I've been fortunate throughout my baseball-loving life to pick just the right games to attend. For some details, check my biography in the "Our Writers" sidebar on this blog. This week, I added to that good fortune with Wednesday night-Thursday day games against the hapless Giants. In the process, I got to meet the man himself, Mike Steffanos, face to face for the first time, as well as Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing, the SECOND-best Mets blog ever. I also had a wonderful reunion with my old high school buddy Metphistopheles, whose off-kilter take on the Orange and Blue is always bizarre and entertaining.
As recently as a week ago, I was mentally preparing myself for a win and a loss, since that had been the Mets' habit all season long. That resignation of mediocrity turned to dread, as wins on Saturday and Sunday and Monday and Tuesday prompted me to think not that this team was finally beginning to turn it around, but that they were due for a losing streak, just to balance things out. Pete Rozelle called this "parity", dreaming of thirty NFL teams tied with 8-8 records. Kramer called it "even-steven", after Elaine threw Jerry's twenty-dollar bill out the window and he got it back almost immediately.
But the Mets defied logic, and granted us four bloggers an emphatic shutout win Wednesday night, following it up with a bonus win the next day in front of Mrs. NostraDennis and our daughter, Nostra Denise. I even got to see my personal whipping boy, Scott Schoeneweis, earn his first career win as a Met. At this writing, our boys sit a half-game sliver back of the flagging Phillies, and for the first time all season have inspired confidence in me. More important, they've created a sense of confidence in themselves.
This week-long trip from Orlando to Long Island was completely fulfilling, in that I got to touch base with all the things I missed about New York. I've missed family, including Mom, a brother and sister-in-law, and a sister and brother-in-law on the Island, as well as a sister and a brother in the Carolinas, who each helped out by housing us for a day in both directions, and breaking our driving experience into manageable five hundred mile chunks. I've missed New York pizza, the kind that passes the elbow test. Fold a slice and lift it above your head. If the grease makes it down to your elbow, it's a good slice of pizza. Where I live now, Papa John's is actually classified as pizza. I've missed dirty water hot dogs and knishes, and got one of each when we did the tourist thing in Manhattan on Sunday.
I was also reminded of what I don't miss about New York. I don't miss stepping over bums in Penn Station. There are fewer of them than in the mid-90's, granted, but they're still present, and still pungent. I don't miss paying outrageous prices for riding the Long Island Railroad. I ceremoniously burned my last monthly commuter ticket in February 1995, and it was like burning an empty mortgage payment stub book. I don't miss Yankee fans and Yankee paraphernalia. In one Fifth Avenue store, I found no less that 31 different Yankee caps for sale, from pink to plaid to camouflage, and exactly zero Mets caps available. I don't miss the yammering of Chris Russo, although hearing him squirm after his beloved Giants were swept was kind of nice. I don't miss seeing six sports pages and a front page devoted to the Vertical Swastikae, and two-thirds of a page left to the Mets. I expect and concede that when the Mets are awful and the Yankees are good, they don't deserve equal treatment. But this Bronx-leaning bias was shocking to one who hadn't been immersed in it for so many years.
It's a shame that Citi Field will probably have no room for the hordes of summer camp kids who populated Shea's upper deck with us on Thursday afternoon. I hear the new ballpark in Pittsburgh has capped their ticket prices at no more than $52 for all but six sections behind home plate, and their cheap seats are still actually cheap. Today's young Mets fan won't be able to follow their team tomorrow from anywhere other than their TV or radio. That's a shame.
These last two Mets games were the last ones I'll see at Shea, and quite possibly the last two home games I see for many years. Of course, Miami's only a three-hour drive, and there are always plenty of seats available there. The last few days of this month and the last few days of next month are possibilities. Come to think of it, an eight-game winning streak, and a team that's finally playing good baseball all the way around, make me feel that anything is possible this season. It's a strange feeling. But I like it.