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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

With Mets, More Fun to Look Back Than to Look Ahead

The Mets just finished their fiftieth season, and several books have come out to commemorate the occasion. The latest is from the New York Post: "The Amazins: Celebrating Fifty Years of New York Mets History."

Most of "The Amazins" is devoted to profiles of Met players and stories of classic games. There are also sections on the managers, franchise builders, the ballparks and the team voices.

The player profiles and game stories are taken from the pages of the Post. It's fun to see how various Mets were viewed in their heyday and how the games were covered and what the participants had to say at the time.

Vic Ziegel's account of the Mets' clinching the NL East in 1969 includes details such as several Mets emptying cans of Yoo-Hoo over coach Yogi Berra's head and Tom Seaver pouring a bottle of champagne over future adversary M. Donald Grant.

When the Mets clinched the NL pennant in 1973 at Shea Stadium by beating the Reds, 7-2, there was a dark side, as Met fans began storming the dugouts before the game was over. Reds manager Sparky Anderson was quoted as saying, "I'm not angry. I'm just ashamed. I'm ashamed that I live in this country. I'm not too sure New York is in this country."

After the Mets won the 1986 World Series, Gary Carter said, "Regardless of the jealousy, the envy, the hatred that exists for us, we have to be considered a great team now."

After Mike Piazza homered in the first game at Shea after September 11, the Mets' catcher talked about how depressed he was, "but I was thinking ‘You know what? I have to do something, and it might as well be something productive.'"

Player profiles also offer some interesting comments by and about players. In a 1986 story about Keith Hernandez, Tom Seaver, then a member of the Red Sox, said, "The key to Hernandez's success is that he thinks along with the pitcher. I play more mind games with him than almost any hitter I've ever faced."

In a story about David Cone from 1988, Mets executive Joe McIlvaine recalled how he stole Cone from Kansas City Royals GM John Schuerholz the previous year. "It's very unusual to get the top pitching prospect in an organization," McIlvaine said. "Frankly, I was surprised, because our reports on him were so strong."

In a story about catcher Todd Hundley written in 1998 when he had to move to the outfield because the Mets had traded for Mike Piazza, Hundley, trying to look on the bright side, said "Who's to say I can't be another All-Star outfielder, another Craig Biggio, you know?"

Some game stories feature colorful accounts from Post sportswriters. When Al Leiter shut out the Reds in their one-game playoff in 1999, Tom Keegan wrote "He was Mario Cuomo, giving the best speech of his life. Michael Jordan on fire. Robert De Niro immersed in his character. He was Jerry Koosman three decades later. He was an ace."

When backup catcher Todd Pratt hit a walkoff homer to give the Mets a victory over Arizona in the 1999 NLDS, Wally Mathews wrote, "At 32 years old, with a baseball lifetime of disappointments behind him, finally he had done something that will get him free drinks for the rest of his life."

The book is also filled with photos of the Mets, mostly from the pages of the Post.

"The Amazins" may be short on new material and it does not offer the comprehensive history of other commemorative Met books, but it's a fun look back at the highlights of the team's eventful history.

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