Every year for the last 3 years as Spring gives way to Fall, Mets season merges into NY Rangers season, I have been able to keep the baseball side of my brain occupied with thoughts of Mets Fantasy Camp. This year more so then ever, in the past I have simply gone down to cover the week long camp as a reporter, this season I am headed down to actually participate as a player. Each year I have tried to find unique ways of counting down the days until camp and sharing them with Mets fans, So this year I will do the countdown by Jersey numbers, When possible I will post my 3 favorite Mets who have worn that number, some numbers are harder then others.
Yes Willie was in his twilight, But he was Willie Mays! He had come full circle, my dad got to see The Say Hey Kid in his prime with the NY Giants, from 1951 to 1957, My dad was a young Man of 28 years old when Willie made his debut with the Ny Giants, now all those years later as a 49 year old dad he was taking his 12 year old son to see one of his favorite players return home for his final 2 seasons. Now that my dad is gone I think about those games and the bond we shared back then over 1 player, for that and that alone WIllie Mays may in fact be my favorite Met of all time.
Again my love for Art Shamsky has to do with my dad, Art Shamsky had a major role in my love for the Mets, He had the big hit in my first Met Game ever. A 6-2 win over the Cards.While I remembered the score and the key hit of the first Met Game I ever attended, when I actually did some research I found that I had the pitching match-up and the circumstances of the key hit all wrong. Let’s start with the way I remembered it and then give the actual account.
For years I thought the pitching match-up I saw that August night in 1968 was Tom Seaver vs Bob Gibson. I remember the big hit being a Grand Slam in the Bottom of the eighth to break open a 2-2 tie game. Strange what an 8 year old remembers, especially when most likely consuming massive amounts of Hot Dogs, Peanuts and Cracker Jacks. The Reality is the pitching match up on August 30th 1968 was Tom Seaver looking for his 13th win of the season against Nelson Briles, who of course is no where near the pitcher that Bob Gibson was, but that night Nellie was shooting for his 18th win of the season, so while not the exact match-up I remembered it was 2 aces going at it. Now as far as the key hit and the circumstances around it. It did not happen in the 8th inning nor did it break a tie. The Mets never trailed in the game as they scored an unearned run in the bottom of the second inning on the strength of two out walk by Ron Swoboda, a single to CF and a misplay by 3B Mike Shannon on a throw from Curt Flood trying to get an aggressive Ron Swoboda at third, Swoboda scored on the error. The Grand Slam occurred in the fifth inning. I don’t remember the sloppy play that lead to it but here’s how the inning actually went Jerry Grote leads off with a single off of Nelson Briles, Jerry Buchek reaches on an error by Roger Maris (had no clue I actually saw Maris play a game) Tom Seaver while laying down a sac bunt gets on when it’s misplayed by Nelson Briles to load the bases, Bud Harrelson singles to right bringing home Buchek and Grote and advancing Seaver to second base.Ken Boswell moves Harrelson and Seaver over with a bunt, and .237 Larry Stahl(batting third in the lineup no less ) is intentionally walked to bring up the .223 clean up hitter Art Shamsky. Shamsky hits a grand slam, I remember the outer part of the scoreboard which was white had multi colored lights reflecting off of it, not quite the Apple out of the Hat but it is a lasting memory none-the-less. The Cards would touch up Seaver for two meaningless runs in the 8th , as Tom went the distance giving up 2 runs on 3 hits striking out 11 and walking none.
The attendance that night shows 34,425, but for that night and many nights like it , the only 2 people who mattered in the Stadium were me and my dad. So while the memory of the actually play by play might be blurred, the memory of my late dads smile, the fact that even with Roger Maris, Tom Seaver and the 100’s of other superstars we saw together over all those years ,he still is the biggest hero of them all to me ,and all those great times we had still are my most clear memories of any game I ever went to with him.
Kind of full circle for me when it comes to the #24 and the Mets. while my dad got to take me to a game where Willie Mays a star player from when he was in his 20's , Rickey Henderson allowed me to do the same with my son, Rickey was one of the most electrifying players of the 80's stealing over 100 bases 3 times in the decade, and setting records for lead off home runs, He was in the twilight of his career when he signed with the Mets but still had his Rickey moments and somehow at the age of 40 he led the team in average with a 315 mark and had 12 homeruns in the lead off spot,the only lineup position he would bat in for the Mets over his 143 games he would play for them. All in all I would have to say that the #24 is the most significant numbers in Met History for me, and I am not sure it will ever be worn again, I still can't believe that for 10 days the first and only player to wear the number after Willie before Rickey was Kelvin Torve!
Mets who wore #24
By: Mark Rosenman
WLIE 540 AM SPORTSTALKNY Host and Producer
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