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The Column: Mets fans are accustomed to suffering

Take me out to the ballgame?

Not a chance.

The season is on hold because of coronavirus, and a story in Newsday said there might not be games until June. Personally, I wouldn’t count on the pleasure of a high-priced hot dog at Citi Field even then.

To tell the truth, I don’t mind a brief delay.

Major League Baseball should not be attempted in March, when some fans still are debating whether to take down Christmas decorations and the breeze off Flushing Bay threatens frostbite. T.S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month? His seats must not have been in the upper deck.

We are a family of Mets fans — two parents, four children, all fellow sufferers — and as each new season approaches, no matter the outlook, hope snaps out of a six-month coma.

“LGM!,” a daughter will text — Let’s Go Mets!

“Gotta’ believe,” her sister might reply.

“LGM, forever,” says one son or the other.

This year is different.      

My younger son, the Queens guy, called to check on us.

“How you doing?” he asks.

“Good. No problems.”

Like most everyone we know, my wife, Wink, and I are hunkered down.

Except for walks, we engage the outside world only rarely and with caution. Social distancing used to be what you did at a party when the guy who has been telling the same knock-knock jokes for 20 years shows up. Now it’s an essential 21st-century survival technique.

“This is really something,” says my son.

“Something,” I say.

“And baseball,” he says. “No baseball. Dad, I can’t believe it.”

“It’ll be back.”

“When?”

“Sometime.”

As diversion, I remind him of my greatest Mets moment.

This was in 1969 when, against the odds, a franchise that inspired Jimmy Breslin’s hilarious book, “Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?,” beat the mighty Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, four games to one.

And guess who was at Game 5 in raucous, rattletrap Shea Stadium?

I had just arrived at Newsday — the big time for a reporter whose background was in small city dailies from Colorado to New York State.

Things were flush in those days and Newsday had a box at Shea.

When I got to work on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 16, one of the most terrifying editors in the place — there were plenty — called me to his office.

I’d been at the paper for maybe a month. Could they be saying s’long already?

“Want to go the game?” the editor said.

“The Series?”

“What else?”

“You bet.”

The Mets played like champs on that glorious afternoon — breaking a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning with what proved the two winning runs.

Now, quickly, it’s the ninth, two down, crowd wild. Davey Johnson, the Baltimore second baseman, lifts a fly ball to Cleon Jones in deep left. Jones makes the catch with two hands, and it feels like Shea might collapse. The noise is impossible. The world shakes. The Mets win.

And I was there. You kidding, or what?

There’s more.

I called Newsday to check in.

Something had come up. The paper’s fabulous columnist Robert Mayer was supposed to write the Page One story but got stuck in Washington, D.C.

It’s yours now, said an editor. Head to the city. Get crowd stuff, come back and bang this thing out.

I ended up on Madison Avenue, somewhere in midtown. People were hollering and hugging and emptying wastebaskets out windows.

In front of an office building, I saw a young woman crying for joy.

And no wonder.

She’d been on the 10th floor throwing stuff into the air when a precious silver ring slipped from her finger.

Panicked, she raced to the street and, all but hopeless, started looking through piles of stuff — phone book pages, IBM computer cards — for the cherished gift. Ridiculous, of course, crazy.

But, hold on. Stop. What do you know?   Incredible. There it was!

Amid thousands of pedestrians and tons of paper — her ring.

“A miracle,” she said.

That’s how I started my Newsday story — the miracle of the ring, the miracle of the Mets.

With ballparks empty in these days of anxiety and confusion, I think about that young woman and the glorious ’69 team and my Page One story.

And I think of the Mets eternal hosanna to hope and renewal: Hey, you gotta’ believe.

That’s right, isn’t it? Like maybe no time before, you just gotta’ believe.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the author of the sentiment that April is the cruelest month. It was T.S. Eliot.

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