Thursday, February 16, 2006

Metstradamus' Salute To Baseball

I have to be honest the effort of full disclosure. I never heard of Jonathan Schwartz. Never heard of the word raconteur. I was horrid at French in junior high. Never listened to WNYC FM. Sports junkie? Yes. Renaissance man? Not on your life.

But when I heard that Schwartz's annual Salute To Baseball was preempted this year, something moved me. Many things change...too many things if you ask me. And they change too fast. People deserve their old standards wherever they can get them.

So today, as the sun rises in Port St. Lucie and the equiptment boxes are broken open, and the intermittent pops of catchers mitts replaces the silence of an otherwise sleepy town, I salute baseball.

I salute cheap tickets to spring training games in the warm tundra of Florida. I salute easy access to major league stars on small fields...although certain teams can stand to make life a little easier for the paying customers.

I salute high numbers worn by prospective major leagues with no names on the back. For every Dwight Gooden worn 64, there is a 76 worn by David Lamb.

I salute the silliness of spring training. I salute the fans who sat down the right field line during a 1986 spring game who, en masse, waved white towels after noted contact hitter Bruce Berenyi slapped three foul balls in succession at the same area of the stands.

I salute Rick Dempsey dressing up as Babe Ruth during a rain delay and sliding across the tarp. I salute the three Chicago Cubs, Jody Davis being one, who did the same thing, even thought they knew that Cub management frowned upon it. I salute Robin Ventura, who pulled the same act in Mike Piazza's jersey with a penciled in mustache.

I salute Rickey Henderson. Dammit, that senior citizen isn't going to give up, is he? Would you give up if a contemporary of yours was still active?

I salute ushers. Well...I salute the usher that spent the first inning and a half of the Phillies/Mets game on May 5th telling me about some goaltender in Sweden and how he was about to set the hockey world on fire (you might have heard of Henrik Lundqvist). And I salute the usher that told the first usher that he talks too much...then had his own conversation with me in the seventh inning.

I salute the schedule maker. Who else but the author of the 2006 major league baseball schedule would have the conviction to schedule the Rockies at home in early Denver...where it's cold...outdoors. Weathermen rarely get forecasts right for the following week. But lucky for baseball, they have a schedule maker that can forecast the weather months in advance. For that, this soothsayer salutes you.

I salute grapefruits. I don't eat them, but I salute the big acid juice sphere. Did you know: Grapefruits can have a negative effect on medication and the Seville orange may interact the same way with some medicines. So if you are taking medicines replace these fruits by other citrus. Clementines for instance.

I salute the hidden ball trick. Did you know that there are 231 known successful executions of the hidden ball trick? (234 if you count my softball career at first base...had it nailed down pat.)

I salute catchers. I tried to catch a full game a few years ago (because nobody else wanted to do it), and realized what a hard job it is. Your knees take a beating, your back gets wrenched, you have to deal with flaky pitchers, and not to mention those collisions at the plate. (P.S. I struck out twice. Lefty pitcher...nasty stuff.)

I salute the tweeners. We muse a lot about the Mets we love. We muse a lot more about the ones we hate. But how about the ones that might not command universal love, but stick in our conscious like a sesame seed to our teeth? Dave Magadan? Hubie Brooks? Gary Rajsich? John Pacella? Rico Brogna? Steve Henderson? Shawon Dunston? Lance Johnson? I salute them and those like them.

I salute whoever played the 1986 "Let's Go Mets" video on the Diamondvision last season. I felt old, yet I felt warm and fuzzy. Thank you.

I salute Gary Cohen. The pantheon of Mets announcers is exclusive: Kiner, Murphy, and Nelson are the only members. In fact, it's hard to start out as an announcer in this day and age to be synonymous with one franchise. But Gary Cohen, with his promotion to full time TV duty, is well on his way. And while most mourn the loss of Cohen on the radio, it's a move I completely endorse and welcome (not to mention salute). And while we're at it, I salute Howie Rose...for not only being a solid announcer, but being a solid announcer for a team he lived and died with growing up.

I salute baseball cards.

Even this one. (Does anyone remember that he once played the game?)

I salute Leo Mazzone. Finally, he leaves. (Can you salute someone and wish good riddance at the same time?)

I salute the left field picnic area, Eutaw street, the sausage and peppers stand on the other side of the green monster, the apple, Alice Cooper's restaurant, Keyspan Park, ivy covered walls, McCovey Cove, the fountains in Kansas City, the swimming pool in Arizona, the exploding scoreboard, and the Crawford boxes.

I salute Scully, Harwell, Hamilton, Brennaman, Castiglione (the elder), Miller, and the rest of the voices that teach us about the game, tell the tales of yesteryear as if it was happening before our eyes, and put the emotion of the fan into the words we wish we were smart enough to say.

I salute the bloggers. Because before blogging, there were so many smart, talented people who deserved a platform to be a voice of the game (and somehow, a dumb guy snuck in to the smart, talented group).

But most of all, I salute the game. Though it's run by a borderline buffoon, its most hallowed records are being challenged by a curmudgeon, its poster boy is a cyborg, its threatened by designer drugs, its signature franchise cheats, its parks are as small as my shoeboxes, it comes up with the dumbest, most dangerous ideas, it loses mascots to other sports, and it might have been the indirect cause of the gathering of the worst group of people ever on the face of the earth, the game is self correcting. And the moments that make us smile make the other stuff bearable.

Hopefully, another of those moments come during the odyssey that starts today.


fredstradamus said...

Very, very, very nice piece. Anyone who didn't click on all the links in the penultimate paragraph: go back now!

G-Fafif said...

Baseball salutes you right back, dude. Except maybe those you rightly skewered.

But you don't need their salute. You have the rest of us.

Benny Blanco said...

Good stuff man.
I love the game of baseball.
And looking a your profile, 35 man? jeeze... you ARE old.

Anonymous said...

Very nice and enjoyable post man. - Old Backstop.

pburke said...

absolustely fantastic article. you have a gift for wordmanship.


Minglet said...

So..the Rangers are leading the Atlantic Division (and looking incredible while doing it) and I could now careless about that. Lets get baseball started!


ajsmith said...

Hey man,

Nice piece.

There are two days a year when I can always forget about the things that are wrong with the game, and with the Mets. Pitchers and Catchers, and Opening Day.

Here's wishing for a few more days like 'em this year. And wishing you the best on another season with this insightful and well-written blog. You're a pleasure to read.

- adam

The Metmaster said...

Well done. Perhaps your finest. And Jonathan Schwartz is a legend, just like Francis Albert You-Know-Who. (but I'm much older than you, so you're forgiven)

iamSINATRA said...

35 is not old.

Fantastic piece. Brilliant. Links made me laugh out loud, cry tears of joy and curse.

I am so far out of the loop that I had no clue about Cohen's departure to TV. Please tell me it's not Healy. I'd rather listen to cats in heat or senior citizens dealing with erectile dysfunctions and/or kidney stones.

HUGE Sinatra fan here...btw. I saw him 8 times in concert (yes, I am well under 80 years old). Sinatra described Jonathan Schwartz as a man who "knows more about me than I do."

Perhaps a salute is in order for David Cone as we approach the 14 year anniversary of his lawsuit.


Anonymous said...

well done metstra,

I always had a soft spot for Hubie Brooks. His arrival along w/ Mookie in '82 marked the beginning of Hope for me as a Met fan. He wasn't around for the payoff, but I'll always remember...

Pray for the toe, brother. Always pray for the toe.


Darth Marc said...


Nice piece. But you couldn't resist taking a shot at the empire could you? It's going to be fun to watch you die.....

jabair said...

4/8/1988, 9th inning, Steve Jeltz
SS for the phillies gets Gary Carter out with a hidden ball trick to end the game. it was Gary Carters b’day that day...

Metstradamus said...

Didn't Steve Jeltz break up a no hitter by David Cone? I was out at that game.