Note: This essay was written by my husband, Gary Bakst. Thank you, Gary!!! I will be sharing my take on this same event tomorrow.
It had been 2 and ½ years since I attended a live sporting event, a concert, a movie in a theater, any sort of in person event. I surely don’t have to tell any of you why – everybody knows. We have all made our own decisions about how to deal with the threat of Covid. Some have been yet more cautious than I have but many more less cautious. And I accept that there is a range of choices people can make that may fit for them.
For me, it was time to go to a Mets game. Linda looked ahead and noticed months ago that Saturday, August 27th, was Old Timers’ Day at Citi Field where my beloved Mets play their home games. I have been a Mets fan since my father taught me about baseball. We watched ballgames together, making the occasional pilgrimage to Shea Stadium to see our favorite players win or lose. I remember one game in which Willie Mays -yes, that Willie Mays – was playing for the Mets. He was old for a ball player and no longer capable of the elite level of performance that defined his many years with the Giants, but he was still that legend.
I have fashioned my children into Mets fans, cajoled Linda into supporting them and now my grandchildren are being educated early about the importance of supporting our Mets. I figure, if I can suffer, so can they. Most years, being a Met fan does involve quite a bit of suffering. It makes one tougher, better able to deal with other disappointments in life.
This year has been different. The Mets have had other good years in their history, most notably 1969 and 1986. But, unlike their crosstown rival Yankees, they are not perennial contenders for a championship. It is a rare and exciting moment, a meteor streaking through the sky ever so briefly, not an annual expectation. Perhaps with our new and improved ownership, that could be changing.
After being away for such a long time, it seemed like the right time to head back to the stadium. Covid surely remains a risk, but the risk of severe disease has diminished, it is an outdoor event and the special occasion of Old Timers Day combined to convince me to purchase tickets. I went online and bought 8 tickets for the game. I was not sure which family members would be able to make it, but the limiting factor was not going to be too few available seats.
As an aside, the Mets have a policy for getting these online tickets that I found cumbersome and less than straightforward, so I tasked Linda with converting their emails into actual access to the stadium. She found it easy and quick which did not surprise our children.
Ultimately, we had a nice group coming to the game. We had Linda and I, our son Daniel and his wonderful daughter, Linda’s brother Mark, his lovely wife Pam and their very nice son Sam who is also a Mets fan. And Linda’s good friend Steven who I enjoy talking Mets baseball with over the many years we know each other. The only person missing was our daughter, Leah, (who I have also successfully indoctrinated into Mets fandom, too) but having just had a baby three months ago, and living in the Boston area, made her attendance impossible.
Linda and I drove down to the city; we took the number 7 subway line to the stadium. It was filled with orange and blue clad Mets fans. The vibrations were all positive, the sun was shining and the world was a happy place.
We all arrived in time for the Old Timers’ game. They had assembled quite a large number of former Mets from players who were there for the Mets first season in 1962, to the 1969 Mets and the 1986 Mets and more or less every era of their existence. The introductions themselves were fun and the former players exulted in the attention and adoration which the packed stadium poured out upon them.
At the end of the introductions, there was a surprise. The Mets were retiring uniform number 24 which Willie Mays used to wear. It was a heartwarming moment and surely a signal that current owner Steven A. Cohen was ushering in a different era compared with the Wilpons who are widely despised by Mets fans. He is doing so many things the right way, and this was just one lovely example of that.
The Old Timers game itself was so much fun. Some of those guys can still move pretty well and some really cannot. Most still retain the amazing hitting and throwing skills that separate them from we ordinary humans. It was pure joy watching them out on the field again. We were enjoying the action on the field, the food, the drinks, the opportunity to spend time together chatting. Baseball is unlike football and basketball. It is slower. Many people keep trying to make it faster. Perhaps that is a good thing but sometimes slower has its merits. I loved the slowness of the game.
When the real game with the current crop of Mets began, it was more fun. They led by 1-0, then 2-0, then 3-0. It was a low scoring and well-played game. They made enough good plays to overcome the visiting Colorado Rockies and the crowd exulted as the final out was recorded.
Our granddaughter spent about 4 hours there which is remarkable for a child not yet old enough to have any idea what a ball or strike is. She was delightful and in great spirits and eventually Daniel left with her and they made it home without issue.
The rest of us found our way onto the 7 train when the game ended, and we caught an air conditioned express train back to Manhattan. While on the train, we learned from one of the many Mets fans crowding that subway car that our main opponents, the Atlanta Braves, had lost in the bottom of the ninth inning and the subway car erupted in joy.
We got back home late and tired and sweaty but very happy. Getting back out and doing something to divert my attention from my daily concerns was such a pleasure and going to a baseball game and watching my favorite team win was exactly the right salve. I can enjoy watching any team play but if it is my Mets, then I really want them to win. If the trip is easy and the weather is great and the food is delicious and they lose, then the bottom line is they lost. It is unlike a movie or a show where I might say it was very good or pretty good. This is binary: win/lose. And they won.
I wonder how you have made decisions about such entertainment options. Have you been going all along, have you picked some events as appropriate and others as not a great idea? And which types of events take you away from your worries?
5 thoughts on “Seems Like Old Time(r)s”
Nice blog, and glad to see the slow return to normal. As for myself, I am totally back to a normal lifestyle with the following caveats. I control my ability to be fully vaccinated and boosted, and I will continue to get boosted every six months. I do not have an issue being maskless or eating indoors or going to plays or indoor music venues. But I will respect a venue’s mask policy and if required, wear a mask.
Thanks, Alan, for sharing. We are all navigating something where we really don’t understand the full implications. Everyone’s got to decide what they’re willing to risk.
I’m so happy for you Gary that you got to do something you feel passionate about after such a long hiatus. It sounds like it was a wonderful day.
My parents had season tickets for the Mets when I was growing up. I clearly remember the Miracle Mets of 1969 and the World Series they won. I enjoyed watching Tom Seaver pitch, Yogi Berra coaching (what a character he was), and Ed Kranepool, Bud Harrelson, Jerry Grote, Cleon Jones, Art Shamsky, and Tommy Agee on the field. But my favorite was Ron Swaboda. My pre-teen self had a massive crush on him. Were any of those guys there?
I had a lot of fun afternoons at Shea. Thanks for bringing back a lot of good memories.
To answer your question, I haven’t gone to any indoor activities or cultural events yet. I’m still not comfortable being in a crowd of strangers because I live in a state with a fairly low vaxx rate. It broke my heart to have to give up my season tickets to a local theater when they reopened in the fall of 2021. I had those tickets for several years pre-pandemic. They weren’t requiring masks or blocking off seats so I didn’t want to take any chances. But I miss their terrific productions and my third row center seat.
Thank you Laurie. I am sorry that you had to give up those great seats. It sounds like it was a wonderful thing. I could swear I saw something there-maybe Capital Steps? But that could just be a story I tell myself.
There were several 1969 Mets at Old Timer’s Day. Among them were Art Shamsky, Ed Kranepool, Cleon Jones and I believe Jerry Grote may have been there. And, your hero, Ron Swoboda was there as well. He is a bit older, has gained a bit of weight and doesn’t move quite as easily as he once did. But overall he looked great.
Back about 13 years ago, I had some interaction with him when I attended Mets fantasy camp and he was one of the people who ran it. I liked him and he seemed to enjoy us mere mortals as well.
That’s great to hear about Ron Swaboda being a nice guy. My impression was that Cleon Jones was the nicest and most humble guy on the team from the interviews he gave. I remember the episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Ray and Robert went to a Mets fan event. Several of those guys were in the episode, including Tom Seaver. I texted Ira with sadness on the day we lost him.
Mom and I used to go to the Capital Steps at a small theater at the Kravis Center. That’s so cool that you saw them too.