Telegram to: Boss.
From: New York.
Sent by: Columnist with beard.
Subject: Unexplained absence yesterday.
Summary of text: What I did on my baseball vacation.
Note: Expense account to follow. Please indulge.
Sorry for mix-up. Fully intended go Mem. Stad. last night. Hoiles column planned. Got in car. Car stopped at train station. Got on NY-bound train. Pls. indulge. Needed brief timeout from season to remember.
Why? John Oates said it explaining Monday loss: "Ditto. Ibid. See footnote for other losses." Needed new scenery. Glimpse of other teams. Other woes and wows. For sanity. For sentence structure. Back soon. Promise.
Train stopped in Phila. Stayed on board. Phillies home vs. Cubs. Bielecki pitching. Dundalk kid. But: teams combined 25 1/2 out. Not new scenery. Headed for NY Mets-Pirates. Pirates best in majors. Mets always hurricane. Gooden, Zane Smith pitching. Good viewing assured.
Bought round-trip ticket (coach): $85. Pls. indulge. Bought adult hooky breakfast (coffee, peanut M&M's: under $3). Gray skies. Hoped not raining in NY (much explaining to do if so). Read papers, studied standings. Predict all four current div. leaders hang on. Agree?
Train late. Dozed. Dreamed new ballpark named after Floyd Rayford. Can't explain. Woke up. Arrive in NY. Bright blue day. Walked to hotel. Usual insanity. Passed two on-location movie sets. Asked policeman what was. Reply: "Looks like something about a lawyer and a dog." Terrif.
Sign at 8th Avenue newsstand: English spoken. Bought all papers except Enquirer. ("Michael Landon comes back to earth.") Usual back-page insanity. Mets on 7-game losing streak. Post: "Bud's Duds." Daily News: "Shea It Ain't So." Mine: Met mutts.
Ate hamburger and fries lunch: $9. Pls. indulge. Took subway to Shea. Read papers. Stranger than fiction. Mets in disarray. Bud Harrelson (manager) sent pitching coach to mound to make change Monday. Admitted didn't want get booed. Admitted! Trying to envision Earl Weaver doing same.
One player quoted anonymously on Harrelson: "I couldn't believe he did that." Another: "What he did was bleep, real bleep." Bud refused talk media next day. Never met man, but clearly getting swallowed alive.
Arrived Shea, immediately given word: Bud available in dugout, 5 o'clock. Thirty-three reporters, seven minicams waiting. (Wanted new scenery, got it.) Bud: indicted for selling state secrets to Iraq? No, just losing ballgames.
Interview question: "Regret not taking the pitcher out yourself?" Bud: "That's water over the dam." Question: "Are you feeling pressure?" Bud: "How do I . . . (drowned out by plane flying overhead)." Ditto. Ibid.
Mets portrait of mismanagement. Ex-Mets producing in majors: Strawberry, Dykstra, Kevin Mitchell, Aguilera, Reardon, Milligan, Tapani, Ryan. Current Mets 10th in league in hitting, .500 at home. Only Gooden left from '86 champs. Amazin'.
Perfect baseball night, 78 degrees, 41,542 in attendance, planes overhead every three minutes. Conversation: What? What?? Pirates clubhouse tense as comedy club. Played handball pre-game. Mets barely cheered in intros. Coach takes lineup to plate. Bud: Oh, where ye?
Different league, different game. First three innings: 44 minutes. Both pitchers sharp, first-ball hitters, game flew. Checked scoreboard going to fourth: O's in second inning. Wonder: Can we import NL pace?
Vintage Gooden. Almost worth his $5 mil. salary, if poss. Pirate reached third in top third. Two outs, Van Slyke up. Three pitches, three fastballs, Van Slyke down. Beautiful.
Gooden batted bottom third. Best rarely noted reason for outlawing DH? Comic relief: futility of pitchers hitting. Game needs few laughs, agree? Gooden (lifetime .188) grounded to third. Cheers.
Mets blew open bottom fifth. Five singles, four runs. Fellow press-boxer sidled over, asked: How is Kilgus pitching? Wonder: only member Paul Kilgus fan club? Any other poss. explanation?
Then: more comic relief. Gooden up bottom sixth, bases loaded. Fouled off three, lined two-run single. Standing O. His night. Four Pirate hits (two singles, two fly balls) reach outfield through seven innings.
Final: 7-1, Mets. Gooden: 12-6. For record: better music and DiamondVision at Mem. Stad. Headline: Bud leaped onto field after last out. (Bulletin: He's not allergic!) Rap music drowned conversation in Mets clubhouse. "Not my music," Bud said, "but glad to hear it. Been a little somber here."
Gregg Jefferies on Gooden: "It's almost like he's New York himself. Something feels different, special, when he's out there pitching." Gooden surrounded by 27 reporters, five minicams. Do or die? "Close if not." Big win? "Doesn't mean a thing unless we start playing better every game." A pro.
Pirates: post-game watched Cardinals on cable TV. Checking div. lead. Mets now 6 1/2 back. Win matinee today for 5 1/2 back. Would be back in race. Big game today. Boss: think stay one more day. Promise take subway, not cabs. Pls. indulge. Pls.