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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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Morality Play at Shea

As Saturday's tilt with the Dodgers wound through the early innings, I kept singing a little bit of doggerel I'd adapted for the occasion:

(to the tune of “Green Acres”):

El Duque is the pitcher for me

He's older than a redwood tree

(ba da ba-da-bum)

He don't speak English

(ba da ba-da-bum)

He don't speak Spanish

(ba da ba-da-bum)

He speaks Duque language

El Duque was masterful, Sandy Alomar Jr. looked like a 19th-century gunslinger, and Aaron Heilman (Aaron Heilman???!!!) overcome whatever fears we had on his behalf to step in for Billy Wagner (whose issues, whatever they are, can wait another day) and secure a scary yet satisfying victory — one punctuated by the Braves and Phillies both obligingly sliding further into the background.

Along the way there was Ralph Kiner's reunion with Tim McCarver (my favorite moment was when Ralph gently punctured McCarver's kind but typically overwrought praise that he was famous in New York and California to interject: “What about Pittsburgh?”), Jose Reyes stealing a base by the widest-possible margin I've ever seen and Fox proving recent problems are larger than I think by advertising “Halloween” and “Death Sentence” in broad daylight, just as the CW11 did a few days ago.

But my favorite moment was everybody's favorite moment: Carlos Delgado in the bottom of the fifth. Delgado was 0-for-19, leaving runners on in droves, sinking in the batting order, and drawing boos like a dead thing draws flies. For him to step to the plate with two out and the bases loaded seemed cruel, like dangling a pinata in front of fans armed with sticks.

And those fans, in one of 2007's goosebumps moments, cheered.

It seemed to begin slowly, with a few fans, then spread like a brushfire: Fans putting their hands together, giving voice, and finally getting up, until the stadium was standing and Delgado, I suspect willfully uncomprehending (“I wasn't sure if it was for me,” he grumped, as if the CitiField workers had maybe just performed some masterful girder pirouette), stood at the center of a most-unexpected standing ovation.

I was about to get in the shower, but I heard the cheers and Howie Rose's excitement and stopped. This was an old-fashioned morality play, a potential turning point in the relationship between a franchise's fans and one of that franchise's key players. It was a Franco-and-Beltran moment, and damned if I was going to miss it. I grabbed a towel and rushed upstairs in time to see Delgado rifle the first pitch into center for a two-run single and sweetest redemption.

Met fans boo. Sometimes justifiably, sometimes unthinkingly, sometimes corrosively, sometimes obnoxiously. We'll boo consistently horrific performances (I'm looking at you, Mel Rojas), boo players by proxy (we're not booing Mota so much as we're booing Omar for forcing us to boo Mota), boo players in mutual acknowledgment that they should be somewhere else (sorry, Kaz), and sometimes boo players out of some weird self-destructive streak. (Yes, Met fans once booed Mike Piazza.) We've booed players out of town and temporarily booed players who will be the cornerstones of this franchise.

We've booed Carlos Delgado of late — and of early and of often. But that fifth inning was proof that while we do boo, above all else we want desperately to cheer. And with Delgado at bat, with a game and possibly a postseason and a proud, aging player's psyche on the line, Met fans remembered that. And they cheered and cheered and cheered. And they were rewarded. Remember this moment — I've got a feeling it will prove important.

3 comments to Morality Play at Shea

  • Anonymous

    I was so excited by Delgado's two RBI that I bit down on my right ring finger. That's not an expression. I was shoving an onion ring into my mouth at the moment the runs scored and for a very long second was thinking, “boy, Checkers is really overcooking these things.”
    Serves me right for eating such crap. And for doubting Delgado. The applause was uplifting. Someday I'm going to share a story about another such Shea ovation. It raced right to mind right before I bit down on my right ring finger.
    Did I mention that I just kept biting down? As long as we were winning, it didn't hurt totally like hell.
    Never mind the food. I'm a beverage guy, and for the Mets, it's Uncola City right now…7 up!

  • Anonymous

    It was one of those great moments that seem to only happen at Shea… I just knew that Carlos was going to come through there…

  • Anonymous

    I would like to take credit here & now for starting it.
    I stood up in my perch — UD, sec. 22, row A, seat 4 — and started waving may arms in an upward motion once Delgado was announced.
    A surprisingly fair number of my fellow perch-sitters joined me.
    But I was the first one up out in left…