The Shamaness of Shea
My Excellent Adventure in Metsland
with Robin Ventura, September 1999
Well, Y2K may have been a big old bust, but if I were you, I wouldn’t be sitting around all smug and chillin’, thinking we’ve escaped Apocalypse. Doom may yet be nigher. The Lamb may even now be getting ready to open the Seventh Seal. We’re not off the doomsday hook just quite yet.
And how do we know this thing? Because Patricia Anne Elizabeth Genevieve Honora Kennealy Morrison is talking baseball. And that would seem to be clear and present indication that the world is coming to an end.
Go look in Revelations. Go on, I dare you. It’s all there: the woman clothed with the sun, terrible as an army with banners—they just left out the part where she discourses with great wisdom and vast knowledge about infield errors and batting orders and double plays. The only reason the whole prediction didn’t make it into the book is because the Essene scribes didn’t know how to translate the arcane occult word “Mets.”
But let me explain.
I have never, EVER, been even remotely interested in baseball. Yeah, sure, I knew all about how it’s the American Game, the folk myth, the great equalizing and unifying allegory, cutting across divides of class and race and gender and occupation and education, bringing us all together, brothers and sisters in a common sporting cause. I knew, and I so did not care. Although one of my actual brothers is a diehard Mets fan (good boy!) and the other (poor misguided lad!) is devoted to the Yankees, I always figured pigs would join the space navy before I would ever be caught with the words “intentional walk” upon my rosebud lips.
Which—though I still don’t see any pork in orbit—just goes to show you how very, very wrong we all can be.
In high school, even though I was something of a jockette (field hockey, volleyball, basketball, tennis), and not athletically untalented (been riding since I was six), I always got picked dead last for the softball team. My mere presence on the field made people uncomfortable. I wasn’t very good at it, and I hated it, and I deeply did not want to play. So whenever I had to, I stood way far away out in right field, like a little black cloud, oh so far, out where there wasn’t a prayer of anyone hitting anything within miles of me, and spent many pleasant happy hours reciting poetry in my head.
In college, where I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do, I took up such fun (and lethal! and potentially useful!) pursuits as fencing and riflery and archery, and very good at them I was, too; since one of the colleges I attended was a big basketball school, I went to a few games out of sheer school spirit (and of course to meet boys). And that was pretty much that.
But in the summer of 1999, the last summer of the millennium, for some mysterious cosmic reason not even I can fathom—I have trouble typing this—I found baseball.
Well, strictly speaking, baseball found me. And—as usual—it’s all Jim Morrison’s fault.
Around my house, things very often are, ever since Jim (yeah, yeah, that Jim Morrison) and I were married in June 1970. One of the vows we took is that death does not part, but what those vows said absolutely NOTHING about was how (or indeed why), three decades later, my mate would unaccountably feel the need to stretch forth his power from the other side to which he has broken on through, and turn us both into minions of the New York Mets.
Indeed, some might even say I had it coming…
The Mojo Rises
One August afternoon in 1999, Ken Dashow, a disc jockey on a classic-rock station here in New York, phoned up to draw my attention to a piece about the Mets in the sports pages of the Daily News, where he knew I’d never in a million years have seen it—I read four newspapers a day, but my only contact with sports pages is to turn them en bloc so I can get to the TV listings faster. (This is no longer the case, of course, but I’m getting ahead of my story…)
So I checked out the article, and was duly dumbstruck. It seemed that Robin Ventura, the Mets’ stellar third baseman and a good California boy, had taken to playing the Doors classic “L.A. Woman” in the team clubhouse. And suddenly the Mets had started winning. A lot. And in the weirdest attributive sequence of cause and effect I’ve seen in a long, LONG time, the “Mr. Mojo Risin’ ” bridge section immediately became a sort of ceremonial dare I say magical incantation, the Mets Mantra, ritualistically employed by the team to psych themselves up before games, and the song was blasted in victory whenever the Mets won—in the clubhouse on the road, over the loudspeakers when the team won at home, at Shea Stadium.
What’s more, Ventura had had cool black T-shirts made up that read “The Stems Win” on the front (“Stem” being “Mets” spelled backwards) and on the back of the shirt, in letters of team-color blue and orange flame, the sacred dictum itself—the holy words “THE MOJO’S RISIN’ ” —and the guys had started wearing the shirts under their uniforms when they played (the team was nice enough to give me one too; I wore it for all the remaining games, and I continue to wear it to Shea with great and show-offy pride).
So, positively crippled with laughter at the irony, and uneasily wondering if young Robin, or anyone else, had noted the rather surreal theological implications—”Mr. Mojo Risin’ ” being an exact anagram of the name “Jim Morrison”, in practice if not perhaps in theory the New York Mets were actually PRAYING TO JIM, invoking his help to win their games (could miracles be far behind? St. James of Flushing Meadow! Think of all the banged-up knees and arms and rotator cuffs he could heal! Ya gotta, you’ll pardon the expression, believe!—I called the club to register my tickled approval. I was promptly invited to a game at Shea as the team’s guest, and to meet Robin Ventura beforehand, and I said I would be honored and delighted.
And I was.