Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Lee Mazzilli


“I think he’s wonderful.” This is what my grandmother would say about Lee Mazzilli anytime he’d happen upon the screen of her television, forever tuned into WWOR, Channel 9, the volume so loud your molars ached. She’d praise Mazzilli with genuine grandmotherly affection as though he’d just carried her groceries all the way from the Busy Bee corner grocery store. My grandmother lived almost her entire life in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Like so many Met fans of her advanced age, she had been a devout Dodger fan, left forlorn by their move to Los Angeles.

The Greenpoint section of Brooklyn has long been a veritable fortress of Polish immigrants but in my grandmother's youth it was also an Irish and German stronghold. It is possible to have lived a lifetime in Greenpoint with minimal contact with African Americans or any other Americans for that matter. It’s not that my grandmother was racist, but African Americans were somewhat of an unknown mystery to her. Whenever a broadcast’s camera would happen upon an African American player, my grandmother would remark, “It’s a marvel that so many coloreds are playing these days.” So her affection for Lee Mazzilli could have been grounded on his being white, maybe, I don’t know. Ironically, my grandmother would pass away in a nursing home in Bartlett, Tennessee, an establishment employed almost exclusively by African American caretakers.

Still Mazzilli was wonderful. I love this card (which I happened to have stolen from my brother during his first year away at Providence College). Here Mazzilli swings powerfully, as though lashing out against all that’s stacked against him – his awful Mets teammates, their awful season, their awful stadium in a city systematically being undone by cancerous urban decay. Even the lighting seems to indicate that an enormous rainstorm is about to drench the hot summer afternoon, perhaps delivering that cleansing rain longed so achingly by Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver.


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As an addendum...Shea Stadium...it's barely there any more. I'll be writing more about this later...I'm just not ready...





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