My father was born in Corpus Christi, never lived in Queens, and has loved the New York Mets for as long as I can remember. A lifelong fan of both baseball and the underdog, Dad first latched onto the Mets during the 1969 season, when they won their first World Series and were described with snappy adjectives like “Miracle” and “Amazin’.” After the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York defeated the Baltimore Orioles in the Fall Classic, Mets pitching ace Tom Seaver utilized the platform of sports’ grandest stage to offer the quip, “If the Mets can win the World Series, America can get out of Vietnam.”
The Mets returned to the World Series in 1986, when I was 12 years old and players named Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden were still regarded as heroes. That October, New York closed out the Boston Red Sox in seven games, forever branding names like Mookie Wilson, Lenny Dykstra, and Keith Hernandez directly upon my brain. My sister Tammy, who was born the following month, came this close to being named Shea, after the iconic stadium in Flushing, Queens.
Watching beleaguered former player Strawberry, who has survived cocaine addiction and cancer, throw out the first pitch in the National League Championship Series was something of a good omen for the 2006 incarnation of the Mets. The squad from New York triumphed over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game One thanks to the arm of Tom Glavine — and the bat of Carlos Beltran, who delivered a two-run blast in the sixth inning. Despite losing starting pitchers Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez to injury for the rest of the playoffs, the Mets are still favored over the Cardinals on their bullpen and bat-strength. Mets General Manager and team architect Omar Minaya was initially criticized by some for assembling a Latino-heavy team but it’s hard to find anyone complaining about that now.
For baseball fans born in the month of October, the World Series carries a special and intricate significance, something akin to your own private Super Bowl. Expect the Mets to reach the Fall Classic after a hotly contested series with the Cardinals that could easily stretch to seven games. Awaiting them will probably be the Detroit Tigers, who haven’t won a World Series since 1984, and have in recent years been regarded as one of the worst teams in baseball.
In their historic 1968 championship run, the Tigers united a city torn apart by racial turmoil. When Detroit dispatched the New York Yankees to reach the American League Championship Series earlier this post-season, the raucous celebration between players and fans recalled the zeal of the ’68 campaign. The Tigers are currently up two games to none against the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS and heading home, where the forecast calls for snowy conditions. Having already exhibited superior pitching and stellar management, this year’s Tigers — much like last year’s White Sox and the Red Sox the year before — appear to be the team of destiny in the playoffs. To their credit, the A’s were a class act in dealing with the attention surrounding the loss of former teammate Cory Lidle, who died in a plane crash in New York before game two.
Look for the Tigers and Mets to meet in a World Series that has the potential for some serious fireworks. Thanks to the American League’s victory in this season’s All-Star Game, Detroit will hold home-field advantage, which could give them the edge in a tight series. Although a Mets triumph would come on the 20th anniversary of the ’86 classic, it’s tough to pick against the starting pitching of the Tigers. If Detroit does pull it off, how cool would it be to hear Tigers skipper Jim Leyland spout something like, “If the Tigers can win the World Series, America can get out of Iraq.”