Rain Doesn’t Stop MLB Return To Brooklyn
For New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, a little thing such as rain would not stop him from flashing his beaming grin. When the Brooklyn Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957, he spoke of one day orchestrating a return of a major league team to Brooklyn. The Mets was Wilpon’s choice to bring Brooklyn back to the memories of Major League Baseball, at least for one day.
On a rainy Sunday on March 30, the Mets worked out at Keyspan Park, the home of the Mets’ Single A affiliate Brooklyn Cyclones. Due to the inclement weather, the Mets could not workout on the field but accommodated the fans by signing autographs throughout the stadium and spreading good will on a cold and rainy day.
50 years ago, Fred Wilpon traveled to Coney Island to walk on the boardwalk, go to Nathan’s and talk to his buddies from Lafayette High School (most notably Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax) about the Brooklyn Dodgers. Coney Island is one place he fondly remembers.
"It feels great, wet unfortunately but it still feels great," said Wilpon. "There is a lot of nostalgia about this particular location and this particular place. I spent a lot of time with my dad here and walking this boardwalk and I have a lot of fond memories being here."
When Wilpon told John Franco about the workout, Franco couldn’t hide his excitement. Franco was raised minutes from Coney Island and told his teammates everything about Brooklyn before arriving for the workout.
"He told me everything about here," said Roger Cedeno. "I even know what good places to eat."
Franco is bonded to Brooklyn and so is Brooklyn bonded to him. "It’s nice to give something back for the fans to come out and get this close to us. It gives the fans something to root for," said Franco
"A lot of police officers I know here, and people I grew up with are here. I rode the Cyclone 2 years ago for the first time, went to the beach and its nice to be back at home."
Mike Piazza is one of the few Mets who live in the city and has traveled around this town. Coney Island and Brooklyn is one of the places he knows very well because of Franco.
"He is a representative of Brooklyn, the attitude of the people of the area, and how they are determined. He worked hard, persevered and became a major league pitcher. He is very proud that the people relate to him on a personal basis and he is just a tremendous representative of Brooklyn and the Mets.
Piazza knew about the tradition of the Dodgers when he was a member of the organization before joining the Mets in 1998. Roy Campanella, Johnny Podres and his godfather Tommy Lasorda spoke to Piazza about the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
"I think the tradition of baseball Brooklyn is long and deep and its very special for this community and this city.
Most of the Mets I spoke to said how great the ballpark was. When they played in minors, the facilites was somewhat lacking such things as working bathrooms or enough locker room space or even a heater.
For Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Joe Mc Ewing, they have already been acquainted with the ballpark and the great crowds when both completed rehab assignments with the Cyclones.
"I spent a day here last year and it was a great experience," said Mc Ewing. "Packing the ballpark and mentioning to the kids that they were spoiled to be able play to 6500 people a night and play in a great facility."
Part of Wilpon’s plan when he bought the Mets from Nelson Doubleday in 2002 was to create a family atmosphere not only in Brooklyn but also with the Mets. But he also wants to win with the 2003 Mets and Piazza knows Wilpon’s desire to bring a championship back to the Mets.
"Every year is a different story. We definitely feel like we addressed some of out deficiencies. We have to stay healthy, play together and we know its not going to be easy. We hope to stay out of that rollercoaster and have a good year."
McGuire Spirit Lives On
When Marquette defeated Kentucky and advanced to NCAA Final Four, the memories of Al McGuire coaching Marquette to a NCAA championship win over Dean Smith and North Carolina in 1977 came flooding back to a lot of people.
Al and his brother Dick was born and raised in Snug Harbor on 108th Street and played in the basketball courts near their family saloon. Both went to play at St. John’s as Dick had an all-star career with the Knicks and Al went to Marquette to become head coach.
Al’s heart was always connected to the city and he recruited his best players from the area. When he announced his retirement in 1977, Al wanted to cap his career with an NCAA win after winning two NIT titles. The support for Al was tremendous throughout he country and when he cried and smiled after Marquette’s championship, the whole country smiled and cried as well. McGuire will be watching from that big basketball court in the sky and so will we.