July 2008

Dream Team

DreamImage copylr.jpgWith the exception of brief appearances (neither very impressive, I might add) by David Wright and Billy Wagner in the All-Star Game,  the Mets have been non-entities here in New York since they last played on Sunday night:  a game that marked their ninth consecutive win. That was actually only three days ago, but it seems like at least a WEEK to me.

Perhaps because it seems so distant, I keep asking myself, “Did it REALLY happen?!”  “Did we REALLY sweep the Giants AND the Rockies?!” 

Yes, it must be true:  after Matt Holliday’s home run to put the National League on the board last night, FOX’s Joe Buck mentioned how Holliday had recently had no such success at Shea Stadium.

I’m sure one reason I keep questioning whether or not I imagined the Mets’ recent success is because there was SUCH an inordinate amount of spectacle surrounding the Yankees and Derek Jeter and A-Rod and Madonna and THE LAST ALL-STAR GAME AT YANKEE STADIUM and all-things-Yankee for the past few days. 

But soon all of the banners will come down and DHL Fan-Fest wll be dismantled and trucked away.  Already the red carpet has been ripped up and the NYPD barricades removed following the parade down Sixth Avenue.  Presumably, the old-timers have returned to their homes. 

And tomorrow the players will resume playing the regular baseball season.  No exhibition games.  No farcical home run olypmics.  No glorified trade shows.  No morass of Chevy vehicles on parade and the resulting street closures.

The Yankees aren’t even playing tomorrow.  Will the Mets then be worthy of some local press once more?

After all, they really DID win NINE in a row.  And will go for TEN tomorrow in Cincinnati.  And we’re merely [Pinch me again, please!] a HALF GAME behind first-place Philadelphia!

And the Yankees?  Well, they go to Oakland on Friday.  Six games out.  With a dearth of pitching.  With Johnny Damon on the DL and Matsui pondering season-ending surgery.

I think this really IS a Met fan’s dream.

Please, PLEASE…don’t wake me up just yet!

Pin-Striped Hospitality

071508.02lowres.jpgThe All-Star Game and all the hoo-ha surrounding it has come to our fair city and has now departed.

While I would not say I was consumed by the festivities of this week, I did stay tuned to the proceedings.

I spent a good part of a day at the DHL Fan-Fest at the Javits Center.  While the lines were unbelievable, and I could not get anywhere NEAR a former All-Star, there were some interesting displays about the history of baseball, including women in baseball.  (See my daughter, above.  She’s in a league all of her own!)

I also sat down and watched Josh Hamilton’s dazzling “performance” in Round One of the Home Run Derby, and I suffered  Jeanne Zelasko and the FOX network long enough to see some of the current and former players in the parade preceding the game.

Oh, and I did stay up until about the 12th inning or so last night for the game itself.  David Wright was correct:  many of us were asleep, but I’m still grateful he wasn’t sent to the mound by Clint Hurdle.  We’ve got a pennant race to get serious about after all of this tomfoolery, David!

And what tomfoolery it was.  The Yankee fans really did themselves proud for this occasion. 

At Fan-Fest I observed rather rude and selfish behavior and comments from Yankee fans.  I wondered if they felt the need to “mark their territory”, figuring the All-Star Game had nothing to do with the Mets and their fans and I didn’t have a right to pay my money and attend like everybody else.

Moving on to the Home Run Derby, the churlish fans let it be known that they felt slighted by Giambi’s absence in the contest.  Chants of “We want Ja- son!” filled the stadium.  (Although Giambi was invited to participate in the Derby even though he was not selected to the team, he was far away in Las Vegas.)

Also at the Derby, the classy Yankee fans booed Chase Utley.  What was THAT all about?  I mean, I could maybe understand it (if not approve of it) had the Derby been at Shea in front of Mets fan who have been cursed with Mr. Utley’s deadly at-bats too many times to count.  Obviously, Utley was incredulous about his reception as well:          

              

                  

But Bombers fans saved their very best Bronx Cheers for the various Red Sox players’ and Terry Francona’s entrance onto the field at the beginning of the game itself…never mind that those players and that manager were about to play for the American League All-Stars and that, presumably, those fans would like to see their League prevail.

I imagine ballplayers are used to being booed away from home–particularly within the infamous Yankee-Red Sox rivalry.  However, I doubt team mascots are used such catcalls.

Perhaps motivated by frustration at not having their OWN mascot (that would NEVER happen on the hallowed grounds of THE CATHEDRAL or within the Yankees’ organization), these boorish fans made cute, cuddly, VOICELESS(!) mascots the target of their jeers before the Derby.

                 

 

“Mr. Met sucks?”

Why don’t you pick on someone your own (head) size?!

 

So much for putting aside our differences and joining together for a little fun and amicable good sport.

Makes ya REAL proud to be a New Yorker, huh?  Fuhgeddaboudit! 

Eight is GREAT!

SNN1525U_280_372251a.jpgTaking three out of four in Philly felt fantastic.

Sweeping the Giants was gigantic.

Winning eight in a row–and coming into within 1/2 game of Philadelphia is, in the words of Tony the Tiger,

“GR-R-R-R-R-R- EAT!!”

 

I’m ECSTATIC!!!

How SWEEP it IS!

Sweep.gifWith the Mets’ 7-2 win over the Giants, they swept the series.  Not only that, they have now won 6 in a row:  something the club has not done since 2006!

Here’s hoping the “good Ollie” keeps the momentum going when the Rockies come into town tonight!

The Freak vs. Big Pelf

0707_large.jpgWas it the Curse of the Sports Illustrated cover?

Or was it just the Mets bringing back some confidence from Philadelphia and showing the home crowd some major offense?

Who cares?!!

Mike Pelfry outpitched the soon-to-be All Star and the Mets won their fourth game in a row.  The team is now 1 1/2 games behind division leader Philadelphia–tied with the Marlins who lost last night, is now two games above .500, and they handed Tim Lincecum his first loss since April 29th.

Now…what kind of freak of nature would it be if the Mets’ offense could ensure our ace Santana a victory for a change tonight?!

How ’bout it, guys?!

 

Phiendishly Phatigued Phollowing Philly

WerthDevil copy.jpgAm I the only one that thinks Jason Werth looks like the Devil?

I actually thought that his little strip of a goatee and his angular eyebrows and long face made him look Lucifer-like WELL before Sunday’s L- O – O – O- NG rain delay. 

But when Billy Wagner was one strike away from FINALLY ending this game and Werth hit a hellish two-run homer off of him to tie up the game and force us into extra innings–blowing Billy’s save–I know many of us Mets fans were thinking up some pretty diabolical names for the guy.

So then–in last night’s giveaway-that-turned-into-a-nail-biter–how could it have been anyone beside Satan himself facing Billy in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the tying run on second base??!!

While Billy had us sweatin’ there, but this time the Prince of Darkness popped-up to right and Endy Chavez caught it to end the internal game.

I later heard Billy Wagner interviewed on SNY-TV.  He said something to effect that he thought the Mets should play hard all the time:  so hard that when they left town [or they left the opposing team's town], their adversaries were “tired”.

I don’t know about any other viewers, but between (1) the angst created by the interminable rain delay–Would they play again or would it just keep raining and we would win??!, and(2) the anxiety of the scenario should they continue the game:  two Phillies on base and Howard due up in the bottom of the ninth, (3) followed by last night’s 10-1 score in the sixth diminshing to merely a one-run lead by the time Billy Wagner was in fact needed for the game, and finally, (4) Billy not exactly looking invincible…I am TIRED!! 

I feel mentally and physically exhausted after “staying in the game(s)” with our guys.

With that in mind, I’m going to take a quick nap before heading out to Shea to welcome the victorious Mets back home and help them deal with this Lincecum fellow from the Bay!

Hope Springs Eternal.

nilson_184.jpgMy husband, just as big an opera fan as he is a Mets fan, woke up this morning with what I thought was a very clever analogy.

Having gone to bed last night, frustrated once again, by the Mets loss to the Cardinals, he awoke thinking that it was a new day with another ballgame to look forward to and the opportunity for the Mets to improve in the NL East standings.

He compared it to a passage in the Puccini opera, Turandot, with which we are both very familiar.

Set in Peking, the opera tells the tale of an icy princess who invites potential suitors to participate in a game show of sorts.  In the second scene of Act II of the opera, the title character asks the tenor lead–Calaf–three riddles.  He has chosen to participate in this trial although many have tried to dissuade him from doing so.  You see, if he incorrectly answers any of the three questions, he is to be beheaded as have all of his unsuccessful predecessors.

For round one, Turandot asks the contestant to name for her, loosely translated, a many-colored phantom that flies and soars over humans in the dark of night.  It is called to.  It is implored.  At dawn, this phantom vanishes to be reborn in every heart. 

“Every night this phantom is born anew, and every day it dies.”

Ogni notte nasce

ed ogni giorno muore!

“Hope,” Calaf successfully answers.

 

I love the metaphors:  both Turandot’s for hope and my husband’s for the hopeful baseball fan. 

As discouraged as some of us Mets fans get, we just can’t help but still hold out hope that they can right the ship.

Let’s see if we can split the series with the Cardinals!

“Schnozz”

ernie2.jpgOne of countless things I cherish about being a parent is being provided the opportunity to expand my knowledge and to be taught things from my child.  This past week I learned something about baseball history from my daughter.

My daughter is an avid reader of historical fiction.  Several years ago, at about the age of seven or eight, marked the start of her immersion into the cult that is American Girl.  Although she does read other novels based on actual history, the American Girl book series remain favorites.

For the uninitiated, the American Girl series of books each feature stories depicting fictional characters; each series is set in a particular period of American history, from colonial America to the present.  Each series’ title character has a corresponding doll–and accoutrements, but of course–linked to her. 

The American Girl empire has reached Disney-esque proportions with specialty stores–amusement parks would be a better description, actually–in half a dozen cities in this country.  These stores sell dolls, doll clothes, and doll furniture, but in addition, each store features a theater in which musical productions may be seen around the clock, and a cafe–catering to birthday parties and with tiny “high chairs” so that customers and their dolls may dine together. 

Each store also has a hair salon just for dolls.  I kid you not.  While shopping in the store, I have seen some (well-loved) dollies having some pretty bad hair days, so I suppose it makes sense.

Although my daughter has certainly told me many things about the various characters’ escapades and challenges unique to the time period in which she “lived”, I have myself read only a few of the books.

kit_MWR%20Headlines.jpgSeveral of the series of books have spawned full-length movies, the latest of which–“Kit Kittredge”–opened in select cities on June 20th and nation-wide yesterday.  The title character is a nine-year-old aspiring journalist who lives in Cincinnati during the 1930s.  

I attended a showing with my daugther–accompanied by her Kit doll and a friend bearing same–the first week it opened in New York.

I was most impressed by the film’s representation of the hardships of The Great Depression.  Although the realities of that dark period of American history were not sugar-coated, the title character’s indomitable spirit and courage in the face of misfortune put a very positive spin on the tale.

By now, I’m sure you’re wondering, “Yes, but what does all of this have to do with baseball history?

 
I’m getting to that; stay with me here.

 

070208.01lowres.jpg
One of Kit’s personal interests, mentioned in the books and touched on in the film, is baseball.  My daughter informed me that Kit, a catcher, played baseball herself.  I already knew, from one of the many outfits acquired for this doll by my daughter, that Kit was a big Cincinnati Reds fan.

A reference was made in the movie to a newspaper clipping that Kit had saved.  The clipping featured a picture of one Ernie Lombardi, wearing a Cincinnati Reds uniform, holding seven baseballs in one hand.

I later asked my daughter if she knew whether Ernie Lombardi was a fictional character or if he had truly existed.  While she confessed to not knowing for sure, we both are aware of the fact that that while the characters of the American Girl books are purely fictional, their experiences are historically accurate, often including references to real people, e.g., Presidents and sports figures.  The books often make references to pop culture of the era as well, e.g., popular songs, dances, and recreational activities and games.

A Google search instantly revealed not only the existence of Hall-of-Famer, Ernesto Natali Lombardi, born in Oakland, California, on April 6, 1908, but other interesting facts as well.  Further searching even turned up the aforementioned photograph of Lombardi and the seven baseballsl!

Fellow Reds player Johnny Bench would turn this same trick years later, by the way.  However, rumor has it that he used some kind of sticky device as a crutch…and, obviously, it was not an original stunt.

~

As mentioned in the movie, Lombardi–a catcher–was dubbed “Schnozz” in his rookie year with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Not only was his nose of large proportions, but his physique was equally plus-sized.  No doubt for that reason, he was known for being slow on the basepath.  Apparently, he was once described as being as slow as a “man carrying a piano, and the fellow tuning it”. 

Ernie Lombardi, traded to the Reds in 1932, hit over .300 in two of his first three seasons.  In 1935, he hit .343.  That year and the three years following saw Lombardi hit .333 or over in each season.  In 1938, his .342 average made him the National League leader and earned him an MVP title.

Hitting for power was a necessity for Lombardi, given his lack of speed.  Wary opposing pitchers kept their distance when he was at the plate–even if infielders were confident playing him on the outfield grass.  One of Lombardi’s line drives even broke three fingers on the glove hand of Cubs’ pitcher Larry French.

34diamond_stars-036.jpgLombardi went on to play with the Boston Braves and the New York Giants, retiring in 1947.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1986.

Ernie Lombardi died in 1977, well before author Valerie Tripp penned her series of Kit Kittredge books, much less the release of the film based upon the books. 

I wonder what this colorful character would’ve thought of his being immortalized in such a way!

Joba with my Java?!


img104.jpgPUH-
LEASE!!!

You know I’m a pretty dispirited Mets fan if I’m reduced to Yankee-bashing.  Sigh.

 

Even though the Mets took 4 of 6 in games versus the Yanks this season, the Mets will always be second-class citizens in this town, I suppose.

But did I have to be greeted by THIS when I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts for an iced latte this morning?!

 

I knew I should’ve held out for Starbucks. 

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