Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Phalon’s File: A Good Time to Be a Mets Fan

You know who you are. You’ve been suffering for decades. Sure, the Mets stumbled their way into the playoffs a few times since the last World Championship in 1986. They toyed with us in 2000 and 2015 with appearances in the Fall Classic. But you have Mets in your blood. Your DNA.

It takes character to be a Mets fan. They’ve historically specialized in snatching defeat from the jaws of a pennant. Injuries, bad trades, cheap owners. But this year is different. New owner Steve Cohen promised us deliverance. And so far he is delivering.

In fact, it was delivering that got me to my first Mets game. My first trip to Flushing by the Bay was achieved by my own doing. I earned two tickets from the newspaper I delivered in 1971. In addition to delivering the paper, we were also expected to help find new customers every month or so. As an incentive, we were awarded prizes, and up for grabs in the spring of ’71 were tickets for a bus trip to Shea Stadium on July 1. All I had to do was find three new customers.

To find these new subscribers, a circulation manager would pick up about four or five of us in a battered van used to deliver bundles of the paper. We’d each get dropped off in unfamiliar neighborhoods and where we would go door-to-door asking people to sign up. Kind of like the Mormons but we worked alone. What could possibly go wrong? I turned on my cherubic exuberance and made quick work of finding those new readers.

I brought my brother Tim, and we boarded a chartered school bus with about 30 other newspaper kids and an utterly insufficient number of “responsible adults” and headed for Queens.

Our route took us over the Whitestone Bridge, where The Stadium came into full view. I was close to completing a pilgrimage. We were ushered in and went up a ramp. And another ramp. And one after that. We kept climbing until we reached the top level of Shea

The first thing my brother and I did was climb to the very top row where we could see the distant Manhattan skyline and gathering storm clouds. Those tickets cost about $1.50 each then, about $10 in today’s money.

The Mets were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates that day. My team lost 3-0, but who won and lost was irrelevant compared to just being there.

Jerry Koosman was the starting pitcher. In the lineup were most of my heroes from the 1969 Miracle Mets: Bud Harrelson, Cleon Jones, Art Shamsky, Jerry Grote and my personal favorite, Tommie Agee.

The players I saw for the Pirates were no less impressive. Willie Stargell, pitcher Dock Ellis and legend Roberto Clemente.

With rain delays, the game took more than four hours.

I said earlier the Mets have become part of my DNA. This is proven by my son Matt, who is triple the Mets fan I am. Two years ago, as a Christmas present, he brought me to the Mets first Fanfest at Citi Field. I got to meet and talk to Ed Kranepool, Ron Swaboda, Art Shamksy as well as current players like Dom Smith and Edwin Diaz. Of course Covid took a hammer to that season, but now it’s full throttle LFGM! “M” for Mets and for Matt.

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