September 28, 2008 is a day I will always remember as bittersweet. I enjoyed seeing so many former NY Mets players attend the ceremonies for the final goodbye to Shea Stadium. It was moving for me to see Seaver, Kranepool, Jones, Piazza, Strawberry, Gooden and many more for the final tribute. It was very difficult though to watch this 2008 Met team once again come up short of a playoff spot on the last day of the season. While I know it is just a game I also know it is more than a game. For me, it's a exhibition of human potential. And the bar for that potential should be high at the Major League level. Johan Santana achieved that bar in game 161 of the season to keep the Mets hope alive. But overall and collectively the Mets fell short of the mark. There were many blown saves throughout the year and many squandered offensive opportunities that could be examined. But the fact that this team allowed a division lead to slip away again in the final weeks of the season points to mind-set.
I was in fifth grade when the NY Mets won the World Series in '69. Tommie Agee was my favorite Met. He had great speed, enormous power and an outstanding throwing arm. Two remarkable catches he made in center field in game 3 of the '69 series, along with Swoboda's famous sliding catch in game 4 helped the Mets secure a World Series victory over the Baltimore Orioles. Besides the talent of Agee, I loved his spirit. He played hard and never seemed to give up. Perhaps because of my young age I saw him as bigger than life from the outset. But his grit and determination in tracking down fly balls or throwing out base runners from deep in the ball park was real.
Purpose and resolve was also within Jesse Orosco in the 16th inning of game 6 as he helped the Mets defeat the Houston Astro's in their ball park, and propel the Mets into the memorable '86 World Series against Boston.
Steadfast willpower is how I remember Mike Piazza's persona at the plate. He hit more memorable homers than I could list. The one I best remember was his September 21, 2001 homer. It was ten stressful days removed from 9/11. FDNY and NYPD hats could be seen all over the stadium. Piazza hit a prodigious shot over the center field wall that put the Mets over the Braves and seemed to give New York a reason to feel good again. It was a home run that actually made me cry.
Without tenacity talented teams and players sometimes let victors prevail untested and they short change themselves and their fans in the process. I hope that the NY Mets fill their new field of dreams next year with players who have Major League attitude.