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Remembering The Mets

Barry DuchanSunday, December 9, 2007
By Barry Duchan

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published on May 3, 2007. - M.S.

On yesterday's SNY broadcast of the Mets-Marlins games, as an extension to a trivia question, Keith Hernandez and Gary Cohen discussed how the long history of the Mets should be celebrated at the new CitiField. Keith said how he'd like to see pictures of Bobby Klaus (who, it was pointed out, had the longest hitless streak at Shea Stadium) and Choo Choo Coleman (who was just legendary for no apparent reason) as well as many of the other Mets who were there and played a part in the early Mets' history. I was happy to hear Keith mention names like Joe Christopher and Jerry Buchek.

For those of you who visit [Barry's Metscentric blog] frequently, you can see why I was so glad to hear those comments. I have tried to paint a picture of the early pre-'69 Mets always struggling to build a team by promoting players who had a big year in the minor leagues, always trying to trade for young players who could develop into stars, mostly without success, and just generally taking chances on players who had failed elsewhere in the hope that by giving enough players the chance to succeed, the cream would rise to the top and eventually the Mets would develop into contenders.

It didn't quite work out that way of course, as the Mets went from ninth place to a World Championship in one year, 1969, a year that would change the course of Mets' history forever.

We have heard how CitiField will memorialize and pay tribute to Jackie Robinson and how parts of its structure pay homage to Ebbets Field, probably because Fred Wilpon was a Dodger fan as a kid. But this is not the new Dodger Stadium, it is not a multi-purpose structure for all New York teams, it will be the new home of the Mets, and I would hope that an area can be devoted to celebrating the history of the Mets, which doesn't jump directly from Casey Stengel to Tom Seaver. I'm sure I'm not the only life-long Mets fan who didn't care a bit about the Brooklyn Dodgers, especially considering the first Mets teams were led by ex-Yankees Weiss and Stengel, the team's roots were hardly sprung from the Dodgers. I have no nostalgia for Brooklyn, but plenty for Queens.

Sometimes when I write about players like Dennis Musgraves, Darell Sutherland, Danny Napoleon or Greg Goossen, I wonder if anyone really cares. But they were an important part of Mets' history. They were among the great prospects that were going to lead this team to glory, and in their day, they were among the reasons to believe that this downtrodden team would begin a road to success. I am just trying to keep their memories alive, but it would be so much more impressive if Mets' ownership would make an attempt to do the same, with a gallery devoted to every year in Mets' history on display when CitiField opens its doors.

Yes, do not forget Bill Shea and Casey Stengel. But why not consider installing video display terminals that would let fans view pictures and statistics of EVERY Met player, manager, and coach by season, or alphabetically, with more elaborate video entries for 100 or so of the most prominent ones, including not only latter-day stars like Hernandez, Piazza, and Strawberry, but early ones like Thomas, Hunt, and Jackson ? That would make CitiField worth the trip for me.

Note: More of Barry Duchan's writings can be found on his own Metscentric blog.

About Barry Duchan: I've been following the Mets since 1962. Have to admit I was a Yankee fan as a kid, but I found it to be so much more interesting to see how a young team could build itself up rather than following a team where the season didn't really begin until October. I remember them all - Casey, Marv, ChooChoo, Don Bosch, The Stork, etc. As the years went on, I became more and more of a Mets fan, and a Yankee hater once Steinbrenner and Billy Martin entered the picture.   Read More -->

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Comments (7)

Couldn't agree with you more, Barry.

Barry - There are more of us out there than you might imagine who care about each of the hundreds of men who've worn the GOOD pinstripes in New York these past 45 years.

It's the Craig Shipleys, the Jeff Musselmans, the Rusty Tillmans, that are like the song on cut 5 of side B of one of our favorite albums. Nobody plays it on the radio; the artist doesn't even play it in concerts; but it's our own little undiscovered treasure. My personal favorites are two unsung Eds from the '86 roster: Hearn and Lynch. There's no logical reason why; I just like those two guys.

I love the idea of the video display terminals with Mets history loaded in. I'm just concerned some yahoo Yankee fan will vandalize them within the first week they're open.

I'm with you on honoring the unsung Met heroes as well as the better known ones. The sixties were a very innocent time for Mets fans, especially young ones like myself. There were no rivalries. The teams of Koufax, Drysdale, Gibson and Marichal might as well have been in another league. It sure seemed like they were. But we had Casey, Piersall, Hunt, Boyer and Swoboda and it would be nice to recapture that feeling of how we loved our team even though they rarely won. It probably wasn't until June of 1969 that even the most optimistic Mets fan first harbored the thought that they could actually finish over .500.

As far as the Brooklyn Dodger thing, since Jackie Robinson is honored by the entire baseball world, it would be kind of special for Citifield to be Jackie's "home" especially since he never played in LA.

The Brooklyn Dodgers were before my time so I can't really say I care about them either. But from what I can remember, ALL Mets fans in the sixties were National League fans of either the Dodgers or Giants so there is a very real connection with memories of players like Maglie, Reese, Ott and Irwin as there is with Choo Choo and Chacon. Maybe they could put a few video terminals in the Jackie section to remember these guys too.

My nostalgia for those early Mets is mostly based on reading Breslin's "Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?", which I read when the 62' Mets were still a recent memory. I was young teenager then, probably very naive; and Breslin's basis for the creation of the Mets, the emotional story of ending New York's desert days without a National League team (imagine!), all rang perfectly true to me.

Filling that need (as per Breslin's book) made it all right that the team wasn't competitive, was even laughable at times. Looking back I believe that those early Mets and the way they were accepted possibly ushered in the creation of a new sort of baseball fan, a sort for whom the pleasures of fandom actually overrode an interest in watching baseball played at its highest level, winning, all those details to matter to US. A relation, perhaps, of those fans who pack the bleachers at Wrigley Field in the Cubs' down years these days.

I think the cache of cheering on a lovable loser did show up elsewhere back then. One year, 1963 I believe, there was a pitcher of modest talents, name of Jack Pregenzer, who toiled in the bullpen for the San Francisco Giants. As I recall it, a journalist, not a sports journalist, sort of adopted Mr Pregenzer's cause, formed a fan club of well known local celebrities to cheer on this guy who would manage 99 total innings in his major league career. I remember seeing a photo of one of the fan club's cocktail parties, these knockout women in evening dresses, this Asian babe in particular; I was looking for James Bond in that picture, it was that sort of scene.

Then come the next spring he didn't make the team. "Come and join us in a Jack Pregenzer martini" was the tag line for the fan club's last party invitation. "It's two parts gin and one part tears."

It was a different world, and from here it sounds like fun time to live.

We care, Barry, we care. And I agree with you 100% that the Mets have to begin to show that they care. The Mets museum at Citi Field has to be something more than tokenism. It must be done with care and intelligence. It has to preserve the memories of us geezers and it has to educate a new generation that, as so many of us have found, is very eager to learn. Does anyone know anything specific about what the Mets are planning to have in the Citi Field space? Who's in charge? How far along is the planning? If they have a crappy museum there, it's going to break my heart.

Lets put that report away and get on with baseball.Can we please get a pitcherwithout giving away the whole farm?Do we need a 20game winner? how about a 18 or 17 game winner instead and still keep half of the farmand money? just some thoughts at 3:45 am.

I need a shot of something, the Mets are so dead with any kind of good or hopeful news. I keep looking for the Christmas blockbuster headline and nothing of intrest to read or dwell on. Christmas is coming real fast and it's humbug for the Met fans so far? still have a little hope a package will come.

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