Tom Seaver

Ronnie & Me

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PopWhen I was a young boy growing up on E.39th Street in Flatbush, most of my days were spent on wondering if the Mets dealing Tom Seaver to the Reds was somehow my fault.  Perhaps if I had spoken directly to M Donald Grant, I could have told him that Doug Flynn would never hit a lick, Steve Henderson was simply not good enough, Dan Norman a suspect, not a prospect and that Pat Zachry was made of paper mache.

Why the passion?  Blame my dad. After his first two sons showed little interest in sports, let’s just say that when I started to mime swinging a bat at two years old, he knew he’d have someone to watch a game with. Not that he loves me any more than he does my brothers or sister (he doesn’t; he’s a great dad to all of us), he just knows that when he wants to know who the Mets are planning on using as their left-handed specialist, he knows who to call. Otherwise, I’m just one of his four kids. That’s fine with me.

Maybe one of the reasons that my father is such a good one is because he grew up with nothing at all.

Ron Healey spent most of his childhood at St. Vincent’s Home for Boys.  My siblings and I don’t know much about those days for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that he likely doesn’t remember them too fondly.

Most of what I know about his times there are the good things; playing ball with his buddies like Hank, Sep and Sarge, and getting to – on the weekends – go to their houses from time to time for a taste of a real home.  I’ve often wondered what that must have been like, having to go back to the darkness after a glimpse of the light.  But to his credit, and my everlasting gratitude, he never complained about it, never was consumed with bitterness about it, and sure as hell never took it out on any of us.  He was adamant that his kids would have everything he didn’t.

For him, not being far from the shadows of Ebbets Field was an escape from loneliness.   Cheering for his Brooks was probably the greatest joy he experienced during those dark days.  It was during those rare afternoons of getting to go to a game that more than likely turned mere fandom into baseball fever.

He handed down that wonderful gift to me, the love of the Great Pastime, and it’s the main reason you’re reading these words right now.

Whether it was his story of running into a young, athletic “guy who looked like a ballplayer (Willie Mays) so we ran after him and got his autograph” or his taking me and my buddies (when he really couldn’t afford to do) in the 1974 Dodge Dart (Special Edition) to see the dreadful post-Seaver Mets of the late 70′s, I was hooked and hooked early.

My dad’s a Mets fan these days (and has been since the Dodgers left Brooklyn), and he still won’t read (or says he doesn’t) read anything I write about the Yankees.  “I hate the Yankees,” he says, quite matter-of-factly, as if it were a natural state.  “I want them to lose every game they play.”

It’s quite possible he might not read this, but I suspect that even if this piece was about the Bombers, he’d sneak a peak to see what his “Markito” has written.

We still talk as much baseball as we ever did.  He probably watches as many (if not more) games than I do, and given the fact that he’s a dead-ringer for Terry Collins, the Mets manager, I think he roots for the Mets just a little bit harder lately.

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I don’t love my dad because we share a love for baseball. I love my dad because he went from being an orphan with nothing, to loving and supporting a family all of his life. He was a rough and tumble street kid that was never ashamed to hug his kids. Despite having a really good city job, still went to night school to get his degree from Brooklyn College, because he wanted to instill in his children the value of a college education.

I could go on and on. But all I really want to say is, Happy 75th birthday, Pop. You’re the best.

And thank you.

Rumor Mill Classic: Tom Seaver To The Yankees?

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71c594ac-1727-45f9-a279-f007812e5e7e_lgI was doing some research yesterday and I came across a couple of stories, one written in 1985 and one in 1986 season, indicating that Tom Seaver — the only current Hall of Famer wearing a Mets cap in Cooperstown – almost became a Yankee.

Tom Seaver, who had his greatest success in New York with the Mets, is about to return to the Big Apple–this time as a New York Yankee.

A source in the White Sox organization revealed that Seaver will be sent to the Yankees in a deal for Brian Fisher, a 24-year-old relief pitcher.

Of course, he wound up going to the Red Sox instead, and if not for a late-season injury, would have pitched in the 1986 World Series against his former team.

A Mets Fest, the Winter Caravan and Old-Timers’ Day

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For about two years now, I have been telling Mets fans to flex their ticket-buying muscles and force the ownership of the team to either sell or run the team in a fashion that befits a major market team with a new stadium and its own regional sports network.

Do I want to stay home? No. But how else can a fan show his/her displeasure with a dysfunctional franchise that has low to zero credibility? Yes, Mets GM Sandy Alderson may have made a shrewd trade to acquire top prospects in exchange for Mets fan favorite and Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, but hasn’t the window for winning a World Series been pushed back a few years now? Lowering expectations for the third straight year? That spells zero accountability to this fan.

Yes, I’m angry. I’ve rooted for this team since 1975 and have covered it since 1996. I love the team and distrust the ownership with equal passion. I’ve been told by many — including my wife — that I have allowed my dissatisfaction with the ownership cloud my judgement. So in an effort to make a positive impact rather than a negative one, I’d like to help the Wilpon ownership group from continuing to punch itself in the face.

The cheapest seat in the house on Opening Day? 63 bucks. Dumb. The logic behind it? Even dumber.

The Mets introduced two new alternate jerseys this offseason, as well as a new cap. The jerseys were promoted by email. And the new on-field cap? David Wright wore it — without any fanfare at all — in Nashville, as he was “re-introduced” to the fanbase with his new extension. Now that’s just silly. Fact: A contest to design a new cap, much like what the Brewers are doing, would have been smarter. It also would have allowed for a fan-type event during the cold winter.

The Astros were the worst team in baseball last season. Like the Mets, they have seen significant declines in their season ticket and overall sales for years, despite a new ballpark. How did they intro their new jerseys and caps?

They had a party

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20121102&content_id=40159356&c_id=mlb

The Reds have a new ballpark, had a great 2012, and are primed for another run at the NL Central title. They’re not considered a major market team. They’ve sold tickets pretty well the last few years. How do they get ready for the 2013 season?

Reds Fest

There is NO reason for not trying to do this with the Mets fan.  With all of the aforementioned ability to support and promote their own product,  especially with tickets sales being down every year since Citi Field opened, the idea that the Mets don’t have an annual Fan Fest is incredibly short-sighted.

The team used to do a Mets Caravan, but that stopped after the 2006 season. Is this why?

… (Carlos) Delgado and (agent David) Sloane were still taking their time, mulling offers from the Mets, Marlins, and Orioles. The Mets were about to stage their annual Winter Caravan, a somewhat corny old-school promotional event in which most of the team visits city schools, hospitals, and business offices to kick off the start of season-ticket sales. On a Sunday evening, during another conference call with Delgado’s agent, Wilpon demanded the first-baseman’s answer by the next day so as not to “interfere” with the Winter Caravan, Sloane says.

“I’m not stupid enough to believe they were serious,” Sloane says, still angry. “I knew what they were trying to do, which is why I told Carlos that when you’re confronted by a bully, you hit him in the mouth.” Sloane delivered his punch on ESPN, which suddenly ran a report saying the Mets had withdrawn from the Delgado sweepstakes. At midnight Sunday, a stunned Jeff Wilpon, watching TV at home, called Minaya, who spent Monday re-entering the hunt. To no avail: On Tuesday, Delgado signed with Florida. “I don’t think he ever really wanted to be a Met,” Wilpon says..

Old Timer’s Day - This year marks the 40th anniversary of one of the Mets faithful’s favorite teams, the unlikely “Ya Gotta Believe” pennant winners of 1973. First off, any excuse to get Tom Seaver, Yogi Berra and Willie Mays in the house, wearing #Mets gear, is a win-win, no matter the cost. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, it is another teachable moment for a young team trying to find its identity in a ballpark built for the owner’s friends from Coney Island Ave. Mix with a few HOFers is good for everyone. Great photo opps abound.

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Lastly, like Banner Day, it’s another way for this ownership group to show the fanbase they actually care about the traditions that Mets fans miss most. Banner Day was a great way to begin that process, but Old Timer’s Day shows a real commitment; ’cause it costs time and money. Because it seems like that’s the problem.

“It wasn’t popular, it wasn’t effective, fans weren’t responding and it wasn’t selling very many tickets,” (Mets VP Dave) Howard says. “The fans spoke volumes. It’s a very expensive promotion and it wasn’t producing the sales and marketing results we wanted for that investment. It died of its own unpopularity “

Now, let’s be honest Dave, the landscape has changed dramatically for the team since the mid-1990′s. Its ability to ptomote and engage the fans for this type of an event is vastly improved. Also, given that the team’s endgame is to rebuild for the foreseeable future, you should be trying EVERYTHING to get fans in the ballpark. You can only watch Shea Goodbyw so many times.

I wish it was only a cost-effectiveness issue. But it’s not. Frankly, the Mets can’t even send out a promo video w/o doing something dumb like trying to avoid the existence of a 20-game winner who just won the organizations first Cy Young Award in almost 30 years. It is the fear of ridicule, of blowback and of honest feedback from a fanbase that’s tired of the losing and the stupidity.

In 1989, Davey Johnson was omitted from the list of some two dozen people invited to Old-Timers’ Day.

From the Times:

That’s as much my fault as anybody,” said executive vice president Frank Cashen, who dismissed Johnson last May 29. “I thought it was just the 1969 team we’re inviting and I’m still not sure who’s involved, but Old-Timers’ Day is supposed to be joyous and having Davey back might put us and him in an untenable position.”

Why?

If the Old-Timers’ Day crowd cheered Johnson, would the Mets’ front office and Harrelson be embarrassed? If the crowd booed him, would he be embarrassed?

Like many, many, many others have said many, many, many times, the Wilpons and by extension, their PR and Marketing departments lack a cohesive link to their smartest and most loyal fans.

Maybe it’s time to listen to a few of them.

The All-Time Gotham Baseball Team: The Pitchers

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You give us the pitching some of these clubs have and no one could touch us, but God has a way of not arranging that, because it’s not as much fun. – Sparky Anderson

Great pitching is a tradition in Gotham.

From the earliest days of “base ball”, Gotham has seen its share of great hurlers; Candy Cummings, Amos Rusie and Buffalo great Pud Galvin to name a few.

It’s hard to imagine any of New York’s World Series winning teams without thinking of their great starters, and as the game has progressed, it’s shut down closers.

We’ve assembled what we think is a collection of the best pitchers Gotham has had to offer, and we admit it was hard to leave off names like Ron Guidry, Sal Maglie, David Cone and John Franco. We have our reasons for each selection, as well as each omission, but you’re going to have to wait until the Winter 2013 issue of Gotham Baseball to hear why.

We’re asking you vote for 2 (two) left-handed starters, 2 (two) right-handed starters and a closer. Once the votes are tallied, the Gotham Baseball panel of experts from all over the realm of baseball will make the final selections, which will be announced at an upcoming event at Foley’s NY, which was named Best Baseball Bar in NY by Gotham Baseball magazine back in 2011.

Right-Handed SP


Left-Handed SP


Closer


In 2013, Ya Gotta Remember the 1973 NL Champ Mets

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(Note – An earlier version failed to not the John “The Hammer” Milner passed away at the age of 50 after a long battle with cancer in 2000. He hit .296 in the 1973 World Series against Oakland – MH)

One could make the argument that the 1973 New York Mets season was even more improbable than the 1969 Impossible Dream.

A popgun offense barely managed to support an excellent pitching staff. A manager — while much beloved — was being undermined by a few of his aging veterans, including the great Willie Mays in his sayonara season. A front office, either hampered by ownership or clueless in its own right, that seemed unable to acquire a single impact offensive player to complement Rusty Staub.

Yet, they beat the Big Red Machine and took the Fightin’ A’s to the bring before a controversial managerial / front office / player decision to start Tom Seaver in Game 6 up 3-2), instead of George Stone (12-3, 2.80 ERA), saving Seaver just in case a Game 7 was even needed. Seaver, it is rumored, pushed Berra to start him. Or perhap it was Chairman of the Board M. Donald Grant, or even Berra himself, who wanted his best to finish the A’s off as soon as possible. Whoever made the call, it was questionable, as Stone had pitched brilliantly against the Reds in the NLCS, limited the Machine to just three hits over 6 2-3 innings of a eventual 2-1 loss in a  12-inning Game 4 .

But, nonetheless, it was an incredible season that fell just short. Punctuated by the iconic “Ya Gotta Believe!” chants of the late Tug McGraw, it is a season amd postseason held , especially by those who lived through it, as a very special memory.

In this, the 40th anniversary oif that special team, I’m hoping that someone in the Mets’ promotions and/or PR hierachy deems it proper to salute this team at some point next summer.  Maybe invite some of those old A’s and Reds, have a special presentation with Pete Rose and Buddy Harrelson, have Yogi with us one more time in his orange and blue. Willie Mays, Rusty Staub, Felix Millan and the whole crew that can make it. Make nice with Ken Boswell. Bring back Matlack.

If I can’t get Oldtimer’s Day back for good, this is a great compromise. Now as you may already know, some Mets fans are upset with me, but I still hope my pals Darren from The7Line.com and Shannon from the MetsPolice.com will still help me get the word out to get this done.

June 27th is my 45th birthday, a number that has special significance for the 1973 Mets. It’s be a great birthday present. It might even get me out to Citi Field.