Stars Shine At Citi

The prelims were over and it was time for the main event.

The 2013 All Star Game, the 84th Mid-Summer Classic since a sportswriter in Chicago named Arch Ward brainstormed the idea in 1933, was met with great fanfare last night. With 39 first time All-Stars on both squads, an All-Star record among others set, the players were as eager to participate as were the sellout audience that filled Citi Field.

By the way, it was the 84th All-Star Game, even though its been just 80 years since the first one, as two games were played per season from 1959-62. And it was before TV execs took over, as both games each year were played in daylight!

Mets starter Matt Harvey broke the ice on this new classic at 8:19 P.M., just minutes after legendary Mets hurler Hall of Famer Tom Seaver threw out the first pitch to the other Met All-Star, David Wright.
Harvey first serve resulted in a double down the right field line by the Angels’ Mike Trout.

It wasn’t a pretty first inning, as Harvey next plunked the Yankees’ Robinson Cano on the knee. Boston’s Dustin Pedroia was soon sent in to pinch run. Harvey then settled down by striking out reigning Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera swinging. Harvey got out of the inning unscathed by punching out Toronto’s Jose Bautista swinging.

Harvey became the first Met to start an All-Star game since Doc Gooden in 1988, and one of only 11 pitchers to start an All-Star Game in their home park. This list includes Roger Clemens in 2004 (Houston), Pedro Martinez in 1999 (Boston), Whitey Ford in 1960 (Yankee Stadium), Don Drysdale in 1959 (LA Coliseum), and Carl Hubbell in 1934 (Polo Grounds).

As the starter, Harvey got to complete two shutout innings. He sat down David Ortiz and Joe Mauer on flyouts and got Adam Jones swinging.

And Harvey’s All-Star appearance creates a Mets connection factoid as the answer to a future trivia question. The last time the Mets hosted an All-Star game in 1964, and the only time it was held at Shea Stadium, the Mets’ first elected starter to the lineup was second baseman Ron Hunt. The Harvey-Hunt connection? Both wear/wore #33!

Wright led off the second against Chicago’s Chris Sale and grounded to third.

The Mets’ team captain also captained the Home Run Derby held the previous night. He didn’t fare well there, either, accumulating just five home runs in his first round appearance. Cano preceded Wright with just four longballs.

Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes topped Washington’s Bryce Harper with a final round comeback to win the annual Home Run Derby crown. Cespedes wowed the sold out audience with a blazing first round set of 17 homers, many of which reached the rarely struck third deck in Citi Field’s left field.

This was the ninth All-Star Game to be played in New York, which gives the Big Apple the title for most All-Star Games hosted. The Mets’ original home, the Polo Grounds, layed out the figurative red carpet for the second game in 1934.

Prior to this year’s celebrated exhibition, the National league held the all-time edge, 43-38, with two ties, the most famous of which going back to 2002 in Milwaukee, when both teams ran out of pitchers in extra innings. The AL, however, has been prevalent more often in the past 25 games (18-6-1).

Ex-Met Carlos Beltran was met with mixed cheers and boos during the introductions, but mostly cheers with his first at-bat. He grounded out and singled in his two at-bats.

Harvey spoke midway through the game about his appearance and his touch of wildness which found cano’s knee.

“Obviously, that was the last thing I wanted to do was go out there and possibly injure somebody. I apologized and made sure he was okay. I think he understood it wasn’t intentional.”

As for the whole All-Star experience, it lived up to Harvey’s expectations. “It was, absolutely. It was so much fun. Just being in the locker room with all the guys, the Red Carpet in New York, starting. I don’t think you could have dreamed of doing something like that. It was a tremendous honor and something I’m very thankful for.”

The highlight for Yankees fans was seeing their hero, Mariano Rivera, come in to “close” the eighth. The stadium gave him a very unique introduction/sendoff in his last All-Star Game. First, you heard his music, “Enter, Sandman.” The entire field was devoid of players or personnel. Mariano Rivera trotted in from the bullpen to thunderous applause. And even all the players in the NL dugout came to the top step and applauded.

Rivera began warming up with just a catcher until the rest of his AL mates joined him halfway through. And with typical resolve, Rivera settled his inning one-two-three, with groundouts from Milwaukee’s Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez, and the Cardinals’s Allen Craig was retired on a liner to left.

The only odd thing about seeing Rivera was that it was the eighth, and not the ninth, since the AL was leading, 3-0, at the time.

Texas Rangers’ closer, and Long Island native, Joe Nathan, drew the assignment of closing it out for the AL in the ninth.

AL skipper Jim Leyland admitted it was a predetermined plan to get Rivera into the game, even if it wasn’t his usual ninth inning stint.

“For obvious reasons,” Leyland said after the game, “in case something freaky happened in the eighth and they scored some runs and there wouldn’t have been a ninth, I brought him in for the ninth.”

And he didn’t want to infuriate any Rivera fans in case he “messed up.” “I wanted to make sure I was going to get out of here alive tonight,” Leyland joked.

The AL made up for losing the last three All-Star games as Nathan put the 3-0 win “in the books.” The NL was held to just three hits. AL fans are happy they now get home field advantage in the World Series.

Rivera, perhaps more so as a “lifetime achievement award,” was named the game’s MVP, and was handed the keys to a brand new Corvette.

As always, Rivera was humble and respectful in the postgame conference. Surrounded by family, he was grateful and thankful for the win. “That’s the most important thing.”

He was not surprised by the eighth inning appearance, as Leyland had notified him before the game that he was getting no matter what.
Warming up on a lonely field, however, felt odd.

“That’s not baseball,” Rivera commented, but not in any demeaning way. “It felt so weird, all alone with my catcher. At that moment I didn’t know what to do, so I thought just (to keep warming up).”

Along with All-Star teammate Torii Hunter, Rivera gave the team a pre-game pep talk.

“I just said it was a privilege and an honor to play with them. This was my 13th All-Star team. I said, enjoy it, cause it goes so quick.”

And just like that, the 84th all-Star Game went by so quick and is now history. next year, the 85th Mid-Summer Classic will be played in Minnesota.

It’s a Home Run

The 2013 Home Run Derby was won by Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes, who banged out nine home runs in the final round to surmount Washington’s Bryce Harper for the annual crown.

Eight participants battled the heat and humidity to thrill the sold out crowd at Citi Field. Local products Robinson Cano, both captains of the their respective AL and NL HR lineups, didn’t fare as well. Cano clipped just four home runs in the first round. Wright clobbered five.

Posted under Andy Esposito, Carl Hubbell, Doc Gooden, Don Drysdale, Game Even Though, Joe Mauer, La Coliseum, New York Mets, Shea Stadium, Tom Seaver, Top Story, Tv Execs, Whitey Ford, Yankee Stadium

Sports Beat “The Wright Decision”

David Wright’s productive 2012 season was a rare bright spot for Mets fans. With one year remaining his current pact with the Mets, David picked a good time to finally feel at home at Citi Field, a place where he had struggled for the first three years of its existence.

Mets owner Fred Wilpon was quoted in New York Magazine as saying that David Wright, while a good player, was not a superstar. Wilpon may have been right in his assessment but the reality is that his woebegone organization had no choice but to re-sign him to the most lucrative contract in Mets history. Had the Mets traded David Wright, Citi Field would have resembled the ghost town that Shea Stadium was in the late 1970s following Tom Seaver’s departure.

For better or worse, David Wright is more than just a fan favorite; he is the face of the organization. No one sells more Mets jerseys and t-shirts than him. It is obligatory for Wright to hold a lengthy press conference on the state of the Mets after every single game. No matter how awful things are going for our Flushing heroes, David always says something reassuring to the faithful about how things will get better.

I am not sure if it was a coincidence but the Mets inked a deal with Wright just a few hours after the lowly, small market Pittsburgh Pirates spent $17 million to pry catcher Russell Martin away from the Yankees. It would have been both humiliating and insulting for the parsimonious Pirates to spend big bucks on new talent while the Mets count their pennies watching their name players go elsewhere.

The death of Marvin Miller, the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, last week at age 95 did not receive the attention that it should have. Marvin is the man who was singlehandedly responsible for the economic freedoms and high compensation that big leaguers enjoy today and which were but a pipedream for them 40 years ago.

Ironically, the high salaries and free agency led to more public interest in the sport and thus higher ticket prices, licensing fees, and billion-dollar television contracts for the owners. Of course, the owners and old guard members of the Baseball Writers Association of America refused to accept that notion and that’s why Marvin Miller was never inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Washington Wizards general manager, and former Forest Hills High basketball star, Ernie Grunfeld normally never misses an opportunity to return home. His awful team had a 1-12 record when they came into town last Friday night to play the Knicks and that had to have influenced his decision to skip the game. “He made the right call!” laughed Knicks rookie forward Chris Copeland who played well in his team’s easy win.

“Seven is better than six!” beamed Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill following his team’s 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Hill was basically admitting that the game was an absolute stinker with the only saving grace being that Gang Green came out on top.

QB Mark Sanchez was pulled from a game for poor play for the first time in his four-year career as a Jet by head coach Rex Ryan. Following the game, Ryan admirably refused to throw Sanchez under the proverbial bus by simply stating that he thought that his understudy, Greg McElroy, could provide a spark in the second half. McElroy did look sharp leading the Jets to the go-ahead touchdown and driving them down the field again when the clock ran out in the fourth quarter.

Ryan claimed that he wasn’t concerned that Mark Sanchez was still an awful passer in spite of a good job by both his offensive line and running backs, and preferred to give credit to the opposition. “The Cardinals make a lot of quarterbacks look bad,” he said. I think that Rex was being a bit too charitable towards him.

The Travel Channel debuted a new series Tuesday, “NFL Road Tested: The Cleveland Browns.” The show is similar to the cinema verite premium cable documentary series as HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and Showtime’s “The Franchise.” What makes this show different is that it peels back the curtain for sports fans to see the countless things that are required to get the Cleveland Browns from city to city. Team travel secretaries are among the many unsung heroes in the world of professional sports and it’s fascinating to watch all that they have to do to make sure that things go off without a hitch.

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin is enjoying a terrific rookie season and is one of the most exciting NFL players to watch. Bayside High School alumnus Dorson Boyce is hoping to be taking hand-offs from him next year. Boyce was signed by the Redskins this past summer but has spent the year on the injured reserve list.

Three cheers for both Showtime and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions for helping to revive boxing in New York. Madison Square Garden was for years the Mecca of boxing but over the last thirty years, Las Vegas, and to a lesser extent, Atlantic City have played host to the big fights. Last Saturday’s twelve-round WBA super welterweight championship bout between fan favorite Miguel Cotto and Austin “No Doubt” Trout was the biggest pugilistic battle Madison Square Garden has hosted in years. The fight was a good one as the slugfest went the distance with Trout winning a unanimous decision over Cotto.

It seems as if every boxing card that involves fighters that have even the vaguest name recognition wind up on pay-per-view cable. That means just a cadre of hardcore boxing fans watch and the sport fails to grow. Showtime had the Cotto-Trout bout as part of its regular Saturday night programming last week, and it plans to do the same with its next marquee fight from New York, a twelve-round super lightweight championship fight between up-and-coming Danny Garcia and veteran Zab Judah that will take place at the Barclays Center on February 9.

New York Rangers center Brad Richards has managed to keep very busy in spite of the lockout that has been imposed on players by the team owners of the National Hockey League owners. He organized Operation Hat Trick, the charity game that took place in Atlantic City over Thanksgiving weekend, and is trying to do the same here in the New York area to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Richards, like his teammate Henryk Lundqvist, enjoys men’s fashion and has just inked a deal to be a model and spokesman for UNTUCKit, a dress shirt company that encourages guys to wear their button-downs over their belts instead of tucking them inside, hence the brand name.

Liquor companies routinely hire athletes to serve as endorsers. Ty Ku, Japan’s best known sake manufacturer, has gone a slightly different route by hiring Bravo’s no-nonsense “Millionaire Matchmaker,” Patti Stanger. Then again, dating can frequently be a contact sport!

At a press event to promote both Ty Ku and her new book, “Become Your Own Matchmaker” (Atria), Stanger spoke about how she spent her formative years in Beechurst and her fond memories of PS 193.

Sake, incidentally, is a rice-based, wine-like spirit, that contrary to popular belief, should be served cold rather than heated according to Ty Ku officials.

The holiday season is a favorite time for a lot of us to get away. If you want warmth but don’t want to pay exorbitant Florida and the Caribbean hotel rates, two cities served by JetBlue, Long Beach, California and Las Vegas, Nevada offer very pleasant albeit not tropical weather, and it’s considered off-season for both places so they won’t break your budget.

Long Beach is connected to Los Angeles via mass transit through the Blue Line as well by freeway and it’s only a 15-minute drive to Disneyland. Most of Long Beach’s hotels cater to business travelers and since the holiday season is notoriously a slow time in that area, leisure travelers can snap up bargain deals from the big name chain hotels such as the Hyatt and the Renaissance.

Las Vegas, which is generally unbearable from June through September, is an easy place to enjoy during the holiday season. The Venetian and the Palazzo Hotels are promoting  “Winter in Venice” that will run through January 6.  The hotels will have light shows, waterfalls, outdoor skating rinks, and top-tier dining at their over 30 restaurants. Package deals begin at $149 per night. A Las Vegas competitor, the Cosmopolitan, which is famous for its intriguing commercials that run during NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” is offering a $150 credit on hotel amenities if you book a three-night stay.

JetBlue has just begun service from JFK to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a town that has been shamefully under-served by the airline industry. Albuquerque is a charming southwest town and it’s only an hour drive to Santa Fe, a city renown for its arts. Albuquerque is also a short drive to New Mexico’s Rocky Mountain ski resorts. If you want to enjoy a balmy winter sun, drive two hours south to the college town of Las Cruces. You can also play golf anytime of the year without having to make reservations days in advance in Las Cruces.

Posted under Baseball Players Association, David Wright, Economic Freedoms, Fred Wilpon, Ghost Town, Lloyd Carroll, Lucrative Contract, Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball Players Association, Marvin Miller, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Pipedream, Pittsburgh Pirates, Shea Stadium, Tom Seaver, Top Story

Dickey the CY Young Award winner and Reyes gone in a fire sale

The R.A. Dickey story continues with his National League CY Young Award that was announced Wednesday evening. The New York Mets pitcher and first knuckle ball recipient of the award, third pitcher in Mets history with that distinction, gets a well deserved honor.

Some will say a knuckle ball thrower is not deserving of CY Young Award status. However, a 20-win season, to go along with taking the ball for a struggling team, is enough to vouch for the landslide first ballot among voters with the baseball Writers of America.

It is a success story. Dickey was on the verge of leaving the game of baseball, adversity on his side, now in an elite group of a few with the distinction of becoming the best at what he does.

The game of baseball is made for a story like this even if the knuckle ball has been made to prolong the career of a 38-year old pitcher. For the Mets, and their fans, a team of disappointment, the award is also for them

Dickey was the first to say, “This is for the Mets organization and for the fans.” In reality, the award is for Dickey who is never one to say “I” and always refers to accomplishments as, “We.”

Tom Seaver and Doc Gooden were previous CY Young Award recipients for the New York Mets. The fastball, curve, and a variety of other pitches were a part of their image. So, it is not unusual for the skeptics to claim that the knuckle ball is not a regular pitch.

Perhaps, to a certain degree the knuckler is not in the class of a fastball or curve, the slider, or changeup. Dickey, as often stated so many times says, “It’s a pitch like a butterfly, coming at you and trying to catch it.”

So forget the notion that Dickey and the knuckle ball are not deserving of the award. That, Geo Gonzalez, and his 21-wins with the Washington Nationals were more deserving. Or that Dodgers’ left hander Clayton Kershaw and his NL leading ERA should have gave him two straight CY Young Award seasons.

Dickey with three shutouts, leader in NL quality starts, (27) with only four poor outings, said his storybook season can also be attributed to what was behind him. The catcher Josh Thole handling the knuckle ball so effectively, the third baseman David Wright handling the plays at third, but leading the league in strikeouts, 230, and innings pitched, 233, are something that should not go unnoticed.

Yes, this is a success story that deserves attention, for a pitcher who left spring training in 2010 without a team. And then, the Mets offered him a contract as he perfected the knuckler to overcome the adversity,

“It brings a real degree of legitimacy to the knuckleball fraternity,” said Dickey Wednesday evening from his home in Nashville Tennessee. “I’m glad to represent them,” he said about Phil Niekro, Tim Wakefield and Charlie Huff.

He may not be able to duplicate the season that was, as it becomes more difficult for a pitcher to do so, even if the knuckle ball works to Dickey’s advantage. And there is that distinct possibility, now that he is a good trade commodity, that the Mets could get some value in return with a proper offer.

But, Dickey is not thinking about that, neither are the Mets for the moment. They will make every attempt to re-sign him, an incentive for fans to attend Mets games at Citi Field in 2013.

JOSE REYES AND THE MARLINS FIRE SALE:  An immediate question is, should Jose Reyes have stayed in New York and took the initial  deal of less money and a shorter stint of time instead of opting to take the deal with the Marlins?

Yes and no, because it is sports “Ego-Nomics” as the Miami Marlins have discovered after their last place finish and 69 wins, in a lost 2012 season of spending, a new ballpark and now a fire sale.

There is no guarantee that spending will buy a championship. The Marlins are well aware, the owner Jeffrey Loria is under fire for buying and selling off $163.75 million in contracts with a multi-player deal involving the Toronto Blue Jays.

Toronto becomes an immediate favorite to overtake the New York Yankees in the AL East acquiring the contracts of Reyes, pitchers Mark Buehrie and Josh Johnson, plus the Jays get some cash with other players in the deal.

But the trade brings up any number of questions, one being does this send a message to owners that spending and offering long term deals may be a thing of the past? Ask the Yankees, who may not be able to trade away an aging and declining Alex Rodriguez with five years remaining on a $250 million dollar contract.

As for Reyes, who did his part with the Marlins, is this, his last stop? Probably not, as a player of his value in the game is worthy for any team that is willing to pick up pieces of a contract.

There is a factor for Reyes, who played in 161 games for Miami. He goes to a new league and will play on artificial turf, something that could hinder his hamstrings which caused numerous problems during his tenure in New York.

It is baseball and sports “Ego-Nomics.”  And next to the Dodgers-Red Sox mega trade in September, this one could be sending the message. The era of a huge and long term deal with the players and owners may be over.

E-Mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com  Listen and watch Rich Thursday evening live 8-10pm www.inthemixxradio.com or log on Facebook.com/Keep it in the Ring

Posted under Award Recipients, Baseball Writers, Changeup, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Cy Young Award Winner, Deserved Honor, Doc Gooden, Elite Group, Fastball, Fire Sale, Knuckle Ball, Landslide, New York Mets, Rich Mancuso, Tom Seaver, Top Story, Washington Nationals, Wednesday Evening

Pigs Finally Fly: The Mets Get Their First No-Hitter

A popular saying to describe something very unlikely to occur is “that will happen when pigs fly.” Until last Friday night the Mets had never had one of their pitchers, a group that included such luminaries as Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, and Frank Viola,  toss one of baseball’s very special accomplishments, a no-hitter. Pigs must have been flying somewhere near Flushing on June 1 because ace pitcher Johan Santana finally ended the hex by tossing a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals, the best-hitting team in the National League no less, by a score of 8-0 at Citi Field.

While a lot was understandably made of this first in Mets history what went unsaid was that there hadn’t been a major league no-hitter thrown in Queens since the late Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, Bob Moose, threw one against the Miracle Mets on September 20, 1969 at Shea Stadium. Undaunted, the Mets went on to win the World Series less than a month later.

Mets manager Terry Collins mixed euphoria with concern at his press conference following Santana’s accomplishment. At his pre-game meeting with reporters Collins said that he wanted to limit Johan’s pitch count to around 110.

Santana missed all of the 2011 season and a great deal of the 2010 campaign recovering from shoulder surgery so the last thing that Terry Collins wanted was to have a situation where he tax his star pitcher’s harm past the 110 boundary. Collins is also well aware that Santana earns $22 million per year and the last thing that the financially troubled Mets needed was for him to lose more time out of uniform. It would have been the textbook definition of a Pyrrhic victory for Collins to have Santana pitch a no-hitter and then have him wind up on the disabled list.

The Mets manager had taken a lot of heat two weeks ago for removing David Wright from a game with the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field because he did not want to risk having his team’s star player injured after a beanball war had broken out. Mets reliever DJ Carrasco plunked Brewers slugger Ryan Braun so Collins wisely figured that the Brewers relief corps would retaliate against Wright in the bottom of the inning.

Wright was livid about Collins’ mollycoddling of him and it was clear that Terry understood David’s viewpoint. There was no way that Collins was going to take Johan Santana out of a game where he could make history unless Johan himself wanted to be removed. From his post-game demeanor it wouldn’t have been surprising if Terry Collins was secretly rooting for a Cardinals player to get a hit after Santana went past the 100-pitch mark in the game so that he wouldn’t be faced with a wrenching decision. Santana wound up throwing a very taxing 134 pitches.

The Mets manager could have been off the hook had umpire Adrian Johnson made the right call when former Mets star Carlos Beltran hit shot over the third base bag in the sixth inning that was ruled a foul ball. A replay showed that the ball did in fact hit the line and Beltran should have had a double.

The Mets may have earned some karma from the baseball gods with respect to Carlos Beltran when they saluted him with a video montage of highlights from his seven-year tenure with the Amazin’s prior to the game. The crowd roared its approval and Beltran responded in kind with a tip of his hat.

Mets outfielder and Whitestone native Mike Baxter made a sensational catch on Yadier Molina’s screeching line drive to rob him of a double in the seventh inning. Baxter smashed into the wall and was lying on the ground for some time afterwards. He was removed from the game but X-rays taken afterwards were negative. He was at his locker following the game and told the media that he had merely suffered a bad bruise.

Rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis took over for Baxter in left field and the following inning he saved the no-hitter when he raced in for a bloop fly ball hit by Cards’ second baseman Tyler Greene. Mets fans’ hearts were racing when they saw shortstop Omar Quintanilla, who was subbing for the injured Ruben Tejada, go full throttle in the other direction for Greene’s pop-up. Omar said afterwards that he heard Kirk call him off at the very last second. With so much on the line, as well as a very loud crowd, it was completely understandable how communication could have been garbled between them. In past years, Santana would have lost the no-hitter on that play and one or both of the players would have been injured in a collision. Not on this night however.

The Mets bullpen earned a rare night off but they were clearly on standby. “We tried to stay inconspicuous but we had someone ready from the sixth inning on,” revealed Mets reliever Bobby Parnell in the clubhouse following the game.

Santana clearly benefitted from the return of catcher Josh Thole who had just come off the disabled list a few hours earlier after enduring a concussion three weeks earlier. Thole certainly called a good game for Johan as the Mets pitcher did not shake off any of his signs.

As if there wasn’t enough drama, rain was working its way up the I-95 corridor Friday night. The Washington Nationals had already canceled their game while the Phillies were in a lengthy rain delay in Philadelphia. Former Mets general manager Jim Duquette who was working in the radio booth subbing for Josh Lewin said that he and Howie Rose were sharing weather forecasts with the fans as the game went on. “Everyone knew that if play was stopped even for a few minutes, Johan would be removed from the game,” he said. He went on to add that he and Howie made a conscious decision to start talking about the possibility of a no-hitter in the sixth inning.

As the late Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy used to say, “The weatherman certainly cooperated with the Mets!” After all of the Mets’ bad fortunes over the last few years their fans finally had a great memory from Citi Field.

Posted under Ace Pitcher, David Wright, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Johan Santana, Lloyd Carroll, Luminaries, Milwaukee Brewers, Miracle Mets, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pyrrhic Victory, Shea Stadium, St Louis Cardinals, Star Player, Textbook Definition, Tom Seaver, Top Story

Johan’s Masterpiece Is For All Of Met Nation

Somewhere in the great sports bar in the sky, Tug McGraw is screaming, “Ya Gotta Believe!” Gary Carter is acting like a maniac. Gil Hodges is nodding silently in approval.

And Casey Stengel is rubbing his leathery face, winking his eye and uttering, “Amazin’!”

When all is said and done, this was just a regular season game. One that put the Mets six games over the .500 mark, helping them to continue on with their surprising 2012.

Yet, this game meant more than that. This was the Mets last ghost exorcized. With 8,019 games played and no no-nos, you had to wonder if this was ever going to happen. The no-hitter is one of the hardest accomplishments in baseball, but with the slew of great pitchers that have come through the Met organization, just by sheer luck, someone would have thrown one by now.

On game 8,020 it happened. Johan Santana’s no-hitter gave the Flushing Faithful a moment in Mets history that will last a lifetime. This was the Miracle Mets, Game 6, and the Grand Slam Single. This was a moment you shared with your children or called your father as it was happening.

And just like those other great events in Mets history, you will remember where you were years from now and will share it with your children and grandchildren when other Mets throw their no-hitters.

It’s the type of event that binds Met fans together. Disillusioned over the past few seasons, this one game will probably bring back the fans, hoping that another glimpse of history will happen at Citi Field.

And if it wasn’t Tom Seaver or Doc Gooden or Jerry Koosman, it is perfect that Santana is the one to break the curse.

“Short of Tom Seaver, I can’t think of a better person to pitch the first one,” said third baseman David Wright. “The type of guy he is, the type of person he is, and what he’s been through last year – to come back and have that type of performance, that’s incredible and was glad to be a part of that. … I am thrilled I could be a part of it. It couldn’t happen to a better guy.

“It’s just an amazing story. I can let you know firsthand. I was there with him in Florida throughout some of his rehab last year. The work he put in, the time he put in to get himself back to this point. I thought his last start was special, but this start was just…I guess once every 51 years.”

When the Mets acquired Santana in 2008, he was supposed to lead the team back to the playoffs. It hasn’t happened yet. His shoulder surgery was supposed to end his career or at least make him a shell of his former self.

Instead, we are seeing the Johan of old – competing every game and fighting against every batter.

Of course like any no-hitter he had help. A fortunate foul ball at third base in the sixth and then a miracle-like catch by Mike Baxter, who grew up in the shadow of Shea Stadium,  in the seventh.

After that, you knew that it could happen. However, there were 8,019 reasons to believe the other shoe was going to drop.  But he continued to mow the Cardinals down, one by one until David Freese – last year’s World Series hero – became the answer to a Met trivia question by fishing for the signature changeup for strike three.

All of Met Nation rose to its feet in almost utter disbelief. Tears were coming out Terry Collins eyes, standing at the dugout just enjoying the moment, as the Mets celebrated on the field.

And the same cheers came throughout New York. From houses to sports bars a certain relief was felt. You could hear it in the voices of the announcers – Gary Cohen and Howie Rose – Met fans from their youth and the voices of this generation.  And the 27,69 who actually were at the game, went into a frenzy.

Somewhere in the great sports bar in the sky, Bob Murphy is giving his happy recap, while Mrs. Payson was  in her usual seat watching the Mets. Lindsey Nelson was in his sports coat getting reaction from Tommie Agee and Donn Clendenon.

It was a night for all Met fans to celebrate, because on game 8,020 the curse was broken.

Amazin’!

Posted under Amazin, Better Person, David Wright, Doc Gooden, Game One, Gil Hodges, Great Sports, Jerry Koosman, Joe Mcdonald, Johan Santana, Leathery Face, New York Mets, Sheer Luck, Six Games, Tom Seaver, Top Story, Tug Mcgraw

This post was written by Joe McDonald on June 2, 2012

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Catch The Rising Star

It was rather fitting that Channel 9 had a theme song for the Mets in 1985, called “Catch the Rising Stars.”

The country sounding tune was a intended for the young Mets like Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, but in reality the Mets wanted you to catch their brightest star Gary Carter.

The Hall of Fame catcher died today after a about a nine month bout with brain cancer. Although he played on the Mets for just five years – and mainly as his prime was fading – his impact was felt throughout, not only the organization, but all of Mets Nation.

“No one loved the game of baseball more than Gary Carter,” said fellow Hall of Famer Tom Seaver in a statement released by the Mets. “No one enjoyed playing the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. He wore his heart on his sleeve every inning he played. He gave you 110 percent and played the most grueling position on the field and that was something special.”

The loudest cheers at the Rangers games tonight were for Carter, who received a standing ovation from the crowd when his passing was announced, while the Montreal Canadiens paid tribute to his time playing north of the border.

All of this for one of the best catchers of his generation. Carter was the final piece to the puzzle, acquired in December, 1984 for four players, to make the Mets into a champion.

“The genesis of the trade was that we wanted to add a big bat to the lineup,” said former Mets GM Frank Cashen in a statement. “He did that right away, but perhaps more importantly was the way he handled our young pitchers. He was the perfect guy for so many reasons.”

“I relied on Gary for everything when I was on the mound including location, what pitch to throw and when,” Doc Gooden said in a statement. “Even when I didn’t have my best stuff, he found a way to get me through the game. He was just a warrior on the field.”

When he came to the Mets, he made the Mets stable of young talented pitchers into stars. He elevated Gooden’s game in 1985, so he had one of the best seasons in the history of baseball and forced Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez to pitch inside, something the young pitchers were shy to do the year before.

Then there was his presence at the plate. Carter made the Mets lineup complete. With George Foster making the Jason Bay signing look good, the team needed a right handed hitting cleanup hitter. That was Carter, who provided protection for Keith Hernandez and took pressure off of Darryl Strawberry, allowing the mercurial right fielder to develop.

With the trade, the stage was set and Carter shined on the biggest. On opening day in 1985, Carter hit a walk off homer off former Met Neil Allen to star off his career and let’s not forget his walk off hit in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS or his two home runs in Game 4 of the World Series at Fenway Park.

And let’s not forget the rally in the 10th inning of Game 6 at Shea Stadium.

“I didn’t want to make the last out and I always maintained the theory – it’s not over ‘til it’s over,” Carter would say back in 2004. “I just went up there with the feeling of confidence and doing the best I possibly could and I was able to come through. Then Kevin Mitchell followed and then Ray Knight. Before you know it the ball went through Buckner’s legs and we had won Game 6. To me, I just go up there and remember my career. It was never a grind. It was an enjoyment. It’s amazing to think 18 years and how quickly it passed. I just went up there and said there was no way we should lose this World Series. I did everything to keep us alive.”

All during that time, Carter was the Met who had the biggest smile in the biggest market. If he was on your team, you loved him and if you rooted for another club, you hated him.

Simply put he was the symbol of the Mets in the 1980s and not a rising star but the one the shined the brightest.

He will be missed.

Posted under Brain Cancer, Brightest Star, Channel 9, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, Dwight Gooden, Fellow Hall, Frank Cashen, Hall Of Fame, Joe Mcdonald, Mets Gm, Montreal Canadiens, New York Mets, Pitchers, Playing The Game, Rising Star, Standing Ovation, Tom Seaver, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on February 17, 2012

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