But I have to say that my time with the Mets wouldn’t have been the same without the greatest fans in the world. One of the hardest moments of my career, was walking off the field at Shea Stadium and saying goodbye. My relationship with you made my time in New York the happiest of my career and for that, I will always be grateful.”
Mike Piazza, while announcing his retirement from professional baseball
A hero is defined as “an illustrious warrior”; “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities” as well as “one that shows great courage”.
Living in New York City, the term hero underwent a facelift after the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001, as the brave policeman, fireman and other rescuers took on the hero role, and fittingly so. With all due respect to those men, as well as the soldiers overseas and those probably more deserving of the hero title, but from the minute he arrived on May 22nd, 1998 Mike Piazza became my hero.
Everybody has their own interests, whether its music, movies or sports (among countless others) and within those interests, chances are everybody has a favorite artist, singer, actor, actress, athlete and so on and so forth.
Well, as a young kid growing up in Queens, there was no thrill bigger than going to Shea and watching Mike Piazza play baseball for the New York Mets.
From the day he was acquired in May of 1998, through all the memorable home runs and accomplishments, up until his fareware back in ’05, Mike Piazza was always larger than life for me.
Before Mikey was traded to the Mets, my favorite players were rather generic, whether it was Ken Griffey Jr. or Cal Ripken Jr to name a few. The Mets weren’t very good and certainly did have the household name- big time star player who I could brag about having on the team I root for.
But when Mike Piazza arrived, and singlehandedly changed the culture in Queens, making the Mets matter again, he had no bigger fan than me.
I must have spent hundreds of dollars on his baseball cards, t-shirts and plaques, while the very authentic jersey I got as a gift was a pinstriped Mets home jersey with the number 31 and Piazza’s name on the back of it.
You have to understand, I wasn’t just a fan of his, I did anything and everything I could during my childhood to watch him play and get close enough to him for an autograph, because that was what was important to me when I was 12.
My first Piazza memory came a year after the Mets traded for him, as the team held their annual photo day at Shea, where you were allowed to walk around the field before the game and take pictures of – not with- the players.
Well, Mike was standing there, among the final players you could photohgraph, and standing jus a few feet away was a shaking, nervous 12 year old.
As nervous as I was, I realzied this was probably the closest I was ever getting to him, so I ran up to him, shook his hand, and had an absolutely perfect picture taken of the moment, with both Piazza and myself looking directly into the camera.
After Piazza arrived, I had my parents drag me to batting practice before games, desperately trying to get his autograph.
Finally, when the Mets took a trip up to Boston for interleague play in 2000, divine intervention was at work as I just so happened to be staying in the same hotel as the Mets.
Upon walking out of the hotel, I, along with a storm of other Mets fans, followed Mike halfway down a block as he got on the team bus.
I managed to push my way right beside him, asking him for an autograph, with his response being “sorry bro, I got a game to play” (exact words, forever engraved into my memory) and proceeded to get on the bus.
As disappointed as I was for Mike not signing an autograph for me I knew I wasn’t giving up in my persuit. Sure enough, when i got to Fenway, I made a mad dash for the visiting dugout, where I was fully stretched out, arms and legs, smothered by dozens of other fans, trying to toss Mike a ball to sign.
And wouldn’t you know it, in what is among the greatest single moments of my childhood, he reached out for the baseball I was holding and signed it.
To this day, I cannot remember a single moment- sports related or not- which had me smiling ear to ear the way I was after getting Mike Piazza’s autograph. Just thinking about it brings me back.
It may not sound like much, but to a 13 year old kid, having his idol sign a baseball for him was about as big as it gets. I can’t really put into better words how incredible a moment that was.
I could probably fill up a book with Mike Piazza moments, but there are a handful which standout.
I was at his second game ever with the Mets. I remember that being the first time I had asked my parents to specifically get tickets to this game. Piazza was now on the team and I needed to be there to see him in person.
Remembered a lot for the big home runs he hit, for whatever reason, Mike Piazza seemed to have power outtages when I was there to see him. I probably went to somewhere between 100 and 150 games between when he arrived in 98 and 2005, and I think he probably hit less than 10 home runs in those games.
That being said, the ‘quality over quantity’ argument holds true, because of all the home runs Mike Piazza hit, there is one that will always stand out above all the others.
Im not talking about a walk off against Trevor Hoffman, or the capper in the 10 run 8th against Atlanta.
I’m not talking about the grand slam off Clemens in Yankee Stadium, or the shot which gave him the most home runs ever by a catcher.
No, I’m talking about an 8th inning homerun he hit of Braves reliver Steve Karsay on September 21st, 2001.
Just 10 days after the attack on the World Trade Center, baseball had made its first appearance in New York City. Shea Stadium was the site, and with emotions running high, the Mets and Braves provided New Yorkers with their first chance to escape, live and in person.
I was lucky enough to be at the game, and between the pre game ceremonies, the sining of God Bless America and New York, New York and the fact that the Mets happened to be in the midst of a pennant race, it was an overwhelming night to say the least.
Through 7 and a half innings, The Mets were struggling to put anything together offensively, trailing the Braves 2-1.
With a runner on, Piazza stepped up to face Karsay, who left a fastball just a little too much over the plate, and with one swing, an entire city was lifted.
Piazza crushed a bomb of a home run to left center, getting a reaction from the crowd that you had to be there and experience first hand to fully understand.
With everything going on, just a short 10 days after the most horrific attack on this country, a city that had been devastated was on its feet, cheering and screaming, while also crying and praying.
For me, not only was I just happy to be watching my favorite team playing baseball again, I had my favorite player- my hero- step up and deliver like only true heroes do.
To this day, I get goosebumps just thinking about that night, along with all of the other Mike Piazza memories.
Watching as he said goodbye in the final game of the 2005 season, I’ll tell you I cried for the first time in my life for something sports related.
When he came back the following season, I had tickets and got to Shea earlier than I had for any game in my life, making sure I had a spot on top of the visitors dugout, making sure I was among the first to see him back at Shea for the first time since leaving.
Standing and cheering his name throughout the night was terrific, and props to the Mets for playing Piazza’s entrance song Voodoo Child when he stepped up to the plate for his first at bat.
Even watching him hit a few homeruns the following night, AGAINST my Mets had me clapping and smiling.
The year after that, I had box seats when the Oakland A’s came to town, and little did I know I would be seeing Mike on the field at Shea for the last time ever. He was injured and not playing, but did come out to present the lineup card, receiving another thundering ovation from the crowd.
After two season playing to extend his career as long as he could, refusing to quit on the game he loved, Mike Piazza called it a career this week, saying good bye and thanking everybody from his teammates to former managers, and of course the fans.
I look forward to the day Mike Piazza is inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, hopefully wearing a Mets cap when doing so. Regardless of the cap he wears on his Hall plaque, I plan on being there, in Cooperstown, watching Mike join baseball immortality, giving myself just one more memory with Mike, one last chance for me to cheer and smile like I’m 12 again.
But most of all, one final chance to see my hero.
Friday was more or less my ideal summer vacation day (until I start work).
Between 12 and 6:30 in the afternoon, I watched the first three Indiana Jones movies on DVD.
I had seen parts of all three, but none in their entirety.
I then capped off the day by going out and seeing the latest installment of the series, meaning that I did indeed spend over 8 hours of my day watching Harrison Ford.
Before I review the newest film, I’ll throw out some of my feelings about the original three.
He might not have an Oscar on his mantle, but Ford can act.
He’s very entertaining in almost every role he plays, and combines a strong screen presence and sense of humor to take the movies he’s in and usually make them worthy of the price of admission.
The Indiana Jones franchise is no exception, as Ford is simply terrific playing the professor/archaeologist/adventurer who always seems to have a nact for getting himself into and out of trouble with his enemies.
Of the original trilogy, I’d have to rank them as followed:
(1) Raiders of the Lost Ark (first film)
(2) The Last Crusade (third film)
(2) Temple of Doom (second film)
The movies are all filled with lots of excitement, highlighted but the variety of booby traps Indy always manages to navigate his way out of, along with classic one-liners that only Harrison Ford is able to deliver (“…I’m making this up as I go along”).
The first film introduces us to the formula that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg successful present throughout the series, which essentially deals with Indiana being asked to go on some treasure hunt for some ancient artifact (Lost Ark, Holy Grail, etc), runs into trouble on his way to finding it, escapes traps and bullets while landing the girl and eventually surviving it all and getting this job done.
The first and third films incorporate the Nazi’s as enemies (the films take place during the mid to late 1930’s) and some of the historical references are pure genius, such as Indy running into Adolph Hitler during the third film and having him sign his father’s Holy Grail diary.
But now we fast forward 20 years (the first three came out in 1981, ’84 and ’89 respectively) and an older Indiana Jones is once again faced with the task of tracking down an artifact with mystical powers (The Crystal Skull), yet he’s thrown a curveball when he is approached by the young and rebellious Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouff) to find a former collegue of Indy’s who has some vital information in finding the skull.
Their quest brings them to South America and the Amazon, and also reunited Indy with Marion, his love interest from the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Taking place during the late 50’s, the backdrop is the Cold War, and the Russian KGB is in search of the Skull in an effort to develop a mind-reading weapon.
Among the more humorous historical references are a scene in which a nuclear bomb is test-detonated with Indy narrowly escaping the devastation it causes (sorry if you consider that a spoiler, but if you haven’t caught on, he usually makes it from beginning to end of every film).
There are plenty of references to the past films, which include filling us in on the fates of his father (played by Sean Connery in the Last Crusade) and Dr. Marcus Brody, a fellow professor and close friend of Indy.
For a 60 something year old, you gotta give it to Harrison Ford who has maintained his youthful exuberance in this role, running, jumping and cracking his whip without having missed a beat.
If you’re a fan of the first three films, you’ll enjoy this one and smile at the nostalgic feeling you get watching Ford doing what he does best, even 20 years later.
The plot is far-fetched, maybe a little too much so for one of these films, but it never takes away from the thrill of the ride, which is good as ever.
A very admirable B+ from me, and hats off (get it?) to Ford for once again delivering a vintage performance, and turning the clock back and giving us an all around fun time.
Aside from doing a very poor job of keeping this blog updated since I got home from School 2 weeks ago, I have done an even worse job of keeping up with American Idol.
I made sure to watch highlights and eliminations, but I didnt watch more than a few minutes of any given episode over the last few weeks until the last two nights.
The two-night American Idol finale is always an outlandish, painfully long episode in which we wait for the final announcement from Ryan, which he gives us with somewhere up against the final minute of the show.
The battle of the David’s took place Tuesday night, although my theory, even after the results were announced, were that America’s decision had already been made prior to the guys taking the stage.
Over the last two months, both David’s had consistently been the two most popular contestants, and both had their own fan bases.
Little David Archuleta had the young vote, kids aged anywhere from say, 12-16 (plus myself) and maybe some of their Mother’s who were hooked by Archie’s innocent charm (something I was guilty of as well).
David Cook had everybody else, and that ended up being the difference, as he was crowned the winner of American Idol season 7.
The match up was as highly anticipated as any if Idol’s history, as both guy were very deserving and very appealing to a variety of audiences.
David Archuleta seemed to lock up his spot in the Final two very early on this season, with his breathtaking performance of Imagine, which he brilliantly re-sung Tuesday night to close the show.
Cook was sort of an unknown until he dropped his Billy Jean remix on us, which really catipulted him to the top of the competition with Archuleta.
Both singers were on the money through much of the season, regularly finding themselves receiving the loudest cheers and ovations from the crowd, as well as the subjects of constant high praise from all three judges.
Following their performances Tuesday night, Simon emphatically stated that he believed Archuleta had won the head to head battle in a “knock out”, yet just moments before Ryan’s announcement last night, backtracked saying he felt it was anybody’s competition to win.
Sure enough, it was David Cook who in some ways shocked the world, although you would have a tough time finding somebody admit he wasn’t worthy.
I thought that overall, while the season definitely was filled with a decent amount of talent, once again the show struggled with some controversy, whether it was David Hernandez revealing he was a gay stripper, Paul being…well…Paula, and some earlier than expected departures by Michael Johns and Carly Smithson, both of whom, based on talent, were probably finals worthy in any other season.
I’ve read that “big changes” are in store for next season, starting with shortened results shows, because those hour long shows were downright brutal.
I keep pushing for a change in the voting process, with fans voting for the contestant they most wish to see leave rather than their favorite singer, but I doubt we’ll be seeing that anytime soon.
For anybody keeping track, I had predicted Archuleta to win weeks if not months ago, and so I’m left to eat my words as he ended up falling some 12 million votes short. I guess I should have texted in more votes. Nevertheless, I congratulate David Cook on a very well deserved victory.
And so, another season in the books, another champion to hit a radio station near you and another 7 months until we get to do it all over again.
Somebody once asked me “What do you think of Flushing, Queens?” and quickly responded with “Sounds like a great idea”
I laughed at the time, and thinking about it now, the state of the team who calls Flushing home isn’t in the best of places.
While Flushing is hardly one of the finer areas New York has to offer, the atmosphere inside Flushing’s favorite big blue eyesore has become toxic.
Things are an absolute mess in Queens, as the 2008 Mets are looking far too much like the 2007 crew which orchestrated what can only be described as “the collapse”.
After 39 games, roughly a fourth of the season, this team lacks a pulse.
Going into this past homestand, having 7 games at hand with the last place Reds and last place Nationals, the Mets had an opportunity- AT HOME- to take care of business heading into the overhyped and overrated Subway Series.
A 3-4 record later, this team is spinning out of control, and the breaking point may have come, as closer Billy Wagner, who did not appear in the Thursday afternoon debacle of a loss to Washington, was being interviewed and had the following to say:
“”Someone tell me why the (expletive) you’re talking to the closer. I didn’t even play. They’re over there, not being interviewed. … I got it. They’re gone. (Expletive) shocker.”
Unlike Paul Lo Duca, who last season made similar remarks while choosing to include race in his rant, Wagner simply stated the obvious, that this ball club lacks any sort of accountability.
Billy is known for being outspoken, and occasionally says things he probably shoudn’t have, however he could not be more on the money right here.
This Mets team has played with no heart, no passion and has never held itself accountable.
We can start with the manager, Willie Randolph.
Message to Willie- that warm feeling under your rear end is in fact the proverbial “hot seat” warming up more and more as these losses mount.
Today was arguably the lowest of lows, as the offense flat out didn’t show up, and there were not one, not two but three costly mistakes made which came back to cost the Mets chances to score runs.
Whether it was David Wright and Luis Castillo not running out a fly ball, Jose Reyes cluelessly trying to take an extra base on a sacrifice bunt, or Carlos Beltran- supposedly- being instructed to run on contact as Carlos Delgado lined out into a double play with 1 out in the bottom of the 9th-, the Mets seem to be spiraling out of control both on the field and off of it.
Today was yet another microcosm of the bigger problem, which is the constant indifference this ballclub has showed since the middle of last season.
Where do we point the fingers?
First and foremost, Randolph needs to held responsible for failing to get whatever message he’s trying to send to his players.
Maybe they’ve stopped listening to him, but as the manager, you need to be responsible for getting the most out of your players. The manager needs to know how to handle a bullpen and when to take out a struggling relief pitcher.
Willie Randolph, for all right buttons he seemed to push back in 2006, his words seem to be falling on deaf ears, and the results aren’t showing.
For all the money being put into this team, a 20-19 record is unacceptable, and the only way I believe this team responds is by somebody taking the fall.
And as has been said countless times, you can’t fire the players, so the logical next step is to fire the manager.
You heard it from here, on Thursday evening- the 15th of May after only 39 games- the New York Mets and Willie Randolph need to part ways.
Billy Wagner placed a much needed magnified glass over the problem, which simply put is the apathetic attitude this team is plagued by game in, game out.
Placing blame player to player is too difficult, as its easier to go through who has shown some signs of life this year, as it’s as a much shorter list: Wagner has been relatively lights out, Ryan Church and Brian Schnieder have validated the Lastings Milledge trade and Moises Alou has picked up right where he left off at the end of last season.
The laundry list of issues can start with the brothers Carlos, as both Beltran and Delgado haven’t provided the middle of the order with any production.
Jose Reyes is hitting under .260, and continues to lack plate discipline. He has turned into an offensive enigma.
David Wright, despite the fans believing he can do no wrong, is hitting something around .160 with runners in scoring position, meaning the 32 RBI’s he has should be closer to 50.
Johan Santana, for all the money the Mets have paid and the prospects they sent to Minnesota in exchange for him, has been average, maybe slightly better at best.
At 4-2 with an ERA of 3.10, his numbers aren’t a good indicator of his mediocrity.
His velocity has consistently been in the high 80’s, while he’s usually good for no more than 6, MAYBE 7 innings.
The home runs ball continues to be his worst enemy, but allowing 10 hits to the Reds last weekend (although he did win) could be a warning sign as to how vulnerable he can be without his best stuff.
Oliver Perez is consistent at being inconsistent, giving you two bad starts for every good start.
Aaron Heilman has been flat out dreadful, and needs to be banished to a mop-up role until he can find himself.
The funny thing is, while the fans love to boo a guy like Aaron Heilman, you better believe he goes home at night and cares an awful lot more than a Carlos Beltran.
Can we blame management?
We sure can, but they don’t deserve nearly as much of the blame, as Omar Minaya’s two biggest offseason moves (Santana from the Twins and the Church/Schenider for Milledge trade) can be deemed successful…or at least successful enough.
Ownership has repeatedly stated to wait until more games have been played to gauge the heartbeat of a team that to this point hasn’t shown one, so at somepoint the Wilpon’s will need to figure out who’s the first scapegoat for this disaster.
As a fan, this is frustrating, and is demoralizing because it seems that everybody connected to the ballclub with the exception of the players themselves cares about whats going on, however the only ones capable of doing something about it are the guys who play inbetween the white lines.
Until that happens, expect the carelessness to continue, and the longer they continue not to care, the more and more the fans should consider following suit.
There is still plenty of time left in this young season for all of this to be turned around, but as April has turned into May and May will soon turn into June, something needs to happen before heads start to roll.
Willie Randolph, you’re on notice.
…good looks Mr. Freed
Home from school.
Summer has officially begun.
Lots to talk about, and I’ll be making up for lost time this weekend or early next week at the latest.
Also changed the header on the page from the Dome (in Syracuse) to my home away home (Shea Stadium) right here in Queens.
Three posts down you will fine Scott’s show, in its entirety, including his two very entertaining opening acts.
Please watch them, they were a lot of funny, and the event actually raised 600 bucks for Cystic Fibrosis so cheers to Scott for that as well.
All I ever heard going into college was that it was going to be the fastest four years of my life.
Mind you, this was 3 years ago, so at the time, you would have an easier time convincing me that iPods would be a financial and cultural disaster.
And now that you can’t walk down a block with seeing somebody foolishly swaying their head to the latest and greatest from Fergie, sure enough, the first 3 of those 4 years has gone by faster than you can say big girls don’t cry.
Backtracking, high school was also four years of my life spent in classrooms, learning, taking tests, doing home work, or at least having my parents believe all of the above was in fact taking place.
Let me tell you, there were no four years of my life that took longer to get through than high school.
Changing for gym, taking the bus until that fateful final year, hot lunch and girls making that awkward transition from “cute, going through puberty OMG are these really my boobs?” “to whorish, see through tank tops, OMG she’s sleeping with who?” all put together made up a high school experience which couldn’t end soon enough, and seemed to drag on and on and on.
So how was college going to be all that different?
If anything, living away from home, with all that extra free time was probably going to make it feel as though college was going to turn into this never ending party without parents.
Well, as I sit here, unable to sleep at 3 in the morning, I am left wondering where in fact the last three years of my college experience have gone?
It feels as though I went to bed, woke up, and while I was sleeping 6 semesters and 3 summers just vanished.
Unbelievably, when I finish my remaining work for the semester which should hit around 5 pm Monday evening, I’ll unofficially be a senior in college.
Yet I can swear to you I have vivid memories of being a senior in high school as though these memories were from 4 weeks ago as opposed to 4 years ago.
The worst part is, I understand the expression time flies when you’re having fun, because thats as true a statement as any, but my three years here at Syracuse University have hardly been non stop fun from the end of August to the beginning of May.
My first two years were filled with a relationship I was on and off with, which caused me as much stress and misery as it did enjoyment.
I’ve had a total…TOTAL of 6 different roommates during these last three years, and next year i’ll be kicking the extra point to make it a lucky number 7 during a 4 year span.
I’ve had semesters that have gone well academically (3.3 GPA first semester freshman year) and not so well (2.7 GPA second semester sophomore year).
I’ve some great professors and some downright shitty professors to go along with some easy, interesting classes and some lifeless, ‘what-on-earth-was-I-thinking-when-I-signed-up-for this- classes’ (anything in the science department)
I essentially went all of my freshman year with a handful of friends, and didn’t really ‘fit in’ with m current group of friends until the middle of last year.
I didn’t join a fraternity, as I feel as though Greek Life is the most overrated aspect of the college experience, as i don’t need letters on a sweatshirt or paddle marks on my ass to tell me I belong with a bunch of douche bags who use the word ‘bro’ in every sentence.
And so while contemplating all of this, I sit here and ask myself just where the last three years went?
I enjoy waking up and early and going to class about as much as I enjoy watching paint dry, however being a creature of habit, I am one of those people who loves routine, and hates when those routines change.
A week from now, I’ll be back home in Queens, with no more than a handful of friends in the area, and my parents once again sharing a kitchen and bathroom with me.
It hit me like a ton of bricks (did it ever occur to you that being hit with a single brick is probably painful enough…a ton of bricks would probably kill you) that after I go home, I have one more lousy year of settling back into a routine I love to hate.
I have a bunch of friends graduating, some here at Syracuse and others in schools elsewhere, and I just can’t imagine what the emotions are like, deep down knowing that the once-in-a-lifetime experience that is college is nearing its finale.
And lets face it: College is a time in our lives that is life nothing else, a time when independence, experimentation and beer all come together to produce 4 years (for most of us) that develop into lifes ultimate crossroads, where our childhoods end and our adult lives begin, whether we like it or not.
Lucky for me, I have another year of eligibility, or a year left on my contract if you will (my life works around sports metaphors, sorry).
To those graduating, I send not congratulations, but condolences on the death of your youth, which as glum as it sounds, brings plenty of positives along with it, such as being able to throw away the fake ID you’ve been carrying in your wallet for those last few years, while also putting a pretty alumni sticker on the bumper of your car.
As for me?
I’m going to work a hell of a lot harder and just enjoying the collection of moments which make up every day, as- in the spirit of the Kentucky Derby this wekeend- is coming down the stretch run, with the finish line in sight.
And my only hope is that between right now, and the time I graduate approximately an exact year from now, I’ll be able to look back and smile at the last fours of my life.
And like Ferris Bueller says…
“Life goes by pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Here’s to looking around once in a while.
I found this on Sports Illustrated Hot clicks page and had to pass it on
It wouldn’t be Thursday if Scott Spinelli wasn’t somehow contributing to my blog without knowing it, so in honor of his graciousness in allowing me to re-publish his articles for the Daily Orange, I’m posting video from his stand-up special from this past weekend, “I Hope God’s Wearing Earmuffs”.
Having attended the show in support of both Scott and this charity he was donating all of the proceeds to (Cystic Fibrosis), I can tell you that as always, he delivered.
Following two opening acts who were entertaining as well, Scott took the stage for 30 minutes, and went off on everything from the “C” word, to Hibatchi restaurants.
The volume isn’t great on the video, so turn it up, because you won’t want to miss anything this guy has to say.
A big thank you to Scott for being a part of my site, and an early congratulations to him as he gets ready to graduate and enter the real world.
Here it is, in its entirety including the opening acts (which you can find AFTER Scott’s performance)
and if you’re interested in watching the opening acts from the show…