So I’ve heard tell this morning that Jason Isringhausen is at Mets’ camp. Apparently, Izzy’s auditioning for a spot in a bullpen which is simultaneously overcrowded and barren, somehow.

When I heard this, I was immediately brought back to a hot afternoon in mid-August, 1995. Shea Stadium was a ghost town. The Strike of ’94 had made a weary, wary fan base bitter. Front office and field managerial ineptitude didn’t help. This was the time when Dallas Green was living true to his Philly heart and inflicting damage to the New York Mets from inside the dugout. This was to be the dawning of Generation K, but it was a slowly evolving epoch – a little too slowly as it turned out. It was not the best time to be a Met fan.

It WAS the best time to be the owner of a ticket plan, though, and I had become one a couple of seasons earlier. I had had a Sunday plan since those halcyon days of ’92 – Bobby Bo, Jeff Torborg, Eddie Murray, Vince Coleman…not good times. But I’m a Met fan.

On the other coast in ‘95, a hot Dodger team had emerged. They had Brett Butler (what COULD have been! ), Raul Mondesi, Eric Karros, Ramon Martinez (Pedro’s big brudda), and some catcher named Piazza.

They also had THE sensation of the summer, a whirlwind of a Japanese import: Hideo Nomo. There were tales of throngs of the Southland’s Asian population stuffing themselves into Chavez Ravine, turning Dodger Stadium into a Tokyo subway car on the days he would pitch. Hoards of international press followed his every move. Coupled with Cal Ripken’s defeat of the consecutive games-played record, Nomo was just one of the shots in the arm MLB needed. He was nothing less than a latter-day, Asian-version of Fernando Valenzuela. In short, a happening.

He finally brought his act to New York on August 20. Shea was hot, muggy and sticky. And something else: crowded. The place was awash in Japanese flags. Nomo had woken up the East Coast Asian populace every bit as much as their counterparts to the west. The blue of the hats was about an even split between the Dodger shade and the Met hue. I, of course, screamed my fool head off for the Mets, trying to be a one-man shout-down of the interlopers. Aaah, youth…

Facing Nomo was a gangly 22-year-old with a funny last name. Jason Eyes…no, is…ring…haus…en. Izringhousen. “Izzy” for ease. He was a member of the aforementioned Generation K and to-date, had been the most successful. He didn’t look terribly successful at the start of this day, however, surrendering 3 base hits and a run in the first 2 innings. Only a nifty Vizcaino-to-Kent-to-Brogna double play kept the LA tally at 1. We on the Mets’ side steeled ourselves for a long afternoon and a game that would be all too short.

Except that Mr. Nomo proved himself to be eminently ordinary. In the last of the third, catcher Kelly Stinnett struck out. No shock. Then, Izzy himself stood in and Nomo put him on first on 4 throws. The buzz in the stands ratcheted up among the knowledgeable in the crowd. It’s never good for a pitcher to walk the opposing hurler on 4 hurls. So Shea started humming. It hummed a little louder when Joe Orsulak also worked out a pass, this one on 6 pitches. The hum became a roar when SS Jose Vizcaino tagged one of Nomo’s hurricane balls solidly and authoritatively over the right field fence, giving the Good Guys a 3-1 lead. The roar became a jet engine when Carl Everett followed that up with a solo blast of his own. That was really the game right there.

Oh, the Dodgers would mount a comeback in the top of the 4th – Delino DeShields taking Izzy deep with a shot of his own and Nomo chasing a run home with a groundout – but young Isringhausen would have none of it. After Nomo’s groundout, Izzy effectively slammed the door on Hideo’s fingers.

Final score: NYM 5 LAD 3.

Best game of the year.

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