The return of Banner Day — a long-standing Shea Stadium tradition that was scrapped during one of the Mets’ notorious periods of substandard ball — was a qualified success at Keyspan Park on Sunday.
Owing to a minimal amount of pre-event publicity, only 20-some-odd fans prepared banners for the ceremonial on-field parade, but what the parade lacked in numbers, it made up in charm.
Bobby Malek — whose season officially ended when he underwent arm surgery on Monday — served as judge.
“I really have no idea what I’m looking for,” said Malek beforehand. When told that Met legend Tug McGraw once served in the same capacity — and chose a somewhat negative banner “To Err is Human. To Forgive is a Mets Fan” in 1965 — Malek asked, “Who’s Tug McGraw?”
In the end, Malek chose banners by Judy LaJoie (“Keyspan Park: The House that Party Marty Built”) and Greg Conyers (“We Relish the Cyclones”) as the winners.
Malek’s judging was questioned with his selection of LaJoie’s shameless boosterism, but he recovered by naming Conyers a co-winner — thanks to the cute kid holding the hand-crayoned banner for him.
“What can I say, that little kid won my heart,” Malek said. “Presentation counts.”
Let the record show that Eddie Mark of Coney Island was ripped off. His banner — a professional-looking depiction of the famous smiling face of Coney Island from the old Steeplechase but with blood-covered vampire teeth and the line, “Yankees run in fear/The Cyclones are here” — was, in this reporter’s opinion, the best of the bunch.
And sympathy votes go to the two sad-looking people who carried a banner reading “Alhaji Turay Fan Club” that had been made long before the members of the “club” ever met the famously caustic Clone. When one of the two “fan club” members noticed that Turay was not in the dugout watching the parade with his fellow Cyclones, he just looked at the ground and said, “Typical Turay.”
Whealy good job
He could’ve been the first Cyclone to ever hit for the cycle — if he wasn’t such a gamer.
But when hot-hitting Blake Whealy — who had already gotten his triple, homer and single earlier in the week — hit a deep shot into the gap, the thought of stopping at second never crossed his mind.
But only because it already had.
“Before the at bat, I asked HoJo [Cyclones manager Howard Johnson] ‘What should I do if I hit a single?’ and he said, ‘If there’s a chance to get to second, go for it. Make them throw you out,’” recalled Whealy, who has been hitting up a storm for the past two weeks. “And then I asked what I should do if it’s a double and there’s a chance for three. He said, ‘You have to go for the triple.’”
Unfortunately — for Cyclones history; that is — that’s exactly what happened. Whealy’s tweener went all the way to the wall. For a second, it looked as if it would bounce over the wall for a grounds-rule double. But Whealy wasn’t that lucky.
He was practically at second when the outfielder finally retrieved the ball, so he had to go for third — ending his chance to make the Cyclones history book.
“No regrets,” he said. “Two triples is good enough for me.”
Get your clusters
The Matzoh Ball Lady is at it again.
But this year, instead of weighing down her beloved Cyclones with those Jewish culinary cannonballs, Gail Block sent the team her famous peanut clusters.
“I do it because I love them,” said Block, a Coney Island resident and drug prevention counselor for school district 21.
Block’s recipe may sound simple — melt a bag of semi-sweet chocolate morsels, fold in a tablespoon of peanut butter, and add a half-jar of unsalted dry-roasted peanuts — but her efforts are well appreciated.
“All the boys told me they love my food,” she said modestly.
Luck in Spades
What do some Cyclones — the ones who aren’t sleeping on the floor — do on those long bus rides? They gamble.
On a recent long bus ride — an eight-hour back-breaker from Jamestown, N.Y., after Sunday’s grueling extra-inning win — eight players paired off for the First Annual Brett Kay Memorial Spades Tournament (named by The Brooklyn Papers in honor of former catcher and inveterate card player Brett Kay).
Starting teams in the double-elimination tournament were Jonathan Slack and Jason Scobie, Corey Ragsdale and Tanner Osberg, Jimmy Anderson and Tim McNab, and Brendan Kentner and Rylie Ogle. Each player kicked in $5 (which is a lot of money when you make $650 a month).
The action was intense, too intense for Ragsdale and Osberg, who were eliminated quickly. Then Kentner started up, deploying a time-honored strategy
“That guy won’t shut up,” said Anderson. “What a pain.”
“Hey, it’s like a poker game,” Kentner replied. “We’re here to have fun and this is how I have fun.”
With the tournament at its most heated, sleep overcame the combatants somewhere in the upper Hudson Valley. The tournament was continued the next night at the team dorms at Polytechnic University; where Slack and Scobie emerged victorious.
August 19, 2002 issue