Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Tales from my Log

I've shamelessly stolen this idea from Greg over at FaFiN. He's been to over 350 Shea Stadium games. I've been to three. Here is one of them. I don't actually have a Log because they've been few enough and recent enough to rely on my memory alone.

7/30/2000 Su St. Louis 3-0 Jones # 1-0 W 4-2

Here it is, here it is, my first game ever at mythical Shea, oh joy, oh what fun, o Happy Day!
Oh bummer, it looks like rain.
This was supposed to be the culmination of a dream. A lifelong dream, in a way, because my life can be rather neatly split into two pieces: before and after discovering baseball and the New York Mets in mid-1999, possibly the best time for someone my age to become one. In America on a vacation trip that had been postponed for one year, I was ecstatic over the news that not only would I finally get to visit the nigh-legendary (in my mind) stadium, but I would be able to do so on a day that both included the unveiling of the Top 10 Moments In Mets History As Voted By The Fans and free giveaways of posters of said Moments.
The weather was not cooperating.
The morning ought to have dawned crisp and sunny. Instead it was gloomy, overcast, and--according to the radio--with a chance of rain. True Met fan that I was, I openly defied the elements themselves: nothing would stand in the way of my special moment!
Happily, all the posturing was unnecessary. The skies cleared somewhat, the precipitation left an IOU, and off we were to Shea, glorious Shea, wonderful Shea!
Of course, there had to be a price exacted; and despite leaving early we still came too late to witness any of the Top 10 Moments except some vague images on the far-off DiamondVision screen. (Four years later, I would chance upon the Moments stored on the Mets' website and finally, rapturously watch them.) Oh well, small matter. On to the game!
We got to our seats and watched Bobby Jones, the Mets' fourth starter and former farmhand, mow down the St. Louis Cardinals. I always liked Bobby J, stats notwithstanding--coming into the game he was 4-5 with an unlovely 6.19 ERA. In those days I tended to like people because of their names and looks, and wanted the Democrats to win all the elections because they had the color blue.
Bottom of the first, and up came big Benny Agbayani, one of the few Hawaiians to make it to the Majors, another Met farmahand and a particular favorite of mine because he always seemed to be smiling. Why he usually batted leadoff was a puzzler, since he didn't have any particular speed--understandable, at well over 200 pounds; then again, none of the Mets were really burning up the basepaths that year.
Cards starter Garrett Stephenson reared back and threw his first pitch of the game. Big Benny's bat met the pitch and redirected it into the left-field bullpen.
Everybody was immediately on their feet, applauding Agbayani's eighth homer of the year (out of an eventual fifteen). I was going absolutely wild with happiness. One thought kept running through my mind: We are going to win this game. Oh, yes, we are!
After Bobby J set down the Redbirds 1-2-3 once more, the fireworks show started again. Todd Zeile, the converted third baseman who had the unenviable task of succeeding John Olerud at first, worked a leadoff walk off Stephenson. Jay Payton, yet another Met farmhand who was a revelation as the starting center fielder in his first full season, singled. Two on, no out, and up stepped Bubba Trammell.
I found myself watching intently. Just a few hours earlier I had been reading in the papers of yesterday's exploits of Mike Bordick. On the 28th, Bordick, Trammell and reliever Rick White had arrived in two separate trades that sent six Mets packing, including Melvin Mora, the converted outfielder who had done a horribly subpar job as that year's replacement for injured shortstop Rey Ordonez. It took a few years, but Mora eventually became a star in Baltimore. Bordick, however, was a defensive whiz who would later break the record for consecutive errorless chances at short. Mets management must have figured that with a lineup that included Piazza, Alfonzo, Agbayani, Payton et al, they could afford to trade in a bat for some decent D...
Anyway, back to the paper. The Mets had beaten the Cardinals 4-3, with Bordick's bat being the difference as he became the first player since Todd Pratt back in '97 to hit a home run in his very first at-bat as a Met.
Now here came Trammell, acquired on the very same day, giving regular right fielder Derek Bell some rest. Bordick and Trammell, Bordick and Trammell, the players inextricably linking themselves in my mind, until finally the thought bubbled up: He's gonna do it, too.
And he did. 24 hours after Mike Bordick did so, Bubba Trammell hit a home run in his first Met at-bat, sending the ball skyrocketing beyond the right field fence.
And that was that. The Mets' vaunted offense had stalled after a mere two innings (ending up with just seven hits, plus three walks), but I was young and carefree. Stats? What were stats? Just numbers on the backs of baseball cards. Totally irrelevant to actual play. There was simply a knowledge I had that the Mets couldn't possibly lose. I would do anything to have that innocent certainty back today.
And, indeed, they didn't. Fernando Vina scored on a groundout in the sixth but otherwise the enemy didn't threaten much. St. Louis trotted out three relievers, including Dave Veres, which made me happy because he was one of the players I had in my nascent baseball card collection (now growing well and thriving, thankyouverymuch). Meanwhile, Bobby Jones was pitching his best game of the year so far, striking out eight and allowing just three hits and one walk. Once Veres had departed after his one inning of work, Jones was brought out for the ninth and final inning to thunderous applause--from me, anyway; it was already fixed in my mind who the Player of the Game was, Bubba Trammell's semi-grand slam notwithstanding. One down, two down, I'm already on my feet--but oh, Ray Lankford just has to spoil my fun, launching the ball in the vicinity of Trammell's shot and delaying the inevitable, which finally arrives in the form of Fernando Tatis becoming Jones's ninth strikeout victim of the day and giving him his first complete game of the season, sealing the three-game sweep. Mets win! Mets win! Proclaim it from the rooftops! Met win!
Bobby J would go on to upseat this game as his personal best of 2000 by tossing a one-hit gem vs. San Francisco, sending the team to the NLCS. He, Mike Bordick, and Bubba Trammell would no longer be Mets once Opening Day 2001 rolled around. The posters would get folded, spindled, mutilated, or simply lost. Eight years on, not one member of that Mets team still plays for them, and Shea (glorious Shea!) is about to go under the wrecker's ball.
But the memory of that one perfect, happy game is still locked up here, nice and safe.
Who says "you can't take it with you"?

TODAY'S BOOK: "Walk Two Moons", by Sharon Creech ((c) 1994)

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