On this Independence Day, I thought I'd share with you a little of the inner workings of my brain. I often wonder how certain historical figures compare with certain athletes. Do they compare?
Admittedly, some of these are forced, but I thought I'd take a look at some of the figures of our independence and pick a Met that shares some of the characteristics of that person. I found myself basically recreating the 1986 team, I guess because I'm pining for some happy Mets memories these days, but I think it works: Every story needs a foil, an enemy, a villain. For the 13 colonies, it was England, represented by King George III (although if you want to get into specifics it was more the ideas represented by the king than the person himself, but for our intents and purposes.....). For the Mets, historically, it's been the Braves, represented in the person of Bobby Cox. So many of the players have come and gone, but the Braves have stood in the Mets' way (not counting last year) since 1995...and Cox has been the constant.
Some call Samuel Adams the "Father of the American Revolution". He was an older guy, with a palsy, and he wasn't very successful at anything he did in life. He failed as a businessman and as a tax collector. But what he could do was stir up trouble. He was sort of the behind-the-scenes orchestrator of the Revolution. Davey Johnson (or any manager, for that matter) fits that role with the Mets - a behind-the-scenes figure who pulled the strings and put people in the place they needed to be to succeed.
Looking for an on-the-scene leader? That would be Keith Hernandez for the Mets - a captain, and the one who took a vocal lead when one was needed. The same way George Washington took charge of an army that wasn't really an army yet and pulled off a great upset. Both commanded the respect of the people around them.
Looking for someone reliable to get a job done? Paul Revere orchestrated an alert system to let the countryside know that the soldiers were on the move. He kept his cool under pressure, even being captured that night. Gary Carter also kept his cool in a pressure situation, keeping the Mets alive in the 1986 World Series when they were down to their last out. Both survived hits to their reputations later in life, and both couldn't have done it without lots of help (Billy Dawes rode ahead of Revere, Carter was a member of a team), but to hear their stories told (Revere by Longfellow, Carter by Carter) you'd have thought they were the only people to ever do what they did.
As Sam Adams was the "Father", John Hancock was the "Money". He financed many different aspects of the Revolution with his healthy inheritance. He was a figurehead, he couldn't go out and fight, but he made his mark, literally, by putting his name on the Declaration of Independence first and largest. He also led the meetings between all of the colonies - an ace of the staff, so to speak. Dwight Gooden was the "Money" pitcher for the Mets in the early-to-mid-1980's, leading up the Mets' pitching staff.
Ray Knight was a veteran presence in his brief tenure with the Mets. He was just a solid pro. Thomas Jefferson was a similar presence among the early American politicians, although I wouldn't classify him as anything close to an MVP. In another interesting connection, Knight married pro golfer Nancy Lopez while Thomas Jefferson looked like he could be a veteran of the LPGA.
I hate to compare Darryl Strawberry to the greatest traitor in American history...but here goes. Benedict Arnold was actually a celebrated member of the Continental Army before he felt underappreciated and decided to gather information for the British side. Darryl Strawberry's story is also one of great promise with a huge downfall. He also went to play for the Dodgers and then the Yankees - sort of traitorous, no?
For many years, John Adams was sort of an overlooked figure in the American Revolution. He played an important role, but his failures were noticed somewhat more than his accomplishments. He was insecure - always worried about his legacy, which turned out OK more than 200 years later. Rafael Santana played an important position - shortstop - for a World Series-winning team. He is overlooked. He should be worried about how history will remember him.
This is one of those that might be a stretch. I felt that Lenny Dykstra had to be included - I sort of tied him to John Paul Jones - naval hero. Both sort of had an all-or-nothing attitude, risking life and limb to achieve their goal.
Patrick Henry was a Virginian who inspired with his words. Wally Backman was an Oregonian who inspired with his play. Hmm. Maybe another stretch.
Finally, you may not have heard of James Otis. He was a powerful speaker who spoke out against the tyrannies of England. His words inspired men like Sam Adams to take action. One day he was accused by British soldiers of being disloyal to the King because of what he had said - he took offense to being called a 'traitor' because he thought he was just speaking the truth - he didn't believe the colonies should separate from England at the time, just work out a better system of taxation. Anyway, the soliders cracked him over the head with a sword, the story goes, and Otis was never the same - slipping slowly into insanity. You ever hear the story about Kevin Mitchell and the cat at a girlfriend's house? That dude was crazy too.