Results tagged ‘ Ebbets Field ’

Meet THE Kid In THE Jackie Robinson Photo (Updated: Make That ‘Six Photos’)

“Imagine,” Eddie Dweck muses as he looks at The Photograph, “a kid going to a ballgame dressed in a suit and tie!”

You probably don’t know Eddie Dweck, but you’ve probably seen him before. Because of The Photograph he has a cameo role in history. But history is a defiant and elusive thing. It will tell you that The Photograph Eddie Dweck is ruminating on is one of the iconic images of Jackie Robinson just before he stepped out of that Ebbets Field dugout and into history 66 years ago today.

Except it wasn’t taken on April 15, 1947. And Mr. Dweck will also reveal to you that – albeit in the mildest sense of the word – the photograph was staged.

The kid looking at the camera, the kid Jackie Robinson seems to be looking at? Meet Eddie Dweck.

April 15, 1947

Eddie Dweck atop the Dodgers’ dugout, Ebbets Field, April 11, 1947 (C) Corbis Images

12-year old Eddie and his pal Bobby Saltzberg from the apartment building on Ocean Parkway went to the first few of their sixth grade classes, then joined Eddie’s first cousin – also named Eddie Dweck – and took the half hour subway ride to Ebbets Field. To see history? To see the Dodgers’ first game of 1947! “It wasn’t quite Opening Day,” 78-year old Eddie says. “We just wanted to be there. We were fanatics about the Dodgers. That was the whole thing. I lived, slept, died with them.”

The Dodgers’ first game of 1947 – the first one in Brooklyn anyway - wasn’t the world-changing National League opener whose anniversary we celebrate today. It was an exhibition game against the Yankees on Friday, April 11, 1947, and it drew 24,237 fans – two Eddie Dwecks and one Bobby Saltzberg among them – just 2,026 fewer than the 26,623 who did not fill the stands for the actual moment of history on a Tuesday afternoon four days later.

Having clarified history’s erroneous conflation of Robinson’s first game in a major league uniform in a major league stadium (April 11, when the photo was taken, when Robinson went hitless but drove in three runs, one on a fielder’s choice and two on sacrifice flies) and his first official Major League Game (April 15), what was that part again about the photo – a photo which nearly all the rest of us look at as we might look at an image of Abraham Lincoln in a crowd or at least Babe Ruth – what was that about it being staged? 

“Staged,” he said again, and matter-of-factly. “We had maybe bleacher seats, the cheapest seats, and we trying to get to the Dodger dugout just like we tried to get to the Dodger dugout every game we went to. But there were a hundred photographers taking pictures of him. This was a momentous day. So they told the ushers ‘let these kids come down, and lean over like you’re trying to get his autograph.’ And that’s how we got down there. It was a matter of a few minutes, five minutes, ten minutes as I remember. Then we had to scatter.”

So this was a kind of benign news management, as opposed to news manufacturing. There were kids trying to get to the Dodger dugout, they were hoping to get Jackie Robinson’s autograph, and the photographers simply reduced to zero the chances against them getting to their destination. “With me, it looks like he’s looking at me, that’s the interesting part. Maybe I had a long hand or something!” I asked Eddie if he ever got the autograph. “No. It looks like he’s signing something, but I don’t think anybody got an autograph, not while I was there.” But he got something better. “That picture was in The Brooklyn Eagle, and from The Brooklyn Eagle it was in Sport Magazine, and then it was in one of Jackie Robinson’s books. But, man, I was in The Brooklyn Eagle!

There was one detail that troubled Eddie Dweck. Where were his Cousin Eddie, and his pal Bobby? “I didn’t go down there myself, that’s for sure.”

Steer away from Dweck’s photographic odyssey for a moment for a larger question. Did he – the 12-year-old-from-Ocean-Parkway-he – understand what had happened? How one day baseball didn’t allow African-Americans to play in the major leagues and then that day, that day, suddenly it did? “Yes. I knew that Jackie Robinson was the first negro player to play in the major leagues. So I knew it was significant but I didn’t think of the social aspects. At twelve years old that’s not on your mind. What’s on my mind is ‘he’s going to be a great second baseman and maybe we can win a pennant.’” Here Eddie Dweck laughs. “But of course as I got older I started to realize, reading more about this, hearing about Dixie Walker and how he was against him all the time, and all the problems and how they couldn’t even put him in the same hotel sometimes, he had to be in other hotels, you realize this was Rosa Parks in baseball.”

This is where it would’ve ended, a story-and-a-half as it was. But then last Monday, Eddie Dweck phoned me and in his voice I could hear a touch of the excitement that must have been felt by his 12-year old self. “Keith, there’s another photograph!”

Eddie was in last Sunday’s New York Times.

Per The New York Times: "The trailblazer Jackie Robinson in an Ebbets Field dugout in 1947 with members of the Brooklyn Dodgers." For some reason they left out Eddie (C) 2013 The New York Times

Per caption, New York Times Magazine 4/7/13: “The trailblazer Jackie Robinson in an Ebbets Field dugout in 1947 with members of the Brooklyn Dodgers.” For some reason they didn’t identify first basemen Ed Stevens and Howie Schultz or coaches Clyde Sukeforth, Jake Pitler and Ray Blades (surrounding Robinson). Or Eddie Dweck. (C) 2013 The New York Times

Oh, for crying out loud!

The New York Times Magazine review of the new Jackie Robinson movie “42″ showed another photograph from April 11, 1947. Sure enough, almost dead center, same suit, same sweater, but this time just above and to the left of the beaming Robinson shaking hands with the Dodgers’ acting manager Clyde Sukeforth, there, again, is Eddie Dweck.

“I hadn’t seen that one before!” Apparently The Times had never printed it before, either. But there was more. “I found Bobby Salzberg! He’s next to me, in the bow tie!”

Lower left: Clyde Sukeforth. Lower right: Jackie Robinson. Upper left: Bobby Saltzberg, Eddie Dweck. (C) 2013 The New York Times

Lower left: Clyde Sukeforth. Lower right: Jackie Robinson. Upper left: Bobby Saltzberg, Eddie Dweck. (C) 2013 The New York Times

Seeing Bobby also rattled something loose in Dweck’s memory. “Now I know where my cousin Eddie was. It was Passover. He was at our seats, protecting the food! And protecting the seats, for that matter.”

Too bizarre for words, no? The unexpected thrill of getting to see yourself in a new photo in your local newspaper at age 12 in 1947, and then the again unexpected thrill of getting to see yourself in a new photo in your local newspaper at age 78 in 2013 – with both photographs from the same event?

It gets stranger still. Months into this process and a second photo having turned up and still nobody had done an image search for something as simple as “Jackie Robinson Dugout.”

Sure enough, sitting on the website Biography.Com: Dweck/Jackie Robinson Photo number three:

"Members of the Brooklyn Dodgers and their new coach pose in front of their dugout before an exhibition game with the New York Yankees. The team has a new manager and new Negro star player from Montreal, Jackie Robinson."

Original caption, source unknown: “Members of the Brooklyn Dodgers and their new coach pose in front of their dugout before an exhibition game with the New York Yankees. The team has a new manager and new Negro star player from Montreal, Jackie Robinson.” It also had a great fan, Eddie Dweck. Look to the left of the biggest guy, first baseman Howie Schultz.

Eddie Dweck wasn’t kidding when he said there were a hundred photographers on the field clamoring for photographs of Robinson in the dugout. And there is a certain poignance in these two images that Eddie – clearly the Zelig of Robinson’s first day of Ebbets Field – hadn’t seen before. In this third shot, he and Bobby are positioned around the only other two players in the pictures: Ed Stevens and Howie Schultz:

(L to R) Bobby Saltzberg, Ed Stevens, Eddie Dweck, Howie Schultz.

(L to R) Bobby Saltzberg, Ed Stevens, Eddie Dweck, Howie Schultz.

Ed Stevens and Howie Schultz were the first basemen who would be displaced by Robinson.

It had been Schultz who had worked with Robinson throughout spring training to adapt to that position – which Robinson had never played before – even though Schultz knew it would probably cost him his job. Robinson, Branch Rickey, Sukeforth, Pee Wee Reese, even the walkout-threatening Dixie Walker got the headlines. But Schultz and Stevens simply uncomplainingly gave way to the better man.

At the moment the photographers captured them and Eddie and Bobby, Stevens and Schultz had exactly seven more games left between them as Dodgers, and only 375 more games left as big leaguers. Stevens would be sent out to the minors before Robinson would make his official debut the following Tuesday, and Schultz would linger as Robinson’s sub and instructor until he was sold to the Phillies on May 10th. He would have a little more time in the sun (and in sports integration history) as a member of the 1952 NBA Champion Minneapolis Lakers, who won the first Finals ever to feature an African-American player, Sweetwater Clifton of the Knicks.

On the other side of Robinson (shaking Robinson’s hand in the Times shot) is Clyde Sukeforth, who had just taken over as acting manager after the suspension of Leo Durocher. Sukeforth – who helped to scout Robinson for the Dodgers originally – would manage Robby’s first game, and win it, and his second, and win that one, too. Those would be his only games as a manager, and his only other imprint in baseball history would be as the Dodger bullpen coach who in the 9th inning of the third game of the 1951 National League special playoffs against the Giants infamously led manager Chuck Dressen to conclude that Ralph Branca was his best asset to face Bobby Thomson because the other pitcher whose warm-up he was supervising, Carl Erskine, was “bouncing his curve.”

Thus the memories the autograph photo evokes are not all happy ones. When I pointed out to Eddie that apart from him and Robinson the image also shows Branca, he said he cried all day after Branca gave up Thomson’s home run four years later. Shortly after that Dweck actually attended one of the famous Dodger tryout camps at Vero Beach (“No expenses paid,” he laughs. “I’ll pay you to play. Such was the devotion”) but did not cross paths with Robinson there. And within a decade the Dodgers would prove that an African-American was like any other player in baseball: he could be unceremoniously dumped no matter what his contributions to team or time. And as they traded Robinson to the hated New York Giants, they were already negotiating for the event that would prove that a Brooklyn fan was like any other in sport: he could be unceremoniously dumped if a better deal loomed westward. “When they did leave, I lost total interest. I didn’t follow them to Los Angeles. Even baseball in general, I kinda got turned off. It really hurt me.”

In some indirect way, it hurt him to the degree that until last month, he hadn’t owned a copy of The Photograph since that edition of The Brooklyn Eagle came out. That is even stranger when you consider what Eddie Dweck does for a living. Today he is the with-it, energetic co-proprietor of Studio 57 Fine Arts on West 57th Street in New York, and can use the photograph to prove to doubters that he wasn’t in diapers in 1947. The gallery features not just high end art and some of the metropolitan area’s avant-garde painters, but has also always offered a great supply of historical baseball photographs, many of which are at the level of sophistication and eccentricity of a shot of Babe Ruth pitching for the Yankees and a variety of shots of Dweck’s beloved Ebbets Field. More over, I’ve been one of his customers since 1997 and last January was the first time he ever mentioned that it was him in the Robinson/Fans photograph.

“Well,” Eddie Dweck says with a measure of contemplation that dissolves into a laugh. “You didn’t ask.”

Eddie Dweck holds a copy "the photograph" at Studio 57 Fine Arts Gallery, March 2013

Eddie Dweck holds a copy of “The Photograph” at Studio 57 Fine Arts gallery, March 2013

UPDATE: 11:00 AM EDT April 15: It’s a torrent! It’s an avalanche!

Courtesy of the impeccable Bill Francis at the Baseball Hall of Fame, there are three more photos in the library files in Cooperstown of Eddie Dweck during the photographers’ flashbulb frenzy.

He may have only seen himself in The Brooklyn Eagle on that next day (April 12) but he was also in The New York Post:EddieNYPost
That’d be Eddie, dead-center, reaching down towards Jackie. Obviously this is a photocopy or a microfiche print-out. The original credit goes to The Associated Press.

And he made it on the right side of another image from Acme Telephotos, which was printed in the April 12 edition of Upstate New York’s Binghamton News:

EddieBinghamton

And then there’s one more shot with Howie Schultz, et al, in The Brooklyn Eagle.EddieEagleThis would be one to get the original of.

Eddie Dweck (on the right) and his pal Bobby are lined up perfectly to frame Jackie Robinson.

 

Hershiser Won’t Auction Record-Breaking Baseball After All

Every sports memorabilia collector eventually prunes his stash (I did it once, in 1985, and I still have misgivings).

But rarely does one of us consign a singular item to an auction house, let the process go along so far that the piece gets photographed and included in the auction catalogue – and then have the misgivings and withdraw the item.

Such a collector is Orel Hershiser. The 1988 Cy Young Winner, still the owner of baseball’s streak for consecutive scoreless innings pitched, now part of the instant classic that is the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball trio with Dan Shulman and Terry Francona, has been for nearly all of his 53 years another one of us – the accumulators and protectors and pack-rats of the cherished relics of the game. I’ve been swapping cards with him since about 1987.

But Bulldog is more than just a card and autograph collector. Unlike nearly every other one of us, he also has a real baseball career beyond the onlooker status of his colleagues. Hershiser has kept countless terrific, even unique, items from his playing days, and had just reached that “pruning” moment. In an upcoming Grey Flannel Auctions sale, he is selling several dozen uniforms, jackets, gloves, trophies, baseballs, and even card sets (’70s O-Pee-Chee Hockey – I mean, this is a collector).

But it turns out he is not selling the baseball with which he established that consecutive scoreless innings streak in 1988:As you see, the scoreless streak ball is in the Grey Flannels Auction catalogue. But you can’t put in a bid, for $2500 or any other amount. At the company’s website, Lot 369 is nowhere to be found.

The auction house explained to me today that Orel just couldn’t bear to part with it. That would be a natural emotion for any of us collectors, so one can only imagine the emotional tug when it’s the baseball you threw to set the record which happens to be yours. I mean, I own the ball that pinch-hitter Cookie Lavagetto bazooka’d off the right field fence at Ebbets Field with two outs in the ninth inning when Bill Bevens of the Yankees was an out away from the first World Series no-hitter, in Game 4 of the ’47 classic, but that doesn’t make me Lavagetto, Bevens, or even a witness. I just own a neat baseball. Imagine having pitched the neat baseball (or hit it).

As mentioned, Hershiser is auctioning off a lot of such neatness, including his SPORT Magazine 1988 World Series MVP Trophy and other items from his other days with the Mets, Giants, and Indians. But the scoreless streak ball? That, he’s keeping.

And that’s the way it should be, right?

Front: Terry Francona; Dan Shulman. Back: Some Interloper; Orel Hershiser

UPDATED: Mantle and Harper…and Vin Scully

The comparisons have been made for years, and tonight one of them comes true. Like Mickey Mantle, Bryce Harper will make his major league debut tonight, slightly out of position, and at the same age – 19.

Dismissing for the moment the relative validity of the comparisons of the players, something startling dawned on me this afternoon. We all know Mantle broke into the majors at Yankee Stadium on April 17, 1951, batting third and playing in right field (and wearing number 6) and grounding out to second base in his first at bat against Bill Wight of the Red Sox. Mantle would go 1-for-4 and notch his first of 1509 career RBI on a single that plated the third run in a 5-0 shutout by Vic Raschi.

But that wasn’t Mantle’s first game in New York as a bona fide member of the Yankees – and that’s where the startling part comes in.

Check this out:

(C) Associated Press 1951

That’s exactly what it looks like. Mantle posing with Joe DiMaggio – at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. The date is Saturday, April 14, 1951 and it’s part of the annual pre-season exhibition games the Yankees and Dodgers used to play. The seriousness of these games (though they didn’t count) is evidenced by those patches on their left sleeves. It’s the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the American League and the patches were brand new. Mantle has just gotten off an overnight flight from Kansas City, having just again been classified as medically unfit to serve due to osteomyelitis by yet another draft board. DiMaggio played CF and Mantle RF, and in the second exhibition, on Sunday the 15th – as Jane Leavy reports in her epic biography The Last BoyMantle merely went 4-for-4.

Update: This was not just Mantle’s first game in New York, it was also his first game in a Major League stadium. In 1951 – and only in 1951 – the Yankees spent spring training in Phoenix. There were no big league parks west of St. Louis then, and when the team began the “tour” that annually preceded the regular season (and to some degree still does) it went west to places like Seals Stadium in San Francisco. On March 26, 1951, Mantle hit a home run at USC’s field that went at least 550 feet, possibly as much as 600. But then came a letter from the draft board and Mantle had to leave the Yankees for nearly two weeks.

Note what’s painted onto the press box level in the fabled Brooklyn ballpark. WMGM was the Dodgers’ radio flagship station (at 1050 AM, it had been, and would again, become WHN). But it was just an exhibition game. Would Mantle’s debut have even been on the radio that day?OK, so I can’t find the television listings for April 14th.

But there you have it: at minimum, Mantle’s first game ever in New York, on Saturday April 14, 1951, was broadcast by the Yankees’ station (WINS, with Mel Allen and two new colleagues who were replacing Curt Gowdy, named Bill Crowley and Art Gleeson), and was also carried by the Dodgers’ station, WMGM, with their announcers.

Wait.

The Dodgers announcers? In 1951?Red Barber on the left, then beginning his 13th year in the Brooklyn booth. In the center, Connie Desmond, Barber’s sidekick since 1942. And on the right, the kid, the local fellow who had just joined the team in the middle of the prior season…Vin Scully.

Updating: I asked my old friend (and my second boss) and Dodgers’ broadcaster Charley Steiner to check with Vin this evening to make sure he didn’t have that weekend in 1951 off for some reason. Vin says he has no recollection one way or the other (I mean, it was at least 10,000 games ago) but doesn’t think he wouldn’t have been working the exhibition games, especially the ones in New York, and recalls doing so throughout that era. So I think it’s safe to say that Vin Scully broadcast both Bryce Harper’s Major League debut tonight, and Mickey Mantle’s first game in New York just 61 years, and two weeks, ago!

Amazing.

By the way, one more relic. Just in case you get to go back in time, print this out:

Recommended Reading: Nellie King

People will little note nor long remember what Steven Jackson did pitching in relief last season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. For that matter, not until now, were they likely to remember what Nellie King did pitching in relief for the Bucs in 1956.
Without both of these men, and all others like them, baseball would cease to exist.
2009 was an encouraging year for Jackson. Up from Indianapolis, he pitched 40 times for a total of 43 innings, 21 strikeouts, 22 walks, two wins, three losses, and a 3.14 ERA. This was the culmination of nearly six years along a heavily-guided, clearly-lit, little-left-to-chance route that began when Howard McCullough of the Diamondbacks started scouting him at Clemson in 2003. The next year, Arizona drafted him in the tenth round, and, despite the fact he was already 22, they started him in the instruction-focused Pioneer and Northwest Leagues. The Yankees were following him, too, and when they worked out a deal to return Randy Johnson to Arizona, Jackson was one of the pitchers they demanded. New York began to work Jackson in relief in ’07 and their instructors helped him find a new arm slot that turned a mediocre sinker into an out pitch. He was the third arm the Yankees called up from the minors last April, but they wasted his last option by letting him sit in the bullpen for a week without an appearance. When they tried to sneak him off the major league roster, the Pirates pounced and picked him up on waivers. Within weeks, he was a regular in the Pittsburgh bullpen.
This tortuous recital of the provenance of Steven Jackson – scouted, trained, guided, instructed, groomed (and paid around $275,000 in his first big league season) is provided to underscore a point about ex-Pirate reliever Nellie King’s wonderful new book Happiness Is Like A Cur Dog. In King’s first full season in the bigs, in 1956, he appeared 38 times in Pittsburgh, pitched 60 innings, won four and lost one, and finished with a 3.15 ERA (and earned about $6,000 – still just $47,000 in 2009 dollars). This was the culmination of eleven years of fighting to get anybody to notice him long enough to invite him to a mass tryout camp, then possibly to spring training, then possibly onto the roster of a minor league team like the New Iberia Cardinals of the Class-D Evangeline League.
Class D.
As he vividly recounts in this warm, understated memoir, Nellie King’s career began in a time when a ballplayer had at least three jobs: what he did during the actual season, what he did delivering packages or bailing hay during the off-season, and what he had to do 24 hours a day to make sure he didn’t get released with no more than ten days’ notice and not even a bus ticket home. It is almost unfathomable to consider the pioneer-like hacking through the woods of hidden opportunity that King so fondly recalls. A part-time Cardinals’ scout liked what he saw of him in a glorified summer high school league and invited him to a tryout. He got a uniform with a three digit number on it. Hooking on with a team in Louisiana he arrived there by bus in the middle of the night, clueless of who to contact or where to go. He was released twice before his 19th birthday, and made it back into organized ball only because that first scout had gone to work filling out the rosters of some independent clubs. And that only got him into the Pittsburgh system because the owner sold those obscure franchises to the Pirates. 
And that’s when he got to begin his climb up the ladder in a Pirates’ farm system that was a little smaller than most – it only had about a dozen clubs. Having won 15 or more three separate times for Pirates’ farms (a feat which today would put him on the cover of The Baseball America Prospect Handbook) and having survived, unfazed, two years at Fort Dix during the Korean War, Nelson Joseph King finally got to the big leagues in 1954.

“It had taken me eight years, including two outright releases in 1946, plus two years in the Army, to get to this moment at Ebbets Field. I thought of all those innings and games I spent pitching in small, minor league towns such as Geneva, Ozark, Brewton, Troy, Dorhan, Greenville, Andalusia, and Enterprise, in the Class “D” Alabama State League during my first season in professional baseball. The contrast between Ebbets Field and those minor league towns and fields magnified the contrasts and the satisfaction I was feeling. Having viewed Ebbets Field only in black and white photos and on television in World Series games, I was now seeing it up close, in full color and from the center of the picture. In my eighth decade of life, the memory of that moment is so vivid I can still visualize Ebbets Field…”

Injuries would end King’s pitching career in 1957, and he went into radio – following the same steep staircase that described his playing days – through local markets in Western Pennsylvania. Finally, a decade after he stopped pitching for them, he rejoined the Pirates a decade later as an announcer, and the primary partner of the legendary Bob “The Gunner” Prince. Once again the reality of the business of today and that of an earlier time is underscored. As the third announcer of a major league team just 42 years ago, Nellie King was paid $13,000 – and even that only translates to $83,000 in today’s money.
The remarkable part of King’s story is that the struggle and the finances seem to have made every step, and every misstep, all the more satisfying. Nellie King’s story is a triumph of perseverance and contentment. Even the title comes from one of the odder of the aphorisms of the legendary Branch Rickey, for whom King worked in the Pittsburgh organization. Figures like Rickey, and Bill Mazeroski, and Roberto Clemente, and Willie Stargell, populate its pages, but Happiness Is Like A Cur Dog should not be mistaken for the kind of dramatic but sometimes self-important recent biographies of, say, Satchel Paige or George Steinbrenner. And though King goes into depth about the two epic Pirates’ World Championship years he covered, he does not seek to elevate either to world-changing status, such as a recent book on the 1912 Series does.
Nellie King has simply written a book about the backbone of baseball, a tale like that of 75 percent of the players in the game’s history. And in its own matter-of-fact style, it’s terrific. It’s available from the usual suspects like Amazon, but more directly (and economically) from the publisher, and Nellie and his family have also launched a blog for Cur.

CORRECTIONS AND NOTES:
In advocating for Danny Murtaugh’s Hall of Fame qualifications I gave him credit for one more NL East title than he deserved. I’d forgotten Murtaugh retired four times as Pittsburgh skipper, not three, and the 1972 crown belonged to Bill Virdon… And having composed this as MLB Network rolled out its World Series highlight films, these trivial observations about Yankee Stadium. The boxes remained in the “opera style” – no permanent seats, just as many hard wooden chairs as you needed or could fit in – through at least 1943. And the dirt stripe from the mound to the plate, most recently resurrected in Detroit and Phoenix, was in place in the Bronx through at least 1947 – but gone by 1949.

Ever heard a Stadium PA guy play the charge call in the bottom of the first inning? It is a neat summary of the Mets 2009 season, and it sounded out tonight here at CitiField not long after Jerry Manuel confirmed Carlos Delgado had suffered new setbacks and now would not make a late-season cameo after hip surgery in June. It had been assumed that if Delgado did not reappear it would augur poorly for his chances of 2010 employment here or elsewhere. But Manuel seemed to recognize an awful truth few others did not in saying Delgado might be back after all. That truth is this: he is earnest and he has flashes both of an instinctive ability to play the position, and even an occasional flash of brilliance. But Daniel Murphy is not now a major league first baseman. After a game-losing, panicky, assumption-driven fiasco in Atlanta Wednesday, Murphy tonight failed to make what would admittedly have been a special pick-up on a tough hop off the bat of Christian Guzman in the top of the first. And a first baseman needs to be special defensively if he has no real history of power, and has produced only 10-56-.262-.414 on his first big league season. Consider Delgado, in a power-starved lineup and in only 26 games, ended at 4-23-.298-.521. The Mets cannot assume his viability for 2010 but he is no more of a risk than Murphy appears to be now.
Off-point, talk in the press box here tonight of the NFL fiasco in which Jerry Jones spent – what was it? Eleventy Billion? – to install a video screen that is within easy reach of the leagues punters. Not that any of us was here for it, but the last confirmed new stadium screw-up on that level came in Brooklyn in 1913 when Charlie Ebbets opened his new home for the Dodgers. Reporters followed Ebbets to centerfield for the ceremonial raising of the flag, everybody applauded, and then some scribe asked So, Charlie, where do we sit? It was only then that the Dodger owner realized that Ebbets Field had been built without a press box.

That New Ballpark Smell

IMG_0679.JPG
In the summer after my eighth birthday, my parents brought me to Yankee Stadium for the first time and gingerly explained that the building in which we sat had been built way back in 1923. “That was before either of you were born!,” I exclaimed with remarkably adult grammatical structure.
Weeks later, a Hastings-On-Hudson village program of some sort sent a busload of us kids to the upper deck at Shea Stadium. I looked around in the greenish lighting, at the cracked cement, and the rusty bolts, and the overhead fixtures that looked like our back porch light at home, and the building that vibrated in the wake of the jets overhead, and told the adult that if Yankee Stadium had been built in 1923 as my parents said, Shea Stadium must’ve been built in 1886.
Shea was three years old at the time.
It is in that context in which the Mets’ new home must be judged. The first 100 most important facts about CitiField are identical: it ain’t Shea. While the now-leveled stadium was a genuinely praiseworthy attempt to mix civic expenditure with private business, and use modern technology to build a facility suited to both football and baseball, it was a dump from day one.
Thus, yes, apart from the marvelous “Ebbets Field Wrapper” that reduced to tears a friend of mine who once had season tickets to the original, and apart from the Rotunda that Bud Selig said he came to this game to see (and he saw the original), it is Coors Field plus Jacobs Field plus Citizens Bank with a few echoes of the Polo Grounds and Tiger Stadium in the overhanging rightfield porch. But it ain’t Shea.

Also, that Rotunda looks very retro at night — especially with Rickey and Robinson on the wall there.

IMG_0678.JPG
Also, if CitiField averages even half the oddities of this opening night, it will be a place of weirdness not unlike Ebbets Field was.
In ascending order of fulfilling The McCarver Rule (“At every game you will see something, or at least a combination of things, you have never seen before”), here are the top unique or unlikely events from the park’s opening:
8. The Mets’ first game in their field featured a hold by Duaner Sanchez (released by the Mets last month), and a save by Heath Bell (traded by the Mets in 2006).
7. Somebody decided that the best way to christen a ballpark replacing a stadium notorious for 45 deafening seasons in the flight paths of LaGuardia was to have a military jet flyover complete with near-sonic boom.

6. The home team’s starting pitcher fell off the mound with two out in the second, laughed it off, and proceeded to give up four straight hits, including the opposing starting pitcher’s first in the big leagues.
5. That other pitcher to christen the ballpark, Walter Silva, was not listed in the Padres’ Media Guide and his biography had to be disseminated to the media via a photocopied sheet.
4. In an almost literal case of opening night jitters, the game was decided when the eminently reliable Ryan Church dropped Luis Rodriguez’s fly for a three-base error, and then Rodriguez scored on a flinch of a balk by Pedro Feliciano.
3. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg got a foul ball off the bat of Fernando Tatis in the 9th Inning, even though he was sitting behind the home plate screen.
2. Six innings earlier, a stray cat desperately trying to exit the field leaped onto the low fence directly in front of New York Governor David Paterson.
1. The first batter in the first inning in the first game in CitiField, Jody Gerut, homered – the first time in baseball history a new stadium has been so christened.
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