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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Throw That Weak-Ass S— Again, Meat

It was 1998. Bobby Cox threw everybody but Chief Noc-a-Homa at us to throttle our desperate bid for a wild-card spot. Mike Piazza, booed at Shea after his roundabout trip from L.A. to New York via Miami, seemed destined to head elsewhere. Our final memories would be seeing him standing helplessly at the dugout rail in enemy territory as we breathed our last.

Blaine Boyer, meanwhile, was 17 years old, playing baseball for the Raiders of Walton High in Marietta, Ga. Brave country, don'tcha know. Fannypacks under spare tires and plenty of seats come playoff time.

Fast-forward seven years to a sultry night at Shea, the second half of the 2005 season, a crucial four-game set against those same Atlanta Braves. Win three of four or (salt thrown, wood knocked) sweep and we'd be back in the wild-card race, to say the least. Lose three of four or (salt thrown, wood knocked) get swept and for all intents and purposes it would be 2006. Split and it'd be days on death row without the governor calling — not technically fatal, but still four days closer to a last meal.

I wound up dipping in on via handheld radio at odd intervals, my presence demanded elsewhere by the departure of a longtime colleague. When I left the house, Kris Benson had sent every Brave to arrive at home plate back the way he'd come. It was early, Mets up 1-0, but on TV O'Brien and Seaver weren't shy to point out what Benson had done, or rather hadn't done. Could I leave with perfection possibly in the cards? (I know, I know. If your team had gone a billion years without a no-hitter, you'd think silly things too.) I could leave. I had to leave. In the subway I was thinking about how I'd just idly wondered if the first Met to pitch a no-hitter was on the roster. I let myself imagine the amazed comments, the joking requests for more psychic powers, how it would all be utterly predictable and totally, giddily glorious.

Except that as I dashed up and down the stairs from the A platform to the concourse to keep a faint signal audible, something had gone wrong. A Brave had reached base somehow. Cairo was involved. No matter. Clearly an error. And that's fine. Unseemly to demand too much from the baseball gods.

Um, no. When I emerged from the A train in lower Manhattan scant minutes later, the score was tied at 1. So much for history. So much for my psychic powers. As I arrived for the farewell party, Wright made everything OK with his second dinger of the night. It wasn't Fran's night, but damned if it didn't sound electric at Shea.

Then came the bad-luck part. Somehow, during the next few innings, I developed an uncanny sense of bad timing, typified by my tuning in just in time to hear Benson throw a 3-1 pitch to Adam LaRoche. Auggh! No! (Months earlier I flipped on the radio in this same bar to hear what would turn out to be the lone hit against Aaron Heilman. I apologize to both pitchers.) And Estrada had been on base because of Wright's error. Too cruel. 3-2 Braves. Too cruel! In the race between David Wright's future and David Wright's present, the present seemed to be winning.

But wait! Wright draws a walk! And he's on third with just one out! Miguel Cairo, professional hitter, missed by the Yankees, semi-incumbent second baseman, just has to hit a sac fly to tie things up. But no, he can't manage to do that. Now we're relying on Jose Offerman with two out. Jose Offerman who's been a marvelous pinch-hitter, but is still, well, Jose Offerman. Iron-gloved, cusses at the media folk, surely has used up the luck in his veteran bat. We're asking too much of him, aren't we?

Nope. Tie game. I should really stop thinking, saying and writing bad things about Jose Offerman. (Meanwhile, on the bench, Brian Daubach starts pondering apartments in Norfolk.)

Sad to say (in safe retrospect), I missed the worm turning for David Wright with that unassisted double play on the suicide squeeze. Really it's just as well, because my heart might well have stopped. But I had the earbud in for the bottom of the eight, when Mr. Boyer and Mr. Piazza got acquainted. Which, as everybody knows by now, is the heart of the matter.

0-1 pitch, one out, two on. The world has contracted until it's me and the sound in my right ear. Boyer throws a 93-mph, high fastball that Piazza's late on. It's a meatball, the kind of ball the Piazza of '98 or '01 or '03 would have turned into confetti. I know it, and Howie Rose acknowledges as much, noting that's the best pitch Mike's likely to see and the kind of pitch that once upon a time he would have hit hard and far. But not anymore. Not tonight. Howie sounds genuinely sad to find himself the one saying it. I find myself begging that Mike won't hit into a double play, that Wright will get a chance. And I shake my head that it's come to this, that the best I can do, when Mike Piazza is at the plate, is root for something bad not to happen.

And then, with an 0-2 count, Boyer tries to throw another meatball past the old man, the hobbled catcher, #31 who's trying to adjust to a bat that's slower, a swing that's longer and later. It's a battle no hitter ever wins — there's only one outcome possible, and the only question is at what point everyone acknowledges the day has arrived.


That day is coming for Mike Piazza. In fact, it's coming quickly. But it is not this day.

3 comments to Throw That Weak-Ass S— Again, Meat

  • Anonymous

    To go back to Greg's post about the amazing 10-run inning, last night was one of those nights when you remembered who Mike Piazza was. The look as he eyed the young pitcher squirming on the mound, the perfect line drive homer, the fans leaping and cheering. Baseball like it oughtta be indeed. I was happy for the win, of course, happy for the fans there (including our Greg), but most of all happy for Mike, who has a little left in him before he has to be “the old guy at the bar” as he called himself this week.

  • Anonymous

    Just saw Wright's double play on the suicide squeeze and now I feel like dancing on my desk. Sweet redemption for young David — and I'll never scoff at a next-day replay of a game again. Hey, Piazza's up fourth in this inning. Maybe something good's gonna happen….

  • Anonymous

    ok, i'll just say it.
    ramon castro is not gonna do that for you.