"I'm not sure," Tom said. "I think he was deaf. He was reading my lips. But then the last thing he said was 'What's going on out there, tennis?' So he must have known we were trying to get out to Flushing."
An N train roared by on the way to Coney Island. "I'm worried," I said.
A pleasant-faced woman offered to help. "What you want to do is take the RR train to Queensboro Plaza. There you catch the Flushing No. 7. You can't miss it. Beautiful red cars." She was very encouraging. "You'll be going under the East River," she said. "You'll burst out and you'll be aboveground. You can look back, if it doesn't bother you to ride backward, and see the towers of the city—lovely view."
Her directions turned out to be accurate: The red train pulled into Queensboro Plaza. No graffiti. The cars were numbered in order. Tom and I were heartened by the crowd within—a lot of baseball caps. It was good to step aboard. One of the best parts about a subway ride to a ball game is that it seems to invite conversation. A common adventure is about to be shared. At the start of the ride the conversation is subdued; by the time the train reaches the stadium, the car is in a pleasant uproar. On the way I sat down next to an older gentleman wearing a Yankee cap and sitting with a large plastic bag between his knees. He was going to both games, he told me; in the bag he had his lunch, his supper and a jacket because he knew Yankee Stadium was going to be chilly that night. He said he was a baseball rather than a team fan. If the Mets and Yankees got into a Subway Series, he would sit there and cheer for both!
The stadium came into view. Willets Point-Shea Stadium. On the station platform, a woman anxiously asked me how to get to Bayside. I looked thoughtful; I said I wasn't sure. I was tempted to tell her that Bayside was where Willets Point was, but I resisted.
Well, you know what happened in the game against the Cards. After the Mets won I went down to their locker room to see Ron Darling. I heard that he and two other pitchers, Ed Lynch and Bruce Berenyi, use the subway. Darling was wearing a Yale Athletic Department sweat shirt. He seemed very blasé about taking the subway. He liked the crowds. They didn't bother him for autographs. He took the express. Much the best way.
Most of the Mets who live in Manhattan proper travel in Rusty Staub's van—which is well-appointed, with a refrigerator and a television set; the players call it the Mets' Express.
Down the line of lockers, Ronn Reynolds, a reserve catcher, admitted that he had never even been in a New York subway. "I'm from Wichita, Kansas," he explained. "I've been in a train, but the subway...." He shook his head.
On the way back from Shea I sat down next to a girl wearing a jacket covered with various patches—IRELAND, ITALY (which was coming off), FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, LONDON, MASSACHUSETTS. I noticed she was not wearing a Mets patch.
"No, they've got to end up No. 1," she said. "It's not the Yankees or the Mets as much as the city. That's what I'm really rooting for—New York!" She leaned toward me conspiratorially. "I'm not an expert on baseball," she said. "I love the game, but some things have to take priority after a while. You want to know why I really go to the Mets games? It's to watch Danny Heep. He has the best buns on the team."