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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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Ain't No Doubt About It, We Were Doubly Blessed

In the summer of 1999, Nike ran the most brilliant series of commercials I ever saw. It was geared to the New York market and aired in sync with that season’s Subway Series.

Maybe you recall it, too. There were six Mets — Ventura, Ordoñez, Yoshii, McRae, Olerud and John Franco — playing four Yankees — Jeter, Posada, Stanton and I think O’Neill — at stickball. The longest version (and it wasn’t long enough, that’s how good it was) featured a heated dispute between the players about whether a ball hit down the street was fair or foul, a ruling determined by the parked Lincoln that was serving as third base. Yoshii and Ordoñez went back and forth in their native tongues; Olerud wore a helmet and said nothing; Franco was characteristically feisty; even the icy Yankee stalwarts were unusually amusing. What made it extra special was the surprise presence midway through of three neighborhood kibitzers — Tom Seaver, Keith Hernandez and Willie Randolph — on a nearby stoop taking up the cause of their respective kids. All the arguments droned on and on until the old man of the block, overcoated Phil Rizzuto, wordlessly left his brownstone, removed his car keys from his pocket, entered said Lincoln and drove away with the base, the argument, the game and the commercial.

That my favorite Phil Rizzuto moment involved him being silent is not intended as a backhanded tribute, I swear, even if I didn’t care for the announcing style of the man they called the Scooter when I first caught it in dribs and drabs. But I was spoiled. Anybody who broadcast a game in a way different from Lindsey Nelson, Ralph Kiner or Bob Murphy was obviously doing it wrong. What’s with the birthday wishes? What do you mean you’re leaving in the seventh inning? And why can’t you stay focused on the game? How do people put up with this?

But people did, lots of them. Rizzuto’s inhibition-free warmth sucked in a lot of viewers and listeners. He was himself. He was genuine. Over time (amid albeit limited exposure because I didn’t really watch a lot of Yankees games), I got it. The Scooter was just being The Scooter. There was only one of him and nobody else could have made it work the way he did.

We had our guys, they had theirs. We were all winners in those days.

So here’s to a man who made Fran Healy sound personable, made Tom Seaver sound comfortable, made Meat Loaf sound amazingly cool and made many a New Yorker’s ears very happy.

6 comments to Ain't No Doubt About It, We Were Doubly Blessed

  • Anonymous

    Being an upstater growing up, the Yankee games on WPIX Channel 11 (shown on WTEN in Albany) were the only games I got to watch outside the NBC Game of the Week (Albany stations didn't show the Mets until I had already moved to NYC in the early 90s), so I was pretty familiar with the Yankee teams of the 70s and early 80s. Rizzuto was a hoot to listen to as a kid, even if I rooted for whoever the opposing team was at the time. I never understood why they didn't bring him back more after 1996 like the Mets continue to do with Ralph Kiner. Scooter made baseball fun to watch. And I'm pretty sure I could recite Money Store ads in my sleep.
    However, I must say that that Meat Loaf song is the worse piece of crap ever. The one good thing about growing up in Albany is that I never heard “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” until my college orientation in Ithaca (the local rock station never played Meatloaf in the 80s.). I hated it from the moment I heard it 20 summers ago, and I hate it just as much today.

  • Anonymous

    the best of Rizzuto is contained in “O Holy Cow,” assembled by Tom Peyer and Hart Seeley 10 years ago.
    for those unfamiliar with it, the book restructures his on-air ramblings and commentary into the freeform poetry it was. hysterical stuff. and every once in a while, containing the seed of illumination.

  • Anonymous

    Here's a re-print of an e-mail I sent to Greg yesterday, regarding the Scooter's passing…
    Phil Rizzuto was a universally beloved guy, it seems. I mean, I hated him when I was a kid — obviously — but as I grew older, I used to look forward to hearing him on the odd Mets off-night. He openly rooted for the Yankees, but was never haughty about it as Mel Allen could be or shrilly insufferable as John Sterling and Michael Kay are presently.
    But I think the reason for that — aside from his foibles about insects and cannoli and such — is that a good chunk of his broadcasting career was spent announcing for some
    galactically bad Yankee teams. Yes, he started in the late-'50's when the 3rd iteration of the juggernaut was still rolling, but he was the mainstay through the Horace Clarke era, through the Billy/Reggie epoch (which actually turned out to be a blip in the grand scheme of the Yankee/Space Continuum) and then the Stump Merrill years: the perfect distraction from the disaster at hand.

  • Anonymous

    A while back I spent several post-midnight hours on a fruitless hunt for video of that ad. It was a classic and a rare moment of happy coexistence between Yankee fans and Met fans. YouTube, why hast thou forsaken us?

  • Anonymous

    Actually, I always enjoyed the trio of Rizzuto, Bill White and Frank Messer doing Yankee games in the 70s. They were pleasant and entertaining.

  • Anonymous

    Scooter's idiosyncracies and all, it was a way more professional presentation than that constituency is offered today.