John Leo

This bland, boring, ho-hum Hall-of-Fame style may be fine for the Yankees, but it is definitely not for the Mets. The classic Met is Marvelous Marv Throneberry, who was way more exciting than DiMaggio. Marv couldn't run, hit, throw or catch, but he fit pretty well into the Mets scheme of things. Once when asked why the Mets didn't get Throneberry a birthday cake, manager Casey Stengel said: "We were going to get him a cake, but we figured he'd drop it."

Marv once hit a triple and was called out for neglecting to touch second base along the way. He was not the sort of player who made the same mistake twice. No, the next time he hit a triple, he was called out for failing to touch first and second bases. Stengel once said that the Mets "have shown me ways to lose that I never even knew existed."

We had Jimmy Piersall, who ran the bases backward to celebrate his 100th home run. We had excruciating players like Chris Cannizzaro ("The only defensive catcher who can't catch," Stengel said), and other outstanding non-fielders with famous nicknames like "Dr. Strangeglove" (Dick Stuart).

The Mets are much better now, but they retain that scrappy, unpredictable underdog tradition. Look at the Mets' playoff heroes. We have Benny Agbayani, the Hawaiian left fielder who batted first for the Mets most of the year. He was surely the most roly-poly lead-off hitter in modern baseball. His batting stance is alarming. Watching him chase fly balls is nerve-wracking. But he played like a major star during the playoffs, so true Mets fans scream his name at every opportunity.

The fans scream for Timo Perez, too. He's a big favorite at Shea Stadium, though he's been a Met only since the beginning of September. Timo is from the Dominican Republic by way of Japan, where he played for the Hiroshima Carp. He is small and has little power. The Yankees would never have given him a tryout. But he absolutely wrecked the Giants and Cardinals during the playoffs.

When the Yankees faltered in July, they simply went out and ransacked other teams, buying seven or eight more zillionaire ballplayers. That's the Yankees' way. The Mets do it by producing improbable heroes like Timo and Benny. So who are you going to root for? Real people like Timo and Benny, or Yankee automatons and Steinbrenner's wallet?

Remember, being a Yankees fan isn't a serious enough offense to come up at a confirmation hearing. It's merely a character flaw. Go Mets.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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