Escaping to the Past

After Johan Santana suffered one of the worst outings of his career last night against the Braves, and with the promise that his June 1 no-hitter (did that really happen?) and the Mets inspired first half play melting away into the humid, putrid air of another endless New York summer, it feels like a good time for me to escape to the past, to a time when things in Flushing were innocent and beckoning for better days to come.

Perhaps I could drink heavily and watch “Mets Yearbook” on SNY at 3:00 AM, but that would be more depressing than watching the final six weeks of this season circle the drain (speaking of Flushing).  So I must thank Michael Hnatov, a very talented photographer and lifelong Mets fan from Long island for sending me this photo of a very young Tom Seaver (circa 1967 or ’68)  that he shot from the stands before a game  that he attended with his dad at Shea.

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Michael Hnatov photo

I love this photo because it makes you think and wonder and imagine. That’s the joy of great photography. What’s running through Seaver’s mind? I doubt  it’s about the post-game buffet or the most recent episode of I Dream of Jeannie.  More likely, he’s wondering how he’s going to pitch to Mays or Aaron or Clemente or Brock.  And if  it is his rookie season, he has more than 300 wins and 3500+ strikeouts to record, three Cy Young Awards and the Miracle of ’69 – could he have imagined what lay ahead? He looks like an innocent kid, not the bulldog of an ace who would terrorize major league hitters for the next two decades.  But looks are deceiving. Witness his plaque in Cooperstown.

It’s nice to get lost in a memory like this. sometimes, all it takes is a simple photo taken by a young, wide-eyed fan, and your whisked away, far from the doldrums of another lost season.

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