Posts Tagged ‘Mets’

“Hey, Gary!”

By Ham City Kev

The Kid

I don’t remember the game. I don’t remember the date. I just remember my favorite autograph story ever happened at a Mets/Expos game sometime in 1993.

I’m not big into autographs, but I got a kick out of it as a kid. My first autograph was actually from Ozzie Smith. I had Field seats to a Cardinals game sometime in 1992 and had my baseball sticker book with me. I saw Ozzie throwing warm-up tosses in front of the Cards dugout and was floored. “that’s Ozzie Smith,” I thought. Not, “that’s that guy who makes all those great plays on my baseball highlight tapes,” as he was far beyond that of course. That was Ozzie Smith. It was easily the first big star I ever got close to. When he was done tossing the ball around, he came over to all the kids begging for his autograph on the railing and signed his name for me, right under his picture in the sticker book. I still have that book, and refuse to throw it away.

Through my old friend Paulie’s family connections, we got to a lot of games in the Field Box seats in 92 and 93. I got some more autographs, all of them on the Anthony Young ball (more on that at 35 on the list), but the names were never too big. Joe Orsulak, Ryan Thompson, uhhh… hang on, let me find the ball and check it… hey, I got Barry Larkin, too! Not ridiculously impressive, but that’s nothing to shake a stick at. I remember a rain delay where Paulie and I got soaked because we saw Doc Gooden talking to someone in the tunnel behind home plate, and we stood in the rain begging for his autograph. He said, “one second guys,” and we waited patiently… and patiently… and patiently… Finally a few more kids saw us and figured we were up to something, so they came running over. They all screamed their heads off because we discovered Doc. “We saw ‘em first, we get the autographs first,” we shouted, but it was futile. A few minutes later, Doc waved at us and walked inside, not caring that all of us were heart-broken and soaking wet, calling for him to please please come back.

This is a good segue into the Expos game I want to discuss here. But before I begin, let me preface by saying this: this is no bullshit. I know it sounds way too sugar coated and sweet, too good to be true, but this really happened and I have the autograph to prove it.

Before the game began, Baseball and Met Hall of Famer Gary Carter was walking around the field interviewing players for Expos TV (Expos TV? That really existed?). Of course, Paulie and I are begging for his autograph along with so many other people, but Gary ignores everyone. He must have walked past our group 4 or 5 times, completely ignorant. I was worried it was going to be another Doc story, but I wouldn’t let it happen. When he walked by our group again, I was the only one left shouting for him. Everyone else had given up. I may have given up as well. But I thought, “if I can’t get his autograph, I can at least thank him,” so I did.

I leaned over the railing and shouted as loud as my 12-year-old body could, “HEY GARY! THANKS FOR STARTING THE RALLY IN 86!”

Wouldn’t you know it, Good Ol’ Camera Carter stopped dead in his tracks, turned to me and said, “No problem! You want an autograph?” DID I?!?!?!

So me and Paulie got his only two autographs of the day, and I still love telling that story.

Ham City Kev’s 2009 Awards

A shitty year to end a shitty decade. 2010 ain’t looking up either. Oh well, here’s how 2009 was in my world:

CONCERT OF THE YEAR

Metallica
Madison Square Garden
November 14.

2009 was a pretty fucking slow concert year for me: only 5 shows. The quantity was low, however the quality was pretty solid. The Virgo took me to see Nightwish at the Nokia Theater on May 2, which was cool. On August 26 we were at Terminal 5 for the “last ever” Nine Inch Nails show in New York. It was sadly (although not entirely unexpected) a lousy show, not helped in the least by the sweatbox, deathtrap, dogshit venue that is Terminal 5. Seeing the reformed Alice in Chains at Irving Plaza on September 8 runs a close second to the Metallica show. A few nights later marked my 12th Rasputina show (clip from different show), this time at the revamped Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. A solid venue, despite the annoying hipster-friendly area.

Then, finally, Metallica in November. It was only the second time I’ve seen them, the first being the St Anger (ugh) tour in 2004. On that night, I heard none of my beloved Kill ‘em All. On this night, despite the awesome setlist, still no Kill ‘em All for me–until they closed the show with Whiplash and Seek and Destroy. Fuck yeah! It was the icing on the cake. Hearing Turn the Page–a karaoke favorite of mine–was another huge treat.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Really?

Wow, what a total shit year for me musically. I’m not saying AIC’s comeback album is bad, it’s just not that special. And yet, who’s competing with them? Rammstein’s new album pretty much sucked, and Dethklok‘s sophomore release was pretty tired the first time I listened to it. Am I missing anyone else? Someone please tell me. Until I hear from you, Alice wins by default, which is fucking sad–both for the award and for the band.

MOVIE OF THE YEAR

They changed the original ending–one of my favorite endings of all time–and I still love this movie. That’s a tribute to director Zack Snyder for his painstaking efforts to keep this movie as close to the original 1986 comic mini-series (with the exception of the previously mentioned altered ending) as possible. And c’mon now, can you argue that this isn’t the coolest movie intro of all time? There’s just something about re-creating the Kennedy assassination, complete with splattered brains, that says, “buckle up folks, this movie’s going to be different.” You gotta love a movie that has balls like that.

As far as Watchmen’s competition at the box office this year, I can’t say I saw a lot of other movies. I missed out on big names like Transformers and Terminator due to complete lack of interest. Of the other nine 2009-released movies I saw this year, only 2 gave Watchmen a run for its money. Star Trek was fun, and JJ Abrams deserves a lot of credit for being able to drastically alter the Trek timeline while being absolutely respectful to the fanbase at the same time (and all the in-jokes that were cleverly sprinkled in for the fans were certainly appreciated). The Road was horribly depressing, and very very very well done. However, neither were anywhere near as fun to watch as Watchmen. I may not have seen every movie released in 2009, but I find it hard to believe there’s one better than this.

And for the record, Avatar sucked.

FAIL OF THE YEAR

CITI FIELD

If you want to peruse a wide variety of foods or go on a baseball shopping spree, Citi Field is great. If you want to watch a baseball game, not so much.

We Met fans were told a lot of lies about Citi Field going into the season. We were told there were no obstructed views in the park, and there turned out to be blind spots everywhere–literally. We were told all areas of Citi Field would be accessible to fans, and yet everyone who tries to walk along the second level of seating without a ticket is not allowed access. We were told we’d be blown away, and… we weren’t.

But the lies weren’t the biggest problem. The most frustrating aspect of Citi Field is all the areas in which the Mets could have scored an easy “A” and yet failed miserably, namely: the total and complete lack of Mets history. The unfitting black-colored outfield walls, which were black because a more Met-like blue wall–we were told–wouldn’t work (really?). The total absence of posters, signage, or even blue and orange paint. The fact that it took hundreds of blog entries around the internet like this one to even get our playoff achievements displayed, and even that they fucked up at first. The same can be said about celebrating our former great players within the park, and when they finally listened to us we were supposed to be happy with hidden displays like this.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. I’m not even going to get into head-scratcher shit like the stupid ugly tarps they threw above the bullpens because I’ve already gone on too long.

Bottom line: it doesn’t feel like home. Granted, a winning ballclub would go a long ways in that respect, and we’ve been made more promises about making it more Mets-centric in 2010, but this is a 2009 review–and in 2009, Citi-Field was nothing more than an over-priced, over-hyped ballpark the Mets seemed to be temporarily subletting until a new, more Met-centered home was built (or until the Dodgers came back from LA). That would explain why we weren’t allowed to paint or hang pictures, or why we didn’t bother unpacking any of the Mets-history stuff.

WIN OF THE YEAR

PILGRIMAGE TO CEDAR POINT
Sandusky, OH

As I said after I got back, if you’re a roller coaster fan and have toyed with planning a trip to The Roller Coaster Capital of the World: stop toying with it, just go. It’s more than worth it. Crackerman, Siamese Dream, the Virgo and I drove all the way from Queens to spend 2 full days there, and it wasn’t enough. For those who aren’t into roller coasters, you just don’t know. Cedar Point is Coaster Mecca. This is not an exaggeration.

Cedar Point is fucking magic. Where to begin? How about jolt we all got when we first laid eyes on it over the horizon and realized after years of dreaming, “holy shit, we’re actually here. We are actually fucking HERE.” Or maybe our first trip down Millennium Force‘s 300 foot drop at 90+ mph. Or later on during our first day when the bliss that is Maverick somehow bumped Great Adventure’s El Toro out of my Number One Coaster spot. Or the non-coaster thrill rides I wasn’t even considering when we planned the trip like Skyhawk and Power Tower. Or after a day filled with thrill rides and 15 roller coasters, a soothing walk through the stunning Starlight Experience to calm the adrenaline, followed by a dip in our hotel hot tub at 10pm, a walk along the Sandusky beach at 11pm, and frozen drinks until it’s time for bed, as we drift to sleep with the Millennium Force music still happily playing in our heads.

Cedar Point is the fucking best.

Six Flags Great Adventure, our home park, is certainly nothing to shake a stick at. It’s widely accepted as one of the premiere coaster parks in the world. And yet, Cedar Point blows it out of the water–not just for all the reasons listed above, but for what I believe is the most important intangible factor: the staff. It’s a weird thing to celebrate, but it’s deserved. Those kids are probably making nothing yet they couldn’t be happier to work there (it seemed that way anyways–and isn’t that all that counts?). They were having fun with eachother, having fun with the rides, and having fun with the guests. Fun was in the air, and it was intoxicating. You couldn’t help but be on top of the world. Sometimes literally.

Hands down, Win of the Year. Thanks again to Crackerman, Siamese Dream, and the Virgo for making it happen.

“All clear, you’re outta here… enjoy the rest of the day at Cedar Point, America’s Roller Coast. Ride on!”

Happy 10th Anniversary Grand Slam Single

Just a quick note to say that on this date 10 years ago, this happened:

It was, and still is, my all-time greatest moment as a Met fan. If you’re looking for me today, I’ll be sitting at home with the the Essential Games of Shea Stadium dvd collection, watching Disc 4: Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS.

Ham City Kev’s Top Ten All-Time MLB League Championship Series

I’m a baseball fanatic, so please excuse another non-nostalgia posting and indulge me on the eve of the 2009 NLCS.

Since 1969, the Championship Series for the American League and National League have played Second Bananas to the World Series. While this is necessary and understandable, I often feel it unfair that even though there have been many great LCS’s, so few retain their shine in popular history. This year marks the 79th and 80th installments of the League Championship Series, so you know they can’t all be mediocre or boring. There is classic baseball buried in there, I promise.

Now, as a child of 1980 I fully admit to appreciating some of the following baseball from boxscores and hearsay only. I understand that sometimes there’s more drama than the numbers show and vice versa. It’s certainly not the best system to come up with a top ten, but shit, being born in 1980 isn’t my fault–and it’s not like MLB Network is putting together a Prime 9 to properly honor these Series. I may not be fully qualified to put together a list like this, but the way I see it, it’s me or nobody. Might as well listen to me, right?

So, without further ado, I present my Top 10 All-Time MLB League Championship Series. Click to links to read about the awesomeness of these series in greater detail on Wikipedia, otherwise enjoy my cliff notes.

Honorable mentions: 1984 NLCS – Padres def Cubs 3-2; 2008 ALCS – Rays def Red Sox 4-3.

10. 1986 ALCS – Red Sox def Angels 4-3
Infamous Red Sox from-the-dead miracle comeback (well, the first one anyways). After the Sox blow Game 4 to trail the Series 3-1, the Angels historically blow Game 5 and never recover. Angels closer Donnie Moore, tormented by fans over the Game 5 loss, kills himself 3 years later.

9. 1972 NLCS – Reds def Pirates 3-2
The best of the 4 NLCS’s played between the 2 best National League teams in the 1970′s. Roberto Clemente, in his penultimate game in the Major Leagues, was the only thing stopping Ross Grimsley from pitching a no-hitter in Game 4. The Reds win it in the bottom of the 9th in the deciding Game 5 off a solo home run from Bench to tie, and a run-scoring wild pitch to win it.

8. 1991 NLCS – Braves def Pirates 4-3
Everyone remembers the drama behind Francisco Cabrera’s game-winner for the Braves in 1992, but nobody remembers the insane pitching clinic of this series. 4 shutouts, 3 of which have a final score of 1-0. The Braves pitching staff, led by an untouchable Steve Avery, holds the Pirates scoreless in the final 22 innings of the series, lowering their collective series E.R.A. to 1.57–and they still lost 3 games!

7. 2004 NLCS – Cards def Astros 4-3
“The Best Series that Nobody Watched?” Perhaps. While the nation’s attention focused on the other LCS (more on that in a sec), this series saw the home team win every game, with Carlos Beltran hitting a home run in each of the first 4 and finishing the series with a sick 1.521 OPS–and yet he was somehow outperformed by Albert Pujols and his OPS of 1.563. Game 5 had both teams pitching one-hitters into the 9th until Jeff Kent won it with a 3-run walkoff homer. Astros tie Game 6 in the 9th but strand potential Series-winning runs on 2nd and 3rd, Cards later win it on a Jim Edmonds 2-run walkoff homer in the 12th. Cardinals win pennant in Game 7 by defeating Roger Clemens in his “final” game.

6. 2004 ALCS – Red Sox def Yankees 4-3
Does this really need an explanation? Well, in case you’ve been in a coma the past 5 years, this actually happened: the Red Sox beat the Yankees. Not only that, they did it in a way that has never ever been done before or since in the long storied history of Major League Baseball–by winning 4 straight after being down 3-games-to-none (and down down to their final 3 outs, to boot). After tying the game off Mariano Fucking Rivera 2 nights in a row, the Sox win Games 4 and 5 in extra innings courtesy of David Ortiz. Curt Schilling wins Game 6 while constantly bleeding from the foot. I was on the phone with Gord as the Game 7 blowout ended, convinced the Yankees would somehow score 8 runs and win–it was that fucking hard to believe.

5. 1972 ALCS – A’s def Tigers 3-2
Some of baseball’s greatest names litter this Series, which was somewhat of a crazy palendrome through 4 games. The Tigers blow an 11th inning lead, then get shut out. The A’s get shut out, then blow a 10th inning lead. Oakland squeaks a 2-1 victory in the deciding Game 5 thanks in part to Reggie Jackson scoring and tearing his hamstring on a double-steal of home in the second. But perhaps most memorably, Bert Campaneris throws his bat at Lerrin LaGrow in Game 2.

4. 1999 NLCS – Braves def Mets 4-2
Braves win Game 1 by the score of 4-2, and that proves to be the biggest blowout of the series. Each of the remaining games would be decided by one run. Down 3-games-to-none, the Mets win Game 4 in their final at-bat, then use 23 players to win the epic Game 5, 15 inning marathon off Robin Ventura’s infamous “Grand Slam Single”. Braves win dramatic, see-saw Game 6 in the 11th with achingly anti-climactic bases loaded walk from Kenny Rogers to advance to the World Series.

3. 1986 NLCS – Mets def Astros 4-2
Mike Scott takes MVP honors despite being on the losing team after allowing only 1 run in 18 innings against the best offense in the league–with the alleged help of a scuffed ball. Mets win Game 3 on a 2-run walkoff homer from light-hitting Lenny Dykstra, then win Game 5 after a 12th inning walkoff base hit from Gary Carter. But let’s be honest, this Series ranks as high as it does because of the epic of LCS epics: the 16-inning Game 6.

2. 2003 ALCS – Yankees def Red Sox 4-3
If you check the box scores of this series, it doesn’t add up to some of the entries above. The numbers, however, are not what this series was about. This was edge-of-your-seat history in the making. This was about 2 incredibly matched teams renewing a great rivalry. It was about the Red Sox standing up for themselves and surprisingly hanging in there against a Yankee team that would normally steamroll them. It was about the benches clearing in Game 3 and Pedro Martinez tossing 72-year-old Don Zimmer on his head. Most memorably, it was about Boston once again tricking everyone into thinking they were going to pull it off in Game 7–until the other shoe dropped late, and Aaron Boone won the series with an 11th inning, walkoff home run. It was the highest of high for the winners, and the lowest of low for the losers.

1. 1980 NLCS – Phillies def Astros 3-2
How this series is not constantly celebrated is beyond me. Game 1, a 3-1 victory for the Phillies, was not only the sole game to feature a home run, but the only game out of 5 that was wrapped up in the regulation 9 innings. The remaining 4 games were back and forth, back and forth; runners stranded, plays at the plate, 3 10th inning victories and one in the 11th, the Astros blowing the first pennant in their franchise’s history and the Phillies winning their first in 30 years. There really aren’t any words that can properly capture the excitement of this series. Click on the link above to see for yourself.

What can be in store for us this year, the 40th anniversary of the League Championship Series? One or two new entries to this list, perhaps? Well, we can hope so. The 4 Divisional Series were wrapped up quickly, but each had a flair for the dramatic. Perhaps it’s a good sign. Hey, it’s a flawed playoff system (imo), but this year we’re actually getting what we’re supposed to get: the 2 legitimately best teams in each league facing eachother to determine a champion. I may not like who’s left to root for, but I applaud the victory for baseball fans everywhere.

Here’s hoping these 100 players provide games to celebrate for 100 years.

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