World Series

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.

The All-Time Gotham Baseball Team: The Complete Ballot

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gbwallpaperDuring my childhood in Brooklyn, my friends and I spent many a day on one of the stoops on East 39th Street arguing about whose favorite players were better. I know to the present day’s more sophisticated fanbase, this may seem trite, but armed with our newspapers or our memories from the previous night’s games, we made pretty good cases for our respective guys.

In the dark days following the inexplicable trade of Tom Seaver, those of us who were Mets fans could no longer claim the superiority of having the best pitcher in town. Maybe it’s because the post Seaver trade Mets were so awful is the reason I became so enamored with baseball history, particularly with NY baseball history. Oh, I still climbed into my dad’s 1974 Dodge Dart and went to Shea to root for Steve Henderson and my main man Lee Mazzilli, but wishing for the likes of players like Carl Furillo and Christy Mathewson also occupied my young mind.

Years later, while working at Associated Press, I came up with the idea (after reading a book about Jack Chesbro), that I wanted to create a destination for any baseball fan to read about the history of New York baseball, from the Mtuuals to the Ccylones, from the Babe to the Beltran, from Jackie to Jeter. So, Gotham Baseball was born.

This ballot is part of a long ongoing project that will be revealed later, but suffice it to say, it’s important we build the best team we can, so vote wisely!

Here is the complete ballot, from First Base to the ballpark. Please share with your baseball-loving friends.

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