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Meet: Ralph Carhart

Born in upstate New York just prior to the dominance of the Yankees in the late 1970s, it was inevitable that during my early years I was a Yankee fan. My father’s lifelong dedication to the Bronx Bombers also aided my youthful embrace of the storied franchise. Around 1984, two things happened simultaneously that changed all that. I hit puberty, which led to a rebellion against everything my father stood for, and the Mets became respectable. I have been a Mets fan ever since.

In the ensuing years, there have been a number of remarkable players who have earned my dedicated allegiance. Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry were early faves, electric and dominant for the briefest of times. To this day my absolute favorite from those raucous 80’s squads was Howard Johnson. I have been working on a baseball card collection of HoJo for years that, at this point, features over 200 unique cards.

The talented clubs of the late 1990s, that grew into the potential-filled squads of the mid-2000s, featured Robin Ventura and, ultimately, David Wright. At times, I religiously admired both of them. I still have the Robin Ventura model of Louisville Slugger, which I sometimes will swing during potential rallies, trying to will a little something extra to the team’s often beleaguered offense. The retirement of Wright this past season was sentimental and painful for me. It is very possible we will never see another player to spend their entire career with the Mets.

One man, however, will forever stand atop my Mets pantheon, and it is largely due to one swing of the bat. For sure, the calm reliability of Mike Piazza made him one of the most clutch hitters in Mets history, and his talent won more than one ballgame for the team. I was in my office, just ten blocks from the World Trade Center when the Towers fell. After a painful, tear-filled ten days, I was back in that office the night Piazza lifted an entire city on his shoulders and slammed a Steve Karsay mistake far into the Flushing night. That moment of release was the first time I had felt human since the awful tragedy. For that, number 31 will remain my most important Met. I even sport a tattoo dedicated to Piazza and that home run.

Being a Mets fan also means being able to handle a lot of disappointment. Watching Kenny Rogers walk in the series-winning run in the 1999 NLCS, to the Braves no less, remains one of the most painful things I’ve ever seen in a baseball game. But, it is just one of many unique ways to lose that I have witnessed the Mets put in practice over the years.

To a certain extent, I owe the Mets’ failures a debt of gratitude for my current path. I am not just a fan, but a baseball historian. That love of history owes no small measure of debt to the fact that often by mid-June, it is clear that the Mets won’t be enjoying playoff baseball that year. How to fill the void created when one’s team is mired in mediocrity? I decided, about fifteen years ago, to start reading about the larger history of the game. Today, I thrill at the tales of the men that created the sport and how their legacies can still be seen today in the multitude of ballparks across the country, not just the thirty representing the major leagues.

The story of the Mets can be said to begin when they signed Paul Blair as their first amateur free agent in July 1961. Over the years the Mets have inked a number of exciting prospects, some of which ultimately shined on the big stages of Shea and Citifield, some of which were traded before they reached their true potential, and some that fizzled before they ever achieved their promise. I look forward to delving into those names of yesteryear, familiar and obscure. For every Dwight Gooden and David Wright, there are many more Tom Thurbergs and Al Shirleys.

I hope to look at them all, as well as the often volatile dynamics of minor league franchises. In 1962 the Mets had minor league teams in Auburn, NY; Quincy, IL; Salisbury, NC; and Santa Barbara, CA. Today they have two in Florida, two in upstate New York, two in the Dominican Summer League, one in Tennessee, one in South Carolina, and one in my backyard in Brooklyn. Baseball runs deep in the DNA of Brooklyn and the Cyclones are heirs to an important legacy. The serpentine path that brought them here, as well as the other franchises to their current homes, is a tale that I look forward to telling you.

 

  • Year I became a Mets Fan: 1984
  • Favorite Met: Mike Piazza
  • Favorite Mets Moment: Piazza’s home run on September 21, 2001, the first game back in New York City after the terrorist attacks.
  • Least Favorite Mets Moment: Kenny Rogers walking in the winning run in game seven of the 1999 NLCS.
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