CONTEST WINNERS!

As they say, misery loves company. As chosen – without input – by TBF, the winners of the DVD contest are Jessica Bader and Ray Stillwell. (Ray, you will be pleased to know that he went to the trouble of verifying that your game did indeed have the historical footnote you claimed it did.) Could you both email me a snail mail address?

The winning entries follow:

Jessica Bader:
July 2, 1999. Fireworks Night, against the Braves. I am 13 years old, and I am with my parents and my younger brother. It is disgustingly hot and humid, and the only thing worse than the weather is the game. After 4 innings, the Braves are ahead 10-0 and the Mets have yet to get a hit against Maddux. Around the 5th inning or so, my mother, who has been complaining about the heat and humidity all night, starts to feel dizzy, as though she is having a heatstroke. We leave. The Mets continue to embarrass themselves in both halves of the remaining innings.

Yes, that’s bad, but not amazin’ly so. What makes it worse is what transpires about a year later. June 30, 2000. Fireworks Night, against the Braves. It is the 8th inning, and the Mets trail 8-1. Associating the present events (Mets losing big against the Braves on Fireworks Night) with the nightmare of the previous year, my parents decide to leave the game, dragging a stubborn, angry 14-year-old girl with them. The rest is history, history that I can only experience via a car radio.

Ray Stillwell:
As you know, even though I have a much longer-standing Metigree than you do, I don’t have nearly the number of games to choose from. Most of my pre-77 games blur together, few except the first standing out much. In the second half of my life, in fact, I only have five to choose from: late ’84, the first return of the prodigal son; my wife’s first trip to Shea in that magical summer of ’86; an odd pre-season interleague game right before Opening Day of ’92, the first and only time my daughter (however prenatal she was at the time) has been in the yard; and last June, which I’ve documented ad infinitum.

Only the middle one can count among the worst. Boy can it.

We weren’t in New York for baseball. We came from Rochester, married less than a year, to say goodbye to my oldest sister. Her health had been failing for most of the year since our marriage the previous September, and that weekend was her 49th, and final, birthday. Her body was a fraction of its once robust self, her spirit was subdued but still there, and it was the last time we would see her.

She loved her baby brother and adored the new in-law she’d only met a handful of times. She was the one who’d suggested, back in ’86, that I take Eleanor to Jones Beach to propose on a cold September morning rather than something flashy like Windows on the World. (Good advice, that.) She also loved the theater and made sure we got to see a Broadway show that weekend. Now, almost two years later and failing, she made sure we felt okay spending our little time in the area doing something else we loved. We took the Babylon train to Woodside, waited an eternity for a transfer, and bought two of these at the gate, which in those earlier championship years you could still just do.

The Brave opposition was random and, at the time, relatively meaningless; they were still a Western Division team, and not a good one. But we stayed for the sunshine and the company and the atmosphere of a team that was still, arguably, one of the greatest ever. We had ’86 hero Bobby Ojeda on the mound against some unknown Atlantan making his major-league debut. The dead fish wasn’t working; we fell behind right away top one, got two of the first three on in the bottom of the inning but only scored a run (does this sound familiar?), and from there we just faded as Ojeda got dinked and dunked for eight innings while we couldn’t master the stuff of this greenhorn kid they ran out.

The Braves’ three-run ninth merely made it inevitable, and Bruce Sutter slammed the door in the ninth, for yet another Met loss among the chronicles of my Shea days.

Perhaps you remember the pitcher who debuted for Atlanta that day. His name was John Smoltz.

We headed back to Seaford for some final goodbyes, returning three months later for some more permanent ones. Sandy was never much of a sports fan, but as much as I hated seeing the hatching of a mortal enemy that day, it will always have that bittersweet center to keep it from being a totally miserable memory.

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