Even a man who’s old enough to have seen the Original Mets and lived to tell the tales could barely believe this one. And I’d seen the legend of Marvelous Marv Throneberry, very live, enough to know that everything written about the hapless first baseman long since was bloody well true.
But wherever he is (he died in 1994), if Marvelous Marv was watching the Colorado Rockies play the Cincinnati Reds Sunday, he might have sent down a note to manager Jim Tracy and his crew.
Hey, what are you trying to do—steal my fans?
Not on the worst days of his brief but immortal life as an Original Met (well, ok, they got him from the Baltimore Orioles in June 1962) did Throneberry—who customarily played first base as though he’d taken joint fielding lessons from Curly Howard and Charlie Chaplin—pull one like this. About the worst thing that ever happened to Throneberry was missing big after whacking a long triple in the old Polo Grounds, prompting his Cub counterpart, Ernie Banks, to call for the ball and step on the pad at first base.
“Forget it, Case,” coach Cookie Lavagetto advised manager Casey Stengel, barreling out to decapitate the first base umpire. “He didn’t touch second, either.”
Not even Throneberry was one-ninth of a field-wide brain fart that saw himself and all his teammates afield standing there prepared to field the next batter after his pitcher nailed a strikeout . . . for out number three.
Rockies reliever Carlos Torres had just struck out Chris Heisey to end the Cincinnati fifth. He got Heisey to go after a breaking ball far enough out of the zone that it couldn’t have been hit with a palm tree. Only Torres began his revolving walk back onto the bump as catcher Ramon Hernandez started the traditional throwing around the horn after Heisey was rung up.
Not a single infielder moved any muscles, other than those needed to complete the horn circuit and toss back to Torres.
Not a single outfielder moved any muscles, period.
They looked for all the world like a team getting ready to defend the next Red hitter.
They looked like a team with their heads so far out of the game that the only surprise was that the Rockies were only 26 games under .500.
They looked like a team with their heads so far up their asses they could have given you the play-by-play of their own root canal procedures.
This wasn’t Frank (The Big Donkey) Thomas plowing into center fielder Joe Christopher trying for a very short fly ball to left center for which a third Met, outgoing shortstop Elio Chacon, was trying likewise until Christopher called him off, successfully, and in Chacon’s native language to boot.
This wasn’t Larry Walker tossing a ball to a young fan in the stands after catching a fly ball, only to learn the hard way that it was merely out number two, and baserunner Jose Offerman had been handed second and third on the house as a result.
This wasn’t Billy Martin forgetting his signal for a steal sign, then having to blow his nose in the dugout, prompting a Yankee or two to take off on the bases and run into the end of the inning.
This wasn’t even Tim Lincecum earlier this month, when the struggling Giant fielded a tough one-hopper, regrouped, threw out his man, and bounded off the mound only to learn the hard way he’d just wrestled his way to getting only the second out, marring an otherwise impressive day’s pitching performance.
This was nine Rockies who couldn’t find the proverbial two brain cells to rub together. It took home plate umpire Cory Blaser, who looked clearly enough as though he were channeling Richie Ashburn about those ’62 Mets (I don’t know what to call it, but I know I’ve never seen it before), while doing his absolute best to keep from laughing his fool head off, to inform the Rockies it was side retired.
Tracy used to manage a collection of reasonably contending Los Angeles Dodgers. Once upon a time he led the Rockies into the postseason. Now, you’d think he was managing the current edition of Saturday Night Live, a television show that hasn’t been truly funny since the Carter Administration. Except that even this year’s SNL cast and crew would, at least, have had known when it was time to roll the closing credits.
Marvelous Marv, the Colorado Rocks invite you to rest in peace. At last.