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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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The Hangman, Cheated

Something tells me this enigmatic, frustrating, confounding 2007 season finally began in earnest Tuesday night. Three with the Braves, those familiar objects in rearview mirror that indeed may be closer than they appear. At the end of the month four with the Phils, whom we may yet be forced to take seriously. That's a lead-in for three more with Atlanta. Then, a week later, Atlanta and Philadelphia back to back. (Following that, we close things out with 13 against the supposed soft underbelly of the National League East. Those games may frighten me the most — somewhere Chris Nabholz is laughing.)

Better competition, injuries and inconsistency brought us to this point — a pennant race that just truly shifted into gear. Mets, Braves, Phillies. Gentlemen, start your engines.

After a disquieting evening of watching Brave killer Oliver Perez get tormented, it was on to the premier matchup — John Smoltz vs. Pedro Martinez. Ah, memories of getting off the '05 schneid with that marvelous … what's that you say? Oh. Right. Pedro was pitching tonight, but for Port St. Lucie. As update after update came in showing Pedro being tattooed by Lakeland Tigers, I suddenly remembered Joan Payson's request while on a cruise: Just telegraph me when the Mets win. Still, filling in more than capably as understudy was El Duque, whom the Diamondbacks' front office must see in their nightmares. We got this guy for Jorge Julio?

With Emily actually at the game with her father, Joshua and I settled in front of the TV, cranked to Brobdingnagian volume to be heard over the protestations of the air conditioner. I decided this was the time to teach the kid about the countdown — how I yelp “24 to go!” after a hitless first inning, then decrease it by three, in hopes that one day the countdown will actually reach zero. My lesson looked prophetic for a while, what with El Duque launching evil breaking stuff at every conceivable angle and speed. So of course the moment I got truly excited about the magic at work — thiswasthenightiexplainedthecountdowntothekidandemilyandherdadwereattheparkwowwowwowwow! — was the moment it fizzled. And the moment I got beyond that and started appreciating El Duque's effort for what it was inspired the Braves to explode out of the casket, with their usual mix of damage from Braves you've never heard of (Willie Harris), Braves you've stopped calling Braves you've never heard of in vain hope that that will make them stop torturing us (Kelly Johnson) and shrewd new Schuerholz acquisitions (Mark Teixeira). And, of course, Chipper. Larry Jones, that stock villain from a billion baseball penny-dreadfuls, with his killer's eyes and his smile that practically forms two right angles when he's really pleased with himself, like the dead grin sported by the Joker. You just knew Chipper had to be lurking somewhere — under the bed or in the closet or wherever he takes himself when he senses there are Met fans to jump out. Was it a surprise when Chipper wound up with a double thanks to his own hitting and a little outfield connivance from us, or when Kelly Johnson showed admirable hustle scoring all the way from the first on a ball that didn't get to the warning track. Staring glumly at the ruins of El Duque's masterpiece, I wondered how I'd fooled myself into thinking it might have been different.

But then it was different. That bottom of the seventh was pure passion play, what with Reyes showing his age by being too eager and Luis Castillo getting the kind of roll-your-eyes hit he always seemed to get against us while wearing teal, followed by the delightful sight of Bobby Cox trundling out of the dugout to get Ron Mahay, looking like a troll tramping out from under his bridge to harass travelers.

And then, an inning later, after decent work from Heilman and a lightning-bolt throw from Lo Duca, Moises Alou making up for recent double plays and general creakiness with one of those gone-from-the-moment-he-hit-it home runs. A fitting ending, 1-2-3 from Billy Wagner, everybody go home happy and hope your subway's running by now.

No, that would be too easy. Billy had to load the bases with nobody out, leading to angst and slapstick in the Fry house. Somehow I'd wound up at the dining-room table, looking across the entire room at the screen, but had to stay there because that's where I'd alighted with Alou connected. So, Francoeur hits his terrifying high bouncer that Wright turns into a fielder's choice, but here comes Andruw — with the kid Escobar on deck as apprentice executioner, if needed. Wagner gets his sign, looks back at Woodward and …

TiVo switches over to “Top Chef.”

(TiVo and HD are on different video and audio feeds, so you can't see or hear TiVo asking to change the channel, because … oh, just trust me on this one.)

AUUUGGHHHH!!!!! I nearly overturn a dining-room chair as I vault to the sideboard and seize the TiVo remote. But wait — Emily really likes “Top Chef.” PUT ON THE RADIO, STUPID! OK. Yes. Radio! I grab the receiver remote and start clicking TUNER, only nothing's happening. TUNER TUNER TUNER TUNER. Ack! This is the OLD remote! Where's the NEW remote? Is this it? Yes! Jesus H., this thing is like the command module of a starship. Just go to the actual receiver and … tuner? Tuner? Where the hell is the tuner? HERE IT IS!


Wha? Really? How on earth did we cheat the hangman?

You know what? Never mind how. I'll find out in a bit. It's enough that we did.

14 comments to The Hangman, Cheated

  • Anonymous

    What a game. I think I said those three words at least 20 times on the ride home from it, sometimes with joy, sometimes with relief.
    Crowd high points: The place was seriously loud after Castillo's hit, maybe even moreso than the Alou HR. I think there was just so much energy in that bottom 7, more than I've seen all year, truth be told, that we felt like we willed that ball into centerfield. Also, great moment when Duque threw a trademark lob and you could hear everyone say “52?” when it registered on the radar.
    Low point: It's 3-3. 8th inning. HUGE game. Divisional lead could be cut to 2.5 for goodness' sake. Man on. Heilman fighting runner and battling batter. STOP THE GODDAM WAVE!!! As snobby as I am about the quality of us Loge fans, the virus infected us as well. I want to go to the window, open it, stick my head out and yell… well, what Peter Finch said, not what we do.
    I'll admit that when Francoeur (is it possible I hate him as much as Chipper already?) came up my hat was covering most of my eyes and I was already preparing a diatribe for Wagner along the lines of picking amazing spots to blow saves. Somehow, with all the run-driving-in options before him, he grounds out. And then a routine play that never looked so beautiful.
    Heard the highlights; Howie's voice cracked during his “Put it in the books!” I realized if I was calling this game, I probably would've done the same.

  • Anonymous

    Rival pack paid off for me this year, as I got to see two brilliant games against the Yankees and now the Braves. I was fairly sure Andruw would deliver the killing blow there…but somehow he didn't. He really is out of sorts this year, isn't he?
    I was counting down the fledgling no-hitter too…oh well.
    Yeah, Pedro got rocked, but what encouraged me was that he walked no one and fanned 5. Now, maybe Lakeland Tigers are just free swingers, but I think Pedro was trying throw all his pitches and make sure he could get them over the plate. And so he must have centered a lot of them. That's good, right? It means he can throw strikes. Now he just needs to get his location down.
    I refuse to be anything but optimistic.

  • Anonymous

    What I think is most beautiful about this game is the reversal of rolls.
    I mean, think about it, the Braves are us! Ace against ace (kind of). Chasing the established leader of the East and loading the bases in the 9th with nobody out against a dominant but rattled closer… Only the Mets at Turner Field could have managed not to score!
    But it was the Braves at Shea.
    Even Andruw can't smirk after that.

  • Anonymous

    *reversal of roles, that is, although there may also have been rolling involved.

  • Anonymous

    Whoa, am I reading this right? Joe Hietpas relieves Pedro Martinez? That is something that I never in my wildest (and most obscure) dreams ever imagine I would see.

  • Anonymous

    Two overriding thoughts:
    1) We broke their black little hearts. I mean bases loaded, nobody out…and they don't score! The Mets beat the Braves AND the Braves lost to the Mets…actively. At noon today, Kick! Kick! Kick! them while they're DOWN! DOWN! DOWN!
    2) Every year your team comes out of Spring Training and, if the year in question isn't 1993, the newly acquired players will gel one night early and the game stories will all play off some theme of “this is how the general manager envisioned it over the winter when he brought in x, y and z: X doing this, Y doing that and Z succeeding, too.” Y'know what? It took 'til August 8, but I got that specific feeling Wednesday night when…
    a) Alou (who may as well be brand new) smacked that Cappuccino blast over the Dunkin' cup;
    b) Wagner (not new, but pitching like the kind of closer we've never had before) escaped his jam like he was stuck on an escalator;
    c) Castillo (very new) did exactly what he acquired to do all night long.
    Throw in d) the Mets broke the Braves' black little hearts.
    The Mets don't win quite often enough for our collective tastes but doesn't it seem that approximately 55% of their wins are of the awesomely satisfying variety? Not necessarily the wild walkoffs, but the kind that affirm our faith. Once a series of late we get a game like this. It will fade as soon we get another game like Tuesday night and we'll be taking to our violins again, but this will be very nice to hold onto 'til 12:10.

  • Anonymous

    Joe Hietpas was the last Met to debut in 2004. Pedro Martinez was the first “1” in your scorecard for 2005. It only seems fair that Pedro return the favor and open for Hietpas.

  • Anonymous

    several times already this year we have seen the customary statement games, the ones that have been credited with “turning the season around” or “you'll look back at this one after the regular season and say it all started — or pivoted — there.”
    off the top of my head, i'd say you could cite, among a handful of others, the home opener against the phils, the game against the cubs in may and last month's comeback against the dodgers.
    and then there's this one. for sheer wrenching triumph from the jaws of defeat, have the mets put together a 7th, 8th and especially a 9th like that all year? against the braves? the ol' timely hitting coupled with crunchtime defense, now THAT IS WHAT I'M TALKIN' ABOUT, OH YEAH!
    unusually satisfying for a midweek evening in august.

  • Anonymous

    For the benefit of anyone who doesn't remember hideously old things like I do, the punch line to that Joan Payson remark- “please only telegraph when Mets win”- was her saying, “That was about the last word I ever had from America.”
    (Speaking of old things, it occurred to me after my own last post: my sister has a whole shed full of stuff she rescued from my mother. The not-quite-Holy as Your Holy Book might still exist.

  • Anonymous

    Haha, my Tivo did the same thing. I had it on mute so I wouldn't have to listen to whatever terrible announcers ESPN had sent out to the game, and I didn't notice Tivo asking me if I wanted to record Dateline as a suggestion for some reason. Fortunately I found my Tivo remote and after a few tense moments (“Enter/Clear does nothing!!!… oh, why would it”) and switched back to the game, not missing too much.

  • Anonymous

    Damn, but that was great game…

  • Anonymous

    Ray – Check and see if there are any old USBL cards in there.

  • Anonymous

    I've been to nine so far this year and that one beats the other 8 put together.
    The place was packed, it was hot, and it was rockin'. Everybody in my stretch of the loge was on his feet from the 7th-inning stretch all the way to Wagner's Houdini act. The handful of Braves fans who dared cheer in the sixth and ninth were lustily put in their place, and a guy with the temerity to show up in a Yankee hat was pilloried without mercy.
    Nobody lost hope or started booing Wagner. Several fans could be heard to observe that he was pitching around Woodward because Woody is one of the best bunters in the league, and that in that situation walking him was better than letting him get a good bunt down, since it preserved the force on all runners.
    Sure enough, Wright throws home on the next batter and proves the point. The immediate reaction was, great, now a DP gets us outta this. Real fans! And when Wagner delivered again, the place went wild.
    One more thing: Whoever had the dumb idea to pass out “baseball cards” of the SNY announcers unwittingly gave the fans the perfect way to celebrate Alou's go-ahead blast. The things rained down from the high decks like confetti at a tickertape parade, adding a certain improvised magic to the proceedings.
    Worth every penny of the ticket price and the $5 hot dogs and the $7 beer. Lets Go Mets!

  • Anonymous

    What was awesome is that it got so extreme that the PA announcer felt the need to request that fans to stop raining 'em down, which of course, delighted the makeshift confettiers and probably only served to encourage their celebratory hurling.