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May 2017
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captainsblog [userpic]
We Are Familias.

I was among the first to post a quick Facebook update after the final pitch last night-

- but am a bit late to the party in terms of posting more extended remarks.

So much of the magic has already been discussed, by beatwriters and bloggers. I have two different takes from those to share.

One, about our roots. The orange of Harlem and the blue of Flatbush. We are the descendants of Hodges and Hodges.

Gil, you know of. The first and second-to-last Mets player to have his number enshrined. Who stood for methodically good play on the field- as Wright's fielding and Cespedes's throwing and just about everybody's suddenly speedy baserunning epitomized in this series just past. But for me, last night, the main channeler of Number 14 was one multiple-of-seven up from him: Lucas Duda.

Maury Allen wrote this about Gil's Dodger days in one of those quickie, order-from-Scholastic-Books, pulp paperbacks that went to press within hours of the Mets' 1969 World Series triumph (which I of course instantly ordered, eventually lost, and blessedly reacquired through alibris.com a few years back):

Hodges had gone hitless during the entire 1952 World Series for the Dodgers. While a congregation met in a Brooklyn church, the priest asked for prayers for a base hit for Hodges. It hadn't worked.

We had similar prayers for Duda, as he came in on a 3-for-27 post-season tear (rhymes with "fear"), roughly half of them strikeouts. We prayed harder seeing him up with two men on after Daniel Murphy had somehow failed to be Daniel Murphy for a brief second and left those runners temporarily stranded. This time, the prayers were answered, as they were again and again and again as Duda came around in the lineup.

(The chapter of Maury's book containing that anecdote was titled, "You Gotta Have Heart." That referenced Gil's non-fatal heart attack at the end of the 1968 season, the year before the Miracle. He couldn't have known the sad irony in another fatal one befalling Hodges just before the third post-Miracle season began. But I'm getting ahead of my second point here.)

So that's the blue in our blood. For the orange, we turn to the older, seated Hodges: Russ, the Giant broadcaster who I homaged at the start of my Met conference presentation, and again in that Facebook post. Howie Rose homaged him, too- and better, I might add:)

If the Dodgers gave us our method, who but the team of Willie Mays gave us our madness? Our reckless abandon? Our joy at playing or watching the game? That's our inheritance from that Hodges- and in part that joy simply magnifies because these post-season occurrences are so uncommon for us. Don Mattingly, he of that other New York baseball tradition, got the sack this morning because those modern-day Dodgers weren't methodical enough, weren't predictably good enough.  We'd have savored an NLDS loss, or even a one-and-done if it had come to it. But it didn't- and whoever the opponent next week, those colors will again blend together into something that's uniquely ours.


Howie also helps me make my other point, but in a much more poignant way.

Say what you will about the deadline acquisitions of late July turning the tide for this team: and surely Cespedes, and to lesser extents the Brave acquisitions and Clippy, got us to the promised land. But it's worth noting that this season really began to turn earlier in July, one of the relatively rare regular-season occasions I was inspired enough to write here about.  The Mets had just settled in to a 40-40 record and were about to head on their West Coast swing to the successor homes of their forbears.

I said at the time (minus a minor editing error;):

West Coast trips for this team have historically been one of two things and usually the second: redeeming, or Very Very Very Bad-dening. This is the one that will define 2015 and possibly years to come.  If the 25 men on the roster and the guy in the manager's office are the same ones that return next weekend, I see that as a sign of the latter- and soon, quite possibly, of last.

Never let it be said I hide my bad predictions. That trip wound up way more to the good, as they took two of three apiece from both the orange and the blue.  But that trip began with an unexpected detour to Detroit, where, we later learned, Howie Rose got pulled off the plane to treat an emergency illness.

And we worried- and prayed- and wished him all the best. Which, at least so far, is exactly what he's gotten.

That's what makes this team, and our team of fans, so special.  Intermixed between the play-by-play and the roster moves, we have the stories of our own lives- which accompany the narrative, expand it, and on the best of occasions transcend it.

We have one of our most famous bloggers, Greg- whose post-game panegyric consisted mainly of the game and of Met memories, but necessarily came back to the reality of his own life, and that of his father, whose illness and progress have been intertwined with the success of his son's beloved team.  Charlie is now in palliative care.  Greg, to the greatest extent possible, is in our love and care for all he does for us and for his dad.

We have perhaps our most famous blogger of ever, Dana Brand. Boy did HE have heart- for his students, for his colleagues, for his fellow fans, but especially for his beloved family.  As his Times memoriam noted, a stress test showed his heart to be completely healthy, but a pulmonary embolism wasn't, and his death shocked the early 2011 Met world as much as Gil's passing shocked us in early 1972.  His memory brought us together more than ever, and keeps us together.  His daughter Sonia, who just announced her engagement to a wonderful gentleman, pointed heavenward to "Daddy" with her first words of exhilaration after the game. She knows he was looking down, with Gil and Yogi and all the others we've lost and yet never lost, and was smiling on us left field to right field:)

We have Patricia, who has had to cope with the care of her aging mother- but who still rocks her Mets gear with pride and at least some understanding of what those colors mean. They mean tradition. They mean family. They mean love.

We have Susan, who works professionally for those other Mets, and who had to forgo the potential Division Series clincher at Citi Field in order to play oboe at Lincoln Center.  Her words about that conflict, and how it worked out, put her right at the top of our scale of true believers:)

So many others, who I've met, or just read- you have your stories, too. I even have my own: my wife of mostly mixed marriage of 28 years, who has been to a few games with me but mostly tolerates my lifelong disease for which there is no cure- even she stayed up and watched with me till near the very end last night, reveling in the stories of Murph and of curses and of Jenny McCarthy getting internet-shamed for showing up in Cubs gear the previous night, presumably unvaccinated. Two of our oldest animals in the living room with us, one awaiting a vet appointment (she's better), the other off his feed for going on 24 hours but still seeming fine and purring his brains out.  Of course we left most of our animal karma with our youngest cat, who's been keeping the Curse of Leo alive this past week:

Oh- one more story of our "family" to acknowledge: that of Andrew. He's done an Amazin' job of improving his life and fitness in the past year. Two posts of his come to mind.  One, a selfie taken right after the final out, captioned "Can you see the tears...."

But earlier, he posted a legitimate question about baseball strategy: should the Mets have used their overpowering 9th-inning closer on a night where they had a five-run lead going into the final inning?  My instant answer was yes, because that's what closers do.  But as I saw Jeurys channeling the methodical of Gil and then the joy of Russ in and after those final three outs, I knew I needed to these thoughts to my reply:

Yes, he needed to be out there. Not for the certainty of the outs, but for what his pitching has meant to this team all along. When it lost its presumed closer on Opening Day and then suffered the lost mind of his heir presumptive about 81 games later. When he did everything the manager, and the situation, called on him to do. Six outs? Four? You want me to BAT with two outs?!? No problem. All with class, and with determination. That was his mound to kneel on at the end.

He is Familia. And so are we.