I won’t pretend this is any kind of complete list. I have no idea, for instance, what the old Polo Grounds sounded like in 1921 and ’22 when the Yankees and the Giants played every World Series game there. I never set foot inside Ebbets Field or the Old Garden, so I can’t tell you what a Dodgers World Series game sounded like, or an NIT game involving St. John’s.
I can only tell you about the games I’ve attended. I can only list the loudest arenas and stadiums I’ve ever been in. But, really, everyone’s list ought to be different because everyone’s experience is different. The way old Nassau Coliseum seemed to shake with fury Wednesday and Friday nights was a reminder of that.
I’ve had the chance to see quite a lot in my time, had the chance to have my eardrums split in half plenty. These are the loudest I’ve ever heard New York roar in my time as both sports fan and sports writer in this city.
1. June 5, 1999
The loudest I’ve ever heard sports, ever.
The Knicks were trailing the Pacers, 91-88, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. There were 5.7 seconds left. Larry Johnson faked, got Antonio Davis in the air, maybe — maybe — drew some contact. The ball went in. The referee’s whistle blew. LJ made the free throw. The Knicks won, 92-91.
And the moment the ball splashed through the net Madison Square Garden made a sound that can still send goosebumps up and down my spine. I suspect I am not alone. I suspect it is the endless hope for a moment just like it that keeps people coming back to the Garden even when things look so … hopeless. That old, echoing cheer carries hope with it still.
2. Dec. 27, 1981
The last time the Jets had played in a playoff game was 12 days shy of my third birthday. But my dad scored tickets and we got caught in a traffic snarl and by the time we sat down for the first NFL game of my life the Jets were already trailing 14-0 to the Bills in the wild-card playoff game. It was soon 24-0. It was 31-13.
It was over.
But it wasn’t over. The Jets came back: 31-20, then 31-27. They got the ball back. Richard Todd was driving them downfield. And on the last play of the game, Scott Dierking broke open in the end zone and old Shea shook with a fury that was terrifying and magnificent all at once. If you watched a big game (or concert) at Shea, you know what I mean.
Bill Simpson intercepted Todd on the play. The Bills won. The silence? One day I’ll write a column about the quietest arenas and stadiums I’ve ever sat in. This will be on that list, too.
3. Nov. 1, 2001
A little how-the-sausage-is-made tidbit for you: the only time in my life I ever blew a deadline. The Yankees had their little miracle the night before, Tino Martinez taking Byung-Hyun Kim deep, then Derek Jeter winning it after midnight. But this time they were really cooked: two out, ninth inning, down 2-0, about to go down 3-2 in games in the World Series.
I filed my column for edition. I raced downstairs to make the clubhouse when it opened. I heard the reaction before I saw what caused it, before I saw Scott Brosius tie it, because the little TV outside the Yankees’ clubhouse was on a five-second delay. I scrambled for a phone to scream at my office “You can’t run that column!” I couldn’t hear them. They couldn’t hear me. I’m still not sure that column didn’t make a few papers.
4. Jan. 14, 2001
It wasn’t one moment that broke the sound barrier. This was different. This was 60 minutes of football that was backed by a sustained soundtrack of desperate glee and adulation that never stopped ringing in your ears. The Giants had no business playing for the Super Bowl, and yet they rolled it up on the Vikings, 41-0, by the end of that NFC Championship, and even Wellington Mara’s postgame tribute to the fans was hard to make out.
5. Oct. 19, 2006
The last time Shea shook the way it shook for the Jets in 1981, the way it shook for The Police in 1983, the way it shook for the Mets in 1969, 1973 and 1986. Endy Chavez’s bring-it-back catch of Scott Rolen’s drive didn’t just make the lower stands shake. I was in the auxiliary press box just above where Chavez caught the ball. We swore it was coming down. We survived. The Mets did not.
I’m not ready to nickname him McMurphy yet, but Jeff McNeil’s unique ability to be both a hitting metronome and a menace on the basepaths does conjure the very best of Daniel Murphy’s years with the Mets.
I understand that when Aaron Boone says his team is close to turning the corner, that message is meant for his players. But he has to realize those words are also televised to Yankees fans, who don’t much want to hear about imminent corners when they’ve just been swept out of Houston by the Astros.
Terrific baseball read of the week: “Doc, Donnie, the Kid and Billy Brawl,” a really fun look back at the summer of 1985 when the Mets and the Yankees flirted for the very first time with giving us a Subway Series. Fine work by Chris Donnelly.
I won’t lie: I would’ve liked to see the young Franco Harris character make another appearance this season on “This Is Us.” Wait till next year, I guess.
Whack Back at Vac
Gary Schwartz: I understand players think teams’ waning interest in free agents is bad for baseball, but it really is a good thing. Seeing young foundation players getting long-term extensions to stay “home” is a beautiful thing for any sport. Games are played for the fans who watch them, and fans much prefer watching and following the careers of home-grown stars rather than here-today, gone-in-a-few-seasons nomads.
Vac: Contracts like the ones the Braves signed with Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. are too often called “team-friendly,” but the better description really is “fan-friendly.”
Harold Frydman: If both players stay healthy, the Aaron Judge vs. Pete Alonso comparison could be as much fun as we’ve seen in New York baseball in decades. Good luck to both of them.
Vac: Maybe the great Terry Cashman might even be tuning his guitar as we speak?
@UnionAndUtopia: St. John’s should hire Rick Pitino. He has baggage but would be worth it, and he would thrive in New York City.
@MikeVacc: I would have little problem if St. John’s talked to Pitino, who has no show-cause penalty hanging over him. But what you get with Pitino is stupid stuff, like him thinking he could muscle an apology out of the U.S. attorney for allowing St. John’s the privilege of interviewing him. Nobody is worth that much absurd drama.
Rick Bause: Enjoyed your piece on Carl Braun in Sunday’s Post. I’ve told you before, you appreciate sports history … and so do many of your readers. Brings up the question: Why isn’t Gil Hodges in the Hall of Fame?
Vac: There is never a bad time to bring up that glaring cavity in Cooperstown. Some year that has to be fixed. The Hall is incomplete without him.
Published at Sun, 14 Apr 2019 02:13:19 +0000