Everywhere Mets fans looked, they were delighted and surprised by the offbeat characters on and off the field. Lindsey Nelson, one of the Mets play-by-play announcer, was no exception. His wild and colorful blazers were conversation pieces. His analysis was sharp and colorful and, on occasion, reached new heights – literally.

On April 28, 1965, Nelson, the “daredevil” of all the Mets broadcasters according to the New York Times, and executive producer Joel Nixon became the first (and only) baseball announcers to broadcast from a gondola, dangling 208 feet above second base, the equivalent of 18 stories, the highest point of the Astrodome.

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“I think some of the pressure comes from the expectations of other people; they expect you to be the big lifesaver or something when you play a sport.” – Barry Bonds

For years, New York Mets fans dreamed of a player, a hero, a Superman — a mythical figure who possessed the power of Willie; the arm of Roberto; the swing of Ted; the speed of Rickey; and the ferocity of Ty.

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Dwight Gooden arrived at the Houston Astrodome long before his scheduled start — so early that he had to jump a fence to get into the ballpark. That’s what happens when you’re a teenager (19) on the day of your MLB debut.

Gooden wasn’t the only one excited about his first start. Davey Johnson was anxious too. From the first time he laid eyes on Gooden, at age 17 in Kingsport, Johnson was struck by his control and poise.

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We all make mistakes. The problem with making a mistake if you’re Bill Buckner or Scott Norwood or even Fred Claire is, it happens on the world stage for all to see.

Coincidentally, Claire’s miscues from the general manager’s chair have intersected at some point in history, with current or former members of the New York Mets. It’s like six degrees of separation, but not.

With the Winter Meetings come and gone and the New Year here, once again the ghosts of winters past will pay a visit to Claire.

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