Tin foil on the antennae. No cable. No remote control; he had to get up off the couch to twist a channel knob. Sometimes, depending on the reception, the orange looked more pink. Or the blue looked purple. But no matter. He was with his dad in his father’s efficiency apartment; watching his first-ever color TV, and those oranges and blues were those of the 1969 New York Mets.
A tough year, was 1969, for an eight-year-old. His dad moved out after the divorce; and he felt like a one-oared rowboat being tossed around in a hurricane. His mom was a raw nerve; say the wrong thing or misbehave, he never knew what that would unleash. He remembers his dad being befuddled; ashamed. The fine details were probably too much for his battered mind to absorb.
School weeks with his mom; the house feeling empty, yet full of dark clouds. Weekends with his dad. That meant single-guy dinners of pizza, Campell’s soup, and baseball on the little Sylvania color TV. WOR-TV. Channel 9. Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson, and Ralph Kiner in the booth. Small-screen visions of Tom Seaver’s mighty follow-through, of Tommy Agee’s great outfield catches. The wiry Bud Harrelson dancing through the dirt at shortstop, not much getting past him.
Those Mets games he watched with his dad worked their way into his heart like meditation. They felt…right. His father’s little bachelor roost became a sanctuary; bittersweet though it was. And when this “Amazin’” team made the postseason? His dad just shook his head. “You don’t understand, Juddie,” he said. “This team is unbelievable. They’ve never DONE this.”
His dad kept him out of school a couple of days so they could watch the ’69 World Series. The kid was blown away by Ron Swoboda’s incredible diving catch in game 4.
A friend of his dad’s was over the day the Mets took it all. There was beer, cigarettes. He recalls an enchanting, ice-cold sip of Rheingold beer. He asked for another; he was allowed one.
When Cleon Jones squeezed that last fly ball and The Amazin’ Mets were crowned World Champs, this unknown friend, whose name now only the fates can recall, jumped off the couch and whooped out loud. He and his father joined him. That small, cozy apartment became a delirious mirror image of the players and fans on the field. All were swept up in joy….something he, the eight-year-old, needed desperately, and he knew his dad needed it as well.
So those Miracle Mets - rough and tumble, warm and lovable, at least to the kid - did it. Those hazy, long-ago World Series images flickering from a small color TV became to him a beacon. To his dad, too. A bond of light. Father and child found shelter there together, somehow; on the green, paper-strewn, World Champion-trampled grass of Shea Stadium, even if their feet never actually touched it.
Judd Fuller - 58 years young - Nashville, TN