Reports are everywhere that the Mets are going to trade R.A. Dickey later today to the Toronto Blue Jays, as a major piece of a blockbuster deal. They didn’t give him away and this trade could very well end up being good for the Mets. I’ve always understood that a trade of R.A. could possibly be the right, smart, move. Jimmy and I are going to discuss that for sure, just like everyone else, as the Blogosphere and Twitterverse are exploding with real-time analysis. I just couldn’t do that first though. I needed a few moments to reflect on the fact that R.A. Dickey will no longer be a Met. R.A. Dickey was my favorite player on the 2012 Mets. No matter how long you root it is always painful to lose a favorite. We’ve known that in my family for a long time. So in honor of R.A., I wanted to talk about that, about losing a favorite player. And in honor of children, the most wonderful gift of all, I wanted to talk about it from a child’s perspective. Because out there today is an eight year old somewhere who does not care what the Mets are getting back. They only know that, just like that, R.A. is gone.
Ron Hunt was my first favorite player. He had come up as a rookie in 1963 and came in second to Pete Rose in the balloting for Rookie of the Year (he was robbed). The next year he was the starting second baseman in the All Star Game, the only Met starter at the game, which was played at shiny new Shea Stadium. Hunt was hardnosed and tough (he still owns many hit by pitch records) qualities that rang true with a kid living in a tiny apartment in Astoria, Queens. I didn’t like Ron Hunt, I loved Ron Hunt. And then in November 1966, when I was eight years old, it happened.
I remember being in my living room watching TV when my dad came in from work. The first thing he said to my mom was not hello, but “Did you hear about Ron Hunt?”
My ears caught that right away, and the rest of his sentence too.
“They traded him to the Dodgers.”
Well I guess there was some more but I didn’t hear the rest because I was too busy freaking out. Known for my temper to begin with back then, this was the tantrum to end them all. Yelling, screaming,
“How could they trade Ron Hunt!
He is our best player!
Are they crazy?”
And on, and on, and on.
My mom tried to calm me down for a minute but couldn’t, I was having none of anything she said. After a few minutes she was getting sick of me, hell, she loved Hunt too, and she looked at me and yelled firmly,
Now if you didn’t live in Astoria back then with us you will have to believe me, but if my Mom said “enough” well that was that. But I was beyond rational thinking and continued to go nuts. A dangerous situation was now at hand.
Thankfully at just that time my father walked back into the room. He was holding the telephone and dialing it. It was an old rotary phone so the process was taking time.
“Michael, don’t tell us. Tell them. I’m calling the Mets. You are right, tell them.”
He handed me the phone and sure enough someone on the other end said, “New York Mets,” and before they could say another word I unloaded, yelled for three minutes straight. When I finally took a breath, the voice on the other end (some poor soul from the ticket office I guess) said, gently,
“I’m sorry,” and hung up.
My dad asked me if I felt better and I said no, but I did, just a little bit anyway. But better, 100%, no, I still haven’t gotten over it.
Thirty years later, in 1996, Rico Brogna was my daughter Kelly’s favorite player. Kelly was eight. Rico Brogna could hit home runs, he played first base, Kelly’s favorite position, AND his name rhymed with the character Miko from the movie Pocahontas. Kelly loved Rico Brogna. Well in November 1996, I came home from work and happened to ask if anyone had heard that Rico Brogna had been traded. Before I finished the sentence Kelly was running up to her room, sobbing hysterically. Her mom, ALWAYS the sensitive one of the two of us, started up with me, slightly angry with her. I mean, c’mon, what is the big deal? But for once I understood, and I went upstairs to talk to Kelly. I put my arms around my daughter the way a father does, trying somehow to hug her and console her in a way to make her hurt go away. If only it was that simple. And I told her I understood and about Ron Hunt and how unfair it can be and how dumb your team can be sometimes. I asked her if she felt better and she said no, but I hope she was a little bit anyway. 100%, of course not.
Being a fan of a team is an investment of emotions. We root, root, root for the home team. Although I suppose in the end Jerry Seinfeld is right, we root for the laundry, we also root for the players inside. You get attached to these players. When you are young, when you are still wonderfully naïve, you are very attached to some players for whatever reasons are important to a seven- or eight- or nine-year-old. Since you are young and naïve, you think nothing can ever happen to break that bond you have with your favorite player. Only it can, and probably will, and it is awful. Because you are only young once and you get a little older and cynical on that day. And you will never forget it, because one small piece of being a fan will never be the same. This was a story about R.A. Dickey, Ron Hunt, Rico Brogna, and never forgetting how you feel when you are young.
Goodbye R.A., you will be missed!