Saturday, June 13, 2009 at 8:49 pm
The history of my baseball loyalty is an odd thing. Born and raised in the Mays-McCovey era as a child in San Francisco, I cheered for the Giants during my youth. I idolized Chris Speier and Jack Clark and Jonnie Lemaster during the mid to late 70s and through my high school years in the early 1980s.
Then came 1984.
Candlestick Park played host to the All-Star Game that year, and my dad managed to get a couple pairs of tickets. My parents used one pair, while my brother and I used another. This was the first time I got to see an All Star Game live, and quite possible the first one that I payed attention to all the players on the teams.
At the top of one inning, Fernando Valenzuela came in to pitch and struck out the side, 3 of the best the American League had to offer. One inning later was the first time I saw some rookie pitcher from the New York Mets, and he matched Valenzuela by striking out the next 3 AL batters. The rookie’s name was Dwight Gooden.
That was the moment that I became a Mets fan. Gooden and Darryl Strawberry were the Mets All-Stars that year, and the following year (1985) I decided to follow them all season. The season that Doc Gooden became a god, winning the Cy Young and the Triple Crown, though the Mets fell short from the post season play.
1986. ’nuff said.
And it goes on. Throughout the ’80s and into the ’90s I lived and died with the Mets. As the team started to go through it’s rough period of the mid-90s, I became more of a Giants fan again, except in the fall of 2000, when the Giants and Mets played against each other in the Division Series. I had a hard time picking a side to cheer for, knowing that whichever team won the series was the team that I’d be rooting for during the rest of the post season. The Mets made it to the World Series, only to be beaten by the Yankees.
This past decade saw the Mets rebuild themselves into a contender, than almost made it to the promised land in 2006, only to have back-to-back colossal September collapses in 2007 and 2008.
A lot of the history that I just recounted parallels Greg Prince’s own personal history (from the Mets fan persepctive) in the book Faith and Fear in Flushing, based on the blog of the same name. The main difference between my history and Mr. Prince’s is the Giants in my history, and everything prior to that All Star Game in 1984. That entire section was an interesting read, seeing the personal memories of a fan who followed the Mets for about 15 years before I began to, and empathizing with watching bad baseball, which seemed to be a universal constant with the Mets and Giants during the same period of time.
But from 1984 on, reading Mr. Prince’s recollections was like reading my own feelings about Mets baseball. He even had a chapter (“Don’t Blame Mike Scioscia”) that actually had me rethink the outcome of the 1988 NLCS, since I’ve blamed Scioscia’s homer off Doc Gooden as the reason the Mets lost to the Dodgers that year. Of course, even after rethinking, I still blame Scioscia. Sorry, Greg.
The book continues on after that, mirroring my disappointment as the 1986 team was dismantled, and favorites like Dykstra, Wilson, Carter, Hernandez, Gooden and Strawberry left the team. The feelings of frustration during the mid ’90s, the glimmer of hope during the late ’90s and early 21st century. Mr. Prince then recounts how he and fellow fan Jason Fry decided to start their blog in 2005, which I found in 2006 during the stretch run into the playoffs.
I find it interesting that Prince and Fry met on America Online during the early 1990s, when I went by the screenname ‘MetsFan2′ on AOL, and I could very well have interacted with these two on the AOL sports forums during those days. Maybe one of those guys was ‘MetsFan1′?
There was one line in this book that I really took to heart, mainly because it explained why I, a West Coaster all my life, born and raised as a Giants fan, and never been to a Mets home game at Shea or Citi, loves the Mets.
I love the Mets because I love the Mets.
Faith and Fear in Flushing is a great book, and I’m not just saying that as a Mets fan. It’s a great book for any baseball fan to read, simply because baseball fans can relate to the thrills and agony of following a team for as long as Mr. Prince has.