Jesse Jarnow

notes from the upper deck


o The Wave dissipates around the seats, following a zagging single-file line before dying completely, more like a secret whispered from one fan to another than any kind of groupmind declaration.
o The ball is a pinprick in a massive field of controlled visual noise. It is like the key to a magic eye. Locating it against the crowd can sometimes be like looking at an Escher, the foreground and the background toppling over one another as one tries to pick up if it is fair or foul, high or low, or even which side of the diamond it’s heading towards. For a dizzying fraction of a second (at least far away) it is all of these places simultaneously. Then it is in the first baseman’s glove, and Damion Easley is heading back to the dugout.
o In extra innings, the PA runs into the deep cuts: The Doors’ “Break on Through,” with Ray Manzarek’s long organ solo to keep fans entertained in lieu of DiamondVision gimcracks. Also because, like, the Mets need to break on through & such. Later, the DJ (what would his title be?) whips out “We Will Rock You” — not just the introductory beat to get the crowd stomping, but the actual song, Freddie Mercury verse and all. As a dramatic cue, it really works.
o The booing of Barry Bonds is an amazing, overwhelming sound. Especially on Tuesday, when he doesn’t come in until a late inning pitch hit appearance, and the crowd finally releases their hatred (is that what it is?), it sounds like a jet going over Shea. Wednesday, a plane passed overhead while Bonds was up, and the sounds were indistinguishable.
o The debate over “performance enhancing drugs” rings a bit false, though, if only because science — especially as it relates to baseball — is almost always destined to prove itself mere folk knowledge. From (the recently late) David Halberstam’s Summer of ’49:

The strain of the heat on the pitchers was even more obvious. They kept a jug of orange juice mixed with honey to drink as a pick-me-up and also a bucket filled with ice and ammonia. Gus Mauch would dip a towel in the bucket and drape it over the pitcher’s neck between innings. “Florida water,” they called it. It was believed that water, any amount of it, would bloat you up, make you heavy, and slow you down. So none of the pitchers took even the smallest drink of water during the game. Allie Reynolds, as a special reward to himself if he made it to the seventh inning in the hot weather, would go over to the cooler, take a mouthful, wash it around in his mouth for a moment or two, then spit it out.

Sometimes, the players ate candybars (no water to wash it down) midgame. Other times, they just stuffed ice into their jocks to fight off fatigue.