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William C. Altreuter
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Thursday, January 22, 2004

Jesse Orosco has announced that he is hanging up the spikes. I guess, like most sports fans, the announcement of a superannuated sports figure's retirement sparks thoughts along the lines of, "He's still around?", or, "My g_d, I thought he was as old as John Lee Hooker!" Sometimes when you hear this sort of announcement what you think about are the great moments-- and certainly Jesse gave me those. Everyone remembers the last pitch of the '86 World Series, but for me it was Jesse's performance in the sixth game of the NLCS which was one of the great moments in sport.

I was working late that night, and we tuned in the game on one of the other young associate's Walkman, listening to it through the foam clad headset set on the middle desk in the office we shared as we cranked out a motion, the volume of the stupid thing turned all the way up, but still hardly above a whisper, both of us barely breathing as the game went into the ninth. When it went into extra innings, the partners drifted into the room. "You know," one of them said, "There's an old tv in the file room..." We retrieved it. Old was not the word-- Philo Farnsworth would have been impressed by the fact that it had color, but the quality of the picture was such that it was like watching a television that was sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool. By that time our motion papers were assembled, stamped, and ready to go, and everyone left in the office-- JM and me, the two principals of the firm, the office manager, who had stayed and was waiting for a ride, my secretary, who had stayed to help me; we were all huddled around the box with the murky picture, and there we remained, inning after inning. At a commercial break I called A., who was home by then, and explained that I would be bit late. She waived me off-- whatever Budweiser commercial had been on was over now, and she wasn't about to listen to me when the fate of the Mets depended on the undivided attention of every New Yorker.

Mets' lore has it that just before the last pitch Keith Hernandez went out to the mound and told Jesse, "If you throw another fastball, I'll fight you right here." He threw a breaking ball, and then something amazing happened. From our offices, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 47th Street there was silence, then the sound of every taxi horn in Midtown, blaring in celebration. The City had been holding its breath on every pitch, and was now able to exhale. Sports can make you feel that good. In 1986 the Mets made us feel that good-- it was a good year to be a New Yorker, let me tell you, and we were all glad that Jesse Orosco was one of us.

Man, that was a long time ago. You can say "Jesse Orosco" to me, and I can still get that chill, but that was a lifetime ago, wasn't it? I mean, Jesse Orosco-- when he broke into the league, weren't there giant ferns waiving just outside the outfield? Jurassic Jesse? My gracious, he had to be about as old as the tv we sort of saw that game on.

My friends, he is less a month older than I am.

Thanks, Jes. For all of it.

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