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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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Don't Hide Your Fame

Hall of Fame Weekend has come and gone. We won’t worry too much about Cooperstown until early January. Gil Hodges should be in. Keith Hernandez, too. We know that.

But what about the Mets Hall of Fame?

The what?

Yeah, that’s right, it exists. You’ve heard of it. Probably. Maybe. Have you seen it? It is, if it hasn’t been moved into Public Storage, on the press level of Shea Stadium, somewhere near the Diamond Club. I’ve only seen it because I got to a game real early one night ten years ago and was desperate to ditch my companion for a little while. I got on an elevator, went looking and found it.

It was a bust. Actually, it was a bunch of busts. That’s it. That’s the Mets Hall of Fame. A glass case, maybe two. On display is a head for each honoree. At that time, the last head belonged to Tug McGraw, inducted in 1993. Since then, the Mets have added Mookie, Mex, Kid and Tommie Agee.

I was reminded of all this by the only Metsian blog that’s more historically minded than this one, Mark Simon’s ever-intriguing salute to Mets Walkoffs. Today he’s on top of the Mets HOF, and if he doesn’t mind, I’m going to take his ball and run with it.

Or, more specifically, take his ball and smash the glass case(s) with it.

Hey Mets, what are you ashamed of? Why are you hiding your Hall of Fame? Better question: Why are you blocking access to its membership rolls?

Mark points out that the Mets do not have a Hall of Fame induction scheduled for 2005. They haven’t inducted anyone since Agee in 2002 (two seasons too late for him to enjoy it although he retired from baseball following 1973), and that was a minor fiasco. His induction was in August 2002, as bad a Mets month as has ever been played. That was the month when the Mets didn’t win a single game at Shea. Not one. They could’ve scheduled all their August games in February that year — same amount of wins and a lot fewer losses. With the Mets in some serious dumps, Bobby Valentine called a team meeting before a Sunday afternoon game.

At the very moment that Bobby was reading his players that week’s riot act (and his players were pointedly ignoring it) in the Mets clubhouse, Tommie Agee was being inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame on the field. It’s bad enough that the organization does most of these well-meaning things before the fans arrive, but it was worse that there were no Mets in the dugout to see one of their predecessors given, theoretically, the greatest honor a Met can get. Tom Seaver, who was there, lashed out at Bobby V later for not understanding the importance of this. Bobby V’s reaction was along the lines of “I’ve got other things to worry about.”

Sadly, I doubt many 2002 Mets would have known who Tommie Agee was or would’ve taken much inspiration from his induction, but Seaver was right. This is your big team benediction and the congregation isn’t even in its pews? Not even the ones who are paid to be there?

Typical. Why do the Mets run things this way? Why have the Mets only inducted four individuals in the past dozen seasons including this one? All props to those who have gone in, every one of them deserving, but how hard up are we for heroes that we can’t induct a few more?

Where is Rube Walker? Rube Walker was the Leo Mazzone of his generation minus the rocking. Rube Walker tutored Mets pitchers for fourteen productive seasons. His students were kids named Seaver, Koosman, Ryan and McGraw. Seaver swore by him. Hodges trusted him. Together they instituted the five-man rotation, not a small factor in two pennants and one world championship never mind that it became the model for all of baseball. The Mets’ strength has always been pitching and the godfather of it deserves to be honored by his team.

Where’s Ron Hunt? The Mets’ first All-Star in the sense that he truly belonged to the Mets. He started the 1964 midsummer classic at Shea (why we never hosted another one is another question for another time), not an easy task considering the team he played for lost 109 games. Ron Hunt was the first player to give Mets fans legitimate hope that their club could manufacture something besides laughs. For that, he deserves to be honored by his team.

Where’s Lee Mazzilli? I know, Baltimore. But who carried our dreams and aspirations during the darkest days of the franchise? Who was New York’s own? Who had not only his own poster but his own poster day? Who was the only Met All-Star to turn an All-Star Game around with his bat? The late ’70s and early ’80s were deadly times to be at Shea, but somebody made them that much more alive. That somebody deserves to be honored by his team.

Those three choices a little esoteric? OK, let’s talk 1986. Let’s talk the architect and the field general. Where oh where are Frank Cashen and Davey Johnson? How can the best single edition let alone the best era of Mets baseball be so grossly underrepresented in the Mets’ own Hall of Fame? Cashen has long been the linchpin of the HOF committee, but whatever his involvement, he needs to be inducted. The Mets were a laughingstock — a real laughingstock — before Wilpon and Doubleday hired him to be GM in 1980. He completely reinvented the organization. That’s not worth an honor? As for Davey, he transformed the team in the dugout from sad sacks to world beaters. He integrated youth with veterans and dared all comers to beat them. They couldn’t do it. That’s not worth an honor?

Two other guys from then, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry…them, too. They’re Mets Hall of Famers, except for not being in. I know, not the most savory of characters, but this isn’t the Daughters of the American Revolution. This is a baseball team whose greatest homegrown players of the past thirty years are no longer playing. What’s the wait, gents? Next year’s twenty years since 1986. No time like the very immediate future to make a statement about your history, that you’re proud of it and proud of those who committed it. Get Darryl and Doc a couple of head sculptures and commission a few more for the Lennys and Wallys and HoJos and Knights and some older players and executives and other worthies (Tim McCarver? Jack Lang? Karl Ehrhardt the original Sign Man? I’m not kidding about any of these. The totality of a team’s history is defined by the sum of many, many important parts.)

In the words of Linkin Park, what the hell are you waiting for? The Mets will be in their 45th season of existence next year. That’s a lot of history. Celebrate it regularly. Stop worrying about being busts and stop hiding the busts. Bring your Hall of Fame into the sunlight. Let everybody see it and let it grow. Even though you’re the Mets, you can handle it.

17 comments to Don't Hide Your Fame

  • Anonymous

    Thanks.
    I've been arguing for Rube Walker's Mets' Hall of Fame induction for many years — pretty much since Jerry Koosman (at another sorely underwitnessed ceremony) made a point of including Walker in his ceremony. Alas, as with Tommie Agee, it is too late to honor a living Rube Walker, but injustices, even to the dead, must be overturned — if only to give the living a greater faith in the sanctity of justice.
    Most fans that I suggest Walker to confess that they never considered him, but yeah, of course, on reflection. That such an obvious honor remains such an afterthough among a fan base supposedly known for it's knowledgiblitiy is probably the legacy of the Baseball Hall of Fame, which neither considers non-managing coaches for the Ultimate Honor, nor allows a coaching career to be part of a hybrid legacy.
    They should correct that injustice. Doesn't Mazzone make that obvious? Scouts too should be eligible.
    Beyond Walker, I don't see as big a backlog as you do. Hunt's is just too brief a legacy. Mazzilli is a maybe. Gooden and Strawberry are obvious yesses, but it appears the Mets are trying to slowly rebuild some burned bridges between these two and the organization/fanbase/society at large before setting up a ceremony that could turn into an embarrassing boo-fest. They're young (although getting old fast.)
    A Mazzilli ceremony could also so turn sour.
    Lenny, Wally, and Knight are also far back on my list. All certainly are behind Sid and Darling. Yes, and a thousand times yes to HoJo, DaJo and FraCash. And props to you for creative (and solid) selections with McCarver, SignMan, and Lang (though that last one sets a dangerous precedent).
    Next guy in, though, should be Rube Walker, while he still has family to witness it and while there are still 1955 Dodger fans around.
    And props also for finding and acknowledging a time when Tom Seaver was right and Bobby Valentine was wrong. Neither are easy.
    Sincerely,
    Edgy DC
    The Crane Pool Forum

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your well-thought, well-put comments.
    I thought a natural would have been a dual induction of Agee and Swoboda. Neither one of them had a career that showed up on the Cooperstown radar but for their gloves one week in October, yet subtract them from Mets history and that upper right field wall is disturbingly bare. I would make the same case, sooner than later, for a dual Clendenon-Knight ceremony, two World Series MVPs going in together.
    Rube Walker or Donn Clendenon or Ray Knight won't sell a lot of tickets, but so what? It's your history. If you have to, start pairing lesser-knowns like Rube Walker with Doc or Darryl or before long Mike. At least there'll be a nice crowd on hand who will learn who Rube Walker was. And for those of us who already know, all the better.
    What exactly do the Mets think their Hall of Fame is? They don't have to start inducting Sergio Ferrer (though I'd show up for that) but they are a team (like any, I suppose, but maybe more so) whose history is punctuated dramatically by incredible acts by unlikely players. There haven't been a lot of Seavers over here. Let's keep standards in perspective.
    There's a Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame that finds a way to induct everybody connected with that team's legacy sooner or later because that's all they have left. There's something to be said for knowing what you've got before it's gone.

  • Anonymous

    The Yankees have retired so many numbers that soon they'll be issuing triple digits. The least we could do is honor a few more of our greats. It's not Cooperstown, it's our Hall of Fame and it's for players who have demonstrated excellence in a Mets uniform, regardless of anything else they have or haven't done. Surely there have been more than a scant handful of those in the past 43 years.

  • Anonymous

    Laurie I enjoy your posts here. But I ask you to check this rant before suggesting that the Yankee precedent should influence the Mets in any way.
    The Mets should always be thinking about this sort of thing. But not necessarily always acting.

  • Anonymous

    It's not necessarily a scant handful:
    1981
    Joan Whitney Payson (executive)
    Casey Stengel (manager)
    1982
    Bud Harrelson
    Gil Hodges (manager)
    George Weiss (executive)
    1983
    Johnny Murphy (executive)
    William A. Shea (executive)
    1984
    Ralph Kiner (broadcaster)
    Bob Murphy (broadcaster)
    Lindsey Nelson (broadcaster)
    1986
    Rusty Staub
    1988
    Tom Seaver
    1989
    Jerry Koosman
    1990
    Ed Kranepool
    1991
    Cleon Jones
    1992
    Jerry Grote
    1993
    Tug McGraw
    1996
    Mookie Wilson
    1997
    Keith Hernandez
    2001
    Gary Carter
    2002
    Tommie Agee
    Now let's not get to argue who's in or out as the magnitude (and subsequently, the exclusivity) of the honor can only be established over time. Let's just argue over who is most deserving among those remaining. I say Walker, Walker, Walker. But if the Mets want to defer to the aged but living, I wouldn't scream to see them go with Cashen next, or even Nelson Doubleday.

  • Anonymous

    Not that Laurie can't speak for herself (he says with a straight face), but I infer from her comment and our long association that Lady L is not calling for a move-for-move imitation of what they do but rather just noting that it won't kill the Mets to be a little more generous in their honoring.
    I'm familiar with the rant (link didn't work) on the sublime MBTN and speaking only for myself, I'm not necessarily looking for more retired numbers. A retired number is a very big deal. It's Team HOF-Plus. We can haggle over 31 (the current one), 45 (the only one) and 17 (which they blew a long time ago) but I'm fine with who's on the wall if not the Hall.

  • Anonymous

    Well, then I'm sorry if I overfed Laurie. Just want to say that overdoing this sort of thing is worse than underdoing it, as the Yankees show.
    I can't edit my comment, so see if you can't fix the link, pretty please.

  • Anonymous

    I think my comment about “triple digits” should have sufficed with regard to how I feel about it the Yankees' showboating. I think it's absurd. I was merely pointing out that there is a big grey area between grossly overdoing it and grossly underdoing it, and it would be nice if the Mets would live there. We have more “greats” than our HOF would indicate.

  • Anonymous

    The MBTN rant on retired numbers here.

  • Anonymous

    Good rant. My money is with the reader who suggested emulating Syracuse: Retire numbers sparingly, but earmark certain ones to be handed out only with care and consideration. (And if a certain amount of pressure comes with that, that's OK. This New York place, it's a tough town till you prove yourself. Mr. Beltran, ask Mr. Piazza about that.) Whenever I see some anonymous Met sporting #17 or #8, I think glumly of Mex and the Kid — there ain't no mystic chords of memory connecting Dae-Sung Koo and Keith Hernandez.
    The only time the Mets seem to have done that is with #24, and I've always thought that was fetishizing Willie Mays a bit too much. (And how did it get handed out to Kelvin Torve, anyway?)
    Off the top of my head, this would mean Syracuse treatment for Mookie, Gary, Keith, Buddy, Koosman, Piazza, Franco, Grote, Tug, Cleon, Krane, Doc, Darryl and Orosco. You might argue for adding Fonzie, maybe subtracting the ever-truculent Jesse O. Points off for Cone and Rusty (love 'em though I do) for changing their numbers too often to develop that kind of identity.
    On the other hand, giving someone #7 might mean suggesting to them that they're destined to be a platoon player who becomes a pinch-hitter and cult hero, which is nice but not what every player dreams about. So be it: Maybe they get to shoot a Gilette Foamy commercial making fun of blackouts.

  • Anonymous

    Jason, please tell me that came off the top of your head and you really didn't see anyone in a Mr. Koo jersey. Then again, I did see a Braden Looper shirt once.
    Speaking of which, I loved hearing the “LOOOOOOOOP” last night. Well done! I've been joking about that all year, imagining the guys in the clubhouse trying to convince him that he's not being booed. “They're saying 'Looooooop'! Really! Awww, don't be like that, Loop…” Now they can stop lying to him!

  • Anonymous

    On his old show, Letterman used to do a bit with the audience called “Brush with Greatness” in which people would tell funny anecdotes relating generally off-beat encounters with celebrities.
    My “Brush with Krane” occurred in late 2001 when my then 2 year-old son was hospitalized due to a household accident (he's fine today). A woman walks into the children's ward and says, with a sort of resigned enthusiasm “Does anyone want to meet Ed Kranepool from the '69 Mets?!” To which I replied “Heck, nevermind '69, he was an original 1962 Met.”
    I lack the writing skill to describe the look of astonishment / relief that overtook this woman's face followed by a barely audible “You know him.” As she exited quickly down the hall, I swear I heard her urgently whsiper at least twice “Somebody down here knows him.” So anyway, in comes ol' number 7, every bit the nice old man. Just Eddie from Brooklyn, shaking hands, handing out toys carried by his entourage with a subdued “how ya doin'” for kids and grownups alike.
    I know I'll never forget it.

  • Anonymous

    We briefly saw a Koo jersey from afar…being worn by Koo. Fortunately, Koo too (wheeee! fun to type!) was a spectator. He had the birthday, we got the gift.

  • Anonymous

    If we're speaking about retiring numbers, I'd like to see #31 up there for Mike. I think he's earned that. But in the same breath, Johnny will always be #31 to me.
    I tend to agree about Willie Mays. On the one hand, he's WILLIE FREAKING MAYS. On the other hand, he wasn't really WILLIE FREAKING MAYS as a Met. All that hullabaloo about Rickey and #24 was just stupid, especially when he crassly suggested taking #35 from Rick Reed instead. If it wasn't Rickey, you might think he was kidding. Rickey don't kid about Rickey's supreme greatness.

  • Anonymous

    Apropos of the original 7 train, I have a friend who was very excited to run into Eddie K. in the Carnegie Deli. Gosh, I asked, what was the experience like?
    “He looked at me like I owed him money.”
    I'm glad Ed had it goin' on for the kids or, more likely, the parents at the hospital. Not to detract from his kind deed, but do a lot of children in the 21st century go to bed at night dreaming of a chance meeting with Ed Kranepool?

  • Anonymous

    albertsonmets, that's a great memory. Allow me to suggest that you to copy it and post it to Ed's page at the Ultimate Mets Database.

  • Anonymous

    Eminently quotable, Ed Coleman once asked Rickey a question about his baserunning with the Mets (possibly about how if the Mets had a faster team, would he be getting more stolen bases – but I really don't remember, and it doesn't really matter), and Rickey began his answer with (and this part's exact):
    “Well, I really don't want to take anything away from myself…”