My descent into Hell? Quite pleasant, actually.
Most of my life I have held a view of New York’s Shea Stadium as one of the wellsprings of all evil. I held an impression of Shea as a run-down cesspool which the foul Metropolitans called home; charmless, covered in ads like a minor league stadium, and impersonal.
So when Mr. Joe Aiello approached me several months ago with the idea of meeting at Shea for a Cubs game I was reluctant. I had been soured the year before by an incredibly hostile treatment during a visit to Citizens’ Bank Park and I expected the same from Mets fans. I saw them as angry, hostile New Yorkers whose hatred for all things non-New York would rise to the surface when my Chicago ass walked into their park. So inhospitable was the Philly faithful that I projected even worse upon the engineers of the decline in ’69. So I agreed, but not without a secret dread.
The reality was something quite different from my expectations. Mets fans were friendly. I didn’t hear a single insult thrown out to a Cub fan. And there were plenty of us; right in front of us were four young Cub fans, so I felt pretty much at home. The seats we had — upper deck, but right behind home — were reasonably priced and afforded quite a view. There weren’t nearly as many ads as I though, the bathrooms were much nicer than the troughs Wrigley Field offers up, and the usher was friendly and happy to go out of his way to help.
So on that trip I put to rest an ancient hatred planted in me by my father, who lived through the catastrophe in 1969. For someone born about one month before Ernie Banks retired, his stories took on mythical and all-important status, and I always reviled the Mets. No longer. They have been elevated from 3rd-most-hated (Cardinals and Yankees) to somewhere in the middle.
The game? Oh, the Cubs sucked. 2-0. Only one legitimate scoring opportunity. But I was treated to one of the highlights of my life when Maddux stole 2nd base after a base hit. On top of pitching a great game, he was electrifying on the basepaths! Seo was getting ready to pitch as Maddux took his lead, then he just kept going! He got about halfway before Seo stepped off the mound. He double-clutched as the SS and 2B converged on second, then carefully–too carefully–threw to second. They’d have had him if the throw was to the second base side, but as it was, the throw was low and to the SS side and Reyes had to reach back to get it. Maddux slid as the ball rolled gently away (at least that’s how I remember it). SAFE!
On top of that, I got to meet Joe and Virginia for the first time. Good company goes a long way, and I think being there with the two of them and my wife made it much easier to stomach being in a place I hated for so long.
On the other hand, the hot dogs sucked and my cast was really starting to get gross and clammy and itchy (I broke my arm 3 weeks ago), AND the Mets moved the start time of the next day’s game from 1:20 to 8:05. My two doggies were in a kennel and we’d have gotten rooked if we’d kept them there another night, and I was feeling really uncomfortable in the heat, so I didn’t go to that game. Joe’s going to have to report on that 6-0 shelling.
As for the season, I’m back to the point I was in for most of the eighties and nineties: willing to enjoy what baseball gives me with only the occasional grumpiness about how much the Cubs suck, and mostly fortunate that, most days, a loss only hurts for 24 hours. Then they get to try again.
24×6 = almost one week of hurt…maybe today.