Category Archives: sports

If Mickey Callaway’s conduct was widely known, why did the Mets hire him?

“It was the worst-kept secret in sports.”

That’s a quote from one of the women who have come forward with allegations against former Mets manager (and current Angels pitching coach) Mickey Calloway. The story stems from an article in The Athletic (subscription required) by reporters Brittany Ghiroli and Katie Strang, that cover the stories of five women who said Callaway made inappropriate advances during his employment with three different teams.

Former Mets manager Mickey Calloway

Calloway managed the Mets in 2018 and 2019, and was fired because of the team’s performance. The Angels have suspended him pending an investigation. On January 19, the Mets fired their new General Manager, Jared Porter, for similar actions. Porter has admitted his actions. Callaway told The Athletic, he looks “forward to an opportunity to provide more specific responses.”

But the Mets are the team that have had two black eyes in this area over the past few weeks.

Unlike Porter, Callaway denies any wrongdoing, saying everything was consensual. Like Porter, there’s evidence of fire where the smoke came from. The Athletic article includes a screen capture in which Callaway texted one of the women about how she should sleep naked to “let that perfect skin breathe.”

Another woman received a picture of Callaway shirtless, wearing a hard hat while he worked on land he’d purchased in Florida. It wasn’t the first shirtless photo she received. In another incident, she said he thrust his crotch near her face while he interviewed her.

Because Callaway says everything was consensual, there should be an investigation into the allegations.

Part of that investigation should include the Mets, as well as the Indians and Angels, where he was hired as a pitching coach. If word gets around–and The Athletic story says it did–it’s fair to ask what these teams knew and when they knew it.

Mets President Sandy Alderson (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek, Fle)

For his part Mets President Sandy Alderson (a man), released a statement saying, in part, “I was unaware of the conduct described in the story at the time of Mickey’s hire or at any time during my tenure as General Manager.” (Alderson was the team’s GM during Callaway’s tenure.) Owner Steve Cohen, still smarting from last week’s GameStop story, didn’t own the team at the time, but said the conduct Callaway is accused of is “completely unacceptable and would never be tolerated under my ownership.”

The #Metoo movement was necessary, but its justice was swift and didn’t ask questions. The accusation was the conviction. It seems like baseball is having its #Metoo moment.

But for the moment to be enduring and meaningful, it needs to be more than Twitter-based accusations and justice. Although that moment in Hollywood seems to have passed, Evan Rachel Wood was one of five women who accused singer Marilyn Manson (a guy) of sexual and mental abuse, including rape. Manson’s record label has dropped him in light of the accusations.

Marilyn Manson and Evan Rachel Woods

One of the tweets I read in response to this said it’s not a Mets problem or a baseball problem, it’s a men problem. While not all men are this way and not all the people who do this are men, enough women are victimized by it that it’s bigger than just the Mets or baseball.

That said, change happens at the grass roots. The Mets must do a better job. And while Sandy Alderson is a good baseball man, if he’s shown a pattern of willfully ignoring or not investigating rumors in his hiring practices, he should be held accountable, too.

Most people at work are just trying to get through the day. When people willfully make it harder for their own whims, that’s wrong. When they add sex into the equation, that’s unacceptable.

For the third time in a month, I have to doubt my allegiance to a team I’ve loved (and hated) since I was nine years old. While the story isn’t about me, my reaction to it is. Part of the required change comes when guys like me stop feeding the monster with attention and money.

Hail Tampa Bay, the region of champions

I lived in Washington during the end of their Super Bowl era. My hatred of the team crystallized when the morning guys on WMAL were talking about how the Super Bowl would be in Minneapolis and just their luck, they’d probably go to that Super Bowl instead of one in a nice place.

Poor Redskins fans had to suffer through their third Super Bowl win in ten years in Minnesota. MINNESOTA!

If they play it Nome, Alaska when it’s sixty below, it’s still the Super Bowl. Most fans don’t get the opportunity to bitch about the venue.

The Detroit Lions have never been to the Super Bowl. Their last NFL championship came before the AFL (now the AFC) was born. The Cleveland Browns have never been either. The last time the Jets–my team–was there, Lyndon Johnson was in his last days as President.

The Cleveland Browns last won in 1964. They’ve never played a Super Bowl.

Regardless of the sport, winning or even playing for a championship is a rare and wonderful thing. As much as fans of whoever happens to be good right now might claim otherwise, it’s not a birthright. Tommy Lasorda was probably disappointed that the Big Dodger in the Sky was largely ambivalent about who wins the World Series.

Sorry, Tommy. I’m a San Francisco Giants fan.

He loves all his teams equally (though he probably loves the Jets less equally than the others).

So the Bucs are playing in their second Super Bowl. Tom Brady is playing in his tenth Super Bowl–something that’s never happened before.

And Bucs fans are probably going to be insufferable about it until the game–and until Super Bowl LVI (56), if they win.

Packers fans are irritated. They’re complain about a pass interference call late in the game that helped the Bucs keep the ball until the clock ran out.

But if you lost because of one call, you should’ve lost. Aaron Rodgers should’ve run instead of passing on third down. And the Packers should’ve gone for it instead of kicking the field goal. And they shouldn’t have purposely committed encroachment to give the Bucs a first down.

I could’ve run this in from there. (Abject fear makes me a lot faster.)

The Packers have been there recently (ten years ago). They have four Lombardi trophies. I’m not crying very hard for them.

So it’s a day to be happy for Bucs fans, to wish them to enjoy the home Super Bowl. (For the record, Rams played in Pasadena and the 49ers played at Stanford, but no one has ever ever played a Super Bowl in their home stadium.)

Roger Craig high steps the 49ers into an almost-home victory and into a Dire Straits video.

In six months, Tampa-area teams will have played in the Super Bowl, World Series, and Stanley Cup Finals. They won the cup.

Some will complain that this happened in a pandemic year, so they didn’t get the full championship experience. A championship’s a championship, regardless of the year.

It was 2002 when the Bucs last won the Super Bowl. There’s been a lot of losing since then. Joe Garagiola once said losing hurts more than winning feels good.

I don’t agree. Losing hurts, but not even getting there creates a longing–an itch you can never scratch. And winning is incredible.

A lot changes in 19 years, but the feeling of winning never changes.

Mets GM shows how much work is still required in major mens sports

When the #MeToo movement was most powerful, it exposed a lot of things that needed exposing. But after the ritual bloodletting, it’s not clear whether anything’s really changed in Hollywood.

In sports, women are making inroads. In baseball, Kim Ng’s hiring as Marlin’s GM was appropriate and overdue. But her hiring, and others, isn’t stopping the other side of the story. This time, it’s Mets general manager Jared Porter, who’s acknowledged sending a foreign female journalist suggestive texts and pictures while he worked for the Chicago Cubs in 2016.

The Mets fired Porter yesterday, just a couple weeks after he pulled off one of the best trades in franchise history. And just a few hours after ESPN broke the harassment story. Within a few hours, owner Steve Cohen said the Mets had fired him.

There’s no chance Porter is a victim in this story. He admitted to the texts and even said the pictures weren’t of his genitalia, but that they’re “joke stock images.”

Ha ha.

Jared Porter, who failed both as a comedian and the Mets General Manager.

There’s such at thing as redemption, but it requires contrition, hard work, and time. It’s too soon and Porter has no seeming desire to at least pretend to be contrite and put the time in.

The woman in question, who has since left journalism, is not from the United States. When ESPN first approached her in 2017 after getting word of Porter’s activity, she declined to cooperating, saying she feared for her job. She came forward now after Porter was named GM because Porter now has a lot more power over other people. But because of her home country’s culture, she still doesn’t want to be named.

Mets President Sandy Alderson (a man) indicated her nation of origin, which made her situation worse. How many women from a specific country outside the US covered the Cubs that year? This is a woman who did nothing wrong, except trying to do her job. And Alderson victimized her again.

Mets owner Steve Cohen (l) and President Sandy Alderson (r).

Although come criticized the time frame (less than 24 hours), Cohen clearly did the right thing here. But when Alderson was asked if there were problems with the Mets’ vetting, his answer was no. It would’ve been better if the team said they’d revisit their vetting process to see if improvements were possible.

Women are increasingly becoming a part of men’s sports. And to some degree, they need to acclimate to the people they’re covering. But 60 texts and 17 pictures, all of which appear to be of a sexual nature isn’t any more acceptable in a sports context than it would be at your place of work.

Perhaps instead of simply being fired, people who do what Porter admitted to should be given lengthy unpaid suspensions to prevent them from serving a short, meaningless penance, then resurfacing somewhere else. Perhaps employers should have to share in the penalties by forfeiting draft picks and being fined.

That last thing isn’t fair, but neither is being driven out of your career by a guy who views your femininity as a license to treat you like a disposable set of female sex organs.

There’s no world in which it should be acceptable to do what Porter did. There’s no yeah, but what about… in this story. He was asked about this and he admitted it, then joked about it. As women increasingly become more involved in men’s sports, Major League Baseball and the rest of big-money men’s sports need to do more to assure that they’re treated with basic respect and allowed to do their jobs.

Asserting on behalf of the Seminole tribe that they’re wrong about FSU is, well, racist

Before we start, there is such a thing as cancel culture. It’s what happens when sanctimonious, woke geniuses, unilaterally decide for everyone what is and isn’t acceptable, regardless of intent on the part of the creator of the “offensive” content.

Personally, I don’t care what the people in Washington, DC or Cleveland (or for that matter, Kansas City, Atlanta, or Chicago) call their sports teams. The former Redskins are now the Washington Football Team and will be for another season. The Cleveland Indians will have a new same (Cleveland Spiders?) for the 2022 season. And despite protestations from their owners, the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Braves, and Chicago Blackhawks will probably follow suit shortly thereafter.

And there’s validity to objecting to the treatment of native Americans over the years by sports teams. Having a drunken fat guy running around in war paint running around scalping people is the same as having a fat, drunken, shirtless Saints fan running around with a big foam holy water sprinkler baptizing people with Bud Light (hey, it’s basically water, right?).

And according to Kurt Streeter, a woke, holier-than-you sportswriter for the New York Times, it’s about damn time. It’s 2020 and we’ve progressed to the point as a society when such horrible insults can no longer be tolerated. Chiefs, Braves, Blackhawks, Seminoles–all of them must go now, because according to him, they’re all harmful to indigenous peoples–even if some of those people don’t have a problem with it. It doesn’t matter; they have to go.

Except the Seminole Nation of Florida not only doesn’t have a problem with the Florida State Seminoles name, they’ve explicitly given their blessing to the name and have actively worked with the school to make sure the school’s actions are appropriate to Seminole culture. (The Oklahoma Seminole tribe disagrees, but that seems like a matter for them to work out Seminole to Seminole.)

Streeter, when discussing the school’s relationship with the Seminole nation, dismissed it with an ugh. So how can you argue with that massive load of intellectual power.

In arguing that the Seminole Nation has approved the use of their name and imagery, my argument has been dismissed with yeah, the school’s just paying them off. To which I reply, so what?

As a white dude whose ancestors probably had the sexy time with a Mohawk Indian at some point along the way, it’s not up to me to tell those cute precocious Seminoles what to do with their name and culture. And as a black sportswriter for a newspaper over a thousand miles away, it’s not up to Kurt Streeter, either.

There’s a name for people who think minorities aren’t smart enough to think for themselves, who need Great White (or Black) Father to do it for them.

And it’s something people like Kurt Streeter are so busy looking for, they can’t see that they’re doing the same things.

Squiggy was a great example of overcoming adversity to live an amazing life

David L. Lander died Friday at the age of 73. If you’re of a certain age, you remember him as Squiggy, the wannabe cool guy who, along with his friend Lenny, were constant thorns in Laverne and Shirley’s sides.

You may also remember him a the radio announcer from A League of Their Own, a role that wasn’t credited.

But what you might not know is that Lander was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1984, just a year after Laverne & Shirley ended. It started with vertigo and numbness in his hands and feet, along with dropping things.

He kept his diagnosis secret, fearing that no one would hire him if they knew. When he was diagnosed, his doctor told him he probably wouldn’t walk again. The average life expectancy for MS is 5 to 10 years below average, but that gap is getting smaller.

He didn’t reveal the diagnosis until 1999, when he released a memoir called Fall Down Laughing: How Squiggy Caught Multiple Sclerosis and Didn’t Tell Nobody. Now, in 2020, that seems extreme, but he was up for a role in a sitcom and overheard a receptionist in an office tell an agent that the role had been cast, when it hadn’t. “How could he do it?” she said. “He has MS.” The actor was Richard Pryor. Former co-star Penny Marshall figured out he had MS and convinced him to come out.

A year later, the National MS society named him one of their national ambassadors. In that role, he toured the country five to six times a year to promote MS intervention and treatment.

While still acting and dealing with MS, Lander also had another life in baseball. In 1980. he bought an ownership stake in the Portland Beavers minor league team. He was also one of the 100 readers of Bill James landmark Baseball Abstract.

In 1997, he became a scout for the (then) California Angels. When Angels General Manager Bill Bavasi moved to the Seattle Mariners, Lander followed, acting as a scout. He also reviewed ballparks for disability access and was a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), whose name is the basis for the term sabermetrics, or the statistical analysis of baseball records.

Squiggy was a loser, but Lander was anything but. He showed how to take what would be considered a weakness and make it into a strength. And he followed his passions for a full and rich life. Even in 1999, there was still risk in coming out with MS. But he did it anyway, and continued to work and also helped a lot of people in the same boat.

The world is reduced by his passing.

Race is not a valid reason to void the sale of the Mets

In spite of the team’s poor showing, 2020 has been an exciting year for Mets fans. The team is being sold by its current tight-fisted, micromanaging owners, the Wilpons, to Steve Cohen, a hedge fund investor worth $14. billion. The sale was agreed to and was sailing through Major League Baseball’s ownership process–until this week.

The team’s lease with CitiField give Bill de Blazio the right to block a sale if the new owner cannot be a felon or someone who controlled a felon. Although Cohen has not been convicted of a crime, his firm, SAC Capital Partners was found to have engaged in insider trading in 2014 and one of his employees, Matthew Martoma, was convicted of insider trading and sentenced to nine years in prison.

There’s no indication de Blazio’s office is doing more than due diligence. They’ve not signaled they intend to block the sale.

On ESPN’s First Take, hosts Molly Qerim Rose and Max Kellerman, said de Blazio should block the sale. Not because of the charges against Cohen’s company or employee, but because the other finalists in the purchase, Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez, are people of color. And because, to paraphrase Rose’s argument, little girls of color would benefit to see a woman of color own a baseball team.

The terms of the lease were intended to prevent the city from being embarrassed by a felon owning one of their baseball teams. Rose and Kellerman never mentioned the potential ethical issues in their discussion. Their entire argument had nothing to do with the lease terms or whether Martoma qualified as a person under Cohen’s control.

Potential Mets owner Steve Cohen

If ratified, Cohen would become the wealthiest owner of a Major League franchise. Although A-Rod or J-Lo are megawealthy, there are concerns that if they bought the Mets, they’d lack the money to invest in payroll and infrastructure. (The sale price of the team is $2.4 billion.)

Other potential Mets owners Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez

Rose and Kellerman dismissed such concerns, pointing to Marlin’s owner Derek Jeter as an example–even though Jeter did just that as owner of the Miami Marlins. Kellerman, in particular, brought no backing to his argument, beyond nah, that’s not gonna happen.

You can’t argue that having JLo own the team would open up a new, younger fanbase, who would follow the team because of her, but that’s not what they brought up. They didn’t bring up anything to say they would be better owners and make the team more competitive.

If they don’t have the money to field a competitive team, little girls will continue to be Yankees fans, because who wants to root for a team that makes the postseason once every 15 years?

Cohen, on the other hand has already indicated he’ll revamp the team’s infrastructure, adding substantially to its analytics department, and increase payroll.

He’s also said he’d pay season workers about $500 a month this off-season to help offset the harm done by the lack of work for them during a season that featured empty stadiums. One would imagine that at least some of those people are people of color.

The entire discussion was based solely on A-Rod and JLo’s race, and the fact that little girls of color would benefit and it would be kind of cool for the Mets to have minority owners.

Either Cohen is a viable owner of the Mets or he’s not. His worthiness is not dependent on A-Rod and J-Lo’s race or whether little girls would have a new role model.

In any other context, what Rose and Kellerman did would be considered racism.

Lightning win Stanley Cup; outside Dallas, let’s all be happy for a nice moment in 2020

If I weren’t home every damn day, I wouldn’t remember where I was last Tuesday. But I remember October 27, 1986.

I was in Plattsburgh, New York, visiting people I’d gone to college with for a couple of years. We had dinner–bitched about the dining hall food probably, then played volleyball.

Then everyone else retreated back to their dorm rooms–it was a Monday and they had classes. I went to the on-campus bar and watched the World Series. It was the sixth inning when I got there and the Mets were behind 3-0.

“I’m not worried. They’re gonna win.” I knew it. I had no doubt my team would be champions–an odd thought process for a Mets fan (who’s also a Jets fan).

It was 34 years ago, so the details fade, but I wound up talking with a Red Sox fan–a cute blonde, and making peace. We had a mutual hatred of the Yankees in common, after all.

And then Jesse Orosco struck out Marty Barrett, Vin Scully said, “Got ‘im!”, Orosco fell to his knees and threw his glove to the heavens, and pandemonium ensued.

I’d had a few by then, and it was a long time ago. But I remember people pouring beer on me in the same way you get sprayed with champagne. The Red Sox fan faded into the night, to suffer another 18 years before her moment of glory.

More than half a life ago, I still remember, down to the shirt I wore that night.

Last night, as I write this, my son was at the Ice Palace (for that’s its rightful name) in Tampa at a socially distant watch party. The Tampa Bay Lighting–his team–were up three games to one over Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup finals.

When the final seconds ticked off the clock as the Lightning wrapped up their second championship, most of his friends were home–they had work the next day. He was there alone, but not really.

It’s been 34 years since I tasted that beer dumped on my head. It tasted wonderful. The next day, I got up and came home to work–I worked at a small supermarket then.

The Mets had a relatively young team and a good farm system. No one had an incredible year. I was certain they’d be back, so I was relatively low-key about it.

It’s been 34 years and while the Mets have been back to the World Series twice, they haven’t won it all again. The players have aged, as champions do. Some have had legal problems. Catcher Gary Carter died of brain cancer.

The world went on, that sparkling night in autumn becoming a fading memory to a dwindling number of people.

A championship is a rare and wonderful thing. My primary teams have won three of them–two before I was old enough to notice. But decades later, I can still go back to that night. I can still remember the bar, the Red Sox fan, the taste of the beer. And the joy that erupted when the end came on that little TV up in the corner.

Maybe my son’s experience will be different than mine. Maybe his team will be back and win some more. Maybe it’ll be a new dynasty. But those are even more rare than a single championship.

In 2020, we all need our moments of triumph

For now, his team won. He came home hoarse and was up late. Work will be hard today, given the short night.

And in a year of dumpster fires, wildfires, murder hornets, and strife, this will emerge as a treasured memory he cherishes long after the last player retires.

When you get fired for this, you aren’t being canceled

Chicago sports radio station WSCR (The Score) fired host Dan McNeil after he tweeted that ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor’s wardrobe made her look like she was hosting the AVN (Adult Video News) awards.

ESPN’s Maria Taylor

It’s the end of the third stint for McNeil at the Score, with jobs at other stationed sandwiched between. He was the afternoon drive host (along with Terry Booers) when I lived in Chicago and listened every afternoon. Their Who Ya Crappin? segment was among my favorite radio segments ever.

Former Score host Dan McNeil

It’s been a while, but I liked Dan McNeil’s work. But he wasn’t cancelled for his remarks. His employer decided after multiple outbursts over the years that they’d had enough.

If he’s a victim, it’s to his own impulses and lack of discipline in public statements. He specifically referenced sexuality in dismissing her. That’s been the lever men have used to keep women out of sports for years.

Women are making strides in mens sports. Gone are the days when reporters like Lisa Olson have NFL players like Zeke Mowatt (New England Patriots) fondle himself in front of her in an effort to push her out of the locker room.

Maria Taylor is a professional doing her job. She covers the NBA and NFL for ESPN after working for its SEC Network. For McNeil to disparage her with a reference to the adult entertainment industry dismisses her gains by implying she’s there because she fills out the corporate blazer nicely.

To be clear, McNeil isn’t alone. NBC’s Mike Milbury stepped away after repeated sexist remarks. They suspended Jeremy Roenick after he made an on-air comment about a threesome with co-host Kathryn Tappen. Even at the Score, host Dan Bernstein has been suspended for comments about Chicago female TV hosts’ sex lives.

I don’t know Maria Taylor’s work, but I’m familiar with Los Angeles Chargers sideline reporter Shannon Farren’s work. I listen to her on the KFI (Los Angeles) Gary and Shannon show. She knows more about football than most men I know–more than her co-host Gary Hoffman (no slouch himself).

Chargers sideline reporter Shannon Farren

She lights up when she talks about football and went so far as buying a St. Louis Battlehawks jersey because while it’s not NFL-level, the XFL is football. My attention to the game isn’t what it once was, but I enjoy listening to her excitement and joy at being part of it all. She works hard at it and is good at her job.

Since (former Tampa news anchor) Gayle Sierens was the first woman to call an NFL game (for NBC in 1987), women have come a long way in covering sports on air.

Beyond that, both the San Fransisco Giants and 49ers have women on their coaching staff. If they can do the job to the satisfaction of their employers, they deserve to be there. All of them.

They deserve more.

For his part, McNeil seems to recognize that. It took him a few days, but he’s apologized to Taylor for his remark.

Overall, guys like McNeil and Roenick are in the same business as Maria Taylor and Shannon Farren. They deserve respect from their co-workers.

It’s not 1980 any more. And it wasn’t okay then.

A little good baseball news. Vin Scully joins the socials.

Today’s post actually got posted last night because of the passing of Tom Seaver. To refresh your baseball palate and give you something nice for a change, here’s the great Vin Scully announcing his presence on Twitter.

Pull up a chair.

The death of the first hero. (Tom Seaver, 1944-2020)

When you’re eight years old and you first really discover sports, the names of your heroes seem mythical in and of themselves. Just the words are bigger than life. Joe Namath. Johnny Bench.

Tom Seaver.

Tom Seaver was the best player my New York Mets ever had. More than any single player, he epitomized the transition from the Amazin'(ly bad) early Mets team to the team that went to two World Series in five years.

In 1969, the Mets did something more amazing than landing on the moon. They ran away with the National League East over the favored Chicago Cubs. Then, after winning the inaugural National League Championship Series, they dispatched the heavily favored (and significantly better) Baltimore Orioles, 4 games to 1. It was the second time in ten months an upstart New York team shocked a highly regarded Baltimore team.

The Mets have never had a Most Valuable Player, but a case could be made for Seaver that year. He went 25-7 with an earned run average of 2.21. He won the first of three Cy Young Awards and finished second in the MVP balloting to Hall of Famer Willie McCovey of the San Francisco Giants.

Seaver was the perfect power pitcher–drop and drive. He escaped the arm injuries that crippled so many others because for him, pitching was a full-body effort. When he was right–and that happened a lot–his right knee would be dirty from dragging along the ground.

Drop and drive

My first baseball glove was a Tom Seaver model. The first sports biography I read–Seaver. And while there were other great pitchers, Seaver seemed to be alone at the time for never having a losing season (something that changed later in his career).

After a bitter feud with Mets leadership–fueled by sportswriter Dick Young–Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for a collection of decent, but forgettable players on June 15, 1977. After Seaver, along with Dave Kingman, were traded away by General Manager M. Donald Grant (bastard), no one went to Shea Stadium. Never a palace to begin with, Shea became known as Grant’s Tomb.

Every full year from 1977 to 1983 (1981 was a shortened season), the Mets never won more than 68 games and never lost fewer than 94. Yet in 1983, under new ownership, the Mets seemed to be turning a page. They traded for former batting champion and MVP Keith Hernandez and pitching prospect Ron Darling. They drafted Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry.

And the brought back Seaver for one wonderful year. Though the 1983 Mets were germinating, having Seaver in the new racing-stripe uniforms made it seem like the it was spring again at Shea Stadium–Grant’s Tomb no longer.

Though he wasn’t around for later success, the return of Seaver marked the return of the Mets

By the time the team turned the corner in 1984, Seaver had moved on again, this time to the Chicago White Sox. He won his 300th game in New York, though, beating the Yankees. He finished with 311 wins, which is 311 more than Dick Young.

Tom Seaver called games for the Mets, the Yankees, and NBC for a while, then moved back to his home state of California, where he started winery, Seaver Vineyards. He and his family had to flee the fires in 2017, but the winery still operates.

Last year, Seaver’s wife Nancy Lynn announced that he was suffering from dementia and would be retiring from public life. He wasn’t available when the Mets changed the address of CitiField, their new home, to 41 Seaver Way.

He wasn’t perfect. He could be condescending and I didn’t care much for his style as a broadcaster. But I met him once, in 1987. I worked in the New York State Legislature and he was featured at an opening for a baseball-related art show at the state museum, just down the concourse from my office. I got to talk to him and got an autograph. And I got to see his World Series ring. His fingers were enormous.

At one point, we all went to a field behind the museum and a few people got to hit off him. Almost no one did. Except one guy, who roped what would be a clean single off him. It was the last straight pitch the guy saw.

My Tom Seaver autograoh

With a few exceptions, I don’t have sports heroes anymore. The few I have, people like Amy Purdy, are heroes for other reasons. I miss having heroes. I miss the days when just the names were bigger than life.

I miss knowing that every fourth day, Tom Seaver would take the ball and the Mets would probably win.

I wasn’t old enough to be a Mets fan in 1969. But it had to be magic–the kind of magic people need in the middle of a tough time–and the late 60s were definitely that. They’re the kind of times we’re having today.

They called Tom Seaver the Franchise, and 1977 proved that’s not hyperbole.

Today, at the end of a perfectly miserable day, three quarters of the way through a perfectly miserable year, I saw that my first hero died. Tom Seaver was 75.

A lot of people have died this year, some of them important and famous. But none have left a hole like this one.

I’m going to buy a bottle of Seaver wine and savor it, and probably raise a glass to the first hero–the guy who first made summer nights with a ball game special.