Sometime this season, Mets fans can hope that a sign which reads “Oppo Taco” appears during a home game. That is Travis d’Arnaud’s personal phrase. In the 80s, we witnessed the “Ks” go up in the K Corner as Dwight Gooden struck out the competition.
Prior to any of this was Karl Ehrhardt, aka: the “Mets Sign Guy”. He first emerged during the 1964 season and became an icon at Shea Stadium up until the 1981 season. He’d sit in the same seat along the third base line and he’d wear the same hat. In 2006, Ehrhardt estimated he had 1,200 signs. Before he went to a game, he’d go through them and choose about 60 to take with him.
After the Mets won the 1969 season, his sign said it all: “There Are No Words”. He was right. He rode with the ‘69 Mets in their victory parade and held up a sign which read, “They Said it Couldn’t Be Done”.
It was like waiting for the punch line of a joke you had heard your dad tell already…You knew what was coming but until it was delivered there was a gradually building tension. When Ehrhardt opened the carefully constructed (and immaculately lettered) sign, you would know in a word or two how to save the memory.
“Back to your Nest, Bird!” – (used during the ‘69 World Series).
“Bye, Bye, Birdies” – (see above).
“Can you Believe It?”.
“Look Ma, No Hands”.
“Leave it to Seaver”.
“A” and “G” (for Tommie Agee)
“Ya Gotta Believe” (McGraw said it, but the Sign Guy kept it going).
“Nailed by the (picture of a hammer)”- (used after John Milner “The Hammer” hit a HR).
“You’re Fired!” – (used during the ‘73 World Series after Charlie Finley tried to get Mike Andrews removed from the Oakland roster for poor defense”).
“Kong!” – (used after a Dave Kingman HR).
Sadly, in the early 80’s, his presence began to be discouraged by Mets management because of the team’s on-field performances but he made a triumphant return to Shea Stadium in 2002 to help the Mets celebrate their fortieth birthday. He held up a sign that said, “The Signman Lives!”. Mr. Ehrhardt passed away in February of 2008 but his signs and spirit live on.
He would have been right on top of “Oppo Taco”.