by Andrew Forbes
I once saw Curtis Granderson, with the Mets, homer in the 11th inning to tie a game, and then homer a second time in the 12th to win it. It was such a beautiful evening. Manhattan shimmered in the distance, washed in oranges and reds against the setting sun, and the air had a lovely thickness and softness to it. I’d come to the city with my wife and two friends for The Brooklyn Book Festival, and when we drove in on Friday night we found the last street parking spot in Brooklyn, but it was only about three-and-a-half inches longer than our car. I parallel-parked the hell out of that thing, but just before I settled in to the final resting position I bumped—tapped—the gargantuan SUV behind me with my plastic bumper. This thing was a vulgar monstrosity. The very moment I bumped it—tapped it—I swear to you four uniformed NYPD officers materialized out of nowhere. “Everything okay here?” asked one. “I thought I heard a crunch.” My dear friend John, who was outside the car, directing me, said, “What? I didn’t hear anything.” So how do you reward that kind of loyalty? That willingness to lie to the NYPD? You take your friend to a ballgame is how.
I’m not a Mets fan but in New York I’ll cheer for the Mets every time.
The next night we were at Citi Field, where the Mets were playing the Twins. I feel the same way about interleague as you do, but I still wanted good seats. So: lower level, just past first, maybe a third of the way up. We left the car—because no way was I giving up that parking spot—and took the 7 train up to Citi Field. It was Jacob DeGrom Hair Hat Night, so as we pushed through the turnstiles we were handed a cheap Mets cap with a wig hot-glued inside and a Geico logo stitched on the back. We wore those as we stood in line to get Shake Shack burgers and beers, and then we ate standing up, staring at the gorgeous grass.
In the fourth Eddie Rosario took Seth Lugo deep to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead, and it stayed that way until Yeonis Cespedes drove in Jose Reyes in the bottom of the eighth.
I’m not a Mets fan but in New York I’ll cheer for the Mets every time. The Mets are a philosophy in every way opposed to Yankeeness, diametrically so. The relationship between these two entities is schismatic, a fundamental divergence on matters related to the very essence of being.
Curtis Granderson is among that select group of players who’ve negotiated the sale of their labor to both organizations, so he’s got some insight into the duality of human experience. He knows: while it’s certainly more luxurious to be a Yankee fan or player, being in consortium with the Mets teaches you the same thing that you learn if you live long enough on this planet: true love travels on a gravel road.
What’s remarkable is that Grandy managed the trick of being likeable while being a Yankee. All fanbases, in every big league city, loved Grandy, even if they’re not one of the six teams he played for; he was just that wonderful. When he was young and a Tiger, it was easy to envy Detroit. Patrolling that spacious center field, he was smooth, graceful. He blossomed into an elite defender who made everything look easy, a hitter prone to strikeouts but also extra base hits, an RBI man with 20+ home run power, an All-Star, but the Tigers weren’t going anywhere so they traded him to the Yankees. After four seasons in the Bronx he was granted his free agency. He signed a four-year deal with the Mets, where he had a shot at winning the Series, but ran headlong into the Royals. After that he was on the downhill side of his career. The Mets traded him to the Dodgers, and then he bounced around: Brewers, Blue Jays, Marlins. Everywhere he went, they loved him for his swing, his hustle, and that smile that’d light up a field brighter than a thousand LED lamps.
What’s remarkable is that Grandy managed the trick of being likeable while being a Yankee.
Nobody scored in the ninth, so we settled in for extras. Nothing doing in the 10th, but Byron Buxton homered to lead off the 11th, and it looked like the Twins would steal a win. But Grandy led off the bottom of the 11th and sent Brandon Kintzler’s 0-1 pitch over the wall in left-center. Game tied at two.
The Mets sent six batters to the plate in the 11th, which meant Grandy’s turn came around again in the bottom of the 12th, with two out and the score still knotted. The centerfielder worked the count full against the eighth pitcher the Twins had trotted out.
Grandy, his socks pulled high in tribute to his Negro League forebears, yanked the payoff pitch over the right field wall and rounded the bases at a brisk jog and when he reached the plate his teammates mobbed him and doused him in water. I screamed myself hoarse, Jacob deGrom’s fake hair bouncing up and down on my head. The home run apple rose and lit up out there in centerfield, and the man of the hour beamed.
It was fully night then, close and suggestive, and we rode the train back to Brooklyn. Joaquin Phoenix got on with his dog, hopped off a few stops later. The streets teemed, and we hauled bodega beers back to the place we’d rented for the weekend. We drank from cold bottles with our feet up on the table, and I don’t know now what I miss more, Granderson’s smile, or that old world where we go to New York and sit elbow to elbow on trains and in ballparks with strangers on warm summer evenings. But I know this: no matter how big that smile, wherever Grandy is he’s smart enough to cover it with a fucking mask.
ANDREW FORBES is the author of the story collections Lands and Forests (Invisible Publishing) and What You Need, which was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, and named a finalist for the Trillium Book Prize. Forbes is also the author of The Utility of Boredom: Baseball Essays, as well as the forthcoming The Only Way is the Steady Way: Baseball, Ichiro, and How We Watch the Game. He lives in Peterborough, Ontario. Visit his website to learn more about his work.