You may not think that the New York Mets deserve scholarly consideration, but the franchise is getting that and more at Hofstra University’s “The 50th Anniversary of the New York Mets,” a conference that will celebrate the team’s historical and cultural impact on New York.
We Mets fans live in a harsh reality for many reasons, chief among them is sharing the city with the New York Yankees, the big brother across the river that is seemingly the favored son. Of course, I have written a great deal about the Mets, and I have noted their blue collar origins as opposed to the Yankee blue bloods. Be that as it may, the Mets have a firm foothold in New York and many loyal fans, among them those who still remember the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. The Mets, spawned from Giant orange and Dodger blue, are well loved but still struggle after all these years for identity and respect in the media, the press, and in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers.
So while we all want the Mets to be appreciated, this conference at Hofstra will go a long way in establishing the importance of this team and its impact on baseball and the city. Former players like Ed Charles, Rusty Staub, and Buddy Harrelson will attend. There will also be authors, sports writers, broadcasters, and scholars there to add many dimensions to the discussion. Hofstra is billing this as “the first multidisciplinary conference to consider every aspect of a Major League Baseball franchise.” As a New York Mets and baseball fan, I am thrilled about that and think it is a very necessary and long overdue event.
I know there are many devoted fans of football, hockey, basketball, and other sports, but I think baseball is inherently an American sport and essential to the way of life in this country. Baseball is played anywhere kids can find a patch of grass (or in my case, growing up in Queens, a patch of asphalt), and there is the angelic sound of the crack of the bat, the pop of the ball in the glove, and the feeling like you are playing like your heroes in the Major Leagues.
Baseball is a family sport. My father went to games with his father, and I went with him, as I plan to take my son when he is older. My mother and her sisters stood outside Ebbetts Field when they couldn’t get in and watched the games through holes in the fence. That’s how devoted Dodgers fans my family were. They lived and breathed for Dodger blue and rejoiced in 1955 when that one and only time the Yankee blue bloods were sent home losers.
All of this is part of history, and the Mets were infused by the spirits of those Giants and Dodgers fans, and so there is more than fifty years of Mets history because it is a continuation, in essence an inheritance, and the Mets stand (perhaps battered and bruised at times) as stubbornly and loyal as their fans are, with most if not all of us proud to wear the orange and blue as a statement, a bold declaration that the Yankees are not the only game in town – not by a long shot.
It is truly fitting that the Mets get paid homage in such a significant and meaningful way. Mets fans can thank the late Dana Brand, a professor at Hofstra who had the idea for this conference. It is unfortunate that this man, author of the books Mets Fan and The Last Days of Shea, will not be there, but we can imagine he will be in spirit. Also to be credited are Dr. Richard Puerzer, chair of the Department of Engineering, and Dr. Paula Uruburu, vice dean of the School for University Studies, who are the directors of this conference.
Casey Stengel, the first manager of the Mets, was a man of many talents and noted for his confounding wit, but he said it best that he wanted to get Mets fans when they were little and make them grow up with the team. All these years later, I think old Casey was onto something quite profound there, for that is what I have done and many others have too.
Now “The Old Professor” must be smiling up in heaven as his Mets are subject of scholarly discussion at a great university. Casey once said, “The Mets have shown me more ways to lose than I even knew existed.” No, it wasn’t easy managing those early Mets, but fifty years later we have this celebration of what Casey started.
Despite all the losses and the heartbreak that Mets fans have had all these years, they still love their team and bleed the orange and blue. That’s what Mets baseball is all about and, come to think about it, life is too. You learn something very important as a Mets fan: you don’t love something or someone because of winning or losing; you love people and things because of who or what they are and what they mean to you, no matter what happens. I guess that is why I am and will always be a Mets fan.
The Mets deserve this honor and hopefully many people will turn out to attend, listen, learn, and celebrate all things about the New York Mets. The conference will be held at Hofstra University April 26-28. Information can be obtained at 516-463-5669 or hofstra.edu/mets.
Photo Credit-Hofstra University