Blue Oyster Cult's Eric Bloom on his decades-long love of the Mets
Before Eric Bloom picked up a guitar and became entrenched in rock and roll history, he formed what would become a lifelong obsession with baseball.
Bloom, the 73-year-old singer and stun guitarist of the band Blue Oyster Cult, has been a fan of the New York Mets since the team’s creation in 1962. Alongside Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser, the band rose to prominence in the late 1960s and early '70s, right around the time the Mets came into their own. As busy as life on the road was, Bloom always managed to keep an eye on the sport and the team that captured his allegiances.
"Blue Oyster Cult was just starting to form. I was just a kid, myself," Bloom said. "I was in my early 20s trying to follow sports and trying to start a career at the same time. I couldn’t even afford a decent TV. In 1964, Shea Stadium opened so I tried to get to a few games when I could. Luckily I still live in the area so I can take the train right from my house that stops - it’s no longer Shea Stadium, that got torn down - (at) Citi Field."
While he says Citi Field, the Mets’ home since 2009, is a beautiful facility, he didn’t see Shea as exactly obsolete. Bloom initially described the former stadium as “funky,” though decided that was better suited for a different old, abandoned ballpark from New York City: Ebbets Field.
"It’s funny, because there wasn’t much wrong with Shea. I went many, many times. Funky would be more like Ebbets Field - it was a claptrap kind of place. It was small and there was almost no parking and really one of the reasons the Dodgers had to go, but that’s a whole other story about why they left. There really wasn’t much wrong with Shea. I think they needed to be more modernized to compete with the newer places."
Before his decades-long love affair with the Mets, Bloom grew up a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. And even to this day, he can conjure up images of his trips to see the Dodgers before they left for the West Coast, as if it happened only yesterday.
"I did go to the ‘55 World Series at Ebbets Field, I do remember that," he said. "My dad had an in, and I went and saw Johnny Podres pitch and saw Roy Campanella hit a home run. I was nine years old."
This would have been Game 3 of the series against the dreaded New York Yankees. Trailing the series 2-0, Podres went the distance, striking out six while allowing three runs on seven hits. It was enough to jump-start a series comeback.
Campanella’s two-run home run came in the first inning, and while the Yankees would answer back with a pair of runs the following inning, the Dodgers would pull away for the win. The Dodgers catcher went 3-for-5 in the game after opening the series 0-for-8 at Yankee Stadium.
Bloom was there to witness the burgeoning comeback. The Dodgers won all three games at Ebbets Field before Podres tossed another complete game to clinch the title, though this time, not a single Yankee crossed the plate.
For Bloom and his family, losing the Dodgers was a huge blow. Only two years after winning the first World Series in the franchise’s history, the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles where they’ve played ever since. When the New York Giants moved to San Francisco, it left a void. There was no National League team based in New York City, and switching allegiances to the Yankees was unthinkable.
"It’s funny because I’m kind of an anti-Yankee, it’s just in my blood. My family was just such Yankee haters, I can’t get out of that. It’s in my bones," Bloom said. "Even when the Yankees played the Phillies (in 2009), which I don’t care for either team, I had no idea what my feelings would be until I sat in front of the TV. Being a Mets fan, you don’t care for the Phillies and I did not have any idea what my feelings would be and I found myself rooting for the Phillies. Yeah, National League and anti-Yankee just won out over anything."
When the National League finally returned to the Big Apple, it was hardly a smooth transition. In the Mets inaugural season in 1962, the team was horrible. Shea Stadium was still a couple years away from being built, so they played their home games at the Polo Grounds and set a modern era MLB record for futility by losing 120 games.
"They got the dregs. Every team donated one or two players in the expansion draft and they got the seniors, guys who were 40 years old, whoever other teams didn’t want, that’s who they got. But in 1969, they won the World Series, so they made themselves good pretty quick," he said. "It was pretty amazing for a young guy like myself."
The turnaround was quick in hindsight, but the Mets didn’t have a single winning season before the one that landed them their first championship.
This was the era that saw Tom Seaver’s emergence as one of the best starting pitchers around, and he cemented himself as one of the most iconic Mets players. He won his first, of three, National League Cy Young awards in 1969 en route to hoisting the World Series trophy.
The one-two punch of Seaver and lefty Jerry Koosman helped lead the way, but the rest of the roster was more anonymous and generally unproven, hence their moniker of "The Miracle Mets." Their top offensive players that year were outfielders Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee, and none of their starting eight were older than 26. This, perhaps, added to the team’s mystique. These Mets shared a relatable quality with Bloom’s beloved Dodgers, and he was hooked.
"In my view, the Dodgers and the Mets were more like the everyman team with the everyman type of fan preferring the scrappers, the underdog kind of team. The Yankees had the big checkbook and could just buy the best players."
When thinking back to the most memorable Mets, Bloom considers Koosman and Seaver, and that early string of success. He can’t focus on a single favorite player, but more a smattering of names.
"I would go back to Jerry Koosman, old-timey Mets. Your Seaver era guys. Frank Viola, who wasn’t there for very long. And you gotta go with the Kid (Gary Carter). I think he was a real clubhouse guy, too," Bloom said.
And then, talk naturally turned to one of the most iconic duos in Mets history: Darryl Strawberry and Dwight "Doc" Gooden.
"Everybody loved Doc and everybody loved Strawberry as far as Mets fans go. They were like striking a match, you know ... live bright for a short time. But boy, when they were good."
While both players stuck around the bigs for many years, the height of their collective powers was relatively brief, especially in Gooden’s case. From his rookie campaign in 1984 through 1988, Gooden was unstoppable. He went 91-35 with a 2.62 ERA while striking out 1,067 batters in 1,172 2/3 innings. He won the NL Rookie of the Year a season after Strawberry accomplished the same feat.
Strawberry’s time with the Mets was impressive. From 1983-1990, he hit .263/.359/.520 with 252 home runs, 187 doubles, and 191 stolen bases, making the All-Star team in seven consecutive seasons - and an eighth in 1991 after he became a member of the Dodgers.
But his star faded fairly quickly afterward, torpedoing what may have been a Hall of Fame trajectory. Despite this, Strawberry and Gooden were both present for the Mets’ return to glory, culminating in the franchise’s second - and only other - World Series title in 1986. When the Mets won their first championship, Blue Oyster Cult had not yet released its first album. By the time the second one came around, the band had pumped out 10 studio records and three live recordings. Six of those went at least Gold with 1976’s "Agents of Fortune" - featuring "Don’t Fear the Reaper" and "This Ain’t the Summer of Love" - and 1978's "Some Enchanted Evening" going platinum.
Bloom, a general baseball junkie in addition to being a Mets fan, snatched up some Strawberry memorabilia on his own way to touring baseball’s hall.
"I went to Cooperstown. Driving into Cooperstown, I saw this kid selling baseball cards on his porch. It was like one mile away from Cooperstown. I pulled my car over and went over to see what he had, and he was selling Strawberry rookies. I think he had like four different brands of Strawberry rookies and I bought them. I have them in a drawer somewhere, but I don’t think they’re very valuable.
"I used to be a big baseball card collector. I have a son who’s 40, and when he was around 10 to age 12, we collected together. I’m going back 28 years ago. So we did it as a father-son thing, we used to go to card shows all over the place. Back then it was a big deal, but boy I haven’t looked at them in a million years."
Now, Bloom, in between concert stops, looks ahead with cautious optimism, though he isn’t predicting a championship season in 2018.
"Last season, on paper, the Mets looked unbeatable with those top three pitchers. But, injuries or whatever, and one thing after another and they end up in the freaking basement," he said. "(This year it’s) the same suspects if they’re better, you gotta hope for those pitchers to be good."
Though he’s been a Mets fan since their inauspicious inception, and a Yankee hater since before he could walk, the most prominent use of a Blue Oyster Cult song at a major-league ballpark came throughout outfielder Hideki Matsui’s time in the Bronx. Bloom was fine with it, though, for one simple reason.
"Godzilla was used in Yankee Stadium on a regular basis. I didn’t care, plus I didn’t write the song."
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