Saturday, June 21, 2008

Shea Quest '08: At least one streak could be snapped

Shea Stadium as it looked in 1971 when I attended my first game.

People don’t believe me when I tell them two Mets-related facts:

1) That I haven’t bee to a game at Shea Stadium since 1991

2) That I haven’t seen the Mets win a regular season game in person since that last visit to Shea.

Both are true.

I can easily explain the first one. We moved to Michigan in 1990, and made it back to Shea the following year when my editors allowed me to write a story about ballparks.

Then most of my family moved to Florida. While that made for many glorious spring training adventures, it made getting to Flushing more difficult.

There have been three trips to the Homeland since. In 1997 I saw them play the vile Yankees in the second-ever interleague game, but in the Bronx. The team wasn’t home when I returned with the family to see Lady Liberty in 2003. I had high hopes for a 2006 education writers’ conference, but the game was played during the afternoon and was free only in the evening.

I’ve seen our heroes nine times on the road, from Florida to Chicago. And they’ve lost every single time. You just can’t make this up.

Here’s the streak of shame, extended earlier this year at Wrigley:

4/18/1993, Reds 3, Mets 2 in Cincinnati
7/26/1995 Cardinals 3, Mets 2 in St. Louis
9/24/1995 Marlins 4, Mets 3 in Miami
6/17/1997 Yankees 6, Mets 3 in the Bronx
6/30/1997 Tigers 14, Mets 0 in Detroit
4/5/1999 Marlins 6, Mets 2 in Miami
6/10/2007 Tigers 15, Mets 7 in Detroit
8/4/2007 Cubs 6, Mets 2 in Chicago
4/21 2008 Cubs 7, Mets 1 in Chicago

My buddy Will references "Spinal Tap" and its string of dying drummers: "You’d think the law of averages would kick in at some point."

My wife is more succinct: "They don’t love you."
But there are not words to describe how excited I am about one streak coming to an end this weekend, and who I’ll be breaking it with. And maybe, just maybe, the second one will snap, too.

I’m headed to Shea — I got all tinglely just typing that — on Saturday with my Dad and my cousin Tim to see our team take on the Evil Empire. Pretty much the ultimate confrontation between good and evil.

It does not get better.

In preparation of this historic farewell, I’m going to spend the week tracing the highlights of games I’ve attended at Shea — or, in one case, watched from the train station since we couldn’t get in.

And now, here is Top Personal Shea Memory No. 7

August 1, 1971: Cubs 3, Mets 2.

This was my first-ever baseball game. In many ways it set the tone for all that would follow.

Mainly, Tom Seaver — bow heads reverently — pitched and pitched well. And the Mets lost.

It was Banner Day, and we spent the morning working on our ultimate expression of support: A bed sheet with "Let’s Go Mets" written in black shoe polish. Short, sweet and to the point.

We didn’t know how this whole Banner Day thing worked. My sisters walked around the aisles holding the sign for a little while.

But I didn’t want to miss the game. Seaver was battling journeyman Juan Pizzaro.

Retrosheet provides details I had long-since forgotten. The Cubs got two runs in the fourth when Seaver walked Glen Beckert, Billy Williams singled, Joe Pepitone was hit by a pitch and runs scored on a single by Jim Hickman and a fielder’s choice by Paul Popovich.

Meanwhile, the Mets were doing squat at the plate, save for a Donn Clendenon solo shot and a Bob Aspromonte single that scored Ken Singleton.

Seaver was lifted for a pinch hitter, Danny Frisella came in and gave up another run.

Seaver left with a tough-luck loss and an 11-8 record.

I left with a prized souvenir — a 1971 yearbook that I practically memorized over the years — and a sometimes joyful, sometimes heart-breaking passion that will probably last through my lifetime.

1 comment:

Coop said...

I have some advice...don't see the Mets on the road anymore (LOL). Just kidding - I've been fortunate enough to have the mets win most of their road trips I've been on too. I did go to a game at the Trop in TB back in 2001 and they unceremoniously lost. to the Rays in '01. They weren't good then! we are having a blogger outing tomorrow so too bad you couldn't bump your trip up a few days to join us - have fun Sat!