Tag Archives: Fred Wilpon

A New York Legend (6)

12 Dec

December 12, 2011

Hello everyone, time for your New York Minute.

Nostalgia is a funny thing. No matter how good your life is or what state the world is in, it was always better some other time. Believe it or not, some day in the future someone will look back on his life and, with a wistful look in his eyes and the thin line of a tear drying on his check, say that he misses the good old days of 2011 when Occupy Wall Street violently clashed with the police, The Real Housewives were on every channel, and wonder why they don’t have great comedians like Russell Brand anymore. Trust me, wait and see. And yeah, another New York Minute and another shot at Russell Brand. He’s not funny.

A lot of people today are nostalgic for the 1970’s and I’m not sure why. New York was dirty, crime was way up, the subways were covered with graffiti, the city was broke, and every other day one union or another was going on strike. Even the 1970’s didn’t like the 1970’s, it was nostalgic for the 1950’s. Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, American Graffiti, all were set in the 1950’s.

And so was The Lords of Flatbush.

Seriously, was the the worst trailer you have ever seen?

Released in 1974, it was the story of a gang of leather jacketed teenagers from Flatbush, Brooklyn. The teens, played by Perry King, age 26, Sylvester Stallone, age 28, and Henry Winkler, 29 years old, is a coming of age story starring three guys who came of age long ago. They steal cars, shoot pool, hang out, fight, and do all the things you’d expect a Hollywood version of a 1950’s gang to do. It is a good film, and some parts of it were actually shot in Brooklyn. The school scenes were filmed in Lincoln High School in Coney Island. I know that school very well, but that’s a New York Minute for another time.

The only problem with the movie is the totally misleading title. A bunch of greasers from the 50’s? Sorry, no. Ask anyone over a certain age and they’ll tell you that the real Lords of Flatbush were the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In baseball, the Brooklyn Dodgers have reached mythic proportions. Anyone who was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan in the 1950’s is a fan for life, despite the team’s moving to Los Angeles in 1958. Fans were passionate about the players, and even non-baseball fans will recognize some of the names, like Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and Gil Hodges.

My mother and my uncle were Dodger fans growing up, and for some reason my grandfather was a New York Giants fan. It wasn’t like the Mets and Yankees rivalry today, baseball was personal then. The Dodgers were underdogs, they were Brooklyn guys, they were us and we were them. Not me, I wasn’t born yet, but you know what I mean. The Yankees were in the mix too and they had passionate fans but the Dodgers had a blue-collar working stiff image that people responded to. And they were local guys, from Flatbush. So my mom, my uncle, and grandpa were a tight-knit family but sitting around the table talking baseball was a different story. Dodgers fans and Giant fans did not mix. I have no idea how my family survived.

So the baseball debate raged in my family’s first floor apartment on King’s Highway and into the mix a real Brooklyn Dodger was added. Sandy Koufax briefly lived in my family’s building. Yes, my mom knew Sandy Koufax.

165 wins and only 87 losses, an ERA of 2.76, and 2,396 strikeouts. Inducted in 1972, Sandy Koufax is true Baseball Hall of Famer. He threw four no hitters, won three Cy Young awards, and was the league’s MVP in 1963.

Those of you who follow my blog  know that I am a former teacher and I recently finished a nine-week series about my former life. I taught for ten years in a particular school and it happens to be the same school attended by Sandy Koufax when he was a rising high school baseball star. Even decades later it was still a big deal.

So my family has a six-degrees sort of connection to Sandy Koufax and yes he is a legend in the sport, and yes he famously refused to pitch the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on a Jewish holiday, and yes he is revered in baseball circles but again, nostalgia rears its head.

Great athletes do not great people make, and while I am not saying that Sandy Koufax is in any way a bad man, the facts are that when he was young and living in my mother’s apartment building he was, I don’t want to say rude, but he never spoke to any of his neighbors. I don’t mean he turned down autograph requests and refused to give free tickets to the games, I mean he never said hi when you passed him the halls. And decades later, when I sent him a personal appeal on behalf of my high school’s yearbook he never replied. But to be fair, neither did Larry King, who also attended that school.

And while I am name dropping, over the years the school I taught in was also attended by artist Peter Max, Sopranos actor Steven Schirripa, singer Vic Damone, sitcom creator Gary David Goldberg, Paul Sorvino, Rhea Perlman, and my father, among many other famous alumni.

Fred Wilpon, owner of the New York Mets attended that school. Say what you will about him and his team, but when we sent him a letter asking for a donation for the yearbook he actually sent us a donation. Most people never got back to us.

Today the legend of the Brooklyn Dodgers is carried on by the New York Mets. The blue in their uniforms is taken from Dodger blue and their new stadium is a replica of the Dodger’s old stadium, Ebbet’s Field.

Too bad they are such a lousy team. And before you complain, yes, I am a long-suffering Mets fan. And no Mets fan knows nostalgia like we do. Say “1986” to any Mets fan and you’ll get a reaction.

In a few years you may even be nostalgic for this New York Minute.


26 Jun

June 26, 2010

I am a Mets fan, and as any Mets fan can tell you, that statement comes with a varying degree of pride. I could go on about all the things that I and other fans feel is wrong with the organization at this time, but there is a greater issue. Mets owners Fred Wilpon and his son Jeff have done irreparable damage to the sport.

I am not referring to the ups and downs of the franchise, I am referring to the damage done to the lexicon by their very words.

The worst expression to come into common usage in regard to baseball is “meaningful games.” Fred Wilpon first brought it into use by saying that he wanted to “play meaningful games in September.” He didn’t say he wanted to “win,” he just wanted to “play.” I want my team to win the World Series. “Play meaningful games” means losing the division and winding up in second place on the very last day of the season. Sorry you didn’t win and get to the playoffs, but wasn’t it nice playing a meaningful game? No. The Mets did that twice. I was there and it sucked both times. You know what would have been great? Winning.

The Mets will be playing a series against the Florida Marlins in Puerto Rico next week, and newspaper reports say that many players who come from Puerto Rico are “looking forward to playing meaningful games in front of their friends and family.” Really? Wouldn’t they rather look forward to winning in front of their friends and family? When did people forget the point of the game?

This isn’t new from the Wilpons. The word “win,” in any form, has been conspicuously missing from their vocabulary for a very long time. They often talk about building a “competitive team.” A competitive team ends up in second place, three games back. Tough break not making the post-season, but don’t you feel good that you were competitive? No. I feel lousy that my team lost.

At the start of the season, teams raise the World Series banner, the League banner, and even the Wild Card banner. I have yet to see a team raise the “Competitive” banner.

Not long ago the Mets fell out of first place in one of the most epic collapses ever, losing a seven game lead with seventeen games left to play. Until the very last day, every game was “meaningful,” the division was “competitive,” but at the end of the last game of the season they stood on the field watching another team celebrate. How did that feel?

Fred Wilpon has said that he made “competitive” offers to free agents. Those agents have not come to the Mets. Perhaps, instead of a  “competitive” offer, he had made a “better” offer, those players may have come here. Instead of a competitive offer, I’d prefer a winning offer.

“Meaningful” and “competitive” are important words in Little League. They are important in high school competition. Someone needs to tell the Wilpons that they are in the Major Leagues, where the only standard is winning and fans pay good money for it.

All of us, let’s get the phrases “competitive” and “meaningful games” out of our vocabulary. Let’s bring back winning.

This is what "meaningful games" feels like.

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