It seems the New York Mets have thrown the Famine Ship Ltd. group a nasty curve. Irish Night at Shea Stadium last Aug. 5 was going to be a boon for the group. It was to receive a portion of the proceeds from the Mets’ game that night against the San Francisco Giants. The money would go toward building a replica of the Famine ship Jeanie Johnston, which made 16 voyages to the U.S. and Canada between 1847 and 1855.
But a good curveball is notoriously hard to hit, especially if the hitter doesn’t expect it. The ball leaves the pitcher’s hand straight and true, a sure home run in the making. But then it snaps down and away from the hitter, who flails wildly, his body twisting like a corkscrew into the dirt. The ball lands safely in the catcher’s mitt; the hometown crowd hoots derisively as the humbled hitter trudges back to the bench.
Famine Ship Ltd. knows well the hitter’s humiliation. The group’s take from Irish Night was $855, about the equivalent of a good night’s gross by the team’s top peanut vendor.
Certainly there must be some mistake. But as the days pass, that seems increasingly unlikely. Could it be that a team valued at $400 million, that pays its top player $12 million a year, that incessantly sends its players on P.R. exercises throughout the off-season, is serious about making such a puny donation? Did we miss something? Was Wednesday, Aug. 5, in reality (Fleece the) Irish Night at Shea?
It’s hard to see how the Mets didn’t benefit from its one-night affair with its Irish fans. The good will alone is certainly worth more than $855.
The team’s claim that Famine Ship Ltd. failed to sell enough corporate boxes to justify a bigger slice of the pie rings hollow. In a six-day stretch in which the Mets "honored" several other cultures, the midweek evening game drew a respectable 35,571 fans. The only larger crowds during the stretch were at the always better-attended Friday night and Saturday games, against, respectively, the eventual Western Division champion Padres and the Dodgers, who traditionally are a better draw at Shea than their fellow exiles, the Giants. Asian Night, which featured a Japanese pitcher as the Mets’ starter, drew just 24,416 fans.
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Next compare the two Wednesday night home games closest to the Aug. 5 date. On July 29, 23,694 fans came to see the Mets play the Padres. On Aug. 19, just 19,395 were there for the Rockies. What’s more, on Wednesday, Sept. 22, with a week left in the season and the Mets battling for a wild-card playoff berth, 32,467 fans were in the stands for the Expos.
So Irish Night didn’t draw fans? So it’s $855, is it? Perhaps that’ll buy one good plank. Perhaps Nelson Doubleday can walk it when the Jeanie Johnston finally comes to town. Better yet, at the next Irish Night, on Aug. 7, tell the Mets to peddle their peanuts to someone else.