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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Ohmigod! They Killed Kenny!

Tuesday night, for probably the last time in my life, I was happy to see Andruw Jones hit a home run. It had almost nothing to do with getting the National League on the board in the All-Star Game. It had everything to do with it having been hit off of Kenny Rogers.

I don’t know if the two have faced each other since the night the lights went out in Georgia. Given the vagaries of Interleague, probably. But this was the biggest stage the two of them had shared since October 19-20, 1999. Lord knows I had a different rooting interest then.

I’m probably in the minority of Mets fans when it comes to viewing Kenny Rogers’ disastrous eleventh inning in Atlanta during the sixth and, ultimately, last game of the National League Championship Series, the final time the New York Mets would be at play in the 20th century. Kenny walked Andruw with the bases loaded to force in the winning run and hand the pennant to the Braves. The hated, hated Braves. Technically speaking, Kenny also loaded those very same bases. He gave up the leadoff double to Gerald Williams (!) that started the whole thing rolling downhill. Bret Boone made a productive out, moving Gerald Williams (!) to third, and Bobby Valentine ordered not one but two intentional walks, first to Chipper Jones, then to Brian Jordan.

Nice setup, eh? The moment Rogers let Gerald Williams (!) get on would have been a good time to pull him except the Mets were a little short on pitching at that point considering everybody who could be considered a reliever had been used. All that was left in the cupboard were Octavio Dotel (very young, gave up the thankfully brief go-ahead run in the 15th on Sunday), Masato Yoshii (started Sunday, looked shaky, never saw blue and orange again) and Rick Reed (penciled in to this day as the starter for Game Seven, which he would’ve won, of that I’m certain). For a team that had escaped its destined demise I don’t know how many times during the previous thirty days, it may have been too much to ask anybody to cheat the grim reaper out of his rightful bounty for five minutes longer. Kenny Rogers or not, 1999 couldn’t last forever.

I don’t blame Kenny Rogers for Game Six, not entirely. Surely he was responsible for the walk to Andruw Jones that allowed Gerald Williams (!) to score. But not for the whole thing, a thing we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near without his steady pitching down the stretch. And I don’t blame Bobby Valentine all that much, considering any Met pitching to Chipper Jones or Brian Jordan in those waning breaths of that post-season would have qualified as sheer madness.

• I blame Al Leiter’s inability to retire a single batter in the first inning — 0 IP, 5 ER (I move the Senator yield the floor).

• I blame Turk Wendell for hitting Jordan to lead off the sixth just after the Mets had closed from 5-0 to 5-3.

• I blame Dennis Cook for surrendering two runs with two outs via that human canker sore Jose Hernandez a few batters later.

• I blame John Franco for giving back an 8-7 lead — we were ahead, honest-to-goodness ahead — with the same kind of stuff on which he gave back too many leads for the entire decade that preceded that particular giveback.

• I blame Armando Benitez for giving back a 9-8 lead — we were actually ahead after spotting the Braves five runs in the first and after letting them tie us in Franco’s eighth — and revealing in the harsh light of do-or-die that we could never live with him as our closer.

• I blame John Olerud, Shawon Dunston and Robin Ventura, three genuine heroes of October 1999, for letting an unremarkable righthander named Russ Springer off the hook in the top of the 11th. Once those guys couldn’t or wouldn’t or didn’t touch Springer, I sensed it was only a matter of time.

I blame everybody all at once and, honestly, I blame nobody. How could you get down on the 1999 Mets? All right, maybe Bobby Bo (though he pinch-singled in the fifth of Game Six), but that’s it. I don’t blame Mike for being too sore to make it to the bottom of the ninth, a half-inning he helped ensure with his laser off Smoltz in the seventh. I don’t blame Rickey, who drove in a run in that same seventh, for his legendary card-playing once he was taken out of the game — he was ineligible to come back in, no matter where he decided to sit. I don’t blame Ordoñez for his general offensive ineptitude because he sacrificed successfully in the eighth and threw out more guys in the course of the evening than anybody else.

I can’t stay mad at anybody on that team. That is my favorite Mets season of them all and Game Six was the greatest baseball game I ever saw.

Greatest baseball game I ever saw. And we lost. That’s how good a game it was. It’s never far from my mind. Even when it is, it doesn’t take much to bring it back.

Nearly six years later, there was an All-Star Game in Detroit. Mike was there. Smoltz was there. Melvin Mora was there. He was everywhere for us that October. Now he’s in Baltimore as Mike Bordick whiles away his retirement and Steve Phillips mysteriously collects a paycheck for analyzing the sport from which he was dismissed. Jason Isringhausen, a bit Met in ’99 who didn’t last the season in New York, was a 2005 All-Star as well.

And, yes, there was Andruw Jones, in the midst of his best Braves season ever. And, yes again, there was Kenny Rogers, rewarded for his good first half despite having attacked a cameraman on June 29 for shooting video of him on a baseball field where the both of them work. The cameraman was doing his job. Kenny Rogers attacked him. Those are two facts nobody seems to dispute.

A punishment was announced. And then he got to be an All-Star, the highest in-season honor there is. Then he apologized. He was introduced to the Comerica Park crowd, a congregation that had gathered to celebrate baseball and its best players. Amid a festival of good feeling, those people booed Kenny Rogers.

To the fans who attended the All-Star Game, I offer a Faith and Fear thumbs-up. Whether you were corporate tools or just regular Michiganders, you who booed him deserved your seat at the table Tuesday night. You didn’t fall in line with the odd excuse-making of the Fox and ESPN “expert” crews who praised Kenny for moving on and suggested we all do the same. Move on? He attacked a cameraman who was working on the field where he is entitled to work. He did it June 29 — two weeks ago. Kenny Rogers made Randy Johnson’s truculent bullying act from January look reasonable by comparison. Johnson at least could weakly claim that he wasn’t on a baseball field. Kenny Rogers had no excuse, at least not a good one.

Rogers deserved whatever vocal disapproval he received during the one night of the year when everybody was paying attention. That it came loudly from a goodly portion of 40,000 strangers was fine. That it was Atlanta archvillain Andruw Jones, a very active ghost in our (and one would imagine his) subconscious, who pounded him on the mound was dandy.

I’ve held the 1999 Mets, collectively and individually, sacred from the instant Gerald Williams (!) stepped on home plate to end the greatest baseball game I ever saw. But not Kenny Rogers, not any longer. I don’t blame him for Game Six in ’99 but I do blame him for his own actions in ’05.

To me, Kenny is dead.

5 comments to Ohmigod! They Killed Kenny!

  • Anonymous

    I agree with half of your post. I blame Valentine and Leiter. Never blamed Kenny, never will. He was the wrong man for that spot, and a good manager would have known that. He would have also known that Leiter was not the right pitcher to start that game. It was obvious to everyone but him and Leiter, whose ego was allowed to run the show.
    As for the other half, there's a fine line between doing your job and crossing the line. Doing your job is interviewing the company CEO. Crossing the line is barging into his office uninvited and refusing to leave when he's told you this is not a good time. One is acceptable, the other is rude. One will get you a paycheck, the other will get you escorted out by security.
    The cameraman crossed the line. He was asked to back off, and he refused. He insisted on shoving the camera in Kenny's face even though Kenny told him “not now.” But there's this popular opinion that celebrities have no right to privacy EVER, even when they request it. If not for the insane, insatiable and disrespectful obsession with recording every aspect of a celebrity's life, Princess Diana might be alive today. Everyone has the right to be left alone when they ask to be. Everyone. No means no. For once in his life, David Wells is right.
    And it's never appropriate to gleefully abuse and humiliate another human being in public when the whole world is watching. All because he did something most of us would probably have done ourselves in the same circumstances. I know if someone was stalking me with a camera and I asked him to stop, I would not be at all pleased. Eventually, yeah, I'd push him out of the way and do damage to the camera. And I'm not at all a violent person.
    We'll have to agree to disagree on this one, my friend.

  • Anonymous

    I mostly pin the Game 6 loss on Franco and Benitez, the two who each should have sealed the deal when handed the golden apple. Say what you want about mixed metaphors, I know what I mean.
    As for Kenny-kins, I've always held a halfway decent place for him in my heart, believing he didn't deserve the blame for the loss, and, moreover, had helped the 1999 Mets get where they were on that fateful night. Anyone who is hated by Yankee fans, after all, is really alright by me. But now, I think he really deserves all he gets. He's shown the world what he is, and the world has responded in Detroit, in a sane and reasonable manner. His apology, if any of you had the fortune of seeing it, looked like The Incredible Hulk (as the Incredible Hulk, not Banner) apologizing for picking up a bad guy and throwing him four thousand feet. “Hulk sorry for what Hulk did. Hulk not normally like Hulk. Hulk something else. Hulk wish that circumstances could be different.
    Yeah…unless you are really speaking from the heart, once you bring the word “circumstances” into your apology, you really do rend it asunder. And if it walks like a hulk, talks like a hulk, and squawks like a hulk, well…

  • Anonymous

    I can't buy the excuse that Kenny deserves privacy when he walks onto a baseball field. He is paid millions of dollars to do a job, and by definition, part of that job is dealing with the media in all its polymorphous glory. An office worker, on an average salary, can't suddenly decide she doesn't have time for her computer and just wants it out of her face for a while. It doesn't work like that.
    What if that cameraman was asked by his employer to get an interview from Kenny Rogers? Do you blame his station for the consequences? At what point to we actually assert blame on the bully whose temper was such that he decided to treat a human being as he would a water cooler?
    Employers don't generally like it when you physically attack people, especially if they're people who they pay you to deal with. For all intents and purposes, players and cameramen/reporters/announcers are coworkers. They all require one another to do their various jobs. And it doesn't look good for the organization when they start punching and kicking and breaking things. Nevermind on videotape.
    The only people, however, who seem to get away with this kind of stuff without so much as a stern reprimand from their employers, are supertalented people that other people pay to see, such as millionaire and soon-to-be-millionaire athletes. Because of their special value, they are afforded luxuries that most people aren't, which only detaches them further from reality. And reality is, if one of those two cameramen had gone up to, well, anyone else on that baseball field and started physically mauling them, destroying expensive equipment and threatening further harm, he would have been let go from his job. Perhaps pitied a little by society, but mostly frowned upon, no matter what sort of day he'd had. Rogers has no right (legal or otherwise) to solve his daily dilemmas with violence against others anymore than you or I do. But he did, and he left incontrovertible proof of it…and yet a couple weeks later, he still has his job. If that sick luxury is offset by having to maybe do a few interviews when he doesn't feel up to it, or have cameras pointed at him during batting practice, then Rogers ought to be crying all the way to the fucking bank.

  • Anonymous

    If the cameraman was asked by his employer to get an interview with Kenny, and Kenny said “no, this is not a good time,” then the camerman should respect that and go away, just like in any other part of society.
    As a writer, I've spent my entire career being asked by my employer to interview people. And if the person says no, it's no. I respect that and leave them alone. But if I were to then barge in to the person's workplace, shove my tape recorder in their face while they're working and demand they speak into it anyway– and the person finally got fed up enough to push me away and smash my tape recorder–well, I kind of asked for it. I should have respected their decision to begin with.
    We all have different perspectives on this, and different personal reasons for that perspective. Such is life.

  • Anonymous

    No! Let's fight about it until you agree with me.