Monday, June 25, 2012

A Night to Remember

Thirty-nine years ago on this very night—June 25, 1973—I attended my first Mets' game at “beautiful Shea Stadium.” That’s how announcer Curt Gowdy described the place a mere four years earlier in a World Series highlight film. Anyway, it was more than beautiful to me as a ten-year-old boy. From the vantage point of my wide-eyes, it was awe-inspiring—Shea Stadium was the quintessential Wonder of the World. While I had been to Yankee Stadium on multiple occasions, I had only seen the "Big Shea" through the screen of my family’s black-and-white television set. So, to experience Shea Stadium live and in living color with its totally unique ballpark din—in close proximity to LaGuardia Airport runways—made it a night to remember.

An older neighbor of mine chauffeured a bunch of us to the game in a fire truck red Rebel, a classic AMC car from early 1970s. We had acquired the tickets by cutting coupons from the backs of Dairylea brand milk cartons, which wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Looking back, the actual ticket values were $1.30 a pop—grandstand seating in the stadium’s uber-high altitude upper deck. (They cost a $1.50 a couple of years later.) The Mets just weren’t doling out box seats to the area’s milk carton cutters. But it was a simpler time when free tickets of any kind mattered.

While I remembered this very special day in history—hence this blog—I didn’t recall the starting pitcher or the lineup. I knew for certain my boyhood idol, Tom Seaver, wasn’t on the mound, and I pretty sure the legendary Willie Mays didn't get into the game, either. Yogi Berra was the team’s manager—I knew that—and a not especially memorable Met named Jim Gosger was one of the outfielders that night. I don’t know why I remembered Gosger being in the game, but I did. I recalled, too, the tragic outcome. Entering the ninth inning, my team led two to nothing. The opposition Chicago Cubs, however, scored three runs and won the game. I was cruelly razzed by a couple of older males who accompanied me to the ballpark—fans, of course, of my home borough's team in that other league and the Mets' cross-town rivals. Crestfallen, my older sister, who also was along for the ride, bought me a Mets' helmet as we exited paradise—so all was not lost. And life went on—almost four decades and counting as a matter of fact.

Postscript: Due to the magic of the Internet and the unfathomable depths of the information superhighway, I resurrected that evening’s box score. I was right about Jim Gosger. Tug McGraw blew a save opportunity and Jon Matlack took the loss that night. The attendance was 31,984 and the game time temperature was seventy degrees, close to where it is as I write these words.

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