It's baseball playoff season, gang. I will be there at Dodger Stadium in my seats this week for the Division Series on a road that will hopefully take them to the World Series. Or probably not. Whatever the case, there will be tense times along the way and need for a professional manicure when it's all over.
A great sedative for the annual transition will be this fun little entry. A few years back, a friend asked me to rank the top ten baseball games I've actually attended. I managed to do it, but, now with a few Dodger moments under my belt, I needed to revise it. And then, lo and behold, even newer memories are created and I realize this is a living and breathing document. I've had to add a game from just a few weeks ago!
The following is based on several criteria. Importance of the game. The level of excitement. And how much fun I had. Naturally, the list is heavy with days from my life in Metland. But Dodgertown is starting to creep in. Enjoy.
10. July 24, 1984: Mets 9, Cards 8. A rather ordinary weeknight baseball game from a season where the Mets were actually starting to get good again. But, I remember it was loaded with strategy and lots of key game-turning situations over 12 innings. Plus I was there with the Bibster and that elevated the evening automatically. We had the best seats in Shea. Loge Level, Section 1 or 3, right behind home plate. "Watch the fake."
9. September 7, 1984: Mets 10, Cubs 0. The Mets are actually mounting what would be an unsuccessful pennant run against the shitheads from Wrigley. Dwight Gooden, who would be my mother's favorite Met, one-hits the Cubs. The only hit is a questionable ground ball muffed by Ray Knight. I was there with my high school best friend, Danny. Around the fourth inning, there was a commotion in our section. People started to swarm around somebody. A major star? Tom Seaver? The Mayor? Madonna? Nope, it was former New York local sportscaster Jerry Azar. Who, you say? Exactly, I say. The Day of the Locusts had finally arrived at Shea Stadium.
8. October 8, 1973: Mets 9, Reds 2. Game Three of the Championship Series at Shea. Bud Harrelson slides into Pete Rose and the Golden Gloves main event starts. Fans grow so irate that projectiles are hurled onto the field. Willie Mays, Rusty Staub, and Tom Seaver must act as peacemakers to the goofballs sitting in left field. I couldn't get that involved with the mayhem. I was there with my dad. You know how that goes.
7. October 6, 1969: Mets 7, Braves 4. My young fandom was finally vindicated. Behind the almost-as-young Nolan Ryan's solid relief effort, the Mets win their first ever National League pennant on their way to the World Series. This was the second year of my Saturday ticket plan and they gave me playoff tickets way up in the top deck behind home plate. We were high enough to talk to some dead relatives. The fans went crazy and stormed the field. I couldn't get that involved with the mayhem. I was there with my dad. Once again, you know how that goes.
6. September 25, 2016: Dodgers 4, Rockies 3: The first Dodger entry on the list and it's very, very, very recent. The last home game of the 2016 season. More importantly, broadcaster Vin Scully's last game broadcasting from Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers have a chance to clinch the division. And wouldn't you know it? They win on a tenth-inning walkoff homerun by little-used Charlie Culberson. The Vin stuff had me crying. The elation of the victory had me cheering. I was truly bi-polar and manic-depressive on this day, which I will never forget.
5. July 10, 1999: Mets 9, Yankees 8. Beating the Bronx Bombers is always a plus. Doing it in come-from-behind style against one of the greatest relievers in history is even better. Mike Piazza hits a three-run homer in the seventh to tie the score. Matt Franco wins it with a pinch single off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth. Spatulas were needed to scrape Met fans off the wall.
4. October 8, 2009: Dodgers 3, Cards 2. This date makes its second appearance on this list. Game 2 of the 2009 Division Series between the Dodgers and Cardinals. Outfielder Matt Holliday muffs the final out and the Dodgers raise like Lazarus. Casey Blake's amazing base on balls was like a hitting or non-hitting clinic. Mark Loretta's pinch single sends us all home. My greatest moment to date in my season seats at Dodger Stadium. The entire stadium moved up and down. Did anybody check the Richter scales that afternoon? I got to enjoy this wonderful game with my childhood best friend, Leo, who had been the first person to ever sit in my Saturday seats at Shea. A terrific baseball bookend.
3. October 11, 1986: Mets 6, Astros 5. On perhaps the coldest day I ever spent at Shea Stadium, Lenny Dykstra hits one that hugs the foul pole in the bottom of the ninth of Game Three of 1986 Championship Series. A game that was full of marvelous strategic moments. We were skyhigh in the upper deck. I swear there was snow all around. The victory ultimately warmed us all.
2. October 27, 1986: Mets 8, Red Sox 5. I had finally arrived. I was witness in-person to a World Series win and celebration. Game 7. As Jesse Orosco was closing out the ninth inning, we all stood arm-in-arm. My best friend Danny and I had our arms around each other's shoulders. We knew that such a moment in our lives would be rare. How often do you get this lucky as a baseball fan? I'm waiting to see another one. I'm waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Okay, guys, my clock is ticking.
1. October 25, 1986: Mets 6, Red Sox 5. The game for the ages. It will never be topped in my life. The comeback win to beat all other comeback wins. The body should not be allowed to tolerate such an emotional pendulum swing in the space of about ten minutes. Gut wrenching defeat. Heaven-reaching exhilaration. And I was there! "A little roller up along first behind the bag it gets through Buckner here comes Knight and the Mets win it!" Or so said NBC announcer Vin Scully. I've come to love him even more now. And will miss him so.
Dinner last night: Chinese beef lo mein.