Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Remembering Mets History on Historic Day

The most famous game in Mets history was 25 years ago today, and all Met fans know what happened when Mookie Wilson hit a ground ball to Bill Buckner. But how much do you know about the “Ball on the Wall Game” that helped the Mets win the NL East in 1973? “New York Mets: The Complete Illustrated History” offers a detailed history of the Mets’ first five decades.

Author Matthew Silverman has written several books on the Mets, including “The Miracle Has Landed: The Amazin’ Story of How the 1969 Mets Shocked the World.” In “New York Mets: The Complete Illustrated History” Silverman has plenty of details and photos on 1969 and 1986, including things even the diehard Met fan may not know. When spring training was delayed in 1969 by baseball’s first work stoppage, Tom Seaver led players-only workouts.

While I’ll never get tired of reading about 1969 or 1986, what sets “New York Mets: The Complete Illustrated History” apart is the rich detail of the less memorable years in Mets’ history. Even the events that Met fans try to forget are worth revisiting, if only to learn that the Angels originally asked for Gary Gentry in the Jim Fregosi trade, but the Mets preferred to send them Nolan Ryan.

As for the events leading up to the Tom Seaver trade, Silverman unearths an astonishing quote from Met chairman M. Donald Grant, who resented that Seaver was known as “The Franchise.” According to Grant, “Mrs. Payson and I are the franchise.”

On a brighter note, one of the numerous photos in the book is of Seaver with Dave Kingman and Joe Torre when Torre was named Mets’ manager. Another photo is of Willie Mays drenched in champagne after the Mets clinched the division in 1973.

Speaking of Kingman, in the spring of 1981, a time of rising cold war tensions and calls by some for a nuclear freeze, the Mets put up a sign in the Shea Stadium parking lot warning that it was a “Kingman Fallout Zone.”

The book includes profiles of the top 50 players in Mets history. The numerous photographs include not only game action and shots of individual players, but also yearbooks, programs and other memorabilia.

An appendix lists all-time Mets records, while charts throughout the book offer lists of such items as Mayor’s Trophy Game results and every game in Anthony Young’s 27-game losing streak.

I recommend it to any Met fan that embraces the team’s whole history, good and bad. And even if it is an unbelievable 25 years since the glory days of 1986, there’s still a lot worth remembering.

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