Carroll: Christie, Phillies & the Mets

     Tug McGraw’s “Ya Gotta Believe!” was the rallying cry of the 1973 Mets who came back from last place in August to win the NL East division on the last day of that season. It’s not hyperbolic to state that it’s one of the most famous baseball expressions to come along in the last 50 years.

     McGraw was traded from the Mets to the Phillies in late 1974 and he enjoyed a lot of success in Philadelphia. It is understandable that the Phillies consider the charismatic relief pitcher, who died too young from cancer at the age of 58, to be one of their own. However it rubbed many in the Mets organization the wrong way when the Phillies unveiled a mural that read “Ya Gotta Believe!” at their Clearwater, Florida spring training headquarters last week. “Ya Gotta Be Kidding Me!” was the Mets’ official response on Twitter.

     New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is a huge Mets fan, was a guest on SNY’s “Baseball Night in New York” last Wednesday night and he weighed in on the Phillies’ usurpation of a phrase that is a key part of Mets history.

     Christie is rumored to be on the WFAN short list to replace the iconic Mike Francesa when he leaves the station at the end of the year so it wasn’t a surprising that he went into shock-jock mode as he attacked the Phillies and their fans. He made it a point to state that the Phillies’ stadium, Citizens Bank Park, is unsafe for fans who want to root for the opposing team.

     Watching a replay of Christie’s appearance on SNY it appeared that his comments were made tongue-in-cheek. The Phillies’ social media department took it that way and nicely got a zinger of their own in at him when they tweeted, “We love our fans and appreciate their unwavering loyalty as we ‘bridge’ to a bright future.”

    Philadelphia is approximately a two-hour drive from most parts of Queens and both the Phillies and the Greater Philadelphia Tourism & Marketing Association count on Mets fans to come down and cheer on the Amazin’s as they spend  money on hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions of which the City of Brotherly Love has plenty. Each season the Mets make three road trips to Philly and if it were up to the Phillies accounting department it would probably be twice that number.

     Citizens Bank Park is a beautiful place to watch a baseball game and I never tire of its panoramic view of Center City. As in any ballpark, you’ll find a handful of troublemakers but most Phillies fans at Citizens Bank Park will razz their Mets counterparts simply for harmless fun. The Mets and Queens businesses certainly want Phillies fans to come up from the Delaware Valley to Citi Field and have a great experience. 

     This Saturday, SNY will broadcast the Mets’ spring training opener against their chief division rival, the Washington Nationals.

     Another sign that winter will soon be over is the return of Ed Randall’s “Talking Baseball” program to WFAN on Sunday mornings between 9 and 11. Ed is able to not only bring in baseball’s biggest names but to get those bold list names to engage callers as well. The conversation is rarely sycophantic as the listeners ask pretty good questions even if they are talking to people were their idols at one time and may very well still be. “I’ve never had to hang up on a caller in the fourteen years that I have had this show,” Ed proudly told me a couple of weeks ago at the Thurman Munson Dinner. 

     The press box at Citi Field will be missing one of the best reporters to ever cover the Mets. Adam Rubin, who has reported on the team for the Daily News, and most recently ESPN New York, has made a career switch to higher education public relations. ESPN, which has seen an erosion in profits in recent years, has cut back coverage of local teams in all sports as part of an economic belt-tightening.

     Adam probably broke more stories about our Flushing heroes than anyone else over the last 20 years. On a personal note, he was extremely gracious as to me as he frequently mentioned many of my Mets columns in his Morning Briefing which was part of his daily ESPN NY column which was must reading for even casual fans.

    Playing baseball in New York still offers more current and post-career benefits than anywhere else in the country. Two weeks ago ESPN hired recently retired Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira to be a baseball analyst and last week Fox Sports hired his longtime teammate Nick Swisher to perform the same duties.  Both players always were quotable and enjoyed the give and take with the press. It is astonishing how many athletes and other public figures fail to grasp that fairly simple concept.

     Former NFL running back Marshawn Lynch who will probably be inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in Canton in the near future is incredibly popular in Australia and New Zealand. He was spotted at the QT Sydney Hotel during Super Bowl week and hosted a viewing party for the big game in Auckland, NZ. This is yet further proof of how American football’s popularity has spiked across the globe in the past decade.

      George “The Animal” Steele (real name: William James Myers) was one of the ten most famous professional wrestlers in history. His death last Friday at the age of 79 was noted by everyone from Hulk Hogan to Rachel Maddow. Myers’ Steele character was a Neanderthal with a childlike sense of wonder which made him popular both as a villain, and later in his career, a good guy. His trademark shtick was treating the foam turnbuckles in the corners as a snack whenever he was in the ring. RIP, George.

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