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I want to dedicate this part of my self proclaimed series to
Cathy. She is wife number two and although we are no longer together, she
remains my dear friend. She gave me an incredible, bright, beautiful daughter
and she deserves to be nominated for sainthood for putting up with me for 14
truly bi-polar years. Cathy who taught me that out of every bad can become a
good, the only person whom I ever met that really put others in front of themselves,
I thank you for pointing and guiding me in the right direction. You are truly a
special one of a kind person.
1981 dawned bright for the Mets and me because I began to
think we were both on the same path of rebuilding for greatness. The Mets had
lost 95 games in 1980 and the “streak” and my marriage to Ellen was over. By
years end the talk of a possible player’s lockout didn’t strike me as too
serious a possibility since Cathy and I decided to tie the knot, and that we
did, on November 9th 1980.
I made her a promise that we would not attend any Mets games
together and she was OK with that because baseball was not anywhere near the
top of her priority list. Besides I had a ten year old son and an eight year
old daughter and they would make great partners to my many planned trips to the
Vet to see the World Champion Phillies take on my Mets.
I need to clarify a point about my fan hood after I received
many comments about my rooting for the Phillies during their great run from
1976-1983. I never rooted for them in any game they played against the Mets no
matter how far out of the race the Mets were and although I was rightly
disturbed at the Mets organization and the way they ran things then ( and still
do today) I could never under any circumstances change my loyalties.
During the next 5 years the Mets were about to change the
perception at that time from laughingstock to world champion and the team that
everybody outside Brooklyn and Queens loved to
Frank Cashen was brought in to be the General Manager if
February of 1980 and although the Mets still had three straight losing seasons,
one could see the handwriting on the wall and the excitement certainly found
it’s way heading south on the New Jersey Turnpike.
The Mets finally got it together in the amateur draft by
getting, Daryl Strawberry, Roger McDowell and Dwight Gooden. His trading for
Keith Hernandez, Howard Johnson, Gary Carter, Sid Fernandez and Ron Darling set
the nucleus for what some have called the greatest team ever for one single season
that was 1986.
The 1981 team was managed by Joe Torre. Nobody at the time
could have ever possibly imagined the future success that Joe would have
achieved. In 1981, he had finished a very solid career with the St. Louis
Cardinals and was entering his fourth year as manager of the Mets.
Here’s the 1981 starting lineup for the New York Mets.
Mookie Wilson LF
Frank Taveras SS
Dave Kingman 1B
Rusty Staub RF
Lee Mazzilli CF
Alex Trevino C
Hubie Brooks 3B
Doug Flynn 2B
Pat Zachry P
This was a historical year for baseball. For the first
time in Major League history there was a stoppage of play during the regular
season. This situation began what many people have called the end of baseballs
supremacy as America’s Sport and greed on both sides can, in my opinion, be
spread equally causing a real mess in what was supposed to be a great year for
June 11th was the last game the Mets would
play in earnest for two full months. I could not imagine myself without
baseball. If it were not for the fact that I was managing Russ’ little league
team that year I might have gone completely nuts.
I did manage to go to 3 games against the Phillies that
year in June. At this point at time I’m going to bring a new character into the
series. His name is Gary.
He lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and he simply is the most
addicted Phillies fan of all times.
was just starting his accounting business in 1981. He had a booth in Montgomery Ward on Route 38 in Cherry
Hill and he was pimping his newly formed Tax Return business.
Cathy and I were shopping there one day when she said to me “Rich, since you
haven’t filed a tax return for the past three years don’t you think it might be
a good idea to talk to this guy?”
What happened next is something you can only get in Hollywood. Not only did I
make an appointment to talk to Gary in his office, (in the attic of his
Moorestown band box of a home), but it turns out, after he mentioned a letter
he got from his Grandmother, that my Grandmother and his Great Grandmother were
first cousins, or something like that. I have forgotten by now the connection.
So now I find that my accountant is my cousin and worse
still and avid, to say the leas,t Phillies fan and from this point forward our
lives would intertwine for the next 28+ years.
So it was Gary and I who went to this Phillies Mets
series at the Vet. The Phillies won two out of three; I kept looking around for
Ellen during the first two games. In the first game Larry Christenson
outpitched Pat Zachry but the dull pain I got leaving the stands that day was
that Tug McGraw got the save for the Phil’s. That pain was still festering
pretty well in 1981.
The usual suspects Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa
and Gary Maddox all had two hits with Gary Maddox hitting a winning two run
homer in the 8th off Neil Allen who at the time was my favorite Mets
The next day, the Phillies and Pete Rose who had 3 hits
beat up on Mike Scott, who later would become a Mets killer in 1986, and Ed
Lynch as the Phillies beat the Mets 9-7. Gary
was his usual talkative self and proclaimed the Phillies would repeat as World
Champions in 1981. I have to give him credit. He doesn’t say things like that
any more probably because it took the Phillies 28 years to win another
championship and despite the fact that this year I think they have a great
chance to repeat, Gary is still saying it’s a long season. I wonder if he
realizes it’s already August.
The next game I finally got a little measure of revenge.
At least we didn’t get swept and believe me Phillies fans must have pretty
dirty homes because Veterans Stadium is one place that you never ever have to
wonder about having enough brooms on hand.
On June 3rd we finally got to Dick Ruthven with a 4 run 8th
inning to break up a close game. Neil Allen got the save and Greg Harris who
only played one year out of 15 in a Mets uniform got the win.
The Mets finished the “first half” at 17-34 and in last
place, but after a two month layoff when baseball resumed on Aug 10th, The Mets
went 24- 28 the rest of the way.
In 1982 and 1983 the Mets lost 90+ games both years but
on June 15th 1983, the Mets traded my guy, Neil Allen and Rick
Ownbey to the Cardinals for Keith Hernandez. Keith brought to the team a
certain amount of legitimacy that would carry over for the next few years which
would culminate in four incredible seasons, 1985 through 1988.
Joe Torre was replaced in 1982 with George Bamberger, a
nice old guy who brought absolutely nothing to the table. Perhaps a little more
patience with Joe Torre is great 20-20 hindsight but it took the Mets to lose
127 games before Bamberger was replaced by the gentle giant Frank Howard to
finish the 1983 season.
In 1984 Davey Johnson was hired to lead the Mets to
greater heights. Johnson was known to Mets fans for making the final out of the
1969 World Series against the Baltimore
By 1984 the Mets had a completely new look. The starting
lineup looked like this.
Mike Torrez was certainly at the end of his career when he
stepped on the mound for the Mets on opening day. As it turned out he gave up
six runs and six his in an inning and a third and that was pretty much it for
Torrez career in the MLB.
Dick Tidrow another pitcher at the end of his career also
saw action with the Mets that day. I guess his 9.19 ERA was enough for the Mets
to see that his career was over as well.
The reason I bring this up is that this seems to be a
never ending problem with the Mets organization that has with them for the full
47 years of their existence. They have a dream that somewhere in their wildest
imagination some over the hill player will find lightning in a bottle and lead
this team to the Promised Land.
“Hey guy, The Natural was a MOVIE”.
After losing that opening game in Cincinnati the Mets
rattled off six wins, then lost three in a row, won three in row and lost three
in a row again. It sure looked like this was a team trying to find its own
By June 1st they were 22 – 22 and didn’t look
like a team ready to challenge anyone. June was better as they won five more
games than they lost. I had already gone to 4 out of the six games the Phillies
played the Mets at the Vet and the Phillies won both series 2 games to 1.
Unfortunately I went to the 4 losses. I spent most of those days searching the
stands for Ellen.
By the All-Star break the Mets had won nine out of their
next ten and were officially contending for the NL East. Right from the break
they took three out of four from the Braves in Atlanta and were right in the thick of the
By July 28th the Mets were 59-37 in first
place and on a roll. Then all they did was drop the next seven games and wound
up finishing 2nd with a 90-72 record.
I managed to get to one more Mets Phillies game in
September and finally I got to see a Mets victory. They came from behind with
three in the 7th and three in the 9th to win 8-5. Daryl
hit a tremendous blast off Al Holland in the ninth inning with two out and two
on to put the cherry on top of the day. Mookie, Daryl and Hubie all had two
On May 5th 1983 Cathy gave me a baby girl who
I promptly named after Jamie Lee Curtis. I spelled it Jaime Leigh. To see where
she’s at take a look at
Part VII will deal with the four most exciting seasons I
witnessed as a fan of the Mets for all 47 seasons. 1985-1988 was absolutely
fantastic. I went on my own personal in game winning streak that I doubt I will
ever see again. They were truly great years. I sure hope you will share them