Paul Lo Duca
All over the internet yesterday was video of Endy Chavez‘s miraculous catch robbing Scott Rolen of a go-ahead homer in the top of the sixth inning of a tied Game 7. It was one of, if not the, greatest catch ever made, and it came against a hated rival with the pennant on the line.
— New York Mets (@Mets) October 19, 2020
For 14 straight years, this catch is celebrated. We should all agree there should not be a 15th year.
After that catch, neither Jose Valentin nor Chavez could deliver on what was a bases loaded one out situation.
All told, this ranks as one of the most frustrating and depressing losses in Mets history. This loss was further exacerbated by collapses the following two seasons, and the complete and utter failure which was the first version of Citi Field.
That’s nothing to say about the Wilpons getting caught up in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme only for them to be needlessly propped up by Major League Baseball.
After that Chavez catch, everything just kept getting worse for the Mets and their fans. Frankly, after that catch is was a nightmare which lasted for nearly a decade. Much of the reason for that was the meddlesome ways of the clueless Jeff Wilpon who kept finding new ways to embarrass this franchise we all adore.
Every Mets fan should love Chavez for this catch and for all he gave the Mets. We can and should love the players from that era who were a mixture of snakebit and not quite fully supported by ownership never ready to go all-in on winning, and that’s even when they had the financial capacity to do that.
Still, we should all fall short of celebrating the mile. We can all acknowledge it was perhaps the greatest catch ever made. However, in the end, the Mets lost in the most excruciating way possible, and no Mets fan anywhere should really look to celebrate a moment which is intrinsically tied to the loss.
If you think this is too far or it’s too far, consider this. There is not a Red Sox fan alive who celebrates Dave Henderson‘s homer off Rick Aguilera. That is among the pantheon of the most clutch homers ever hit, and no one cares because the Red Sox lost that game and series in the most excruciating way possible.
Celebrating Chavez’s catch is really no different than celebrating Henderson’s homer. That’s why it’s time to stop and turn the page. With Steve Cohen at the helm, we instead need to look forward to celebrating big moments like the Mets winning the World Series.
It’s easy to overreact to what Tomas Nido did yesterday. After all, his two homers and six RBI put him in the company of Gary Carter, Todd Hundley, Mike Piazza, and Paul Lo Duca. When you’re capable of doing that, you’re a star in the making.
The thing is Nido isn’t that type of player. He entered this season as a career 39 OPS+ hitter. Before he was called up to the majors, he had just one minor league season with an OPS higher than .660.
No, Nido has never been an offensive force. When you look at the Mets catchers, the offensive thread behind the plate is Wilson Ramos. Well, at least he’s supposed to be
So far this year, Ramos is hitting .196/.274/.286 (60 OPS+). While Ramos has typically been a slow starter (April has historically been his the second worst month), this is a new floor for him.
As an example, last year, Ramos hit .320/.393/.340 over the first 16 games. The average and OBP were there, but the power wasn’t. The power wouldn’t come until May. His power would improve in June.
What’s interesting with Ramos was while he had 14 homers last season, he only had one homer through the Mets first 16 games. That’s where he stands now.
If he follows on that power pace, Ramos’ second homer won’t come until the 40th game of the season. Not only would it take him 40 games to catch Nido, but the season would also be 2/3 over.
No one realistically believes Nido will outhit or out-homer over the course of the season. That’s the case even with Nido doing just that 1/3 of the way through the season, and as Justin Toscano of nj.com explains is a retooled swing and refined approach.
What’s odd is it is not even close. Nido has a 225 OPS+ to Ramos’ 59. Yes, Nido’s will drop precipitously, but how soon before Ramos starts hitting like Ramos again?
We don’t know, and the question for the Mets is how long can they wait for it to happen. That issue gets magnified by Nido being VASTLY superior defensively.
Per Baseball Savant, Ramos ranks 44th of all qualified catchers in pitch framing. Of catchers with over 400 chances, he’s the third worst in the league. Put another and simpler way, he’s bad behind the plate.
While Nido hasn’t qualified, his numbers were better than Ramos’ last year, and he has a better reputation as a defensive catcher. Of course, that’s partially because Ramos has never been known for his defensive prowess.
Overall, Nido is giving the Mets a much better chance to win 1/3 of the way through the season. In fact, Nido’s fWAR (which incorporates framing) has him at 0.4 to Ramos’ -0.1.
If you’re the Mets, how much longer do you wait around for Ramos to turn it around? The team is two games under .500, and they’re barely in the playoff picture.
When Nido is the catcher hitting homers and framing the low pitches better for a staff of sinkerball pitchers, you really wonder if Ramos even has a role on this team right now. He and the Mets are running out of time to find out.
When it comes to the number 59 in Mets history, there are a lot of bad memories. That started with the first to wear it, Guillermo Mota, shaking off Paul Lo Duca and throwing a pitch which would change the entire course of the 2006 NLCS.
After Mota, there was Josh Smoker who had durability issues, and Antonio Bastardo. Bastrardo struggled so much the Mets actually welcomed back Jon Niese. That brings us to Fernando Salas, who was one of the few players to do something positive in a Mets uniform.
The Mets had obtained Salas from the Los Angeles Angels at the end of the waiver trade deadline. At that point, the Mets were 1.5 games of the Wild Card, and they were in desperate need of bullpen help. Like Addison Reed the year before, Salas was great over the final month of the season.
In 17 appearances, Salas was 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA, 0.635 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9. Remarkably, he did not walk one batter while striking out 19 batters. Over that stretch, no one in the league made more appearances than he did, and he would have the seventh best WHIP. Overall, he proved to be the missing key to that bullpen which helped the Mets go from the outside looking in for the 2016 postseason.
Salas would return to the Mets after signing a deal in the offseason. He got off to a hot start with seven scoreless appearances and a 2.89 ERA over his first nine. However, he would eventually wilt after Terry Collins kept going to the whip with him. After his struggles, he was released a few weeks prior to the anniversary of the day the Mets obtained him.
While things did not end well, and Salas was not up to the rigors of pitching in the bullpen for Collins, he was everything the Mets needed him to be in 2016. It is very likely without Salas’ performance in 2016, the Mets might’ve missed a Wild Card they claimed by just one game over the St. Louis Cardinals. For that 2016 performance, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 59.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky
25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy
29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza
32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey
34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver
42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw
46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Armando Benitez
50. Sid Fernandez
51. Rick White
52. Yoenis Cespedes
53. Chad Bradford
54. T.J. Rivera
55. Orel Hershiser
56. Andres Torres
57. Johan Santana
58. Jenrry Mejia
With all due respect to Ed Kranepool, an original Met who held many team records, there is no doubt whatsoever Jose Reyes was undoubtedly the best player to ever wear the number 7 for the New York Mets.
From the moment, Reyes was called up to the majors, he was one of the most exciting players who ever donned the Mets uniform. He had this rare combination of speed, hustle, and a rifle of an arm. Really, the best word to describe him was “electric.” That was evident in his first ever game hitting an infield single to second in his first ever at-bat against John Thomson and then scoring from first on a Roger Cedeno double.
Not too long after that was his first injury, triple, homer, and stolen base. On the triples and stolen bases, no one in Mets history would have more. On the homer, it showed how Reyes was just a dynamic lead-off hitter who was this incredible combination of speed and power.
For some reason, the Mets didn’t quite know what they had in him, and they went out to sign Kazuo Matsui to be their shortstop, and they moved Reyes to second. Ultimately, as would be the case many times in his career, his talent would shine through, and he would eventually overtake Matsui and force him to second.
However, due to injuries, he wouldn’t have his first full season until 2005. In that year, the once injury prone player would play all but one game. That year would be the first year of a two year stretch where he would lead the league in both triples and stolen bases. It was the next year which would be year he figured it out.
Working with Willie Randolph, Reyes finally harnessed himself, and he would become an All-Star. Mostly, he was a dynamic threat atop the lineup. He drove that powerful Mets lineup, and he would be just about as important as any player in the league. We saw an example of that when he had a great Game 6 in the NLCS when the Mets were in danger of elimination:
That game could have been the best game of his career. He led off the game with a homer to help get the Mets an early lead. He was 3-for-4 with two runs, a homer, and an RBI. He was also a perfect 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts against Yadier Molina. After his second stolen base in the seventh, he put himself in scoring position for Paul Lo Duca‘s two RBI single to seal the game. In Game 7, he would be absolutely robbed of a series winning hit.
Really, it was during this 2006 season Reyes established himself as the best lead-off hitter in the game, and he was on his way to becoming the best lead-off hitter in Mets history. In 2007, he beat Cedeno’s record for stolen bases in a year, and by the end of 2008, before the Mets moved out of Shea Stadium, he surpassed Mookie Wilson for the Mets all-time record.
While Citi Field seemed ill-suited for the Mets, it wasn’t for Reyes. The ballpark seemed designed just for him. When he wasn’t dealing with injuries, he was hitting the ball hard into the gaps. Finally, in 2011, he did what no other Met had ever done by winning the batting title. For a moment, his bunt single to ensure the title on the last game of the season would seem to be his last moment as a New York Met:
There was a war of words over whether the Mets offered Reyes a contract or not, and for some reason, Reyes was actually booed when he returned to New York as a member of the Miami Marlins. From there, he would go to Toronto, and then Colorado. Things took a completely unexpected turn when Reyes was arrested for domestic violence on the same day the Mets blew a lead in Game 4 of the World Series.
Reyes found himself suspended and without a team as the Rockies used the incident as an opportunity to release Reyes to hand over the shortstop duties to Trevor Story. With his friend and longtime teammate David Wright unable to play due to spinal stenosis, the Mets came calling to bring him back and begin his redemption.
Even with all that happened, Reyes would be greeted with open arms by the fans, and he would be welcomed again with the “Jose!” chants. It was during this run, Reyes would have his truly last great moment as a member of the New York Mets homering in the bottom of the ninth against the Phillies in one of the games which propelled the Mets to the top Wild Card spot:
From there, Reyes would not be able to replicate the type of success he had in his brief 2016 stint, but he would stick around to mentor Amed Rosario. He would also be there for one last time to play alongside Wright in 2018 in what would prove to be the final game they’d play beside one another in what was the final season for both players.
Overall, Reyes is not just the best shortstop in team history, he is on the shortlist of the best players in team history. He is undoubtedly the best lead-off hitter they have ever have with team records in triples and stolen bases. While his story is as complicated as they come, he is undoubtedly the best Mets player to ever wear the number 7.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Reyes was the seventh best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 7.
With the Washington Nationals defeating the Houston Astros to win the 2019 World Series, the National League East has joined the American League Central as the only divisions in baseball to have had each of their teams win a World Series.
In terms of the AL Central, while all of their teams have won a World Series, not all of them have done it recently. For example, the Cleveland Indians last won in 1948, which was before the Mets or Nationals even came into existence. The Nationals first became a franchise in 1969, and they played their first game against Tom Seaver and the New York Mets. Little did anyone know it at the time, but that 1969 Mets team would win the World Series.
The Mets next World Series title came in 1986. As noted by Mark Simon of Sports Info Solutions, Jesse Orosco would become the last relief pitcher to have an RBI in a World Series game. This would also mark the last time the New York Mets have won a World Series.
Since that time, each of the Mets division rivals have won at least one World Series.
In the strike shortened 1995 season, the Atlanta Braves finally got over the hump when World Series MVP Tom Glavine pitched eight shut out innings allowing just one hit against an absolutely stacked Cleveland Indians lineup. Two years later, Glavine would lose Game 6 of the NLCS to MVP Livan Hernandez and the Florida Marlins.
When Edgar Renteria singled home Craig Counsell in the 11th inning of Game 7, that Marlins team would win their first World Series. Six years later, the Marlins would win their second World Series when Josh Beckett pitched a complete game shutout on three days rest to beat the 2003 New York Yankees in six games.
In 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies would break through and win the second World Series title in team history. Their clincher came when they and the Tampa Bay Rays resumed a rain shortened game the following day. The Phillies returned to the World Series the following year, but they lost in six to the New York Yankees.
That leaves the Mets with the longest drought, which stands at 33 years, as the longest in the division. It is not like the Mets haven’t had their chances.
Everything changed in 1988 with Mike Scioscia‘s grand slam. The 1999 Mets couldn’t pull off the miracle with Armando Benitez and John Franco blowing a save before Kenny Rogers walked in the series winning run. The following year, both Todd Zeile and Mike Piazza would come just short of hitting homers.
The 2006 Mets saw Guillermo Mota shake off Paul Lo Duca, and Carlos Beltran take a wicked Adam Wainwright curveball. There were the ensuing collapses the following years with Glavine getting shellacked by the Marlins in 2007, and Scott Schoeneweis allowing a homer to Wes Helms the ensuing year.
The Mets wouldn’t return to the postseason until 2015. Their World Series hopes were dashed when Daniel Murphy overran a ball, and Lucas Duda thew one away. The following year, Madison Bumgarner proved why he is an all-time great postseason pitcher with his throwing a complete game shutout in the 2016 Wild Card Game.
With Zack Wheeler being a free agent, the Mets offseason was already going to be an interesting one. It is now all the more interesting as you consider all the moves this team will need to make to bring home the team’s first World Series since 1986.
In the first inning of Game 6, Alex Bregman homered off Stephen Strasburg to give the Houston Astros a 2-1 lead. For some reason, Bregman would carry his bat to first base and give it to First Base Coach Don Kelly.
— Houston Astros (@astros) October 30, 2019
In an era where we are beginning to see more and more acceptance of bat flips and home run celebrations, this did seem a bit excessive. There were former players like Paul Lo Duca, who tweeted, ” If this wasn’t the world series he would get one in the ear.”
He’s not the only one who thought that, and certainly, you’re left to wonder what pitchers of yesteryear would’ve done in that situation. At least by reputation, you can’t believe pitchers like Bob Gibson would’ve let it go unanswered.
Well, just because a pitcher doesn’t throw at a batter in retaliation, it doesn’t mean you can’t respond in kind. We saw that when Juan Soto hit an absolute bomb off of Justin Verlander to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead.
— MLB (@MLB) October 30, 2019
It wasn’t just his absolutely destroying that baseball which made it the perfect response. No, it was his carrying the bat to first like Bregman before dropping it in front of First Base Coach Tim Bogar.
We all can debate about whether celebrating is showing up the opponent. We can also debate whether there should be a retaliation for those celebrations. Where we all can agree is there is no better way to exact revenge than to do what Soto did.
First and foremost, we all know the ideal 2019 World Series would involve the Mets beating whichever American League team won the pennant. As it stands, the 2019 World Series winner is not going to be an ideal situation for Mets fans. To that end, here’s a ranking on what Mets fans would probably like to see happen.
The Mets and Astros broke into the Majors together in 1962. Through that time, the only time these two franchises ever really clashed was the 1986 NLCS. In the NLCS, there were (proven) allegations Mike Scott was scuffing the ball. Fortunately, thanks to a miracle rally in Game 6 and Keith Hernandez threatening Jesse Orosco if he threw another fastball, the Mets prevailed in that series.
Really, if you want to be sour grapes about the Astros, you could pinpoint how an Astros World Series would cement their status as a better expansion franchise than the Mets. Still, when you see the other options, that is the least of Mets fans concerns.
The Washington Nationals franchise began in 1969 when they were the Montreal Expos. Before the time the Expos moved to Washington, the only real issue you’d have is the Expos taking out the Mets in 1998 ending their Wild Card dreams. Of course, with the Expos sending the Mets Gary Carter in 1985, you could overlook it.
Really, if you look deeper, there isn’t much to the Mets/Nationals rivalry. The two teams have only been good together in three seasons. In 2015, the Mets embarrassed a Nationals team who choked figuratively, and thanks to Jonathon Papelbon attacking Bryce Harper, they literally choked too.
In 2016, Daniel Murphy tipped the power balance between the two teams, but that still didn’t keep the Mets out of the postseason. After that season, the Nationals would remain a competitive team while the Mets fell by the wayside.
This year, the two teams were good again with some memorable games. The August 10th game was a real highlight for the Mets with Luis Guillorme‘s pinch hit homer followed by J.D. Davis‘ sacrifice fly to give the Mets an exciting victory. Of course, the less said the better about Paul Sewald, Luis Avilan, Edwin Diaz, Ryan Zimmerman, and Kurt Suzuki, the better.
New York Yankees
Putting aside Yankee fans crowing about all the rings won back in the days of the reserve clause and the game being integrated, there is enough history between these teams to despite the Yankees. There’s Derek Jeter being named the MVP of the 2000 World Series. As bad as the blown game against the Nationals was, Luis Castillo dropping Alex Rodriguez leading to Mark Teixeira scoring the winning run arguably felt all the worse.
Since Interleague Play started, this has been an intense rivalry with the Mets having a number of low moments. Aside from these, there was Mariano Rivera being walked to force in a run, Johan Santana having a career worst start, and everything Roger Clemens. Really, Clemens throwing a ball and bat at Mike Piazza with the Yankees who once accused Clemens of head hunting rushing to his defense is sufficient enough to hate them.
Of course, we then have Joe Torre, who has been the one who not only delivers the message but also defends Major League Baseball not allowing the Mets to wear the First Responders’ caps on 9/11.
St. Louis Cardinals
The so-called “Best Fans in Baseball” called the New York Mets teams of the 1980s pond scum. That’s how intense this rivalry was, and really, continues to be.
Going back to the 1980s, this was as intense a rivalry as there was in baseball. You can pinpoint to any number of plays and player like Terry Pendleton, John Tudor, and so much more. Even with realignment, this rivalry never truly subdued. The Mets got the better of the Cardinals with Timo Perez, Edgardo Alfonzo, and NLCS MVP Mike Hampton running roughshod over the Cardinals.
In 2006, Adam Wainwright freezing Carlos Beltran is forever crystalized into everyone’s minds. Beyond that was Scott Spiezio‘s game tying RBI triple off Guillermo Mota (why did he shake off Paul Lo Duca) and So Taguchi‘s homer off Billy Wagner. There was much more including Albert Pujols trash talking Tom Glavine (back when that was a bad thing).
Overall, the absolute worst case scenario is a Cardinals-Yankees World Series. Really, Yankees against anyone is the worst case scenario. Of course, that is the worst case for this World Series. The real worst case is seeing what Brodie Van Wagenen has in store as he tries to top trading away Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to get Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz.
There have been a few times in the Mets history where they have surprised or even shocked the World in making their run to the postseason. The biggest example is 1969, which occurred 50 years ago. The Mets would make their Miracle run in 1973, and they would emerge in 1999, 2006, and 2015.
When you look at those rosters, there are players who are comparable to the players on this year’s Mets roster. Here’s a look at how it breaks down:
Wilson Ramos (Paul Lo Duca) – Ramos may not have been the catcher the Mets may have originally expected to bring in during the offseason, but like Lo Duca, he could be the perfect fit for this team and surprisingly be a very important piece to this club.
Juan Lagares (Endy Chavez) – Chavez was the defensive oriented player who was pressed into more action than anticipated, and his play on the field was a big reason the 2006 Mets came withing a game of the World Series.
Corey Oswalt (Logan Verrett) – The Mets need a low round drafted prospect to put together a string of great starts to help put this team over the top. With his increased velocity, this could be Oswalt.
And finally, there is Mickey Callaway, who we are hoping will be able to accomplish what Willie Randolph accomplished by proving himself a good manager in his second year and by leading the Mets to being the best team in the National League.
For the second straight year, Seth Lugo has the best Player’s Weekend jersey with “Quaterrican.” Seeing that jersey as well as some others we will see over the course of this weekend coupled with the color players from Mets past, it does not you wonder which jerseys Mets players from years past would have selected. On that front, the Mets bloggers offer some of the jerseys we would have like to have seen.
Tom Seaver. “THE FRANCHISE.”
Second place is Gary Carter. “KID.”
Franklin Gutierrez, who was a Met for ten minutes, was nicknamed “Death to Flying Things”. I’m sorry but the only two things that could top that would have been Richie Hebner using a middle finger emoji, or anything Willie Montanez would have come up with.
Also, did you know that George Foster‘s nickname was “Yahtzee”? I would buy that.
I like seeing the nicknames we don’t learn about as matter of course, the ones that are personal or known more in the clubhouse than in the public. So ideally, Tom Seaver would have been SPANKY, Willie Mays BUCK and Howard Johnson SHEIKH.
Also, though it would have been hard to resist CHOO-CHOO for Clarence Coleman, I’d like to believe the catcher of few words from the 1962 Mets would have gone with BUB. And given that it was 1962, I could only hope everything was properly spelled.
Looking back, a Darryl Strawberry “Straw” jersey would have been hilarious for the noted coke problems of that team. It would have been funny to see Paul Lo Duca wear a “Captain Red Ass” jersey. Funny, but not likely to happen.
Ultimately, the jersey I would have liked to have seen could have been done this year. After all, what would have been better than seeing Jacob deGrom opting to chose “Sidd Finch” for his jersey?
The answer to the rhetorical question is reading the blogs from the writers who are so generous in contributing their time. Certainly,t hey all have stories to tell about these and many more players. In fact, they may have some nicknames all of their own, but to find that out, you will have to visit those sites.
With the Mets 2018 season beginning today, we are all hopeful that this will be the first Mets team since 1986 to win a World Series. If history is any judge, fans will depart Citi Field with that feeling as the New York Mets do have the best winning percentage on Opening Day. Whether the good feelings and warm memories continue from there is anyone’s guess.
As you look to turn on the television or head to the ballpark, we thought we would share some of our Opening Day memories with you in the latest edition of the Mets Blogger Roundtable.
Roger Cormier (Good Fundies & Fangraphs)
Two words: Collin Cowgill (That’s not my actual answer)
I think I’m going to cheat here. The first game that came to mind for favorite Opening Day memory was the Mets’ home opener in 2000. It was their first game played in North America, if that helps? The Mets split a two-game set in Japan the week before and then faced off against the Padres at Shea, and I was there. It was my first time attending a home opener, and I had to bend the rules that day too, seeing as I was, technically speaking, scheduled to continue my high school education that afternoon. A couple of friends and I cut class, took the 2/3, transferred to the 7, sauntered up to the ticket window, bought four tickets, and enjoyed a 2-1 victory. I brazenly put the schedule magnet giveaway on the refrigerator, and as far as I know was never caught. Please do not tell my mother.
My favorite Opening Day memory was Tom Seaver‘s 1983 Opening Day start. It was tremendous.
The details of Seaver’s homecoming were detailed in this Sports Illustrated piece.
This one has me stumped since I have not been to a Mets opening day since the Shea days. One that stands out is the chilly home opener for Tom Glavine. A 15-2 Mets loss I believe. Good times.
I cut school to go to Opening Day in 1980. My mother wrote a note to the teacher saying “sorry my son was absent. He went to Opening Day. P.S. the Mets won 5-2.” The teacher let me off the hook but only because the Mets won. I cut school in 1983 to see Seaver’s return as a Met. I cut school in 1988 to see Darryl Strawberry hit a HR on Opening Day, then left early to get back to theater rehearsal, and I had to platoon style elbow crawl my way under the director so she wouldn’t know I was gone. Luckily they never got to my scene yet so I was out of trouble. Until we left for the day and the director said “How was the game?” As many times as I cut school for Opening Day, it’s a wonder I can put a sentence together.
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend 17 Opening Days/Home Openers (18, counting the first home game after the 1981 strike, which was functionally a second Home Opener), my favorite among them the 2001 Home Opener, when the 2000 NL pennant was raised, we were handed replica championship flags on our way in, Tsuyoshi Shinjo introduced himself to us with a homer, Mike Piazza socked two, the Mets obliterated the Braves and, not incidentally, the weather was perfect.
But with all due respect to the thrill of being on hand to, as Howie Rose says, welcome the National League season to New York, my core Opening Day memory is from 1975, when I convinced a friend to skip Hebrew School and watch the rest of the first game of that season.
The game began while we were still in shall we say regular school (sixth grade). Our teacher put the Mets and Phillies on the classroom TV. One wise guy tried to switch to the Yankees. Out of pique, the teacher switched it off.
Fast forward a bit, and my aforementioned friend and I went to my house to catch a little more of the game before we had to get to Hebrew School. This was Seaver versus Steve Carlton, and it was such an occasion that I said to him, “I’m not going to Hebrew School today.” He was convinced to not go, either.
We watched to the end and were rewarded for our truancy. Seaver pitched a complete game. Dave Kingman homered in his first game as a Met, and Joe Torre (also a new Met) drove in the winning run in the ninth, or what we would today call walkoff fashion. The whole winter was about reconstructing a dismal 1974 squad and hoping Seaver would be healthy. For one day, everything clicked as we dreamed.