Just a Game
    In 1986, one of my best friends, Bob Millikan, and I saw a dozen games that year. My father had amazed the entire family on Christmas Day, 1985 by purchasing two seats for the upcoming 1986 season; a gift for the family. But, there was a catch. Since I was the runt of the family, I had to wait for my older brothers to cancel out before I could nail a seat to the game.
Bob and I would trudge over the George Washington Bridge in his ‘62 Convertible to catch the Mets at Shea. School nights were no exception. We watched Doc Gooden beat the Reds, saw Strawberry hit a homer over the right field wall, caught  a foul ball off of Carter’s bat, paid a grungy older fellow to buy us beers at the concession stand, flirted with the girls in the row behind us who claimed they were “Keith’s chicks.” And dreamed of the inevitable October.
In early September, Bob went off to college at Stockton State. I promised him we’d go to the World Series together but warned he may have to cut a class or two to make it. He agreed and parted ways for what turned out to be an eternity.
In the early morning hours of September 11, 1986 Bob flipped his ’62 convertible on Highway 9 in Somers Point, New Jersey. An early Thursday morning and eighteen years of innocence had vanished forever. My heart was broken. Somehow, I had to get through this tough period, but how?
The next game I saw was on September 17 at Shea Stadium. Sadness was in my heart, but my older brother Robert urged me to come along. Not only that, we sneaked four of my pals into the game. Robert carried on his shoulder a giant tube filled with punch-hole confetti. “It’s gonna happen tonight” he said. “The Mets will clinch the NL East.”
By the eighth inning, our third-base line seats were getting overcrowded with thousands of pressing fans. Something magical was about to happen, something scary, something I will never forget, but something magical. When the final out was recorded, fifty thousand orange and blue clad maniacs carried us crazy 18-year olds onto the field. A human gush of madness and glory… and the rest is history.
For a moment, I forgot about the sadness that wallowed in the caverns of my heart; the sadness and torture of losing a friend so tragically. For a moment, I was innocent again. And baseball had everything to do with it.
    On October 25, 1986, I was at the legendary “Game Six” standing in the upper decks with my other older brother John by my side. Back then, the Mets gave season ticket holders an option to purchase more post-season tickets. So, my mother and father were down below enjoying the third-base line view while John and I were upstairs. But, it didn’t matter where our seats were located. We were at “the game”.
In the bottom of the tenth inning with two outs, all of my hopes had faded. Only a few weeks ago, I promised Bob we’d go to the World Series together. He was gone. The Mets were losing and everything I had hoped for this season was coming to a close. More broken dreams and more sadness. I apologized to Bob in silent prayer for not coming through for him. Somehow I had equated this game with the happenstance of my life. If the Mets failed, I failed. It was that simple.
I sat down and tried to shake off  the misery. To add insult to injury, a few Red Sox fans took pictures of us gloomy, broken-hearted Mets fans. I still remember two red-faced, red-dressed, red-haired Red Sox fans shouting to us, “You lose, go bock to your caw!” At that point, I couldn’t take it. I stood up and yelled out from the upper decks, my voice drowned out by throngs of fans, airplanes flying overhead  and cracker jack vendors. “Do it for Bob! Do it for Bob!”
The rest was a complete blur as pandemonium broke lose at Shea Stadium. When Mookie Wilson hit that slow roller up the first baseline through Buckner’s legs, all of our hopes and dreams had become real again. “Ray Knight around third, the Mets win. The Mets win.” For a moment, I was innocent again. And baseball had everything to do with it.
 Two days later, Game Seven morning, my father came into my room and asked if I enjoyed seeing game six. I realized there were only four seats and I was sure he and Mom were going to the game, and probably John and Robert too. Afterall, I was the runt and I had my fill this time around. I did not expect to go see the final game of the World Series.
“You know Frankie” he said. “You saw an amazing game the other night. When I was younger than you, I would listen to the NY Giants on the radio. I would be routing for Willie Mays. Living in the Bronx, I was a minority Giants fan,” he said. “We were hard to come by. Anyhow, as you know, John and Robert will be going to the game.”
“Yeah, dad I know,” I replied. “Of course, Mom is going, because she’s Mom,” he quipped. “Yeah, dad I know”, I shrugged.
Then, his eyes turned to mine and he said, “Son, do you want to see history be made?” “Yeah, Dad, of course,” I said. “Well, Frankie, go see history be made. Have a great time tonight, kid. Here’s your ticket."
That’s what kind of man my father was; a generous, amazing, romantic who understood how a simple gesture could lift a kid’s spirit, searing a memory in his mind forever. And baseball had everything to do with it.
copyright 2006, Frank Messina

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