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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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The Final Circle of Met Hell

And here we are at last. The Ninth Circle of Met Hell.

In the Inferno, the Ninth Circle is a frozen lake, at whose center Dante and Virgil find Satan, trapped in the ice and chewing on Brutus, Cassius and the head of Judas Iscariot. The deepest part of Met Hell, however, does not look like the cover of a heavy-metal album. All you’ll find here is a small, dimly lit room. It is empty except for a tarp cylinder. There’s a man trapped under the tarp cylinder. He’s been down here for some time.

Why? Let’s go back and find out.

It’s July 24, 1993. We’re in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium. Meet Vincent Maurice Coleman, a 31-year-old professional baseball player. He’s in his third year with the New York Mets, and it’s not going well. Once a Cardinals speedster, he arrived in New York before the 1991 season, signing a four-year, $12 million deal as the key man in the team’s post-Darryl makeover. But various injuries — usually to his hamstrings — have prevented him from ever putting together a decent season as a Met, and he’s done himself zero favors with his off-field behavior. There have been, well, incidents. Like the time he cursed out coach Mike Cubbage during batting practice and refused to apologize. Like the ugly confrontation with Jeff Torborg in the Atlanta clubhouse that ended with a two-game suspension. Like the time he hit Dwight Gooden in the shoulder swinging a golf club, costing Doc a start. Like the ridicule he brought on himself by saying that Shea’s sandy infield was keeping him out of the Hall of Fame.

No, life as a Met has not gone well for Vince Coleman, who has just finished going 1-for-5 in a 5-4 extra-inning loss to the Dodgers. Now, at about 4:10 in the afternoon, he’s riding with Bobby Bonilla (figures he’d be involved somehow, doesn’t it?) in a Jeep Cherokee being driven by the Dodgers’ Eric Davis. Life isn’t great for Vince Coleman, but it’s about to get worse. He’s about to earn a date with Met Hell’s hungriest, heaviest tarp cylinder.

The Dodger Stadium parking lot is bordered by a chain-link fence, and on the other side of that fence are some 200 to 300 fans. Coleman steps out of the Jeep and lights a small green explosive. It explodes at a distance from the fans that Los Angeles fire officials will later estimate at 27 feet. Arson investigators will determine the explosive was similar to an M-100. This has been called a firecracker or cherry bomb, but those are rather innocent-sounding terms for this particular explosive: It’s about three inches long, about seven-eighths of an inch in diameter, and packs the explosive power of more than a quarter of a stick of dynamite.

The explosion leaves Cindy Mayhew, 33, with inner-ear damage. Marshall Savoy, 11, winds up with a cut shin. And a two-year-old girl, Amanda Santos, suffers a finger injury, second-degree burns under her right eye and lacerations of her cornea. Coleman gets back in the Jeep and Davis drives off. Coleman will play three more games for the Mets, going a robust 1-for-7, before the team puts him on “adminstrative leave” and vows he’ll never play for them again. (He doesn’t — he’s sent to Kansas City in the offseason for Kevin McReynolds.) In the real world, Coleman gets a one-year suspended sentence, three years’ probation, a $1,000 fine and 200 hours of community service. His lawyer says he’ll start serving his community service by helping with the cleanup from the Malibu fires, noting that “the jeans and shovel are in the car.” Coleman is then seen barbequeing chicken for firemen. A civil suit is later settled; details unknown. At least we’ll always have Vince’s public apology, in which he vomits forth some of the most scrofulous scripted regret in the sorry history of grudging athlete apologies, reading that “Amanda stood out near a gate to catch a glimpse of a ballplayer. But today, I want her to catch a glimpse of a loving father and a helpful friend.”

Baseball players’ contracts contain a lot of things they’re not allowed to do — typical banned activities include surfing and motocross, though a Met fan might want to add to the list puttering around with garden shears and pitching for the Dominican Republic in March with a bum toe. As far as I know, baseball contracts don’t bother to forbid things that should be perfectly obvious to anyone sentient. For instance, there’s presumably no line like this:

43(a). Player shall refrain from discharging quarter-sticks of dynamite in a fashion that deliberately or through absurdly stupid negligence causes eye injuries in children attending a baseball game.

Truth be told, I don’t loathe Vince Coleman quite as thoroughly as I do Roberto Alomar or Bobby Bonilla. But no matter what our psychic ulcers, we have to have some perspective, and some standards. And that calls on us to confront the undeniable. Let’s recall who populates the ranks of the Met Damned, and compare their crimes.

The First Circle of Met Hell is wandered by creeps we couldn’t truly embrace. But Rey Ordonez, Rickey Henderson, Kevin McReynolds and Darryl Strawberry never injured a child with an explosive.

The Second Circle of Met Hell is reserved for those tarred by image problems, but who escape further sanction because most of their bad behavior happened elsewhere. But Carl Everett, Eddie Murray, Julio Machado, Juan Samuel and Jeff Kent never injured a child with an explosive. Well, OK, Julio Machado did kill somebody. But it was in South America, and he was a Brewer, and…um, we’ve got to move on. Nothing to see here.

The Second Second Circle of Met Hell is a prison for those who tarnished their tenure with bad exits. But George Foster and Mike Hampton never injured a child with an explosive.

The Fourth Circle of Met Hell is the eternal home for minor Mets who commited major sins. But Mickey Lolich, Tony Tarasco, Jim Leyritz, Jose Offerman, Rey Sanchez, Karim Garcia, Mike DeJean and Don Zimmer never injured a child with an explosive.

The Fifth Circle of Met Hell is the unhappy kingdom of Mets we may not have hated, but we sure disliked. But Dave Kingman, Gregg Jefferies and Armando Benitez never injured a child with an explosive.

Following the Fifth Circle, Greg rounded up some other Mets deserving of infernal internment. But Brett Butler, Pete Harnisch, Doug Sisk, Rich Rodriguez and Mike Bacsik never injured a child with an explosive.

The Sixth Circle of Met Hell is the dreary hotel domain of unmotivated third baseman and one-time gravedigger Richie Hebner. But while Hebner dug his own grave, he never injured a child with an explosive.

The Seventh Circle of Met Hell is a brimstone-fueled flight with the two Bobby Bonillas. But while at least one of them was an eyewitness to such an act, neither Bobby Bonilla ever injured a child with an explosive.

The Eighth Circle of Hell is marked by a plaque for disgraceful quitter Roberto Alomar. But Alomar never injured a child with an explosive.

Vince Coleman did. And therefore, here he is under that rather heavy-looking tarp cylinder. And here he will stay, forever. I’m turning out the lights now, and shutting the door. Rest in peace, Vince.

And now our hellish tour is done. Ignore the screams of the condemned and come along with me, away from this place. Because it’s 2006. And you know what? February’s not so far away.

14 comments to The Final Circle of Met Hell

  • Anonymous

    I don't think there's been as suspenseless a No. 1 at the end of a countdown since “Macarena” topped the year-end charts in '96. And surely Vince Coleman is the Macarena of Mets. He stayed with us long after we last heard from him even though we wanted no more to do with him ever, ever again.
    Coleman's crime against the Dodgers fans you've well documented. His crimes against Mets fans are felt to this day. The Mets will forever be suspect in the free agent market because of Vince Coleman. They will never be able to shop around and kick the tires on any semi-desirable player without some smart guy reminding one and all, “Hey, they should be careful. Remember Vince Coleman!” More than Bonilla or Murray or anybody they threw millions away on, it is Vince Coleman who gave free agency as part and parcel of any sensible rebuilding program a bad, bad name. I can't prove it and I won't argue it too strenuously, but I'll bet if there weren't a Vince Coleman rattling around in the Mets' Hellish subconscious, that Vladimir Guerrero would be a Met today. And that Vladimir Guerrero would never injure a child with an explosive.
    I don't think it's self-aggrandizing to note that I thought signing Vince Coleman was a poor idea. But I tried to like him. I sat in the left field corner one soggy afternoon in 1992 when Coleman was making one of his infrequent appearances in the field. I was in the first row, or close enough for him to hear me. I attempted to humanize him by continually calling over to him, “VINNY FROM QUEENS!” Veteran WFAN listeners will recall that in the early days of all-sports radio, the most ubiquitous and annoying caller on the station was a Yankee fan who called himself that. Our Vinny From…well, Hell didn't respond.
    Yet I do manage to maintain one mildly pleasing memory of Vince Coleman's reign of disgruntlement. I want to say it was from this game against the Cubs in which the winning run was set up by an unlikely, practically unprecedented steal of second by Tim Teufel. After the game, Teufel was asked where he got his burst of speed from. He and Coleman put their arms around each other and smiled, Tim mentioning something about what a good teacher he had.
    One stolen base, one win. That's not nearly enough, not nearly enough to absolve Vince Coleman from his community service…to Satan.

  • Anonymous

    Great job, you two. This entire piece deserves its own spot in a circle of another Mets' place.
    As for the final article, it's just a shame there was no room for the “I'm a basestealer, man” story. Because the “I'm a basestealer, man” story is easily the most popular Vince Coleman story (behind the firecracker story and the tarp story), which SNY's very own Gary Cohen still likes to recount about once a season.
    I'll set the scene… Bottom of the ninth, 2 outs, tying run on second in the personage (and I use the term loosely) of Vince Coleman. Howard Johnson at the plate…and ol' Vince decides, for no good reason, to try and swipe third. He's out, Johnson's bat stays on his shoulder, and the game is, just like that, over.
    After the game, Mr. Dynamite was asked why he chose to do such an unequivocally boneheaded thing, with the Mets' best hitter at the plate and there not really being a difference between second and third with two outs.
    His response?
    “I'm a basestealer, man.”

  • Anonymous

    What level would I find these two guys: Bret Saberhagen and M. Donald Grant?
    Saberhagen's a bleach-sprayer, which is not as bad as a firecracker-tosser. And he sprayed it at the New York media instead of kids. As a media person I can take offense to this, but I suspect most people would hand him another bottle of bleach before complaining.
    Grant, however, darn near ruined my teen-age years. I was 13 in 1977 when he sent my hero packing.

  • Anonymous

    If Met Hell were like a heavy-metal album cover, M. Donald Grant would definitely be our icebound Satan, with his three heads chewing on Alomar, Coleman and however much Bonillablubber he could cram into his jaws.

  • Anonymous

    It's not only appropriate that there's a tie-in with the Royals here, it's more or less their dessstiny (we all know the inflection I'm aiming for here).
    Personally, I can't hold anything against Vince Coleman. Sure he had a .240 BA and .285 OBP in 1994. He probably could have hit .189 with a .189431 OBP and set fire to a pet store, his tarp related disappearance in the 1985 WS gives him a free pass in the heart of this Royal fan.
    You should just hope St. Peter isn't donning a blue & white cap and a #5 jersey.

  • Anonymous

    To be fair, I cheered Vince Coleman as lustily as I cheered any Seattle Mariner in the 1995 American League Division Series against the New York Yankees. Amazing where one's principled stands will sit when a bigger stake is on the table.

  • Anonymous

    Great series, gents. With one quibble:
    No Kenny Rogers anywhere??
    Happy New Year!
    Z

  • Anonymous

    We invited Kenny to step into Met Hell, but he just kept walking.
    Then he punched us out.

  • Anonymous

    Vincent Coleman also got caught stealing third with two outs in a very close game (I don't remember the date – sorry). He also stole when the Mets were down (or up) by alot.
    Finally, Vincent Coleman never heard of Jackie Robinson. I mean that literally. He had no idea who Jackie Robinson was. He had no respect for baseball or it's traditions, so his lack of respect for it's fans – of which he was not one – followed naturally.

  • Anonymous

    great selection — i was gonna mention the not knowing jackie robinson, but i see that's been taken care of.
    one quibble — ordonez never threw an explosive at a child, but his total abandonment of his son rankles plenty. see these excerpts from the front page of the new york times, april 25, 1999:
    WHAT PRICE GLORY?: A special report.; Cuban Players Defect, but Often With a Cost
    By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
    HAVANA
    Reynaldo Ordonez Fiallo received a gift from America one day last month — a new, unmarked baseball glove made of beautiful tanned leather. As a bonus, the glove came with a tag bearing a color photograph of his father, the slick-fielding shortstop for the Mets, who is also named Rey Ordonez.
    The ecstatic 6-year-old ran around his grandmother’s apartment, showing off not only the new-smelling glove but also the picture of the star shortstop. The glove, though, had not come from his father, but from a godmother in Miami. In fact, family members here say that the elder Rey Ordonez, who will make $1.6 million playing for the Mets this season, has played almost no role in the boy’s life since leaving Cuba in 1993.
    ’’He has never taken any interest at all in the boy,’’ the child’s mother, Hilda Maria Fiallo, said.
    Fiallo’s sense of abandonment is not the only kind of experience lived out by the families left behind as many of Cuba’s best baseball players have fled the island in recent years. There are, too, tales of success and responsibility, even reunification.
    ….
    There is pain, though, for others left behind, including some who helped the players escape. For the understandings some players reached with their families before they left have later been ignored.
    Fiallo said it was she who first urged a frustrated Ordonez to leave the island. Though an enormously talented fielder, Ordonez feared he would never surpass German Mesa, the top shortstop in Cuba, she said. Every year Mesa started ahead of Ordonez on the Havana Industriales.
    ’’I was the one who encouraged him to do it,’’ said Fiallo, who met Ordonez in 1991 and married him a year later. ’’He could never have done it alone. He is the most timid there is. The day he left here he told me that he wasn’t sure he had the courage to do it.’’
    When Ordonez was chosen in April 1993 for a spot on the national team going to play in a tournament in Buffalo, the couple began plotting his defection, Fiallo said. She wrote her father in Miami, Arnaldo Fiallo, who had left Cuba in the early 1980’s, and laid out careful instructions to pick up her husband, Fiallo said.
    Because the Government can deny exit visas to the families of people who leave illegally, Fiallo said they decided to get divorced. It was supposed to be only a paper divorce, she said. They intended to reunite as soon as Ordonez found work.
    Four months later, Ordonez walked away from his team’s lodgings in Buffalo and climbed into a car driven by Lazaro Megret, a radio executive from Miami who was also a friend of his father-in-law’s family.
    ’’There is no food for my son to eat in Cuba,’’ Ordonez told a reporter from The New York Times shortly after his defection. ’’I felt making $118 a month, which I get playing baseball, there was little I could do. I can do more for them by being here.’’
    Ordonez was eventually drafted and signed by the Mets, and he has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last several years.
    Fiallo said she and Ordonez talked on the telephone over the next year, planning their future, but she was repeatedly denied official permission to leave. Distance and time took their toll on the relationship, she said. In December 1994, she learned Ordonez had remarried.
    Fiallo said she has not spoken to or heard from Ordonez since that day.
    Ordonez declined two requests to be interviewed for this article.
    ’’You can write what you want in your newspaper,’’ he said earlier this month in Miami. ’’I’m not going to talk about my family.’’
    His former wife says Ordonez has done virtually nothing for his son — no money, no gifts, no mementos, not even a letter, she said. Once, two years ago, Ordonez called the boy on the telephone.
    ’’For him, it’s as if the people here don’t exist,’’ she said.

  • Anonymous

    BRILLIANT!!!!

  • Anonymous

    And he'd use Saberhagen to pick his teeth.

  • Anonymous

    Now THAT deserves a berth in Hell.

  • [...] on the ability to steal bases, I’d support Vince Coleman’s induction, because amid all his myriad Mets Hell nonsense, he showed off his once-awesome base-theft ability pretty well his first Met year (even if what he [...]