Sunday, August 23, 2009

The return of Nolan Ryan

It was great to see the 1969 Mets reunite at Citi Field. But consistent with the odd way the Mets deal with their history, the most memorable part was the appearance of Nolan Ryan in a Met uniform for the first time since one of the most disastrous trades in baseball history.

Ryan was still only 24 when he was traded to the Angels in the winter of 1971 for Jim Fregosi, who lasted barely a year and a half with the Mets. But even if Fregosi had made any sort of contribution, it would have been nothing compared to the Hall of Fame career that Ryan would go on to achieve.

Imagine if the Mets had two homegrown Hall of Famers who enjoyed the bulk of their success in a Met uniform instead of just Tom Seaver - and at the same time.

Jerry Koosman outpitched Seaver in the 1969 World Series and meant so much to that title team that perhaps he should have his number retired as well. It did not seem fair that he was introduced before Ryan, who was not even a rotation regular that year.

But the return of Ryan after all these years was the big story, and for once, the Mets acknowledged an important part of their history, even if it is a very painful one.

Omar Minaya was probably thinking, hey, at least I did not make the Ryan trade.

At least Koosman got his due when he, Seaver and Ryan all threw out the first pitch.

Then the ceremony came to an end and glorious memories were put aside in favor of the miserable present.

There were a lot of Phillie fans there last night, making it seem like a Subway Series game, only one in which one team was already out of contention. At least in our section in the promenade, the Phillie fans were friendly.

I enjoyed overhearing the following conversation:

Phillie Fan 1: If you had to let one of them go, which would you choose - Chase Utley or the Phillie Phanatic?

Phillie Fan 2: Wow, that's a tough one. I guess I would have to say Utley. The Phanatic's a Hall of Famer!

It must be great to be fans of such a good team that you can afford to jettison a perennial All-Star like Utley for a furry green mascot.

Perhaps Utley sensed this debate was taking place, since he soon homered to put the Phillies ahead to stay.

As we were leaving the ballpark, I saw a fan wearing a Michael Vick Eagles jersey. That was fast.

In three days, there have been two memorable returns - Ryan and Billy Wagner. Sunday, it's Pedro Martinez. All three have mixed legacies as Mets. But the first two just gave us two of the most memorable moments of the season. How will Pedro fare? How will he be received by the crowd?

It's psychodrama week at Citi Field!

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