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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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John Maine Drives a Cadillac

The American League doesn't know what it's missing.

Eff the DH. Eff the “nine hole”. Eff the whole concept that the pitcher is an automatic out, because in those lunar eclipse moments when maybe once a year, maybe once every few years, you see your guy take the other team's guy deeper than the night, stronger than the north wind blowin'…well, shoot — is there anything more fun in this ol' game of ours?

And when it's John Maine? Not just “the John Maine” of your staff, as in the pitcher who's batting ninth only because they won't let him bat eleventh, but actually John Maine himself who didn't connect for even one base safely until the end of the 2006 season? John Maine himself who was carrying (presumably folded up in his back pocket) an .088 average to the plate in the bottom of the fourth when all 49,122 of us at Shea assumed a bunt was in order? That or a white flag attached the to barrel of his bat?

When it's exactly that John Maine who finds a high strike from Ian Snell in what we'll assume is his wheelhouse and it's exactly that John Maine who decides a swing is as good a bunt and it's exactly that John Maine who sends a high fly ball to left that never stops being high until Jason Bay is watching it be gone?

Nope. There's nothing more fun.

Except, perhaps, watching John Maine round the bases. There was plenty of time for that.

Remember Darryl Strawberry doing in Al Nipper and the Red Sox once and for all in Game Seven? Remember how he Cadillac'd around first and made it home just in time for the next day's parade? Remember Vin Scully snorting upon the replay, “It'll take him about 20 minutes to go around the basepaths.” and Joe Garagiola concurring, “Oh, he really took his time.”?

Darryl Strawberry's still waiting at the plate to greet John Maine.

I don't think Johnny M. was trying to show up Snell or the Pirates or the fans at PNC Park for serenading him with DAAARRRYYYLLL! last September. I think he was just wondering “uh, which base is next?” I swear, though, I watched the homer, I indulged in a celebration, I considered the last time I saw one of these (Bobby Jones in the Home Opener in '99) and I looked down and he was only at third. His reluctant curtain call was quicker and believe me, it was reluctant.

Once you've got your pitcher hitting a home run, you've got no business losing, so Maine took care of that, too. He seemed, as he so often does, uncomfortable in the early going. Hitting the homer seemed to straighten him out. (“So that's what one of those feels like? Dang, I don't want to have to stand on the mound while somebody else rounds the bases. I'm gonna pitch much better now.”) Thus, that was pretty much that. Lastings Milledge would tickle the stratosphere for emphasis later and the Mets oh-by-the-way won decisively.

Where does a pitcher home run rank in terms of “you know what I saw tonight?” events? I'm not exactly sure. A pitcher home run isn't a no-hitter (not as if we would know) and it's not a cycle. Maybe it's a triple play, though one run on one swing is one run on one swing regardless of who swings, whereas three outs on one pitch is pretty fricking amazing. Maybe it's a steal of home, an inside-the-park job; maybe the moral equivalent of a five-for-five or a three-homer night by a nonpitcher. A pitcher home run is more than an oddity, maybe a bit shy of an epiphany.

But when the John Maine of your staff does it…it's just so cool is what it is.

***

Speaking of cool, I'd be remiss if I didn't (again) quote the late Howard Beale to express my joy and gratitude that so many you took up the righteous cause of enshrining Dick Young in the singularly sublime Metstradamus Hall of Hate, letting it be known that we, the truest of the blue and orange, will not be distracted by petty flavors of the month when it comes time to set in virtual stone our hardiest grudges:

Last night I got up here and asked you to stand up and fight for your heritage, and you did, and it was beautiful…the people spoke, the people won. It was a radiant eruption of democracy.

It won't negate the trade of Tom Seaver nor the several lean years that ensued, but this little statement of ours certainly feels appropriate to this particular endeavor, doesn't it?

8 comments to John Maine Drives a Cadillac

  • Anonymous

    Memory from 1983: Walt Terrell hits two in one game, accounting for all the Mets' runs in what I think was a 4-2 win.

  • Anonymous

    Not only a satisfying 4-1 win, but Terrell's blasts were off a future Hall of Famer.

  • Anonymous

    I was at the game last night, and Johnny's HR was the most fun we had in a very fun evening. And it never dawned on us that someone could think he was showing up Snell. I didn't hear about that until I got out of the subway and was walking home when some guys who saw me in my Mets jersey asked what Johnny's trip around the bases looked like in person. I told them the truth — that he looked shell shocked.

  • Anonymous

    Don't know why the Maine home would be such a surprise. After all, he's a pitcher, and Shea is known as a pitcher's park! ;-)

  • Anonymous

    Yes, your pitcher hitting a homerun is a great thing to behold.
    But I would argue that a triple by the pitcher is even more amazing.
    I can brag that by some quirk of statistics, I never was present at a game to see Mike Piazza hit a home run but garsh-dummit I saw Al Leiter hit a triple at Shea.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    You hit it right on the nose – there is no better argument against the DH that showing what surprises like last night can occur. That's why the AL style of play is so boring – just line up and swing at the pitch.
    The new league in Israel modified the DH rule which I like – the DH can be used only twice in a ballgame. That forces the poor fielding slugger to play a position and keeps the ninth spot reserved for the pitcher (at least in the early innings), maintaining the strategic relationship between offense and defense.
    The DH was a gimmick adopted by the American League in 1972 to beef up sagging attendence more than sagging offense (run scoring was on par with the senior circuit, but the junior circuit had little marque players so this allowed them to make more trades for aging superstars from the NL). Back then, Ron Swoboda had his reservations about the new rule, citing less players would get into the game for there would be no need for pinch hitters and double switchs. Rocky was right. Too bad the Player's Union would veto any attempt to modify the rule (like in Israel) or get rid of it altogehter.
    Hope you caught the replay on SNY to hear Gary Cohen's call. Not only was he shocked, but right before the pitch he said the way Met players were hitting with men on base why not let Maine swing away. Keith then interjected “you never know” and swish, there it went!
    Thought Maine slowly rounded the basepaths to conserve his strength. And while his teammates pointed out he needed to take a curtain call to acknowledge the crowd, I was hoping they would give him the cold shoulder when returning to the dugout – it would have been hilarious (in 1966 the Mets did that to Jack Hamilton after hitting a grand slam – Hair Breath Harry stretched his arms out in disbelief when nobody greeted him, not realizing he was being ribbed. BTW, he blew the lead and the Mets lost anyway).
    Let's not forget the fine bunt Maine laid down to advance the runners.

  • Anonymous

    Both of your co-bloggers were at that game against the Marlins when Preston WIlson fell down and Al chug, chug, chugged into third. That's its own category.
    We also caught El Duque's triple delight in '06 as well (well, not as delightful since it was a loss).

  • Anonymous

    That was cool. And in that vein, I really don't get all this bad blood directed at Lastings Milledge. The guy has a pulse and people are acting like he's dancing around with his tongue out chanting some school-yard taunt. Maine hit a home run! It's exciting.
    Jeez, guys, lighten up. You're getting paid to play baseball. Your life is great! Enjoy it.