Friday, May 10, 2013

After 23 years, it all comes full circle on the scoreboard

Some of you might remember some time back when I wrote what just might be my favorite post that I've ever written here. This is not because it is particularly clever or particularly well-written. It provides no clever social commentary or particularly astute observations about myself, sports, the world or the social causes of the Haymarket Square Riot or any other historic incident. No, this was a very important, very necessary journey of self-discovery that brought with it a number of revelations of the life-changing variety. I speak, of course, of when I did the necessary investigative reporting to uncover my very first New York Mets game.

As you may recall, for years I had known little of the origin of my Mets fandom beyond a picture of the scoreboard and had long assumed my first game was, in fact, not my actual first game. This all came to light when I decided one morning to actually look at the picture. The evidence was fairly obvious and soon the mystery was unspooled, but the gist of it -- that my fandom was spurred on by having my name on the scoreboard -- was clear.

Last night, nearly 23 years later, my fandom returned to light in the same fashion in which it had started.

Yes, there are some differences that are telling. For one, last night the Mets game was at Citi Field while at the time of the first picture they would still be 18 years away from leaving Shea Stadium. For another, this was a trivia contest (which I answered perhaps too enthusiastically), whereas the last mention was a birthday notice. For yet one more, the contest was organized via Twitter, a tool that wouldn't exist for 17 years after the last time I reached the scoreboard. For obvious reasons, I suppose I should note that last night I was mentioned on the scoreboard not so much by name, but by Twitter handle, a remarkable yet subtle sign of how the world has changed.

As a result of all of this, I also got mentioned by the Mets' official Twitter feed, which, of course, means I can cross one of the major achievements I had long sought off of my to-do list.


If there is one thing you're looking for that shows how the world has not changed, one could point to the fact that both scoreboards had a large banner advertisement for Budweiser on them, though it seems the sponsorship deal with RC Cola must have run out long ago. Either way, it was an exciting moment that in many ways brought me back to my childhood and reminded me that I just might know way too much about this team. So much became clear when I realized just how quickly I knew the answer to what was really a fairly difficult trivia question:

"Who is the only Mets pitcher other than Tom Seaver to strike out 19 batters in one game?"

Evidently, the Mets are the only franchise to have turned this particular trick, which given their historic reliance on pitching (Seaver, Doc Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Al Leiter, Nolan Ryan, Matt Harvey, etc.) is, I suppose, not that surprising. But David Cone's 19-strikeout game wasn't an event of any particular note. Mets fans don't talk about it with historic reverance like they do about Seaver's near perfect-o in 1969, Ron Swoboda's diving catch in the 1969 World Series, Mookie Wilson's grounder to Bill Buckner in Game 6, Robin Ventura's grand slam single in 1999 or Endy Chavez's wild catch in the 2006 NLCS.

Cone's achievement was one of the decidedly more obscure variety. No one talks about it. Not many Mets fans I know even remember it ever happened. In fact, if you pressed me, I couldn't for the life of me tell you on what date Cone accomplished the feat, and most people almost certainly wouldn't even consider it the greatest pitching performance of Cone's career. As it turns out, the 19-strikeout performance happened on Oct. 6, 1991, a masterful conclusion to, as so many of them are, a disappointing Mets season. The game received a writeup in the New York Times befitting a historic outing, but it seems to have been mostly lost to memory, though the jersey he wore in the game is now on display at the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum. The only reason I knew Cone was the man was because I had stumbled across it on ESPN Classic a decade ago, saw an old Mets game in uniforms the team never accomplished anything in and thought to myself, "Why on Earth is this game on ESPN Classic," until a graphic popped up touting Cone's 19 Ks.

For whatever reason, this stuck in my head until last night, paving the way for me to instantly recall the answer when the Twitter trivia question was posted on the board. I responded, I won and in addition to some pride and my second appearance on a New York Mets jumbotron I also received a $50 gift certificate to some Italian restaurant I had never heard of. Evidently it's a chain, which means I'll have to see if it passes the Sbarro/Olive Garden test of quality (that won't be hard), but I'm not too proud to turn down a free meal even if I'm more excited by winning the trivia contest than I am by the prize I received.

Add to the trivia win and the free gift certificate the fact that I somehow managed to sneak down to the field level with an upper deck seat I bought for $8, and the Mets won the game with a little walk-off magic from Mike Baxter and I had myself quite a night.



I'm now 2-0 at Mets games on the season, which improbably keeps alive my streak of beating the odds considering the team is currently 14-17. A year ago I went 6-1 at Mets games despite the team finishing the season 74-88.

The win, the gift certificate, the good seats courtesy of Weg's birthday, all of that is well and good. For me, though, the best part was seeing my name up there to punctuate the Twitter Trivia victory, one of many on the night. In the grand scheme, such an achievement is undoubtedly minor. It will be forgotten by almost everyone else that was at the ball park and it will hardly affect the Mets' likely-to-be dour fortunes this season. But it was nice for one night to be taken back to when I was four years old at Shea. Sometimes, when you follow a team like this, you need a reason to remember why.

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