Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Mets. 1969.

In 1969, when I was just 11, the New York Mets suddenly became a good baseball team. This was their eighth season in the major leagues and they finished last in six of their seven previous seasons, and next to last in other.

But this year the league expanded to 12 teams and broke into two divisions. The Mets, behind the arms of Seaver, Koosman, Gentry and a young Nolan Ryan, somehow won their division, the East, and now were facing the Atlanta Braves, the champions of the West.

(BTW, the Mets were 9 1/2 games behind the Cubs on August 13th of that year.)

Somehow, my old man (who was a young man at the time) had wangled tickets to game three of the Mets versus the Braves in Shea Stadium.

I don't remember anything about the game itself, except that, extraordinarily, the Mets won and won their first pennant with it.

I was standing next to my father as after the last out,  the assembled stormed the field. Finally, my father released me and I, too, got to climb over a low fence or two and run around on the field.

It was mayhem. People quickly began literally stealing the bases and tearing up the turf. I managed to rip up a six-inch square of the infield. I also, in my typical oblivious fashion, started aimlessly walking around the field, not watching where I was going.

Before long, I found myself almost on the steps of the Atlanta Braves' dugout, and almost face-to-face with its lone occupant. Hank Aaron was sitting on the bench, smoking a cigarette and taking in the scene.

There he was, Hank Aaron. Smoking a cigarette. Not as shocking as say, Willie Mays shooting heroin, but still.

I walked closer before one of New York's finest grabbed me by the arm and guided me away.

From there, I found my father, or he found me, and we headed home, to the sedate dumbness of my parents' suburban home.

It was a decade before I threw out my souvenir turf.

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