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.
Mets outfielder Matt den Dekker had time to kill on Sunday. He had been called up for his first major league start of the season the previous day from the Triple-A affiliate. He no sooner arrived to join the team in Philadelphia then he was told he’d be returning to the 51s. Reportedly unable to catch the game on TV in his hotel (what kind of fleabag hotel did the Mets put him up in in Philly, anyhow??!!) he went out to check out the Liberty Bell and Center City environs prior to his evening flight back to Vegas. Good thing for the Mets that his return trip was cancelled. Let’s just say, he made the most of his time in Philly…and I don’t even know if he was a contributor to the new cheese-steak-eating contest numbers.
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:
I was there.
I WAS THERE!
But, through the immediacy of social media, there were others not at Citi Field tonight who were there with me nonetheless.
Yes, I was one of the lucky Mets fans to experience live tonight–from the front row of the Excelsior Level, right behind Home Plate–the first no-hitter in the history of the Mets franchise, pitched by Johan Santana.
But, as the number of zeroes on the scoreboard began to climb, so did the anxiety and the trepidation. The angst was palpable: I saw it in my daughter’s and my husband’s faces; I saw it six seats down from me in the intense concentration on the face of WFAN’s Evan Roberts as well as in the death grip he held on the railing in front of him.
But I also “heard” it loud and clear in the voices fairly shouting on Twitter and Facebook.
I try to put my phone away during game-time, for the most part. I find that I miss too much of what’s going on in front of me if I don’t.
But with collective jitters permeating the atmosphere tonight, the distraction of my smart phone proved to be just the bit of short-term electronically-produced Xanax needed –at least while the Mets were at bat from about the sixth inning forward. (Did anyone else think that the bottom of the eighth inning set yet another franchise record for the LONGEST half-inning EVER?!)
Checking Twitter and Facebook late in the game when Johann was not on the mound, I was surprised to see a thread of comments inspired by a single tweet by fellow Mets blogger Greg Prince, of Faith and Fear in Flushing fame, in which he compared the spectacle we were all witnessing–in the ballpark, home, and elsewhere–to the grand spectacle that is opera.
I couldn’t have agreed more with the analogy. Truly, this evening’s event–with the pitcher in question having taken well over an entire season off for possibly career-ending surgery–was a story writ large. A gran scena.
For stellar moments in sports history as well as those in the arena of musical performance, the crowd simply cannot contain itself. “Jo- han! Jo- han!” or “Bravi! Bravi!”: the intensity and the passion are one and the same. And the thrill of having shared that athlete’s/musician’s professional milestone is something to cherish and to be retold–in the dramatic and theatrical manner appropriate to the occasion.
What comes to your mind when Jose Reyes…
- …hits one of his signature triples?
- …steals yet another base?
- …flashes that infectious smile?
- …has yet another multi-hit game?
The first thing you probably think–as I do–is, “We HAVE to SIGN HIM!!“
But sometimes, watching Jose in action reminds me of another exciting performer.
In the world of opera.
He seemed like a mensch.
I wish I could tell you more about him, but I only met him five days ago.
And now he’s gone.
Dana Brand was a professor at Hofstra University, an avid Mets fan and blogger, an author of two books on the Mets, a husband and father.
In the relatively small subset of Mets fans that is the blogging community, he was a collaborator with and supporter of many and a mentor to all.
As much as I loved reading his writing, it was even more of a delight to speak with him face to face on Saturday night.
My family and I, along with dozens of other Mets fans, were at Foley’s Sports Bar in Manhattan Saturday night for a charity event sponsored by the foundation of SNY-TV announcers Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling.
As much fun as it was to see the likes of Cohen and Darling tending bar and having them each pour a drink for me, the true highlight of the evening for me was the fact that I left that intimate gathering of like-minded people feeling that I had made a new friend: having recognized Dana from photos on his blog, I tentatively introduced myself. I needn’t have shown such temerity: he enthusiastically greeted me by name and told me how much he enjoyed reading my blog posts–a real compliment coming from someone with his literary credentials!
After introducing him to my family, the four of us talked about everything from the special relationships that can develop between fathers and daughters, the operas he had seen at the MET, as well as my daughter’s experiences in the MET Children’s Chorus. Clearly, he was interested in getting to know us better personally.
When the subject did turn to the Mets, he excitedly told us of a special event he was planning in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Mets franchise to be held at Hofstra University. Dana seemed just as interested in sharing mutual remembrances of Mets history brought up by my husband Garry–a Mets fan from the team’s beginning and of Dana’s same generation. Garry enjoyed having the opportunity to tell Dana personally how much he had enjoyed reading both of his books.
I sensed Dana was appreciative of the favorable comments about his work. But Dana seemed to take particular delight when Garry turned to our daughter Melanie and, while pointing to Dana, informed Melanie, “This guy was THERE for Agee’s home run. He SAW it!!”
It was with obvious pride that Dana later introduced us to his lively, charming daughter and sister. As much passion and zeal as he obviously had for his team, it was very clear what a devoted and proud father he was as well.
Before we left Foley’s that night, we exchanged contact info with Dana, promising to meet up at Citi Field at a game in the near future.
It truly felt like we had met a real kindred spirit, and all of us agreed that we were so glad that we had made his acquaintance.
Dana passed away suddenly yesterday afternoon. I learned this early this afternoon through a Mets blog. Within a matter of hours, the sad news passed through the Twitter community and has resulted in countless other blog posts in honor of Dana. Word had obviously made its way to the SNY TV booth at Wrigley Field in Chicago as, watching this afternoon’s game on TV, we heard Gary Cohen make a brief tribute, mentioning Dana’s passing and what a devoted fan, blogger, and author he was.
In reading these blog posts, it is clear to me that I missed a real opportunity not having made Dana’s acquaintance sooner. He was obviously a person who had been a positive influence in many, many lives.
My family and I wish to add our condolences to Dana’s family and friends.