Monday, June 20, 2005

Miscellaneous: Take Me Out To The Ball Game

Webster’s Dictionary defines popular culture as ... hang on, the phrase isn’t in here. And this isn’t a Webster’s Dictionary.

Baseball counts as popular culture, right? Too bad if it doesn’t, because baseball was the only thing on my mind the last few days.

I’d been waiting for this weekend for ages. The Seattle Mariners were finally hosting the New York Mets. My New York Mets. And I had tickets for the first of their three games.

Growing up in Queens, you had to be a Mets fan. On summer evenings, every radio in the neighborhood would be tuned to the game; you could run down the alleys for blocks and never miss a pitch. We didn’t live too far from Shea Stadium, and my father would take me to the ballpark at least once a season.

New York has few hard and fast rules. One of them is: if you like the Mets, you hate the Yankees. But I still went to see the Bronx Bombers play when I won tickets in my school’s Sports Night raffle. Another of New York’s hard and fast rules is never pass up anything free.

Whenever I moved, I kept the habit of living close to stadiums. There was no professional baseball team at the time I lived in the Tampa Bay area – you could make the case that there’s still not – but the Toronto Blue Jays’ spring training facility was blocks from my house. One morning on my way to school a foul ball landed at my feet, and a Jays’ outfielder asked me to throw it back. When my best pitch thumped the roof of a CBC van, he laughed and said, “Kid, you suck!” Not exactly a Mean Joe Greene moment. My apartment in Boston was directly under the Citgo sign you can see whenever anyone hits a shot over the Green Monster at Fenway Park. It was easy for me to pull for both teams, because they were rivals of the Yankees.

I’ve always wished the Mariners well, but I can’t call myself a fan. Setting the modern-day record with 116 wins in a season but failing to make the World Series indicates certain fundamental flaws in the organization. Safeco Field is a beautiful stadium, though, and I was eager to see the Mets play there. So was Rosemarie, the original flashy girl from Flushing, who can’t sing ‘Meet the Mets’ without tearing up. Here we are.

The game moves faster when you’re there in person. Maybe it’s not having to sit through all the ads for local car dealerships. And between innings there’s always some kind of activity going on, although nothing as elaborate as Milwaukee’s Weiner Races. I enjoyed a beer in the stands for the first time. I don’t think there’s a better way of passing a summer evening, and I hope to go back before this season is over.

As for the game, the Mets lost 5-zip. In fact, the Mariners swept the series. I don’t want to talk about it.