Sep 11

September 11 Remembrance

Certain historical events are remembered simply by the date. September 11, 2001, is one. December 7, 1941 is another, as is June 6, 1944. I have been to the World Trade Center, both the original and the Memorial. I also visited Normandy, France, and the United States cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach might be the most sobering thing I have ever seen.

I hope someday to visit Pearl Harbor.

Like many who remember where they were when the Kennedys were shot, when Elvis died and John Lennon was murdered, I know exactly where I was when the planes hit. I was covering the Yankees at the time and moving from Maryland to Connecticut. I just passed the Philadelphia exit on the Jersey Turnpike when the first plane hit.

Any doubt it was an accident was dispelled when the second plane hit. Of course, it was a terrorist attack. Anybody could tell that instantly. Those who still don’t believe have the same mentality as those who doubt the Holocaust. Then again, there are those who probably believe the Earth is still flat.

Our movers were volunteer NYC firemen. They told us the river passages would soon be shut down and they had to hustle to get over the George Washington Bridge. So, they left our truck at a rest stop and took off. My ex-wife and I knew we’d never make the bridge, figuring there would be massive traffic delays at that exit. We kept driving north – we actually saw a sign for Montreal – then turned and headed south into Connecticut. What took usually four hours lasted 11.

All the while, without television, I was glued to the radio, the way most of America learned of Pearl Harbor and D-Day. Our stuff came two days late. I plugged in the TV and that’s when I saw the images for the first time. I’ve seen them a thousands more, including too many to count this afternoon.

i knew it would be days before I covered another game. I kept waiting for the official announcement from Bud Selig, but it didn’t come for hours until after the NFL cancelled its schedule for the upcoming week. Security was tight at Yankee Stadium when it was opened for a practice. I remember the team gathering at the mound before talking with us and shared their stories of meeting with emergency personnel and those who lost family and friends.

Thankfully, I didn’t know anybody who was killed, but felt I had when I visited the Memorial years later and saw the photos and read the tribute letters. Family and friends of the murdered brought their loved ones alive for the world to get to know.

Both the Yankees and Mets were gracious in visiting firemen, the police and family members of those killed. The Shea Stadium parking lot was turned into a staging area. Nobody will ever forget Bobby Valentine and his Mets loading trucks.

Both teams were unified in their support of the city. Publicly, they acted as champions. What was disturbing was when players from each team took verbal swipes at each other as to what organization did more the city. It goes to show there’s always pettiness, even in the midst of graciousness.

Mike Piazza’s homer in the first game played in New York after the attacks, and the coming together of the Mets and Braves on the field that day created one of the most memorable scenes in New York sports history. More such stirring moments came from the Yankees during the World Series. While the grand moments are easy to remember, there was some things that get lost in the shuffle. Such as the bald eagle making his entrance into the Stadium, President Bush throwing out the first pitch with a perfect strike, and the singing of God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch, something that has become a New York tradition.

There was also the last Series game at the Stadium, when the crowd chanted for Paul O’Neill.

The Yankees returned in Baltimore, and the press box at Camden Yards was where I saw Piazza hit the homer. From there, it was on to Chicago. I never felt safer on a plane than I did on that flight. I’ll always remember a sign at the new Comiskey Park that read. “Hate the Yankees; Love New York.”

The Yankees, normally booed, were treated kindly the rest of the season on the road.

A lot of those memories came flooding back today as they do every year. So do the feelings, ranging from anger to frustration to patriotism to sadness.

They’ll return again next year.

 

 

 

 

Feb 22

Rolling Stones And Mets The Same Age

I am an avid Rolling Stones fan. Have all their albums, know most of their songs by heart and saw them numerous times in concert, including twice at Shea Stadium in 1989.

Mets and Stones the same age.

Mets and Stones the same age.

It was a tremendous show, with 50,000-plus fans singing “Ruby Tuesday,’’ in unison, and I mean every word, not just the refrain.

I noticed they are trending Saturday on Yahoo.

Why?

Because they performed the other day in the Middle East – Abu Dhabi, to be exact in front of 30,000 fans. It was kind of surprising news considering the political climate of the area and the Stones’ reputation.

One article said they were formed in 1962, which rang a significant bell because that was the year the New York Mets were born. That means the Stones and Mets are the same age.

Amazing.

The Mets won’t be able to get Mick and Keith this summer at Citi Field, but that isn’t to say they might not be able to snag a Rolling Stones tribute band.

It might bring about an afternoon of satisfaction.

 

Dec 28

Going Bowling With The Mets

The Pinstripe Bowl is currently taking place at Yankee Stadium, which leads to the obvious question: Why can’t the New York Mets host their own college bowl game? Or, perhaps make a bid to host the NHL’s Winter Classic at Citi Field?

Are you telling me the NCAA can’t fit in one more bowl game, hosted by the Mets and Citi Bank? I can’t believe that for a second.

Fred Wilpon won’t get a chance to host a bowl involving the University of Michigan, because when the team is good they’ll go to a higher profile bowl game.

Wilpon is an ardent supporter of the United States Military. The Armed Forces Bowl was played the other day in Houston

Taking it a step further, the Army-Navy Game has been played in several venues. Why can’t Citi Field be one of them?

They played bowl games at Yankee Stadium, and last night there was a game at the San Francisco Giants’ park.

It can be done in Citi Field. It should be done at Citi Field.

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

Sep 11

Reports Say Japanese Phenom Masahiro Tanaka Will Post For MLB After Season

masahiro tanaka

Brett Bull of the New York Times reports that 24-year old Japanese pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka, who improved to 20-0 on the season after a 3-2 complete game victory last night, will request to be posted for Major League Baseball at the end of this season.

News media outlets in Japan are suggesting that Tanaka will request the Eagles put him up for auction via the posting system later this year. Such a move will make him the most sought-after Japanese export since Yu Darvish, one of baseball’s best pitchers, and a member of the Texas Rangers for the last two seasons.

With last night’s victory, Tanaka now has 24 consecutive wins, a streak that matches the major league mark in the United States set by the New York Giants’ Carl Hubbell in 1936-37.

Interestingly enough, his latest win came thanks to a tie-breaking homer from former Mets Kazuo Matsui. After recording the final out on a called third strike, he emphatically pumped his fist toward third base as the home crowd of 22,316 roared.

“It was a true team effort,” Tanaka said. “In the future, I’ll do my best to continue.”

The 6-foot-2 right-hander has an arsenal that includes a fastball that touches 95 mph, a sharp-breaking slider and a split-finger fastball. In his 24 starts this season, he has 1.24 ERA while striking out 155 batters over 181 innings. It’s the third straight season he’s has an ERA under 2.00, and earlier this season he had a streak of 42 scoreless innings.

What’s amazing here is that he’s only 24 and getting better. Earlier this week, Ben Badler of Baseball America tweeted the following:

If his team does post him this Fall or Winter, expect some high bids from teams like the Dodgers, D’Backs, Rangers, Mariners, Yankees and Braves. All six teams were on hand to see him win his 20th game.

“I’ve always liked his slider, but his split-finger has really come on in the last couple of seasons,” said one MLB scout. “He definitely has enough velocity to play at the major league level, and the other two pitches would compete for sure.”

I know I’m just dreaming, but I miss the days when the Mets wouldn’t be discounted from any serious pursuit of players like Tanaka or Cuban sensation Jose Abreu.

Mar 16

Former Met Nelson Figueroa Is The Essence Of Baseball

I always regarded the WBC as Dancing With The Stars with spikes. It’s a manufactured competition, but with its roots in nationalism.

However, last night’s USA-Puerto Rico elimination was compelling, far more interesting than your average Mets-Marlins spring training game. That interest was generated by the passion in the stands. The WBC means more in terms of national pride to the teams and fans in Asia and Latin America than to the United States.

FIGUEROA: Remembrer him?

FIGUEROA: Remembrer him?

Puerto Rico is now in the international sports spotlight. The American players who are always in the spotlight can now return to their major league teams and big contracts.

Nationalism represented some of the motivational fuel for Nelson Figueroa, a journeyman pitcher who has toiled for six teams in parts of nine years – including the Mets – but pitched like a star last night in sending the United States home for the third straight time.

Figueroa was special, doing what he used to do at times with the Mets, which was burn innings. But, last nigh he gave Puerto Rico six shutout innings in his 80-pitch allotment. Working both sides of the plate effectively with everything but an electric fastball, he gave US hitters nothing to hit.

Putting on a show was the rest of his motivational fuel.

Figueroa told reporters. “It was motivation to show them what kind of pitcher I was.’’

Maybe he showed what kind of pitcher he can be to somebody with the power to make a decision on his career as so many other have done.

Figueroa was signed by Arizona to a minor league contract as organizational depth in December. If Figueroa were higher on the pitching food chain, but not good enough to be a given, he might have been better off in spring training.

However, in this case, showing what he could do against major league hitters should count for more points than a couple of innings against the Dodgers minor leaguers.

Sometime this year, the Diamondbacks or somebody else, will have a sudden need for an arm and think back at how Figueroa toyed with the US lineup.

Figueroa is not flashy. He does not have a great fastball or singular dominant pitch. What he has is command of the corners and guile. When both are on he’s tough to beat.

“I don’t throw very hard, but I pitch inside,’’ Figueroa said, giving us his personal scouting report. “It was a great exhibition of what can be done without a plus fastball. It was an opportunity to demonstrate that good pitching beats good hitting.’’

That’s the way it always has been and always will be. From a fundamental perspective, that’s baseball’s essence. From a human perspective, Figueroa is also the essence of the sport.

History has given us far more Figueroas in the game than Matt Harveys or Stephen Strasburgs. Harvey and Strasburg have power potential and will always get a shot. Things must break right for Figueroa to get his.

Figueroa has bounced around the globe in search of a job, last pitching in the major leagues with Houston in 2011. He’s been with the Phillies. Toronto and the Yankees released him without his cup of coffee. He has pitched in the winter leagues, for Mexico, for just about anybody who would give him the ball and a few dollars.

Figueroa pitches because that’s what he does. The sport is in his blood, rushing through his veins and consuming his soul. Until he’s physically unable, or run out of teams, Figueroa will pitch. It is players like him, perhaps even more than players like Justin Verlander, as the reason we watch.

Verlander is elite. Figueroa is more like us, who once dreamed of the big leagues. However, unlike us, he persevered through rough times, rejection and defeat to get the taste we will never.