World Series

by

04/07/2019

Neighborhood: Flushing, Shea Stadium, Woodside

When I was thirteen years old and in the seventh grade, I loved to go to Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets.  I loved baseball and would sneak into the ball park all the time. When the Mets were on road trips, I practically lived there. It was my stadium. I would sit in the broadcast booth with a friend and smoke cigarettes and make like I was announcing the game.  I yelled into the microphones and moved the cameras in all directions towards the field, hitting every button on every panel until security came and chased us out. They used golf carts to try and catch us. We would run up and down the stadium ramps with them right on our butts. We had a blast. 

October 16, 1969 was the fifth game of the World Series. The Mets were up three games to one against the Baltimore Orioles. If they could win this one, they would be World Champs. 

I wouldn’t have missed this game even if someone promised me I could live with my best friend Jerry, who had a nice clean house and always ate three meals a day. I ran into him by the candy store.

“You going tomorrow? Koosman’s pitching.”

 “No,” he said. “I got caught sneaking in last time, remember? Can’t do it. I’d be dead meat.”

At least I knew Karl “The Sign Man” Ehrhardt would be there. I knew him well. He wore a derby hat and never missed a game. He used both hands to hold up words on signs that were far louder than the roar of any crowd. He carried sixty in all. I know, because I counted them once.   He got the crowd laughing and cheering. 

 I woke up that Thursday morning for school and made my first class. Second period was math. I walked in and Ms. Greenstein was sitting on her desk. My seat was right in front of hers.

 On the blackboard was an equation of numbers and letters. Before I could even sit down, she said, “Mr. Reidy, I want you to work on that problem.” She pointed to the board. 

I froze. “I’m not doing it. Letters and numbers don’t mix.” 

“Yes, they do,” she said.

 “Tell you what,” I said. “You say that one more time, I’m leaving.” 

Without hesitation she blurted, “Letters and numbers mix, Mr. Reidy.” 

She was just trying to embarrass me in front of the class. I’d been embarrassed enough in my life. It wasn’t going to happen today. 

It was a good excuse to get out of there. I walked out of the classroom and down the stairs, and ran out of the building. I jogged a few blocks to the subway on 46th Street and Broadway and ducked under the turnstile. I took the GG train to 74th Street and transferred to the number 7. The closer the train got to the stadium, the more excited I got. Like a home run, I was going, going, gone. 

I ran like a madman down the ramp at Willets Point Boulevard. The stadium came into view. It was a huge, breathtaking site. This would be the most exciting day of my life. People were milling around. The smell of burnt pretzels, dirty water dogs and popcorn invaded my body. 

I took a shortcut, down the stairs to the left. A newspaper vendor was selling the Daily News. I’d been delivering papers since I was eleven. Papers were eight cents. On the cover was a headline: Met Magicians Go For Big One. Inside were stories and pictures of the team. 

There were about ten newspaper bundles next to where its owner stood. I waited for him to turn and grabbed a bundle at the far side of the stand and carried it in my arms in front of me. My body shielded it from his view. By the right field fence, where I usually climbed up to sneak in, a milk crate was waiting for me. I placed the papers on top of it. I was dead center where everyone came off the number seven train. Kneeling down, I picked up a piece of broken glass from the ground and cut through the twine. It opened like a kernel of popcorn.  I was open for business.  

“Papers here, get your World Series New York Met papers.”  

An old timer stepped up. “How much?”

 “Twenty-five cents.” Special edition. The guy pulled out a buck. I gave him his change. 

A second man came by. He smiled and said, “Wow, these are souvenirs.” 

I nodded. “They sure are. This is a school project I’m working on. Fifty cents. Take ‘em or leave ‘em,” I said. He smiled and paid me. I kept them at that price. People kept buying them. The bundle was disappearing quick.  

A guy lit up a cigarette. “Hey Bud, can I bum one off you?” 

He smiled. “Sure, kid. You’re kind of young to smoke, dontcha think?” 

I grinned. “You were a kid once, right?” 

He nodded. 

“Thanks,” I said and lit it. I took a deep drag and turned around and came face to face with the owner of the newsstand. He was standing right in front of me. Holy crap, I thought. I’m busted. 

He was a small guy like me, except he was as old as my dad. I raised my voice and said, “Hey Mack, how’s it going?” 

He looked at me, confused.  “You’re doing good here, huh?” I nodded. “Who you working with?” he asked. 

Without missing a beat I said, “My dad, he’s around here somewhere. Why?”

He smiled real big. I figured I must have reminded him of himself. “Can you use another bundle?” 

 I grinned. “Sure, I’m running out.” 

He brought me over another. I grabbed a few singles from the roll in my pocket and handed it to him. “Thanks,” I said and then turned around and began shouting. “Get your newspapers. They’re hot! Red hot.”  

 The crowd was swelling. I was getting antsy and wanted to be inside already. I looked up at the fence I would climb to get in. 

A guy with a camera walked over and asked, “You have a ticket for the game, kid?” I had a problem with guys approaching me. Especially guys with a camera. We had guys like this in the neighborhood.

“I don’t need one, Chief,” I said. 

 “Why?”

  “Cause I’m climbing over the fence when I get finished selling these.” 

He smiled. “Kid, I’m a photographer for the New York Daily News. How would you like to get your picture in the paper?” He nodded to the fence. 

I took a last drag of the cigarette and flicked it off to the side. “Are you for real? I’m playing hooky! You get a picture of me at this game and I catch a beating. First, my neighbor recognizes me. She shows my mom, who shows my dad. Got the picture? I’ll get the beating of my life.” 

He smirked and walked off.    

I gave the last paper to an old guy for free. With my leg I slid the crate to the side and walked away from the fence. Camera Man was still on my tail. I looked up and saw a cop standing on the far ramp, about twenty feet from where I would be climbing up. I could easily outrun this old guy. I’d done it a dozen times before. 

There was another copper fifty yards away on the ground. Even if Ground Cop saw me climbing, by the time he shouted up to Roof Cop, I’d already be in. I stepped back for a better view, pulling my pants up. I bent down like a track star, tightened my sneaker laces, and took a deep breath. 

Making a mad dash for the fence, I hit it hard and got up four feet when I heard the camera popping away behind me. Pop, pop, pop, seven feet up and I got a bad feeling. I jumped down like a runner diving back to first base during a pickoff attempt.

 Camera Man yelled, “Stop, kid, those were great shots. I can get you on the front page.”

 Roof Cop was standing on the overhang, looking down and smacking his nightstick into his hand. He was gesturing at me to Ground Cop, who was walking quickly in my direction. I walked off and blended into the crowd. 

Camera Man caught up with me. “Look, kid, you can tell them I put you up to it.” 

“Get lost,” I said. “I ain’t taking a beating for you.” I turned away and jogged off.  

I got to the other side of the stadium, Gate C. There were more than ten ways to sneak into this joint. Up ahead was an old favorite, the drainpipe by the advance ticket window.  It was next to the Diamond Club. I could climb up there in less than five seconds if I had to do it that way. 

Sometimes it was good being small. I could climb a roof to get a ball, or slide down a sewer, or squeeze through a window or sneak into a building’s skylight. If my head could fit, I could get my body through. That’s how skinny I was. They called me a little monkey. Everyone asked me for favors.

 I was ready to try again. The only problem was the number of people today. Everybody and his mother were there, including twice the usual security and police presence. 

My heart was beating to the “Mission Impossible” theme song humming in my head. I looked up. No cops on the overhang above. You would have to be crazy to try to sneak in this way, but not me. I was so quick that before they knew it, I’d be in. 

I made the mad dash and again started to climb. All of a sudden someone was grabbing my back pants pocket. For a second I thought it was the Camera Man, then the cops. When I turned around, I was stunned. The last person I ever expected to see: my older sister Mary. Geez. It was worse than getting picked off at third base with two out in the ninth when your team was down one run. If she ratted me out to Dad, I was dead. “What are you doing here?” she said.

I looked up to the sky. “I’m lost.” 

She slapped me on the back of the head and said, “You will wish you were when Dad finds out.”

“I’m going to the game.” 

“You’re playing hooky.” 

“No, I’m not. They gave me off.” 

 “Stop lying.” She stood there with Jeanie, her Polish nurse friend. They were hot stuff. Half the guys who passed were doing double takes at their rear ends.

 “So what are you two doing here? Trying to get picked up?” I asked.

Smacked in the head again. 

“Stop that,” I said. “It hurts.” 

“Stop being a jerk, then. We’re going to the game.”

 “Really? How?” 

“We’re buying tickets.”

“Mary, there are no tickets. It’s sold out.” Now was my big chance to be the hero. “Do you want to get into the game?”  

 Mary looked at me, eyes wide. “Sure, how?” 

I pulled them over to the wall, knowing that if I pulled this off, she wouldn’t squeal. “I can and will get you and your girlfriend in. But no ratting. Deal?”

 She looked at her friend and giggled. “Sure, but how are you going to do it?” 

I put my hands together with my back against the wall. “Put your foot in my hands and grab that pipe up there and pull yourself up,” I said, and laughed. 

She smacked me in the head again, harder than the second time. 

“I’m only kidding. Jesus, can’t you take a joke?” 

Jeanie started laughing, and then rubbed my head. 

“Look, follow me and let me do all the talking. Just nod and agree with everything. “Got it?” 

She looked at me and nodded.

I looked around for a young cop.  It wasn’t hard to find one. With my sister and her girlfriend in tow, I used a pleading voice. “Officer, please help us,” I pointed to my sister and friend. “We lost our tickets.” The cop looked at them and his jaw dropped. Instantly, I had him under my control. Cops loved helping young, sexy-looking nurses.

He smiled at the girls. The guy was hypnotized. Here I was with these two law abiding citizens. Neither one had ever cheated on a test, a boyfriend or missed a day of school or work in their lives. They both went to church every morning at 6:30 and within ten minutes of hanging out with me, I had them lying. I needed to get his attention, so I tugged on his cop sleeve. 

“Pleeeease, officer. I don’t know what to do!” 

My sister caught on, and now had a look of concern on her face. Jeanie did the same. 

He said to the Mary and Jeanie, “Follow me.” Like the pied piper, he walked us right through the police barricades where the players and executives walked into the stadium. I felt like I was up at bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. He led us to an entrance and held the door for the girls. “Step inside,” he commanded. We walked in. “Wait here.” he said.

He walked over to the desk and talked to a guy in a suit by the back counter. They laughed together as he pointed over to us. I tried not to be noticed.

He came back. “Jim’s my pal. He’s going to take care of you.” He petted my head like a dog.

“Good luck, ladies. What hospital you work in?” 

“Albert Einstein in the Bronx,” they both said.

“Nice, I work at the 46th Precinct,” he said. “Maybe I’ll see you up there one day.” He smiled and left.   

We were where I wanted to be, standing in the office of the Diamond Club. 

It was looking good. The first part of the mission was complete. My sister and Jeanie smiled. They gazed at the different photos, posters and banners hanging on the walls. The decorated room made us feel we were in a famous museum. 

I snapped them back to attention the way a baseball coach would instruct a pitcher or batter. “Listen up,” I said. “You have to look really sad and upset if we’re going to pull this off.” The office was crowded. I had been in there alone on few different occasions after the place was closed and knew that the door to the left got you right into the stadium. I was tempted just to say, “See you later, suckers,” and run to that door. But I had to follow through with what I had promised.

 We were next in line. The three of us waited. I had the tears ready for when it was my turn to speak. 

Jim was ready for us. He stood. He took one look at the nurses and gave them his Colgate smile. “How can I help you?”

 It was time to present my tearful tale. I started, but this guy had something else on his mind, and it wasn’t me or any Met tickets.  

He was leaning over the counter, half-listening. He couldn’t fool me. While I was whining, moaning, he was checking out the legs of my sister and her friend. I saw him. Then he started smiling at them. He didn’t hear a word I said.  

He was nodding and agreeing big-time because he wanted to impress these nurses, and said to me in a calming voice, “It’s going to be okay, relax.” He still wasn’t looking at me. “Do you know where your seats are?” he said.

I interjected, because I was in charge of this scam. “No, they’re my father’s tickets. He’s sick in the hospital. The seats are on the first level by the Mets dugout. Near the Mayor’s seats,” I said, hoping to impress. 

My sister and Jeanie nodded with sad faces.  

Jim looked at all three of us and said, “I’m sorry for your loss,” The phone started to ring and he held up a finger to hold us off as he picked it up.  

He said “sorry for your loss,” as if someone had died. After thinking about that for a second, I understood. It was like a death to lose a World Series ticket.  I knew exactly what was coming next, a Julius Caesar moment: thumbs up or down. If it was down, Plan B would go into effect. That being as soon as he was distracted, the three of us would sneak through that door. 

He put the phone down.

“I can’t get your seats back without the seat numbers.” For the first time he looked at me. My eyes drifted towards the stadium door. He knew. I could tell. “Tell you what. That door over there leads to the stadium. You’re on your own after that,” he said with a wink. “Just make sure you get on the escalator. You’ll have to stand and watch the game. That’s the best I can do for you.”

I smiled. “Thanks, pal.” 

We were legit now. I held the door as the girls thanked him. We walked toward the escalator, and the door slammed behind us. We were in.  

My sister and Jeanie were getting on the escalator. 

“Stop,” I yelled. 

They sidestepped the electric stairs. “John, he said we have to use the escalator.” 

“I know what I’m doing. I got us this far, didn’t I?”  

They followed me for the last phase of the plan. I walked over to the elevator and hit the button. The doors opened magically and an old bald guy was operating it. He was wearing a blue Mets jacket. We walked in and he eyed Mary and Jeanie. 

I said in a loud voice, “The Press level,” and finished with, “Ralph and Lindsey will be happy to see us.” These were the Mets TV announcers. I started to sing. “Meet the Mets, Meet the Mets.” That was the Mets theme song. Mary, Jeanie and the old guy smiled. He stopped the elevator at the Press level. Off we went. This area was completely restricted unless you had tickets or were with two good-looking nurses. 

“Quick, over here,” I said. “Look in the booth. That’s where Ralph Kiner and Lindsey Nelson and the cameras are.” I pointed. “Look, there’s Ralph Kiner now.” He turned and gave us a little wave. 

 We gazed for a moment and kept walking. I ducked in the next open door.  

Two executives were sitting in there, drinking. The girls followed as I walked in.  “Excuse me, would you mind if my sister and her friend sat with you guys?” 

They took one look at the nurses’ uniforms and smiled. “Sure,” they said. “Pleased to meet you.  Have a seat. Would you like a drink?” 

I couldn’t believe it. 

My sister and Jeanie were smiling from ear to ear. They had the best seats in the house. 

I pointed to an area by the Mets dugout. “I’m going down there. I’ll see you after the game, okay?” 

Mary nodded and I left. Mission accomplished. Great, I’m off the hook with Dad. 

Heading back toward the elevator, I listened to the Mets lineup over the loudspeaker. With the Mets up three games to one, this was the last game the Mets would play at Shea this year. They had to win, or it was back to Baltimore for Game Six. 

On the elevator I said to the same operator, “I told my Uncle Lindsey what a great job you’re doing. Field level, please. You know they needed those nurses in the booth, just in case.” I winked and he grinned as I got off. 

I zigzagged through all the check points and finagled my way to the box seat section by the dugout. When I arrived, Jerry Koosman was on the mound for the Mets. Every time he left the field I’d scream out, “Yeah, Jerrrrry.” It seemed he smiled and nodded at me once. It felt like he knew me.

 I took a seat in the aisle. To my left was Mayor John Lindsay. I saw Bowie Kuhn, the Commissioner, and my favorite bad ball hitter of all time, Yogi Berra. I’d made it. Now I could concentrate on the game. 

Bottom of the first, Agee was on third and Clendennon was on first, and I was yelling for a hit. Ron Swoboda got up and struck out, and the inning was over. I looked around and took in the crowd at the stadium. The top of the second inning, an usher came by and said, “No seat, you gotta go.” 

My stomach sank. A group of guys was next to me. The biggest one stood up and said, “It’s okay, Mitch, he’s with us.” The usher walked away.

 I stood up and said in my best announcer voice, “Now that was a close call.”

 They all laughed out loud. “Hey kid, you hungry?” They bought me whatever I wanted. I even got a beer. They were great. I was feeling good, going wild with the crowd. 

The Mets were down three to nothing until the sixth inning. I was starting to worry, but something miraculous happened. Cleon Jones said he was hit by a pitch on the foot. Then Gil Hodges, the Mets manager, ran out of the dugout and showed them shoe polish on a ball. I don’t even think it was the same ball, but it got Cleon on first base. Donn Clendenon hit a homer, and we had two runs. 

We tied it in the seventh at three apiece with Al Weis’s first homer at Shea. This brought us to the seventh inning stretch. Mr. Met was on top of the Mets dugout, dancing around. It was pandemonium. We started singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” 

The bottom of the eight was the turning point for us. We went ahead when Cleon Jones led off with a double and Ron Swoboda followed with another two-bagger, and Jones scored. Later in the inning, Swoboda scored on an error.

We were up by two runs. I was screaming my head off. One inning to go. Karl was holding a sign that said, “Bye, Bye Birdies.

Davey Johnson was the final batter to get up in the ninth for Baltimore. 57,000 people and me on their feet screaming and going wild. He hit a pop fly to Cleon Jones for the final out, and the New York Mets had won their first World Series Championship in just eight years as a team. The scoreboard read Mets 5, Baltimore 3. The time was 3:17. I would never forget it as long as I lived. The crowd rocked the stadium. It was incredible. 

I looked across at Karl the Sign Man, who was holding his final sign of the day. It read “There Are No Words.” This was truly AMAZING.

I was the happiest kid in Shea and was one of the first people to jump on the field.  I ran around and patted Mets players on their backs, while jumping up to swipe their caps off their heads. 

Five guys were trying to steal first base, so I ran to home plate and started to dig it out.

It was then that I heard the dreaded voice of my sister. “Good god, John, what are you doing out there?” 

I turned and saw her by the infield railing. “I’m trying to get a souvenir. I’ll meet you by the center field fence outside.” The spikes of the plate were deeply imbedded. I tried my best, but some bigger men and kids knocked me aside.  

Back home in Woodside, I got out of my sister’s car. I had a feeling she was going to squeal. I mean, how couldn’t she? This was the biggest story in New York. As she raced ahead of me into the house, I took my time and slowly climbed the stairs and got to the doorway.  My dad was in his chair and sipping a beer. 

My sister had already told him everything. I saw it in his face. 

He smiled and said, “That Koos pitched great today.” 

I nodded.  

“And I heard you got your sister and her girlfriend into the Press Level.”  

That made me feel really good, and he didn’t seem mad. 

I said, “Come downstairs dad, I want to show you something.” I tore out of the house, went to the car, and took out my souvenir from the back seat.  

Like a Persian rug, I unrolled it on the hard barren ground of our front yard. It was a four-by-six foot piece of Met outfield grass. The color was fluorescent green against the soil and our house. It looked fake.

My father stared at it, and then walked over to me. He put his baseball glove-sized hand on my shoulder. “You’re a true Reidy, kid. It’s a shame you didn’t get home plate.” 

Now the whole family was in the garden on their knees, admiring and petting the grass that sat on the hardened dirt in the front garden. Our mutt Charcoal came over and sniffed the grass, and as if on cue, he squatted and started to pee on it. We all screamed, “Nooooo.” Charcoal ran off. 

My dad laughed. I looked at him and said, “Ya know, Dad, I could have been on the front page of the New York Daily News.”

I spoke to my sister Mary recently. She said, “I don’t know if you know this, but that was the only baseball game I ever went to in my entire life.” 

That was nearly 50 years ago. I felt like crying for her, but the feeling faded when she finished with, “The only reason Jeanie and I went there that day was to see where the Beatles played.”  

***.

John Reidy has worked as a writer, director, and producer of award-winning independent films, and appeared in TV shows and major motion pictures. His most recent film is “The Signs of the Cross” 

Comments
Rate Story
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

§ One Response to “World Series”

  • Michael OSullivan says:

    Great story, brings back memories, should have been at Monday night football at shea, one wild crazy night !

§ Leave a Reply

Other Stories You May Like

Nearby Flushing, Shea Stadium, Woodside Stories

Mirrors

by

 I was eleven when I got my first paper route. You had to be thirteen.“If the route manager approves it, [...]

Any Kid In The City

by

The students enter the building through a side door, where they promptly submit backpacks and any other personal items to [...]

As Elevators Shrink

by

When had the elevator gotten so small?When I was ten and living on the top floor of a building in [...]

Christmas Balls

by

I came up the stairs from the subway. The cold air on Queens Boulevard blew hard. I turned and looked [...]

Learning to Drive

by

I am learning to drive for the second time. On Sundays, I take classes at “Learn-Rite,” a school in Flushing. [...]