Take me out!

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My friends, today is a religious holiday. And, as I have for the last 30 years or so, I will be attending a house of worship with my sons, Josh and Ben.

Every year, Linda and I would pull them out of school on this day and we’d all head to the ballpark. Their principal would give them a dollar and ask them to bring him back a bag of peanuts. Never mind that a bag of peanuts cost around six bucks . . . He got it. And we brought him back the peanuts.

I said then — and I say now — that there was nothing they would miss in class that day that would be as important or as meaningful as this family tradition.

Today is Opening Day, and I’m heading to the ballpark. There will be hot dogs. There will be beer. I don’t care if I never get back.

And here’s the best part . . . This year my sons are taking ME!

Great memories last a lifetime. Let’s go Mets!

— 30 —

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Doc Gooden’s no-hitter, and how I became the World’s Greatest Dad

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Sooner or later, Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler will throw a no-hitter, and one thing you can put your money on here and now is that either or both won’t be with the Mets when it happens. Or that, even if they’re still wearing orange and blue, I won’t be watching. Because that’s just how we roll.

That’s how it went with Seaver, that’s how it went with Cone. It’s the story of Scott and Nomo and Humber. And it’s the story of Ryan, Ryan, Ryan, Ryan, Ryan, Ryan and Ryan.

But, remarkably, it isn’t the story of Gooden.

Pull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you the tale about how I happened to be watching when Doc Gooden threw a no-hitter, and how it remains the only no-hitter I ever saw. And how, if I never see another, it was good enough.

And that’s because on the night Doc Gooden thew a no-hitter, I became The Greatest Dad in the World.

Flashback to May 14, 1996, and I’m sitting in the kitchen having dinner with Linda and our younger son, Ben, who is 11 years old. (Ben’s 17-year-old brother, Josh, is AWOL, out doing whatever high school juniors do in the middle of May.)

But Ben’s in the house, and I casually say to him over our meal . . .

Hey Ben! Dwight Gooden’s pitching for the Yanks tonight. Wanna watch? Maybe he’ll pitch a no-hitter.

Yeah, I said that.

But I didn’t really mean it, because by May 1996, Doc Gooden wasn’t half the pitcher he was with the Mets a decade earlier, when he went 24-4 with a ridiculous 1.53 ERA . . . when he won the Cy Young Award at the even more ridiculous age of 20 . . . when it was said you couldn’t hit him with an ironing board . . . when Mike Lupica speculated in the Daily News that he would easily win 400 games before his career ended . . . when Ron Cey, having struck out, stood in the batter’s box, took his helmet off his head, perched it on his bat and held it aloft as he walked back to the Cubs’ dugout, explaining that he had no chance to get a hit against this guy, so he might as well use the bat as a hat rack.

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Back then, I set my VCR to record every game Gooden pitched, because there was no doubt that he WOULD throw a no-hitter, or two or three, and I would have it on tape to watch over and over.

But that was in 1985, the year Ben was born. Back then, Doc was the best pitcher I ever saw. But injuries and drugs took their toll over the decade that followed, and on May 14, 1996, I had no reasonable expectation that Doc still had the stuff to throw a no-hitter.

But the chance to sit on the living room couch and watch a ballgame with my son . . . That was priceless.

So I said, hey Ben, Dwight Gooden’s pitching for the Yanks tonight. Wanna watch? Maybe he’ll pitch a no-hitter.

Ben had to go to school in the morning, but he was willing, and he sat down to watch a couple of innings, until bedtime.

And so it was somewhere around the third inning that Linda came into the living room and announced, BEDTIME!

Only Doc hadn’t given up a hit yet. And Ben looked at me, and I said to Linda . . . Give it another inning or two.

And Linda came back after another inning or two, and she pronounced BEDTIME!!!, and Ben looked me, his eyes pleading, and I told Linda, give it another inning or two.

And then somewhere around the seventh inning, around 10 p.m., wayyyyyy past our fifth-grader’s bedtime, Linda come in again and said, very firmly this time . . . BEN!!!!! BEDTIME!!!!!!!

And Ben looked at me again, his eyes begging for a reprieve, and he and I had both history and baseball juju on our side, and that’s when I turned to Linda and said . . .

Linda, don’t you know about the No-Hitter Rule? (I’m putting that in caps, because it’s a seriously important rule.)

And Linda looked at me all WTF, long before they invented the word WTF, and Ben looked at me like I’d told him a lot of baseball rules, like you don’t bunt with two strikes and you don’t try to steal third with two outs, but I’d never told him about a No-Hitter Rule.

And then I proclaimed, in all caps . . .

NOBODY GOES TO BED DURING A NO-HITTER!

And Ben looked at me like I was God!

And for that fleeting moment, I was.

Ben stayed till the very end. He didn’t leave the couch until we’d seen the Yankees carry Doc off the field on their shoulders. I may never quite get over the fact that he did it in pinstripes, but he did it just the same. And I was watching.

And to this day, I’m betting Ben can tell you where he was and how it came about that he saw Doc Gooden pitch a no-hitter.

And I’m sure Ben was the yawniest kid in fifth grade on May 15, but I’ll also tell you there’s nothing he was too tired to learn in school that day that was more important than our time together the night before.

If I never see another no-hitter, that’s OK. The one Doc Gooden pitched was perfect.

— 30 —

From Bunning to Santana, 50 years of hard luck

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Pull up a chair, kids, and I’ll tell you about Father’s Day in 1964, and my 40th college reunion 48 years later, and how you have to be in the right place at the right time, and how the planets have to align just right, if you want to witness a no-hitter.

We start on Father’s Day, 1964, a miserably hot day in early June, and way back before the average joe was enjoying the luxury of central air conditioning. We lived in a small attached home — kitchen, dining room and living room downstairs; three small bedrooms upstairs – in Brooklyn.

My room was on the top floor, facing west. Let the sun shine in.

And it did. It shone unbearably hot, and the window fan was very effective at drawing in the furnace-level heat from outside.

But there was an air conditioner in the house – down the hall in my parents’ room – and it was calling to me. Come boy, come sit in this room. It’s cool in here.

I had a black-and-white TV in my room, and I had the Phillies-Mets game on. And Jim Bunning — great pitcher, lousy senator — was throwing bullets. And he mowed down the first nine Mets he faced. He was going to throw a perfect game, for sure. And I would be watching, if I could survive the heat.

But that AC down the hall kept calling. Come, boy. Come sit in this room. Why roast in a 100-plus-degree room when it’s cool over here on the other side of the hallway?

I was sweating more in my bedroom than Bunning was on the mound.

And I succumbed to the voice.

I walked into my parents’ room, where my dad, my mom and my 10-year-old sister were watching some godawful, sickly sweet, child-appropriate movie on TV, probably an old Shirley Temple film.

“DAD!!!” I announced, interrupting a snoring event from his side of the bed. “Jim Bunning’s pitching a perfect game!!!!” (I may have forgotten to mention that the game was only three innings old.)

I don’t remember if my dad opened his eyes, but my mom and my sister shot me a look that told me in an instant that there would be no changing the channel on THAT television. You have your own TV in your own bedroom, Stephen. We have permitted you to have one in your room so that you can watch your stupid baseball games there while we watch our child-appropriate fluff in here.

You want to watch the ballgame? Go to your room.

This was a true dilemma: I could suffer heat stroke in my room watching what inevitably would turn out to be just another Mets loss to a fine pitcher . . . or I could sit in a delightfully cool room bored out of my mind as my sister enjoyed some horrible child-friendly movie.

I chose poorly. I sat down and stewed in a cool room, and it wasn’t until a few hours later that I learned that Bunning had, in fact, pitched a perfect game.

Yeah, I missed it. And in so doing, because that’s how the baseball juju works, I also set a precedent. Little did I know at the time that Bunning’s perfect game was just batting practice for my lifetime of either missing no-hitters or watching intently until the last moment, when some nobody would break one up. Either way, I would never get to see one.

I was hosting a July 4 backyard barbecue in 1983 when the Yankees’ Dave Righetti no-hit the Red Sox. Missed it.

I wasn’t watching 10 years later when the Yanks’ Jim Abbott no-hit the Indians, an unbelievable feat considering that he had only one hand.

I wasn’t watching when David Wells, battling a hangover, threw a perfect game against the Twins in 1998.

I do remember that I was at work one year later when David Cone was perfect against the Expos, and I had to quickly re-design the front page of the Journal News. So, yeah, I missed that one, too.

I ignored a screaming bladder in 1969 for about five innings so as not to disturb the juju when Tom Seaver took a perfect game into the ninth inning against the Cubs, only to see my chances go down in flames when somebody named Jimmy Qualls — the immortal Jimmy Qualls — dunked a ball into the outfield to break it up.

Seaver finally pitched one for Cincinnati, but, of course, you couldn’t see it in New York.

Nolan Ryan threw seven no-nos. But he threw them all after he left the Mets, and I saw none of them.

Sandy Koufax had four, but he threw them all for the LA Dodgers, not the Brooklyn Dodgers, and I saw none of them.

I set my VCR to record every game Dwight Gooden pitched for a couple of years because Doc, in 1985, was the best pitcher I ever saw, and surely he would throw a no-hitter or three while I wasn’t watching.

But it wasn’t to be. Not with the Mets.

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I suffered 50 years waiting for somebody on the Mets, to throw a no-hitter. And when they got Johan Santana, I figured it just might happen. So, of course, when it finally did, I couldn’t watch. It came on June 1, 2012, and I was in Geneva, N.Y., at my 40th college reunion, hoisting a beer with old friends at an official reception when I got a text message from my son, Ben, informing me that Santana had a no-hitter going after eight innings.

There was not a TV to be found. I waited 50 years to “watch” the last three outs on my iPhone, pitch-by-pitch. It’s an interesting way to watch a game, but it’s just not the same.

And that’s the way it has gone. If you want to throw a no-hitter, make sure Bromberg isn’t watching.

With one exception. Stay tuned.