Last offseason on my now-defunct FoxSports blog I did a series of interviews with other bloggers about their baseball fandom. It ended up being a pretty popular series, and I don't know if I myself ever had more fun blogging than when I put those posts together. Now that the offseason is unfortunately here again we fans of the world's greatest sport need something to keep the flame burning. I thought I'd share those interviews over here so that they don't get relegated to obscurity. You probably won't know these bloggers, but if you're like me, you love hearing baseball fans talk about their memories of the game. Since these are from last offseason, a few of the questions and answers are a little dated, but it shouldn't make them any less enjoyable.
This is the fourth one I did, with blue@orange, a Mets fan.
1. Where did it all begin? How and when did you become a baseball fan?
I was 5 years old in 1969, Dad was a Mets fan. I guess he decided that was the best time to introduce me to the game. We watched the games on an old black-and-white TV, and I can still picture it clearly in my mind. I didn't get it then as I did later, my father staring at the TV saying over and over, "I can't believe they did it." Great memory.
2. Of all the baseball games you've attended, which one is your favorite?
11-year-old little leaguer in, I think, 1975. I grew up in a neighborhood packed full of kids my age who did nothing but play sports, and back there baseball was king, whether wiffle ball in the streets, softball or baseball at the park at our school. In the summer we played every day, and we always pretended to be our favorite players. I had the head-first Pete Rose down to a science. In my town we had a summer rec program that included 4-5 trips a summer to the Vet to see Philly games (damn, why couldn't Flushing be closer?). We, for a dollar, would be packed into 2 or 3 buses and head to those Bob Uecker seats, the yellow ones at the top in right-center.
It was a day game, Phillies/Reds. One of the older kids found a way to get to the lower level, but this included hopping off a 6-foot railing onto an escalator that was still turned on and going up. Well, those of us with the grapes made the jump. I and about 8 others had the grapes. We broke into groups, and the guys I was with headed to these box seats behind the Reds' dugout, so close to the on-deck circle that Pete Rose had to hear me yell, "Hey Charlie Hustle, get a hit!" It was all I could think of at the time. I know he heard me, because he turned around and smiled.
That lasted all of 2 innings before we were rudely ushered back upstairs, only to wait 'til the coast was clear and head right back to that escalator. We headed for the bullpen this time. You could hang over the railing and look down on the pitchers warming up, and those guys were great, they would actually talk to you. The bullpens were set up between the outfield walls and the back wall of the stadium, perfect for that echo effect. The ball would hit the mitt and it sounded like a cannon going off. Rudely interrupted for a second time, we spent the rest of the game in our nosebleed seats. Seeing guys like Bench, Rose and Schmidt that close for the first time was just awe-inspiring.
3. How much do you hate the Florida Marlins?
I don't, nor do I hate the Phils or the Braves, though I pretend to. Rivalries are great for the game. It adds another element, makes things interesting. But I do hate the Yanks.
4. Other than 1969 or 1986, which was your favorite Mets team?
The current one. Wright, Reyes and Beltran are quickly becoming part of my all-time favorite list. Actually, I love them all, even the cellar-dwellers of the 70's. You remember, Dave Kingman, John Milner and them. They made the 80's that much more rewarding.
5. Who were the best and worst Met managers you ever saw?
Best, Gil Hodges, PERIOD. Student of the game, disciplinarian, and his players loved him. Just listen to Tom Seaver rave about the guy, or just look at the ballclub he won with. He got more out of old-timers and role players than anyone ever in the game's history. '69 was more Gil than anything else.
Worst, you know I'm goin' Willie Randolph. Don't even need to explain.
How 'bout this one? Davey Johnson. Yup, I said it. Polar opposite of Hodges. Had the best team in the 80's. No discipline. He seemed to just put this talented team on autopilot. If I'm wrong, why didn't the Mets win 2 Series in oh, 4 attempts? They won one by the skin of their teeth and that was it. Nope, Johnson did less with more.
6. I'll name some names and you tell me what comes to mind. It can be a thought, a memory, or whatever you want.
Ed Kranepool= Steady Eddie. Was a Met forever. Best pinch-hitter of all time in my book. Trivia: What pinch-hitter holds the highest average for one season? Ed Kranepool, close to .490 as I remember.
Jerry Koosman= Koosman? You kiddin'? So far in this series you've passed by Tony Gwynn, Yastrzemski, Schmidt, the greats that we've all wanted to talk about. You throwin' me a bone, or did you drop the ball, 'cause the Koos is in my top 5 Mets easy. If there's no Koosman, there might not be a miracle. Seaver lost Game 1, Koosman won the first and last game for the Mets in the '69 series. He also (if memory serves) staved off elimination against the A's in '73 with a win in Game 6. He never stopped tryin'. Had his best year, 21 or 22 wins, as part of those cellar-dwellers I spoke of. Best #2 starter the Mets ever had. Loved the Koos.
Ron Hodges= Jerry Grote got old, Duffy Dyer didnt pan out, and Hodges was our capable backstop for 3 or 4 years. I got less to say about him than his bat had to say.
Lee Mazzilli= Fan favorite, great utility player and another in a long line of great Met pinch-hitters. Believe it or not, I'd like to see this guy get another shot, a real shot at managing the Mets.
Doug Sisk= Where's he at these days? He'd have fit right into last year's bullpen: devastating sinker that was hardly ever seen near the strike zone.
Mackey Sasser= He was the Duffy Dyer to Gary Carter. As Dyer was supposed to be the next Grote, Sasser was supposed to be the next Carter. Same result, basically. The one thing that sticks out about Sasser was the hiccup in his throw back to the mound. It looked like he was pump-faking the pitcher. Pretty funny.
Bobby Jones= What happened to him? He was pretty good. Not a flame-thrower, but a good curve that was so slow it was like an offspeed pitch. Almost no-hit the Giants in the Playoffs in 2000. Damn Jeff Kent! Guy was good for win totals in the teens every year, and for the life of me I can't remember what happened to him.
Butch Huskey= Mid-90's role player for 2 or 3 years. Played everywhere but pitcher and catcher, I think. I guess he was there just waiting until the Mets got a real 3rd baseman.
Edgardo Alfonzo= Think he's still playin' minor league ball in the area? I don't know. This one leaves all Met fans scratching their heads. He was so good for about 2 years and then just got so bad so fast it made our heads spin. Kinda like Andruw Jones, he just lost it.
7. If you could undo any trade in Mets history, which one would it be?
It's not what you're thinkin', not Nolan. The Mets had Seaver, Koosman and Matlack. Ryan had control problems at that point and had asked the Mets to trade him. I dont believe in hindsight. No, but I got a tie for my worst. #1, Juan Samuel for Lenny Dykstra? To the Phillies? No way, that one killed me. #1A, David Cone for Jeff Kent? Cone went on to glory with the Yankees, OUCH, and Kent went on to give his best years to the Giants, DOUBLE OUCH. Honorable mention? Scott to Houston almost cost us in '86, Kazmir, Isringhausen...I better stop, the list is long.
8. What do you think of all the alternate uniforms the Mets have these days? Do you like them or do you think the Mets should stick with their traditional look?
As Keith Hernandez always says, "Bring back the pinstripes!!!"
9. Are you going to miss Shea Stadium?
I'm holding my answer until after my first trip to Citi Field.
10. What changes would you make if you were in charge of Major League Baseball?
I've often discussed on this blog my disgust of the DH. I hope one never makes it to the Hall. When I finally get the vote and become the Commissioner, losing the DH will be a top priority. The money is a hard issue and I don't pretend to have the answers, but there's got to be a way to help the smaller market teams. I just don't know what it is.
11. What does 2009 hold for the Mets?
Gee, thanks man? I see only two ways this can go: a trip to the Series or another heartbreaking collapse. They're just too good a team to drop from the picture altogether at this point, but they are the same team who I thought would win it all the last 3 years runnin'.
12. To sum things up, tell us what the game of baseball means to you.
You know Ian, The first thing that comes to mind is when you and I tried to convince Lisa and others of the greatness of this game and we were told it was boring and took too long. If you get the game, you enjoy all the little things like 3-2 count and the batter knows he's gettin' a fastball, but when he gets the change his knees buckle and the bat never moves. OR you're down 1 run in the 5th, 2 outs, man on 2nd, your pitcher (other than the 1 run early) has settled in and is well under the pitch count, but you want the run, what do you do? OR some of my favorite nuances of the game, Beltran takes the field, any field, and the gaps in right and left center that you thought were there are now gone because he's the best. I could watch the game for that alone. OR David Wright goin' deep behind the bag for that grounder that's sure to be a base hit, but Dave's got a cannon and Delgado is a human vacuum, go back to the dugout son, you're out. I love it all. Guys who can paint the corners like Glavine, it's high art to me. Getting the game Ian, the 6-4-3 double plays or watching that shut down closer do his thing. Knowing the game, not just the K's and home runs, That's what it's all about to me now.
B@O seems to have disappeared from the Fox blogging scene. He had several accounts, and these two still have a significant number of extant posts.