08 May 2013

Flashback 10- You Could Feel the Place Shake

Being a young 15 year old boy with a sports team that is a yearly underdog isn’t the easiest task. But there I sat, October 16th 1999 in Shea Stadium watching my Mets play the Braves, down in the best of seven series three games to none. Queue to the bottom of the 8th inning losing 2-1, Roger Cedeno slaps a leadoff single off John Smoltz. Next two batters record outs and now the Mets are down to the last 4 outs of their season. Cedeno steals third, and Melvin Mora walks. John Rocker on the mound, fresh in all our minds;
The left-handed closer saved five games against New York during the regular season and two in this series. During the season, he said he hated the Mets and prior to this showdown wondered how many times the Braves would have to beat them before their fans would "shut up."
About his experiences in New York City and answering a question about whether he would ever play for the New York Yankees or the New York Mets.
I'd retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 Train to the ballpark looking like you're riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing... The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?[3]

During the interview, he also spoke of his opinion of the New York Mets and their fans:
Nowhere else in the country do people spit at you, throw bottles at you, throw quarters at you, throw batteries at you and say, 'Hey, I did your mother last night — she's a whore.' I talked about what degenerates they were and they proved me right.
John Olerud at the plate, already having hit a home run accounting for the Mets only run in the game so far, Cedeno now on third and Mora now on second.  Cedeno steals third, tying run.  Mora steals second, good ahead run. Olerud continues to lift the team on his back and singles to center, scoring both runners as the Mets would go onto win the game. Sitting in the Upper Deck I looked over to my dad and said “Is Shea going to collapse?” The jumping and roaring of the crowd had the entire stadium shaking. All he said was “Hold on, Benitez is coming in”. But to the surprise to the local faithful Armando went 1-2-3 in the top of the 9th to force a game 5, the next day.
Not having tickets in advance to Game 5, seemed not to be a problem. Now it was, but fortunately I quickly got my hands on 4 tickets for the game, before I even got home from Game 4 (pre internet era and being 15, that was still an impressive feat). The next day my dad couldn’t suffer any more of nail biting and told me to take the bus and train to the game with my friends. But I didn’t have a lot of Met friends, and the few friends I did either had plans or couldn’t afford the tickets. So I took my Yankee friend and went to the stadium in hopes of selling the 2 tickets to scalpers. Hours before the game I was holding out for the best price I could, I lost track of time and missed the beginning of the game. We hear the roar of the stadium as John Olerud continued his tear hitting a first inning home run. I was ready to give these tickets away for free now and ended up selling them half of face value, only to walk into the hated Larry “Chipper” Jones crossing the plate in the 4th inning to tie the game 2-2. On and off rain marched into the game as both teams refused to take the lead. 9th inning came and went, 10th inning followed suit, 11th inning nothing changed, and 12th inning more of the same.  The crowds doing everything we can to make something happen, my entire row tried at least 10 different pre pitch good luck gestures or stances at this time.
Then there was the top of the 13th inning, Braves runner on first and Chipper at the plate, he hits one in the gap! Rounding the bases is the Braves runner, is it the first run in 9 innings? Mora to Edgardo Alfonso relay throw to the plate….HES OUT! Inning over! John Rocker came on to pitch the bottom of the 13th and when he exited the game the next inning he mocked the home crowd by pretending to “boo” himself.
After an uneventful 14th (except for the SECOND 7th inning stretch) came the 15th inning, the Braves hit the score board with one singular run to bring the marathon of 0’s on the scoreboard to an end. Mets season has to be done now right? In the 15th inning of this almost 6 hour marathon.  Dunston singled, as the rain peaked back in. Matt Franco walked…wait what’s happening? Alfonso bunted the runners over, for the first out of the inning. Bringing up the hero John Olerud, only to be intentionally walked to load the bases. Todd Pratt bases loaded bottom of the 15th, childhood dream, ground ball double play could end the Mets season, and a ground ball base hit wins the game. He does neither, he walks instead to tie the game and keep the bases loaded.
Enter Robin Ventura. Almost anything wins the game.  2 balls 1 strike. I’m shivering standing on my seat as even my Yankee fan friend is cheering. We are in the Mezzanine which has a hangover Upper Deck and our vision is a little obstructed on a fly ball to the outfield. But a fly ball to the outfield wins the game anyway on a sacrifice fly. Robin hits deep fly ball, the outfielders jog in, off the field and the stadium starts to shake. We are dancing on top of the chairs, as the Mets rush the field and tackle Robin Ventura between first and second base. I never saw the ball land, but I assume as I saw Pratt touch second and turn around to tackle Robin, it landed somewhere on the field. WHO CARES? THEY WON. 15 fucking innings! The place is still shaking 10 minutes after, as my friend and I run across the stadium high fiving and dancing with the people that literally weathered the storm. 40 minutes go by before we leave the stadium as they BLARE music like the attendant left the controls to go party, MOJO RISING. We are going to be the first team to win a series down 3 games to none.  And now the afternoon game has ended past the bus schedule and we have no way to get home.  My dad miserably comes to pick us up on a Sunday night before school  another hour later.
That’s when I found out the truth, the ball never did land on the field. King of Grand Slams Robin Ventura actually hit a Grand Slam Home Run….but wait, he never circled the bases! He never scored. The ruling on the field was since Todd Pratt failed to advance past second, tackling Robin Ventura never making it to second base it was recorded as a single. A SINGLE THAT WENT OVER THE FENCE. The Mets won 4-3*, because they should of won 7-3 if they didn’t mob Robin before he rounded the bases.  But then there wouldn’t be the best moment in Mets History (Disclaimer: It’s the 3rd best moment in Mets history, but 1 and 2 are the Mets winning the World Series  and ordinary plays, this was history a playoff game with an asterisk to the score) I was mind boggled. I didn’t even see it. The ball went up, the game was over and I went nuts, missing in person playoff baseball history. Wouldn’t want it any other way.
1999 Braves-Mets