We are social creatures and allegiance to groups is built into us. It would be interesting to do a study of Met fans and Yankee fans to find out how their allegiance came about. Was it passed down from family and friends at a young age? Is there a critical time period during one’s life during which fandom is more easily learned? Is there a difference between men and women in how they become fans? What factors go into switching allegiance from one team to another?
Being a Met fan for me is not really a matter of choice. I’m a Met fan in the same way that I am a Jew or an American. The Mets moved into Shea in 1964, and I stopped following the Yankees for good. My father never watched baseball, unless he could bet on it. I didn’t even have many friends who were Mets fans and I would frequently go to Shea by myself, where I would be surrounded by the faithful.
Maybe a big part of being a Met fan was the fact they were such hapless team in the beginning, like an abused puppy in need of love. In some people there is a powerful incentive to root for the underdog, rather than the perennial champs, i.e.. the Yankees. Maybe I identified with being the underdog. Whatever it was, 1969 was the rapture for Met fans, the year our faith and loyalty was miraculously rewarded, and after that there was no question I would be anything but a Met fan for life.
I remember putting up a poster out of the window of our 4th floor apartment at 67-12 Parsons when the Mets clinched the pennant in 1969. This after seven years of being the laughing stock of baseball. Shea was close enough to Pomonok that I would sometimes walk there. I was one of the faithful who saved up Borden’s milk container coupons to get into Shea for free. If I remember correctly, a dozen coupons wrapped in a rubber band got you a general admission ticket. I don’t think the ticket takers even counted.
I was at the Shea on July 9, 1969 along with a crowd of 59,000 to witness Tom Seaver almost pitch a no-hitter against the Cubs. I was there with Pomonok’s own Billy Newman and a girl from John Bowne H.S. named Pat, who was a tomboy and a big fan. And, believe it or not, I was there for the final game of the World Series.
I managed to get into the World Series through my Pomonok connection. Across the court from me lived a guy who worked part time as a ticket taker at Shea. I went to the stadium hoping against hope that he was working that day and he would sneak me in. Sure enough, he was there. I stood by his station, waiting for him to acknowledge me. When the coast was clear, he motioned me through the turnstile. There were obviously no seats available, so I walked around the stadium the entire game. I clearly remember Cleon Jones making the final catch. I ran on to the field like everyone else, but wasn’t brazen enough to steal any seats or turf as souvenirs.
September 26, 2015 was a great a day to be a life-long Met fan, as they clinched the NL East Division for the first time in nine years. I used to go up to the roof of our seven-story apartment building to retrieve rubber balls and take a moment to find Shea Stadium in the distance. And when I was in the upper deck at Shea, I could easily locate the red brick complex of Pomonok Houses. These were the two pillars of my youth, Shea and Pomonok, virtually a stone’s throw from each other. Let’s go Mets!