Hello, friends. (Yeah, I had to do just one Jim Nantz salutation. I promise I won’t subject you to another!)
Hope you’re all well, realizing that with each sunrise we get a little closer to the ‘ol fliperoo. We’ve covered a lot of topics over the last few weeks, everything from historic forced marches to rodeo clowns to tributes to old rock and roll heroes. So what are we missing? Hmmm…Hey, how about baseball?
For we fans of the grand ‘ol game, baseball’s Hot Stove (best described as the time period just after the World Series, when Major League Baseball teams start thinking about making trades and signing free agents) is currently burning brightly. Yeah, this is the time when you dream of one of those perfect May afternoons, not a cloud in the sky. Close your eyes for a second, and think of being out at the ballpark.
My grandpa used to tell me to visualize that very thing, and that was way before anyone had ever heard of the Field of Dreams.
Yeah, the late Louis J. Butta, my Grandpa Lou, loved the New York Mets. He grew up in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan and was a diehard Brooklyn Dodgers fan. His heart was broken, though, when in 1957, both National League baseball teams, the Dodgers and the cross-town New York Giants, headed west to California. I’m guessing you guys know plenty of people who felt the same. So, after the last out was recorded in the fall of 1957, National League Baseball in New York City ceased to exist.
Fast forward five years, and the New York Mets were born. As my mom always told me, Grandpa Lou was like a little kid, thrilled that the game he loved had finally made its return. And now that he had a New York team to root for again, all he needed was to start building his own fan base.
So, as you can imagine, there were a lot of pictures in those early days of yours truly, clad in Mets merch – everything from baby blankets to hats to pjs. And after a few years, when started learning and playing the game, he started teaching me about the team. He knew all the players, and I still recall him gleefully telling me about every one of them. Of course you couldn’t follow your team back then the way you can now, watching games on your cell phone or on a large flat screen, complete with the MLB Network, maybe even a TV baseball package. But Lou was plenty resourceful, and he used the state-of-the-art technology from the early 1970s.
And that’s how it all began. Every time I got the chance to visit him, we were listening to his Philco transistor radio. Sitting in the back yard of his home on Long Island or when he and my grandmother would visit us in Rochester, NY, we were always listening to Mets baseball.
And then from nowhere, came 1973. Led by the late Tug McGraw and his impromptu rallying cry “Ya gotta believe,” my grandpa and I really had something to cheer about. (For those of you who don’t follow baseball, that 1973 team was in last place during the final week of August. Major League Baseball seasons include 162 games, and that squad of overachieving ballplayers ended the season by winning 24 of their last 35, leapfrogging five other teams.)
As you can imagine, Grandpa Lou and I were simply ecstatic; our team was going to the World Series.
Those feisty New York Mets of Flushing, Queens made it all the way to the final game of the World Series, losing to the Oakland A’s. I still remember crying in the kitchen of our home in Rochester, NY, crestfallen over the loss.
I had to wait another 13 years for my beloved boys in blue and orange to get back to the World Series, finally winning in 1986 and in dramatic fashion.
Anyone who follows that team knows that they’ve lost a lot over the years – a real lot. But that didn’t deter the unflappable Lou Butta. Having fallen in love with the loveable loser Mets all the way back in 1962, he kept his fandom going all the way until his passing in 1989. My mom saved that picture of me you see here at eight years old, and every time I see it, I think of my Grandpa Lou, a diehard Mets fan from the team’s inception.
Sure ya gotta believe. And ya gotta remember, too.
For Louis John Butta (1910-1989). Miss you.
OK, gang, next up is Day 7. Just one week left to go.
@Copyright 2023 by John L. Fischer.