by Paul Semendinger
I don’t remember much about the game…
I was a Yankees fan, but I loved baseball, and being just ten-years-old, but a very old ten (my eleventh birthday was the next day) I was excited, thrilled in fact, to have the opportunity to go to Shea Stadium with my dad to watch the Mets play the Los Angeles Dodgers.
I had dreams back then of going to games in every single Major League ballpark.
It wasn’t to be, ever.
Many of the ballparks of my youth a long gone. Long gone.
The list is a mile long:
Three Rivers Stadium
Jack Murphy Stadium
Fulton County Stadium
Yikes. I might have even forgotten some…
I did attend a game at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. I toured Busch Stadium once. I also went to the Vet in Philadelphia, but the total amount of ballparks that I missed is legion.
But I did make it to Shea Stadium.
I actually attended three games there. (I’ve been to Citi Field twice.)
This game, the first time I went to Shea, was on July 11, 1979. I was ten. I’d be eleven the next day.
Going to Shea, to see the Mets (who I liked) play the Los Angeles Dodgers (who I didn’t like) was a thrill.
I remember all the colored tiles outside of Shea. I thought they were cool. I wondered why the Yankees didn’t do that.
I remember the big parking lots and the airplanes. There were a lot of airplanes.
I remember greatly enjoying my hot dog and thinking it actually tasted better than the one I remembered from Yankee Stadium the year before and feeling if that was, somehow, not right that I felt that way.
I only have fleeting memories about the game.
I remember this being the first time I saw a game go to extra innings. I remember the Mets winning. I also remember how Ed Kranepool got a huge hand when he came out to pinch hit. My dad told me that he was an original Met, from 1962, their first year. I couldn’t help but root for the old guy. I felt like I was watching a legend. Some people got to see Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays at the end of their careers. I saw Ed Kranepool. Yes, it was one the highlights. Absolutely.
All I knew was that Ed Kranepool was loved. He was a legend. And he was old. Real old. The old guy came out to pinch hit in what would be his last season.
He was 34-years-old.
When I was a kid, that was old. Now as an adult, I have to laugh, the 1979 Ed Kranepool wouldn’t even be old enough to play in the over-35 baseball leagues I pitch in. YIKES!
A few of my favorite Mets appeared in the game: Lee Mazzilli, Joel Youngblood, John Stearns. I especially liked John Stearns, a catcher, for he wore #12 and that was the date of my birthday. We had #12 in common. I liked that. Steve Henderson was there too. I liked him. I still have a subway advertisement of Steve Henderson hanging in my basement. (“I’m Steve Henderson and I want to show you how much I love baseball. Come see me at Shea.”) It is still very cool.
A number of former and future Yankees played for those Mets and appeared in the game: Elliott Maddox, Lee Mazzilli, Dale Murray, and Neil Allen. Their manager was Joe Torre.
A number of Dodger enemies were in the game, bad guys who I rooted against: Davey Lopes, Steve Garvey, Reggie Smith… yeah, all the good players. When they are on the opposing team and they’re good, they are easy enemies. Ron Cey and Dusty Baker didn’t play that game.
In the game, Reggie Smith hit a homer for the Dodgers. It seems there were lots of Reggies in my world at that time that hit homers.
By the time Ed Kranepool got up, the score was tied 3-3. It was the bottom of the 9th. He received the cheers from the delighted crowd. A little boy was awe-struck.
Kranepool grounded out. The game went into extras.
All my favorite Mets came up in the bottom of the 10th inning. Back then no free runners were put on the bases.
With one out, Elliott Maddox singled
Lee Mazzilli then singled Maddox to third
Richie Hebner was intentionally walked
Joel Youngblood then grounded into a Fielder’s Choice with the out coming at home
Two out, bases loaded, bottom of the 10th inning…
Up came John Stearns who promptly singled home the winning run.
I’m sure I was singing the Mets song all the way home…
Meet the Mets
Meet the Mets
Step right up and greet the Mets
Bring your kiddies, bring your wife
Come to Shea to have the time of your life…
(I don’t think those are the actually lyrics, but that’s how I remember them… I was a Yankees fan, after all.)
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