On September 14, 1962, little Dave Mills, had the memorable experience of attending my first Mets game at the legendary Polo Grounds against the NL champion Cincinnati Reds and Frank Robinson. Just two weeks before my 8th birthday, I was treated to a walkoff Mets win on a HR down the RF line and onto the old tin roof by Mets catcher and favorite guest of Ralph Kiner, Choo Choo (“Bub”) Coleman. I can still hear the ball hit the roof. What really made the game memorable beyond the exciting finish was Reds manager, Fred Hutchinson, kicking the umpire in the chin as he argued the walkoff HR was foul. This led to a suspension and $5,000 fine, which in 1962 was huge. But I was hooked and a Mets fan for life.
My dad, Harold, was a NY Giants fan from about 1930 and rooted for Mel Ott (his hero), Carl Hubbell (the crafty facilitator of the screwball) and Bill Terry (who he said was the best first-baseman ever until he turned to me at Shea after yet another astounding Keith Hernandez web gem and said, “until this guy”). In a four-day period from September 29-October 2, 1954, Harold witnessed “The Catch” by Willie Mays, the birth of his first son and a Giants sweep of the Indians. Three years later, his world was shattered by the departure of his beloved team and the poignant first baseball utterances of his son asking if he was going to now root for the “Yankees.” I was told it took him weeks to recover, not to mention speak to me again.
From that point forward, I was indoctrinated into NL baseball and Harold was itching at the bit for a NY franchise. First, all the chatter was the Continental League, which Bill Shea parlayed into a new NL franchise for NY and the Borough of Queens (right near my Kew Gardens birthplace). Shortly after JFK’s inauguration, the Mets were chartered and all we did for almost a year, in-between the almost as compelling JFK press conferences, was await the start of the 1962 season.
While killing time waiting for the Mets to play their first spring training, I familiarized myself with everyone who ever played for the Giants and the batting averages or ERA of every player in the Hall of Fame. There were not many in 1962. I even recall the expansion draft, which only played out in the newspapers a day after the fact. Nonetheless, baseball—and the Mets—was always the great connection between me and my wonderful dad, who blessed me with his inspired and constant love of the game.
When we made that appearance at the Polo Grounds some 50 years ago, he pointed out the many places from which he witnessed Giants history. But by the time the Mets moved to Shea Stadium in 1964—and we began attending many games each season—it was all Mets and looking forward. Then, I began to hear his insights. “The worst thing a ballplayer could do was strike out looking. A great play by any player, ours or the opposition, was worthy of applause, cheers or even a standing ovation. Having a team to follow, love and be loyal to will provide sustenance for a lifetime.” How right he was on all counts.
My greatest Mets thrill—nothing can ever top being at the 7th Game of the ’86 World Series!
Baseball has been everything my father promised and more. It is the perfect game enjoyed by imperfect folks who love to root for their team even when they move far afield from their beloved team. I now toil from Vancouver, WA after stops in Los Angeles and Honolulu.
When my son, Jaxon Parker, was born in L.A. in 2001, Harold and I entered the delivery room with our Mets caps adorned with clear plastic wrap. Our obstetrician, a devout Yankee front-runner tried to bar us from the room, but cooler heads prevailed and the newest Mets fan made his appearance. Eleven years later, dad is gone, but my son is never without several pieces of Mets apparel and is showing amazing skills on the field and off. The continuum of baseball is profoundly rewarding. In fact, Jaxon’s pitching mentor and coach is the father of Mets pitcher, Greg Peavey, who hopes to spend this season at AAA Las Vegas.
For many years, I opined on MikesMets.com, an insightful blog from a tremendously talented baseball writer, Mets fan and all-around great guy—Mike Steffanos. From this point forward, I hope to enlighten and entertain Metszilla readers with my Mets-centric observations. Enjoy the read and chime in as often as possible, whether you agree or disagree, but please, lets respect each other and those we write about—unless they wear pinstripes and play in the Bronx.
In case you’re wondering about the caricature—in real life I am the founder and publisher of HawaiiGolfDeals.com and GolfDeals Marketing. Aloha!
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