A friend called yesterday asking if my wife, Terri, and I wanted to go with them to Opening Day on Monday. The fact is I had been waffling for weeks over whether to go. The Wilpons jacked the ticket prices up to the sky for the game, and I am in year two of my post-Reyes life. This is a life where I make no upfront commitments to the Wilpons and go to games when it fits. Often I find good seats on Stubhub for 20% of face value. In that case everyone wins. The poor soul who had the tickets and can no longer attend gets something, and I get good seats at an excellent price. Better yet, I do not increase Fred, Jeff, and Saul’s tickets sold. Boycotting the park is something I can’t do. I hate the owners but love the team. So, I compromise.
Anyway, that is the thing, I love the team. I love the game. I love the feel of being inside a stadium, and Opening Day is a day for hope, a day for dreams. I love hope, I love dreams. I’m a romantic. So, I said, “Yes, we would love to go.”
Now, it’s been a long slog around here since R.A. Dickey ended 2012 with a special day for himself and the fans. Hurricane Sandy came shortly after, leaving some minor damage to my property. I lived without power for three weeks. Yet when I slowly became reconnected to society, I found out I was a lucky one. Sandy was a disaster and some start to the offseason. A long cold winter has followed; it was still freezing cold downtown yesterday.
But now my blood has started pumping a little harder again, it’s starting to feel real again. Opening Day is a few days away! And then the memories of other Opening Days started popping into my head. There is one in particular I think about often. It was in 1983.
Funny thing about 1983. The team was still not very good yet. In fact, the team was bad. In 1982 the Mets won only 65 games and when you looked at the Opening Day roster for 1983 it didn’t look considerably better. Despite that, Opening Day in 1983 drew 46,687 fans to Shea Stadium. It was an event. It was the return of “the Franchise.” On April 5, 1983 the exile of Tom Seaver was over. And my buddy Billy, working for the Daily News at the time, had scored field level seats down the right field line.
I could go use the Internet to get all the facts I need about that game. I could lie and act like I remember everything that happened after the first pitch. But it would be a lie, the memory of the game is hazy and comes down to this – Seaver pitched great, six shutout innings. A guy named Doug Sisk pitched three excellent innings in relief, and the Mets won. It’s not the game itself, exactly, that was so special to me that day. It was “the walk” and the message.
“The walk” was the walk Seaver made from the bullpen before the game. The crowd roared, “the Franchise” was back. With this move a message had been sent by our owner Nelson Doubleday. We care about you, the fans, our customers. It was a message we needed, and Tom was a wonderful tonic the beginning of that year while we waited for Strawberry and Keith to arrive.
So a tip of my hat to Nelson Doubleday who understood that winning is the best thing but not the only thing. Because it is not. At a time in our team’s history where we needed to be patient, Doubleday spent money on an aging pitcher who would not be around to help the team when it would contend again.
For the fans, the customers.