slammed! -- his stuff down on the desk.

"Do you believe this?" he said, as if I would share in his outrage. Since he was all worked up and all, I was going to ask him if I could eat his crab cakes, but I thought better of it.

Shea was a little rough, but it was the staff instead of the other writers.

We grabbed a seat in the back for a game in 1988, and were told to move to auxiliary press box down the hall, which was fine with us. We took our seats and spread out our game notes.

Then a staff member walked over, saw us and said, "You! Out!" complete with pointing and the thumb gesture. Two other guys standing next to him came and took our places. I asked where it would be OK for us to sit, and he said something along the lines of "Not my problem."

I suppose I would have preferred, "Hey fellas, these guys usually sit there and because they’re regulars we need to take care of them first." But that wouldn’t be New York or Shea, and "You! Out!" has become one of our catch phrases.

What was she thinking?

Speaking of New Yorkers. Well, people who are kind of New Yorkers. As a political observer I’ve wondered how Hillary Clinton would fare on the campaign trail. Then I saw this quote from Newsday:

"I cannot let stand that I have ever, ever been a Mets fan: Let's set the record straight," Clinton said. "The Cubs and the Yankees — those were my teams and remained my teams growing up and now in my mature years."

Goodness, is she trying to throw the election? Why not come out and say she'll name Derek F. Jeter as her running mate?

Yankee love? Open Mets hating? That’s quite a confession. Who does she think she is, Tom Verducci? Obama’s people must be doing cartwheels.

Somewhere Gary Hart is sitting there with his Monkey Business T-shirt thinking, "I did some dumb things, but nothing that dumb."

Can you imagine the first primary debate?

Moderator: Sen. Obama, we’ll start with you. What’s your plan for Iraq?

Obama: (Pointing) She’s a Yankee fan. (Gasps in the audience)

Moderator: That’s it? You have plenty of time.

Obama: As if I needed to say anything else. Did you hear me? She roots for the Yankees.

Clinton: Ah, ah ... Yankee pride! Twenty-six world championships! Derek Jeter was robbed last year! Vast right-wing conspiracy!

Moderator: Well hell, this one’s over. That’s a wrap.

Clinton (voice trailing off): ...he dove into the stands to catch the ball...

Should be interesting to see how this plays out.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cedeno still stinks, and continuing education in the Florida sunshine

The world's biggest Hard Rock Cafe restaurant/classic rock lecture hall.

We had an awesome time being spoiled by my parents in Florida, catching a spring training game, touring Universal Orlando and continuing my son’s formal classic rock training.

The schedule didn’t allow us to check in on the Mets, but we were able to see the Marlins and the Orioles in Jupiter – within two hours of touching down.

And that’s OK, because there’s nothing bad about watching baseball while basking in 75 degrees and brilliant cloudless skies. And it’s downright glorious considering we started the morning driving to the airport in a snowstorm.

One of the fun parts of a spring game is that you get to see veterans trying to catch on with a new club. This game was a severe test of my policy to avoid booing players not named Jeter or Chipper.

There were two very worthy targets. The Marlins were auditioning Aaron “Bleeping” Boone at first base, he of the Yankee homer heroics and killer of Red Sox dreams.

And the Orioles were trotting out Roger Cedeno, last seen getting glared at by Tom Glavine.

But first the nice things. Miguels Tejada and Cabrerra seemed to be in mid-season form already. Cabrerra fired a laser that hit the centerfield fence about a foot from the top. I don’t think the ball was ever higher than 10 feet off the ground.

The Fish were up by one late in the game, and our man Cedeno actually got a hit to drive in the tying run – only to get nailed trying to stretch it into a double. So much for that speed. That was supposed to be his greatest asset. And the O’s could have used that runner in scoring position, because they didn’t score again.

Roger Dean Stadium is shared by the Marlins and Cardinals.

Roger Dean Stadium is a nice place to see a game, and it’s shared by the Marlins and Cardinals. The gift shop even sold a Mets spring training t-shirt. Sadly, the concession stands were asking for $4 for a 20 oz bottle of Diet Coke. Who do they think they are, Starbucks?

The next day we headed to Orlando and Universal is just a fantastic place, especially if you love big coasters.

Aside from the two theme parks, the resort offers a night club, restaurant and shopping area anchored by the Hard Rock Café.

As you know from the previous post, my 14-year-old has discovered classic rock. And the world’s biggest Hard Rock is like a field trip for his study of the 1970s.

He and I made the pilgrimage one night, sitting under the rotating pink Cadillac at the bar munching on Joe Perry’s quesadillas and Tupelo Tenders and being only slightly afraid of the multi-pierced barkeep with the Mohawk.

The seat afforded us a fine view of a massive stained glass window that featured Elvis on the throne flanked by Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. The domed ceiling was decorated in a scene resembling the painting in the U.S. Capitol, only George Washington and friends were replaced by images of assorted departed rockers.

We enjoyed a discussion about great music and destructive lifestyles, and then walked around the restaurant amazed at the collection of instruments and signed albums and photos.

The highlight for me was seeing Peter Criss’ Destroyer-era costume. And yes, people get annoyed if you stand at their table to ogle the stuff hanging on the wall above their nachos. Hey, I had to see it up close, OK?

Supposedly the bus from the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” film is there, but I didn’t see it.

Speaking of the Beatles, I get by with a little help from my blogging friends. Some of you have asked to see my son’s official classic rock iPod playlist, his introduction into his father’s past.

Here it is, but there needs some explanation. Some of the songs might not be my choice, but were requested by my son because they appear either on the PS2 game – “War Pigs,” Quiet Riot -- or the "Supernatural" DVDs. And he asked for the AC/DC.

And I succumbed to pressure and added a Floyd cut. But if I end up in the school counselor’s office defending my parenting skills, I’m bringing you with me. All of you.

Let me know if there are any glaring omissions. Remember, this is a primer for a 14-year-old. We want to introduce him, not scare or overly confuse him.

This is in alphabetical order, as he changes the order on the playlist often.

AC/DC “Back in Black”
AC/DC “Hells Bells”
AC/DC “Shoot to Thrill”
AC/DC “What Do You Do For Money Honey”
AC/DC “You Shook Me All Night Long”
Aerosmith “Sweet Emotion”
Aerosmith “Walk This Way”
Bachman Turner Overdrive “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”
Bad Company “Bad Company”
Black Sabbath “Paranoid”
Black Sabbath “War Pigs”
Blue Oyster Cult “Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll”
Blue Oyster Cult “Don’t Fear the Reaper”
Boston “More Than a Feeling”
David Bowie “Rebel Rebel”
David Bowie “Space Oddity”
David Bowie “Suffragette City”
Cheap Trick “Surrender”
Alice Cooper “I’m Eighteen”
Alice Cooper “No More Mr. Nice Guy”
Alice Cooper “Poison”
Alice Cooper “School’s Out”
Alice Cooper “Under My Wheels”
Cream “Sunshine of Your Love”
Creedence Clearwater Revival “Fortunate Son”
Creedence Clearwater Revival “Proud Mary”
Deep Purple “Smoke on the Water”
Derek and the Dominoes “Layla”
The Doors “L.A. Woman”
The Doors “Roadhouse Blues”
Emerson Lake and Palmer “Karn Evil No. 9”
Grand Funk Railroad “Bad Time”
Grand Funk Railroad “Some Kind of Wonderful”
Grand Funk Railroad “We’re An American Band”
Norman Greenbaum “Spirit in the Sky”
Elton John “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”
Jimi Hendrix “Fire”
Jimi Hendrix “Purple Haze”
Kansas “Carry On My Wayward Son”
Kiss “Rock and Roll All Nite”
Kiss “Strutter”
Led Zeppelin “Communication Breakdown”
Led Zeppelin “Immigrant Song”
Led Zeppelin “Rock and Roll”
Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven”
Led Zeppelin “Whole Lotta Love”
Manfred Mann “Blinded By The Light”
Manfred Mann “For You”
Tom Petty “Refugee”
Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here.”
Rolling Stones “Gimmie Shelter”
Rolling Stones “Jumping Jack Flash”
Rolling Stones “Satisfaction”
Bruce Springsteen “Born in the USA”
Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Steve Miller Band “Rockin’ Me Baby”
Steve Miller Band “Threshold/Jet Airliner”
Quiet Riot “Come on Feel the Noize”
The Raspberries “Go All The Way”
Rush “Tom Sawyer”
Rush “Spirit of the Radio”
The Who “Baby O’Riley”
The Who “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
Yes “Roundabout”
ZZ Top “Tush”

In other words:

If you'd like to read about other adventures from the Florida trip, my work blog tells the turbulent tale of the Cat in the Hat. You can read it

Monday, March 05, 2007

Explaining the '70s to a 14-year-old.

My 14-year-old son sides with my wife when it comes to matters of artistic taste.

Books, movies, television, music…if she likes it, so does he. And stuff I like, save for a few Christian rock bands, is sometimes tolerated when not completely dismissed as “80’s crap.”

He’s had the rebellion thing working, although in a rather safe way. I’m conditioned to refrain from expressing appreciation for a new shirt or hair cut. Because saying I like something would bring swift rejection.

But one day last month I was playing Rush’s R-30 DVD – I had nearly gone an unacceptable 24 hours without listening to a Rush song – and the unthinkable happened.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Rush. It’s a song called “Roll the Bones,” I said, waiting for the mockery.

“Pretty cool,” he responded. “Can you put it on my iPod?”

This caught me completely off guard. I wanted to jump for joy, but knew better.

“Sure, I can do that. I can make you a whole Rush playlist.”

Turns out that was a first step into a totally unexpected foray into classic rock for the freshman. I’d like to say I’m the influence, but truth is that he was getting into songs on the “Supernatural” DVDs – one of the shows my wife likes – and the neighbor’s PlayStation 2 “Guitar Heros II” game.

He requested an entire classic rock playlist, and I considered this a tremendous responsibility. I want him to develop a proper appreciation for important music, but feared that going overboard would send him running to Clay Aiken.

Well, probably not that bad. But I had this slim opportunity to be cool and didn’t want to blow it.

I figured to give him a basic primer into the glorious world of power chords. I probably have about 1,000 songs in this category on my own iPod, and I figured he’d need about 50 or so to get a good foundation.

My first idea was to eliminate any song that mentioned drugs, violence, sex or tongue-in-cheek devil worship. But that wiped out all but 38 of the 1,000 songs. So I had to relax those guidelines somewhat – but only somewhat.

Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and AC/DC’s “Back in Black” make the cut, “Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath” and “Highway to Hell” from those same bands are did not.

And I figured I would not be keen on answering questions like, “Why is Robert Plant is making those sounds in the middle of ‘Whole Lotta Love?’”

And I had to take into account that this was all new to him, and some of it is an acquired taste. As much as I can appreciate a 26-minute live version of “Dazed and Confused,” it might freak out a 14-year-old. Heck, I still get freaked out by “The End” from the Doors. And I decided to pass on the entire Pink Floyd catalog – for now.

I settled on what I thought were the best songs from the best groups, and music that carried special memories for me.

So he got some obvious choices. You need some accessible Zep, so he got “Rock and Roll,” “Communication Breakdown” and “Stairway.” Of course some Clapton is there, starting with “Layla.”

A little tribute to his birth city was in order, so there are a couple Grand Funk Railroad cuts.

A kid’s gotta know more about Hendrix than the Spinal Tap-esque “choaked on his own vomit” stuff, so “Purple Haze” and “All Along the Watchtower” shall suffice.

And then you’ve got the ultimate freshman anthem, Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.”

I don’t think he was too sure about “Gimmie Shelter” – “It’s like her voice is cracking” -- until my wife proclaimed it one of the best songs ever.

And, of course, he needed some Who, a little Bowie, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and some safe Steve Miller, Boston and Kansas.

Each song I added to his playlist brought back memories of high school successes and failures, summers at Brady Park and Jones Beach and even raking leaves in the front yard with my little red Panasonic tape player fired up to full blast. My neighbors must have been so thrilled when the last leaves were finally raked up.

Angus Young of AC/DC -- we don't look to him for logic in lyrics.

While every note was memory for me, it seems to be a mystery for my boy. We were listening to an AC/DC song in the car and he said, “I don’t get these lyrics. What is he trying to say?”

“Son,” I replied, “He’s looking for two words that rhyme. Any words. Don’t look too deeply here. Pump your fist, bang your head and don’t think too hard about it.”

Of course, assembling a playlist and him actually listening to it are two different things. I didn’t want to push. Then one day I walked past and heard Creedence Clearwater’s “Fortunate Son” bouncing off his walls.

Once in a while you get a ray of light showing you're doing something right. Maybe, just maybe, the Old Man knows some good stuff after all.

In other words...

I know you all read Faith and Fear in Flushing. But do you ever get to read about Faith and Fear? Here's a neat interview with Greg and Jason.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Remembering Clem Labine

Tip of the cap today to Clem Labine, a member of the 1962 Mets -- for a brief time. Clem had a nice career as member of the Dodgers. But more importantly, he was the first Met to wear No. 41, breaking it in for far greater glory.

Clem died today in Florida at age 80. He was the second-oldest living Met, according to my friends on the Crane Pool Forum.

I got to met him back in the late 1980s, wearing my sweet flannel Mitchell & Ness Seaver jersey... which he said was his. You can read about that here.