Time sure does fly. It feels like just yesterday we were enjoying the magical 2006 season, but it was truly nine years ago. It was a fun season right up until the bitter end, but that end was so bitter that it took a while for me to make peace with it. With the Mets headed back to the playoffs it’s time to really delve into the last time the Mets were in the playoffs.
It was a good time for me personally; I’d recently started my first ‘real’ job, but was still living with my parents.I had time and money and ultimately ended up at five of the six Mets home playoff games, missing only the first one. At the very last regular season game the Mets gave out a promo called a Fandini, a cross SNY-WFAN item that was part bandana part..weird. I carried it with me for all the games despite not having any idea what to really do with it besides twist it around in my hands nervously during tense moments. When I arrived home after game 7 it ended up tossed in a corner with my rally towel and didn’t move for months. Now I think it’s a drawer labeled “DON’T TOUCH, VOODOO CURSE” with my 2007 and 2008 playoff tickets still in their DHL envelopes.
I was at the end with two friends and we walked out in silence. You may remember it was not that easy to stay together in the crush of jostling fans exiting Shea Stadium, so it won’t surprise you to know that we ended up separated. Somehow the way I went led me past a guy trying to sell me a Cardinals cap. Whether a bum or a Cardinals fan I have no idea. Thanks to the Citi Field construction, we’d parked in Flushing and had to take the subway in silence before taking the car ride home in silence.
I forgot about the Mets for a while and left my stuff where I dropped it. I didn’t hear the replay of Endy’s catch until it was a menu clip on MLB The Show 2007. I’d taken a few pictures but didn’t even look at them as I backed them up and erased the memory card. I really didn’t think back to that playoff series much over the years. It’s probably time to heal and move on. The Mets are going to the playoffs again, and the last time they went was certainly memorable so I want to exorcise any last demons so I can really enjoy this run.
The Mets disposed of the Dodgers so easily that it seemed like they were just going to let all the pitching injuries roll of their back. The most memorable thing from that series was two Dodgers getting thrown out at the plate in one inning in the first game. We were riding high and feeling undefeatable despite some troubling warning signs.
The Mets owned New York too. October 7th 2006 featured a rare event; two NY postseason games on the same day at different times. I was attending a Jeopardy screening at Radio City Music Hall in the afternoon, and the start was actually delayed 10 minutes because the Jeopardy crew was in the back watching the Yankees be eliminated by the Tigers. Alex Trebek came out to tell us the good news about the Yankees elimination, and that we’d have to stick to rooting the Mets. It was the Mets time.
That was a Saturday, and what followed was an extended burial of the Yankees on talk radio and the primitive excuses for social media back in the day. The Mets wouldn’t play again until Thursday thanks to weird scheduling, a sweep, and a rain out. What was actually ticketed as NLCS game 2 became NLCS game 1 on Thursday with game 1 tickets being pushed from Wednesday to Friday.
Game 1 became the Beltran game. The Mets offense that would mostly struggle through the series was held to just six hits by Jeff Weaver and cast, but was outpitched by Tom Glavine. Billy Wagner notched his third save. Not only did Beltran absolutely crush a home run in the 6th off the scoreboard to drive in the only two runs of the game, he had an outfield assist to double Albert Pujols off first in the 4th. This was the coldest I’ve ever been at a ballgame. We were up in the last row of the Upper Deck, with the frigid wind blowing on us the entire game. I didn’t watch a clip of that home run until just now, when writing this paragraph nine years later.
Game two was a slugfest, and one I can’t help but remember as the first round of the So Taguchi vs Billy Wagner war. Taguchi’s 9th inning home run broke the tie and was the deciding run in the game.
The Cardinals won two of the three games in St. Louis, one of which was Steve Trachsel throwing his last game for the Mets as a preview to Tom Glavine throwing his last game for the Mets.
Heading out to Shea for game six was the weirdest feeling. I knew logically that winning two games could be tough, that any little mistake or struggle and the Mets would be going home. We were up against it, and in a tough spot. Most seasons end in crushing disappointment and I knew this was no different. The Mets had had a good season, and if they got bounced in six it wouldn’t be the end of the world. They’d fought hard. It’d be a good learning experience.
I remember almost nothing from this game. I remember all the nervous energy and edge of elimination tension. This wasn’t my first game like this; Ventura’s Grand Slam Single had been a similar feel. The Mets tacked on enough runs to hold off yet another So Taguchi hit off Billy Wagner, and off we were to game seven. That was my main takeaway, “Okay, now we get to come back tomorrow for winner takes all. deep breath.”
Game seven. Where the demons live.. All the talk was about how Oliver Perez had the highest regular season ERA of any game seven starter ever. The Mets had been boxed into a corner with the injuries to Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez, but for the most part the fill-ins held their own. The Mets struck first, thanks to Beltran, Delgado, and Wright, but Oliver Perez gave it right back. Then no one scored until the 9th. It was a tense game, but not especially in the top of the 6th when Perez issues a one-out walk to Jim Edmonds. It was the first pitch to Rolen that was blasted in the air to left that made the entire park suddenly go, “Oh crap.”
Endy made the catch, as you know, and then doubled off Edmonds who was understandably halfway to third. That moment was Shea Stadium’s final exaltation. The unbelievable catch has everyone as fired up as they’d been since Mike Hampton’s clinching complete game over the same Cardinals back in 2000. It was hard not to get swept up in that joy, in that belief that hey, this Mets team really could do anything. It was hard to believe they could lose after a catch like that, after a moment like that.
That feeling lasted maybe a half inning. The Mets mounted a rally against Jeff Suppan in the bottom of the 6th, with none other than Endy Chavez coming up with two outs and the bases loaded. The moment was perfect, how could Endy not come through again, this time with the bat? Greatest catch of all-time, clutchest player in Mets history. There would’ve been no end to the superlatives.
He didn’t come through of course. No matter how many times I see highlights from that game, he never does. Baseball stories don’t always fall in with those seemingly perfectly scripted moments. The game would go differently if the Mets scratched a run across there. Instead of Aaron Heilman in the 9th, it’s Wagner for the save. Perhaps Wagner would blow it too, as he hadn’t been great all series, but we’ll never know.
The season ended, and it was a few days before I was right again. Eventually I looked forward to 2007 and thought of 2006 as a stepping stone. I started writing about the Mets more, and they bounced back by sweeping the Cardinals in the first series of the season, making them 6-4 against them over the last 10. The Mets were 34-18 after May ended, surely 2006 was just a stumble.
We suffered a lot as Mets fans during that time. Looking back with the cold clarity of nearly a decade reminds me to be thankful for what we have right now; a legitimate chance at a championship and also a very real possibility that this might be the best Mets team for a decade. I don’t expect either to be true, but knowing that either might be helps to give me the proper perspective on 2015. Enjoy what’s already happened, enjoy what’s going to happen, and don’t pretend it won’t suck if they don’t go all the way.
Remember this? June 14th, 2008. The game would ultimately be rained out and the Texas Rangers would play Slip ‘N Slide on the tarp. Some WFAN callers would then criticize the Mets for not getting out there.
Banner Day is this Sunday, but Banner Day existed back in 1988 as well. Recently my aunt shared with me some photos she took of her banner that year and it’s a great look back at the Mets and Mets fans of 1988.
Can’t go wrong with a crossword.
Click the picture above to head over the MetsPolice where I’ll have more non-familial banners and Shannon will have other Banner Day info.
Mets news is starting to pick up a little, with Spring Training on the horizon.
Metspolice posted a picture of an old Shea van parked in the Citi Field parking lot and asks you to caption it.
Bobby Valentine may be headed to SNY. Would love to see this; Valentine’s an intelligent baseball guy who I could listen to talk baseball for hours.
Sadly, one of the Mets depth pickups at Catcher, Landon Powell, lost his baby daughter.
Mets VP Jay Horwitz started using Twitter. So far he’s been tweeting some interesting old stories, and is definitely worth a follow.
Here’s a dose of nostalgia for you: Random photos from the last game at Shea Stadium 9/28/2008.
I like to call this spot the Subway Section because it’s reminiscent of view from the subway platform outside of Shea Stadium where you could peek into the stadium. These photos are taken from just behind the right field scoreboard, next to the entrance to the Excelsior level inside corridor. You can watch replays on one of the televisions directly to your left.
It affords you a view right into the Pepsi Porch as well and if you look down, the World’s Fare Market concourse. In my eye this section includes the walkway to the Pepsi Porch, which doesn’t afford much in the way of real viewpoints of the game, but still offers a tease as you walk between sections.
Here’s a shot of the original “Subway Section” from Opening Day 2007.
Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times recounts some odd and interesting Mets games over the years in what he calls “50 years from the Mets junk drawer”
Check them out, some random oddities in there that are entertaining. Here’s a couple of random games I can think of. What have you got?
6/14/2008 against the Texas Rangers. I don’t know if this counts since it ended up being a rain-out, not a game. It did lead to the second-to-last true Mets doubleheader played at Shea Stadium though, on Father’s Day. Nathan’s did a hot dog eating contest before the game, and then the Texas Rangers used the Shea tarp as a slip-n-slide.
Another fun one was a game against the Orioles in which David Wright hit a Grand Slam into the Shea visitor’s bullpen off of Adam Loewen and the Orioles left-fielder mis-played a ball that ended up bouncing up his sleeve and getting caught in his jersey.
It was sort of surreal at the time. I don’t know if I fully grasped that Shea Stadium was no more when I took this shot heading into the game against the Padres on April 16th, 2009.
It was winter 2000 and New York was in the middle of a freezing cold stretch of weather. Wind chill estimates had the temperatures at subzero on the day that the Mets started selling tickets. This was before you could buy them online, and me and a couple of friends decided to camp out at Shea Stadium to buy tickets for the 2000 season.
We bundled up with blankets and layers and thermoses of coffee and hot chocolate and drove to Shea Stadium. We made record time since it was the middle of the night, parked, and got on line. We were by no means first; there were dozens of people already there, maybe as many as 200. It was frigid and we were basically standing around shivering with hundreds of dollars in our pockets because you had to pay cash. The warmest part was when you got to move a little bit to use the bathroom.
Eventually they moved most of the line inside. It cut down on the wind a little bit, but it wasn’t any warmer. As it got closer to the time tickets were actually on sale a couple of players, and manager Bobby Valentine, came out and were shaking frozen hands and signing autographs as the line started to move. Someone, presumably with WFAN, was handing out the keychains in the picture here. Eventually we were able to purchase our tickets, which included tickets to the epic 8th inning comeback against the Braves on Fireworks Night, climbed back into the car, blasted the heat and drove back home and fell asleep.
Nowadays online ticket sales have done away with this camping out, which is definitely a good thing for those of us that aren’t 17 anymore with free time to wait outside a baseball stadium for hours, but there’s a certain nostalgic machismo to having braved the elements to root for your team.
Below is scans from The Sporting News 1993 Baseball Yearbook previewing the 1993 season. It’s not real positive. There are even a lot of parallels you can draw to this year. The Mets are hoping Dwight Gooden and Bret Saberhagen can fully recover from surgery and return to Cy Young form. The Mets needed to cut payroll after having the highest one in MLB history in 1992 yet finishing 5th. GM Al Harazin is hoping most of the 1992 failure was due to injury.
Other interesting tidbits:
It’s due or die time for Todd Hundley. (Perhaps the same for 2012 Josh Thole?) The 1992 Mets trust Hundley’s defense, but are unsure if he’ll ever be a good hitter after hitting just .209 in his rookie year.
The Mets bullpen, besides John Franco, will also feature Mike Draper, a Rule V pick they took from the Yankees. Imagine how that’d go over these days?
The Mets open the season at Shea Stadium to play the newly minted Colorado Rockies.
Tags: 1993 baseball yearbook, 1993 Mets, 1993 new york mets, al harazin, bobby jones, bret saberhagen, brook fordyce, Colorado Rockies, dwight gooden, jeff kent, jeremy burnitz, john franco, mike draper, New York Mets, ryan thompson, sporting news