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Knock on Wood(ward)-- Some Self Indulgent fun

You don't have to believe me when I tell you that my pre-game Mets media guide random page stroll on Saturday, August 20, took me to , among other places, the bottom of page 166 of the current edition.

The guy on the No. 7 train riding back from Shea Stadium seemed a tiny bit skeptical when I told him that the biggest lead the Mets had ever blown in a loss was not the seven runs that he had been told earlier in the day, but rather an eight-run cushion (for the record, against the Cubs, a 9-1 edge turned 12-9 loss on April 19, 1980. The seven-run advantage has led to a Mets demise three times, including once as part of the worst 24-hours in New York sports history (Mets blew an 11-4 eighth inning lead vs Reds on May 6, 1995. Later that night, the New York Rangers hockey team blew a 4-2 third-period lead in their playoff opener with the Quebec Nordiques. The following afternoon, the Indiana Pacers stunned the New York Knicks in their series-opener, when Reggie Miller scored eight points in a crazy burst in the final seconds).

"If he says it, you can take it as fact."

That was one of several correct predictions that my father, with whom I attended this contest, made this evening. In our pre-game score prediction (another ongoing ritual, along with the media guide search) discussion, my comment was "3-1 or 8-0" and the latter was looking pretty good for awhile. My dad offered up no score, but a single bit of wisdom.

"This will be a walk-off win."

This was one of those crazy nights that will make the list of games we'll talk about for the next 1,986 years. It had a little bit of a nostalgic feel to it for me, perhaps because I'd spent the better part of the early afternoon filling up a suitcase, cleaning out a closet and finding things like a 1988 Mets highlight tape that I hadn't seen for years, and a baseball card of Willie Randolph from his one season as the team's second baseman. The crowd had a pretty strong buzz with Pedro Martinez pitching, and I mentioned aloud in the second inning that this seemed like a 1985-type gathering (coincidentally 1985 was the answer to the Name That Year trivia question later that night).

This looked like an evening that was really going to reward those who came out for Hispanic Heritage Night. Ramon Castro (birthplace, Vega Baja, Puerto Rico) and Jose Reyes (birthplace Villa Gonzalez, Dominican Republic) cranked long home runs and David Wright (the pride of Norfolk, Va) hit one as well, pleasing all the swooning teen and 20-something females. The third prognostication by my dad came with the count 2-0 and two men aboard in the third inning.

"He is really going to crack one here."

Pardon the pun, but he was Wright on.

I imagine that this game will live in peoples minds as "The Danny Graves Game" because of the hideousness of what took place in Washington's half of the seventh inning. Mets historians can probably recall few pitchers who have been as dreadful as Graves in such a brief tenure in the Flushing pinstripes. The one who comes to mind for me is Don De Darrow. If you've never heard of him, you're not alone. Don De Darrow is actually Dick Tidrow (my mom, relaying a message of his signing to her 9-year-old son one spring day, comically got the name wrong), now a member of the Giants front office, whose career ended with an 11-game stint with the 1984 Mets. He stands out, because I was at the last game he pitched (10-1 loss to the Reds on May 7), a rather grotesque effort (no offense to Tidrow's friends or family...he had a nice career).

There were a lot of people who were at this contest merely for the post-game concert (or the gift doggie bag, for those who brought their pooches to sit in the picnic area), and hopefully someday they'll appreciate this game for what it was. Maybe some will realize what a distraction they were. One of the bad things about the seating arrangement in Shea's Mezzanine level is that the best view can be found at the area by the entranceway for each of the sections around home plate. Unfortunately, those who stand along the walkway to gaze at the field block the view of those seated and are oblivious to such. This happens a lot, not just on a night like this, but this was one day where it was particularly bothersome to many in our section (I wasn't a big fan of the 3 teens in front of us who waived a bedsheet with the Dominican Republic logo blocking our sightline, but at least they listened when I requested they refrain from doing that).

Those who were there for the ballgame seemed to have an appreciation for what they were seeing, particularly the gentleman behind us who shared his memories of Elliott Maddox, and the lady to our left, who informed us prior to the start of the ninth inning that she was more fond of Armando Benitez (whose t-shirt she purchased a week before his trade to the Yankees) than current closer Braden Looper. I must admit that I felt particularly bad for her, because once Brian Schneider cracked his two-run-shoulda-been-a-homer double, she seemed to be frozen in her seat for the remainder of the game.

No one laughed when I posed the question "How are they going to blow this one?" prior to the start of that frame. I think those around me understood the history with which the Mets were dealing (see Terry Pendleton, Mike Scioscia, and Willie Randolph the Dodger among many) and the likely scenario seemed rather obscure. My dad didn't like the idea of "5 straight hits with two outs in the ninth" though I think we both laughed inside when my call was two short. After the score was tied, I offered up "broken-bat single" and that seemed to take a little bit better.

One of the items I found and packed earlier in the day was a ball-strike indicator, the kind commonly used by umpires, but also used in broadcasts (tried it once on a college baseball didn't take). I could have used one in the 10th inning when the count ran 3-1 on Reyes. As Gerald Williams took off to steal second base, I was totally transfixed on his actions, and when I saw that Schneider's throw had Williams beat by 10 feet, I was totally hypnotized by the moment.

Then I heard the screams. "He walked! He walked! He walked!" I was awoken from my stupor to learn that the pitch to Reyes was in fact Ball 4. Thanks for the alert, dad.

I had been hoping for rookie catcher Mike Jacobs to get an at-bat before his eventual return to the minors, simply because I think it's only fair that every player get a moment of glory upon emergency recall, but this was not the time or place for that. Seeing Jacobs up in that spot seemed as unlikely what I saw getting ready for the train back to Manhattan, about 15 minutes after Chris Woodward's pinch-hit walk-off single- Mets fan and historian "Fuzzy" (those of you who are familiar with him and the Section 1 Fan Club know of this man...those who don't will probably read a future entry referencing him) sans the beard that gives him his proper nickname. I believe that Fuzzy has been attending Mets (and other teams) games for upwards of 40 years and I have to imagine that even for someone who attends 300+ sporting events a year, as he claims he does, that this one was pretty unique

Anyway, that pretty much summarizes my trip to Queens on Saturday. Now it's on blog for all to see, for at least as long as I can keep this thing going. As a wise-man (not my dad) once said "You can look it up" (although he left out the words "On Google.")

True Metwards know...This was the first time that the Mets had two consecutive walk-offs end with the same final score (win over the Brewers, 9-8 on August 2) since August 25/September 1, 2001, when the Mets had two straight walk-offs end with final scores of 3-2. (More research coming, probably by Monday morning)

PS: By the way, did anyone ever notice that the letters in the word M-E-T-S could stand for "Must Endure Thy Suffering?"


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