Unparalleled by any other sport, baseball is a game of numbers. Of statistics. Of quantifiable accomplishments.
In music and other art forms, measures of success or achievement are far more subjective. There will never be a “greatest” or “best” soprano, symphony, or even composer.
With the exception of a few asterisks or footnotes, when an outstanding baseball achievement is made, the record book is immediately updated, and the recipient and his feat are honored. At least until the next player comes along and breaks that record.
The quantifiable aspect of the sport affords an auspicious status to players that is not available to artists. In sports, one can be considered the reigning champion of one or numerous particular feats: the very “best”.
One particular feat happened at Citi Field last Thursday night: Outfielder Yoenis Céspedes became the first player ever to hit a ball into the third deck of the ballpark. Anyone watching the 2013 Home Run Derby portion of the All-Star Game festivities will remember those bombs hit by Céspedes, including one that drilled the glass exterior of the Acela Club in Left Field. While Thursday’s home run was calculated to have been hit 466 feet–which constituted a tie with Giancarlo Stanton for the furthest hit fair ball in Citi Field–it was an unprecedented feat because of the sheer height of the home run. The surprise on the fans’ faces in the third deck–where the ball landed–speaks volumes: no one sitting in those seats ever expects to go home with a souvenir. Not even from batting practice.
Earlier in the history of the franchise, an equally impressive bomb was hit–and immortalized. In the third game of the 1969 season, outfielder Tommie Agee socked a ball that landed halfway up in Section 48 in the left Upper Deck at Shea Stadium. Eventually, the spot where the ball was hit was painted. Unfortunately, during the demolition of Shea Stadium, the marker was removed and was sold to a private collector.
The stadiums that have chosen to place physical markers where players have hit home runs are numerous:
Fenway Park boasts its singular “red seat” where, on June 9, 1946, Ted Williams hit a homer–Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21–for a recorded distance of 502 feet.
Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia at one time had markers for home runs hit into the left-field upper deck by Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt. A home run by a non-Phillie, Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates, even warranted a marker there: a yellow star with a black “S” in the middle.
RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., boasted numerous seats painted white–against the prevailing sea of yellow seats–denoting places where Frank Howard, a.k.a., “The Washington Monument” and “The Capital Punisher”, hit home runs during his tenure with the Washington Senators.
Baltimore’s Camden Yards has countless markers embedded into the pavement for those homers hit onto Eutaw Street. But in this digital age, they even have an online “Eutaw Street Home Run Tracker” where one can watch the arc of all 85 homers (at last count), that has landed there. Two orange seats reside there as well: the first was installed in honor of Cal Ripken Jr.,’s record-breaking home run on July 15th, 1993, in which he passed Ernie Banks for the most home runs ever hit by a shortstop. The second orange seat marks the location of Eddie Murray’s 500th career home run of September 6th, 1996.
Camden Yards’ predecessor–Memorial Stadium–commemorated Frank Robinson’s monumental homer of May 18, 1966, which sailed 451 feet over rows of bleachers and out of the ballpark. This feat was commemorated by an orange banner over the left-field bleachers with the single word “here” printed on it.
Houston’s Jimmy Wynn and Doug Rader each hit homers into the left field upper deck at the Astrodome in 1970. The home runs were hit a week apart and to the same row in the upper “Gold Level” with just a few seats separating them. The Astros had an artist paint the seats to mark them. They remained in place until 1985 when the seats were refurbished and repainted to match the blue, red, orange and yellow of the Astros rainbow jerseys (which ironically they stopped using just two seasons later). The seat locations were remarked during the renovation.
Obviously, there is precedent for honoring a ballpark’s history, long balls hit by franchise and non-franchise players alike. Melanie Spector, my daughter and companion in Section 318 of Citi Field for practically every home game, has come up with an idea about honoring Céspedes’s third-deck bomb. She’s even created an online petition to try to make this idea became a reality.
According to WOR’s Howie Rose, it took twenty-five years and some inquiries from Rose himself to see Tommie Agee’s marker get painted. With your help, perhaps Yoenis–and Mets fans–won’t have to wait nearly as long to see this epic home run get an appropriate commemoration at Citi Field.
Please sign the petition, send it to friends, and post it on social media, using the hashtag #PaintItYellow! You can find it here.
We are fourteen games in. Grandstanding seems oh so premature.
But can I just say this? How great is it to put on one’s Mets gear these days and be greeted in the grocery store, on the street, or at work with a smile and a, “How about those METS?!”
“…and I pit- y any- one who’s not a Met to- night…”
“…such a pretty pitch, such a pretty hit, such a pretty steal, such a pretty streak!”
Puts a little swagger back in one’s step…just in time for the upcoming Subway Series.
“Timing is everything.”
How many times have we heard that expression? It has certainly proven true recently in this house of Mets fans.
The high praise recent lavished upon my husband–while certainly well deserved–is owed, in part at least, to coincidence and excellent timing.
A die-hard Mets fan basically from the infancy of the franchise, my husband never appears happier or more youthful than when attending a Mets game. He was recently rewarded handsomely for the hefty price of our Season Ticket package, not to mention the expenditure of vast amounts of his personal time spent watching the futility that is the Mets’ offense in general and with the bases loaded in particular: he got to throw out the Ceremonial First Pitch at Citi Field.
Apparently, the designated First Pitch Thrower du Jour was unable to “go on”, and a suitable “cover” had to be found. Citi Field officials need have looked no further.
While Garry showed no signs of being nervous about his assignment, as it got close to his scheduled performance, he did admit to a fear of spiking the ball. And ideally, he added, he would like to throw the ball so that Mets Catcher Anthony Recker would not need to leave his crouch in order to catch the ball. However, if either scenario were to happen, he reasoned aloud, he would be in good company: he recalled how former Mets ace Tom Seaver had thrown out the first pitch at “Shea Goodbye”–the last game at Shea Stadium–and had spiked the ball. He also recalled that when Seaver threw out the first pitch at the 2013 All-Star Game, his throw came in quite high and outside and had required former Mets Catcher Mike Piazza to leap to his feet in order to catch it.
Other than these minor concerns, Garry showed no signs of performance anxiety whatsoever. In fact, he appeared rather poised and purposeful. (See if you don’t agree from the photo!) Dutifully following the instructions he had been given to “follow David Wright” (!), he strode onto the field with aplomb. I will never forget the image of him shadowing Mets Pitcher Jon Niese.
Wisely electing to throw from in front of the mound, Garry did one heck of a job, and I was not the only one who thought so. He did not spike the ball nor did Recker need to leave his crouch in order to catch the ball. As the two posed for a photo together, Recker even complimented Garry on his pitch.
Later that evening, sitting in our Excelsior Level seats directly in front of WOR announcers Josh Lewin and Howie Rose–with whom we delight in having as our audio accompaniment to each and every home game–Garry found himself somewhat (pleasantly) distracted from the game itself–and his usual scorekeeping ritual–as compliments kept coming in:
Friend, Mets blogger, and auteur exceptionnel Greg Prince came down from the Press Box to personally shake Garry’s hand. (Later, he would even mention Garry in his blog post about that night!) Plaudits for Garry’s efforts came over the WOR airwaves and into our earbuds as Howie Rose gave Garry a shout-out and a verbal “pat on the back”, adding that, “D’Arnaud would’ve framed it for a strike.” As a matter of fact, Howie had begun discussing Garry’s pre-game experience and, before he could finish the story, he was interrupted by the Yasiel Puig Web Gem that would become a viral .gif before the Seventh Inning Stretch. Even after that astonishing play that had left everyone in the stands momentarily speechless and, then, had even Mets fans applauding, Howie remembered having introduced Garry’s tale, and returned to the subject. Flattering, to say the least!
Yes, timing was in Garry’s favor on Thursday, May 22nd: He happened to be at Citi Field earlier than usual for that night’s game in order to sample “Nobu Night” at the Acela Club; therefore, he could assure Mets personnel that he would indeed be on-hand at the prescribed time.
But the fortuitous timing to which I refer was actually tied to a later event. A few days later.
Still “after glowing” about his unique souvenir, he came home that night to find that word had quickly spread about his special opportunity, and emails demanding explanations and details were coming in at an alarming rate. He sat down at his computer and composed a short synopsis of how the event had come about, how he thought he had performed, and the critiques he had received. He attached one of the numerous photos that my daughter and I had each taken of him from our position on the warning track. He then sent the email out to all potentially interested parties.
Initially, he received a flurry of emails in response . Friday brought more feedback. By that weekend, responses had slowed somewhat, but as the work week started on Monday, replies came from those colleagues who had taken a long weekend and not checked their work email since earlier the previous week and, thus, had just found out Garry’s news.
On Tuesday, rapper 50 Cent was given Ceremonial First Pitch honors. And he proceeded to bring dishonor on himself, frankly.
His throw was so wildly off-course that news of this charade was picked up by national media. Writers at the Washington Post even drew up a chart of “bests” and “worsts” in Ceremonial First Pitch Hall of Famedom to put his mishap in proper perspective.
First-pitch-related emails and texts to Garry recommenced. Friends’ and colleagues’ estimation of Garry’s feat shot up even higher. It had become quite obvious, even to those not having seen Garry’s throw, how poorly 50 Cent’s performance had measured up to Garry’s highly-touted outing only a few days before. Even non-Mets and non-baseball fans saw replays of Tuesday’s farce and were all too anxious to acknowledge Garry’s far superior performance.
Comparing the two men’s first pitches later, Howie Rose would even marvel–off the air–to Garry, “Grading on a curve, you are Sandy Koufax.” High praise indeed.
50 Cent has continued to extract from this episode every ounce of media hype possible for himself. Recently, he provided an attention-getting explanation for his poor outing that night. He also lives in infamy in an hysterical video that has since been created in which Vladimir Guerrero is seen “hitting” that ill-thrown pitch. Ah, but thanks to 50 Cent’s PR machine, Garry has vicariously continued to enjoy minor celebrity status, exceeding even Andy Warhol‘s predictions.
Serendipity had provided Garry the chance to live out a dream.
Coincidence allowed him to keep the dream alive for many more days to come.
UPDATE: The infamous first pitch throw will live on into the 2014 baseball season as Topps has confirmed that it will be issuing a baseball card “honoring” the pitch:
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so the saying goes. I know I personally am beside myself for the return of baseball to Citi Field. However, my wandering eyes have been smitten by, gulp, basketball.
I’ve written a blog post comparing the success of the Wichita State Shockers to a successful orchestra. You can read it here:
Between the money the team will save by eliminating stewards, attendants, medical staff and insurance for the shuttered seats (about $130,000 per season) and the extra ad revenue it may earn, team owner Stefano Fantinel says the experiment “will pay for itself very soon.”
What I didn’t see mentioned in this article is the fact that screen-printed PVC tarps do not produce general crowd noise nor respond with a collective roar for great plays. Conversely, the concocted fans presumably do not boo poor plays nor heckle players.
As grateful as I always am to take a vacation, and as much as I love that our family shares a passion for ballgames and the Mets, our family’s tradition of following the Mets for numerous roadtrips each summer is killing me.
With our season ticket package at Citi Field, we are at virtually every home game. But for many summers now, we have taken advantage of the fact that my daughter is not in school nor am I working in the summer and have planned and taken vacations based around Mets away games.
In our various sojourns, we have seen the Mets play at every National League ballpark with the exception of three: AT & T Park, Coors Field, and Busch Stadium. We have also seen the Mets play in several Americal League venues and in Spring Training games at Port St. Lucie. In addition to seeing all those games and ballparks, we have also been to nearby venues: National Parks, art museums, science museums, historical sites, amusement parks, aquariums, zoos and animal parks, beaches, and restaurants featuring regional fare.
We’ve been granted rare access to our favorite players in ballparks having more lenient rules for observing Batting Practice and getting autographs. Due to generally lower ticket prices at other parks compared to Citi Field prices, we have been able to sit in even better seats than we do at Citi Field. Both of those amenities have afforded me the opportunity to shoot photos from some amazing vantage points. The photos I have returned with have become some of our most treasured souvenirs.
Additionally, we’ve had the unexpected pleasure of running into friends (and teachers!) from home in some faraway places. We have made the acquaintance of other Mets fans, and we have met and had conversations wtih members of the media. Last summer, while covering the team for the Daily News, Adam Rubin (who is now a journalist for ESPN-NY) was seated across the aisle from me on our flight from San Diego to Phoenix. In 2007, SNY-TV’s Gary Cohen happened to be seated behind me on our outbound flight from New York to Pittsburgh; we approached him at baggage claim (where this photo was taken.) Both journalists were very personable, and we had the most delightful conversations with each of them!
This all sounds like the makings of dream vacations, right? How lucky am I to see so many Mets games?!
Here’s the problem: for all the delights–both planned and unexpected–neither wins nor a favorable standing in the NL East by the time the planned roadtrip is made is guaranteed. The heartbreak of having to watch terrible losses or a scrappy team that is way out of it–all without the support of an entire stadium of fans with which to commiserate–can be painful or even excruciating.
Last year’s trip: a four-game series in San Diego followed by a three-game series in Arizona late in the season was particularly disappointing baseball-wise with the Mets having so many regulars on the DL and the team being so far out of contention. Maybe paying the big bucks for a small prop plane tour over and into the Grand Canyon was our way of salvaging the trip…for ourselves, if not for the team.
While this season’s pre-All-Star-Game Spector Family Roadtrips–Washington, Baltimore, and Milwaukee–provided some wins and some unique opportunities (such as seeing the rookie Stephen Strasburg in a game in Washington), the final trip, to Los Angeles, was a struggle for the team and, therefore, for me.
Losing three out of four was no fun. Neither was having Dodger fans in our faces during every exit from Dodger Stadium following the game.
The two-day trip to Disneyland prior to the series, scheduled primarily for my daughter’s enjoyment, proved to be the highlight of the trip for me as well. Let’s just say that Dodger Stadium could not be mistaken for the Magic Kingdom in any way . Even our enchanted knuckleballer–the unexpected knight in shining armor of the starting rotation, R.A. Dickey–was not allowed conjure up his deceptive magic for very long, being yanked early in his start there.
Sometime following our return from L.A.–in the midst of one of the games during the frustrating homestand just concluded, perhaps around the time I and other fans found out that Mets ownership declined to take any action prior to the trade deadline–I snapped.
“I think I need a break from these Mets roadtrips,” I told my husband and daughter. “Having to suffer Mets losses–both home and away–are killing me.” .
No doubt, when the 2011 season is announced, I will salivate at potential trips and this low point will be long forgotten. But if we do decide to declare a moratorium on Mets roadtrips, I can think of one immediate benefit (besides not having to suffer losses without the home crowd): seeing those away games on SNY and hearing the great on-air talent of Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Gary Cohen.
I know those guys will always follow the team for me…win or lose.
My family and I have season tickets at Citi Field. Not only do they afford an awesome view of the game, but they are right in front of the SNY TV booth.
It’s always a thrill to catch a glimpse of sportscasters Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Gary Cohen. Sometimes one of them will even wave back to us during the Seventh Inning Stretch.
Tonight there was even more interest in what was going on behind us as Jerry Seinfeld was given a Father’s Day gift of joining Keith and Gary in broadcasting a portion of the game.
I was lucky enough to get this photo of Seinfeld talking to Cohen at the end of the second inning, moments before he donned his headset and began fulfilling a lifelong dream.
You can see and hear his “debut” on MLBTV.