Sep 11

Mets To Remember September 11

Whatever they have in mind, the New York Mets will have a tasteful display tonight in honor of the September 11 terrorist attacks. It will be emotional, especially for the first responders who lost family and friends, it won’t reach the level of the night when baseball returned to New York at Shea Stadium and Mike Piazza permanently reached folk hero status.

Nothing can duplicate that night because nerves were still frayed raw and lower Manhattan was continuing to smolder.

Every year we remember, as we should, and the events of that day will simply be identified by the date, similar to December 7 and June 6.

Americans died then, and sadly, there are fewer and fewer who remember. September 11 will stay fresh for a long time, especially since Americans are still dying in the Middle East, one of the ramifications of that day.

Like all of you, I remember where I was and what I was doing at the time. I’ll never forget, and don’t need a slogan to help me remember.

My wife and I were on the New Jersey Turnpike, just having passed the exit to Philadelphia, when I heard the news on the radio. At first it was one plane and details were sketchy. Then it was two and all the world knew it was no accident.

We were moving to New York from Maryland. Our movers were volunteer firemen from New York. They left our stuff at one of the rest stops and hustled back into the city before the bridges were closed.

We had to drive north through New Jersey and circle back down into Connecticut to get to our new home. There was no television hook-up, but I was transfixed by the radio coverage, like America was on December 7 and June 6.

I was covering the Yankees at the time, and they were to open a series with the Chicago White Sox that night. I suppose the White Sox got home by bus, passing the volunteers heading the opposite direction into New York.

Both the Mets and Yankees were commendable in their efforts to comfort, but sadly some shots were fired across the bow as to which organization did more. The Mets were in the forefront because the Shea Stadium parking lot was used as a staging area, and there were countless photos of Bobby Valentine and his players loading supplies.

Both teams visited hospitals and fire houses in the city, as the Mets did yesterday.

I never felt safer on an airplane than when play resumed and the Yankees traveled to Chicago. “We hate the Yankees, but love New York,’’ read several banners.

It was an odd feeling to watch baseball again, but as the game progressed, it became more comfortable.

But not normal. Never normal again.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 26

One More Night Of Tom Seaver …

Good morning. I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas and you got what you wanted or needed. If I had the power, I would have given you these things:

* One more summer like 1969, when the expectations weren’t high and your team captured the imagination of the City and the nation.

* An ownership group solvent and desirous of giving you the talent you deserve to cheer for.

* One more night of Tom Seaver going into that classic windup and stride, brushing his right knee to the mound and throwing a darting fastball on the corner, with Willie Mays swinging and missing with a mighty grunt.

* Shea Stadium rocking one more time, with the stands actually moving as the K’s mount up for Dwight Gooden.

* Darryl Strawberry uncoiling that mighty swing of his and ripping a majestic blast deep into the bullpen area. That is, if it misses the scoreboard.

* Another summer against the classic rivalries, the Cubs, the Cardinals, the Braves … and beating them.

* Mike Piazza whiplash swing, rifling a line drive deep into the night.

* The gritty play of Len Dykstra and Wally Backman, diving for balls and into bases, letting us know hustle is still in vogue.

* Keith Hernandez, creeping in from first to pounce on the bunt and nail the runner going to third.

* Johan Santana, healthy from April through October.

* Jerry Koosman dropping a slow curve in on the hands of Willie McCovey.

* Those hundreds of creative signs on Banner Day.

* Seeing the stars come in one more time: Mays, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Gaylord Perry, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Richie Allen, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, Fergie Jenkins, Dale Murphy and yes, Chipper Jones.

* Jose Reyes drilling a liner into the gap, striding around the bases and diving head first into third with a triple.

* Ed Kranepool holding on speedster Maury Wills at first.

* A Dave Kingman moonshot, without the complementary strikeout.

* Shea Stadium on a sunny, Sunday afternoon.

* Citi Field, full for once on a date other than Opening Day and against somebody other than the Yankees.

* Speaking of the Yankees, sweeping them during interleague play.

* Carlos Beltran running into the gap to chase down a line drive.

* A solid rotation of Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez.

* Randy Myers throwing smoke in the ninth.

* Billy Wagner doing the same.

* Jerry Grote blocking the plate.

* An October of magic, with J.C. Martin getting the call when he was struck running down the line … with Tommie Agee chasing down uncatchable fly balls and Donn Clendenon ripping home runs.

* A summer when the non-descript come through in the clutch: Ken Boswell and Al Weis; Ron Taylor and Don Cardwell.

* Another spring training with Casey Stengel telling his tales.

* Another summer with Gil Hodges in the dugout.

* David Wright with supporting hitters all around him.

* John Olerud’s sweet swing.

* Robin Ventura with the bases loaded.

* R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball floating towards home.

* And, one more dribbler down the first base line from Mooke Wilson ….

 

 

Apr 13

It Would Be The Right Thing To Honor Chipper Jones

When Chipper Jones announced he would retire after the season my immediate thought was in how the Mets would do to acknowledge him. Now, when I hear some in the media and other bloggers are against it, I just scratch my head.

JONES: The Mets have been on the opposite end of that swing many times.

Yes, Jones has been a Mets Killer. All the more reason. Jones embraced the rivalry with the Mets – at a time when the Mets had real rivalries – and was passionate about playing here. So much so, that he named one of his children after Shea Stadium. He even bought Shea Stadium seats. And, on the night Mike Piazza hit that homer after 9-11, it was Chipper’s face we sought out from among the Braves. He was genuinely moved that night.

If he doesn’t want a rocking chair tour, fine, but something simple and genuine. Perhaps a weekend in New York with Broadway tickets, or a painting of Shea Stadium, or something to acknowledge how important he was to baseball summers in New York for years.

It’s petty to ignore him. So what if he was a nemesis. Boo hoo. Get over it.

Teams have long acknowledged and respected celebrated opponents for years. The Boston Celtics always had the right idea, giving a piece of the parquet to Julius Erving, to Kareem Abdul Jabbar, to Magic Johnson. And, Celtics-Lakers is more intense at any time than Mets-Braves.

Yes, they should acknowledge Chipper. It would be the classy thing to do. It would be the right thing to do.

Mar 22

Chipper Jones – Mets Killer – to retire.

Some opponents you loathe. You watch with venom in your heart for how they destroy your team. Or you despise their arrogance and swagger.

Other opponents you respect and admire, and salute for their longevity and talent. Such is the case with the Braves’ Chipper Jones.

JONES: His Topps' Rookie Card.

You figured it was coming soon, but it became official this morning when Jones announced this would be his final season playing third base for Atlanta and tormenting the Mets.

Jones will be one of the rare players, something I hoped would be the case with David Wright and Jose Reyes, to play his entire career with one team.

I covered Cal Ripken and Derek Jeter through the prime of their careers, and respected what they accomplished. Both had opportunities to leave for more money, but recognized the importance they represented to their team and cities. They are special players.

Don Mattingly and Kirby Puckett were that way, too. It was a shame it wasn’t the case with Tom Seaver and Reyes. I hope it isn’t that way with Wright.

Jones thought about retirement two years ago, but changed his mind. Now, after 18 years and a string of injuries the past two seasons, there’s no longer fighting time.

Early in camp, Jones told reporters: “Never in my mid-20s would I have given myself a snowball’s chance to be in camp and have a job at 40 years old.  But I like to think I’ve kept myself in pretty good shape over the years. The skills are still there to go out and get it done. I don’t know for how much longer, but we’re gonna ride it as long as we can.’’

I wish for him a full and healthy season, one with numbers that will have him leaving with pride and not frustration.

It was obvious watching Jones the past two years that he slowed. You could tell his range was declining and he wasn’t the same on the bases. Still, when he came to the plate in the late innings, he was showed respect from the Mets’ pitchers.

Since 2004, Jones underwent two knee operations and dealt with several other nagging issues that deprived him of 500 homers – he would have been the third Brave to reach the milestone, joining Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews – which has been an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Jones, the 1999 NL MVP, joins Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray as among the games’ greatest switch hitter, which is an unappreciated skill. Jones takes a .304 career average, 454 homers and 1,561 RBI into this season.

Of his 454 homers, 91 came in August and 74 in September, during the heat of the pennant race; 213 were hit in the seventh inning with the Braves tied, ahead by one, or had the tying run on deck.

And, against the Mets, Jones’ numbers would represent a MVP season: He hit 48 homers, with 154 RBI and a .318 career average.

He hit 19 homers at Shea, which is what he named his son. Any player who would name his child after Shea Stadium is worthy of a salute.

I’ve covered well over a two thousand baseball games, and as a reporter found Jones to be accommodating and thoughtful. His appreciation for the fundamentals and ability to perform under pressure made him a privilege to watch.

Some day, I’ll get to say I saw Chipper Jones, Hall of Famer. He’ll get my vote.

 

Feb 09

I wish the Mets would do that.

Maybe the Mets are thinking along these lines, and if so, it slipped by me. In doing some research on the Mets’ 50th anniversary, I came across all the non-baseball events at Shea Stadium, including the Rolling Stones, Beatles, boxing and the Pope.

Yankee Stadium is hosting Madonna and Pink Floyd this summer while the Yankees are on the road. Why don’t the Mets, who are hurting for money, open the doors of Citi Field this summer when the boys are on the road?

I’m not suggesting a monster truck rally that would tear up the field, but how about rock concerts, boxing and wrestling? If nothing else, how about the world’s largest flea market?

I’m hoping Citi Field will apply to host the NHL January 1 outdoors game. Maybe not the Rangers this time, but there’s the Devils and Islanders.

It really doesn’t matter what the event, but as long as people are coming to Citi Field, the Mets will get something and that’s what is important.