posted 8 years ago
NEW YORK -- The 162nd game was history, and so were the '08 Mets. They hadn't been defeated nearly so much as they had been crushed by their final-day elimination. The abject disappointment and sorrowful ache caused by a second successive September shortfall were unwanted visitors in their clubhouse. They ran from locker to locker jabbing fingers in the fresh wound of each resident. And there was no bouncer to remove the interlopers.
The carpet that might have been saturated with champagne was, instead, soaked with sadness.
The men in the coaches' dressing room hardly were immune to it all. And, perhaps none of them took it so hard as Howard Johnson, the batting coach with more years in the Mets' employ than all his coaching comrades combined. Those around him were struck by Johnson's gloom. His misery was conspicuous and profound.
"It was worse than a funeral," he would say days later. "I knew what it was like to lose a tough game with this organization."
On Sunday, Sept. 28, he had sat through a refresher course.
"Inconsolable" was the term Ron Darling used that day, and nine days later, when he recalled the moment. "He was really distraught."
Johnson didn't set himself apart from Dan Warthen, Sandy Alomar and the others. He didn't have a monopoly on pain that day. And, goodness knows, it wasn't self-pity that wrapped itself around him. Just wretched dejection that today stands in sharp contrast to other emotions he has experienced since the immediate aftermath of Game 162.