The response to last week’s Open Mike about old ballparks was overwhelming. It’s funny, this Sunday column is something of a departure from what I do the rest of the week — my boss calls it my “talk-radio” column, and I like to think of it as being something akin to what my friend Chris Russo sometimes does so well: take a topic of intense interest to me, and hope that translates to you.
Sometimes you know it will. It’s why you’ll see a lot of lists here on Sundays. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just me thinking in a vacuum. That was me last week, as I was writing inside Fenway Park having spent two days there reconnecting with all of its best facets, which means necessarily focusing on how much history has been contained within its walls — the same feeling I used to get every time I walked into Yankee Stadium.
Anyway, a few hundred emails later, it’s obvious I wasn’t alone. And what was most fun about it was some of the responses it generated. I want to share this one with you, from a wonderful reader named Matthew Boccaccio, because I think it’s exactly the kind of irresistible idea I love to share in this space:
“I’ve always thought the Citi Field parking lot where Shea used to stand should have memorials set up to celebrate the historical moments in Mets history. Take a space, use GPS to figure out exactly where certain amazin’ events happened, and mark it with a small plaque. Here are a few candidates
- All the bases, pitcher’s mound.
- Both Agee catches
- Swoboda’s catch
- Cleon’s final kneel-down catch
- Ventura’s grand-slam single
- Where Piazza’s post-9/11 homer landed
- Where Buckner was when it went between his legs
Now, if you wanted to include non-Mets events:
- Both stages for Beatles and Police concerts
- The spot in the end zone where Joe Namath hit Don Maynard in the ’68 AFL title game
- The altar where the Pope said Mass
Did I miss anything?”
I can’t tell you how much that idea appeals to me, though I wish there was a way the city could appoint historical markers for all past sports-specific events. They do it elsewhere, of course. Anyone with a historical bent can tell you about the various markers around the city where Stuff Used to Be. My personal favorite is the one at 51 W. 51st St., where Toots Shor’s old bar once stood.
So if I were mayor for a day (and, believe me, that’s the maximum amount anyone could tolerate), I would enact a Citywide Sports Marker Proclamation, and I would denote all of Matthew’s locations and add a few more.
The Polo Grounds’ two famous legacies are a plaque on the northwest tower of the housing development that now stands there and a set of obsolete stairs just to the west of the towers named after ex-Giants owner John T. Brush, but you have to know what you’re looking for to find it. Among the spots to be commemorated: the site of Babe Ruth’s first home run as a Yankee in 1920; the spot where Willie Mays caught Vic Wertz’s fly ball; the spot where Red Grange scored his first touchdown in the game credited with saving the NFL; and of course the spot where Bobby Thomson’s Shot Heard ’Round the World landed.
Where the Old Garden used to stand, at 350 50th St., it might be harder because there’s an actual building — One Worldwide Plaza. But surely we can simply dot the exterior with plaques reminding people that, inside these walls, Marilyn Monroe once sang “Happy Birthday” to JFK; where Hank Liusetti popularized the jump shot; where CCNY won its double-championship (and lost its innocence a year later; not all history is happy history).
And, of course, there is an entire canvas across the street from Yankee Stadium, where a park covers the old Hallowed Ground, where it would be easy to mark the site of the Gehrig Speech, and Babe Ruth’s 60th home run, and Roger Maris’ 61st, and where Don Larsen jumped into Yogi’s arms, and where Alan Ameche won the ’56 NFL title, and where Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling.
Hey, past mayors have wasted your tax dollars on worse ideas, am I right?
Who would’ve thought that it would be the Jets that we would all turn our lonely eyes to and ask — plead, really: “Please give us something good to watch between now and pitchers and catchers.”
I get that the Giants’ offensive line hasn’t done any favors for Eli Manning. But isn’t it time to point out that maybe Eli isn’t doing any favors for the line, either? I mean, somehow Saquon Barkley still finds enough holes courtesy of that alleged band of bums.
It isn’t just that Lady Gaga becomes a full-blown old-fashioned, bigger-than-life movie star in “A Star is Born.” It’s a reminder that the every-bit-as-brilliant-and-then-some Bradley Cooper is still only five years removed from the last of the “Hangover” films. (Not that there’s anything wrong with “The Hangover,” mind you).
There are times when you talk to Yankees fans when it feels like the only manager any of them has ever liked was Billy Martin. It would’ve been fun to watch that fiery little genius do what he did in an age of Twitter.
Whack Back at Vac
Marc Aronin: Nobody in sports deserves their franchise’s loyalty more than Eli Manning, a champion on and off the field. But if this disaster continues, I have one question to the ownership who so foolishly went all-in on their 37-year-old man who hasn’t won a playoff game in seven years: Who is your starting quarterback on opening day 2019?
Vac: Besides watching Saquon run, that’s the last interesting part remaining of the Giants’ season, alas.
James A. Nollet: If you’re a Giants fan, look at the bright side: Last year, with the No. 2 pick, they could have drafted a potential franchise quarterback but gambled on Manning defying Father Time and picked the running back instead. Now it looks like they’ll get a do-over with another top pick on the way.
Vac: I’d be more impressed if Dave Gettleman hadn’t acted like the Giants had just clinched the NFC East on draft day last year.
@the_Annelis: “The one thing I’m proud of,” Aaron Boone said, “is that we always compete.” GUY: You had your backup catcher pitching in the ninth inning in a playoff game. I don’t care that you were down 16-1. That sends the message: “I am done competing.”
@MikeVacc: I still find it funny that people reacted like the End of Days was upon us when Jose Reyes pitched that inning for the Mets in Washington late in the summer.
James Panagoulias: The Red Sox had better starting pitching, better defense, a deeper bench, ran the bases better, and Alex Cora is a better manager than Aaron Boone. I too am pleased that the rivalry is revived. Here’s to historic future battles: Sparta vs. Athens. But Yankees fans should realize that rolling out Bucky Dent to throw a first pitch and holding large photos of Babe Ruth is laughable to Red Sox fans.
Vac: Since rolling out the Buck-ster worked about as well for the Yankees Tuesday night as it did for Game 7 in 2004, it may be time for a new chapter in psychological warfare.