New York Mets: Showing some love to a stricken die-hard

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(Photo by: Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

New York Mets: Showing Some Love to a Stricken Die-Hard

“She is a diehard Mets fan and has been from the start . . . Since the mid-1960s, she has lived and breathed everything Mets,” Ally wrote. “She’s covered in blue and orange head to toe. She wears Mets apparel every day of her life, day and night, winter or summer. She even paints her nails blue and orange, and has worn a gold Mets necklace for at least the 18 years that I have known her.”

I know from whence the lady hails. Betraying my age, I’ve been a Met fan since the day they were born, too, never mind that I’m almost two decades younger than Mrs. Selig, or that my Mets-related belongings amount to one alternate game hat and a decent number of books on my shelves that chronicle various periods of Mets calamity and triumph alike.

Kathleen Selig was around 24 years old when the Mets emerged from the womb. I was a mere six-year-old boy in the north Bronx when I was taken to my first Mets game, in the rambling wreck of the Polo Grounds, where they played awaiting the completion and opening of Shea Stadium. My maternal grandfather took me to that game. Such an introduction to live baseball could get him charges of child abuse today.

For Grandpa it might have been a sort of homecoming. He’d been a New York Giants fan, and he probably thought his oldest grandson could do far worse than seeing his first live baseball game in the Giants’ old home since the National League was back in business there again. For grandson, two things remained firm in the memory.

Thing one: Who can forget seeing the box seats separated in sections by dangling chains? Thing two: The Original Mets themselves, and living to tell about them. They were The Comedy of Errors as interpreted by Ringling Brothers and Chaplin & Keaton’s Circus on The Ed Sullivan Show. Without the classical double piano concerto preceding or the wild animal act to follow.

The Original Mets were Abbott pitching to Costello, the Four Marx Brothers covering the infield, the Three Stooges patrolling the outfield, the Harlem Globetrotters on the bench, and the Keystone Kops in the bullpen. “I don’t know what this is,” said Hall of Fame outfielder Richie Ashburn, ending his career as an Original Met, “but I know I’ve never seen it before.”

The stories in the New York sports sections about those Mets make me think today that perhaps the writers and their papers stretched to overkill. All you really had to do to wrap a typical Original Mets game was give the final score and quote manager Casey Stengel telling his players, post mortem, “Well, there’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” Or, telling their fans (I swear this is true), “Come an’ see my amazin’ Mets! I been in this game a hundred years but I see new ways to lose I never knew were invented yet.”

My Grandpa Morris, of course, couldn’t (and wouldn’t) resist the chance to sneak a little learning through the slapstick, and he didn’t have to lift a finger or utter a word. The faculty was the visiting team.

The Original Mets may have been Looney Tunes, but the rest of the National League was Elmer Fudd getting even with that “scwewy wabbit.” Somehow, someway, I was presented the majesties of Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, and Bob Gibson pitching; Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, and Dick Allen hitting; Mays, Roberto Clemente, Curt Flood, and Ron Santo playing the field like six parts deer and half a dozen parts acrobats.

Mrs. Selig, our Original Mets couldn’t obstruct the important lesson that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a blown head gasket. The Mets got laughs in their house. I had to leave my house to get most of my laughs. (Grandma Diana and Grandpa Morris could only stay weekends. Likewise Grandma Gertie and Grandpa Walter. And I could at least spend school breaks with them. And, other families.)

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