2: THE ACE OF SPADES.

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“They’re throwing Santana tomorrow,” TBF said, shaking his head, when we got home Friday night.
“Jerry wants to win.”
“It’s a mistake.”
“What would you do?”
“I’d just follow the rotation.”

I am too tired to argue that I am not sure that throwing Jon Niese on Saturday is the right thing to do. That I am sure that the announcement of Jon Niese on Saturday afternoon will engender the result of 55,000 fans standing up and screaming, “YOU’VE GOT TO BE FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME.” That the Mets have to win TOMORROW. Not Sunday. TOMORROW. Add to that the fact that. inconceivably, I seem to know that Santana has done well in key situations on short rest before. Johan is my guy. I believe.

We are cranky and tired when the alarm goes off at 10am and we are cranky and tired when we go to get bagels and we are cranky and tired when we get on the 7 train in Long Island City. We are not talking much, because we do not want to argue, and the only reason we would argue of course is that we are tired and cranky and it is the second to last day of Shea, which is fraught with emotion enough without adding to the pile the fact that we are both desperately scared that the Mets will not win today.

It started to mist as we got on the train and by the time we come down the stairs at Willetts Point it is officially raining, e.g., the quantity of water falling from the sky necessitates an umbrella. We go in with no problems at Gate E. There is extra security, different faces, but they do not check our bags with any more rigor than the normal gents ever did.

We enter Shea Stadium for the second-to-last time in the regular season, and begin our climb to the upper deck. Surprisingly, we are allowed to meander there via the loge and the mezzanine without being stopped or challenged, and I am grateful; I do not need to get cranky for arbitrary and idiotic things outside of my control today. We are even able to ensconce ourselves under the overhang in Row R, and that’s when we discover – despite the rain hotline’s declarations to us during the 7 train ride to the contrary – that the game start time is delayed. It is now 1:25, but no sooner did we sit down than they announce that it is now 1:45.

But, astonishingly, the rain did stop. We moved down to Row H, toweled off the seats (causing everyone around us to mutter something about us being prepared as they futilely wiped theirs down with handfuls of napkins), and settled in. The girls in seats 3 and 4 are here today, but our old friends, Statler and Waldorf from the row behind us are conspicuously absent, and the section blowhard is also not in residence. A gentleman comes up the aisle wearing a Phillies jersey and a Yankees hat. I announce to no one in particular that he is the very definition of a dickhead (sorry, but would you call him anything else?) Waldorf arrives just before first pitch, sans Statler, and informs us that his compatriot couldn’t face coming today. Mr. Blowhard arrives shortly after that.

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Jerry Koosman removes the number. “HEY JERRY,” yells the local comedian. “YOU’RE STARTING TOMORROW.”
We laugh, but laugh through gritted teeth.
The ceremonial first pitch is thrown out by Cleon Jones, which was another nice surprise. The lack of corporate assholes this weekend is lovely and refreshing. Even the music today had nothing to do with a WCBS 101 anything. It’s “Shout It Out Loud” and Let’s Get This Party Started instead of “Saturday In The Park” or the ridiculous, milquetoast Hall and Oates (who I will point out are FROM PHILLY and therefore NEVER APPROPRIATE) that were played on 80s night earlier in the week.

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I hate forced patriotism just as much as the next gal, but you just don’t talk during the National Anthem. I mean, sure, you can make a quiet comment under your breath, but you don’t have a loud, extended conversation. Of course, that was exactly what was going on two rows behind us. Multiple looks of death did nothing to shut them up. It wasn’t until after the game that we noticed that one of them was wearing a Yankees shirt. You will then of course understand when I tell you that we suffered throughout the first few innings of the game while the Anthem idiots and Mr. Blowhard decide to discuss baseball, the Mets bullpen, and in-game strategy. It was one of those “Hey, don’t let facts get in the way of your argument” kinds of discussions. I kept urging TBF to ignore them but the sheer ignorance kept overwhelming him and he kept turning around to try to correct them, only to be told that whatever fact or statistic he offered was “irrelevant”.

Eventually I just went catatonic. Dead still. Silent. Focused. Laser beams trained on the field. I didn’t want to eat, and when I did, nothing had any taste. I agreed to split a soda with TBF, but then my half sat on the ground next to me. I didn’t even notice when it stopped raining. (TBF had to mention that perhaps I should take off the poncho because I kept hitting the guy in front of me in the head with it every time I stood up.)

5 innings, 6 innings, 7 innings. No one is up in the bullpen. Santana’s pitch count is low.

“Oh my god, is that game in Milwaukee going to start already?” said one of the Anthem Idiots.
Despite myself, I held up 4 fingers.
“Oh.”

8 innings. JO-HAN, JO HAN, JO HAN, we are chanting. I wonder if they ever did this in Minnesota. I cannot imagine what it must feel like right now to be Johan Santana and to have the fate of the season hanging over your head. Then again, I reason, that is why he is here.

Johan rings up the last batter and on the way off the mound does the tiniest little fist pump, the first visible emotion we’ve seen.

And then, number 9.
First out.
Second out.
First pitch. Second pitch. Third pitch – walk. Fourth pitch – walk. Fifth pitch, and the stadium explodes, while “Smooth” comes on the PA, and BELIEVE is on the scoreboard again. I notice with some satisfaction that the final victim is Cody Ross, who I hate even more than I hate Hanley Ramirez. I am shooting the field, until Johan finishes the line of handshakes, and heads back towards the dugout. We are still screaming and cheering and chanting JO-HAN, and he takes the game ball and throws it into the stands, and then tips his cap before heading down the stairs.

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I put the camera down, high five TBF, and then throw my arms around him and burst into tears into his shoulder. It is relief and ecstasy and elation and excitement and exhaustion all rolled into one. I take what feels like the first deep breath I have taken the entire game.

“That was the best pitched game I have ever seen,” TBF says, as earnestly as he ever has stated anything. Statler behind us agrees, as we shake hands and wish each other well.

Unlike every other game we have ever been at, we do not charge down the aisle and snake through the concourse before making time down the ramps as efficiently as possible. We slowly make our way down to the walkway and at the bottom I realize I need to stop to change lenses, so I can shoot on the way out. So we move down into the boxes, which are filled with people standing and staring and posing for photos, sitting and taking it in, leaning over the railing for one last look. I look around and realize that it is happening everywhere, in every box, on every level. No one is in a hurry to leave today, and thankfully, gratefully, the Mets are not being assholes about this. People are walking slowly, carefully, no one is rushing, and they are not being rushed.
“We’ll probably have to get the local,” TBF notes as we stop for the 15th time on one of the ramps.
“I don’t care.”
“Me neither.”


The Flickr set from the game is here. Shea photos here.

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