Saturday, April 18, 2009

Meeting Ron Darling

Last Saturday, April 11th, I had the pleasure of going to The Book Revue In Huntington, to attend a book signing by none other than former NY Met and current Mets broadcaster, Ron Darling.

Darling was giving a talk, answering questions, and signing his new book, The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball, Pitching, and Life on the Mound. To say the day and the event was interesting would be an understatement.

Of the good-to-great Mets teams of the 1980's, many like Gooden the best of the starting pitchers on the Mets staff. The same can be said for the late 1960's and 1970's, where Tom Seaver was the main man. During this era, I was always a Jerry Koosman fan, and in the era of the 1980's, I always liked Darling the best of the starting pitchers. That's what made this particular day so great.

An old friend of mine, Tara, who is up visiting from Florida, was driving by the Book Revue in Huntington, and saw the sign for Darling's appearance. She called me on Friday evening, the day before, to inform me. Darling would be appearing from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Being the man of my house, I asked my wife if it would be OK. Also being the man of the house, I told her I was going after she gave me permission.

Saturday came, and it was a miserable day; rain, cold, heavy winds...the weather couldn't have been better. This meant less people would be attending, thus giving me a better opportunity to get the book signed.

Having grown up in Huntington, I knew the area like the back of my hand, so Metsfan73 and #1 son, Metsfan97, made the trip to the Book Revue.

Upon arriving and buying four books, One for my three children - Metsfan97, Metsfan99, and Metsfan03, one for me, one for Tara, and one, a surprise for Long Island Met Fan - we took our seats and waited for the guest of honor. When he arrived, he didn't disappoint.

Darling spoke for about 15 minutes, and answered questions for about 15 minutes, before signing books.

Some real interesting things Darling enlightened us to were:

  • Darling spoke of his attitude before starting a game. He freely admits he was less than a nice person, but between emotion and getting psyched up for the game, he turned into a different person.

  • When asked about his relationship with both Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez Darling informed that he gets along real well with both, but they aren't buddies where they get together after the game and go on vacations together. He said Gary is a great source of knowledge because he is such a Mets fan, and he knows their history so well, that both Darling and Hernandez learn a lot from him. With Hernandez, Darling has the utmost respect for Keith. He went into detail on how Keith taught the Mets not only how to win, but how to have a winning attitude.

  • Darling made jokes about Hernandez' 'Rush Limbaugh' vests, saying that Keith was miles to the right of Limbaugh.

  • When asked how he felt about this current team, and the great '86 team, is he proud that he was a member of the last World Championship Mets team - Darling said no one can ever take 1986 away from he and his teammates, but it's time for this generation to be the next World Champions, and he would be glad to pass that torch.

  • Darling was asked about the recent signing of Gary Sheffield, and he was not in favor of it because Sheffield is 40 years old, and will not be able to cover RF in the expansive new ballpark. He said Ryan Church is a much better RF, and might be one of the best in the NL, and the Mets should give him a fair opportunity. He also said he likes Sheffield alot, and that he has known him since he was 15 years old, when his Uncle Dwight (Gooden) would bring him into the clubhouse. Darling said that Gooden bragged that Sheff would hit 500 HR's, and the players got all over Gooden for saying that about his 15 year old nephew. Darling paused and then comically stated, "and we are still right...Gary has 499 HR's." Well Ron, Gary proved you wrong last night.

  • Asked who he rooted for as a child growing up in Massachusetts, Darling said he was a Red Sox fan. A Carl Yastrzemski fan. Darling said as a kid he used to copy Yaz' batting stance. He was also a big Boston Bruin fan, mainly a Bobby Orr fan.

At this point it was time for Ron to leave us and head to the loft, where the signings would commence. We waited about 40 minutes before it was our turn. When we got up to Darling, I asked him if he would mind if I asked him a question. He said, "Not at all, go ahead..." I asked him in all the years he played, was there any player(s) who he was real close to that were traded away, and how did he handle it. I explained that I remember in Keith Hernandez' book, If At First: A Season With The Mets, Hernandez explained he was real close with Ed Lynch, and it hurt when he was traded to the Cubs. Darling said he was close to Lynch too, and the other player where it hurt when he was traded was Suffern's own Walt Weiss, when they were teammates on the A's. He said from that point he decided it was a business, and he wouldn't get too close to guys he played with.

What a great day we had meeting Darling. I felt like a little kid, meeting Darling, and getting to speak with him ever so shortly, but I did get the chance. In the span of one week, I had been to GHMP twice, shook Jerry Manuel's hand, got some rubble that used to be Shea Stadium, and met Ron Darling. It is a day I will remember and cherish. It was like returning to my teen-age years/early 20's, when the Mets were on top of the world, and life wasn't so difficult.

I am still in the process of reading The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball, Pitching, and Life on the Mound, but will give my review once completed.

P.S. All week I had been breaking Long Island Met Fan's chops that I had a surprise for him. I wouldn't give him any hint, only that we had to meet before last night's game. Funny as it seems now, every night when we wanted to get together, something came up where we couldn't. Finally, this past Thursday we were able to meet for a beer and I was able to hand deliver the book to him. We had a laugh and we reminisced about the 'Good Ol Days', and what lies ahead for this team.

1 comment:

Long Island Met Fan said...

If we can only spend more time speaking to the guys we watched as we follow the Mets. Great post!