Awake at five o'clock this morning and unable to fall back asleep, I found that thinking about the play I'm working on provided more stress than it was worth. To help ease my way into drowsiness, I turned my mind to placid, tedious baseball. Emerald grass. The sweet crack of the bat. Other cliches.
But sleep did not come, because I made the mistake of thinking about the Mets. I won't bother you with the details, but let's just say that they are in deep shit. Because they can't afford to field a competitive team, the owners should be forced to sell the franchise. But Fred and Jeff Wilpon are best budsies with commissioner Bud Selig, and will never be forced to let their baby go. Oh well.
This is not great stuff to sing oneself to sleep with, so I turned my thoughts to the past. There is no finer bit of classic Mets lore than Jimmy Breslin's Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?, a slim, brutally funny look at the Mets' spectacularly bad inaugural season. The team was much worse than it is now, but the future was much, much brighter.
Continuing my thoughts from yesterday's post about the forthcoming Yankee stage play, I typed up one of my favorite passages from the book, when Breslin relates the most spectacular thing he ever saw Babe Ruth do. Read it. Breslin's just like me, but he's a better reporter. Also a better writer. And he's tougher. And he knows more dangerous people. Also he's not actually a baseball fan—he just happens to write about it brilliantly. Basically, we're the same guy.
In fact, in eighteen years of being able to look at things and remember what I have seen, the only sports legend I ever saw who completely lived up to advance billing was Babe Ruth.
It was a hot summer afternoon, and the Babe, sweat dripping from his jowls and his shirt stuck to him, came off the eighteenth green at the old Bayside Golf Club in the borough of Queens and stormed into the huge barroom of the club.
"Gimme one of them heavens to Betsy drinks you always make for me," the Babe said in his gravelly voice.
The bartender put a couple of fistfuls of ice chunks into a big, thick mixing glass and then proceeded to make a Tom Collins that had so much gin in it that the other people at the bar started to laugh. He served the drink to the Babe just as it was made, right in the mixing glass.
Ruth said something about how heavens to Betsy hot he was, and then he picked up the glass and opened his mouth, and there went everything. In one shot he swallowed the drink, the orange slice and the rest of the garbage, and the ice chunks too. He stopped for nothing. There is not a single man I have ever seen in a saloon who does not bring his teeth together a little bit and stop those ice chunks from going in. A man has to have a pipe the size of a trombone to take ice in one shot. But I saw Ruth do it, and whenever somebody tells me about how the Babe used to drink and eat when he was playing ball, I believe every word of it.
Otherwise, most legends should be regarded with suspicion.
See, that's how you open a fucking play.