When I was a wee one depending on Murph and WWOR for my Mets coverage, games at the old Vet seemed could just as well have been 3,000 miles away as far as I was concerned...even with all of the Mets fans seemingly in attendance. In sixth or seventh grade, Philadelphia was a school trip...which only proved to me how far away it was. Of course, sixth or seventh grade for me was around the time when school trips were actually designed to learn something. Somewhere in my vast piles of what some would call junk but what I would call memorabilia is a 76ers key chain, and an engraved coin from the Franklin mint (some learning experience I had, right?)
The next time I returned to Philadelphia was 1994...this time to actually see some baseball. It was May 29th, and not only did we almost see a combined Phillies no-hitter which would have included David West (!), but we almost saw a woman die as she fainted in the concourse from the 95 degree heat in the 700 section and hit her head on the concrete. Luckily, she made it through. We also saw Mitch Williams return to Philly as an Astro and get booed out of his mind. Fun.
I had been to Philly a few more times for hockey games, but hadn't set foot in the place in 10 years (only passed it by). Now for a guy who was hardly motivated to get out of bed for a Thursday afternoon game at Shea this season (a half hour trip door to gate), it had to be something outrageous to put a seed in me to actually get out of bed at an unworldly hour (which for me is 9AM) and take the world shrinking train known as Amtrak to Philly for an afternoon game.
That "something outrageous" was Dave Murray writing about cheesesteaks.
Yes, the way to my heart is through my stomach. Thanks, Dave.
But losing the past three games in the Bank put a little extra oomph in this trip, because now I put myself on a mission to restore some order in the universe. Yeah, there was still a 12 game lead so it wasn't an emergency. However, with the Mets at their flattest point in the season, it was time for me to put my undefeated road record on the line in the teeth of the beast: Philadelphia.
And if it didn't work, at least I'll have some cheesesteaks.
So off I went...on what started out as a day trip to see the Mets in Philly for the very first time.
It ended as perhaps one of my most insane days spent as a Met fan.
Let me start off by saying that Amtrak absolutely screwed me today. You would figure that a 10:35AM train (scheduled for a 11:55AM Philadelphia arrival) would be more than sufficient for a 1:05 start. One problem: the train was moving so slow that I could swear I saw Greg Luzinski outrun it. The train left fifteen minutes late. By 11:15 it was still in Elizabeth. By 12:15 it was still in Trenton. And by 12:30 I had officially lost all hope of seeing the top of the first inning (considering I didn't yet have a ticket).
Twelve forty five p.m. is when my train finally rolls (ambles) into Philadelphia. I'm now officially screwed...and nowhere was it more evident was when I got to the ticket window and asked what they had for one seat, figuring between cancellations and what have you, I might get a good seat.
"So how does it feel to be swept by the Phillies?" -Phillies fan towards Metstradamus while on the ticket line.
"When your team becomes an object in my rear view mirror, I'll answer your question." -my reply
Instead, standing room only was all that was left.
All of a sudden, I felt like Caesar from the movie "Heaven Help Us" when he's at the prom...and I think it was Rooney that told him that a girl wanted to dance with him, and Caesar's classic reply was: "Caesar doesn't dance." I felt like telling the ticket vendor that "Metstradamus doesn't stand".
Now after three losses you would think that my presence in Philly would mean that there would be some hell to pay for the Phillie faithful. Now I'm told I have to stand? Forget about it folks, at that point, the Phillies have already lost.
So you guessed it, I missed the top of the first and also the first Met run. At this typing, I still have no flippin' clue how the Mets got that first run. Oh, and I'm standing. But we did get a giveaway! Fans received a matted painting of Tom Gordon with the title "Pride of the Phillies".
Tom Gordon is the Pride of the Phillies? Have our standards sunk so low that it only takes four and a half months to become the pride of an entire franchise? Is he the luckiest man left on the face of the earth now?
The tide turned in that second inning...two sac bunts, two run scoring singles. When Mike DiFelice knocked one home, was there any hope left for the Phillies? I mean, they've renamed the Mendoza Line after DiFelice...and he knocked one home? This was a guy the Phillies didn't even have a picture for to show on the scoreboard and he's knocking Scott Mathieson around. Good times.
So in the third inning, it's time to head off to Ashburn Alley to finally get me some cheesesteak. Now Dave mentioned Pat's and Geno's as the two most famous places for cheesesteaks...but I had some inside info. My mole from Philly (a Temple student who incidentally has the same full name as a prominent Cardinals pitcher from the 1980's) told me that not only was Tony Luke's his favorite, but there was a Tony Luke's at the ballpark which actually was not a cheap imitation. I was sold.
And so were a lot of cheesesteaks, as you can clearly see by the long line in the picture above. At $7.50 a pop, they were obviously jacked up from what I was told they usually cost in a regular Tony Luke's ($4.00), but well worth it. I brought a few home for the family and let me say that they keep well.
The Mets kept well today too, as Carlos Delgado broke out of his slump large today, with two home runs and a triple (yes, a triple...although one Phillies fan tried to blame it on the fact that David Dellucci is more of a left fielder than a right fielder). Keep Carlos' big day in mind. It's a key part of my adventure.
- 2:18 PM: Carlos Delgado's second home run makes it 6-2 Mets.
- 2:20 PM: The first remnants of an "E-A-G-L-E-S-EAGLES!" chant emanates from the Phillie Phaithphul.
Not that I saw a lot of the game mind you...between long lines for cheesesteaks and constantly peering over fans heads while doing about three laps around the lower rung of the stadium looking for an unreserved place to stand I barely caught much of the action. But the one thing I'll take away from this game, and it will keep my heart warm during those cold winter months, is that Pat Burrell might well be more hated in his own city as he is at Shea Stadium. If you didn't hear the massive boos Burrell received during the game today, consider this exchange after Burrell popped out to third with runners on first and third and one out in the sixth:
Phillie fan number one: Come on Pretty Boy Dellucci, get a hit!Is there a Phillie blog with a hate list? Please Lord, let it be so.
Phillie fan number two: That's not the pretty boy, the pretty boy just popped out.
Phillie fan number three: Burrell's not a pretty boy...he's a piece of s**t!!!
There was also a humorous moment around the sixth inning, as a woman seemingly tried to look over my head at something, so I ducked to get out of her way. Then she ducked, so being the good sport I am I leaned away. She leaned towards me. I changed direction. She leaned towards me again. It took me a couple of minutes of trying to be a gentleman and get out of her way only to have her move in a position to where I was blocking her to realize:
She's trying to look at my hat.
I claim to be a soothsayer. I never claimed to be very bright. (P.S. My hat was a Mr. Met model.)
So the game is over and the Mets have emerged victorious, just as I have planned, and my road record remains unblemished at a whopping 3-0. As I'm trying to figure out just how much the outcome made up for my horrid commute to the Bank, while watching a thousand little Phillie fan children run the bases in a cute recreation of the first two games of this series, little did I realize that the fun was just beginning.
The Phillies website claims that guest services will call you a taxi if needed. That is a lie. Guest services merely sent me out to the third base gate where I was given the impression that there would be taxis as bountiful as marshmallows in a perfect box of Lucky Charms...yet in fact there were none. So here I go on a Quixote like chase around the Bank for a taxi stand.
I didn't see a taxi, but I did see lots of vendors hawking knock off "Dallas Sucks, T.O. is a Jerk" shirts. And what else, or should I say, who else did I see passing by me in my so far fruitless attempt to find a taxi?
Why it's former Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez!
Before you ask, I resisted the urge to say "nice game, pretty boy." Keith was gracious to all that recognized him outside of the park...which was like, one person. But Keith was gracious.
Finally, finally, I find a taxi that takes me back to 30th street station to catch the Amtrak back home. I get there about an hour before my scheduled trip back (taking into account extra innings and such), so I go on the ticket line to try to exchange my ticket for an earlier ride. I notice a couple of other Met fans...an older man and his son, I think...staring at me in my David Wright all star jersey (which is the same color as the vendor shirts at Citizens Bank, just in case you were curious) and here I am in my arrogance thinking they want to start a conversation with me about the game. I would have been more than obligatory, except they were staring more through me than at me. And for the life of me couldn't figure out why as the line filled significantly with people.
About ten minutes later, I notice the son, who is ahead of me in the line that was wrapping around, take out a magazine and hand it to someone behind me in said ticket line at Philly's version of Penn Station. Before I knew it, the magazine was being signed. I have a celebrity behind me?
It was my second encounter with a Met first baseman, and I figure this time I'm have to say something. I'm a blogger, right? Words flow from my pallet like the River Thames. Surely I can come up with the quintessential statement to not only crystallize my thoughts but dazzle the intellect of the man who had two homers and a triple today, right?
"Hey Carlos, great game today."Five hundred some odd blogs of experience to draw on, and that's the best I could do folks.
The father of the duo in front of me actually asked a legitimate question.
"Two home runs today and you can't even go back with the team?"Like I said, a legitimate question.
The answer didn't matter...partly because I didn't hear it clearly, but mostly because here's Carlos Delgado, hero to the masses, traveling with the masses.
Man of the people.
So let's review, Keith Hernandez and Carlos Delgado...within five feet of Metstradamus, in the span of an hour. These things happen in threes, right? So which Met first baseman was I going to encounter on the way home? Would it be Rico Brogna in Penn Station? Mike Jorgensen on the 7 train? Dave Kingman in my apartment discussing women's lib with my wife? My life had become a game of "Clue" (I have Mo Vaughn, in the kitchen, with a rolling pin.)
Bizarre...truly bizarre. And all because I was in the mood for a cheesesteak!