Cussing Around the Kid

I attended my first Major League baseball game when I was 8 years old. The New York Mets played the Houston Astros, and naturally, being the Mets, they lost 7-4.

There’s something about a boy seeing his first live baseball game that leaves an indelible impression. I remember so much from that day: My father and I and the neighborhood kids sitting in the sun-drenched upper deck of Shea Stadium on a Wednesday afternoon; the thrill of watching Ed Kranepool hit a home run into the right-field bullpen and the disappointment that Willie Mays didn’t play; getting home before sundown, grabbing my freshly oiled Rusty Staub mitt and playing three-fly-six in Bobby Westerfield’s backyard.

That first trip to Queens in August of 1972 suckered me into becoming a Mets fan, and I’ve seen a lot of losing ever since. In hindsight, I consider my father’s prodding to support National League baseball in New York a peculiar form of child abuse.

I suffered a great deal as a kid from watching the Mets trade Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver to Mettle. (The Mets actually ran a contest to name the 1979 Mets mascot — a mule — and I entered. Really, I did. Not surprisingly, my suggestion of M. Donald Grant didn’t win.)

These days I don’t watch much baseball. I just don’t have the time anymore to see a bunch of guys scratch and spit for hours on end. If I wanted to do that, I could always look up my freshman-year college roommates.

But one particular Sunday, while waiting to drive to the local pool and gun club, I flipped on the TV and a Mets game. Naturally, being the Mets, they were losing. And, within minutes, the manager made some idiotic decision. Then I did something all guys do when watching sports on television: I started yelling at the set. It’s a DNA/reflex/guy thing. And somewhere in my brief rant I may have called Mets manager Jerry Manuel a few . . . ummm . . . inappropriate names. Nothing too terrible: stupid, pinhead, jackass. There may have been a dipshit thrown in there; I can’t remember. Unfortunately, Penelope the parrot was playing nearby and started immediately repeating those words.

I knew I must do something. Horrible visions floated in my head of Penelope going to preschool Monday morning and calling her teacher a jackass. So, I did what any dumba. . . — quick-thinking Papa and Mets fan would do: I spent the next 20 minutes trying to persuade Penelope she should reserve those names for the “old man in the blue baseball uniform.”

At first, I wasn’t sure if she bought it. But I felt better the other day when I was driving the car, and after getting cut-off, proceeded to call the other driver a pinhead.

“Papa!” I heard from the backseat. “Baseball man?!”

“Yes, Pop Tart, that’s right! The baseball man just cut me off!”

{Gratuitious plug time: I’ll be among the authors signing copies of the local history book “East Amwell” from the Images of America series on Sunday, Sept. 19 at the Unionville Vineyards in East Amwell from 2 to 5 p.m. A portion of the proceeds of books sold there will benefit the East Amwell Historical Society. If you’re looking for something fun to do, please come, buy some wine and buy a book. We’ll also be at the Borders Books in Flemington on Oct 2 from 1 to 3 p.m. Last week, at a local Harvest Fest we signed and sold close to 80 copies. Finally, in my last shameless plug (all for the noble cause of preserving local history) I will be doing an in-studio interview on WDVR FM 89.7 Monday, Oct.  18 at 4 p.m. about this book.}

 

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