There are certain dates, in the life of a Mets fan, that ring out. They’re memorable dates, and they’re usually recalled so vividly because these kinds of things happen ever so rarely — and have happened so rarely since 1962, the year the team was born.
There’s Oct. 25, 1986, the frigid night when, at Shea Stadium, the Mets were down to their last out in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game No. 6 of the World Series against the Boston Red Sox. That was the night the ball got “behind the bag” and got through (Bill) Buckner. Most can still see Ray Knight rounding third to score the winning run, sending the Mets to Game No. 7 two nights later (though it was supposed to be a single night later, Oct. 26, 1986, but there was a rainout.)
There’s Oct. 27, 1986, the night, also frigid at Shea, when the Mets overcame an early 3-0 Boston lead to win Game No. 7, 8-5, with Jesse Orosco throwing his glove to the heavens before being trampled by his teammates at the mound after the final out.
Before that, there was Oct. 16, 1969, when the Miracle Mets beat the Baltimore Orioles for the franchise’s first-ever World Series Championship, one no one who was alive at the time foresaw.
And then there was June 1, 2012. To this day, many Mets fans still have a hard time believing it happened. Most never expected it would happen. Many believe it might never happen again. It was the night pitcher Johan Santana was on the mound, delivering the franchise’s first, and still, only no-hitter, ever, against the St. Louis Cardinals.
That night, there were 27,069 fans (a fitting figure, really) in Citi Field to witness history.
One person who wasn’t there was Marie Tooma, of Lyndhurst. She’s been a season-ticket holder for the Mets since 1990, first at Big Shea, now at Citi Field. Somehow, the diehard Mets fan wasn’t in Queens that night. How could she have ever expected a no-no anyway.
But she was not too far away, in Manhattan.
“I was having dinner with (Johnny) Bench,” she says, a slight sarcastic tone to her words. “I missed the no-hitter!”
Excuse us, though, given that Tooma has had a lifetime of memorable Mets experiences, which we’ll get to shortly.
We initially contacted Tooma after our co-owner, Lisa Feorenzo — a passionate and maniacal Yankees fan who says using the word “Mets” in the office is the equivalent to cursing — met Tooma last week whilst Feorenzo was chatting to and having a bite to eat with Lyndhurst Mayor Robert B. Giangeruso at a local bagel joint.
Tooma told Feorenzo and Giangeruso she was excited that a life-size cardboard cutout with her photo (a selfie) would be placed in a seat a Citi Field for the duration of the shortened 60-game season that kicks off this Friday, July 24, with a home game against the detestable Atlanta Braves. (There was also a pre-season matchup at Citi this past Saturday night, against Feorenzo’s lovely Yankees — which the Yanks won, not that you’re wondering.)
It all comes after a nearly four-month delay to the start of the Major League Baseball season which, as most know, was necessitated by the Coronavirus. There will be no fans in the stands, anywhere. Mostly all teams will play in their home, barren ballparks. (All teams will, in fact, except for the Toronto Blue Jays, who were told, by Canadian authorities, that they can’t play in the Skydome or whatever it’s called now with a corporate sponsorship.)
So we wanted to see how Tooma felt about the cutouts being the closest thing to fans being in attendance.
What we learned, instead, was enough for a book or three.
Tooma is not just a fan of the Mets — the Mets themselves, from the late-great Gary Carter, to now broadcasters Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, to TV play-by-play voice Gary Cohen, to the immortal Doc Gooden to Darryl Strawberry to her all-time favorite player, Art Shamsky, love her back just as much as she loves the team and all that surrounds it.
It’s led to 50+ years of memories, that all started one day in 1969.
“My family lived in Astoria, Queens,” Tooma says. “Shea, in Flushing, Queens, was not far away at all.”
One day, her dad was heading to Shea. She asked him to go. And he obliged. The rest is a labor of love with one of the most frustrating, yet lovable franchises, in all of sports.
Tooma became friends with an old friend of yours truly, the late Barbara “Bo” Field. Field, who lived for many years in Kearny and who was a waitress at the Lyndhurst Diner, and who sat, appropriately, at field level at Shea Stadium, directly behind home plate, for decades.
Field once said she was the reason Bob Stanley threw a wild pitch in Game No. 6 of the 1986 World Series as she twirled her arms just above the backstop.
Friends, Field invited Tooma to Games 1 and 7 of the ’86 World Series. Game No. 7 was memorable. Game No. 1, not so memorable. And thus, four years later, Tooma decided to get season tickets herself. First, she sat in the Upper Deck (red seats). Then the Mezzanine (green seats). Then Loge (blue seats). She, like the Mets, moved across the way, to the old outfield parking lot, to Citi Field in 2009, and she now sits behind home plate, directly in front of the SNY broadcast booth.
So it should be no surprise she’s befriended Gary, Keith and Ron (and Howie Rose on the radio side of things — as well as Josh Lewin, a former radio voice.)
In the time between 1990 and today, she’s met so many players who she now calls friend.
But it was meeting Shamsky that meant the most.
“He was going through a rough period,” she says. “He’s been to my house, including for a barbeque. He even stayed over one night.”
Imagine that! Having your favorite ballplayer over for the night.
Well it’s a reality for Tooma.
As is all of the memorabilia she’s collected over the years, including the very seats she once sat in at Shea, bobblehead dolls galore and tons of other toys, collectibles and trinkets. But get this — in the years she’s been a season-ticket holder, one thing remains elusive.
“I’ve never caught a foul ball,” she says. “You’d think being right behind the plate, I’d have a bunch of them. But no, not me. Not one.”
Maybe that’s a good thing, considering she has a room dedicated to the Mets in her new Lyndhurst home, but she’s got so much stuff that there’s tons of it hiding away in a closet, with nowhere for it to be displayed in the room.
As to the cutouts, Tooma says she’s happy her likeness will be at Citi, but even if she were allowed to go to the games this season, she wouldn’t.
“It’s too soon with the Coronavirus,” Tooma freely admits. “The truth is I wouldn’t go if we were allowed to go to the games. But just like when the Mets are on the road, I will be happily at home, watching (SNY) on TV and watching them and rooting the Mets on as I always have. Will it be the same? Probably not. But if they win the World Series — (even in a massively shortened season) — it will be just as sweet.”
Talk about being an optimist.
Then again, as most Mets fans can tell you, there’s always next year.
How’s that for not cursing, Lisa?
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.