Let's Go to the Videotape: Remember '88

I am a huge fan of the Mets Yearbook series on SNY. These season recaps are interesting time capsules and rare ones as well, considering the paucity of MLB footage from the 1960s and 1970s. I also like how you can tell a year was an especially bad one for he team when the special spends as much time on superstars visiting Shea, or the players' wives' softball game, as it does the Mets themselves.

But, since these specials were produced by the Mets, there is a bit of a company feel to it, a cheery facade placed on even the worst years. That's why I continue to enjoy a recap of the 1988 season produced not by the team, but by WOR. If I remember correctly, this special (Remember '88) aired the last Sunday of the regular season, as the NL East champs prepared to square off against the Dodgers in the NLCS. It isn't exactly an unvarnished, no-holds-barred expose of that season, but it does have some interesting features a team-produced special wouldn't.

For instance, a segment featuring some of the Mets beat writers, a few of whom still cover the team in some capacity (Bob Klapisch, Marty Noble). Four writers sit in odd barstool-ish high chairs on the Shea Stadium infield as WOR's Steve Zabriskie asks them their picks for the playoffs. All of them choose the Mets, which makes them no different from virtually every expert at the time. They also feel that the Oakland A's will be difficult, if not impossible, to beat in both the ALCS and the World Series (as, again, pretty much everyone else did).

I see this as a look back on the days when newspapers were still the undisputed kings of the sports world, particularly for baseball. The fact that a good 10+ minutes of this retrospective were taken up by polling these scribes their opinions should give you an idea of the status afforded beat writers back then. And if that didn't clue you in, perhaps the fact that they were perched on ludicrously high seats a la Andy Kaufman would. I also enjoy the good-natured ribbing on display. (Klapisch seems to enjoy giving Noble the business.)

But what really grabs me is Klapisch's off-hand comment at minute number 10, and his fellow writers' reactions thereto. After predicting the Mets will face the A's in the World Series, Klapisch proclaims that he's excited to see "this guy Canseco" because "I'm convinced he's on steroids." His fellow writers' reactions? They laugh. And not nervous, "let's move on" laughter, but genuine laughter.

I feel like this reaction was typical of the era. Steroids were still much more of a punchline than a boogeyman. I distinctly remember people openly joking about Canseco's rumored steroid use, and very, very few people calling for him (or anyone else) to be investigated for it. Just remember this the next time you hear someone get on their soapbox about PEDs. If writers really thought they were so awful, they had a lot of time to do something about it.

If you're interested in checking out most of the rest of the special, here it is in three bite-size chunks. It contains many highlights from the 1988 season, mostly narrated by Ralph Kiner. He was called on to recite some curious copy (such as comparing Roger McDowell to Pee-Wee Herman), but I think the proceedings remain enjoyable nonetheless.

I had to leave out the bumpers because they involve the doo-wop tune "Remember Then," and tunes like that tend to bring out the lawyers. For the same reason, I also had to jettison the "musical tribute" Tim McCarver teased above. If you're curious, it was to the tune of Steve Winwood's "Back in the High Life." So no, you haven't missed anything.

 

 

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