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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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Finding a Seat for the Last Reel

Sometimes the social ramble claims a game from the schedule. Hey, it happens. It's a long season.

But sometimes the social ramble claims two in a row.

And sometimes those games include a pitcher you've never particularly warmed up to either making his bid to possibly become the last 300-game winner (though I think there will be others, as surely as I think 256 640 KB won't, in fact, be enough for anybody) and your first chance to view Luis Castillo. I had two can't-miss events the last two days, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed, but by the time I walked out of Varsity Letters tonight (and tell me this lineup isn't the sportswriting equivalent of Murderers' Row) I was feeling a tad guilty about my team, off in the wilds of Central Time battling another division leader without me looking in on them. They needed me. Well, no, they didn't need me. But I'd missed them.

On Tuesday I'd begged the occasional update from a pal with a decent cellphone and watched the final couple of queasy innings in an Upper East Side bar at a fairly ungodly hour. Tonight I had my faithful radio, the cheap plastic one whose lettering has long since worn off, so that every April I wind up staring at its buttons in consternation and have to relearn their functions through trial and error. Top of the ninth, Mets up 8-5, two men on and Castillo at the plate. An excellent time to get acquainted via the word picture with our newest Met, except Luis Castillo promptly rammed into what sounded like a fairly unlikely double play. Great, I thought as Delgado lined out and I crossed the Bowery, I'm a jinx.

But I was a jinx who needed his Mets fix, so I decided to skip the subway and walk home over the Brooklyn Bridge, a trek that seemed about right to cover the rest of the game (barring unforeseen and unwelcome reversals) and the out-of-town scoreboard and highlights. There aren't many better ways to get caught up on your team's doings than a late night in the city and the game in your ear; as I passed through Chinatown I found myself thinking that Billy Wagner and Howie Rose deserve more credit than they get. Wagner has had an astonishing season — I wasn't worried as he tiptoed through tonight's moderate jam, whereas last year I would have been up a lamppost by the time J. J. Hardy stepped into the box. Being a closer means he doesn't get the credit he deserves — closers are generally in the news only when they're flubbing their lines and not following the script. As for Howie, he did a masterful job describing the scene in Miller Park, zooming in and out between the outfielders' readiness and Wagner coming set and runners being checked and batters stepping out and looks ahead. Sometimes I feel Howie doesn't get the credit he's earned because we mourn the fact that the dream team of Rose and Cohen only got two seasons, despite now being well deployed with new partners. And as with closers, it can be tough to notice a terrific inning of play-by-play — the masters of it take you so smoothly and thoroughly into the game that you barely register the role they're playing, even though that role is, well, everything.

Wagner and Delgado ensured Howie could yell “Put it in the books!” around the time I started across the bridge; a bit after Marlon Anderson's interview I encountered a crew shooting a commercial that involved a mob of unkempt-looking people, a spotlight-wielding helicopter and the usual army of harried, vaguely occupied film-crew people and attendant bored cops. I had to wait with the other pedestrians and cyclists caught in the live-set dragnet, but that didn't seem like a big deal — there were Braves and Phillies and Yankees and Red Sox to check on.

After 10 minutes or so we were released by a production assistant, who noted gratefully to another assistant that compared to the last group, we were pretty nice. I suppose we were. But you know what? Speaking for myself, when the city's been kind to you and the radio guys are on top of their game and your team's won, it's easy to be nice.

14 comments to Finding a Seat for the Last Reel

  • Anonymous

    Actually, 256K was never enough for anyone. 640K, however, that's enough for anyone. ;)

  • Anonymous

    Howie's far and away the best thing about Mets broadcasts since the beginning of 2006.
    The second best thing is radio silence.
    Maybe it's the win talking, but I love watching Ollie Perez pitch more than our other four current starters combined (not counting Brian Lawrence…TBD).
    Fairness compels me to mention Shawn Green is at 30 RBI a mere 37 days after his previous home run catapulted him to 27. Ramon Castro has as many home runs as green and only four fewer RBI despite more than 200 fewer at-bats.
    I hate the Brewers. I hated the Nationals over the weekend. I hated the Pirates last week. Only in baseball, kids. Only in baseball.

  • Anonymous

    So does Tom McCarthy = the Brewers in your book?
    Geez, you got a whole lot of hate this week–did you start working in my office or something?

  • Anonymous

    The Brewers will be hated until around 5 o'clock eastern time today. Then the Cubs take over.
    Tom McCarthy I don't hate. But I don't care for him.
    I've tried. I really have. I find his style impossible to deal with. He places this weird overemphasis on the strangest words and spots: “There are two out, but if Heilman can get Hall here [dramatic pause as if there's going to be a revelation], the INNING [yeah? yeah? what? is the ump going to call a balk? catcher's interference? will Prince Fielder's three home runs not count any longer?] will be over.”
    Huh? Did he just say that two outs plus one out equals three outs equals the end of an inning? That's news? Maybe in 1845.
    His broadcasts are doomed by that pattern of talking. He is slow on the draw calling plays. He gets wrapped up in how pitchers are gripping the ball (and such) which isn't much help when you're not watching. He has no sense of actual drama. He's not a good companion, which is what I want out of a radio guy.
    This is no longer about being instinctively wary of the man who took over for the irreplaceable Gary Cohen. This is simply not liking Tom McCarthy as an announcer. He may be a helluva guy off the air; I'm not suggesting otherwise. I just find turning on WFAN and hearing Not Howie a big disappointment.
    But I love Howie and always will. I also love a good 8-5 win. I love Ollie and Ramon and, despite the 30 RBI, remain fond of Shawn. I'm all about the love. But since I hinted and you asked, Tom McCarthy's not not my cup of aural tea.

  • Anonymous

    Ack. I thought something about that wasn't quite right…. And I'm a tech columnist, too. Oops.
    Anyway, fixed. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    While he's not as bad as other, out-of-market announcers (can you hear me, Milo? I'm talking about you), he's just not up to snuff. You realize this most tellingly when you find yourself preferring the I-know-there's-a-baseball-game-going-on-in-front-of-me-that-you-can't-see-but-I-just-don't-want-to-offend-anyone tones of Eddie Coleman.

  • Anonymous

    Your typically apt description of Tom McCarthy and his shortcomings notwithstanding, it does point out how absolutely spoiled we are as Mets fans. As Jason said so well, it's easy to under-appreciate the greatness that is Howie Rose. As anyone who is a regular viewer of the extra innings package (or tunes in to the occasional Yankees broadcast, yeesh) can attest, Tom McCarthy is probably above average for a major league broadcaster.
    Which, as you guys have pointed out, ain't cuttin' it around here.

  • Anonymous

    Points well made. But I must agree with other folks on here that Tom is still better than many radio announcers I've heard over the past few years. We fans who like the radio broadcasts could do a heckava lot worse–we could have the folks who do the Yankees games or the Red Sox games (And I like the Sox, but holy cow do I dislike their radio folk.)

  • Anonymous

    We Mets fans have been truly blessed with some real good announcers on both TV and radio. I've loved Howie Rose since his days doing weekend sports updates at :15 and :45 on WCBS Newsradio 88. He loves the game, and you can tell that any time you tune in.
    On the flip side, is there anything more obnoxious than “IT is high, IT is far… IT is…….GONE!”
    Yes, there is.
    “THE-e-E-e-E-e-E-e Yankees win!” Like nails on a blackboard for me.

  • Anonymous

    Tom McCarthy = Steve LaMar: bland, boring Vince Scully wannabe

  • Anonymous

    Gotta say I like Tom McCarthy. I was going to say I'll give him another listen now, but seems like if his mannerisms haven't jumped out at me, it's kind of unfair to concentrate on them and see if they annoy me. (Of course, after this discussion I'll automatically be focused on them.)
    As for the Yankees' foul, obnoxious heralds, I already know I'll be spending my eternity in Hell hearing nothing but them calling 14-1 Met losses.

  • Anonymous

    Dante just called.
    Said you're a sick bastard.

  • Anonymous

    There's not enough credit/praise in the world for Billy Wagner. Heap and heap some more, and it still wouldn't be enough.
    Thank you, Omar. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I pined, and you came through.

  • Anonymous

    I hated the way he recited the lineups at the beginning of each game:
    Batting seventh
    The catcher
    Alex Trevino
    Trevino
    Batting seventh
    Horrible. Sounded like an out-of-town broadcaster.