My father had his heart broken in 1957.
He was not alone. When the Dodgers just up and left, forsaking their gritty Brooklyn home for the blinding sunlight, tacky glamour, and unconvincing palm trees of Los Angeles, they left shredded inner organs in their tear-shrouded wake.
For a few years, the Dodgers’ abandoned fans, particularly the ones from Brooklyn, sullenly nursed their wounds. And then, in 1962 — which must have felt like eons later, but wasn’t enough time to heal many hearts — voila! The Mets!
Not strong and victorious like their predecessors, the Mets instead were dopey, lovable, incompetent, gloriously named clowns. My father would turn the car radio or the television on and off, on and then quickly off, hopefully on and then, with a click and a sigh, off again.
Of course, there were those wonderful years when they won. Miraculously, there was 1969, when nobody expected them to, and there was 1986, when the slapstick of the ball between the poor Boston guy’s legs riveted even those of us who were simply fair-weather fans, Met-lovers by inheritance, with open-mouthed awe. And then all those bad years and near misses, the Madoff thing — and then, again miraculously, now.
Because the thing is, the Mets are the Jewish team. Their big, rich, arrogant counterparts, the Yankees, are not. They’re corporate. And did I say they’re arrogant? It’s true that the Yankees are in the Bronx, but they seem like Midtown’s team; the Mets, way out in Queens, seriously bridge-and-tunnel-land, are very outer borough. The Mets — not necessarily these Mets, of course, but the essence of the Mets — are scrappy, first-generation, entrepreneurial, not entitled; they’re able to fail, get up, and try again. Their stadium is in Flushing, an astonishingly linguistically and ethnically diverse place, home to first-generation strivers.
And then of course there is the fact that the team’s majority owner, Fred Wilpon, is Jewish.
My father is not around to see his beloved Metsies poised on the brink of baseball history. We are still saying kaddish for him, though, and I keep thinking about how very happy he would be just exactly now.
Let’s go Mets!