From Hunt to Beltran, key names resurface under game's brightest spotlight
NEW YORK -- Heroes and villains seldom fade away in his city, not when they have done their best or worst on a baseball field. How many years ago did Gionfriddo deny Joe D. in the World Series? And though the Dodgers, that Yankee Stadium and both players are gone, this market holds to that moment. Like elephants and rock and roll, New York City doesn't forget.
So it was at the 84th All-Star Game on Tuesday night when new memories were made at Citi Field by guys named Matt, Mo, Mauer, Machado and the Prince of triples. We were reminded by the largest crowd in the park's 4 1/2 years that the game was played here before last Thursday.
Of course, the portion of the public that crammed its way into the Mets' home park saluted David Wright and Matt Harvey and paid its respects to Robinson Cano and the great Mariano during the patriotic introductions. And Rivera was appropriately hailed as he stood alone on the mound before the eighth inning, a nice touch for a nice man. But others warranted some sort of recognition from this sweaty gathering dressed mostly in orange, blue and pinstripes.
New York wanted Adam Wainwright to know it has neither forgotten nor forgiven him for the pitch -- a toxic curve -- he threw to Carlos Beltran to end the National League Championship Series at Shea Stadium in 2006. Here in Flushing, Queens, a Bronx cheer was directed at the Cardinals pitcher. And similar sounds serenaded Wainwright's teammate then and now and Beltran's current colleague. Citi Field jeered Yadier Molina.
It was Molina's home run in Game 7 of the same series that brought the Cardinals to the threshold of the World Series and the Mets to their knees.
New York reacted to the introduction of Beltran, too. It was purely positive -- finally. If New England could forgive Bill E. Buckner, how could this market continue to hold Beltran responsible for a Game 7 lapse because he took a nasty pitch? The market owes him even more of an apology. But the reception afforded him on Tuesday night was a nice beginning.
Beltran gave what he could when he played here. That he still has more to give -- albeit to the Cardinals -- seven years later is to be celebrated and respected. He has so much talent, and he does care.
Not surprisingly, most of those who paid to witness this game appeared to be from the five boroughs and their satellite communities.Their choice of jerseys said as much: Yankees 2s and 42s, for certain, but also 7s and 23s for a revised set of M&M Boys -- Mantle and Mattingly, Mets 5s for Wright, 41s for Tom Seaver, 16s for Dwight Gooden and 33s for Harvey and variations.
A older gentleman wore a Harvey shirt but had an index card with the letters H-U-N-T pinned to the back of the jersey. Ron Hunt was the Mets' first 33 and, in 1964, the first elected Mets All-Star.
More creative was the younger man who had purchased a Mets 43 jersey -- presumably last year when it was worn by R.A. Dickey, one of the Mets' All-Stars. But Dickey's jersey had been revised. The 4 in his 43 had been covered by a 3. And the D-I-C-K had been covered by H-A-R-V. Nice touch. But he didn't want to pose.
This was a Mets-centric event, of course, from the ceremonial first pitch -- a semblance of a fastball Seaver threw from the rubber all the way to the plate and Wright, his catcher -- to final score, 3-0. Seaver pitched for Mets teams that were offensively challenged and familiar with the bottom of the ninth at home. Harvey is in similar circumstances now. At least Wright, with a well-struck single over the shortstop in the seventh, was responsible for 33 percent of the National League's production.
The Yankees' representatives had their moments as well. Cano was the game's lone casualty; he was struck in the right leg by one of Harvey's pitches in the first inning. And Rivera was more than saluted.
By its end, the evening and a 2014 Corvette had become the personal property of the Yankees' closer. He was named the game's Most Valuable Player, though his contribution was modest and mostly ceremonial and spiritual. It was feel-good memorable, too.
Rivera was applauded by players in both dugouts before and after his inning -- the eighth this time.
"We definitely wanted to see him in the ninth, but you want to guarantee that he goes in and has his moment," the Rangers' Joe Nathan said after pitching the ninth. "Regardless of what inning he got to pitch tonight, that moment was pretty cool. Pretty cool for us as players, pretty cool for the fans and I'm sure it was absolutely amazing for Mo.
"Obviously, it would have probably been even better in the ninth for him, but we got him in the game, we got him his moment and we got a win. It's no secret how much I look up to him, so to be able to do that for him was awesome."
Nathan, appropriately, is a New Yorker. He'll remember the evening and presenting to Rivera the last ball he threw for the save. Of course he will. New York doesn't forget.