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This Too Shall Pass

MetsFanSZThursday, July 23, 2009
By MetsFanSZ

Thank heavens I'm only relegated to listening to the Washington National announcers for one more half inning. These two, Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble, are such unabashed homers, it's pathetic. They are so completely unprofessional, I'm embarrassed to listen to them. Awful doesn't come close -- it's appropriate that they are the announcers for the worst team in baseball. I wasn't a big fan of Harry Caray or Phil Rizzuto, but at least they had character.

Was happy to see Cory Sullivan get activated. Hope he sticks, even if he is another incarnation of Jeremy Reed. I got to meet him in spring training and he's a really nice guy. Got off to a terrible start in Buffalo, but then the entire team did.

And from the sound of it, Tony Bernazard wasn't too happy with the progress at Binghamton. At last report, the Mets "are investigating." He does seem to get into some controversies, though.

Thanks for the walk tonight Pelfrey. One out walk led to the first Nationals run, then when the Mets scraped together a run to tie it, thanks to a Washington error, he promptly surrenders a gopher, right after Francouer loses one in the lights. Clearly it's catching. Wouldn't you have liked to know what Castillo said to get tossed out? Hmmm, was that on ANOTHER poor throw by Wright?

Speaking of catching, the ball boys and ball girls that retrieve the foul balls down the lines didn't use to hand them to the nearest youngster in the stands. No, they were tossed in to be used for batting practice the next day or the next year.

Back in those days, a foul ball into the stands meant a pile-up. People would get hit in the glove or their bare hands or a cup full of beer or even a hat, and the ball would carom off and land at their feet and twelve people would pile in. The biggest guy with the most muscles would be the one to wrestle it away from everyone else. And the person who had it hit their hands or glove or whatever, they just blew it. They had their chance. Good luck getting another.

I went to my fair share of games as a kid. I always hoped one day to get my chance. I swore to myself that if I ever got my chance, I wouldn't blow it. In high school, I had a friend, Larry, who always seemed to know what he wanted and would just do it or get it. Live for the moment. I wasn't so much like that, but Larry rubbed off on me.

A month or two before graduation, Larry and I went to a double header -- yes, they used to have those too. It was at Shea, but it was the Yankees against Baltimore. The Yankees and Mets were sharing Shea Stadium because Yankee Stadium was being essentially torn down and rebuilt.

I couldn't tell you who won the first game. I suppose, with the Yankees being terrible that year and the Mets not much better, I really didn't care much. It was a ballgame, or actually two, for the price of one. In those days, I would buy general admission tickets and slip the usher a five to sit somewhere in the loge reserves. Decent quality seats.

In between games, Larry and I went up to top row of the upper deck. We felt like getting high, and the top row of the upper deck was way, way up there. While the grounds crew was getting the field ready, Larry said to me, "I want to get a foul ball." I said, yeah, Larry, sure. He insisted, so I said, okay, we'll go to the best place in the ball park to get a foul ball. I was just trying to placate him.

As we all know, of course, in Shea the best place for a foul ball was in the loge directly behind home plate and right above the screen, so that's where we headed. Because the Yankees were terrible and not many people came to an early season doubleheader, there were plenty of seats, and because it was game two, there were very few ushers to chase us.

I took a seat in the third row of the loge reserves, right behind home plate. I turned around to ask Larry if he thought this would be okay, and he wasn't behind me. I looked around, and there was Larry, standing with a few other people on the ramp.

I said, Larry, come on, there are plenty of seats, lots of room, come sit down. He said, NO, I'm staying right here. So I shrugged and figured, fine. Stay there. Good luck to you.

In the bottom of the FIRST, Jim Mason, shortstop of the Yankees, hits a foul ball. Unbelievably, it goes right down the ramp. I'm in shock, go over to the railing and see two young guys tumble over each other chasing the ball, and some guy in a blue sweatshirt races past them as the ball caroms out of sight. I'm thinking that the blue sweatshirt guy is going to get it because nobody walking by on the concourse would react that fast.

A few seconds later, my friend Larry -- wearing his blue sweatshirt, of course -- comes back and hands me the ball. My friend Larry, the guy who always did what he wanted and got what he wanted -- said he wanted a foul ball and almost instantly, he got it. And I helped. I felt so good, and so happy for him. A sensational moment. Shea -- my favorite place on earth.

Elrod Hendricks died a couple of years ago. I noticed. Mostly a backup catcher for the Orioles, he also coached in the major leagues. The reason I noticed?

In the top of the SECOND inning, Elrod Hendricks hit a foul ball -- not a laser, not really a pop up. A lazy floater, straight back over the screen. I had the ball Larry got in my bare hand, and my baseball glove on my hand. The row in front of and behind me were empty and there were several seats empty on both sides.

Like in slow motion, I'm thinking -- this is coming to me, this is coming to me. I leaned over into the next seat on my right, backhand, and felt the ball hit my glove. And stick in my glove. And I froze. In that split second, I knew, I had gotten MY chance, and I didn't blow it. Everyone around was staring at me, waiting to pounce if I reached down to pick it up. Instead, I turned to Larry, showed him the ball in my glove, and held up BOTH! Larry didn't only do it for himself. He did it for me, too.

A glorious moment in my life, I'll never forget. Thank you, Elrod. Rest in peace. And thank you Larry, wherever you are.

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