Regular readers know I have been a New York Mets fan most of my life.
They came into the National League when I was 7 years old. For reasons I will never fully understand, my dad, an ardent Yankees fan, let me stray and ended up taking me to many games at old Shea Stadium.
He even rooted for the Miracle Mets with me in the 1969 World Series. Sadly, he was gone before the Mets and Yankees played in the 2000 World Series. I suspect he would have busted my chops and greatly enjoyed the Bombers winning in 5 games.
I haven’t written about the Mets in a long time because, well, there hasn’t been much positive to write in recent years.
As I write this, they are still clinging by a thread to the possibility of being one of the wild card teams to make the National League playoffs.
Let’s just say I haven’t been tempted to bet my house that they will.
Last Wednesday, though, they won both on and off the field, as they once again both appropriately and gracefully marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Perhaps you read about it. In addition to honoring first responders in a touching on-field ceremony and throughout the game, rookie slugger Pete Alonso took it upon himself to get special Sept. 11, 2001, commemorative spikes produced for the entire team to wear. Throughout the evening, it was clear what happened 18 years ago was in the forefront of pretty much everything.
And of course, the Mets won — scoring 9 runs on 11 hits. That’s Twilight Zone stuff.
The Mets have always done a great job commemorating this awful day, a tradition dating back to when they played the first professional sports event in New York City after those horrible attacks.
It was Friday night, Sept. 21 — a night no Mets fan, and many baseball fans, will never forget.
Mets players, led by then-manager Bobby Valentine, had done what they could while baseball was shut down in the aftermath of the attacks. At one point, Valentine led a group of players to Ground Zero to thank the first responders and workers.
Players including John Franco, a native New Yorker, Al Leiter and Mike Piazza brought baseball caps to give away. In return, they were spontaneously given NYPD, FDNY and other first responder hats in return. The Mets wore those caps in games the rest of the season, before Major League Baseball inexplicably decided that would no longer be allowed to do so.
The Sept. 21, 2001, game against the arch-rival Atlanta Braves, of course, seemed meaningless. From Diana Ross’s amazing rendition of “God Bless America” to a later performance by Liza Minnelli of “New York, New York” with a group of first responders, it was goosebumps all the way.
Most of the night, the game had a sort of eerie, somber feeling. Heck, players and coaches from both teams even came out on the field and hugged before the first pitch.
But then, late in the evening, something unexpected happened.
A baseball game broke out.
With the Mets still technically alive in the playoff race, Piazza crushed a two-run homer to left-center field in the eighth inning that led the Mets to a 3-2 victory. The crowd at Shea erupted like never before.
It was like some baseball god decided it was OK to nudge things just an inch or two closer to normal.
Eighteen years later, that memory still gives me chills.
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