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February 10, 2009
  
A Look at the Mets in Popular Culture

The Mets have made their mark on pop culture, including a certain Gold Glove first baseman appearing on the best sitcom of all time, a left fielder making a cameo in a Will Smith blockbuster film, and a song name for a future Hall of Fame catcher. Here’s a look at the Mets in pop culture through the years.

Movies

The 2000 film Frequency, starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel as father and son, featured the 1969 Mets as a plot device. Caviezel, living in 1999, speaks to his father Quaid, living in 1969, via a far-fetched scenario involving a ham radio and aurora borealis. Caviezel is able to convince Quaid that he is actually his son living thirty years in the future by accurately predicting the outcome of a 1969 World Series game. The 2005 film Game 6, starring Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr., tells the story of a troubled playwright and Red Sox fan experiencing the events of October 25, 1986. As the title suggests, this date was the night of “Gets by Bucker!” The 1957 film Fear Strikes Out stars Anthony Perkins as former Met Jimmy Piersall. Piersall suffered from bipolar disorder and is famous for running the bases backwards after hitting his 100th career home run. Former Met Bernard Gilkey made a brief but memorable cameo in the 1997 film Men in Black. While manning leftfield at Shea Stadium, a fly ball nails him in the head as his attention diverts to the World’s Fair parachute ride suddenly flying away. If the Mets signed Manny Ramirez, I could imagine this scene actually happening; however, I don’t think it would take alien spaceships to distract him. Maybe a shiny object in the stands would do the trick? How about a cloud in the shape of a dollar sign?

Here are a few more examples of Mets in the film world:

  • Denzel Washington’s character in Spike Lee’s 2006 film Inside Man is named Keith Frazier. This is a tribute to Keith Hernandez and former Knicks guard Walt “Clyde” Frazier, two of Lee’s favorite athletes. Also in Inside Man, one of the hostages taken by Clive Owen’s character laments his bad luck, saying “I had tickets for the Mets game tonight… and Pedro is pitching!”
  • Ron Darling appeared in the movies Shallow Hal, The Day After Tomorrow and Mr. 3000.
  • Mike Piazza was in the 2002 Sandra Bullock movie Two Weeks Notice.
  • The 2007 documentary Mathematically Alive, directed by Katherine Foronjy and Joseph Coburn, focuses on the emotional attachment Met fans have to their team. It won numerous awards at film festivals and featured Mets Ed Charles, Tim Teufel, Bud Harrelson, and Ron Swoboda.
  • Bobby Bonilla was credited as one of the “Three Big Whiffers” in the 1993 movie Rookie of the Year. The other Whiffers were Barry Bonds and Pedro Guerrero.
  • Bret Saberhagen appeared as himself in the 1994 film The Scout.
  • Former Mets announcer Tim McCarver appeared in Mr. Baseball, Naked Gun, The Scout, Baseketball, and Fever Pitch. We should be thankful McCarver is not a current Mets announcer.
  • Patrick Bateman, the main character of the novel American Psycho (which was adapted into a film starring Christian Bale), is a Mets fan. Although we can’t be sure if he is a true fan, or only claimed to be as a means of “fitting in” with 1980’s New York society.
  • A movie about the 2008 Mets is not in production, but if it was, this should be the cast.

Television

Three popular New York based sitcoms, Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, and King of Queens often paid homage to the Mets. The stars of these shows, Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano and Kevin James, are among some of the noteworthy celebrity Met fans. Early Seinfeld episodes featured numerous Met references, including a typical fan conversation between Jerry and a naked subway rider about the 1992 Mets:

Naked Guy: They still have no pitching. Gooden’s a question mark. You don’t recover from those rotator cuffs so fast.
Jerry: I’m not worried about their pitching. They got pitching. They got no hitting.
Naked Guy: No hitting? They got hitting! Bonilla, Murray. They got no defense.
Jerry: Defense? Please. They need speed.
Naked Guy: Speed? They got Coleman. They need a bullpen.
Jerry: Franco’s no good? They got no team leaders.
Naked Guy: They got Franco! What they need is a front office.
Jerry: But you gotta like their chances.
Naked Guy: I LOVE their chances.

Addtionally, Keith Hernandez was suspected of spitting on Jerry’s cohorts Kramer and Newman in a two of the funniest episodes in the shows existence. Roger McDowell’s status as the “second spitter” was also memorable. In an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray and his brother Robert (played by Brad Garrett) traveled to Cooperstown to meet the 1969 Mets. Guest stars included Tommie Agee, Jerry Grote, Bud Harrelson, Cleon Jones, Ed Kranepool, Tug McGraw, Art Shamsky, and Ron Swoboda. The brothers even named their childhood dog “Shamsky.” Kevin James frequently referenced his Mets fanhood on King of Queens, and Todd Zeile guest starred on the show after his retirement. In real life, James took a page out of the Chipper Jones playbook, naming his daughter Shea.

Here are some more Mets television appearances:

  • Mike Piazza won an episode of Celebrity Jeopardy!, and also made cameo appearances on Married…With Children, Baywatch, and The Apprentice. Bret Saberhagen was also on the same episode of Married… With Children, which featured Al Bundy and the men of “NO MA’AM” getting fed up with the 1994 baseball strike and attempting to organize their own league.
  • Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez guest starred on Sesame Street. It’s reassuring to know Keith taught America’s children the alphabet and how to count to ten.
  • Gary Carter guest starred on the HBO show Arli$$. Not even Arliss Michaels could get Carter an interview for the position of Mets manager.
  • Darryl Strawberry appeared on a famous episode of The Simpsons, which also featured Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, and Wade Boggs as ringers for Mr. Burns’s softball team. Darrrrrr-yllll… Darrrrrr-yllll.

Music

The popular band Yo La Tengo derives its name from a hilarious 1962 Mets anecdote. Here is the full story, which is also linked here in video form:

During the 1962 season, New York Mets center fielder Richie Ashburn and Venezuelan shortstop Elio Chacón found themselves colliding in the outfield. When Ashburn went for a catch, he would scream, “I got it! I got it!” only to run into Chacón, who spoke only Spanish. Ashburn learned to yell, “¡Yo la tengo! ¡Yo la tengo!” which is “I have it” in Spanish. In a later game, Ashburn happily saw Chacón backing off. He relaxed, positioned himself to catch the ball, and was instead run over by left fielder Frank Thomas, who understood no Spanish and had missed a team meeting that proposed using the words “¡Yo la tengo!” as a way to avoid outfield collisions. After getting up, Thomas asked Ashburn, “What the heck is a Yellow Tango?”

Indie pop sensations Belle and Sebastian named a song “Piazza, New York Catcher.” The song was featured in the film Juno and the bizarre lyrics are beyond my comprehension. Fans who followed the 1999 Mets know that the song “L.A. Woman” by The Doors served as that team’s theme song, courtesy of Robin Ventura. While the song is obviously not about the Mets, I’m always reminded of Edgardo Alfonzo, Al Leiter, John Olerud and all the rest whenever I hear the “Mr. mojo risin’” chorus on a classic rock radio station. Trying to emulate the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears and their song “The Super Bowl Shuffle”, some of the 1986 Mets recorded “Get Metsmerized.” Click here to listen. My favorite lyrics:

I’m Tim Teufel, lemme begin by sayin’,
I was once a Twin.
I made the move and it just feels right
I’ve been Metsmerized and I see the light!

Last, and certainly least, we have Lastings Milledge’s foray into gangsta rap. He collaborated with childhood friend Manny D on the cringe inducing ballad “Bend Ya Knees.” The Mets front office wasn’t impressed, and a few months later, he was shipped off to Washington for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few, so please feel free to share any Mets pop culture moments that have been omitted.


6 Responses to “A Look at the Mets in Popular Culture”

  1. Comment posted by John on February 10, 2009 at 9:23 am (#928147)

    Hahaha good stuff here james

    Also I think David Wright was on the apprentice. The teams were selling hot dogs in NYC I believe and Jennie Finch called Wright to come down and make a donation.

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  3. Comment posted by pj on February 10, 2009 at 10:47 am (#928177)

    http://faithandfear.blogharbor.com/blog/_archives/2005/2/21/342339.html

  4. Comment posted by sherritina on February 10, 2009 at 11:17 am (#928183)

    In the classic movie “Little Big League”, 2 former Mets show up: Kevin Elster plays one of the Twins, and Dave Magadan is featured as well.

    And recently Mike Piazza was on an episode of VH1 Classic’s “That Metal Show”, hosted by Piazza’s buddy Eddie Trunk.

  5. Comment posted by toasterdude on February 10, 2009 at 11:37 am (#928184)

    You did forget a few pretty big ones:

    George Burns in one of the oh god movies commenting on not having done many miracles lately cited the 69 Mets as his last miracle.

    Richard Prior movie “some kind of hero” about a vietnam POW coming home after many years in captivity. he gets on a plane heading back home and asks an officer something like “what have I missed”. . . .officer answered something like ” the F$%^&ing Mets won the World Series”! Of course solicting more curse words in Prior’s reaction!

  6. Comment posted by The Frito Pundito on February 10, 2009 at 1:53 pm (#928258)

    The Bad Lieutenant, a riveting if kind of sleazy film starring Harvey Keitel, had its plot hinge on an NLCS between the Mets and the Dodgers (not the actual 1988 one). The Mets were down three games to nothing, and Keitel bet that the Mets couldn’t come back. Of course, they did, and clips of various Mets-Dodgers games (including one of Sid Fernandez pitching) were interspersed to show how the Mets came back. That caused Harvey Keitel to go broke and be on the run from the Mob.

  7. Comment posted by tmd on February 11, 2009 at 8:50 pm (#929288)

    Does no one remember the greatest movie ever, the original “Odd Couple?” Felix (Jack Lemmon) calls Oscar (Walter Matthau) at Shea to tell him not to eat too many hot dogs at the game because they are having franks and beans for dinner. Meanwhile, Oscar misses the Mets game-ending’ triple play, with Mazeroski batting, no less.

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