We return, yet again, to that star-crossed year of 1988 for this edition of Let's Go to the Videotape. Tucked on a VHS tape with another awesome item I hope to share in the future (tease), I found an episode of This Week in Baseball with a few segments that have some Metsian significance.
TWIB still exists, though it's not easy to find it these days. In the New York market, sometimes it appears before the FOX game of the week, and sometimes not, for reasons that remain unexplained. When I was a kid, TWIB always aired on Sunday afternoons right before a Mets game. It was then hosted by legendary broadcaster Mel Allen, the former Yankees play-by-play man known for his the catchphrase "How 'bout that!", intoned in a Southern-inflected voice that infused everything he said with inconceivable levels of optimism.
I've already posted clips from a few of the spring training previews he hosted around this era, but when I think of Mel Allen, I think of him hosting TWIB, narrating footage from a five-game Astros winning streak in August and making it sound like their World Series tickets were already punched. Here's what the opening credits looked like way back in 1988.
You may have noticed that one of the stories teased in this opener is the addition of lights to Wrigley Field. As previously discussed in this series, Wrigley's illumination was an enormous deal back then--mostly among traditional types who pointed to the event as a sign of the apocalypse. As you can see from this video, the average Cubs fan felt quite differently. For the most part, they were thrilled with the "innovation," since it meant having a job didn't preclude you from seeing a ballgame.
The Mets connection? The first night game was set for August 8, against the Phillies, but rain cut the game short after 3.5 innings. So the first complete night game was played the following day against the Mets. Here, you can see Roger McDowell delighting in his special event-specific t-shirt (which looks like it was purchased in the parking lot and would shrink to doll size upon first washing).
Here's a segment billed as being about "odd stats," which in retrospect is more of a time capsule of what was considered an odd stat back then. Mets-wise, you'll see Gary Carter chase desperately after a wild pitch that stubbornly stayed in play and allowed Mike Schmidt to score all the way from first. You'll also be reminded that, thanks to a rule change and enforced umpire scrutiny, there were a bajillion balks in the majors that year.
For no reason whatsoever, this segment on "stats" ends with Orel Hershiser mocking Tommy Lasorda, and the Red Sox' Mike Smithson imitating Curly of The Three Stooges imitating Al Jolson. If you can make sense of it, you are smarter than me.
Speaking of Mr. Lasorda, let's close out with this Rolaids ad from the same tape, in which Tommy goes ballistic in the dugout. So buy Rolaids, because...well, the ad never quite addresses that, but buy Rolaids anyway! There's also an update on the race for the Rolaids Relief Man Award, in which then-Met Randy Myers and future Met John Franco stood neck and neck.