Nationals Leaving RFK

A white seat in the leftfield upper deck section of RFK Stadium, marking the spot where Washington Senator Frank Howard hit a home run, is surrounded by other faded and cracked seats before the start of the baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals, Sunday Sept. 16, 2007, at RFK Stadium in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Unparalleled by any other sport, baseball is a game of numbers.  Of statistics.  Of quantifiable accomplishments.

In music and other art forms, measures of success or achievement are far more subjective.    There will never be a “greatest” or “best” soprano, symphony, or even composer.

With the exception of a few asterisks or footnotes, when an outstanding baseball achievement is made,  the record book is immediately updated, and the recipient and his feat are honored.  At least until the next player comes along and breaks that record.

The quantifiable aspect of the sport affords an auspicious status to players that is not available to artists.  In sports, one can be considered the reigning champion of one or numerous particular feats:  the very “best”.

One particular feat happened at Citi Field last Thursday night:  Outfielder Yoenis Céspedes became the first player ever to hit a ball into the third deck of the ballpark.  Anyone watching the 2013 Home Run Derby portion of the All-Star Game festivities will remember those bombs hit by Céspedes, including one that drilled the glass exterior of the Acela Club in Left Field.  While Thursday’s home run was calculated to have been hit 466 feet–which constituted a tie with Giancarlo Stanton for the furthest hit fair ball in Citi Field–it was an  unprecedented feat because of the sheer height of the home run.  The surprise on the fans’ faces in the third deck–where the ball landed–speaks volumes:  no one sitting in those seats ever expects to go home with a souvenir.  Not even from batting practice.


The marker for Tommie Agee’s Upper Deck home run with the author’s spouse and daughter.

Earlier in the history of the franchise, an equally impressive bomb was hit–and immortalized.  In the third game of the 1969 season, outfielder Tommie Agee socked a ball that landed halfway up in Section 48 in the left Upper Deck at Shea Stadium.  Eventually, the spot where the ball was hit was painted.  Unfortunately, during the demolition of Shea Stadium, the marker was removed and was sold to a private collector.

The stadiums that have chosen to place physical markers where players have hit home runs are numerous:

Fenway Park boasts its singular “red seat” where, on June 9, 1946, Ted Williams hit a homer–Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21–for a recorded distance of 502 feet.

HR Stargell1Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia at one time had markers for home runs hit into the left-field upper deck by Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt.  A home run by a non-Phillie, Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates, even warranted a marker there:  a yellow star with a black “S” in the middle.


RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., boasted numerous seats painted white–against the prevailing sea of yellow seats–denoting places where Frank Howard, a.k.a., “The Washington Monument” and “The Capital Punisher”, hit home runs during his tenure with the Washington Senators.

Baltimore’s Camden Yards has countless markers embedded into the pavement for those homers hit onto Eutaw Street.  But in this digital age, they even have an online “Eutaw Street Home Run Tracker” where one can watch the arc of all 85 homers (at last count), that has landed there.  Two orange seats reside there as well:   the first was installed in honor of Cal Ripken Jr.,’s record-breaking home run on July 15th, 1993, in which he passed Ernie Banks for the most home runs ever hit by a shortstop.  The second orange seat marks the location of Eddie Murray’s 500th career home run of September 6th, 1996.

4191431661_90d174c00a_z-2Camden Yards’ predecessor–Memorial Stadium–commemorated Frank Robinson’s monumental homer of May 18, 1966, which sailed 451 feet over rows of bleachers and out of the ballpark.  This feat was commemorated by an orange banner over the left-field bleachers with the single word “here” printed on it.



Houston’s Jimmy Wynn and Doug Rader each hit homers into the left field upper deck at the Astrodome in 1970. The home runs were hit a week apart and to the same row in the upper “Gold Level” with just a few seats separating them. The Astros had an artist paint the seats to mark them. They remained in place until 1985 when the seats were refurbished and repainted to match the blue, red, orange and yellow of the Astros rainbow jerseys (which ironically they stopped using just two seasons later). The seat locations were remarked during the renovation.

Obviously, there is precedent for honoring a ballpark’s history, long balls hit by franchise and non-franchise players alike.  Melanie Spector, my daughter and companion in Section 318 of Citi Field for practically every home game, has come up with an idea about honoring Céspedes’s third-deck bomb.  She’s even created an online petition to try to make this idea became a reality.

According to WOR’s Howie Rose, it took twenty-five years and some inquiries from Rose himself to see Tommie Agee’s marker get painted.  With your help, perhaps Yoenis–and Mets fans–won’t have to wait nearly as long to see this epic home run get an appropriate commemoration at Citi Field.

Please sign the petition, send it to friends, and post it on social media, using the hashtag #PaintItYellow!  You can find it here.




Sittin’ Pretty at Citi

We are fourteen games in.  Grandstanding seems oh so premature.

But can I just say this?  How great is it to put on one’s Mets gear these days and be greeted in the grocery store, on the street, or at work with a smile and a, “How about those METS?!”

“…and I pit- y any- one who’s not a Met to- night…”

“…such a pretty pitch, such a pretty hit, such a pretty steal, such a pretty streak!”

Puts a little swagger back in one’s step…just in time for the upcoming Subway Series.

Time Wounds All Heels

Albert,_Stuart,_When“Timing is everything.”

How many times have we heard that expression?  It has certainly proven true recently in this house of Mets fans.

The high praise recent lavished upon my husband–while certainly well deserved–is owed, in part at least, to coincidence and excellent timing.
A die-hard Mets fan basically from the infancy of the franchise, my husband never appears happier or more youthful than when attending a Mets game.  He was recently rewarded handsomely for the hefty price of our Season Ticket package, not to mention the expenditure of vast amounts of his personal time spent watching the futility that is the Mets’ offense in general and with the bases loaded in particular:  he got to throw out the Ceremonial First Pitch at Citi Field.

Apparently, the designated First Pitch Thrower du Jour was unable to “go on”, and a suitable “cover” had to be found.  Citi Field officials need have looked no further.

FIRSTPITCH_052214_CJK_0051While Garry showed no signs of being nervous about his assignment, as it got close to his scheduled performance, he did admit to a fear of spiking the ball. And ideally, he added, he would like to throw the ball so that Mets Catcher Anthony Recker would not need to leave his crouch in order to catch the ball.  However, if either scenario were to happen, he reasoned aloud, he would be in good company: he recalled how former Mets ace Tom Seaver had thrown out the first pitch at “Shea Goodbye”–the last game at Shea Stadium–and had spiked the ball.  He also recalled that when Seaver threw out the first pitch at the 2013 All-Star Game, his throw came in quite high and outside and had required former Mets Catcher Mike Piazza to leap to his feet in order to catch it.

Other than these minor concerns, Garry showed no signs of performance anxiety whatsoever.  In fact, he appeared rather poised and purposeful. (See if you don’t agree from the photo!)  Dutifully following the instructions he had been given to “follow David Wright” (!),  he strode onto the field with aplomb.  I will never forget the image of him shadowing Mets Pitcher Jon Niese.

052214.33cropWisely electing to throw from in front of the mound, Garry did one heck of a job, and I was not the only one who thought so.  He did not spike the ball nor did Recker need to leave his crouch in order to catch the ball.  As the two posed for a photo together, Recker even complimented Garry on his pitch.

Later that evening, sitting in our Excelsior Level seats directly in front of WOR announcers Josh Lewin and Howie Rose–with whom we delight in having as our audio accompaniment to each and every home game–Garry found himself somewhat (pleasantly) distracted from the game itself–and his usual scorekeeping ritual–as compliments kept coming in:

Friend, Mets blogger, and auteur exceptionnel Greg Prince came down from the Press Box to personally shake Garry’s hand.  (Later, he would even mention Garry in his blog post about that night!)  Plaudits for Garry’s efforts came over the WOR airwaves and into our earbuds as Howie Rose gave Garry a shout-out and a verbal “pat on the back”, adding that, “D’Arnaud would’ve framed it for a strike.”  As a matter of fact, Howie had begun discussing Garry’s pre-game experience and, before he could finish the story, he was interrupted by the Yasiel Puig Web Gem that would become a viral .gif  before the Seventh Inning Stretch.  Even after that astonishing play that had left everyone in the stands momentarily speechless and, then, had even Mets fans applauding, Howie remembered having introduced Garry’s tale, and returned to the subject. Flattering, to say the least!

Yes, timing was in Garry’s favor on Thursday, May 22nd:  He happened to be at Citi Field earlier than usual for that night’s game in order to sample “Nobu Night” at the Acela Club; therefore, he could assure Mets personnel that he would indeed be on-hand at the prescribed time.

But the fortuitous timing to which I refer was actually tied to a later event.  A few days later.

Still “after glowing” about his unique souvenir, he came home that night to find that word had quickly spread about his special opportunity, and emails demanding explanations and details were coming in at an alarming rate.  He sat down at his computer and composed a short synopsis of how the event had come about, how he thought he had performed, and the critiques he had received.  He attached one of the numerous photos that my daughter and I had each taken of him from our position on the warning track.  He then sent the email out to all potentially interested parties.

Initially, he received a flurry of emails in response .  Friday brought more feedback.  By that weekend, responses had slowed somewhat, but as the work week started on Monday, replies came from those colleagues who had taken a long weekend and not checked their work email since earlier the previous week and, thus, had just found out Garry’s news.

On Tuesday, rapper 50 Cent was given Ceremonial First Pitch honors.  And he proceeded to bring dishonor on himself, frankly.

His throw was so wildly off-course that news of this charade was picked up by national media.  Writers at the Washington Post even drew up a chart of “bests” and “worsts” in Ceremonial First Pitch Hall of Famedom to put his mishap in proper perspective.


First-pitch-related emails and texts to Garry recommenced.  Friends’ and colleagues’ estimation of Garry’s feat shot up even higher.   It had become quite obvious, even to those not having seen Garry’s throw, how poorly 50 Cent’s performance had measured up to Garry’s highly-touted outing only a few days before.  Even non-Mets and non-baseball fans saw replays of Tuesday’s farce and were all too anxious to acknowledge Garry’s far superior performance.

Comparing the two men’s first pitches later, Howie Rose would even marvel–off the air–to Garry, “Grading on a curve, you are Sandy Koufax.” High praise indeed.

Item_2942_150 Cent has continued to extract from this episode every ounce of media hype possible for himself.  Recently, he provided an attention-getting explanation for his poor outing that night. He also lives in infamy in an hysterical video that has since been created in which Vladimir Guerrero is seen “hitting” that ill-thrown pitch.  Ah, but thanks to 50 Cent’s PR machine, Garry has vicariously continued to enjoy minor celebrity status, exceeding even Andy Warhol‘s predictions.

Serendipity had provided Garry the chance to live out a dream.

Coincidence allowed him to keep the dream alive for  many more days to come.

UPDATE:  The infamous first pitch throw will live on into the 2014 baseball season as Topps has confirmed that it will be issuing a baseball card “honoring” the pitch:

Fabricated Fans


With the Mets having been eliminated two nights ago (not that I had been holding my breath up until that point, mind you), I have been diversifying my baseball watching.
A typical Mets fan, when I can’t get enthusiastic about the Mets, I at least derive a certain schadenfreude in rooting against the Yankees.  This year’s AL East race has provided plenty of excitement and drama toward that end.
Also, with a close family member being a long-time Braves fan, and knowing this is Bobby Cox’s last season at the helm, I would have loved to have seen them topple the Braves.  In lieu of that, I would enjoy seeing them the winner of the Wild Card.  
The latter is decidedly NOT a typical Mets fan’s desired outcome, I know, and I have been admonished by the Mets fans in my home for holding such sympathies for the Braves and their manager.
As I’ve broadened my listening and watching horizons, I’ve been struck by several things:
1.  In SNY-TV, the Mets have by far the finest announcers covering the game today, period.
2.  Michael Kaye, TV announcer for the YES Network and Yankees games, and his cohort have an amazing ability to convey absolutely none of the excitement of the Yankees/Rays series.  The matter-of-fact tone, the lack of informative color, and the sheer amount of dead air would lead the uneducated viewer to believe that these games were meaningless at best and a sheer bore at worst.  
3. It is achingly painful for me to view sold-out Citizens Bank Park, packed with red in all shapes and sizes with frenzied white rally towel waving and screaming, rabid fans.  
Naturally, the latter is difficult to stomach because, as a Mets fan, I wish that were OUR ballpark.  But more than that, the contrast between the Phillies’ sold-out crowd and our dwindling fanbase could not be more stark.
As a season-ticket holder, the shrinking fan base  first struck me several weeks ago as I entered the Caesar’s Club.  Where previously the crowds there had necessitated our family deploying ourselves as  a “team tag” of vultures to secure a table at which to eat before the game, empty tables and a “library atmosphere” (as they encourage on the Amtrak Acela Quiet Cars) greeted us.
“It’s a ghost town!” I said in astonishment.
Considering the team’s season, I find the lack of support for the team and the shriveling number of fans understandable but nevertheless depressing; ownership should see this and be absolutely terrified.
Lest Jeff Wilpon is lying awake nights, wondering how he’s going to fill seats in his lovingly recreated Ebbets Field, I am here to assure him that perhaps a solution has been found.  If real fans are hard to come by, enter the “virtual fan”.


From the Wall Street Journal comes an intriguing story of a Northern Italian soccer team suffering low turnout.  An answer to low team morale and lost revenue for the team of Trieste has been to install PVC covering over empty rows of seats upon which are screen-printed image of fans.  They do happen to be actual Triestina fans, never mind that they are perpetually depicted huddled against the cold in blankets, heavy coats and scarves regardless of current conditions.
The Wall Street Journal piece goes on to say:
Between the money the team will save by eliminating stewards, attendants, medical staff and insurance for the shuttered seats (about $130,000 per season) and the extra ad revenue it may earn, team owner Stefano Fantinel says the experiment “will pay for itself very soon.”

What I didn’t see mentioned in this article is the fact that screen-printed PVC tarps do not produce general crowd noise nor respond with a collective roar for great plays.  Conversely, the concocted fans presumably do not boo poor plays nor heckle players.

The attendants in my section at Citi Field are dear friends–like family even.  I would sorely miss Stan, Eddie, and Larry…and, yes, even the “Hot doggie-doggie-doggie!” vendor, as well.

But you gotta bet someone from the Mets has taken note of this story.  


And while we’re at it, what about managers of symphony orchestras and opera companies struggling to fill houses on certain nights?

Could screen-printed images of extravagantly dressed, bejeweled opera fans–perhaps with audio enhancement in the form of a sound clip of a crowd cheering “Bravo, bravo!” to be played through the house speakers at the climactic end of arias–be the future for the Metropolitan Opera House or other performance art venues?


Photo of original art work by Jaquet Fritz Junior found here.
Triestina photo by Andrea Lasorte


080410.jpgAs grateful as I always am to take a vacation, and as much as I love that our family shares a passion for ballgames and the Mets, our family’s tradition of following the Mets for numerous roadtrips each summer is killing me.

With our season ticket package at Citi Field, we are at virtually every home game.  But for many summers now, we have taken advantage of the fact that my daughter is not in school nor am I working in the summer and have planned and taken vacations based around Mets away games.

In our various sojourns, we have seen the Mets play at every National League ballpark with the exception of three:  AT & T Park, Coors Field, and Busch Stadium.  We have also seen the Mets play in several Americal League venues and in Spring Training games at Port St. Lucie.  In addition to seeing all those games and ballparks, we have also been to nearby venues:  National Parks, art museums, science museums, historical sites, amusement parks, aquariums, zoos and animal parks, beaches, and restaurants featuring regional fare.

We’ve been granted rare access to our favorite players in ballparks having more lenient rules for observing Batting Practice and getting autographs.  Due to generally lower ticket prices at other parks compared to Citi Field prices, we have been able to sit in even better seats than we do at Citi Field.  Both of those amenities have afforded me the opportunity to shoot photos from some amazing vantage points.  The photos I have returned with have become some of our most treasured souvenirs.

081407lr.jpgAdditionally, we’ve had the unexpected pleasure of running into friends (and teachers!) from home in some faraway places.  We have made the acquaintance of other Mets fans, and we have met and had conversations wtih members of the media.  Last summer, while covering the team for the Daily News, Adam Rubin (who is now a journalist for ESPN-NY) was seated across the aisle from me on our flight from San Diego to Phoenix.  In 2007, SNY-TV’s Gary Cohen happened to be seated behind me on our outbound flight from New York to Pittsburgh; we approached him at baggage claim (where this photo was taken.)  Both journalists were very personable, and we had the most delightful conversations with each of them!

This all sounds like the makings of dream vacations, right?  How lucky am I to see so many Mets games?!

Here’s the problem:  for all the delights–both planned and unexpected–neither wins nor a favorable standing in the NL East by the time the planned roadtrip is made is guaranteed.  The heartbreak of having to watch terrible losses or a scrappy team that is way out of it–all without the support of an entire stadium of fans with which to commiserate–can be painful or even excruciating.

Last year’s trip:  a four-game series in San Diego followed by a three-game series in Arizona late in the season was particularly disappointing baseball-wise with the Mets having so many regulars on the DL and the team being so far out of contention.  Maybe paying the big bucks for a small prop plane tour over and into the Grand Canyon was our way of salvaging the trip…for ourselves, if not for the team.

While this season’s pre-All-Star-Game Spector Family Roadtrips–Washington, Baltimore, and Milwaukee–provided some wins and some unique opportunities (such as seeing the rookie Stephen Strasburg in a game in Washington), the final trip, to Los Angeles, was a struggle for the team and, therefore, for me.

Losing three out of four was no fun.  Neither was having Dodger fans in our faces during every exit from Dodger Stadium following the game.

The two-day trip to Disneyland prior to the series, scheduled primarily for my daughter’s enjoyment, proved to be the highlight of the trip for me as well.  Let’s just say that Dodger Stadium could not be mistaken for the Magic Kingdom in any way .  Even our enchanted knuckleballer–the unexpected knight in shining armor of the starting rotation, R.A. Dickey–was not allowed conjure up his deceptive magic for very long, being yanked early in his start there.

Sometime following our return from L.A.–in the midst of one of the games during the frustrating homestand just concluded, perhaps around the time I and other fans found out that Mets ownership declined to take any action prior to the trade deadline–I snapped.

“I think I need a break from these Mets roadtrips,” I told my husband and daughter. “Having to suffer Mets losses–both home and away–are killing me.” .

No doubt, when the 2011 season is announced, I will salivate at potential trips and this low point will be long forgotten.  But if we do decide to declare a moratorium on Mets roadtrips, I can think of one immediate benefit (besides not having to suffer losses without the home crowd):  seeing those away games on SNY and hearing the great on-air talent of Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Gary Cohen. 

I know those guys will always follow the team for me…win or lose. 

Yada, Yada, Yada!

062310.01lr.jpgMy family and I have season tickets at Citi Field.  Not only do they afford an awesome view of the game, but they are right in front of the SNY TV booth. 

It’s always a thrill to catch a glimpse of sportscasters Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Gary Cohen.  Sometimes one of them will even wave back to us during the Seventh Inning Stretch.

Tonight there was even more interest in what was going on behind us as Jerry Seinfeld was given a Father’s Day gift of joining Keith and Gary in broadcasting a portion of the game.

I was lucky enough to get this photo of Seinfeld talking to Cohen at the end of the second inning, moments before he donned his headset and began fulfilling a lifelong dream.

You can see and hear his “debut” on MLBTV.

“Tomorrow, tomorrow. I LOVE ya, tomorrow.”

piazza.jpg“You’re only a day a- way!”

Yessirree, ONE DAY and we’re back in full swing (pun intended) with baseball in Queens…

…ready or not.

Whatever disappointments Mets fans may have with how little was done in the off-season to improve upon the 2009 team, I can personally vouch for the fact that major improvements have at least been made to the stadium itself.  Fans disgruntled by the lack of Mets history and imagery on display at Citi Field will be thrilled to see all that has been done since their last visit.

I had the pleasure of seeing the new Mets Hall of Fame and Museum this morning prior to seeing the team workout.  Although there was a sizable crowd this morning, the layout of the museum is such that the space seems open and not claustrophobic.  (The high ceilings–from which pennants are suspended–contribute to the spacious feeling.)

Video displays, placques, display cases, and lots of photos reproduced in both small and large formats serve to honor Mets players and historic moments in franchise history in a simple but aesthetically pleasing design.

Below are photos of just a few of the items on display:














At top: Game 6 ball from the 1986 World Series; bottom left: Endy Chavez’s jersey from Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS; bottom right: 1969 World Series trophy.

Besides the HOF and Museum itself, also new this season are photos and reproductions of baseball cards throughout the park as well as commemorative tiles installed in the Fan Walk on the periphery of the stadium:  

040410.02.jpgCongratulations and special thanks to the Mets organization for listening to fans’ impassioned pleas for more visible franchise history and tributes on view at the Mets’ new home!

Spring Cleaning

2666287395_0714e8a9d0.jpgIt’s almost time to break camp.  By week’s end, Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues will disperse to ballparks all over the country to begin playing “meaningful” games.

The players are (hopefully) ready, and–after a bit of Spring Cleaning to sweep out the embarassing cobwebs and dustbunnies that have taken up residence on this woefully neglected blog–I will be ready too!

I’ll begin the revival of Perfect Pitch with a countdown to Opening Day.

With five days between now and that exciting first Mets game, I have selected as the subject of my first blog entry the Five Tools of Baseball.

What are the attributes of a Five-tool player? 

A baseball player that is said to have all five tools is scouting and coaching terminology for a baseball player that has all of the attributes that make a player a ‘star’ or make a player a threat to the opposing team or pitcher.

These are the five tools (not in order):

1) Hit for average
2) Hit for power
3) Speed (on the bases)
4) Power
5) Fielding prowess

It is quite rare for a player to possess all of these tools, however any combination of the 5 is usually quite adequate to be a competitive player.
Baseball players from Little League on up to the professional ranks are categorically and positioned on the field according to how much or how little of each of these tools they possess or have developed.

Referenced from Squidoo.
I know Center Fielder Carlos Beltran is considered a five-tool player.  What other players in franchise history have been worthy of this designation?



Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Citi_Field_Promo copy.jpgLast night’s loss was no fun, but seeing the Mets–and fellow nearby fans–return was.

While my family and I have not established the deep bonds shared by those of the fans sitting near one another for every game at Fenway in Fever Pitch–one of my favorite films, we certainly share a comaraderie and repartee with the regulars that we have sat next to for the 2 1/2 years we have held season tickets at Shea.

It’s always a special feeling to return to Shea to welcome the Mets back after they’ve been away–especially if they’ve had a winning road trip.  Often those are times that we relish “rehashing” some of the events related to the Mets that have transpired since we last saw one another.

Yesterday’s “reunion” with friends seated near us, though, was particularly gratifying. 

08290801.jpgWe were all relieved to have finally been contacted regarding season tickets for next year at Citi Field. 

My family’s call came, appropriately enough, on my daughter Melanie’s birthday.

Our family and those seated near us had suffered some amount of anxiety as we waited and waited to be contacted.  Almost at every game, we would ask each other:  “Have YOU been contacted?” 

Meanwhile,some of us had heard–through friends seated in the Field Level or from the newspapers–that the increase in ticket prices was going to be astronomical. 

Not only had we all been concerned about the cost, but we had worried that we might be offered tickets in the bleachers…take it or leave it!  From what we’d heard, it seemed that there was not a lot of choice in the matter:  moving up or down from where one’s seats had been at Shea was not an option.  Apparently, if one chose not to purchase what was offered when he got “the call”, that person would essentially “move to the back of the line”.

What we found out last night–much to our pleasure–was that (1) not only had each of us been offered seats in a similar location to those we presently occupy at Shea but (2) the price for the season tickets was not going to prohibit us from ever retiring or sending a child to college.

A similar conversation transpired as each of the groups of friends sitting near us arrived:

“What row are you in?”  “What are your seat numbers?”

mister_rogers copy.jpgAs we compared notes, we found that all of us had not only purchased seats in the same area of Citi Field, but that we had been offered seats in almost the exact configuration as we currently have.  It is as if our whole “neighborhood” will be uprooted from one stadium and set down, exactly intact, in the new stadium…sorta like putting a house on wheels and “putting down stakes” somewhere up the road!

One “next-door neighbor”, upon finding out that we would be seated next to her and her husband, delightfully exclaimed, “Oh good!!  We can continue to watch Melanie grow up!!”

It truly was a “beautiful day in the neighborhood”!