And that’s the favorite headline I’ve ever written.
In a new book chronicling his years as Mr. Met, AJ Mass recounts the events of April 15, 1997, the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, the day President Bill Clinton was in attendance at the Mets-Dodgers game, the day the Secret Service threatened to do what many of us may have wanted to do to Mr. Met for a long time– deliver the kill shot.
His back turned to us, the man in the dark suit extends his arm in our path, and we pause while he finishes up his conversation. He then wheels around and speaks to us in a very businesslike fashion. “Mr. Met,” he says, “here’s the deal. You do whatever it is you normally do and go about your business as usual. We won’t bother you anymore. I’ve made it clear that you no longer need to be searched at the checkpoints. Okay?”
I slowly nod my head, though not because of any mascot code of silence–no mascot worth his salt is going to be heard talking while in costume–but rather because this man exudes such an aura of authority when he speaks that I simply can’t muster up the courage to make even the slightest sound.
“Now listen to me very carefully,” he goes on, and as he continues to speak, he does something that nobody else has ever done in all my years as Mr. Met. He isn’t looking up, as everyone automatically does when talking to me. Most people, out of habit, make eye contact with the person they are talking to, even if the person appears to be a giant living baseball. I’ve gotten used to seeing people’s necks when they address me, as they crane to meet what appears to be my gaze.
But the man in the dark suit is staring directly into the recess of Mr. Met’s mouth, knowing full well that even though he isn’t able to see inside, it’s exactly where I am looking out from. It’s hard to explain how utterly creeped out I am by this. The closest thing I can compare it to is the opening scene of the movie Scream, in which Drew Barrymore’s character answers what she thinks is a harmless crank call and the strange voice on the other end innocently asks her what her name is. When she playfully asks why he wants to know, the voice says menacingly, “Because I want to know who I’m looking at!” In an instant, Drew knows she’s in a whole lot of trouble. That’s exactly the vibe I’m starting to get from the man in the dark suit. Needless to say, he has my full attention.
“We have snipers all around the stadium, just in case something were to happen,” he says. “Like I said, do whatever it is you normally do. Nobody will bother you. But approach the president, and we go for the kill shot. Are we clear?”
He pauses for a moment to let the words sink in, and it feels like he isn’t only looking into my eyes, but also into my very soul with his blank, unblinking stare. Then he says the same thing again, only a little bit slower this time, making sure I know his warning is not in any way to be misconstrued as some sort of gag. He’s dead serious, and if I don’t believe him, then I’ll be dead–seriously.
“Approach the president, and we go for the kill shot,” he repeats. “ARE–WE–CLEAR?”
Unfortunately, Mr. Met never approached the President.*
*Joking aside, I like Mr. Met. His head is a baseball! Heh! Gets me every time.