It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Pennant races are going
And pigskin a throwin’
Hockey season is near!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Yes, it’s Labor Day weekend, and the start of college football season made me think of how much goes on in September and October in the world of sports.
Going into the final month of the baseball season story lines abound. As of this writing the Blue Jays and Red Sox are tied atop the AL East with the Orioles looming 2 games behind. Throughout the season the Dodgers and Giants have traded places atop the National League West with the second place team leading the way in the Wild Card race.
About those Wild Card races, the Jays/Sox lead the Orioles by 2 with the Tigers and Astros in their shadow. The Giants are 2 1/2 up on the Cardinals who have the Mets, Pirates, and Marlins looking over their shoulders. Should be an exciting end to the 2016 regular season.
The aforementioned college football season held center stage yesterday. Ohio State, Alabama, and Michigan all won handily. Clemson won a close one over Auburn. With the college ranks off and running the NFL opens for business on Thursday with the first ever Super Bowl rematch as a national opener.
This got me to thinking, what a crossroads of sports this time of year is. Baseball is in their postseason stretch, football is off and running and hockey is poised to open training camp. Oh, by the way there is a little hockey tournament on tap this September called the World Cup. The dribble and squeak of basketball is waiting in the wings.
I started to reflect on my memorable moments in the month of September.
In the strike torn, two half baseball season of 1981 I was at Shea Stadium in New York when the hometown Mets lost to the Montreal Expos. This would kick off a celebration in front of me on the field as well as north of the border. You see, the Expos celebrated clinching the Second Half NL East championship. Their only championship in Montreal. They would go on to lose the National League Championship Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers would go on to win the World Series over the Yankees.
Fast forward five years and back at Shea. This time it was the Mets turn.I’ll never forget the final out in the Mets division clinching win over the Chicago Cubs. It was a routine grounder to Wally Backman at second. What followed was anything but ordinary. Fans stormed the field as Backman was throwing to Keith Hernandez at first to finish the groundout. How the ball got there I still don’t know. The fans swarmed in a flash and were all over the field. The celebration was on! The Mets would go on to win the 1986 World Series.
The last time I was ever in Big Shea was in September 22, 1988. The Mets again were in position to claim the division title. This time New York’s finest was ready for any field storming. As my wife and I walked from the parking lot to the stadium the first thing we noticed was police on horseback lined up behind the bullpen and picnic areas. When Ron Darling stuck out Phillies catcher Lance Parrish looking in the 9th inning the Mets were champions once more. They would go on to lose the NLCS to the Dodgers. The Dodgers again would win it all.
My wife and I moved to South Florida in the spring of 1989. This meant embracing new teams in our new home. On September 26, 2003 my son and I were in attendance at the ballpark now known as Hard Rock Stadium. The Mets were the opponent this time and the hometown Marlins would lock up the National League Wild Card. I’ll never forget the celebration that took place in the concourses and ramps. The chant of “Lets Go Marlins” reverberated so loud that the building was shaking! The Marlins would go on to defeat the Yankees in the World Series.
With all the baseball stories in September I have a football one as well. I recall a Dolphins season opener against the Detroit Lions in which Ricky Williams ran for over 200 yards. The stadium would be rocking as Williams scampered for big chunks of yardage and a touchdown in a Dolphins win.
There is one memorable hockey moment too. It was the opening of the New York Islanders 2001-02 training camp. It wasn’t what happened on the ice that was memorable, it was the fact that camp was to begin in Wheeling, WV on Tuesday September 11. Like all sports on that day, the start of camp was put on hold. More on that horrific day next week.
As the sports world comes to its annual crossroads I look forward to the opening weekend of the NFL. I will be rooting on my hometown Marlins to win an NL Wild Card, and will be at the Florida Panthers training camp in nearby Coral Springs, Florida cheering on a promising hockey team.
Enjoy the crossroads!