Shea Stadium’s final season began ten years ago. If ever a ballpark were conceived in sin yet born to provide pleasure running the range from farce to finery, the Big Shea—as we Met fans since the day they were born called it—was it. It was long years since I’d last sat in the park, but whatever the beauties of its successor Citi Field something precious died when the last portion of the park came down at last.
How beloved and respected was Gil Hodges during his playing career? Enough that when he sank into a ferocious batting slump crossing the end of the 1952 season and the beginning of the 1953 season, the entire borough of Brooklyn, if not all New York City, took up prayers for him. A devout Roman Catholic, Hodges was genuinely touched that even non-Catholic churches joined the prayer chain.
On the fiftieth anniversary of throwing the pitch Roger Maris smashed for his 61st home run of 1961, I couldn’t resist writing of Tracy Stallard. I led off by saying that if we weren’t a society that tends to think of defeat as a six-letter euphemism for mortal sin, Stallard would wear a T-shirt saying Maris had to hit a record breaker to hit him at all.
When the Yankees shoved the Indians out of this postseason, Indians manager Terry Francona predicted his pitching coach, Mickey Callaway, might find work as another team’s manager if he had a mind to do so. Francona should be playing the stock market. Callaway has done just that, with the Mets hiring him to succeed Terry Collins.
If it’s up to should-have-been Hall of Famer David Wright, Terry Collins won’t be taking that long walk off that short plank after today’s season finale. The New York Mess (er, Mets) captain who missed this season and too much of last with neck and back issues that already compromised a Cooperstown-bound career stood up for Collins when it seemed few on or around the team would.
In September 2012, after Mets manager Terry Collins exploded in the clubhouse after one nasty blowout only to apologise the next day, I wrote, “Crossing the line between demanding accountability and questioning heart helped turn [Bobby] Valentine’s and the Red Sox’s season into a Rimbaudian nightmare. Collins isn’t about to let himself or his Mets forget the line. Whatever overhauling is or isn’t done come the off-season, it doesn’t seem likely that the manager’s job will be part of it.”
Now it seems a century ago when Matt Harvey all but ordered manager Terry Collins to let him try to finish what he started in Game Five of the 2015 World Series. The Series the Mets should have won but for their porous defense.
The game in which Harvey took a 2-0 shutout to the mound and discovered the hard way his heart was more full than his gas tank, surrendered a leadoff walk and an RBI double, then came out and watched helpless as the Royals exploited, yet again, a defense that could have been tried by jury for treason.
The Astros’ return to Houston was as great a spiritual lift for that Harvey-battered city as their weekend set with the hapless Mets was a spiritual drop for the Mets’ battered fans. Sweeping the Mets sure didn’t hurt the Astros, as healers and as likely postseason entrants, but some would suggest that sweeping what’s left of these Mets was doing it the cruelly easy way.
Perhaps as an unintended omen, Sandy Koufax took a walk through the Dodgers’ clubhouse at Citi Field Friday night, before the Dodgers sent their new toy, Yu Darvish, out to face the Mets. But maybe the Dodgers didn’t need a Hall of Fame omen for Darvish to manhandle what’s left of this year’s Mets.
About the only thing anyone disagreed upon after Darvish shut the Mets out with seven scoreless en route a 6-0 win was whether or not Darvish finished his night’s work by wrapping Dodger manager Dave Roberts in a big bear hug.
The highest profile moment of Lucas Duda’s career happened not when he was hitting one of his home runs but when he helped throw the Mets’ World Series survival hopes away in Game Five, 2015.
Top of the ninth. Matt Harvey pleaded to stay in and finish what he started on a night he had his A game, a 2-0 shutout. Except that he walked Lorenzo Cain and fed Eric Hosmer an RBI double. Then manager Terry Collins lifted him for closer Jeurys Familia, who’d already blown two Series saves through no fault of his own.