Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Fan's Fond Memory

I get to approximately two or three games a season. Not many compared to many of our readers, but with the increasing cost of games, busy schedule and the like, I get to as many as I can. Of all the games I have attended, there are many games that come to mind. The most prolific in my mind, is the first game I ever attended.

Now many who know me have exclaimed, and I agree, that my mind is a vat of useless information, especially when it comes to history, TV, and most importantly, MY METS, and my recollection of this event is no different.

The first game I ever went to was on June 1, 1975...the day before my ?? birthday. My Grandfather and father (God bless their souls), took me and my best friend Doug to the Mets/Padres game. That game, the Mets had one of their all time greats starting the game...Randy Tate. Although I have read that Tate is a wonderful guy, he was one lousy pitcher on a lousy team.

The day started out as a cloudy dreary day, but thankfully Mother Nature relented, and allowed us to get the game in. I will never forget approaching Shea Stadium, and seeing those wonderfully God awful Orange and Blue tiles adorning the outside of MY TEAMS home. I was so excited. All I was able to think about was my favorite player, the greatest catcher ever, Jerry Grote going to be playing? YES! He was in the starting line-up!

The year before, Grandpa had given me my first Mets yearbook, you know, the one with the 1973 NL Championship flag on it. That started the tradition. I have purchased a yearbook every year from 1974 through 2008, and don't plan on stopping. I was so excited. My first Mets game. How cool was that? What a great ?? birthday present. Not only that, but my favorite guys were all there; Grandpa, Dad, and Doug. What else could a kid ask for?

I will never forget walking up the tunnel way, to get to our seats. I remember approaching the seats with awe. That green field. How beautiful. The next thing that came to mind was how big the field was. I started playing organized ball that same year, the year that Ralph Kiner was elected to the Hall Of Fame, and couldn't fathom how these players were able to play on such a large field.

I remember Dave Winfield starting in RF for the Padres. I also remember Mike Ivie playing 1B. I remember Rusty Staub, John Milner, Del Unser, and Felix Millan, among others, starting for the Mets. But, the most important player on the field...Jerry Grote. Number 15 in the flesh. Could life get any better than this?

I remember Rusty Staub trying to slide/dive to catch a ball, and missed. The field was real wet, and I remember him sliding...

I also remember the Mets losing 4-0. Shut out. How humiliating. Jerry Grote was even charged with an error. I can't say I recall, because Jerry was perfect then, and is perfect now. But, he hit a double. I was upset, but I had finally been to see MY TEAM in person. Not only did I see it, but my three favorite people were with me.

I remember Grandpa pointing out to me how the fielders were positioned, about batters shortening their swing, etc. I cherished those moments. This was the start of a wonderful four year tradition of going to games with my grandfather and father (and Doug most times). Grandpa always treated Doug as his surrogate grandson for the day, treating him to soda, hot dogs, pretzels, a pennant, etc. Grandpa was an old time Brooklyn Dodger fan, born and raised in that wonderful borough, and saw not only the great Dodger teams, but the poor ones of the 19-teens. He used to tell me of Zack Wheat, Pete Reiser, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, and Roy Campanella. It was a joy.

The same can be said for my father...Dad. He wasn't the baseball fan that Grandpa and I were, but he loved taking me to the games. I will have another entry about one time in particular at another time...

Dad was a Yankee fan, but he routed for NY. I could never understand. You are either a Mets fan or a Yankee fan. Not both. Dad was raised in Ohio, and moved to NY when raising the family. He had a much more intelligent, open minded perspective than yours truly.

Although the Mets lost the game, I still look back on that game with such fondness. Although Grandpa and Dad are long gone, there isn't a time when attending Shea with my wife and three children, that I don't think back to my first Mets game. To this day, I still walk into the seated area, see that beautiful green field, and have the same goose-bumply feeling I had on June 1, 1975.

Shea will not be here next season, and although the place is a toilet, I still look back with such fond memories, and I truly hope that each and every one of you can look back to your first time at Shea with such child exuberance. To me, that day ranks up there with my first A in school, my first base hit, my first runner thrown out (while catching of course), my first kiss.

Special times like these are embraced, and there aren't too many days that go by that I don't think of my first game - June 1, 1975...Padres 4 Mets 0 – along with Dad, Grandpa, and Doug.

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