— Days Without Shea —

by Kingman on October 5 at 1:11PM
Lost in the tumult of yesterday's Minaya and Manuel news, was the passing of Met legend Bob Mandt.

Bob Mandt was a living monument to the history of the Mets and Shea Stadium. He experienced it all during his tenure in the team ticket office and served as a folklorist and institutional memory for a team and times most people prefer to forget.

If you don't have a copy, go buy Tales from the 1962 Mets, a great little oral history of the Mets' early days. Mandt generously offers up his recollection of how he set up the first Mets ticket office in the basement of the Hotel Martinique in 1961.

Marty Noble posted an excellent obit today:

The Mets lost again on Monday; Bob Mandt died. His passing made a dark, dank day at Citi Field sad and uncomfortable. What follows is a slightly updated version of the story I wrote for this website, advancing the club's honoring Bob and recognizing his many contributions to life at Shea Stadium. I liked him. I miss him. -- Marty Noble

NEW YORK -- It was merely an agenda, a schedule of all that was to happen and at what times on the afternoon of Aug. 1, when the Mets would open the doors of their Hall of Fame to new members for the first time since 2002. When it arrived via e-mail, I began to skim through it. My scrolling ended abruptly when the name Bob Mandt appeared. Names of friends jump off the screen as if presented in upper case, boldface italic.

The day's events would focus on the induction of four men who helped make Shea Stadium the place to be for the better part of seven successive and successful summers -- Frank Cashen, Davey Johnson, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Before any of that, though, the Mets would recognize a man who made Shea a good place to be for far longer, most of its 45 years, the man who made Shea work as Cashen and Johnson made the Mets win.

Mandt would be recognized by the Mets but, in another way, he probably wouldn't be recognized at all by most of the folks who populated Citi Field that day. Throughout his tenure with the club, 1961-2004, he was a man behind the scenes, a man with an office in the bowels of the ballpark and a knowledge of everything from the floor of the basement corridors to the flight patterns of LaGuardia's jets.

Shea didn't breathe, sneeze, open or close without Mandt knowing about it. He knew all its nooks and crannies, leaks and secrets, and everyone's extensions. He could have been an often-hit website -- www.KnowItAll.com.

Bob knew the umps and the cops; the opposing players, coaches and managers; Mrs. Payson and Mr. Met; the secretaries and the grounds crew; M. Donald Grant and the guys from Harry M. Stevens; Casey, Gil and Yogi; the doctors and the trainers; the plumbers and the electricians; the writers, the bullpen catchers and the mayors; Stearns, Staub, Staiger and all the rest.

He had an original poster from The Beatles at Shea and bobble-head dolls from everything, even the Titans. Pins, trinkets and caps, and stories about most of them. And he had a picture of himself with Mick Jagger. His office was the unofficial Mets Hall of Fame.

If you had business at Shea, you had business with Bob. If you had a problem, he had a solution. If you had an anecdote, he had two dozen. If he had a cold, Shea had the sniffles.

Robert L. Mandt was going to be the inaugural recipient of the Mets Hall of Fame Achievement Award. It could have been appropriately named after him and no one would have quarreled with that. Listing his achievements, duties, responsibilities, good deeds and friends would require that cyberspace build an addition.

He began his time in the club's employ before Roger Craig threw the franchise's first pitch, before Casey said "Amazin'" for the first time and well before Marv missed first and second. He sold tickets in the basement of the Hotel Martinique in Manhattan and at Grand Central in 1961.

That his title upon retirement was vice president, that he had been the head of stadium operations and that the ballpark had operated smoothly on his watch was to be expected.

Now, at 74, he is a consultant. Bob Mandt remains the sharpest tool in the shed, the brightest crayon in the box. When Tom Seaver couldn't finish The New York Times crossword puzzle -- even the Saturday one -- he could turn to Mandt. When a writer needed a word, he could draw on Mandt's vocabulary. When a Payson, de Roulet, Doubleday or Wilpon needed something done, Bob knew the number to call whether it was at Gracie Mansion, a Broadway theater, Yankee Stadium, Julius La Rosa's home or "21" Club.

He is a member of Mensa, a bonafide smart aleck.

When Mets home night games still began at 7:40 p.m. ET, Bob (St. John's), Dave Howard (Dartmouth), Mark Bingham (Harvard), Ed Lynch (Miami Law School) and I (Newsday) often would watch "Jeopardy" in the press room.

The four of us were no match for Mandt, regardless of category. "Operas for $2,000, Alex" would prompt a silent beep and an accurate "question" from Mandt. On two occasions when the program had gone to commercial, Bob suggested that a contestant's response had unfairly been ruled incorrect. The response was approved when the program resumed.

He has always been the one who knew, or he knew how to find out. His phone book is "War and Peace" thick. When a man with a remarkable Mets memory identified a date other than Sept. 24 as the day the team clinched its first championship in 1969, Bob quietly put the man in his place.

"I should remember what day they clinched. It was my birthday," Mandt said.

Mandt has other skills. For years, he provided the Plan of the Day, an agenda that told everyone in the building what was going to happen, what time it would happen and who would be involved. Proud to say I made the Plan of the Day once -- to my knowledge -- when Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge were to sing the national anthem.

The Plan usually included something unexpected: a Mandt sketch of Cashen's successor, Al Harazin, wearing a bow tie, Cashen's signature, the day he replaced his mentor. Nice touch.

Mandt is good for a surprise, a story or a laugh on a regular basis -- an anecdote long forgotten, a celebrity he had never mentioned previously, a photo from one of his many travels. A man with a collection that Cooperstown envies has one special photo that tells of his sense of humor. It's not just that it's Bob with Jagger; what makes it cool is that they are shoulder to shoulder, Jagger is almost without expression and Bob's tongue is out.

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