Apr 05

Happy Opening Day

I suppose you could ask for a nicer day, but that would be greedy. It’s bright and sunny, a crispness in the air. The forecast is for more of the same this afternoon at Citi Field.

There should be two rules in baseball: Opening Day has beautiful weather and the home team wins.

Opening Day, it is written, is about renewal, about fresh starts, about optimism. It’s also about going home to your roots.

Wherever you are, and whatever your team, you tend to remember the team of your youth on Opening Day. I live in Connecticut, but the team of my youth was the Cleveland Indians. I follow the Mets now, but when I do glance at the standings, my eyes drift to the AL Central and the Indians. The AL Central, of course, didn’t exist when I was a kid.

Yes, I know. When I was a kid there were only two leagues and fire had just been invented.

The Indians I grew up with were just an average team at best, much like they are today. And, much like the Mets, I suppose. There’s the occasional good year, but most mediocrity. Enough spring promise to keep you interested.

I know many of you will have your favorite Opening Day memories. Maybe it was a Tom Seaver start. Perhaps it was Gary Carter’s first as a Met. It will be emotional today when Carter is remembered, but today is the perfect day to remember him. Afterall, there should be a lot of people in the stands today.

My favorite Opening Day memory was April 7, 1970, with the Indians losing 8-2 to Baltimore. I have thought about it a lot recently because this is the first Opening Day without my dad, who passed away at Christmas.

I remember this one particularly because my dad took my brother and myself out of school so he could take us to the game. He told the school we would remember that day because of the game more than anything we would learn in school that day. He was right.

This is a Mets blog, for baseball fans in general and Mets’ fans specifically. I presume most of you have always been passionate about the Mets, even lately when the prospects have been glum.

Why?

What is it about a baseball team that attracts you to it? Was it a player? Was it a moment with your dad or mom? Was it because you grew up in that town? Most of us can recall when we first started following a team, even your first day seeing them live.

I would be interested to know how and why you started following the Mets, along with your Opening Day memories.

I have kept this blog going because I am passionate about baseball and I appreciate my readers. I hope you’ll stop by again this year, regardless of how the Mets are doing, to share your thoughts and insights.

As always, they, and you, are appreciated. Have a great year.

 

Dec 14

Thanks Dad.

Good afternoon folks.

I don’t like going this long without posting for you, but have been away. I drove to Ohio Sunday to visit my father, but the visit was unfortunately extended for a funeral.

Everybody loves their father for their own reasons and I am no different. There are some I can’t share and others I do so openly and proudly.

The most important was his love for his family and the moral principles he lived by, but another was his love for baseball, which he gave to my brother, George, and myself.

Among my earliest and fondest is he coached both our Little League teams. It was here where I learned sportsmanship and Little League baseball is to learn the game and have fun.

His belief was if you showed up for practice you would play regardless of how good you were. The games were seven innings and everybody played at least three. If for some reason you didn’t play three, you automatically started the next game.

The emphasis was enjoyment of the sport, not winning, and definitely not learning at a young age one had limited talent. There would be plenty of time for that in high school sports. There would be plenty of opportunities for life to disappoint and he didn’t believe Little League baseball should be one of them.

Where our league’s boundaries ended at the town line, today there’s a Little League World Series that is not only televised, but extends to foreign shores.

We went for ice cream after the games, win or lose. I grew up and played at a time when there were not even sponsors from local businesses, let alone corporate advertisers and television commercials. It was a time when the game had its natural disappointments, like committing an error or striking out and ten year-old kids don’t need cameras stuck in their faces.

It was a simpler time, one when I wasn’t exposed to the more negative and disturbing aspects of sports.

It is almost cliché to mention it, but the best times were playing catch and him hitting me grounders and fly balls in the front yard. We never shot baskets or tossed a football. It was always baseball.

Growing up, there was no such thing as cable and we only had four channels. We’d sometimes watch “The Game of the Week’’ and almost always the Indians.

Those were bad Indians teams that featured Rocky Colavito, Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert and Max Alvis. I remember the first game he took me to, won, 5-0, over the Orioles. Years later, when I covered the Orioles, they had every box score in franchise history so I copied that game’s and sent it to him.

My dad took me to a lot of games at old Cleveland Stadium, and when I briefly covered the Indians for a small local paper after college, I was glad when I got to take him.

One of the best perks of the job was getting to take him to spring training and buy him World Series tickets when the Indians finally made it. Too bad he never got to see them win it all. Would have been nice.

My dad grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, and when I covered the Orioles, former Dodgers pitcher Rex Barney was the PA announcer and I brought him up to the press box after a game to introduce them. When I came back to the press box nearly an hour later after working the clubhouse, I was happy to see Barney still talking to him.

The Dodgers were his team and he told me about Ebbets Field and Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson and Carl Furillo. Our family has roots in New York and New Jersey and we’d visit every summer after Little League season and he’d take me to Yankee and Shea Stadiums.

One year, he insisted we see the Mets against the Dodgers to watch this guy pitch. During my first spring covering the Mets, I got to meet the pitcher.  I introduced myself and told him I didn’t want to interview him – although I did – as much as I wanted to tell him how my father thought it was important I see him pitch.

Then Sandy Koufax asked me what game it was and when I sheepishly told him the Mets ripped him, 10-4, he said he remembered.

Like all fathers and sons, we had our rocky moments, but whatever they were, we always were able to talk about baseball. And, many of our later conversations were about baseball and the Indians.

My dad was 85 and was ill on and off for his last ten years. He was a shut-in and derived much of his pleasure watching the Indians and baseball, often with my sister, Anne.

Baseball was a passion and there are millions like him who feel the same way he did about the sport. This is something I wish the owners of the sport realized about its fans; that people love and cherish the traditions and simplicity of the game. I wish they understood this before they tinker and attempt to change the sport.

My dad taught me a lot of things, but I will always be grateful to him for giving me his love and appreciation of baseball.

I will forever love and miss him, and sure I will never watch another baseball game the same way.

Thanks, Dad.

 

Sep 08

Today in Mets’ History: Final Ed Kranepool home run.

The first Met I remember as a kid was Ed Kranepool. Maybe it was the way Bob Murphy pronounced his name, I don’t know. Who really knows why things stick in your head when you’re ten years old?

KRANEPOOL: Hit final homer on this date.

My family spent our summer vacations at my grandmother’s house in Pelham, and I watched a lot of Met games. This was before the 1969 season, and they usually lost, often in agonizing fashion.

Kranepool always stood out although he wasn’t a great player. At the time, he was pretty much the best the Mets had to offer.

By 1979, I was following the Mets in the box scores and occasionally the Game of the Week. Growing up near Cleveland, the Indians were on once or twice a week, and I always thought how great it would be to live in New York when the games were on every day.

On this date that season, Kranepool hit the 118th, and final, home run of his career in a 3-2, 15-inning win over Pittsburgh.

Kranepool made his debut as a 17-year old in the Mets’ inaugural 1962 season as a defensive replacement for Gil Hodges, Sept. 22, and the next day started his first game and collected his first hit.

He began the next season splitting time at first base and right field, and was getting more time the following year. In 1965, he gave up his No. 21 to Warren Spahn and began wearing No. 7, and was the Mets’ lone representative in the All-Star Game.

Kranepool was demoted to Tidewater in 1970 and contemplated retirement, but had his best season the following year. He lost his starting job in 1973 to John Milner, and was a platoon player the next two years, and finished his career as a role player/pinch hitter, retiring at 34 in 1979.

After retirement, Kranepool was part of a group that attempted to buy the Mets, but lost out to the Nelson Doubleday-Fred Wilpon group. He worked as a stockbroker after retirement and was inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame in 1990.

KRANEPOOL CAREER

 

Jul 31

Today in Mets’ History: Orosco beats Pirates twice.

Jesse Orosco had one of those days relievers only dream about on this date in 1983 when he beat the Pirates in both ends of a doubleheader, winning the first game in 12 innings, 7-6, and the nightcap, 1-0, also in 12 innings.

OROSCO: Iconic image.

Orosco, who pitched for the Mets, Dodgers (twice), Indians, Brewers, Orioles, Cardinals, Padres, Yankees and Twins (those last three teams all in the 2003 season), appeared in a major league record 1,252 games.

Orosco is the subject of one of the most enduring World Series photographs when he tossed his glove into the air after striking out Marty Barrett for the final out of the 1986 Series.

OROSCO CAREER

 

 

Jul 09

Today in Mets’ History: Always terrific, Seaver was nearly perfect.

It is possible this game in 1969 is most remembered from that amazing season. On this date in 1969, and maybe each day since for Tom Seaver, he’ll remember Jimmy Qualls’ sinking single into the left-center gap with one out in the eighth inning to break up his perfect game bid and forced him to settle for one-hit, 4-0 shutout.

SEAVER: Almost perfect on this day.

It was one of 31 hits Qualls had during his career. It was one of five one-hitters Seaver threw for the Mets. Years later, Seaver got his no-hitter, but it was while pitching for Cincinnati.

When asked which meant more to him, the one-hitter or the no-hitter, Seaver said: “The one-hitter.  I had better stuff that night and we were making a move on the Cubs.’’

BOX SCORE

Seaver’s game thrust the Mets into the national spotlight as a contender. I was living in Ohio at the time and rarely did the 11 p.m., sports feature clips from games other than the Indians, but they did on this night.

I always followed the box scores then, but after that game I started following them a little more closely.