Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Mets vs. Giants: shades of 1951?

On a July afternoon in 1985 I was in the stands at Shea for the first time, courtesy of Pat Carroll, a Brooklyn native then living in London but on a visit home. Several days before, we had been sitting together at the bar of the Lion's Head and Pat had offered me a ticket his mother couldn't use to the Mets-Cardinals game the following weekend. I accepted, and saw the Mets win on a two-run homer off what was then called the "unlikely bat" of Howard Johnson. During the game, Pat said to me,"What you have to understand is that the Mets are really the Brooklyn Dodgers continued by other means." At that moment, I became a Mets fan, and have remained one ever since. The Dodgers had been my first love in baseball, for reasons explained here.

So, tomorrow's sudden death wild card National League playoff game can be seen as a reprise of the 1951 best-of-three tiebreaker series for the NL pennant (there were no divisions back then), a mini subway series that pitted the Brooklyn Dodgers against the New York Giants. The Giants won the opening game 3-1 on Brooklyn's home turf, Ebbets Field. Game 2 was at the Giants' home, the Polo Grounds, and the Dodgers pounded their rivals 10-0. They returned to the Polo Grounds for Game 3. The Dodgers, who were the betting favorite to win the pennant, led 4-1 going into the bottom of the ninth. One run had scored when the Giants' Bobby Thompson came to bat with one out and runners on second and third.
Thompson's three run walk-off homer, known since in baseball lore as "The Shot Heard 'Round the World", gave the Giants the pennant and allowed them to advance to the World Series, where they would lose in six games to that other New York team, the Yankees.

I'm hoping that the 1951 result gets reversed tomorrow, with the "Dodgers Continued by Other Means" prevailing. There are others, though, including my friend Dermot McEvoy, whose loyalty to the Mets is based on their ties to the New York Giants. When the Mets were established as an expansion team, the owners decided to adopt the colors of both of the previous New York City NL teams. The Dodgers' colors were blue and white; the Giants' were black and orange. The Mets cap (photo above) is blue with orange lettering. For those like Dermot, tomorrow's game will be the New York Giants Continued by Other Means against the Apostate Giants, who deserted New York for San Francisco.

Update: Unfortunately, it is 1951 again, with Conor Gillespie as this year's Bobby Thompson.