By: Danielle DelGaudio
The year was 1957 and New York was going through not one, but TWO breakups. The Dodgers and Giants decided to embark on their journey to California, leaving the lives of two-thirds of New York’s residents upended in their departure. It would be another five years before these fans could again claim a team as their own, when in 1962 the New York Metropolitans arrived to fanfare in the highly dilapidated Polo Grounds. Upon seeing the team play, this fanfare went from perhaps a 1986 WS Game 6 intensity to a final out of the 2006 NLCS Game 7 volume. This might have been for the best, given that a strong enough wind had a real shot of knocking down the stadium. During that year, the Mets garnered the nickname the "Lovable Losers." What most people don’t know; however, is that it was a calculated plan from Mets owner: Joan Whitney-Payson.
As written in the truly wonderful book "So Many Ways to Lose" by Devin Gordon, Joan Whitney-Payson knew that swooping into New York with an All-Star roster would be the wrong way to endear this new team to the fans. Imagine living your whole life rooting for one team; they’re YOUR team. Then one morning you wake up to the news that your team; the one at the center of familial memories, friendships, and everyday New York life has decided to hightail out of your home and move to the dreaded west coast. Now a new team comes to town and starts dominating the league... it could only lead you to ask one question, "Who the hell do these guys think they are??" But a new team of lovable goofs who are trying their best but could very easily trip over their own shoelaces on their way to first... that’s something people could get behind.
The New York Mets were and still are the "People’s team." Growing up a diehard fan of the New York Giants, it was the goal of Joan Whitney-Payson to make sure that the average New Yorker felt connected to her new team. The creased lines and drabbed greys of the New York Yankees represented a coldness that Whitney-Payson wanted to steer clear of when planning this new franchise. The brightness of the orange and blue that paid homage to the teams that had come before them gave the Mets a vibrancy that she hoped would remain at the core of the team for years to come. Any one that lived through the 1986 season or recently watched the 30 for 30 ESPN documentary, "Once Upon A Time In Queens" knows that this vibrancy is alive and well. This special in particular highlighted the way in which the ‘86 team brought New York together that year. Strangers became acquaintances, acquaintances became friends, and friends became family as people across New York gathered together for that jam-packed season.
This team will always keep you on your toes. Even in our most successful seasons, the Mets have always found ways to lose games we should have won and to win games that you could have sworn the gods destined as a loss. But these things never happen in conventional ways. We blow six-run leads in the bottom of the ninth to come back the next day with a walk-off win in extras after gaining and losing the lead four times throughout the game. We have had a player go out on the injured list after dislocating their shoulder during a swing, while having another return to action less than two weeks after being dealt a 95mph fastball square to the face. It was the Mets that gave New York a feeling of resurgence in the aftermath of 9/11/01... that maybe happiness could be restored to the city they loved. It was also the Mets that lost Game 162 in 2008; a deciding game in whether or not we were going to the postseason, and sent Shea Stadium off to the baseball cornfields as a numbness swept across the crowd.
The Mets came to New York in 1962 and have spent the last sixty seasons keeping their fans cheering, crying, and reaching for the tums in their medicine cabinet. No matter how the season is going, we can always expect our beloved Metropolitans to make us feel something. Even in their worst years, the Mets have never been objectively bad. They’ve been bad, but they’ve always done it in a way that leaves you scratching your head and thinking to yourself, "... HOW could that even happen?" They’ve had successes that people will tell the tale of for years to come. While some recall where they were when they first heard about President John F. Kennedy, I’ll never forget where I was or what I was doing when Bartolo Colon hit his first (and only) major league homerun. I have always maintained that regardless of what sport you’re following, it’s boring to start the season KNOWING that your favorite team is going to make the postseason. The Mets could have the best team on paper (and we have) but they still ensure that you’re pacing around the house or shuffling in your seat at the game, screaming about every man left in scoring position and pitcher that’s been left in the game too long. There are no other New York sports teams that have had as rich of a history as the New York Mets. When other teams are doing well, they continue doing well. When other teams are doing bad, they remain bad. When the Mets are in the midst of either run, hell... who knows what the next game is going to look like. The only thing that’s for certain is that they will strengthen the bond between Mets fans as people everywhere turn into interim general managers and look for ways to resolve our issues or expand upon our successes. There is no other fanbase as bound to their franchise as ours, and it is because of this that the Mets are the greatest team in New York.