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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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March Metness: Merengue Saturday

March Metness isn’t so much a big dance as it is a three-week Merengue Night. The first Saturday is when everybody starts to get up and move in earnest. Let’s see who and/or what among Day One’s winners will be shaking and/or grooving their way to the Rick Sweet 16.

Let’s Go Mets (1) vs Mojo Risin’ (9)
Did you know “Mr. Mojo Risin’,” the mystical refrain from the Doors’ “L.A. Woman,” is a perfect anagram for Jim Morrison? Did you know that Robin Ventura intuitively knew it would provide the backbeat for perhaps the craziest September and October in Mets history? Do you remember the bass accompanying Todd Pratt’s trip around the bases once it could be ascertained that Steve Finley caught nothing but air to end the 1999 National League Division Series? There’s never been a less sensical yet simultaneously more appropriate theme for any Mets’ pennant drive. It was “You Gotta Believe” without actually spelling it out. Mojo Risin’ belongs to the dying and resurrecting days of the last Mets season of the last century, a magnificently momentous stretch by any measure. But Let’s Go Mets is eternal. Eternity beats back the Risin’ challenge.
Jane Jarvis (5) vs Mike Vail (13)
Vail is the Cinderella of the Miracle region, ironically going up against the only lady in the March Metness tournament. Mike made it this far based on both the electrifying 23-game hitting streak he put together shortly after his August 1975 elevation to the big leagues and his resounding lack of followup. He earned a starting role for ’76 after his strong debut, but sabotaged himself by breaking a foot playing offseason basketball. Not that basketball has anything to do with March Metness, but let’s just say flashing in the pan will only get you so far. Ms. Jarvis can pound out a triumphant charge as she heads to the next round against the formidable Let’s Go Mets.

The 7 Train (1) vs In Ten Years… (9)
It is not widely known whether Casey Stengel ever opted to take the Times Square-bound IRT after skippering one of his team’s many home losses in 1964 and 1965. If he did, it’s not out of the question that he might have had to have waited an unacceptable amount of time for the next train. And if we accept that premise, Casey may have turned his wit on the New York City subway system and remarked to a companion, “In ten years, one of my Youth of America has a chance to be a star…or sooner than this damn hell-train will commence to arriving.” For a legend whose managerial career ended on a broken hip sustained while getting out of an automobile, perhaps he should have been more patient and used mass transit. In any event, The 7 Train has been synonymous with ferrying Mets fans to Casey Stengel Plaza for well over ten years. It wins. You could look it up.
Outta Here! (5) vs Grand Slam Single (4)
The signature phrase of the most skilled announcer in modern-day Mets history was applied to the signature postseason swing of modern-day Mets history. This is what Gary Cohen had to say about what Robin Ventura did on October 17, 1999: Ventura is waiting. McGlinchy staring in has his signs. The two-one pitch…A DRIVE IN THE AIR TO DEEP RIGHT FIELD! THAT BALL HEADED TOWARD THE WALL…THAT BALL IS…OUTTA HERE! OUTTA HERE! A GAME-WINNING GRAND SLAM HOME RUN OFF THE BAT OF ROBIN VENTURA! Ventura with a grand slam! They’re mobbing him before he can get to second base! The Mets have won the ballgame! Did the moment make the call or did the call enhance the moment? The answer to both is absolutely yes. This matchup goes not just to overtime but to a fifteenth inning…and is decided by Cohen’s keen and immediate observation, amid a frenzied tableau, that Ventura never got to second base and his presence of mind to note it seconds after unleashing what would be, from another announcer’s tonsils, just a catchphrase. Grand Slam Single is indelible. Outta Here! echoes for the ages. The echo takes it. Will it be resonant enough to drown out The 7 Train? We’ll find out.

Shoe Polish Ball (6) vs The Franchise (3)
Shoe Polish Ball contributed mightily to a world championship. But so did The Franchise. Would have the Mets beaten the Orioles without Gil Hodges’ heady intervention and stoic powers of persuasion? It certainly helped the 1969 cause, but to imbue it with singular responsibility would be to overlook two catches by Tommie Agee, one by Ron Swoboda, fabulous timing by Al Weis, quick wristwork by J.C. Martin and, for that matter, the bat of Donn Clendenon who came up after the smudged sphere nudged Lou DiMuro into sending Cleon Jones to first. It also obscures the masterful pitching of Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Ron Taylor and The Franchise himself, Tom Seaver, who threw a masterful ten innings to capture a) Game Four of the World Series and b) this round of March Metness.
Baseball Like It Oughta Be (7) vs Meet The Mets (2)
Bravado boiled into five words takes on two verses, a bridge and a chorus of friendly-like invitationeering. Meet The Mets is a perennial sentiment. Baseball Like It Oughta Be can portray but one annus. And what a sweet annus 1986 was. The guarantee you’d have the time of your life in the Mets’ theme song didn’t really come true for almost a quarter-century after its debut. When MTM was first heard in 1963, the Mets were preparing to go out and capture 51 ballgames. An improvement over ’62, but hardly a peak in one’s existence. As for knocking those home runs over the wall, the ’86 Mets set the mark with 148, exceeding by nine the previous standard…established in 1962. Info like this Oughta not be ignored. Meeting The Mets is always fun, but Oughta Be pulls off the upset and will meet The Franchise in the Rick Sweet 16.

Jack Lang (11) vs Kiner’s Korner (3)
Jack Lang is closely identified with the Mets beat given that he was on it from its beginning in 1962 to the late 1980s, first with the Long Island Press and then (after the Press folded in 1977) the Daily News. He also wrote the invaluable team history The New York Mets: Twenty-Five Years of Baseball Magic, contributed to Mets magazine Inside Pitch until 2004 and served as longtime secretary of the Baseball Writers Association of America, a job that allowed him the honor of informing retired players that they were about to be immortalized in Cooperstown. As if that weren’t enough, it was Lang who came up with “The Franchise” as the perfect sobriquet for the perfect pitcher, a creation that carries the added bonus of having driven M. Donald Grant to distraction. The chairman of the board once scolded Lang that “Mrs. Payson and I,” not Tom Seaver, were the franchise. In all, it was a long and meritorious career for Jack Lang, one of the most Mets-associated people to never actually work for the organization. But Kiner’s Korner is Kiner’s Korner and Ralph Kiner does not go down easily — or at all — even to a Hall of Fame writer.
Jimmy Qualls (10) vs Buckner (2)
You can argue it was the trade of Nolan Ryan that assured the Mets of missing out on at least seven of the theoretically dozens of no-hitters they could have accrued by now. But it’s impossible to consider Jimmy Qualls — lifetime .223 hitter over 139 at-bats — and not apply his name above all others to the no-hitless Metropolitan phenomenon. What ungodly business did Jimmy Qualls have in reaching Tom Seaver for a single when Seaver was two outs from achieving a perfect game on July 9, 1969? Jimmy Qualls experienced, it’s safe to assume, 138 completely inconsequential at-bats and one that lives forever in the heads of millions of New York National League baseball fans. When Antonio Perez or Chris Burke or Luis Castillo or Kit Pellow or Chin-Hui Tsao or whoever’s next throws up the latest obstacle to that transcendent moment of Met happiness we can all only wonder about, there is but one name that will spring to mind again and again and again. Jimmy Qualls is our quintessential heartbreak kid in our quintessential quest for the one goal we can never reach. What a powerful name it is. If Jimmy Qualls had never been in Leo Durocher’s lineup that July night, if Don Young hadn’t been frozen out of it by his atrocious defense the afternoon before, if Tom Seaver had cashed in that no-hit, no-walk, no-flaw performance, we would be collectively and retroactively ecstatic for all the days of our lives. But if Buckner doesn’t do Buckner…such a hypothetical is not to be contemplated. We would trade a dozen Fregosis and a thousand anti-Quallses for that single, solitary E-3 every time. Outcome: Prepare for Buckner versus Kiner.

4 comments to March Metness: Merengue Saturday

  • Anonymous

    “What ungodly business did Jimmy Qualls have in reaching Tom Seaver for a single when Seaver was two outs from achieving a perfect game on July 9, 1969?”
    Hi Greg,
    Unfortunately, it was because Qualls was the hitter Seaver and Grote were most concerned about in a tight situation.
    In their pre-game meeting, Seaver said they knew how to pitch to Williams, Banks, Santo, Hundley and Kessinger but knew very little about the Cub rookie.

  • Anonymous

    Which might explain why Mets would-be no-hitters have been done in by the Quallses, Tsaos and Pellows every bit as much as by Boggses and Banks.
    Pretty good, though, to think Seaver could toy with an All-Star lineup of hitters just because he knew how to pitch to them. Steve Trachsel, to use a familiar example, may very well know how to pitch Albert Pujols but it doesn't mean he can do jack with that information.

  • Anonymous

    Put those all-stars in a lineup today and I bet Trachsel would get out of the inning without allowing more than one run!

  • Anonymous

    I can just hear 67-year-old Ron Santo: “Hey Trachsel! Throw the ball! I'm not getting any younger here!”