This is the My Hometown Blogathon, the first WSW theme week doubling as a blogathon. The goal is discussing movies set in one's hometown, or at the very least, the area of one's birth. All this week I'll write about movies set in my home borough of Queens. Check back on July 23 for a list of participating bloggers in this blogathon.
seen online via YouTube
I feel about the 1986 Mets the way most long-time Mets fans feel about the 1969 Mets. That entire year of 1986 was something of a landmark for me: not only did I start high school, but my whole self-perception began to evolve. I realized that art was more than just a fun little diversion for me, and I began to think about seriously studying it - with some encouragement from my parents, of course. I also put more effort into writing, and took my first steps into acting as well. All things seemed possible that year.
That also held true for my favorite baseball team. The previous year the Mets and Cardinals were involved in a furious dogfight for the division title that came down to the final three games of the regular season, head-to-head in St. Louis. The Mets came up short, but many people believed they had what it took to triumph the following year - and boy, did they ever. They didn't just triumph, they conquered, winning the division by 26 games over their nearest competitor, with a swagger and brashness that made them hated and feared throughout the National League. They won the league title in six games after an epic 16-inning battle in Houston and the World Series in seven games after coming within one strike of defeat on their home turf. And I was witness to it all.
The 1969 team was quite different. They were seven years removed from being an expansion team, formed in the wake of the loss of the Dodgers and Giants to California. In the franchise's first two years, the Mets were the laughingstock of professional baseball, losing games at a mind-boggling rate, yet doing so with a shaggy-dog resignation and an innocent, gee-whiz attitude that endeared them to their fans. The Mets of those early years knew they were bad, but they could still laugh at themselves in a way The Team From the Bronx could never do. And then they started to get good. Really good. The nickname "Miracle Mets" was well-earned, given how low the franchise started off - and how high they rose.
I grew up relatively close to the old Shea Stadium. My father and I would drive to the games at first, but when I got older I found I could walk there too if I wanted. I sat in all parts of Shea - the box seats, the mezzanine section, and especially the upper decks. I remember going to a Dwight Gooden game with my father and friends one night, bringing a giant homemade "K" sign that I'd proudly hold up and wave every time the pitcher struck out a batter.
Shea used to serve RC Cola, which I never cared for. It always tasted slightly watered down and nowhere near as strong as Pepsi, my soda of choice for many years until I recently cut back on soda. Most of the time, though, I'd end up getting a cup of the stuff along with my hot dog and Cracker Jack because you need something to drink on those hot summer afternoons at the ballpark and it never occurred to me that I could just order a different drink (don't ask me why).
I don't know if they still do this, but every year the Mets would host Banner Day, where a parade of fans with homemade banners would march around the perimeter of the field. A team of judges at home plate would pick a winner and runners-up, and there would be prizes. One of the proudest moments of my childhood was when I came in third place one year and won a color TV and a stereo. I still have the TV.
I can close my eyes and still picture myself at Shea... Bob Murphy's voice on the radio, the concrete ramps, the DiamondVision scoreboard, the outfield bullpens, the Home Run Hat (every time a Met hit a home run, an apple with the Mets logo would rise out of a giant hat in right field, underneath the scoreboard, and light up), the stairway and landing outside the 7 train subway station where if you stood at a certain spot, you could see a sliver of the game from right field.
I think perhaps the most profound difference between the Mets and The Team From the Bronx is that the Mets, after all these years, still feel like a local team. One can find fans of The Team From the Bronx all over the country, and indeed, all over the world. They have been immortalized in numerous songs, novels, and yes, films. They have an aura about them that is recognized even by non-baseball fans, and give them their due - they have absolutely earned it. The Mets, however, still feel like they belong to New York in general and Queens in particular, even in the face of an increased corporate mentality over the years that rivals that of The Team From the Bronx (the innocence of the 60s has completely worn off).
The premise of the movie Frequency - a father and son communicating across 30 years of time through a ham radio - is no more odd than anything The Twilight Zone ever did, although I felt the movie was more than a little ham-fisted and unsubtle. I won't even go into my problems with the butterfly-effect aspects. But it was nice to see a movie in which the '69 Mets play a pivotal role in the plot.
It's supposed to take place in Bayside, and I suppose it kinda looks like Bayside in a highly generalized way. It would've been nice to have gotten in a shot of Bell Boulevard, the main drag in that area. I'm assuming the prominently-seen bridge must be the Throgs Neck, which I always confuse with the Whitestone because they look pretty much the same. If so, then the park must be Clearview Park, which I've never been to.
Previously in the My Hometown Blogathon:
Eight Men Out