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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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Light at the End of the Tunnel

I had business north of the city Thursday afternoon. By the time it wrapped up, the Mets and Padres were already in the fourth, the inning when Beltran walked, stole second and, thanks to Robert Fick forgetting to lower his shades on a foul pop into the Petco sun, got driven in by Cliff Floyd. It made for good listening as I wound my way to the Metro-North station and then, once on a 4:51, back to Grand Central.

We were in the tunnel for the final leg of the train trip when I heard David Ross send a liner sinking into shallow right-center. Howie said of Beltran and Cameron “they dive” and “they collide” — verse as play-by-play — and that the ball wasn't caught. I could tell by his the tone of his voice that it was a lot worse than that but by then we were so deep into the tunnel that I lost WFAN. Obviously whatever the aftermath of the interaction was, it wasn't good.

Usually I would shuttle from Grand Central to Times Square and then go one stop to Penn, but given that I was left hanging by lack of reception, I opted to trot outside and determine just what had happened to our guys. Maybe I'd get an update and then head back down to the subway. The first thing I heard when I tuned back in was, “Our prayers go out to Mike Cameron.”

With that, I decided to walk through the humidity. Five blocks west, eight blocks south — not a big deal but it felt vital. It felt like I needed to be there with my team, with my centerfielder, with my rightfielder. They weren't going to magically heal just because my ears were directed their way, yet I had to be with them somehow.

After 9/11, I remember berating myself for the manner in which I took Mets' injuries so seriously and didn't worry nearly as much about the health of the people I'm related to by blood. I had the feeling after that week that I would never take baseball so life-and-death again. You know how that went and I think we'd both agree that to some extent that it's better to live a little for what we love. Still, I don't know what to make of my reaction today. Our announcers described it in such chilling terms, as the worst collision they ever saw, and that would have to include Mookie-Lenny, Blocker-Heep, Theodore-Hahn. Those were bad. This was worse?

As I walked to Penn Station, I couldn't decide if the game mattered anymore. Not in the ur-sense that I pondered in September 2001 but this game in particular. How could I even think of something as Philistine as a win when two human beings were hurt, potentially very hurt? On the other hand, they got hurt trying to attain victory. That's what they do. And I was worried about them, all humanitarian impulses aside, because they were trying to attain victory. That's what I do.

Joe Randa did what Joe Randa does and put his team ahead of my team. Damn, I guess. Padres 2 Mets 1. This wasn't healing our fallen fielders either, so why not win? Yeah, why not? When the Mets came to bat in the top of the eighth and Reyes led off with a four-pitch walk, I sensed something might happen, something just.

What do I mean just? It wasn't a beanball or a brawl that took out two-thirds of our outfield. It was just a watermain of happenstance tapped into by the hustle & flow of the game, and when it broke, it was freakishly bad luck that gushed forth. Two millionaires racing hellbent for one ball…funny, if both of them had pulled up and the ball fell in, chances are we'd be poking the offending parties with a stick, branding them nonchalant so-and-so's who don't respect the sport that made them wealthy. But if they'd done that, Ross would've been held to a single and Beltran and Cameron would be in the lineup in Los Angeles. Discretion, the better part of valor and a pair of healthy flycatchers are all the rewards of 20/20 hindsight.

Reyes stole second. Offerman struck out. Then Floyd stepped up. Would he also Step Up? Of course. He's Floyd. The Man. The Last Outfielder Standing. Cliff Floyd, who spoke truth to power almost a year ago when he said, quite correctly, that there was no light at the end of the tunnel; Cliff Floyd, who this year has been lighting candles and preventing darkness. Surely Cliff would do something just.

Instead he gets hit by that pitcher with the weird transfer between his glove and his hand…Otsuka, that's him. I've had it in for him since last year (I have it in for all pitchers I've never heard of who baffle us; I have it in for a lot of pitchers). And who's the home plate ump? Our old pal Eric Cooper, he of the antennae so sensitive he could pick up an AM broadcast in Grand Central Station. Hence, the whole thing has descended from morality play to farce. I keep walking but there's not a damn thing I can do for them. Cliff drags himself to first and gives way to David Wright who, until the seventh, had been in on the most memorable defensive episode of this series. Surely, David will wreak revenge on…the Padres? The fates? I didn't know who to blame.

Wright rapped into a 6-4-3 double play. Nobody came through. The Mets were done for the eighth, the game and, though it can't be told for certain, their longshot playoff chances suddenly sounded more shot than long. I didn't get a final until I was on the 6:10 out of Penn. Word was Beltran didn't remember what happened though he was deemed generally OK. Cameron was less so but the damage wasn't as horrible as it looked like it might be.

A pretty decent substitute for victory, no?

8 comments to Light at the End of the Tunnel

  • Anonymous

    It was just horrible. Even the TV guys didn't want to see the replay again and again. “OK, that's enough of that…” they said. After the game, when they showed it again, Ted Robinson warned us that we might want to avert our eyes, as we “may not wish to watch.” But, as he pointed out, the cameramen had been working to find “the most discreet angle” to show.
    The Met fan in me knew we were screwed, as Cam was not going to be seen again for the forseeable future, and Carlos probably wouldn't be himself for a while. But the person in me just didn't care what happened in the rest of that game. I just wanted him to be OK. And if a smashed-up face is “OK,” well, I guess that will have to do.
    I never want to see anything like that again.

  • Anonymous

    The collisions recalled all seem to overlook the Mazzilli-Norman crackup in LA on 7/23/79 (except seemingly Marty Noble, who, in an otherwise excellent and sensitive piece at mlb.com, recalls a Mazzilli-Henderson collision which I'm pretty sure he's confusing this one for).
    I know the reason — virtually nobody was paying any attention to the Mets at all in 1979, but Mazz was knocked cold and ended up with a case of amnesia. Yikes.
    I really don't know what to expect now, as the Mets have been playing for months with no backup outfielders. Is Randolph going to really try to play Floyd and Beltran as soon as possible? I hope not, and I thought it was plum foolish that Randolph sent him to first last night, as he was useless in the field, useless on the basepaths, unlikely to come to the plate again, and probably would have been severly hampered had he done so.
    Putting him through all that pain, and risk of further hurting himself, was worth that?
    I'm not a basher, I'm just not, but what does that say about Gerald Williams?

  • Anonymous

    They mentioned on the FAN that Cliff Floyd crossed himself when he went over to Cammy. I thought I had seen that too, but figured I was imagining it because I was so scared. It looked like he was doing it surreptitiously, as to not call attention to the fact that he was doing it. How did it look to you guys?

  • Anonymous

    When I heard that Cameron went off on a stretcher, my mind did race back to Mazzilli-Norman, actually, though I didn't initially recall it as that bad because Mazzilli had this sort of sheepish grin on his face and he was being carried off as if he were embarrassed to getting a ride on a stretcher. But you're right, that was a tough one. I remember thinking at the time that wow, Dan Norman must be sure it's all over for him here. First he doesn't hit and then he takes out the team's only star.

  • Anonymous

    I was “watching” the game via Gamecast on yahoo. Glavine seemed to be blowing through the inning when there's a little delay in an update, then they post the triple, I curse, then wait for what seems like forever for the next batter. I'm figuring they must be taking Glavine out or perhaps there's a connection problem. Bascially I'm thinking the same thing one does when coming up upon a dead stop on the highway. “There better be somebody dead up there or at least bleeding to do this to me”, the usualy sick humor that comes to mind. The inning goes on, with Glavine remaining in the game and all the rest. I kinda notice the change in the outfield but just figured someone came up lame or something. Had absolutely no idea something had happened of this magnitude until getting home and clicking on ESPN. Now, of course, I feel guilty. Still a New Yorker at heart.
    Definately did bring back memories of Hahn-Theodore. I was watching that game and remember them both just laying there while the ball sat waiting for someone to pick it up, first inside the park homer I ever saw. Thursday's was the worst head to head hit ever, two top notch centerfielders giving their all. Maybe some fans might see that booing these guys doesn't take everything they do into account. Not likely but…

  • Anonymous

    Edgy, reading the accounts you've unearthed in other quarters, I could very well be thinking of another Mazzilli stretcher situation, because if he was unconscious, he wasn't grinning sheepishly. I do recall, I wanna say in Pittsburgh, a time Mazz was carried off for something a lot less severe than his sudden impact collision with Dan Norman. Lee was shaken up but awake and flexing his finger. I'm pretty sure I'm confusing the two instances (if you can be sure you're confused about anything).
    Maybe that's what Marty Noble is doing, too, as Steve Henderson probably spent more time playing alongside Mazzilli than any other outfielder.

  • Anonymous

    I was on a packed 7 train after Game 3 of the NLDS in 1999. The doors closed and it went maybe one or two stops if that when there a loooooong delay. There was an announcement about somebody being sick or something and of course everybody in my car was disgusted. As my co-blogger can confirm, it turned out somebody was more than sick. But as nobody knew that at the time, there was lot of snickering about being on “the dead guy train”. You just never know.

  • Anonymous

    It's kind of a warped and somewhat irrelevant to the proceedings's observation, but I already observed elsewhere that this event will indeed more than likely stop the stupid booing of Carlos Beltran. It's not that this is a good thing, or a bad thing, but mostly it's a weird thing…and even more than that, a true thing. Even more weirdly, I don't think it will stop the stupid booing of Kaz Matsui…but maybe, just maybe, this idiot bunch of dopey fans will now get wholly back behind their one-and-only team, where they belong. I don't necessarily agree, as Glavine so clichedly said, that this “puts it all into perspective”, but what it does definitely do, is shake us all up a little bit. Bottom line…there's very few loafers on this team…we've watched them crash into walls, dive into stands, flip over sidebarriers, and now even crash, dive, and flip into each other…all to do their undying best to get ahold of that little white pearl (tm Murph).
    As I've been saying for a while now, this is one of the most genuinely likable Mets teams to field the joint in perhaps my entire lifetime, with guys like Wright, Floyd, Reyes, Beltran and Cammy the Hammy front-and-center, and they should be getting recognition for this. Our fans suck…it's only a very small snippet of consolation for those of us that have Cammy's well-being on the brain, but at least now maybe our fans will suck a little bit less.