You Gotta Believe! — rewriting 1973 to make ourselves happy

You Gotta Believe! — rewriting 1973 to make ourselves happy January 23, 2013

I was too young to remember watching the Miracle Mets surprise the Baltimore Orioles and the world by winning their first World Series in 1969, but I can still remember their next championship like it was yesterday.

The scrappy 1973 Mets — the team that gave us “You Gotta Believe!” — had implausibly defeated the Big Red Machine in the playoffs and had forced the mighty Oakland A’s to a seventh game in the World Series.

The game started poorly for the Amazin’s, with Bert Campaneris and Reggie Jackson both homering in the bottom of the third inning to give Oakland a 4-0 lead, chasing Mets’ starter Jon Matlack. And by the time the ninth inning arrived, the A’s had a 5-1 lead with future hall-of-famer Rollie Fingers on the mound needing just three more outs to secure the win.

You know the rest of the story.

Ed Kranepool, batting with two on and two out, hit what should have been a game-ending groundball, but Deron Johnson’s error let John Milner score. Now it’s 5-2, still two on and two out, tying run at the plate.

As Mets skipper Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Wayne Garrett’s single made it 5-3, followed by Felix Millan’s epic at-bat, fouling off 11 pitches before working out a walk to load the bases for Rusty Staub and baseball history.

I don’t have to tell you what happened next — “Rusty’s Rocket,” “The Slam Heard ‘Round the World,” you’ve probably seen clips of that moment a thousand times. Or that famous photo of Jerry Koosman embracing Jerry Grote on the mound after pitching a perfect ninth-inning on three days’ rest.

Watching the game on television back in New Jersey, I cheered and cheered. I didn’t cry at all because Wayne Garrett didn’t pop out to shortstop and I get to remember 1973 exactly the way I want to, the way I wish to, just like Al Mohler does.

We can’t be bound by memory, or documented history, or truth or facts. We can rewrite all of those to create a mythic reality preferable to any sad truth, sad memories, sad history that we’d prefer were somehow different.

So if Mohler gets to reach back to 1973 to fabricate a mythic history involving some kind of principled evangelical backlash to Roe v. Wade that never happened, then I get to do the same thing — I get to reach back to 1973 and invent a history that suits my emotional needs too. I’m just changing Garrett’s pop-fly into a single. That’s a much more modest change than rewriting a decade of increasing Southern Strategy partisanship into something that we can pretend gives us the moral high ground.

The history books may say different than what Al says or what I say. And Mohler and I are both old enough to remember what really happened. We’re both old enough to know that my account of the ninth inning above is as ridiculously fictional as his column in the Post. But why should either of us have to settle for such memories and such unpleasant truths when our fantasy histories are so much more enjoyable?

So Viva le Grande Orange! And all hail the 1973 World Champion New York Mets!


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  • Foreigner

    I’d rather change things so that slavery was ended without the war, or, better still, never happened in the first place.

    There are days when I think the best thing that could ever be changed in history is for the hominid line to have never arisen at all …

  • Isabel C.

    Yes, Jesus fucking Christ, yes.

    The excessive detail kind of killed me, but mostly I stopped reading because the books really only had one female character, and she was Marge Simpson in fantasy dress.

  • christopher_y

    I don’t think he claims very hard. He seems quite a decent guy by the standards of European aristocracy (not saying much).

    You’d be surprised how many disused royals there are hanging around. When I was working in a bookshop we once got a letter from the pretender to the Byzantine Empire, who took himself seriously enough to have a double headed eagle on his notepaper. Mostly harmless, I suppose.

  • Carstonio

    I had this impression that the disused royals simply faded into society, working as low-level bureaucrats or clerks. Or to get more fanciful, that they exiled themselves to the same island, strolling along in faded coronation robes imagining themselves like Louis XIV at Versailles. As a kid I imagined that robes and crowns were daily wear for reigning monarchs, and that they had to sit all day on their thrones. Even today when I see photos of Queen Elizabeth in her classy suits, or her predecessors and eventual successors in their military uniforms, this seems off somehow.

  • Katie

    If you really want something bizarre, check out the wikipedia article on the Stuart Succession.  That is, tracing the succession from Bonnie Prince Charlie.  The amusing thing is that Elizabeth II still ends up with a decent claim to the throne, and Prince Charles with a slightly better one.  And the actual heir is some German dude, which was roughly what happened in real life anyway.

    As far as rewriting history, one of my favorites is one some friends and I came up with, where the UK allowed the eldest child to inherit the throne, which would have made Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter the heir to the throne, and united the UK and Germany when Princess Victoria married Prince Fredrick, ushering in a era of prosperity and technological innovation.

  • christopher_y

    Well, unless they’ve managed to hang onto their estates, like Herr von Hohenzollern over there, they have to take any job they can get like the rest of us. But they have long memories. After the fall of communism, the former King of Bulgaria went back and served as Prime Minister between 2001 and 2005. He resigned like a good democrat when he lost the next election, but he still thinks he should be king as far as I know. The heir to the throne of Albania is apparently a civil servant (in Albania), whereas his Itaian opposite number was last heard of as an arms dealer, suing the Italian government for damages on the loss of his throne.

  • I am instantly in love with your steam and dieselpunk alternate history, pip pip cheerio etc. :P

  • I live in the SF Bay Area but grew up in Ft Worth (that little town west of Dallas) and sometimes have to explain why I haven’t been excited by football since Landry was a coach.

  • No worries, there’s a revert button:

  • Carstonio

    I dislike Dallas the city for political, cultural, economic, social, intellectual and religious reasons, and I find myself wrongly projecting that onto the football team.

  • Jenny Islander

    ISTR that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Czar presented himself at the Russian border with a plan to become a purely ceremonial monarch whose main job would be presiding over pageants glorifying the history of Russia and wearing the regalia for photo ops.  IIRC the government wouldn’t even let him visit.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    John Kerr’s 1975 speech, in which he upheld the right of the people to choose their government, remains one of the most articulate and principled stances in favour of democracy that the world has seen.

  • Will Hennessy

     RIGHT?!? Jerry Jones will always be a villain in my book for that move.