By: Fred Aaron

Mets Memories: A Father’s Day to Remember

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June 19 will be Father’s Day, a day where we celebrate all the proud papa’s in the USA. It is also a day where my kids are not supposed to give me a hard time, like teasing me about my lack of hair on my head. But, I digress. As I mentioned in my last article, my father has never been a baseball fan. Sure, he knew the rules, but he never developed an interest in the sport, even though he grew up in Flatbush not too far from Ebbet’s Field. So, whenever my mom’s oldest brother would take all the male members of the family out to Shea to celebrate his birthday, my dad wouldn’t join us. My oldest brother had a moderate interest in baseball, my middle brother pretty much none at all. Nevertheless, my cousin Mark gave me his old baseball cards and I started to develop an interest in the sport, to the point where I began to follow the Mets religiously in 1973. I’ll never forget Game 7 of the World Series. My parents had dinner plans for us at McCluskey’s Steakhouse in Bellmore (which is now an Applebee’s), this despite my pleas to let me stay home and watch the rest of the game. While my parents and oldest brother contented themselves with filet mignon and my middle brother sat purchased on the banquette watching the LIRR trains roll in and out of Bellmore station, I would sneak off to “use the bathroom” so I could go into the bar to get updates from the bartender, who had the game on in the bar’s television. His grim looks told me the bad news: the Mets were losing. But as the 9th inning approached, I snuck out for a final time to watch. The Mets were rallying! We had a chance! But no, Wayne Garrett popped out to Bert Campaneris and our World Championship dreams were dashed.

As the 70’s progressed, my dad began to pick up on Mets mania. He’d sometimes sit down and watch a few innings with me. But the Mets were a moribund franchise, and even the few times they’d get a lead, Joe Torre and his players would figure out how to give it away. My dad would walk in: “Are the Mets winning?” “Yes dad,” I’d reply. “They’ve got a two run lead!” My dad would look for a moment and then say: “It’s only they fifth inning. They’ve got plenty of time to blow the lead.” I’d scowl but he’d usually be right. Flash forward to the mid-80’s: I’m now a college kid back for the summer. And suddenly, the team of Mookie, Keith, Orosco, Doc and Darling was actually holding leads and winning! And guess what? My dad would actually watch the entire games with me. He’d even watch while I was in college and call me afterwards to give me an update (for you youngsters, this was the age before the Internet when you had to wait until 11 pm for your news and sports scores). He got to know all the players as well, and videotaped the entire 1986 division clincher, Playoffs and World Series so I would have them for posterity. But he had still not gone to a game with me. That was all about to change.

My uncle Ernie has owned a number of businesses over the years, and as a way of saying thanks to his employees, he booked an entire upper deck section at Shea for the night of June 19, 1987. In addition, he booked the World’s Fair Marina restaurant across the street from Shea for a pre-game banquet for his employees. My mom used to work for uncle Ernie, and she arranged three tickets for us, so I could go to the game with her and my dad. Yes folks, Alan L. Aaron, longtime non-baseball fan was going to Shea Stadium! And guess what, the players played like they knew they had a first timer in the stands. Rookie John Mitchell started for the Mets and picked up his first Major League win (he would only win 8 more games over his 5 season career). It would also be the first of only three complete games Mitchell would pitch in his career. The Mets beat up on Don Carmen and the Phillies, scoring 8 runs and hitting 4 homers, one each by HoJo, Mookie, McReynolds and even Rafael Santana. And each time the Mets homered, my dad would jump up and down yelling, “There goes the Apple! There goes the Apple!” The veteran fans would just shake their heads cause they knew they had a rookie in their midst. Even Mitchell got into the act, hitting a double off veteran reliever Dan Schatzeder. I think my dad finally understood why I loved baseball, the Mets and going to games so much.

So on this June 19, as I call my dad to tell him how much I love him and to wish him a Happy Father’s Day, I will remind him of that amazing evening 29 years ago when he went to his first Mets game and the Apple came up for him 4 times.

About Fred Aaron

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