Tomorrow night, the New York Mets will play in the World Series for the first time since 2000 and the fifth time in their history, which spans over half a century. As a lifelong baseball enthusiast who grew up in New York City and rooted for the Mets from Day 1, I suffered through their losing seasons and also delighted in their best moments, which included two World Series wins and a few more divisional and league championships.
In their early years of mishap and misfortune I was more than once asked to explain my allegiance to that colorful group of comic-tragic, lovable losers who were dubbed the Amazin’ Mets by their first manager, the late great Casey Stengel. In response, I would say what best expressed the sentiments of so many Mets fans: “I root for the underdog.”
As a diehard fan I was duly rewarded: Against overwhelming odds, the Mets took the baseball world by surprise in 1969, their miracle season, when they rose to the top of their division and league and then defeated the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series; and years later when they staged one of the most miraculous comeback wins of all time in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series against the Boston Red Sox.
As one who was raised in a traditional Jewish home, went to religious private schools and later in life chose the secular lifestyle, I understand the belief in divine intervention, especially when a miracle happens, but for the most part I appreciate human excellence. Both qualities, the human and the heavenly, have worked wonders for the Jewish people, as well as for those boys from Flushing, Queens.
The Mets’ Jewish connection was dignified by Art Shamsky, who patrolled right field for the ’69 World Champs, and power-hitting Shawn Green, who helped the Mets win their division and the first round of the playoffs in 2006.
Just a few words about that other New York team, the Yankees, who also fielded a few Jewish players: Only an anti-Semite can say that there is something Jewish about rooting for the best team money can buy. But I won’t take this any further. After all, there are many Jewish Yankees fans and some of my best friends etc., etc.
Back to the Mets: My Jewish connection concept goes beyond the obvious correlation between Jews and underdogs, and relies more on the actual triumphs of a heavily outnumbered and much slandered nation. The Mets may have shocked the National League East on occasion, but the Jewish people have been astounding both Eastern and Western civilization for millennia. From King David to Queen Esther and down the line to Ben-Gurion, we Jews always knew how to play hardball on the big stage with the whole world watching. But the remarkable achievements of outstanding MOTs (members of the tribe, for those who are not familiar with that fun acronym) pale in comparison with the collective triumph of the human spirit which best illustrates the eternally resilient Jews.
In a similar vein, the principle of a team equaling the sum of its parts can surely be said for the 2015 Mets. But human achievement notwithstanding, we MOTs have at times been known to have God on our side and the Mets too, pardon the pun, have that metaphysical quality, which may explain the power surge that recently turned second-baseman Daniel Murphy into a home-run hitter just in time for the playoffs.
Okay, so there’s an Irish connection here too, and with the predominance of Latin players on the team in recent years they are also known as Los Mets. Regardless of ethnic affiliation, all Mets fans can join in the World Series parade which hopefully will take place on Broadway sometime next week. In the meantime, when Mets pitcher Matt Harvey takes the mound against the American League Champion Kansas City Royals tomorrow night, every Mets fan will have his or her heart in the right place. That’s a whole lot of heart pumping lifeblood into that big-hearted man who’s holding the game ball. Nothing can be more heavenly, and human.