One more time, at the best possible time, on the most appropriate day, the Mets reminded us all where, precisely, the home office for baseball phenomena resides. One more time, on the day the franchise formally bid farewell to The Franchise, we were presented a baseball parable that, in these parts, has always been described only one way.
“That,” J.D. Davis would say, “was a little bit of a roller coaster.”
Dueling coasters, actually, on the field and in the souls of their fans. The players wearing Mets uniforms are all too young to have seen Tom Seaver pitch anywhere other than old videotape, and none of them were here the last time Seaver was here. To them, Seaver is a name in a history book, a number on an outfield deck, a plaque in a museum.
To Mets fans, of course, he was so much more than that. And the Mets believed they owed it to those fans to understand that they understood that. The Mets tipped their caps before the game, saluting the No. 41 circle in distant left field. They stood solemnly during a video tribute.
And in the finest touch of all, they all dabbed some dirt on their right knee, even though most of them had no idea why, even though none of them could possibly understand how emotional a connection that would create, a message to fans who spent Thursday busily sifting through their memories.
“This was a really special one,” Pete Alonso would say, “and not just for us but for anybody who knows about the Mets or knows about Tom Seaver. It was a really meaningful and special day.”
It was Seaver, of course who’d shown up as a brash 22-year-old in 1967 and delivered a simple message: This franchise will no longer be a joke. Slapstick is no longer welcome. It was Seaver who believed in what the Mets could be long before anyone else, and it was Seaver who was the biggest force of change to convert a miracle into a championship.
So it was right that the Mets should win this game, the way they won this game. It was right that they should erase a 4-0 deficit, and then a 7-4 deficit, it was right that Davis would make things right with a booming, ninth-inning blast to center field off Aroldis Chapman five days after Chapman drilled him on the hip — and a few moments after Billy Hamilton had engaged in precisely the kind of banana-peel basepath burlesque that Seaver had railed against all those years ago.
And yes, it was right that Alonso be the one who ended this at last, creaming one over the night and into the deserted left-field stands for a 9-7 win. If Jacob deGrom, Seaver’s true spiritual heir, couldn’t partake in this then it had to be Alonso, scuffling through a difficult sophomore season but already staking a claim as the next bright constellation in the Mets’ universe.
“I think that was my first career walk-off hit,” Alonso said, and it was indeed. “That’s extremely special and a valuable lesson — you have to stay resilient. Each inning, each pitch. I’m happy I was able to capitalize on a great opportunity and send us home.”
Of course, this is 2020 baseball, and so in the 10th inning we were also treated to a couple of oddities that nobody around here had ever seen before. In the top half, the Yankees had a two-up, three-down inning thanks to Tyler Wade channeling Billy Hamilton (and Marv Throneberry) on the bases. And in the bottom Alonso hit a lead-off two-run homer.
(We’ll allow you a moment to let your brain recalibrate after that.)
Friday, of course, the real world arrives. The Phillies come to town as the hottest team in baseball. The Yankees get to play some ball inside Camden Yards, which is the greatest kind of vaccine for anything and everything that ails them, ever. The grind resumes.
But this day?
This was a day for old heroes and old miracle workers. This was a day to remember the essence of what Tom Seaver meant to Mets fans these last 53 years, the notion that anything — literally anything — is possible. Mostly, for a day, it allowed the Mets to rediscover their roots and remember who they are and what they always tended to be under Seaver’s guise.
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