What do James P. Hogan, the Holocaust, and Major League Baseball all have in common?

I discuss all of them in my latest Apex Blog post, Reading Writers You Hate. This was a hard post for me to write, because of what I felt and what I had to say. I hope you'll check it out and perhaps comment over there if you find my words thought-provoking.

(ETA: This is no longer on the Apex Blog site, but can still be found on the Wayback Machine: Reading Writers You Hate.)
As I noted a week ago today, life is busy and will continue to be busy for a while. We're still in the midst of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, I've got deadlines at work, a publication party to plan, and Guilder to frame for it. I'm swamped.

A few quick notes, though:

• Those of you who saw me feeling ill at shul on Wednesday, I just want to let you know that I'm feeling much better. Thanks to everyone for their offers of assistance.

• Nomi and I went to sleep last night thinking that the Sox had lost the game, thanks to this (now edited) post at Universal Hub: That's All She Wrote. My reaction to the win this morning: the Sox are playing Mets baseball. Or, at least, they're playing the way the Mets did in the 1980s when they would pull it off at the last minute.

• We've managed to catch some new TV. I'm glad to be watching Pushing Daisies again, and I liked the first episode of the American version of Life on Mars. (Maybe growing up in NYC has something to do with that.)

• Thanks to the Brookline TAB article, I was recognized in the Brookline Post Office as I was buying stamps. Maybe that'll help turn my book into a New York Times bestseller.

• The holiday of Sukkot really allows me to see what a cool Jewish community we've got. Nomi and I have been enjoying the hospitality of many families.

• The Carole and Paula in the Magic Garden DVD set is finally out! But I couldn't find my favorite song. ("I'd like to shake your hand, shake hands, I'd like to shake your hand, shake hands and how are you?") Anyone know if it's in any of the episodes they chose for the DVD?

Any questions?
As baseball season starts up in earnest, I can't help but think about my own history as a fan of the sport.

When I was growing up, my younger brother Josh was the real instigator when it came to baseball. I suppose that left to my own devices, I could have just ignored baseball for the most part; I was more into comic books and Star Trek.

But Josh fell in love with baseball at an early age, and due to his urgings, my family began following our beloved team: the Yankees.

You read that right. In the beginning, despite living in Queens, the Burstein clan were Yankees fans as well as Mets fans.

There were legitimate reasons for this. We grew up in the 1970s, and in 1977 the Yankees had one of the major success stories of their career. That was the year of Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson, and the year of the World Series. I vividly remember the whole family shlepping to the Bronx to see a game or two; I remember how much we cheered for Thurmon Munson and how tragic it was when he died; and I remember how we idolized Reggie, and his eponymous candy bar.

However, by the time the 1980s rolled around, we had started to mostly follow the major league team in Flushing. I think it was the return of Tom Seaver to the Mets for the 1983 season that caught our imagination, although I do recall that Josh was also a big fan of Danny Heep. Josh started following the Mets regularly, and the rest of us followed suit.

Josh was eager to attend games at Shea Stadium, and so my parents took a step that still boggles my mind today. They bought season tickets to Mets games. Now, we didn't buy tickets for the whole family, nor did we buy tickets for every single home game in the season. Rather, we bought a package of tickets for all Saturday games, and we only bought two seats for those games. The theory was that Josh would get to go to each game, and someone else in the family would take him. Most of the time either Mom or Dad would take Josh to Shea, but occasionally Jon or I would do so.

And to my mind, Shea was the most beautiful stadium in the world. It was big, and blue, and always (believe it or not) very clean. The fans felt united in our love of the team, something I felt whenever the announcer spoke or when they played "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch. Our seats were a bit far up, so the field looked somewhat far away, but the view from our seats (along the first base line) was unobstructed. When I sat with Josh at a game, I would take in the expansive, deep blue sky, breathe in fresh parkland air, and root, root, root for our home team. And if they didn't win, it was a shame.

Now, baseball fans are aware that we all have our own little superstitions and idiosincrasies. And it did not escape my notice that every time I attended a Mets game at Shea, the Mets would lose. Rationally, I knew that my presence in the stadium had no effect whatsoever, but in the back of my mind, I felt like a jinx.

So when 1986 rolled around, and the Mets ended up in the World Series, and my family acquired tickets to games one and seven, I was torn about whether or not I should accompany Josh to the games.

For about one second. World Series? I'm there, baby!

Josh was amused when I "offered" to take him to the World Series games, but the fact was that both Dad and Mom didn't care that much about attending in person, and neither did Jon. (Mom's only concern was that we would be safe among the crowds, and I promised her that I would look after Josh.) Josh and I attended game one on Saturday, October 18, and I recall how raucous and boisterous the other fans were. There was something magical in the air – at least, until the Mets lost to the Red Sox 1-0.

We watched the rest of the games on television with trepidation. On the one hand, we wanted the Mets to win the World Series, and as quickly as possible. On the other hand, we had tickets to game seven, and if the Mets won too soon, we wouldn't be able to attend game seven as it would not be played. So we watched, as the Mets lost game two, then won game three and four, then lost game five...

I won't reiterate the details of game six here, except to note how quickly we went from depression to elation. Game seven was delayed by rain and held on the evening of Monday, October 27, and Josh and I went. I remember how disappointed we felt when the Sox took an early lead in the second inning; how delighted we felt when the Mets scored three runs each in the sixth and seventh innings; how nervous we felt when the Sox scored two more runs in the eighth; how pleased we felt when the Mets scored two more in the bottom of that same inning; and how the stadium erupted in joyful cheers when the game ended with a Mets win. The Mets were champions again, for the first time within our lifetime, and we dearly hope to see them win a World Series again at some point soon. (Please.)

The last time I was in Shea was to see the Mets in one of the 1988 playoff games. I don't remember which game it was I saw, or even who I was with. All I remember is that they lost that game, and went on to lose the pennant.

And now, I'll probably never return to Shea again. For this season is the last one that will be played at Shea, as in 2009 the Mets will take up residence in Citi Field, just next door. And of all the news sites to praise Shea Stadium and William A. Shea, oddly enough, it's the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana with the best tribute. Check out the article "Mets shouldn't forget Shea when new stadium opens" by Bob Estelle, and learn about how Bill Shea worked to replace the Dodgers and Giants. If it weren't for Bill Shea, I wouldn't have the fond memories of the Mets – and of Shea Stadium – that I have today.

Thanks, Bill.
I have a lot of photos from today's rally, and not enough time to upload them all to the blog. But I thought folks would appreciate seeing this sign, which [livejournal.com profile] saxikath pointed out to me:

Red Sox Rally Sign Red Sox Rally Sign
Copyright ©2007 by Michael A. Burstein

And if you want to see some more photos, check out my Red Sox Rally gallery.
And we're going to bed. Good night.
So last night, when the Red Sox started winning 6-0 in the top of the third inning, we got a phone call from [livejournal.com profile] 530nm330hz and [livejournal.com profile] introverte, who had read my previous post "Are There Patterns in Baseball?". They ordered us to go to bed.

We refused, because, of course, it wasn't yet time.

Of course, once the fifth inning ended and the Sox were still winning 6-0, we called them back and assured them that we would go to bed, as now the pattern could hold. Which made it all the more surprising when we woke up this morning to the news that the Sox had actually won 10-5.

So tonight, as you've probably already guessed, we've decided to stay up for the whole game. After all, the pattern is broken, so I don't think we need to go to bed after the end of the fifth. And given that the Sox are winning again, by a score of 2-0...
So Wednesday night, Nomi and I start watching Game 1 of the World Series. We watch until the end of the amazing fifth inning, when the score is Red Sox 13, Rockies 1, and then we go to bed. We wake up Thursday morning to discover that the final score was 13-1, Red Sox.

Last night, Nomi and I have Game 2 on in the background, and we watch until the end of the fifth inning, when the score is Red Sox 2, Rockies 1. Then we go to bed. We wake up this morning to discover that the final score was 2-1, Red Sox.

I'm starting to think that Saturday night, we should keep watching the game until the Red Sox are winning, then turn off the TV and go to bed. Either that, or hope things are going well for the Sox by the end of the fifth inning....
As Nomi already blogged about under the title Take Me Out to the Ballgame..., yesterday we went to a professional baseball game. It wasn't a major league game, but a game played between the Brockton Rox and the Worcester Tornadoes, two teams in the Can-Am League. Since we were going to Worcester for the game, we rooted for the home team, and I was mildly disappointed when they lost 3-0.

Mike McTamney Pitching for the Rox Mike McTamney Pitching for the Rox
Copyright 2007 by Nomi S. Burstein

I haven't actually been to a professional baseball game since 1988, when the Mets were in the playoffs, and it got me thinking about why. Friends of mine generally know that I am a Mets fan; my younger brother Josh and I were in the stadium for games one and seven of the 1986 World Series, and since I wasn't married to [livejournal.com profile] gnomi at the time, there was no reason for me not to root for the Mets and against the Red Sox. (Although to my credit, I will note that in 1986 I did go on record as saying that although I wanted the Mets to win, I didn't want the Red Sox to have to lose for that to happen.) Anyway, in the 1980s I couldn't imagine not attending professional baseball games as an adult.

Until 1994, when the Major League baseball players went on strike.

At the time, I was working as a teacher at a private school, and one of the newspapers I was reading had chosen to take an interesting tack on the players strike. Every day they would feature one player in a box, and list how much salary money that player was giving up for that one day he wasn't playing baseball. It disturbed me to discover that in many cases, the daily salary of a baseball player exceeded my annual salary.

I found myself experiencing mixed feelings. Friends of mine also know that I'm a strong union supporter, and that my father's death was a direct result of the Daily News strike in 1990. And I knew that the owners in baseball were making a lot of money off the game, and that it was only fair for the players to share more equitably in the game's success. I also recalled my baseball history, and knew how the baseball players of the early twentieth century had earned pittances and often ended up broke due to the low salaries offered by the owners.

But still...I found it difficult to return to a baseball game after the strike ended. I couldn't bring myself to be sympathetic to a class of oppressed workers who were getting paid exorbitant salaries to play a game for entertainment. Furthermore, after the strike the prices of the stadium seats rose and continued to do so. In the back of my mind I kept balancing the thought of my hard-earned money versus that of the player salaries. In the end, after the 1994 strike ended, I decided that I would go on my own personal strike, a spectator's strike, and that I wouldn't pay to attend a Major League baseball game until the cost of attending was reduced to a reasonable amount.

And I've actually stuck to it. Until yesterday, I hadn't gone to a baseball game for about 13 years. And I still haven't been to a Major League game.

I know that in some ways my reaction is irrational. I still pay to see movies, even though I know that many of the actors are being paid humongous salaries. And I still follow baseball, and watch games on TV, and it's not like I deliberately boycott the advertisers for the games. (Given that I don't drink beer anyway, declaring a personal boycott would be irrelevant.) But there's still some part of me that became alienated from Major League baseball in 1994, and given how much better the fans are treated by the minor league teams, it'll take a lot to bring me back to a Major League stadium.

Copyright © Michael A. Burstein
Do you remember where you were twenty years ago tonight? I do.

My younger brother Josh was a major Mets fan, and my parents had arranged for him to have a set of season tickets for the 1986 baseball season. We couldn't afford tickets for every game, unfortunately, and so we had tickets for weekend games only. Also, we also could only afford two tickets per game for a family of five, so most of the time one of my parents or my older brother went with Josh to the games.

Until the Mets got into the World Series. As season ticket holders, we were entitled to purchase tickets to games being held on the same day of the week we had tickets. So we managed to get tickets for games 1 and 7, which were supposed to be held on a Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Game 1 was in fact held on the evening of Saturday, October 18, 1986, and since I had not been able to go to many of the games during the season, the family agreed that I would be the one to escort Josh to Shea Stadium for both games (should there be a game 7). The first game was a disappointment to us, of course, as the Mets lost 1-0. It was not exactly an auspicious moment for them, or for us. As Mets fans, we obviously wanted the Mets to win the World Series, but as holders of tickets for game 7, we needed it to be a squeaker.

Over the next week, we watched the games on television, saw the Mets lose game 2 at Shea, and then win games 3 and 4 at Fenway. The series was now tied 2-2, which gave us hope, until the Mets lost game 5 by a score of 4-2.

And then they returned to Shea for game 6. Everyone knows what happened during game 6, held on the evening of Saturday, October 25, so I won't recount it here. What I will note is my vivid memory of us watching as it looked like the Mets were going to lose, and how terribly disappointed and even depressed we were beginning to feel at my house. Josh and I desperately wanted to use the tickets to game 7, and if the Mets had lost we wouldn't even get to keep the tickets as a souvenir of a game that was never played; they had to be returned for the full refund. So we watched and moped, until Mookie Wilson did what he did and we knew game 7 was a reality.

And then it rained on Sunday, postponing the game to Monday. There was talk of holding the game during the day, and I had visions of bringing a note to school on Tuesday: "Please excuse Michael from being out yesterday, as he had to attend the World Series." Fortunately, they chose to play that game at night.

And so Josh and I went. After the final game of the NLCS and game 6 of the World Series, game 7 felt almost like an anticlimax. The Mets managed to score 6 runs by the top of the 8th inning, and although the Sox finally scored 2 runs of their own, the Mets scored 2 more and the game ended 8-5. I will never forget how Jesse Orosco pitched that final strike and fell to the mound in joyous gratitude that he had won a World Series.

Nine years later I found myself married to a Red Sox fan, and we avoided talking about the 1986 World Series until 2004. Finally, I can breathe free again, and as the Cardinals and the Tigers pound away, I can revel in the memories of a beautiful World Series, played twenty years and a lifetime ago.

1986 World Series by Baseball Almanac

Copyright © Michael Burstein
(With apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer, and to Carlos Beltran, who did his best. And with thanks to Peter David, for an important edit in the penultimate verse.)

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the New York Mets that day:
The score stood one to one, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Rolen got to first, Molina's turn at bat
Made it clear to one and all the game shouldn't end like that.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, "If only Beltran could but get a whack at that—
We'd put up even money now, with Beltran at the bat.

But Floyd preceded Beltran, as did also Valentin,
And the former one was injured, while the latter wasn't "in";
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Beltran getting to the bat.

But Valentin and Chavez to the wonderment of all,
Hit two singles in a row, they really slammed that ball;
And though hopes were pinned on Reyes, after Floyd's depressing stance,
With Lo Duca loading bases, it seemed the Mets might get to dance.

Then from a million throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Beltran, mighty Beltran, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Beltran's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Beltran's bearing and a smile lit Beltran's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Beltran at the bat.

Two million eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
A million tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Beltran's eye, a sneer curled Beltran's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Beltran stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the changeup pitch it sped—
"That ain't my style," said Beltran. "Strike one!" the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Beltran raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Beltran's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
This time it was a curveball, and the umpire said, "Strike two!"

"Fraud!" cried the maddened Mets fans, and echo answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Beltran and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Beltran wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Beltran's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And Adam Wainwright holds the ball, and now he lets it fling
And now the crowd is screaming because Beltran doesn't swing.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Metsville—mighty Beltran has struck out.

Copyright © Michael A. Burstein

Mets Lose

Oct. 19th, 2006 11:47 pm
I'm sad.

And I'm going to bed.


Oct. 19th, 2006 11:24 pm
I should be asleep, but I've been watching the game, and it's been tied 1-1 for many innings...

..,and now, we're about to start the bottom of the ninth, and the Mets are losing 3-1.

They've got the Cardinals just where they want them. That's what I've got to tell myself. This is classic Mets baseball. There'll be a rally at the last moment. There has to be.


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