Bats Out Of Hell

Jordan smacked the ball into left field and two runs scored. The stadium deflated like a cheap tire. Not again!

But Tommy Holmes didn't panic. "Leiter looks like he's throwing hard," Holmes said confidently. The Mets escaped the inning with no more damage.

Then, in the top of the fourth, the game changed. Mike Piazza made a diving grab of a foul pop-up. This is a lesson in how not to choke. "You can't play chintzy, you gotta go for it," Holmes crowed. "Now that's the spark."

Ten minutes later, the slow-footed John Olerud belted a Maddux pitch into the Mets' bullpen.

"What did I tell you! What did I tell you!" Holmes yelled at me. "See what I mean about a good hitter? With the bases full, he's a double-play guy. You gotta pull the ball. He was just up there looking for a ball to pull. He was ready. He waited for his pitch."

So what if the rest of the Mets' hits against the normally tough Maddux had been a mixture of bloops and bleeders? "We got three or four dunkers in there," Holmes said. "Who cares? In the papers, it's a line drive. Now the luck is with us."

Got Balls
Why women love a game that shuts them out

By Laura Conaway

Here's hoping: They came, they laughed, they prayed.

The Yankees fan to my right leaned back from the bar and suppressed a sneer as the Mets fought for their lives on screen last week. "I'd like nothing better than for my boys in the Bronx to kick your asses," he said.

The Mets booster to my left clapped his hands and half rose from his seat with each pitch John Olerud fouled off. "Come on!" he shouted, his baritone ricocheting off the mirrored walls. "Come on!"

You could say a woman like me has no place squeezed between half-drunken men in a smoky tavern, watching lumbering athletes rearrange their private packages and bowl each other over at the plate. You could say the game of summer is played by and for the boys of summer, and a woman like me should despise the sport because she'll never be allowed to take part.

You could say that, but then you'd have to deal with Kathy Rosado. I'd found her a few nights before, clad stem to stern in Mets orange and blue and sitting a few rows from the field. Rosado, 35, put down her binoculars and turned away from last week's spectacle of New York finally unraveling Atlanta run by run. The Manhattanite had one thing to say about people who insist that women shouldn't enjoy the game: You're outdated.

"If it's anybody who says that, they're usually somebody who was born many years ago and has different ideas," Rosado said. "It's so easy for women now. We're into boxing, we're into basketball. Now more than ever, girls are into it."

The lure of the live-action hero

Sisters may not be doing it for themselves on the diamond yet, but our day will come. Until then, we'll fight for the sports section in the morning so we can check out the stats. We'll buy good tickets and make posters imploring St. Jude to take pity on our team. We'll keep our own boxscores there in the stands and we'll dream—just like millions of other New Yorkers—of pulling on Rey Ordonez's uniform and taking our place at the edge of the infield grass.

"It's the American thing," said Jill Aney, 39, making her way past the concession stand at Shea Stadium. "Baseball is such a part of American history. Look, Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe—that really got women's attention."

Aney, who lives in Rockland County, confesses to casting a lustful eye toward Mets catcher Mike Piazza, but she can also detail the intricacies of lineups and trades. Like countless other women at the park, she was there not for the players' chiseled jaws and strong thighs, but for the drama between the white lines.

Even from the cheap seats, you can see the twitching bat of Rickey Henderson in the box, the peering eyes of Rick Reed as he probes the ump's strike zone, the low-slung slouch of Darryl Hamilton as he gets set for the pitch. The hunks in movies are mere cardboard characters compared with the flesh-and-blood hopefuls diving for third base. These Mets make the game up as they go along, each moment uncorking another surprise. Piazza struggles to race home on an overthrown ball. Henderson lets a long fly land at his feet. Win or lose, these men are real, just like we are real, and there's no better show on earth.

Women have always had to identify with male heroes, from Moses to George Washington to Sammy Sosa. Men have carried the flag of our dreams, not solely, but often. Why should women turn away from a city holding its breath as Roger Cedeno sprints for the warning track, or deny themselves the cruel pleasure of praying for the pennant? The short answer is they shouldn't, and the obvious truth is they don't. "I always like the action stuff," said Dolores Skelly, up from the Pittsburgh suburbs with her adult daughter for the series. "I just like the spontaneous action."

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